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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Paint Sedona Plein Air Painting Workshop Report I

I don't often blog detailed reports on the Paint Sedona plein air painting workshops, the reason being that I do so many of them.  But I thought I'd give you an idea of what we do.  I offer three different types of workshops:  all-level workshops, retreat/advanced/mentoring workshops, and also special topic workshops.  (You can get details on all of these at   This past week, we had an all-level workshop.

The all-level workshops are, in many ways, similar to the workshops I teach when I travel cross-country.  We cover the fundamentals of plein air painting and go to some pretty spectacular places to try out the techniques I teach.   Every day, we start in the studio with a short lecture plus a field demonstration, followed by student painting time and critiques.  The critiques - I prefer to call the critique a "show-and-tell," which sounds much less intimidating - may happen at the end of the day or first thing the next morning, depending on time.

The big difference between these workshops and the ones I teach cross-country is the size.  My Paint Sedona workshops are limited to four students.  Attendees really enjoy this small group size and the extra attention they get.  Plus, I like the fact that a small group has a much smaller impact on the environment.

Oak Creek Blues, 9x12 pastel - $150+shipping
This week, we painted a variety of scenery, from rocks to trees to water.  We painted at Red Rock Crossing and at Schnebly Hill, on the Sedona Heritage Museum grounds and at Doe Mesa.  Mornings started off cool but warmed up quickly.  The cicadas down by the creek enjoyed the warmth, too, and sang the whole day we were painting at Red Rock Crossing.

Schnebly Hill Reds, 9x12, oil - $150+shipping
I've included a few location photos from the week, plus some photos of my lecture notes.

Next time, I'll write about one of my special topic weeks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Encounter: Painting with Carl Judson, Guerrilla Painter

After another successful week in my series of Paint Sedona plein air painting workshops, I had some time to do a little painting for myself.  But I had a partner.  I was lucky enough to hook up with Carl Judson, founder of Guerrilla Painter and Judson's Art Outfitters.  Carl came down from Colorado to experience the Sedona Plein Air Festival this week.

Carl and his products have been an inspiration for me over the years as I pursued my "backpacker painting" concept.  He designed the 9x12 Guerrilla Painter pochade box I use nearly every day when I go out painting in oil.  When I heard he was to be in town, I made sure we had time to visit.

I took him out to Red Rock Crossing to paint.  But rather than paint the iconic image of Cathedral Rock looming over Oak Creek, we chose to stay in the shade under the sycamores.  Carl did a beautiful little painting of some of the local flora.

When I saw his pochade box, I was surprised it wasn't a Guerrilla Painter box.  "Well," he said, "it's the antecedent to Guerrilla Painter.   I must have painted over a thousand paintings with it."  One thing I noted is that it doesn't hold a standard size panel.  "I usually paint 7 1/2 x 10 which fits perfectly in my envelope-style filing system.  Since I don't sell my work, it doesn't matter if I don't paint in a standard size."

Carl does a lot to support plein air painters and to promote the craft and travels widely in his mini-van to do so.  I hope to paint with him again in a future encounter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back in Arizona - and Paint Sedona Plein Air Painting Workshops Begin!

Sculpture at Old School Gallery near
El Morro, New Mexico
After 3907 miles, 23 days and four workshops, we finally arrived in Arizona.  The odometer on our little Subaru Outback hit 119,000 miles somewhere between Ramah, New Mexico, and Sedona.  Thanks to our stops to teach workshops, it didn't seem like all that long a trip.  The longest part was the push after the last workshop; the best word to describe the stretch of I-40 through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas is "ugh."

New Mexico, however, was a delight.  We lived there for several years, and it's always a joy to go back.  We stopped for the night at El Morro Cabins & RV Park and took a hike at El Morro National Monument.  The oaks and grasses are full of beautiful, warm fall colors.

Now we're unpacking and reorganizing for the winter.  Also, the first Paint Sedona ( workshop begins today.  I've got a full schedule of these workshops for the winter, so if you'd like a winter getaway, now's the time to sign up.  I'll post a few pictures from this week's workshop over the weekend.

El Morro National Monument

Why I love New Mexico

Friday, October 19, 2012

Plein Air Painting Workshop: Blue Ridge, Georgia

I just finished up a plein air painting workshop in beautiful Blue Ridge, Georgia.  It was sponsored by the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, and for the two days of the workshop, we painted in and around Blue Ridge itself.  Blue Ridge is a quaint mountain town with a railroad depot, picturesque buildings, trees in full fall foliage, and lots more for the painter.  For the workshop, I had students coming from Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Georgia; and, of course, from northern Georgia.  I think they were all pleased to see that autumn was in full swing in Blue Ridge.

Two days doesn't sound like a lot of time to teach the principles of plein air painting, but we accomplished a lot!  I did a short lecture each morning to make sure the students got the most important information, followed this with an outdoor demonstration, and then gave the students time to paint under my eye.  (I've included a field shot of my oil demonstration here.)  We finished up each day with a "show and tell" of the work done.  Everyone remarked after the workshop what a great time they had and how much they had learned.

Fall foliage tree demo - 9x12 oil - SOLD

A special treat for me was seeing the current exhibitions the BRMAA is hosting in the historic courthouse it occupies.  Currently showing is the Southern Appalachian Artist Guild's annual national exhibition, plus a show by my friend, Marsha Hamby Savage, who paints in both oil and pastel and creates beautiful, moody landscapes.  Both shows will be up for some time, so I suggest you drop by.

I'm pleased to say that next year I will be jurying in work for the Southern Appalachian Artist Guild's 2013 national show, and I will also be the judge of awards.  To coincide with the judging, I will also be teaching a workshop in Blue Ridge for the BRMAA.  I'll have more details on all of this later.

As I write, we are finally west of the Mississippi and in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Next stop on our journey - Amarillo, Texas; Ramah, New Mexico; and finally, Sedona.  My next post will be from beautiful Red Rock Country!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Plein Air Workshop: Millheim, Pennsylvania - Day 4

Our final day in the workshop was a gorgeous one.  We started off with the valley's first hard frost of the season.  The frost made the fields of teasel, goldenrod, milkweed and asters even more lovely.  But needless to say, we first spent a little time in the studio to give the world a chance to warm up.  I demonstrated how I handle color harmony and dominance in a painting, and I explained my concept of "contrast pairs."  Also, the students asked a number of engaging questions that included how to get better at painting.  What makes the most difference, I explained, is practice!  I know we all hear that, but it's a fact.  I also gave some suggestions of books to read and painters, both living and gone, to study.

We enjoyed Chicory Lane Farm so much the other day that we decided to return today.  The Farm's many acres have so many opportunities for the plein air painter.  Some of the students chose to focus on barn buildings, others on the natural scenery.  I don't get to paint buildings very often, so I chose to illustrate how to do a 30-minute "quick study" while also illustrating architecture and color temperature concepts.  (That's a lot to cover in 30 minutes!)  The barn is an interesting design, and I think my sketch would be worth exploring in a larger format some day.

After an afternoon at Chicory Lane, we headed back to the studio for the final "show and tell" and goodbyes.

I enjoyed teaching a workshop so much in this location that I'm hoping to come back in the not-too-distant future.  Thank you, Karl and Green Drake Gallery, for a great week!

Below are some photos from our last day.  By the way, Karl painted an impromptu portrait of me in the field, which I now own.  I've included it among the images.

Trina and I now are off on the next leg of our trip.  My next report will be from Blue Ridge, Georgia, where I am teaching a plein air workshop for the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association.

MCJ Study - 8x6, oil - by Karl Eric Leitzel

6x8 oil  barn study by MCJ

Friday, October 12, 2012

Plein Air Workshop: Millheim, Pennsylvania - Day 3

Fickle fall weather drove us inside until late morning.  However, this gave us time in the studio to talk about some important issues.  I showed how easy it is to create a sense of distance and depth in a painting with a few, simple color adjustments.  We also talked about some business items for the professional painter - framing pastels, dealing with galleries and how to get your name out in the world.  I finished up the morning with an indoor pastel demonstration on how to paint trees.

The weather turned sunny at lunchtime, so we headed out to an abandoned railroad trestle spanning the Penn River.  The trestle has been incorporated into a trail - part of a local "rails to trails" project.  We had a few anglers join us; while we painted, they fished.  We had wonderful light effects to capture, and I think each of us enjoyed painting the radiant glimmer of water.  I did an intimate closeup in pastel of one of the trestle supports and the water beneath it.  We ended up the day with a "show and tell" in the studio to discuss our work.

Tomorrow, Saturday, will be the final day for the workshop, and it looks like we'll have excellent fall weather.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos from today.

Pastel tree demo (9x12) - Santa Fe comes to Millheim!

Atop the abandoned trestle

Trestle & Light Demo (9x12, pastel)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Plein Air Workshop: Millheim, Pennsylvania - Day 2

After a crisp start to the morning, the sun quickly warmed up the valley around Elk Creek.  But first, we met in the studio, where I reviewed some of the concepts I shared the day before, and then I talked more about color palettes and the choices available to the plein air oil painter and pastelist.  I also discussed the relationship of value to color, and how best to handle the relationships of cool and warm colors in the landscape.  (The students have been bearing up well under my lectures, especially since my talks are accompanied by good coffee, chocolate chip cookies and humor!)

Once things warmed up, we drove off to a beautiful farm (Chicory Lane Farm) not far from town.  The farm is actually a conservation area with trails, expansive tracts of wildflowers and - best of all for plein air painters - views.  We were scattered in a ring around the central house and barn, and that made for a pleasant walk as I went from easel to easel, offering help.  I also did an oil demonstration of the barn and silo before turning students loose to paint.  At the end of the day, we headed back to the Green Drake studio for critiques.  Really, these critiques are more of a show-and-tell session in which we share our efforts, and I used the paintings to illustrate concepts we talked about earlier in the day.

That evening, Trina and I met Karl Eric Leitzel, founder of Green Drake Gallery and Landscape Artists International, and his wife, Linda, for dinner at the Elk Creek Cafe.  Some of our students were there, too, enjoying the evening's music.  I had to leave a little earlier than I'd hoped, as I had to proof a galley of an article of mine for The Artist's Magazine and also get started on interviewing the winners of a well-known art competition.  (Sorry, but you'll have to wait until the winners are officially announced!)

Below are two of my demonstrations.  The first is my studio pastel from the first day and the other, the plein air oil from today.  (Both 9x12.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Plein Air Workshop: Millheim, Pennsylvania

We are now ensconced in the very comfortable and historic Aaronsburg Inn, just a mile down the road from Millheim, where I am teaching a workshop through the Green Drake Gallery.  As we drove to our destination, we knew we'd found some incredible territory for painting.  Brooks, rolling hills, farm fields, old barns and homes - there's not much this area doesn't have!  We even saw cornfields being cut by the Amish with horse-drawn corn binders.  This evening as I type, I hear a horse clopping by, pulling a carriage.

A cold front is moving in, so today we had a bit of rain, a bit of wind and considerable cloudiness.  After giving an introductory lecture on plein air painting, I followed with an indoor pastel demo.  Once we'd finished with lunch, we headed out to an Amish farm to sketch before a shower appeared.  Tomorrow, the weather is supposed to improve dramatically, and we'll get out to explore more of the landscape.

So what did I cover on my first day?  I talked about why painting from life is better than painting from photographs; how to get a more fulfilling experience by having a goal when you go out painting; showed how four values are all you need to "describe" the landscape; and, since this four-day workshop is a compressed version of my five-day workshop, introduced the topic of color and palette choices.  (Normally I start this on the second day.)  After the demonstration and student painting periods, we headed back to the studio where we share our paintings and talk aboult them.

I'll post a few photos of the area and the workshop over the next few days, and I'll also write about what goes on in one of my workshops.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wrap-Up: Middlebury, Vermont, Plein Air Workshop

After torrential rain on our way from Maine to Vermont, the first day of my Vermont workshop started cool and overcast but, thankfully, dry.  Both days offered intermittent sun, which made for some challenging painting.  But, my students were up to the task and did a great job of "capturing the moment."

I have a fond place in my heart for Middlebury.  I first came to this town back in 1977 for graduate school, and it was a wonderfully "hippy" place with lots of arts and crafts and good vibes.  Although it's a little more refined than it was back then, it still has many of the qualities that endeared it to me.  Way back when, I took a pottery workshop in the very same space in which I taught my plein air workshop this week at the Middlebury Studio School.   We painted both days down by Otter Creek Falls, just off Main Street, and it was a great feeling to be back in my old haunts.

Now, it's off to Millheim, Pennsylvania, for a four-day workshop through Green Drake Gallery.  (We still have a few spots available in this one, too.)  I'm looking forward to my visit!

Here are some photos from the Middlebury workshop.

Falls Oil Demo - 9x12 (Not sure about the photo,
but I'll repost it if necessary when I get to Arizona)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wrap-Up: Acadia National Park Plein Air Workshop

Mascot at The Moorings

We've had a great week here on the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island, painting both in Acadia National Park and other locations nearby.  The weather provided some sunny days with hard-blue seas, but also some days of moody overcast.  In my opinion, you're not experiencing Downeast Maine unless you've got a day or two of clouds and drizzle!  The students rolled with the punches and turned out some really good work.

Typically, each day started with a short lecture in the studio to cover some fundamental concept.  Following this, we went out into the field where I did a demonstration.  Some of the topics covered included painting trees and rocks, abstracting the landscape and creating color harmony.  Although I have a set curriculum for the workshop, I often am able to customize it to suit the students, which I did this week.   We ended up having an advanced color theory chat one afternoon - something we often don't get to cover in an "all level" workshop.

By the way, I had students from Maine, New Jersey, New York and Texas this time around.   They enjoyed the week's offerings, which included a day painting at The Moorings, a fantastic resort right on the water in Manset with beautiful grounds, and lunch at Thurston's Lobster Pound in Bernard.  I'll be doing this plein air workshop again June 18-21 in 2013.  I'm already getting signups for this, and I hope you'll join us.  If you're interested, visit

Now we're off on the next leg of our trip, to Middlebury, Vermont.  I'm teaching a two-day plein air workshop for the Middlebury Studio School Sunday and Monday, October 7-8.  We still have spaces left, so if you're interested, visit .

Finally, here are some photos from the week.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island Workshop


As we make our way slowly west, we have several stops along the way for workshops.  Our first is the quaint fishing village of Bernard, Maine.  It's on the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island, which is home to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.  I'm teaching a plein air workshop for the Acadia Workshop Center.  This is, I believe, my seventh time teaching here.

Bass Harbor Light

October is one of my favorite month; the fall colors can be spectacular.  This year, the color is just beginning, but good color isn't too hard to find.  We've also had some heavy rain the last two days, but this morning, the first day of the workshop, the rain began to abate.  We were actually able to get out and paint the whole day.  I did my demonstration in spitting rain. (And thank you, brave students, for enduring the rain!) After that, the rain moved off, and the students were able to enjoy a rain-free day.  I think we're going to have a good week.  Here are a few photos from the day.

Rainy Day Palette

My Marsh Demo

Update:  Readers have asked what paintbox I am using on this trip.  Ordinarily, I would use my Guerrilla Painter 9x12 box on a tripod, but for travelling by car across the continent and teaching workshops, I take my French easel and my Artwork Essentials Easyl Classic.  I use this setup because, in addition to painting, I need to illustrate on a large sketchpad in the classroom.  I can't use my Guerrilla box for that.  So, I use the French easel in the classroom to hold my sketchpad, and then I take it into the field.  Although the Easyl box is actually a full paintbox, I use it as a palette.  I don't use the palette that comes with the French easel - it's too hard to keep myself clean!