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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Upcoming Shows - Sedona Arts Center, Phippen Museum of Western Art, Kolb Studio Grand Canyon, Sedona Library

A Day in Jerome, 9x12 oil, en plein air
At the Sedona Arts Center

Hippie Bus in Winter, 9x12 oil, en plein air
At the Sedona Arts Center

I have several shows coming up plus some gallery news for everyone.  Read on!

First, the Sedona Arts Center's Annual Members' Juried Show starts Friday, March 7th.  I'm proud to say that two of my paintings have been juried in under the "professional" category.  (The paintings are at the top of this post.)  The show runs March 7th through April 1st with an opening reception on Friday, March 7th, from 5-7 pm.  I'm sad to say I won't be able to attend the reception, but I do hope that you will stop by and see my work there.

Slide Rock Apple Barn, 12x16 oil
At the Phippen Museum of Western Art

Hillside Town (Jerome AZ), 9x12, oil, en plein air
At the Phippen Museum of Western Art

Second, two of my paintings have been curated into the Phippen Museum of Western Art's "Architecture in Art" exhibition.  It's a real honor to be invited to show at the Phippen.  I'm looking forward to meeting the other artists and guests at the opening reception, which is Friday, March 7th, from 5:30-7:30 pm.  (Free for members; $10 for the public.)  I will be on-hand for this one, so I hope you'll come out to Prescott to visit.  The exhibition runs from March 8th to July 13th.

Third, one of my paintings from last year's Verde River Artists Challenge fund-raiser will be on display along with works from the other artists at the Sedona Public Library.  The work is also up for auction.  The opening for this worthwhile event is Friday evening, March 7th, from 5:30-7:30.  Obviously, I won't be able to be at this one, either, but I hope you'll consider visiting the exhibition.

Cottonwood Shadows, 9x12 oil
At Sedona Library
Auction starts at $375!

Finally, as part of the Grand Canyon Association's ongoing promotion of the annual "Celebration of Art" plein air painting event, the GCA has invited me to put work in their store/gallery at the Kolb Studio.  These are small framed pieces that will be for sale until the the big painting event this September.  Below is one of the paintings I've sent in.  If you're up at Grand Canyon, it's easy to get distracted by the scenery, so please remember to visit the Kolb Studio!

Canyon Space, 6x6, oil
At the Kolb Studio - Grand Canyon Association - Grand Canyon National Park

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Upcoming Plein Air Painting Workshops - Sedona, and then Heading to Points East

Creek  Sycamore - 9x12 pastel
Available - $150 - Click here to purchase

I just finished up another great workshop this week with one student from Arizona and two from Washington State.  (The four paintings accompanying this post are my demonstrations for the week.)  I'm a little surprised that more painters from the snow-battered north aren't coming down to Sedona for my workshops; but maybe they are so snowed in they can't escape.  If you are buried in snow and can manage to dig your way out to the airport, I'd love to have you for one of my remaining Sedona weeks.  Here's what I have to offer.

March 4-7, 2014Advanced/Retreat - Sign Up Here - 2 Spots LeftIntermediate-Advanced
March 18-21, 2014All-Level - Sign Up Here - 3 spots leftAll Levels
March 25-28, 2014All-Level - Sign Up Here - 1 spot leftAll Levels
April 8-11, 2014Advanced/Retreat - Sign Up Here - 1 spot left
Lodging Available This Week! $50/person/day
Students can lodge together in the studio for a true immersion experience!

It'd be great to get one more for the March 18th week, as I have just one student then.  Also, I'd love to fill that last spot in the April 8th week.  We've got one spot left for lodging at a truly great rate for Sedona during that week.  For full details, visit

Mountain Ridge - oil, 9x12
Available - $150 - Click here to purchase

After my workshops in Sedona end, I'll be traveling for workshops to Batavia, Illinois; Valparaiso, Indiana; and Toledo, Ohio.  I still have space in these workshops, so if you are near one of these locations, I'd love to see you!  Here are details on these workshops:

May 2-3, 2014: Batavia, Illionis
Two-day (Friday-Saturday) workshop painting en plein air from Water Street Studios. Oil & Pastel. All levels.
Price: $200 Members, $240 Non-Members
Contact: Water Street Studios,,

May 5-6, 2014: Valparaiso, Indiana
Two-day (Monday-Tuesday) workshop at the Art Barn in Valparaiso.All media, all levels.. Includes lunch.
Price: $215 (includes lunch!)
Contact: The Art Barn School of Art,, 219-462-9009,

May 8-9, 2014: Toledo, Ohio
Two-day (Thursday-Friday) workshop for the Toledo Artist Club. All media, all levels.
Price: $150

Cottonwood Spring - 9x12, pastel
After Toledo, I'll be spending several days in Cincinnati shooting three new videos for  I'm very excited about that, as I'll have a professional crew working with me.  Each video will be about an hour long and will be available, as are my other two videos, through

Cottonwood & Ditch - oil, 12x9
Available - $150 - Click here to purchase

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Painting for Yourself

Creek Overlook Sketch, 9x12 oil

Do you ever paint just for yourself?  I  mean, without giving thought to what the gallery wants, what the students need, or what your spouse thinks would help your career?

It's hard to ignore these voices when you paint, especially if you're a professional.  You've trained yourself to listen, and to do so very closely.  If you hadn't, you most likely wouldn't be where you are today.  Sure, some mentors say, "Paint, and the money will follow" - but how likely is that, really, if you disregard the world?

But once in awhile, it's nice to do exactly that and to paint for yourself.  It's like giving yourself a present.

The other day, I went out with our local painting group.  The view was a stupendous one:  a broad view of beautiful Oak Creek, its riverbanks studded with sycamores and cottonwoods, and over it all towered the hulk of Cathedral Rock.  Here are some of the thoughts that went through my mind while I was poking around for a subject:
"I should paint some of those sycamores.  People like my sycamores.  They sell."
"I've always liked this view of Cathedral Rock, but I've been told pictures of these red rocks don't sell - and I've found that to be largely true."
"Or maybe I should paint the distant view of those mountains.  Lovely violet shadows.  The scene looks generic in a way, not tied to any particular location.  It might be an easier sale."
Once these voices had their say and things grew quiet, I realized now that "I" could step in.  To heck with all of that!  I was going to paint something that appealed to me.  I wasn't thinking exactly, but I was instead feeling what I wanted - thicker paint, texture, abstraction, color.  I grabbed a painting knife and began.  No thoughts, just motion.

When I paint like this, I usually end up with a piece that I really like and find difficult to part with.  The result, the painting above, is something I intend to keep.  There's more of me invested in it than just skill and time.  There's a little bit of soul.

It makes me happy to say, "No, it's not for sale."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Help Me Pick a Painting - Results!

Update:  The results are in!  With 105 votes, the results were:

A - 31%
B - 20%
C - 47%

Thank you everyone for participating.  I have another painting or two up my sleeve, and as I still have another month before making my final selection, you may very well see another poll coming up.


As part of September's "Celebration of Art" plein air festival at Grand Canyon National Park, artists are asked to include a studio painting in the exhibition.  Now, if you've done plein air painting before, you know that sometimes things don't go as you would like.  Over the years, my batting average has improved, but I still have my share of "off" days!  So it's nice to have the opportunity to include a painting created in the controlled environment of the studio that showcases the height of one's artistic ability.

I have created three pieces to choose from, and although I have my own ideas about which one I like best, I would like to hear which one you think should go into the show.  You can vote in the poll on the right.  (Those of you receiving this blog via e-mail or a newsreader will need to go to the actual blog post.)

Here are the paintings, in no particular order, and without titles, which might tease your poetic sensibilities.  And thank you!

A - 16x20, oil/panel

B - 16x20, oil/panel

C - 12x24, oil/panel

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Large-Format Plein Air Painting Workshop

(News flash! I have openings in my March 18-21 Paint Sedona plein air painting workshop. I have just one student that week, and I'd love to get at least one more! You'll get lots of personal attention in this one.  Workshop runs Tue-Fri, 9-1, and is $300. For details and to register:

Every once in a while, I like to spice up the workshop season by hosting a special topic.  This not only gives me something different to teach, but it also gives my repeat students a new skill to learn.  This past week, I conducted a large-format plein air workshop.  Typically, my students work in sizes that are fairly small, such as 9x12.  The reason for this is time.   As most plein air painters know, we only have a couple of hours to start and perhaps finish a piece.

But for this workshop, in which were to visit each location twice, we would have twice the time to work on a single canvas.  You can do that in the Southwest - usually - because the weather and light are reasonably consistent from day to day.  In my supply list, I recommended that students bring paper or panels that were at least 16x20.  To some plein air painters, even a 16x20 is small.  If memory serves, Emile Gruppe in one of his books said that beginners should start out with nothing smaller than a 24x30!  But I figured 16x20 would get the point across.

Did I mention consistent weather and light?  Well, we had an absolutely beautiful January.  But the forecast for this early February workshop looked rather iffy - rain showers, snow showers, low clouds.  Weather always makes for some good painting in Sedona, but not necessarily when you are going out repeatedly, hoping to find the same lighting conditions.  But we rolled with the punches.  Despite some nighttime snow and rain and clouds, even a bit of early-morning fog, we got out there every day!  We even visited each of our two locations twice.

Fleeting Weather, 16x20 pastel

Still, the weather challenged us, since we were never really sure if we'd have to dash back to the studio, or if tomorrow's weather was going to be the same as today's.  The first two days were better, and we all worked on a single large piece each.  Above is mine, a 16x20 pastel.  You can see the fleeting sun at work.  The last two days, because the weather was increasingly uncertain, we assumed our fallback position, and went back to painting smaller, one-session pieces.  Despite the weather, we were all very happy we each got at least one large painting out of the workshop plus a couple of smaller, pochade-style pieces.

If you're thinking of painting in a larger format, here are some other issues that you will need to consider:

Easel.  Those cheap, lightweight easels you can find at discount art supply stores aren't any good for large-format painting.  They are unstable in the wind, and if you are inspired to add that final bravura stroke, you may end up unintentionally giving the painting a coup-de-grace instead.  Instead, you need a very stable easel that can handle a large size.  When I taught a pastel workshop on Cape Cod several years ago, we had enormous wind, and out of the dozen different styles of easel, only two held up:  the standard French easel, and the Gloucester-style easel (Take-It-Easel.)  My preference today for large-format painting is the Take-It-Easel.  It is American-made, easy to set up, take down and transport, and will stand up to a gale.

Palette.  Large canvases require a large mixing area or some system for mixing large batches of paint.  I sometimes paint as large as 24x30 these days, and for my palette I use an earlier version of Artwork Essential's EasyL Classic.  The mixing area is about 12x16, and that is just big enough for my six colors plus white.  Another painter I know uses a standard French easel palette for large paintings, but only puts out the one or two colors he is using at any given moment.

Pastel painters will want larger pastel sticks in addition to a set of small sticks.  When I painted the pastel above, I started with my usual Heilman "backpack" box, using small hard pastels to get the drawing started and a few color notes laid in.  As I moved further into the painting process, I opened up a bigger box that has bigger, softer sticks.  (Mine is a brand that is no longer made, but you can find similar.)

Transport.  Sure, maybe you could throw that wet, 4-foot-by-5-foot stretched canvas in the back of your rental car, but how will you get it on the plane?   (I once had a student who painted this large, and he solved the problem by finding a local gallery to take all the paintings he did in my workshop; unfortunately, the gallery closed its doors just before my student was about to deliver the paintings, and I ended up storing them until they were dry enough to take to a shipper.)  If you're flying, very large stretched canvases simply may not be practical.

You will also need to consider how to carry a wet painting back from the field to your car.  If you can't find a wet canvas carrier large enough (Guerrilla Painter's Plein Air Porter will carry up to a 20x24 panel), you may have to invest in special clips that clip two stretched canvases together, front-to-front.  Or,  you can make two trips from the field, one with your painting, a second with your gear.    If you're a pastel painter, you won't have to worry as much, but you still might want to protect the painting with a sheet of glassine.

Large-format outdoor painting isn't for the weak of heart, but it can be very rewarding.  By taking the time to really observe a scene and record my response to it makes me feel a little more part of the natural world - and a little more alive.

(By the way, in the July/August 2013 issue of The Artist's Magazine, I gave more detail on large-format painting.  Click this link for a free article from The Artists' Magazine on my process.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Pleasure of Paintouts

Hot Rocks, 9x12 pastel - en plein air
Up for auction!  Starting bid $75
I think most outdoor painters would agree that, as attractive as it is to paint by yourself without interruption, there's pleasure to be had in painting with others. Part of it is companionship.  Who hasn't had fun chatting while you're locating your spot and setting up, followed by the occasional walk-around to see what the others are up to?  Another part of it is is sharing  your favorite spot with others, or to have another painter share his with you.  And how many of us have been intrigued by another painter's odd but surprisingly functional set-up?  Observe, ask a question or two, and you might find yourself introduced to a piece of painting gear or technique that will make life easier.

As some of you know, I'm part of a local plein air group, Plein Air Painters of Sedona and the Verde Valley.  We get out at least once a month for a little companionable painting.  Yesterday, we headed out to the Yavapai Vista trailhead between Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek (which is technically part of Sedona.)  Just off the trail and atop the hill, you get some beautiful views of Lee Mountain, Courthouse Butte and the Rabbit Ears formation.  I've painted there several times, but there's always something new to paint.  This time, I turned away from the obvious view and painted the hills behind me.  (You can see the painting above.)

Our group is hosted by  Although it's expensive - $144/year - it has excellent tools for communicating, planning and following up.  I particularly like the RSVP system so I know exactly who is coming, among other neat features.  Why not just use e-mail to communicate?  Well, you can post maps, trail details, photos and do lots more.  It's a pretty neat system.  To offset the costs, we ask members to donate $10/year.  Fourteen paying members is all it takes.

I know, this sounds like an advertisement, but it's not.  I'm hoping plein air painters who might live, either full-time or part-time, or who vacation here or who are thinking about visiting and painting will join us.  Even if you're only going to be here a week but plan to paint, why not consider joining us?  You can do so here:

By the way, if you sign up and pay, Paint Sedona will give you 5% (that's $15) off a Paint Sedona workshop!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Year of Plein Air Festivals

Painting on Main Street, Sedona

I am calling this the Year of Plein Air Festivals.  I just received word that I have been invited to my third for 2014 - the Sedona Plein Air Festival.  This will be the 10th year for the festival, and my 7th time participating after a two-year hiatus.  I am delighted to be back and I look forward to painting with old friends and to making a few new ones.  It's always a great time!
(By the way, I am teaching a three-Saturday workshop for the organizer, the Sedona Arts Center, starting February 15.  We'll cover plein air painting fundamentals the first Saturday, color in the landscape the second weekend, and putting depth in your paintings the final session.  For details and to register:
I've included a few photos from the last Sedona event I participated in, which was in 2012.  This year's festival runs from October 18 through October 25.  Details are still coming, but book mark to stay current.  I will, of course, be blogging daily from the event.  If you'd like to read some of my past blogs on it, click here.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I am delighted to be invited back to the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art plein air festival, which runs September 13-21.  This will be my third time participating.  Finally, I have also been invited to the Montague Plein Air Festival on Prince Edward Island (Canada), which runs June 24-29.

That's it!  I think three plein air festivals is all I can handle in a year.  They are fun, but can be gruelling!

Painting on Main Street, Sedona

Main Street, Sedona, Post-Paintout Show

We always have a "Jerome Day" in Jerome, AZ

Quick-Draw by Oak Creek at Los Abrigados Resort

Quick-Draw Sale and Auction at Los Abrigados

Kevin Macpherson, Judge for the Quick-Draw

At the Opening Night Gala