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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kickstarter update: First Seven Paintings Imaged

Mulholland Light, 6x6 oil

It's been a week since I last posted, but I've been busy on my Kickstarter project, Fifty Paintings for the Roosevelt Campobello International Park's Fiftieth Anniversary.  (I've informally shortened this to "50450.")  I've painted fifteen pieces, seven of which were dry enough this morning to put on the flatbed scanner and image.  I am posting one of them here, and you can see the rest of them either at my Facebook studio page or at the special 50450 web page I've set up.

It's been a fun week, sifting through old photos for reference material and interpreting them in paint.  I'm looking for six different subjects:  vistas, beach, rocks, trees, buildings and boats.  I discovered early on that I am somewhat short on buildings, so Trina and I went out one evening and took some great building photos for me to work from.  I'm also short on boats.  The Park doesn't offer much in the way of boats, other than a dock it uses for the occasional tour boat from St Andrews and the annual Regatta.  I'm hoping some boats start coming in soon.

I tone two panels at once with Indian Yellow

A friend asked about the palette I'm using for this project.  I'm using Gamblin's FastMatte oil colors exclusively, since I want the paintings to dry quickly enough for imaging.  Here are the colors I'm using:  Hansa Yellow Medium, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, Quinacridone Red, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green and, of course, Titanium White.  I wasn't sure about Indian Yellow at first - it has a very high tinting strength, and I was having trouble controlling it - but I am loving it this week.  I am toning all my panels with it, and it gives a nice warm tone to the finished painting.  It also works well for seaweed-covered rocks, fall foliage and other also as color for greying my blues.

Now it's back to the studio for the next batch!

I'm not using the pad of palette paper anymore; an old window makes a great palette!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Kickstarter Update: 50 for the 50th - Celebrating the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park's Anniversary

Snug Cove, 6x6, oil

Now that I'm back on Campobello Island, I am putting the pedal to the metal.  I have at least fifty small paintings to do over the next several weeks.  These are for my Kickstarter project, "50 for the 50th," which celebrates the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park's 50th anniversary.  (Click on the link to visit my Kickstarter page where you can read about the project and get updates.)  I enjoy highly-focussed projects, and this one will have an especially tight focus.  Each painting will be only 6"x6", or 36 square inches.

Some of the paintings will be done en plein air; others, in the studio.  Yesterday I began setting up my studio space for the project.  Because these panels are so small, I had to create a custom adapter for my studio easel, which you can see below.  I built it with just foam board and rubber cement.  The top and bottom pieces that hold the panel in place are beveled, creating an edge to grip the panel.  I can easily slide the panel in and out from the left or right.

As for materials, I'll be using Gamblin's FastMatte oil paints for the project.  Because they dry quickly, I'll be able to scan each piece and then post it on my web page for the project only a day or two after painting it. Also, the paints get "tacky" during an hour or so, so this will lead to some beautiful, pastel-like, broken-color effects.  Depending on how they look when done, I may or may not apply a glossy varnish.  I rather like the matte look of the unvarnished pieces, but we'll see.  (Another option is to apply a matte varnish.)

Studio setup.  I'm using my Kindle Fire HD for displaying photo references.

I painted a trial piece yesterday, which you can see at the top of this post.  It's a scene from near Friar's Head, looking out toward Snug Cove.  

Just as a reminder, although my Kickstarter is fully funded, not all the paintings are sold.  I will give my sponsors first pick of the paintings, but there will be plenty of paintings left for you to choose from, if you're interested.  You can see paintings as I post them here.  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Cincinnati and Filming at F+W Media

Camera 3

Standing up in front of students and teaching them the fine points of painting is difficult enough.  So imagine what it'd be like if you had to lecture intelligently without students to ask you questions to help you along.  Add a bank of hot studio lights and then turn off the A/C because it makes noise, and, finally, paint at an odd angle for six hours to avoid blocking a camera.  Now, add two helpful videographers and a director who are able to prompt you exactly when you need it, are happy to put up with your every stumble, tend to your needs for coffee, water and good food, and who believe in frequent breaks.  This is what it's like to shoot an instructional video at F+W Media.

At their Blue Ash, Ohio, offices, we shot three videos in as many days.  As nervous as I was about the prospect, I found the process incredibly enjoyable, and I think everyone had a great time.  On Sunday, I rode around with director Jennifer Lepore (also Online Content Manager for for half a day and scouted out painting sites for the plein air video.  We picked out two we really liked plus two more backup spots.  Things we looked at included not just the obvious such as sun angle and shadows, but also the risks of traffic and noise.  The rest of the day was free, so Trina and I went exploring and found nearby Sharon Woods, which is a city park with some nice woodland trails in it.

My palette, on-camera

Monday, we met for several hours at the studio to prepare for the shoot, which actually wouldn't happen until Tuesday.  We went over outlines and scripts, making sure to take them step-by-step to figure out exactly what I was going to do when.  (We focused on the plein air video, which we decided to shoot first because of a rather grim weather forecast later in the week.)  I also met Ric Deliantoni, Managing Photographer and also the head videographer, who helped make me comfortable with the concept of being on-camera.  Then we "dressed" the set by putting up some of the paintings I've done on this trip and added a fake ficus for more decoration.  Finally, we placed my easel, taboret and stool so they worked well with the cameras (three were used) but also so they were comfortable for me.

Tuesday, we met at the studio at 7 a.m., drove to the location, and were shooting by 9.  Despite a few stops for walkers, traffic and a lady who parked nearby to have an extended and loud, one-sided conversation on her Bluetooth headset, it went well.  We were done by lunchtime.  The topic for the day was "Making Your Best Guess," something I teach regularly in my workshops.  For this one, I worked in pastel on an 11x14 surface.  After lunch, we returned to the studio to prepare for the next day's shoot by going over more outlines and scripts.  Although I was happy with my pastel, I worked a bit more on it afterward in the studio, off-camera, to bring it up a notch.

Making sure everything looks good before shooting.
(Photo by Jennifer Lepore)

Wednesday arrived pouring rain.  We met in the studio at 8 to shoot the "Color Temperature in the Landscape" video.  This is some new material I've been developing, and I prepared some illustrations in advance.  The topic is a little more technical than the "Best Guess" one, so I spent more time going over concepts before getting to the demonstration.  In fact, I didn't get to the painting part until after lunch!  Again, I was pleased with the results, which was a 12x16 oil.  For the rest of the day, we prepped for our third and final video.  Prepping, by the way, involves not only going over outlines but also figuring out where reference photos need to be positioned and what tools and materials need to be laid out.

(Photo by Jennifer Lepore)

Thursday, it was still raining.  (It was a good thing we did that plein air video on Tuesday!)  Again, we met at 8, this time to shoot "Painting Wet-into-Wet."  I had a little time to touch-up the demo from the day before, but soon we were into the new material.  This topic was less technical than "Color Temperature," so things went a little faster.  We were done with the demonstration (another 12x16 oil) about the middle of the afternoon.  Next, we taped a short Q&A session that will be added to some of the videos and then, as they say, "That's a wrap!"

Was I tired?  You bet!  But I felt fulfilled.  Shooting video in a professional environment was a new thing for me, and I learned a lot about cameras and the process.  In fact, the videographers say I am now an expert with intros and outros.

All that footage is now heading to post-production.  Each video will be edited down to an hour or perhaps ninety minutes, depending on topic and complexity.  I'm looking forward to seeing the final cut, which should be sent to me sometime this fall.  All three videos will be ready just in time for the holiday season.  (Yes, I'll be sending out reminders.)

But the week wasn't all work.  I had dinner and some lunches with several of the great folks at F+W.  It was good to visit again with Pastel Journal editor Anne Hevener and Group Publisher Jamie Markle, and to finally meet Cherie Haas, the online editor for  It was especially nice, after all these years of working for her, to meet my editor at The Artists Magazine, Maureen Bloomfield.  I think she's been editing me for ten years now, and I can't believe we haven't met till now.  And I want to express my thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to visit and say hello, and to the video group in particular for their efforts on the soundstage.  It was really a wonderful visit.

So that's it for business on this trip.  Now it's off to York on the coast of Maine to visit with a friend, then a night in Bar Harbor, and finally - Campobello Island!  I'll write again once I'm safe in my summer studio.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Toledo, Ohio, and the Toledo Artists Club

Tulips in  Toledo

Toledo has alway been a place we've just passed by on our cross-country journeys.  But we were surprised and pleased to find it's a thriving art town with beautiful parks.  My two-day workshop for the Toledo Artists' Club was centered at the Toledo Botanical Garden, which includes 60 acres of gardens plus manicured lawns and Crosby Lake.  The tulips were in full bloom for our workshop, along with a number of fragrant, flowering trees.

This workshop had painters in oil, pastel and even watercolor.  Although I don't "do" watercolor professionally, I paint in that medium for my own pleasure.  I enjoyed working with the watercolorists and offering them some suggestions based on my experiences.  (Tip:  To avoid paint drying too fast, work in small patches and avoid big washes.  Also, even though one typically works light-to-dark with watercolor, I like to place my shadows - lightly, of course - before they change.)

Toledo Park Bench, 9x12 oil sketch

For our first day, we had excellent if somewhat warm weather.  I demonstrated in oil, focusing on the temperature contrast of light and shadow.  For the second day, we had intermittent rain, which forced us indoors after my morning pastel demonstration, which I did manage to do out in the field.  In the afternoon, since we were working from photos, I showed them how to take a photo and make a painting from it that had that "plein air" feeling.  (More tips:  Keep the shadows lighter than they appear in the photo, and also push the color temperature contrast.)

Garden Path, 9x12 pastel sketch

We stayed with a wonderful Latvian family for our time in Toledo.  Liga is a fine watercolorist, and for our last morning, she made us a special treat - Latvian pancakes with bacon, sour cream and maple syrup.

Now we are in Blue Ash, a suburb of Cincinnati.  Tomorrow I'll meet with my editor from, and we'll go scouting locations for the plein air video; Monday we'll start the real work of shooting video.  As much as I'm looking forward to taping my three videos, I'm a little nervous - I won't have any students to ask me thought-provoking questions!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Valparaiso, Indiana and the Art Barn School of Art

It's not an Art Barn workshop unless you have chickens!
After the workshop in Batavia, Illinois, we drove about 90 minutes east to Valparaiso, Indiana, and the Art Barn School of Art.  This makes my sixth time teaching at the Art Barn, and I am grateful to my mentor, Ann Templeton, for suggesting I teach here.  Ann, who taught many times at the Art Barn, is still fondly remembered by Jan Sullivan, now in her 90s, who founded the school.  Jan takes my workshop every year.

The Art Barn occupies 69 acres of woodland and fields, complete with a pond and a trail that runs throughout.  In the woods, many wildflowers are blooming:  trillium, wake robin (a dusky red trillium), jack-in-the-pulpit and spring beauty.  Flowers about to bloom include mayapple and bloodroot, and I'm sure they'll pop the day we leave.  The trees are just barely showing some of their spring greens, and the woods are full of that wonderful red-violet.

Inside the Art Barn
I like to display some of the other work from my trip for students, so these are
some paintings from Zion National Park and Batavia, Illinois

I should give some mention to the farm animals.  Jan keeps a miniature pony and burro, plus a quartet of white ducks and so many chickens I can't count them all.  This year, we missed our chicken wrangler, so chickens made it into only a couple of paintings.  (They don't hold still for long and require a wrangler with plenty of biscuits to feed them.)  I did make sure to include one slow-moving hen in my oil demonstration.

Spring Willow, 12x9 oil
For this workshop, I had seven students, four of which had studied with me previously.  We had oil, pastel and acrylic painters, so I demonstrated in pastel the first day and in oil the second.  The first day dawned with thunder, sleet and heavy rain, but by the time the students arrived, the weather had started to clear.  Still, it was cool enough that everyone wanted an indoor demonstration.  I painted a scene through one of the barn's large, sliding-door windows.  That afternoon, things warmed up enough for everyone to get outside.  On the second day, we had plenty of sunshine, and I chose to paint a storm-blasted willow tree that reminds me so much of some of the Romantic English painters.  Everyone did a fantastic job these two days.

Plowed Field, 9x12 pastel - SOLD
Now we're done with the Art Barn, and tomorrow we head off for Toledo, Ohio, where I'll be leading a two-day workshop for the Toledo Artist's Club.  Toledo is new territory for me, so I'm excited and looking forward to it!

The burro

Yes, we've got roosters, too!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Batavia, Illinois

Fox River, 9x12 pastel

We left Zion, as always, with bittersweet feelings.  We were reluctant to leave that place of beauty, but eager to move on to our next location and thus ever closer to home.

Our planned route was north to I-70 and through the Rockies, but a spring snow storm pushed us south instead.  They were predicting a foot of snow over several days.  Having gotten caught by a surprise snow squall near Vail a few years ago, we decided to play it safe.  Instead, we chose a route that took us through the Navajo and Hopi reservations around Tuba City and Second Mesa - all very  beautiful country - and down to Albuqerque.  As we pushed onward, we learned that the storm to the north was huge, and we soon ran into 60 mph winds and near-zero-visibility dust storms.

Ironically, we encountered the worst in Dalhart, Texas, which had been Ground Zero for the Dustbowl back in the '30s.  (Today, Dalhart is Ground Zero for feedlots, including Cargill's 21,500-acre "hog production lot," which might help explain the dust.) The storm was three hours of white-knuckle driving.  I wish we'd had time to take pictures.  Besides the dust, there were the tumbleweeds, scouring our windward flank like Brillo pads and then leaping helter-skelter over their comrades piled up against the roadside fence before vanishing.  Five states later, we are still picking tumbleweed fragments out of our car's front grille.

Making coffee in Water Street Studio's kitchen

All was calm at our destination of Batavia, Illinois.  Spring was pushing through quietly, popping up daffodils and leafy buds.  Batavia is home to Water Street Studios, where I've taught several times now.  Water Street Studios consists of a large gallery space, two classrooms and a number of rentable studios.  I always look forward to this workshop, since it's a comfortable, well-equipped facility and we have some nice city parks nearby to paint in.  One of my favorites, the Fabyan Forest Preserve, runs right along the Fox River and has scores of huge, old, gnarly oaks.  This time, I had only three students, but we still had a great time.  Everyone was painting in pastel, so I was able to give them a pure pastel experience.

Blustery Spring Day, 8x12 pastel

Maybe it breaks compositional rules, but I like that street lamp in the middle.

Our first day, we had blustery wind and spiting rain, so my demonstration - like all the paintings that day - was a quick sketch, focusing on value and color notes.  I was surprised at how much red-violet I was seeing the spring landscape.  My students were surprised, too, but soon even they were seeing red-violet everywhere.  This color is a complement to the cool, spring greens.  If you put a mark of neutral grey against a swatch of spring-green, that grey mark will take on a noticeable red-violet cast, thanks to the principle of simultaneous contrast.  This is why we were seeing so much red-violet.

Our second day was filled with sun and fast-moving clouds.  I chose to skip the clouds and to focus instead on the Fox River and the beautiful greens and, yes!, the red-violets I saw.  (See my demonstration at the top of the post.)

Now we are in Valparaiso, Indiana, at the Art Barn School of Art.  This is 60 acres of woodland, meadow and even a pond.  Stay tuned!