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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Return to Taos: Upcoming Painting Retreat

The Rio Grande Gorge & the Sangre de Cristos

Taos, New Mexico - Painting Retreat
September 26-October 1, 2021

If you've not been to Taos before, you're in for a treat.  Taos sits between the 800-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge and the aspen-clad peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  Our subject matter will include the Rio Grande, which should be starting to show some autumn color, as well as the mountain streams and aspens near Taos Ski Valley.  We'll also paint the rustic adobe structures in historic Arroyo Seco and, of course, the enchanting village of Taos itself.  I've painted in this area many times and will be happy to share with you my knowledge.

But Taos isn't all about the landscape.  It's also home to the Taos Society of Artists, and you can visit some of their studios, which are now museums.  The Taos Art Museum at the Nicholai Fechin House is a great introduction to these artists, as are the E.I. Couse and Blumenschein studios and the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.  Taos is also home to many excellent restaurants including Doc Martin's, Orlando's Mexican Cafe and Michael's, as well as to many galleries.

This exclusive painting retreat will be limited to only FIVE painters.  Participants must have outdoor painting experience and be comfortable painting without assistance.  Cost for the retreat is $300, not including lodging or meals.  (You can find many excellent and reasonably-priced options for lodging at AirBnB and elsewhere.)  A $150 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your space.  Once I receive your deposit, I'll send a confirmation letter with important details.  Contact me to reserve your space.

Although this is not a formal workshop, I will be giving critiques daily for work we do during the week.  After that, I'll guide you to one of many stunning locations for our morning painting session where we will paint as a group.  You are welcome to watch as I paint and treat it as a demo, and I will gladly narrate as I work.  After lunch, we can continue to paint as a group at a new location, or if you'd like to paint on your own, I will give you suggestions.  We may also choose to visit one of the Taos museums or galleries.

I invite you to join me in this special painting retreat!  Here are some photos to whet your appetite.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Painting Beautiful Shadows

A blog reader asks:  “Could you please do a blog on shadows and making them gorgeous?

Painting beautiful shadows requires more than just darkening the colors that you see in the sunlit areas.  In the above illustration, you'll note that, with respect to color, there's a lot going on in the shadowed side of the rocky cliff. Although the sunlit parts are all warm earth colors—ochres, mostly—the color varies much more in the shadows.

To make this clearer, I used my eyedropper tool in GIMP to pull out a few color samples, which I've placed below the painting.  The samples from the shadows contain greyed-down versions of almost the full spectrum, from blues, violets and reds to yellowy-oranges and greens.  The samples from the light areas, by contrast, consist of a narrower range of yellows and reds.

Of course, it's “never the twain shall meet” when it comes to shadow and light values.  To ensure good value separation between light and shadow, I kept the shadow colors all darker than any of the light values, even where I added touches of bounced light.  This bounced light is slightly lighter than surrounding shadows, but still not so light that it competes with the sunny spots

Besides shifting color in the shadows, I also shifted temperature.  Although the sunny areas look cool, I took the liberty of making the bounced light warm.  The contrast between the cooler, bluer notes in the shadows and the warm, yellowy-orange bounced light creates interest for the eye.  The shadow colors are also richer than the sunlit colors.  (Except where the sunlight hits the juniper bushes.)

Finally, remember that you have creative control over contrast.  The more you dial up the contrast—the difference between light and dark, warm and cool, rich and dull—the more drama the painting will have.  Too little, and the painting will seem weak; too much, and the painting will seem cartoonish.  It's up to you where you want to set the dial.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Demonstration: Big Cliff Painting

Morning at the Lake
36x36 oil/gallery-wrap canvas

In my previous post, I shared how I start a large painting with oil sticks. Here, I want to show you how I continue the painting, using Gamblin paints plus Gamsol and Solvent-Free Gel to deepen the block-in and to finish. Above is the finished piece. 

Watch this short video (Can't see it? Here's the link):

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Oil Stick Demo

(Can't see the video? Here's the link.)

I recently decided to make a large painting of one of my favorite scenes—one of the candy-striped cliffs that tower over a nearby lake. I've painted the scene many times in a smaller format, from different angles and in different seasons, but I had a hankering to do something much larger. In my studio, I had a 36x36 gallery-wrap canvas that seemed just perfect. So, I got to work, pulling out reference paintings and photos and playing with design ideas with vine charcoal on newsprint.

You might ask, How can a square format be suitable? The square is, indeed, foreign to the landscape. Usually, painters feel that a wider format—3:4, 1:2 or even 1:3—suits the landscape better. After all, the landscape is full of horizontals, and the wide format permits a vista and gives the viewer some room in which to breathe. But for my painting, I wanted to do a more intimate view of the cliff, and I saw all kinds of possibilities with diagonals and verticals that would divide up the square in dynamic and interesting ways. Here are a couple of my design sketches:

A 36x36 takes a lot of paint for the start. For paintings of this size, I like to begin with oil sticks rather than a brush. Oil sticks (or oil bars or paint sticks), which are simply pigment mixed with just enough linseed oil to form a crayon, are perfect for the initial drawing and block-in. Completely compatible with oil paint, the sticks, with the tips softened by dipping them in OMS briefly, let you create a beautiful, soft line. As for blocking in shapes, it's just like when you were a child, filling in between the lines in your coloring book, and then you can take a brush, dampened with OMS, to spread the color around.

At the top of the blog is a video demonstration of how I used Shiva Paintstiks to draw and block in. (In my next post, I'll continue and finish the painting.) Can't see the video? Here's the link.

By the way, there is still time to take advantage of a good discount on Plein Air Live. I will be demonstrating in gouache on Beginner's Day. For more information or to register, go here.