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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Book Review: Painting the Woods: Nature, Memory, and Metaphor by Deborah Paris

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You may remember I'm a big fan of two writers:  Henry David Thoreau and Annie Dillard.  In their writings, they walk the reader through the natural landscape, taking him by the arm and pointing out Nature's wonders.  But they aren't just “nature writers.”  They go beyond detailing the nesting habits of groundhogs or the intricacy of a wasp's nest.  They elevate the reader's experience, transcending the quotidian essays of most nature writers by rising into the realm of the philosophical and spiritual.

You may also remember that I like books about art and artists.  Recently, a new book caught my attention:  Painting the Woods: Nature, Memory, and Metaphor by Deborah Paris.  I forget how I came across it, but when I learned it is by an artist I'd met years ago at a plein air painting event in New Mexico, my curiosity grew.  I ordered it without really delving into what the book is about.

When I cracked it open, it hooked me immediately.  It's not another “how-to-paint” book.  Nor is it a “how-to-see” book, another type one commonly runs into.  Instead, it's a “how-to-think-about-what-we-do-as-artists” book.  It takes the reader into the artist's mind where it explores the whys and hows of the creative process.  Much of this exploration is laid out by the author as a narrative, taking place in an old-growth forest in rural Texas.  There she considers the things she wants to paint, and while gathering reference materials for an ultimate return to the studio, mediates on how artists reckon with the natural world to refine an artistic vision.

For example, on memory:
Without sustained observation there is no memory—it's just that simple.  When I allow my interest and response to visual impressions to guide my observations, rather than a focus driven by pictorial concerns, it is much easier to store those memories and use them later. … I have come to rely almost completely on memory for motif ideas and color, needing field reference only for specifics of form.
Thoreau and Dillard are masters at working in the spiritual and philosophical as they catalog their observations of nature.  Paris, too, scatters her thoughts generously, like an oak dropping acorns, as she explores her forest.

Painting the Woods: Nature, Memory, and Metaphor by Deborah Paris.  2020, Texas A&M University Press.  Available at Amazon

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Encounter: Interview with Lyn Asselta

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I spoke recently with Maine artist Lyn Asselta as part of my ongoing interviews of artists from my new book, Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air.  Lyn holds top designations in several organizations, including Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America and Eminent Pastelist with the International Association of Pastel Societies.  Her award-winning paintings have been exhibited in shows throughout the US as well as in France and China, and she's also a much-sought-after teacher for both studio and plein air pastel workshops. (Website:  www.LynAsselta.com

I've known Lyn for many years, and it was a pleasure working with her on the book and interviewing her for this video.  You can watch the video below or at this link: https://youtu.be/hm1Tctsyxz4




In case you haven't heard about my book, it features 15 master artists who share their tips and techniques for plein air painting.  This 160-page book is packed with demonstrations, illustrations and, of course, beautiful paintings.  The book, which will come out March 2022, is available for pre-order from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can get details at the following links:


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Some Wee Scottish Paintings

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"Skye Sheep" 6x8 oil - Available


I recently needed to paint a few small pieces and to have them dry quickly so I could ship them.  This need arises occasionally, and when it does, I switch from traditional oil paints to alkyds.  For these paintings, I used Gamblin FastMatte colors.  I like these because paintings made with them dry to the touch in about 24 hours, and after a couple of days, they are completely dry.  (I do not paint in very thick layers.)

The paint dries to a matte finish, so I varnish them with Gamblin's Gamvar Gloss, which brings back some of the glossiness one expects from oil paint.  Because the FastMatte dries matte, a single coat doesn't give you a super-glossy effect, but it does bring back the proper value relationships and color saturation (as a varnish will do with traditional oil paints.) 

The paintings are all based on photos, field sketches and memories from previous trips to Scotland.  Because I had to cancel this summer's painting retreat on the Isle of Skye, it was good to revisit Scotland in my mind.  Most are sold, but there are a few left if you are interested.

"Beneath Buachaille" 6x8 Oil - Available

"Birsay Cliff" 6x8 Oil - Available

"Bridge over the Burn" 6x8 Oil - SOLD

"Highland Bridge" 6x8 Oil - SOLD

"Rousay Fish Houses" 6x8 Oil - SOLD


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Encounter: Interview with Nathan Fowkes

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I spoke recently with California artist Nathan Fowkes as part of my ongoing interviews of artists from my new book, Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air.  Nathan is a concept artist for animation and entertainment projects with clients such as DreamWorks, Blue Sky and Disney, and he has screen credits for 12 feature films.  But he's not just a studio artist.  As you'll learn in our interview, much of his concept art is inspired by his adventures in plein air painting.  (Visit www.NathanFowkesFineArt.com.)

I hadn't met Nathan before our interview, but when I was looking for artists to include, I was so taken by his landscape work and his expertise as a teacher that I knew right away he would add an important dimension to my book. It was a pleasure to work with him and a real delight to meet him via Zoom.  You can either watch the recording here or through this link:  https://youtu.be/jZ8iNn7zFtA



In case you haven't heard about my book, it features 15 master artists who share their tips and techniques for plein air painting.  This 160-page book is packed with demonstrations, illustrations and, of course, beautiful paintings.  The book, which will come out March 2022, is available for pre-order from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can get details at the following links:



Sunday, January 2, 2022

Encounter: Interview with Mark Mehaffey

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Watch it Here


I spoke recently with water media artist Mark Mehaffey as part of my ongoing interviews of artists from my new book, Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air.  Mark holds master and signature memberships in many organizations, including the American Watercolor and National Watercolor Societies.  He's also won many major awards in exhibitions both here and abroad, such as the "Distinguished Master" award from the Transparent Watercolor Society of America for having over 20 paintings in its shows.  Also a workshop instructor, Mark has written books and produced videos on painting in a variety of water media.  (Visit www.MarkMehaffeyFineArt.com.)

Until our interview, I'd not met Mark in person, but I envy him living and painting on the shores of Lake Michigan.  It was a pleasure to work with him on the book and a real delight to meet him via Zoom.  You can either watch the recording here or through this link:  https://youtu.be/NWSpuXH97p0



In case you haven't heard about my book, it features 15 master artists who share their tips and techniques for plein air painting.  This 160-page book is packed with demonstrations, illustrations and, of course, beautiful paintings.  The book, which will come out March 2022, is available for pre-order from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can get details at the following links: