Thursday, May 31, 2012

Challenge Yourself

Not being one to avoid a challenge…….(says one who went back to school in her late 40s to finally get her art degrees) I have just joined the Limited Palette Challenge on Facebook. This challenge has been setup to see what a body can do using only Ken Auster’s limited palette as a color basis for a painting. This is going to be hard…….after all I travel with every pigment known to man, woman too. The challenge is to produce 5 pieces with only white, black, alizarin crimson, cad yellow medium and ultramarine blue. Can I sneak in Indian Yellow and still be legal? You can see I am having problems with this already. The time limited challenge was over before I actually could join it, so all the pressure is my own. But the learning will be posted here so anyone wanting to can follow along. Failures and all.

I think I am going to do small canvasses, after all this is a learning thing. I will do nothing bigger than 11x14 and some as small as 8x6. I think the hard thing will be to tame the alizarin… is the sort of color that gets into your hair, nose, mouth, you name it. I have even found it on my skivvies, - don’t ask. It’s the devil to get out of beige pants after having sat upon it. It is hard to control and oh so strident straight out of the tube. It sings solos even when surrounded by others. Controlling alizarin is like trying to hide the one red-headed kid in the family. It just sorta sticks out. So for me, that will be the hardest part of the challenge. Or maybe it will be the lack of cad red light. I do so have issues with reds. They are hard to keep in their proper places. The Southwest seems to dictate using Indian Red, English Red or Cadmium Reds.

 Alizarin is a color I associate with the Eastern landscapes. I did use it in my Rainy Day at Red Rocks painting that I did in Nevada at the convention. But nothing that day was typically Southwest. The weather least of all.  If challenges make you grow, I am going to be much taller after this, - right.

Wind Canyon Etude #3
During the Whitewater/Baldy Fire

Add to the stated limitations the biggest wild fire that New Mexico has ever experienced and the normal cerulean skies are pretty gray today. The sun peeks through a haze that is ash. The fire is about 50-60 miles from us, but the skies, tastes and smells are here in plenty.
Wind Canyon has the least amount of alizarin I have ever seen in a landscape, but we do have purple thistle and tiny purple flowers right now. That’s it, cause it ain’t in the cactus……oh heck yeah it is, in those tiny purple blossoms at the tips of the cholla. See what happens when you really pay attention? You start seeing things that you never noticed before. And the nice thing is that I can dovetail this with the Wind Canyon series I am doing. Two birds with one stone…….sweet.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How do you work?

There are 2 plein air tips that I want to share because they seem to be at opposite poles of working approaches. 

#1 Stapleton Kearns has a wonderful piece in his blog about premixing your lightest light color. The color you think is actually in the light of your painting. Go here to read in its entirety. Now I absolutely LOVE Stape's blog. He makes you think and he is passionate about plein air and oil painting in general He's an authority in my mind. His comments are typically acidic New England in flavor, but he is a fountain of information and thoughts about why and how to paint plein air. He is what I would call an EXTREME plein air painter. I mean anyone who lists polar boots as a necessity for outdoor painting, does it year round. And how can you not love a guy who puts on a woman's wig and smokes a cigar to take his avatar picture??? Stape is not your average run-of-the-mill milk-toast artist. His advice has rung true in many instances for me, and his knowledge is phenomenal. Stape premixes his light color, the better to use it in all highlighted areas of the painting, producing a well-orchestrated sense of unity throughout the painting.

#2 is Matt Smith, the desert painting guru of Tucson. Matt is wicked skilled, personable, homey, smart, experienced, and generous to a fault about helping other artists better their skills. He has produced two really fantastic DVDs about plein air painting the desert. His advice is wonderful, easy to understand and full of explanation. I have painted the absolute best desert plein air I have ever painted after watching his DVDs. I told him so at the convention in Las Vegas. In fact, its on my Facebook personal page as my banner image. Matt advocates leaving your sky until the very last, so that you key the value of it correctly to what you have already painted. I tried it and for me it worked. That sky was really RIGHT. I valued that piece of advise for painting the Sonoran desert. Other ideas as well, but this one in particular worked for me.
Sabino Canyon, Tucson
So here you have two authorities who both advocate differing approaches to a painting agenda. I hesitate to say system, because both of these men are smart enough to know there are no hard and fast rules about painting other than that fat over lean thing. And to be fair, both of these highly skilled artists paint in entirely different ecosystems, which can necessitate entirely different palettes. I have yet to try Stape's way of working with a premixed color of the dominating light tone. It's definitely on my list of things to try real soon.

Now has anyone else tried both of these working methods? Do you intend to? Or are you in favor of one over the other?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Just do it !

Have you ever had a location stay in your mind and you knew you should paint it? A place that will not leave you alone, and every time you go by it you think “I should paint that”? I did. I finally painted it.

Near Silver City is the lost-in-time small town of Pinos Altos. Hearst built a church there to mollify his wife who said the mining town had enough saloons and fancy houses, but needed a church. It now functions as a local museum and there are art shows there all through the warm months. It was the place where Judge Roy Bean had his store and kept his court. Not too slow to hang anyone, there is a pretty good sized cemetery complete with old tombstones and curious inscriptions. The old saloon and opera house still function and the locals are quite proud to tell you about the heritage. It’s a cool old place. The kind of place where people drive by VERY SLOWLY (courteous to not stir up dust as you paint), roll down their windows and tell you how great your painting is, even when you are simply blocking in.

Old Fort - Pinos Altos
Oil on Linen Panel - Available
I can honestly say that if you have such a place, you should paint it. That way whatever there was that called you to it will be placated, and whatever the place has to teach you, you will learn in the painting of it. I do not paint buildings very much. It’s a real problem for me. I don’t have trouble with the perspective, its just that silly thing where in your mind it’s a masterpiece, and on the canvas not so much. I am never satisfied with my buildings…..they just seem to not be what I had intended. But this time, I learned a lot about painting buildings. This building and wall really are so amorphous, totally nonlinear, that the perspective is all wonky in real life anyway. I will paint buildings more…maybe I won’t post them, but I may.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Is EVERYTHING a series of choices?

If life is the result of choices taken or ignored, how much like life is art? Painting is a series of choices, as is sailing, building a studio and setting up a blog. You have probably noticed a change to the format of this blog. There is a reason. It is not to wake you up, I doubt this venue would do that better than a good cup of strong coffee. I had to change my template so that I could use some enhanced promotion tools. So it was on to the dynamic page and its results. I truly hope you do not find the color objectionable. On my screen it is an innocuous green, rather calming and a good foil for the landscapes. If you do object, let me know. I have already had one rather pointed remark about it. If I have others I will consider a change. 

This change thing has me scratching my head. Choices are everywhere; from the shoes we wear today, or not, to the people we decide to live our lives with and the career paths we follow. Building the studio has been like that too. The lighting was the latest set of choices. I had a rather set idea about how the lighting was to work. It required that my husband understand what I needed. Being the electrician in charge and the major muscle behind all this, he had to be on the same page as I was. He did agree to put in three skylights and after patching a small leak, his first skylights are a great success. The electrical lighting was a series of corrections, a lot like painting, actually. I had explained what I wanted, checked with him and ordered it. 
The lighting had arrived and I drew a diagram of the layout I wanted. That was the concept phase.
Lighting and Drywall Phase
What followed in the execution stage was a graphic representation of men being from Mars while women are from Venus. Because the drawing did not follow what he thought I was saying, he did what he truly thought I wanted. His choice. Sweet guy. Always trying to do what is best for me. Its laughable now. Then, not so much. But this was all before drywall, and so, easily correctable. What the studio now has is a balanced lighting situation with some very directional lighting and some ambient controllable lighting, all which can be on in sync or lit singularly. I now have the best of both worlds, with natural Northern day time lighting, and lighting that is very customizeable as my needs dictate. Add to that a great shadow box for still life, light blocking lined black window coverings and this work situation is infinitely changeable and workable. Sweet.
Drywall In, Floors being installed and Skylights Above -
Outlets for lights Above, Not yet put in
Did I mention he built me my shadow box? Its wonderful. And no, he is not out for hire. Now my choice as to what to put in it to paint. Lemons anyone?

Friday, May 18, 2012

From a Sketch to a Painting - Out of My Comfort Zone

If the idea of plein air is to develop field studies and to culminate in the use of them to create a studio painting, I have done my first developed work in my new studio. The studio is workable, though not finished. There is water, but no sink. I have a skeleton of a counter and the order is in for a custom built counter top. I still need to paint the counter. The sink is bought, thanks to my sharp-eyed husband and a garage sale he just happened by that had a sink (?) out for sale. I can picture him driving home on his motorcycle, balancing that sink!  Maybe they will just hose things/dishes down in their yard now that their sink is gone. Oh well, not my problem. We do need to get the plumbing issues resolved before fall and winter. Pipes can freeze here. But I can already paint in there.

Plein air loosely means "in the open air". Even more  loosely  translated, it can mean worked from life. The French were mostly concerned with the visual translation of light and how it illuminated the world around them. How to make the mind see light when all the eyes really see are pieces of color. They used broken color, or color laid down adjacent to each other to give the impression of light and the Impressionists were off and running. To say that the movement was popular since its beginning, is not true. The critics thought it an abomination. Today, impressionist works carry a pretty hefty price tag and  the movement continues to influence artists the world over. So much for critics.

But it is not the only way to work. I am pretty comfortable with picking up my stuff and schlepping out to a place and painting. I love the immediacy of it the immersion into place and time. But sometimes the weather is just plain foul, or you cannot, for whatever reason, leave the house. What to do? A day is precious. There is no excuse to waste it. As I sat thinking about this and watching the morning news show, I noticed some magnolias I had put out the day before on the coffee table, and decided to put in an old brass teapot that I had and just see if it worked. Then the tangerines and oranges joined the flowers and teapot, and before you knew it I had a sketch as I watched Good Morning America. 
Ink outlined sketch = Cartoon
How to proceed? It was obvious that I had started this in a way that was totally opposite to my normal sit down, think about it, and paint directly approach. I already had a sketch outlined in ink.  So I had to decide what to do with it. I could still do an alla prima (painted in one shot, all at once) painting of the teapot and magnolias. But was that the right direction with this??  The sketch had decided some major composition issues. 

I had long wanted to try an approach that used transparent glazes on a prepared wood board. You build the values from the overlay of pure color washes on a pure white board. All this is in oil with medium as the suspension vehicle for the glazes. Obviously it takes time to do this as each layer must dry before the next is applied. So I had started this piece from life but to finish it would have meant picking up a pretty hefty glass coffee table and relocating it to the studio (across about 1/4 acre) and rebuilding the setup. There was no guarantee that the lighting could be replicated.  Instead I opted to do a small color sketch and use that to develop the painting. So after the line cartoon, I did a loose color pencil study and brought all this reference to the studio along with one picture that I took. 

Teapot and Magnolias
Background In
The first installment was to get the background in. It needed a really dramatic one - so I mixed viridian, alizarin crimson and prussian blue to give me a chromatic black. I did the background, upside down so that I would not drag anything over that precious white. The photo was not used during this phase of the painting. In fact, the color study was the primary source of information.

As the painting developed I realized that I had never painted glass or brass before. Nothing like putting roadblocks in your way! The whole process was foreign, and I had never painted these textures before. But the glass was so abstract, that it was totally freeing, in an otherwise very tight and controlled painting. The loosest strokes are in that area.

Just starting the glass, with base layers in
You can see its not really black as the blue reflection shows.

The more I painted, I played the push/pull and pushed back the horse. He just wasn't that important to the whole. But man that glass was fun. I need to figure out a way to do another painting maybe in alla prima that uses glass and its reflections. Talk about seduction!

Teapot and Magnolias - Finished
Unframed and Available

This was a way to do something outside my comfort zone, and hopefully learn something. Its partially plein air (the beginning) but it was completed in studio. I have to think about this process. Its got some good aspects.....but developing patience now is sorta late for me. I do like the immediacy of alla prima. I know they'd be calling the men with the white jackets that have long sleeves if this were the only way I worked. This painting took months to do. I wonder if it was worth it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In 2010 we experienced a major upheaval in our rather predictable lives. We decided, in 10 days, to sell our home in California (after 34 years there), buy a new one in New Mexico and set up my painting studio. WOW. We shocked our kids, our friends, and ourselves. Not to mention our bosses!

My main thought was to gain a studio and time to do what I had always dreamed about - paint full time. Hubby wanted to ride his motorcycle and not work. Man, was he wrong. I have managed to keep him ever so busy, setting up my studio, and trust me, he has worked. My dream became his as we worked to make it a reality. It has been a herculean task, one that never could have happened without my husband's support.

Big White Fire Truck, in hubby's garage

I found our dream home online - all 10 acres of it, complete with rough outbuildings. But there was a catch, - we had a firetruck in one of the outbuildings! Living in the country, as we were to learn, has its own little idiosyncrasies. The big white truck stayed with us almost a year as the local volunteer firefighters put up their new home on Truck By-Pass. As a side benefit we got to know some of our neighbors and listen to the sirens every week as they made inspections. Talk about shock the first time we heard it, right outside the bedroom window! 

The rest of the time we worked on the studio when we wanted to, when the weather permitted, (new concept for southern Californians), and when the local hardware store had what we needed. We made a lot of trips to Tucson, and we bought winter coats and boots. And we have been riding New Mexico on our BMW, learning what beauty this great state has.

We are into the second year of this new phase of our lives - the payoff for all the hard work and faith over the years. The studio is nearing completion and becomes more real each month.
Problems are becoming memories and the future dream is becoming reality.

Studio before the transformation

As the studio is now workable, (though not finished) I am painting almost every day. I love schlepping all my painting stuff out to the field and coming home to my studio to study and finish the resulting pieces. I am beginning to learn the area and have future paintouts planned. I have established a local paintout group that is open to area artists (and I mean a large area). It works with an online notification available at  Simply put in your area code and look for the Grant County Plein Air Painters. Join us if you care to. We are a supportive group.
Bridge Over Big Ditch - 8x10 Oil
For Sale - email me

Studio Transformation In Progress

The studio odyssey continues. How do we put in a washroom? Where does the sink go? I love my new skylights! (Thanks, Honey) And, can we still get rid of that huge, big , whale-sized center door???

Oh Bother - Rejected and Profit?

How do you cope with rejection? I am not talking about rejection in the form of a show entry or gallery bid. I am talking about the visceral reaction of a viewer and whether they like your painting or not. I tend to get ticked, that is before or even if, I ever feel sad about it. I'm more the 'who do you think you are' type of reactionary. But every now and then I have to stop and ask why? Why does somebody reject what obviously has been a hard fought battle with a blank canvas and some faulty paints...or maybe its the brush's fault.            Right.......yeah that's it. 
Every time somebody views a painting that you have painted, they are presented with the opportunity to reject it (which makes me wonder at my level of penance with this blog). And should they reject it, you are presented with the opportunity to learn from it or to reject the rejection. 

Wind Canyon Spring - Study 2

Several reactions come to mind from some close friends and family. My least favorite reaction is the one that means "what were you thinking while you were painting this?" Its as though they do not want to hurt you, the painter, and are trying to figure out what you want to hear. The more you paint and show your work to others, the more varied reactions you will get. Even professional painters of long standing get the one odd flake in the bowl whose reaction can flatten an otherwise wonderful day. We often forget that there ARE people out there who do not feel validated unless they can put down somebody else, or their work. Their put downs are not based in the validity of the work, but rather in the lack of validity they feel in regards to themselves. They are less likely to get 'into it' with an attack to the work than to the person. So it is safer to put down a painting than to look the artist in the eye and say 'your momma dresses you funny'. By pronouncing a painting as somehow lacking, they can feel superior to it and thereby, the artist. It can be hurtful in the extreme. Class critiques of the sixties were known for their vitriol and many an early career was nipped in the bud. Many learned not to paint, but rather to avoid the possibility of acid criticism, to simply not paint.

How to cope? That's different for each artist. Remember that art is a communication effort. If they don't get it, have I failed? Or have they? Its probably some of both. Not all paintings speak to all people equally. What sends me into waves of appreciation is not another viewer's dream stuff. To some, all art has to have some social stance, some fight to be fought. That's what's so cool about art - it can be anything. And when you bash somebody's work, is it the work you are bashing or unintentionally spotlighting your own inability to understand? Good question. It does make me temper my commentary.

In the years I have been painting I have found that comments, like reading lists, really do give you an understanding of where in the scale of development a person's maturity level is located. An honest evaluation, tempered by the awareness that it is a personal reaction, is required for the commentary to be of value. It took years for my husband to figure that out. And he's a quick study. I still have friends who 'love' everything I paint. If they say they liked a previous painting better than this one, I press on and ask why. It tells me more than a blanket "I love this".  I find out what makes them appreciate one painting more than another. It makes me mindful of what others look for, when viewing art. If I am wise, it does not make me paint more narrowly in the more appreciated makes me better aware, the better to judge my own efforts against my own self-set goal.

After painting, these are the questions that I ask myself:
• Does this painting communicate what I wanted it to?
• Is this work well composed?
• Is the chosen palette appropriate to the time/season/locale/mood?
• Would I paint this painting the same way, or would I try some other approach? 
• What would I change (as I view the completed painting)
If I can answer these questions, I stand a chance of improving as a painter. I stand a chance of less rejection. Inspiration can lie at the feet of these questions.

Stapleton Kearns, a painter whose efforts, ethic and painting style I vastly admire (not to mention his nifty blog) says that every passage in a painting has to work, or the viewer will be bothered by it and not get past  that discomfort in the viewing. He squarely puts the fault at the feet of some flaw in the painting, if it fails to be appreciated. He is to some degree right. But I do not believe that all the fault should  laid at the artist's feet. What a viewer brings to the experience of a painting determines the degree to which they feel any appreciation. In support of this assertion, I am reminded of the day I went to the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art. They were showing Monet's haystacks in a circular display room. I stood there spellbound, mouth open, in humble admiration. You could actually tell the time by the way the sun shone on and about them. Each color passage was a kaleidoscope of color  and intensity. A visual banquet. Behind me, a very self-important woman walked in and loudly said "If you've seen one, you've seen them all. Why bother?" My friend had to restrain me. I was ready to throttle her.

Was it a difference of paintings, or difference of perspective and appreciation? 

In the immortal words of Eeyore......"Oh bother". So its another rejection. Can I profit by it? That is my question.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Concept and the Passion

David Leffel, my all time painting hero, says painting is all about the concept. He says the concept is the vision that defines the entire painting. That pretty much equates with what other artists say about a painting starting with passion. It is all about the passion of the vision, even Cezanne said so.
Some days there is no passion. Doing the laundry takes it all out of me. At other times its also very hard to make my husband stop the motorcycle so that I can take a shot.  I can tell that his passion is being fed by the exhilaration of barreling through that huge flat curve in the road. (No, we don't ride Harleys). He really doesn't want to stop so that I can record this lovely bend in the road. My sense of balance requires that I try to balance both our passions, recognizing that his is very important to him also. So I find other ways to feed my passion.                       
How?  I go back to that place I saw and loved. I take my camera, but more importantly, I take my painting box and paints. I do paint as often as I can. And when I am not painting, I am watching painting  DVDs and reading books about it. Trying to learn what other artists think, how they feed that same passion and how they go about their work. All this as I try to figure out a way to take paints along on the bike. Have I mentioned priorities before?
This week a Plein Air DVD by Thomas Kegler came in the mail.  Its brand new. He paints the Northeast, specifically New York. I know the area, having been brought up in New England. If ever there were a place that requires a singular vision and a strong concept, it is that part of the country. The very abundant green of the forests can overwhelm much of your ability to compose .  You don't get a singular red cliff pointing skyward. Very seldom do you ever see a picture that just presents itself for painting. You have to identify and distill to capture the essence of the overriding player on the stage of a painting. Thomas does a great job of that and his procedure is wonderful to watch. I highly recommend this DVD as a great way to keep the passion alive when you cannot go out and paint. The only wish I had was that it would have gone on longer and taught me more. Kudos to you, Thomas.
                                                                                                                                                   Because I read a lot I have become familiar with Kevin McPherson's pond series. Kevin has painted an entire year's daily studies of the pond on his property. Its a wondrous series. So I thought that living in Wind Canyon is a unique opportunity for me, with four distinct, gentle seasons. So now I am putting myself on the spot, because I am proposing to do a series of Wind Canyon. It won't be every day,(how the devil did Kevin ever get anything else done?) perhaps just one painting of it a month, but one when I notice a change in the landscape. They are subtle changes here, not as marked as in say, Colorado. But it does change. So here today, is Study 1.

Wind Canyon Oak - Study1
 Its all about the distillation of the concept, and the passionate painting of it. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obstinacy - A Prerequisite for Plein Air

There are those among us plein air painters that think just painting out of doors is challenge enough. I say - you wusses! Never do I start to paint, that I do not ask myself what I am going to try to learn here today. Am I going to learn about design when I go about composing this new study? Or will I give myself color limitations to  narrow my options. Will I increase those options by newly acquired color discoveries? Or will I learn new brush skills by limiting myself to just a few brushes, or horrors, only ONE? (I've tried that last one, and its just not me. There's a reason why I drive an SUV.) 

I actually try to learn something new with each plein air study. John Cosby, an acclaimed artist, in his blog addressed something that I had found very disturbing, given that my hair is now more silver than it has ever been. Most 'in the know' artists say that it takes miles and miles of canvas to learn to paint. That practice makes perfect. Knowing that miles and miles may be more than I can do this lifetime around, I found this totally disturbing. Then I ran across John's posting. He says Every Stroke Is Important.  The thrust of John's post was that intelligent painting decisions make for far greater strides in painting. To quote him; "To my horror "Practice Makes Perfect" is incorrect.  Now I know that someone wrote that down wrong.  It should have been
That means to me, that I resolve to not paint something simply because it is before me, but to make decisions in composition, in value and color in the here and now. To know why I am painting a painting in a certain way. Its like a light went on when I read that on his blog. I know that there are painters who seem to go off on automatic pilot when they paint and get great results. Perhaps they have already painted those miles and miles of canvas. I need a shortcut. I need a conscious direction. Self imposed challenges give me that direction.

Apache Plume
Knowing that I tend to dive off the deep end with darks in a painting, I tried consciously to limit the amount of darks and their intensity in this painting I executed this week. The subject of Apache Plume and mare's tail clouds seemed to dictate a lighter touch than other things I have painted in the past. I really tried to keep a lighter touch in the painting as a whole. The green in the river valley really was that acid green of new Spring growth, and the sky really was that soft but bright blue. The challenge was not in keeping the wind from blowing down the easel for the third was in keeping true to my self-imposed limitations. Nobody really cares what the physical reality was like - they care about the work itself.  And this was challenge enough for me this particular morning.  I care about the learning, about the journey. Did I succeed? Maybe after a few more efforts with this same challenge I will be better able to tell.

So at the end of a painting session, I ask myself - Did I get what I was after? Its not always yes. Though the viewer may have no idea what went on in my mind. I will try again, I will try better.

Art without passion is not art. Likewise, to go about painting a thing in the same way time after time and expect a different result is idiocy. Passion and intellect is what Ken Auster says is painting. Some days it is too much one or the other. Its that balance that keeps the edge of interest. That is why painting is a constant challenge. Its not the 'right' green, its the right concept.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Some of 'Em Are Sail Paintings!

Things have been busy here and I have not painted as much as I would have liked lately, so after getting the mirror up in the studio, I needed a painting break.
I had haunted Kirkland's the last time I was in San Diego county, until their nice big mirrors went on sale. Friday was spent getting the mirror mounted to the wall behind my large easel. That was to provide a view of my work in reverse, the better to spot problems with 'new eyes'.So that I could just glance and not have to stop, adjust, turn and twist a hand-held mirror to view the work. It is on the wall with nice big hinges, courtesy of my ever supportive husband. He was very concerned that we get it right because eye level to him (6'1") is not eye level to me (5'5") and  he needed to get it level so that it would not swing out on its own and clock me. How wonderful is that? I can now turn and just swing it open and there it sits, ready to give me my new eyes.  So of course I had to go out and paint on Saturday. 
New Swing-out Mirror
Where to go? Mimbres Valley is one of the sweetest spots on earth in the Spring. Lovely valley, pastures, cows, ridges, houses and that glorious NM sky. So did I paint that? No, I painted the other direction, where there were two distinctive ruins of a house and small barn. The light was so pretty and the shadows so intriguing, that it seemed to me a simple choice. Now I shall have to go back to paint the San Lorenzo pasture scene and several other spots in Faywood that had blooming Apache Plume and that acid green of spring set against the backdrop of Cook's Peak. It won't last long, so it sounds like a mini road trip this week. It's that priority thing again, isn't it?

San Lorenzo pasture, Mimbres Valley
Well I shoulda painted the cows. Why? Cause every now and then you get a 'Sail Painting'. A painting that does not necessarily have sails in it - its one that should go sailing, all on its own. Right through the air.  I tried all morning to salvage it, but some things are just not worth the effort, and this was one of those paintings. But I think I learned more from that painting than I have from the last 5 or 6.

I have a thought here that applies to painting folks. I know a lot of artists consider a viewer an intrusion. I never do. You get to meet the nicest people when you paint outdooors. The trip out introduced me to a lovely couple, the Songs of San Lorenzo. By simply accepting that I was invading the area around their home and being appreciative of the fact that they did not mind me there, I was given an invitation to visit again and to by all means use their land for a better view. So the lesson here is that you never know when somebody will open a door or in this case a gate for you. So don't be a painting curmudgeon. Invite people in and you will be surprised at the payoffs.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Priorities - Its Always Priorities

When  I decided to set up a studio there were things that had to be done first. Everyone is different, and every artist has different needs. I always thought that one must plan, or maybe have a vision. I'm the visionary - then I plan. It had to be inviting, and one capable of sustaining prolonged periods of time spent developing my art, whatever the medium. It was only after having this mental picture that all efforts were directed to the making of the space.

My proposition is this; Your studio does not exist only in the real world - it exists primarily and more concretely in your mind before it ever takes shape in wood, tile, concrete and plumbing. Your 'studio concept' is what goes on in the time prior to the building time, in the pre-execution, in how, and what order you direct your efforts to the making of your studio and by extension your art. 

We put in the walls of my studio before we put in the floor. We secured a water source before we put in the sink. We plastered before we painted. All this seems obvious. But how does an artist plan a painting? A work of art? It is even more critical in plein air. We are assaulted by a barrage of input. All demand the same attention. We must distill, create a mental image, discard the flotsam and solidify the concept, the plan to build upon.

Creative time is precious. As you get older it becomes more precious. Those of us over 60 are ever more painfully aware that if we are to succeed, we must plan more audaciously, execute more unerringly and promote more unabashedly. Wow - did I say that?

So why do I need a studio if I paint 'en plein air'? Well to paint plein air is to learn to distill, to study and to execute. Does the musician study only to study? Of course not, he performs, to the delight (he hopes) of his audience. An artist performs by enlarging his studies into larger canvasses. By the building of my actual studio, I will have the space to build upon my plein air studies. But I will always be doing plein air, because that is the spark for the concept.

Below are 2 new pieces that I did two weeks ago when I went to the Plein Air Convention in Las Vegas. That could be a blog entry all on its own. Two days spent painting and two extremes in environment. From squalling rain and wind to extreme sunshine and wild burros.

If you are interested in either oil, please let me know. Both are 11x14 and are framed.

Rainy Day at Red Rocks

Red Rocks at Spring Valley

 "A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art."Paul Cezanne