From a "Merry Meeting" in Taos- wishes for a Merry Christmas

To all of you friends, some that I know, and some that I don't -
I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and all the best in the new year.


Hearts & Stars Fund Raiser in Taos

The Hearts & Stars Miniature Show/fund raiser that supports Taos Coalition to End Homelessness, Inc., opened at the Wilder Nightingale Gallery on Saturday night. Rob Wilder hosts this event, local musicians donate time and local restaurants offer amazing party food to support the cause. It is always a highlight and the evening did not disappoint.

I have been a part of this show the last 3 years and tho' the 90 miles between Alamosa and Taos can be treacherous in the winter, I am so grateful that we have been able to attend every year. We catch up with our friends in the Taos art community, make new friends and support a very worthy cause.
The paintings I have posted are the 2 miniatures in this show. You are seeing them at just about actual size. NOTE: the painting directly above -"Wayside IceHouse" sold at the show. Yay!
Saturday was a big party day - on our way to Taos, Sue and I stopped in at the Ewing Studio Holiday Show; featuring Charles Ewing, David Montgomery, Jim Gilmore, Randy Pijoan, Kris Gosar, Annette Troncoso, and Chris Gulian. Click on any of the names to see their work.
This is our San Luis Valley Art Community here in Southern Colorado and I am so grateful to be a part of it and to call these fabulous artists "friends". Read about it from Sue McCullough's point of view - click on her name and to go right to her blog.

A Merry Meeting - in Taos

Wednesday Sue and I drove to Taos to deliver miniature paintings to Wilder Nightingale Gallery for the Hearts & Stars Show in Taos. This is my third year supporting this event and it is always a pleasure, not to mention a great party for a good cause.
As it happened, we met Patrice Walker of Santa Fe, also dropping off work and Kemper Coley, so we all went out to paint together. Taos still boasted a little snow (just enough) at the Morada church where it was quiet and beautiful with Taos Mt. behind it. It felt like I was shaking cobwebs out of my head, not having painted out since October. What a great afternoon to paint but even better with friends.
That's "plein air"- being there.
The end result is almost superfluous.
See more of this afternoon of painting on Sue McCullough's blog- just click here on her name. She also has some good photos of the Hearts & Stars Party in Taos.


Class Notes; From Soup to Nuts

On this cold and blustery night at class I had something warm and comforting on my mind: Soup and another look at PERSPECTIVE - in cylindrical objects. The red jar and the soup can are slightly below our eye level so the tops appear as shallow ellipses - not too hard. Hmm . .
Those stacked bowls however, YIKES! Every painter in the room struggled to make them nest and appear correctly in perspective. We were concentrating too much to even whine.
One key to drawing success here would be to establish the axis of each ellipse then refine the shape and direction by comparing the positive shapes against the negative shapes - almost like the shapes were 2 dimensional jigsaw puzzle pieces. If we train our eyes to see and correctly fit together those shapes the result will appear 3 dimensional.
Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE is important to show spacial depth in a drawing but sometimes we can get a better result by throwing out what our brain thinks it KNOWS and trusting our eyes.
Now, what about those darn crackers?


It's All In Your Perspective

At this moment the wind is HOWLing around my house. It was about 12 degrees out when I got up and this is the day our plumber could install a new water heater; so the back door is wide open and both water and gas are off. If my thoughts are somewhat erratic it is because they are coming out of my brain in frozen chunks and my fingers are slightly blue- not a nice shade.The very idea of learning PERSPECTIVE can make students nervous but every still life set up involves some perspective. Recognizing and understanding basic concepts in front of you can go a long way toward improving your drawing skills - or build confidence when you realize that you have been using PERSPECTIVE with out knowing it.
The dictionary says this on the subject of PERSPECTIVE: "the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point."

In the set up above, our "point of view" is above the scene - we are looking down on it. In PERSPECTIVE terms, we could say that it is below our "horizon line/eye level"- eye level being straight ahead. Because it is below our horizon line/eye level, we see the tops of the books, oranges and even a wee bit of the top of the bottle cap. If this set up was positioned above our eye level/horizon line (and on a glass table top) we would see the bottoms of the objects.
A good way to start a drawing is to first ask yourself: "Is this set up above my eye level/horizon line or below it? From any ONE point of view, you won't see both the top of objects AND the underside.

Thank Heaven, it has started to snow. Now temps will go up a bit. If not, I may contemplate a bon fire in the living room.

Class Notes Continued

This version of the above still life was done by Patrick Myers an acrylic painter of note in the San Luis Valley.
I posted his piece because of its dynamic color and exciting brushwork. WOW!
Patrick has a distinctive Point of view that has nothing to do with perspective. Click on the painting to view it larger - the paint is just YUMMY!
Patrick works as a ranger at one of the natural gems of this valley - The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. He is an accomplished artist/painter and curates art at the Park as well as art about the Park, both in Colorado and nationally.


Class Notes in the Artist's Laboratory

One of the best things about painting in class is the chance to work different techniques and styles, pushing the envelope when ever possible. Trying new things will lead to new directions, sometimes just fun, sometimes to a bent that we will follow for a lifetime. There is no "last word". Art is a living changing thing: a noun, also verb. If I could encourage students at all, it would be to use your class situation, be it workshop, college class, or painting class of any kind, as a lab. The "happy accidents" that we all long for happen in the midst of experimentation - often with no clear end in sight. Class time should be our safe place to try new and crazy ideas. Ask yourself - what is the scariest thing I could do - and DO it!"

Specs on the still life posted here: old canvas, used several times before and wiped down. The last painting left it predominately red. I sketched the set up in cerulean blue (it is the easiest to cover) and went in with a direct method - meaning that, beyond the sketch there is little or no under painting except for the preexisting red canvas.
Compare it to the still life of the gourds in the post below. In the Gourds I used a pre-used canvas, wiped down to a creamy yellow and started by sketching the items in black acrylic to give them a dominating presence and a harsh outlined look. The acrylic is unmovable and will not lift when painted over so all I had to do was fill in the spaces. I like the drama and it was created mostly by the technique. In the painting with the grapes the drama is in the lighting of the scene and the overall feeling of the piece is much softer.

Are you headed into the LAB?
Mix up something dangerous or at least different
and see where it leads.


Class Notes - Happy November

I never sent out this post because my intention was to write copy with it, but then my email was down for a bit and it didn't happen; so I have appreciated the comments from those who checked in.
The Fall painting class started up and we are back to painting from still life. Honestly, I have missed it and the change is a welcome one.
My view of the process is very holistic and I can see in my students how much they have gained by spending a summer painting in the landscape. Conversely, we will take what is gained by still life (or any painting from life) and apply it to our future outdoor experiences.


Painting Into the Night - Class Notes

Beginning in September, my Thursday morning class painted out in the crisp days of fall while the Tuesday night class took up the challenge of evening and low light painting. Over the course of 6 weeks (one rain out) we let the night fall. Shown here are my 6"x 8" paintings.
I purposefully painted
small in order to stay loose
and intentional.
You can see the progression
of fading light in each piece
and the sense of values eclipsing
color. At first, it was a case of hanging on to the light, trying to capture the last moments of the day as it faded to twilight. Each week the painting time got shorter as we headed to the inevitable: full on evening.
This last Tuesday was our last night out and a hardy group met in downtown Alamosa to finally face the dark. We looked for very simple views: a building, a street lamp and tree.
Town scenes can be complex but ambient light is a big help to seeing your pallet, and your canvas. I am not a fan of using a light, such as a head lamp or clip on light, but prefer to let my eyes naturally adjust to a low light situation. Standing in a store doorway can offer the benefit of shop light or a street lamp can do the job. We painted for about an hour before diving into the SLV Brewery to warm up and wait for snow.
These little studies aren't much to write home about but in this case the accomplishment was in the doing; and the best part is - we aren't afraid of the dark anymore.


From the Flu to Florence

Last weekend I had the honor of judging the "Paint the Town" Plein air Event in Florence, Colorado - a small, historic town of art and antiques nestled between Canon City and Colorado Springs. "Paint the Town" is a 2 day, non-juried competition and attracts plein air painters from all over Colorado. Over 25 Painters participated and at least 50 pieces were entered into the show. This was a lot considering the weather was nothing short of miserable, with fog and freezing rain. My hope was to judge the show, then enjoy the opening the same day.
That was not to be; the week before I went down with the flu and had just enough energy to drive the 3 hours (through bad weather) from Alamosa to Florence and back - to bed.
I was happily surprised and rewarded for my effort by a show of some excellent work, mostly watercolors. Unfortunately, I have no pictures but for the benefit of this post, would like to name the artists:
First Place - Ken Hartman,"Oak Creek" - Watercolor
Second Place - Tom Lockhart,"Minnequa Canal" - Oil
Third Place - Coleen Bobinac,"Santa Fe Ave." - Watercolor
Juror's Choice Oil - Martin Lambuth
Juror's Choice Watercolor - Blenderman
Juror's Choice Acrylic - John Alderman


Winner - People's Choice Award at the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest, Salida

The Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest, drew 45 painters to the heart of the rockies and we enjoyed every type of weather from driving snow to burning sun. I could have done without the snow but Autumn did not disappoint. We found a great show of color in the high country, places like Marshall Pass and O'Haver Lake; as well along the Arkansas River where the grasses were ablaze with red and gold. In Colorado Fall feels a bit frantic. We anxiously count the Fall days, fret over every change of weather and try to grab each day like we were snatching it from the jaws of death.

Conversations among painters go something like this:
"Are trees in the high country changing yet?",
"Wind will blow away the leaves before they turn.",
"This week will be the peak color, for sure.",
"This year was too wet for good color.",
"This year was too dry for good color.",
"It may snow before the colors peak.", - "SNOW - NO!".

I painted for 5 days with Sally Mather, pastel and oil painter of note who lives in Salida. Click on her name to see her work.

In spite of snow and freezing temps, I came home with 8 pieces and entered these 3 into the competition and won "Peoples Choice" Award at the opening. It is always fun, and gratifying to win. This award is given to the artist whose work is chosen as the favorite of the "people", or those not in the competition. Thanks everyone.
The paintings from the top are "O'Haver Aspens", 14x11, "First & G St.", 9x11 and "Barn Dance", 9x11.


More Paintings from the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest, Salida, CO

The jury is still out on these pieces. I felt they had potential but did not enter them into the competition. At the top - from Ouray Wildlife Area,12x16,
From Little Cocetopa Ranch, 6x8,
From Ouray Wildlife area, 9x12,
and a view looking down on Salida, 12x16.


Nap Time is Over . . .

My classes started last week- and just in time. When my motivation is a little low teaching keeps me on track. We are trying to make the most of the good weather and last week painted out at Wayside on the north side of Alamosa. Sue McCullough joined us as guest artist and ended up as my subject. Check out her blog to see the piece she did "Plein Air of the Dairy".
Saturday, Sue and I will be up in Salida for a week painting at the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest. If you are in the area on Saturday the 26th, there will be a Quick Draw at 10am in Riverside park, historic downtown Salida. Quick Draw work as well as work from the week will be on exhibition all weekend at the Virtuosity Gallery on 106 North "F" St. in Salida.


What's A Painter To DO?

Summer is gone and we are definitely into Fall. Sunday morning the San Juans were covered with snow. YIKES!
Time is flying by.
After traveling and painting for many weeks I come home tired but still mentally going, trying to rest while preparing for the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest in Salida next week.
This is a "meantime"- a forced wait and it can be very hard to suddenly shift out of overdrive into neutral.
Everything in me says to be 'out there'- paint everyday, get busy, plan now for shows to come, work on marketing, update the mailing list. . .
So much to do, so little time. Hmmmm . . .

When I graduated from design school I was working in the Creative dept. of a large, Japanese toy company only a few years in the U.S. and very successful. They built a new warehouse/office facility while I was there and the Engineering Dept. was slated for prime office spots along the windowed portion of the building. After moving in however, the executives, both American and Japanese met and to my amazement, the engineers were moved out of the windowed space and Creative was moved in; believe me this did not go down easily.
Even more amazing to me at the time was that the Japanese executives insisted - "artists need windows to dream".
I thought of that recently - in the light of this "meantime" - and the struggle to strike a balance between what I want to do, what I can do and what I need to do.
Coming home after many events can be like returning from another planet especially when you are exhausted but I am the only one who can give my self permission to stop running.
I think this 'meantime' will be my window where I watch clouds go by - but don't have to paint them.
At least not until next week.

The piece at the top is 6"x 8", from Cheyenne and the Wyoming Plein Air Event.


A Week Of Painting

The painting week started on Sunday morning with Eldon Warren and Patrice Walker. We headed up into Rocky Mt. National Park early and stood in an area thick with Ponderosa pine and aspen trees. Patrice and Eldon both turned out nice pieces that would later be entered into the show. The woods were so beautiful and this first painting turned out to be my personal favorite of the whole week; "A Magic Wood" is 12"x 16".

This view of Long's Peak from Moraine Park is 9"x 12".

The (PAAC) Plein Air Artists Colorado had so many members in the Estes Event that on Tuesday we met to paint at Lily Lake together.
I had just about wrapped up when we were hit by a huge hail storm. Patrice and I, along with a few tourists, took shelter under a large tree and hoped there would be no lightening.
"At The Top" is 12"x 16".

Thursday is Media Day and the painters are asked to paint down town in Estes Park to publicize the event. Dawn Normali and I painted near each other in a small park. Below is my piece "Aspens on the River". It is 12"x 9" and sold at the opening of the plein air show.

And Some Night Painting TOO!

One of the best things I did this year in Estes was get in 3 evenings of night painting. Here is Dawn Normali setting up in the late afternoon before the light really dropped. You can see my easel right beside her. The killer about this spot was not the view but the Italian restaurant patio, not 2 feet from my easel. All night we smelled the food with out getting any.
Below is my take on the intersection and the historic theater in Estes Park, after dark.
It is 16"x 12".

Painters - Load Your Brushes

By Saturday morning artists are running on caffeine, cheese cubes and red wine, (that's gallery food) and raw nerves. Fortunately, the views from Riverside Park in Estes are varied and congenial. It is amazing how much really good work is cranked out here in 90 minutes.

This painting by Jeff Legg was the point of some Quick Draw controversy and also sold for about 6 times what other pieces went for at the auction. It seems that though the organizers specifically state that the Quick Draw piece must be painted from something in your view, be it landscape, model or still life, Jeff chose to paint this still life from his head; meaning that there were no vase and cantaloup set up in his view (or anywhere in the park, for that matter). It begs the question: what is "plein air"? Is it just painting outside?
I am not sure that the buying public really cares - but a lot of artists sure did - and were talking about it all day. As it happens the buyer was an artist and knew they were getting a name artist's work for a rock bottom price.
I don't think this was as clear cut as one might think - especially where money is involved but one things is clear - Jeff Legg is an amazing artist whether he paints from his head or just looks at the ground.
I wish he had.

Here I am with my piece, a 10"x 8" view of an aspen tree next to a pine tree, much earlier, before the day got cloudy. I was very happy when it sold for more than twice my starting price. YaY!
Later that day the Plein Air Show opened in the 2 host galleries and I sold 2 more paintings before the end of the evening. Thus ended another great Estes Park Plein Air Event and I certainly hope to be back next year.


Back on The Road Again - to Estes Park

Here Eldon Warren and Rick Frisbie paint the glowing afternoon last year in Estes Park at PAINT THE PARKS Plein Air Event. What a great time, and this will be my 4th year participating.
So after catching my breath from Cheyenne and running through one crazy week of Dr appts, kid's school registration, frame sorting, unpacking and repacking, answering emails - (so much for unimportant details) - Saturday morning I will head back to the Front Range of Colorado to paint in Estes Park.
If you are in the area next weekend check it out. Saturday morning is the Quick Draw Competition starting at 8:30 am, with an Auction immediately following - all in Riverside Park, downtown Estes.
At 4pm the Plein Air Show will open at Earthwood Gallery and the Cultural Arts Council, featuring work painted that week. Both Galleries are on the north side of Elkhorn Ave. - the main drag.
Below, Leslie Allen and I stand in front of her quick draw, of me.

There will be posts and photos when I get back, but in the meantime - I think I hear my laundry calling.


Wyoming Plein Air '09.

I arrived in Cheyenne a week ago Saturday night and Sue McCullough came in a few hours later. We were up early Sunday morning looking for treasures in Cheyenne, a town full of beautiful Victorian homes, railroad yards, grain elevators and junk from a bygone era; all under a wide, wide sky. That first morning, after having more panels stamped than we could ever use, we headed down to the tracks and this is what we found - great shapes and strong morning light. I was fascinated by the shapes of the buildings, the shadows and later the shapes of the clouds that flew overhead.
By noon clouds were stacking up,
fortunately we were done and
ready to find lunch.
This is 'Time Passing', 16"x 12".

Monday morning we raced the sun to be out on location at the Hereford Ranch before the long, raking light was lost. Again, it was the shapes that attracted me to this view; that and a really good painting spot- in the shade. The Hereford Ranch is thousands of acres of cattle, rolling ranch land, tidy barns and beautiful trees. All shapes, shapes and more shapes. This is 'Summer Dawn', 9"x 12".

Monday evening most of the artists gathered back at the ranch for a BBQ/dinner. This is usually where people catch up with each other, make connections to paint, and of course, eat. After wards Sue and I went out to a favorite spot to paint the sun setting over Cheyenne. Last year we took on the same view with excellent results. This time, it was not to be. We set up and watched an amazing sunset unfold only to stand under passing rain storms, not once but 3 times. Frustrating in the extreme!

In the middle of the week we took a 2 day trip out to the Snowy Range, an amazing range of mountains about 2 hours west of Cheyenne.
Patrice Walker found us in the afternoon just east of Medicine Bow Pass so we took some time to just breathe in the beautiful afternoon before heading to Brooklyn Lake to paint together as dusk came on. What a great day!
Sue, Patrice and I, each finished with at least one piece that we were very happy about.
This is 'Peak of the Day', 12"x 9".

Thursday we left the Snowy Range at first light and stopped to paint this view looking west at morning on the town of Centennial. This would be our last painting opportunity because Thursday evening was the time to make last minute touch ups, put paintings headed for competition in to frames and have everything ready to deliver to our respective galleries on Friday morning. This can be pretty stressful, choosing which paintings to enter, framing wet work, writing titles and pricing.
Now all that lay ahead was Saturday's Quick Draw at the Depot - but we can worry about that tomorrow.
Below is 'Golden Hour', 9"x 12"- SOLD.

The Quick Draw at the Cheyenne Depot

Now it's trial-by-fire as artists,
at least those with guts, gather for a final hurrah on Saturday morning. The Quick Draw is a timed event where artists paint the view, a model or a still life in 90 minutes.
Nervous energy in the air is palpable but once the whistle blows at 8:30am everyone gets into a pretty good groove and finds that they are signing off, usually with a couple minutes to spare. We get about 15 minutes to frame wet paintings on-the-spot and run them over to the Plains Hotel for a viewing and auction.
At the top Rebecca Barrett, of the Link Gallery poses the model. Below that Lori Putman paints a long view up the street at the Capitol building. Fortunately, my view was over her head for a closer look at the same subject.
2009 was the 2nd year for this event in Cheyenne and the Quick Draw and Auction really showed great growth in the amount of support, number of bidders, buyers and sold paintings. Finishing in good form is always my goal - selling is gravy, so I was very pleased when my piece sold, and for much more than my set price.