Follow the Star to a Place Unexpected....

Dear Friends,
Merry Christmas and all the Best in the New Year!


Class Notes: Postcards from the Abstract Universe

In this last class session of the year, I have focused on "abstract" painting because it presents very unique challenges and forces students to look at things a little differently.
In the past (see:Class notes: Abstract Painting) we have approached abstracts from a purely compositional point of view, developing work with a specific compositional theme.
This time however, we started with a still life which I set up in a rather random way and left on the table for about 10 minutes; time enough for students to see and process shapes for a rough sketch. Once the sketch was roughed in we focused solely on shapes - looking for interesting shapes, deleting some, redrawing others. We turned the paintings sideways, or upside down - anything to help the "items" disappear and the shapes take over.
I have a fascination with outlines (and a life long love of coloring books) so I used them to create, resolve and dissolve shapes. It is also a natural tendency for me to see everything as a landscape. This is pretty clear in the lower piece.
Abstract work has a way of revealing an artists strengths, weaknesses and natural tendencies because composition, shape and color take precedent with out subject matter getting in the way.


There's no place like Home, there's no place . . . .

Wrong mantra, right shoes.
Last week was the week from, well, you know....
This whole broken foot thing has kept me from painting, but I went from cranky to despairing when the cumulative effect of dragging that boot/cast around finally took the toll on my back and I went to bed with muscle spasms for the better part of 5 days. Recovery was not supposed to look like this.
I am not inclined to want to blog about that kind of stuff but even if I had wanted to, my back kept me from sitting at the computer,
or anywhere else.
Thanks to so many of you who wrote notes of encouragement
about the foot.
Yesterday, the Dr. removed the Boot. I walked out of her office on air - or, it only felt that way after unloading about 5lbs of footwear.
Today, I wore 2 shoes and painted in my studio for the first time in 2 months. The whole world looks better.

Segil Fine Art Holiday Small Works Show

I was honored to have this piece "The Plug" juried into the Segil Fine Art 2010 Holiday Small Works Show in Southern California that opened last weekend. I was not able to attend but heard from a reliable source (my Mom) that it was an excellent show and a good party. This show will hang until the end of December and worth seeing if you are in the Southern California area. The Segil Gallery is not the only great gallery tucked away in the foothills community of Monrovia but part of a picturesque and fashionable shopping destination; a great place for Christmas shopping, and don't forget to buy art. Miniatures make great stocking stuffers for that person on your list that has everything.


Hearts & Stars In Taos

It is that time of year: holiday parties, fund raisers and ways to think about giving back. Hearts & Stars is one show that covers all those bases, bringing together work from some of the best artists with art lovers, collectors and the Taos community at large - all for a very good cause - to support Taos Coalition to End Homelessness, Inc.
And all the work is under 8"x 10".
Rob Nightingale at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art does a wonderful job hosting this event with live music and fabulous food - all for a good cause.
If you are within 200 miles - it is a party worth attending.
Friday, November 26th from 6-8 pm at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art on Kit Carson in Taos; suggested $10 donation at the door.
I will definitely be there, albeit dragging "das Boot" but the Dr has given me leave to go without crutches. Yippee! That is one personal reason to be thankful this year, that and the fact that I didn't break my head or painting hand.
The painting at the top of this post is one of two pieces that I entered: 'Ladies in Painting', 7"x 7", oil on panel, the other, below, is 'Mesa View', 6"x 8", plein air piece in oil from Ghost Ranch.
If you can't make the show in person, see it online just click on Wilder Nightingale.


My Current View

The painting has been negligible lately- and the view less than steller but I am hoping to be out of "das Boot" in a couple of weeks.
My little dog Asta is a faithful attendant.

As fall waned the painting class enjoyed fair weather right up to the end of October.

This was one of our last nights out for the evening class.


Class Notes: Painting Glass

The fall color is gone and morning temps hover around 12 degrees. It is time for the painting class to move into the studio and I have had requests for some specific instruction on painting glass and metal.
These 3 little studies focus on clear glass and my approach is very unfussy.
I rely on context to explain the situation so I can get away with saying as little as possible in paint and allow the eye to fill in the blanks.
Clarity is also key when interpreting clear glass. Beginners fall into the trap of trying to describe too much "glass"- which, when you think about it - if it is clear, should hardly be seen at all.
Finally, strong hard highlights and hard accents (the darkest marks) communicate the hardness of the glass.


A Day in Taos

PAPNM, Plein Air Painters of New Mexico Show at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos drew painters and friends from all over. On Exhibit until November 14th, it is a show worth seeing if you are in Taos this fall.
Several of the High Desert Painters were in town after painting at Ghost Ranch the previous week and taking in the show. They rented a ranch house between Arroyo Seco and Arroyo Hondo and on Monday after the show opening Sue McCullough and I drove back to Taos for a beautiful autumn morning of painting with them in New Mexico. At the top are Judy Howells from Southern California, Nelson Hubley of Nova Scotia (yes, Canada), myself and Jana Van Wyk of North Carolina.

This view looks north/east toward the mountains where aspens are dotting brilliant yellow and below, Judy paints with a friend nearby.
It really was an exceptional day and sadly, the last day of painting for me this season. I took a jump off the ranch house porch, onto a step that gave way, did a little tumble and (revealed later in x-rays) broke 3 metatarsals bone in my foot. Of course, not being able to walk should have been my first clue. Tra la.
So I am off it,
and just about everything else for 8-9 weeks.
I did learn to spell 'metatarsal'.

Below is the painting I was working on at the time of my unlucky leap - fortunately, nearly completed.
Titled "Monday in Taos", this piece sold later at the Plein Air Artists of Colorado Show- in Denver.


Plein Air Painters of New Mexico Juried Exhibition in Taos

Need a good excuse to visit Taos?
Take in the party at the prestigious Millicent Rogers Museum for the PAPNM (Plein Air Painters of New Mexico) Annual Juried Exhibition, The Spirit of Place, which opens with a reception for the artists, Saturday evening, October 9, at 5 pm.
I was pleased and excited to have 2 paintings selected for this show, as did Sue McCullough, and David Montgomery - the three us us representing the Colorado San Luis Valley.
Jana Van Wyk, a fellow member of the High Desert Painters also had work juried into the exhibition.
This show will coincide with the peak of the Taos art season and highlight the best plein air work from its membership.
Saturday evening's reception will be punctuated by an awards ceremony and on Sunday, October 10, Bill Gallen, PAPNM Signature Member will do a painting demonstration from 2-4pm at the Museum and free with Museum admission.
Monday, October 11, at 11 am, Nancy Silvia, PAPNM VP and Signature Member will speak on the subject of Plein Air Painting at the Museum and free with Museum admission.

Ghost Ranch Get Away

There is really no place like Ghost Ranch.
Famed as Georgia O'Keefe country, it is a unique retreat settting between Abiquiu and Chama, NM.
Monday afternoon I left Taos and drove to Ghost Ranch to meet up with Ann Templeton and the High Desert Painters. Ann has a workshop there every Autumn and the High Desert Painters try to meet her there. My time was limited to just 24 hours but so worth it.

Above work shop students paint the bluffs in the morning and here Ann talks the finer points of her demo with a student.
If I ever recommend a workshop, this is it. Ann Templeton is one of the best workshop teachers - ever - and a wonderful and generous mentor. She travels all over the world but Ghost Ranch is a very special venue, not like any place else in the world.

Below is my 6"x 8" piece of the perdernal, a famous and recognizable New Mexico landmark.

To read more about the High Desert Painters, an international group, click on the name. Click on Ann Templeton to read more about this beloved painter and author.


Fall, it's Magic, it's Fickle it's Heartbreakingly Short

In Colorado, Autumn is the consolation at the end of Summer but if you blink it can blow by in a flash. I struggle with low level anxiety about this time of year; partly a fear of impending snow that can wipe Autumn color right off the map, or colors that peak too early or just a general fear of missing it all.
In the San Luis Valley we are experiencing a September heat wave of sorts but night temps have dropped to freezing. I have one hollyhock in my yard, a late bloomer that never does anything until everything else in the garden is spent. This year it had no sooner popped out its one and only bloom than a freeze toasted the whole plant. This is so perverse.
We can see the changing aspens up in the San Juan Mountains very clearly from my house; they call, they tempt - warning us that time is short. I could almost reach out and touch them.....
Last week Sue McCullough and I drove north of the San Luis Valley to paint on Marshall Pass only to have a full day of rain. This is also perverse.
We did catch Josh Been with a workshop group out near the pass. Hardy souls.
Our consolation was the chance to take a lot of photos but I would trade in one good day of painting for a boat load of rainy day color.

This week we planned a full day up in the Conejos of Southern Colorado but sickness and scheduling conflicts interfered. It was my birthday and as well the power in my neighbor hood was out from 11 AM until well past midnight. I would have happily sat all night in the dark had I spent a day in the aspens. There was no joy in birthday-ville.
Fortunately, my painting class has been meeting here in the valley, marking the changing of the seasons. Last Tuesday night we met north of town at the old Dairy and enjoyed a full moon. Here Dave Roepke captures the very last rays of light.
I didn't paint the moon but focused on a small group of cows grazing in a nearby field. These could be the first cows I have ever painted.

Below are 2 plein air pieces done from the same spot on the Rio Grande River near downtown Alamosa. The top piece is 9x12, painted around August 18th. The lower piece is 10x20, painted last week as the cottonwoods begin to turn golden.

Art Scams

I have added a new LINK to my list on the right, STOP ART SCAMS. Recently, I have been targeted by art scammers; not new news to some of you, and I usually ignore them - but not today. I chose to write a bit about it and maybe raise awareness among readers.
The names change regularly but the content is pretty much the same. My recent scammer is "Philip Walace" with email address phisiology001@gmail.com. and he wrote:
Good day to you over there, My name is Philip Walace i'm from California and i hope this message finds you well.I was going through your works and my eyes caught...., i will like to have it for my new apartment this month. please let me know if the piece is available, if yes let me have the detailed price and more information about it. i will be waiting to read from you asap."


This may sound legit but it's not; bottom line - someone is trying to steal money from me. In this case Phillip Walace, who had already tried with some artist friends of mine. Oops.
But notice a couple of telling things in his email:
awkward grammer, and though the title of my particular painting was the "subject" of the email, he doesn't even bother to put the name of the piece in the body of the text. This is probably a template letter.
The internet is a way we have to do business, it is no surprise that artists would be targeted but we can become more
aware. I am often contacted through my website about my work and if a piece is in my possession, would not hesitate to sell it. If that weren't the case, why would I bother to show work on line? Just being "out there online" makes me vulnerable but being knowledgeable about the market, aware of scams and having a willingness to WALK AWAY are ways I can protect myself.
When someone contacts me about work - I always "Google" the name of the person who sent the inquiry. If it is a scammer, I am probably not the first to be hit on, and someone else has written about it (one of the great things about the internet community).
I don't want to become cynical but will remain skeptical; I look over emails with a critical eye. Very often a scam will come in the form of an overseas buyer, they want it in a hurry, they want to use their own shipper who will pick up the work, and there may be some overpayment involved.
These are some basic red flags but over time I have put some personal rules into place for the protection of my business.
1. I will not work in a rush. Maybe it comes from too many years as a designer working to impossible deadlines, but as a rule, legitimate buyers are not impulse buyers who just pluck art off the internet like they were at candy counter. I have never had a legitimate buyer quibble with the time it takes for a check to clear the bank, or for UPS to ship.
2. I will never work with anyone who wants to OVERPAY - period,
or pay with a POSTAL MONEY ORDER or CASHIER'S CHECK, which can be fraudulent. This is a good reason to have a PAY PAL account.
I have taken personal checks for payment but always wait for them to clear the bank.
3. I always use myown shipper.

Read more about Art Scams, how they work, how to avoid them etc. go to Art Scams, Art Quest for known scammer names, Artist Network.com,and Stop Art Scams.

An appropriate quote here ". . . . be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."


Class Notes: Finding METHOD in the Madness

My painting classes resumed this week and tho' we plan to paint outside for the remainder of the season, this first week painters got back into things with a paint-a-long demo that focused on basic METHOD in the landscape.
We talk a lot about METHOD in class. Just having one goes a long toward bringing order to chaos. There are so many variables in the landscape, many that have nothing to do with painting, so it helps to have a method, a way of doing things that does not vary but keeps you on course.
I teach certain methods in class, sometimes as simple as how to lay out your palette, knowing that another teacher could have a totally different take on the process. No worries; and no wrong answers. Just have a METHOD and use it.

This demo was a refresher on painting using the INDIRECT METHOD.
The INDIRECT method refers to the practice of starting a painting by laying in major masses with their relative color -in a wash of paint and thinner. This allows you to cover the canvas very quickly and analyze the shapes before getting too far.
Once the canvas is covered, it is much easier to follow up with heavier, more opaque paint to bring a piece to finish.
A good under painting (- good, not tight) can do a lot of the heavy lifting in a piece, while the opaque paint does the job of defining the subject instead of working to cover the canvas.
The INDIRECT method has been around for centuries. Tonal painters often lay in an under painting with one color (Burnt Umber is popular) and bring color on top. Most contemporary painters however, will use the local color to lay in major masses, adding light effects with heavier, more opaque paint, on the second pass.

Annual Exhibition from the 2010 Zapata Artist Invitational Gathering

This show was a result of the Artist Invitational Gathering that preceded it in late July - and a one day wonder hosted by Janet and Duke Phillips who run the Medano-Zapata Nature Conservancy Ranch in the San Luis Valley. The Zapata Ranch is a living demonstration of how cattle and bison operations can co-exist with conservation efforts.
Briefly, the "Artist Gathering" brings artists together with the Nature Conservancy and revolves around the land and people that work it. At the core, is the intent of communicating, not only the natural beauty of the area, but also the urgency of protecting vanishing spaces. The Artist Gathering in July brought 29 artists from all over the West to the Medano-Zapata Nature Conservancy Ranch. Click on the link to learn more about the Conservancy.
Very much in keeping with the "ranch" theme the show was held a the Chico Basin Ranch east of Colorado Springs. The art was displayed on stacks of hay bales - very unique and show-goers enjoyed a beautiful afternoon in the Ranch's cottonwood grove. In the photo 2nd from the top, my work hangs next to that of Bill Alther and Laura Mehmert. Below that is shot of myself with David Montgomery and his wife, Cindy Cutts, and Laura Mehmert.

A "City" Show is planned for December 4th at the Design Center in Denver that will feature larger work, inspired by our time at the Medano Zapata Ranch. I will keep you posted.


The EVENT Formerly Know As . . . . 2010

Painting in the area of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park is always a highlight - partly for the views but also for the good fun of meeting up with other artists to do what we love- paint.
This year, "drama" and confusion surrounded the Event formerly known as "Estes Park Plein Air"- which blew apart because one of the major sponsors got greedy (for lack of a better word). And this is not the forum for a discussion about THAT, but (and it's a big one)
in all of this - it is always the artists who suffer. Sadly, a lot of plein air painters chose to just stay away this year. It was some consolation, that galleries who have been involved in the past each hosted major shows that opened in Estes Park on the Weekend of August 28th.
I was in the Western Light '10 show, hosted by Earthwood Gallery(s).
Of the artists who did show up in the area, we still managed to paint together, visit each others shows and generally make the best of it.

This is how I spent one morning at Lily Lake. A great group of artists meet there on Wednesdays and a lot of them are from the Plein Air Artists of Colorado- of which I am also a member.

Painting in Rocky Mountain National Park

On Wednesday afternoon I caught up with Eldon Warren in RMNP. He painted, looking right down into the water - see the FISH also posted here - very gutsy, very beautiful. Those fish should be proud.
And I painted Eldon, painting the fish - which I have yet to finish. sigh.

Other WILDlife in Estes Park

These are some of the other painters gathered in Estes Park last week; some painted in the Plein Air Event and some did not. Here, Dennis Reinke, Dewain Stoll and Cecy Turner paint in the downtown Quick Draw.

To the right are David Harms,
suffering from Quick Draw
KC Benson, and
Sterling Hoffmann whose piece "Legible Cascade" won Best in Show at the 2009 Event - formerly known as Estes Park Plein Air Event. Check it out
on Sterling's website.

In another part of town
- I am painting with
Maggie Renner Hellmann,
Lou Renner, Eldon Warren,
and Margaret Jensen.
Eldon and Margaret stand
with Eldon's painting
clearly enjoying a really
beautiful day.

The bottom shot shows
Ulrich Gleiter painting
the model in the Downtown
Quick Draw, which he won.
Later, Ulrich would go
on to win First Prize
in the Plein Air
Event show.
Gratulation! my friend!

Click on any of the photos to see them larger.


Best in Show at Estes Western Light 2010

My piece, "A View Through the Autumn", 48"x 24" won
Best In Show at the 2010 Western Light Show Fine Art Exhibition hosted by Earthwood Gallery in Estes Park. This came as an unexpected but pleasant surprise considering the gathering of great western painters in this show: Margaret Jensen of Estes Park, Maggie Renner Hellmann of California, Dawn Normali of Estes Park, Cindy Carillo of Arizona, Mike Brouse of Colorado, Carole Gray- Weihman of California, Eldon Warren of Colorado, Dee Boyles of Oregon and Lou Renner of California.
Clicking on the artist's name will take you directly to their website.