THANKS and Happy New Year

A special THANKS to all of my students for a great year.
You keep me looking for new answers to old questions, and new ways to challenge what we think we know and see. You help me be more inspired, more energized, and I have a great time doing it. I hope you do too.
Here's to a great 2012.


...and Now For Something Completely Different

I painted this in class a few weeks ago from reference material; a task outside of my usual method, style and subject matter. Painting animals is very much like portrait work- and fun, once in a while.
Aside from simply getting a likeness my challenge is to work as broadly as possible while still giving the illusion of detail for things like tufts of fur and whiskers.
In some areas I chose to show brushwork that reveals what brush was used, in other areas the brushwork is sublimated to the subject matter.

... more in my own vein -
this Caboose was a special
commission, (finished
right before Christmas)
to be a companion piece
for the Locomotive
purchased by a collector
a couple of years back.
Both paintings are 11"x 14".
Click on any painting
to see it larger.


Merry Merry

It's Christmas Eve; we have a holiday puzzle half finished on the kitchen table, it is 5 below but we are hoping temps will rise a bit with the sunshine. Most of Colorado will see a white Christmas.
In the season of Advent with all the holiday craziness, I am always looking for hidden moments to reflect:
on the mystery of Christ's Nativity, on the World and my place in it, and My world and my place in it.
My hope at this season is that you will find yourself, in the quiet moments, surrounded by peace and filled with contentment and hope.
Merry, Merry Christmas.


Class Notes: The Value of VALUE

What does it mean when we talk about VALUE?
Simply stated - VALUEs are the lights and darks in a painting, photo, etc.
Understanding VALUE in painting means knowing how to explain the LIGHT. What is it doing? Where is it coming from? How does it affect the objects it touches? It is also through VALUE that we make objects look 3 dimensional.
In class we have been painting quick, small set ups, on white, in order to get a sense for values in a still life.
One approach is to recognize the darkest part of the still life.
Is it a dark colored object or a cast shadow? Conversely, what is the lightest part? That could be where an object is getting the full blast of the light or just a very light part of the set up.
Either way, once those are clearly identified you can work your "values" in between the darkest dark and the lightest light, always comparing one value against another.
In both cases above I have used this method without trying to create any specific value "plan" - except to try to CONNECT the darks. By connecting the dark values, I try to lead the viewer's eye through the painting.
More about VALUEs later.
The countdown to Christmas is on. Here's wishing you a week of festive anticipation and the energy to enjoy it.


Many Thanks to the SteamPlant, who hosts the Paquette Gallery and to the art-lovers in Salida who came out on a subzero evening to see this show. It was well attended and we were very encouraged.
This show will hang until Monday January 16, in the Paquette Gallery at the Salida SteamPlant in Salida; just off F Street by the river on 220 W. Sackett Ave. or call (719) 530-0933 for info. Gallery hours are Mon - Fri 9 to 5.


3 FRIENDS show Opens in Salida

The 3 Friends Show, featuring the work of Susan McCullough, David Montgomery, and myself - opens tomorrow night, Friday
December 16th - 4 -6 pm, in the Paquette Gallery at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center, in Salida; just off F Street by the river on 220 W. Sackett Ave. or call (719) 530-0933 for info.

This most recent incarnation of our 3 Friends Show will exhibit over 45 paintings and many from the Salida area of Colorado. In September David, Susan and myself competed in the Salida based, Colorado Mountain Plein air Festival where we all awards.
Showing work with fellow painters Susan McCullough and David Montgomery has been fun, and because we so often paint together we enjoy the chance to highlight the breadth of style that we three bring to the discipline.

Come enjoy the opening, there will be food, Susan, David and myself will all be there and afterwards, the evening will be young enough to have dinner at one of Salida's great restaurants.


Hearts and Stars in Taos

I have been a little slow about blogging of late; whatever the word might be for "un-motivation" - I have felt it creep over me like a fog (and not on 'little cat feet') as I grieve the recent loss of a dear colleague and mentor. See a few posts back.
Creativity, motivation and making a living - these things cannot wait for the luxury of good feelings - so we press on.
And Christmas is impossible to ignore; no matter how slow you have been driving on surface streets, once you hit the on-ramp - prepare to be swept up into the fast lane of Christmas craziness. (please indulge the freeway metaphor. Now I am showing my roots- but I digress).
It may be a fallow time in the landscape but no where else. Painters, like everyone else, have realized, about now, - we should have started working on holiday inventory last January. Too late now.
But, my brain is starting to perk like crazy with more ideas than I could use in a lifetime - conveniently, I don't have time to pursue them.
It is one of those universal laws: the best ideas bubble up when there is no possible way they could be addressed. Hmmmmm.
At this moment, I am just happy to have some motivation.
And FINALLY, to my point -
the TAOS Hearts and Stars Party; one of the best holiday party/fund raisers with a focus on giving back. This is one holiday- miniature show that covers all the bases, bringing together work from some of the best artists with art lovers, collectors and the Taos community at large - to support Taos Coalition to End Homelessness, Inc.
All the work is under 8"x 10", and very affordable.
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. It is his gift to the community. Thanks Rob.
If you are within 200 miles - of Taos on Saturday night - it is a party worth attending.
Saturday, December 3rd from 5-7 pm at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art on Kit Carson in Taos; suggested $10 donation at the door.
My piece is at the top of this post: 'Showers Ahead', of the road to New Mexico from Colorado - in fact the road I will be taking to the party.
It is 8"x 10", oil on panel.


Quiet Times

November is not the nicest month in Colorado; fall colors are gone and the real cold is setting in. It is good time to sort out things in my studio and go through the chaos on my drafting table: half baked ideas and sketches done in a flash of inspiration that got trumped by any opportunity to "go out" and paint.
The piece below is one of those ideas, based on a plein air piece that sold quite awhile back. The idea for a large Gorge painting has been in my head for months - and I needed to shake it out; for better or worse. Two weeks ago I dove into this 24"x 36" piece and this week, in an effort to get it dry, I drove around for several days with it in the back window of my car. More about that later.

Once there is snow on the ground I will be anxious to get back out into the landscape, but for the moment I am trying to make the most of a few quiet weeks.
I find that during a period of working mainly en plein air, things come up that either work or don't and there isn't always time to really do any serious thinking about what is needed. For me - the only way to address some problems is to spend time in the studio: looking, thinking, painting.
That also means going through the work of the past few months with a critical eye for some serious editing and destroying work that is not up to speed.
Ah...... and at the bottom of the pile of papers on my desk is the abandoned sketch for a commission due at Christmas. YIKES.
No more putting that off.
Happy Thanksgiving.


Art Opening in Lone Tree

The 2011 Lone Tree Art Exhibition and Sale opens today, Saturday, November 12, with a Cocktail Reception from 3:00pm to 5:00pm, at the Lone Tree Arts Center.
10075 Commons Street, Lone Tree, CO 80124

Lone Tree is south of Denver, and about 15 minutes north of Castle Rock off I 25.
I will be there with my work and you are invited to join me at the show , view and purchase great work, and enjoy a performance by a Lone Tree Symphony Orchestra quintet. That's a nice twist to the usual art opening - and of course, there will be food.
This juried show is presented by the Lone Tree Arts Commission and the Exhibition hangs in the beautiful lobby of the fabulous new Lone Tree Arts Center. The show will remain on display through December 31, 2011.


Season Ender

New classes will start this week in the studio and my Plein air classes are over for the season. It is always a little sad but that is tempered by gray trees and mornings that are below freezing.
This 6"x 8" was done out on the river here in Alamosa.
Pre-Christmas seems to be a good time for small pieces: they go quickly in galleries and are very useful for Christmas fundraisers and miniature shows.


Ghost Ranch Paintings

I finally got to posting all 5 paintings that I did at Ghost Ranch New Mexico. We were lucky enough to be there with a full moon. Those 2 moon pieces are only 6"x 8".
Our plein air season in Colorado is coming to an end. Now we wait for snow.

And another note on Ann Templeton; probably not the last.
There is so much to say that I don't even know where to start - but at this moment what I really feel is just gratitude: for her time, her generosity in art and friendship. What she gave me in inspiration and wisdom - is a resource that I will tap into for the rest of my life.
Thanks Ann.


Ann Templeton

I wrote the last post on Monday morning and have just now learned that Ann died on Monday evening.
We have lost a wonderful and generous - teacher, mentor, friend,
and a great light has gone out in our painting universe.


Ann Templeton and Ghost Ranch

Last week I drove down to New Mexico for my annual Fall pilgrimage to Ghost Ranch. For almost 10 years I have been privileged to study with Ann Templeton, be mentored by her and know her as friend. The High Desert Painters, international plein air group, to which Ann and myself belong, was formed at Ghost Ranch. People associate this area with Georgia O'Keefe but for me, every view is owned by Ann.
This year I met with 2 of the High Desert Painters, Judy Howells from California and Nelson Hubley from Novia Scotia. Ann could not join us however, or come to teach the workshop there, for which she has become so well known. Ann is in Texas battling lung cancer.
It was a sad and somewhat meditative paint out.
Ann, our love and prayers go out to you and for you.

The small piece below was the first piece I painted on Monday morning. I have seen Ann paint this view, so many times in demonstration situations. The one painting that I own of hers, was painted from the same spot. It's Ann's View.


Class Notes: Reworking and Good Design

I like the idea of reworking a loser painting because - well, there is nothing to lose. This little 6"x 12" painting was done at the end of August; Dave Montgomery, Sue McCullough and myself drove up toward LaVeta Pass with the intention of capturing the blooming chamisa (lovely to look at - bad for allergies). The three of us had just been a week painting in Rocky Mountain National Park and felt very sure this humble subject would make for an easy painting day. Ha!
I approached the chamisa landscape as pattern - good idea but poorly executed- and was not happy with the abstract design when I was done. As so often happens when you are "out there" - the view takes over your design sense and the result is a bust.
By the time I got home, after a warm morning, the paint had pretty well set up. When I scraped down the chamisa field shape, the paint came off leaving striated lines that can be seen clearly in the photos below. Disgusted, I tossed the whole thing aside.

About a week later, I took another look at my little panel and wondered if those scrape marks might create a nice background texture.
Technique-y tricks aside (that would be scrape marks), what the painting really needed was a design that worked.
So, using as few strokes of paint as possible, I tried to create a pattern of color that would lead the viewer's eye back through the chamisa field, and create a tension that moved the eye back and forth between the upper left area and the lower right area.

In the end, a little paint or a lot, total redo or a simple tweaking of certain elements, it all comes down to good design. The challenge is to avoid letting the view derail our good design sense.


Class Notes: Staying In the Flow

After painting every day for a week at the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest I came home pretty toasted but still had to teach classes on Tuesday night, Thursday Morning and again on Saturday morning.
I am grateful for my classes that always help me continue in the flow of painting - when my natural inclination is to take a week off and just nap.
These two 6"x 8"s at the top are from Tuesday evening and Thursday morning. The top one is self explanatory - the bottom one not so much.
Thursday the class drove out east of town to a beautiful ranch owned by a local couple - the Brandt's. In the center of an oasis like setting they have a beautiful Koi pond covered with lily pads, and at this time of year, surrounded by golden Cottonwood trees. I chose to abstract a very small view across a portion of the pond.
Saturday morning we went east up to Rock Creek, which is a riot of colored aspen right now.
The 6"x 8" format is not my favorite but I have found it to be a good discipline for working out simple shapes and good design. And sometimes it's about all I can finish in the time frame while also working with students. It was beautiful morning.

The Autumn Rush Is On

In a week of painting along the Arkansas River at the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest, we saw a lot of aspens - and even painted some. Susan McCullough, David Montgomery and myself painted together for several days and happily, we each won an award at the opening of the show in the Salida SteamPlant. My piece directly below, of the Arkansas River, won a cash business award. Yay!

We each could enter 3 paintings into the event competition - the award winner was my last minute addition. In an event like this we paint every day and sometimes it is hard to judge the validity of each piece until it goes home and sits with you awhile. Some pieces will be set aside for future reference, some will get tweeked a bit - and others will never see the light of day; beyond this blog. . . .
Cash awards aside, I think the real benefit of an event/competition like this is the chance to focus strictly on painting for several days in a row, with the added pressure of a deadline. The payoff is: more paintings, more reference material, more opportunities to be out in the landscape, and just more miles of canvas covered - in a relatively short period time.
For a novice painter - the discipline of painting "under the gun" every day for a week can produce results that rival a workshop experience.


From Estes to Salida

The Estes Park Paint Out seems - ah - like moments ago. I think the leaves were still green, but things change quickly around here.
These 3 pieces were done in Rocky Mountain National Park during that paint out, and I won the People's Choice Award at the opening of the Western Light Show on August 26th. Well, THANKS people.
The very next weekend I was in Boulder for the Women of the West Show opening that highlighted the work of 6 women painters. See the post below.
And that painting on the promo card, was one of the first to sell.

But that was then. . . . .
Next week Sue and I will be painting in and around the Arkansas River Valley at the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest; and staying all week in that great Colorado art town of Salida.
Catch the opening reception at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center on Saturday night the 24th at 5 pm where some of the best Western plein air painters will gather to show their work from the week of painting.

This photo is pretty bad; falls into the 'documentation' category. I forgot to take a photo before leaving it at the gallery so had to shoot it on the fly right before the show.
Sometimes, at a event and show like this, there is just too much to do.


Women of the West

Tomorrow night I will be in Boulder, CO at the opening of the Women of the West Show. This show features the work of 6 women represented by Earthwood Gallery: Sarah Rogers, Margaret Jensen, Terri Sanchez, Maggie Renner Hellmann, Cindy Carillo and myself.
Join us for food and art at Earthwood Gallery on the beautiful Pearl Street Mall, just a short drive from the Denver metro area.

This show comes right on the heals of a wonderful week of painting in Rocky Mountain National Park followed by the Western Light show that opened on Friday night at Earthwood Collections in Estes Park and will hang through October.
Paintings hung in these two shows represent my very best work from this last Spring and Summer.
The piece on the promotion for the Women of the West Show is my painting titled "Edge of Autumn", 20"x 10".


Estes Park Plein Air

It's August and I am heading up to Estes Park for the Plein Air Event and Western Light Shows. This is the highlight of my summer painting season and Sue will be going as well. YaY!
My show, Western Light, will open on Friday night August 26, 6pm at Earthwood Collections, and will feature my work as well as that of James Whartman, Eldon Warren, Maggie Renner Hellmann, Margaret Jensen, Tim Howe, Cindy Carrillo, Lou Renner, Terri Sanchez, and Mike Brouse. Earthwood is on Elkhorn Drive - that's the main drag.
Sue's show will open on Saturday night the 27th, 6pm at the Cultural Arts Council, further up on Elkhorn. It will be a big weekend for art openings in Estes Park so if you are in the Denver area, take a drive up to beautiful Estes Park for the weekend. A perfect hurrah for the end of summer.
Posted at the top is my painting from last Thursday in Rock Creek- a 9x12.
This piece will go up to Boulder for the Women of the West Show that will open there at Earthwood Gallery on Friday night Sept 2.
I am a little crazed right now, getting ready to go and still framing work, ect, ect.
Tonight in Taos, my good friend the fabulous Peggy Immel opens a one woman show at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, 5-7pm. If you are in the Taos area - this is the show to see.
Peggy will also be one of our merry band of plein air painters in Estes Park, along with Patrice Walker.
There is a rumor that David Montgomery will also be in Estes Park. I hope we all get some painting done.


Art of the TRADE - Part 3

To read "Art of the Trade", Parts 1 & 2, scroll down thru the posts.

Let's Talk Trade.
My concrete driveway has been installed and it is beautiful; now it's time to create the art.
I think the best case scenario would be for the client to want something that you already have in your inventory. Wouldn't that be ideal?
But part of his willingness to go forward, weighed heavily on the idea that work would be created for him, and suited to a specific situation. And I am very willing to be flexible at this point.
The job is now like a commission - So, I visited the home of my concrete contractor and realized - I was in the wrong business. . . . just kidding. The house is a large quasi-spanish style home decorated with a lot of color and there were many options for a large art. He decided on 2 panels at 48"x 20" that would go on either side of french doors. This suited me perfectly because I love to do verticals.
As to subject matter, if the client does not has a specific idea in mind, or does not want a larger version of a plein air piece, then I like to talk only in terms of color and design. This gives me freedom to explore different subjects, with the idea that, in the end, the client will choose from 2 black & white layouts. That is normally how I would approach commissioned work for a client. I like to know exactly where I am headed, and have the client's O.K. before going there.
In this case tho, by the time I left his house, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and my gut told me to jump in, skip the layout stage, and create 2 half-size paintings to use as studies for the bigger panels.
Of course, this could backfire but the benefit to me would be: instead of spending time poring over 2 large-size layouts of differing subject matter, I could work out subject, color and design in the half-size and if the client didn't like what he saw at the small size - I would still have 2 paintings to sell - and I could work up new layouts.

These are the "layouts" at 24"x 12" and painted together so that they work as one whole. The individual panels should also be able to stand alone, which they will, when hung separately on either sides of french doors. Click on the photos to view them larger.

Painting in the Fabulous Zapata

Last week the Tuesday night painting class went out to Adams State College to paint in the twilight and light drizzle. This was my view up the 3rd Street; a 6"x 8".

The next day David Montgomery and I drove up into the Sangres to paint in the Zapata area on the side of Mount Blanca. I love this area because it has so much: deep aspen groves, dark pine woods, running water, high desert and pinon, a lake, long views of the valley - all in the shadow of Mount Blanca.
We found this burbling little water fall right by the side of the road and painted there for most of the morning. David is very adept at this deep woods and water thing - me - not so much; but I have been trying to do more waterfall subjects and actually seek out what, in the past I would run from. This painting is 12"x 9" and was really a challenge.
I am hoping Dave has posted his piece on his blog- just click on this link to get to his blog.


Hazards of the Trail

Sometimes the hardest thing about a day is the view: finding it, trapping it, painting it - but there are other hazards: cows moving to new pasture, drunk campers, weather. This day, on our way up to Rock Creek, Sue McCullough, David Montgomery and myself, made a stop for a friend, coiled up in the middle of the road.
I saw snakes, of all kinds in California, but this is my first Rattle Snake here in Colorado - and it gives one pause. They like to sun in warm spots, like the middle of the road, or find the cool in the underbrush - so, be careful where you step when finding that perfect view.

Rock Creek Revisited

Last week Sue and I went back up to Rock Creek for a morning of painting. I have been looking at streams and little waterfall configurations lately; to practice something I haven't done a lot of.
My first interpretation of this view is a few posts back, but I like this one much better and also like the 1 x 2 format better as well.
This piece is 6"x 12".
You can see my set-up and sketch in the photo at the bottom. About the time I got really into painting a herd of cows came up the road at my back. In an effort to avoid me and still cross the stream, there was a lot of mooing and thrashing around.