Winter Dreams of Summer's End

This plein air painting, done at the end of last summer is a part of the solo show that I hung at the beginning of December here in Alamosa at the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center ARTrium Gallery. This solo exhibition has been the major focus of my year and I felt real relief as it all came together.
A huge "Thanks"
to the San Luis Valley Medical Center for creating such a beautiful dedicated space for art in this community and for all the encouragement from the staff.  I am thrilled that 4 pieces sold right after the show went up.  The reception will be February 14th - save the date;  paintings will hang until the end of February.
I for one am happy to throw myself into the Christmas Holiday and do a little quiet non-painting meditation before heading into the new year.
Thanks to my galleries; it has not been any easy for those in the way of fire and flood here in Colorado. This is one year we are ready to see come to an end.
Thanks to folks who purchased paintings this year, from me or from other artists. Thanks for supporting art and the people who make it.
Thanks to all my students; you keep me honest and keep me on track.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a blessed holiday season.
See you in January.


TracyMiller Gallery Presents
100 for $100
2nd Annual Holiday Art Show and Sale

“Sangre Summer”  oil   5” x 5”   ©Coni Grant  SOLD

“Stars & Snow”  oil   4” x 4”   ©Coni Grant  SOLD

Featuring: Coni Grant, Karen Anderson, Danyl Cook, Nancye Culbreath, Lorraine Danzo,
Mark Day, Will Ersland, Patrice Filler, David Gonzales, Ded Komitor,
Shar McClure, Audrie Mergelman, Tracy Miller, Laura Reilly, Jack Risley & Sue Tormoen

Opening Reception Sat. Nov. 30th  3 ~ 6pm
16 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, CO
Show continues through Dec. 31st


Class Notes: SEEING Values and Creating the Notan

Good art/design is based on the interaction of light and dark; we call it Value. Seeing the Value pattern is key to strong work. That's why painters squint: at the still life, at the landscape - squinting helps to better see the Value pattern in the subject. Seeing the light and dark pattern and translating that to a 2 value notan sketch creates a Value foundation for the final work.
We have all seen work where the artist has no sense of a value pattern; it appears spiritless and blah.
In a great painting we may enjoy a stunning image or beautiful technique but you can be sure - behind every GREAT painting is a strong Value pattern, planned at the sketch/notan stage to create a well organized arrangement of light and dark.
Above is a simple class setup and the notan created for the painting. Can you see the notan in the photo of the pears?
French Impressionists used the notan idea as did the great illustrators of the 19th and 20th century- I am thinking of Howard Pyle and Norman Rockwell.
Call up some their work on the internet and take a look. Squint and see if you can see the notan - or the strong pattern of light and dark.


Class Notes: Notan - as in "You have a nice NOTAN"

I have never heard the word thrown around so much as I did last week in Sedona. Someone actually came up to me while I was painting and said,
"I love your Notan";
Hmmmm. I'll take that as a compliment.
Notan refers to a type of sketch and comes from the combination of the 2 Japanese words for 'light' and 'dark'.
Artists use the term to refer to the interaction between the two - like a dance; and it's a cool word that addresses it.
Good design, consequently all good painting,  is based on the balance and play between light and dark, regardless of color.
As well, its importance strengthens the argument for creating a SKETCH before painting.
Shown here is the type of 2 value 'notan' that I create with a Sharpie pen for each painting; just black and white - no 3rd value gray.

Most artists use the more common, 3 value sketch (or 3 value notan) to lay out values and it is what I teach in class.  I have written several blog posts on creating a simple 3 value sketch, which is a good thing to know.
Having said that however,  in my own work outside of class, I do a 2 value 'notan', and started doing that early on when I realized how the power of a 2 value sketch could revolutionize my work; and it has done just that.
So, we will spend some time this class session exploring the dance of light and dark balance  - while working the 2 value notan in class.
Bring a small sketch pad and a Sharpie pen and don't forget the paints.
To read more about 'notan'- scroll down the labels on the right to see Class Notes on Sketching and Notan.


Sedona Plein Air Fest

Sedona was some kind of amazing - almost beyond belief with color and drama, thankfully, all in the landscape.
Thirty artists participated from all over the country and we had a great time. Organized and fun, artist and buyer friendly- this was the best plein air event that I have ever attended.  Kudos to the Sedona Arts Center. It is no wonder painters want to be in this event and people travel from all over to see the show. My piece above of Coffee Pot Rock was one of 3 that I sold at the show. Click on this link: Sedona Plein air Fest Artists see who else was painting in Sedona this last week, or follow it on Facebook.
Thanks to Leslie Allen who took the shot of me at the Sedona Arts Center during the first paint out of the week.


Sedona Plein Air Festival

It may be snowing in Alamosa but I have high hopes for good color and good weather in Arizona. I have been invited to join 29 other plein air painters at the Sedona Arts Center for a week of painting the Autumn color in and around fabulous Sedona Arizona.
It will be a full week of events, starting with a paint out in down town Sedona and continue with an ongoing wet-wall exhibiting work created during the week. In the photo are 7 of the great artists who will be there.  L-R: Shelby Keefe, Carolyn Hesse-Low, Tracey Frugoli, Peggy Immel, Hou Hai-ou,Betty Carr, and myself.
Click on this link: Sedona Plein Air Fest to see the complete schedule and all the opportunities to see plein air work in Sedona and the artists who will be creating it.

Should We Be Surprised?

Not really, but the first real snow of the season- even in Colorado, can catch you off guard. Last night we got about 4 inches of wet sloppy snow and for many painters it is time to throw up the white flag and head into the studio.  Nay!      It is too early in the season for that.
To all the Class painters - I will be at the State Street bridge tomorrow at 9am - hopefully, to paint;
Take heart and wear a hat.

Here we are on the river at the last plein air class of the season.
Bravo!   to you hardy folks who came out. Those leaves are just barely hanging on in spite of the early snow.

The next Painting Class session starts on
Thursday morning, October 31st -  9 to noon.
This Painting Session will be all STUDIO. Classes meet at the Alamosa Recreation Center.
Call 719-589-2105 for information or registration.


Last Chance CLASS, Thursday

This Thursday, is our last SLV Plein air Class for the season. We are meeting at the State Street bridge, 9 am and will see what the day offers.
I love this spot because it provides so many views: Mt. Blanca, the river, and masses of cottonwoods in the midst of change.
The Sangres have had a major dusting/dumping of snow this weekend so the mountains will be beautiful but it is a portent of things to come. This is a chance to enjoy the color while you can, in what has been a very strange, wet, windy and somewhat difficult (for painting) Autumn.
I have high hopes for October 17th; come out and enjoy the morning- and bundle up.
Upcoming CLASSES:
The next session of classes will be ALL studio and will start on
Tuesday Evening, Oct 29, 6:30pm - 9pm at  the Alamosa Recreation Center and
Thursday Morning, Oct 31, 9 to noon at  the Alamosa Recreation Center.


WINNER- BEST of Artist Members at PleinAir Artists New Mexico Exhibiton, in Taos

"Afternoon in the Tall Grass", 12 x 16", WON Best of Artist Members, FIRST Place award, at the Plein Air Painters New Mexico Annual Juried Exhibition that opened in Taos last night; and SOLD.
This show will be on display thru Nov. 3rd at the Millicent Rogers Museum.
Fall is the BEST time in Taos and this is a big weekend with Taos Fall Arts Celebration going on and openings in many galleries.

Make a weekend of it and check out Peggy Immel's Solo Show celebrating Wilder Nightingale's 22 years in Taos. That show opens tonight, Saturday, Oct 5th,  5-7pm at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art on Kit Carson in Taos. Peggy took BEST in SHOW last night at the Plein Air Painters New Mexico Annual Juried Exhibition. CONGRATULATIONS Peg!
This show is  great chance to see more of her wonderful work.

On Sunday, Oct 6th,  1- 6pm,  Nita Harper and Patricia Rose Ford will be featured at the the Purple Sage Galeria in Old Town Albuquerque. Nita and Patricia are also members of the Plein Air Painters New Mexico.
Hope to see you in New Mexico enjoying ART in the Autumn.


PleinAir Artists New Mexico Juried Exhibiton - Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos

You are invited to enjoy the best of the Taos Fall season starting Tonight:
Friday, October 4th, 5- 7pm is the opening PARTY for the Annual Plein Air Painters New Mexico Juried Exhibition - at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos.
"Afternoon in the Tall Grass", 12 x 16", is my plein air painting juried into this year's show.
The Millicent is a venerable, and beautiful Taos venue and this show will highlight plein air work of painters from all over the country who come to New Mexico for inspiration.
So if you are on the lookout for great things to do this weekend in the Southwest- this is an ART must see.

If you are thinking about making a weekend of it: check out Peggy Immel's Show celebrating Wilder Nightingale's 22 years in Taos;  Saturday, Oct 5th 5-7pm at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art on Kit Carson in Taos.
And on Sunday, Oct 6th,  Nita Harper and Patricia Rose Ford will be featured at the the Purple Sage Galeria in Old Town Albuquerque
 1- 6pm.
Peggy and Nita are friends and fellow plein air painters; Peggy is from Taos and Nita from California.


Western Light Show, Estes Park

August in Estes Park is almost always a little magical. Above Sue McCullough paints below me, just off Trail Ridge road looking down into the Endo Valley area of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our week wrapped up with the Western Light Invitational show hosted by Earthwood Collections Gallery in Estes Park. This show is attended by artists from all over the west, including Maggie Renner Hellman, Cindy Carrillo, Susan McCullough, David Montgomery, Margaret Jensen, Lou Renner, James Whartman, Terri Sanchez, Jessica Wicken, Dawn Normali, Stanislav Sidorov and Yelena Sidorov - to name a few.
My piece "Stars Over the Sangres" sold at the show opening night. The lower piece shown here is a studio version, 24"x 18"- of the plein air piece featured in the post below- that went to the PAAC show this year.  This version entitled "Moraine Park" won the ARTIST's Choice award at the Western Light Exhibition and has since
Thanks everyone.
I have to say, there are few paintout/shows that I enjoy more than this one and it is mainly because Ron and Ann Wilcocks, owners of Earthwood Galleries have gathered together a stable of artists that are great people and really enjoy each other.


Plein Air Artists of Colorado National Juried Exhibition 2013

 Last weekend the Plein Air Artists of Colorado National Juried Show opened in Denver at Abend Galley. Unfortunately, my summer schedule of shows precluded my ability to attend - but it was the first time in many years that Sue and I could not be in Denver to see the work and visit with artist-friends.
This show will be on exhibition at Abend Gallery at 2260 East Colfax Ave., Denver until the end of August.
My paintings - Mountain August, 16x12, painted in Rocky Mountain National Park and
Chamisa Trail, 9x12 - painted toward LaVeta Pass, were both juried into the show.
To view the entire show online click this link:
A final note:  when I viewed the show online, I was extremely disappointed to see that my NAME was spelled incorrectly. sigh. . .
As artists, we jump through so many hoops, we pay to enter the show, pay to ship to the show and even pay to have the gallery open up our shipped work -and in the end they can't take the time to READ the paper work.
Yeah! I am a little ticked off.


Class Notes: If You Missed it!

Our weeks painting together in class went by really fast - like the summer in general. July and August have given us beautiful days and spectacular evenings. The top photo is only a small portion of the drama that unfolded over the San Juans in July as the sun set. Farther down is my small demo, painted on the Rio Grande River last week. Tuesday night we painted out at Perla's house south of town, where we were treated to a sunset in the west while Mt. Blanca lit up in the east.
If you could not make the summer plein air class and would still like to get in some out door painting - our next session begins  Tuesday evening, September 10 or Thursday morning September 12th. The first meeting will be in studio at the Rec Center.
Come ready to paint.


Class Notes: Going Out to Play

In Colorado we live for the lovely days of summer. They go by SO fast and in a very short time Autumn will be upon us - and after that, well - You know. . .
but let's not talk about that here.
It's summer and all of my classes go outside to paint en plein air. For me there is no better way to enjoy the short season and embrace it. Every day that we paint out, we are snatching moments from the passing of time and forcing it to slow down bit. 
Sometimes I think it is less about executing a painting than just being OUT,  seeing what's out there.
Some painters see the landscape is as a large Still Life; others would say a Still Life is just a small landscape;
some approach outdoor painting as an athletic event, others as meditation.
What I hope to encourage in my students is the idea that going outside - "painting from life" -  is the norm, not the special occasion. We go outside because "real life"-  is not a static thing captured in photos but in the living, changing landscape.

Tuesday evening we painted from the Rec Center and this little demo is the view toward Alamosa as the sun dropped in the west.


Crested Butte Plein Air Paint Out 2013

Last Sunday Sue McCullough and I drove up to beautiful Crested Butte for the PAAC (Plein Air Artists of Colorado) paint out. Two full days of painting with over 50 PAAC painters during the Crested Butte Wild Flower Festival. I am not much of a 'flower' painter but this is absolutely one of the most beautiful areas of Colorado and I found lots to keep me busy. We also took a lot of photos as you can see at the top. Thanks Virginia Unseld, for that.

A big 'Congratulations' to Sue, who won 2nd place a couple of weeks ago at the PAPNM (Plein Air Painters New Mexico) paint out in  Santa Fe.
Peg Immel, another painting buddy won honorable Mention at that same paint out. Click on their names to see the winning paintings.
I had to miss that paint out because my show in Colorado Springs; alas, choices, choices - but all good.


Hot and Smokey Days of Summer

June 21st  I had the opportunity to host the TracyMiller Gallery during the 3rd Friday Manitou Springs Artwalk. I painted, promoted my show at the Phantom Canyon Brewery in Colorado Springs, and had a chance to meet many art collectors from that area - some who had homes burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire last June.
Here it is a year later and  Friday morning, as I drove toward Colorado Springs, I skirted the Southfork fire to the west of Alamosa and the East Peak Spanish Peaks fires to the east, - through Canon City, which suffered a fire that took out almost everything surrounding the Royal Gorge Bridge.  Fortunately, the bridge was spared.  This June has been tough for our state and especially for Colorado Springs.  Some folks who came through the gallery were just moving back into places that only days before had been evacuated because of the horrendous Black Forest Fire that destroyed over 500 homes.
In spite of fires and mayhem, Manitou had an upbeat feel and a lot of art lovers came through the gallery which features my work and that of Tracy Miller, Laura Reilly, Deb Komitor, William Ersland Buffalo Kaplinski and Audrie Mergelman. Thanks all.

ps. Tracy painted the wall of the gallery to show off my piece "Pony Trail".
I think I like it.

Class Notes: Manitou Workshop

My weekend in Manitou included a one day workshop in the lovely space at the Fare Bella gallery,  run by Patti Filler and right next to the TracyMiller gallery.
Because this was not an outdoor (plein air) workshop we worked from photos brought by the artists.
My focus, as always, is on design, and in this case how to bring out the strengths of your reference material.

This black and white photo was the reference for the demo.  My sketch below shows how I ALWAYS start by simply dividing the space into thirds and moving shapes to strengthen the composition.
As a class we all took part in deciding how to break up the space:
#1 We chose to move the horizon to the upper third line.
#2  We connected the major elements:  the large tree and the barn, moving them to the third line on the right- thus creating a strong focal point.
#3  We placed a balancing group of trees to the left side.
#4  Even the division of the foreground follows the grid.
Below the sketch is my quick 9x12 demo.

Compare the demo sketch and the demo to the plein air piece below, done at the same location as the reference material. 
In both cases I make use of the Rule of Thirds by dividing my sketch area into thirds both vertically and horizontally.
This is a classic compositional idea that deals with both the composition and placement of the focal point - meaning,
it helps you organize the space and position subject matter to be visually balanced.

You can see how I clearly made very different, and important choices about - the horizon line, the major elements and the secondary shapes.
Both compositions are strong because they are governed  and held together by the Rule of Thirds.
Read more about the Rule of Thirds by going to LABELS on the right side of this blog, scroll down and click on Class Notes: Rule of Thirds.

. . . and this is a good place to
 plug the benefits of doing a sketch, no matter how simple.


Manitou Springs 3rd Friday Artwalk

I will be in Manitou Springs this Friday night, June 21st from 5pm to 9pm,  for their 3rd Friday ARTWalk,  - painting a demo and hosting at the TracyMiller Gallery  in Manitou.   Just a short drive from downtown Colorado Springs, take US-24 West;  exit at West Manitou Ave. and follow it up to the top of the street to the round about and go left on Ruxton to the TracyMiller Gallery at 16 Ruxton.

After strolling Manitou,  you can enjoy dinner at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company,  in nearby Colorado Springs and view 24 pieces of oversize work created specifically for this venue, by 
myself and Tracy Miller, of the TracyMiller Gallery in Manitou. The WILDLAND.WILDLIFE show will hang all of JUNE and JULY.
Check it out; good art, good food, good brew - at a first rate venue.
Phantom Canyon Brewing Company is located at 2 E.Pikes Peak Ave., in Colorado Springs.

Class Notes: The Shape of Things

In this last class session we focused on elements of the landscape in preparation for the transition to painting out doors. (That class session starts on Tuesday night, July 16).
We spent a couple of weeks on trees, tree shapes, clouds and cloud shapes  and tho' we are working with good reference material  it is not like plugging the right numerals into the example math problem - that never worked for me anyway.  We do not copy the reference exactly any more than we would try to paint exactly what we see in the landscape. What's to do?
It's all in the shapes.  In every segment of the landscape: trees, water, river, mountains, clouds -  what we are practicing is good shapes.   Students skimp on the design of shapes, preferring to focus on materials or exotic techniques and wonder why the outcome is so unsatisfying. Books discuss the painting process but never explain that inelegant SHAPES make for paintings of the same.
I encourage my students to be designer first; be design driven, not image driven.  Principles of good design were revered by the ancients and foundational to the "old masters".  A casual viewer may simply admire a painting for it's image content, but a devoted student must see beyond the image to the elements of good design that make a painting work.   But I digress. . .
Our class time has not been in vain, if what we come away with is the simple idea that trees are shapes, clouds are shapes - and all parts of the landscape must be subject to the design eye.
For beginners this may sound like Greek - but start by creating beautiful shapes. To the viewer it may be a group of trees, a distant mountain,  the sky, or a winding river or path -  but to the painter they are carefully crafted SHAPES; beautiful for their having been designed with intent.
For every shape included in your painting- stop and ask yourself:
 is that shape - elegant, sophisticated, beautiful?


Beautiful JUNE

Usually, by this time of the year,  I have lots of plein air paintings to show for the previous 7 months; pieces that document the cold Colorado winter right into raging spring.  Instead - this year I dedicated months to preparing for the WILDLAND-WILDLIFE show in Colorado Springs which meant a specific focus on large work- ALL studio. For years I have complained about not getting enough studio time - Ha! Be careful what you wish for.  In the end, I managed to complete 8 new oversize paintings- and learned a lot; that's the upside. I got in touch with my cranky side as well.
Going OUT - is my tonic, my meditation, my inspiration - even if the work is crap - I gotta go out.
So, here it is already June; I feel like the fist half of the year has passed me by - but there is no better time to step out into the Colorado landscape, than summer - it is what we live for.
So this week, Sue McCullough and I went out to Zapata, an amazingly diverse area on the western slope of Mt. Blanca where aspens are in the first flush of green. We painted in a grove of Aspens surrounded by Cottonwoods and Spruce.

Later in the week, we met up at Sue's ranch along the Rio Grande river.  This is one of my favorite places to paint at any time of year because of the huge cottonwood trees, views of the river and mountain ranges off to the east - and the west. I took this photo looking west toward the San Juan Mountains at noon when big storm clouds were forming, but when we arrived several hours earlier the skies were clear and I chose to paint looking eastward into the sun toward the Sangre de Christos.  I love it in the morning when the mountain shapes are very flat - like they have been cut out of colored paper and placed on top of the sky. This piece still needs some edge work and a signature.