Holiday Treasures

Looking for a fun way to start your holiday shopping -
that does not involve appliances or big screen TVs?
Head to historic Manitou Springs, Colorado on Saturday, November 29th, where  the fun begins at the Holiday Miniature Show and sale from 4 to 7 pm  at the TracyMiller Gallery,
16 Ruxton  Ave.

Holiday Miniature shows pop up everywhere at this time of year and are the best places to buy work from established, and emerging artists,  - for the best prices.
With so many great artists featured at this show, you can be sure there will be something for everyone - all very affordable.
The Christmas Season is also a wonderful time to be in Manitou Springs; located between Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak,
this fun and festive mountain town is a hotbed of galleries, unique shopping, restaurants, and family attractions- especially inviting at this time of year.
This show will continue in Manitou Springs, at the TracyMiller Gallery, through the end of December.
These pieces here are just a few of the miniatures I painted for the show. Have a great weekend.


So. . . .what did you do on your summer vacation?

Every summer my painting classes head to the great outdoors.
For the evening class this summer I chose locations with long views specifically so that we could work on sunsets.
In the Studio Class we work on "sunsets"- as an element of the landscape and I have found that practice and a little study about: cloud shapes, sky color, landscape values, and low light painting can go a long way in preparation for the actual outdoor experience.

My personal feeling is this: cloud shapes MAKE the sunset. Sky colors and a quiet landscape help to make it all work but if the cloud shapes are dynamic and an active compositional element- then the sunset will also appear active and dynamic.

Everyone in class improved their plein air sunsets and I found my self much more comfortable doing what used to be very intimidating.
The time frame for a sunset is SO short - if you only do one plein air sunset a year -  it can be like trying to catch a tiger by the tail;  the results are seldom pretty.

I did a bunch this summer as practice and most went off wet to galleries where they sold rather quickly.
These are only a few - all are plein air, and all are pretty terse.
The last is 9x12 and probably my final plein air sunset of the season.
This winter I want to make larger versions of the studies and next summer do much larger work en plein air.
Practice, practice, practice.


TAOS Fall Arts Festival

Fall color is making its way thru Colorado from the high country down to the river valleys.  I look up to the San Juan's from my house and can see golden colors spread across the mountains like a necklace. 
At this time of year, artists want to be everywhere at once and there is a lot of chatter:  about the best color,  when it will peak - where it will peak  -  will it snow before it does . . . .
It can be a little nerve wracking. 
Last weekend I was in Creede painting with Sue McCullough and we caught the beginning of what we hope will be a long Fall. To the right is my piece, 14x12 - painted along the Bachelor Loop road.

This weekend it is Taos Fall Arts Festival as we follow Autumn's momentum and head to one of our favorite places - TAOS.
Taos Fall Arts celebrates the season with events and shows featuring fine art, arts & crafts, music, film and street art - all free and open to the public.

Sunday, Sept 28th, from noon to 5pm I will be painting at the Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Galley on Kit Carson with Sue McCullough and many of Wilder's other artists. Kit Carson will be hopping with openings and artists everywhere.
Come and join the party.

If you are looking to take in more of Fall in Taos - head down there on Friday for the TAOS SELECT opening that kicks off the weekend,  Friday Sept 26, from 5-9pm at the Kachina Lodge Conference Center. This opening will feature only invited Taos artists and, like all of the festival events, including the Taos Art Museum and the Fechin House are free and open to the public - open daily from 10am-6pm.


Fall Painting Classes

Hi all.
2 Painting Class options for this Fall in Alamosa, Colorado:
Studio Painting on Tuesday Evenings from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, starting on September 2nd, and
Plein Air (outdoor) Painting on Thursday Mornings from 9 am to noon, starting on September 4th.
The class session is 8 weeks long and based in the Studio at the Alamosa Family Recreation Center.

On Tuesday Evenings our focus will be on the landscape as we study composition and design, color,  and technique. Beginners are always welcome, even first-time oil painters brave enough to jump in.

On Thursday Mornings we will be out painting in the landscape around Alamosa punctuated with a drive to the Conejos to paint Fall color.
The first meeting of the Thursday Plein air Class will meet the Alamosa Recreation Center for a paint-along demo. Location schedules will be passed out at that time so everyone will know where to meet in the following weeks. Students bring their own supplies to the plein air class and as always, beginners are welcome.
If you have painted with us in class before, you are welcome to drop in on either class for a drop-in fee. Call the Alamosa Family Recreation Center at 710-589-2105 for Registration or  information.


Evening Plein Air

After several weeks of dodging rain drops and lightening,
the Tuesday class was rewarded with a beautiful summer evening. 

It was blazing sun when we set up at 6:30, out north of Alamosa
but it wasn't long before the evening began to unfold.
Thankfully, most of the action was off in the distance, - a thunder storm with lots of great lightning and a long, varied, and beautiful sunset. Life is good in Colorado.
At the bottom is my take on the evening.


Class Notes: Marketing ART- or Who am I?

In my classes there are artists at all levels and stages of their journey; some are long time art business people spanning many genres and mediums, some paint for show and some paint to please only themselves. Everyone is working to improve.
In class we talk about the "Art business" and what life is like as a daily/working painter. Questions that come up are related to the "How to" of selling as much as the "how to" of painting and students ready to make a leap to the more serious side of selling want to know where to start.
Often the conversation begins like this:
     "I have been painting/creating for many years and have a ton of work in  - watercolor, oil, acrylic, some is landscape, some still life. I used to live in another state and painted at the ocean so I have a lot of seascapes plus the ones I did in college. . . . . .
Also, I went through a phase of 'art quilting'.
Where do I start to SELL all this stuff?"

Whoa!!  TOO much stuff.  
This is where I ask - WHO are you? -  and WHAT are you selling?
In a word - this is "marketing".

Deciding WHO you are, or want to be, is the hardest part.

Are you a painter, sculptor, fiber artist?
What is your medium? - subject matter? Landscape, still life, portrait, abstract?
Do you work best en plein air, or do you prefer studio work?
If you want to SELL work (beyond the occasional “one off”) - it becomes about marketing. The more specific you can be about WHO you are as artist - the easier it is to target the market for your work and be successful.
If you have a lot of work already - gather up the BEST, putting together what goes together stylistically and pulling out what does not fit. Start with only the best.  If you end up with 2 pieces - that is what you build on until you have a "BODY" of work, 10 -20 pieces.
Galleries are looking for distinctive work with a consistent style.

I market myself as a "Contemporary Plein Air Painter, working in the Western landscape". Those boundaries keep my marketing on track.
When I choose paintings for advertising and promotion I go with work that most exemplifies MY style and genre. I never want to muddy the water with other styles, other genres, or old work, - no matter how "good" it is.

When I lived in California, I sold a ton of seascapes- because I lived there. Not anymore; my galleries and collectors want work done in my region. That is not to say that I never paint seascapes or sell them but they have to fit the marketing criteria of  "contemporary plein air painter- working in the western landscape".
It is not about what I CAN DO - it is about what I want to SELL.


La Veta Art Gallery Opening, Friday, June 27th

Tomorrow -
Friday, June 27,  I will be in La Veta, Colorado at Pinon Hill Art Gallery   5 - 7 pm  to celebrate the opening of my show there.
Pinon Hill Art Gallery is a gem gallery, located in the charming town of LaVeta, in Southern Colorado.  Known for exceptional ceramic art by regional and local artisans they also feature the work of painters like Frank Lalumia, Bob Buckner and Joan Hanley.
I am honored to have Nicole Copel and Brad Atchison,  artist/owners hosting a show of my work, June and all of July.
Good food and good art in one of the most beautiful regions of Colorado; I hope you will join me  - only an hour from Alamosa at Pinon Hill Art Gallery,
210 S. Main Street in La Veta, Colorado - 5 to 7 pm.

Alamosa ArtWalk '14

Thanks to everyone who volunteered, promoted, planned and participated in Alamosa's ArtWalk last Saturday, June 21st - a celebration of art, music and spoken word. There were painting demos, and displays of photography, pottery, fiber arts, and sculpture.
Special THANKS to painters from my class who came out; and kudos to those who were first time plein air painters.
We enjoyed a perfect June morning on Main Street, chatting it up with people from the community and other artists who came out to see what we were up to. ArtWalk is about seeing and being seen- promoting Alamosa and hopefully raising interest and awareness to ART - in our community.
ArtWALK participants carried Programs that they had stamped by Alamosa stores and restaurants and at the end of the day entered a drawing for a $200 art gift-certificate to spend toward ART. Yay!
As part of my ArtWalk day I have always gotten a program stamped in hope of winning the prize - but no luck yet. However, I was very gratified that the winner chose to purchase my painting "Sage and Snow" - bottom right in the photo above.

In the afternoon I painted a quick dog portrait of Magnolia  - a dog friend of mine. All in all - a pretty good day.


What Could Be Better?

...than Colorado in June? Not much.
Even better, to be OUT with other painters, from other places who come to the valley. It is like a cultural exchange.
Louise Minks,  comes to Alamosa a couple of times a year from her home in Leverett, Massachusetts, to visit her daughter - and to teach classes at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.
We met up at the beginning of June with Sue McCullough, out at Sue's ranch and enjoyed a morning painting the sweet little Model A that Sue's dad is so proud to show off.
Louise is primarily an acrylic painter and captures the spirit of our western landscape with fabulous color and abstraction. I seldom see, really good acrylic painters, using the medium as it is meant to be used and I am a big fan. She shows her work in Taos at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art - where I am also represented.

I devoted the morning to sketching, something I am trying to devote more time to, instead of always working to a finished painting. Cars are not a big part of what I do in the landscape but the practice time drawing- especially such a fun model, is never wasted.
Click on the photos to enlarge them and see how Louise and Sue tackled the car.

Painting With Friends

Summer and good weather brings artists together and last weekend I met up with Josh Been and Sally Mather to paint in Buena Vista, CO.
Sunday brought Colorado some crazy weather, state- wide, with a couple of tornadoes and golf ball size hail, BUT Saturday was more than perfect- and I am grateful.  We met before dawn at the Collegiate Peaks Overlook for a stellar view of Mt. Princeton as the sun rose.
Sally, Josh and myself, are very different painters with contrasting vision and widely divergent outcomes  - but on a perfect morning -  being OUT there is brings us together.


So Hard to Say Goodbye

Last Tuesday morning Robert Genn, well known, well loved Canadian painter died at his home of pancreatic cancer. He is named as one of the greats, not just in Canada but world wide and this week thousands of artists are grieving for a dear friend and mentor - one they never personally met but loved intensely. 

For 27 years Robert has written the Twice Weekly Letter: his thoughts and musings on ART and Esoterica that brought together readers in 115 countries. So many of these readers would say that Robert’s writings profoundly affected their work as an artist.

The Twice Weekly Letter came regularly to my email box and I would open it even if I was dead tired and had a list of unopened emails waiting.  He spoke to the ‘artistic heart”,  addressing our fears, our triumphs, our connections in the world - to nature, to each other, to our work.

I did not know Robert personally but his letter always came to “Coni”- and his writings often seemed like the words of someone who really knew me - who spoke to the struggles and pitfalls of the artist’s life. Often his comments would be in response to a letter written to him; giving wise advice in the most gentle and unjudgmental manner.  
Last October after coming home from a plein air event I opened the letter titled “the Bomb”,  where he candidly revealed his most recent diagnoses of pancreatic cancer.
 I felt my heart just tumble on to the key board and I am sure the wind of a shared wail went up across the country. People wrote to extend thoughts and prayers and then we all held our collective breath - waiting for the letter we would never want to read.

A beautiful tribute, written by Robert’s daughter, Sara Genn, can be read on the Painter’s Keys website. Sara is also a gifted, generous artist and writer. If you have never heard of Robert Genn or Painter’s Keys website take a look.
Sara Genn will continue to write for "The Letter" and also reprint Robert's many years of profound musings. They are worth reading again.
Thank You Robert, for your generosity in life, and even in death.

"To float like a cloud you have to go to the trouble of becoming one." (Robert Genn).

"We live our short spans in the vortex of a miracle, and while we may not be the center of that vortex, it is magic to be anywhere in there." (Robert Genn).


Taste of Creede Quick Draw

 Memorial Day weekend in southern Colorado can only mean
"The Taste of Creede".
Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains, this is one of Colorado's most colorful and classic high country mining towns and Creede loves tourists and artists. The Memorial weekend party is dedicated to Food, Culinary Arts, and Fine Art.  Sunday's 1 hour Artist's Quick Draw attracts some of the best artists,  and buyers come from all over the country.
This is my 5th year attending and it is one of the most fun events I do all year. Artists gather on Main Street in front of the Stephen Quiller gallery and paint from models, sketches, memory or the view. And tho' this year we painted in less than perfect conditions, everyone had a good time and all the work sold. Colorado painters are hardy and their buyers - very determined.
In the photos Steve Quiller paints away calmly while Sue McCullough finishes her piece, and Karen Bonnie and Kris Gosar ignore the rain.
At the bottom is my piece, painted from a sketch done on a small pond in the Conejos area of Colorado.   8"x10 " is my standard QuickDraw size and very doable in the 1 hour time frame.

Some of the artists attending: Steve Quiller, Susan McCullough, Peggy Stenmark Morgan, Kris Gosar, David Montgomery, Karen Bonnie, Charles Ewing, Jan Thompson, Frankie Will, Gail Frasier, Jessie Crock, and myself - to name a few.

Known for holiday partying, Creede also hosts the National Small Prints Show currently hanging at the Creede Repertory Theatre. Another good reason to visit Creede.
Thank You to Stephen & Marta Quiller and the Creede Chamber of Commerce for putting together a great event.

David Montgomery DEMO in Class

We had a special guest in class Tuesday evening, David Montgomery, noted landscape painted who is based here in Alamosa.
David is known for his dramatic and epic scenes of the Western landscape and is currently showing work at 2 prestigious venues: the Colorado Govenor's Invitational Show in Loveland, and the Plein Air Painters New Mexico Juried Exhibition in Santa Fe.

There is so much to be learned by watching a master walk through his process. Dave brought a piece of photo scrap and a charcoal sketch already completed. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Dave and I paint together in the landscape a lot and tho' our styles differ dramatically, our process has many similarities; the sketch being one. The sketch is where we make decisions about what to say about said photo - or the view before us. Amazingly, this is a step most ignored by beginners.

Dave is a classically and academically trained painter with a refined sense of technical expertise. His unique style has developed from a bent to follow his own "voice" and not painting fad or fashion.  His techniques and tools always stimulate lively discussion among my students.
WHAT was the size of that brush??????
In about 2 hours Dave touched on the history of impressionism and plein air painting technology, painting from reference, using a sketch, working out composition, color theory, edges - brushwork, and what fascinates me most about watching a pro, WHY they do what they do.
He did not consider this piece "done", but will take it home to his famous freezer.  Later,  after a short rest, he can look at it with fresh eyes to judge if the piece has become what he intended or if it needs some tuning. This might mean resolving edges, it might be adding detail to bring the important points out, or it might be simply adding the signature.
Thanks Dave for sharing your work and your process with so much generosity. Read more about David Montgomery and his work - just click here on his name.


Plein Air paintings in Santa Fe

The Plein Air Painters New Mexico (PAPNM) Annual Juried Show opened in Santa Fe last weekend and will be showing through May 17 at the Gary Kim Fine Art Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This plein air exhibition is representative of a national membership with work entered from all over the country. Last year I won 1st Place in the members category.
If you enjoy landscape painting, especially plein air (painted on location) work. This is the show to see. The Gary Kim Gallery is open 10 am to 5 pm daily.
Check it out if you are in Santa Fe.

The painting below was my entry for this year: 'Mountain August',
a 16x12, painted in Rocky Mountain National Park. To view all the paintings entered, click on the link here: PAPNM Annual Juried Show, or on the link at the top of this post.
This painting is also featured in a quarter page ad in the June issue of Southwest Magazine.


Get on Track- Take a Class

Here we are in the merry month of May; sometimes not so merry in Colorado where spring winds can peel paint right off the house, but as the grass quietly greens up and flowers bud, painting still-life in class feels a little stale. I paint out side pretty much year around but don't expect students to take on the outdoor elements while trying to also juggle elements of design, composition, and color mixing.

Classes start this week and we will turn our focus to all things landscape, building on skills in preparation for the summer session when we actually GO outside and hopefully, put them to good use.
I consider this the LEARNING part of painting; the WISDOM part only comes with you are actually out there.
My advice to any painter wanting to go PLEIN AIR is to just do it; but if your circumstance don't allow - indulge in classes that give you a strong foundation of composition and landscape elements that will help you be more successful when you do go out.
And it is always more fun with other painters.
Take advantage of the time and when the weather turns fine you'll go out with more confidence.

The above plein air piece is a demo- late spring- done in the indirect method.
To read about the Indirect Method go to LABELS on the right and scroll down to Class Notes: Direct and Indirect method.


Two Hours - That is All I Ask For.

Spring is a risky time of year in Colorado. Snow is always threatening and winds can be brutal but finding a morning of quiet sunshine can make it all worthwhile.
Last week Sue and I took a chance on the weather and went out to her ranch to paint.  The morning looked to be a short one with winds coming up from the south and clouds flying overhead but we took some relative protection along a fence. Cranes flew overhead and landed with in a few yards. We could hear them warble to each other and wondered if they could hear us chatting while we painted.
About 11 we could see the snow really come down over the San Juans to the west, that was our cue to clear out.
Spring is the most difficult time of year to paint but I no longer think of it in terms of good days or bad. I think of the season in terms of a good hour- here or there; chasing weather, or running from it - maybe crouched behind a fence, - what ever it takes to get the job done. A couple of good hours will keep me heartened against a week of wind, dust and snow.
At the top is my take on the view and Sue's directly below.
Click on the photo to view it larger.


Winter's Inspiration

Back in January, the San Luis Valley enjoyed a exceptional moonrise over Mt.Blanca. I saw it in the twilight of early evening and snapped this shot. Not great as photography goes - but just enough information to remind me of the impression that moon made on my mind.
In February I posted that photo with the hope of creating a painting from the inspiration - see February 2nd post, Getting Inspiration.

Below is my quick study at 6"x 8"- and I'm happy because it captures the essence of my inspiration. Of course, there was some editing of the view- which is, by the way, from my back porch. I have countless photos of that landscape and fortunately, most of them were taken before the house was built.
Now I hope to recreate this scene at 16"x20". . . . .  I will keep you posted.


Class Notes: Abstracting the Set-up

The last couple of weeks in class we have focused on "abstract" painting because it presents very unique challenges and forces students to look at things a little differently.
In the last post and in the past (see:Class notes: Abstract Painting) we have approached abstract painting from a purely compositional point of view, developing work with a specific compositional theme and color agenda.
This week in class, we are talking about "Representational Abstract" painting;
think Picasso and Georgia O'Keefe.
We started with a still life which I set up in a rather casual way and left on the table for about 10 minutes. This is enough time for students to see and be influenced by colors and shapes,
and work out a rough sketch from the first quick impressions.
Once the still life is removed we are free to focus on shapes in developing the composition. This may mean turning the paintings sideways, or upside down as we are look for interesting shapes, deleting some, redrawing others. We do what ever it takes 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. Some artists have a natural tendency to see everything as a landscape. Other artists see the landscape as a really big still life.
No matter how you work,  or what your style is - the very act of putting brush to canvas is an act of abstraction. The difference between the "abstract painter" and the "realist painter" is the level of abstraction. How far do you push the envelope to communicate your idea?
Abstract work has a way of revealing an artist's strengths, weaknesses and natural tendencies because composition, shape and color take precedent over subject matter.