Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dec 31 - Last Painting for 2008.... This went FAST!

The front of the Mission Inn, right as the sun disappears and the holiday lights come on. This is a small, 7x5 acrylic done on location as a warmup for the second painting of this historic monument in Riverside.

Cars come in for valet parking under the archway with the flags, and it was a real challenge to capture the impending night AND the lights, as well as the color on the autumn trees. Yes, we still have leaves on our big street trees, and here in our preserve.

The Plein Air Artists of Riverside will be coming over here to our place on January 10 to paint those sycamores and the greening up mountains behind us.


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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec 25 - On Location with Christmas Lights

Merry Christmas!! To share the joy of the Season, here's an original acrylic painting full of holiday lights done on location at the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside a few weeks ago. I've been with the Plein Air Artists of Riverside who have been painting on location to capture the merriment and holiday lighting displays for which the Inn is famous.

When the moon was full this month, I set up with Sparky (yes, he came along and played "announce dog" to anyone who came close) in a planter bed diagonally across the street from the arches and buildings of the Inn. They decorate the palm trunks with huge snowflake lights, too. This is a 16 x 12 acrylic, done with those open acrylics, and I'm quite pleased with it for having captured not only the lights and the holiday feel of the building, but also the natural world of the night sky and full moon. The open acrylics allowed a longer working time, yet the Color System make the choices for this piece easy, even though I was working with a flash light in my hand! When I go out again on Dec. 29th, I'll have some nice LED lights that will shine both on my painting and palette.

If you've ever been to the Mission Inn (opens in a new window) it is quite a famous landmark for its architecture and holiday lights. I'm pleased with this painting of it, and hope you enjoy it as a sharing of the holiday spirit with us! It doesn't have a show schedule, so it is for sale, $300 to add to your collection. I can ship priority mail to have it in your hands before the Holiday lights are gone.

This day hubby Ron and I are traveling to my brother's house to share dinner with family and friends, so I'm posting this a bit early. I'm going armed with home-baked deep dish apple pies, punpkin pie, New York cheesecake and cherry cobbler. May your holiday be as you would wish it--quiet or noisy, reflective or boisterous, and may you get what you desire throughout this winter season and into the coming year.

Tomorrow I continue with my husband's painting of aikido. If you have any questions about how this "Mission Inn Lights" painting evolved, just email me.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dec 24 - Aikido Commission for A Present

On the next pass for this 30 x 40 inch oil, I've placed the midtone greens on the tatami mats and the deeper shadows behind the row of figures. I'm working out just how many people will be behind the two figures, and as I figure it out, more and more of the burnt umber/ultramarine blue shadows are cut in, leaving the seated figures in place.

As I mentioned yesterday, the fun in this work is that the people behind O Sensei will be my friends--Ace Atkinson, Steve Barbosa, Ron, Katz, me and of course Rowdy, who passed away this last year. She'll be on the far right, sitting slightly out of line with the rest of us, signifying her not being "with" us, except in spirit. The fellow receiving the art is none other than Alberto, who is still working on his master's in Spanish Literature and doing aikido, even teaching their kid's classes. Alberto just passed a major test on his way to his black belt last weekend.

On Alberto's hakama (the traditional black leggings/skirt aikidoists wear), I've depicted the speed and motion by lost edges. This gives life to the image, and creates a passing moment in time. Losing edges helps to create the feeling that this is an unfolding moment of action, rather than a static, freeze-frame moment.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dec 23 - An Aikido Christmas Present

My spouse asked me to do a special painting for his office as a combined Christmas/Birthday present, and how better to share with him what I love by painting something he loves?

Here is the first design for the 30 x 40 inch canvas. The subject is the martial art of Aikido, with O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the founder, performing the art. The fun will be that the other people in the painting are all ones we both know, including the man receiving the art from O Sensei.

The design is one of a top-weighted dark area with the lower area of the mats illuminated by natural light. At this stage the painting only shows the value structure (small light, large dark in midtones). I plan to share this with you through Christmas, with a break of one painting done on location, and continue with it after Thursday.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Dec 22 - 2008 Christmas Card for My Friends

To all my friends, collectors and Color System followers, may this holiday season bring you joy, peace and happiness that extends into 2009 and beyond.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Dec 15 - The Horse commission and an E-Vite

Quite a change from yesterday's image, and it is so far along that I showed it to the collector for her approval. I still have some more work to do on it, though.

I really enjoyed painting in the fencing behind the horse and will share with you how it was done. The first lines were horizontal, done with white and ultramarine blue. Then the sunlit portions were painted on top of that with just white and a whisper of cadmium orange. The posts were done with that same white/blue mix, and then their sunlit areas were put in with that same white.

Now, even though there is a signature on the work, I will still go in and work on some of the areas before I can truly call it finished. The distant tree needs more limbs, and there are some "issues" that artists have with their work that need resolving before it "reads right" to the originator. Sure was fun to get it to this point though! Can you Boot Camp Graduates tell what time of day it is? (Remember that the time of year also affects your decision!)

On other news, I had one of my bigger paintings accepted into the Saks Gallery Show in Denver, and we've just received the invitations. They are gorgeous! If you are in Denver during this time, please come to the opening and see some truly spectacular art. As you can see from the e-vite, there are some truly outstanding artists represented. I'm honored to be among them!
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec 14 - Covering the Canvas, Horse Commission

Now the canvas is 98 percent covered, and the basic idea of the landscape is in place (except for all those white board fences!). The trees have their identities, and I have managed edge control to keep your eye where it needs to go--on the horse first, and then throughout the rest of the landscape.

The source material for this commission consists of two photographs--one of the horse, which doesn't include some portions of his hooves, and one of the distant trees and pastures of the farm. Combining resources is always fun, because it allows an artist (me) to be more creative with the design for a better end result.

Now that the canvas is mostly covered, and the major color choices have been made, I can begin to add related colors to make those areas more visually interesting, and then focus on the details of the horse. Many artists might choose to finish the horse first, but in my book, that makes for really heavy head-work to complete the rest of the canvas. One must then always compare and justify the painting in the background and make a concerted effort to keep it less than the focal point. I find it much easier to make the background interesting, and then heighten the excitement in the focal point (horse) with details and sharper edges.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dec 13 - Commission Continues

Everyone asks, "Elin, how do you paint horses?" and to that I answer, "I paint everything around them and then find the horse with what's left over." However, in painting a horse in landscape, and especially a commission, I need to work hard to make sure that both the subject (horse) and the supporting area (landscape) are harmoniously working together.

In placing the fields of color at this early stage, you can pick out where colors are linked between these two areas. The horse has warm oranges on his coat, and the orange of the distant tree is carried over to the lower right corner. The blue underpainting keeps these warm areas easy to see while I'm working. Note too, that the shadow areas are also connected, and relate together.

This is how the design of a painting starts the moment you bring your brush to the canvas, and it doesn't stop until the signature is put on.

On other news, the February workshop here at my studio in Southern California is FULL, but I have two spaces on a waiting list. Even though all spaces are spoken for, I'm still awaiting deposits on two. If these people opt out, the lucky few will be brought in from the wait list. This workshop is the Color System Boot Camp--three days of intense painting and learning right here in my studio in Riverside. If you'd like to be on the wait list, please click here.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dec 6 - Commission with Fall Colors

Ah, the holidays! Nice to have a commission come in of a horse in pasture, and to be able to pull out all the stops on the fall colors in the trees behind him!

Here's the underpainting on this 16 x 20 oil--I used a cool blue intentionally to set off the warms that will be in the layers to come. The horse's name is Quattro, and he's a racing quarter horse, two year old.

This is just the block in of the major shapes, and figuring out placement of the subject. Since I'll have two focal points--the large tree in the background and the horse/shadow combination in the foreground, I placed the horse almost left of center. I'll have to be careful to ahve his shadow be strong enough to keep that midpoint division from making the viewer uneasy! There will be white rail fences framing the horse and separating him from the woodland behind--very typical of the area.

News also, I've opened up registration for the ONE workshop I'm teaching in Southern California next year in my studio. It will be the three-day Boot Camp next February, which falls over Valentine's Day and the President's Day weekend--February 14-16. Four people have already signed up, and there are only ten slots. If you want one of the remaining six seats, please go here (opens a new page in your browser). This workshop focuses on hands-on Color System paintings, creating your own subjects in your most familiar medium.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dec 2 - On Location with the Golden Acrylics

On location with the Plein Air Artists of Riverside last Sunday I quickly painted evening light overlooking a vast view. And, the Golden Open acrylics work! Even in Santana wind conditions, I only had to spritz them a couple times with my water bottle. I was working with all Open except for Ultramarine Blue, that workhorse color, as I am awaiting an order to fill out the Color System.

This is called "Low Water" (Lake Matthews, California) and is a 9 x 12. I put my gear together and strapped it on the motor scooter and drove 20 minutes over to the PAAR member's house for this vista from their front yard. This scene is only a small piece of the entire view, and yet it spoke to me--loving the diagonal of the finger of the lake and the evening light on the hills and distance. Only in the sunlit areas below the halfway point of the canvas are there any hues from the warm box, and not many of them.

The Golden canvas went into my slip case as it wasn't dry enough to just toss under the seat as normal acrylics--more like oils in that regard. I tootled on back home, and had a most interesting experience.... on the scooter, I could smell the scent of turkey casseroles and turkey soup on the air--never would have had that with a car! And when I fed the critters, I noticed the wonderful juxtaposition of Jupiter and Venus right off the points of the crescent moon before I came back in the house. This is one of the photographs that Alberto took of the view of city lights and that sky, from our driveway. Life is magic!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nov 29 - The Ground Squirrel Complete

I need a title for this one....
Here's the 18 x 18 inch acrylic photographed in the good light I need for entering shows. The glare is gone, and the colors are uniform across the canvas. Signed, it's finished mostly with Golden Open Acrylics, which I am coming to love.

I loved painting with the Open Acrylics, and of course the Color System makes this scene read right from the top to the squirrel's shadow. Our ground squirrels' Latin name is Spermophilus beecheyi but I just call 'em the common California Ground Squirrel--or varmits.

Tomorrow I go paint on location with the Plein Air Artists of Riverside--always a fun day! I'll be taking those Open Acrylics with me for more practice.

Below is a more detailed image of the squirrel:

This image shows the details where I felt details needed to be, yet the brushwork and loose edges of the other areas guarantee a hierarchy of edges.

These rocky ridges and "exfoliating granite" are very common around our place here in Riverside, California. The ground squirrels are no strangers to us either!

This original acrylic is destined for the Saks Gallery in Denver, Colorado for a show in February with the Women Artists of the West. I don't know whether I'll be able to go to the show, but I do have friends there to visit--and life is short, so who needs a better reason?

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Nov 28 - Rocks and Open Acrylics, almost done!

Although the image has glare on the right edge, you can get a general idea of where this painting is going now. I haven't signed it yet, nor photographed it outside as it is late tonight and I wanted to get something out to you before the weekend is over.

This austere terrain is not uncommon here in Southern California--we have rocks and brush exactly like this out behind our place. The wildlife is there, and only the ground squirrels pose as they keep watch for predators from a relatively safe perch.

This painting is about atmosphere, heat, and light. I'll finish it tomorrow, as I get out the holiday decorations and work on another commission for the holidays. I need to get a much better image for submission to the Women Artists of the West show in Denver next year.

I do really like the Golden Open acrylics--the best of all worlds with working time and yet the brillance and handling of regular acrylics. I do think I may be a convert!

We had a quiet Thanksgiving here after the rain. Nice to have a fire in the fireplace and be with someone you love and not have traveling in the plans for a change! I hope your holiday continues to be full of whatever you wish it to have.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Nov 24 - More Rocks and Open Acrylics....and me

It's been interesting thinking about those Open acrylics from Golden... I hesitated to start using them because I wasn't quite ready to deal with the lesser known drying time (longer) and the workability on the canvas (also longer). But now that the company from the past weekend is gone, I can settle back into the studio and progress on this canvas and others.

The Open acrylics are now out and in their own pill boxes, and I'm using them from the last image until this canvas is finished. It is fun to "fudge" edges long after regular acrylics would have long dried.
I'm still completely in the cool box in the Color System, and the "fire" of the underpainting is only visible by that large round rock. No details here, just more layers of color, and more blending happening.

On another note, how about a recent picture of me by our pond? Some of you don't even know what I look like without that painting hat, so here's one I took yesterday morning in (yup!) Morning Light on our front patio. That's Sparky on my lap and Onslow's head in the lower left corner.

May all of you have a happy Thanksgiving this week who celebrate it. I'll be posting more on this painting and another commission I've started, but some of you may already be out on long vacations to visit family and friends. I'll see you when you come back!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Nov 17 - No Fires here, but my colors have changed!

Thanks to all who emailed asking if we were affected by the fires. We're fine, about 12 miles from the Freeway Complex fire, but it is horrific none the less. I said I would paint this weekend--but the news and fretting about friends kept me glued to the monitor and the web news.

Here's the start of an 18-inch square acrylic. No, it isn't smoke and fire, but at this stage I can't help yet see it. All these layers are done with regular "fast dry" acrylics, starting with the get-rid-of-the-white cadmium red light underneath. The scene is evening sunlit rocks, and will continue the landscape with secondary focal point idea--there will be a solitary ground squirrel on one of the rocks, lower left.

The lay in is done with cools, mostly burnt umber, ultramarine blue and some white, contrasting nicely with the warm under painting, and establishing the large masses. I wish I had a good photograph to share with you of the source, but the image is from memory and a really bad photo of the rocks and brush across the street from our old place. Evening light on the rocks was always a color moment! the distant mountains will tone down with additional layers, however right now they appear to have an evening glow.

Tomorrow I'll start with those Open Acrylics and share how that goes.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Nov 13 - Open Acrylics and Defining the Color System

I've been asked to "explain" my Color System--Hmmmm. That can be a bit of a challenge, since it requires a minimum of three full days by Color Boot Campers to get an inkling of what it is all about. So I'll pose the question to all of you who have been through a Color Boot Camp, and have seen the Color Flash Cards:

How would you describe the Color System to someone unfamiliar with it?

Please reply in one of two ways: 1) post a comment to the blog, so it will remain there permanently for others to see, or, 2) reply to this message and I'll put some at the end of this message once it has gone out. I'll really enjoy your responses, and hope you'll do #1 and post them as comments to this blog entry on the blog site. If you reply to the email, you'll only talk to me. I think there's much to be offered in how you see the Color System. So can you help me out?

Now, here's an 8 x 6 evening sky painting done with those Golden Open acrylics, using the Color System. It was a out-of-head sketch done at the very end of the workshop at the Art Expo with Suzanne next to me and Catherine across the tables. We had a great time! This one is available for $175 including shipping as a nice example of the sunset skies and also "open" acrylic handling. Paypal is fine. Fun!

I'll be starting another large canvas over the weekend for you, and again I'm going to use those Open Acrylics. I think I will also video the process, and consider assembling the various footages I have in the digital editing room into a new DVD--called "Acrylics and Oils with the CS"... or something.

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Nov 10 - Finished 30x30 Oil, Pack Mules Aspens

Finally finished this one, and I am so pleased with it. Although a struggle to keep the pack horses and rider as a secondary focal point, I think I managed to pull it off, and actually, the end result was easier than I expected. Had I painted this image even one year ago, I would have put those animals in full sunlight, and the aspens would have played second fiddle. I'm much more pleased with these paintings, some of which are scheduled for entry into the Saks Gallery Show in Denver--the Women Artists of the West membership show, opening in January.

One reason I was away from the easel was because of a too-short visit from Jennie Scott from Australia who blew through on her way from Northern California to Houston, Texas. Jennie is a well-known sculptor of horses, and here's an image of her at my dining room table working on one of her raku sculptures--and right beside her are two of the driftwood and ceramic pieces. WOW, to see them "for real" was quite a treat. And Jennie is a lively, wonderful lady who is welcome to visit any time! In the early morning she was out walking and seeing the coyotes. And you just know I loved to hear her talk with that "Aussie" accent!
Yes, please forward this on to your friends, and thank you!

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Nov 6 - Aspens and Horses, 91.5% Finished

I got back to this one last night, and am glad I did. Jury duty didn't last but a couple of hours, once they said they needed people for 18 days and I told them I was self-employed, an educator and a consultant. I don't mind jury service--especially since they have free wifi in the courts, but three weeks out of my life would definitely impact my painting, lessons, and my teaching!

So, for teaching, let's get to it. Can you see from my prior post how many of those "fuzzy" edges have been found again? The artist's choice of which edges to leave soft (aka "transitional") and those that are regained to a hard status is what makes an artist's work unique. If you're not already familiar with John Singer Sargent's paintings, please go Google image him, and study his masterful use of brush strokes to lead and define the composition of his work. Wow. What a mentor for those of us looking to see edges handled by a master. And of course, there is the living legend in Richard Schmid, who reigns King of the Edges. He has a web site. But don't go away to it just yet.

In starting with the reference photo of the aspens, we artists have to make choices. If we paint to the photograph too closely, what we do is take that "match" for the fire of our creativity, and it is still a match when we're done. If we use that match (photo reference) as the starting point for our work, then the canvas can come ablaze under our hand. I did not stick with the reference photograph provided, but changed and bent the design to make what I hope is a better statement. One plein air artist I know put it well, "If you paint just what you see, you may not get good design in your paintings. God was planting bushes. You, the artist, might need to move a few to get a good design."

I've been asked, "Elin, how do you get such good images of your paintings?" So I offer the image below to answer that question. This was the image that became the one above. I take my work out into morning sunlight (not in shadow or under the eaves as some people would have you do.) I lean it up against something, and this is VERY important--with the canvas tilted about 12-15 degrees off of true 90 degrees to the sun. We visual artists need to SEE this, so look at the rock I put in the foreground, and see how the shadow isn't quite parallel to the bottom of the canvas, but "leans" a bit toward it. No glare, GREAT color, and true values.

Also note that the edges of the canvas are parallel to the sides of the image. That's very important if you don't want to learn how to "skew" and "distort" in photo editing programs. I know how, but prefer an easier path, so line up my sides of the work with the sides of the viewfinder.

My camera is a Canon digital, an ancient D30, but I also get great images with my newer Canon PowerShot A590. I've found it's not the camera, but the angle and sunlight that make the difference. Of course, I always photograph work without frames or glass.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Nov 3 - Two Images of the Same Painting

Before you wig out on me, with two images of the same painting, let me explain. The image that is on the lower left in this post is the earlier version of the later one, which is on the right. I am showing you these two together for a distinct purpose.

As artists, we all go through phases and stages in our paintings. Some easier and some harder. I had a major "AHA" moment with this painting just after getting to the stage that is on the left (the "busy" one). Some of you will say, "Oh but that one is so much more interesting than the other one." There's a problem, though. It has gotten ahead of itself. It is TOO SOON for that much edge--that much "eye drivers". When I brought it back to the easel after photographing it, all those hard-edge shapes came together and started screaming for importance.

Now the scary part for some of you. I took a rag and wiped the canvas in many places, eliminating edges. You see, it is all too easy to get hard edges when we paint. I can always find a hard edge with a brushmark. It really takes some courage to remove them and then replace ONLY those that are necessary for the composition and for driving the viewer's eye. Softening the edges on major areas now gives me great latitude in placing edges where I need those "eye drivers". A sharp edge will always drive the eye. Now I can start playing with what's important and what isn't, knowing that these earlier layers make a great supporting symphony for the soloist, which comes later.

Will have some news about the upcoming workshops in the next few days...California and Georgia, and FLorida, too! But tomorrow I have jury duty (yeah, my number's up--appropriate on election day, eh?)

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Nov 2 - Aspens progressing, and jury duty.

If you'll compare this image with yesterday's, you'll note that although the value structure has not changed that much, there is a lot more "stuff" in the darker areas.

I've come to realize a few things in painting so many pictures over the years--the more time I spend on the areas that aren't all that important, the better the end result in the painting. Some might say I approach painting by backing into it. Perhaps so, however this method of not even drawing the focal points until much later int he process has helped to make my work cohesive from edge to edge.

I am still completely in the cool boxes, and using mixes of three or more colors to create and modify the greens and darks that are going in. The yellow in the aspens-to-be is the shadow orange, yellow ochre. The bit of orang on the right edge of the group is created with the cool yellow ochre and cool alizarin crimson.

In design on this piece, the horizontal of the strip of lighted foreground will be related to the clump of aspens in sunlight, and their trunks will create the verticals necessary to connect the two areas.

On other news, I have jury duty this week, and am also turning in eight paintings for the "Off the Wall" fundraiser at the Riverside Art Museum tomorrow. They are small still life works from my daily painting days, and a couple of landscapes. These will sell for $100, $200 and $300 with proceeds going to support the museum. If I get called in for the duty, I'll take my laptop and update the web site. No wasted moments!

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Nov 1 - The Andalusian Boy and Beginning Another Big Painting

Here's the value structure for the next large landscape with horses. This painting is 30 x 30 inches, and will be the larger version of the painting of the aspens featured last Tuesday (opens a new window with just the painting). You can tell, even at this early stage, that I'm thinking of one of those six value plans (from Edgar A. Whitney, and the workshops I teach). Which one do you think it will be? Not chaos, not large dark in midtones. Not small dark, large light in midtones, not gradation. Two left....Hmmmm? Well, perhaps tomorrow will shed some light as this painting progresses.

The next question everyone had was, "Where's Chiron?" So herewith I submit a photo of him in his new home here at Two Trees, with Vincent van Goat, companion extraordinaire (head in the feeder, of course!). This image shows Chiron's coloration best--I'm seeing a dark bay, but with his head being black, I wonder if he might shed out in the spring to be a black? No matter, bay or black he's beautiful to me.
It has been a week now and he is settled in nicely. The Andalusian personality is coming out--yesterday we had workers trimming the tall pines in back, and I came out to see how it was going. As I walked up, I started talking to them. Chiron, standing at the far side of the pen, perked up his ears at my voice, and then came over to the near side to greet me. What fun! Having him on the property means I can visit/train him any time. Good for my busy schedule.

His only white are on his two coronets near his rear hooves. Ok, I'm a bit besotted. Bear with me. Yes, he'll be in paintings!

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Oct 31 - A Ghoulish Change to an Old One!

I thought you might enjoy the transformation of an old painting into what you see to the right. This was a 16 x 20 oil painting, that I did on location many years ago. The location was in the Temecula Wine Country, about this time of year. Why did I alter it? Because in those "old days", I was using a limited palette of five colors--Ultramarine Blue, Thalo Green, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Light, and Cadmium Yellow Light, plus the workhorse Titanium White. Adequate to get the essence of a scene, but no drama nor color singing. I've repainted over about 95% of the original surface. (Note: there was no varnish on this painting.)

I'm so pleased with the Color System I'm using now, that painting over an old work allows me to practice what I've learned, and also to measure my growth as an artist. I've attached the original painting, and I'd like for you to notice the less-than-successful depiction of a backlit subject. It is weak in values. I didn't work out a good composition--at that time I was going to a place and immediately sitting down and trying to capture it. Now I let a place "speak" to me before I lift my brushes.

If you enjoy this process of changing older work, please let me know.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oct 30 - "High Summer", Finished 24 x 30 Oil

I know many of you have been waiting for this one, and I'm pleased to present it to you in its finished state. Called "High Summer", it is a 24 x 30 oil. And I am very pleased to call this one of my own. In line with the series I'm working on, the horses are in there, but not so obvious to the viewer on first impact. First, the structure and sense of place come to you.

Howard Pyle, the recognized "Father of American Illustration", used to say to his students at the Brandywine School in Delaware, "Thirty minutes, thirty yards." What he meant by that is the design structure of the painting needs to be done early enough in the painting process that it holds up throughout, and strongly enough to catch the viewer's eye from across the room, drawing him or her to the surface where details and brushwork and subtle colorations can continue to interest. I am striving for that goal, and with this series am truly seeing it happen. Below is a closeup of the focal point, which is NOT the strongest color, contrast or texture in the work. But doesn't your eye go there only after the first "oh my" when you see the painting? If it did happen that way, then I was successful.
Sorry about the glare on the smaller image--it's after dark now and my lighting isn't the best.

Congratulations to Dawn Burdine of College Station, Texas, on acquiring "Sunrise Aspens" directly from me after a lovely tea here in the studio today. She and her husband are out visiting family, and came by to see the studio. What a wonderful world of artists we are!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oct 28 - The Acrylic Question, Open/Interactive?

Many of you are awaiting my take on the Interactive (Atelier) and Open (Golden) acrylics--those paints that increase working times so that one can change or rework a passage of paint well after the traditional drying time of "normal" acrylics. I went to the workshop at the Art Expo in Pasadena last Saturday, and in the company of a couple of friends painted with these acrylics.

This post will be rather long as I go into my impressions, and I hope you'll bear with me. If you're not an artist, perhaps you'll skip to the end for the information about these two paintings.

I first got ahold of the Atelier Interactive acrylics, at the booth for Atelier and with the palette of the artist doing the display. I pulled out a pre-textured canvas (fiber gel) and after asking permission, painted the landscape with the fence (second image, left on the bottom). It is 7 x 5 inches on textured canvas board.

The Atelier Interactive colors were not nearly as bright--although I must admit that Atelier didn't have available my Color System Twelve, and I was working with two blues, two reds and two yellows--the popular idea of having primaries in "one of each temperature"--which is NOT my System--and the painting shows the limits of using that formula. This painting is bland, to say the least.
The colors available to me in this quick, out-of-my-head study (kneeling by her chair, painting in my hand) were:
Thalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Napthol Red Light, Napthol Crimson, Cad Yellow Light, Arylamide Yellow Deep. No earths, no greens. All that you see mixed there are created from these six colors plus white.

With these Interactives, one has to use a mister of water and/or an "Unlocking Formula" mister to reopen the paint for working on it again. In other words, it did dry, and this was the HUGE drawback for me--I didn't know if it was dry, and thus would put a layer on top of it, and without unlocking or rewetting it, the Interactives would mislead me into thinking they were wet, or dry, or who knows what. I was looking for the re-working phase and length of being able to work the paint. Didn't find it, as I had to spritz BEFORE I painted--an extra step for this artist. Even though this painting is bland because I didn't have my Color System colors at hand, I was very dissatisfied with the working structure of these acrylics in having to add a second mister bottle to the mix.

Now, on to the Golden Paints "Acrylics Like Oils" workshop, where I spent a much longer time working with the colors, and was able to assemble the entire Color System pigments before beginning work. I did three paintings during the session, and the one above was the second. You can immediately see that the Color System comes through in giving the brilliance of the cadmiums a place to "play". But I'm not comparing the colors here--both manufacturers have a full range of the pigments. However, I liked one feature of these Golden "Open" acrylics--the device to increase working time was contained in a little bottle that was dripped on the palette, just like any medium. No spritzing, although a spray bottle of water can be used if one needs to thin paint. The "Thinner" which is what they call it, allowed me to really work the paint WAY beyond normal drying times after making my mixes and applying them to the canvas. Glazing with thin paint over semi-dry passages was fantastic. Blending was outstanding on wet passages. The paint stayed wet on the palette longer, too. It was more what I'm used to using with oils, and the handling of them is more equal to that medium.

So, to compare: I prefer the Golden Open Acrylics, because it is based upon a firm platform of current knowledge in how to handle paint. Only limit--no thick impasto passages (thicker than a penny, e.g.) because thick passages take a longer time to set up. Had I had the full Color System with the Atelier, I might have had a different opinion, but the need for another spritzer bottle was a major turn off.

I've filled out my System colors with the Open Acrylics, and in the weeks ahead will be painting in more traditional oil-like fashion with these new acrylics. Ought to be interesting! But first I'll finish up the horses in landscape tomorrow.

Both of these 7 x 5 inch acrylic paintings are available for $100 until next weekend, when the second one will be going into the Riverside Art Museum's Show, "Off the Wall". The second one is also a small study for the next larger landscape painting with horses.

And Chiron the Andalusian is HERE! Such fun to have a young horse around. Pictures with my next post!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oct 23 - O-Early-Thirty, and the Backlit Painting

This morning's sun had not yet washed the valley, and I have a grin bright enough to cast some shadows anyway! This is yours truly, on *KS Rubin this morning, famous enough to have his OWN web page! Not often does one get to ride such a quality horse; I am still pinching myself. What a rush to have this power and grace under me as the sun later came to warm the hills. Then it was on the scooter to run errands and home to chores, after this amazing ride-at-first-light experience.

But I've digressed... back to painting! Since resuming a more stringent riding schedule, the paintings have been easier to produce, and this backlit landscape is no different. Getting to the easel is exciting and I'm loving every moment of it.

This 24 x 30 oil is at the stage where it is time to think about getting those horses under the trees, and leaving that bit of warm to capture the eye tells me that regardless of my source material for the horses, they must have dappled sunlight on them! Unlike the earlier misty morning, this painting has sunlight to contrast with the darks of the trunks, and I need to keep that in mind as I paint it.

What's happened since yesterday is the detailing out of the trees, the "flutter pattern" of leaves on so many levels, from deep shadow to light. This breakup of the larger shapes creates visual exitement without creating unrest in the viewer. There is no clash of color here, just a "flitter" of leaves in the trees and grass blades in the foreground. In doing this, I try to be harmonious with the earlier, larger layers, so the contrast is not overwhelming in each area. I will have another complete pass on these areas to further to tone down and pull out details, leaving alone other areas. Sometimes I'll use a glaze with resin gel, and others paint mixtures of three or more colors. That's what I call the refinement stage. Lots to do yet!

This painting, when finished, might begin its show career as an entry into the Women Artists of the West show in Denver in 2009. It may or may not get in. Quality there is very high!

Saturday I head to the Art Expo in Pasadena to meet with friend David R. Becker, who's teaching classes. And I'm also going to get some hands-on with the slow drying Golden Acrylics. Ought to be an interesting day. Hmmmm, I wonder if I should post whatever I do in the workshop? Gadfry!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oct 22 - 24 x 30 Oil in Morning Light Continues

Now that I have that structure in place, I can continue to cover the canvas with big color shapes to define the values and hues of this morning light scene. I'm painting it with large brushes and enjoying the simplicity that mixing colors using the Color System is giving me. The tree trunks won't stay that dark, but their inherent value is low, and that provides a wonderful contrast to the light and more pure hues--almost like stained glass!

The horses (yet to come) will be in the shade on the lower left. They'll be lazing around--I have my source material at hand--two photos of horses in sunlight in a pasture setting, so I'll have to reduce the values of them to get them to "read right" in the shade of the big trees. That's for later.

I'm so pleased that many of you have written about the value you find in having these paintings come to you in stages. When I was doing the daily paintings, each day's painting was completed so swiftly that I didn't have time to reflect, to plan, or to revise. The work done during that time was "OK", but I can see a much greater value for me as an artist to have time to let the painting get into me, so it can come out so much differently from the inspiration of being there, or seeing the source material. It truly DOES make a difference! I'm not decrying the earlier work, for each one was a stepping stone to this painting and the ones to come. That is as it should be.

This one is going to have a grand feel to it--it is already there, and revising and refining it will be with the intent of keeping that feel. The painting has to hold up from across the room. That will bring the viewer in closer to see the warts on the horses' noses, heh heh!

News! TOMORROW MORNING, I ride the Shagya Arabian stallion on an endurance conditioning ride, beginning at 6:30. Yes, I'll have my new camera... the Canon A590IS, and it is going with me. I'll be sure to share some images with you, as I'm so looking forward to the adventure.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oct 21 - Finished, and the start of the next one!

Here's the painting, about as finished as it is going to get at this point. I made it slightly larger so if you click on it, you'll see more details.

I didn't realize how important breaking up the blue areas was until something said to put in the pine bough on the lower right. The balance of the painting is profoundly affected when that branch is not there (use a finger over it to see what I mean).

This canvas is available pre-show season for $1200, and that price will escalate as it is shipped and shown around the country.

Now I'm off on another canvas, this one 24 x 30, and the subject is in line with the recent landscapes with added horses, rather than horses in a supporting landscape.
Here's the first lay-in, but I got carried away and started blocking in the colors before I remembered to photograph it!
This painting is coming from source material provided by artist Judi Evans, and is from Fay's Farm in Dawsonville. I've walked these pastures and already have a "sense of place" that is part of these new paintings. Tomorrow, more of the canvas covered and more great color.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Oct 20 - 95% finished and Shagya Arabians

I had a heck of a time photographing this one in the studio tonight. I'm due for a new camera, and will be going out to look for a Canon Powershot A590 IS tomorrow. I dropped my earlier model of this handy camera while in Arizona, and I miss it.

So what's new tonight? Details, all those details. The brushwork is still very visible, and one of the brumby horses (Apache horses) is in--the second and third one will come into the field tomorrow.

I added the broken pattern of light on the central trunk to both make it more interesting, and also to cut that dark shape into interesting values. The trio on the left stay dark in value, but have been connected to one another with the tracery of branches. This also cuts the strength of the blue water over there, too. I had to wait for these layers to dry a bit before adding the tremendous noodly-details of pine boughs and twigs on the right side, too. Compare this stage of the painting with the one from yesterday, and you'll see the entire canvas has changed. I've embellished and made more interesting each area, so the eye has many places to "play".

Working on these larger canvases is SO satisfying right now. I cannot explain the completeness I have in me when something just goes right, but these three canvases (yes, there are three now--the third 24 x 30 is coming to you later this week--in stages!) are deeply soul satisfying both to create and to enjoy. The hiatus I took from the daily paintings has come full circle now, and my work has gone to a new level of maturity. I'm very pleased with each one of these canvases' sense of place. At least two of them will be entered in the Women Artists of the West show at the Saks Gallery in Denver this January. And I'll probably send at least one to the Spring show for the American Academy of Equine Art. I'll have to consider shipping costs on these bigger canvases, though.

Other news, I went on a four-hour ride using my neighbor's endurance horse (Arab/Thoroughbred)--we covered about 12 miles but because of the terrain, would translate in endurance miles to 36 miles. Carolyn Hock is a top endurance rider, and I'm fortunate that she's my neighbor! I'm sore today, but excited to ride with her again. Her training regimen is VERY demanding, and yet I really enjoyed it. I'm hoping she might put me on her Shagya Arabian stallion Reuben next time! Here's what he looks like (not exactly him, but close):

And I bring my Chiron HERE next weekend! Life is exciting!

Tomorrow this painting will come to you finished, and then you can see the third one begin. I'm already to start on the fourth in the series!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oct 19 - 90% covered and a Break

Yesterday you saw the blues going in. Now the canvas is 95 percent covered. I'm still in the cool box as I paint the rocks in the foreground with the "big three" sky colors, creating the illusion of their reflected colors from the blue overhead atmosphere. Variations on those mixes creates the visual interest there. You can click on the image to get a larger verson with more details.

Although the light area at the upper left is in sunlight, I painted it completely with cool mixes to keep it back there.

At this point, I stopped to take a photo because of the warms that are (finally) appearing on the grassy area across the water and on the rocks and pine needles in the foreground. I wanted to share with you the painting at this stage with the cools in place. Compositionally, do you see how the three trunks on the left mirror the lit three trunks on the upper right? Ties the whole image together with implied lines going between them--like a bridge across the water!

As long as the painting holds up with cool box mixes, adding the warms in smaller percentages will always enhance, not destroy, the composition and color balance. As I'll be painting so much detail in the foreground, I want you to have a resting place, separate from the horses across the water. In fact, those horses will be much less prominent than shown by the areas unpainted, because when I paint them, I'll pick colors and values that will have them blend in--just like the "Morning Pasture" painting from September 14th's blog entry (opens a new page).

I just love a painting at this stage--the source material and the painting are now distantly related, yet the details that will fully tell the story are not yet in place. When you paint, do you put the focal point in first? How much more can you get, if you delay that addition until the rest of the canvas is singing along? Now that my canvas has the basic colors in place, the fun begins as I make each area more interesting to you, the viewer. Eye candy!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oct 18 - The large Painting Continued and a Look Back

As I work with laying in the large areas of color, I'm really careful to keep the values where they need to be to carry the design. One advantage of toning the canvas is that the end result of the toning is near to a middle value--not too light nor too dark--and helps to keep the values in relation to one another. Since I'm painting completely with the Cool Box Colors, I can use the remaining warm underpainting areas to guide me. It does this by being a counterpoint to the cool mixes I'm putting on the canvas. I can keep the proportion of warms to cools in balance by having the tool of the background WARM underpainting showing through. In other words, I just keep painting cools until it "reads right" for the balance of warms vs. cools (in most cases maybe 85% cools to 15% warms in landscapes).

Just for giggles, how about an eyeful of a painting I did in the mid 1970s? Before Color System, before workshop training, before almost everything related to my painting--other than a degree in fine art that taught me nothing about landscape painting. A collector's daughter from that time emailed me with paintings of which I had no images. You can see I was painting loosely even then, but sure was all over the place in finding a focal point! And my colors were just ghastly to my eyes today. One cannot tell the time of day in this painting, because I didn't know about such things and how to control color and temperature to get that message across.

Thirty years can make a real difference in one's art! Yet each month and day that passed in between those times was and still is richly lived.

Remember, it is the journey, not the destination or distance traveled, that determines the artist. In looking back, all one sees is a measure of the distance. At the time I painted this, I thought it was a good painting. I was living in Germany, and did a series of my memories of California. Even though I would do it completely differently today, it has a charm of its own. Enjoy!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oct 16 - Bees and Starting a 24 x 36 inch Landscape

I'm sitting here "licking my wounds" so to speak, after disturbing a beehive while working on the trails behind our house this evening. It started out as an ordinary, good evening ride, taking the mare and going up over the mountains on the newest trail. I stopped to let the horse catch her breath at one of the high points, and looked up to see a coyote watching me with distant interest. He turned and disappeared, so I continued down the mountain.
As is my tendency, I decided to take a different route back, picking my way through some brush and grassy areas and finding a potentially new trail. When the brush got thicker, I dismounted and had the mare follow me while I broke away some of the larger branches. It was hot, sweaty work on a 90 degree afternoon, and I was enjoying the labor when the mare began stomping her back feet and shifting herself around, obviously bothered by something. I thought at first that she'd just mis-stepped on some of the brush, when I saw, and then heard the buzzing.... ACK! BEES!
The mare brushed by me and took off at a dead run, and I let her go, knowing she'd head home. Me, I lept up off the trail straight down the mountain, with buzzing and stinging letting me know I was in for a good fight. Flapping my hat, jumping brush, I catapulted down the hill like a ungainly springbok, until I hit the sagebrush at the bottom, about 300 feet below. There I rolled and spun away from them, because bees will follow the scent of the ones that have stung. So I knew I had to break the scent trail, and then deal with the ones that were on me. The more recent introduction of the nortorious "killer" bees kept me moving as fast as I could to get away, because I didn't know if these were the ones that follow for up to a quarter mile. I know I kept moving and ducking to destroy the scent trail on the air, adrenalin rushing through me and a high keening wail coming from my throat as the panic of my situation settled in.
I kept moving, heading toward home, picking and swatting the remaining attackers, and then stopped, bent over my knees, trying to catch my breath. You ever get so out of breath that your lungs hurt? That was how much exertion I'd expended, and I felt each one of my 60 years as I regrouped and headed for home. Thank goodness I wasn't carrying those extra pounds!
The mare was happy to see me and came up to greet me without bridle, as she had broken the headstall in her panicked flight. I found the bit and reins, and took her inside the gate for a much needed cool bath. She's got extra rations tonight, and I'm headed for the hot tub after I send this. What a ride!

Now, the ART for the day, is the beginning of one of the bigger canvases--this one is 24 x 36, and is started from one of the reference shots I took at Hawley Lake (below). Although there were cows in the image, I'm going to replace/morph them into horses--the Apache broomtails, most likely. I am undecided at this point and welcome any breed suggestions, though.

The underpainting is done with Austrailian Red Gold and Quinacradone Violet--just some warm colors that have dried. They will not lift into the future paint layers. What you see here is the abstract structure of the design. Yes, it is familiar--the misty morning horses in pasture painting of a couple weeks ago has a similar composition. Why change it if it ain't broke? I do need to experiment further with this composition, and my source lends itself well to the design.

More tomorrow... ewwww, just found another stinger!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oct 12 - Painting in Arizona and Hawley Lake

One of the nice things about on location painting (and one of its down sides!) is how the light changes from moment to moment. I was walking the dogs in the morning, and saw the distant light across this promontory of trees and rocks, and thought I'd like to get a small painting of this scene. The reflections were what held it up for me, and the flash of orange on the rocks. So this 7 x 5 inch oil came off the brushes as a fisherman in his floating inner tube came by several times. He had good luck catching rainbow trout--but kept throwing them back. I would have taken one of the smaller ones for my dinner, but he was too far from shore.

"Reflections" is available through Joyous Lake Gallery in Pinetop/Lakeside, please let me know if you'd like to add this one to your art collection.

On the way out from Hawley Lake, I found these fellows to show you that although the roads are very well maintained, the "wildlife" will keep your speed down. This trip I didn't see any elk, but saw these ladies each time I was on the road.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oct 11 - Memories of the Aspens

Last night was the last night in the cold and clear air high in the Arizona mountains, and I was completely alone (except for the three dogs), and enjoyed a solitude that allows for contemplation and choice-making. It was a fabulous night, as I placed the camper so I could look out the door and see the fire while my dinner of brats and garlic marinated mixed vegetables (in the foil) cooked over the open wood flames. I brought out my guitar, and ran through a couple songbooks, dogs for an audience, with the only harmony being the elk going about their own affairs in the distance. Company would have been nice...

I am home now, and easing back into the routines, including a ride with the neighbors to show them the newest trails behind our place. I'd only been back 45 minutes, and found myself up on the mare and heading out when they stopped by on their horses... one must have priorities!

Remember I said that the upper half of the diptych I did a few days ago needed clouds to assist the composition? Here it is below, completed. Now it and it's mate are hanging in the Joyous Lake Gallery for the month of October.

I'll have more paintings to share tomorrow, and the beginning of the bigger painting of the woods and picnic table--first the study, then the larger canvas--in stages. Thanks for joining me on the journey--now off to some much-needed sleep!

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