Thursday, July 28, 2011

Clair de Lune

Clair de Lune
12 x 10

Another small painting for the Autumn Exhibition at Blackheath Gallery, London. Click on the image for a larger view. The limited palette and close values necessary to paint nocturnes are surefire "mood makers".

I was thinking about this poem by Mary Oliver as I painted this piece.

Moon and Water
by Mary Oliver

I wake and spend
the last hours
of darkness
with no one

but the moon
She listens
to my complaints
like the good

companion she is
and comforts me surely
with her light.
But she, like everyone,

has her own life.
So finally I understand
that she has turned away,
is no longer listening.

She wants me
to refold myself
into my own life.
And, bending close,

as we all dream doing,
she rows with her white arms
through the dark water
which she adores

Monday, July 25, 2011

The 30-3-3 Rule

The 30-3-3 Rule is something that was recently attributed to Michael Workman- an artist whose work I admire-but I've also heard variations of it over the years attributed to many different sources. It goes something like this: From 30 feet a painting should catch your attention and draw you across the room; from 3 feet it should show the artist's intentions, the concept, the story; and from 3 inches it should be visually interesting to look at. This seems to me to be a worthy goal to aim for in my own work.

I finally had time to tinker with the images of Summer Aspens to get something that is much closer to the original. Here it is with some details.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Moonrise Over the Pines
36 x 30

“Trenta, quaranta velature!” (Translation: glazes, thirty to forty)

Velatura- don't you just love that word? Go ahead, say it a couple of times...doesn't it just roll right off your tongue? I've been doing some research on terms that were used in the Renaissance to describe what we refer to as glazing or to indirect techniques in general. Velatura seems to be used here by Titan as a synonym for glazing. But, other information indicates that this word referred to a milky or translucent glaze made with opaque paint rather than transparent paint. So, a scumble, right? Well, maybe. But, the distinction, at least among some writers, seems to be in the consistency of the mixture- a velatura being a more fluid glaze like consistency and a scumble being a dryer mixture. Whatever it was, Titian is said to have put it on with his fingers.

What comes through loud and clear is that all of these techniques were used in various ways, combinations and with great inventiveness in order to achieve desired optical effects and create form. For example, in Titian's case he used methods used in the earlier Flemish school, those developed in Venice and his own unique variations of those. Later, Rembrandt did the same, combining directly painted passages with voluptuous layers of both transparent and thinned opaque paint.

I started this painting as a demo back in April when my workshop group was here. Since then, I've worked on it off and on and added many layers- glazes, velaturas and scumbles. I've also used passages of glaze impasto- something I've been unable to find an historic term for, although Rembrandt used them. Whatever you call it, I love the look it creates. These details give a good idea of what the surface looks like and the soft, atmospheric look it creates. It also shows how much the larger image "tightens" up in the photography.

Velatura. Say it slowly...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Words and Pictures

Evening Stillness
14 x 11

I am a word person. Or, at least, I am told that. I do love words and finding ways to use them. That influences my work. There is a notion out there that visual ideas and other kinds of ideas are two separate things and that when deciding on your concept or idea for your painting, you should think only in terms of visual ideas. But, our brains don't work that way. Everything we think and see comes together to form the sensations and thoughts we have. So, why should we try to paint that way? Why deny the rich and layered meaning of words and pictures?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Drawing & Painting Trees

Summer-Rick's Pool
Charcoal on grey toned paper

Although I am working on six paintings in the studio for an upcoming show at Blackheath Gallery in London, I am also taking time to do some drawing. This is always a good way for me to unwind when I come off an intense period in the studio, or in this case, at the show in Telluride. Vine charcoal and toned paper is a favorite drawing medium.

I still have a few spots left in one of my most popular online classes- Drawing & Painting Trees, which starts next month. You can click here for information and registration. Wondering if an online class might be right for you? Be sure to check out student comments here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deconstructing Telluride

I am back home and taking a day or two to decompress before getting back to the studio. The long drive home gave me plenty of time to mull over the events of the last 10 days. One of the things I love about doing this show is that it gives me the opportunity to talk directly with potential buyers. I have learned over the years that listening to them can provide very valuable feedback.

Here are a few things always make an impression on me:

~ Go Where the Collectors Are- this show works because it is held in a "destination" venue which attracts affluent visitors and second home owners.

~Listen For the Buyer's Reaction to the Work- current thinking about "permission marketing" encourages us to tell potential buyers "stories" about ourselves and the work. What I have found is that if someone approaches my work with obvious interest (oohhs and ahhs and pointing are always good indications) then they already have a "story" in their head about the painting. It is my job to find out what that is and support it by what I say, not tell them my story (unless they ask for it).

~PLPO - painting larger pays off

All of these (and more!) are things I discuss in my little book Studio & Business Practices for Successful Artists.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Telluride Plein Air- Days VI and VII

The event concluded today with the second day of the public sale. I can report six paintings out of seven found new homes so it has been a good show for me. As always, I am exhausted but exhilarated!

As I have written about before, Telluride is a special place to be on the 4th. The funky small town parade, led by veterans of the armed services, is capped off with a barbeque in the town park and a fireworks display this evening against the backdrop of the beautiful box canyon. It is quite a show. The other cool thing about it is a flyover by the Colorado Air National Guard. Usually, two jets come screaming down the valley and fly over town just as the parade gets under way. This year was even more amazing. The first two jets flew over, down to the end of the box canyon and then into a steep bank up the face of the canyon. Then, the third one came- so low I swear you could see the pilot in the cockpit!

As we watched him fly down the valley it seemed impossible that he would be able to climb fast enough, but of course he did- pulling up into a steep climb (and casting a shadow on the mountain) and then going into a roll above as he cleared the box canyon. Even long time Telluride residents were astonished!

Happy 4th Everyone and Happy Birthday America!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Telluride Plein Air- Day V

Sunbreak Down Valley

10 x 24

Just a quick post as I am running out to the public sale this morning. Last year, I struggled to get that "big view", so I decided to give it another shot this year. The idea for this painting is a clearing sky after a quick afternoon thunderstorm, a regular summer occurrence here. But, of course, this piece is much influenced by my love of the Hudson River School painters.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Telluride Plein Air- Day IV

Summer Aspens

24 x 18

Well, I've talked about it all week and here it is. Ta Da! At the risk of repeating myself, this image really does not do it justice. The lit up area behind the trees is warmer and the aspens behind that are delicate hues of mauves and greens. But, this is the best I could do.

We turned our auction pieces in tonight (this is mine) and I have to say, I was impressed with the caliber of the work. The silent auction is tomorrow night and then the public sale starts on Sunday.

A brief break from Telluride news to say that my painting Spring Stream is included in the Recent Paintings section of the summer issue of American Painting Video Magazine! You can see the painting in the header for the blog and I also wrote about it here .