Sunday, December 22, 2013

Less Is Not Always More

 Whose Woods These Are
54 x 72
(click for larger view- pardon the homemade photography)

Sometimes it's just less. One of the great challenges of this project is to find a way to convey the Woods in a way that is authentic but still suggestive and full of mystery. And to do that in sizes ranging from 12 x 16 to 72 x 96.  In a 12 x 16 you can use one brushstroke to describe what requires a complicated passage in a larger work. But more importantly, you have to find the right balance between what Asher B Durand called imitation and representation. There are some things which can be imitated and some things that can only be represented (I would use the word suggested perhaps). The right balance is essential to capture a sense of place and yet retain the mystery and mood you want to convey. I wanted the paintings to look like the Woods without being literal portraits- to convey a palpable sense of what it feels to be in this place. That requires something more than suggestive generalization and less than simply copying what you see.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spreadsheets. Really?

48 x 64
(click for larger view)

Spreadsheets. Not a word I would have ever included on a list of things I might learn about over the course of working on my solo show. But, here I am two years later finding myself creating spreadsheets to keep track of and organize over forty paintings for the show.

The exhibition will hang in two separate venues (Galerie Kornye West and The Botanical Research Institute of Texas) and is organized around the theme of the four seasons in Lennox Woods. Early on, I worked out the number of pieces I would paint for each season and the size ranges and how many in each range, and roughly how many of each would hang in each venue.

As the work begin to take shape, other things needed to be kept track of- what pieces had been photographed, what was finished and what was work in progress, how many of each group still needed to be started, and the frame status for each piece.

Then, some pieces were sold and others left the studio for the gallery. Some pieces were varnished and others had not been (making it easier to work on them again if I wanted to).

When we started working on the catalog I needed to keep track of what information had been given to the designer of the catalog and what was still needed. And, of course, the deadlines to get the work finished, photographed, framed and delivered.

It turns out, spreadsheets are a great way to organize all that information in an easily accessible and organized way. Spreadsheets. Who knew?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Might Have Been

What Might Have Been
48 x 40
(click for larger view)

Lennox Woods is a 300+ acre oasis of old growth forest surrounded by fields, pastures, third or fourth cut woods and pine plantations. Driving down the dirt road to its unassuming entrance one can immediately see the change in the landscape. The fact that the Woods exist today is because from the mid 19th century, the Lennox family preserved them, protected them from logging and then gave them to the Nature Conservancy to be protected in perpetuity. It could have all turned out very differently.

I thought a lot about all this while I worked in the Woods over the last two years. But, I also came to understand the idea of "what might have been" in much more personal terms. When I first came to the Woods I had certain ideas about how I would paint them. Although I spent several months just looking and drawing, I did have some preconceived ideas of how I would approach the work. Over time, many of those ideas dissolved and reformed into new ones- influenced both by the Woods themselves and the rhythm of my own life. Those things combined to produce a very different body of work than I would have produced in a shorter span of time or if my own life had not been upended in various ways during the process. I don't know what that work would have been like, but I feel confident that the body of work that I will exhibit this coming March will be stronger, better, and deeper. That is something else I learned in the Woods. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

What I learned in the Woods

Summer Respite
42 x 24
(click for larger view)

Now that I am closing in on finishing the work for the Lennox Woods show, I thought I might do a series of posts about what I have learned during this two year process. There are all sorts of things. I have learned a lot about my materials that I did not know. I have learned about patience and frustration. I have learned about the challenges of working on a large scale and of working on a long term project. The list goes on and on. So, I am going to tackle this one little piece at a time, and in no particular order of importance.

I have learned to slow down. To those who know me, I can hear your snorts of laughter! Yes, I do have a reputation for "being in a hurry, multitasking, getting a lot done in a short period of time and generally living by the "to do" list. But, exactly because of that, learning to slow down has been an important lesson, both in how I create my work and in how I approach it. Over the last ten years, the techniques I have adopted have necessitated that I slow down. Gathering field reference, eschewing photography and working indirectly have all made it necessary for the actual making of art to be a much slower process than it was when I was an alla prima, direct painter.

But now, I have slowed down in other ways. Spending time in the Woods has led me to a much slower, contemplative way of approaching Nature. Simply sitting on one spot and listening can lead to all sorts of things. In the end, that experience ends up on the canvas.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Working on the "big boy"

One of the most exciting things about painting for my solo show next spring has been the opportunity to work in large formats. I have learned so much about how to go about this, mostly by trial and error. These days my studio is a jungle of easels and paintings, but I cleared away some of the clutter to show how I started this large painting, 72 x 96 , aka "big boy" which will be the centerpiece of the show.

I have described in another post how I use sketches, drawings, memory and imagination plus a study to start the process. A grid is made on tracing paper over the study and proportional squares placed on the larger canvas in charcoal. In this first image you can see the 18 x 24 study (which is at the underpainting stage) on the right, the grid in the middle, and big boy on the left with the charcoal grid laid in. All images can be clicked on for a larger view.

 Here is the grid. The main shapes and lines in the composition are traced in pencil after the grid format is drawn in in pen.

Here is the 18 x 24 study (unfinished).

Here is the underpainting more or less complete. This took about two days of work.

Up on my little stepladder working on the underpainting.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Landscape Atelier

Backyard Magic
36 x 30
Private Collection

As my regular readers know, I teach a series of online drawing and painting classes. I started doing this almost five years ago and the number of courses and students has steadily increased. In addition to a number of painting courses, I have added classes in drawing, field sketching, color and most recently, art history. During this time, I have become interested in creating a course of study for landscape painters which would provide the same sort of focused training and commitment to core skills that we see in the classical ateliers springing up today. So, the idea of The Landscape Atelier was born.

This year my spring workshop was run along these lines and later this year we committed to leasing a space on the square of our little town which could serve as a home for The Landscape Atelier. Because the backbone of my teaching takes place online, I knew I wanted to incorporate both online and in person teaching in this course.

I am happy to say that I will be kicking off the Atelier program next year offering focused, intensive training in landscape painting. This program will have both a full time and part time track and consist of online group study, individual mentoring and critiques, more in depth and intensive content, and a one month residency (which can be broken up into shorter stays). The full time program can be finished within three to four trimesters and the part time program over a longer period of time. Because I will not be handing the Atelier students off to assistants, I can only accommodate a few students in this program, and each student's program will be individualized. Students can start the program at the beginning of any trimester. The first trimester will start in January 2014.

There is more information about this here .

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Upcoming show- Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More

Evening Pond
10 x 12
Available at Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More

I am happy to say that I will have three paintings in the Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More exhibition and sale this year. The Gala will be held on October 26, 2013,  and the paintings will be sold by fixed price draw.

This is another painting based on a pond near my home and studio and painted from observation and memory.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Farm Pond Morning

Farm Pond Morning
16 x 20

I walk most every morning, starting out just before dawn. As my Facebook friends know, I regularly post images of the things I see on my morning walks, usually skies and effects of light, but occasionally wildlife (deer, snakes, turtles, rabbits) and cows. I have made a few paintings over the last couple of years of early morning subjects from my walks but the Lennox Woods project has kept me pretty occupied. I made this painting for the Small Works, Great Wonders show at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum opening this November. I am looking forward to painting more morning subjects once I am out of the Woods.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Summer Idyll

I continue to work steadily on the Lennox Woods body of work for my solo show next spring. There will be five large scale paintings - 48 x 60 up to 72 x 96-  and a total of about 42 paintings in the show. I started with the smallest of the "BIGs" as I call them, and am working my way up in size. I am working on several of them at the same time, plus others as well- usually about 8 to 10 pieces at a time. 

In January of 2012 when I first started on this journey, I was out in the Woods one day with Steve and Allen Phillips (the filmmaker for the project). Allen and I managed to wander off the trail. I didn't know my way around the Woods very well back then and neither did Allen. But, he had a GPS on his phone and we knew if we kept heading north we would hit the dirt road that runs along one side of the Preserve. So, we kept going instead of doubling back to find the trail. It was winter so bushwhacking through the Woods wasn't too hard and we got back into some spots that would be hard to find in any other season.  Pretty soon we came upon a small pond. It was a big surprise because the only water I had seen in the Woods was Pecan Bayou and the small streams it spawned throughout the Preserve. This pond looked self contained, although Steve thinks it is fed by a spring on adjacent property. Anyway, having found it, I knew I wanted to come back.

Here is a study for the 60 x 72 painting I am now working on.

A Summer Idyll
20 x 24

I started with lots of sketches, working out my ideas. This is my preferred way to work- hunting for motifs, then using drawings to work out designs and to gather reference materials.

Once I had the design organized and the field reference I needed, I started the 20 x 24 study.

I made a grid of the study and traced the main shapes and lines. I gridded the large canvas with proportional squares with vine charcoal, then drew in the composition.

Here is the studio with the large canvas on the left, the grid in the center and the study to the right of that. Just to get an idea of the scale, the painting on the easel behind the grid is 36 x 48!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Morning Room

There are places in Lennox Woods which have the feeling of a separate space - a room if you will - that one can enter and inhabit apart from the larger surrounding Woods. Of course, it's not true, but it feels that way. One spot like this is beside a small stream which is part of Pecan Bayou, the watershed which nourishes and makes the Woods possible.

I often take a sketchbook and camp stool here and I particularly like it in the early morning hours. So, it wasn't a surprise that when I got the idea for this painting, its title -- The Morning Room - came with it.

This is a study for a larger work (30 x 40) which is in progress now. My photography, as always, doesn't capture the hazy morning light very well. But, you get the idea, right?

The Morning Room
18 x 24



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In the Light

In the Light
12 x 10

This small painting is available at Galerie Kornye West. It started out as a demo for a class and then morphed into a meditation on chiaroscuro. I was less concerned about depicting a particular time of day, and mostly focused on organizing the lights and darks in an interesting way.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Palette Talk

Like most artists, I love the stuff that goes with the job- luscious paint, new brushes, clean sharp palette knives, a big roll of my favorite canvas, a new kneaded eraser....I could go on and on. One thing that did not get updated much for many years was my palette. The first one you see here is about 20 years old and as you can tell, its been around the block a time or two. It is wood with a laminate surface. That's a tuna fish can for medium up there is the left hand corner. It is heavy!

And, over the years it has been abused and used.  It got bashed in in the back of my Suburban a few years back. For the last few year's I have not used it much- just taking it with me to demos when I need a portable, large mixing surface. It is about 27" wide at its widest point. I love it, but truthfully it is not only past its prime but also way too heavy for me to hold for any length of time these days.

For many years I used an Open Box M for painting outdoors and of course the palette is part of that rig. So I just needed something to replace the old clunker for studio work. So, I got this. I have had it for about 10 years. The mixing surface is glass with a neutral grey underneath. It has great storage for paint, brushes, medium, gamsol, etc. It's on wheels so it can easily be moved around the studio. It is 64" wide.

About a year and a half ago when I started to work on the Lennox Woods work and to tackle some larger canvases, I realized that there were times I might need a smaller palette. Oddly, the larger the canvas got, the more I seemed to need a small palette to work on specific areas. Having a small arm palette was the perfect choice. So, I got this. It is a small Turtlewood palette which is about 13" across. I have also been taking it with me out in the field since I switched back to using my Julien easel outdoors. It's a beautifully made,  really light small palette.

I really enjoyed using an arm palette again and liked having my colors right in front of me as I worked, particularly on a large canvas. But, sometimes the little Turtlewood was just too small. So, I just got this today - my New Wave Expressionist palette! It is amazingly light for a large palette- 25 + "- and has this very cool shape- which just happens to be ergonomically designed. It is so beautiful I just want to look at it and I will feel bad when it's awash in pigment and solvent and medium. But, I'm pretty sure I'll get over that...probably first thing tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Skies

This year I reorganized my online class schedule to better fit the course to the time of year. In the past, classes were added when a need seemed to arise and as a result some students in colder climes found themselves struggling to work outdoors. As a result, The Painted Sky is being offered again this summer (having just been taught in February). Summer is, of course, a glorious time to go skying.

Recently when I was looking through some old portfolios of drawings I came across these pastel cloud studies done in the summer of 2001 in Santa Fe. I wrote about The Summer of Santa Fe here. It made me smile to see them and think of those big New Mexico skies once again. Pardon the skewed cell phone photography.

The Painted Sky Online Class
July 26- August 23, 2013

For landscape painters, painting a believable sky means creating a sense of distance, atmosphere, light, and mood. This course is designed to give students the knowledge and techniques to paint beautiful atmospheric skies.
In this course we will cover:
~ gradation of colors in the sky at various times of day
~ gradation of values in the sky
~ types of cloud formations and how to depict them
~ use of atmospheric and linear perspective to create believable skies
~ glazes and scumbling techniques
~ using a variety of edges in painting skies
~ composing skies for maximum effect

Online classes are a great way to study at a slower, measured pace and on your own schedule. Participation is limited to ten students, so there is plenty of individual attention. To learn more about how these classes work, click here.
Many students find this way of learning to be challenging, effective and convenient. In any given class I may have students from throughout the US as well as Canada, the UK and Europe, so it makes for a lively, interesting learning experience. Click here to read what students have to say. And registration is here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer and a Studio Visitor

Late Afternoon Light
16 x 20

This painting recently found a home in Chicago. Thank you Hildt Galleries! It reminds me of those hazy afternoons that summer brings. So far, we have had a cool spring and our start to summer has been cooler than usual as well. I am not complaining!

My days start with an early morning walk and then the rest of the day is spent on Lennox Woods- working steadily toward my solo show next spring. But occasionally I have a studio visitor. A few days ago I came back from my lunch break and found this guy waiting on my studio steps!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Last Light in the Woods- Lennox Woods

This painting began as a monochromatic study for a larger (48 x 64) work which is still in progress. During last month's workshop I took it out to demonstrate some glazing techniques and then decided to finish it - albeit in a different palette, season and light effect than the large piece. 

Last Light In the Woods
18 x 24

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Western Visions Show and Sale

I am happy to say I have been invited to exhibit at the Western Visions Show & Sale at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY in September. This small oil will be part of the fixed price sale, while the drawing will be in the "Sketch" silent auction.

 Evening at the Pond
8 x 10

Aspen Study
Charcoal - 8 x 6

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Recently Adopted!

These four paintings recently found new homes. Thanks to my wonderful collectors!

 Sunset Pines
11 x 14

 Dusk-Edge of the Woods
18 x 24

 Aspen Twilight
20 x 24

Winter Morning
18 x 14

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ft. Worth, Bernini and an Article

Yesterday I drove to Ft Worth to deliver a painting. After meeting with Paula Tillman (Galerie Kornye West owner) about the upcoming Lennox Woods show, we headed to the Kimball Museum for lunch and to see the Bernini: Sculpting in Clay show.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was the artistic titan of the 17th century and the author of the Baroque style. His dramatic naturalistic style was the perfect sculptural counterpart to the painting style of Caravaggio and his followers. This show, which originated at the Metropolitan Museum, traces the development of some of his most famous sculptures through the terracotta studies or bozzetti he created to work out his designs.

One of the things I love most about seeing original works of art, and particularly studies and drawings of artists that I love, is the palpable sense of being in the presence of the artist. In this case, that feeling is almost overwhelming. Seeing the thumb prints in the modeled clay, the textures created by quickly applied tool marks, the measuring points used to scale up the figures- one feels acutely the presence of the master and for a brief instant, can trace the movement of his hand as well as his thoughts.

This was not the first time I had seen some of these terracotta studies. Many years ago (too many!), Bernini's bozetti were the subject of my senior thesis. I traveled to Boston and spent a week in the Fogg Museum looking at their collection of bozetti and digging through their archives for unpublished research. So when I saw them again, together with the others from collections around the world, it was like greeting old friends from one's youth. Familiar, yet different, and seen through a different, more experienced lens.

Coincidentally, yesterday an article was published in Professional Artist Magazine tracing the careers of fours artists including me. The theme was "its never too late" which in my case meant not a late start, but a detour.  It was interesting to experience the Bernini show and relive those times many years ago when I first saw that work and have this article appear in print on the same day.