Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Place that could be Almost Anywhere...

Another scene from central Colorado. This is a photo of Willow Creek west of Poncha Springs. As the title suggests what attracted me is the near universal appeal. Little streams like this can be found everywhere and capturing something that so many can can connect with can result in a more powerful painting than a specific place like, say, the Grand Canyon. The first challenge with the scene is that it's too complicated. I would have to simplify the shapes into larger masses and save the details for the center of interest. The next challenge is the stream itself. I've had little instruction on how to paint water but have found that it's a tricky balance between painting the colors exactly as you see them (water is not always blue) and exaggerating colors, especially cool ones (like blue!) Then there is that gray log. I wanted it in there but it would have to be seriously toned down to not draw too much attention. The last touch was punching the contrast and color where the creek disappears in the distance.

Willow Creek, 6 x 8, oils

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Missing fame by just 29 feet

Mt Ouray from Marshall Pass, 6" x 8", oils

I'm still mining last years Colorado trip for painting subject matter until warmer weather arrives. For my second effort using the thumb box I chose a photo of Mount Ouray from the dirt road to Marshall Pass. At 13,971 feet, Mount Ouray is just shy of the magic number that would make it the goal of thousands of more hikers, climbers and photographers. It still looked huge and majestic from where I was standing. Painting note: on these 6 x 8 pieces I'm starting out on a white background. For years I've been painting on a warm gray surface. I had good reasons for doing this but began to have problems with them being too dull and the values all jammed in the midrange. Though the results are a bit lighter or higher key, I really like the cleaner colors and greater contrast.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Big Thumb's Up for Small Paintings

The Thumb box. Pictures don't really show how small it is

Last September when Ken Chapin and I were painting as part of the Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest, we decided to hike back (and up) to Agnes Vail Falls on the southern flank of Mt. Princeton. For me it meant carrying my pochade box, heavy tripod, supply bag and camera, about 20 lbs. I look over and Ken is carrying this tiny sketch box. It was a Julian Thumbbox, and every jagged, uneven step of that hike I became more jealous. During that week he did a couple of really nice little paintings with it. This was quickly becoming something I 'needed.' Besides, Kevin MacPherson once said that he learned to paint by doing about 1,500(!) little 6"x 8" paintings. So after a couple of hints to my wife, I found one under the Christmas tree.

The coldest, snowiest winter in recent memory has made taking it out in the wild difficult, so instead I've been painting indoors from photos. Here's my first effort:

Late afternoon at Wilkerson Pass, 6 x 8, oils

Monday, February 8, 2010

Colorado Mountain Plein Air Fest


My painting setup next to the Arkansas River

In September, fellow artist Ken Chapin and I participated in this annual competition in the mighty Sawatch and Sangre de Cristo mountains. The constantly changing weather made for great photography but perhaps the toughest painting conditions I've ever faced. We had rain or snow every day and the lighting never settled down for a minute. We got started on top of Monarch Pass at sunrise in freezing rain, the sun cutting in and out of ragged drifting clouds. It was the highest elevation I'd ever painted (11,312 ft.) During the week our painting efforts took us to locations along the Arkansas River and it's tributaries, to a waterfall, an abandoned mining town and getting caught in a sudden blizzard at Great Sand Dunes National Park. We didn't win any hardware at the gallery show but Ken did win 1st place in a 'paint out' in Buena Vista. Big thanks to artist, Joshua Been for organizing the event and loaning me his tripod.

Mt Aetna from Monarch Pass at sunrise, 8x10, oils

Ken Chapin putting down those first brushstrokes

Arkansas River near Buena Vista, 9 x 12, oils

Painting always attracts curious onlookers