Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wind Chill


Autumn's End, 6 x 8, oils
I recently purchased new outdoor painting gear and was anxious to try it out. Destination: The rocky bluffs along Lake Jacomo. Since temps were in the 40's I didn't bother with gloves or a stocking cap. It took a few minutes to find a good composition and get setup. I soon wished I had taken into account the wind off the lake which was making my fingers and ears painfully numb. This would be a quick painting but I'll be better prepared next time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Salinas Pueblo Missions


Mission Ruins at Quarai, 8 x 8, oils
In late August, I took a road trip with a cousin from Bakersfield, California to Joplin, Missouri. We took a day off to visit another cousin in the mountains of New Mexico. He wanted to show me some scenery that I might be interested in painting. In the morning we visited the Salinas ruins of Quarai and Abo. These were churches built in the 1600's by the Pueblo people under the authority of Spanish missionaries. The architecture was a synthesis of European and Pueblo. For example the church was cruciform but the structure surrounding it included kivas, round rooms that were used for spiritual purposes.

I painted this scene from inside the Quarai site based on photos. It's not a traditional landscape composition but I loved the interesting shapes of the light and shadow. Imagine how simple the scene would be without the breach in the left wall. The photo reference was cloudless blue but with such a low horizon line I had to add drama to the sky. It was a dreary late November day in Missouri when I painted this but with the sunny scene and a Tony Hillerman novel in the CD player, I almost felt like I was in the southwest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Randy Higbee 6 x 6 Show


Antero Sunrise, 6 x 6, oils.
 The Randy Higbee Show is an annual affair, held in Costa Mesa, California. All submissions must be exactly 6 inches square. This was my first time entering. All paintings were based on reference from various painting trips. The one above is of Mt Antero in the Sawatch Range from my trip with Ken Chapin in 2009. It was accepted in the show.

Peace Like a River, 6 x 6, oils.
For this piece I revisited Femme Osage Creek, near Augusta, Missouri. I have learned so much since painting there last May. It was also accepted.

Deep in Glacier Gorge, 6 x 6, oils.
Finally we have this scene from my 10 mile hike with Gina to Black Lake this past August. This piece was declined. Still, two out of three ain't bad and it was a good chance to practice rocks and distant mountains.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Great American Paint Out


J C Nichols Memorial Fountain, 8 x 10, oils
Oil Painters of America promotes group paint outs for it's members every fall. This year my friend Laura Kratz took the lead and organized one for the Kansas City area. The date, October 22, the Country Club Plaza. Over a dozen artists showed up at "the horse fountain" a real KC icon. The weather was great and we had lots of curious onlookers who could see first hand the awesomeness of painting from life. We broke for lunch at the Nelson Art Gallery's Rozelle Court and finished the day with more painting. A great way to promote visual arts in KC and I was able to hand out a few business cards as well. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Big Cedar Paint Out plus Matt Smith Workshop


Owen's Sweet Ride, 9 x 12, oils.
 As we were approaching our destination, I told Jeff that I really wanted to paint a rusty old pickup but good luck finding one at Big Cedar Lodge. The place is impeccably landscaped. Not a blade of grass out of place. But as we were driving down a one lane road on the property, Jeff yells "Stop! there's an old yellow truck!" And there it was, partly hidden by the dense woods. The biggest challenge painting it was the constantly changing dappled light through leaves and branches.

Braided Path, 8 x 10, oils
 We spent most of Friday painting in Dogwood Canyon. I chose one of about 20 stone bridges as my subject. Again, dappled light was an issue. One minute the bridge was light against a dark background, the next it was dark against light. I settled on the latter with some light patches.

Last Light of Day, 8 x 14, oils
Friday night was the nocturne competition. We had two hours to turn in a painting but after one, I had run out of things to paint. On Saturday we turned in our paintings for judging and took it easy. At the awards event the competition was strong. I took no hardware but the yellow truck painting was purchased by Big Cedar. My three day workshop would begin the next morning.

Trout Heaven, 9 x 12, oils
Matt Smith is one of America's premier landscape painters. His paintings are noted for their natural color and beautiful brushwork. Seeing the originals up close is a joy; backlit rocks with airy shadows filled with reflected light. Mountain peaks separated from the viewer by five miles of air. His paintings are stunning. He is also one tough instructor. He doesn't throw out many compliments, instead going straight after what is wrong with your painting. When he does offer any form of praise it means a lot. The piece above was painted in Dogwood Canyon at a place called "The Glory Hole."

Alpine Study, 8 x 10, oils
The final day of the workshop was cold and rainy so we stayed indoors and worked from photos that Matt provided. I'm glad it worked out that way. In painting large mountains I have had difficulty getting the feeling of atmospheric distance. Painting distant horizons in Missouri is not the same. Matt really helped me figure some things out. Put simply, I can't wait to tackle my next Colorado painting.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Harvest Time


Liquid Sunlight, 11 x 14, oil on hardboard
 "Wine is sunlight, held together by water." - Galileo

For the last ten years I have wanted to participate in the harvesting of wine grapes. That dream came true last month as several local wineries not only let me paint or photograph their vineyards but also let me help with the picking of six tons of Cynthiana grapes and the crushing/destemming of a half ton of Cabernet Franc grapes. Many wineries have volunteer days during harvest and I highly recommend it for anyone interested.

Back in the studio I committed to making September "Vineyard Month" as well. The painting above is from Michael Amigoni's just after sunrise. It was completed in one long and inspired session. The big wedge shape, impressionistic color (light) and expressive brushwork bring drama to a scene that could easily be overlooked.

Ripe for Harvest, 16 x 20, oil on canvas                                                    Hidden Gold, 16 x 20, oil on canvas
After painting vineyards from just about every angle, I decided to move in close and study the clusters themselves. For these two pieces I broke away from tradition and painted them three or four times actual size. On the wall they have a more graphic/contemporary feel. Red and white grapes courtesy of Stonehaus Farms Winery.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Still Life with Personal Nostalgia

Childhood Artifacts, 9 x 12 oils
Nostalgia: A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. - American Heritage Dictionary

This is the first still life that I've ever actually finished. I would always lose interest. So on this one I chose a personal theme to help me stick with it. I originally had no intention of showing it or putting it on the market. The objects chosen took me back to the age of innocence, that period between the age of 6 and 12 when it seemed my life was a state of constant wonder and simple pleasures (it was an era soon to be replaced with awkward puberty and the realization that my family had issues.) The regional soda bottle and 45 record meant something to me but I wasn't sure if it would resonate with anyone else. Then I posted it on facebook and had one of the biggest responses ever. I've been told that it dates me, so be it.

So who is the artist on the 45 record? It could be the BeeGees, Iron Butterfly, Cream, The Who or others. It's whoever it is to you. For me?

"It's getting near dawn, when lights close their tired eyes..."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Plein Air Rockies 2011


Lazy Stream, 9 x 12, oils
 I was honored to be selected as one of 30 artists participating in this years Plein Air Rockies event. I would have two weeks to paint in and around Rocky Mountain National Park, one of my favorite places on earth. I had rigged up a backpack that could carry all my gear so that, in theory, I could paint anywhere I could hike to. Where to start? I began with a winding section of Fall river in Endovalley with Deer Ridge in the distance.

Morning at Nymph Lake, 9 x 12, oils
For the next piece I got off to an early start, hiking a mile up to Nymph Lake from Bear Lake trailhead. My first memory of this lake was many years ago. I was irritated that with all the natural beauty they should have water lilies as well. Couldn't us flatlanders have something to ourselves?

Fire and Ice, 8 x 14, oils
That afternoon I setup near Storm Pass trailhead. One of the best vistas in the park with a commanding view of Otis Peak, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.

Morning at Copeland Falls, 9 x 12, oils
 I failed at my first attempt at painting Copeland Falls. I arrived at Wild Basin too late and there was no parking left at the trailhead. That's typical for August. You have to get there by 8 a.m. to get a decent spot which I did the next day.

Crossing Paths, 4 x 6, oils
 The Cultural Arts Council provided each of  us with a 4 x 6 inch panel to do a miniature painting that would be judged as part of the show. I chose a footbridge near a picnic area. Being so small I knew it had to be a simple scene that read instantly and had lots of color. At that size there was no excuse for not shoveling on thick paint, which I did with a palette knife. It sold immediately.

Nightfall, 11 x 14, oils
 One evening was designated for doing nocturnes. I'd had the idea of doing Estes Park with the front range looming behind it for several years and found a nice vantage point east of town. The painting captures the feel of evening over a two hour period, not just one moment in time.

The Quickdraw: You have 90 minutes
 The final morning of the event was The Quickdraw. All artists setup in a downtown park and have 90 minutes to turn in a finished painting to be auctioned on the spot. I originally found a river scene that I was comfortable with but then challenged myself to do an outdoor restaurant instead. I was lured by the saturated colors of the umbrellas and flowers. Out of small panels, I had to do a 12 x 12. I used my largest brushes throughout to cover the canvas in the shortest amount of time. I'm pleased with the results and the painting generated some lively bidding at the auction.

Petunia Pandemonium, 12 x 12, oils
Most of these paintings are hanging in the Cultural Arts Council Gallery in Estes Park through October 2 (along with paintings by much better artists.) Special thanks to Linda Vogel, all of her volunteers and the great patrons of art in Estes Park.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Project Reclamation or Why Would I Paint a Landscape on Broken Furniture?


The Leedy-Voulkos Gallery in KC is partnering with Spiva Art Center in Joplin to have an art auction raising funds for Joplin's art community. The twist is that the art is being made from tornado debris. Pictured above is the debris pile that the artists had to choose from for their projects. It smelled terrible. Photo courtesy of the Leedy-Voulkos Gallery.

Not being a found object artist, I chose the side panels of a dresser drawer that had blown apart. Note the  dovetail joints. First I cleaned it with bleach water and a scrub brush. Then I took it to woodworker Roy Wall to join the two pieces together. 

We were told that the artwork did not need to be related to Joplin and should reflect what we normally do. In the summer you are most likely to find me painting Missouri streams. It just so happens the nearest clear streams are near Joplin. In this case Shoal Creek. I sealed the wood with medium (Galkyd Light) and tried to paint in such a way as to show as much wood grain as possible. Warm midtones like tree trunks, foreground water and some leaves were just left as exposed wood.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Morning in Montserrat


Morning in Montserrat, 9" x 12", oils
This piece was painted from photos taken on a visit to some local vineyards while looking for painting inspiration. The most extreme heat wave in over decade has made painting outdoors very difficult. Instead of the studio, I decided to do this piece downstairs (coolest room in the house) with my outdoor painting setup and a large window for natural light. In the past I've had difficulty coming up with strong compositions in vineyards as well as painting those endless rows. This scene solved those problems with it's steep hill and architectural interest.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Third Time's a Charm


Plein Air Study, 6 x 8, oils
This is the first painting I  have ever done three times. Many years ago I worked in North Kansas City and would sometimes take lunch breaks at Water Works Park. It was a cool combination of nature and city. This spring I was thinking about the place and thought it might be a good subject for a painting. I was glad to find the it still there although the trees had grown a bit, making the job of finding an expansive view difficult. Setting up on the edge of a frisbee golf course, I heard guys cry "Fore!" more than once. I told them that I did not mind being hit in the head with a frisbee. The study went well and I knew it  had the makings of a nice piece.
3 Hour Demo, 12 x 12, oils
A few days later I was scheduled to do a live demo at my local gallery, Leawood Fine Arts. Armed with my study and a photo I was ready to go. I decided on a 12 x 12 square format and the demo went well considering the time constraint and having people watch and ask questions. But after staring at it for a few days, I came to the conclusion that I could do better.
City on a Hill, 16 x 16, oils.
For the real deal I went even larger. It was a bit hard to get started but before long it felt like a new painting. This time I changed the composition slightly, emphasizing a path that I had edited from the first two and altering it's course to cut back to the left so that it would not take the viewer out of the picture. I went with even thicker paint and really tried to push the atmospheric distance between the foreground and background. I'm happy with the finished result but feel that I could have pushed it even further.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Revisiting Water Lilies


Water Lilies III, 18 x 24, oil on canvas
For my upcoming show at the french crepery Chez Elle, I had a lot of wall space to cover and thought that a large painting of water lilies would be appropriate. The place is a renovated old theatre from the early nineteen hundreds and being french made me think of the impressionists. A big Monet exhibition was in town so it seemed like a good fit.
Monet is one of my biggest influences and about every five years I find myself painting water lilies. I always go to Powell Gardens which has many types and is not far from where I live. The Monet painting that inspired me the most for this piece was "The Cloud." I loved the idea of using the reflections to show an inverted sky/landscape and was fortunate to have a partly cloudy day for my visit. I was shooting photos for a studio painting and with the sun almost directly overhead I was able to combine almost any photo into my composition since the lighting would be the same. I ended up using five different images. This is one of my larger paintings so I mentally broke it into smaller bites by painting each 'raft' of lily pads separately and then filling in between with the water. Making the pads look like they were going back in perspective was critical.

Water Lilies III, detail.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I finally get around to painting the Lees Summit Train Depot...

"Coming Home" 12 x 24, oil on canvas
Over ten years ago, my wife Gina told me that I ought to do a painting of the local train station. She worked part time for a local gallery and said that people come in regularly asking for paintings of it. Sounded like an easy sale so I went over and checked the place out, came home and said "It's boring." A few years later Gina and my youngest daughter were riding home from St Louis on the Amtrac so I was there to pick them up. It was a hot August evening right about sunset and I was struck by the look and feel of the midwest mugginess. It had a timeless quality that took me back to childhood. There was something unique about the color of the sky and the foliage that I hoped to someday be able to capture in paint. Fast forward to this past June. I was driving through town and looked north up the tracks. There was my composition. I went back a few days later to photograph the place at sunset and was blessed with a bonus train plus a mother and daughter that were walking by at the same time. I decided to add both elements to the painting. I did the piece in the studio from my photos but kept trying to remember the subtle colors that cameras can't capture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

STEMS Plein Air 2011


It's hard to describe the three weeks that encompass the STEMS Plein Air Event. I was off to a great start by winning the opening night sunset paint out. This was a $500 purchase award by Peggy Rice of the Rice Gallery. The celebration would be short lived.
Before the Storm, 8 x 14, oils
The next day an EF5 tornado devastated my home town of Joplin, MO. From Monday through Wednesday I was in a STEMS workshop led by Phil Starke. Phil is both a great artist and teacher and I took lots of notes, unfortunately the weather was very unstable and on Wednesday we had to run for a tornado shelter as a small tornado touched down south of us and the funnel went right over our heads. I was done.
The View from Aunt Twyla's Apartment
I spent the rest of the week in Joplin supporting family and friends as well as helping an aunt salvage whatever we could from her heavily damaged apartment. I was eventually able to get back to painting and was able to submit three paintings to the STEMS event. All three made it in the feature show, "The Journey Begins" won third place in oils and "Inside Out" sold. This is funny because I felt that "Hanging  On" was the best of the bunch. There is nothing more subjective than judging art.
Hanging On, 9 x 12, oils
Inside Out, 11 x 14, oils
The Journey Begins, 11 x 14, oils

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Step-by-Step Ozark Creek Scene


In May I did several small studies at Femme Osage Creek, two which included this impressive sycamore.  I also took photos for future reference which is what this painting is based on. I grew up swimming, fishing and floating clear streams like this one. After a spring filled with plein air painting it was nice to come back to the studio for this one.

I started by tinting a 16"x 16" canvas a cool and warm yellow and then knocked it back with a paper towel. I then did my underdrawing in brown with a #8 flat. I don't normally do such detailed starts but the root system was very complex and the whole painting depends on it.

 I then layed in all of my midtone shadows, covering up most of my initial drawing. I could still see it well enough to proceed. I saved the highlights on the roots.

At this point I restated all my accent shadows, this time much darker. I then took the tree to near completion and added the highlight through the trees. This gave me a complete value range.

After that it was just going around the painting taking each area to the level of detail desired while trying not to overwork it. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Joshua Been Workshop


After the Augusta Plein Air Event I was home for a few days and turned around and went back for a three day workshop with an artist on the rise. I've competed with him at five plein air events since 2008 and always been impressed with his work. He had me rethinking everything about the way I paint through discussions, demos and guidance on the small timed studies we did (he would usually give us a 30 minutes to one hour per piece.) I ended up doing 7 paintings and would have done more but I opted to watch him do demos instead. The four pieces reproduced here were each done in an hour.

 Bamboo Path, 6" x 8", oils
I love exotic gardening and bamboo can actually do well here if you can handle how invasive it is. The Augusta Brewery has a nice grove started and has cut an inviting path through it.

 Ancient Roots, 6" x 8", oils
This piece and the next were painted at a lovely section of Femme Osage Creek. This massive sycamore will probably show up in some future paintings. Make that definitely.

 Looking Upstream, 6"x 8", oils
I was spoiled to grow up surrounded by Ozark creeks like this. In KC they are all muddy gray.

Tree Skeleton, 6" x 8", oils
This was painted in the backyard of my host family, Jan and Jim Rohfling (thanks again.) They have a beautiful home and a great view of the Missouri River valley. The subject is probably something only another artist will appreciate (i.e. not very sellable.) I learned way more than I was able to process during the workshop, am still putting all the pieces together and expect upcoming paintings will really show what I got out of it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Augusta Plein Air 2011


The weather was not great. A few nice days were outnumbered by the rains that are causing so much flooding and hardship. But it did force me to find creative ways to keep on painting in spite of adversity, which I'm thankful for. Let's get right to a few of the keepers from my 10 days there.
In the Zone, 9"x 12", oils
I tried to paint out on the deck at Montelle Winery but eventually the rain forced me under the covered area to start a new one. Other artists had staked out all the best spots so I was up on a dark balcony and decided to paint fellow artist, Daniel Fishback.  Not bad considering the circumstances.

Vulture Vantage, 11" x 14", oils
Klondike Park is a geologic oddity just a few miles east of Augusta. Rolling hills and picturesque farms are replaced with jagged limestone and sandtone cliffs and a clear green lake with a white sand beach. It was once a mining operation using the sand to make glass products. I learned my lesson from Montelle and set up under a picnic shelter with a view of a prominent cliff owned by a group of vultures. The dead tree on top suited them well and gave them a commanding view of the area. There were usually four up there but my inner greeting card artist painted two hoping some couple might relate to this pair.

 Wet on Wet, 9" x 12", oils
At the beautiful community of Augusta Shores I setup outside under threatening skies and was soon forced to retreat from a steady rain. With no shelters nearby I had to find some alternative to quitting. I ended up doing the painting from the passenger seat of my car with the window rolled down halfway while turning my head 90˚ to look at the subject. I was pretty cramped with my pochade box on my knees and in continual fear of getting paint on the upholstery. At one point I heard a knock on my window and it was director Vic Brown delivering a sack lunch. This is why we keep coming back to Augusta.

Morning Light, 6" x 8", oils
Waking to sunlight for the first time at this event, I got a quick start on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River "bottoms." I worked small and gave myself a one hour time limit.

Valley Vista, 9" x 12", oils
The last painting day was perfect. I found this scene high up on Schluersburg Road but it had no shoulder for parking or painting. There was a farmhouse getting the best of this view and an old man mowing the yard so I asked if I could set up there. He was very gracious and I later found out from him and his wife that this was a very popular place for artists. Even though I was on the highest ridge around, there was almost no wind. That's as good as it gets.

Since people ask, I'll add that I received no awards and made no sales at the conclusion. Sometimes that's the way it goes. It's not how I judge success. I challenged myself every day, made new friends and am pleased with what I accomplished. In closing I'd like to thank all involved in putting on this event and especially Jim and Jan Rohfling for their hospitality.