Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spring Plein Air

It's obvious I've gotten way behind on posting so I'm going to combine the three plein air events in Augusta, Neosho and Cotter. These were done back-to-back-to-back from April 19th to May 4th with no days off and over a thousand miles driven.

We'll start with the Augusta Plein Air Event. It seemed like each day was alternating between sunny and raining but it was mostly cool with Spring about a month behind schedule.

Sunset at Balducci's, 10 x 12, oils

Awaken, 9 x 12, oils. This piece received a 3rd Place in Oils at the awards ceremony.

Methuselah, 11 x 14, oils. This received an Honorable Mention.

Just the Two of Us, 8 x 10, oils. This received an Honorable Mention and also sold.

Next was the Jaeger Festival and Paint Out in Neosho, Missouri. For this two day event the weather was full on summer with brilliant sun and highs in the upper 80's.

Lazy Stream, 8 x 10, oils. SOLD.

Leaving Big Spring, 8 x 10, oils.
Hickory Creek Bridge, 9 x 12, oils. Took 3rd Place on awards night.

Finally we have the White River Paint Out in Cotter, Arkansas. The weather took a mean turn with heavy rain and a record low temperature of 32F with even some snowflakes.

Captain of the White River, 9 x 12, oils.
Midnight Fog, 8 x 10, oils. This nocturne from the first night captures the cold front pouring in.
View From Under the Bridge, 8 x 10. This won 1st Place in the Richeson Small Works Competition.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Adding Drama to a Scene

Broad Shoulders, 10 x 20, oil on canvas.
This piece was based on reference photos from a painting trip to the Sawatch Mountains of Central Colorado. It was right after sunrise and I believe the peak is 14'er Mt Shavano but am not certain. I include my reference photo below. In composing and painting this piece, I wanted to go way beyond my reference and instead capture the feeling I had looking at this colossal mountain with the ragged clouds rolling by. I've exaggerated both the height of the mountain and the intensity of color to that effect. I also played with how to handle the tree line until I arrived at a composition that pleased me. Finally, I added the dirt road for perspective, scale and to really emphasize the summit.

Reference photo
 I'm proud to share that this painting has been accepted in the Oil Painters of Americas Salon in Petosky, Michigan this month. It's my first piece to get in an OPA show and hopefully the first of many.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Making Sure Your Painting has "Pop"

    When I was a kid we didn't keep soft drinks in the house. They were reserved for special occasions and there was none more reliable than a visit to "Nana and Papa" at the Valley Service Station. (My grandparents had retired and my Uncle Phil bought a gas station/general store outside of town for them to run. It was a brilliant move that gave them something to do, was easy work and kept them engaged in the community.) Each visit, Papa would tell us to pick out anything we liked from the pop fridge, which was a big horizontal box with a metal sliding lid on top and a bottle opener on the side. The options seemed endless and included all six brands pictured plus many more. Yes, Soda pop was a big deal back then.
    About ten years ago I started noticing old pop bottles at flea markets. Of course the name brands were well represented but the real nostalgia factor came with the brands I had forgotten, names like Nugrape, NEHI, Suncrest, Vess and Grapette. The bottles were still relatively cheap so I started picking them up and eventually had a crate full.
   It was just a matter of time before I got around to painting these. This composition was inspired by the wonderful still lifes of Diane Massey Dunbar. She also has a thing about soft drinks and paints everyday things that we take for granted and giving them dignity and beauty. It's like seeing them for the first time. I expected to paint a row of similar bottles and then have the label designs set them apart and was surprised at the different textures in the glass that gives each one it's own personality. I hope to have been able to capture some of that here.

Glassmates, 9 x 12, oil on hardboard.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy President's Day!

A little something from the archives. I've always love caricature and was glad for the opportunity to do these back when I worked as a greeting card artist for Hallmark. Black and white prisma pencil on canson paper.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Painting a Nocturne from Daytime Photos

"Konza Prairie by Moonlight" 14 x 18, oil on canvas.
   I recently spent a cold afternoon photographing the Flint Hills for painting reference. The most dramatic region I've found is along I-70 between Topeka and Manhattan, Kansas. There are some big vistas and surprisingly few trees. My search took me down gravel roads with names like "Deep Creek" and "Old K-18." In the dead of winter and without snow, all the color seems drained out of the landscape. Everything is warm gray in the foreground and cool gray in the distance. I was hoping the golden hour before sunset would saturate things a bit and it helped but only a little.

My photo reference. Note how I have also changed the composition.
   When I got home and went over my photos, there really wasn't anything that inspired me. Then I imagined what that barren world would look like under a full moon. I have painted a lot of nocturnes both from life and in the studio and have also heard of artists painting nocturnes from daytime scenes. It seemed like a worthy challenge. 

Nocturne by Frank Tenney Johnson
 There is a long tradition of nocturnes in western art, going back to masters Frederick Remington, C. M. Russell and Frank Tenney Johnson. Carrying on the tradition are contemporary artists  Bill Anton, Phil Starke, Michael Untiedt and others. I poured over their work for tips on how to get the effect of moonlight. I also went to a remote location and let my eyes adjust for about 15 minutes. I made a serious effort to note what color temperatures and values I was seeing. The truth is there is very little color but I was able to discern that the sky was cooler and the midtones in the foreground were warmer. Still all highlights registered as cool. With my photo, art reference and observation notes, I felt ready to start painting. The biggest challenge was that I had never done a painting with such a narrow value and spectrum range. It's amazing what you can do even with such constraints and the amount of mood that is created. Also I'm convinced there is no absolute right way to paint a nocturne. It's up to each artist to interpret their impression of a scene. I'm pleased with how this one turned out.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Salinas Missions 2.0

"Mission Ruins at Quarai" 12 x 12 oil on canvas
Like my previous entry, I've painted this image before (over a year ago) but it has really stuck with me. I love the stark separation of the shadow and highlights and how they are connected as a continuous shape. My first attempt was 8"x 8" and I felt like a larger treatment was in order. I also was not satisfied with how the shadow areas turned out the first time around. I'm much happier with this one. Note: this piece has been accepted in the 2013 Salon International Exhibition at the Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio, Texas.

It reads easily as a black and white value statement.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Taking One to the Next Level


"Autumn Portal" 18 x 18, oil on canvas
When I was painting this scene from life at the Big Cedar Paint Out, I knew it was one I would want to do larger when I got back to the studio. The original sold at the event so I was left to work with a couple of photos of the plein air piece and the scene, neither of which did it justice. The rest would be up to memory and imagination. It's one of my most ambitious paintings to date. After the block in of the shadow areas I finished it in sections so that I could work wet in wet throughout. Besides the natural harmony of the scene, I tried to use the fall leaves to connect it all together. I also reserved the lightest lights, darkest shadows and most intense color for inside the archway and upstream.