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Friday, September 29, 2006

Fog Study - painting a day

"Fog Study" oil on canvas, 5x7 in., buy it now

On foggy days I like to go to Crane Creek, a regional park near my house that has wonderful oak trees. What caught my eye for this painting was the way the fog emphasized the flatness of the landscape - no sense of form, just flat silhouettes of trees, hills and vineyards.

I won't be posting for a couple of days. I'll be at the Brentwood Art, Wine and Jazz Festival this weekend (corner of Maple and 2nd in Brentwood). If you're in the SF Bay Area, drop by and say hello!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Weight of the Harvest

"Weight of the Harvest", oil on canvas, 5x7", SOLD

I really like painting the geometry of orchards. They have both repetition and variation as each tree is an individual in a matrix of precise orientation. I also like the color variation of gravenstein apples - from deep red to a glowing yellow gold. All in all, a wonderful subject to paint.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Vineyard Rows

"Vineyard Rows" 5x7 in, oil on canvas SOLD

Number 7 in my painting a day project. I set off in the morning to paint at a vineyard I'd heard was rather scenic, only to find it didn't live up to the description. On my way home, I passed this little spot, and painted the geometry of the vineyard rows. There's so much little detail in a vineyard - all the individual leaves and grapes and leaves scattered on the ground between the rows. It was hard to find the right balance of detail and simplification.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Distant Reflection - painting a day

"Distant Reflection" oil on canvas, 5x7 in. SOLD

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Llano Road

"Llano Road" oil on canvas, 5x7 in., SOLD

This is painting number 5 of my painting a day project. I set up to paint this enormous Valley Oak at the corner of Llano and Todd Road near Sebastopol. There are a couple of dairies in the area that I'd like to return and paint as well, but that's for another day.

One of the things I'm finding about doing this little paintings is that I'm much more aware of the importance of controling my values (relative lightness and darkness) on such a small canvas. I've been thinking about this, why it seems so much more important on a small painting. I think it's partly because every mark on a small painting has to be right for the whole painting to work well. But it may also have to do with the way our visual system processes information. (I've got a couple other blog entries on this general topic - inspired by reading the book, "Vision and Art: the Biology of Seeing", by Margaret Livingstone.) Specificly, there is a certain amount of processing that happens in the cells of the retina itself, and one of the things they do is compare the relative brightness within very small areas in our visual field. The result is we're much more sensitive to changes in value in areas that are right next to each other. I have no idea if this is really making a difference in these paintings, but I know for myself that I have more difficulty comparing values that are far apart in a painting, and I know that this is one the tricks painters can use to make it apear that a painting has a greater range of values than is actually present by emphasizing local contrasts.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Painting a day - exposure

I don't have a title for today's painting because I don't think it's a keeper. And I debated putting it up for just that reason. (If this is your first visit to my blog, look at some previous posts. Please.) But I've been very impressed by Ed Terpening blogging about paintings that aren't going quite the way he'd like. And the truth is, I end up trashing one out of every 4 or 5 paintings I do. They're usually the ones where I'm pushing against my comfort zone, trying something new. And this painting has plenty of that. Not only does it have little vehicles (I almost never paint cars), but the the light was fading fast as I was working. By the time I was packing up it was almost dark, so I didn't make all those last minute adjustments that seem to take paintings from ho-hum to wow. And yes, I could make those adjustments in the studio, but I don't think I like the painting enough to mess with it more. I was looking for a contrast between the natural shapes of the hills and the industrial buildings, and I don't think this composition does that very well. Comments anyone?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sunset Twine

"Sunset Twine" oil on canvas, 5x7in, available for purchase

Painting #3 in my personal painting a day challenge.

This historic Petaluma building is the home of Sunset Line and Twine, at least for now. I set up to paint in a parking lot across the street where there was some shade, and talked to the owner of the business whose parking lot I was using as a studio (Thanks!). He told me the building has been sold and is due to be converted to apartments and office space. But for now you can stand outside and hear the constant whir of machinery.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Long Barn

"Long Barn" oil on canvas, 5x7in, click here to purchase

This is the second painting in my personal painting a day challenge. This tree and long barns are on the road I take to work every day, and I'd been wanting to paint them for a long time. As I was getting set up, a fellow crossed the street to say hello, and in broken English explained that his brother was a painter down in Mexico. We did a lot of smiling and nodding at each other (my Spanish is worse than his English), but before he left he looked at my composition and said "how romantic".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Painting a day: the beginning of a 100 day project

"Cormorants" oil on canvas, 5x7in. SOLD

I've been reading the blogs by other artists about their process painting a small painting every day. So I'm jumping on an already crowded and illustrious bandwagon to offer my plein air painting a day. I've got a pile of little panels prepped and ready to go, a couple of sites scoped out for the next week or so, and the adventure begins!

It's a basic tenent of the scientific method that if you want to figure out how something works, it's best to change one variable at a time, but I decided for the first paintings at least I'd try working on canvas panels instead of gessoed birch plywood. So far, it's been an interesting difference. The paint soaks into the canvas rather than sitting on top, and it takes more paint to develop the rich surface I prefer. The jury is still out. But it's definately fun painting these little guys. I'm looking at the landscape in a new way, thinking about how to simplify my vision to fit on a postcard sized bit of canvas.

I painted this painting at the harbor in Bodega Bay, watching the cormorants nap and preen on an abandoned pier.


I bought a new to me but gently used van last week, and spent the weekend building a plywood platform in the van to transport display panels and artwork to shows. I think it will be much easier to load and unload than my old pickup truck, and there's even room for more artwork! My other big project involved sewing protective fabric sleeves for my small framed prints and paintings. I've been having a problem with the frames getting nicked or damaged in transport, so I bought 6 yards of fuzzy fleece and blew the dust off my sewing machine. I found the fabric for the edges at the bottom of my sewing chest. The result is rather homey I think, and with any luck this will protect all the frames as they go to shows.

Speaking of shows, my next show is at Brentwood, September 30-October 1. Drop by if you're in the SF Bay Area!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

paths to ponder

"Subtle Path" 8x10 oil on panel

I haven't been painting or printing, but I've been surfing. I'm contemplating a painting a day personal challenge. Stay tuned...

In the mean time I've been enjoying the website of Jeff Cohen.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

morning light

"Umbrella" oil on panel, 8x10in.

I joined several other plein air painters last week that get together every Monday morning to paint at various locales. I don't often paint at the local vineyards, but the group was scheduled to meet at the Landmark Winery in Kenwood. I arrived a little early, and was struck by the shadow cast by the umbrella at a little sitting area near the vines. I was also interested in the challenge of the large bunch grass behind the chair - so I pulled together this little painting with some time to spare. After all the fog it was nice to paint something with such bright, crisp shadows.

Monday, September 04, 2006

crop circles

I did a lot of flying across the country this past weekend, and spent most of the time with my nose pressed to the window. I regreted not bringing my digital camera, because I loved the pattern of the clouds and their cast shadows on the landscape. I was interested to see the euclidian geometry of agriculture laid over the template of rivers and mountains, particularly the circular green fields in the deserts of Utah and Nevada. I remember flying as a kid and thinking that there wasn't anyplace in the country where you didn't see a road of some kind, even in places that looked like they were in the middle of nowhere. And this time I was thinking more about water resources, and how the availability of water affects where people live and grow food. But I was also thinking about how I could incorporate a view from above into my art that is so rooted in a view from eye level.