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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

working with fog

"Oaks at Crane Creek" oil on canvas, 18x24in.

On the theme of painting larger paintings outside, here's another large painting I finished recently. We're in a typical late summer pattern of dense fog in the morning that burns off around 10 or 11 am. I like painting in the fog, partly because I don't have to worry about the sun glaring off of the palette or finding a shady place to set up. But it can be tricky because the fog is nothing if not fickle, and can change dramatically in a very short period of time.

I had scouted out a couple of oaks in the fog for a larger painting during a morning walk with the dog, and returned a couple days later with canvas in hand, ready to do battle. But when I reached the location, I realized that the fog was much higher than the other morning, and the subtle, dramatic outlines of the oaks I liked so much had morphed into some pretty mundane scenery. After some cursing and stomping of feet, I was heading back to the car in defeat when my attention was arrested by one of my favorite trees. I've used this tree as material for a block print because I love the one long branch that reaches out. So I stopped and painted. The result is pretty simple, but I think more effective for being larger.

painting large

"Trout Stream" 18x24in oil on canvas
"Trout Stream Study" 11x14in oil on panel

I was glad to read the comments from my last post about the difficulties of creating larger paintings while working outside, and to hear I'm not alone in struggling with larger canvases. I tend to paint either 8x10 or 11x14, but sometimes I like to work even larger. It's hard to cover a larger surface in one sitting, and it's not always possible to go back to a location to finish, but I do like the challenge. My current strategy is to scope out the location beforehand, and do a smaller painting if I can. Then when I return, I don't have to spend as much time deciding what it is I want to paint, I can dive right in.

An example is this pair of paintings from my painting/camping trip to the Carson Pass area. It was a kingfisher that was responsible for me finding this little bend of the creek. I heard it calling and moved off the trail for a look, and then stayed to paint the wild abundance of lupine and indian paintbrush in bloom on the opposite bank. I came back the next day to try and capture the large log that was submerged in the stream. I'm not entirely certain the willows in the background are really working in either painting, but it was a magical place to paint listening to the occasional "clop" of the rising trout.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Painting a Day

"Caples Lake" 8x10in, oil on panel

I just read an article in USA today about the phenomenon of artists selling paintings directly to the public through their blogs. Of course, the article featured Duane Keiser, who is usually credited for being the first to create a blog that featured a small painting every day. But other artists have followed his model of blogging daily and selling the small paintings on ebay.

There are other benefits to the artists who sell paintings this way, not the least is the discipline to actually get into the studio every day. And the article also mentioned the connection that is made between the artist and the public when artists sell directly rather than through galleries. I certainly have really enjoyed meeting the people who buy my paintings; it's been one of the nicest parts of selling at art fairs this summer. But the irony of this article for me is that while very small paintings are more afordable, the question I'm most often asked is "do you paint larger paintings?" because most of mine are on the small side.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Aspen grove

"Aspen Grove" 8x10 in, oil on panel

This is one of the paintings I did on my marathon painting day last week. This was the last painting of the bunch and I started it knowing that I was really tired. I usually stand up to paint so that I can step back easily and see if things are working or not, but for this painting I sat on a wide flat granite boulder and set my easel down low. I wasn't able to step back at all, and at some point I stopped to look at the painting as a whole and thought "this is a mess", but I got up and looked at it from distance (all of 4 feet that I had available to me), and the elements of the painting all snapped into place. Amazing. I'm really happy with the reflected light on the trunks of the aspens. I really want to find more aspen groves to paint this fall.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Painting explosion

"Hope Valley", 11x14 in., oil on panel

I just got back from a painting expedition to the Sierra Nevada, and one of the places I stumbled upon to paint was Hope Valley - a vast expanse on the east side of Carson Pass, just south of Lake Tahoe. I have a special fondness for that high elevation sage scrub habitat and did three paintings in the course of the afternoon. While I was setting up to paint this picture, "Hope Valley", I noticed a large bird circling in the distance. It eventually flew right above me, a juvenile golden eagle. All in all, a very satisfying painting day.

Sierra High Country

I took a few days for an impromptu camping and painting trip. I made Caples Lake, near Carson Pass, my base of operations, and was rewarded by spectacular high elevation wildflower displays and lovely weather. The photo above is near Winnemucca Lake in the Mokelumne Wilderness. There's nothing like hiking in the high country in the Sierra Nevada, but I was definately feeling the elevation on that hike. I could have spent several more days exploring the area and painting. As it was, I cranked out 10 paintings in three days, and have a lot of photographs to sort through. Some of my favorite paintings are from the end of the day when I thought I was too tired to paint and had to concentrate on staying focused, so perhaps there's a lesson there about learning to just be in the moment and not think too hard. I'll be posting the individual paintings once they're dry enough to photograph.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Summer Night

"Summer Night" 10" x 12.5" hand printed on mulberry paper, edition of 14.

A couple of weekends ago I spent the night sleeping on a porch of a remote cabin far away from the city lights. The sky seemed so bright against the trees, even with no moon. And the constellation Scorpio was dominating the southern horizon. That weekend was the inspiration for this print.

Normally I don't worry too much about the image reversal of printmaking. I just design my images straight on the block and then enjoy the mirror image shift of the printed image. But I really wanted the position of the stars in this print to be somewhat true to life. So I was a little irritated to realize I had carved the sky block without thinking that Scorpio needed to be reversed. I'm not sure anyone but me would have noticed, but fortunately the sky was not a particularly complicated block to re-carve. And it was great to get my hands dirty at my printing table again.

This print is available at my Etsy store

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Golden hills of summer

"Downhill" oil on panel, 11" x 14"

I love late summer in California. The hills are crisp and golden, and the light is unbelievably clear and bright. I haven't been getting out to paint as much as would like, but I have been making an effort recently to capture the golden hills with live oaks marching down their flanks.

Burlingame Art and Jazz Festival

If you're in the SF Bay Area this coming weekend, Saturday August 12th and Sunday August 13th, might I suggest the Burlingame Art and Jazz Festival? I'll be there hawking my art wares. Drop by to say hello and check out the art in person. It's in downtown Burlingame on Burlingame Avenue from El Camino Real to California Drive.

Image above is "Party Lanterns" 8x10 oil on panel. It's for sale at my Etsy store.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Road Through the Meadow

I did this painting at my friend John's property near Ukiah. In the afternoon the light spills through the trees on the ridge and across the road and meadow. I don't usually finish larger (18x24) canvases in one sitting, but this one came together really well.
I did a smaller study of the same location a couple of months ago, and I think it helped to have an idea of what I wanted the painting to be before I started.