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This Month:

Drawing Inside Out
By skipping the initial drawing and working a painting from light to dark, thinner paint to thicker paint, and constructing positive shapes by painting the surrounding negative shapes, I’m often able to produce some unexpected edges and effects that are unavailable when I take a more mannered approach. Read Article

The En Plein Air Zone Archives:

September 2011 Decomposing and Composing
Nature rarely supplies us with ready-made compositions. When I’m out painting on-location, I find some scene that inspires me, and then I decide how best to express that inspiration. Read Article

August 2011 Conversion of a Purist In the early 80’s, I spent a lot of time traveling and painting on the back roads of Mexico. I walked, hitchhiked and road buses, crisscrossing the country from north to south, and east to west......
Read Article

July 2011 A Different Perspective - Rusty Jones
I’m pleased that my good friend, Rusty Jones, who I’ve known for years, agreed to do a demonstration oil painting for this month’s newsletter. I think you’ll like Rusty’s direct painting approach, and strong use of value and color. Read Article

June 2011 A Fundamental Lesson – Part Two ..... I began taking trips abroad. The sketchbooks became a record of my travels. Now I have a cabinet full of sketchbooks containing watercolors executed on both domestic and foreign junkets, and they have become an invaluable cache of information and inspiration for my larger studio works.. Read Article

May 2011 A Fundimental Lesson Part 1 Now here’s the funny thing about art. The longer you paint, and the better you get, the more you realize just how much you actually don’t know. It’s this principle that keeps the young, arrogant, “gun-slinger artists, like I was in ’81, from throwing in the towel (or the brush, as the case may be). Read Article

April 2011 Too Loose, Lautrec? All too often I hear artists declare that they want their paintings to be loose. They look at painters like Richard Schmid, in oils, or Charles Reid, in watercolors, and they figure that these guys are loading up their brushes, swinging from the hip, and everything just lands in the right spot. If only it were so. Read Article

March 2011 Interconnectedness
In Nature all things are continually relating to and affecting all other things. The interconnectedness is inescapable. The artist, painting from life, is in a unique position to experience this verity first hand. After all, every object that we paint is inexorably influenced by everything in its surroundings. It’s unavoidable. Read Article

February 2011 Aerial Perspective Part 2
In last month’s newsletter we talked about “aerial perspective”, or atmosphere and its visual effects. This is indeed a very basic list. To help drive home the point, I thought it might be a good idea to paint a couple of demonstration paintings, applying the principles of “aerial perspective”. Read Article

January 2011 Aerial Perspective
When an artist finds himself confronted with diffused light, it’s good to have some idea of what’s transpiring out there in the atmosphere. One has to remember that the atmosphere is composed of assorted gases. At any given time, there is a varying amount of moisture particles suspended in these gases. This can be likened to looking through series of films that intervene between distance objects and us. Read Article

December 2010 Beyond the Boundries
I found a photo of an old sea veteran, and decided that I could paint a portrait of her that might speak to her character. I wasn’t sure of exactly what the whole composition would be, but I knew that the surrounding elements should, like the boat, have character and a timeworn quality. I also knew that, although they would need to be interesting, they would, of necessity, have to play a subordinate role to my main character – the boat. Read Article

November 2010 Marketing For Artists Part 2: Web Based Marketing
Last month I wrote about the benefits a website can have for artists. But whether you already have a website, or are now fired up to start one, the next thing to wrap your head around is that you need to market the website in order to market your art. Read Article

October 2010 Marketing For Artists Part One
Generally I find artists want to create art, not spend their time promoting their art.  There is also a common sentiment that one’s art should be able to stand on it’s own; it doesn’t need to be hyped if it is good. Read Article

September 2010 Painting the Plan
Years ago, when I was just beginning my career as an artist, an older, more wizened artist gave me some advice. He said, “Don’t paint the painting. Paint the plan for the painting.” Read Article

 

August 2010 Trees - Part Two
I don’t generally paint tree “portraits”, per se. However, it is sometimes necessary to render individual trees as an integral part of a composition. When that arises, I usually follow the rules I outlined in the last newsletter. Read Article

July 2010 Trees - Part One
Each tree is a conscious, living thing, and each species of tree has a distinct personality that can lend emotion and credibility to a landscape.Read Article

June 2010 Structures in Oil

I have often seen landscapes that were beautifully painted; with loose and expressive strokes, and somewhere in the painting will be a structure that is tight, cerebral and looks like it was painted with a one-hair brush, thereby destroying the continuity of the piece. Read Article

May 2010 Structures

So often, buildings are an integral part of the landscapes we paint. Convincing architecture requires not only good drawing and a keen power of observation, but also a basic understanding of linear perspective (how the lines of a structure recede towards a singular “vanishing point”). All rectangular, level and plumb shapes have their “vanishing point” at the horizon. Read Article

April 2010 One of a Kind
Right off the bat, I told my wife, Max, if this ever becomes a job, I’m going to quit. After twenty-seven years of painting, I’m having as much fun now as I had at the beginning. I’ve never been starved for inspiration, nor have I had what they call “artist’s block”. Read Article

March 2010 Nocturnes
Few things in life are more romantic than a landscape suffused in moonlight. All familiarity is shadowed and veiled in obscurity. It’s a world of mystery, that at once draws us closer, and at the same time repels us with its vagueness and uncertainty. Read Article

February 2010 Let It Snow
I live in Colorado, on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The area gets about 300 days of sun, and, generally speaking, the winters around here are fairly mild. It’s not unusual to get a few inches of snow and have the following day be sunny, and in the high forties or low fifties. It makes painting on-location, in the snow, fairly painless. Anyway, I got an itch to do some snow scenes, and I thought I’d share the demos and some thoughts about snow with you. Read Article

 

January 2010 Sweet Mystery: Part Two
We’ve all watched the objects on the ground blur into indistinct masses as they fade into the distance. Similarly, we’ve stared into a deciduous forest, in summer bloom, unable to distinguish one leaf from the next. Or how about those sunlit days, when the dark shadows are full of sticks, stones, branches and grass that blend into vague impressions. These are but a few of the sweet mysteries of the visual world that we must learn to integrate into our paintings if we intend to simulate visual reality. This is the poetry of painting. Read Article

December 2009 Sweet Mystery: Part One
If you are anything like me, you find it a bit irksome and tedious when people continually tell you things you already know. After all, we’re creative types. We want to be writing the book of our lives, not reading from it. This is an important point to remember when considering the people who will be viewing your paintings. Read Article

November 2009 Organizing Chaos
The human eye is an amazing instrument. When you think of its capabilities, it’s a bit overwhelming. It’s like our own personal camera, on steroids. It gathers in light bouncing off all objects, from the expansive sky down to the smallest detail. It is the artist’s most indispensable tool. Read Article

 

October 2009 Saving the Best of Last
There is nothing so exciting, or daunting, than facing a big, beautiful, white sheet of watercolor paper. You know that once you jump in with that first stroke, the game’s afoot, and the tempo is urging you forward as you charge loads of water and paint into those first washes. However, before you start swinging from the hip, remember that you only get that beautiful white sheet once. Read Article

September 2009 Letting the Paint Work for You
After August's newsletter (“Watercolor – Teaching the Unteachable” Aug. 2009), I received a whole bunch of enthusiastic emails. I’m thrilled that what we talked about resonated with you, and I thank you for taking the time to drop me a line and let me know. So I thought it would be a good idea to do a follow-up newsletter, demonstrating some practical applications for the wet- into-wet technique.

August 2009 Watercolor: Teaching the Unteachable
Of all the mediums, watercolor is the most idiomatically unique. After all, the vehicle used to move the pigment is water. And, what is more “Zen”- like and quixotic than water? Its very nature conjures up images of rivulets, streams and rivers, meandering across uneven terrain, skirting obstacles, and seeking the path of least resistance.

June 2009 Sketchbooks
I  recently received an email, inquiring about what sketchbooks would I recommend. At the same time, Cheap Joe’s sent me a couple of sketchbooks to try out, and so I thought it might be a good time to present a short history of my sketchbook experiences, and to give a brief comparison of books I’ve use over the years.

East Meets West - A Guest Artist Presentation
Since the last half of the nineteenth century, the Japanese philosophy of “aesthetics”, and it’s accompanying artistic disciplines have both delighted and intrigued Western artists including American painters, like James McNeill Whistler and William Merrit Chase, who, on many occasions, allowed the principles, and practices of Japanese art to influence the direction of their paintings.

“Establishing a Focal Point”
methods for establishing a focal point and elements of interest in a painting – with painting examples

Jan 2009 “Craftsmanship”
examining the reasons for attempting a painting and orchestrating the elements – the underlying abstract design – historical examples

Dec 2008 “Another Approach”
the value of comparing and learning from other artists’ techniques and styles – watercolor demonstration by Frank LaLumia, AWS, NWs

Nov 2008 “The Incidence of Angle”
how masses and objects in the landscape receive their light and attain their values – using value studies – value study and four part watercolor demonstration

Oct 2008 “Back to the Basics”
understanding the large masses and how they receive light – painting examples

Sept 2008 “As Clear as Mud”
the causes and how to avoid muddy color – seven part painting demonstration

August 2008 “Compartmentalizing Your Washes”
learning to work in sections with a step by step demonstration painting

July 2008 “En Plein Air Painting – Then and Now”
a brief history of plein air painting with thoughts on the current craze – painting example

June 2008 “Lemons to Lemonade”
tips for turning disastrous paintings into successes – with examples

May 2008 “Las Flores de la Mancha”
complete painting demonstration from watercolor sketch to oil sketch to finished 36x48” oil

April 2008 “Who’s Responsible?”
theories on luck versus responsibility – winning in your own art universe

March 2008 “Narrative Painting”
step by step demonstration of a painting of the Mexican Revolution.

Feb. 2008 “Harvey Dunn and Dean Cornwell – Some insights into their working methods”
brief bio of Harvey Dunn and quotes from an evening at the Art Students League- brief bio of Dean Cornwell and description of working methods – painting examples

Jan 2008 “The Golden Age of Illustration”
A brief history of narrative painting – examples

Dec. 2007 “Painting Out Of Your Head”
working at the edge of your control – being the observer –  painting example

Nov. 2007 “Contours and Shapes – Part Three”
learning to squint – recognizing obvious shapes – painting demonstration

Oct. 2007 “Contours and Shapes – Part Two”
shaking our conditioning – learning to recognize values and shapes – demonstration painting

Sept. 2007  “Contours and Shapes”
drawing and learning to measure from obvious shapes – experiments using old black and white photos – field sketch examples

Aug 2007 “Developing a Style”
thoughts on finding your own style – the pitfalls of cloning other styles – painting examples

July 2007 “Knowing Your Palette”
Tips for gaining a comprehensive knowledge of color mixtures – four demonstrations

June 2007 “Giving Yourself An Edge”
Tips, techniques, demonstrations and examples to help ensure that your finished painting is a success.

 

May 2007 “The Intangibles”
The role an artist’s commitment and attitude plays in   the development of a professional career. Painting example.

Apr. 2007 “The Gallery Scene”
how galleries work – how to select the right gallery for you – professionalism and how to approach galleries. Also a demonstration of the evolution of a painting from sketch to finish.

March 2007 “Beginning Your Professional Art Career”
tips on laying the foundation for a career in art

Feb. 2007 “Painting the California Coast”
Experiences of a painting trip to the West Coast with photos of paintings executed on-location.

Jan. 2007 “Art on the Road”
a sketchbook demonstration painted while traveling in Morocco.

Dec. 2006 “Reflections”
Assessing yearly growth – the Magdalenian artists –   finding your voice in your art.

Nov. 2006  “Sargent Watercolors”
Accessing public museum collections – John Singer

Oct. 2006 “Utilizing Your Sketches”
Translating your sketches into finished works, with example.

Sept. 2006  “The Art of the Sketchbook”
Historical perspective and advantages of recording your experiences in sketchbook form.

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