Monday, April 14, 2014

Red Tail View -- #Malibu Creek State Park

Return To The Back Side

Okay...  On Tuesday I hiked in to the back side of Malibu Creek Side Park.  (I blogged about that adventure on my last post.)  What I didn't mention was that as I was hiking out, I realized that I wasn't wearing my glasses.  I turned around and hiked back to where I had painted and searched all over but... I didn't have my glasses I really couldn't see well.

Why, you may ask, would I take my glasses off to paint in the first place?  Well, basically there are two reasons:  First, I hate squinting but I really want to capture the values and the large shapes and second, my glasses are the kind that turn dark.  Sometimes I don't care, but sometimes I feel that I get a better handle on values and color without the darkened glasses than I do with them.

So on Friday I went back and hiked back to paint and to see if I could retrieve my glasses.  Happily with my spare pair of glasses on, I had better luck finding the original lost glasses.  Victorious, I continued on the path closer to "the gorge" at Malibu Creek.  I got down pretty close but didn't like the view as well, so I turned back and hiked up about halfway between where I had turned and where I had painted earlier in the week.

Once again, I set up and painted happily away.  I did my value sketch.  I blocked in the scene with 3 values using an umber undertone and then I pulled out the color and began laying it in.  I was pretty happy with this second painting of the back side of Malibu Creek.

In comparing the two paintings, I think the smaller square painting that I did first has a somewhat better composition, so I will use it to create my larger studio painting.

Safety Concerns

I had a wonderful hike in to the back side of Malibu Creek State Park from Mulholland Highway.  My efforts were rewarded by this spectacular view!!  As I sat there painting, I was thrilled to see many red-tailed hawks soaring down below.  I think I will add them to my studio piece.

After my last post, many of the people who read it commented on the dangers of painting alone.  Although I WAS looking out for rattle snakes, I didn't see any.  It never occurred to me that the native cougars are also roaming the mountains....  Happily they didn't find me.  And despite the fact that I had a bit of worry about crazy people on the trail, I never saw anyone at all either day until one lone hiker passed me as I was on my way out on the second day.  I realize that I SHOULD paint in company... but I can't always find someone who can go along and I really do like to paint.  -- So I do.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Malibu Creek -- Bird's Eye View

Malibu Creek -- Bird's Eye View 8x8 O/L

Right now I'm in Canyon de Chelly, AZ, painting with five other WONDERFUL artists.  We are having an absolute ball -- seeing sights that are so awe inspiring and painting our hearts out.  I will blog about this soon, but I wanted to catch up a bit with other plein air work I did just before leaving first.

This painting was the result of taking a different route and then exploring a trail I never knew existed.  I wanted to head out to paint outside.  I couldn't make arrangements with friends, but I wanted to go, so I just took off.  I decided I needed to paint something other that the beach so I headed toward Malibu Creek State Park.  Just before I got there, I decided to head west or north on Mulholland Highway.  I knew it would go to Peter Strauss if I didn't see something that caught my eye before.

However, as I rounded a curve, I saw a pull out and I thought I'd check it out.  Once I parked, I realized there was a trail.  I grabbed my gear and off I went.  Up and up and up I hiked.  At first there was the foundation of an old building which overlooked the highway.  Then a trail that went on up and over the hill toward what I assumed was Malibu Creek.  After a bit of a hike I was rewarded with a view of the back side of Malibu Creek.  WHAT A VIEW!!

I found a spot and set out to paint a little 8x8.  I did my value sketch which I decided to call my "prayer" like Dan Pinkham does.  I liked it and then started blocking in my three value umber sketch on the canvas.  Then I put in the color.  I was really happy with this little plein air sketch.  It is kind of different that what I've done lately.   It was an almost perfect day.  I got a great bit of exercise in, I got outside to see wonderful nature in a place I hadn't been before and I had fun painting!   I liked my little painting so much that I've decided to do a larger version in the studio.

I just hope the larger one turns out as much to my liking as the little celebration sketch!!!

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Toss The Plans

(Robert's) Gratitude 9x12 O/L

Sometimes it's best to throw away the plans.

A few weeks back my friend, Diane Nelson-Gold and I got together to go to Santa Paula to paint.  It's a long drive but there was a chance we could find some suitable studies and reference photos for an upcoming exhibit opportunity.  We always have fun together.  I love talking about painting with Diane.  She's fun and social and I get to hear all about what some of my friends are doing -- even though I don't see them.  We also do a lot of talking about art and life.

I had a list of places to paint that my friend, Laura Wambsgans, and I had gathered from a previous visit.  The California Art Club had thought they would have a paint out up that way, but it never came to pass.  So I took the list of suggested places with me.

Diane, however, let her adventurous spirit take over and headed off-plan once we got into the Santa Paula area -- after all, - she was driving!  I didn't object.  We were enjoying our conversations and we stopped at a bunch of "likely spots" to explore.  We drove through nearby Fillmore and noted that there was a flower festival coming up in April or May.   None of the spots we stopped in to explore, however, really grabbed us until we were heading back toward one of those spots on our original list.

We were driving along one of the ubiquitous roads surrounded by citrus and avocado that wind through the countryside when we spotted a flower farm.  We decided to stop and explore.  While we were exploring the rows of flowers and the many hot tents of flowers, we looked up and saw that a truck was trying to enter the farm  --  AND WE HAD PARKED RIGHT ACROSS THE ENTRANCE!!   OOPS...

Thinking we were going to get yelled at and tossed off of the property by a very angry farmer, we hurried back to the car to move it.  However, the flower grower, who was named Robert, was good-natured and, we found after a lively conversation, loved his farm, his flowers and his life.  He told exuberant stories and shared his grateful feelings about his fields and his life.  He even let us return to the middle of his flower farm to paint... (as long as we promised not to break a leg or something.)

We each spent the rest of the day in heavenly contentment as we painted our paintings and shared our day in the middle of Robert's flower field.

I decided to call this little painting
"Robert's Gratitude"

(And yes, Russell Black, I did do a 3 value sketch before I started blocking it in.   I've been doing that with all of my plein air work over the last few weeks.....  I think the hardest part of doing that isn't really getting the values right, but simplifying the masses so that there aren't too many shapes.)

Both Diane and I feel very thankful for our ability to get outside to see and enjoy the beautiful gifts of nature.  We, also feel gratitude.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beyond A Sunny Hillside

Beyond A Sunny Hillside 16x20 O/C

When Kay Zetlmaier and I took our road trip up along the California Coast on our way to a California Art Club paint out at the Mission San Antonio de Padua, we found that the best part of the trip wasn't the paint out but it was the trip up the coast.  The mission was founded by Father Serra in 1771.  It has an interesting history and has been restored several times since it was built.  We enjoyed our visit and our time meeting the other artists.   But the trip up the coast was really the best part of all.

We explored along the coast and saw some breathtaking scenes.  We painted and we took lots and lots of photographs.  I look through those photos often and enjoy the road trip all over again.  Here is one of Kay getting a shot of the lupine on the hillside just before the turn

in the road where we saw the view in this painting which I called:

I loved the way the sunlight was hitting the mustard on the hillside and the way the road disappeared. 

When I painted this painting, I had several of Dan Pinkham's paintings in my head.  Although I liked how my painting came out, I didn't come even close to the wonderful paint handling and color transitions that can be seen in Dan's work.


Wonderful examples of work from the fabulous artist, Dan Pinkham.

I am the chairperson for a group of volunteers within the California Art Club called the Ambassadors.  Because of that I have been able to attend the annual board meeting for the CAC for two years now.  Seriously for most of my clubs, attending any kind of board meeting is a drag, but this once a year meeting has been interesting.  Last year Dan Pinkham gave a presentation about his work.  As he talked, it became clear that his art is a part of how he practices his faith.   He calls his pencil sketch his "prayer".  He calls his plein air piece a celebration.  The studio piece is a work of "contemplative faith".

This year, I wasn't sure anything could beat that, but this year's meeting was just as interesting.

Peter Adams, CAC President, spoke about the Four Styles (or Groups) of California Art.  He showed examples of the work of each person mentioned within each style.
  1. Bold Muralistic - Japonism - characterised by rhythm - shapes thought out from a design standpoint -- hard edges give strength and keep the eye moving
    • Frank Brangwyn
    • Dean Cornwell
    • Frank Tenney Johnson
    • Edgar Payne
    • William Wendt
    • Franz Bischoff
  2. Decorative Style -- gentle lyrical curvilinear
    • Alphonse Mucha
    • William Russell Flint
    • Arthur Mathews
    • Reginald Machell
    • Yoshida Hiroshi
    • Jessie Arms Botke
    • Marion Wachtel
    • Theodore Lukits
  3. Tonalist Style -- not much detail -- leaves lots to the imagination -- inner voice is apparent
    • George Innes
    • John Twachtman
    • Emil Soren Carlson
    • Russell Chatham
  4. Realistic / Naturalistic Style
    • John Singer Sargent
    • Anders Zorn
    • Guy Rose
    • Jack Wilkinson Smith
    • Hanson Puthuff
I love learning.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dead Flowers

Dead Flowers 8x10 O/C

It's not often that one paints dead flowers.  I usually opt for prettier, more inspiring subjects.

But I went to David Gallup's class on Monday and had decided not to bring any of my ongoing projects to work on.  When we paint what David chooses for subject matter, we should never be surprised with what he comes up with.  We've painted a shark's head, goldfish in a bag, piles of rocks, fish heads, dead birds, beautiful flowers from the local florist's discard pile, abalone shells, vegetables, fire wood kindling and many of the usual pots, vases and bowls.  On that Monday all the florist had to give away free were dead flowers.

It was fine.  I was trying to see if I could paint "anything".  It's all for practice after all.

I pulled out an old canvas that I had covered with oil based gesso over another failed painting.  Therefore it had a great deal of texture before I started.  I began painting with my usual 3-value umber block in.  That's when it all went haywire.  David said something to the effect that I should just stop there because the composition was perfect.  (WHAT????)  I probably took a photo for reference but since I have lost my phone (*&^%$#@) I can't show you.  I doubt you'd be impressed.  I wasn't.  Always striving to understand, I asked David what he was talking about.  -As always David tries to enlarge my repertoire of great painting examples, so he whipped out examples of Frederick Cuming, a contemporary impressionist English artist.
Cuming's work is considered "vaguely Turneresque".
David would like me to learn to appreciate the loose beauty of this work.    ... okay...

Then David started talking about patterns like what Gustav Klimt used in his paintings.    David somehow believed that the pattern I had created made him think of what he sees as beautiful patterns in Klimt's work.  I couldn't see it.

The larger problem I had was that I fail to see what makes either Cuming's work or Klimt's work so well-accepted and revered.  I'm not saying they are not great artists.  Obviously they are both wonderful artists in the view of the world -- it's just that their work is far from my aesthetic and I so wish I could UNDERSTAND what makes either artist wonderful.   My inner being believes if I can UNDERSTAND what makes these painter's work great, then I have a better chance to learn to incorporate that "it" into my own work.  Fantasy, maybe... but it's the way I think.

Anyway I did not SEE or understand what David was seeing so I just went on to work and painted my dead flowers the best way I could.  I enjoy learning about various artists and their work.  I enjoy trying to grow as a painter.

So this is my painting:

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What I Think About When Deciding Whether To Enter a Show

Seacliff by Marian Fortunati
Seacliff  20x20x2 O/C

More and more, I've decided not to enter shows that I had been entering in previous years.  There are lots of reasons why this has happened -- suffice it to simply say that it has.  However, I still want my work to be seen by other people, so I look for opportunities and ask myself lots of questions before deciding whether to enter or not.

If it's a show for one of my clubs, I sometimes enter just because I want to support the club.  More and more, though, I am being more selective.  I used to think that jurors only picked work that was in the same genre or style as their own, but since I've been exhibit chair for one of my clubs for several years now, I've found that jurors are mostly out to create an interesting show which will attract people of a variety of tastes.  So although I often look at the juror's work or the work which hangs in a certain gallery, I no longer use that as a red light green light indicator.  Here are some of my considerations.
  1. Is there a theme?   If so is it something I can live with or will I have to create something that will be out of place in my portfolio?
  2. Do I have work that would "fit" the venue?
  3. Will I have to "sit" the show?
  4. Is the work going to be seen in a new location or by a new group of people?  
  5. Is the gallery likely to receive good foot traffic?   /sales?
  6. Is the juror someone I'd like to have become familiar with my work?
  7. Is the group sponsoring the show likely to attract other artwork that I would feel proud to have my work "hung with"?
  8. Is the show a regional, statewide or national show?
  9. Is the show likely to "stretch me" to be a better painter?
  10. Will I have to ship my work if it is accepted?
All of these things went through my head when I decided to enter the show above.  This is a group that I have belonged to for quite a while, but most of them are abstract artists.  I often feel like the odd-man in this group.  However, just before I was going to stop entering this group's shows, my work began to be accepted and shown in their walls.

So..  soon two of my paintings (both were juried in) can be seen right in the heart of Santa Monica!

Perhaps you'll be able to join me next Saturday at the opening reception on Saturday night from 6-9 pm.   I'll probably be there shortly after 7:00.  I'd love to chat with you. 

Show:  3-14 through 3-29

Opening Reception:  March 15  6:00 pm to 9 pm

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Foggy Day At Elephant Rock

Foggy Day At Elephant Rock   8x10  O/L
There seems to be so much to do that it doesn't seem like I can get anything done.   I'm working on a few larger pieces and wallowing in frustrated self-doubt.

I have no real reason for it... but it's there.  I imagine we all go through phases like this.

Good things are happening in life.   My daughter had a wonderful healthy baby daughter yesterday.  Everyone is doing well.  The immediate family is doing fine.  Both artwork pieces that I entered into a show in a new venue were accepted..  I have no excuse for the anxious feelings I have.

They are just there. Perhaps I need to do what Robert Genn suggested in his blog a few posts ago and don a wizard's hat to fool myself into believing that I CAN do it.

HOWEVER... when I get out and paint outside.. I can forget my self doubts, anxieties and frustrations.  I can just have fun.  I went out with my friend Diane Nelson-Gold the week before last.  I haven't spent much time with her because our schedules aren't the same so it was good to get together.  We went to a spot she likes.  I am so impressed with how her work is blossoming...  makes me feel like a snail with my progress.  But no matter.  Progress of any kind is welcome.

We both decided to work on getting the values right.  I tried the value sketch that my blogging friend, Russell Black, keeps telling me to use.  I know it really helps many, many painters, but I have to say..  it just doesn't do anything for me.  I much prefer blocking in the 3 values with umber or another neutral as I've learned to do in David Gallup's class.  The thing I need to do better is stick with my initial plan.  That's pretty much what I did.

Diane and I both chatted happily away and had a grand time.  The fog came in shortly after we arrived down on the sandy beach at El Matador.  We had seen it from a distance when we first arrived, but by the time we decided to set up it was upon us.  It made the day pleasant but the light was fairly filtered, narrowing the values.

Although I was fairly happy with my plein air piece, it was boring... no interesting color.  I decided to add some color in but to keep the values the same when I worked on it at home.   This is a close in view of the famous Elephant Rock at El Matador State Beach in Malibu California.  (Another view from the opposite side is posted on the right.)

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