Saturday, June 27, 2015

Another Adirondacks Adventure

Off on another adventure
Last year at Eric Rhoads"Publisher's Invitational Paint Out" in the Adirondacks all of us were offered the opportunity to sign up ahead of time for this year's "PAINT CAMP".  I had a great time last year and thought it would be fun to do again so I signed up.  I was thrilled when my friend, Laura Wambsgans, said she'd like to go too!

Just a week before we left, the Adirondacks were suddenly front page news because two dangerous escaped prisoners from Dannemora Maximum Security Prison still hadn't been found and were thought to be hiding somewhere in the Adirondacks. 

Emile Gruppe'
We went anyway.   VERY early in the morning we hopped aboard a plane in LAX ending in Burlington, Vermont after a brief stop at JFK.  The next morning we were at our leisure to make our way to paint camp.  We did a bit of exploring.  In a wonderful accidental "find" Laura found the Emile Gruppe' Museum in nearby Jericho, VT.  It was so close by, we decided not to miss it.  As it happened the museum is part of the home of Emil's daughter, Emilie Alexander, and her husband.  We saw some wonderful examples of Gruppe's work on the walls, had a terrific conversation with the Alexanders, who showed us a short film clip of Emile painting and Emilie when she was around 3 years old.  Both Laura and I knew about and own Gruppe's books on Brushwork and on Painting.  Neither of us knew he had a third book on color.    I found it on Amazon, but it's quite expensive and only available used.
Beautiful sights on our way to Paint Camp
We took the ferry from Charlotte, VT across Lake Champlain to Essex, NY.  We had grand weather and saw beautiful sights on our way to Paul Smiths' College where we all stayed for Paint Camp.  On one stop, while we were enjoying a beautiful waterfall, sirens began wailing.  We really had no idea what was going on as we never saw fire engines or police cars.  But this was one of several times during our week-long adventure when the sirens went off during our trip.  They are kind of like our air raid signals used to sound here in LA. many years back.  I imagine they are used to call out volunteer fire fighters or other emergencies. 
Welcome to Paint Camp

As we arrived at the college for check in, we were greeted by Eric and his triplets and some college staffers.  After settling in to our dorm rooms, we headed down to the main dining all and began to socialize with the other campers.   There were about 120 painters/spouses at the camp and all were ready to have a great time.   Eric set the upbeat tone in his first orientation, and reminded us all that "plein air painting is the 'new golf'".  (I don't like golf, so I'm not sure I agree.)   Later we gathered in the bar for fun.

The next morning all of us headed to the nearby Visitor's Interpretive Center (aka The VIC).  This is a lovely spot of hiking trails and marshes originally run by the state, but now run by Paul Smiths' College.  Although quite a damp day, this year the mosquitoes and black flies were not as abundant so it was a fun day.  I decided not to paint the same things I had last year.  I tried a running stream and then chose a warmer spot up near the VIC museum which looked out over Heron Marsh.  My first day's efforts are below on the left and right:

Rust Colored Waters: The VIC
Heron Marsh Overlook: The VIC

Rain, Wet, Water and Green

On the second paint day, it was pouring rain.  The first day was overcast and drippy, but the second day was simply a downpour!  Laura and I bravely followed one of the leaders out to a paint spot, but neither of us wanted to stand in the rain and paint.  We admired those who did, however.

Instead we explored.  Despite the rain, there were some beautiful spots to see.  I have to say that those escaped prisoners must have been pretty miserable with all of the rain and cold and bugs!

High Falls

By afternoon it had cleared up with blue skies and warm sun, so Laura and I headed to High Falls which I had heard so much about the year before.  I hadn't gone because my friend, Mary Burkhardt, wanted to spare her knees and go elsewhere.  There are over 200 steps on a switchback staircase leading down to the base of the falls.  They were wet but we were careful and it was totally worth it!

High Falls High   12x9  O/L
We happily painted away the afternoon.  I was so entranced I didn't even realize that I was standing behind Eric Rhoads as he was painting on a huge canvas.  I met another wonderful painter, who was standing next to me named R. Greg Summers.  Check out his work.  It's great.  All of us were totally engrossed and the roar of the waterfall drowned all conversation.  Suddenly however, Eric said... "Hey!  I think it's raining!"  Sure enough, we were caught in a downpour.  All of us made a mad dash to clean up our palettes and charge up the switchback stairs.  What was originally 200+ steps seemed more like 400+ going up in that rain!

We were absolutely soaked before we got up to the top of the cliff! 

But what fun we had laughing and screeching all the way up!

It was a perfect end to a perfect day at paint camp!

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Friday, June 5, 2015

How Long Does It Take?

San Simeon Spring 16x20 O/L

When I first started blogging I tried to do a painting every day.  I was just starting to paint, so I needed to practice and was really trying to get better.  AND, of course, I loved almost everything I painted.  I didn't know all of the things I didn't know.

Today --  well, today I'm a different person.   I'm a different artist.  My mentor and teacher, David Gallup, often reminds us of a quote by Heraclitus.  “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”   He usually refers to this quote when encouraging us to visit art shows and museums and to really look long and hard at all kinds of classic and contemporary art.  He feels that the more often we immerse ourselves in great art, the more likely it is to become part of us...   to show up in some way in our own art.  In some cases I really do hope that happens.

Today I often take weeks to work on a studio painting.  Of course, my plein air studies are done in a few hours, but in the studio I will work and then put a painting up on the shelf and just look at it.  I'll often have a few I'm working on.  Sometimes I think I'm finished with one for a while.  But then I find things that bother me or that could be just a bit better, so I'll put it back on the easel.  Sometimes I spend more time thinking about the painting or "letting it cook" than I do actually working on it with a brush.   I love trying to add interesting color transitions and depth.    I also enjoy layering paint to achieve a variety of brushwork and improve the surface quality. 

But how long shall I think about it?   How long shall I look at it?  When will it be done?  Will I ever be able to see all of the possibilities I missed? 

San Simeon Spring was inspired by a beautiful spring day I spent on my drive up the coast of California this spring.

I wonder.....   is it finished?

How long does it take?   Does it even matter?  It takes as long as it takes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

And There Were Whales

 And There Were Whales 10x10 O/L plein air

It was a perfect day at my favorite painting spot.
Sharon Weaver and I finally got a chance to get out and paint together. 
We were both pleased to be back at Leo Carrillo on such a gorgeous day.
I found my "place" and began to settle in when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shape glide past.
What a thrill!  A couple of adults and a mother and youngster pair  -- They were so close to shore.
I sat and watched as several of these beautiful creatures made their way north.

A few weeks ago I decided to sign up for some time in David Gallup's Thursday design class.  I have been studying with David in his weekly class for most of 5+ years now.  Since I started with almost no knowledge about artists and art history, I consider that part of my journey's growth almost as valuable as the continued supportive practice and patient demonstration he provides.  Occasionally he'll offer special workshops which have enhanced and solidified weekly lessons for the students.  Design class is almost like that, but it's not really a workshop.  It is definitely a skill set I can improve upon and I've found my head exploding now for a few weeks.

Since I started the class after most of the others had started, for the first week or so I was doing only 2 value designs -- that's it.   I would try to develop a design and then I would watch and listen as David went over the effort and explained how to strengthen it.  Currently I'm doing 3 value designs.  These are just designs out of our heads -- not looking at "things" and it isn't as easy as it might seem!   I think it will be a real mind-exploder trying to fit the design to a landscape or floral or some other "thing" based something -- maybe even a good abstract!   I've seen David and other students do it, but I haven't tried it yet.

But there at Leo, I sat in joyful silence (well... I did let out little squeals of excitement now and then) watching the whales. 

Then, when they had all passed,  I settled in to paint there at Leo while still trying to keep some of those lessons about design in my head.
  • Think about a center of interest
  • Think about having different masses value of different sizes and shapes filling the canvas so that no quadrant is like any other
  • Think about varying lines -- fast lines and slow lines -- lines of varying thicknesses
  • Think about calligraphy of line and shape
  • Remember not to repeat shapes -- either the light or the middle or the dark shapes
  • The specifics of the shape define the narrative of the painting -- the specifics of the edges tell the story
  • What are the weights of the shapes and what is their "direction"?
  • Think about what makes a good abstract shape -- varying edges, etc
  • Think about subtly leading the eye -- not obviously   -- possibly more than one path to lead the eye
  • Where are the points of highest tension
  • Asymmetry is a good thing
It's pretty hard to train myself not to think about the "thing" that is in front of me.  A good artist will arrange a scene to make an appealing design -- not just try to paint the scene in front of her.   So here is what I ended up with.   I was pretty happy with my efforts:

Happy painting!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

All In All -- PACE Exceeded My Expectations -- #PACE15 Last Days

Alongside Highway One 9x12 O/L
The Last Days
It seems that the longer I am on this journey as an artist, the slower I go.  I've come to learn that we are all filled with moments of self doubt and frustration.  Lately, however, everyone is telling me that frustration is my friend.....    REALLY?

Well, in a way they are right.  Frustration is far better than stagnation.  And as slow as I seem to be going, at least I'm still going.  -- After all -- the turtle won the race, didn't he?

Today as I look over the various paintings of the last month -- those painted during the convention and since then, I say...  hey not bad!  Maybe not as good as I'd like to be but still good and growing.  What more could I ask?

Boot Camp -- Thank you, Eric Rhoads!
During the last two days of the conference, we continued to learn and enjoy friends and other artists.  Dorene White, my friend and roommate, and I got up early again to go to Eric Rhoads' Boot Camp.   Again we were treated to good advice and reminders about improving our art careers.   Some quotes were:
  • Take 10 minutes before going to bed each night to focus on what needs to be solved
  • When you awake focus on the solutions and write it all down.... don't judge, -just write
  • Make goals and break them down weekly or daily -- don't let yourself off the hook
  • Gather a "mastermind" group to share ideas with -- be around people who will lift you up -- not tear you down
  • It takes time
  • Define your life -- brush time and marketing time
  • Build "brand" awareness
  • You are "gardening" -- get the weeds out
  • Repetition not only sells products it sells yourself
  • A goal without a plan is a wish
  • Brush time is critical
  • Your brain and your subconscious is the most important part of all of this -- DAYDREAM!
  • Intention, Focus, Relentlessness
And probably the most lasting reminder for us was to do as Willie Nelson suggested, "Once you replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts, your life will improve."   The Bob Newhart video called "Stop It" totally cemented that for us all.    If you watch it you will probably never forget it.... but will it change the way you think about yourself?

I love Len Chmiel's work and am often amazed at how he manages to use such wonderful abstract designs while creating beautiful "traditional realistic" landscapes.  His demonstration was unique, humorous, intelligent, totally "out of the box" and instructional.
He brought some of his work in to share and talked briefly about some of the pieces.   There were several I loved and but couldn't find images of them online.  Some I found in his book, (which is a total "must have") but.. there is nothing like seeing paintings in person to gather in their essence.   Here are a few among my favorite Chmiel images I grabbed from the web:


A few of Chmiel's influences were Gustav Klimpt and Richard Deibenkorn so you can see that just painting the things he sees in front of him is not his goal.

He loves to do "on-the-spotters" (don't you love that term?) but uses many things including these to do his studio work.  Chmiel talked about "thinking inside the box."  Meaning that the artist needs to learn about how things are -- geology, plants, etc.   He also said we need to use our imaginations -- ALWAYS ask "what if".  "Don't mindlessly whack away at the canvas when you don't know what you are doing."  Paint and paint and paint more.  He said that he keys all of his paintings to "mud".  He uses light as a design element.  Try not to copy.  He breaks the canvas into large masses.  You get to alter a landscape and make it what you want it to be.   "When you look out there and you can't identify the color -- it's grey."  He tries to make shadows into interesting shapes using negative and positive shapes.  He says he "wastes" a lot of paint.

There were so many great thoughts that he shared -- too many to list.  I thought his demo was hilarious.  I have NEVER seen anyone do a landscape demo quite that way.  Instead of using one of his "on-the-spotters" or a photo, he created a landscape with a "still life set-up."  He brought rocks and stacked them onto a lipped cookie sheet to make a cliff.  He brought a turquoise blue side of a cereal box for the sky and put it up in back of the rocks [the cliff] and then had some pieces of sage which he stood up in front of the "cliff" like a tree.  Then he poured water into the cookie sheet tray for the river.  TOTALLY unique!
I loved it! 

I didn't know as much about Quang Ho's work as I had about Chmiel's and Carlson's but I was very impressed by his presence, his presentation and the examples of his work which he shared.  Here are a few points he made:
  • There comes a point in your life as an artist where you stop seeing things as things and you begin to think about light and pattern.
  • There is no such thing as "mud"
  • You can't do a great work of art in just a couple of hours
  • You must see the connectedness
  • You can't make any intelligent decision without an understanding of the world around us
  • There is no "negative space" -- the figure is just a starting point -- at some point it becomes part of something else
  • "Every time I scrape a painting off it looks better
  • Learn how few edges are needed
  • Allow your painting to go away
  • Everything in a painting is either in the light or in the shadow
  • Pretend you are driving past the landscape [you are painting] at 130 miles per hour
  • The whole point of doing a larger painting from a smaller painting is so you can have fun with it
  • Don't mind getting "lost"
  • Don't worry about color - only about relative warm and cool
  • Painting is like driving -- sometimes you speed up, other times you slow down
  • One shape is not finished until you finish the other shapes around it
  • The sun that rakes across a field is going to dance as it touches the landscape and that becomes another beautiful piece of rhythm
  • He used all sorts of tools as he worked on the demo... from soft brushes to stiff brushes to palette knives to credit cards
  • The whole point is to try to learn something about paint ..... What you can get away with and how you can get into trouble
  • Think of the painting as a mindful exercise
  • Beautiful passages take time

In the afternoon we all drove to different places in Carmel to paint.  There just were no bad places to paint.  Beauty was everywhere!
On Friday there were no demos, presentations or things to buy in the convention center.   We all walked down to the wharf and painted.  I enjoyed chatting with new friends and seeing what other people were doing.  My friend Christopher Cook and I settled in to an area to the side of the harbor to paint and enjoyed the warm sun.

Soon it was time for me to leave, but I am happy to feel that I took a whole lot home with me.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Attitude Is Everything -- #PACE15 -- Day 3

Lovers' Point  9x12  O/L

Once again we were up and down in the convention hall by 6:15.  I was pretty surprised that it wasn't at all difficult for me.... I tend to like to sleep a bit longer, but since my pal, Dorene White, and I were staying there at the Portola Hotel where the convention was, it was easy to roll out, get dressed and start the day.

Boot Camp
Somehow I thought that boot camp would be sort of a "sell job".  Eric Rhoads is a masterful marketer and that's pretty much what I expected we would be hearing.  But really, I think we heard good practical information as well as some well targeted therapeutic advice about the relationship between our art and our attitude. 

Some thoughts to keep in mind:
Brian Blood did a "sand dune" demo
  • You have to help people to find you
  • Marketing is about repetition
  • You have to have your act together before advertising
  • Marketing is a life long learning effort
  • Freedom is the key to a life well-lived
  • You cannot get to where you're going if you don't know where you're going
  • Your thoughts are the ultimate roadblock to your ultimate success
  • The only thing holding me back is what I believe about myself
  • Manage your mind-set   ("Stop-It... Bob Newhardt video)
  • Narrow your goals and chase them relentlessly
  • Excellence is a habit
  • Imagine success and shed the negatives
  • Start picturing yourself in the role -- be specific
  • Get your garden ready
    Bill Davidson large painting demo
    from a smaller study
During the morning I saw some great demonstrations.  I loved watching and listening to Brian Blood as he created a lovely demo of a sand dune.    Later I watched Susan Blackwood and Howard Friedland who are married and who demoed paintings simultaneously.  Later Bill Davidson painted a large painting from a study.

Panel Discussion
My favorite part of the morning was the panel discussion led by Jean Stern.  He interviewed Len Chmiel, T. Allen Lawson and George Carlson about art, philosophy and life.   They talked about the artistic influences in their lives.  
  • Chmiel: "What we do is a reflection of who we are."
  • Lawson:  "Every mark that goes into a painting conveys a feeling."
  • Carlson:  "Turn work upside down to see how it works as an abstract.... Think monumentally on little thumbnail forms."
  • Carlson:  "Allow yourself time at the end of the painting"
  • MINDFULNESS...  intuition, smell, vision, hearing, feeling (touch)
  • Chmiel:  "It's exhausting -- everything around you turns into a composition."
  • Lawson:  "The closer you get to the finish line, the longer you spend just thinking about the painting."
  • Lawson:  "The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know."
  • Chmiel:  "A painting is finished when the chaos is organized as much as we can, it's over."
  • Lawson:  "Just because they're hanging on a wall or they're off to an exhibition doesn't mean they are finished."
  • Carlson:  "Listen to your own drummer.  Go back to yourself.  Believe in what you are doing.  Stay with your own personal vision."
  • Lawson:  "The Wright Brothers said, "no bird soars in the calm."  Find your own voice and be courageous.  Everything happens out on the edges."
  • Chmiel:  "If you give up when you hit a wall, nothing happens.  Persevere."
In the afternoon we went to Lovers Point in Pacific Grove to Paint.    It was a really lovely day.  No wind and just the right temperature.

It was fun painting and exchanging ideas with Dorene.  Plus we had the chance to talk to so many other artists we knew personally, from online "friendships" as well as those who we have long admired.  Everyone was friendly and welcoming and willing to share.  It was a nice time.

After grabbing a bowl of clam chowder from the hotel bar, we went to see part of the critique session.   I found it interesting both nights to hear what artists such as Quang Ho, CW Mundy, Lori Putnam and Carolyn Anderson had to say about those artworks which had been randomly selected to receive critiques.  We all learned, I think.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

#PACE15 -- Day Two At The Plein Air Convention

Rough Seas 8x8 O/L

Marketing Boot Camp
Tuesday morning started early.  We were bright-eyed and bushy tailed-- dressed and ready to go at 6:15.   Eric Rhoads and Lori McNee began their "Boot Camp" with a special session on using social media for marketing.
They talked about blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Search tools, Pinterest, Linked In and things like Vine and Meercat which I had never heard of before.
Here are a few highlights:
  • A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there
  • Your persona as an artist needs to be carefully crafted
  • "I am always doing things I can't do.  That's how I get to do them."  - Pablo Picasso
  • Tie your blog to something topical
  • In a blog -- compelling titles, 400-800 words, images, foster a discussion, link to other resources, use a call to action
  • Blogs and social media posts should be about WE -- not about ME
  • No polarizing content
  • Reach outside your niche
  • Use pictures with text over them
  • Take selfies with famous people .... "halo marketing"
  • Clean up your profiles on Twitter and other social media
  • Linked In is a great place to find collectors
  • Don't be self promotional
  • Interact and make comments on other blogs
  • Video is the most important medium today
  • Tweet others the way you would like to be tweeted
  • It takes 3-5 years to build a business
After that I went to several different demonstrations and "talks" by people such as Roger Dale Brown, Jason Sacron, Lori Putnam and JoAnna Arnett -- You couldn't possibly go to everything that was interesting.  Additionally there were vendors of all sorts in the main hall and it was fun to walk around and see all the possibilities.   There was so much good information shared, but it would be too much for this blog post, so I'll just skip to the presentation after lunch.

Lawson wasn't someone whose work I was as familiar with as Carlson's or Chmiel's, but I was totally impressed by his presentation and I am now a fan.    He said that plein air painting is a "good place to start".  Here are a few tidbits from his presentation:
  • Carry a sketchbook at all times
  • When you're a painter the world becomes your office
  • His studio paintings are done from notes and videos and sketches (drawings) done in the field.  Many times he just sits and absorbs
  • Paintings "come to me" --- and usually at the most inopportune times
  • The longer you look at an object the more abstract it becomes and yet the more real
  • If you draw well it gives you the courage and freedom to paint well
  • There is a big difference between a painting and art ---- What's the difference between the dress rehearsal and opening night?  (the audience)
  • Refinement of thought -- what am I painting...  eliminate - rearrange -- refine -- design with value, interesting shapes
  • Make artistic decisions --- you are not painting things -- you must orchestrate a painting -- hierarchy of thought required -- varied shapes, placements, temperatures, angles, lines, patterns and textures
  • With each of these thoughts, Lawson shared examples of historical artwork to illustrate and explain the thought
The audience was totally drawn in....  Such inspiration...   What a great day!
We all drove to Asilomar for our outside painting time....  We were met with gale-force winter winds.  It made the painting time pretty difficult while the seas were wild and gorgeous. 

I lasted long enough to paint a small 8x8 but there were hardy souls that produced wonderful larger pieces.  

I was just pleased with myself for being out there with everyone and for painting despite it all.  

The hot bowl of clam chowder and happy laughter was a great way to end the day.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Serendipity, Scintillation and Inspiration

Dinosaur Caves At Shell Beach     8x8  O/L

CONVENTION TIME -- THE DRIVELast Saturday morning I set off one a drive up the California coast.  I generally don't travel and paint alone, but when I decided to go to the Plein Air Convention in Monterey, I couldn't get any of my regular painting friends to go.  I wanted to go because my painting idols, George Carlson and Len Chmiel were going to be keynote speakers at the convention and I just couldn't imagine missing the opportunity to hear and see them in person.

I later found out from another friend that T. Allen Lawson and Quang Ho would also be presenting.  Wow... It was not to be missed!  I signed up.

I left Los Angeles and soon passed through Santa Barbara and then drove on toward Shell Beach.  I have stopped there before to have lunch, but this time I stopped to paint.
The result was the painting:

I stopped at San Simeon for the night and the next day I drove up Highway 1 at I painted:
Alongside Highway 1

On Monday I painted with my friend, Christopher Cook, all day in Point Lobos State Park.  I'll share those images in later posts.

Chris and I finished painting, cleaned up and came back in time to begin the Plein Air
Convention Opening Ceremonies at the beautiful Portola Hotel convention center.   Eric Rhoads is a consummate host and we all immediately felt welcome.  He greeted us all with enthusiasm and gave us an overview.  We were so excited to get started.

I was looking forward to the first keynote address by George Carlson.  I took notes and thought you might enjoy a few highlights. 

One of the surprises to me was learning that besides being an award-winning sculptor AND an award-winning oil painter, he also created a huge body of pastels which he shared with us.  These were magnificent pieces.  I'll share a few I found on the web.   If you don't know his work... oil, sculpture or pastel... you are in for a treat!

  • Do something that shows what you care about
  • It takes patience and persistence to become a better artist
  • You must explore... you should always seek
  • Plein air work is "fact finding"
  • He uses triads of color
  • Always look for the silhouette
  • When painting you are thinking with your eyes
  • He is interested in patterns
  • Always be aware of temperature change as well as value change
  • He immerses himself and becomes totally conversant with his subject -- living with various Native American tribes -- learning geology --  taking up sculpture to better understand form -- gardening and growing your own food -- fishing and catching your food
  • You must thoroughly understand your subject before you can create art around it
  • He told stories about his early life and his art journey using it to share advice to all of us
  • Some great books on his "read over and over" bookshelf are:
    • The Gift by Lewis Hyde
    • 101 Things To Learn In Art School by Kip White
    • Zen and The Art of Archery by Eugene Herrige
Serendipity, Scintillation and Inspiration

After listening and looking at this feast for the eyes, the heart and the mind, the crowd of over 600 stood and gave George Carlson a standing ovation.

All in all it was a perfect day -- a terrific way to start off the Plein Air Convention in Monterey.

As inspired and excited as we all were, we knew that it was time to head for bed.  -- We had to be up and ready to go by 6:15 am for the first day of the Art Marketing Sessions.  We looked forward to hearing Erich Rhoads and Lori McNee teach us the best ways to use social media to better market our work.

Sweet dreams.

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