Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Plateau Reconnaissance

June, Vicki and I were at the Santa Rosa Plateau by 7:30 a.m. with cameras and sketchbooks.  My goal was to check out various vantage points at that time of day.  The sun was well up and the light was beautiful with lots of color.  The plateau needs that color because, at this time of year, the grass has weathered to browns and grays. 

We checked out four locations.  Stop One was the two trailheads from the main entrance at the Visitors Center.  The trails were too "in the trees" to offer a vantage point.  We could see only tree trunks, not entire trees.  Along the path the vegetation was waist high and prevented a view from any direction.  It has shade and possibilities for an intimate, close-up landscape.  (Visitor Center, henceforth.)

Stop Two was at the south Sylvan Meadows parking lot.  A half a mile hike, uphill, revealed a vista of large hills, dotted with California oaks and long views of the distant mountain ranges.  Great for the iconic California landscape.  The light, however, was either looking into the sun or with your back to the sun.  The scene was flat. This might be a good location in the late afternoon.  (Sylvan South)


The view from the south Sylvan Meadows lot, looking across the street to the north Sylvan Meadow parking lot was more interesting.  The shadows were falling from left to right across the scene.  No distant hills, though.  It is a mid-distance view of oak trees. This is a short, level hike from the parking lot.  (Sylvan North)

Stop Three was from the Vernal Pools parking lot, on the Los Santos trail.  A short, level hike of about a quarter of a mile ended in a close range view of very rolling hills, studded with oak trees in the close to mid distance.  The drama of the sweep of the hills would make a dynamic painting.  (Vernal/Los Santos)

Stop Four was at the end of Tenaja where June, Tim and I painted earlier in the year.  This is a view of a meadow and rock-studded hills in the foreground, with oaks in the middle distance and a far view of the San Jacinto mountains.  (Tenaja Meadow)

By 9:00 a.m. the shadows were shortening and the color from the light was almost gone.  When we finished at 10:30, the light was flat.  If we want the morning light, we need to be set-up by 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. and finished by 9:30 a.m.  June and I are going to return to all of these locations to assess them in the late afternoon light.

So, for morning color spots we will need to start early on the first day of the Plateau workshop. We will schedule a late afternoon color spot session, too.  I will be taking photos in both the morning and late afternoon, for you to work from in the studio part of the workshop.

I am going to create a Flickr account for plein air photos from our locations, so you can access them all.  I believe I can set up a group that will allow all of us to download photos, so we can share them. 

When we went on hiatus in June, all of you had reached the point where the next step was to work the process of making a painting.  We have the difficulty of being without a classroom, but the potential to move to the next level with the plein air and studio work is huge.  In the coming months, we will return to our several locations (MIssion, Plateau, Fallbrook, Temecula wine country) in the different seasons and build a body of work that really comes out of what you know.

The attached photos may not show the best light, but you can get a feel for each location.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anticipation Frustration

I literally had placed the second brushstroke on a canvas, when life butted its head into my plans for the day.  There was no workaround except to accept and let go of art until tomorrow.  But, all day I felt anticipation frustration. There are times when I don't know what to paint, or how to paint or even why I want to paint.  I find myself doing anything but paint.  I've been known to count chocolate chips.  Those days have a pain all their own.  But today I was bursting to go hammer and tongs to work through some paintings with issues.  Design issues.  I felt the frustration of not painting ... all ... day ... long.  I wanted to kick life in the teeth.  I will paint tomorrow.  The flame is still burning.

Studio Day

My plans for the day are to work with my plein air sketches and sketchbook and develop comps for larger paintings.  It is a learning experience to find a rhythm between information gathering (plein air, comps) and painting creation.  There are so many more ideas than time to create paintings.

Yesterday, while driving to an appointment, I saw a beautiful cloud formation of flat topped, mushrooming cloud columns, behind the hills.  No camera.  No time.  An hour later on the way home the clouds had dissipated. Plein air is the practice of opportunity.  Always be prepared.

This morning was the fifth day in a row of "June gloom", so I've had no chance to go back to the Plateau for the morning light.  Every night I'm packed and ready to go.  Sooner or later ...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Painting on the Plateau

It was a great day painting on the Santa Rosa Plateau.  Because the majority of us managed to get lost, we did start later than hoped, so the sun was already high and the colors a bit flat.  There was so much light that the paintings were high key.  However, we were there and I told everyone to go for the color spots and paint what they saw.  Everyone did great.  Our biggest problem was umbrellas blowing over in the wind.  Painting on location is addictive!

Tim and June on the Plateau with proper art gear!

My painting mid-point; light changed; time to stop.

Mary's idea; Gene's execution.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are You and the Light on the Same Page?

I went to San Juan Capistrano twice this week.  One morning was overcast and almost foggy.  The other morning had brilliant sun.  

On the gray morning, the flowers stood out.  They were fluorescent against all of the grays.  The flowers were all I saw.  The Mission architecture faded into the background.  There was no way to paint anything but the flowers.  They were the focal point.

On the sunny morning, I took my mother because I specifically wanted to show her the flowers because they had been so beautiful.  They were still there but, amidst the brilliant light reflecting off the Mission walls and the pathways, the flowers were lost.  They didn't dominate the scene.  The light on the white-washed walls made the architecture dominant.

As much as we are the master of our paintings, sometimes nature dictates the focus.  It would have been difficult to make a painting about the Mission on the overcast day, and also difficult to make a painting about the flowers on the brilliant day.  

Look very closely at the light and the weather when painting on location.  A painting is a story, but some of the story is written before the artist arrives. Some ideas might succeed better on a different day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ralph Love Plein Air Competition June 24, 25 and 26

The City of Temecula with The Arts Council of Temecula Valleys has announced the 4th Annual Ralph Love Plein Air competition and auction.

The competition takes place within the boundaries of Old Town Temecula. Artists may register at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening, June 24th, at Main and Mercedes Streets; or at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 25th and 26th.  Paint to dusk on Friday and Saturday and until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The auction and award ceremony is at 4:00 p.m.

For information, call City of Temecula at (951) 506-5100.  Registration is $15 per day or $25 for both days.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Idyllwild was great!  I could see something to paint in every direction.  I'm thinking ... WORKSHOP!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Plein Air Supplies

Plein air painting requires the usual painting supplies, but pack as lightly as you can.   I usually squeeze out plenty of paint in the Masterson palette and leave all tubes except white at home.  Or try something smaller like the pill boxes with a limited palette.   Every plein air artist has a personal plein air equipment solution.  Here's what I bring:

TV tray 
     Not needed if easel has a palette rest.
chair or folding stool
     If you like to sit.
     Bristle filberts #2, #4 (two), #6 (two) and #8
canvas panels
     6 x 8", 8 x 10" or 9 x 12" 
palette knife
palette scraper
     To check that canvas is level.
odorless mineral spirits
paper towels
sketchbook & pencil
black glass and color isolator
plastic grocery bag for used paper towels
bungee cord and masking tape
cart to carry all of this stuff

A word about umbrellas.  They are a bother but really do make a difference in your ability to see color.  I have been through half a dozen and have yet to find one without a hitch.  The problem is the wind. If the umbrella can't be pushed into the ground, it requires a weighted base.  I try to find a place in the shade to paint, so I don't need an umbrella.  The cloisters at the Mission provide shade.  I painted from the shady side of the street in North Park. If I must paint in the sun on a hard surface, I improvise a support for the umbrella - hence the bungee cord and tape.  You can tape it to your cart handle.  At University Heights I bungeed the umbrella to a parking meter.  

As to the umbrella itself, some artists prefer white and some black.  I prefer black.  Sargent and Sorolla used white.  Sergei Bongart recommended a cheap beach umbrella with the underside painted with black house paint.  It required replacing every year.  Both white and black plein air umbrellas are available through online art stores.  Most clamp to the easel which I have found to be a dangerous proposition.  Think Mary Poppins.  Start with anything you have available and devise a solution from experience. 

Kevin MacPherson's Limited Palette

If you are looking for a smaller palette to take on location, try Kevin MacPherson's:

cadmium yellow light (CYL)
cadmium red light (CRL)
alizarin crimson (AC)
ultramarine blue (UB)
phthalo green (PhG)
titanium white (TW)

While limited to five colors, this palette is very flexible.  You can mix high chroma and toned versions of the secondary colors because it includes both a warm and cool red. Phthalo green adds the ability to mix high chroma greens and ultra darks and blacks.  Phthalo green also makes mauves and violets when mixed with AC.

Another limited palette is the one we used for the color block exercises:

cadmium yellow lemon (CYLe)
cadmium orange (CO)
cadmium red light (CRL)
alizarin crimson (AC)
ultramarine blue (UB)
phthalo blue (PhB)
titanium white (TW)

CYLe adds the ability to mix very cool greens; PhB adds the ability to mix high chroma greens and blue greens - because red bias has been eliminated. You have to mix warm yellows, however, because CYL has been eliminated from the palette.

You will develop your own system for working on location.  Last week June used a pill box to carry a limited palette, putting one color in each compartment. Look for a pill box that has a separate lid for each compartment.  Jo-Ann's carries them in the craft container section.  The pill box moved around while painting, so attach it to the palette with several Velcro dots.  Between painting sessions put the pill box in a Ziplock bag and store it in the freezer.  The paint will keep indefinitely.  The pill box eliminates having to bring the palette seal and paint tubes.  Tape a piece of palette paper or freezer paper to a smaller board for a palette, open the pill box and you are ready to paint.  

Remember, we are looking for color notes and painting color comps, not large paintings, on location.

Sorolla in San Diego

The San Diego Museum of Art exhibition "From El Greco to Dali" will include ten paintings by Sorolla.  The exhibit runs from July 9th to November 6th, 2011.  All of the paintings are from the Pérez Simón collection and not previously seen in San Diego.  

Joaquin Sorlla, "At the Beach" 
Pérez Simón Collection
San Diego Museum of Art

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hey, Carlson Off the Top of My Head!

Rather than take the time to dig this out of John Carlson, Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting, let's remember what we've talked about before.

On a sunny day, the light from the sky passes through the sky and lands on the earth.  The horizontal ground plane is very bright.  It is hard to look at. You have to squint.  But, you can easily look at the blue part of the sky (not into the sun) because the light has passed through it.

On an overcast day, the light from the sky stays in the sky.  The horizontal ground plane does not reflect a lot of light.  You can easily look at it.  However, you squint when you look at the sky because the light is still in it.

So, what does this mean?  On a hazy day the sky is very bright and the ground plane has lower values than you would expect.  It is a gray day, but there are still darks and accents.  Don't mistake overcast for foggy.  Those are two different situations.  An overcast day can have dark shadow values.  A foggy or misty day has dark values more in the middle value range.

Also, on a hazy day, the light source is cool.  It is the sky and not the sun.  The shadows have a lot of warmth in them.  This morning the rose garden, the sky was very cool - and I saw crimsons and oranges in the foreground shadows. On a sunny day, the warm light from the sun overpowers the cool, secondary light from the sky - and the shadows appear cool in comparison.

Today, I didn't use an umbrella.  I've learned my lesson.  My paintings are darker than I thought.  There was so much light in the sky, I could see colors very well in my painting.  But, because of that light my eyes closed down. Indoors, the paintings look much darker and less colorful in the shadows. Oh, that dratted umbrella.  It is a must.

The Value of Plein Air Painting

I have been plein air painting, in North Park, University Heights, Temecula and my neighborhood.  I was  immediately reminded how valuable it is.  The location has more information than a photo ever shows.  It is true information, not manipulated by the camera's limitations.  The answer is always there, as close as correctly observing the color spots.  There is an immediacy and trueness to plein air work that studio painting, no matter how accomplished, never attains.  Plein air painting is a bother, with equipment problems, weather difficulties and carting mounds of stuff. Worse, there isn't always a bathroom.  The gains, however, far outweigh the difficulties.

Information about the paint-outs will be on the blog.  The class is in hiatus while I assess what next, after the closing of the gallery.  In January, I changed the class to a learning intensive format, with less time for individual projects.  The results were rewarding.

I will have several on locations classes, in addition to the paint-outs, in the next few months.  The first is on June 29th and will be at the Santa Rosa Plateau.  Your interest level directly affects my decision to continue teaching. 

If you are serious about becoming a better painter, painting on location is a learning laboratory.  It is always easier and less intimidating to go out with other painters than it is to go out alone.  Jump in!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Plein Air Painting, Day 1

The first day of my new painting life ...

I get up at 5:00 a.m. to be at University Heights for the early light.  I get up this early about twice a decade, but this is my new life.  The car does not start.  AAA arrives, eventually, and jumps the battery.  The dome light is on, but we can't turn it off.  AAA has a solution - rip it out.  It is in my ash tray.  I arrive at University Heights at 10:30 a.m.  The sun is overhead, the light is flat.

There is nothing but parallel parking in University Heights.  The spaces are five feet long.  I don't parallel park.  There are parking meters in University Heights.  I have two pennies and a 1 Euro that Jen gave me in my wallet.  I find a spot in front of a garage driveway, but the drive has a trailer parked in it that has flat tires. They are more than flat; they are vented.  I figure no one is going in or out.  

My parking spot is at the bottom of a very long hill.  The rest of the California Art Club is painting at the top of the hill.  I decide to paint right there, in front of my garage.  After all, a good artist can make anything work.  The light is flat anyway.

Wind.  Wind, wind, wind.  I tape; I weight; I bungee.  I hold the umbrella with my left hand while I paint with my right.  My umbrella is vented, but I realize that the only venting that would work in this wind would be to slash the umbrella to bits.

I paint; I isolate; I relate.  It's working.  The painting looks great.  I feel great.  I am finished in time for the critique.  The wind is not finished.  My easel rises two feet into the air.  The palette flies one way and slides down the front of me.  The easel somersaults backward into the street.  The turp jar spouts like a geyser and empties on my painting.  Poor easel.  It is ripped in two at the hinges.  Poor painting.  It is a meaningless puddle.

I skip the critique.


All of you should paint en plein air more often.  It is good for you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

San Diego Art Institute C-Note Sale June 4th

San Diego Art Institute's C-Note Sale
June 4th - 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Preview June 3rd & 4th - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Runs June 3rd to June 19th, 2011
Admission $3

Twice a year the San Diego Art Institute holds a fundraiser and art sale of work donated by their artists.  All art sells for $100, $200 and $300.  50% goes to fund SDAI's educational programs and 50% to the artists.  The video below is from a previous year, but the C-Note looks like a lot of fun. To have your pick, the preview and opening night look like the way to go!  I love seeing the little girl so excited about buying a piece of art.

The SDAI is located at 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101.  Their phone number (619) 236-0011.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts on Landscape

The landscape thumbnails we have been doing in class have brought up a lot of discussion points. Several of you asked if I could make a list of them to refer to. Landscape is a large topic and these points are only a jumping off place. Refer to my blog post on "Reference Books for Landscape" to learn more. John Carlson is indispensable.  

Questions that need answers:

·       What is the direction and angle of the light?
·       Is there a foreground, mid-ground and background?
·       Where is your focal point?
·       What is the story?  There can be only one.


·       Always design inside a design space (the four edges of your thumbnail or canvas).
·       Always design to a ratio. A different ratio means a different design.
·       Seek balance, but not symmetry.
·       Use the steelyard balance. Think of your shapes as if they were on a teeter-totter. The greater the weight of the shape, the more compensatory actions will be needed to balance it.
·       Think of everything in terms of dominance – dominant, subordinate, sub-subordinate. This applies to everything (value, color, texture, temperature, chroma, shapes)
·       Avoid half and half in anything.

Distribution of values:

·       When designing in B&W, initially think in terms of light, medium and dark value shapes. Do not divide them equally. Think dominant, subordinate, sub-subordinate.  This is referred to as Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear or Gallon, Quart, Pint.

Carlson’s Angles of the Landscape:

·       I refer to them as planes rather than angles, but in terms of light theory or how the sun relates to the landscape determine which planes are directly facing the sun (light); which planes are in the process of turning away from the sun (halftone or medium); and which planes are turned away from the sun (dark).

·       In landscape the three types of planes correspond to vertical planes (trees, sides of buildings), inclined planes (hills, angled rooftops) and horizontal (the ground, the flat top of a rock). Carlson called these the angles of the landscape.  The fourth angle is the vault of the sky, which is a secondary light source.

·       Before you paint, know which angle/plane of the landscape corresponds to which value.

·       Remember that while you must have three values for the three planes, those three values can be close together or far apart. The closer two values are, the more the eye will link them. The sky can create a fourth value or link with one of the other three values.

Randall Sexton

I first saw the art of Randall Sexton at the LPAPA Laguna plein air event. He does many things well, but I especially admire his design, use of shapes, how he links the darks, brushwork and color.  He sees paintings in things most artists would pass by.

You can see Randall Sexton's paintings locally at the Debra Huse Gallery on Balboa Island.  His complete gallery listings are on his website.  Here are a few paintings from his website.

"Casa di Orsa" by Randall Sexton

"Crawdads" by Randall Sexton

"Puppets Here" by Randall Sexton

"School is Out" by Randall Sexton

"Spirit of 76" by Randall Sexton

June 1st Class

Tomorrow is my last class.  It has been a seven year ride full of learning, great experiences and good friends.  I have no plans at this time for future classes but will keep you informed about what develops next.  I believe my next foray into teaching will be along the lines of an atelier where students make a one year commitment to be part of a painting life for a year.  This will involve a weekly class, but also a studio day, and a monthly formal critique and a monthly long form demo. It will be an opportunity to develop skills to the next level.  Thank you to everyone who has been part of the past seven years!

Class tomorrow will continue in the same vein as the past two weeks.  Bring B&W comps from the photo we chose or a photo of your choice.  I will review them and you will then do several color comps in class.  After lunch I will do a landscape demo.

Monday, May 30, 2011

CAC San Diego Quarterly Paint-out June 4th

The California Art Club San Diego Quarterly Paint-out is Saturday, June 4th, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Members and non-members are welcome to paint. Artists should meet at 4441 Park Boulevard in University Heights, San Diego.  Parking is along the street.

The paint-out is followed by a critique at the Athenaeum's San Diego Studio, 4441 Park Boulevard.

San Diego Chapter Co-Chair, Pat Kelly, is hosting the paint-out and critique. Contact her at

University Heights is one of San Diego's older neighborhoods, along the north edge of Balboa Park, with a revitalized, historic main street and bungalow neighborhood. This video gives an overview of University Park.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Idyllwild and San Clemente Plein Air

I am officially registered for the Idyllwild and San Clemente Plein Air events.

The Idyllwild Plein Air is Saturday, June 10th.  Artists will paint on location from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The champagne reception and sale, at the Quiet Creek Inn Gallery, is Sunday, June 11th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lily Rock, visible from many vantage points in Idyllwild, is a popular subject matter for the artists. Idyllwild has over a dozen different galleries and many excellent restaurants.

The 10th annual San Clemente Plein Air starts with a Quick Draw on June 18th, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.  Artists will paint in front of the San Clemente Gallery and along Avenida del Mar to the Pier Bowl.  The Quick Draw paintings will be on display for judging and sale at 4:30 p.m.  Any paintings not sold will continue for sale in the gallery until June 25th.

The San Clemente event continues through the week with the Gala awards and sales event on Saturday, June 25th, 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Community Center Auditorium.  Tickets for the Gala are $35 and include catered food and drink - but also first chance to purchase paintings.  The San Clemente event is nationally known, with $13,000 in prizes and attracts professional as well as local artists.  Any painting not sold will be on show in the gallery through August 5th.

See you there!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Good Day

The reception for the North Park Plein Air at the San Diego Art Department on Ray Street was lovely. The gallery looked wonderful. Thank you to Marjorie Taylor, Andrea Rodriguez Chamberlin and Lesley Anderson for planning and executing the event. The judges were Anthony Bernal of the San Diego Art Institute, and Pat Kelly and Jeff Yeoman of the California Art Club.  

I was very pleased to win First Place for my plein air painting, "Ray Street Afternoon" and also the California Art Club Award for Painting Excellence.  

Again, thank you to SDAD, SDAI and CAC.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win?

Good question.  It comes from Crys William's blogpost, "Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight".  I can think of a half a dozen things to apply the question to. Playing to play or playing to win ...

My art.  I let every head game in the book come between myself and the canvas.  Stop thinking about the shows, the judges, the sales and focus only on what I can learn from putting myself on the canvas.

My teaching.  I'm a good teacher, but I've been the best teacher I've ever been since January of this year when I focused only on what the students needed, rather than on what they wanted or what I thought they would pay for.

My students.  Show them again and again that the process will get them where they want to go.  Focusing on the product, the praise and the masterpieces will only get in their way.

A gallery.  Unless it can self-sustain, the plug can be pulled at any time.  Make the hard decisions.  Be a business.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We Made the News ... Kind of!

The North County Times took some publicity shots of the art league gallery and the back of my plaid shirt has had its fifteen minutes of fame.   Helen Bancroft is seated next to me and June Kakowski is in the background.  My students on the other side of the room - your day will come!

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Can I Say?

A brief book on watercolor but full of advice on using values and composition. It just may be most productive 38 cents you ever spend. Everything in it applies to oil paint.  I will be discussing some of it in class.

The Landscape Process

While we will be doing a number of landscape paintings during the next eight weeks, the process for each is the same.  

Do a same ratio comp of the photograph.  Block in the shapes of the large masses using only black and white.  Aim for 3 to 5 main shapes. This comp will give you an overview of what you have to work with.  There are no details or middle values in this comp.

Do a series of black and white comps using the shapes, adding, eliminating, moving, changing the aspect (horizontal versus vertical) and the ratio (1:2, 3:4, 5:6).  Use three values: light, medium and dark.  Again, use no details. This is the design phase and you have total freedom to try any possibility.

Choose the comp you feel is the most successful and, using the same canvas ratio, paint a small color comp of the painting.  Adding color adds the properties of temperature (warm and cool) and chroma (bright and dull). You will find that adding color will affect your design.  Chroma may change the balance.  Colors become cooler and lighter as they recede (aerial perspective).  This may change the balance.  The color comp is an opportunity to try things out.  Maybe you want to change the key or the contrast.  Try several comps.

Not every landscape that you take through the design process may end up as a studio painting.  Take many designs through the black and white comp and color comp stages.  The very best become the basis for a studio landscape painting.

North Park Plein Air Competition

The 3rd Annual Plein Air North Park is in the bottle. The competition spanned several weeks, but all paintings were done on location.  It took a lot of looking and thumbnail sketches to become familiar with the urban environment - a new subject matter for me.  The biggest challenge was the additional drawing time required for perspective and details, quite unlike rolling hills with California oak trees.  It left a very narrow window to add paint before the moving sun changed the light into another painting.  

The first painting is a scene of Ray Street, the heart of the art and cultural district of North Park.  There were lots of cars!  It was early afternoon and the light had a warm, yellow-orange glow.

The second painting is of the corner of University Avanue and 3rd Street.  I was attracted by the shadows under the flat roof of the corner building in contrast to the light on the upper story.  I painted early in the day when the temperature and light were both cool, but the streets were rather deserted. 

The Quick Draw will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 15th, and is part of the day long annual North Park Festival of the Arts.  Several blocks in either direction from the corner of 30th and University Avenue will be blocked to traffic for the entire day.  Galleries, artist booths, music, food and dance will be the entertainment.

The reception for the Plein Air North Park exhibit is Saturday, May 21st, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the San Diego Art Department at 3830 Ray Street in North Park.

Gallery News

Yesterday the Temecula Valley Art League Gallery lost its lease and will be closing by the end of the month.  The art league will continue without a gallery for the time being, while they search for a new location.  It has been a great asset to the art community of Temecula.

I teach at the gallery so, as of the end of the month, I do not have a classroom space.  My next session is scheduled to start on Wednesday, June 1st.  I will have the session but am converting it to a plein air format for the summer, while I regroup.  I will post details on the blog as soon as they are available.

The theme for Session 3 is landscape color and design.  The new format will include painting on location for the early hours of the class, followed by a critique and lecture/lesson period.  

Life is always changing and it is my philosophy to go with it and find something good in the new opportunity.  There is always something to learn!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Landscape Painting Summer Session - Starts June 1st

Oil Painting (Session 3)
Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
6/1, 6/8, 6/15, 6/22, 6/29, 7/6, 7/13 & 7/20
$280 for eight classes

The Summer Session will focus on all aspects of landscape - color in landscape; atmospheric perspective; gathering information on location; creating a painting from black and white comps, through color comps to completed studio painting, and the principals of landscape design. Lectures, demonstrations and critiques are part of the class. The instructor will work with you at your level.

Demos this session will be Wednesday, 6/22 and 7/20, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Demos are free to students enrolled in the class.

To enroll in a class contact Mary through the email posted in the Profile of this blog or through her website.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Landscape Design Exercise

Everyone did a great job on the tree exercise last week.  A reminder that we decided to take it outside and try a tree from life next week, April 4th, by painting a tree in the parking lot.  The sidewalk in front of the gallery is in shade all morning so we will set up there.  I believe everyone discovered last week how little color you can see in a photograph.  So, we will look for more color cues from life this week.  A 9 x 12" Canva-paper will be fine.  I'm working on a handout that discusses the planes to look for on a tree (sphere) in a double light source (sun and sky).

The following week, April 11th, we will shift gears and move from color in landscape to landscape principles.  Again, look for a photo to work from that has information in the foreground, background and mid-ground.  If you have found any, bring them in this week for me to vet.  I've attached some photos that you are free to use, courtesy the WetCanvas Reference Image Library. I am not worried about composition in the photos, the artist provides that.

Even if you don't use one of these photos, print them out to practice doing B&W comps in a sketchbook.  We will practice with them in class over the next month.  A few are difficult because they have very little information, but there was something that attracted me.  A few are difficult because they have too much information.

Monday, April 25, 2011

May Syllabus

The theme for the current session is landscape. The first project is a tree study exercise with two parts. 

First, find a tree or shrub that is roughly spherical in shape. Do not choose a tree that is feathery or wispy.  It should be in your yard or close to home and accessible from different directions because you will return to this tree numerous times over a period of weeks (or even seasons). Choose a small format.  I suggest dividing a 12 x 16" Canva-paper sheet into eight 6 x 4" rectangles.  

You will paint a series of quick (20 minute) studies of the tree, painting it in as few color spots as possible for the light situation. The purpose is not to paint a realistic tree. We are studying color temperature and light theory. What colors and values do you see in sun, fog, morning, evening, backlit, side lit, etc.  You should paint as many studies as various situations you encounter. These studies will become a reference library when you work larger landscapes from photos - so that you begin to see the color, temperature, and value that may not show up in a photograph.

We will talk in class about different light and temperature situations.

Second, on Wednesday, 4/27 and 5/4, we will do several tree studies from photographs that I provide.    In this case, the purpose will be to understand the structure of the tree and paint a detailed study of that variety of tree. Over the next few months we will do several of these in-class studies ... of an oak, eucalyptus, palm, etc.  Use 9 x 12" Canva-paper for these studies.

The rest of May will focus on discussing landscape principles (ala Carlson) and designing and painting a studio painting.  I will bring some photos in or you may use a photo of your own that I have approved.  Start bringing in photos now and I will take a look at them. The photo should be of a landscape not an urban scene and have useable information in the foreground, mid-ground and background.  Don't worry about a perfect arrangement of the elements in the photo - we will solve design problems in the comp phase.

Don't forget, this Wednesday, May 27th, I will be doing a landscape demo from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Pack a sack lunch so we can get right to it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Landscape Session

Oil Painting (Session 2)
Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
4/27,  5/4, 5/11 and 5/18
$140 for four classes

We will explore color in landscape with a series of studies of the same tree in different light situations.  The principles of landscape painting will be introduced, as well as the principles of design and composition, as each student designs a landscape painting from black and white comps, to color studies, to a completed studio landscape.  Lectures, demonstrations and critiques are part of the class. The instructor will work with you at your level.

There will be two landscape demos during this session: Wednesday, 4/27 and 5/18, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  These are free of charge to students enrolled in this session.

To enroll in the class contact Mary through the email posted in the Profile of this blog or through her website.

Reference Books for Landscape Painting

I recommend the following books about landscape painting.  Start with Kevin Macpherson's books for your first foray into the subject.  

by Kevin Macpherson
Start here, this basic book covers the basic building blocks of painting - seeing color, mixing color, light and shadow and seeing shapes with a focus on small plein air studies.

A follow-up to Kevin's first book takes plein air sketches into the studio for larger works.  A masterful breakdown on the creative process and design.

A classic must-read, but not an easy read.  This book is dense on text, short on illustrations and requires attentive reading.  For the serious artist, but well worth the effort.  You will find something new with every reading.

A compilation of the best from many good books on the subject of landscape painting, including technical and equipment difficulties.  The author accurately sets up the challenges of painting light with pigment.  If you didn't know what you were up against as a painter, you will once you read this book.  The solutions are what your journey as an artist is about.

An excellent study of design and composition with a focus on landscape and still life.  The leap from "a painting is a picture of things" to "a painting is the abstract design behind the shapes" is a difficult concept to grasp.  This book will move you from making pictures to creating paintings.

A classic by one of the greats of the golden age of landscape painting.  Text-dense and a challenge to read.  Don't tackle this until you are well into the subject.