Category Archives: Landscapes

Painting with Purpose: Color Spots

The problems most growing artists try to solve often boils down to a lack of singular purpose. For example, a common question plein air painters ask is, “how much time should I take seeking a location to paint?” I’ve been there, all too often taking longer to find a scene than painting—a frustrating experience I know many of us share.

Seemingly simple questions never have simple answers, but the solution depends on the goal for going out: are you out painting today to work on a particular technical skill, like color or drawing?  To prepare for a show?  To commune with fellow painters?  Do it all?  When I go out, even though like anyone I’d prefer to be inspired by a scene, I: choose a goal; quickly narrow my visual choices to achieve that goal; and then focus on it alone.

The most common goal for me is understanding natural light, and with that, accepting the constraints of plein air painting. Most of the time, we only have about 90 minutes to finish a picture before the natural light shifts to the point where the scene has changed enough to require a new start. The skills I’m most focused on is composition and color—and sometimes just one of the two. I try not to expect too much from one 90-minute painting: draftsmanship, color, selling, or winning a competition (or “likes” on social media).

Plein air painting is an essential tool for understanding natural light. When I judge a show, I can easily distinguish between a painting that captures natural light and one where the artist spent too much time and “followed the light” too far, for example, spending 3 hours on a scene where the light has moved far past the original light moment. To illustrate this, I’m sharing two plein air studies where I had the singular purpose of capturing the effect of light. Capturing light can be achieved by mixing small, exact color spots. I learned this from reading Charles Hawthorne.

Charles Hawthorne understood how to capture natural light through color spots. If you’re a plein air painter and haven’t read “Hawthorne on Painting,” by Charles Webster Hawthorne, you’re missing out!  Buy his wisdom immediately!  He describes an essential truth in painting in general, but especially true of plein air,

“Painting is the mechanics of putting one spot of color next to another. That’s the fundamental thing.”

This is a simple, essential truth often missed by painters who expect too much from a single painting session.

Here’s a color spot example. I was out on a beautifully clear day in San Francisco, a city where subjects to paint are endless. I ended up at a favorite, Crissy Field, where I could have painted architecture (including the Golden Gate Bridge), beachcombers, rocks and surf, long city views, hillsides, etc, but I was struck immediately by the dramatic color of this building. 

I started a color notes journey by painting small color spots for each element: the main structure walls in light and shadow; roof; lawn; sky and distant bay water behind the building (see below).  I didn’t fill in the broad shapes of color until each spot related first to each other.  And if one color note was off (I first painted the roof too dark), there’s a domino effect and adjacent colors notes change too. In this study, I repainted the sky color spot several times after all the other spots related correctly.

Color Spots Example, Crissy Field, San Francisco. This picture is a grey scale version with highlighted color spots used to seek the representation of natural light.
Color Spots Example, Crissy Field, San Francisco. This picture is a grey scale version with highlighted color spots used to seek the representation of natural light.
Finished color study of Crissy Field, San Francisco. Oil on wood, 8x10"
Finished color study of Crissy Field, San Francisco. Oil on wood, 8×10″

To keep focus, you’ll notice the building has no windows or doors.  Of course, it actually has, but painting that detail would have taken time away from my singular goal.  Having captured these key colors in this study I can later paint a larger studio work that includes this detail, but there was no need to do so in the 90 minutes I took to capture color notes here.

This is another example, a Pacific Grove scene of color notes I painted last week.

Give it a try, let me know how you do!  Also, to capture accurate color notes, refer back to this post on how I mix color outdoors.

January San Francisco Show

I will be showing the landscapel below at the Harvey Milk Photo Center January 8-February 7 with Art Saves Lives, curated by Thomasina DeMaio. The reception will be held January 18th, with live music featuring the incredible Tribal Baroque! It will be an amazing reception, hope to see you there.

  • What: Winter Exhibition
  • Where: Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott Street, San Francisco, CA
  • When:
    • Reception: January 18th, 6-9pm
    • Show runs January 8-February 7

Padre Place Color Study

Padre Place Color Study
12×9 inches
$575


Montana de Oro (Last Light)

Montana de Oro (Last Light)
9×12 inches 
$525


Ragged Point Sunset
9×12 inches 
$750


Show at Spark Arts

Spark Arts Gallery in San Francisco is a great arts community hub for shows, teaching and all kinds of events.  This community show sponsored by ArtSavesLives opens Thursday, December 6th as part of the Castro’s Art Walk. Curated by Thomasina DeMaio, the show includes a wide variety of local artists, including Anthony AnchundoAdam EisendrathAlexander PrestiaBilly DouglasCarl LinkhartCJ SchakeMichael LownieDavid ChristensenRené CaponeGregory ConoverHank StrohbeckJack Mattingly, John FarnsworthLiam PetersMatt PipesMike Pierce, and Steven Pomeroy.

You’ll see my paintings below, and can purchase at anytime here online. The show runs through December.

Where: Spark Arts, 4229 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
When: Reception Thursday, December 6th, 6:00-9:30PM, shows runs through December.


Bay View From Park Hill

Bay View From Park Hill
14×7 inches, Original Oil on Panel, Framed
SOLD


Castro Bag Lady
10×10 inches, Framed, Original Oil on Panel
$325


Park Meetup
The Conversation (GGP)

16×12 inches, Framed, Original Oil on Linen
$450


Riverbed #2
Riverbed #2

9×12 inches, Framed, Original Oil on Canvas, 9×12 inches
$175 


From my popular “Beach Men” series:

Ventura Beach Men 5 Asleep with Stripes
Ventura Beach Men #5 (Asleep with Stripes)

6×6 inches, Original Oil on Board, Unframed
$125  


Ventura Beach Men 4 Green Backpack
Ventura Beach Men 4 Green Backpack

6×6 inches, Original Oil on Panel, Unframed
$125 


Ventura Beach Men 3 T Shirt

Ventura Beach Men 3 T Shirt 
6×6″, Original Oil on Panel, Unframed
$125


Ventura Beach Men 2 Yellow Shorts
Ventura Beach Men 2 Yellow Shorts

6×6 inches, Original Oil on Panel, Unframed
$125 

Palm Springs Plein Air

I had a great time painting plein air in Palm Springs last weekend!  I need to get back soon.  The combination of blazing, clear light; nature; and modern architecture make it a great destination for plein air painters.  Enjoy!

Indian Canyons (Palm Springs), Gouache on paper, 8x6"
Indian Canyons (Palm Springs), Gouache on paper, 8×6″

"Chilis Retreat, Palm Springs", gouache on paper, 8x6"
“Chilis Retreat, Palm Springs”, gouache on paper, 8×6″

"Chili's Retreat, by the pool (Palm Springs), Gouache on paper, 6x6"
“Chili’s Retreat, by the pool (Palm Springs), Gouache on paper, 6×6”

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico is a real gem. The centro’s architecture is Spanish Colonial, and the people there are  wonderful.  Love painting there, and finally got Mike to go on a visit recently.  Here are some paintings in watercolor and oil.  Enjoy!

Joyce's Pool #2 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor
Joyce’s Pool #2 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor

Joyce's Pool #1 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor
Joyce’s Pool #1 (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), Watercolor

 

San Miguel de Allende, Watercolor
San Miguel de Allende, Watercolor

San Miguel de Allende (from Casa Schuck), Oil on Linen, 11x14
San Miguel de Allende (from Casa Schuck), Oil on Linen, 11×14

San Miguel de Allende Sunset, Oil on Linen, 8x10
San Miguel de Allende Sunset, Oil on Linen, 8×10

 

 

 

 

Testing Solvent-Free Oil Paint

What I love about being an artist is the opportunity to continually learn and explore.  My focus recently is learning to use new and different materials. Royal Talens sent me a set of Cobra solvent-free oil paints to try, and these are my first results.  The benefit is I don’t have to use solvents, which even though labeled “odor free” really are not, and it’s nice so nice to clean up with soap and water!

As I explore how to work with this paint, I’m find myself painting with a much thicker impasto technique–and I’m enjoying it!  Trying new materials can push artists in new directions and open up new possibilities.  I hope you enjoy these studies, all done in San Francisco.

Monterey Cypress (Lands End, San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 8x10
Monterey Cypress (Lands End, San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 8×10

Crissy Field (San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 10x8
Crissy Field (San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 10×8

Ravine, Oil on Linen, 10x8
Ravine, Oil on Linen, 10×8

 

 

True Blue Sky

Yesterday, I finally had the combination of opportunity and weather I need to paint.  It’s been a busy few months, having started a full time job in October.  Since I’ll be traveling a lot more, I’m starting to carry a small watercolor kit to take advantage of any opportunities that arise then.  I have to say, I really admire watercolorists. It’s much harder than it works. I should probably succumb to a workshop soon.

The sky was just incredible.  Behind me was the sea (a normal subject), but looking up the path from the street to the beach, I saw a sight I knew I had to paint.  I’m a sucker for intense blue skies!

Real Blue Sky Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, Oil on Linen, 12x9
Real Blue Sky Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, Oil on Linen, 12×9

 

Ed Terpening (at Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, Half Moon Bay, CA - 1/12/2013)
Ed Terpening (at Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, Half Moon Bay, CA – 1/12/2013)

Balboa Park (San Diego, CA)

Balboa Park in San Diego is a painter’s paradise.  According to Wikipedia, the park is “Named for the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the park hosted the 1915 Panama–California Exposition and 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks.”  The architecture is great, and the park is surrounded by beautiful gardens.  I had some fun with this one.  Enjoy!

Balboa Park (golden light), oil on linen, 12x9
Balboa Park (golden light), oil on linen, 12×9

SLO Museum of Art Show Preview

After a great week of painting (although, lots of work and some tough, 100-degree weather), my paintings for the San Luis Obispo Plein Air 2012 show at the SLO Museum of Art are ready to go! I need to choose three of these five for the show. I’ve listed them in order of my favorites first. What do you think?

Avila Bluffs (San Luis Obispo, CA), Oil on Linen, 12x16
Avila Bluffs (San Luis Obispo, CA), Oil on Linen, 12×16

Rocks & Surf (Avila, CA)
Rocks & Surf (Avila, CA)

Avila Cove (Late Afternoon), Oil on Linen, 11x14
Avila Cove (Late Afternoon), Oil on Linen, 11×14

Avila Cove (San Luis Obispo, CA), Oil on Linen, 12x9
Avila Cove (San Luis Obispo, CA), Oil on Linen, 12×9

Lake Sunset (San Luis Obispo, CA), Oil on Linen, 9x12
Lake Sunset (San Luis Obispo, CA), Oil on Linen, 9×12

;

[Update 10/5]: you’ve all convinced me, the last painting below (sunset) is in the show! Thanks for your feedback. It’s really difficult to judge my own work.

San Francisco Plein Air

I’m so lucky to live in a city with so much beauty to paint!  I’ve neglected it too long, often looking for inspiration in Carmel, the Central Coast, and elsewhere.  I may eventually paint citiscapes again, but for now, enjoying the beauty of the coast.  The only work not from San Francisco below is from Alta Lake, a friends home in The Sierras we get to visit a couple times a year.  Enjoy!

Lands End Morning (San Francisco), Oil on Linen (Plein Air), 12x9"
Lands End Morning (San Francisco), Oil on Linen (Plein Air), 12×9″

Lands End Hike (San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 8x10
Lands End Hike (San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 8×10

View at Sutro Baths (San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 8x10
View at Sutro Baths (San Francisco), Oil on Linen, 8×10; plein air.

Simonds Loop Presidio of San Francisco, Oil on Linen, 12x9
Simonds Loop Presidio of San Francisco, Oil on Linen, 12×9 (Plein air)

Lake Alta (From The Millers), Oil on Linen, 8x10
Lake Alta (From The Millers), Oil on Linen, 8×10 (plein air)

2012 San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival

I will be participating again this year in the San Luis Obispo Plein Air festival at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, October 1-7.  I usually choose one area to focus on…not sure what it will be.  In year’s past, I’ve focused on Avila Beach (cove) and the Rocky Point area (see below).  Any suggestions? Let me know!

Here are works from previous years in this show.  The painting below “Glowing Bluffs” will be my featured painting in the museum the week leading up to the show.

Bluffs (Montana De Oro), Oil on Linen, 16x20
Bluffs (Montana De Oro), Oil on Linen, 16×20 [SOLD

Sunset Ragged Point CA (Oc -6 2011), Oil on Linen, 12x9
Sunset Ragged Point CA (Oc -6 2011), Oil on Linen, 12×9

Hollister Peak (an alternative view), Oil on Linen, 9x12
Hollister Peak (an alternative view), Oil on Linen, 9×12

Sunset Ragged Point. CA (October 4, 2011, Oil on Linen, 12x9
Sunset Ragged Point. CA (October 4, 2011, Oil on Linen, 12×9

Avila Cove, Oil on Linen, 6x8
Avila Cove, Oil on Linen, 6×8

Glowing Bluffs, Oil on Linen, 11x14
Glowing Bluffs, Oil on Linen, 11×14