On the way to and back from my recent solo show in San Francisco I stopped at Pacific Grove (and other spots) to paint plein air, capturing natural light in what was a beautiful week. I hope you enjoy these new works. All available online unframed (reach out to me if you’d like a price quoted for framed works).
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
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.
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.
My solo show at Spark Arts San Francisco will include a mix of oil and watercolor across many themes, including local city scenes, sea/landscapes, figurative and some new abstracts. Join me for the reception, April 4th, 6-9PM. Here’s a slide show of some of the works that will be shown.
“For a few weeks in August, 1976, Hollywood magic flipped the coasts of the United States and transformed the coast south of Moñtana de Oro State Park into Passamaquoddy, Maine. A lighthouse was built near Point Buchon as part of Pete’s Dragon, the most expensive Walt Disney production to date.” So reported local papers as Disney built a lighthouse on the Buchon Trail, the subject of a new show at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art October 5-8. I’m honored to be one of several invited artists invited to capture this landscape “en plein air” for a show of paintings fresh off the easel. The gallery above shows some of the paintings I plan to hang.
This incredible coastal area was only opened to the public a few years ago, and as far as I know, this is the first show dedicated to the unspoiled beauty of this land. Being there last week, driven with my painting equipment in a 4-wheel drive on seldom used private dirt roads, I had a chance to see how the earliest Native Americans and their Spanish invaders witnessed an unspoiled California coast.
If you’re an artist or collector, chances are you’ve seen countless paintings of Laguna Beach, Point Lobos or Morro Bay–but you’re unlikely to have seen this incredible landscape chosen by Disney studios to amaze movie goers.
And it is an amazing landscape. Of particular interest (which I’m not posting here–come to the show and see it!) are the large rock stacks just off shore that are considered the “Stonehenge of the Pacific.” They really are incredible, and I had a great time painting them to prepare for the show with fellow artists. Several of us painted these icons, and they’re each unique. Come see what each artist saw.
So, join us, by either viewing the show at the museum, and/or watching the artists (including me) paint the area live. As a bonus, the proceeds from the show will help fund this local icon of Central Coast arts, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. Click here for more detail, if you come, say hello!
The August show is hung! I have 9 framed works and a bin of inexpensive unframed works availbale. Open for the new Castro art walk this Thurs night, and the opening reception next Friday night (8/11). You can view these works online from my website: http://www.edterpening.com/store/
This is one of my favorite places to paint. It’s nearby, and has many of the features of far away (well, 1.5 hours) Point Lobos. I’ve been painting gouache studies recently for ease of travel, and they translate well to oil, being opaque. I like this study and will–someday–paint a large studio version. The ArtSavesLives gallery has offered me a solo show, so perhaps sometime in 2017. For now, this is available on my Facebook Store here, framed for $300.
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!
I’m pleased to return to Open Studios this year after a 5+ year absence. Choose from a selection of reasonably priced framed watercolor and gouache works at my online store, or, visit our pop-up gallery in the Castro the month of November. The opening reception will be held November 11, 6-9:30pm. Thomasina, the gallery director, puts on amazing parties–lots of live music, entertaining and dancing!
I’ve enjoyed a long, fulfilling career in Silicon Valley. It’s an incredibly diverse, constantly changing place and state of mind. It’s easy to be consumed here in a world where creating disruption is your job. It see it everywhere as I walk the city (my favorite past-time). I notice the first-time tourists who see San Francisco through fresh eyes contrasted with the emerging technology class glued to their latest device. Watching them, I ask myself, do they miss the wonder in the eyes of newcomers around them? Can we maintain curiosity, and see the world anew every day?
As an Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group, my job now is to understand and council others in technology disruption. But I need a constant: a foundation that puts these ceaseless changes in perspective. How can you understand change without understanding the starting point? For me that starts with family of course, but also, seeing and expressing the undeniable beauty around me every day. So, I paint and sketch. Every day. Maybe it’s a “left brain, right brain” thing, but for me, creating something of lasting beauty in a world of ephemeral apps, devices and marketing campaigns gives me the foundation I need to notice. And noticing—being aware—is the first step in understanding the world as it is and can be.
I was speaking to someone on a airplane last night about the visual arts and how they relate to music. Here’s my analogy: In high school, I played jazz trombone. Key to that genre is the ability to improvise. It’s a beautiful thing to hear a musician create new music on the fly during an improvisation. What may seem to be a beautiful, but haphazard, run of notes is actually the result of playing within the composer’s written sequence of cord progressions. The jazz musician creates in the moment, but she does so based on what’s in front of her: sheet music (in a sense). The same is very much true of those artists that create variations based on a theme. The subject is the theme (sheet music) and the art is the variation (improvisation).
For me, a recent theme has been Moss Beach, here in Northern California. The series of paintings below shows how I’ve studied this area, and created variations on this landscape. The first three paintings are based on the same spot, but with different mediums–oil, watercolor–and different perspectives. The last 4 are looking in a different direction, but again, studies of the same view using different mediums and ideas. From these studies, I’m learning to record and compare my feelings for the spot so I can later determine what resonates and where to build upon–as, for example, a larger studio work.
I hope you enjoy these improvisations of Moss Beach. More to come.
Leveraging my experience as a digital marketing professional, I have conducted some new research with the goal of educating artists about how to approach sales and marketing online. The research is based on a survey I conducted. The report is available below, and includes some interesting data and insights. I conducted research last year as well, available here.
As always, I’d like to hear from you. Please enter your feedback on this blog post’s comments. Cheers!