Golden Gate Park View

It was a beautiful, sunny day in San Francisco today — 73 degrees!  I loaded up a small pochade kit on my bike, and headed down to Golden Gate Park.  After riding around quite a bit, I saw this view looking south from Stow Lake. The challenge I set for myself was to both simplify the landscape, and represent clear color separation.  There are several types of greens in this painting. Enjoy!

Golden Gate Park View - Oil on Canvas - 10x8

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Lake Tahoe, Sunset

In my day job, we take a “Strength Finder’s” course (developed by Gallop) to find out what we’re good at, and focus our talents there.  I’ve always felt that painting the sky was a strength, but I haven’t spent a lot of time on it.  Why paint something you know?  I’d rather stretch myself, which is why I’ve been painting the figure more lately.  Well, today I gave in and painted a sky.  Hope you enjoy it!  Oh, and a quote from Benjamin Franklin that re-inforces the “follow your talent” idea:

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
— Benjamin Franklin

Lake Tahoe, Sunset - Oil on Canvas - 8x10
Lake Tahoe, Sunset - Oil on Canvas - 8x10

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Saint i’s from Buena Vista Park

Saint Ignatius is a San Francisco landmark in the Western Addition.  The school was founded in 1855, moved several times, and was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The building in this painting was built in 1914.  Today, it’s the University of San Francisco.

The building is well lit at night, and because it’s on a hill, is visible from many vantage points in the city. When I walk Gracie in Buena Vista Park across from the street from our home, this church is a glowing sentinel.  This view was painted from a photo taken between sunset and dusk.  It’s at this time (before the lights come on) that the steeples just get a beautiful reflection from the setting sun.  Enjoy!

Saint I's from Buena Vista Park
Saint I's from Buena Vista Park, Oil on Linen, 6x8

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Figure studies, influences

Here are few more recent figure studies.  I continue to enjoy this new challenge–although I think I’ll sneak in a landscape soon. This figure (sans mouth!) was done in about 10 minutes with a live model in Al Tofanelli’s class (at l’Atelier aux Couleurs).  I like these quick studies–they force you to react quickly and focus on the fundamentals.

I was actually quite distracted that day, but managed to get some work done (I was in the news last week as I represented Wells Fargo in social media, related to a PR fire.  I’m now known as the “Male White Banker” on the Huffington Post 🙁 ).

Click to enlarge - Quick Figure Study (female)
Quick Figure Study (female)

When I got back to the studio, I painted a couple more small quick ones (although, these are about an hour) from photos.

Figure Study (male)
Figure Study (male), 6.25 x 6"

This one (and my previous self-portrait) reminded me that I should probably talk about my influences in figurative art.  I’m seeking a sculptural quality, and trying to use color temperature and inventive color (although stable values) to create this new work.

Figure Study (male)
Figure Study, Oil on Linen, 6.25 x 6.50"

I count two of my biggest influence Lucian Freud and Ann Gale.  Both are wonderful draftsman (clearly needed to paint the figure), but there’s something very modern and sculptural about their work. I look to these contemporary painters for inspiration.

While this Lucian Freud work is terribly inventive in terms of color, it’s exaggeration of value and forum is something I really admire.

Lician Freud, Reflection
Lucian Freud, Reflection

You can see in Ann Gale‘s work her form is somewhat distorted, although incredibly interesting.  Look almost “pixelized”, doesn’t it?  I really like her general restraint with color.  When she does use it, it’s incredibly vibrant.  You can see here how she sets up that vibrancy with a calm stage of neutrals grays.

Ann Gale, "Gary with Dark Wall"
Ann Gale, "Gary with Dark Wall"

So, while I continue to slog through the basics (which for me, is drawing the figure accurately), this is the direction I’m headed.  Hopefully, these influences will help guide me to my own path and vision.

Self-Portrait, Video Demo

Still feeling really challenged by learning the figure.  Reminds of a quote by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do something every day that scares you.”  I need this.  I took snap shots as I progressed so I could review with my teacher Al Tofanelli (at l’Atelier aux Couleurs), so he could advise me.  It’s interesting, I think a personal style in portraiture is emerging at a faster pace than landscape.  Not sure why.  Enjoy!

Self-Portrait, Oil on Linen, 12x10"
Self-Portrait, Oil on Linen, 12x10"

And here’s the video on YouTube

Mike ala Pompeii

To prepare for studying the figure with Al Tofanelli (at l’Atelier aux Couleurs) I’ve been painting the figure from reference photos. It’s going to be so great to paint from live models Friday! I like painting the figure, it’s a real challenge, and I like to play with color. Mike has wonderful warm-violet skin tones. Once I laid in a solid drawing, I practically destroyed it early on with broad strokes of color (once you get a drawing right, don’t worry, you can paint over it…it will always come back).

When I showed this to Mike, he really liked it, but he had a funny observation. It reminded him of the frescos in Italy (and most recently, Turkey/Istanbul). The eyes of those figures are somewhat exagerated, as I think his might be here. No matter, I was going for that spark of life and happiness, so why not exaggerate a bit?

Mike, ala Pompei - Oil on Canvas - 10x8
Mike, ala Pompei - Oil on Canvas - 10x8

Inspiration? Separated at birth? Here’s an example of a Pompeiii fresco that Mike thought of when he saw my painting. Smart man!

Pompeii, House VII, 2, 6: Paquius Proculus and his wife
Pompeii, House VII, 2, 6: Paquius Proculus and his wife

Tahoe Swim

Last year I was inching back to a focus on the figure, and it’s now official!  This will be my focus in 2010: the figure alone, in interiors and in the landscape.  Starting next week, I’m will start studying weekly with Al Tofanelli (Fridays, 9am-1pm at l’Atelier aux Couleurs in Petaluma).  My workshop with Peggi Kroll-Roberts last year re-invigorated my interest.

This painting was done from a reference photo taken while staying with good friends in Lake Tahoe last summer. I’d painted this similar painting last year. While the figures are small in this painting, I spent a lot of time on them.  The smallest errors in the figure really stand out, so it’s a great challenge (and I need that this year!).

Enjoy, your feedback/critique always appreciated!

Tahoe Swim
Tahoe Swim, Oil on Linen, 12x16

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Buena Vista Park, Late Afternoon

Another image from Buena Vista Park.  I took a picture of clear, afternoon light striking the Monterey Pines.  I painted the same type of trees in this park in a high-key approach, and it’s interesting to compare the two.  The technical approaches are very different. When I paint high-key, I tend to use a lot of paint, with fairly consistent texture on the canvas.  A “full key” painting like this one starts with thin washes, and builds up to thicker passages. Enjoy!

Buena Vista Park, Late Afternoon
Buena Vista Park, Late Afternoon - Oil on Linen - 12x9"

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Seascape Video Demo

While painting this seascape the other night, I took snapshots of progress so I could create a demonstration video.  I think the process I followed here is somewhat typical, but I always feel free to alter it to meet the needs of the moment. See my YouTube channel for more of my own demos, as well as those by Peggi Kroll-Roberts, John Ebersberger, Kevin Weckback, Mark Kerckhoff, and Skip Whitcomb. These are just vidoes I’ve taken myself, but I also have a more extensive list of demos in my “Plein Air Demos” playlist (over 60).  If you have a demo on YouTube that you’d like added to my plein air demos playlist, leave a comment with the video URL.  Thanks!

California Coast, Oil on Canvas, 9x12
California Coast, Oil on Canvas, 9x12

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Video

California Coast Painting Demonstration

Turbulent Times

It’s been a turbulent few weeks, so I’ve not painted much.

Spoiler alert: this story does have a happy ending. Some of you may know I was diagnosed with cancer in July. I had a rare malignant tumor in my ear canal. After 2 painful operations–one that completely reconstructed my canal–I was told I still wasn’t in the clear. If you’ve gone through something like this, you know how it can make you re-assess life and your priorities. In fact, a similar health scare in 2000 is what propelled me into art. Without a clear end, I decided to get a third opinion, Dr. Jack Resneck at UCSF. In our first meeting I formed an opinion of him as a careful, thoughtful doctor. He believed the diagnosis was rare enough that a re-test of all my biopsies and tumor were in order. I got the good news the week before Thanksgiving: I didn’t have cancer! The growth was benign. I was relieved and pissed off at the same time, but thankful in the end that the treatment could end and I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve lost a bit of hearing in that ear, and have some scars, but I’ll take that over the alternative.

An hour after I got the good news (while at work) that my tumor was benign, I got a call from my husband, Mike: his mother was dying. Talk about a roller-coaster. We both left work right away, and we made it to her bedside less than 24 hours before she passed. It was very sad, but she’d been suffering for some time, and was ready. She was really terrific. We’ll miss her.

Amy Estrada, 1929-2009
Amy Estrada, 1929-2009

And yes, there is finally a painting. I’m trying to get life back to normal.

This was done from a reference photo of Avila Beach, while I was there painting for San Luis Obispo Plein Air this year. The “golden hour” light was striking the rocks like fire. It was quite a site. Enjoy!

Cliffs at Avila Beach (Golden Hour), Oil on Canvas, 8x10
Cliffs at Avila Beach (Golden Hour), Oil on Canvas, 8x10

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The painting adventures of Ed Terpening