Category Archives: Seascapes

University of California, Berkeley

Hey, this is cool. I got a call today from the Chancelor of the Biology School at UC Berkely asking permission to use the painting below on a poster advertising their Microbiology conference at Asilomar Conference Center. I did a series of sand dune paintings last year. Funny enough, not great sellers, although one in particular (that hasn’t sold yet) was accepted to several prestigeous exhibitions.

I gave them my persmission and just asked for a copy of the poster…

Asilomar Dunes – Oil on Canvas – 12×12″

Gray vs. Color, Part II

In a previous post, I lamented my struggles with color–specifically, finding a balance between grays and pure color. I received good feedback in comments (thanks Jan and Bart) and made changes to the painting (see before and after images below). The changes may appear subtle, but I think the graying down parts of the painting made it more realistic and interesting. Thanks for your help!

“Near Devils Slide”

“Near Devils Slide”

Verde Artist Guild Paintout

We had a great turnout at today’s Verde Artist Guild paint-out. I’d guess at least 20 artists. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooporate. I got there at 9am and it was completely overcast, foggy. I thought I’d just do a quick “gray day” painting until it cleared up, but…no such luck.

Even so, everyone painted away in true Plein Air tradition!  I’ll post my gray-day painting tomorrow.
Verde Artist Guild Paintout July 2006 - Pescadero - CA -1
Verde Artist Guild Paintout July 2006 - Pescadero - CA -2

My Battle: Gray vs. Color

I study a lot with Colorists, because my direction for some time has been to use color to the fullest, as a form of expression equal to design, subject matter, and all the other things that influence the appeal of a painting.  I also go back-and-forth (or, perhaps this is just learning) between colors and grays, to find the right balance.  One teacher emphasizes the use of grays to give pure color a stage to sing on.  I think he’s right, and I know I’m struggling to find that balance.

A case in point is this painting I did the other night.  I painted this in my studio via an image projected via television to a connected digital camera. SIDEBAR: Have you tried this?  You’ll never paint from a photograph again, I guarantee it, if you try this method. Projecting with light (be it a TV, slides, whatever) is the best way to see into shadows and get a better representation of the values in a scene.

The column on the left shows the scene from the photograph, in color and in greyscale below it.  The right column is the same, but my painting.  Looking at the grey scale comparisons, I think they’re fairly close.  Yes, the sea could have been a bit lighter, as well as the sky, but in general the values are close to what they should be.  Of course the job of an artist is to interpret, not capture as a photograph, but I’m still seeking for a degree of realism

The color is another story.  I think I really over-saturated the scene. I wanted to push the color, but I ended up pushing every color instead of selectively. I think the painting would have been stronger had I taken this approach–in fact, why not, I’ll paint over this with grays and see how it goes (upcoming post!).

Photograph – Color

Painting – Color

Photograph – B&W

Painting – B&W

On reason I started thinking about color saturation was I spent some time last night checking out the web sites of some of my favorite painters–unfortunately, most of which are not bloggers, so no RSS feeds!   With the “A”s, I quickly ended up on Brent Jensen’s site, whose URL you’ll find in the sidebar of my blog (“Favorite Painters”).  Brent is an occasionally painting partner (when I’m down in Southern California, his home, or when he comes up my way).  We’ll get to paint together at the San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival in October.  He’s also studied with some of the same colorists, so it’s interesting for me to compare our work.

I think Brent is doing some really wonderful work!  In particular, I am noticing a change in how he represents color (in addition to some really wonderfully loose brushwork).  I’ve copied some samples below that illustrate this.  He’s really carefully controlling color, and has lots of interesting, subtle grays.

by Brent Jensen

By Brent Jensen

So, hear I go: the every-ending sea-saw between gray and color.  I’ll find the balance, eventually.  As always, your comments appreciated on the subject.

Central Coast National Fine Art Competition

Great news! I’ve just learned that this competition has accepted two of my paintings for their show August 10 – September 17, 2006 at at the Morro Bay Art Association. I will not be able to make the reception, but it is Saturday, August 12, 7-10pm.
Here are the paintings accepted:

Last Light, Eucalyptus
Oil on Linen, 16×20

Beach Town
Oil, 9×12

Being Subtle

Today, I choose a subject where I could exercise some control, subtlety. In the water, I focused on slight shifts in warm/cool colors.

“Simple Seascape”, Oil on Linen, 8×10

A good way to judge whether your values are correct, is to look at your painting in greyscale, as shown below. This “reads” well in black/white, so I feel the values are on target:

Work in Progress

Bean Hollow Painting Animation

I’m often asked about demonstration my process, in order to see how paintings progress. The painting on the left is an example of the progression I can go through. The animation starts with the original painting, then shows the changes I made, in part based no a crtitique by Ted Georschner. In the final painting (which will be in my show opening January 3rd! Plug, plug), I did the following

  1. I darkened significantly the bottom of the painting. This allowed the viewer’s eye to focus where I wanted them to focus, on the golden light lit ice plans on the hillside. Darkening the bottom of a painting like this was also a technique used by Edgar Payne.
  2. I added some trees atop the bluff. This pushed back further the background trees, and it gave me a nice dark to help the ice plants look even more illuminated. An artist will often surround a light with darks to help punch it up. The range of our pigments is a small fraction of that found in light, so we rely on techniques like that to strengthen light.

Trip to Aruba

Related Links

I can’t believe I haven’t written in this blog for a month! It’s been a busy time. I started a 5-6 month consulting contract to refill my $ coffers, and I went to Aruba over Thanksgiving week.

I was really looking forward to this trip, and while there were some highlights, in general it was too hot/humid to paint much. I did complete three paintings, and a number of pen/ink wash sketches. The island’s landscape is unique–at least as far as I’ve seen in the Caribbean. It’s located 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela, so it’s far south which gives it a particularly arid climate. Cactus and iguana share the island with an oil refinery–yet, an oil refinery. It was surreal to sit under a palappa at Baby Beach and see this refinery spewing green smoke and fire across the way.

We also noticed a lot starving dogs–nice vacation, huh? So, we bought a box of dog biscuits and gave them out as we toured around.

In the end, I may do some studio paintings from my photos. We’ll see. I want to finish my series of Autumn paintings for my January show, so we’ll see if I have time.

Asilomar #1

Spent a couple of days painting in the Carmel area (Point Lobos, Asilomoar, Pacific Grove). I’m really fascinated right now by the incredible color and design possibilities sand dunes covered in ice plant. The complementary red/green combinations are powerful, especially in the late afternoon and early morning light. This paitning was done around 6pm. I intend on painting a series of this subject, perhaps for hanging at Viewpoints Gallery in November.

Related Links

Rocky Point Lobos

Cypress Cove, Point Lobos
Another day at Point Lobos! Wow, I love this place. Unfortunately, again, it was foggy. The coast was clear all the way down to Carmel. I could have painted in sun elsewhere, but I love the deep water and rocks of this great park. Here, I focused on capturing the turbulence of the water played against the steadfast nature of the rocks. This will be in my first solo show, opening this weekend.


In Laguna, I had fun producing a few small rocks/surf studies, with lots of juicy paint! Using this technique in representing water is particularly effective because water is mostly made of “edges” of color in sharp contract. This, and pallette knife technique work realy well.