Category Archives: Learning

The power of subltey

I’ve just finished Kevin MacPherson’s new book, “Reflections on a Pond“, and like all great art books it will be re-read many times until dog-eared and worn.  That’s a complement!  The book contains one painting for every day of the year of the view of a pond outside his home in New Mexico.  Imagine, trying to come up with 365 paintings of the same scene!  He pulls it off, and in so teaches a lesson about observation. 

You can look at the same site, day after day, and see something different.  Of course light changes, weather, and so on–and those changes are obvious.  But the series of images demonstrate how the artist really brings the subject to life, by conveing a point of view, or an emotional response.  I also found the book a good lesson in subtlety.  You can see how incredibly sensitve the artist as by the careful observation and emotion in every paitning.  I’ve been thinking of painting a similar series because I can see there are some real lessons to be learned here.  There’s a good spot off 280/Edgewood Road that I’m considering, although it’s a rest stop, so not open 24×7.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, in the coming weeks, I’ll post some of my own paintings that hopefully show I’ve learend something from this great American master.

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.

An Aspen Moment

When I’m out painting, I’m often asked “How long does it take you to paint that?” I know most people are well-meaning and just plain curious, but the reality is an entire lifetime of experience and years of training go into each work of art. You can’t translate two hours of work into an hourly rate. If you did, all artist’s would be rich! But guess what, the vast majority are poor. Why?

The simple answer is consistency. The greats can create great paintings, one after the other, while the rest (like me) will maybe decide to show 1 in 4 paintings in a gallery, and then go on to sell 1 in 4 of those. So, do the math 🙂 I had to paint approximately 1,400 paintings to paint this little masterpiece.

What does all this have to do with this painting? Well, it’s one of those real winners. One in which everything I’ve every learned came together at once. It practically “painted itself”. I often hear that phrase from artist’s when a painting is going well. Everything you’ve learned becomes automatic, and you’re able to respond in an emotional way to the subject. Not in a complex, overt way, but one of elegant simplicity. This is a simple painting–look how few colors there are–but to me, it just glows.

So, more to come! I’m still working on my Aspen Series, and hope to have them done for my show in January, 2006. I know this study is a winner, and will end up being a 20×24, or perhaps even bigger. I still have a 3’x5′ canvas crowding my studio, white as winter, ready for the glow of Fall.

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Verde Artist Guild / OPA Paint-out

I hosted a joint OPA (Oil Painter’s of America) / Verde Artist Guild paint-out yesterday at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Although the morning started in drizzle, it cleared up beautifully. We had around 30-40 artists attend from all over the state.I spent most of my time “hosting”, ie, walking around and saying hello, making people feel welcome. I did do one “quickie” painting (top image).

It was so great to see this many artist’s create their own interpretations of this great old building. I think next time maybe we’ll organize a show around these events and invite collector’s.

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Ted Goerschner Workshop

Wow. I just finished a three-day workshop in Los Olivos with the great Ted Goerschner! I’ve always admired his work, but found that after years of teaching many of our countries best artists, he was no longer teaching. That changed when I read an ad in PleinAir Magazine, announing his first workship in years. I called the same day, and one of the classes was already sold out (both sold out quickly).And now I know why. When you watch a master like Ted, it really is like magic, but unlike magicians, he is completely open about telling you everything he’s thinking and doing. During the three day workshop, he demonstrated two large studio paintings (on the left) from blank canvas to finish. He was incredibly generous with his time and advice.I learned most about composition from Ted. His focus on that, and years of experience is really remarkable. If you get the chance to study with him, go for it, but if you can’t, buy his book.Related Links