Another day at Rodeo Beach

I was able to complete two paintings yesterday at Rodeo Beach, a new favorite painting spot in Marin County.  I’m going out again today with Brent Jensen. The weather is even better than yesterday!  Sorry to those artists reading this in the cold in the rest of country 🙁

Bird Rock, Oil on Linen, 8×10

Towards Rodeo Beach, Oil on Linen, 9×12


Two Sides

I painted the both works below on Sunday–the first plein air, the second in my studio.  I suppose it’s fair to say it would be difficult for anyone to identify these as coming from the same artist.  This is part of my “split personality”: In the studio, I find it easy to be more inventive than I do while painting in front of my live subject.  This is a problem I need to work on.  I think somewhere between these two perspectives is where I want to be.

The seascape was painted using the “brush in front” technique I’ve written about before.  With the sun behind me, I align my brush in front of the object I’m trying to represent.  This allows me to get a fairly accurate color match.  But to aid in that process, I also use “color separation“, ie, when painting objects of the same general color (eg, the green of the sea, the green of the hills), I purposefully use two completely different base colors.  The hills where mixed with a base of Ultramarine Blue and Hansa Yellow Orange, while the sea is mixed with Cobalt Blue and Yellow Ochre.  Yes, I probably could have mixed a good approximation with, say, just Ultramarine Blue, but there’s something about this approach that I think is a sure fire way to mix color.

I really like this spot, so hope to come back and paint something larger.


Marin Headlands (morning)


This studio painting was approached much differently.  I actually started with a scraped painting (done from the same reference photograph). The previous painting was scraped down using a palette knife (and not towel/solvent), so plenty of the old image remained.  I’d always liked the reference photo, so gave it another shot.  Removing my glasses (to keep the painting loose, and to think in terms of Hawthorne’s “color spots”), I painted over the old work, not covering it, but just adding color spots that I thought where needed to complete the painting.


Sunset (Buena Vista Park), Oil on Canvas, 8×10″


What do you think of these two approaches and the results?

“Backlit Tree (Stowe Lake)” Video Demo

I took snap shots of this painting in progress, and stitched them together to make a YouTube video (using iPhoto and iMovie).  These are  useful to others interested in my process, but they’re also good reference for me. I often times over-work a painting. I think perhaps it may have made sense to stop this one about 3/4 of the way through. What do you think?


“Backlit Tree (Stowe Lake)”, Oil on Linen, 10×12″


And here’s the YouTube demo:

At the The Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park

Yesterday was an absolutely perfect day to paint.  The light could not have been clearer. It was an orange-yellow, which made the most perfect blue-violet shadows (shadow colors are generally complementary to the color of light).  This is the type of light/shadow that clearly inspired the French impressionists. In fact, while painting, I was reminded of the summer I spent painting in Provence–the light was THAT clear.

I set up in the Temple of Music courtyard, which was constructed with the first M.H. de Young Museum as the Grand Court for the 1894 California Mid-winter International Exposition. The bandstand has a band that plays April – October (126th season!).

This was my first effort. The tops of the trees had a wonderful warm glow, and the fountain was fun to paint, too. I tried to keep the bandstand itself subtle, falling back in space so the fountain and tree tops could lead the eye.

Golden Gate Park Music Concourse, Oil on Linen, 8×10″


I then set up with the light between me and these two trees. Definitely had fun with the light/shadow in this one.  Hurray for sunny days in San Francisco!

Winter London Plane Trees, Oil on Linen, 10×8″


Ventura River, Near Ojai

The small town of Ojai is (pronounced /ˈoʊhaɪ/) is a city in Ventura County, California.  The city was founded as Nordhoff, until the time leading up to World War I, when anti-German sentiment was high.  Ojai is a Chumash word meaning “Valley of the Moon”. It should be called “Valley of the Stars”, because Ojai is just close enough to Los Angeles (and beautiful enough) to attract lots of celebrity residents. Check out the list of “Noted Residents” in Wikipedia, which includes Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Johnny Cash, Tim Burton, and Howard Hughes, listed as an industrialist, who attended The Thacher School. In fact, just last week, this pic of Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. was taken in the hiking trails around Ojai.  But the only connection between Ojai’s celebrity and my painting is mentioned in the movie Thirteen, when Evie’s aunt declares that she and her niece are moving to Ojai so Evie “won’t get in any more trouble.”  It is a place of quiet beauty.

This was painted in my studio from a reference photo, but luckily the scene was fresh in my mind as I did paint this riverbed study their “en plein air”.  I did strugle somewhat with the large tree that stands as the center of interest.  As I wrote about in my cloud studies post recently, I’m working on making every object three dimensional. I want the viewer to feel they could virtually walk around this tree, and know what the back side is like. What do you think?  Any tips?

This reminds me of something Camille Przewodek said.  She’s been focusing on the figure lately, and has been studying with the great master Jove Wang.  Her figures had form, but they were not quite 3-dimensional. Jove taught her that when painting the figure, you need to indicate the complete form, even that not seen.  When you paint a head, you need to show how the back of the head is formed. I have NO IDEA how to do this, but it’s just another reason why I need to study with Jove Wang someday.

Speaking of studying, I just signed up for a workshop with painter Kevin Weckbach at the Scottsdale Artists School in late February. I’ll try and blog it (with his permission). I really like the quality of abstraction and paint in his work (see galleries 1, 2, 3 and 4). I especially like these two: Glasses for Two and Red Spruce).

Ventura River, near Ojai – Oil on Linen – 8×10″


Santa Paula Sunset

Just a reminder, my 1/2 price Holiday Sale is ending January 5th.  There are more than 100 works available in my online store currently, starting as low as $50, free shipping!

This is another study of clouds. I’m working on increasing the volume/weight of clouds, trying to render them much as you would a still life object.  Enjoy!

Santa Paula Sunset, Oil on Linen, 8×10


Recent Plein Air Studies

The holiday weeks are a great time for me to paint.  It’s a time of reflection, hope, appreciation of friends/family, and just general “good feeling”.  I need the right, positive mindset to paint–and I think it shows in my work.  At least, it’s the right start.

I painted this study in Ventura yesterday–it’s just a camera phone shot, so quite a bit of glare, but you get the idea.  I like paintings like this with no sky, as it gives me a wider range of values for the land, and I don’t have to worry about having the sky and ground be harmonious.  I can have more fun with local color.  Without knowing it, this became a study in complementary color, always an interesting color harmony.  One issue I have to think about in this study is the nearby hill in shadow (at the top of the painting) is too close to the green plants in shadow along the riverbed.  I probably should have studied more closely these colors and separated them by temperature or hue (see my March ’07 post on “color separation”).  It’s unlikely these colors were this close.

Ventura Riverbed, Oil on Linen, 8×10

This morning I painted with David Stonesifer and Marge Levine.  Marge is visiting the Bay Area from New Jersey, and emailed me a couple of days ago to see if we could paint together.  We met at the Palace of Fine Arts and had a good time painting–between the tourists.  There were hundreds of them in-and-out during the morning (bus loads), so it made it a bit of challenge, along with weather shifting from sun to clouds every 15 minutes.  But hey, that’s plein air!  It’s always a joy.

My first study was “a scraper” (wiped the canvas clean). I tried to follow the light back and forth, and it just didn’t work.  I should have split my canvas in half, as Camille Przewodek always advises on days like today: one half for the scene in sun, the other is shade.  But good came of it.  As I was running out of time, I did a quick 20-minute study in hazy light. I kept it loose and simple, which often results in my best work.  Nothing spectacular here, but that’s what studies are for: just capture and generalize the large value areas and keep the composition simple.

Palace Fountain, Oil on Linen, 8×10

Colorado Sunset – Video Demo

I’m finally back!  I’ve been visiting family in Southern California, and unfortunately, no WiFi was available to post.  Time to catch up.

This video demo shows a how I interpreted a Colorado sunset in paint.  I took snapshots throughout the painting process and string them together in this video.  There were many shots taken, so you’ll get a better idea of how I go back and forth to adjust a painting before it’s done. I’m still struggling with dark values. I wanted the sky clouds/colors to be rich and warm (ie, as little white as possible, because white dulls color and cools it), so I get the ground and hills relatively dark.  You’ll notice in the video that 3/4 of the way through I lighten up the hills (particularly those in the distance).  Perhaps the warm clouds should have been lighter?  I need to learn Photoshop, so I can play with these “what if” questions on my PC. I recall that Kevin Macpherson wraps his paintings in plastic and paints over them, to check alternative color/value, and also as he works on larger works and wants to check his color mixing.
The video looks darker than the original, so keep that in mind.


Colorado Sunset – Oil on Linen – 12×16



click to see this painting demo on YouTube

Sunset #3 (Casa Cosmos)

Here’s another sunset painting (see 1, 2) done from reference photos taken while on my recent trip to Casa Cosmos (Mexico).

Clouds are fun to paint, because they make flexible compositional devices.  No one’s going to notice if a cloud is a slightly different shape, or in a different position, than the actual scene.  But clouds are a challenge to paint, because they need to have volume.  All too often, clouds appear stuck on top of the sky, flat.  I’m certainly guilty of that.  Some clouds do appear that way, because they’re thin and have little volume.  This painting has a few of those, but the big cloud on the left side was larger, and so I had to show the clouds weight.  In general, the light side of a cloud needs to be lighter than the sky, and the dark side darker.  This usually means that you have to seek a very close value relationship, as well as temperature shift.  I’m happy with the volume I was able to convey in this one.  It took time, lots of adjustments back-and-forth between the underside of the cloud, lit side and sky.


Sunset #3 (Casa Cosmos), Oil on Linen, 12×16


The other big challenge painting sunsets is color.  It’s easy to go overboard!  Yes, the colors are intense, but there are also lots of neutral grays in sky, and in fact those neutrals provide a calm stage for the intense colors to shine.  The other big challenge with color is value.  To check the values in this painting I converted the color photo above to gray scale.  This is a great way to check that your values are accurate.  Compare the color image above with the gray scale version here and you’ll see what I mean. It’s difficult to judge value accurately with intense color.

Casa Cosmos #3 in Gray Scale

Point Lobos Light

Point Lobos has so much to offer artists, and I’ve painted it many times.  This painting was done from a reference photo, if I recall correctly, from the area around Cypress Cove.  Many artists have captured this awesome place, including classics by Percy Gray, F. Childe Hassam, Guy Rose (1, 2), and contemporary painters Kevin Courter, Brian Blood and Robert Lewis. Here’s a Google search result of Point Lobos paintings with lots of others.

Point Lobos is a place of sharp edges.  Monterey Cypress branches angle sharply against the wind; the jagged rocks fight relentless, active surf; the ocean’s dark green/blues show the great depth of the inlets.  With steep terrain like this, dramatic light effects are common. This view shows the late afternoon light fighting through the trees and rocks, creating slivers of light on the ground and treetops.

If you ever get to Northern California, don’t miss the opportunity to paint at Point Lobos!


Point Lobos Light – Oil on Linen – 12×10″


Palace of Fine Arts

In October I painted a couple of studies of the historic Palace of Fine Arts buildings built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, built just a few short years after the devastating 1906 San Francisco Great Earthquake and Fire.  That exposition was instrumental as it introduced important art movements from around the world to American artists. Today, it’s not a traditional art museum, as you may expect, but houses the Exploritorium, one of my favorite museums in the city.  It’s a museum “of science, art and human perception”, it continues it’s role as a place of all things “new” in the arts.

The buildings have just finished a restoration, so the scaffolding that has been surrounding this dome are finally gone!  I may paint here again this weekend, as there are lots of compositional opportunities and the weather is perfect.

I especially like the later afternoon light, which is when this was painted.  It illuminates the dome in about 1/3 light from across the lake. When painting structures, I think it’s important to capture them in partial light and shadow.  Just as with the figure, this approach allows you to best convey form and structure.  If the building from this angle where in full sun or shadow, I wouldn’t have been able to convey the shape and solidity of the structure.

It’s for sale in my online store.  Enjoy!

Palace of Fine Arts – Oil on Linen – 10×12″


The painting adventures of Ed Terpening