I have a few new plein air studies to share from my recent trip to Las Vegas. To be honest, not my favorite city, but I was there for the 1st Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo. It was held at the Red Rocks Casino & Spa. I’d stayed there before, but had no idea there was so much to paint just a few miles away. I’ve always found the subtle color variations in the desert landscape inspiring. I hope you enjoy–and if you’re an artist, check back in a week, as I’m planning an extended blog post on the convention, complete with videos of demos.
I just returned from one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended, with Frank Gardner in San Miguel de Allende. What made it great? It was a “whole” experience: painting (yes, of course!) and great insights from Frank, but what it made it extra special was the food, music, culture and the unbelievably welcoming vibe of San Miguel de Allende.
Painting in watercolor is SO different from oil. It’s a real challenge, but I’m enjoying it. I decided to take a short break from oil painting to learn a new medium. I’m sure I’ll return to oil soon, but enjoying the immediacy and delicacy required to paint watercolor. Enjoy!
We’ve had some dramatic skies in San Francisco this week, as we transition to Winter. I hiked to the top of Corona Hieghts for 360-degree views of the city, which also gave me different perspectives on the clouds to paint. This study is looking into the sun, so you get that bright halo around the clouds–the silver lining!
It has been an exhausting but inspiring and productive week preparing for the San Luis Obispo Plein Air show at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. The show opened today and runs throughout Sunday. Here are some of my works in the show. It was a week of dramatic weather, so I focused on that, particularly the clouds.
The colors of the desert are so distinctive. Yes, there are spots of bright color here and there, but in general, I find the colors to be “mellow”, varied and yet quite harmonious. This was painted from a reference photo I took outside Tucson, Arizona. I started with transparent washes across the entire painting, from the dull green at the top to the blue-violet in the foreground. You can still see much of this initial wash in the finished painting.
Last year, Christopher Forbes and Stephen Doherty invited a group of 10 artists to paint at the Forbes family estate in New Jersey. We had inspirational landscapes, interiors and models to work from. Those artists have been invited to share work done that week, or later work inspired by the trip. The artists attending included Camie Davis, John Patrick Campbell, Rob Clarke, Bryan Le Boeuf, George Towne, Wendy Walworth, Timothy Jahn, Ed Terpening, Patricia Watwood and John Dowd. Tonight was really special, my first group show in New York, and an opportunity to reconnect with this exceptional group!
To view my work on display in the show, click here.
To work on this skill, I selected a reference photo with as few shapes and color variations as possible. This painting was done from a reference photo I took in Big Sur, CA. Notice in this study how there are very few shapes and only about 7 main color mixtures. I could have rendered this more fully and modeled the clouds or other shapes, but I think (at least for this composition and study) it would have detracted from the impression. Of course, this is also somewhat a matter of personal taste. It fits the bill for me, as I strive towards more abstraction in my work. Simplification is part of that path.
I used a reference photo of “Indian Canyons” park in Palm Springs, Ca to study shadow color. The color of shadow on a surface is influenced by it’s local color, as well as the environment: objects facing the sky tend to have bluer shadows than shadows that don’t reflect the sky. A good area of the painting to observe is the top left quadrant. The large boulder there has a striking blue shadow. The color of the rock is near white (with some blue in it), but the reason the blue is so strong is the influence of the sky. That sky color reflects into the shadows. Compare that top shadow with the shadow on the left of the boulder, as it hits the river bed. There are several shadow colors there. The side of the rock is a warm shadow, it doesn’t face the sky plane, but instead has warm palm tree leaves to reflect. Yet the side also takes on an orange hue reflecting from the water below it. That same cast shadow of the boulder’s left side hits the water, and and a smaller boulder behind. That small rock is facing the sky at an angle, so has a deep blue shadow.The cast shadow on the water is more violet, as it is not getting as much sun as the top of the rock.
Revisiting the colors of the desert landscape. I had some trouble with the distant shadows, and kept alternating darker/lighter. This photo seems to show them lighter than they appear in life. In the end, the distant shadows are probably a bit too light, because when I removed color from this image to make it black & white, the shadows and light of the hills appear the same value. It’s interesting to see how color temperature can telegraph shadows as well as value. I guess that’s where the colorists of the Henche School are coming from.