Category Archives: Art

Planning a painting

Since I’ve been on the subject of technique lately, here’s something I learned from Barry John Raybould–use of the notan sketch. The notan sketch is a great way to try out several different compositions of design, based on a 4-value plan. Why not do this before committing to paint?

I use 3 felt tip pens by Tombo, a black, medium grey, light grey, and white for the lightest value. I’ll try different combinations out, and see what works. I’ll often note below what I like or don’t like about the design.

Each row below represents a painting, for which I tried out three different designs. Try it!

Playing musical scales, with color

As many of you know, I occasionally teach. Not nearly enough. I have a queue of students (thankfully!), but lately have been too busy to schedule a workshop. I hope sometime this summer. If you’re interested, let me know. In the meantime, showing up for the monthly Verde Artist Guild paint-outs is a great way to watch and ask questions.
But, back to the topic at hand, “Playing Scales with color”. What does that mean? Bottom line, this is a GREAT exercise to play with color. You’re an artist/collector, so you love color, right? Maybe not. Regardless, you may find this interesting.

First of all, my first paying job (well, outside of paper-boy at 13 and a very short–two week stint–at Knotts Berry Farm) was as a musician. I played professionally starting in high school. Like art, I couldn’t BELIEVE people where paying me for doing something I absolutely loved. Enough said. I know not everyone is in that situation, but that’s a good future topic. I played Jazz, so am fluent with the concept of improvisation.

Improv applies to art. In order to make things up in a fluid way, yet stay within a defined structure (musical key, color palette), your options (notes, colors) must become second nature. Once they are second nature, you can sit before a subject and apply that key/color-scheme to reach the artistic ends you desire, be it an exiting emotional painting, calm, mysteries, whatever.

So, here’s how I apply this to developing my painting skills. First, I define a “color key” that matches the mood I want to convey. In color theory, there are several: analolgous colors, complementary colors, split-complementary colors, triadic colors, etc. To get experience with these “color keys” I take a very simple 3-value design, and re-paint it using several different keys. These color studies sometimes result in great paintings (I’ve sold many), but like a musician, I don’t count on scales/exercises to sell. They’re through-way, for learning.

Look at the example below. The top-left is an analogus color scheme. Colors are adjacent on the color wheel. Top-right is a triadic color scheme (blue/violet, orange, and green are equi-distant). Bottom left is a complementary color scheme (Orange and Blue), and bottom-right is a split complementary scheme (Orange + Green/Blue and Red/Blue). What do you think? Doesn’t each version have a different emotional tone?

When it comes to painting nature, drawing skills are abolute, but let yourself go with color!
Color Study Example

BTW, this techique is also discussed in Ted Georschner’s book, The Workshop Experience. Try it! It’s only paint!

Painting, the Flu, & Skunks!

What’s the connection between painting, the flue, and skunks? Well, generally none, although last week I experienced all three.

I’ve been working on a sunrise commission for a good collector of mine (hi, Noel), and frankly have had a hard time with it. Getting up EARLY is not my strong suit. I’m a late-night cat. Anyway, I did get some decent studies in Carmel a few months ago, but none that really knocked me out, so I thought I’d try last week.

I noticed that we had some pretty spectacular sunrises (from my bedroom window, just getting up), so figured it was worth gettnig up and trying to get some good plein air studies painted. I got up at around 5:30am to get set up for painting by about 6:30 at Baylands Preserve, a great spot for capturing both sunrises and sunsets, due to the fact there are locations with depth of field (hills, so on) and water combinations to get those great reflections. So I arrive, and it’s FREEZING and there are skunks everywhere. A couple kind of “charged me”. I don’t know much about skunks, but they seemed to approach me on their hind legs. Weird, I know. Well, I avoided the skunks, but got the flu. It was so dam cold, I was quite sick the next day, and out the whole week. I know, it’s a virus, but I’m sure that painting experience weakened me. Or, you know, I just like to show how much PAIN is involved in creating art.

In the end, I did get this little study done, as well as a couple others I ended up wiping off. I’ll let you know what I end up with for Noel.

Bay Sunrise

BTW, paintings of sunsets are available to see on my main web site, on the Miscellany page.

Buelton Farm House

While study with Ted Georschner last year, I stayed at a Motel 6 in Buelton (outside Solvang). I captured the “golden light” view from my room. I was too tired to paint, but did this little painting (8×10) when I got home. I project images from my digital camera on a TV in my studio. It really helps to illuminate the image. Painting from photos is really a drag. The darks all become black, and the highlights all average out. Much better to paint from a project image.

Buelton Farm House

Gazos Grille

Some very nice news today. I wrote a few days ago about the closing of long-time Half Moon Bay gallery, Eriksen. Well, local businesses are stepping up to help out displaced artist’s like me. When I got home, I received a voice-mail from Stephanie, the owner of a new restaurant called the Gazos Grille. She explained how she wants her place to be a reflection of local artists and talent of all kinds. She has live music on the weekends, and the restaurant is filled with local art and crafts. She sounded great. So, I’m going to meet with her next Sunday, see the place, and possibly show my art there.

I’m also going to approach the Garden Gallery in HMB, next door to Eriksen. I’ve always wanted to show there too, but have been loyal to Eriksen. They’re the first gallery to have shown my work, and that has meant a lot to me.

So, wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes.

PS. In the meantime, be sure and patronize this local place. They’ve got a heart: Gazos Grille, 5720 Cabrillo Hwy, Pescadero, CA 94060, (650) 879-0874.

Wheeler Canyon

Wheeler Canyon is in Santa Paula (Ventura County). It’s a really beautiful area, much of it unspoiled farms and ranches. In the 30’s and 40’s it was often visited and painted by some of the great early California impressionsists, including Cornelis & Jesse Arms Botke (who lived there).

I was inspired by the fact so many artists visited the canyon and found so much to capture. I’ve listed below some links to other artists’ works.

My partner, Mike, grew up in Santa Paula, and was always aware of the art history of the town. If fact, the town banker, Douglas Shively, wanted to be an artist but was forbidden by his father to do so as he was told he needed to run the family business. Nevertheless, Douglas Shively continued to paint, and has done some wonderful work. We have a large painting of his of Morro Bay. Some day, maybe I’ll do a post on him. He led an interesting life.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my painting of this historic location.


“Hillside Light” at the Autumn Colors Show

My show at Viewpoints Gallery is winding down. I’ve received lots of great feedback from attending artists, thank you! Most who attended commented that the paintings where at new level, and I really appreciate that. I worked hard on this show, and am proud of what went into it. Although I’ll be moving from the front wall on Jan 29, I’ll leave the paintings on another wall (near the desk) until at least the first week of February.

The next big event will be Open Studios (May 20/21), although I’ll continue to show at Viewpoints Gallery continuously.

Eriksen Gallery Closing

I’m sad to report that the very first gallery to show my work, and the one that has sold the most over the years, is closing. Eriksen Gallery in Half Moon Bay was in business more than 30 years. Teresa Eriksen-Brown, togehter with her husband Gene and gallery staffer Daryll Quan, have been running the gallery since the death of Peggy Eriksen, the gallery founder.

Gene and Teresa really tried to find an owner that would continue to format of showing local, emerging Bay Area artists. Unfortunately, that was not to be. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating what was a great gallery, and wishing Darryl, Gene and Teresa the best moving forward.


Eriksen Gallery

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.

Santa Inez Valley

Santa Inez Valley, Oil / Linen, 8×10″

I finished another couple of paintings this week for my January show at Viewpoints Gallery, focused on Autumn colors. I took some great reference photos of the Santa Inez Valley when I was there for my Ted Georschner workshop a few months back.

The other painting I’m working on is much more abstract and colorist. I’m enjoying going back and forth between the two genres, although I am concerned that the show may suffer from consistency. Perhaps this is a good thing.

The dam printer is taking it’s time with my postcards! They probably won’t go out until just before Christmas.

Progress on the Aspen Series

“Distant Aspen”, Oil/Linen, 11×14

Related LinksNo new links related to this post, so I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite artists:

I continue to make progress as I prepare for my January show. I haven’t come up with a great name…So for now, it will be the “Autumn Colors Show”. Yuck…I know. Let me know if you think of something better.I typically start with small plein air studies, and then work up. These two are 11x14s, and I’m working no two more 20x24s. There are a LOT of images of Aspens, perhaps too many. I also have some great sand dunes with red ivy from the Asilomar series. Since those were done in Fall and represent those colors, they’ll fit in this next show to counter-balance the Aspens.

I am having trouble finding time to paint, now that I’m temporarily working full time. I hope to finish the large works on weekends and the dead work week between Christmas and New Years.

The nice thing is I’ve already had collectors ask if they can buy some of these works before the show. I can spare a couple, but I do need to keep a quality group for the gallery.

Well, as always, if you’d like to share your impressions of these series, shoot me an email.

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.