Archive for March, 2011

What to do

when you are bored, have lots of time on your hands or avoiding work. My good friend Linda Blondheim, the materfamilias of the Florida plein air movement, has started an art supplies for the needy movement and asked for donations. I have a ton of extra and slightly used supplies and have been wanting to downsize anyway so I thought, rather than actually getting work done, I would go through my brushes and paints and cull out the ones I don’t need or use and the extra tubes of cadmium pumpkin medium or Thalo Azo Quinacidrone Magenta that I bought in a moment of desperation and donate to the cause.

Now I know I have a lot of brushes lying around but until I took them out of all of the vases and jars and hidden places and piled them up, I didn’t realize how many. It was a lesson in brush care and money out the door that I suppose was good to get. I don’t care for my brushes as much as I should so they get a little frayed and bent and crusty. When the flats and the brights lose their corners they are no good to me any more… unless they are big and cost $17, then I find use for them. I had so many scratch and dents in a pile that every artist who walked by my space said…”holy crap, that’s a lot of brushes”. this sampling to the right is about a 10th of my holdings. I tossed the lost causes, soaked the maybes in turpenoid natural (wonderful paint solvent, terrible paint medium) and salvaged all that I could. Got a box full for her.

Now then, it’s time to go through my paints. I’m a bit of a paint tube hoarder so I went through my drawers and culled the decent tubes for the cause but found I had a ton of mostly used tubes of white, yellow, red, blue, etc. What to do, what to do… as it turns out I also had a few open tubes laying around that I was saving for just this moment.  A chance to squeeze out every last drop of paint from the nearly spent tubes and mix them into custom florida landscape colors.

In truth, I did not invent the idea of mixing custom colors. I got it from Scott Christensen who extolled the virtues of using grays as a quick way to get to a color when painting. He got it from Edgar Payne. It took a long time to get what he was saying and it was this. If you work in a primary palette and you are painting outdoors, you have a limited time to arrive at a color and with the primary palette it takes a while to get the right balance of yellow, red and blue to properly neutralize a color note. SO, what if you have tubes of color that are median versions of the colors you find in nature: the soft purple blue of a tree trunk in shadow, the pale warm gray of  florida sand or a general grass green that is neither bright nor dark. These colors, plus an array of warm and cool grays can be squeezed out and pushed to get to where you need to go a lot faster than the old fashioned way.

And really what is more fun than mixing big piles of color? Only two or three things come to mind.  Pictured here is a blob of titanium white from about 4 tubes, some ultramarine blue, cad red medium and a squidge of yellow to neutralize the temperature. A little mixing with a large palette knife and VIOLA! the color of distant mountains or shadows on concrete, whatever. Now what? Time to grab an open tube and by open I mean open in the back, like a hospital smock, and with a small palette knife shovel it into the back. It’s like a visit to the proctologist.  Tap a few times to move it on down the line and once the tube is 80% full, cinch off the end and roll it up.

The fun part was thinking of what colors I can use, here in florida it’s mostly greens so I mixed a bunch. The bright greens that I can never get too because my dirty palette is throwing my color off and dingifying my bright notes, cool colors that I never use but need to in order to balance out the warms.

I ended up creating 8 or 9 tubes of color that I can’t wait to try out. It was a really productive way to waste time. Just like reading a good blog. And I ended up with born again brushes and a box load of stuff to give to Linda.


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No boat paintings in Hawaii? The answer is yes, I just didn’t post them for a couple of reasons. Marine paintings are kind of a specialty of mine and when I’m doing a paint out or a wet paint show where I have a limited time to create something that has to be good, then I go to my safety net, boats and water. A lot depends on where I am though and I’m thinking, if I’m in Maui painting then I want to paint the things that are not found in my usual haunts like crashing surf, rocky cliffs with cloud draped islands in the distance. Boats I can paint anywhere. This quickdraw painting, a 10×12, was created because of the location, 2 hours to come up with something that was either at this marina or the nearby downtown. Boats it was. Usually the boat paintings sell, especially at a quickdraw. I picked this little scene because of a couple of paintings I saw on a fav website, http://www.leningradschool.com (link at right) that had a split center of interest. Here it’s the boat group in the foreground and the boat group in the distance. Not sure I pulled it off though. It’s painted okay, color is good, brush work is okay. Just maybe the split thing didn’t work as well. I tried to soften the background down by saying nice things to it and rubbing it with my fingers but it might not have been enough. Next time I’ll try getting some flowers.

And then there’s this 16×20 of chaos and no flow… it was a first pass and I had every intention of rectifying the myriad of errors but it got to be too much to think about plus I had other paintings I liked better to put in. One of these days I’ll sit down and figure out what to do to make this better, might make for an interesting post. I have a huge box full of paintings that I will one day fix and it sits next to the dripping faucets and falling down fence and shutters in need of paint. I’ll get to it some day, I swear… it’s on the list.

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Catching up

I don’t post a lot, usually only when it’s convenient or if I feel I have something to say. But my usual pace has been off, I’ve been on the road a bunch. Off to Hawaii and last week spent a week in Wekiva Springs for the annual paint out there. Now I have so much crap to write about it’s silly. So get ready for a blog bombing run of biblical proportions. First up is this interior that I did for a gallery I’m in on Park Avenue in my home town. They carry a lot of paintings on the walls and a lot of home stuff on the floors, it’s a cool place and I like busy interiors so I went in and did this 16×20 in two trips. One of the things I like is a challenge, in this case it’s making order out of chaos. Landscapes are fun and now with this great weather a joy to create but these busy little interiors really force me to design. What I look for is a way to create a hierarchy of items, sort of a #1,2, 3, 4 of importance. If everything shares the same level of dominance then it becomes like one of those roadside billboards for attorneys with too many images and too much type and junk and stuff… no flow. So your brain just shuts it right down and you drive on by. The lamp is first, the center of interest, then the book and then the red things and then the background. It’s all about eye flow.

I haven’t been adding new paintings to my website because I’m just about to have it redone… but that’s a blog for another day.

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The maui event

It was great to be back in Maui and really hard to say goodbye. It’s a beautiful place filled with the nicest of people. I probably should’ve  posted some while I was there but I was trying really hard to get some good work done and for the most part didn’t start getting my mojo until the 3rd day of the event. Though I started off with  a successful first quickdraw, a painting that I could have sold 10 times for some mysterious reason (the beach scene), the next couple of days were filled with doubt and struggle. However if you have to struggle with a painting, why not struggle in Hawaii? This first painting almost had me going home… but I was told by many that they liked the fresh perspective on the thing. I saw this kid on the rock and he had such a great pose that I had to get him in there somehow, but knowing how kids tend to move about like colts, I took a picture and went on trying to figure out how to compose the thing. The idea was to put the main focus at the bottom and have a lot of space above. I chased the reflections around for about 2 hours… we had three to complete it and get it into a frame and up to the gallery. By the way, all these pics are from my iphone so the quality is not up to my usual standards but I have to download my images from the camera still.

Next up was the second reasonable painting produced after 3 days of dredge. This is a really bad shot and will repost it as soon as I get better shots. This one started wednesday morning and finished thursday morning, fortunately the light held out for the second day. I don’t usually go for the big open vistas but I figured an approach other than large thing in the foreground and small things in the background was in order here. Those mountains were just plain majestic.. but the shadows were a bear, they kept changing color a little more light bouncing around or a little less made it hard to keep them simple.

The color in this pic is off but you get the idea. It’s a 16×20. Then there was this 12×16 beach scene and while painting it, I felt that I really figured something out about painting rocks, big simple shapes with subtle color modulation rather than trying to chase the form of the thing… I think I got that one from Frederic Waugh, whom I’ve mentioned before. Usually rocks give me fits but in this case it went a bit easier. I actually felt it was entirely successful until I saw it again and then I didn’t but on third consideration I think it is. I’m so fickle. It’s a lot harder mentally to be an artist than most people realize.

Up next is the second quickdraw where a model was provided, a lovely, strong, Hawaiian girl with a kind of pride that came out in her look. I was painting next to Scott Burdick and if you know who he is you know how daunting that can be. He is a great portrait painter who focused on her face, I went more for a Visit Maui/Hawaiian pride poster kind of thing. I liked it and felt it held up and was a good likeness to boot.

Then came a painting of a tomato farm and palm nursery and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say pot farm judging by the characters who worked there. This scene is more of what I like, lots of angles and lots of stuff and foreground and background bouncing off one another. I felt pretty good about it, at least it had a narrative to it and was more than pretty stuff.

One of the many highlights was getting to paint with all of my friends especially Randy Sexton who is just plain fun to hang with… we laugh a lot and maybe drink too much now and again but in addition to being a great painter, he’s a great friend. The paintings submitted this year were some of the best I’ve seen there overall, Mike Carrol, Colin Page, Scott Burdick, Mr. Sexton, Ronaldo Macedo and so many others did outstanding work. It’s always an honor to be included in the bunch.

Overall I did 14 paintings but only 5 or 6 were show worthy and the ones that didn’t sell (all but one) stayed there at the gallery. The rest of the dookie came back with me for a revisit once I get over the travel lag and get some more gallery work done. Coming up next week is the Wekiva paintout where at the very least I’ll get a lot of Florida work done for my galleries here.


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