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The colors in the afternoon are very different from the early morning light. In the morning, the shadows are blue and there is a lot of yellow in the sky which is reflected everything. By contrast, the late afternoon light tints the world in purple and orange. Recently, I have painted almost exclusively in the morning so I needed to paint some afternoon light.
I traveled out to the farms in Camarillo and found the prettiest farm nestled against the mountains. After taking hundreds of photos, I set up to paint a 12x12 gesso board. I am so glad I tried this before going to Carmel because I found the board very different and not in a good way. The paint slid around like greasy spaghetti sauce. I struggled with it for about 2 hours not finding anything working right and wiped the entire mess off at about 3:30.
Luckily, I also had a little 8x10 linen panel with me and with a few hours of remaining sun I started another painting. The difference was amazing. The paint spread onto the canvas with a smooth and creamy texture. There are artists who use the ultra smooth surfaces to paint on but I discovered, I am not one of them. I like the texture of linen and the way paint sticks to it. If anyone wants two 12x12 gesso boards I'll sell them to you cheap.Comment on or Share this Article →
In a quiet neighborhood in Pasadena a group of local residents decided to take over an empty lot and plant a garden. This project is an inspiring example of how a group of ordinary people (I should say extraordinary people) came together with the city of Pasadena to do something incredible; Arlington Garden.
Spring in the garden is a colorful adventure with a burst of irises, poppies, jasmine, and every variety of flowers you can think of. But they didn't just make a beautiful garden. It is also a water wise garden designed with the mediterranean climate of Southern California in mind. The grounds include fountains, seating areas, Roman columns and architectural features, cacti, sculptured shrubs and so much more. Painting there today, walking on the many paths, enjoying the beauty around me, I couldn't help but feel good.
Last year the local residents organized a fundraiser and invited artists to sell their paintings of the Arlington Garden with a percentage going directly to the maintenance and care of the garden. They are repeating this event again this year and I will be showing my paintings along with many other talented artists on April 30 at the Arlington Garden at Arlington and S. Pasadena Streets in Pasadena from 9:30 to 2:00. Come out and see the profusion of spring flowers before they are gone.Comment on or Share this Article →
All great artists see the world in a unique way. They have stepped across an invisible line which separates them from other artists. They see an ordinary object, but in an unusual way that transcends the ordinary. They have an idea. I think the best ideas are simple alternatives to solving the same problems that artists have faced since the first cave-person etched a stick figure onto a stone. The best ideas are the ones that have me wondering, "Why didn't I think of that?"
In my last blog I talked about inspiration and how to train my eye to see beauty in everyday things. But there is one further step to take. If I want to stand apart from the many artists who are talented, driven and determined, I have to be unique. When approaching a subject, it is just not enough to paint well or get the perspective correct. I need to digest the subject and make it mine. I need to own it and translate that ownership into the painting.
"Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso
A controversial statement, certainly, but I interpret this in a very different way than the common wisdom. I don't think Picasso was talking about stealing someone else's ideas. I believe he is revealing the intangible ability which sets some artists apart. That ability is to own the object that they are painting. He is not just borrowing a model's image; he steals it and makes it his own.
Who knew thieves and artists had so much in common?Comment on or Share this Article →
I see something which stops me in my tracks. The light is catching the edge of a boat in just the right way to inspire me. I decide that this is what I will paint. In a perfect world every time I paint, I would be filled with inspiration. My vision would flow onto the canvas easily and without any struggles. But I don't live in a perfect world and there are times when my muse has gone missing. Inspiration is a fickle thing to base my career on, but as an artist that is what I choose to do. When I paint, if I am not inspired there is a very good chance that the painting is not going to be worth the effort.
So my goal is to maximize the times of inspiration. It is easier to find inspiration in a beautiful garden, a spectacular location or a portrait of a lovely young woman, but these are all obvious icons of beauty. As an artist, I need to look beyond the picture postcard ideal and see something more. Finding the beauty in the ordinary is a transforming ability, not easily done. Holding onto that ability, to see beauty in the ordinary, takes constant practice. I am always forcing myself to see shapes that are interesting, the colors in the shadows of a building or the curved contours of an ordinary mans face. Training my eye to see beauty, even in an unattractive street scene as I am stuck in traffic or in something as unappealing as a trash can, helps me to maximize the times that inspiration strikes. Yours can increase too if you start to practice the art of seeing beauty in the ordinary. Train your artist's eye to see in a different way. My goal is to find inspiration anywhere and everywhere.Comment on or Share this Article →
Since the beginning of the year I have had a blast painting boats, so I convinced fellow artist Margie Murray to go to Marina del Rey to continue my boat streak. Last Thursday was a great day, warm and sunny. It took an extra effort to find what I was looking for but the nearby docks provided us with some wonderful afternoon shadows and fun reflections in the water. I set up right in the parking lot and spotted The Sailboat at the End of the Dock.
The sunshine highlighting the blue top and cover, caught my attention but it was the tall mast doubled in the water that changed how I saw the scene and led to the dramatic cropping. Experimentation sometimes works, sometimes not. I took some time painting the park across the water and blocked in the colors of the harbor but it wasn't till I painted the sailboat that I knew that the painting would work. Boats are quickly going to the top of my list of favorite things to paint.Comment on or Share this Article →
Change comes in many ways. Some changes we seek while others are forced upon us. Many people find change a frightening prospect. Some welcome or even seek it. But all would agree that change is necessary if life is to improve.
As an artist, I make a real effort to be open to learning and to change. The ongoing quest to improve my work makes change an essential element in my painting approach. My desire to improve compels me to enroll in one major workshop a year. I can travel long distances, pay a fee and incur the cost of hotels and meals, all to glean some wisdom from a master artist. I first look for an artist I admire and enter these workshop with the attitude that I am a sponge. I try to leave preconceived notions at the door. The less habitual behavior I take into the class, the more I learn. Anyway that is what I strive to do.
Inevitably there is at least one artist in attendance who has no intention of learning anything new. Every workshop has one of these students. He doesn't listen or try to execute any of the lessons as the instructor intended. She looks at the scenery, doesn't take notes and is bored. I have talked to these artists and noted one consistent trait: they are not willing to change. Why they bother to enroll in a workshop isn't clear, but further discussion has revealed something else. They want to be the best artist in any group they paint with. Now, I never want to be the worst, I have my pride and ego too, but I also want to paint with some artists who are better than I am. Their talent pushes me to work harder as I try to rise to their level. They inspire me.
I was just reading the article on Scott Christensen in the Spring edition of PleinAir Magazine. Scott talks extensively about his process and describes how his paintings evolve. "There seems to be a direct correlation between experience and struggle. The more I know, the more critical I become." "Other people might look at one of my paintings in progress and think it's finished, then the next day they come into the studio and see that I've revised big sections. In order to work to the highest level, I have to be willing to make those hard decisions and do whatever is required to make the painting successful."
The ability to distinguish between what is good and what is better only happens when I am open to change. Improvement can only take place when I allow it to. Trusting that I can improve my painting by destroying it allows me to push beyond my comfort zone. Paint the good fight.Comment on or Share this Article →