I recently got an email from an artist in Belgium, that is Martine in the red parka below, who has started a plein air group. This got me thinking how wonderful it is that I live where I can paint outside all year round. It pains me to admit that I haven't been plein air painting since the Los Gatos Plein Air Exhibition earlier this month and I am really overdue. I love being outside, seeing the lovely scenery, talking with other artists and the thrill of a new creation and after seeing photos of the amazing scenery around Brugge I am even more inspired to get out there.
Plein Air in Belgium
I haven't been able to go because I have been working on several studio pieces but even when working at home I will roll my easel out onto the back porch to paint. Luckily I have this option since my studio is tiny, dark and hot. The porch is covered and faces north so the lighting is wonderful. With the longest day of the year just behind us, I will often paint out there from 9 to 6 and then only stop because I just can't keep standing anymore. I know some artists who sit when they paint but I have to stand. I am always moving around the painting, stepping back, comparing shapes, checking perspective.
This practice of roaming around my canvas can cause problems. One specific time comes to mind. I was painting on a jetty and became so caught up in the moment that all I was thinking of was the painting. I stepped back to take a better look at my creation, when the person next to me grabbed my arm. I had backed up to the very edge of the walkway and would have fallen four feet to the rocks below with one more step. Scared the heck out of me. For this reason, whenever I am painting outside I make sure I have some space behind me to step back or always have a friend nearby to grab me. So get up and get outside to paint. Find a group to paint with or like my blog pal in Belgium form your own plein air group.
Martine Painting Plein AirComment on or Share this Article →
Finally, I have a moment to review my notes from my trip to Coeur D' Alene, Idaho. I usually review a demonstration while it is still fresh in my memory but this is the first chance I have had since my return home to look through everything. Yet another distraction, this last weekend was my 7th wedding anniversary (Yeah!) so I was busy celebrating on Sunday.
First I want to thank the Oil Painters of America for organizing 5 days of fun events, informative discussions, and enlightening demos for all the attending artists. I was very impressed with the caliber of work that was at the show and with Devin Gallery. The owners enthusiasm was catching and the opening night electric. During their stay, many of the artists took the opportunity to paint the natural beauty of the area.
One of the highlights of the event was the demonstration by Scott Christensen. We were asked not to post any photos from the demo but I wanted to write about a few insights from Scott.
1) Mix your colors first. This way you establish the key of the painting before ever picking up a brush.
2) The most common mistake made by new plein air painters is painting the darks too dark.
3) Design the painting.
4) Establish interior and exterior lines. An example of an exterior line is the sky line. Keep it varied and interesting.
5) In painting, overstatement is weakness; reserve is strength.
6) The lightest lights become darker and redder as they recede(think about this one for a minute) into the distance.
7) Darks become lighter and bluer as they recede.
Scott first uses a lovely range of neutral greys and browns. He then adds colorful highlights. His subtle greys make up the majority of his paintings. In the past, I decided that my paintings were too neutral so I started applying more color first and later adding neutrals if needed. I find there is nothing to compare with actually doing what a teacher says, so I am going to have to try his method. The first painting could be a dull disaster but there will be lots to learn and experimenting is always an adventure.Comment on or Share this Article →
Last year Jane, an artist and collector, bought a painting at a prestigious art show. She loved this new addition to her collection and hung it over her computer so she could look at it every day. Recently, Jane decided to buy another painting from the same artist, so she looked online and was directed to a gallery website. When she clicked on the artist's name, Jane was shocked to see the same painting she had in her office again for sale. Well, it wasn't Jane's painting but it was a darn good copy. True, the copy was a few inches larger and it had a slightly different name, but when she placed the photos side by side, she couldn't see any difference between the two. In a matter of seconds, a cherished treasure had become nothing more than a mass-produced commodity. Jane felt hurt and cheated. When Jane contacted the artist directly, the situation deteriorated further. Now Jane was angry.
The initial reaction from the group of artists who heard Jane's story was to question the similarity of the the two paintings. When we compared the photos it was remarkable how identical they were. After seeing the evidence, we all felt that the artist's behavior was questionable, but was it unethical? Our main concern was that the smaller painting had not been done as a study for the larger painting, but instead one was actually a copy of the other. This conclusion seemed to be confirmed by the artist in his response to Jane's email. So the artist had deliberately reproduced his earlier painting. Our discussion raised several issues for me personally since I often use small plein air studies as inspiration for my studio paintings. Would my client understand the difference between a studio painting based on a study and a painting copied from an earlier work? And would that distinction affect the client's feelings?
Using a smaller study as inspiration for a larger studio piece is common practice by many artists. I don't know if other artists sell the study, but normally I post both paintings on my website for sale. Now I wondered if my actions might also be perceived in a negative way. I decided to take the initiative and contact a client. A recent sale was the perfect test. I emailed a client who bought a large studio piece (30x36) and asked if posting the study (9x12) for sale on my website was a problem for her. I was relieved by her response. She had seen them both posted on my site and at first was surprised, but she enjoyed seeing the evolution of her painting from a rough study to a refined painting. Instead of being upset, my client found it interesting. She saw a noticeable difference between the two paintings and she appreciated the process I was sharing with her by showing both paintings. My client was happy and as a result, so was I.
The second question raised by Jane's story is one of ethics. When painting, an artist makes 2000 decisions every hour. Each of those decisions affects the quality of the painting. Take the same care on the decisions which have consequences to your career, no matter how big or small. When making choices, it is important to consider your responsibility to your clients and remember that the customer is always right. When in doubt ask, "What would my buyer think?" Questions of ethics are tricky and finding the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior isn't always easy.Comment on or Share this Article →
View from Donkey Hill
We were all looking tired on Friday night at the reception. Not unusual after painting for three days straight but there was something different about this fatigue. Rain had come to Los Gatos where it never rains in June. The inclement weather tested everyone's abilities and made us push beyond what was in front of us. I know I was not only physically tired but also mentally spent. Every painting provided a complex puzzle which needed to be solved. I often had to stop painting due to rain and go back another time when the light had completely changed. Despite the challenges, I thought the painting were fantastic and the show was a great success.
"View from Donkey Hill" is my personal favorite and was the only one that was painted while the sun was actually shining. I found out about this spot from a local who was walking his dog. I had driven into the hills around town then asked if there was a lookout nearby.
"Sure, go to Donkey Hill down the road. At least that is what we call it. Park here and walk down to the deadend. There's a gate that says No Trespassing but don't worry about that. Just go on in and hike around to the other side and then up the hill."
I did and was rewarded with a great view but it was cloudy and after sunset so I could only hope for a sunset when I could paint there. Luck was with me and the next day the sun came out at about 5PM and I sprinted up the hill, setup, and finished just as the sun set behind the hill.Comment on or Share this Article →
I tried to blog last night but after about a half hour it suddenly disappeared and I had to get to bed. I just left Coeur D' Alene today after attending the Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition in Idaho. After the critique and seminars, I will be on the road for a few days driving back to Los Angeles, about 1200 miles, so it will be a tough couple of days.
I wanted to let everyone know that I had a wonderful time meeting all the other artists, seeing the Scott Christensen demonstration and taking in the sights of scenic Coeur D' Alene. It was an exceptional time with so much great feedback from everyone. Having my work included with so many accomplished artists was an excelerating experience. One that I will never forget.
A few things that I heard many times.
1) Artists who have a support group with other artists are much more likely to succeed than those who do not.
2) Design your paintings. Design the shapes, design the colors and design the edges.
I will be back to normal by Wednesday so until then, "Paint the good fight."Comment on or Share this Article →