Melting Fog 8x10 Oil on Panel
I recently critiqued a painting by a friend who had made a classic design mistake. I call it "The Lone Tree Syndrome." Most artists will fall into this crafty trap since the "lone tree" looks good in its native environment. But when taken out of nature and translated to canvas, yikes!; not so good.
As an artists it is our job to design our paintings, not just paint what we see, so watch out for the lone tree by eliminating the symptoms and group trees together, add shrubs or change the layout. A picture is worth a thousand words so I have provided you with a painting suffering from "the Lone Tree Syndrome."
The Lone Tree Syndrome
Here is what I did to cure the painting of its problems. I liked the sky but recognized that I needed to rethink the perspective by pushing the trees back and connecting the dark areas. With this done the eye passes over the foreground and you are taken into the painting. I added some highlights at the base of the mountains again to create depth. I was amazed at how the painting opened up giving the mountains the majesty I remembered. I also softened some of the edges and brought the fog onto the peaks.
We are creatures of habit and we can't help but make the same mistakes over and over again but by pointing out some of the more obvious design traps I hope I will be able to inspire you to change.Comment on or Share this Article →
Sometimes you get good news. I am thrilled to be participating in the Carmel Art Festival 2012 with all the other great artists. This is the fourth year I will be painting in Carmel.
Carmel Art Festival
May 16 through 20, 2012
We are proud to announce the line-up of Artists for the 2012 Carmel Art Festival plein air competition.
Every year the entrants get better and the chore of picking gets harder.
Congratulations to those juried in.
Anne Blair Brown
Hiu Lai Chong
Pang Yen Chou
Dee Beard Dean
Po Pin Lin
Carmel Art Festival
Malibu Lagoon 11x14 Oil on Linen Panel
I think artists put themselves under a lot of pressure. Unlike athletes who work on percentages, artists expect that every time we paint, the product should be a masterpiece. Realistically, we know this expectation is impossible. Who could be that consistent? But knowing and living with it are two different things. This knowledge doesn't make bad painting days any easier or stop me from thinking, "If I couldn't paint well today maybe I will never paint well again. Augh!!!!"
For arguments sake, let's say that we are all mature, stable, self-aware people and we can see those failed paintings as just bumps in the road. Let's take stock of, well, our stock. Understanding that if 33% of our paintings are masterpieces, 33% are OK and 33% are just plain awful. That would mean that one-third of all the paintings I have stacked in the corners of my studio should be recycled and painted over.
Well, that is exactly what I did today. I was heading to Malibu Lagoon and remembered a painting I did there in the fog over a year ago. At the time, I had fun doing the painting but it was not a masterpiece so I pulled it out and decided it fit into the group of "just plain awful." I tossed it into the car hoping I could rework the image and come up with something I liked.
Getting a late start, along with bad traffic, left me with not much time to paint so I pulled out the foggy beast (see Just Awful above) and set to work. Changing the horizon line, the recycled sky fit in perfectly and also became part of the water of the lagoon. I then worked on the rushes with a rust under-painting. From awful to masterpiece and it only took a little over a year. I am so thrilled with the outcome that I am going to go through my stock and recycle. Maybe I can transform more "just awful" into masterpieces.Comment on or Share this Article →
Above the Arroyo
We all have our pet peeves, things we would rather not have to deal with. Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they finally open the tomb and the floor is moving. Indian Jones rolls away from the entrance and says, "Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?"
Well, this morning I had to paint in my worst case scenario. Wind. Why'd it have to be wind? I can paint in the snow, the rain, when it is freezing at 12 degrees or in the sweltering heat with heat waves rising from the sidewalks. None of those environments can stop me from painting. But I can't take the wind. It isn't often that there are large billowy clouds in Southern California, so despite the cold wind, I painted a lot of information on the canvas before I finally packed up to leave. I managed to capture the morning light with good values, achieved a sampling of the local color and blocked in all the shapes. When I got home it was relatively easy to complete the painting in the comfort of my studio.
I apologize to the Thursday painting group for leaving before the critique at lunch but why jump into the snake pit when you don't have to. The group always comes up with wonderful locations to paint and this was no exception. The home where we painted is on the cliffs above the Arroyo Seco with views of the Pasadena City Hall and the Pasadena Bridge. It is a lovely sight with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.Comment on or Share this Article →
Photo of Winter Sky
Time is a resource which is finite. You only get so much and when it's finished so are you. That is why I think that leap year is a very unique event. How often have you said, "If only I had more time." Well this year you do. One more day comes at the end of February. Think of that. You have an extra day of time to do anything, anything at all. What will you do with that extra day? Will you overlook this opportunity or take advantage of it? You could stick to the same schedule that you do day in and day out but maybe just once every four years you could do something amazing. Push the norm and try something unexpected, share the day with someone you care about, volunteer at a local charity, try a new adventure, take a chance on something new. Step out of your comfort zone. Experiment with a new medium, take a trip, do something just for yourself, the possibilities are endless. After all it is an extra day in your life so make it count.
High Sierra Snow
How many of you have sold one of your paintings? More than one? Good, because I have a story to tell you about how crazy the fickle finger of fate can be.
So there is an artist. He struggles to express his inner thoughts with oil paints on canvas. The work of this artist is not received with enthusiasm by art critics and is rejected by galleries and collectors alike. In fact, only one of his paintings sells in his lifetime. Luckily, this artist has a younger brother who is devoted to him and who supports him, allowing the artist to pursue his life's work. Only two years after the younger brother is married to Johanna, tragedy strikes. The artist is killed. All his work is taken in by the brother but fate isn't finished and only six months later the younger brother of the artist dies as well.
Johanna is grief stricken at her husbands death. She is surrounded with the artwork of her dead brother-in-law and finds a desk full of hundreds of letters, a correspondence between the artist and her dead husband. Her friends and family tell her to get rid of all this junk. No one wants the paintings, the letters are only sad reminders of her loss. She is still young and needs to move on. She could remarry, start over. Johanna even tries to give the paintings away to a museum, but they didn't want them. The easy road would have been for Johanna to listen to their advise and give up.
If she had, the name and work of Vincent van Gogh would be forgotten. Instead Johanna van Gogh-Bonger dedicated her life to promoting Vincent's art. She organized art exhibitions to show van Gogh's work, paying for it through the estate left by her husband, Theo van Gogh. She went through those letters and published a book in 1914, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. Publication of the letters helped spread the compelling mystique of van Gogh throughout Europe and the rest of the world. As they say, "The rest is history."
Some argue that 90% of all art is destroyed, melted down, painted over or thrown away. The artists agony and struggle are largely forgotten. Could van Gogh have guessed his legacy? He died not knowing the future as a failure. So artists everywhere take heart. If you have sold more than one painting you are way ahead of Vincent van Gogh. Let's just hope you have a Johanna in your family.Comment on or Share this Article →
Morning Light Through the Trees
Morning Light Through the Trees 6x12 Oil on Panel
A group of artists gather together to paint on location. It happens all over and you probably have a group in your town. Every Thursday, I know I can join a supportive, talented and generous group of painters in the beautiful area around Pasadena, California. I have painted off and on with the San Gabriel group called "Thursdays En Plein Air" for a few years but haven't been out lately so this last week I met up with the troupe at Cobb Estate in the San Gabriel Mountains of Altadena.
The early morning light was creating lovely shadows and soft pastel colors suffused the surrounding mountains. I painted with about 25 other artists and afterward there was a critique. If you have never had the benefit of listening to a critique from an artist you admire, you are missing out on a great learning experience. It takes a certain amount of humor combined with honesty to deliver both the positive and the negative sides to each painting. If done with equal amounts everyone leaves feeling inspired to push forward and come back for more. Although each artist is at a different stage of development in their craft, everyone is eager to improve. I always leave with positive feedback.
This group is very successful and attracts dozens of artists every time they meet largely due to the wonderful people who contribute their time to make every outing worthwhile. I am impressed with the selfless dedication of everyone involved. You may not have a large group like this but every group will have different benefits. Try the critique too. If you are a small group critique each others work. If you paint with a larger group take turns each week. Every opinion is worthwhile but it is your choice as to which opinion you follow. Very early in my career I was naïve enough to believe that I knew it all. The real problem was that I didn't know enough to realize how little I knew. It wasn't until I started to grow that I came to understand the nature of art. There is always something to learn. Don't settle for the next level. Push through to ascend even farther on your artists path.Comment on or Share this Article →
Another Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa has never been one of my favorite paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. I don't understand the fascination others see in her eyes. I've been to the Louvre in Paris, where crowds always surrounded her and, sorry, still don't love it. Lately, the iconic image has been the focus of attention when a copy was discovered. Well, the copy wasn't discovered since it has been around for a long time but the background was covered with black paint so that seems to have disguised its importance until two years ago. Despite the obvious differences in the portrait, the skill of the copy should have made someone take a closer look at this wonderful copy earlier but no. It seems a genius finally thought to X-ray the painting and sure enough under the black paint is the same familiar background landscape as on the original Mona Lisa.
Now there is speculation about who and why the second portrait was painted but the best guess is that it was a teaching lesson for one of Leonardo's talented students. They think it was painted side by side when the original was painted. The "experts" removed the varnish and black paint and now have a painting that allows us to see how the Mona Lisa looked shortly after it was painted.
"You can imagine that this is what the Mona Lisa looked like back in the 16th century," Finaldi said.
Maybe that is why I like the copy better. What do you think?Comment on or Share this Article →
At the end of last year my friend Marian Fortunati and I got into a discussion about the state of the state of California. I mentioned that I had noticed a lot of out-of-state license plates and that it seemed Los Angeles was experiencing an influx of people moving from other states. Marian said that the state was loosing population, not gaining. I checked with a few statistics and sure enough Marian was right. In the beginning of last year the Golden State did loose population with more moving out than moving in but I kept seeing all those out-of-state plates. I figured I'd wait until after the holidays but even then I still saw so many. OK.... so I became completely obsessed with this and decided to print out a list of all the states and see how many of the fifty states I would see in a month. Was this a trend or was I crazy.
The results are in and I have seen license plates of 42 out of 50 states around my home in Los Angeles during the month of January. I also saw Alberta, Canada. The eight states that I am missing are Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia. It seems that people are coming to LA, with a lot of them moving into my neighborhood. I have gotten very good at recognizing various states. For instance, Wyoming has a bucking horse with rider on theirs, Maine has a pine cone and Florida has oranges. I know doing this was silly but I had a lot of fun too. The only thing, did I prove I am crazy (because I did this ADD thing) or did I prove I'm not because did see so many states. The good news is I am finally over a sinus infection and will be going out to paint plein air tomorrow.Comment on or Share this Article →