As the year comes to a close and I look back on it, I find it difficult to put into words how I feel about so many things. I have felt crushing disappointment in our country’s political direction, but have felt helpless to do anything of consequence to help it. But the discomfort of it has used up most of what little patience I have for that sort of thing, and I have instead tried to pour my energies into my art and my mental health. Both have improved noticeably.
I continue to paint en plein air on Wednesdays. The big change is that this past month I also began practicing clothed-model figure painting every Friday with a drawing and painting group, meeting at our Cultural Arts Alliance‘s Foster Gallery. I have considerable experience in drawing the nude figure and enjoy it immensely — it was one of my areas of emphasis for my Fine Arts degree. But I haven’t practiced figure painting a lot. I am learning to handle my brushes better, and I am learning to create skin tones using the Zorn palette, which is very limited – white, yellow ochre, cadmium red, and black. Below are some of my figurative efforts, all with our amazing model Abigail. We post our group’s studies on Facebook under Figurative Artists Atelier.The first painting, in blue jeans, is the one I did this week, and the painting with her wearing the Madame X dress, was last week. These are all 3-hour poses divided into 20-minute segments with 5 or 10 minute breaks. I am purposefully painting profiles or near profiles because they are easier, and that allows me to practice my brushwork and skin tones. Click on the images for purchase information.
I have had an idea in the back of my head for several years, and it will involve figures on larger canvases, a theme I can follow and see what develops. On Christmas Day I built 2 stretcher frames, both of them 6 feet tall, and stretched raw linen on them each and applied sizing, and have since added three coats of primer, so stay tuned!
Opportunities materialize when you keep saying “Yes!” It’s easier to say “Well, maybe, maybe not…”, but if I do that, inertia keeps me rooted. Saying “Yes!” moves me forward and opens doors.
Recent “yes’s” include…
Painting a demo December 16 at the Open House for The Joe Center for the Arts in Port St. Joe, Florida, which in May will be the epicenter of The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South this year;
Accepting an invitation to speak to the Emerald Coast Meditation Society about the Zen of plein air painting at their regular third Thursday session, 6:30 PM, January 18, 2018, Christ the King Episcopal Church, 480 N. County Hwy 393, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459.
Agreeing to give a presentation on plein air painting to the local Library in their winter programs series, 10:00 AM, January 31, 2018, at The Coastal Branch (South Walton) Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
I think that speaking about plein air painting to the meditation group will be the most challenging. It will require me to put some thoughts into words, about things I don’t share very much. This blog will help. The first time I went to a plein air event, I remember noticing that the painters seemed extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Most people are cordial when you meet them, but the plein air painters as a group seemed more aware, more present, looking directly into my eyes, holding my gaze for longer. It may be that they were merely thinking about what colors they would use to create the exact shade of my blue eyes, but it felt like they were more tuned in, more mindful. With few exceptions, they emanated kindness. I now know these same characteristics describe many people who meditate regularly – most seem to have more present-moment awareness, are more engaged in the immediate, have good focus, more compassionate attitudes, and generally seem to be more self-accepting and thus more accepting of others. That is how I want to be described someday.
People we know intimately often project their own issues onto us and vice versa — it seems to be human nature to have an affinity for people with whom we can play out unhealed trauma or drama. If they don’t grow at the same rate as us, then these people pass out of our lives after the lessons are learned, because we no longer fit into the box that they have built for us, which at the time we willing went into but now have outgrown. Some people project onto everyone they meet, and those are the people who use generalities, like everyone is a certain way, and this always happens. But for everyone else we in our lives, they and we present in a way that demonstrates the stage of our spiritual and psychological development. That development, I believe, is the purpose of our life. We each develop spiritually and psychologically through the choices we make and the activities of our lives. There is no one right way or better way. Every way offers a necessity of sacrifice and eventually, a transcendence of suffering. And that is what I think those plein air painters were demonstrating.
As a representational outdoor landscape painter, I try to capture the beauty that I see, and paint it onto a small canvas in just two or three hours. The fact that time is a factor requires a lot of compromise, because the light/shadows change, the weather can worsen, I might discover that I am standing near an anthill, or someone can park a semi-truck in front of my scene. At some point along the way, a good painter must commit to one time, one arrangement of shadows and light, one impression, and try to represent that impression. Otherwise, they are constantly “chasing the light”. If a painter is terribly attached to the outcome of his effort, time alone will be a source of endless suffering. Likewise, so many other aspects of plein air painting can sorely test one’s spirit. For a long time after I started painting en plein air, every painting was an epic journey. About 20 minutes into it, I would find myself wondering whatever made me think that I could be a outdoor painter. I would descend into the chasm of despair as I soldiered on, frustrated by my incapability of rendering on the canvas anything even close to the beauty that I was seeing, perhaps questioning the value of my art degree, and maybe even my right to exist as a human on this planet. I would descend into the abyss, and somewhere near the bottom I would have to accept my effort for what it was, and thus forgive and accept myself. Eventually I would paint my way out again, working out my redemption as I went. I would stop painting only when my timer went off. As if that journey was not enough, I would willingly participate in what our painting group calls a “soft” critique, where we show our paintings to our fellow painters, another exercise in courage, humility, and non-attachment. We explain what our challenges were and then the braver artists will even ask if anyone has any suggestions, the ultimate act of vulnerability and trust. Some artists deprecate their own work first, before anyone else can, inviting consolation and reassurance. Others immediately defend their painting against the suggestions they just asked for. But most will listen, and perhaps receive a few good tips as a bonus for their labor. They get to be better painters. And along the way, they gain more ability to compromise, more commitment, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, courage, humility, vulnerability, trust, compassion, and non-attachment.
These are the same benefits that we get from meditation. And that’s what I will talk about to the meditation group. A mindful approach to anything can yield these same results. It is by facing it head-on that we are able to transcend suffering.
And then we re-attach, putting our signature on our painting. Ha!
Below are some of my recent paintings. The first series is the preparation for my demo at The Joe Center for the Arts. I decided to use a painting I had painted en plein air shortly before. When I was doing the demo, I surrounded myself with my references: my value studies, my plein air painting, and my app’d photo and watercolor sketches where I had solved some temperature and contrast problems, so that I would remember everything that I had been thinking about. The demo was about 3/4 completed there at the Open House — with Christmas season upon us, I am forgiving myself for not finishing it yet.
The following are three paintings I did on my regular weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and the last image is the cover for our end-of-year album for that group, a collection of the paintings the regular painters feel are their best. Click on any image to see a larger version, and click on the album cover to go to the ECPAP “Best of 2017” album. We are still collecting photos for that album.
And lastly, a photo of me painting the Martin Theater in Panama City, FL, during the Fringe Gallery’s “Everything Under $100” Sale. Photo by Julie Roberts Logsdon.
Recently I was interviewed by Anne Hunter for a story in the Thirty A Review. I was thrilled with the publicity. Photographer Jackie Ward hiked out to the beach where I was painting, to catch me at my frowzy, wind-blown best! Click on image, and then click again to read with large type.
It’s about time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions again. I prefer to think of it as setting goals to pursue, or objectives I would like to attain, or even challenges I am setting up for myself. Somehow I feel less threatened by those words than by “resolutions”, which seem to me to be things that I resolve NOT to do, like eating a carton of ice cream in one day, versus goals, objectives, and challenges which are things I plan to work towards. Here are some of mine:
Paint every day either plein air or in the studio, for 30 or 60 days, maybe longer. To do this, I plan to have a palette and brushes ready all the time, in my studio, as well as in my plein air backpack. I have ordered a whole bunch of 6×6 panels for this effort. I can use larger canvases, which I keep on hand all the time, but for this goal to be achievable, I want to be able to finish my daily painting in just 30 minutes, so it makes more sense to use small canvases.
Learn to paint shapes common to our local landscape. Or to paint them better. Shapes such as, palmettos, palm trees, blue herons and other shorebirds, tugboats and fishing boats and pleasure boats, paddlers, waves and choppy water, clouds, live oaks and scrub oaks, sand dunes, twisted dune pines, etc. If I spend a week on each of those subjects, that covers at least 2 months, without even considering that nothing is carved in stone, fortunately for this easily distractible artist, where every shiny spot of light cries out to be captured, now!
Learn to simplify, simplify, simplify!
Figure out what appeals to me about paintings I admire, and then practice that — compositional design, color combinations, contrast, development of focal area, etc.
Practice putting people in some of my paintings. Participate in the upcoming figure painting sessions to be held every Friday at the Cultural Arts Alliance’s Foster Gallery on Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Florida. Learn how to use the “Zorn Palette” to create skin tones (cadmium red light, yellow ochre, titanium white, and ivory black).
Here’s my first one, painted today.
Recent paintings and studies are below. The first two, which are (first image) a pencil and nupastel quick-sketch of artist friend David Boyd drawn from a live pose, and (second image) a small painting of a posing elderly woman in her Sunday dress, were completed last May at Plein Air South, a gathering of artists for lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions, and painting sessions. I gave both to the respective models.
This painting below was painted with the DeFuniak Springs group represented by artist Jackie Wagoner last weekend.
The paintings below were painted some time ago. I retouched or completely reworked some, and others simply have been pulled up from my piles of studies. I will be taking these to Panama City next weekend for the Fringe Gallery’s “Under $100” sale.
Contact me if you are interested in any of these paintings.
at a wedding, oils on stretched canvas, 24×20, finishing the details in the studio. The plein air painting captured the basics, but I needed to tie the composition together better in the studio, which made it quite a bit more formal, and I corrected the proportions of the figures. I scumbled the chandelier, which I had greatly exaggerated on purpose because it set the tone for the scene, and I softened the white curtain behind the couple to create a glow around them, with the foliage creating a heart-shape over their heads.
I enjoy painting at weddings. It is a command performance, so I have butterflies when I first start, but they disappear soon after I start painting. Typically I have contact with the bride’s mother or the bride or couple as much as a year ahead of time, which gives me plenty of time to find out their relative heights, the location of the venue, their colors and styles of clothing, their flower colors, etc. I have a page on my website dedicated to event painting called Weddings, Etc.
I presented my one-day workshop, Effective Shape-Making and Atmospheric Perspective en Plein Air, in Ft. Walton Beach in October, and in Santa Rosa Beach in November the day before our first local plein air paint-out. The discussion and exercises centered around the use of recognizable silhouettes or external contours for effective shape-making, and exaggerating receding space by making distant shapes lighter and bluer and less detailed, perhaps even completely silhouetted, and with “soft” edges.
My goal in workshops is to give tools and techniques to the beginner, and to review and practicing those tools for the more advanced painter so that he or she may use them with more authority.
The third workshop is one I took, instead of taught, again from the instructor I consider my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price, at The Art Loft in Dahlonega, Georgia. Sometimes the learning is faster than I can absorb, and when that happens, it is difficult for me to paint. That seemed to have been the case in this three-day workshop – only one day resulted in an effective painting, and I struggled to reach a finishing point. Morgan gave me a number of suggestions, but in the end, I had to make my own decisions, and simplification, eliminating busy texture, is what ended up making it work.
I continue to paint weekly with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters when I am home. Below are a couple of little studies I enjoyed.
And there is the occasional photograph demanding to be shared…
And that brings me to the paint-outs. A paint-out is an invitation to paint any number of paintings over a period of several days, and often also includes a “Quickdraw” timed contest of usually 2- or 3-hours to paint within a particular area, the paintings to be framed and judged immediately afterwards. The first paint-out was in Gulf Shores, Alabama, produced by Craig Reynolds for the Alabama Plein Air Artists and guests. I am a member of the APAA. Living in the Florida Panhandle, APAA paint-outs are closer to me than most of the Florida paint-outs. Below are the paintings I produced there.
The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County is the arts association where I live, in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. For 25 years the CAA has produced the Flutterby Festival, an autumn event geared primarily toward children, celebrating the migration of the monarchs and other butterflies through our geographic area. This year, they added a plein air paint-out to the event, and 20 excited and enthusiastic painters participated on the beautiful grounds of Watersound Origins. I won some awards, taking second place in the Quickdraw, and honorable mention for a painting in the Wet Room. We were allowed to exhibit one piece we had painted prior to the paint-out, in the Wet Room, so that the Wet Room would have some paintings in it right away, and my piece that was honored, Pathways Pond, is the one that I had painted on a previous outing there with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
And now I have some time to clean out my studio, and re-organize. I will be retrieving the paintings I have been exhibiting at the local library, and I need to make space for them. It’s surprising how quickly more paintings can fill up a space! Sometimes it fills with projects for upcoming exhibits. Our arts alliance is calling for art for the annual One Size Fits All, the requirement being that all art is produced on a 10′ x 10′ cradled wood panel. I like to use special exhibits like this as an opportunity to do something a little different. This year I painted a simple sandpiper on one of the panels and on the other one today I learned how to make an acrylic pour, marbled using silicone, and I put some coquina shells on it that look like butterflies, and I titled it Migration.
This fall I am investing my time in cultivating my community’s appreciation for plein air painting, as well as promoting my own work. Many people in my community have never heard of plein air painting, so that is taking extra effort. My local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, is very supportive. The CAA will be adding a plein air paint-out to our existing Flutterby Festival at Watersound Origins here in Santa Rosa beach, FL, in November. I will be teaching a one-day workshop the day before the festival, the lesson being effective shape-making to start a plein air painting in a way that will offer a high likelihood of success.
Art marketers say that 20% of your time as an artist should be spent on marketing. I am spending more than 20% of my art energyright now, but I expect it to level off. I actually had intended for last year, my third year of plein air painting, to be my marketing year. The transition and adjustment after selling my pool service business took more time than I had anticipated.
As I see it, the main task is the creation of opportunities for press releases and posts on social media. To accomplish that, I have filled my calendar for the next 6 weeks.
The first event coming up is thanks to an avid supporter of the arts in my area. Cheryl Gray, herself an artist, lines up artists to show their work in the local library. I will be showing my work during the months of October and November. Cheryl sends out press releases to local media. I made my own postcard to give out printed announcements to a few people, and I posted it on Facebook and created a Facebook event. I will send a press release to several other media in my community. I regard the press releases to be of equal importance or even greater importance than the actual exhibit, because public awareness of plein air painting is my primary goal.
This-coming weekend I will paint at a wedding reception, and next week I will be framing paintings for the library exhibit. Somewhere during that time I would like to change out and replace the paintings hanging in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College’s South Walton Center. My local weekly painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, is showing plein air paintings there. My goal with that exhibit is to foster awareness and appreciation within the high school and college students attending there.
The first week of October I will be taking another painting workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, with my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price. I want to continue to challenge myself to paint better.
The second weekend of October I will paint on-site at the library during the annual book sale, during my exhibit. The third weekend of October I will teach the same one-day workshop as I will be teaching in November, but for the arts association in the neighboring county, the Arts and Design Society of Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
The first weekend in November I will participate in a painting event in Gulf Shores, AL, and the second weekend of November will be the CAA’s Flutterby Festival and Paint-Out.
Hopefully I can breathe after that. It’s exciting, to have so many art events and activities lined up. This past year was the first year that I kept track of art expenses, after I sold my career pool service business, and as I was expecting, I spent more than I earned. It would be nice to break even this year. When I achieve that, I should be able to cut back on my promotional efforts, for the recommended 20% of my time.
I started plein air painting four years ago. I painted in the Quickdraw at the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, my first such event. I knew none of the artists. Afterwards, I chanced to be lunching at the table next to the one where master painter Morgan Samuel Price was sitting. Morgan had just won an award in the Quickdraw. My friend and I introduced ourselves and began talking with her, the usual niceties. Afterwards, I looked up her website to see who she was, and I was appropriately amazed by her paintings, both the skill and the affect. I was thrilled when I found out that she was offering a plein air painting workshop in Apalachicola that next spring. Apalachicola is only 100 miles away from my home. It is a village with an interesting history, and great painting subjects ranging from the working shrimping trawlers and oystering boats to decrepit shotgun houses and restored mansions. What a great place to take my first workshop in plein air painting! I blogged about Morgan’s amazing patience – that was in March of 2014.
I took two more workshops from Morgan – one the next year, in Apalachicola, and one last year, in Taos. This year I signed up to take her workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, in October. I like learning to paint in different locations – it forces me to learn to paint things that are new to me. I got a call from Morgan in late spring, saying that she had space in her Estes Park workshop. I decided to go. Having grown up in Colorado, I was familiar with Estes Park, but I had not looked at it with artist’s eyes in over 40 years, and certainly not with plein air painter’s eyes. I had gone to Estes Park for a family get-together for my Dad’s 90th birthday, but it was wintertime, and the landscape is completely different when covered with snow. So I was completely agog as we drove Hwy 36 through the foothills to Lyons and then up the North St. Vrain Canyon. My awe grew as we continued up the canyon to finally stop at a quaint cabin just north of Estes Park, which would be home base for the week.
Whether it was the demos, the instruction, my awe with the geography, or simply the good company, and no doubt a combination of all that, I enjoyed this workshop like no other, and feel that I learned volumes! And that brings me to the reason I am writing this blog, which is to attest to the value of finding a mentor and repeatedly studying with that person. Of course it certainly helps if the mentor is a master painter!
With a good mentor, you develop a trusting relationship, which makes you more receptive to their suggestions and criticism, and more self-confident in your painting. You become better at the language of painting, better at explaining your challenges, better at asking the right questions, and you learn to observe at the right times, and to pay attention to what has previously eluded you. You even learn better teaching progressions for your own workshops. You become more in tune with your own motivations and you paint with more personal authority, trusting your instinct more. And you develop a stronger eye for assessing your own work, as well as that of others. I’m not saying there isn’t value in taking workshops from different artists — I have learned from a number of instructors. But the value in a mentor is the trusting relationship that develops, which makes it possible to listen to their feedback without feeling as defensive. I confess I still have some resistance, still wanting to justify why I painted something less effectively than I could, but I am able to understand and agree much more than I used to. I also am acquiring attitudes and standards of excellence which will be helpful to me in my career.
I can’t wait to get into the studio now and start working on larger paintings! The grandeur of the glacier-carved Rockies, especially on Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road, simply begs for large canvases. Below are the studies I did in this workshop.
As always, contact me if you are interested in purchasing my work.
I am starting to more and more realize the value of paint sketches. Even when they don’t seem to have any merit at all – I always have learned from them. Below are some of my paint sketches. In the first one, I was looking for the right colors for the mountain and the sky. In the second, I was studying the colors and shapes of some rocks, and in the third, I was looking at the difference between ponderosa pines and blue spruce.
I am struggling with an absence of routine. Without it, certain basic maintenance tasks are neglected. I like to get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, read something inspirational, and write my 5 gratitudes, and do a short meditation before I get my day underway. But lately I have been getting sidetracked into the day’s business as soon as I get my coffee — starting with email correspondence, news, and social media updates, and I never get back to my morning quiet time. My life has been complicated by a pesky knee injury which has required a good deal of physical therapy and greatly reduced my physical activity. I am coming out of that phase in my life, increasing my activity, improving my nutrition, and I intend to restore routine to my life.
I used to blog weekly. I couldn’t believe my eyes this morning when I saw that my last post was 2 months ago. This was a certain message that I need to re-organize my life.
It’s not that I haven’t gotten things done, or that I have neglected my spiritual and psychological health. But I have neglected a lot of things, obviously blogging being one of them.
So why does that matter? Because blogging is one of my chief way of assessing progress, with a little introspection on the side. Self-assessment is essential for monitoring progress.
In brief, projects accomplished and actions taken over the past two months:
Continued coordinating and attending weekly Wednesday morning plein air painting excursions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, with the goal of maintaining community among the painters, and maintaining if not improving my skills.
Organized and hung a small exhibit of works by the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College South Walton Center, with the goal of constantly exposing young minds to plein air painting, and with the end goal of creating appreciation for the genre, encouraging young artists, and perhaps inviting future participation and patronage.
Served as coordinator for a juried exhibit of plein air paintings for my local arts alliance at the Foster Gallery, preliminary to an event we are planning for this fall.
Completed my 4 months of physical therapy for IT Band Syndrome due to knee arthritis (what a pain!!)
Vacationed in Montana for a week with my sisters from Colorado, and their families, and visited my 97-year-old Dad in his senior home in Colorado, and shared pie with my brother and his family there.
Completed a commissioned painting for a patron.
Exhibited in two special exhibits at the Foster Gallery – showing two plein air paintings in Outdoor Magic 2017, and a figurative piece in Faces & Figures.
Studied DVD’s by plein air painters Laurel Daniel and Joseph McGurl.
Below are studies and works done over the past couple of months.
As always, contact me if interested in available art or a commission.
An evolving artist is a perpetual student, always searching for the best way to create a visual statement. I think that to just paint the same thing over and over is to stagnate. Some would argue with me, those who have a schtick, perhaps, a motif that sells. I would argue in return, that the artist who does that, may be selling, but is not evolving.
So I study. Every Wednesday morning will find me out painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, a practice which immerses me in the creative, decision-making artistic process like none other.
Sometimes I feel “behind”, knowing that many of my peers have been actively producing art during the 35 years that I pursued a non-art career. So I study. I study great artists through their books and photos of the masters, I attend workshops by contemporary artists, and I study subjects by painting what I have photographed. Mostly I study on site, en plein air.
This week I studied the light on a barn at a state park, a feat of patience as the sun hid behind the clouds most of the morning, giving me mere glimpses of the structure in full light. I did not finish the painting, content with what I learned by studying only the lit side, the unlit side, and the shadow under the roof.
Later that same day I painted a pelican from photos I had taken. Studies from photos don’t have to be photos I have taken, but on the off-chance that I might keep one of the studies for showing, then I like to use my own photos so the work is all my original artwork. I think it is unethical to paint someone else’s photo and call it your own original art, so I paint from my own photos if I plan to show my work to anyone. When I practice from the masters, I don’t post my practice pieces. Here’s a video of me at work on my pelican, where I was painting at the 30A Art Market at the Shops at the Hub, in Seacrest, Florida.
My finished pelican turned out to be a “keeper”! Since this was the first time I’ve painted a pelican, and pelicans are such a common bird here where I live, I expect there are many more pelican studies in my future!
NOTE: I have since discovered that I actually have painted a pelican once before, 4 years ago, after a trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands, but since I had forgotten it, I’m going to stick with the story that this was my first pelican!
Several years ago I was asked to paint the bride and groom’s First Dance at their wedding reception. That first request blossomed into more as word got out. I have dedicated a page on my website to Weddings & Live Event Painting.
Last fall I painted at a beautiful wedding which was held outdoors in front of a magnificent private mansion. The weather was gorgeous, the light exactly mirroring the day before when I had visited the site to work out the details with the wedding planner. I arrived about an hour early, so my painting was well underway by the time the first guests arrived. A trio played classical music behind me, to the accompaniment of the splashing sound of the beautiful marble fountain beside me, and pre-wedding cocktails encouraged the convivial atmosphere. Guests looked over my shoulder as I continued to structure the mansion, cheating the color towards the warm glow I knew would be present at the moment I was asked to capture, which would be the bride’s father escorting the bride to her wedding. (I had taken a few reference photos of the wedding planner standing approximately where I thought the bride and her father would be walking, so that I had an idea of scale when I started the painting.)
I was amused that a few of the guests wanted to have their photo taken with me painting — apparently my activity was something essential to their anticipated memories of the occasion. But I was wholly unprepared for the revelation that my work would be so significant to the bride, surprised and pleased that she had my painting printed on her Thank You cards!
And then gratitude upon gratitude, when she included a photo of me painting, in the feature article on her wedding in The Knot, the premier magazine for “all things wedding”! The issue will hit the newsstands on June 26, 2017. Below are small photos of the 3-page article, and the fourth one is a composite of the photo of me working and the list of vendors. Click each image for enlargeable view.