Friday, September 28, 2007

Daily Painting Practice - Plein air Day 18 - Neighbors

My wife/still life flower provider, planted these white marigolds as an experiment this year. I used them in yesterday's painting. She does a great job providing me with an endless supply of material for still life flower arrangements. Our goal is to eliminate as much grass as possible in our lawn and replace it all with flower beds. The purple Russian Sage on the left is a favorite of my wife and of the honey bees.

click on the image to enlarge the picture

oil on canvas board

I stood directly in front of my house and looked up the street to paint this. It is not a pureblood plein air. More of a hybrid. I needed to sharpen the lines of the houses and the pole. I did this in the studio. (I can't do straight lines outside yet) I also added more color to the Russian sage and the grass in the studio. I tried very hard not to blend the paint on the canvas as much as I usually do. I think this helped give it a cleaner look.

This scene is proof, I think, that you don't need to travel far to find the beauty of the common places we all see everyday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Daily Painting Practice - White Marigolds

click on the image to enlarge the picture

White Marigolds
oil on canvas board

Another studio daily painting still life because yesterday's plein air practice was a disaster. Some days are like that. I thought it would be better to complete a studio painting than to let the wreck of the other painting stop me from painting all together. Besides, I really like painting flowers so I'll use any excuse I can to do it.
Back to plein air tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Daily Painting Practice - Plein air Day 17 - Still Runs Good

It is amazing what you can find to paint just walking around the block. I have passed this car many times and knew one day I would paint it. I immediately liked the rusty roof. I think an artist like (William Wray) would have done a much better job with the subject. His gritty urban landscapes are a great example of capturing beauty in the common places and back alleys we often overlook. Still, I had a lot of fun with it .
Still Runs Good
oil on canvas

The guy who owns and still drives this old car came out to talk with me. He said he has had this car since he was in high school. (about 30 years ago is my guess) The newer red van in the doesn't run right now, needs work.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Daily Painting Practice - Plein Air -day 16 capturing ideas

Sometimes while walking or driving through my neighborhood, I see things that spark an idea for a painting. They don't need to be well composed or have terrific lighting. They just sit there quietly waiting for me to paint them.

These glimpses of real life hold a spark of mystery, a hint of a story. They turn my thought away from what I am doing at the time.(this can be dangerous if I am driving) and feed my imagination.

Most of the time, however, I don't act on these opportunities. I keep driving or walking by and the the image and idea fades from my mind.
This time, however, I stopped and got out of my truck. I was going to try and paint the idea. I am learning that not every plein air attempt has to be a "finished painting" (one that is able to be sold.) Sometimes it is just as important to act on impulse and approach painting as a sketch of the attraction. Painting on impulse - what a concept!

The Mystery of Hanging Laundry
oil on masonite

The idea still holds my interest. That is a good sign. There may be a studio painting that develops out of this sketch. How many interesting or mysterious attractions do we miss each day? Something to think about.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Daily Painting Practice Plein Air - Day 15 - The Convent

There is a church with wonderful architectural features in Omaha called St. Cecilia's Cathedral. Looking from the east, the morning sun can light up these spires or bell towers.
I wasn't pleased with this as a composition. Though the local color is there.
This is directly across the street. Actually I am painting in the same spot only turned to my left. While I painted this wonderful old building a priest noticed me and came over to see what I was doing. He told me a little history of the building. It was now empty and had been, I think he said for the last 10 years. He was very glad to tell me they had plans to knock it down and replace it with a new building. Something about that is very sad. It is a lovely building with a lot of character.
click on the image to enlarge the picture

The Convent
oil on masonite

This might make an interesting larger painting. I should look at it again and see what autumn colors do for it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Daily Painting Practice Plein Air- Day 14- Omaha Flowers

This is Memorial Park in Omaha again. Every year they plant this group of flowers along Dodge St. I don't know what they are called but they are very tall and bloom for a long time.
Blocking in the main areas of color. I find that sometimes if I just concentrate on blocking in the values and color the painting is 90 percent complete before any details are added.
My wonderful wife /photographer/painting companion snapped this photo of me and my home made pocade box in action.
The thing I like about these gardens is their simplicity and the space they left for you to walk or in my case paint around them.
click on the image to enlarge the picture

Omaha Flowers
oil on canvas board

I can't think of anything better than spending time with my wife and painting beautiful flowers. What a wonderful life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Daily Painting Plein Air Practice - Day 13 - Moody Blues

I was having what I call a "Moody Blues" day yesterday. Do you ever get those moods where you just want to have as much space around you as possible? Space without the vibes of other people near you. I was having one of those mornings and the weather seemed to reflect it. One of the benefits of being a plein air artist is that you can pick your location to work each day (based on mood, income at the moment, or how far to the nearest cup of tea is).
Being alone out of doors and quietly painting helped to clear up whatever mood I started the day. (Beauty has that effect on me). What fascinated me as I stood outside was the depth and richness of the colors on a foggy day. I had trouble mixing them. I was thinking cool, but I was seeing warm. What I thought were gray muted tones were really a mixture of grays with rich greens and subtle blues. It was a very confusing problem. This is why you read so much about getting out and practicing. The experience is what you need to collect not the photographs.
click on the image to enlarge the picture

Work in Progress - Standing Bear Park on a Foggy Morning
oil on masonite

I also was trying an experiment in working with a large canvas or board from the start. I learned a few things right away. I have a habit of not squeezing out enough paint onto the palette. You can see that in the photograph above. I run out of paint and this causes me to paint very weak and thin. This is magnified when painting with a large canvas in the field. Also, you absolutely need to use large brushes or you will never finish.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Daily Painting Practice - Marigolds

click on the image to enlarge the picture

oil on canvas board

It rained a lot yesterday and i had a few errands to run so unfortunately I was not able to get outside and paint plein air. However, the studio was dry and the marigolds in my garden were there for the picking.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Daily Painting Practice Plein Air - Day 12 - Bell Tower

This is at Memorial Park in Omaha just across the street from UNO (University of Nebraska at Omaha). It is a wonderful city park on a sloping hillside with lots of open spaces and walking paths. A lot of people bring their dogs there for a walk and exercise. Like this women in white at on the left hand side of the photo. You can see her dog if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

The dog must have been half retriever half art critic. It was a very friendly pooch. It came running over and nearly knocked over the easel. So,I picked up a stick and threw it back towards the woman. It worked. The dog took off after the stick. "Now you did it." yelled the woman. " He won't leave you alone now."
Sure enough the dog was back dropping the stick at my feet. I gave it another toss, back he came. The woman continued to walk away over the hill. I gave one more toss toward her direction just as she called to him. It worked and off he sped. Five minutes later he came running back without the owner right through my painting bag knocking over the turps and making a mess of the paper towels. Then turned and ran home. I guess even dogs have a way of critiquing our work.
click on the image to enlarge the picture

Bell Tower
oil on canvas board

Needless to say I had to quit after that. I had the last word though. I put the woman in the painting....but left out the dog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Daily Painting Plein Air Practice - Day 11 - The Red Trailer

There is an area in Omaha called Dundee. It is a small neighborhood with its own main street. In fact I show some work at the Dundee Gallery. It is home to the second richest man in the world (Warren Buffett) and its houses are unique and wonderful to look at.
But what is the first thing I paint when I go to this neighborhood? Stately houses?... no. A quaint scene on main street?
I paint a red trailer.
This trailer sat there calling out for some Omaha artist to come by and paint it. So I did.
Here is a great example of how my self critiquing works when I get it back in the studio. Once I looked at it again I decided the branches at the top of the painting needed to go. It needed more light. So I painted more sky, rounded the trees and worked on the front shadows a little.
click on the image to enlarge the picture

The Red Trailer
oil on canvas board

I really enjoyed this one. I found a nice surprise also. Having a strong center of interest kept my interest in painting it. I should keep that in mind the next time I struggle or loose patience with a scene. Having that strong center of interest also made me slow down and think about the space around the trailer. I tried to keep that space from competing with the center of attention. One example of that is the decision I made to not paint in the wires strung from the power poles. An artist's prerogative. If I were to do this as a larger painting I might include them but here, I decided they took too much attention from the star of the show.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Daily Painting Plein Air Practice - Day 10 - Late Summer Road

What a glorious day! I can't imagine heaven being any better than this. Late summer must be God's gift to those who enjoy outdoor painting. I am on the outskirts of western Omaha where the countryside is being developed into new neighborhoods. I find painting a scene like this both joyful and sad. Joyful because I am capturing and sharing a bit of the beauty I see in the common everyday world around me. Sad, because this scene will soon disappear in a whirlwind of new construction. The field on the left hand side of this photo is already scraped bare and new roads are being cut into it. By next spring this road will be paved and this tree won't exist.
click on the image to enlarge the picture

Late Summer Road
oil on masonite

I started this on a panel that was painted weeks ago with a cadmium orange base. I love the way it pokes through and warms the entire picture. I was also determined to go bold with warm purples in the shadows. How daring am I?
I think that unifying quality of color is what makes Plein air work appear fresh. When this is done by those who know what they are doing the painting actually sparkles with life. Check out the work of (Jennifer McChristian), she has it all, clean bold colors, unified color and best of all that sparkle and shimmering light.

I will use this sketch for a larger studio painting. I'll post that when I finish it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Daily Painting Plein Air Practice - Day 9 - Poplar tree study

Warning! This blog entry contains political and historical events. Those not interested in learning something should just look at the pictures.

I found another small park in Omaha with a tiny lake and I learned some history. It is called Standing Bear Lake named for the (Ponca leader Chief Standing Bear). The case of Chief Standing Bear was a landmark case in the U.S. that determined that native Americans were entitled to rights of citizenship. The government actually tried to prove that an Indian was neither a person nor a citizen so couldn't bring suit against the government. (The things they don't teach you in art school).

A nice shady spot and no people, two ingredients to a perfect plein air painting day.

Poplar Tree Study
oil on canvas board

I need to think about using with more paint. That tree needs to be painted with bold confident strokes. Self critique is a useful tool, though I usually notice the things that need improvement after I get home. I need to slow down and step through the painting process more carefully. My new plein air mantra should be ," take a breathe, slow down, think before each brush stroke."

We'll see if that works tomorrow.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Daily painting practice - Plein air practice day 8- Rainy Day at Benson Park

Did you ever get the sense that the plein air painting gods are trying to teach you something when you go out to paint? Like, "let's teach this guy how to dress properly for cold weather." Yesterday, two fellow artists, (Mike) and (Rene), commented on how hard it will be to paint during the winter. It just so happens, I nearly froze my butt off the other day, when the temperature dipped to the low 50's from the 80's and 90's we have been enjoying. The rain added to the chill of the morning. Still, I am on an art mission here. Come rain or snow or mildly cool summer mornings, I will get out there and paint.... Of course, if I would learn to dress properly it would help.
I was lucky again in finding a shelter to work under. I had the painting going and my fingers were just starting to freeze up when this guy in the red car decided to park and eat his breakfast in the middle of my view. I thought about painting the car into the picture but all I really wanted to do was run home and have a nice HOT cup of tea.
click on the picture to enlarge the image

Rainy Day in Benson Park
oil on masonite

I really wanted to see if I could capture the feeling of a cold and rainy summer morning. I knew I should try and keep the edges soft and the colors muted. But that patch of green grass, it actually looked as though it was enjoying the rain. I have never painted in this type of weather before so the idea was to challenge myself and not make an excuse and stay in the warm, cozy studio. I found there is one benefit to stating a goal and sticking with it. It feels good when you complete the task... It feels even better with a hot cup of tea thawing your fingers though.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Daily painting practice - Plein air practice day 7 - Tree study

Another attempt at Boyer Chute Wildlife Reserve. I turned 180 degrees from the spot I painted in yesterday's blog and had this view. The colors of field and foliage are beginning to change here in Nebraska. It won't be long before we are in full autumn colors. I think I am starting this plein air stuff at just the right time.

The park has this nice little platform that hangs out over the river. It has a roof so I could set up in the shade. How's that for convenience?

Plein Air Tree Study
oil on masonite
Again I only managed to capture my initial idea. I am hoping after this year of study I can move these farther along to a richer and bolder level. One artist I certainly need to study more is (Julian Merrow-Smith). His plein air work is wonderfully bold and his brushwork and color is the stuff I dream about.
But good plein air paintings don't get done by dreaming. It takes daily painting practice. So back at it again tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Daily painting practice - Plein air practice day 6 - Bend at Boyer Chute

And so the year of Plein air painting begins(again). Here I am at Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. It's about 15 miles north of Omaha. One nice thing about painting here is that there are about 3,350 acres to walk and paint without seeing more than 3 or 4 people. It's like having the entire wildlife refuge as my own backyard.
I did a 5"'x7" color study. This is really just a color note that allows me to catch and remember what I want or find interesting. In this case it's the angle of light and shadow in the trees that caught my eye.
The color sketch is a little dramatic but it does capture my idea for the painting. You can see the remains of the dark orange under painting on the panel I started with.
Back at the studio I use the plein air sketch and photos as my reference to develop a finished piece.
click on the picture to enlarge the image

Bend at Boyer Chute
oil on masonite

As I get better and more confident in Plein air painting I am hoping to have the paintings completely (or maybe 90 percent) completed in the field. I am not a purist in any method of painting. I learn as I go and hopefully I also have fun doing it. To me daily painting is about the joy of discovery and the process of gaining experience through experimentation and of course the highlight is having the chance to share the results.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Daily Painting Practice - the show

WOW! What an experience. My first opening was Friday night. I still am coming down to earth. So many friends and family surrounding me and supporting me. I truly live a blessed life. What a great feeling it was to know so many people came and enjoyed the show. I only wish that my gratitude reaches all of them and they feel how happy they made me.
Where should I begin?
First, I can now admit to being nervous. But my wife/councilor/organizer thought of everything. All I had to do was show up...
Focus ...breath...and if I forgot my name look down.
She even handled the last minute touches. Just to make sure everything was perfect. She is a gift from art heaven.

Here's a peek of what some of it looked liked. The gallery did a great job hanging it.

The crowd kept coming. I think I didn't stop talking from 5:00 til we left at 10:OOPM. I learned so much. I'll share with you all of my notes at another time. I posted all of the work on my (website) so you can see the work.

Some even sold. Oh happy day! Thanks go out to all who helped and attended. It was a night I'll never forget.
Now its time to move on. Tomorrow starts a new adventure. My promise to do a whole year of Plein Air Painting Practice. This will be a blast.