Friday, December 28, 2007

small work

Quiet Evening, 2007. oil on panel, 4 3/4 x 4 3/4. sold
This is a miniature painting that I did for the small works show at First Street Gallery this past October. I have been trying to play with yellowish clouds for several months and this painting is a result of my recent attempts. It is very tonal painting and heavily influenced by a show I saw at the Oakaland Musuem this past spring showcasing the work of Arthur Mathews. He was a wonderful early 20th century California Artist who worked in San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

that's a lot a trees

The Home Place, 2007. oil on canvas, 60 x 60. sold.

This a large commission I did for a couple here in California. While this painting obviously fits within the kind work I do of the valley, it is unusual in several ways. First, I have not attempted to do this many orchards in years. I'll tell you why and I'll be blunt: it is stinking hard to try and get EVERY TREE in the right place so they both line up and lay flat and this painting has over 700 trees! I must have painted the large orchard in the foreground six or seven times before I got it right. Second, this is a specific piece of land the family owns. While most of my work is about particular places I often change things around to make the painting work so it may not in the end resemble the original place. But in this work it was important that work looked like the home place. That meant looking at the land over and over again (remember I rarely ever use photographs in my work), so I was driving out to their place numerous times to see the land and try and get the "look" and feel of their land. I would have not attempted this painting in years past because I wouldn't have felt I could pull it off. While the painting was a struggle at times to complete I was happy with the results and more importantly the couple was very pleased with the finished work. All's well that ends well.
Soon after I finished this painting another family member inquired if I would be willing to do another larger painting of this property but from fifty years ago. But that's for another post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Something a Little Different

Somewhere on the Floor, 2007. pastel on paper, 20 x 16

Here is something that is new for me. I recently invested in several sets of pastels. I've wanted to do some pastels for quite some time but I have not been able to swing it until now. The last time I did any was when I was in graduate school and I loved them then, so I could hardly wait to use them again. Its such a great media, I love its immediacy. I'll post more as I get more done. This painting was done for a Yosemite show at the Vault in November.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Other Three

Warm Twilight, 2007. oil on panel, 16 x 16

Warm Twilight and Orchard Ranch were the first two paintings that I brought to The Vault. They were not a orginally painted with any thought that they would go together, they just happened to to be the same size and I didn't really think anything about it at the time. But shortly after talking them to the gallery, I get a call from the owner asking if I was planning to do any more paintings that size. A collector was interested in four paintings in the same format and liked the first two that were already at the gallery. I had no immediate plans to make any

The Orchard Ranch, 2007. oil on panel, 16 x 16

other paintings that were going to the same size, but I did have two other panels o fthat size that were laying around the studio, so I started thinking about what I could do with last two...It was strange the first two were not suppose to go together and now I was making two more to go with the other two. It was Kris at The Vault who sort of suggested that I make the four seasons out of the four I just when with it. Cold Weather came first and then Around from the last post was the last to be finished. I think the four pieces work

Cold Weather, 2007. oil on panel, 16 x 16

together, even if they were not originally meant to work together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recent Work

Around, 2007. oil on panel, 16 x 16

This is a painting that was the last in a series of four paintings that I did for The Vault. I am quite pleased with the sky since it was one that has been bumping around in my head for some time and could never make it work in my previous attempts. I couldn't figure out what color the blue had to be to make the yellowish/orangeish color work. It turned out that the blue wasn't really a true blue at all, but more of a green blue. Once that color relationship was established it then made putting the rest of the painting together much easier and it fell into place rapidly. It only took me four or five false starts to get to this painting, which is fairly typical for me when I am trying something new. That process goes like this: I see a color relationship outside and I think to myself, "Hmmm, that could make an interesting painting...I wonder what color I will have to use in order make a painting feel like this?" I go back to my studio and give it a go. At times I hit it right off the bat (but I can count those experiences on two hands)-others, like with this painting, I struggle to find the right colors that will work with what I have in mind. It's a funny process and not predicable at all.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More Work - Less Talk

Summer Afternoon, 2007. oil on panel, 10 x 12

I have another confession to make. I really don't like to write that much. Now I know that may seem strange since I do have a blog. So let me explain. I'm not a very talented writer (please try and keep the laughing to yourself). It's just a struggle every time I try and write. I have to work and work to get anything to make any sense. Yet, I do enjoy the process of writing, getting the words down, thinking my thoughts through and trying to get them to make sense somewhere besides in my own head (which is not as easy as it sounds). But, lately I have not had the time to do any writing I've had too much on my plate and frankly writing is a ways down on my to do list. So that got me to thinking-I started this journal to show my work and maybe write a little about it. It became quite quickly to be more about the writing than the art (at least for me) and as I have previously stated I'm not a good enough of a writer to do that on semi-regular basis. I am after all an artist and not a writer. So while I may do some longer bits of writing from time to time, I'm mostly going to show you what I've been up to in my studio. Let's get started....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do you really need all those tubes?

The Finale, 2007. oil on canvas 44 x 46. sold.

I have confession to make...I love oil paint. That may not seem strange, since I am oil painter. I love the smell, the buttery texture of the paint. I love lying out my colors on my pallette fresh and new. I buy the most expenive paint I can afford. I can spend money on color like nobody's business. I don't bother with the little studio size tubes either, what's the point? If I can't get in at least 150 ml tubes I stop looking at what colors that paint company has to offer. Each color on my palette is there for a reason. For example, one of the reasons I like to use Zinc white because of its weight. I use five different blues on my palette, because each has its own distinct characteristics. I have my favorite brands of Cadmium Lemon Yellow. etc, etc But sometimes I can become a bit obsessive. I CANNOT run out of any color, if I'm running a little low I MUST order new paint. This is especially very true of white I must have at least three or four tubes on hand at all times, if I don't, then it's straight down to the art supply store to stock up.

Sometimes I feel like a collector of artists color, much like a collector of fine wines, and so in my paint drawers at my studio I have some classic vintages. Colors that are not made any more or colors that the paint manufacturer have changed the formulation of how they make a color. (A crime in and of itself and a possible subject for a future note.) What is an artist to do? Keep the old color, of course...wait a sec... aren't I suppose to USE the paint? But, how can I be expected to use something that I can't get anymore? soooo, I save them...I must have, I don't even what to count in my head how many mostly used up tubes of paint I have lying around my studio. I can't use them and I can't throw them away, its quite a catch 22. I must have some paint that is more than fifteen years old in my studio that I just can't bear to part with it...I'm sick...really sick.

Sometimes They Work

A Little After Dusk, 2007. oil on panel, 8 x 10

Painting can be very difficult at times. I toss around thirty percent of my work, they just don't work, for any number of reasons. Mostly, I've made some bad decisions. Sure, any painting can be fixed but is it really worth the time it would take to fix them?

I walk into my studio and I don't have any fixed idealized vision of what any painting should look like, so everything changes from day to day. I usually have some sort of an idea that I have seen, say, from the day before, a sunset or sunrise from my backyard or some fields on a drive from last week, it all melds together in my mind and then I start thinking I may have an idea that would work in a painting or drawing. So I have to try these ideas out to see if they will work in paint. These ideas may work or they may not, I never know until I try them, painting and drawing is experiential, you can think about all you want but until you try it you can't know. Sometimes I hit it and sometimes I don't. I never can predict the outcome. Sure, I've learned that certain colors work well together, but what if I'm trying a new color combination? The answer will be found on the canvas or panel not in my head. It may not seem like the best way to paint, but when you paint this way your good painting can be better than if I was always striving for only one kind of painting. How do you get better? I know of only one way, you gotta make a lot of mistakes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Tales From the Outdoors

Broken Lines, 2004. oil on canvas, 14 x 20

Okay, we have manged in the morning to damage Jack's car fairly badly. How much worse can the afternoon be? We get back to Jack's place to get my car (mind you my car is a 1984 rabbit convertible and not really a picture of reliability, but what choice do we have?) We head back out to the great outdoors, back to the scene of the crime, well not back to the exact scene, if we ever see that creek again it will be too soon, but back to the same piece of property we were on in the morning. That view was splendid and so we headed up to the top of the knoll to start our paintings. We hadn't but started, when it was time for a meeting back in town with the gallery that was sponsoring the paint-out. We were in the middle of nowhere and knew nobody would mess with our stuff. So instead of packing everything back up we just left everything set up in the middle of this huge field and headed back into town for our meeting.

Ninety Minutes later....

We unlock the gate and drive up to the top of the hill where we left our stuff. There we find a herd of cattle surrounding our easels and painting gear. Jack's stuff looks to be fine, but my stuff...well, its taken a bit of a beating. My field easels is upside down with its three legs sticking straight up into the air and my paint bag is turned upside down with tubes of paint strewn all around and my painting was laying face down in the knee high grass. The cows were just standing around looking at us as if to say, what are you guys doing in our field? Apparently cows are very curious animals, and they just wanted to see want we were doing. What is not commonly known is apparently some cows are art critics as well. (Note: they did not mess with Jack's stuff.) We shooed them off to see what the damage was done to my stuff and surprisingly it was nothing! The cows has amazingly not broken anything, the easel was fine and the painting just needed some minor repainting where the grass had messed up the paint. A couple of hours later I finished the painting.

I've painted outside hundreds of times, but none were as exciting(?) as that day.
May I just go back to my studio where it's safe?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Painting out

Barley and Early Cotton, 2003. oil on panel, 7 x 12

Painting outside (I refrain from using the romantic French term though I have nothing against the France or its beautiful language, but recently in the US, some artists have co-oped the term, so they can use it as a marketing tool, and the French term has come to denote a certain style of painting which was not its original meaning, but I digress) can be challenging. I participated in a paint out this past week at one of my galleries. We got to paint all over the Foothills of California. It's a good excuse to visit my friend Jack Cassinetto and spend the week painting with him or at least trying to paint. We are not dedicated painters of the outdoors. I don't mind it and have painted outside since I was in school twenty years ago, but Jack only tolerates it. We are both studio painters. So here we are two studio painters headed out to the great outdoors.
Day one: Rain...We work in Jack's studio...gee, that's really too bad. Note the sarcasm.
Day two: Beautiful day. We get permission to go on his nephew's ranch, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We unlock the gate and drive in on a bumpy, dirt path (I can't really call it a road) up to the top of a knoll where there are breathtaking views in all directions. But we are artists, and both think that maybe there is something better a little farther in so we drive on to a smallish creek. We get out of the car and take a look around, and see that its all pretty closed in, nothing really to paint. We take a look at the creek and it doesn't look that deep or wide or rapid. There is even a place where cement has been pored to help other vehicles cross. We hop back into the car (have I mentioned its a mini van?) to cross the river. No problem, except as we got up on the other side we heard a rather loud clunk. We had hit a rock as we exited the creek and on closer inspection realized that water was poring out of the radiator. Enough said. We did make it out alive, and back into town. We went straight to Jack's local mechanic to see what the damage was going to be to fix his car. Late that afternoon and hundreds of dollars later Jack got his van back. We still hadn't painted anything outside. It was approaching 12 O'clock...Lunch, anyone?

Monday, April 30, 2007

believe it

Riverside Farms at Dusk, 2004. oil on canvas, 36 x 60

"Beauty will save the world."


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trying not to crash

Fall Fields, 2006. oil on canvas, 48 x 60
I am for the most part a good driver. Really, I am. I have only been in one accident in my life and that one was not my fault. But I do a fair amount of weaving as I drive though. I can't really help it. I'm always looking at the landscape as I drive and often the landscape distracts me. I know its not a really smart thing to do, but I get most of my ideas for my painting when I am driving. I see color relationships that are interesting, compositions that strike me that may make a good painting. I tend, like most people, to drive to the same places over and over again so I see the same things again and again. Some people may find this boring, but I love to see the same area multiple times. I get to see it at different times of day, in different seasons, and different weather conditions. I look at everything and when I see something I like I tend to look at that for longer than I should, thus weaving. I'm a classic rubbernecker, except I'm not looking at accidents; I'm looking at the landscape.
Falls Fields was one such painting that was inspired by a drive down to Southern California. I started the painting and then it sat in my studio for a very long time, years, in fact. I didn't know how to finish it. Then driving home from a meeting from a town about an hour south of where I live I saw the solution. I went back to my studio and finished it in a couple of weeks. Just like that, I found the solution. The day before I didn't know what to do with it, then I drove on a road that I had been on hundreds of times, and I saw how to finish the painting. Two drives, four years apart to finish one painting. All because I didn't want to crash a good start on a painting. The solution must of worked since I sold the painting two hours after getting it to one of my galleries.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Talking about artists

Paul Cezanne, Mont Sante-Victoire, 1902-04. oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 36 3/16

When I am with other artists we often talk among ourselves about who our favorite painters are. I also find it is a question that collectors and art lovers like to ask. It helps to understand what influences a painter. What really rows their boat, so to speak.

Sometimes collectors eyes will glaze over when I start talking about my, well, at least fifty favorite artists. (What do you mean you have never heard of Richard Diebenkorn?! He's only one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century!) So I have to watch myself. It's when I'm talking to other artists that it can get interesting. So many times, I will mention an artist that I find highly influential, and find that my artist friends haven't even heard of him or is not even interested in his work. It's strange.

I consider Paul Cezanne to be a great painter, one of the best. Yet when I mention him I usually get blank stares from fellow artists. Wasn't he the guy who started cubism and that modern art crap? I've never understood his work. No, he wasn't, and I'm sorry you never took the time to look at what he did. There is a emotional depth in his work that is lacking in a lot of work before and since his time. He was an artist who had a personal vision of the world in paint. He reinvented what he saw in paint. That's something that I think all artists should think about when they're working. What am I bringing to this painting that is my own? Of course, we are all influenced by other artists, but how can I reinvent nature in my paintings and make it personal?

Isn't that the reason to paint?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where do you live, exactly?

Just After Dinner. oil on canvas, 22 x 32
People often look at me a little sideways when I say that I think that I live in a beautiful place. They roll their eyes and say I must be not be talking about the Central Valley. I must be referring to places that are close Yosemite National Park or the Coastal region around Carmel. These are all beautiful places mind you, but I don't live there. I don't know those places like I know the San Joaquin Valley. People often look at the valley as just a place to drive through. Something get across as quickly as possible, since there's nothing to see there anyway... How far is it to Tahoe from here? You should watch the weather on the San Francisco news stations (just 2 hours away, and according to their maps, the world ends somewhere just past Livermore and then picks up in the Sierra Mountains again...the Central Valley is just one long black hole of about 40 miles wide. There are no towns here according to their maps, maybe just five or six farmers. Where I live is real backwater, according to some.
I live in the middle of the largest continuous valley in the world. It is a geologic wonder. It's six hundred miles long and forty miles wide and almost as flat as a pancake and surrounded by mountains on every side. It's like nowhere else in the world and thus it offers unique painting possibilities, unexplored possibilities. Its modern history is no more than a hundred and twenty years old, so there has not been much time to paint what is here. Its beauties may not be obvious at first glance, but if when you let yourself see what is here, and set aside preconceived ideas about what should be painted, paintings are everywhere, here in this valley.
I am not the only artist to paint this grand valley, to be sure, but so many other artists who live in the area seem to think that there is nothing to paint here, and they must travel to find worthy subject matter to paint. That way of thinking is just strange to me. Do their styles of painting not suit this landscape? This valley is a modern landscape that has been transformed by man in the last century. I revel in the geometry of the fields and orchards, the patterns that these fields make when put together in paintings and drawings make a very interesting subject to work from and I believe that it relates to modern painting in a profound way. The contrast of nature and man intertwined together is endless fascinating to me.
Just After Dinner was painted in response to spending an evening with our friends who live amidst the open fields just east of the town where I live. As we walked out to our car, I saw this was breathe-taking...I stared at it for some was beautiful. The painting was not hard to never is when you love what you paint.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Commission, part III

Shortly Before (detail)

The canvas is on the easel and I have carved out enough time to lay in the composition and color of the painting. I first have to establish where the horizon line will be, that will dictate how everything else will relate in the many fields there will be and how big the sky will be in the painting are all determined by where the horizon is placed in the composition. At the same time I'm thinking about what time of day it is in the painting, this will help me decide what color I'm going to try in the painting.

Once the composition is worked out, I then start to lay in the color that I think will work in the painting, making slight adjustments as I work. I make the color choices in my paintings based on my memories when I am outside looking at the landscape. I don't work from photographs when I am in the studio. The colors I choose are based on my visual vocabulary that I have built up over the years of looking at and painting the my color decisions are based in my personal experience, not second-hand information from another source.

This process may, on larger pieces, like this commission, take the better part of the day to get the first layer of color on the canvas. On even larger canvases it may take several days to lay in the color on the canvas. I try to work as quickly as I can so I can have something to work against when I work on the painting in the coming weeks.

When I have the color laid in, the whole process tends to slow down. I refine the relationships of the color in the painting making them work more effectively together. This process may take some time...when I first lay in the color on that first day, I usually think that the painting is almost done when I leave the studio that day, but when I come back to the painting the next day I see things that I did not see before, problems that need to be addressed and colors that do not work well as well together as I thought they did. The fine tuning of a painting can take weeks and even months. As I work on the painting the relationships in the color of the painting grow stronger, more cohesive, working together to make the piece a more effective painting. It is only when I feel that the painting is working in concert and nothing is detracting from the overall feeling of the piece that I can call the piece complete.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

the commission, part II

Shortly Before (detail)
The canvas is done and now I am waiting for the right time to start the painting. I'm not waiting for inspiration, just enough time to devote to getting a good start on the painting. And on a painting this size it can take all day to lay in the colors. It also takes emotion energy to start a painting, when I am facing a blank canvas that is almost four feet wide, it can be a bit daunting. Just who the heck do I think I am to be able to paint on that? I have to have the confidence that I can make a effective painting, because believe me there are days that when I get home from work that I think my painting career is over...I'll never be able to make another effective painting again, but alas my wonderful wife tells me that it was just a bad day and tomorrow will be better...and she's always right. Painting is about making decisions...sometimes I make good decisions and some days I make awful ones. So every time I start a painting I have to believe that I will make the right decisions for this painting...

Friday, March 23, 2007

The MO Commission, part one

Shortly Before, 2007. oil on canvas, 28 x 46

This is a painting that's just fresh off my easel. It is for a commission I did for a couple in Missouri. I am quite pleased with how it turned out. The painting process for this piece and how it was finished was fairly typical for me. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how I make a painting from start to finish.

This painting was started, since it was a commission, by deciding with the collectors how large the piece was going to be and then I stretched the canvas. I would normally just stretch a variety of sizes, which are sometimes based on thumbnails than I've been doing recently. Most other artists I know do not stretch their own canvas, but I simply can not find any canvases that are prepped the way I want them, so I do it myself, the old fashioned way...two coats of hide glue and oil ground primer. It's simply the best canvas surface I have ever painted on.

So once the canvas was ready to go it sits in my studio until I have the nerve to start on it...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Challenge

The Challenge oil on panel, 8 x 10
Sometimes when I am working in my studio I have odd thoughts. Now that may not seem strange to many of you because well, I am an artist... and people's perspectives of artists tend to be that we are just a little bit different than other people, and maybe we are. But usually my days in my studio are just like anyone else who goes to work on a daily basis. I go to work, and I get work done. Some days I feel more productive, and others days feel like I can only mange to get the busy work done around the studio. It has nothing to do with inspiration; it's just that sometimes the studio needs to be cleaned or panels and canvases need to be prepped, all the things they don't tell you about in art school.
What do you mean!? I don't get to just paint all time?
When I am painting or drawing, I'm thinking mostly, surprising I know. I think about the piece I am working on, the drawing I did last week, or sometimes a new idea will pop into my head, while working on the painting on the easel. These ideas are sometimes unexpected and unpredictable, and I try not to put my mind on automatic edit. All my ideas need to be at least tried out to see if there are any possibility to the idea.
That's how The Challenge was made...I was working on another piece and I was thinking about landscape painting in general. If you simplify the basics of landscape painting down to it's core you will have a horizon line with a blue sky and green land. Most people think that's what makes a landscape, right? Well, I must have been working on blue sky-green land painting and getting quite bored because I thought to myself, what happens if I don't use any blue in the sky or green in the land? How would that change the dynamics of the painting? I didn't know the answer to the question...and that was exciting to me. I didn't know if it would even work, but it was something that was well worth trying. I had seen other artists do this sort of thing, but I had never tried it myself. The key was I had to try it to see if I could make it work for myself. It's when I ask myself what seems to me the obvious question that I get the most surprising answer. When I know how things are going to turn out that I think paintings is at its most boring. I like to try and mix things up, and it keeps everything fresh because I never know what I will think of and try next.
Is The Challenge a great masterpiece? Well, no probably not...but it is an effective painting that opened a lot of new doors for me and my painting. There are times when an artist just has to throw caution to the wind and see what will happen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Working with Color?

Afterglow oil on canvas, 12 x 20

A painter in his most basic function put blobs of color on a flat surface in a certain order on that surface to make a painting. It is the COLOR that makes the painting, all other things are subservient to the color. Sure other things are important, but means little if the color sucks.

Artists often go on and on about loving the light when they are painting, but I have found that light has little to do with painting and has everything to do with photography and the fact that many artists think that photographs are how our eyes see the world. You see, without light photos could not exists. Light has to enter the lens to make the image. That's the only way a mechanical eye ( the camera) can reproduce what it sees. I'm still looking for that light color on my palette...hmm, I don't think it's there. That means that I am only left with color, so I am going to base my paintings on the paint on my palette and not some color and value structure that has nothing to do with painting.

Someone recently made a comment about Afterglow and asked how such a dark painting could have such a sense of wonderful light and color and if I could teach her husband how to paint like that. "Well" I answered, "I could but he would have to look at the world in a completely different way than he does now."

I don't see light, I only see Color.

My days are spent in my studio working with color.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Its Late

Warm Evening, oil on panel, 8 x 10

What a day... I really hate spring forward. The kids get all screwed up and they never know when they are supposed to take naps or go to sleep. You wouldn't think that one hour would cause that much havoc...but it does. But what a beautiful day. Nothing could spoil this, even if the kids that are not sure when they are suppose to sleep.

This is a painting I did a couple of weeks ago...and I saw the sky tonight our first warm evening of the early spring after church. Some days, I see things so clearly and everything is a painting. I thank God for days like today.

When is Monday going to get here? I want to get back to my Studio and get to work.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

It's a Start

the Land Between oil on canvas 27 x 54

A journal about painting and the life of a working artist.