Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sonoma Plein Air 2015 Recap - Plein Air Festival - Art Show Event - Bodega Bay Painting - Beach House Art

"Quiet Shores" | 16" x 20" | Oil on panel
Available at

This year marked my 5th year as a participating artist in the Sonoma Plein Air Festival.

This year the weather was unpredictable with rain, wind and sun, sometimes all happening in one single day. It was challenging to paint and I ended up loosing half a day to rain in the middle of the week (fortunately, I kept busy photographing and framing the pieces I'd already completed).

The painting you see in this post was painted one morning when the weather report said it would be sunny all day. Apparently that report didn't apply to the coast. I managed to finish an hour before a fog bank rolled in a completely hid my view. A couple other artists on the bluff next to mine weren't so lucky and I watched as they stepped away from their easels and began packing up their gear. (I found out later they both had enough information on the canvas to be able to finish.)

During the course of the week I spent a fair amount of time painting with other artists and getting to know artists I hadn't met before or only knew a little online. Painting is a solitary endeavor usually and hanging out with other artists, talking shop and facing the same challenges throughout the week is one of the reasons I keep applying to events like Sonoma Plein Air. The friendships I've made through plein air competitions have taught me a lot about painting, the business of being an artist and have become part of an important part of my support system in this crazy art business. I'll keep going back as long as they will have me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Galaxy - Roller Coaster Art - Amusement Park Art - Orange County Fair - Contemporary Painting - Colorful Painting

"Galaxy" | 9" x 12" | Oil on panel | ©2015
Available at

This is the second painting I completed at the Orange County Fair for the Southern California Plein Air Painters event. Like the Ferris wheel painting in my previous post, the view wasn't this colorful because of an overcast sky. I decided to follow a value (black and white) sketch I'd done earlier and take liberties with color to create an exciting piece.

This year I've been learning that as long as my values (how light or dark a color is) are accurate then I am free to paint any color I see fit. In this case I kept the local color of the roller coaster and Galaxy sign true to what was there but, I changed the sky color which was gray in reality. The fence behind the roller coaster I changed to blue instead of a light gray because the gray blended into the sky and it wasn't a color that went well with the rest of the painting. The people were the hardest part for me because they move so fast and I have to admit I am very rusty when it comes to painting the figure (something I need to work on) so, I did my best to capture a few as quickly as I could.

Painting at a place like the Orange County Fair was challenging because of the lack of shade, the throngs of people everywhere and having to lug plein air gear plus my frames through all the chaos however, I really did love painting the colorful rides with all their weird shapes and I'd do it again. Ideally, I'd like to be there painting at night when all the rides are lit up and it isn't so hot but I was told it's a lot more crowded at night so the organizers were reluctant to green light that idea for next year. Too bad, it would have been even more fun.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Big Wheel Keep on Turning - Ferris Wheel - Orange County Fair Painting - Amusement Park Art - Contemporary Art - Urban Art - Modern Art

"Big Wheel Keep on Turning" | 12" x 9" | Oil on panel
Available at Saga Fine Art

Recently, one of the painting groups I belong to, (the Southern California Plein Air Painters Association), got permission from the Orange County Fair for a group of us artists to paint on location there. I have to admit, I wasn't sure about participating at first because it can get extremely hot there but, the thought of painting lots of new and interesting subjects won out and I signed up. 

The organizers asked each of us to paint at least one, if not two, paintings. When we finished we turned them in to be hung in the Fine Art Building where judge Rick Delanty looked at all the artwork and awarded prizes. I was tremendously honored when my painting was awarded Best of Show.

Now I have to tell you that I took a lot of liberties with my painting. A few days before the event we were allowed to go to the Fair and scout locations. On scouting day, it was sunny, the sky was blue with a few clouds. I found two spots where I could set up my easel that was out of the way and had some shade. Scouting the location ahead of time gave me the chance to plan my approach before the big day arrived. I took photos and created sketches to work out my composition and value plan. I didn't want to do any more planning than that because I knew I had to allow for unexpected changes in weather and light.

Sure enough, the day of the event the sky was completely overcast and didn't look like it was going to clear up until noon. The light was flat, there were no dramatic shadows and even the colorful rides seemed dull and gray. Remembering that the most successful paintings start with a simple value plan I chose to follow my value sketch, ignore all the gray in the scene and do what I wanted with color.

Now, some might argue that since I didn't paint exactly what was there my painting wasn't a true plein air painting. I don't agree with that point of view, at all. Art is about expression, interpretation and in the case of plein air, taking inspiration from the landscape in order to create a successful piece of art. It does not mean faithfully copying every rock, tree, bush or in this case, gray sky.

What it comes down to for me is this, I want to create the most successful painting I am able to, sometimes I succeed, many times I fail. This was one of those days when it worked and since it wasn't a plein air event I didn't have to worry about selling so, I played, I took risks, I destroyed, I built, I slapped a gag on my inner critic, plugged in my headphones, cranked up the tunes and had fun - can you tell?


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Approaching Dusk - Original Vineyard Painting - Art for Sale - Wine Country Art - Wall Art - Art for the Home - California Vineyard Painting - Winery Art

"Approaching Dusk" | 11" x 14" | Oil on panel
Available at

This piece is from the Los Gatos Plein Air Festival that I participated in recently. It was my first time being part of the event and for me, that meant spending a lot of time driving around searching for a location to set up my easel and start painting.

Before I head out I've usually done my best to research potential locations but the problem is I really don't know what I'll find until I'm actually there. A lot of spots that are suggested by event organizers are certainly pretty places but, don't hold enough interest in order to create a successful painting or the location is so specific that only a small group of people would be interested in owning a painting of that place. Other problems include, arriving at the suggested location at the wrong time of day or being unable to find an area large enough to set up an easel and paint, or worse, I'll get a case of the "What's Around the Bend" syndrome where I pass up a perfectly good spot hoping to find something even better. That syndrome can last for a while and has led to plenty of frustration and wasted work hours.

With this piece I spent a fair amount of time searching for a view and when this one finally came along it wasn't perfect but had enough information for me to work with. I ended up editing out a lot of messy, unattractive shrubs, fences, and buildings and I pushed a bit more color into the foreground to pop the perspective lines that were created by some type of farm equipment but appeared to be much more subtle in the actual scene. There was also a lot going on in the distant hills that I had to make work for this painting.

It's always tempting to paint everything I see out there but, too much detail in the wrong place often detracts from the main idea in a painting. It's a lesson I am reminded of every time I go out to paint and one I try to pass on to my students.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Original Inspiration - Joahua Meador - Disney Animator - Palette Knife Painter

 Paintings in this post are by artist Joshua Meador 1911-1965

The more I teach workshops I find there are some common questions that I am asked. One of the most frequent questions is, what inspired me to start painting?

My grandparents were close friends with a Disney animator named Joshua Meador and his family. Meador, like many Disney artists, painted in his spare time. He worked in oils using a palette knife to create his paintings. My grandparents collected a great deal of his artwork.

 Paintings in this post are by artist Joshua Meador 1911-1965

If you don't know what a palette knife is, it's a metal, diamond shaped tool used for mixing, scraping off and applying paint. When used as a painting tool it creates simplified and loose style of painting.

  Joshua Meador 1911-1965

When I would visit my grandparent's house as a child I would see the dozen or so paintings that they owned by Joshua Meador. I was fascinated by the what I call the "Monet effect" in which each one of the paintings appeared to be an abstract mess up close but a few steps back each would coalesce into recognizable shapes and scenes.

Joshua Meador 1911-1965

Through the years I would visit them and every time I would find myself standing in front of his paintings trying to absorb every detail and understand how each was created. I believe that's where my love of painting began and ever since I've paid close attention to fine art, expanding my knowledge of art and artists. While I've picked up many new influences along the way, without being exposed to Joshua Meador's work I may never have started painting.

 Joshua Meador 1911-1965

A quick thank you to Patience Brewster for their kind email encouraging me to participate in Artist Appreciation Month. Patience is a talented artist and designer of handmade and handcrafted unique Christmas ornaments and gifts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Intransigent Arrangement - Beach Rocks - Crystal Cove Beach - California Beach - Beach House Art - Art for the Home

"Intransigent Arrangement" | 8" x 10" | Oil on panel
Available at
©2015 by Kim VanDerHoek

Some days when I head out to paint, the usual pretty beach view doesn't grab my attention. Such was the case the days I painted this group of beach rocks. It was overcast and the long view down the beach seemed to lack it's usual magic. The rocks along the shore however, were colorful and full of interesting shapes.

Since I can always learn more about painting rocks I chose to focus on this group. I learned that there really weren't a lot of big value changes on this particular day but, there were a number of temperature and hue shifts like the warm almost flesh toned rock in the upper center and just to the right of that the cooler gray rock. I also played with edges, softening most of them and keeping a few hard ones to lead the eye into and through the painting. Many of the rocks were slabs with a repeating pattern to them and I tried to keep some of that feeling without getting too many repeating shapes that would result in a boring image.

Another idea I played with was painting my subject in a way that worked both as a representation painting as well as an abstract piece.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Farmhand - Tractor Painting- Farm Painting - Rural Art - Country Art - Original Oil Painting

"Farmhand" | 9" x 12" | Oil on panel | ©2015
Available at

This farmhand lives next to a pretty vineyard in Temecula, California. A few years ago I snapped a photo of it and finally got around to painting it during a gallery demo. Most of the shapes are boxes and fairly easy to paint. The hard part to get right are the wheels. What makes them tricky are the ellipses.

As a student my initial approach was to paint them as circles carefully attached to the bottom of the tractor (I realize this probably isn't a tractor but I don't know a thing about farm equipment so you'll have to excuse me). Since then I've done a lot more careful observation and discovered a few things.

Any wheel at an angle won't be a perfect circle, it will be an ellipse with more tread showing on one side. With these wheels they get a bit more complicated because they don't have hubcaps, instead, you can see inside part of the wheel. The center forms another ellipse but between the rubber tire and the center there is a "C" shape that helps it all look 3D.

Since this is probably easier to understand by seeing a visual I've included a diagram breaking it all down below. I hope you find it helpful.