Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dodge in Blue and White - Classic Car Painting - 6x6 painting - 6 Squared Art Show - Wall Art

"Dodge in Blue and White" | 6"x6" | Oil on panel

When I paint a demo. for my students the resulting painting isn't usually frame worthy. I thought that would be the case with this painting but fortunately it turned out well. The exercise for that evening was a memory exercise. What I did was I looked at my photo reference for a few minutes, then put it away and began to paint.

Now, I know you're thinking, "Wow, you painted that entirely from MEMORY?"

No. I started this painting from memory. I blocked in all my big shapes using everything I could remember from my photo reference. Once my canvas was covered I did my best to make corrections and adjustments, but there came a point where I couldn't proceed any further without looking at my photo for the information I couldn't remember.

How did my painting look? Awful, nothing like a classic Dodge van, more like my 6 year old daughter's idea of a van painted using her left foot. So, I pulled my photo back out, working quickly (because it was a demo and my students were loosing hope after seeing how poorly things were turning out) I corrected what I needed to and brought it to a finish.

Why bother starting this way if I had to finish by using my reference? So much of painting is about learning and by that I mean not just learning how to copy what's there, how to mix colors or apply paint, but learning by building a visual library of memories and gaining a better understanding of how things are formed and why. Like why light behaves the way it does, why a reflection is the way it is or why the color of the sea changes when it's near the shore vs. when it's near the horizon.

The more I paint the more I understand about how our world is shaped and that in turn has made me a better painter.

Are you brave enough to give the memory painting exercise a shot? I promise you'll learn something if you do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rolling Hills - Sonoma County Painting - Petaluma Farm Painting - Landscape Painting - Art for the Home - Traditional Art

 "Rolling Hills" | 8"x 16" | Oil on panel
Available at

Most artists produce a themed series of work at some point in their careers and typically the series has a subject that is visually similar and is painted in a similar style like Kevin Macpherson's Reflections on a Pond series or Ann Gale's Head series.

From my own experience in painting I believe most artists attempt a series because they hit on a subject they want to explore in as many different ways as they possibly can and the most successful subjects are the ones that have enough substance in them that the artist doesn't loose interest while working. Of course, a series can be many things and isn't always limited to a subject that looks similar, what a series needs is a common thread that weaves through the work like a series based on environmental issues or landscapes from a particular location.

Until recently I hadn't thought that any of my body of work could be considered a series. Which brings me around to this piece from Sonoma Plein Air which I guess you could say is part of a series now.

This was painted is my sweet spot, a location in Sonoma County that I seem to find my way back to each time I visit there. To date I've created 9 paintings along the road that runs next to this view. Every year when I drive through this area I ask myself if it's been played out, I ask myself if I really do have any more to say in this location and every year I leave with several more painting ideas in my head that I could have done there.

If you paint plein air and want to push yourself I highly recommend finding a sweet spot of your own, a place that speaks to you and inspires you. Once you've found it, work the area for a while, see just how many different paintings you can create. Use what's in the area to your advantage, move things, find the best light of the moment, if something interesting shows up in the area paint it (my sweet spot includes lots of cows and one unpredictable farmer that welcomes me one year and shoos me away the next), change your color palette, try different techniques, try a composition you've never attempted and use a new tool. If you're not bored after your 5th painting then I say you've found a muse and after that....paint on my friend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lakeville Road Blues - Working in Three Values to Create a Strong Painting - Sonoma County Painting - Petaluma Farm Painting - Landscape Painting - Art for the Home

 "Lakeville Road Blues" | 8"x10" | Oil on panel
Available at

Before I start by preaching about how essential a value study can be at the start of a painting I would first like to admit that I have been known to skip this step and jump right into feeding my painting addiction in spite of knowing how important creating a value sketch can be and in spite of seeing positive results from taking that initial step. Instead I've often allowed the lure of color, lush paint and the call of my paintbrushes to lead me astray, blindly fumbling my way through, erasing things, changing elements or *gasp* just rolling with bad decisions.

This year however,  at the Sonoma Plein Air Festival I took the time to sketch. Sketching in three values kept the composition strong and clearly stated. Linking areas of similar value together into one larger value mass kept the overall concept focused as well.

Sketch for Lakeville Road Blues

It's easy to believe that detail, color and bold brushwork are the elements that make a dynamic representational painting happen, but just like a building, a painting is only as good as it's foundation. While this little 8"x10" plein air piece isn't a huge, epic, multi-figure narrative painting with chiaroscuro, it still did benefit from having a plan at the start.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tower - Transamerica Pyramid - San Francisco Landmark - Contemporary Art - Modern Art - Urban Art

"Tower" | 19" x 12.5" | Oil on panel
Available at

If you've read my blog for a while or know my work then you probably know me as a Plein Air landscape painter (or painter of oil pumps). What you don't know is that I never planned on that being my final destination as an artist.

I knew going into this that I needed to have some basic skills and develop an understanding of some of the techniques and principals of painting. When I started out, the thought of tackling a blank canvas was daunting (dry throat, sweaty palms kind of daunting) and it was something I struggled with in college especially when my professors flatly refused to teach anything relating to representational painting. All those years ago I figured that Plein Air was a good place to start since there are no model fees involved, the landscape doesn't move around (unless there is a boat or car involved then they always move) and I could be out of the house away from the distractions of my family life (which used to include changing my kids diapers, so yeah, I really enjoyed being outside at the easel) .

Now that I have spent a number of years in the field painting from life I have a bit of a better handle on the basics (I'm not saying I'm any expert or anything because there is always more to learn and there is always someone else with way more miles on their paintbrush). So, this year I've spent more time painting in my studio (O.K. it's not really a studio, it's more of a tiny corner in a small house that I share with my whole family and their toys, shoes, books, craft supplies, dirty dishes, etc.).

Painting in the studio has allowed me to experiment with things that are difficult to do in the field. In this painting for example, I planned my color palette starting with the under-painting which I hoped would work as a highlight color on the Transamerica building. Fortunately, the under-painting also worked when I wiped away applied paint to indicate the windows on the other high-rise buildings. Allowing paint to run, leaving spots of the under-painting showing through, breaking more edges, mixing colors together from different areas of the painting to create harmony and using broken color are all things I wouldn't normally do when working en Plein Air. Studio painting is a much more deliberate process whereas Plein Air is more of a quick response to an ever changing moment.

As my work evolves I find I have a a number of paintings that head in all different directions stylistically, but, I trust that the schizophrenic look of my work this year will eventually evolve into a thing/style, whatever that my be.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Roadside Red - Sonoma County Painting - Landscape Painting - Plein Air Landscape - Interior Design Art

"Roadside Red" | 8" x 16" | Oil on panel 
Available at

3.5" x 1.5" Sketch for "Roadside Red" 

This year before Sonoma Plein Air started I was able to scout some painting locations before the event began and I took the time to create some sketches. While this was a great exercise for nailing down my composition it got a bit tricky when the weather changed from full sun to cloudy he day the event started.

Here you can see my small value sketch for the painting above. Working in three values helped me keep the overall design clear, massing areas with similar values together.

It was challenging working on the painting under different lighting conditions. Also, while some value areas worked fine in my sketch, in the finished painting they required more fleshing out. For example, the distant green hill behind the barn should have been all one color and value but I felt splitting that area into two values with different hues would make the barn pop more against the background. That cool green hill which is the opposite of the warm red of the barn makes the sides of the barn stand out in the foreground, additionally, the light tan of the farthest distant hill is a nice counterpoint to the cool gray of the barn roof. If I had made the entire hill green then the barn roof wouldn't stand on it's own as well since both those paint mixtures contain blue. The same goes for the light tan hill, behind the barn it might have worked just fine but, since there are reds in both the barn and the hill paint mixtures I felt having a color opposite on the color wheel would work better.

Kim VanDerHoek at the Gala dinner with fellow painters - Richard Lindenberg and Debra Huse

Scouting painting locations in advance gave me a plan for where I wanted to go and gave me some idea of what time of day was best for painting in each spot. It also cut down on the amount of time I usually spend driving around looking for a view I want to paint and feeling rushed to get something onto the canvas.

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.