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.