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.