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Friday, July 22, 2016


I thought these flowers were striking.  I was not sure what they were but I wanted to paint them.  It had been a while since I had done a floral.
Every painting is different.  There is no formula.  This painting started with a big focus on the underlying colors that I wanted to show through.
Because of the crazy amount of detail within the pencil cactus it was necessary for a slow build up from the back to the front.
The changing light was going to be an issue with this painting because where I chose to set up my gear.  The cast shadow on the plant was fast moving.
The orchestration of the different elements to the painting are building.  The values start to become more concrete.  The background colors are well established.  The details are starting to emerge.
This painting is now the progression of all of these elements.  Furthering the different components of the painting without overwhelming the balance between them and building for a strong finish requires focus, patience, and decisiveness.
As one aspect of the painting becomes dominant, I must balance it.
At this point in the painting I must rely on my memory and sense of what the painting was meant to mean.  All of the observations that I have made up to now will aid me in the completion of the painting.
In some paintings you reach a point where there are difficult challenges to your intentions.  In this painting that moment is how to approach the infinite detail of the pencil cactus behind the flower.  The limitations of your skills will never progress if you do not push to overcome them.  It is moments like these that I become energized with the possibilities.  Instead of fearing this moment, I embrace this moment.  In the face of obstacles you must be able to just go for it.
The following shots are detail excerpts from the painting.  If you were to view them independent from their context within the whole of the painting they would appear to be abstract.
When all the abstract elements add up you get a painting that approaches some level of representationalism.
The freedom of expression necessary for this to work is mandatory.  There is no room for second guessing it.
Doubt can not creep into your mark making.  Rigidity will make the abstract nature of the painting seem contrived.  The flow throughout the painting must be natural.

Now take a look at some of these photographs of the plant detail.  If you were able to imagine these as pure shape and color and not as photographs would you be able to see the abstract nature of the detail within the context of the whole?
I believe that every abstract painting has some base in reality.  I think the difference is the level of consciousness you are painting in.
At some point you must accept what you have done.  The beauty of plein air painting is that there is no time to keep working it until you are satisfied.  The satisfaction of accomplishment comes when you have put everything you can into a painting without regrets.  Growth is accelerated by the limitation of time.  It forces you to keep moving, keep making decisions, and to keep solving problems.  How many good decisions can you make in a row in the course of the painting.  That is the measure of skill.
The finished painting 24x36 soft pastel on board with pumice gel and acrylic underpainting.
The value shot.
The detail shot.  To me the beauty is the balance of detail.  Simplification is a given.  In three hours how could you possibly capture the detail of this scene on a 24x36 board.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Old Town Tustin

I went to Old Town Tustin to paint because it was close and I managed to catch a cold right as I started my vacation.
I have not painted a lot of buildings.  This was a challenging opportunity to work on perspective.
The difficult angle of the planter made this scene even more challenging.
Getting the drawing correct was just as important as any other painting I have done.  It is just more obvious if you get it wrong when you are painting urban landscapes.
I was satisfied with the drawing and composition of the landscape.
The value range in the painting is too shallow.  If I had darker darks and lighter lights the painting would be better.

Possible future subject for the Old Town Tustin plein air event.
The finished painting 24"X 36" soft pastel on board with acrylic paint and pumice gel underpainting.

The value shot.
The detail shot.  In this painting the grain of the board coming through in the sidewalk was achieved by scrumbling lightly and not filling the tooth of the board.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Two at Heisler

I have painted Heisler Park more than any other subject.  It is full of great subjects with iconic beauty.

I went back to sketching before every painting to warm up.  I also went back to sketching to get some extra drawing in and to help work out any compositional  issues.
Finding the right spot to paint is always important to me.  In this case the shadow would move through the area I was setting up.  Trying to be comfortable is critical to the process.  On this day I would be painting for over seven hours in the same spot.  Simple things like something to drink, a restroom, and some shade make a big difference.
There was a time when I was in a hurry to finish a painting.  Like many other plein air artists, I hurried to beat the moving sun.  To capture the essence of the scene before the light and shadows and colors all changed.
The realization that everything is changing all the time changed my feelings about hurrying to capture the moment.  In every painting the plein air artist is trying to capture a "fleeting moment."  As a plein air painter you are acutely aware that everything is changing all the time.  Who really captures the "fleeting moment"?  At best the artist captures a semi accurate impression of the moment.  It isn't because they are a speed painter.  They rely on their memory and their experience with studying the form / shape /landscape / in changing light.
The moment is ever changing.  What captures the moment is our brain and the memory of what we saw through our particular set of filters.  Those filters are the sum of everything we have been influenced by.  It is our aesthetic, it is who we are as creators.  We then rely on our physical ability to put it down.  What image truly reflects the minds image?
When I hear the discussion about painting exactly what we see in front of us as if we were a camera, I have trouble understanding the lack of creativity and imagination needed to do that.  Who would want to do this?  It seems like copying nature is a soulless activity.  I guess there is a sense of accomplishment in the accuracy of technical ability.
The idea of vision as a reflection of the individual's development of their aesthetic through personal symbolism and archetypal experience formation is my personal belief of vision.  There is what your eyes see, how your mind interprets it, and how you express that though your artistic spirit, skill, and mind.
So when I hear various artists speaking about the development of being able to see, I think it means understanding yourself and accepting it.  Without the confidence to believe in yourself and to trust your vision your expression will be stunted.
Freedom of expression comes from your willingness to put your feelings into your aesthetic expression without fear.  If worry finds its way into your expression then it will never reach it's potential.  Freedom and confidence encourage risk taking in the creation process.  Growth of skill and vision are compounded by freedom of expression and the adventurous spirit.  Taking on artistic risks and challenges become exciting when they are seen as a path to a fuller expression.  When they are viewed as a way to make mistakes and opportunities to fail growth is limited by fear.
The first painting took about four hours.  I put more money in the meter, went to the restroom, got a drink of tea, and started my second painting.  It is really easy to loose track of time when painting.  
The shape of the painting comes from the reaction of the color on the underpainting.  Every color put down changes every other color in succession.
Every color changes the painting and the next color selected.  The painting is a chain reaction of color with each influencing the next.
Color as shape.  Color as value.  Through the development of color relationship within the painting there is a point when the overall tone of the painting is established and it is just a matter of keeping the decision making within the confines of what you have already done.  This is the point when you have to trust yourself and the vision you have had for the painting.  
At that point the painting really paints itself if you allow it.  This is when confidence in your ability allows you to take the painting beyond what you see and allows you to impart your aesthetic vision and feeling into your painting.
Those aspects of your creation process are there throughout the painting, but they are most important and present at the end.  It is at that point where you have done everything you can to get it right, that you see the next steps in your development.  
As good as you are there is so much more room for improvement.  This painting is just another step along the learning curve.  When compared to your aspirations and hopes you realize the journey never ends.
A simple painting of a rock in the ocean is just that but so much more.  It has taken my whole artistic life to get to that moment.  The moments ahead show promise.
The finished painting.  24"X 36" plein air pastel on board with acrylic paint and pumice gel
The days work.  Twelve square feet of painting for the day.  
The finished painting 24"X 36" plein air pastel on board with pumice gel and acrylic paint.
The value shot always tells the story if I got the aerial perspective right.  In this painting the difference in value between the foreground and background is too similar.
The finished painting is 24"x 36".  It is a plein air pastel on board with an underpainting of acrylic paint and pumice gel.  The detail shot is intended to evaluate the mark making and the abstract elements in the composition as well as evaluate the quality of the drawing and the color application.
 The finished painting 24" X 36" plein air pastel on board with pumice gel and acrylic paint.
 The value shot.
The detail shot.