Sunday, November 25, 2007

'Spring' - 7x14 - pastel

'Spring' completes this little series, the seasons. In choosing a concept for Spring, I decided to paint this from a study painted last April in Grantsburg, WI at Crex Meadows, a 60,000+ acre wildlife refuge in NW Wisconsin. Crex is only about 30 minutes from my house and is a wonderland of marsh habitat as it used to be. Wasn't always this way. In the early 20th century it was nearly completely drained for farming and to harvest the grass that it's named after for making rugs and even furniture from. Wisdom has prevailed and it's now nearly fully restored offering a habitat for migrating and resident Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and numerous other waterfowl species. Wolves are there too. I know, I was up there last spring with my sons and a nearly black wolf ran across the road into a wooded area not 50 yards away. That was the first wolf I'd seen in the wild.

Since a lot of the area is being restored to native habitat, prescribed burns are a necessary event. Spring is cold at this time of year, and we barely had enough in the warmth department to finish, but managed to anyway.

This piece is a result of that memory and time. Enjoy.

'Summer' - 7x14 - pastel

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Here are a couple of pastels from yesterday in the studio. One of my deadlines looming is a show at the Minnestoa Landscape Arboretum in January featuring four pastel painters from Minnesota. In addition to my work, the work of Fred Sommers, Becky Jokela and Karen Kirsten will be on exhibit. Our focus is the landscape, mostly Minnesota, and the variety in seasonal changes. I'll post exact dates and all as soon as I am sure of them.

With that in mind, these are small 7"x14" pastels on sanded paper, UArt 800 & 600 grit, for those interested. I'm sticking with my long format still and think I will for the entire show.

Enjoy, back to work on more.

'Winter' - 7x14 - pastel.

'Fall' - 7x14 - pastel.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'To The East' - oil on linen - 12x24
Another in my interest in the wider, narrow format paintings. This is also along the Mississippi River in southern Minnesota but from the Wisconsin side looking into the Eastern sky. I've painted many studies in the area in all seasons and couldn't pick a favorite. But it's hard to beat being there on a warm summer afternoon or evening as the sun lights up the distant shore, listening to the marsh come to life as evening approaches.

Friday, November 16, 2007

'River Silence' a new studio painting.

Five days have passed since my last post! Since then I've tackled a lot of life's little issues, hanging the wall at Gallery 135 for our Open House tomorrow, planning and publishing the specs on my May 2008 California workshop (contact me if interested in taking this one), and I spent a day with my oldest son who's in the middle of putting the finishing touches on his entrance portfolio for the Art Institute of Chicago's Art School! He went to a portfolio review at MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design) on Sunday and the rep from that school gave him an admission recommendation, accepting the portfolio he brought along. I got lucky and traded art supplies for a few of his early paintings. Ahhh, the life of the art student when the only thing that counts, is having enough art supplies. Now he does... for a little while anyway.

Then a couple of days ago I started this 18x36 oil on stretched Yarka linen of a Mississippi River scene. This location is near LaCrosse, Wi and is painted from that side of the river looking west toward Minnesota. I love the slow moving life of the river down in southern Minnesota and central Wisconsin. Every turn of a corner is a heron or egret habitat, swampy, tall snags of trees, and wide open spaces. The aquatic life is so plentiful that if it didn't freeze and ice over, every heron and egret in the country would hang out here. I'm still considering adding a few of them as incidental accents in the distance. They're so prevalant that it seems unnatural not to see them in the painting.

For the painters who might read this. This is the 'fine' grade linen that Yarka makes with an alkyd priming. It's a little slippery until you get a layer of paint on it. I have a way to aviod that issue. That is to use a flake white. It adheres to the surface like glue and doesn't slide around like Titanium white does. The flake white that I am addicted to is Studio Product's 'Great White' Flake white. Once you try this stuff, you won't want to go back to any other white. Or at least, I don't. It requires some caution, no eating or drinking while painting, and every painting session I apply 'Gloves in a bottle'. When I do wash my hands a the end of a session, there's no residue of anything left on the hands.

I paint 'alla prima', sort of. Not all in one session, but in one 'wet' layer. There's no wet over dry painting. So, I use this paint on this canvas with as much thinner as is needed to get the paint moving. The flake white is a little stiff out of the tube, but once 'exercised' with a knife or brush becomes more fluid and stringy. Adding thinner makes it do what ever it is you want it to do! Love this stuff. Okay, enough talk, on with the show.

'River Silence', oil on canvas, 18x36

A closeup. This is a long painting and I want to show a little more of how I painted it with the closeup.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Today I'm preparing to hang some paintings in a new gallery in St.Croix Falls, WI, Gallery 135. In doing so, I've had to photograph some paintings that go back to last year, or at least last winter and summer. Thought that I'd share as they're all very different from each other.

'Mixed Bouquet'
The first is a pastel, 12x9, and is one that I painted in my friend Kami's studio last winter from a bouquet of flowers left over from one of her still life classes. I haven't done many still lifes, period, but even fewer in pastel. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed doing this. I'm going to remind myself (guess this is the reminder) to do more of these during the days coming up this winter that won't be so nice to be out in.

'Humid St. Croix'
The second piece is on the St.Croix from the same spot as the nocturne but looking down river and during the day obviously. This one is 18x24, oil on stretched linen (the Yarka alkyd primed linen,,,fine weave), and is a plein air painting. I started another one on site, same size, but on a surface that fought me all the way. Painters know about this. Sometimes if you like to experiment with materials, you pick one that seems to be your 'anti-painter'. I used to trudge along trying to make those work. In my case, I'm better off to just take the hint and start over if it's a good concept. This was, the weather was warm and calm but the approaching storm was throwing out some incredible lighting conditions. Very subtle and very rich in it's greyness. I love to paint this time of the year.

'Campfires And Moonlight'
The last one is from a nocturne sketch that I did sometime in's from a study. The painting is a 16x20, oil on stretched canvas. I've had to post it so that the sky shows lighter in value than it actually is in real life, so that the darker areas could be seen at all. Photography is not my strong suit.

Happy Birthday Mom!

In early October I flew out to northern California to surprise my mom on her birthday. She was.
This is where I went to high school, college and was a place that I loved for it's natural beauty and
rural atmosphere. Though it's now surrounded by the expanding Sacramento and the suburbs, the area
has maintained it's rural atmosphere and landscape for the most part. Of course there are the mansions,
McMansions and all. But the land cannot be subdivided in the Loomis Basin into parcels smaller than five acres.
That has done a lot to allow one to stll see the oaks, California quail, and pasture present in abundance, that make up the early California landscape of this area. Being in the shadow of the Sierras, and in the transition zone between the Foothills Belt and the Yellow Pine Belt means a great variety of trees and vegetation not to mention an increasingly aggressive topography.
As you can tell, I love this landscape.
And you probably can tell that I wasn't going out there empty handed concerning painting equipment! Due to earlier flying difficulties last spring, I decided to travel light and only bring what I could carry on in my "two" bags, a laptop computer bag and one small backpack. This meant a small painting kit and just the minimum number of paints, brushes and painting supports.
I have a little 6x8 pochade box that I made a few years ago, brought a palette of paint that included W/N Griffin Alkyd white, cad lemon yellow, perm red medium, perm alizarin, trans oxide red, ultramarine blue, and Holbein viridian hue, a small air tight thinner container, and linen mounted to 8-ply museum board and some loose pieces to be taped down for use. My brushes and paints fit into a small plastic tackle container and that all went into the shoulder laptop bag, along with the appropriate MSDS sheets to try to persuade the TSA agents if need be. That was the good part, only one TSA agent spent more than 10 seconds examining my bag. All the paints made it through security just fine, but in order to avoid the 'stress', I sent them home via UPS.
Here's how I painted, on a 5 gallon pickle pail and my set up.

There's something about being familiar with your equipment that's true, I found out. First thing I did of course, was a walk around the area, to see what was there. Oh, I found this 88 acre bird sanctuary not far from my mom's house that was ideal to paint at. A preserved slice of the Basin as it was long ago. There are still acorn grinding stones that the Nisenan native people used to process the acorn harvest for flat bread.
Anyway, I was excited to paint so sat down on the ground until later when I had a bucket, and went to work. First thing I realized was that I had left the paper towels back at the house! So I drove to a convenience store about a mile away and came back to get to work.
What is the second most used dispensable item on a painters list of supplies, the one that you can't fly with but always have a gallon of on hand? yep...Paint thinner! I had forgotten to buy some when I arrived and until I opened the little thinner container hadn't thought about it. I wasn't getting up now again, so I painted without it. I was using a very fine oil primed linen for the studies. It made painting with out thinner manageable. In fact it taught me a lesson. I probably thin paint out too much and should paint with less thinner anyway.
So here are the results, three small 6x8's. It was a great stay and now I'm heading back this May to hold a workshop in this place of inspiration to me. I think it will be for the painters who come along with me too.

'Valley Oaks'- oil- 6x8....the first one without thinner. I went later to get some to clean the quick dry white out of the brushes, and for the other two paintings.

'Traylor Ranch Oaks'- oil- 6x8

'Horton Iris Garden'- oil- 6x8...this is just down the road from where I lived in Loomis and typical of what most people have to supply the property with water. The water comes off of a PG&E concrete ditch, straight from the Sierras. Everyone then has to get it pumped to the house where it's filtered and chlorinated. I think that this is the chlorination tank. We had a series of 5 tanks that the water went through on our house before it was drinkable. Very good water though! The owners of the Iris Garden have hosted plein air painting events in the past. It's a gorgeous location.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Some wide format pastels I'm doing in a series.

Like I mentioned in my first post on the blog. Sometimes it's just good to break out of whatever routine you find yourself in while painting be it subject matter, materials that you're used to, or in the way you work. Seems like I usually prefer a more square format (8x10, 10x12, 20x24, 30x36, etc.) for my paintings. That hit me one day as being too routine a compositional format, one that I 'always' rely on. So lately I've been paintng these 1:2 or 1:3 ratio paintings and pastels. It's very refreshing and I plan to do more of these. I think one of the things that strikes me most about this kind of a format is that it feels peaceful and restful to do and to view.

A Place For Meditation - pastel - 10x20

Moist Autumn Air - pastel - 8x24

Four paintings off to the Planet Bronze Gallery in Bozeman, MT for a mini show.

I was asked to participate in the 2nd Annual Miniature Show in Bozeman, MT at the Planet Bronze Art Gallery with a public reception on December 7, 2007. I won't be able to be there for the opening, but the show runs through December.

All four of these little paintings were painted in the studio. I am a materials junkie and decided to paint them all on some lead primed canvas that I have remaining from Frederix Canvas. For those of you painters out there, it's RIX 111DP, and they don't make it primed with lead anymore according to their website. So I'm treasuring the little of it that I have left, it's a great surface. I used Studio Products Inc.'s 'flake white'...mmmm.... is that nice stuff to paint with. To top it off, I don't usually use a medium but in these paintings I used Garrett's 'heavy copal' medium. The combination of all of these pretty traditional materials was on purpose. They all tend to give the painting surface and finish a depth and glow of richness that I really like visually...that's it...a taste thing with me. And it's fun to step out of the ordinary and explore.