Saturday, December 18, 2010

Painting on a Cold Rainy Day

I was up early Saturday, finished reading the news, showered and was looking for something to do.  Outside, the morning was cold, windy and raining off and on.  I remembered our meet-up at the Tower Theater.  I grabbed my paints and headed out, not expecting anyone else to show.  Would you believe two people were already painting and one was sketching.  Wind is more difficult to deal with than the cold and rain.  Rain is bad for watercolor painters, you get the 'snowstorm' effect with the spots.  Anyway, I worked at it for two hours and was the last to leave.  You can see from the photo that there were no shadows, but the wonderful art deco Tower Theater is in behind all those growies.  I did some sketches and will take another shot at it, but it is interesting to see what quick sketches and a few brush strokes can accomplish.

Yolo Farm Boneyard

I painted last spring on this farm in Yolo County, CA.  Since then, I have taken note of farm bone yards.  That is where all of the large metal structures are left to rust and deteriorate.  This is not bad.  I scraped some burnt sienna on the car to give it rust.  I think it is a 1940 Chrysler four door sedan.  The cows have plenty of grazing space.  It had recently rained so there was a mud track in the foreground.  I had fun with the clouds.  While my wash for the sky was still wet, I tilted my board and streamed some water down it.  I them gave it some bumps and there you have it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quiet Cove

I painted this picture last week.  The sky and cloud formation add drama to an otherwise quiet seascape.  The posts used for tying up boats go up through the painting to tie it together.  Each plane has a value change giving depth to the ocean.
I am very frustrated trying again to paint on clayboard (Aquaboard).  I have some remaining cradled boards in my studio.  They tempt me to try again painting a watercolor on the board and using the soft gel and varnish to complete a watercolor without glass.  The final watercolor with varnish and without glass is very appealing to me.  The problem has been to paint watercolor as it is supposed to be painted.  Graded washes and plain washes are very difficult on clayboard and not at all like on paper.  Any overlapping stroke usually will lift some of the original wash.  You can forget about mixing colors on the surface. For the past weeks I have experimented with approaches to this problem without success.  I have painted on paper and used really strong adhesive to attach the finished paper to core-foam or clayboard. The edges of the paper lift up with time.  Adhering unpainted paper to the board or core-foam first and then painting on it allowed the proper use of watercolor washes but again the same problem of paper edges coming away from the board.  I have not tried to adhere the painted paper with acrylic gel as recently proposed by some artists.  I will continue my trials as I like the varnished watercolor appearance and I like painting with watercolor. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More Snow on the Way

It is always a quick painting when I do a snow painting.  I leave a lot of the paper unpainted (white) and make it look cold with dark blue.  The birches are a good focal point.  They do, however, pop out better when there is more contrasting color surrounding them.  I just came in from outside and it looks like there is more snow on the way.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Driftwood Marina

Two weeks ago, I painted this scene  on San Francisco Bay but in loading up I must have left it behind.  No one turned it in.  When I got back to my studio, I did it again from my sketches.  This time I dropped several colors into a wet spot and wanted to leave the driftwood pile more or less abstract.  I then decided to carve out some of the flotsam and jetsam.  Most of it took on a red hue from the alizarin crimson which ran and stained.  The pile of stuff is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.  They bring in some huge logs and pilings and they are offloaded by the crane.  Lots of action to watch while painting.  This painting turned out better than the one I lost.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last Week's Picture

I did this painting last week and liked it but when I took it to my group for a critique, they felt it had two separate compositions.  One on the top and the boats on the bottom (see previous post).  By putting masts on some of the boats and bringing them up into the above structures, I united both top and bottom into one scene.  I do think that it improved the painting.  This trick also creates a larger box of air by pushing the background into the distance.  When I was in Portofino sketching, I did not sketch any boats with masts but many boats on the down-slope had blue covers.  There are plenty of symbols to identify with Portofino and you do what you have to do for composition.

The Cows are in the Meadow

Simple composition with barn and cows.  I have never done cows before and treated them like painting birch trees.  I think that it was successful.  The power pole pushes the scene into the background and since the focus is on the cows and barn, it is purposely out of focus.  It was done wet into wet.  I am new to doing a lot of clouds.  When I observe them they seem to have flattened bottoms.  We do not see a lot of clouds where I live.  I tried to give the flattened bottoms some color with reds, yellows and blues. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

All Aboard

Everyone who visits San Francisco knows the thrill of the ride.  The hills are steep.  I exaggerated the hill in this painting and filled in the bay with an image that may be Alcatraz,  The rounded fronts of the Victorian houses are like the ones on Hyde St.  So this is a composite of many San Francisco symbols and overall is a blue painting. I tried to focus on the cable car by giving it the warm and complimentary color.  You know, the focal point is the darkest/lightest, hotest/coolest or complimentary colors.  The track lines draw the eye to it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Portofino Morning

I love to play with images of Portofino.  I did many sketches while there and the colors are in my head.  The shadows were great on this warm morning.  This was a quick sketch and painting done at home in my studio.  I did it late afternoon and kept going back to peek at it as I liked something about it that I couldn't put my finger on.  Oh well, here it is and it was fun.  The picture sort of painted itself once I was ready to let loose on it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Plein Air Painting at Fort Baker

It started off a beautiful day with sun and shadows but it quickly got very cold.  I did not bring any sweaters and was eventually shivering.  I wanted to paint the house as a vertical projected from below.  As seen in the photo it was on a hill.  My painting got rushed so I eliminated all of the windows on the porch and made the structure taller.  This was to give the painting a feeling of height.  The lines in the green background were also intended to create height.  Will have to visit again and be prepared for weather changes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Muse

The Muses are nine goddesses in Greek mythology who control and symbolize 9 types of art known to Ancient Greece,  My muse is a depot.  It is a source of inspiration for me, with its wonderful Spanish architecture.  It is an icon for Davis, CA.  I gather my paints and setup somewhere around the building and jump right in.  There is some urgency at the station with travelers waiting and little kids waiting for different reasons.  The big engines roar into and out of the station.  I am nearly always engaged by someone while painting.  It maybe a traveler, a greeter, a homeless person who will stay and monitor my progress.  This creates a deadline as I work to develop a finished painting.  Maybe this is why I am attracted to the station; my procrastination ends.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rainy day painting

Went to Portefino, Italy during some travels several years ago and did a number of sketches and photos.  I have painted some of the scenes before, but this time wanted a more unified look to the buildings.   Windows, awnings and boats were too much in previous attempts.  This came out with bright hue.  It was a good effort and brought me back to the beauty of Portefino.  I once read that it was Liz Taylor's favorite vacation spot.  It is a busy spot with many luxury yachts with crews in uniform.  That was a first for me.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn in Rural Northern California

I did this watercolor painting on a beautiful Sunday afternoon outside of Fairfield, CA.  Some clouds in the sky and everything quiet on this farm.  It had rained during the night and the ground was muddy but drying out.  The other two photos show a produce stand with a special setting for the season and a vineyard not quite turning color yet as it is still getting into the 80's temperatures.  Nice and warm and sunny for painting.  Trees are just now showing some fall color.
It will be perfect for painting if the weather continues this way.  I want to go back and capture the turning colors of the vineyard, which should happen pretty soon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

House up on the hill

The Crockett paintout only allowed 3 paintings to be entered into the show. I chose this one although I had several others. I liked this painting because I had a fun day painting and was encouraged by so many painters that day. I was undisturbed except for neighborhood dogs which kept up a steady bark.
I am ready again to show my paintings without glass. After this outstanding show with many wonderful paintings, I feel that paintings done in oil and acrylic show better because there is no glass. I experimented with this before but did not like painting on Aquaboard or fabric with watercolor paint. It is too thin and does not allow the usual watercolor techniques. (See earlier blog.) The answer is to paint on paper and adhere the paper to board and varnish it. My attempts at using paper worked, except that the paper began pealing away from the foamcore, so that was not the answer. I think that I will use watercolor paper again and find a better adhesive for it on board. It can then be framed and shown without glass or matting. I think that this is the way to show watercolor. Paper allows the advantages of the transparent media, washes, lost edges and everything that is watercolor. It ends up having the permanence of an oil with the varnish finish.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ghosts of Crockett

Standing down on the waterfront just outside Crockett there are lots of old pier remnants. Looking west are the newer piers and bridges. It is a great contrast. The past and the present. There is a large pile of rusted and wooden wreckage which I imagine was quite a structure at one time. I painted and embellished this to exaggerate some direction finders. Last night was the reception at the Epperson Gallery in Crockett and there was some wonderful art from the week of painting. Most of the subject matter was from Crockett.

Friday, October 22, 2010

China Camp

I arrived back in California a couple of weeks ago and it feels wonderful. I left a great summer of friends, fish, clams and painting on Cape Cod. I traveled down to Princeton, NJ to see my kids and then on to Brooklyn. Had a project with my son which got mostly done. Happy to be home. This painting of China Beach is a composite of many west coast features; the wind swept cypress trees, the lifting fog, and our wonderful undisturbed beaches. It is a study of values which change with every plane change.

Painting in Crockett, CA

What a wonderful week of painting. Spent the week in Crockett, CA painting street and water scenes and meeting some very nice people. The annual paintout in Crockett is hosted by the Epperson Gallery and about 60 artists participated.
This is a scene right above the C&H sugar factory. I was kept company by a worker who wandered by and had plenty of questions about painting. The scene is looking west and the ever present Carquinez bridge is seen. I played it down in value so it would not overpower. The sun was bright and the cast shadows very strong. That is actually the old Crockett train station at the bottom of the hill but the trains no longer stop for passengers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

All Small Boats

I painted this on location. It was a beautiful morning on the town dock. Lots of activity but I chose to put only the closest house with 3 of its many boats in my composition. Nature needs rearrangements. Someone asked if I would accept a commission to paint their house. I told them that they may not recognize it when I am finished. When I am in the zone painting, a lot of things can change, even from my preliminary sketch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fish Shack

This fish shack has been a favorite place for me to paint. The structure tilts and is now missing some of its dockage. In this painting I composed a medium range view or belly button shot of the action. The value range puts a three dimensional world on a two dimensional surface. This is more difficult with this view than with a landscape or distant view. It allows for more ornamentation and detail but not the personal touch of the close up view.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wychmere Harbor from the Inside

I have painted this harbor many times but always from the highway. This view is from the lookout at Snow Inn Rd toward the highway. It is an interesting perspective looking down on something. Your horizon line rises above the midline and leaves a lot of water to cover. There are still many boats in the harbor but I chose only a few and because it was mean low-tide put the red sail boat practically on the beach. There were lots of clouds on an overcast day.
I will do more from this perspective. It appears to me that looking up at something or looking down gives a more dynamic composition.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Ready

There is a nip in the air. A couple of hurricanes have been watched. Boats are being pulled out early this fall. No leaves have turned yet, but there is never alot of color on Cape Cod. This painting is from a photo of a house that I had with the shadows through the screened porch. It was early morning so the cast shadows are long. I made up the rest of the scene hoping to get a focal point for the boat. I'm not sure it worked with all of the brightness from the whites. It is always an issue in painting here on the Cape, because so many structures are white.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Summer on Cape Cod

There are many wonderful distractions while trying to paint on Cape Cod. Many long lost friends drop by along with many guests that keep the cottage buzzing. One invited me clamming and from that moment on, my refrigerator was always full of little necks and cherry stones. (That's me, clamming.) I prepared lots of clam chowder, linguini clam sauce and plenty of raw clams. I tried fritters and stuffies, ie, clams casino and Rockefeller. We had plenty of beer, wine and other stuff to go with provocative conversations. Our greatest conflicts were what to prepare for meals, what wine to match and what book to read next. I think it is all very healthy.

The painting resulted from a quick sketch of the corn stand up the road from the beach. The fresh corn starts arriving at the end of July. It is delicious. I have trouble telling my California friends that it costs $0.69 per ear. What do you expect at the beach? My friends, Dan and Diane fly in carrying 40 lb of fresh garden tomatoes and my wife has basal in the garden. Great sustenance for the summer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lakefront Cottage

Been away on the east coast all summer. Did a lot of painting but not as much as in past years. Had fun with house guests and cooking for big groups. Our usual painting group is not interested in plein air painting; they come out and take photos and leave. The weekly shows in the park were well attended but few paintings sold.
In this painting I was inspired by Frank Webb after reading his book. I thought primarily about design. After starting it, I put it away for awhile and then finished it weeks later. It is totally out of my head.

Friday, June 4, 2010

San Francisco Goodbye

Totally fictitious address and Victorian with see through window and porch. It is a vertical format with lots of vertical movement conflicting with the slants of sky and hill and horizontal roof line. Take that Mr. Whitney for composition rules. I think of some of the points made by Whitney, but I think one needs to let it go and then review them on the finished painting. Maybe then, they will be more intuitive while painting the next picture. It was fun putting the painting together and bringing the tree behind the porch, which my neighbors call decking.

The Guest Cottage

Love painting birch/aspen trees and there were many of them in Canada. The guest cottage isn't really ready to topple over but this was a very quick painting. Sometimes when my painting gets ahead of my thinking, I come up with astonishing results. This is basically a cool green painting and the warm red note of color on the door of the house is perfect at the focal point.
I taught my senior class on watercolor how to paint birches and some are still marveling at it and putting them in all of their paintings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back Country

Was visiting with friends outside of Vancouver, BC. Truly beautiful unspoiled country with many possible paintings. It seemed there was one at every turn. Brought some pics home and painted from them. This one was done on 300lb Arches paper which is rugged stuff. I had a graded wash down to the trees and then put in the mountain range. It blended out, so when dry, I went back and put it in again with French Ultramarine which needed to be dulled down with some Payne's Grey. It is a nice complement to the golden and yellow colors.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sutter's Fort Sacramento

Trying to be creative in painting an image of Sutter's Fort is a challenge. As you can see from the photo, it is a block. I'm not sure how that tree got there, but probably a later addition when the place was safe. This fort was the center of the city of Sacramento. Inside there is a beehive of activity with people in period dress doing things as they were done at the time. Buses are continuously discharging groups of school children. There also were plenty of critics on hand as I painted. They are the many homeless that stay around this spot.

It was a beautiful day to paint. If I were to do it again, I would compose a contrast between the fort and the modern structures that surround it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

China Camp Beach

It was a beautiful Wednesday afternoon for painting at China Camp State Park on San Francisco Bay. This old fishing boat is up on the sand and in a state of advanced decay. Perfect for a painting. I tried to give the roof in the back a rust appearance. There is plenty of rust and corrosion on the buildings at the beach. This is a place worth return visits, as there is plenty of material.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fort Baker Victorian

Were these buildings, which are now used for tourists, considered 'Victorian' housing when this was a military base? Ft Baker is at the beginning of the bay around from Golden Gate Bridge. There are many wonderful places to paint, including the lighthouse under the Golden Gate. You can protect yourself from breezes or sun with all of the buildings. Fort Baker has become a popular spot for children and tourists.
This was another Sausalito outing for our group and we all found something different to paint. I wished afterward that I chose a structure with more sunlight on the front so that I could detail with the cast shadows. My original sketch had a porch on the sunny side which I changed as I was dealing with the trees and shrubs. I am partial to structure rather than vegetation. This is a vertical format.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Strawberry Stand

I have been painting this month but negligent of the blog. Last weekend, I drove by this roadside stand. I had my paints and sticks, so decided to stop and paint. I ended up with this painting and after looking at it, decided that the cars were way out of proportion. The cars came and went as I was painting and adding them was a last thought, but nothing there to size up. I brought it home and decided to redo, but with no autos.

The owner of the stand liked the painting and gave me a free box of the best strawberries. My grandkids were up and really loved them. All gone the next day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wind on San Francisco Bay

Back painting with the group in Sausalito and this was a very quick painting. I wanted to concentrate on clouds and sky but it just would not dry fast enough so carried on with some sailboats, a la Jerry Stitt, and cypress trees showing the wind.

Air Conditioned Barn

I have been away restoring a brownstone in Brooklyn and it was work but very satisfying. I did this painting before but went back to do it again plein air. This time I was tasting something very strange and then realized a tractor was out there spraying. I packed up and left but had this almost finished on a much larger paper. The sheep are still staring. I kept it a yellow painting with some red in the foreground and on the roof which is rusted and metal. I am also experimenting with photographing my work. I always used the 'auto' settings and this time tried manual with a camera stand. I am not sure there is a difference.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Putah Creek Below the Dam

Still finding paintings from last week. I did a lot of them and then selected only 3 for exhibit. This scene was a group activity below Berryessa Dam. It was sunny and cool. There are steep hills around the creek forming a canyon which includes a park and motel. The creek has logs along the edge along with plenty of growies. The birds come and go, so I put the egret in for a focal point. I would put the horizon line higher in the painting if I did it again so I could get more reflections. I was thrown off by being so close and feeling the height of the canyon walls. Everything is so green after all of the rain.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Tune Up

Back painting on San Francisco Bay after a week in farm land. Found it a little difficult to shift gears. This scene was taken from a long row of boats in the inlet for the Army Corps of Engineers. They did bring in a huge crane and I did several sketches but returned to what I initially saw as a painting. The workers on the sail boat kept directing each other with some urgency. I thought they were ready to sail.
It is a blue painting with informal balance. All the boats were white and had blue canvas, so I went with it. It was a great day on the Bay for painting.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Alley Chat

A popular dining spot in downtown Winters, CA gathers the locals. I was across the street painting this and noted that people meet outside or are waiting for the 4th in the party. It is a very large restaurant, but with the weather so nice, why not outside?
I liked the shafts of light between the front awnings and between the buildings on the alleyway. I did paint buildings in original color tan because it was a local show and a big deviation from original would be rejected by the locals (Not purchased). You can only have so much license. The owner stood by me during much of the painting and wanted to know why I left certain things out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Air Conditioned

Drove by this fantastic barn that basically had a roof and little for sides. The sheep were suspicious as I came around and set up to sketch and paint. It was a glorious day with sun and shadow. I put it in the Winter's Show and it sold.
You know when you get it just right.

Walk on Main St. Winters

This colorful Victorian style house is for sale on Main St. in Winters and attracts a lot of visitors. While in Winters this past week for the Paint the Town, I sketched and painted this picture. It was my third painting of the day and was done rather quickly but I like the feel. A giant sycamore tree is just blooming and the hedges and lawn are very manicured. I struggle with greens and variations for trees and lawns and believe that I am not alone. I combine a couple of yellows, my favorite being raw sienna, with different blues to create as many shades of green possible. The most distant vegetation I paint light blue.

Friday, April 2, 2010


You can see the clouds overhead, so there was a rush to finish this plein air painting in Winters. It turned cold and windy by the end. This old corrugated metal barn on an almond ranch had plenty of old equipment and ladders scattered. The tractor caught my eye and is the 'bride' of the show. It did rain on the way home but the painting was finished and packed away. Rain isn't good for watercolor work. There is merit to be under the gun to finish a piece, whether it is threatening weather or changing shadows. The work ends up fresher and loose.

Fixer Upper on the Creek

Just finished a week of plein air painting in Winters, CA. It is an annual event at Briggs Gallery. Winters has lots of farms, a quaint downtown area that is very popular with bicycles, and plenty to paint. The weather did not cooperate except for the first two days. It was stormy and overcast most of the days. Still, lots of artists could be found out on the hills and downtown.
My 'fixer-upper' was my second painting of the day and done in a little over an hour with plenty of chatter with the locals. Great light and shadow. When you are ready and fast and loose, the crispness of the work shows. The house is just about to fall down.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Outlet to the Bay

Painted at the foot of Napa St in Sausalito. The funky houseboats and old pilings are wonderful props for plein air painters. The weather is heating up and there will be lots more painting outside. The more you do it the more you can deal with the tyranny of detail. You sort out, find the light and limit the subject. It's like the old telephone game where you pass the message on and it gets distilled to its essence.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Old and New

Painted this morning in Old Sacramento with its buildings from gold rush days. Wooden walkways with brick buildings and wide porches. It is full of things to paint. Here, looking down J Street over the freeway, you can see the newer downtown business section and hotel done in oriental architecture. It is a contrast like I remember in Singapore.
There were about a dozen painters out this morning and towards noontime there were a lot of tourists.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Giants Along the Freeway

I've painted these mega silos before but from the highway side. This morning the sun was on the other side so this is the backside, so to speak. The pickup truck and phone pole give an idea of size. The owner was out to talk about his plans for the silos since they are not used for this. He used to have old trucks parked alongside but he moved them to the farm. The train track runs along the side of the buildings and was going by as I painted. The furrows have been placed and it is time to plant.
It was a fine day for plein air painting with the temp about 73 degrees.