Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kiva Beach, South Lake Tahoe

I have never revised as intensely as I did with these two acrylics. Maybe it was the unusual sand color, or the fact that the light was so strong. The one with Sarah, Kafka and my mom (16 x 20") was done quickly because they didn't know they were posing. The one with the mountain (18 x 18") went slower. Intense light and many interruptions were big challenges, then I went home and finished them from memory. I keep finding that memory is much more reliable than photos when it comes to color.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Bridges of Grants Pass, OR

Well, it's actually the same bridge with arches, seen from opposite sides of the Rogue river, at roughly the same time in the day. There is a beautiful park on one of its shores that I've been dying to paint, but the water was calling...We don't have rivers like this in the Bay Area. I painted the purple bridges (18 x 24") on Saturday, and the yellow bridge on Sunday. If you look at the purple bridges, there's a spot by the water between the two, and that's where I sat on the second day to paint the yellow bridge (18 x 18"), on the opposite shore.

To get to the purple side, I parked on 5th St and descended to the water's edge via a steep path that led through some hobo beds. No one bothered me there, but while I was on the opposite shore painting the yellow bridge, a creepy, disheveled man approached from behind quietly. When he was within less than ten feet said, "Nice painting!" out loud. My nerves rattled, I muttered a thank you, and swore to myself I will carry my pepper spray when Kafka is not with me.

Therefore I have penned,

Five Nice Things You Could Say Upon Stumbling Into A Plein Air Painter:
1. Hi, I like to watch artists work. May I look for a couple of minutes?
2. Wow. I don't paint, but I appreciate art.
3. I'm with my kids, would you mind if they get a bit closer to see?
4. Ooops! Are we blocking your view? Please let us know if we are.
5. I'd like to buy your painting when it's done. Do you have a card?

And, Five Mood Killers For Plein Air Painters:
1. How long does it take you to finish? And how much do you sell it for?
2. Whatta wonderful hobby this must be!
3. Are you painting?
4. Shhh. Be quiet, don't you see she's painting?
5. Carol, come over, there's an artist here, PAINTING!

Also, Five Great Conversation Starters To Use On Plein Air Painters:
1. How long have you been painting?
2. Do you have a studio?
3. What drew you to this place?
4. Do you ever use photographs?
5. Do you sell prints of your work?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I Learned From Watercolor

Benicia's Waterfront, Acrylic on birch panel, 16 x 24"

I don't know if many of you know that for years I did not have a proper studio. Because oil and acrylic demand a certain amount of space, I felt I had to paint in watercolor all of those years. Now, I made this choice joyfully as one of my most admired art instructors happens to be a superb watercolorist and he influenced me. As a result, through high school and for the next 15 years, I saw the world through the demands of the medium. So what did I transfer once I was in my forties and financially able to build my own studio? I asked myself that question and the results were amazingly rich.

I am impervious to the seductions of heavier media. Let me explain. Oil and acrylic are so sensuous, it's like playing with lotion, or butter. It's hard to get on with the program. But watercolor, specially when you are doing figurative work, forces you to draw, to make at least a primitive plan before you begin. You must also take care of all the midtones before you lay your darkest values. So you learn patience and delayed gratification in several ways.

I never stopped observing. Because I was continuously presented with practical problems (now how do I depict those palm fronds?), I got into the habit of observing with these in mind. I may have not had a studio, but I painted with my mind when I was not doing watercolor.

My colors stayed pure. I learned to make the maximum use of the white of the canvas. I learned to stay away from muddy colors and use transparencies. I used the same pigments you would find in acrylics, trying not to overwork the surfaces.
Now I know when to stop. There is a point in watercolor when you've done all you can. Because it is a demanding medium, you learn to tell. You learn this the hard way too, by ruining nice paintings in a manner that is often impossible to disguise or scrape.

I think this is all. Whithout considering myself a real watercolorist, there is much I owe to this medium once considered appropriate only for field scketches and preparatory studies.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What do artists want?

Artists, it turns out, tend to be almost universally frustrated by having to give time to pursuits other than art. Staying away from distractions, switching from the left to the right brain, organizing life so that they can sculpt, assemble, draw, or etch, that's the hardest challenge of all. I belong to a very active group on Facebook called "The Life of An Artist." The goal is to get artists from all over the world to communicate with each other, and they do. I was reading the message board, where there are several topics under discussion, and it's fascinating.

Right now, I can tell most of the artists on this group like being able to focus on their art, connecting with other artists, and getting recognition in the form of cold, hard cash. But even more revealing is the topic of what artists don't like. Lack of time to work is number one, followed by having to interact with other artists who take themselves too seriously. Wasting expensive materials, people who analyze paintings to death, and strangers who assume art is a wonderful hobby are next on this list.

On the topic of professional jealously, I found a few gems, great thoughts by fellow artists that should be framed:

Human beings always act from mixed motives. The presence of feelings of admiration does not necessarily negate the presence of feelings of jealousy.
Mark Peters
There will always be someone who is a better artist than me...I can't get hung up on that.
Anne Kullaf
Jealous of another artist would be like I lost something or threw in the towel and gave up.
Michael Corcoran

Finally, this group provides plenty of space in its message board to praise the work of others. What a wonderful idea, and so many have taken advantage of this thread to talk about favorite artists. If you are wondering where to start collecting, or simply admiring art, this is it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Models At The Firehouse

The male model, Otenio, is sitting at a table beautifully arranged by Vicki Salzman. This acrylic (16 x 20") took almost two sittings to complete. The painting of the Barbara in the other acrylic of the same size, took a three-hour session. Both are models from the Bay Area Models Guild.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two Strikingly Different Places

The edge of the Parchester marsh was an acrylic done on a 15 x 30" canvas. It took two visits. We had to park near a shooting range near the Richmond dump, and walk to the southern edge of the marsh. The biggest challenge of this painting is that the weather conditions kept changing so rapidly. The second challenge was that the sky was overcast and the lovely marsh greens and reds turned into a nondescript muddy green. But I persisted.

The other painting is a 16 x 24" acrylic on birch panel done at Dimond park in Oakland. Here I chose an entirely different palette, with three colors I never use with acrylics: burnt sienna, pthalocyanine green, and quinacridone red. On top of it all, I forgot to bring white and had to borrow a small amout. Those people on the painting stood there for a few minutes and I struggled to capture their pose quickly. I like how their faces are undefined. I also like how warm the colors look despite the cool green I used.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

China Camp

Our plein air group went to China Camp for a month. I got to go for two weeks in a row, and these acrylics are the result. The square one measures 24 x 24" and the rectangular one measures 20 x 16." The square one is an acrylic on birch panel, the other one is painted on canvas.