What's new: exhibits, news, de facto blog
July 19, 2013
Ran across this, filed under "alla prima figure" on my hard drive - it's my brother Glenn painting, done a few years ago.
Glenn painting oil on panel, 8x12 private collection
July 3, 2013
In my last post, I mentioned painting in Hope Valley a couple weeks ago. I brought a miscellany of sizes to work on, 12x16 up to 24x30. Here's the latter, finished in the studio.
Carson River falls oil on panel, 24x30
June 28, 2013
Two weeks ago, I went for a few days to paint in a favorite spot near Lake Tahoe called Hope Valley. Painted, ate, and slept. I was way out of practice with that sort of landscape, and worked flat out for 3 days before I felt like I had a clue. Made 9 starts, one of which went right into the motel trash bin, but none finished - ugh - (am closing in on a couple in the studio, to be posted here upon completion). So I was pleased to scratch my name into the picture below, done at the Marin headlands yesterday, from Fort Rathbone/McIndoe: rather than doing a big view like last time (February 18 post), I did this one, looking downward. I had actually set my easel to do the big view, even with a real churning fog partly obscuring it. But once the whole thing was blotted out I turned to face the other way, looking at something a little closer (if you looked up from the picture plane and could see through the billowing fog, you'd see the Golden Gate Bridge). Once I got well into this one, the fog - of course - dissipated.
Headlands view oil on panel, 12x16
The hours passed and whatever contrast there was at the start flattened right out. I like doing that sort of thing - close values all over the place - but it is more difficult, generally speaking, to know if you're on the right track without substantially proportioned light and dark areas; there is also less ready-made pictorial drama. Anyway, it was a workout, as usual.
May 31, 2013
Here's a smaller variation on the big winter Monhegan landing picture (see September 22 entry below) from a few years ago
Monhegan Landing oil on panel 12x16
April 23, 2013
Tomorrow evening I will be doing a painting demonstration at the Las Juntas Artists of Pleasant Hill, CA - there will be a model, so it's either going to be a portrait or figure: I'll decide just before I start.
Here is the listing in the SF Chronicle's SFGate section:
Next something not particularly new, but thought of in conversation with ace painter Tim Horn on the subject of old trucks, and not seen here before.
56 Ford oil on panel 12x16 sold
I started this on location a few years ago in Marin County, in a surprisingly bucolic little enclave just off the freeway - I left out the grazing cows and (pecking?) chickens. Brought it by my brother Glenn's place on the way home, where he took a look and intoned, "Fifty-six Ford." I'm still childishly pleased: he can tell what make and vintage truck I painted = big brother approval.
April 2, 2013
I return to where I can get a painting or two: here's the latest Tidewater picture, featuring some non-native but really lovely little flowers called bermuda sorrel that we get here every spring.
Tidewater 3 oil on panel 9x12
March 20, 2013
The March/April 2013 issue of Alameda Magazine (Judith Gallman, editor) has an article about me by Michael Singman-Aste.
February 18, 2013
Here's a painting that I started while scouting for my upcoming workshop: I put in two hours at the location and then finished it in the studio. If I have four or five hours on the spot with something of this size and light that I can go with, I can bring it around to signability often enough. This time though, I misjudged where the sun was going to go, didn't have a cap with a visor - silly oversight - and had I stayed to finish would have ended up with smoking holes where my eyes used to be, so I decided to move on to something else - the Valentine's Day entry below, as it happens - before it got dark.
Toward Point Bonita oil on panel 18x18
February 14, 2013
Happy Valentine's Day
Announcing my next workshop: plein air oil painting in the Marin Headlands and at Rodeo Beach. It's going to be great - just google-image the location. Oh wait, I have an image right here:
Golden Gate oil on panel 8x10
End of the day quickie done while scouting the workshop locations.
February 5, 2013
I went out to buy a tube of cobalt blue yesterday, instead got the pigment and took the time to mull up a tube old school. This post an excuse to look at the pretty blue.
January 26, 2013
I did a quick demonstration painting last week, the point of which was use of a limited palette. I came nowhere near exploiting the chromatic possibilities of the few colors I had (white, ochre, vermilion, black - the old Zorn palette mentioned elsewhere in this blog), mostly because the subject already looked like a Zurbaran, so I went with it.
Portrait study oil on paper 15x11
I am fascinated by the - to me - beauty to be found by working within specific constraints; beauty encompassing the experience of actively figuring out how to use two of the colors, red and ochre for instance, to induce a mixture of white and black to look blue. The potentials of these few colors are revealed when they aren't surrounded by a dozen other more saturated paints: you'll only see what I mean by taking the time to mix three or four values each of the basic palette, then cross mix them - the black with ochre then with red, the red with ochre then with black, through each of the values, light to dark: lovely pearlescent semi-violets, an almost-green, a mellow orange.
Beauty also encompasses what for me is a more "creative" or maybe abstracted experience of painting, who am a fairly decent recorder of the colors and values I see but not an imaginative composer and orchestrator of color like, say, Bonnard.
Walter Sickert pointed out that whether a man makes a thing red or blue is settled in the cradle: most painters who have thought about it at all, vis a vis their own default settings, would agree that the same applies to a tendency to compose in tone versus color, paint big versus small, etc. Maybe I'm just what they call a tonal painter and that's that.
Or maybe not?
Michele and Randall oil on panel 24x32
It looks like a lot more color. I'd say it was more colors: I did this from life in the California sun, my usual palette of a couple yellows, a couple reds, a couple blues, some earth colors, and plenty of what looks like exuberance of handling, a by-product of racing the light.
Still tonal in structure though, that's how I roll.
January 25, 2013
This was going to be a quick portrait of my cousin Jenny, begun long ago in New Hampshire. I remember being frustrated by the slickness of the board I was painting on, I was piling greasy paint onto the face to try to get something to happen, also that we had to call it quits after a very short time. Looks ok to me now.
Jenny Lee oil on panel 24x18
Jenny Lee detail, lol
January 13, 2013
The January 15 - 18 oil workshop in the S. F. east bay is pushed back to January 29 - February 1.
December 28, 2012
In the September 20 post, I wondered aloud who the lady in the Monhegan portrait was: my friend the great Charles Movalli emailed to tell me he thought it was Ann Hubert.
Charles and me at an artists' invitational event in North Carolina in 2005. It was tough working on my mess while I had his beautiful work in my line of sight.
photo by Charlene Hughes
December 22, 2012
Work in the studio is grinding along very slowly. When I finish any of the numbers of things I'm working on I'll post here: well, when I chivvy myself into photographing whatever I finish - I've already got a substantial pile of watercolors to take snaps of, older stuff. Meanwhile I'll put up what strikes my fancy, like this one, just spotted in the hard drive.
Painted a few years ago in a drop-in figure drawing group in Berkeley.
Figure study oil on paper 15x11
It's oil done on a quarter sheet of hot press watercolor paper - you can see the Arches watermark on the lower right - prepared with acrylic gesso. With all the what-seems-like fruitless plodding I've been doing in the studio lately, it's either a heartening reminder or a stern rebuke (my default setting) to see my signature on something this concise.
December 12, 2012
In stores as of yesterday, Watercolor Painting by Tom Hoffmann (Watson-Guptill) features one of my Stonington pictures, done while standing in the sun on a broad flat rock - my brother painting oils - in the fall of 2005.
Low tide, Stonington watercolor on paper 22x30
It's a good book. Instead of going over all the how-to-book tropes (how to paint a gradated wash, how not to make muddy color, how to make watercolor behave/misbehave, etc), Tom Hoffmann does a very neat job of encouraging the painter to adopt an unrushed and aware state of mind, a kind of third-person stance to his/her work in the moment - he's right on about this. My blurb here might make it sound like one of those (to me) grating zen-of-, tao-of- books, but it isn't; there's plenty of practical material covered from a different than usual perspective, especially related to the chess-playing aspects of watercolor; thinking in layers, thinking several steps ahead, etc.
This isn't a plug btw, it's an unusually good book about painting in watercolor.
Aside from many examples of Hoffmann's own work, there are paintings by Trevor Chamberlain, John Yardley, Ogden Pleissner, other biggies.
November 22, 2012
A little adorability for the holiday:
Ice cream oil on panel 18x12
November 15, 2012
I started this picture years ago, on location at Lake Tahoe where Charlene and I used to live, and just lately buffed it up in the studio, adding, among other things, the eponymous Kids.
Tahoe Kids 2 oil on panel 20x24
Tahoe Kids 2 detail
October 1, 2012
Spring landscape oil on panel 15x22
I did this next one yesterday as a sort of rapid demonstration painting for my San Francisco plein air workshop: it's a cropped view of the Palace of Fine Arts. I and my students became a de facto attraction for the busloads of tourists swarming us at intervals: I mean swarming literally.
Palace of Fine Arts oil on panel 7.5x12
September 29, 2012
One of the last places you'd expect to see Plein Air Jim out with his easel:
Roadside watercolor on paper 22x30
Done on the Embarcadero road in Oakland between Jack London Square and the Alameda turnoff, looking across I 880. Really I just got tired of driving around looking for a spot, thought it might be interesting to paint the deadfall in the foreground. The paper was the first off a new pile of the Indian paper I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog: not atypically, it was different from the last batch, with a more than usually assertive surface texture.
September 25, 2012
For those who haven't yet got enough of my important thoughts, I just discovered Tumblr and set up my own page.
September 24, 2012
For Bay Area readers/artists: you can still attend the second half of my SF plein air painting workshop - next weekend, the 29th and 30th. Go here for details.
September 22, 2012
Continuing in the Monhegan Island vein:
Monhegan Landing acrylic on canvas 30x40
I spent a few days at Monhegan during a January cold snap in 2004. The frigid wait for the mainland-bound ferry yielded this crowd-pleaser. It's available at The Banks Gallery in Portsmouth, NH: step right up, first come, first served - a heart-warming postcard image like this is sure to rush right out the front door. You could put it on the mantel over the fireplace, for balance.
September 20, 2012
Sometime in 1995 I made an overnight trip to Monhegan Island, back when I was fast; did 5 full sheet watercolors while I was there. Here's a portrait, done sometime between the Manana-Island and white-clapboard-house-and-pine-tree paintings:
Island Portrait watercolor on paper 22x30
I recall that she had some connection to the painter James Fitzgerald, showed me some of his paintings. I regret that I didn't write her name on the back of the painting. Oh well.
Speaking of Manana Island, here it is; like I said, done before the portrait above.
Manana Island watercolor on paper 22x30
Over the years, I've maintained the same stellar standard of attention to detail that prompted me to neglect to record the name of the lady in the portrait: I can't remember if this picture sold. If you, the hypothetical owner of the painting, end up reading this, would you mind dropping me an email?
To be fair to myself, I note that I recall vividly that I got up at 5 AM and headed out directly after coffee to do this, and that I was trying out a new color lately introduced to the market by Daniel Smith: Quinacridone Gold
September 7, 2012
I'll be teaching a plein air oil painting workshop in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on two successive weekends: September 22-23 and 29-30. Anyone who's interested, please see the Workshops page for details. Also, see my Yelp page for workshop reviews.
August 1, 2012
In 2004 Charlene and I stayed in a small town in France called Troo (imagine a circumflex over the first o), known for its troglodytes - cave dwellers. We stayed in a cave ourselves, a well-appointed apartment-like cave: bathroom, kitchen, all mod cons. We socialized with many of the residents there; among them was a man named Francois Estrada with whom we got along famously, spending a good deal of time together, becoming friends. I first met him while I was out painting. I'd brought watercolors and was mangling a full sheet, trying to cope with being in such a paintable place. A man came along walking his dog and stopped to look at what I was doing, and with a big smile proclaimed, "Vous etes un maitre!" I don't know if he really meant it or not, but you can't go wrong greeting a painter like that. Turns out he was a painter himself, an artist with a capital A. It was fun to find out that in his youth Francois had been a student of Jean Dubuffet. In the years since, we traded paintings through the mail: his wonderfully light-hearted, off-the-cuff-seeming semi-abstractions; mine painterly figure studies.
A few weeks ago I had set aside another one to send him in answer to his latest, and was gearing up to polish my first draft letter in French with the aid of a French/English dictionary, when news came from our mutual friend Kate, owner of the cave we'd stayed in, that Francois had died that morning.
A year or so after we got back from out trip, I painted an acrylic of Francois sitting in his dining/living room, reproduced here, four pictures down. I sent a photo of it to Kate, who then sent it to some Troo friends and apparently beyond. I'm proud that it ended up here.
July 3, 2012
Some years ago, when I was a Tahoe local, I went out in the morning with watercolors and did this:
Carson River watercolor on paper 22x30
It felt warm enough, but the first mark I made - sky color - immediately started to look like Jack Frost was at the easel:
Much is made of the serendipitous quality of "accident" in watercolor, but for my part it's chancy enough without blotches and icicles. I moved a bit to the right, out of tree-shadow, and found it warm enough to continue. Amazing difference a foot or two makes, on the x- or the y-axis: I've had the same thing happen elsewhere, and tried raising the painting somewhat higher from the ground; voila - just warm enough.
Anyway, I pushed through the rest of it, pretty quick, thinking it would be a throwaway (wrong), and went on to the next:
Carson River watercolor on paper 22x30
June 30, 2012
Some recent plein air jobs:
Jackson Park in spring oil on panel 18x18
Tidewater 1 oil on panel 18x18
This painting and next were done from the same spot on succeeding days; one facing northwest, the other southeast. The bridge in this one is the High Street ridge, which connects Alameda on the left to Oakland on the right.
Tidewater 2 oil on panel 18x14
June 28, 2012
First things first, I'll finish some business started a couple years ago (see June 21, 2010 in the new old What's new archive): here's the promised sheep sketch, pretty obviously untouched since I ground it out in NH.
Sheep oil on panel 11x14
In actual news, I've been doing a few watercolors, first time in at least a year. I always do those from life or plein air or whatever, so there's a fair amount of hit and/or miss. Here are a few that didn't get culled from the latest batch, all painted within a couple miles of where I live.
Buena Vista and Sherman watercolor on paper 15x22
Crab Cove 1 watercolor on paper 18x24
Crab Cove 2 watercolor on paper 18x24
West Oakland sky watercolor on paper 24x18
The first and this last picture were done on Arches rough, but the two Crab Coves are on a very different paper made by - this is a guess - Moulin de Larroque. I got a pile of it from a Savoir Faire (the art materials distributor) yard sale in Novato, CA some years ago. No kidding, a yard sale at the company HQ. I wasn't sure if it was even really watercolor paper since it was just sitting there in stacks, unlabelled, not in the usual watercolor sizes; but the French lady I asked assured me it was, by running her finger over the texture (very pronounced) and giving me a pitying look. I've only just started using it, seems to work very nicely for aquarelles.