Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Berkeley

...Occupy Berkeley...
oil on linen panel -  6 x 8"

It is early morning at the "Occupy" camp, and most people are not up yet. The few who are up are being very quiet. This is not my usual painting subject! But I couldn't resist all those colorful tents. Wow, were they ever hard to paint! I think it was because they are translucent, with light coming through. The location is the city of Berkeley, not the university campus. It was yesterday, the same day the police cleared the "Occupy" camp in San Francisco. There were no police in sight here, at least not while I was there.

I spoke with one of the protesters, who was very nice. He said that there was a large group of homeless people living in the park before the protesters got there. Knitters come on Thursday mornings and sit with the protesters, knitting. They have a schedule of when things happen, and appear to be quite an organized community.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Above Port Costa

...Above Port Costa...
oil on linen on board - 12" x 16"

I went out plein air painting as part of the Valona Paint-out. This was painted on a hillside above Port Costa, except Port Costa is looking the other direction, so I'm not sure what we're looking at here... The mountain is Mount Diablo. I was with Leslie Wilson, who did a nice watercolor! It became really hot as we were painting, and wouldn't you know, my umbrella had fallen apart while I was painting the week before! Tonight we will see the paintings displayed at Epperson Gallery in Crockett, CA!

As you can see, the leaves haven't changed to autumn colors. That seems to be how it is here in northern California. There are very few species that change color.

I appologize for neglecting the blog for so long. I really have no excuse, except I just got out of the habit of posting.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scenes from my Bike Ride

When I first signed-up for the triathlon, one of my friends said, "Wow, that could engulf your whole life!" And, I thought, "No, there are lots of artists who go for a walk, or do some form of exercise during the day, then spend the rest of the time painting. And often, they get ideas for paintings during those morning walks." Well, this has been a lot more difficult than I anticipated, mostly because years as a couch potato have caused my body to go downhill more that I thought!
I workout with a coach three times a week, and on my own the rest of the week. It is hard! I have wrecked the bike three times! But I am trying to settle into a routine that will allow me to paint, even though I am tired. And there are some beautiful places to run and bike that have me wanting to paint them. Here are a few from yesterday's ride along the Bay Trail.

 This is Ferry Point, where they used to have ferry's that crossed the Bay over to San Francisco. It is abandoned now.

 Here is a little lagoon. San Pablo Bay is behind the trees, as well as a ship, and the Richmond Bridge.

 Another view of the lagoon. I love the shapes of the trees and the light on the water. Bet this would be even better at dusk!

Another view of Ferry Point, this time looking across the Bay, with the city of San Francisco in the distance. Richmond, the city where I live, has 32 miles of coastline! The fact that I stopped to take photos means I didn't get a very good workout this time, but I couldn't resist!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Varnishing Day

Point Isabel - SOLD - Yea!

Today I varnished several paintings. I like varnishing, because not only does it protect the painting, but it makes the colors look richer. When I am working on a painting, the colors are bright and clear, but as the paint dries, some of the colors seem to sink-in and become dull. This has to do with the properties of the different pigments used. So, it's always exciting to take these paintings back to their original beauty! In fact, sometimes, I have forgotten how good they looked!

The varnish contains a solvent, so the painting has to be throughly dry--or you will have a real mess in your hands!

I use Gamblin's Gamvar varnish, which is what they use at the National Gallery. The Gamblin website has an instructional video on varnishing that is very useful. In fact, the whole Gamblin website is an encyclopedia of information for the artist.

I had recently been thinking that I need something to give me more exercise. So, after years as a professional couch potato, I registered for a triathlon! Now before you think I have totally lost it, (maybe I have...) this is a sprint triathlon, which is shorter than the regular one. It is for women only and beginner friendly. Still, it is a quarter-mile swim, 11-mile bike ride, 3-mile run, which is quite a stretch for someone who has neglected their fitness for so long. My goal is to achieve enough fitness to finish the triathlon, without hurting myself.

I signed up for training with a group of "beginners," but most of them have completed at least one triathlon before! I am the oldest person in the group. Wow! So we train together three days a week, and there are optional assignments for the other days. Today, I plan to go for the swimming drills.

Here in Northern California, we are still waiting for summer to arrive. So, I am excited to see that the temperature is supposed to get to 70 today! Good thing the pool is somewhat heated! I'll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, I hope you can get out and paint!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flowing to the Sea

...Point Isabel...
 oil on canvas panel - 12 x 16"

Ah, Point Isabel, part of the East Bay Park System... This is also a really nice dog park! It's fun to come here and just watch the dogs! You can see San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from here, but I didn't put it in. There is already a lot going on in this painting! 

This is a layered painting that took several days to complete. It's hard to tell from the computer screen, but there are areas of transparent as well as opaque paint. I love playing transparent and opaque against each other!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Great Evening!

Sunday night. First of all, we (myself, my daughter and two friends), arrived at the reception for the Crockett Paintout, at Epperson Gallery. All the artists had framed their works, and they were beautifully displayed on the gallery walls. Here are mine:
I checked the sign beside my top painting... an award! Honorable Mention!

The paintings were being sold by silent auction. I checked the bidding... My painting, Carquinez Nocturne, was sold!  and for higher than the price I put on it!

Here I am with one of the happy new owners holding the painting! That's my daughter, Shanna in the pink shirt. I'm sorry about the glare on the painting. See my previous post for a better view. I don't know many of the other artists here in California, so I cruised around talking to people. They all were very friendly, and we had a great time!

After that, we went to dinner at a local restaurant called The Dead Fish. Well, by chance, it overlooks the very same view I had painted in the painting that was sold! We were seated in a sort of tent, at a table with a heater and a large candelabra, holding three very drippy candles. We were given bibs, and assorted dead things were brought to the table for us to eat, all delicious! We had to eat the crabs with our hands, and had butter all over our fingers. It's fun to be so messy in public! Then, as it get dark, the scene before us turned into the painting. (Well, almost... actually it was painted from the scenic overlook above the restaurant.)

Here is the scene from the restaurant.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Across the Carquinez Strait

Carquinez Nocturne
oil on linen panel - 8" x 10"

There's nothing like darkness to simplify a scene and add a sense of mystery. This is the view from a "scenic overlook." It was a nice little park along the road, and I had been there several times in daylight. Well it seemed like a perfect spot for a nocturne (night painting): just a few simple shapes and the sky--quick, easy.

Ha, what was I thinking? First, the sky was changing really fast. It got dark very fast. Then a police car came into the park: just checking I guess, he cruised through and left. I decided to leave. I finished it at home. But, I am really pleased with this one. The darkness and subdued color makes the lights shine. James McNeill Whistler, one of my favorite artists, is famous for his nocturnes.

It reminds me of flying at night. I always try to get a window seat because I like to watch the sparkling lights below. It's like a "Welcome Home."

This is my third painting for the Crockett Paint Out. Now, I'll be framing them all.
I hope you have a good weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Would You Paint a Blue Car?

Burlington Hotel
oil on canvas - 11" x 14"

There I was, at Port Costa, looking for something to paint. And this big old yellow clapboard building with the sun shining on it was practically screaming, "paint me." It's colors were sunny and wonderful: yellow with bright blue trim! All the window blinds were at the same position. It appeared to be closed, but the sign said Burlington Hotel. It stood at the end of the street, so there was plenty of parking.

Well, I consider myself a landscape painter: as in trees, rivers, skies, natural stuff. I try to avoid putting in power lines, liter, cars... So I was disappointed to see cars parked in front of the building. Then, I looked again. They were blue cars! They harmonized perfectly with the trim on the hotel. So, I had no excuse, I had to paint it! I almost titled it "Three Blue Cars."

I had a lot of trouble with the straight lines, and had to fix that somewhat at home. Plan to carry a small t-square in my backpack in the future.

This is my second painting for the Crockett Paint-out. One more to go...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunlit Roses

...Sunlit Roses...
oil on panel - 6" x 8"
Here is one of the paintings I did for the Crockett Paint Out. Crockett, CA, is a charming little town with a lot of older homes in the downtown area that have fancy details on the house and flowers in the yard. Roses especially grow well here. Big, huge bushes, covered with blossoms! I complemented one woman on her roses, and she said she doesn't have to do anything to them! Wow, I remember having a rose bush in WV, and I was always watering, fertilizing and spraying, and it didn't look half as good as these!

I painted these roses because they are joyful. And looking at them gladdens my heart. (Is that an old fashioned expression?). Oh well. That's how it is...

And, I hope, you will have your heart gladdened by looking at this painting!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who? Me?

...Who? Me?...
acrylic on Aquaboard - 6" x 6"
This is a painting I did for the Daily Paintworks Challenge. I thought it would be fun to try, especially since I haven't painted many animals. And I haven't done acrylics in years! And this was my first time painting on Aquaboard! (Why not just set myself up for difficulty!) And to make matters worse, my panel holder failed and dropped the painting, just as I was about to add a stroke--so the painting fell onto a fully loaded brush! I cleaned it up as best I could, but that is why there are two black spots behind the kitten's ear on the right. But I do think it turned out fine. I love the expression on the kitten's face!

Unframed, varnished, and shipped for free!

Click here to buy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Red Barn

...The Red Barn...
oil on panel - 6" x 6"
How's this for an "S" shaped composition? There really was a road curving uphill to the barn, but it didn't curve this much. I exaggerated the curve to hopefully make the painting more pleasing to the eye. According to the book, Composition of Outdoor Painting, by Edgar Payne, "The dominant curves and slanting lines in this type generally suggest grace and movement and an easy relation of the parts."

By the way, I have found this book to be one of the most useful books I own. When planning a painting, I like to try out different compositional arrangements in a sketchbook first. I know, the wording is old fashioned (it was first published in 1941), but it has more actual principles that you can use than almost any of the art instruction books published today. If you are a painter who does outdoor subjects, I highly recommend it. I had considered at some point doing a book review on it, but there is so much in it, that would be hard to do in a single post.

I hope you are having beautiful weather and can get out and paint!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Study for studio painting

Landscape Study
This is my current work. It is a small painting (5" x 7") which I did as an experiment. I am trying some new colors: especially laying in the underpainting with cobalt violet. Since I like the effect, I am doing this painting again, only larger. Also I will work on some compositional problems when I do the larger work. This is why it is good to do small studies.

Oh, in case you have not had your daily dose of cuteness today, I have baby geese!
 As you may know, I live in a beautiful place. I am in an upstairs loft condo at the edge of a lagoon.

Well, yesterday morning, I looked out the window and there were two Canada Geese with 13 baby goslings, right below my deck!

See how they come and get under their mother's wing to get warm... So cute!

Of course, Oscar, the wonder cat, was on the case right away!

Here he is, hanging off the edge of the deck to get a better view!

After awhile, the parents took their little ones into the water, and they all swam away.

Here is Oscar, looking very disappointed... Poor guy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

California Wildflowers

Sunday, I went out painting plein air to a park in Oakland. It was really a gray, foggy day when I started painting, but the sun came out as I finished-up. This was a little area of native wildflowers, which included the bright orange California poppies. There were some little yellow and white flowers that a former Easterner, I don't think I've seen before.
I have some conflict about posting my plein air paintings because I feel that they are just studies, and not as good as my studio works. But they are more spontaneous. When I am outdoors painting in the landscape, I am in the subject, I am part of it, so to speak, so it is a whole different experience than studio painting. In many ways, it is a different art form than studio painting. So, maybe they shouldn't be judged by the same standard.

Okay, I do have a tendency to think about stuff too much! Nonetheless, I am looking forward to my next plein air experience. That's the thing, even if the plein air paintings aren't as good from a technical point of view, they are a record of experience.

Thanks for reading these thoughts. Now you go out and paint! And try not to think about it too much!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Coyote Hills Paintout

We checked in at 6:30 am and had our canvases stamped. I was glad I had put on five layers of clothing because it was so cold! I had tucked "Little Hotties" inside my gloves. The sun was just starting to come up as I set up my easel at the edge of the marsh.

I took a photo, and this is what the camera saw. Well, the idea is to catch the feeling, more than the appearance, and who wants to paint all that brush? So, racing the sun and painting as fast as I could, I did the top painting!
Here it is in progress. 

This event was sponsored by the East Bay Parks, and Coyote Hills is part of the park system. After I completed the first painting, I walked to the top of a very steep hill to do a second painting. Well, now the sun was really up, and people were coming in to the park. They were all making comments about the paintings and how the different artists were painting differently (I think there were about 30 of us.) One guy took my picture, then I gave him my brush, and let him paint on my painting while I took his picture! It was a lot of fun!

Here are some more of the artists.

At 12:30 we all had to stop painting and return to the visitors' center, where we were given a tasty lunch by the park staff. We all were to bring frames and easels to display our paintings. Each artist had to choose one painting to display.
The park staff had set-up canopies so we could display our paintings without sitting out in the sun. Here you can see the artists setting up. People could vote on a People's Choice and bid on a silent auction to buy their favorite painting. Unfortunately, by this time it had become very windy! The easels started blowing over. Then the canopies were blowing over! So we took them down. But we all had a really good time!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Tree--Lake Anza

...Spring Tree--Lake Anza...
oil on linen panel - 6" x 8"

I went with some friends to Lake Anza, which is in a local park. People were there enjoying the sun and letting their dogs swim in the lake. I really liked this little tree, which was just starting to leaf out, but also starting to fall into the water. The lines of the branches were so graceful. 
I set-up my easel and started to paint. I got the underpainting on, but that really needed to set-up a bit so I could put on the next layer of paint on without smearing. So, I came home and finished it in the studio.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Plein air painting along Lakeville Road

Yesterday, I went out painting with some other artists. It was such a beautiful day! Sunshine at last! I liked the way the light was hitting this barn, and the atmosphere in the distance. Behind that fence in front of my easel there was a field of the cutest miniature horses with their fowls. People kept stopping and taking pictures of the horses. We artists talked about painting them, but they look like out-of-proportion horses, so we would have to title it "Miniature Horses," and still, really not a good subject for plein air, unless you know horse anatomy very well.
Anyway, I got really engrossed in the painting and was concentrating on mixing the colors to reflect the quality of the light. So, the resulting painting was a surprise--
I kept telling the others I don't paint like that. Well, not normally. They seemed to like it. I haven't decided...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Day

...New Day...
6" x 6" - oil on canvas panel

If you looked closely at my little layered paintings, this one had a pink sky above the band of yellow light. That layer had dried. I added the clouds on top of that, and wiped back to expose the pink. See how airy the clouds look? I love sunrises!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back-lit Trees

...Back-lit Trees...
oil on canvas panel - 6" x 6"

Painting the glow of backlighting can be difficult. But a glaze of transparent paint really captures the effect on these leaves. The ground shadows also are transparent as well as the shaded trees on the left. I made up a lot of this, so I hope it doesn't look too unreal. I'm not going to say what I changed, hoping you can just enjoy it as it is. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3 Cows

...3 Cows...
oil on canvas panel - 6" x 6"

I had waited an hour and a half for these cows to come into the sunlight. They spent most of their time over in the shade under the background trees. The farmer saw me waiting, camera in hand, and just grinned. But he didn't approach me or ask anything. The cows looked very happy.

This is one of the layered paintings from the shelf in the earlier blog. Most of the paint here is opaque, but the transparent is in the dark of the background and the orangy ground under the grass.

It feels good to have this finished. I actually finished it and some others several days ago, but didn't photograph it till today.

Thanks for reading my blog! Have a good weekend.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All in a Row...

Works in progress

The opaque layer was added next. Now they're starting to look like something. But they're still not finished.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Five Little Paintings...

First layer--transparent color

Here are the same paintings from last time. I have added transparent oil colors, thinned with Liquin. Now, they're starting to look like something. How do I know where to put these transparent colors? Well, it's generally the darks, the shadows, the bright clear colors, and the stuff underneath (like the ground under the grass or color of light in the sky). Basically, it's my gut feeling of what would look right... just based on experience. Now, they will dry overnight.

You have a good evening...

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I got two narrow picture shelves from Ikea and hung them yesterday. These, hopefully, will keep my paintings safe from Oscar, while they are drying.

This shelf has some 6" square panels with basic underpaintings on them. Even at this stage, it's pretty easy to tell which ones are dark dominant. (The light and mid-value dominant ones are not so easy). Well, it will become apparent in the next stage. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Low Tide

...Low Tide...
oil on canvas - 6" x 12" 
Here we have stillness, and glowing light, and San Francisco Bay. And each sunset is wonderful! The distant mountain is Mt. Tamalpais, or Mt Tam, as it's called locally. The second little hill is an island. It looks like I painted this with only two colors, but I actually used about five! (Limited palette) I used a lot of layers, and it was interesting to see how it developed, as it changed with each new layer! Reminder to self:  Take photos of each layer and post them...

Oscar is happy that I put down a "placeholder" for him so he knows where to sleep!
Actually, this is an empty frame that I use to view works-in-progress in the studio. I never just lay paintings flat on the floor, and now you know why!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Plein Air in Benicia

...Fish-Riddell House...
oil on canvas panel - 6" x 8"

I went out painting with the plein air group from Benicia, CA. (DaGroup, a really nice group of artists!) They paint at different spots, and this was the subject for this week. The house has a long history, but the woman who lived here was Benecia's first plein air painter. Did you know Benecia used to be the state capitol?
Anyway, I don't usually do architecture, so this was a special challenge. And of course, painting outdoors at the scene is always challenging. 

Well, little did I know, but the local newspaper thought our group painting outside would be a good story. So they sent a reporter out to interview us. Since I hadn't been with the group long (this was my 3rd time out with them), the reporter asked about how I paint, etc. There was also a photographer who was taking our pictures, and pictures of our paintings as they developed (no pressure there!)

As luck would have it, the painting came out fine. The sky was the same value as the roof, and at first I had made it lighter, so the roof would contrast with the sky. After I got home, I decided the painting would have more life if I darkened the sky, so this is the final result. The story will be a feature article in next Sunday's Daily Republic!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

After the Thunder

...After the Thunder... 
oil on linen - 12" x 16"

I was just amazed by this sunset! The rain was ending, but still sprinkling. As the light of the sunset became red, it illuminated even the fog on the ground. I was sitting on a deck, attempting to do a plein air watercolor. (In the rain, ha!) Anyway, the photos survived, so this painting is from them. I started this painting in Deborah Paris's Painting Skies class, but added about 6 layers of glazes and scumbles after the class was over!

Stretcher Bar Drama

Today, I had "stretch canvas for portrait" at the top of my "things to do" list. Remember the child portrait in charcoal I blogged about a long time ago? Well, that was a preparatory study for a portrait I was planning to do... before I got sidetracked with moving, etc. It is to be 15" x 19" to match the size of another portrait which is of the boy's sister. So, the first step here is to assemble the stretcher bars. I had the proper size stretchers, which I had ordered through the mail, months ago, when I lived in WV. They were still in their shrink wrap. When I removed the shrink wrap, I saw that there were problems. Can you see what they are?
If you look down the length of this bar, it is warped. (See the slight curving to the left?) A painting stretched on this bar will not sit flush against the frame. Sometimes you even see warped bars in the stores, so it is always good to hold them up and check. Also, there was another problem:
See how where the two edges meet, it is not level? The canvas will form a pucker here that no amount of stretching will be able to smooth out.
Well, those are problems of having to use mail order and not being able to see what you are getting, but now I live in an urban area and can just go out to the art supply store. Yea!!! So, I went to the Dick Blick store.
This was the sign at the entrance to the Dick Blick store. Food for thought.

Well, they had 19," but no 15" bars. However, the extremely nice clerk gave me a list of all the art supply stores in the area! So I went to a small store in Berkeley, Artists and Craftsmans, where they had some very nice, good quality bars, just what I needed!

See the difference? This is straight!

This is level, at least on the outer rim, where the canvas will be touching.

Okay, so I assembled the stretchers by tapping the edges together, carefully, with a hammer. Now it's important that the stretcher be square. So, here I am pressing it against a door frame to square it up.
This, of course, presumes that your door frame is square. If you live in an older house that has settled, it may not be. When I was in my previous house, I had to measure corner to corner, to square it up. Otherwise all my paintings would have been parallelograms!
Measure across each corner diagonally, they should be equal. Sorry about being so long-winded. And there's more!! But I'll save it for the next post.