Thursday, October 18, 2012

El Cerrito Art Show

Evensong - 6 x 12" - oil on canvas  SOLD
This past weekend, I had entered three paintings in the El Cerrito Art Association all media show. I am happy to report that I received a First Place award in the oil painting category! And my painting, Evensong, sold! Unfortunately, I don't have a good photograph of the first place winning painting, but will put one up later.

The show was very well organized, and well attended, and there were lots of sales. A fun event!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Painting in the Middle of Nowhere

This morning, I went out plein air painting with two artist friends. Robert had suggested we go to Skaggs Island. When I couldn't find it on Google Maps, I asked him where it was, and he said, "Out in the middle of nowhere." Well, he was right! There was not a house to be seen (and we could see for miles). It was so off the beaten path, that we set-up our painting stuff right on the road, on a bridge, no less! Here was my easel. Only two cars went by while we were there, and they got around us pretty easily!

I though you might like to see more of this place:

There were tracks of wildlife in the mud. Red tailed hawks and snowy egrets were flying over. It was great!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

Blue Shirt

"When you get scared, go for the clothes!" -- Joy Thomas

I have been working on a portrait, the first oil portrait I've done in years. Wow, it is so easy to get rusty, and forget things; like which colors to mix so the skin won't look chalky. So... taking a break from the struggle to get the skin tones right, I went for the shirt. Here's where it is so far. I looked at it and realized this is the kind of unfinished look many contemporary artists use in their portraits. Here's an example. Should I leave the shirt loose and unfinished looking? Another decision!

By the way, you may have noticed that I haven't posted in awhile. Well, Blogger would not take my photo uploads. Today, I told myself I would do a blog no matter what! I cleared the cache, the cookies, disabled the popup blocker, and a bunch of plug-ins, all to no avail... Finally, I downloaded the Chrome browser, and it worked! (I had been using Firefox.) It feels so good to be back online again!

Hope you had a good weekend!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The White Test--After 8 Years...

Back in 2004, I was part of an online art discussion group called GoodArt. Virgil Elliott was the moderator, and he was then working on his book, Traditional Oil Painting, Advanced Techniques and Concepts from the Renaissance to the Present. He talked about how white was such an important color on an artist's palette, because we mix it with virtually every other color, and its properties affect the whole painting. This inspired me to test some whites.
I recently discovered that another artist, Jonathan Linton also tested whites and his results were almost the same as mine! The problem, as far as yellowing goes, seems to be the oil used. Linseed oil dries faster than the other commonly used oils, but it also yellows more. And if it is combined with a more transparent white pigment, like zinc or lead, the yellowing is even more apparent!


Gamblin (Artist Oil Colors)
  Quick Dry White
  Zinc White (Linseed)
  Titanium White (Linseed)
  Titanium-Zinc White (Linseed) I have a new tube of this color, and it is now made with safflower oil.
  Radiant White (Poppyseed) Gamblin now uses safflower oil for this one.
Le Franc (Artists Oil Color)
  Titanium White (Soybean)
Rembrandt (Artists' Quality)
  Zinc White (Safflower)
  Mixed White (Safflower)
  Titanium White (Safflower)
Utrecht (Artists' Colors)
  Titanium White (Linseed and Safflower)
Grumbacher (Pre-Tested Artists' Oil Colors)
  Soft Titanium White (Poppyseed and Sunflower)
Vasari (Classic Artists' Oil Color)
  Titanium White (Linseed)
  Flake White (Linseed)
M. Graham (Artists' Oil Color)
  Titanium White (Walnut)
Blockx (Artist Oil Colors)
  Titanium White (Poppyseed)
Permalba (Artist Oil Color)
  Original White
Winsor & Newton (Artists' Oil Color)
    Flake White #1 (Safflower)
Winsor & Newton (Griffin Alkyd)
  Titanium White
Winsor & Newton (Winton Oil Color)
  Soft Mixing White (Safflower)
  Flake White (Safflower)
Art Spectrum (Artists' Oil Color)
  Titanium White #2 (Safflower)
Holbein (Extra Fine Artists' Oil Colors)
  Silver White
  Ceramic White (Poppy)
Daler-Rowney Georgian
  Mixing White

The Results

Still bright white!
  Le Franc Titanium
  Rembrandt Titanium, Mixed, And Zinc Whites (this was the only zinc white that stayed bright)
  Utrecht Titanium
  Permalba Original
  Blockx Titanium
  Holbein Ceramic
  Art Spectrum Titanium #2

Kinda soft white:  still acceptable
  Winsor & Newton Flake #1
  Winton Flake and Soft Mixing White
  Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Titanium White
  Holbein Silver White
  Gamblin Titanium, Titanium-Zinc
  Grumbacher Soft Formula

Not acceptable, sorry guys...
  Daler-Rowney Georgian Mixing White
  Gamblin Quick Dry
  Gamblin Zinc White
  Gamblin Radiant White
  Vasari Titanium White
  Vasari Flake White
  This is supposed to be white? It looked even worse when I first took it out of the dark. All colors were allowed to bleach in the light for a month before I photographed them.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plein Air--Going Back

Cariquinez Bridge (final version)
I think I should tell you that even though this painting is done plein air, I actually went back to the same site on three different days to complete it. And each day, the previous day's work was dry. That is how I was able to put in those fine lines of the bridges and towers. By this time, walkers were saying, "Back again?" as they went by. The wind was so strong, that by the second day I didn't even try to use an umbrella or easel. I sat on a rock and held the painting in my hands.

I had thought the painting needed some life, and luckily, here it came! A ship painted faded red was moving under the bridge. It was accompanied by two motorboats, one on each side, with another boat behind, but I only put in one of the motorboats. Now we have more interest!

This painting is now hanging in Epperson Gallery in Crockett, CA, along with another one that also took three days to complete. I'll show the other one next time! Have a good weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Color Vision

Cariquinez Bridge - 8 x 10" oil on linen - plein air painting by Linda Schweitzer
For years, I have known that, in theory, the larger the pupils of your eyes, the more color you can see. Because of this, I sometimes wear a visor, even when painting in the studio. But I say "sometimes" because I've never really noticed if it made any difference.
Well, this is the painting from my last post. It was done plein air, meaning outdoors, from life. As I was walking towards the water, I saw that it was a lifeless blue-gray color, and I was a little disappointed. But I set up the easel, and the umbrella. By the time I was ready to paint, the water appeared a beautiful aqua! I thought, "Good, the light has changed!" And I proceeded to paint, but could hardly believe the color, and kept checking my mixtures against what I saw.
When I finished, I packed up my stuff and started back up the hill. Looking back at the water, it was that blue-gray again!
Now, if you look at the photo on my last post, you can see I was in a pretty deep shade under that umbrella. It is a Best-Brella, which is silver on the outside and black on the inside. And I was wearing a broad brimmed hat. With all that shade, my pupils were probably quite wide even though the sun was full blast. I know some artists say a white umbrella is enough, because it gives a filtered light which is more gentle, and your colors will be more accurate. What do you think?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crockett Paintout

I spent this morning painting plein air, as part of the Crockett Paintout. This is my view of the Carquinez Bridge, from the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park.  Here, I have completed the underpainting, to establish the basic composition and value pattern.

It was horribly windy, and I had to keep holding the easel to keep it from blowing over. Several times the umbrella "released" and just fell over (which is what it does, I guess to keep the easel from going over).

People kept walking by and saying nice things about the painting, and of course, I invited them all to the exhibit, which is next Sunday. Each artist may show three paintings.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Packing a painting

Deepening Shadows in box
Today, I packed my latest sold painting for shipment. I always save the boxes that frames are shipped in when they come to me, because they are so great for shipping the paintings. And, the frame companies charge for boxing, so I have paid for the box. Don't know if you can see this, but the painting is being double boxed, with padding all around it. Isn't the new owner getting a beautiful work?

with postcard
Actually, I had postcards printed of this image. See how dreary the postcard looks compared to the original painting! Original art rocks!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The White House Egg

West Virginia Egg - 2009 - (c) Linda Schweitzer
It was June, 2008. George W. Bush was near the end of his second term as president. It looked like the next president would be either Hilary Clinton or John McCain... I was still living in West Virginia.

I received a phone call from a woman, who said she was from the American Egg Board, asking me if I would decorate an Easter Egg, for the White House, to represent the state of West Virginia. Well, the whole thing sounded strange. I was not even aware of a display of Easter Eggs of the States at the White House, and I had never painted an egg, so I turned her down.

Next day, I looked up the White House website. Sure enough, there were egg displays at Easter time every year! Each state sent an egg. This had been going on since Grover Cleveland! Who knew? The artists got to tour the White House and meet the First Lady (sometimes the President too!) While there was no offer of money, or even travel reimbursement, I started getting excited about this as a great opportunity!  I called back and accepted the offer.

She did make it clear that the event might not even happen, with the new president, whoever that might be. But, they had to go ahead with the planning, in case the event would take place. And, there were rules: It had to be a large chicken egg, with the contents removed, and the ends sealed, and decorated to represent some special feature of the state. But here was the zinger:
"There can be no publicity regarding your egg or your participation in the event
prior to the event taking place. This is a White House event, and they are very
strict regarding the publicity originating from them."

So I can't even publicize this! Or blog about it! Dang!

I went out and bought a couple dozen eggs and got some books from the library on egg painting. There was quite a learning curve! (Which means it took a lot of time, and ruined eggs!)

Here is my dining room table, in production mode
In order to paint the egg without touching it, I put a bent coat hanger through the two holes. I decided the view off Cooper's Rock overlook, with mountains and a river between them was an image very representative of the State.
Here is the egg on the coat hanger wire
reverse side
The egg was painted all the way around. This is the reverse side. The egg had to be received at the American Egg Board Office by Nov. 1, 2008. I shipped it off, and waited to hear if the event would take place.

Two weeks before Easter, I found out it would not happen... The White House has continued the Egg Roll on the White House lawn, but not the egg display. Sigh... all that work, for something that wouldn't even be seen.
Well, you're seeing it now! Displayed in public, for the first time!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More Exercises

Here is another exercise from Ruskin's The Elements of Drawing. I took a branch, hung it horizontally, as it grows on the tree, and drew the outline of the branch and leaves from a profile view. Then I filled-in the outline with ink. Believe me, this was a total chaos of lines until I filled-in with the ink!

Next, I drew the same branch as it would be seen from below or above. Ruskin says that "Nature puts her best composition into the profile arrangement." Do you agree?

 I just found out, The Elements of Drawing is available online at no cost through the Gutenberg Project. I am really enjoying these exercises! And right now I am glad I am not using color. I had cataract surgery yesterday, and colors look different in each eye! My doctor says that will change though... We'll see! I can't wait to have the other eye done so I'll have a matched set of eyes!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Sometimes I like to just do exercises. It takes me in a direction I wouldn't normally go, and it sharpens my skills. Athletes do push ups, musicians do scales... etc. Right now, I am doing the exercises in a classic book, The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin, first written in 1904! The exercises are surprisingly challenging.
This tree was drawn from life, and took about an hour. But it caused me to observe the patterns made by the branches. If you were asked to draw a tree from your imagination, would you draw something like this? I sure wouldn't. I would draw something more "artistic" looking. 
The tree is in front of the gas company office. It sits in a line with other Monterey cypresses that all look healthy. In fact, the others have so much foliage the branches aren't visible.This tree's trunk is scarred from much pruning, as if the owners have tried to save it many times over the years. It's easy to get anthropomorphic about trees. I started feeling like I was memorializing it by doing the drawing!

If you want to try reading Ruskin's book, get the illustrated edition, which follows the link. Some of the other editions are very irritating to read, because the author refers to artworks that aren't illustrated.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Portraits and Loss

Andrew Wyeth's father, N. C. Wyeth, died in an accident, when Andrew was a young man. I was really moved, listening to this interview, that he regretted having never gotten around to painting a portrait of his dad before he died. "I made drawings of him, but nothing important, and I think that was a great tragedy of my life when he was killed, that I hadn't done it."

Portrait of the Artist's Mother - gouache - 7 x 9"
It made me wonder, too, how when my mother was dying, I felt like I HAD TO do her portrait. Maybe it was my way of processing the grief... Maybe it was because I was thinking about her so much...
She would have moments when she seemed to be aware, and other moments, gone.

Portrait of the Artist's Mother #2 - watercolor pencils - 10 x 10"
Here's to you, Mom! I love you!

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Melting into Night

Melting into Night - oil on gessoed panel - 12 x 12"
Here was a wonderful moody sunset. The thing I really like about it is the reflections of the trees in the water. They shimmer and look like they are melting.

I've read that if you want to sell your paintings, you should tell the story of each painting and how you came to paint it, because people love stories. Well, I really hope you will put your own story on my paintings. Does this remind you of anything? Can you smell the air? Hear the night insects starting their songs? How do you feel when you look at it? Do you sense a presence here? Is there a memory that you've almost forgotten...

See more of my art on my website. To leave a comment, click here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Break of Dawn

Break of Dawn - oil on museum quality board - 6 x 6"
Some things just ask to be painted. This is my second painting of this location. The other one was also at dawn, and I was a little further away. Here it is:
New Day - oil on museum quality board - 6 x 6"
This is a 10-minute walk from where I live. San Francisco Bay is on the other side of the little bridge. But I like to think both paintings have a timeless quality and could be anywhere.That way, we can relate them to our own life. It's about the mood, the stillness, the beginning of day... 

I hope you are able get out and watch the dawn. It's a great way to start the day!

If you would like to leave a comment, click here. I appreciate all comments! To buy either painting, or both, (be still my heart!) click here. New Day is framed in a black floater frame, Break of Dawn is unframed. Shipping is free. Please forward this to your friends or share on Facebook.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Exhibit--William Keith and the California Oak

I went recently to an exhibit at St Mary's College, William Keith and the California Oak. At first I thought I'd try to talk about Keith's life and the exhibit as a whole... But, you can get a brief overview of his life here, at the St. Mary's website. He was a California painter and a friend of John Muir, and a contemporary of George Inness. He started out painting large, romanticized Hudson River School Landscapes, but later realized there was no way a painter could capture the grandeur of nature. So he began painting smaller, more intimate scenes, characteristic of tonalism, that suggested a fleeting moment, and a reality beyond the surface. Here is one of his later paintings. It is just a moment at dusk, and appears so insubstantial, the paint is like a mist.

Here is a closer view of the foreground. There are no hard edges. It has a dream-like quality. If you step onto that grass, it looks so soft, you would probably just sink in. The cows in the upper left are barely distinguishable. The paint is translucent, with several layers visible.

This is the sky. The color here is more true to the actual painting. The sky is painted solidly, with opaque paint, and that little rugged edge at the top of the trees is the most definite edge in the whole piece. Even the tree trunks are transparent! The warm colors and distant light give a sense of spirituality and comfort.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Tree Challenge

Moonlight on Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire - William Trost Richards
Photograph courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 Sometimes, we see something so compelling, we feel it in our bodies. That's what happened to me, back in pre-internet days, when I was a university art student. I saw a piece of art that turned my thinking around. At the time, I was subscribed to Art News, a magazine about what's happening in the (mostly contemporary) art world. In one issue, in the back pages, I came upon the picture above.

It was magical! The mood, the mystery, the stillness, the emotional connection, it all came together! In all the years of reading that magazine, I had never seen anything that I connected with so deeply. And it wasn't even contemporary art. This image is graphite and watercolor on green/gray paper, and it was done by William Trost Richards in 1873! In school, at that time, my professors would probably have flunked me if I had done anything so "illustrational."

But, I kept the picture, and still love looking at it.

And for all these years, in the back of my mind was the desire to make an intensive study of trees. Now, I plan to be doing more drawing, and studies, and paintings of trees. I will be doing an online class on drawing and painting trees with Deborah Paris. It will be challenging to do something so "old fashioned" and yet so demanding of both creativity and technical skill.
"The knowledge of how a thing is built induces an intimate sympathy, giving us constant pleasure: and the landscape painter must have as true a knowledge of the branch anatomy of a tree as a figure painter has of the anatomy of the human form."          
 -- Rex Vicat Cole, The Artistic Anatomy of Trees

I invite you will come with me on this exploratory journey, in my blog. What do you think about this? To leave a comment, click here.