Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What continues to inspire me about Plein Air painting

I was recently asked by a student, "Why Plein Air?"

It didn't take long for me to respond and I thought I would share it here as well. During a recent trip to Italy this happened to take place while out on location.

This is the initial jumping off point, the scene itself. Monteprandone Italy August 2014

This is a sketch I did a few days earlier while snooping around the town.
There were two figures chatting which was initially part of the drawing as well as the vertical format versus the horizontal one that I ended up using.

The charcoal layout of shapes and design. This was painted on a plein air carton panel which is reminiscent of those used by Toulouse- Lautrec and Vuillard, but a whole lot more archival. Great for traveling with. (Judson Outfitters product line)

Massing in all of the patterns and values. You'll notice that my initial idea was to utilize the wrought iron gate on the right. As much as I like to use elements to help lead the viewer into my scene I did find that it was overpowering as well as competing with the focal point, and later decided to remove it all together after 3 or 4 times of varying its size and design. 

To me everything comes back to design. 
It has taken me many years, over 23 to be exact of doing plein air, to realize the importance of that. As much as I pull from the scene I do not want to be a slave to it, always looking to simplify and enhance the overall of what first grabbed me.

Here is one of the attempts at resolving the gate area. Pushing it further off to the right.

This is where it all seems to happen and what I truly love about plein air. That is the happy accidents that seem to take place. Never seems to fail.

I began this business many years ago doing watercolors under Irving Shaprio at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and in my heart of hearts still proceed in my work somewhat like that of a watercolorist.

Be it the changing light which is always a challenge but with that is also a blessing due to the shapes and designs that it continually creates. Or as in this case having a figure that appears and casually walks into your scene. 

I usually try not to chase the light after realizing that first "light - shadow" pattern that I was first drawn to but again always being open and receptive to any improvements and possibilities that may arise, again part of the charm of plein air versus using a photo that is stagnant.

However with that being said a camera is a wonderful tool we have at our disposal to help us grab those fleeting moments, always keeping them in mind for a later studio version.

"La Strada Vicino la Cheisa" 9 x 12 oil on panel.

In this case I chose to leave the figure out but was happy she passed through. Sometimes a scene is better served without a figure which can over power it if it is not planned into the original idea, and other times it is a wonderful addition. I left this one for the studio. 

For me as much as there are many elements in dealing with the great outdoors, be it cold winter plein air scenes, bugs, wind, changing light, or other hardships that arise, what really appeals to me with plein air is this wonderful happen chance that always presents itself, again as long as we are open and receptive to it and not closed off on what we think we are after. 

I always start out every workshop by saying that when going out on location you really should always be willing and ready to change your initial plan. We don't need to have a back plan or audible per se but definitely ready and willing to change. 

This hits right along that cord.

When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters.
One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.[3]

With every change and risk there is an opportunity.
Plein air baby! 

This is the follow up version back at the studio. Notice the end cap on the right hand side has been added back into the scene, go figure.

"La Vecchia" 18" x 24" Oil on Linen Panel

Monday, July 28, 2014

Travelin' Paint Box

While we are on the subject . . .

I have been lugging this paint box around the county for the last six years or so.

Sadly I did not take it to China or Italy but everywhere else in between.  A dear friend, an old cowboy Artist by the name of Jerry Riness helped me build it.

Each place it has gone I usually try and get it tagged so to speak. Every Plein Air event always stamps the back side of the canvas with their logo as well as the date. So naturally I would have them stamp the front of my paint box, like one of those old traveling suitcases.

Tim Bell one year at Easton decided it was necessary to write, " Honor is a gift that a man gives himself" on a piece of blue tape attached to my stretcher bars. That too ended up on the top side of this old box.

And now of course it has spread to the inside of the box, even have a Edgar Payne print under the 12x16 panel.

I have toyed with the idea of making a slightly smaller box, better for traveling with, but not sure I could part with this one anyway, it has kind of grown on me over the years.

What's in a name? Air Jordan and PAE

My love of b ball started at about 4th grade for me. Played all through high school and into college.

Seeing that I am from Chicago it is no surprise that I am a huge Michael Jordan fan. My wife even danced with him back at the Cotton Club years ago, and believe it or not I was not even jealous. Actually I must admit I was jealous, but more because she got to meet Jordan and I did not. Ya I know pathetic.

In any case, I have 4 young children all of whom I adore and continually try to inspire to rise up to every occasion in life, so naturally we reference Jordan a lot.

My youngest son Westen is somewhat fanatical about b ball as was I. Before leaving for Easton he gave me a little Air Jordan logo that he cut out and framed up in a white border. Told me to keep it in my pocket for good luck and inspiration. So I did.

As the week went on I carried this little logo with me, more to keep him present in my mind than Jordan, but whatever.

During the event I decided to do a nocturne of the Bartlett Pear Inn from the backside of the restaurant of the wait staff working in the kitchen. The glow from the inside windows against the dark patterns and rocking chairs was what caught my attention. Great shapes and temperature drives.

Soon after starting an 18 x 24 one of the wait staff came out to see what I was doing. He was very kind and introduced himself as the owner and head chef and said his name was "Jordan".

As we began to close in on the deadline of selecting our 2 competition paintings it turned out that this nocturne would be one of my selections. As much as composing and painting a piece may seem to be the most difficult part of it, for me it is probably more difficult to come up with a good title than it is to paint it.

Knowing the connection to this Air Jordan card my son gave me and that the chef's name being Jordan I wanted to use something that would carry over. As I ran over some of Jordan's favorite quotes in my head and asked my kids if they had any ideas, my roommate Greg LaRock said, "How about Pear Jordan?"

"Pear Jordan" 18 x 24 oil on linen - Sold

The locals seemed to get it, even if some others didn't know what to make of it.

As it turns out the painting won 3rd Place! I was thrilled and very surprised. Thanks Peter Trippi!

So the little Air Jordan logo made its way back to the mid west were it is has now been given a new home - inside of my paint box. Just a constant reminder to always give 100 %.

I love the fact that Jordan is quoted as saying that he never lost a game, just ran out of time. Here are a few of his quotes:

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.
I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.
If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.
I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.
If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.
I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.
My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ahh. . . this is more like it. Boys Two.

Tysen hard at work.

Definitely much easier with Ty.
He is such a perfectionist.
Nice piece if I say so myself.

Follow up Boys

Just back from Richmond and finishing up a 24 x 30 commission in the studio before heading off to Easton.
Now that the kids are off for the summer this is what I usually have to deal with . . . all day long! : )
Got to admit he is passionate about b-ball.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My boys!

It has been a busy spring / summer as always but happy to say I have been able to sneak in some time with my 2 younger boys. The older two are now keeping busy with their lives, work, friends, and growing up I guess but I was able to include my boys in a workshop I gave here recently.

They both are incredibly talented and possess a great deal of enthusiasm for the arts.

They grow up so damn fast!

Westy doing the lean back! Love it!

Tysen working on some cloud studies, all day long!

1st Annual Artspire in LaCrosse Wi

Thank you Beloit!

What a treat it was to go back to Beloit after so many years!

It is only a 3 hour drive however it has been hard for me to get over there especially during their Plein Air event.
I was delighted to be invited back to give a short one day class and hang out for a couple of days.

Thanks to Nicki, Sue, and all of the others behind the scenes as well as Sandy and Chuck for making this happen. Shared a wonderful meal with a host of talented and interesting people the night before.

We had beautiful weather for the class which is always iffy in June. So naturally I was very grateful for that. Here are a couple of pictures of the demo.

Thank you Wendie Thompson for the photos.

Afterwards Sandy brought me over to the beautiful public library which houses my "Night Shift" 24 x 36 painting I did years back of the Iron Works building on the river. I am very honored to have it hung at this incredible library.

Thanks again to all the wonderful folks in Beloit!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Plein Air Workshop in June - in Wisconsin!

It has been a while since I have given a workshop in Wisconsin in June.

I have pretty much tried every month, well besides the winter ones but usually the weather can be cool even cold and definitely rainy. So naturally I was thrilled with the weather we have been having for this June Plein Air Workshop in Viroqua WI.

Great group of painters with lots of great energy and enthusiasm. Even brought along my 2 youngsters today.

Here are a few pics from the first 2 days.

Breaking in that Strada for me.

Getting creative to stay out of the sun.

Little town of Springville. Church, Barn, Stream, and a couple of houses! Can't beat it.

Lunch chat.

There is a critic in every crowd.

Friday, May 23, 2014

East Point Sunrises - Follow Up

I made the comment to Don Demers while down in Apalach that only real men go paint at East Point in the morning.  :  )
Here is a follow up of some sunrise images as well as a few scenes in East Point.

 There is actually one more of this same scene above that has only been blocked in, not yet finish.

                                      Various scenes along that same stretch in East Point, FL

22 Years in the Making

Back in 1992 during a Friday Evening Gallery Walk in Chicago I was in an art gallery when I came across a painting by Charles Shannon. Not sure what it was that drew me to this painting but I truly loved it. It was a different style almost even primitive compared to what I was being trained in at the Palette and Chisel at the time.

It just so happened that this particular painting was used on the promotional card for the opening so I was able to bring a copy of it home with me besides the one I already locked away in my head.
I lived with this post card for a few weeks before I decided to make a copy of it.
I am sure I still have the promo card somewhere buried in my studio but not sure where, along with a few other things I have been looking for as well.

I have attached an image below of the copy I did back in 1992.

The reason I am bringing this up is while I was down in Apalachicola this past May for "The Forgotten Coat Plein Air Event" that little image crept back into my head.

This was my fifth year there and I have a few spots I have come to really enjoy. One of them is Apalach of course the other one is East Point. Carrabelle is charming and there are some fine things in Port St Joe, the splendor of the Cape, and some wonderful colors up in Mexico Beach as well but the sunrises in East Point get me every year. I am not one to repaint a scene because of sales but I am one to repaint a scene that enamors me every time I see it.
This year every morning I started off with a sunrise in East Point, one of three spots all in a line, right next to one another.

This strip of land I am referring to is comprised of some old Oyster shanties that have been out of business now for a few years, except for Lynn's, thankfully.
From the waterway they take on one view but from the street side they take on something totally different. I have driven by them probably hundreds of times in the past 5 years.
I have even eye balled them and shot numerous photos with the intent of painting them from both sides.
This is where sale-ability can creep into your mind and send you driving further down the road looking for a "prettier" scene.
Well this year my dear friend Greg LaRock just so happened to paint those shacks from the roadside in the late afternoon, in my mind the "not so pretty" side.

                                   Greg LaRock - East Point Shadows -

This painting sold so there goes my insight on what is truly sale-able or not. Never had that anyway.

In any case after seeing Greg's painting and admiring what he did I decided it was time to paint those shacks. In my head as I told him, was this painting I have been carrying around with me for the past 22 years.
Now granted it is not the same scene however this I believe is similar to what Monet` was referring to when he said an artist should carry a painting in their mind before painting it. I did not have a 12x24 which would have been more fitting for this composition but my quest to paint it would not subside so I did it on a 12x16.

The wonderful play of shadows and shapes in this line of shanties with a palm at the end is what was engraved in my head. So being old maybe my minds eye isn't as quite as refined as I would have liked and remembered but the big picture is there.

Knowing that I did not have enough frames and was not intending on submitting this to the show, I did not bother to finish it. I will, now that it is back in the studio, adjust a few things and call it a day.
I am sure Mr Shannon's painting will creep into my mind yet again when the right scene presents itself.
As an artist it is amazing how much inspiration and past experiences we carry with us and draw from and continually utilize at all times.

The kicker for me was when I got back to my studio and actually dug up this old copy. It was buried and I wasn't even sure I still had it. When I finally found it I turned it over to check the name of the artist which I had forgotten, I was amazed and delighted at what I found.

Who back in 1992 would have ever thought I would be painting down in Apalachicola of all places, The Forgotten Coast!
I titled my painting - "East Point" figured it was fitting.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Life as an Artist

What else are friends for . . . . .

Friday, March 28, 2014

Westy's art class

Thank you to Mrs. Brenda Gunderson, the art teacher at Viroqua Elementary School, for having me in yesterday to chat with the 3rd graders about being an artist.

My son Westen who is in the class, was a very good sport in letting me pose him to give the kids a quick idea of what I actually do in producing a painting.

We didn't have much time but we made the most of it.

I blocked in a quick head of West then asked if any of the kids would like to come up and try it. Naturally all of them raised their hands!

Again given the little time we had, we attempted to get a few kids up.  I wasn't sure how they would respond to this and the first two children were actually a little more conservative when painting, just covering over something I had already stated.

So naturally reflecting back to my P & C days when if I was not happy with a head study I had been working on for 3 hours I would add a few self insulting touches as a reminder to myself to do better next time.  So . . . I made the comment that Westy is actually a big fan of Rudolph. I then proceeded to dab a nice red blob on his nose. That's all it took and we were off to the races.

Mustache, little devil horns, fumanchu beard, nothing like pushing their creative license. What a riot that was!

This was our turning point. :  )

Thanks again to Brenda and kids, they did a great job! I just hope I didn't damage them to much.