Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Plein Air Magazine Article Jan / Dec 2015

Copying an Edgar Payne

It's not too often that you get a chance to do a copy from an original piece of art. I was very fortunate to be able to begin a copy of an Edgar Payne painting yesterday. I will go back and finish it in the next few days.

It was such a thrill to not only spend a little time with this painting observing it but also being able to block in a crude copy of it. I have done numerous copies over the years of painters I have admired such as Sargent, Sorolla, Wendt, and Fechin to name a few.


There is much to be learned by doing this. Sometimes the lessons present themselves while doing the copy other times it comes later while working through some difficulty in my own piece.

It is a helpful to better understand how the artist actually did his work. I often think back to Sargent's copy of a Velasquez painting where it was done in Sargent's style however Sargent was not trying to go stroke for stroke to match the Velasquez painting, just getting the essence of it.

The Payne painting I am working on has not yet been cleaned so I am remembering back to the Payne Show I saw last year in California, where the colors were more vibrant and not so muted. Also trying to do it in my hand and learn a little something while I am at it.

First session block in 24 x 30

Washed out image of the painting, a little too fragile to be moving about the studio for a better shot.

Next one in line to be copied.

May have to do this little gouache as well.

After doing many copies over the years as stated earlier all of which were done from books or enlarged prints, this is the first copy I was able to do from the original. After having it around the studio for the last couple of days, I have caught myself noticing it out of the corner of my eye, and it really feels as if there is a connection, be it small, to Edgar Payne himself, definitely feels different seeing it was done from the actual painting Payne did versus a book reproduction, very nice feeling actually.

A couple of follow ups.
Went back for another session and then came across this Edgar Payne painting of Fishing Boats, seems to be a very similar composition but switched side, plus it has been cleaned.

Follow up session.

Copy 24 x 30, sketchy but fun to do.

From the Edgar Payne cat from the Pasadena Show.

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.