Thursday, July 26, 2007

A closer look at "Ranching Equipment"

I want everyone to see more detail in the painting from my previous blog. By the way, in California, a Farm is sometimes a Ranch. This painting is a good example of not only watery or soupy washes but also a good example of charging in other colors while the previous wash is still damp.

Ranching Equipment

Nice thing about teaching my college summer plein air ink/water color wash sketch class is I too get educated. The contraption next to the 1947 Ford truck, one of my studenets told me, is a seed spreader. The contraption behind the truck, another student informed me, is a harrow. What's a harrow? breaks up hard soil to prep it for plowing. Obviously, all three items have seen better days. This sketch was a demonstration I did for my students to show how to paint nice watery washes of color. Water color painting has been defined as "controlling the flood". What an apt definition that is!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Changing The Light

I mentioned in my last blog that there is a wonderful twice- weekly letter you can recieve from an artist in Canada . His name is Robert Genn. If you want to check it out, go to Anyway, in his lastest email letter, he wrote about painting en plein air in the Queen Charlotte Islands. He was faced with a flat, overcast, grey day. He captured the scene alright, but at the same time, he remembered the sunset of the previous evening. He wrote about painting over what he had just done with those beautiful sunset colors. Robert , like me, is an acrylic painter. He could do this rapidly, because he did'nt need to scrape or wait hours for the paint to dry like an oil painter must do. Again, I must add that I'm not putting down oil painters! I'm merely deliniating the possibilities that lie within the medium of acrylic painting!
One can respond to his letters. I attached a painting I had just completed this Monday, and, like him, completely re-orhestrated the colors to a sunrise. Here is what I wrote: "Imagine my surprise when I read your latest missive titled Changing The Light. I go out with fellow plein air painters here in Sacramento, CA every Monday morning. We paint from 8AM to about 11PM. Same thing!... I captured the colors in the water, tree lines, and distant city buildings. Only one problem...BORING! I've spent a number of hours now in my studio simply changing the colors. I work in acrylic, so this is easy to do within short periods of time. I think i'm finally there. We're looking south down the Sacramento River. It can't be a summertime sunrise or anytime sunset. Maybe its an early morning winter view. Ahh...who cares!...its pretty and anyway...sometime in the future, I may paint over it. Hey... maybe a bright noontime view!
I'm probably going to look at this painting in the future and say "ugh!" But that's growing as an artist and meanwhile, I got lots of practice working with warm sunrise/sunset colors! As many artists have said before me, don't make your paintings too precious. Use them to learn and grow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

One of my early acrylics

This is an acrylic painting I did in 2005 of the "ziggaurat" building on the west side of the Sacramento River. I was not doing plein air yet, and therefor painted this in my studio from a photograph I snapped. The photo was a mid afternoon shot that was pretty damn boring. I wanted something with drama. I decided on a sunset atmosphere with emphasis on lots of foreground river. Quite a challenge when I had no reference for that time of day to look at!. The great, great thing about acrylic is that I could play with color, sky, and water to my hearts content and all within the space of a day's worth of effort! With a drying time of about 15 minutes or less, I could work on achieving the sunset look over and over again until satisfied. There was really no limit to layering as long as I stayed away from thick impasto applications. Only towards the end, when I was happy with my goal of achieving a convincing sunset atmospher, did I add final touches of thick paint to key areas.
There is a great web site called "the painter's keys" for painters at: This week, they had an article on the joys of acrylic painting and its rising popularity. I, along with at least 20 other acrylic painters, added samples of our work and comments on the article. It's a great read if you are thinking of taking up the medium!
Like I wrote in my first blog, I am a plein air wannabe. But by jove (there's a lovely Victorian phrase), I now have about 4 months of acrylic plein air painting under my belt (or should I write under my easel?) Anyway, I will start to write in future blogs about the challenges of taking the medium outdoors. Often, when I speak to oil painters, they will sneer at the idea. I hope that my readers will see that not only can one successfully acrylic paint "en plein air", one can also add grand and exciting features that the oil painter can't. Am I saying one medium is better than another? Of course not! I'm just saying that out door acrylic painting is an option for artists that is well worth investigating!