Monday, November 8, 2010

Pasta and Parmesan

This is the second of three commissioned paintings. This one is the companion to the Fruit and Jam painting I showed in the last post. Both will hang above the same door, so I tied them together compositionally, as you can see.

For those of you who like to see the process, below is a photo of the grisaille, or monochrome underpainting. Below that is a photo of my initial charcoal drawing on the panel.

Important Announcement: I am holding a pre-holiday sale of my inventory. It's time to make room for more art! So if you are in Anchorage on Friday, November 19 or Saturday November 20, I hope you will come by to look at the many paintings, drawings, watercolors, and prints I will have available. If you have seen something on the blog or website that interests you but you can't make it to my sale, please contact me at I am happy to do sales at a distance.

The sale takes place at 4050 Lake Otis Parkway, Suite 201, Anchorage, AK 99508. Sale hours are Friday, Nov. 19, 10 AM - 7 PM and Saturday, Nov. 20. 2 PM - 5 PM. You can also read about it by following this link. Please come by and bring a friend!


8" x 14" oil on linen panel

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fruit and Jam

I just delivered this painting to the good people who commissioned it. The commission is for 3 paintings, all to be placed above doors in their kitchen. Look for the next two in the series on the blog soon.

It was so pleasant to see their delight at how the painting turned out. We planned it together, sitting in their garden, eating melon, while the apples ripened nearby and raspberries grew alongside the house.

When I came to collect some props, though, a moose had eaten all the apples still on the tree! Luckily, some were picked before the moose arrived, and I gathered leaves off the tree, so I had what I needed. They had just finished their jam making for the year, so that was handy. These raspberries actually came off my bushes, where I had a small crop still hanging on as the weather cooled.

Thanks guys, for giving me the opportunity to do this painting, it was fun! I have been holding off taking commissions, but am available to discuss commissions as of now.
Oil on panel, 8" x 14"


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Denali Plein Air Trip Part 6, McKinley in Autumn 2

On the last glorious sunny day I hiked back down the McKinley Bar trail, hoping the frost had not entirely wiped out the colors we saw on our rainy day hike. No such luck, the trees were going brown, though there was still color in the low vegetation.

While I was working, two young men from Fairbanks/North Pole, Chad Odom and Diego Servan, hiked down the trail and stopped to talk and take pictures. Many thanks to Chad Odom for these photos of me and my set up.

They were interested in how I set out the paints on the palette. I explained my strings of color, arranged by hue, value, and chroma (for more on strings, see my post of 8/18/10.) . These were colors I premixed and tubed for the trip. You can see some reds and yellows from the Munsell soils book, and some blues and greens from the Munsell student book. It sure is easier to squeeze colors from a tube than trying to mix them on the palette while fighting off bugs!

As I worked on the painting, it occurred to me that I was in danger of falling into heavy cliche territory: big mountain, autumn colors, reflecting pool, perfect, right? Or maybe not, maybe too much like a cheap postcard????

Luckily, there was a broken up tree just to my right, which relieved a bit of the perfection. Those familiar with paintings of McKinley will say, yes, but the mountain with dead tree in foreground is also a cliche. Point taken, but my tree is even more broken up than most, so I think it does the job.

Here is an oil sketch, McKinley Bar Trail Reflection, by Mary Bee Kaufman, painted at a nearby location, but before the colors were completely gone. I like how the trees, with their variety, shadows, and reflections, create visual interest, and how the soft edges portray the indistinct boundaries of the marsh stream. The whole effect is light and delicate.

This is the final chapter of our plein air trip to Denali National Park. Look for a link to Chad Odom's blog here soon. He is about to start some world travel, and will be posting more of his excellent photos on his blog as he goes.

McKinley in Autumn 2 is oil on linen panel, 10" x 12"

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Denali Plein Air Trip Part 5, Gorge Creek

Continuing the account of our September plein air trip in Denali National Park:

We thought we were going to have sun when we took the early bus to Eilson Visitor's Center, but the sky remained overcast. However, the views from that spot are so fantastic, we didn't mind that the big mountain was hiding again.

The colors of Denali in autumn are both subtle and exciting. It would have been easy to get carried away with the excitement, and miss the subtlety. Here is where my Munsell soils book really came in handy.

I hope my notes are legible in the photo. Essentially, I was able to make fine distinctions about what I was looking at, and note the specific hues, values, and chromas for reference.

I kept the notebook where I could see it while I worked (it's just under my right elbow here.) When the light conditions shifted (or, in this case, when the rain came) I was able to stay on course.

That's Eilson Visitor's Center on the right, I like the way it harmonizes with its surroundings. Thanks to Mary Bee Kaufman for these photos.

12" x 16" oil on linen panel

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Denali Plein Air Trip Part 4, McKinley in Autumn 1

When the mountain comes out, it's compelling. I mean, you can't not look at it, and if you are a painter, there is definitely a pull.

I recall reading that McKinley rises 18,000 feet out of the plain, from base to top 8000 feet higher than Everest. (Everest is on a higher base.) On some clear days I can see the mountain from the end of my street in Anchorage, across hundreds of miles. However, many visitors never see the mountain, it is so often shrouded in clouds.

So we felt pretty lucky to have conditions like these.

As soon as I set up my easel and had a preliminary sketch, I pulled out my Munsell books and made color notes. My notes helped me maintain control of my values and chroma, essential for painting atmospheric differences across a view of about 30 miles.

The regularity of nature comes through in the value notes. The mountain in light was obviously the highest value, 10 if not 10+; in shadow it was value 8; the lower mountains, 7-8 in light, 7 in shadow; the middle ground grassland, 6 in light, 5 in shadow. Near ground grasses, which were more chromatic, and had more contrast, were value 7 in light, 3-4 in shadow. By continually returning to my notes, I stayed out of trouble.

Here is a little color study Mary Bee did on the same day, of the mountain, seen from above Wonder Lake. She calls it Wonder Lake View. I like how she created an ethereal feeling of space, distance, light, and the slight chill of autumn, by using various low chroma, high value reds and blues.

McKinley in Autumn 1 is 8" x 16" oil on linen panel

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Denali Plein Air Trip Part 3, Sapling

After three days of rain, and rainy day projects, the weather cleared and we headed out to paint. I was still thinking about the foliage we had gathered, and wanted to put all that practice matching colors to use. I also wanted to capture the last of the summer colors before they faded away (which began immediately, following a wind and a frost.)

Now I need to put in a correction to the last post. That gorgeous red leaf was not a blueberry leaf, it was a bearberry leaf. Mary Bee alerted me to the error, at which point I hit my forehead and uttered "Duh uh!" Considering all the blueberries I ate, . . . oh well, this is the result of writing blog posts when one ought to be sleeping.

The blueberry leaves, while also gorgeous, are much smaller and a bit lower chroma. In my last post I was going by my notes for blueberry leaves. In fact, we noted the bearberry leaf within this range: 5R 4 - 4.5/10.5 - 12. We mixed it by adding a lot of cadmium red and cadmium orange to my 5R 4/8 pre-mixture. Sorry for the confusion.

In the painting of the yellow sapling, you can see how the bearberry leaves stand out like little red beacons, growing low to the ground, while the blueberry bushes provide the slightly lower chroma backdrop. I was very glad to have my color notes when I got home, they helped me to complete areas of the painting that needed adjustments.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Denali Plein Air Trip Part 2

After our first days at Wonder Lake, during which we stayed dry in our tent, hiked down to the marshes in the rain, and ate blueberries, Mary Bee had the brilliant idea that we should gather autumn foliage for a full-on color analysis. Her curiosity was up after watching me compare the landscape colors to my Munsell color references.

Here is our set-up, under the shelter of the picnic area, still in our rain gear. Every so often we would have to step out from under the shelter just to get the best light, so we were happy to stay covered up.

Munsell notations allow one to record the value (relative lightness or darkness) and chroma (relative brightness or dullness) of a given hue, or color.

We collected several varieties of red leaves and berries, shown here arranged alongside the 5R page of the Munsell student book. This book only provides hue pages at the "5" level. (There are levels from 1 to 10 within each hue.) The "5" reds represent what one might think of as the most straighforward, common reds. (Same for "5" greens, yellows, etc.). This book did not show all the varieties of red one could find in nature, but luckily we were able to match our samples to this page.

Before we left for our trip, I mixed and tubed some 5Red at value 4, chroma 8. That's the white tube of paint laying on the 5R page. The paint in the tube corresponds to the rectangle in column 4, three rows from the bottom.

One of my questions was, is it useful to pre-mix a middle range color, as a basis for quickly mixing similar colors in the field?

Here is a blueberry leaf, turned to an intense red for autumn. Comparing it to the 5R samples, we decided it was somewhere in the area of 5R 5/10 and 4/11 (value 5 or 4, chroma 10 or 11). Then we set about mixing up that wonderful color.

We matched the blueberry leaf by adding cadmium red medium, cadmium orange, and titanium white to my premixed 5R 4/8. However, if I had not had that tube, mixing the first three ingredients plus a bit of alizarin and possibly some burnt umber (to keep it out of the chroma stratosphere) would have done the job.

Carrying extra tubes of paint into the field can be cumbersome. In future, I will pre-mix colors based on the notes from this experiment, but only a few, and only small tubes.

We matched and took notes on all the red leaves and berries: bearberry, dwarf dogwood berry, dwarf dogwood leaf, and fireweed leaf. The brightest was dwarf dogwood berry, at 5R 5/14, the dullest was fireweed, that long leaf, at 5R 4/9 - 10.

Here we are attempting to mix up something for this yellow cottonwood (or poplar?) leaf. When we took this photo, the chroma of the paint was a bit too high, so we toned it down with some yellow ochre. We figured it was 5Yellow Red 6 - 7/10. We mixed cadmium orange, cadmium yellow pale, titanium white, yellow ochre pale, and alizarine to get the final match.

We used the 5Green Yellow page for soapberry, green willow, and alder leaves. We used other pages to find lichen, and some wonderful blackish purple leaves as well. The lichen was interesting, a beautiful pale neutral, high value, low chroma yellow (5Yellow 9/1.5). The purple leaves were dramatic, dark and deep (5Purple, 2/2).

Mary Bee did a wonderful job of documenting our process with these photos. She said later that, having done this exercise, she felt much more in control of her color mixtures, which helped in her plein air paintings. I was very glad to have done this work, because it helped me to avoid using too-bright colors for the foliage in my paintings. Of course, for our paintings, we also had to take into account the light and atmospheric conditions in which these plants appeared.

Dear readers, you have probably heard enough about Munsell notations for a while. Thanks for your patience! Next post, paintings.

Denali Plein Air Trip Part 1

On September 7th my friend Mary Bee Kaufman and I headed into Denali National Park with plans to spend a week doing plein air painting, just as we did this time last year (see earlier posts for that trip.)

I also wanted to see if my Munsell reference books would help me to see and mix colors more accurately. I brought the Munsell Soils book, used by geologists to identify and classify soil samples by color. The range of color samples in the book seemed perfect for the high, dry, autumn tundra we were going into. I also had the Munsell student book, which contains higher chroma samples than the soils book.

(If you are unfamiliar with the Munsell system, please see the two posts that precede this one.)

The bus ride to Wonder Lake campground takes approximately 6 hours from the park entrance. The weather was wet at the beginning, then cleared a bit, but by the time we reached Polychrome Pass the clouds were moving back in.

It rained steadily for the next 3 days. We were glad that our tent was snug and dry. We even had cots and a wood stove. Mary Bee wrote in her journal, I sketched her portrait . . .

Then we took a hike out the McKinley Bar trail, a relatively easy destination that starts a short distance from the Wonder Lake campground. The nice thing about rain is that the colors are vivid in the moist atmosphere. The ground vegetation in this very marshy area was diverse and wonderfully delicate.

And there were thousands of big, fat blueberries.

So we kept an eye out for bears, but we thought a moose sighting would be more likely. They love to stand in ponds and chew the grasses. We saw no moose, but a few days later a bull, a cow, and a calf were spotted in this area.

Never go camping without a big umbrella.

The following day, we launched a big project. After collecting many samples of the local foliage, we set up our notebooks, my Munsell books, our specimens, and our paints in the picnic area (tables and a nice roof). For the rest of the day, we analyzed foliage colors, mixed them, noted their position in the Munsell charts, and wrote down our findings. We knew this exercise would pay off once the sun came out and we were painting again.

This story will be continued in Part 2

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Report on Graydon Parrish color workshop, Part 1

My apologies for going so long without a post! First I was traveling, then my computer went in for repair. Finally I am back up to speed.

From July 19 to August 6 I was at Grand Central Academy in New York City, at a workshop on Munsell color theory, taught by artist Graydon Parrish. The Munsell system allows the artist to think about color in a systematic way, according to value, hue, and chroma (chroma refers to the intensity, or luminous strength, of a given color.)

Here is instructor Graydon Parrish giving a demonstration on identifying hue, value, and chroma. After this, we all got closely acquainted with our palette knives, for hours, no, weeks of color mixing.

We created "strings" of color at various levels of chroma, value, or both. My palette, below, shows three strings of high chroma blue-green, yellow-red, and red. Along the top and right edge you can see a string (slightly contaminated in one spot with red!) of a neutral tone, from darkest to lightest.)
The writing above each dab of color is the Munsell notation for the value and chroma, in the given hue. One outcome of this training is, you can always match paint you mixed at some earlier date!

I mixed these strings for the "spheres" exercise. We painted 3 sets of 3 spheres. (First we painted the spheres we used as models, then we painted them in 2D.) The first 3 are neutral, with local color in the dark, medium, and light ranges of value. The second 3 are yellow-red, or flesh tones, in low, medium, and high chroma. The third 3 are high chroma spheres in three different hues. This was actually pretty difficult.

The sphere exercise applies to a number of practical problems in our paintings: the representation of volume, of changes in value, of changes in chroma, and of very high chroma objects.

The photo above is of artist Ruza Bagaric's lovely sphere work.

In another exercise, artist Marge Grinnell created strips, painting each with color she had mixed, then she used them as models for her painting, in which she explores the value and chroma variations that occur in light and shadow.

Artist Victoria Herrera worked on this study of a lily, using the Munsell approach.

These lessons will pay off as we work on our own compositions. I know my approach to color will change with this and further study. For one thing, I have a new ability to create, use, and appreciate neutral tones in any hue, and at any value. I have long admired the subtle use of neutrals in paintings from earlier ages, and will now try to introduce more neutrals into my own paintings.

More on my New York fun in Part II.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Report on Graydon Parrish color workshop Part 2

This is the second installment of my report on the Graydon Parrish color workshop at Grand Central Academy.

Just to revisit some goals of the workshop, here is one more photo of student work. Most of us did the gray scale exercise in 10 steps. Artist Ruza Bagaric got so fascinated by the gray scale she tried to find as many value steps as time allowed. I think I see 36 steps here. Such thoroughness pays off in increased visual sensitivity and accuracy.

Many of us accompanied instructor Graydon Parrish to the Metropolitan Museum to look at paintings, with special attention to the 19th century. Here Graydon and students view Rosa Bonheur's terrific painting of the Paris Horse Market. We are taking in the excitement and energy of this work, and also appreciating Bonheur's masterly use of value, hue, and chroma.

We all admired this large painting of St Joan by Bastien LePage. He has created an other-worldly, magical space by keeping value and chroma almost constant. The mood is set by the subtle changes of hue, while the very few high value notes draw our eyes to her transfixed face.

We took a close look at this stunning small piece by Jean Leon Gerome, for his daring use of high chroma blue in the sky. Most of us learn to downplay the sky color in our landscapes. Gerome's color harmonies, tight composition, and dramatic variations of value result in a completely believable scene of heat, action and sunlight.

If you are interested in the craft and theory of classical painting, you might enjoy the video of a lecture entitled, "Technique as Influence: The Painter's Odyssey of Craft and Communication" by Graydon Parrish at this link.

To view a lecture by Graydon Parrish on his recent monumental painting commemorating the 9/11 tragedy, go to this link.

And now, friends, you will not hear from me for another few weeks. I am about to go on my yearly artist trip to Denali National Park. This time I plan to spend some time doing drawings and making some color notes (using the Munsell system), though I also plan to complete a few paintings while I am there. Here's hoping for fine weather!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Peach and Yellowjacket

This is the demonstration painting I started at Fireweed Gallery in Homer last Saturday, the day after my solo show opened there. The yellowjacket was not alive, but when I saw him laying near the door of the gallery, I couldn't resist including him, in honor of the long tradition of bugs with fruit in still life paintings. He looked better when I revived him through the magic of painting. You will see by the photos below that I edited the painting in other ways as it developed.

8" x 6" oil on linen panel

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The wonderful Paul, with his tape measure and sharp eye, is my best advisor for hanging a show!

Irene Randolph, the owner of Fireweed Gallery, snapped this picture of me at work on the demonstration painting.

Paul took this one and got my entire setup. The dolls in the case are by another Fireweed Gallery artist, Charlene Jump.

The show runs through August 4th. I hope if you have a chance to visit Homer this month you will visit Fireweed Gallery and please leave me a note in the guestbook.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Show opening Friday July 2 in Homer, Alaska

I haven't posted new work recently, mostly because I have been busy preparing work for my solo show, which opens this Friday in Homer, AK at Fireweed Gallery. If you are in the area, please come by to say hello, either during the opening Friday evening, or on Saturday any time. I will spend Saturday in the gallery doing a painting demonstration.

If you can't make it to Homer, the gallery is taking purchase orders by email and phone, so if you have seen anything in the past 6 months or so on the blog that interests you, please contact them at , or by phone at 907 235 3411.

Fireweed Gallery is at 475 E Pioneer Ave, Homer, AK, open 10 - 7 Mon - Sat and 11 - 5 Sun. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pulley #2

This is the companion to Pulley #1, which I posted last November. Next up, both pulleys in one painting! However, they will have to get to the end of the line, there are so many other characters waiting patiently to be onstage.

10" x 12" oil on linen panel

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fruit with Dried Sunfower

The sunflower is from last summer's garden. Every winter the birds knock a bounty of seeds out of the feeders, and thousands of sunflowers come up. I thin them for weeks, and eventually have a few small flowers like this one. They come up leggy and tough, and I like them a lot!

9" x 12" oil on linen panel

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Braeburn Apple

A little study in red, black, and yellow. I wanted to show how a single, humble piece of fruit can be a visual as well as a tasty treat. I always try to include the variety in the title. That's my small effort toward encouraging growers to keep the varieties going.

8" x 6" oil on linen panel

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Key Limes

I love ikat weave fabrics, so I have a little collection. I've been wanting to put this great cloth from Guatemala into a painting for a long time, so I was thrilled when I saw how great the limes looked on it. I love limes too! These are headed for lime marmalade.

8" x 10" oil on linen panel

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Bosc Pears

For some reason, pears always seem to be relating to their surroundings. Maybe that's why they are so fun to paint!

6" x 8" oil on linen panel

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dark Lily

A favorite embroidered piece, a favorite broken glass (I have a collection) and a lily from the garden last year, all these things still graceful in old age.

14" x 11" oil on linen panel

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