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Updated 3/29/12

The Daily Paintings and Postcard-Sized Sketches in Oils and Acrylics

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March 2007 Beginning this month I'm using my blog for daily updates, and updating this web site once a week or so.



1
Just a little quick study painting today, because I am off and packing for my departure on the drive over to Arizona, and painting is important! However, since I'm headed for Arizona on the morrow, and will have just a boatload of subjects to paint by tomorrow evening and through next week, I cannot begin a lesson painting just yet.
I surely hope that I won't be unable to post from the ranch, that I will be able to send your images along each day. I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get to it!
For today, when I was out packing the car, I looked up into our tall pines and saw the full moon coming through the branches, and yet the sun was glowing on the trunk of the tree. I studied/perceived it while it lasted, and brought the memory of it to this 7 x 5 inch acrylic. Interesting note: this is painted with a bunch of "leftover" paints, not my normal palette, because those are already in the car! I did go out and get the titanium white, though...
2
Heading into Arizona, I saw the full moon rising over the mountains still lit by the setting sun. Looking intensely at it while I drove, I tried my best to remember all the details and the juxtaposition of the light and values. The desert expanses of this area of Arizona allow the mind to expand as well. Driving was long, but now I'm at the ranch, and able to send on this 6 x 8 acrylic of the evening sky. I couldn't upload it last night since where I stayed no longer has Internet available. More painting tomorrow, after I get my horse for the week, and go on a three-hour trail ride. My friends from the East Coast are here, and the week ahead looks bright! The scenery is beautifully austere and LOADED with subtle grays and muted color. What fun to capture it this week! I'll have photos for you, too!
3
"Warming Up" This morning at the Arizona Ranch, Grapevine Canyon Ranch, I took some images that later became paintings. This is an oil, 9 x 12 inches, from seeing the many ranch horses warming up after eating their morning meal. The temperatures last night were down in the teens (verrrrrry cold!!!) and there was ice on everything wet, including the bottle of water I had in the car! Horses are used to colder temperatures, but this boyu liked the idea of getting that sun on his hide in the morning hours. I then had a great four hour ride on a cremello quarter horse, going through some wonderful high desert mountains--humidity is at eight percent, so things are really dry!
This painting to Louise Mellon of Aiken, North Carolina.
4
Time for acrylics again! This 9 x 12 painting was done from another of he morning ranch images, and is done in those wonderful acrylics. Even with the low humidity, I can continue to work with them, creating the luscious layers of color. Would you believe that this painting started out with a layer of dioxazine PURPLE and thalo BLUE under all those wonderful grays? It creates a sparkle that is just wonderful to see in "real life". I do so love backlit subjects, expecially when the light creates strong value contrast.
Yesterday after the ride I was "lope tested" so I can go on the advanced rides for the remainder of the week. According to my friends who've been here an additional week, some of the advanced rides are VERY challenging. I can hardly wait! Here's a small photo of me on the cremello horse Sabino, near one of the watering holes on the ranch. Yes, that's my new saddle, and yes, that's a calf who wants to play!

5
This morning I spent several hours painting with another friend of mine, working on acrylics, sharing ideas for developing a looser painting structure and layers with glazes (a lot of which is covered in my Walter Foster <a href="http://www.elinart.com/pages/fosterbook.html" target="_blank"> book</a>, Painting Horses in Acrylics). We ended up with about six canvases, and loads of learning. Today's painting is one that I finished to a happy conclusion in a 9 x 12 format of the agave and cactus which abounds in this area of Southern Arizona. We were inside, as it was still quite chilly until about noon, but were looking out a huge window to see these plants. And here's a photo of one of the Grapevine Canyon Ranch buildings and the desert landscaping. My goodness, there's that agave!

6
One of the greatest things about living on a working cattle ranch is the photo opportunities that abound in the wee hours of dawn. I was able to get out of bed and head to the corrals for picture taking as that morning light came streaming across the valley, almost horizontal as it lit the horses and wranglers in their morning chores. Then off to breakfast, and a return for a ride over the rangeland, "brush poppin" and going up to "the Fortress" near the Apache stronghold. Four of us were on horse back to do that this morning, and then returned to the ranch to do separate things. Me, I painted this first pass on a 12 x 16 oil of one of those "morning horses" in a different palette than the acrylic of a few days ago. I'm also sending you a smaller image of me on Socks, the horse I've changed to for the last couple of rides. He's more like my Raindance mare at home. With memories of knowing I was traveling on a trail used by Apache chiefs Cochise and Geronimo's people, I write to you in the evening of quite a memorable day! (And it is only Tuesday!)

7
Busy day today! In the morning after breakfast, the three artists gathered to paint the cremello horse (he is SO pretty!) a couple of times while at the barns. It was great fun to exercise the muscles of color on a white horse lit from above and behind. I share with you one of the two paintings I did, hoping that you'll enjoy the entourage of colors that march across the white hide of a white horse in sunlight! This is just a study, not a finished painting, so there is less concern about cutting off anatomy, or not finishing other parts of the image. I was focusing on the shadow patterns and the colors on the white horse... but I did spend a bit of time on my saddle!! Here's a picture of Sabino from which we worked.

8

Hard to believe the week is coming to a close--this has been incredible on so many levels--and enjoying every moment of it. Today was a painting day, and a day to just relax and rest. Before dawn I was up and painting, doing two quick oil studies of the sunrise and then the sun-drenched clouds. In the late morning I joined another friend and treked out into the national forest and did two full-blown finished paintings in acrylics of the vistas and rugged terrain. On location, and in this dry climate, the system for keeping the acrylics moist worked like a charm, even at 8 percent humidity!
But those paintings aren't today's work. They will show up on the days when I'm driving back home--serving as memories of the air and feel of Grapevine Canyon Ranch and Southern Arizona.
Today's painting is the 5x7 oil of Sabino, this time without saddle, to work on the color planes of the shadow areas. It is , and in the collection of Louise Mellon of Aiken, South Carolina.

9
One of the last mornings on the Grapevine Canyon Ranch... tomorrow I head west for the familiar home territory. I set my alarm to wake before first light, and stepped outside the cabin with my gear and caught the first rays of sunlight looking through the mesquite bushes and across the fence. Although only a 5 x 7 oil, it sure captures the joy I have at being here on this ranch, and that clear Arizona light. Painted quickly using the Color System for making good color choices, this was done with filbert brushes. I love plein air!

10

I'm home now, long drive through some sere and desolate country between Tucson and Riverside. However, my mind is still on the vistas of the grasslands and mountains of Southern Arizona, so here's the first of two plein air paintings I did while there. This one is a 5 x 7 acrylic ($100), entitled "Through the Gate and Left--Horse Trail at Grapevine Canyon Ranch". Long title, but anyone who has stayed there will know this area! I still feel as if I'm there, not sitting here at my desk in my studio again. It will be a few days before I'm settled back in, but my first job was to water my recent plantings! Tomorrow I pick up my dog from the kennel, start shipping paintings and orders, and sort through the mail. And paint!

11

The second of the plein air paintings done on location at Grapevine Canyon Ranch, this is a 12 x 9 acrylic with loads of texture in the foliage, done both with palette knife and acrylic texture fibers (Golden product) put on before the glazing. The red manzanita is in the lower part, and the oaks and rocks of the distant peaks near the Cochise Stronghold convey the wonder and mystery of this amazing historic area. As I was working, I kept thinking "here is where Cochise and his Chiracahua Apaches rode". I almost expected one to ride out from behind a hill. I plan to return to this ranch and area, as every time I paint one of these (and also in the near future when I'm working from all my reference photos), I am filled with the simplicity and enjoyment of the experience. Available for $200 by contacting me. The rest of the blog is HERE.

12

I just couldn't put off painting this guy. This is Butch, one of the long-time wranglers from Grapevine Canyon Ranch, and the source material gathered from the early-early morning hours before breakfast brought me some wonderful sources! This is just great to make a wonderful painting! So the lesson begin again, here with the source material and the sketches that go into the establishment of design for the work. As you can see, I've moved the subject matter (horses and man) to the upper left of the rectangle that makes up the painting surface, because I need some space for him to move into, and also because I need to establish that this is a "ground" painting (versus a "sky" painting.) Tomorrow we begin the lay in and covering the canvas!

13

I prepped the canvas to get rid of the glaring white (which always messes the values and intensity of the hues I'm mixing) and then quickly delineated the outermost edges of the figure and the two horses. Now you can clearly see how I re-designed the structure, moving the heartbeats up and to the left, giving them all room in which to move. I added in the concept of the diagonal shadows in the foreground, cementing completely the diagonal "X" composition, without even putting in any details. The "X" is formed by the implied direction of the figures counter-pointed by the opposing lines created by the shadow shapes. It is true that the abstract structure of the painting needs to be strong enough to see at the simplest early stages, else the painting might end up weak and unexciting. Even without the lights that will come later, the design is pleasing to the eye. All of the colors are intermixes of at least two hues, establishing the grays against which the more pure colors of the blue jeans and sunlit areas will play. What fun!

14

The canvas is 98 percent covered now with the colors that will be the basis for the final pass. At that time I'll put in the details and the highest contrasting points of light. Squint your eyes at this stage and you'll still see the abstract composition in there--hidden mostly now by the similar values. If you would like a peaceful painting, make similar values--Edgar Whitney called it "Large Dark in Midtones", and this painting will fall into that value category. But the light passages will make drama, and take it to a different value structure--Small Lights, Large Dark in Midtone. If you're interested in Edgar Whitney's teaching, he wrote a book on (ulp!) watercolor painting. But the section on designing paintings is spot on for any artist. "Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting" is the title.
In this painting I'm finding the most pleasure in mixing the harmonious hues, keeping to the two color families of warm and cool where appropriate, and just enjoying the journey. I hope you do, too!

15

It isn't quite finished just yet, but well on its way. I have established the contrast of the sunlight on the forms and ground where needed, and reduced the general value of the shadowed areas to enhance the contrast. I used resin gel medium with my colors to glaze over the areas and reduce the values. Those wonderful Classic Oils are very versatile! One must not rely so heavily on source material that it takes away from the dramatic possibilities. I apoogize for the poor quality of image tonight. I took it in the ambient light of my studio, after dark. When it is finished and the last details added, I'll be sure to have an image taken outdoors to show the true colors and vagaries of value. Now off to sleep.

16

This is the second painting started in my before-dawn painting session at Grapevine Canyon Ranch. After doing the dawn piece looking east, I spun the easel around and painted the clouds coming up over the Dragoon Mountains behind the ranch. I'm quite pleased with the design of this one, as it seems to hold one's eyes for a long time, enjoying the many vagaries of the edges of the clouds. I'd like to be there again, enjoying the morning light! This little gem is for sale for $100 as an item in my new ebay store.

17

Slipping back into acrylics for a while, I decided that the palette knife and a peony needed to meet up on a five by five canvas. I love these flowers, having seen them as a child growing up back east. They are sensous, fragrant and seem to contain a gentle spirit within. The palette knife was fun, quick and allows for some very interesting edges! The colors are much more luminous than the image, but it still brings me pleasure.
I've put it on ebay in my store, here.

18 Taking a small moment away from two commissions that need my attention, I brought out the acrylics again for this 8 x 10 of one of the cows on the Grapevine Canyon Ranch. I really liked the palette knife work on yesterday's Peony, so I wanted to continue with it. We saw a lot of heifers while we rode on the ranch, and because they are handled gently by the cowboys, they are not afraid when you ride close. It's calving time now, and many day-olds were on the ground with their mamas not far off. This heifer was curious about that person on the horse with the camera! Palette knives and gel medium gives this gem a depth and glow that can't be achieved with just a brush.

to a member of the board of the Skyline Farm where it was exhibited at the "Dog and Pony Show" in September 2007.
19 This commission painting will develop as a lesson painting, for I want to share with you how involved I tend to get when painting for people who have loved and lost their animal friends."Jake" was a friend and companion to my friend Fay in Georgia, and went missing last year. Not much can tear at the heart of a dog lover than the thought of losing a beloved pet, and not knowing the end of the story. My first dog when I got out on my own was a Beagle mix like Jake, and when I went overseas, I asked my sister to keep him for me, as I couldn't take him with me. Living with her wasn't the best match, and she took him to the pound and didn't tell me. By the time it came out, too much time had passed, and I couldn't find him. So I know that pain of losing and not knowing. When Fay told me about Jake, and how special he was, I knew I'd have to paint him.
So this is the first pass, sketch in oils, on a 12 x 16 canvas. I am so connected to this one already--getting leaky eyes as I do it, for the memories it invokes. Thank you, Fay, for the opportunity to do this.
And now my current dog is asking me to take her for the "night walkies", so I'll sign off.
20
21

A good day in the studio! I finished up Jake, the Beagle mix for my friend in Georgia, and have received the approval for it. I bet you didn't notice the halo suggested in the space above his mischieveious head, eh? He was truly a character, and it was my hope that I could paint him to life for the viewer.
I'm going to have an artist friend visit me this week, Betty Billups is coming in after driving around the Southwest plein air painting and gallery shopping/visiting. During these colder, snowy months, she comes out of Idaho and either goes on painting trips, or visits the galleries carrying her work. We met during a plein air event in Chico a couple years ago, and have enjoyed a vibrant friendship ever since. This will be her first visit to the new studio, and I can hardly wait to share it with her. BJ is the one who taught me that getting up before the roosters and first light was worthwhile, since you could paint the true dawn on location. She's a signature member of the Plein Air Painters of America and a dedicated artist. We'll have loads of fun painting together this week!

22

Betty Billups arrived this afternoon, and I had my eye on the skies all day, looking at the clouds. I did this because her mural commission up at Mt. San Antonion College is supposed to be with clouds over the San Gabriel mountains. I guess I got a few of them in my head, because when I came in to paint tonight, this 7 x 5 acrylic just FELL off my brush. We've had a great time talking and going out to dinner, and I'm so looking forward to the next few days.
This little painting is available for $100 from my ebay store listing.

23 Busy day today, getting ready for the get together tomorrow for plein air artists in Riverside to meet Betty Billups and her work here. She's been working prepping the many canvases that will be her four foot by 16 foot plein air mural next week, and I have been catching up on my bookkeeping and taxes. So tonight I started an 11 x 14 oil of a very pastoral scene--which will be focusing on grays. The color scheme will be complimentary purple and yellow green, and the value balance will be midtones. I'm looking forward to how this one will turn out! There will be some plein air painting in between the start and finish... the weather has been fantastic for the last few days--into the low 70s and breezy--perfect for on location painting!
My art instruction DVDs are here.
24 As you can see, this painting is all about the grays! As I move across the surface, I continue to combine mixes of ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, thalo green, yellow ochre and white to fill in the canvas areas that are distant and cool. I paint the near cow with some more of these mixes, and they are thin enough to be underpainted areas. As I paint, I am always mindful of contrasting areas, where the light area of a cow will be against a darker passage of foliage. And so the painting continues! 11 x 14 oil.
25 You can see that I kept the grays intact for this one, and held to the complimentary color scheme of purple and yellow green and the mid range of values. The highest value contrast comes in the vicinity of the cows, so that holds your eyes, and there is an implied line created by the direction of the cows (the way they are facing) that brings the viewer into the scene, and allows one to "visit" with the rest of the composition.
This original painting is available for $295 as an 11 x 14 original on my ebay store.
26
Dueling Brushes!! Betty Billups and I laughed ourselves silly while we set up and painted these sunflowers tonight, starting at 8:30 tonight and finishing up an hour later. What fun!

We were painting kinda in the dark in the big studio, and both of us did 16 x 12 oils, each in our own style. Here's Betty's painting, full of THICK paint!




My painting
from my ebay store to new collectors the Barrese family of Temecula, California.
27 A Rose is a Rose, and yet this one isn't really... it is done from a nicely colored SILK rose, yet it has done a Pinocchio-come-to-life under my brushes. This is a 5 x 5 inch acrylic, matching in texture the earlier peony from a week or so ago.

It is done with thin veils of dark values beneath and behind the flower, which is painted with white and other opaque pigments to have it float on the surface of the canvas. I learned this method from Al Brouillette back in the mid 80s. He has passed away, but his artwork and spirit lives on with his teaching.

This painting from my ebay store to new collector Betty Dawson of Dallas, Texas.

28 I really liked that pastoral painting of the two cows a couple days ago so since it is late and I'm a tad tired, I decided to just do a smaller version. But not the same, for that wouldn't be as interesting as changing the cow. So now we have a small black and white "Oreo" cow, called a Belted Galloway--an interesting breed, brought to my mind by one of the list artists in wood and who lives in Pennsylvania. He does the Belteds on wood for a niche market and has shared with me his process. So now a Belted Galloway comes full circle!

to Lorna MacPhee of Toronto, Canada

29

I have had so many people inquiring about the upcoming acrylic lessons DVD that I can do no less but give you a lesson on how I handle acrylics. Although this one won't be in the DVD, you can certainly enjoy how it comes together. The first layer of this 11 x 14 canvas board is covered with soft gel medium mixed with a couple of colors to make a more neutral red orange, and then before it is dry, patted with a wad of plastic wrap to give it interesting texture, both real and illusionary. Those peaks of gel medium are then gently wiped away as it begins to dry, to keep the actual texture under control.
The second layer is again a mixture of soft gel medium, but this time with two blues. Only bits and pieces of these two layers will show through the final painting, but they will be ever so much more exciting than plain white canvas!
I now take a brush handle and sketch in the location of the horses, their shadows and the landscape shapes that will define this painting. It will be another pastoral scene, backlit, as I'm enjoying them immensely. (Perhaps that's because I've done with taxes and it isn't as bad as I'd feared?) No matter, painting is solace, rejuvenation and pleasure. Houseguest Betty Billups is up near Walnut doing her mural for the next couple of days, so life here is full of her paintings, but without her joyful personality.

Congratulations to Lorna McPhee of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on acquiring yesterday's Belted Galloway acrylic! Thank you!

30

Here's the second step in my painting process using acrylics. I go for the darks, laying in the abstract structure with value contrast and not worrying about edges at all. It is a lot of fun painting with different colors over the underpainting--one person said it reminded her of the cave paintings!
You can see the values and the backlighting coming to the fore as I put umbers, alizarin crimson, untramarine blue and yellow ochre mixes creating the value structure. I am not looking at any source material at this point--letting my innate design sense tell me where to put those darks.

31

After a six hour ride up and over the mountain behind my studio, I came home with one tired mare, and a bit achy myself. Organized trail rides can be great fun, unless you end up behind a complete idiot, which I did for part of this ride. Makes for some very challenging moments, however my mare came through fine. Today's ride was a good one for a pre-ride for the one I'm leading next month. Knowing how tired my mare is, I can easily see her in this painted pasture, resting with her buddies, glad to be home. So the painting progresses with real-life experience to back it up.

That said, tonight's work on the 11 x 14 acrylic brought it almost to completion, with the light just about in place, and with tweaking that will not majorly change it to come on the morrow. Most of the added paint is in the form of glazed layers, with come opaque areas created to bind and unify the colors and composition. Playing wiht the layers and texture in the foreground will come next, as will the dust, which is only partly in place right now. Fun!