Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"McCloud Power Source"

"McCloud Power Source" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"On this corner in McCloud, California, sit two churches dating back in this old lumber town. The Catholic church, built of logs, faces the viewer and the Presbyterian church is the white building to the right of it. I couldn't help noting the prominent power lines, the other power source for this charming town." --- SFG

"Conversation in the Alley"

"Conversation in the Alley" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"McCloud is a small lumber town near Mt. Shasta in beautiful northern California. People often forget this part of California, but that's the way people in McCloud like it. Since the mill has closed, McCloud has become a hideaway for city dwellers who enjoy small town history and friendliness. Since the garages are often located on the alleys, friends meet and catch up there." --- SFG

"Beside the Sacramento"

"Beside the Sacramento" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"On this overcast day, the color across the Sacramento River was blended into a harmony of lavenders and autumn oranges. The near side had it's usual mix of grasses, shrubs, and trees and a lively dance of intertwining branches, all whipped by the wind that unsteadied my easel." --- SFG

"Autumn at the Creek"

"Autumn at the Creek" - Oil - 9" x 12" - $350

"I love to paint water. The chance to paint reflections, transparent water and what's below the surface, and whites in waterfalls and turbulence is always a challenge and such fun. This stream had a small waterfall in the foreground and I painted it quickly with broad strokes. The trees and shrubs surrounding it gave definition to the scene"." --- SFG

"Appy in Waiting"

"Appy in Waiting" - Oil - 6" x 8" - $150

"This Appaloosa was in the upcoming halter class and the handler had her ready and waiting near the horse show photographer's background drape. While sunlight warmed her back, the shadow side of her became a lovely aqua." --- SFG

I used the strong contrast of color and value to compose this small piece and it became a bigger statement. It would have been static and boring if I had not given the human figure an unexpected pose. The darks of her pants and the head of the darker horse on the left balanced the scene. Watch for such opportunities while you are painting and put them in quickly with assurance. If you don't get it right the first time, wipe it out and lay it in again. Temerity always shows.

"What a Life"

"What a Life" - Oil - 14" x 18" - $700

"'What a life,' is a phrase I utter frequently. From the joy my kids bring me, to the experience of flying with my (fantastic) husband, to the enthusiasm sparked by a bunch of flowers set before me to paint, I have much to be exuberant about. Here you can see it fully expressed in the heady application of paint." --- SFG


Though I loved this flower arrangement when I started this painting, I found myself approaching it timidly. By going for more contrast and concentrating on an abstract design, I was able to break through and express the vigor of the subject and my reaction to it. Rely on your subconscious when you find yourself working too hard and thinking too much!


"Traverse" - Oil - 6" x 8" - $150

"A warm summer day softened the colors of a pasture that lay above my viewpoint. Whose bay horse this was, I don't know, but like most artists, I knew immediately that I had found my my subject." --- SFG

Notice how the warm tones of the sky tie it to the ground plane and how I repeated some colors in both to unify the light on the scene. I also described the color of the unseen sky above me (and the horse) by painting the cool tone on the horse's back. Be aware of what is happening within the picture plane and the unseen surroundings in order to tell the full story.

"Sunday Sail"

"Sunday Sail" - Oil - 6" x 8" - $150

"When I saw this scene, I was struck by the contrast of the moderately rough waves near the rocks and the relative serenity of the water beyond where the sailboat glided along. I'm sure the sailors felt more movement than I did from a distance." --- SFG


The diminishing spaces between the waves give depth to the scene and the small size of the sailboat furthers that perception. Always pay attention to the size of objects in the background. They are usually much smaller than the artist tends to want to paint them.

"Tied Up"

"Tied Up" - Oil - 6" x 8" - $150

"I went for an unusual viewpoint for this scene north of Boston. By walking out on the dock, I could see the ship set against a beautiful sky and the historic buildings in the distance. What a lovely place to stroll. The pinks in the sky made a useful foil for the sails' masts." --- SFG


I used the masts of the ship to divide horizontal length of the painting by thirds. The vertical was cut into thirds by the horizon line. Such simple considerations will strengthen any composition.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Signing your work...

Today I had a question from an artist about how I sign my work. Here's my reply for all to see:

"Signing work is a frustration, isn't it. Yes, I do use paint diluted with thinner and a liner brush. Often, it takes two or three attempts to get an acceptable signature. If the paint is wet, I usually try to keep the background in that area pretty simple in case I have to blend out a aborted signature. I'd rather not be forced to conserve color interest or brushwork beneath it.

Sometimes, it's easier to do after the paint is dry. However, if it is applied after the painting is varnished, it becomes a 'floating' signature, about which conservators should be forewarned.

I have considered taking a scanned copy of one of my better signatures to Office Depot to have a rubber stamp made, perhaps in three sizes, but haven't yet. Other artists do this from time to time, including Nicholi Fechin, so I don't think it is a questionable practice. A problem arises, though, when someone uses the stamp after the artist's death, as I believe they did in Fechin's case, to sign incomplete or substandard work that the artist felt was not good enough or complete enough to sign.

In the end, I think the best thing to do is to practice your signature often, training your muscle memory so that you can do it with both ease and confidence. Doing so helps me, though I don't practice as often as I should."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Early November"

"Early November" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"The day was crisp and the clouds grazed the mountaintops in Weaverville, California. This old mining community is a popular choice of those who want to live away from the city. Though the houses and roads wouldn't meet zoning regulations elsewhere, the residents are warmhearted and welcome artists to this town's special charm. This view set the brilliant autumn colors against the blue-purple mountain to the south." --- SFG

This is a composite painting. By that, I mean that I recomposed the scene by selecting some components and rearranging them. Mostly, I compressed the scene and created depth with the pathway that leads to a distant house almost hidden in the trees. When you do this, you must be sure to keep the direction of the light consistent.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"How Many Horses?"

"How Many Horses?" - Oil - 20" x 24" - $1200

"This farm is in an area known as the 'Lost Coast', south of Ferndale, California. It was a great subject with its view from above and colorful roofs and trees. The horses milled around and by the time I finished, I wasn't sure whether I had painted the same horse twice or not." --- SFG


Because of the unusual perspective, I made a special effort to get the drawing right, paying special attention to the size of the buildings, truck and horse trailer in the background. If I had made them too large, the distance between them and the nearer barn would have been reduced considerably.
In the excitement of a new subject and the rush to get into color, you must not minimize the importance of good drawing from the start. Even then, I forgot to take the photo of the drawing until I had laid in my dark background trees.

Here, I've laid in all my darkest areas and cast shadows. I will refine these colors, but the shapes will remain throughout.
Now I've begun to lay in the areas in light, remembering that the more distant areas will be cooler. The further colors have to travel from the source to your eye, the more the cool color of the atmosphere influences that color. If you look closely, you'll see that I have overlapped areas of color rather than painting just up to the outline. By overlapping, I'm able to control the softness or crispness of the edge I want as I lay it in or I can alter it later. I decided that I needed a second vent roof to break the line of the roof on the right.
I've made the ground around the horses a little darker than I expect it to be in the end. In fact, I will make all of my lights darker than I will have them in the end to reserve a greater value range for the last lights.

The greens of the roofs vary so the highest one reflects more of the sky color and the lower one is richer.
You can see by my palette at this point that I have compared darks to darks, greens to greens, yellows to yellows, and yellow-orange to yellow-orange.
When I mixed the color for the sunlit part of the barn, it was much darker than it appears to have been. When compared to white, it was several values down. Doing this paid off later when I was ready to put in the accents on the rough wood and the white horse's coat.
By this stage, I've put in the sky holes in the background trees that allow the viewer's eye to escape and not be trapped. Look closely again and you'll see that I've laid a slightly different color over many areas to fine tune it. I added the posts on the lower left because I felt I needed balance on that side. Later, I decided that was too mannered and uninteresting. Notice how much improved the painting becomes by what is left out. This is where I left the painting for a few days.

Because I had laid a good foundation, I could develop the painting further during the follow-up session in my studio. I worked on each area with color that was the same value, but different temperatures to enjoy the vibration that doing so creates. I finalized the foreground using the darker grasses that were present.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Color Change"

"Color Change" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $225

"The autumn colors this year have been extraordinary in northern California. This tree, near the entrance to the Sacramento River Trail in Redding, was brilliant in the afternoon sun and supported by the green foliage in shadow." --- SFG
When painting a subject that's so brilliantly lit that it exceeds the value range of our palette, I use darker areas to make the lights seem lighter and use color and intensity to further the effect. The darker leaves on the opposite side of the tree were handy for this purpose. Also, I made sure that the sky was slightly grayed and more violet than it really was to intensify the yellow.

"Autumn Near Weaverville"

"Autumn Near Weaverville" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"Overcast skies always make fall colors glow and I took advantage of this setting as I drove home one day from painting in Weaverville, California. A familiar sight to those passing, the barn has been converted to an art gallery." --- SFG

Using warm colors to advance and cool to recede, I walked a delicate line because of the overcast skies. Due to the presence of cool, reflected light from the sky, shadows were warmer than usual. Also, the shining roof was lighter than the sky because it faced west, where the afternoon light, though muted through clouds, was stronger.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"This Way to Heaven"

"This Way to Heaven" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $260

"The evergreens seemed to conspire with the granite summit to point skyward. Born in the Trinity Alps National Recreational area of northern California, the repeating shapes and light-dark contrast made this one special. The mountain really was all granite to the valley floor and uncommonly beautiful." --- SFG

The painter must be careful when appoaching a subject like this. Repetition is a useful element in a painting, but you must vary the shapes to avoid boring the viewer. I used warms in the foreground to create the depth needed to push back, first, the dark trees and, secondly, the distant mountain.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

"Lupine in the Valley"

"Lupine in the Valley" - Oil - 12" x 16" - $260

"Lupine loves the gravel bars in riverbeds or on mine tailings nearby. This distinct array filled one side of the riverbed while a small community was nestled in the distance. The site is south of Hayfork, California." --- SFG
In this painting, I used the dark trees in the foreground to help create a sense of distance, leaving lighter tones for the middle ground and distance. The larger tree on the left balances the shape of the lupine mass as well. Spring colors were used with the spring-blooming lupine.


"Spires" - Oil - 11" x 14" - SOLD

"Imagine being greeted by this stunning view every day! We love our visits to our friend's cabin in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area of northern California. I paint while my family hikes and fishes. We gather in the evening to feast and tell (almost true) stories." --- SFG


Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Lenhart Barn"

"Lenhart Barn" - Oil - 9" x 12" - $275

"Afternoon light shone on this barn across the road from Lenhart Airport near Canby, Oregon, and caught the top of the hedge to the right. The trees and shrubs, stubbornly trying to return to their natural state, added texture to the scene that seemed right in place with the aging structure."--- SFG


Friday, October 24, 2008

"Farm Below"

"Farm Below" - Oil - 24" x 30" - $1800

"This farm near Virginia City, Nevada, is a great subject and I've painted it several times. This time I decided to include the old cars." --- SFG

Work in progress...

The object of this exercise is to use the unusual vantage point from above and design an interesting painting with the unusual objects in it. This is the initial drawing. I've moved some of the objects around to better positions.

I have begun to lay in the darkest areas, the areas in shadow. I've judged their shape and may or may not keep them as they are.

Notice that I'm painting beyond the lines. Those are only guidelines. By painting adjoining areas beyond the lines, I can control the edges better, whether they are to be hard or soft. Here I'm working on making the mass of the building and trees in the middle of the canvas one big shape rather than individual spots.
Here you see all my dark areas are together and interconnected. In some areas they are a little spotty, but that also helps to move the eye through the painting. I may lighten the darks in the background just to move them further back.

I've now put in some of the lights in the painting. In some cases, I've chosen colors that make things recede, and in others I've just chosen beautiful colors.

Here the canvas is almost covered except the rooftop, which is the lightest area in the painting.

This starts the second session on the painting and I saw that the background and ground plane are too close in value. I scraped and darkened the hills in the background, keeping it gray and cool to keep it in the back. Also, the edge on the shed on the right was a little too hard, so I worked on that. Again, I needed a little more contrast in the sagebrush, as well.

Once all the major color areas were correctly related, I added details such as the power poles and the road sign and accents through the painting.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Garden Riches"

"Garden Riches" - Oil - 6" x 8" - $195

"Inspired by the work of the early California impressionists, I painted my own version of a rich garden scene bathed in the light of the California sun." --- SFG

Monday, October 06, 2008

"California Summer Fields"

"California Summer Fields" - Oil - 6" x 8" - SOLD

"This is a fine little work, a gem. The warm summer grasses contrast with the cool, greyed eucalyptus trees and make California the unique and beautiful place it is." --- SFG

Work in progress...

The purpose of this demonstration is to show that the steps for doing a painting are the same, whether the painting is large or very small. This canvas is 6" x 8". In the drawing stage, you can see how I've worked out a composition. I've paid attention to the perspective and vanishing point and have used the high horizon line.

I am starting with a # 8 brush for this small canvas. Normally, I start with at least a # 12. I have blocked in eucalyptus trees. I will be aiming for that blue-green color they are known for. I'm using a somewhat dark mass in the background, that I may make into mountains when the painting is further along. The dark mass in the front is for balance. Notice how I am using an asymmetrical balance with several trees on the left and one on the right in addition to a large dark mass on the left (shrubbery) and less of it on the right. The lighter foreground area serves to lead the eye to the middle ground and balances the darks on the foreground right.

Here I've laid in that familiar golden grass for which California is called the "golden state." When I lived in green, green, green Louisiana, I thought "golden state" referred to the gold rush, but the name actually comes from these summer grasses. Also, it seemed odd to me, at first, that the grass is green in the winter and not in the summer. However, I've come to love these reversed seasons.

With the canvas fully covered, I will work to correct and refine the relationships of the colors. For instance, now that I've laid in the middle ground, I think that I will cool down and lighten the darks at the horizon line so that it stays back, in its proper plane.

Here I've worked to hit the correct color and value relationships. Notice the changes compared to the previous photo (these two photos are both too yellow. I don't know why my camera did that, but the battery was low.) I've also redesigned the patchwork fields for balance in the middle ground.

Here's a nice little image with clean color because I've used enough paint in each area. I noticed as I painted that I used very little medium. (I use only paint thinner when I need a medium. Modern paints have enough oil to bind securely.) Another factor contributing to its success are the simple shapes I created.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"The Right Path"

"The Right Path" - Oil - 9" x 12" - SOLD
"This winding path through the grasses and shrubs at Cherokee Cemetery near Chico, California, led my eye to the storage shed, not a very glamorous subject except for its surroundings. The springtime blooms assert the promise of new life." --- SFG

Work in progress...

This is my reference photograph taken on a beautiful spring day in the old Cherokee, California, cemetery. Purpose of the demonstration is to show how a busy subject must be simplified. Just as I would when painting on location, I squint to see the masses.

After I'd completed the drawing, I started laying in the dark shapes. You can see how I cropped the left hand edge of the photo. This moved the small building to as better location as a focal point.

Here you can see how I've connected the areas of similar value. This is an important technique that succeeds in simplifying this subject that could too easily be broken into so many small areas that the forms would be destroyed. If I painted each small value change at this stage, I would lose the relationship of the shapes and confuse the viewer.
I've still got big simple shapes in this flat design. The edges do more to define the objects than any detail.
Here's the canvas completely covered, including the sky. I've held onto the connected shapes, even extending them all the way across the canvas. Notice the light area for the spirea that stretches all the way across, even though it's very soft and vague on the right hand side.
The last photo shows the painting with the signature in place. The painting went really quickly because I started with the big, simple shapes and controlled the edges as I went. I darkened the tree to divide the sky space in an interesting way. Once all the shapes were well established, I could pay attention to variety in my brush strokes and colors. These were laid on top and add interest for the viewer.