Monday, October 05, 2009

"Lilacs and Twilight"

"Lilacs and Twilight" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"I'm always attracted to a tranquil scene and this fit the bill perfectly. All was in cool shadow and backlit by the evening sky. The rough condition of the barn synced with the profusion of lilac shrubs left untended. Their chaotic condition added just enough action and texture to draw the eye." --- SFG

My usual line drawing in cadmium red went over a white-washed painting that was unsuccessful. I'm careful to remove any raised paint on the surface of the old painting with a palette knife or sandpaper.

I became so engrossed in painting this one that I forgot to take as many shots as I usually do, but even at this point, you can tell that I've kept mostly simple, flat shapes of color. You can see in the finished painting, how "details" were placed over the early shapes and did not disturb their structure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival"

"San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival" - Oil - 18" x 24" - $1100

"A couple of years ago, I participated in this fast-growing event. The last morning, artists painted in the mission square near the art center. White tree trunks led the eye to a single artist's white umbrella and a vendor's booth which added interest to the festive scene. This is a larger, studio version of the piece painted on site and auctioned later that day." --- SFG

Step by step:

After toning the canvas with my usual cadmium red because I like the way it vibrates with the overlaying colors, I sketched in the scene, paying attention to the division of space and placement. For instance, the shadow area in the foreground takes less than half of the vertical distance creating a pleasing proportion. The larger white trees are just off center since they are the focal point.

Starting with the darkest areas, I designed the shapes of the tree foliage, making sure they are varied and interesting. Always consider both the shape itself and the negative shape it creates, like the sky openings.

I've continued to cover the shadowed area, saving the light shapes to lead the eye around the canvas and create the focal area. Everything in the light will be lighter than any of these values in shadow.

Finally, I'm developing the smaller details and sunlit shapes. Just a little more to go....

I will go back and refine a few areas after letting the painting sit in the studio within sight for a while, but the main work is done. By glancing at it often, I identify the problems and decide how to correct them. It's almost a subconscious process.

Your palette is a keyboard.

What would it be like if a musician were playing an instrument and had to ask, "Where's middle C? Where's middle C?" The music would be almost unrecognizable and definitely off beat.

Art instructors are asked, "What colors are on your palette?" or "How do you arrange your colors on your palette?" It is more important that the artist be able to find a color quickly without interrupting his thought process while painting. To do this, he must be consistent when he arranges his palette.

Some painters put all the cool colors on one side and the warm colors on the other side. Some put white, black, and the earth colors in a separate location from the others, across the top or bottom. Any of these arrangements is fine, but you will find that your painting process is smoother if a given color is always placed in the same location on the palette.

During the painting process, especially the mixing process, you are making many decisions in nanoseconds. As quickly as you can flick the brush, you decide which out-of-the-tube color you need and whether to pick up a large or small dab. Then, you move on to compare the mix with the color area on the subject. When this process hits a speed bump in the form of a search for the right color, you are likely to be stalled and think, "Now what was I mixing?" Such interruptions break the concentration artist and the tempo of paint mixing and application. Both are necessary for unity within the finished work.

Here is my preferred arrangement, which I place on the left side of the palette. (I am right-handed.) With white closest to me and black at the far end, I place the colors in the order of the color wheel including the earth colors where they fit. I vary the colors chosen by the subject matter, the number of tubes I want to carry on location, or by mere whim.

In order, left to right: Daniel Smith Mixed White, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow light, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, burnt sienna, cadmium red, thalo red rose (Grumbacher), alizarin crimson, magenta (Winsor-Newton), ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, thalo turquoise, thalo green, black. (I place a strip of saran under the colors for easier clean up.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Making Your Art Collection Your Own

I hope all of you have the opportunity to visit the Prix de West Show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. If not, go to The stop was part of my multi-city trip and was well worth it.

An added bonus was the McCloy Collection. (Go to This is a private art collection of Bob and Curtice McCloy of Oklahoma. It features the works of such notable artists as Bob Kuhn, Ken Carlson, Tucker Smith, William Acheff and more. The show, “Patrons Without Peer”, coincides with the release of a book by the same title in which Tom Davis documents the substantial collection.

What struck me while enjoying the virtuosity of these masters, was that the work shown told me as much about the collectors as the artists, perhaps more. Their vision and ability to foresee the artistic value of these works was surely based on their own preferences, but excellence was the underlying determinant. To have linked top-ranking painters into one group ties them together as long as the collection is united. What a boon for artist and collector alike. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts and is the creation of the collector.

Anyone who collects art has the opportunity to create a strong collection. The McCloys bought, traded, and sold works over the years, refining their stable of artists and pieces and, ultimately, produced a very noteworthy representation of themselves and of art itself.

Now, seize the day! Work on your collection with all the joy and promise that an artist feels as he steps before the easel.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More New Work in September!

I hope you have been enjoying the summer and have been traveling and painting as much as I have. I've taken a breather (I've been eBaying and, later, blogging for 10 years now) and will have more new work and fresh ideas and comments for you.

Meanwhile, enjoy reading through the postings here. Comments are always welcome. Also, what would you like to see or have me discuss?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Capistrano Arches"

"Capistrano Arches" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $195

"The mission at San Juan Capistrano has always attracted artists and I'm no exception. The light glows under its arches and the brick exposed by breaks in the plaster adds texture and color. When the bougainvillea is blooming, all is set right." --- SFG

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Sierra October"

"Sierra October" - Oil - 16" x 20" - $350

"This beautiful mountain scene is on the east side of the Sierras near Bishop,
California. Skiers may pass it as they travel to Mammoth, California. It was a
little early for skiing, but breathtaking, nonetheless." --- SFG

NOTE TO ARTISTS: I often use cloud shadows to create a workable composition and
lead the eye to the focal point. The S-curve is another common device that
works, but shouldn't be too obvious.

"Mendocino Morning Glow"

"Mendocino Morning Glow" - Oil - 9" x 12" - $300

"Mendocino, that pocket of East Coast architecture and culture transplanted a continent away, enjoys misty mornings and soft light that enhance its romantic mystique. Only the unique water towers and trees shaped by the Pacific wind belie the location."

For the last year or more, I've concentrated on more dramatic atmospheric effects. Since I'm mostly a fair weather plein air painter now, I've had to draw on those years of experience and knowledge of what light and color do. I've found that I pay more attention to composition when I'm 'painting out of my head'. Such an approach was advocated by my best teachers, as long as it was only one of the methods used and direct observation was practiced most often. --- SFG

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Clear Day"

"Clear Day" - Oil - 16" x 20" - $350

"A little artist's license... rearrangement of buildings and trees... made this scene sparkle. I used the reflections in the water to direct me and the pristine day added its flair." --- SFG

As they say, it's more about what you leave out of a painting than what you put in. It's also about where you put it. Rarely is a subject perfectly composed and the artist who is sensitive enough will either eliminate an element that is not working or move it. I used the direction of light on the fronts of these two buildings - one outside the picture plane - to create a reason for the reflections in the water.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"Half Dome, Yosemite"

"Half Dome, Yosemite" - Oil - 24" x 20" - $395

"This famous landmark in Yosemite National Park is familiar to legions who love the out-of-doors. No, I did not stand with my feet freezing in the snow this time, but I've turned a photo record into a credible artwork. Photos are not truthful - colors are inaccurate and shapes are distorted by the camera lens - , so I had to incorporate the storehouse of knowledge I've accumulated in my 35 years of painting." --- SFG

Nothing can replace painting on location to hone one's skills and provide all of the information needed to produce a skillful work. However, almost all fine artists will add refinements to small works or use the plein air sketch to produce larger works in the studio. Surprisingly, for a large work, you need more detail...meaning information..., not less.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

"Cool Day at Clear Creek"

"Cool Day at Clear Creek" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $195

"The Redding, California, area is becoming home to many delightful trails for walking, mountain biking, etc. A new one follows Clear Creek through areas that previously were not easily accessable. This rugged canyon is cut sharply through granite and roars in the springtime. In autumn, when this painting was done, it is still very dramatic and offers gravel beds for spawning salmon." --- SFG

This complicated rock formation had to be broken down into two basic values of light and shadow. Since the sun was so strong coming from the left and the far bank was in deep shadow, it was easy to do so. I had to be careful from then on to keep everything in shadow simplified and within a very close value range. I constructed the painting so that the diagonals countered one another and led the eye to the sunlit boulders and the soft needles of the two small trees. The bright coloration of the foliage at the point of the sunlit bank was the strongest contrast in color and value.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Laundry Day"

"Laundry Day" - Oil - 14" x 18" - $700

"I shared models with other artists on a trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico. This coy model kept a lively expression and was a delight to paint as she and her compatriot pretended to sort and hang laundry. It made for a colorful subject and pleasant work for all of us." --- SFG

NOTE FOR ARTISTS: To compose this work, I used the natural bands of light, dark, and light again. The shadow of the trees, formed the natural dark which set off the sunlit hat and apron of the main figure. Note the location of that figure. She is off center, a bit to the right. The chair on the right helps anchor that edge and balances the larger light and smaller figure on the left. Sunlight is represented by the value contrast and reinforced by warm and cool colors.

Friday, February 06, 2009

"McCloud, First Snow on Shasta"

"McCloud, First Snow on Shasta" - Oil - 8" x 10" - $300

"An unexpected snow storm covered Mt. Shasta in early November and gave a preview of the upcoming glory that visits its slopes yearly. The view is especially breathtaking from the charming town of McCloud. Its just a few minutes off Interstate 5 and well worth a detour." --- SFG

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"November in McCloud"

"November in McCloud" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"A cool autumn day rendered this view of an alley in the charming town of McCloud, California. The glowing light set off this delicate color harmony that enhanced the fall colors. There are countless subjects for painters along the alley way such as old garages, tool sheds, wood sheds or wood piles, varied fencing, trash cans, and a delightful jumble of varied shapes and objects." --- SFG

"Mill and Mountain"

"Mill and Mountain" - Oil - 11" x 14" - $400

"The early 20th century lumber town of McCloud in northern California sits below Mt. Shasta. The picturesque scene here is of the old mill on the east side of town and was bathed in early autumn light. This is another of a series of paintings done in the area in November 2008." --- SFG