Friday, March 28, 2008

"Trees Along the River" - pre mixed palette

Here is another pre mixed palette and painting that I did this week.
I really liked the scene for its feeling of tranquility. I pushed the painting past the initial block in stage so I could layer the color a bit.
Barb Pask asked me to include a reference photo with one of these posts, so I added one at the bottom. I moved the composition around just a little.

I don't have a set number of colors that I mix up, although for the class I ask everyone to mix at least between 7 and 11 different colors. Sometimes you can get away with less. In this one I have more.
I'll often pick a color and mix it, then push part of that pile a little toward some other colors, say bluer or greener etc...but keep them in the same value. Then paint those three or four colors into the same mass to add some variety. The better you get at looking and seeing color, the better you will get at making those subtle mixes.
One of the main things that this exercise does is get you looking, seeing and learning to mix. You learn to compare colors on your palette and push them a little one way or another or dull them down a bit.

In the morning I am going out painting with a friend. I will take some palette photos and try to come back with something worth showing and talking about.

"Trees Along the River", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
$500. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

Thursday, March 27, 2008

pre mixing color - "The Sower"

"It is beautifully simple, painting - all we have to do is get the color notes in their proper relation." Charles Hawthorne

I am working on several posts based on the idea of pre mixing color on the palette before painting. There is so much to talk about here that I feel the best way to go about it is to do several posts. I don't want everyone to get bored, and I don't want to overload a blog post with too many ideas.
I'll try and not repeat myself too much. If you have not read my previous post on pre mixing color, it is here.

On this one I worked from a photo, mixing colors for about twenty minutes. I started by mixing my lightest shadow color, which is the woman's sweater in shadow. I compared the values of all of the other colors to that.
Then I blocked in the main masses of the painting for about thirty minutes without mixing any new colors.
After that, I began breaking those main masses up into smaller shapes for another ten or fifteen minutes. Mostly in the background trees. I realized that I was going beyond the purpose of this post so I stopped.
Photos below - (1) palette, (2) after 30 min., (3) after 10-15 min. more.

"The Sower", 10" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
Private Collection

I find that key issues that many students in my classes face are seeing color and value, mixing accurate color, working too slowly to catch the rapidly changing light, and painting the details before the main masses are blocked in accurately. I wanted to find a way to focus on these issues.
It is all about getting the right color, making it the right shape, and putting it in the right spot.

I would like to add a few quotes from "Hawthorne on Painting". If you don't have this book, get it. It is only like six bucks. I have read it at least twenty times. Each time I pick up on something new, something that helps me with where I am at the moment.

"The mechanics of putting one spot of color next to another - the fundamental thing."

"Remember, no amount of good drawing will pull you out if your colors are not true, get them true and you will be surprised how little else you will need."

"Do studies, not pictures. Know when you are licked - start another. Be alive, stop when your interest is lost....... It is so hard and long before a student comes to the realization that these few large simple spots in right relations are the most important things in the study of painting. They are the fundamentals of all painting."

"A mass either stays within the lights or it falls into the range of the darks, and by half squinting the eyes you can tell to which it belongs. Remember, the eye takes in all your big lights against all your big darks."

I'll stop there for now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Drying Bricks and Kiln"

I did this little plein air two weeks ago. It is not the prettiest scene in San Miguel, but I think that it has a lot of character. The raw bricks are laid out in the sun to dry before they are put in this kiln to be fired.

"Drying Bricks and Kiln", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
Private Collection

My setup, and the scene at the brick maker's.

All of these colors were pre mixed on my palette before I started the painting. I did not take a picture until I had cleaned off the palette to pack up.
There has been a lot of interest in pre mixing of colors. Thanks to everyone who has commented or emailed me about this.
I am working on a few posts, but they take a while to pull together. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Things don't always go smoothly" Or, "An attempt at a save"

Sometimes unexpected things happen when you are out painting. I had a string of curve balls thrown at me during the workshop. On the first day I broke my palette knife while mixing. Never had that happen before. It was my favorite knife that I had had for more than 25 years :(
I had another as back up in my paint box in case I lost one, but I never thought that I could BREAK one.
I also broke a brush handle while painting. I had never done that either.
On Wednesday I gave a jump start to someone with my car and when we went to go home mine would not start. I was able to find someone to jump us at least.
And so on.
The big bummer was when my open box m blew over while I had stepped away from a painting in progress to check on the students.


I was disappointed about the painting, but hey, you just have to roll with the punches.
I realized a few days later that the pochade box had split. Fixed that with some wood glue.

I had a pretty good start in the fifteen minutes or so of painting that I did get in, so it was worth trying to save this one in the studio.

A few of you asked to see a picture of a pre mixed palette along with a painting. Thanks for the request, I love hearing what you want to see.
I was thinking more of my class than the blog last week so I don't have many shots of the pre mixed palette to show you. Here is one, and I have one other that I will work into another post.
I will go out painting next week and I'll be sure to get a few photos of the pre mixed palette for you.

I sketched the main lines and masses of my design on the linen board and then began mixing up the main colors.

This is the palette with most of the block in colors mixed.

What the painting looked like after I wiped the dirt off. I wiped the upper third while wet because there was just too much dirt to leave much of the paint. Then I rubbed the rest of the dirt off after the paint had dried. It is usually best to wait until the painting has dried before trying to get off any dirt that has blown onto a wet painting.

"Trees and Fields", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
Private Collection

This was finished in the studio yesterday. I would have preferred to finish it on site, but after if blew over, I could not continue painting on it. I had roughed in a horse that I decided to paint out. I'll have to save that idea for another painting. It was drawing too much attention, and I felt locked into that lower left corner. I was more interested with the fields and trees leading into the distance.

Viernes Santo- Good Friday

Since it is Good Friday, Viernes Santo here in Mexico, I wanted to share these two paintings that I did my first year living in Mexico. That was 1990.
Here is my confession. I do not know what size they are or the titles that I gave them. I am bad at keeping records of that sort, but I was even worse back then. Maybe it seemed presumptuous to me to think that it would matter. Maybe I was just lazy. They are probably about 24"x30" give or take a little. Oil on canvas. These are scanned from fairly bad snap shots.

On Viernes Santo there are Via Crucis (Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross) all over Mexico. I was living in Atotonilco, and this was the first time that I ever saw anything quite like this. They reenact the Stations of the Cross with local folks playing the roles. Everyone turns out to watch. They end up with the crucifixion in front of the church.

I liked the fact that the guy in the foreground had his crown of thorns over a wool cap.

I have a few other paintings or the Via Crucis, but I am was so bad about photographing my art and keeping records, that I could not find images.

Here are a few more photos of the procession. These are from 1990 in Atotonilco.
The views from above were taken from the roof where I was living at the time. Then I went down into the crowd. There are a few others taken by a friend of mine, Phil, who was visiting at the time.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More stuff from the workshop last week

"Jane and Elizabeth painting the three stacks and fields."

Everyone in the group was really into a good rhythm by Thursday. To make the most of our time, I began setting up with them to paint, instead of doing a demo while everyone watched and then painted. They still got to watch my process, and listen to me talk, but we got more done. Every fifteen or twenty minutes I would make the rounds and check out everyone's progress.
We painted in Atotonilco in the morning and had lunch there. By the afternoon it was getting pretty windy and hot, so we decided to move on to a greener spot. That is one benefit to working with a small group. We were very mobile.
We headed to a place that I really love to paint. I don't like to bring large painting groups there, but since there were just four of us it was just right.

We had a steady head wind here, but the view made up for it. You can see that we were all pretty close together, so I could paint and talk at the same time. I usually do that anyway, but this time I had someone to listen :)

"The four easels grouped close together."

All of the colors and values in a painting are relative to the other colors around them. One of the main things that I teach in my workshops, is the pre mixing of colors on the palette first, before any painting is done. Mixing colors like this has many advantages.
First I decide on my composition and lightly lay in a few lines of vine charcoal on my canvas. As I mix my colors, I have time to think about my design. If I could have made a better choice, there is still time to adjust when I begin to lay down the paint.
I usually pre mix five to seven shadow family colors and five to seven light family colors, or more, depending on the scene. I'll chose the darkest shadow color/value and the lightest light. Also the lightest shadow color. No light color should be darker than this. I'll mix colors to represent the main masses. Sometimes I will break those down into subtle color changes of the same value, or I may wait and do that later in the painting stage. I go back and forth between my mixed piles, adjusting and comparing. What does one color look like COMPARED to the others?
It is almost like having a little painting on the palette. I get to see how the colors that I chose relate to each other.
Once I have the majority of color choices mixed and adjusted for hue, value and chroma (or saturation) I can begin to paint rapidly. There is only a limited amount of time when painting the changing light, so with a lot of my mixing and left side of the brain stuff out of the way, I am free to dive in with the right side of my brain and just paint.
I will discuss pre mixing some more in upcoming posts.

I do not have just one method for how I start the painting part once I have my color piles. Sometimes I use a toned canvas. Other times I prefer the white color of the oil primed linen. Sometimes I block in big value masses first then break those up into smaller bits. Other times I'll paint the lines of a more complex scene with a mid value gray or even sienna type color and then go from there. Once in a while I'll start from my center of interest and work my way out. I think an artist should have many tricks in their bag to chose from. It is much more exciting to go with your emotions of the scene and vary how you approach the painting rather than just being a slave to a set formula.

Below is my painting from Thursday afternoon.

"Three Stacks, Afternoon", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
Private Collection

We went back to the same location on Friday morning. Three of us decided to paint the same scene again, this time with morning light from the left. I like painting in series like this, with different light effects, so I was glad that they were up for it. I zoomed in my composition a bit on the three stacks of corn stalks, and eliminated the sky and the plowed field in the foreground.

below is one of my paintings from Friday morning.

"Three Stacks, Morning", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
Private Collection

The farmers don't like you going out in their fields when they have crops in or have just plowed, so we chose a broad view. I think that it was easier to simplify and see the big masses and aerial perspective better from here anyway. We were elevated just a bit above the field. I have always loved how Van Gogh would chose a slightly elevated view of fields to catch the patterns like this.

I pushed everyone to keep working fast, and they were good sports about it. I had them work for about an hour and a half on the first piece Friday, and then we did a "sprint" of about 45 minutes, or less, for the last painting of the class.
After a late lunch, we put all of the paintings from the week up in my gallery and talked about them. A lot of the pieces had been quickly tucked away as we kept moving on to new paintings, so it was nice to be able to see them all together and share thoughts and ideas.

"Scott hard at work."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Plein Air Workshop - Demo Painting

"La Capillita", 8" x 10" oil on board, 2008
$720. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

This is one of the demo paintings from my five day plein air landscape painting workshop last week. The week went really well. The group was small and everyone put in a lot of effort. I would say that the group as a whole was the best that I have worked with yet. There were no whiners or slackers, and they eagerly tackled each of the exercises that I put out for them.
I will write more about the class and post more photos soon. For now, here is a quick one hour sketch that I did using a neutral toned smooth board. The tone related well to the scene, and I left a lot of it showing through in the finished painting.
Below is the view with my painting almost finished.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Puertas (Doors)

There are a lot of really great doors here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This is just the tip of the iceburg. Some of my favorites.
Below is a list of links to posts by other bloggers that are doing door posts today.
I look forward to visiting them and seeing what they have to share. Maybe it will be photos of doors, maybe art, maybe a poem. Who knows, but it will be fun to look. There are over forty bloggers participating. I count at least ten countries. I may have missed a few on this list as I have been very busy this week with my painting workshop. If I have left off your name, I am sorry. There may be a few names listed on"The House in Marrakesh"that are not listed here.
Thanks to everyone for sharing Doors, and thanks for looking.

This is one of my favorites. The photo is from my first trip to San Miguel in 1985 with RISD. This was the front door at a glass factory. It is now a very large business and this door is gone. I love the color, shape of the door, and that white hand print.

This door is probably the most photographed door in town. I left the image large. Click on it and you can scroll around to see the details.

There are lots of old doors like this all over town.

This door is on a large antique shop near our house.

Here is a door and a half. I wonder who goes in the little door.

Another beautiful old door near my gallery.

This guy fixes locks and electric windows in doors.
Nice sign.
You can tell what he does even if you can't read Spanish.

Another nice old door with character.

These look more Moroccan than Mexican to me. These are just off the main square.

Thanks for looking. Please visit some of these other bloggers that are joining in on this group post of Doors of the World.

Elizabeth Wix, "The House in Marrakesh", Marrakesh, Morroco

Frank Gardner, "My Paint Box", San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Ambera Wellmann, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Constance, "Rochambeau"

Jennifer Thermes, "Art-Words-Life" - Connecticut , USA

Joanne Giesbrecht,"Thistledown Arts", Alberta, Canada

Jack Riddle, Portland, Maine, USA

Christine Mercer-Vernon, "An Artist's Log", Pennsylvania, USA

Faye Christian Phillips , Kentucky, USA

Britt-Arnhild, Norway

Kate and Roger "The Skophammers", Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Terry Rafferty, USA

Barbara,"Ramblings from an English Garden", London, United Kingdom

Pam Aries,"Art and Soul", Charleston, S.C. ,USA

Mary Sheehan Winn," Just Painting", Florida, USA

"Some Pink Flowers", St. Augustine, Florida, USA

Merisi,"Merisi's Vienna for Beginners", Austria

Paz, "Paz's New York Minute", New York

"Down Under Dale", Australia

The Aesthete, "Aesthete's Lament", USA

Mari/ Kameravena, Finland

Willow from "Willow's Cottage", California, USA

Ari, "Typo Blog", Finland

Lea,"Tales from the Labyrinth",USA

Stephanie, "Rodrigvitzstyle"

Leslie,"Snips and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tales", Pennsylvania, USA

Karen Cole,"Artsortments", Pennsylvania, USA

Barrie, San Diego, California, USA

Sherry/Cherie, Toronto, Canada

Claudia Schmid, London, United Kingdom

Sue, "The Magic Armchair Traveller", Congresbury, Bristol, United Kingdom

Gemma Wiseman, "Greyscaale Territory", Australia

Neulekirppu, Finland

Laura Fortune, "Amongst The Oaks",California, USA

Sara Lorayne, "Much Ado About Something", California, USA

Melanie,"Little cabinet of curiosities", Aubagne, Provence, France

Mari, Finland

Julie, "Virtual Voyage", United Kingdom

"Pigtown-Design", Baltimore , Maryland, USA

"Pret a Voyager", Baltimore , Maryland, USA

Julia Rose, "Verdigris Rose"

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Last in Line" 24 x 30

"Last in Line", 24" x 30" oil on canvas, 2008
Private Collection

This is the larger version of "Last in Line" 14 x 18, that I posted in November. I have had this finished for a while but I had not posted it.
I will not be able to post many new paintings this week. Most of my energy will be going into teaching my plein air workshop here in San Miguel. I went out painting yesterday and the weather was great. I'll post what I came up with at a later date. We should have sunny skies in the high 80's all week. Great painting weather.

Detail "Last in Line"

links for Doors of the World post

This Wednesday, March 12th, are the blogger posts about DOORS.
I have moved this list and any additions to the
post on Puertas/ Doors.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


There is something intriguing about doors. Doors are all over the world. Doors lead somewhere. They keep things in, they keep things out. Doors have histories, stories, mystery. Let's share some.

An invitation:
I would like to invite anyone who would like to join with me and Elizabeth, from "The House in Marrakesh", in doing a blog post about doors.
It will be fun, and interesting, if lots of us posted photos, paintings, drawings, poems etc. about doors. Your choice. It just has to be about doors.
We will all be posting next Wednesday 12th.
Join in.

So far bloggers from Morocco, Norway, USA, Mexico, Finland and a few other countries will be posting.

Here's the deal.
(A). make your intention to join us known to me, or Elizabeth, through a comment posted here or on " The House in Marrakesh" blog, or send one of us an email. That way we can keep track of who is going to be posting.
(B). Get your post together and ready and post it on your blog on Wednesday the 12th. It has to really be something about Doors.
(C). Everyone should include in their post, links to all of those participating, so we can all share our posts. Don't just post the list, it is a pain to have to copy and paste all of the names to roll through them all. Let us know by say, Monday? so we can get the list to everyone else.
(D). If you have a suggestion, go ahead and make it. This is a group thing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"Atotonilco Evening"

"Atotonilco Evening", 14" x 11" Oil on Linen, 2008
Private Collection

I was out in Atotonilco Sunday and realized that they are going to be giving this church a face lift. There are scaffolds along the front and up at the dome that I edited out.
I like it just the way it is now, old, but nobody asked me.
I am going to have to get some more reference shots while I can and maybe I'll get a chance to paint on location one or two more times before it is all plastered up and looks like a cake. They have been doing this to all the churches around town in a bid to get World Heritage status or something. I think they had more charm before, but I guess in another 20 or 30 years they will be back to the old look that I like.
This is painted on a neutral gray panel that was a wipe out from a painting that was not cooperating. It was a perfect tone for this one because there was so much gray in the shadow. I really wanted the golden evening light to pop, and the gray helps to make that work.