Friday, December 14, 2012

Sargent in Phoenix

I went to the Phoenix Art Museum on Wednesday to take some pictures of a John Singer Sargent portrait.

A story is told of a journalist who made arrangements to come and observe Sargent paint. The journalist came and sat to watch what he thought would be a flurry of flailing brushes and paint. Instead, Sargent would look carefully, mix up a color on his brush, raise it to the canvas and hold it there for a few moments without making the stroke. He would do this a few times and then finally lay on a beautiful stroke. The journalist thought Sargent was teasing him, until he realized: that's how careful Sargent was to get the right color, value and intensity in each stroke. That's what I like in this painting, the beautiful transitions of tone that portray the light falling over the form-without obscuring the brush strokes! No smoothing out. Each stroke is perfectly modulated in it's value and hue creating the beauty of form plus the beauty of one stroke of color against another stroke of color. 

Jean-Leon Gerome. When I was in college, he was held in derision as a promulgator of the stiff academic tradition of the French Academy which opposed the Impressionists. Regardless of what one thinks now, this painting shows tremendous skill in composition, values and story telling.

Finally, a painting by Walter Ufer, one of the early Taos Artists. Ufer's paintings intrigue me because of the luminosity in the form shadows. He puts so much reflected light into them that they often become as light in value as some of the areas that are illuminated by the initial light source. That is usually considered a bad thing but he pulls it of by controlling all the other values and changes of hue. As a result, there is an interplay of figure/ground that doesn't often happen in figurative/realist work. The B/W version below makes this even more apparent. Notice the masterful arrangement of values. In some areas, the figures are lighter than the surrounding shapes, darker in others and same value in still others. (James Gurney calls this the Windmill Principle and gives a good explanation.}

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Evolution of a painting

Back in the early 80's I went back to my hometown of LA and spent a few days walking around downtown shooting slides (how I miss Kodachrome). In those days, many of the wonderful old theaters were still in fairly good condition. Among others, I shot this image of the Globe.

For years it sat in a stack of slides always beckoning to be painted. I finally listened and a few years ago did this little study.

Finally, a couple years later, I began a full size painting. Here are some sequential pictures of the process. 

Things were going along fine until I decided the marquee needed to be larger.

Later, I felt the letters spelling GLOBE  were too tall.

Making changes like these can sometimes cause real problems, on the other hand, they often add a richness to a painting that doesn't happen when every stroke seems to be just right. I felt this one turned out pretty well.

Here is a link to see how the Globe has faired in recent years.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Process in Egypt

Because this project is in preliminary stages, I can't say too much about it. It is for a children's audience and is set in Egypt. Here are a couple preliminary studies. I often find studies like these to be more interesting than the finish, both with mine and other artist's work. The color sketch is done in gouache with pastel. The original is about 6"x 8". It is painted very broadly with no detail, just to get a color idea figured out. The black and white is graphite at 11"x 14". I should be posting the finish sometime next week.

Here is some of the reference I shot.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sun & Rain

I went out painting one morning and all of a sudden it became overcast. I usually like the sunlight to give me form and good light and shadow, but I decided to carry on. I set up and painted an old church in Mesa. Actually, 2 churches. Part of what attracted me was the relationship between the 2 steeples.

It started to rain so it became a rather quick painting. Even so, in the short time I painted, I became intrigued with painting the subtle changes of temperature and hue within the different shapes. Changes in hue and intensity while keeping the same value is always a beautiful thing.

But then I came back later in the week and set up on a beautiful crisp morning. Kind of a Monet state of mind.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Santa Monica Pier

About 25 years ago, I took a trip back to my hometown on the west side of LA and took a bunch of pictures. I pulled them out awhile ago and have been doing some studies and sketches. Here are two that I've done of the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier.

This is the carousel that was used in the Redford/Newman movie, “The Sting”.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Scottsdale Paint Out

As mentioned, last Saturday I participated in the first annual Scottsdale Paint Out. Turned out to be a beautiful day and a lot of fun. My painting had quite a few bidders on it. Unfortunately, I neglected to get a picture of it before I gave it to the buyer.
(photo courtesy of Julia Patterson)

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I had to go in to AiPX the other day. Rather than drive, I rode the light rail so I could draw. Here are some of the results. It is fascinating how much more you see of people and things when you are drawing. I was only able to record a fraction of what I saw. I’m reminded of the Delacroix quote, “Any artist who cannot sketch a man falling from a fourth story window before he hits the ground is not worth his salt as an artist.” Drawing people in public demonstrates the truth of that statement, People move so much that if you don’t get it down fast, you probably won’t get it. Unless their sleeping. That’s my crutch. I do find that doing these drawings forces me to look faster, more completely and develop my visual memory.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2 Little Paintings

This Saturday I will be participating in Fall for the Arts, an arts festival in Scottsdale. I will be painting out on Main Street (it will be blocked off from traffic) with a number of other artists. Then, in the evening, I will be doing a demo at the Scottsdale Artist School for the Beaux Arts celebration. Since I don't want to mess up, I decided to try a couple dry runs.

I will be doing something like this for the Fall for the Arts. (I scouted out the site on Main Street but couldn't find anything that inspired me) so I decided to do a painting of an old restaurant we used to go to when I was a kid in LA called Philippe's. Go there sometime and get a double dip pork french dip sandwich. Be careful of their mustard, it's very good but real hot.

I added the old car because this place always reminds me of the forties.
People from my painting class will recognize this; a preliminary study done in 4 values.

For the Beaux Arts, I'm going to do a still life along this line. It will be done from life.

So, if you get a chance, come by and see me painting this Saturday out on Main Street along with quite a few other artists. We'll be painting from 10 to 12 after which the paintings will be auctioned off.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lost In Toledo

A few years ago, on a trip to Spain, my wife and I stayed in Toledo one night. After arriving there my wife was tired and took a little nap, I went out and explored the town. I found the view of El Greco’s painting along with a thousand other remarkable views of toledo. Dusk came and I thought I had better get back to the hotel. After 20 minutes of walking I started recognizing streets that i knew were on the opposite end of town from the hotel. I was completely turned around and lost. I thought, “what a joy, to be lost in the streets of Toledo!”

Here is a gouache study I did based on that episode.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween

Walking through Safeway yesterday, I saw some caramel apples. The rich brown glossy surface cried out for a painting. Here is what resulted along with some preliminary stages. The great thing about painting stuff like this is you get to eat it when you're done.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New blog, first post!

"To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Every cubic inch of space is a miracle." Walt Whitman

Finding that miracle is why I paint, no matter if it's a figure, a landscape or an illustration for a children's book. My intention for this blog is to share my journey, both present and over the past 30 years as I have sought to observe my world and translate my perceptions into pictures. It covers a range of experiences from illustrating movie posters and children's books to painting en plein aire in the hill towns of Europe. Right now it's a little scattered in it's format; we'll see what evolves. To begin, I will be posting Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm interested to see where this takes us.

An illustration for a proposed children's book called Bounce

A painting from a trip to Spain