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Discovery - Vistas Of Possibility

The Rindge Dam In Malibu Canyon O/L 10x10


I have driven to Malibu through Las Virgenes Road and Malibu Canyon my whole life.  I had never taken the time until recently to stop the car and explore -- to actually see down the sheer canyon walls. 
All this time and I never realized that there was a dam down at the bottom of that steep canyon!

All of this area is part of Malibu Creek State Park, but this area has been closed to hikers because it is difficult terrain and because of the fact that hikers often did stupid things ending up in having to be rescued.  

Much of the area was part of the Reagan Ranch.  Reagan donated the land to the state and it now is part of Malibu Creek State Park.
Apparently the dam was built by Malibu's historic Rindge family to provide agricultural water supply in the 1920s. 
Today's environmentalists are happy the area has been closed because apparently there are steelhead trout who live in the area.  
The State has been pushing to tear down the dam but there are always a variety of issues to consider so it hasn't happened.

Who knew??


Hope you enjoy my version:

"The Rindge Dam in Malibu Canyon"



I was recently reminded about a quote by Winston Churchill:  "The vistas of possibility are only limited by the shortness of life." 

Painting outdoors has allowed me to begin to explore many more of those vistas of possibility.  I think we are often also limited by our own perceptions.  Finding this dam in Malibu Canyon while scouting painting locations is one such example.  Unless we allow ourselves to see beyond what we "think" is in front of us, we never really see.

I love the fact that I have discovered such lovely "new" places in a world I thought I knew. 

Sure, I have also traveled to places I probably would never have gone in the name of plein air painting, but I have also explored more familiar areas and seen great beauty and discovered newness in the familiar.

I'm also learning to look at things in different ways.  David Gallup's teaching encourages us to explore possibilities in a scene... to use our minds to create or enhance or obfuscate in order to make a painting... not just a copy of things. 

This is a most difficult and wonderful journey to be on.  -- and to paraphrase Churchill ... the possibilities are only limited by the length of the "journey".


Happy painting!

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There are Canyons..... And There Are Canyons

Lava Canyon: Early Morning Shadows Along The Colorado O/L 11x14


Our group of painting friends, the PAC6, is fortunate to have another opportunity to share some of the work we created in Canyon de Chelly.  The upcoming show, at Hillside Fine Art Gallery in Claremont, will host an exhibit of smaller works -- some from Canyon de Chelly and some from other canyons in the West.  The show will be called "Canyons of the West" and will hang in February, 2015.

I had several pretty good plein air studies from my trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, but I wanted to create some new work for the show.

Ray Roberts


I painted a Grand Canyon Sunrise ( "Daybreak Over The Grand Canyon" ) and then I began working on the painting you see above which was based on my plein air studies.  You can see "Lava Canyon" and several other paintings from the canyon on the easel.  Also I usually have postcards or printed papers with inspirational paintings around my easel.  I  use my I-Pad with a notan of a photo I took in the canyon and plein air studies -- trying not to copy, but to get inspiration.   What you don't see on the easel are other artworks I used for inspiration such as Ray Roberts' "Vermillion Cliffs" or George Carlson's most recent painting "Witness Of Time" which will be featured in the Master's Of the American West Show.  I've included a photo of my easel with the block in and the two inspirational paintings by two inspirational artists.




George Carlson

Also influencing me greatly right now is the special weekly workshop on design and composition that I am taking from my mentor, David Gallup.   I have studied with David for five or so years now.  He is an amazing teacher -- so knowledgeable and skilled.    He's not the kind of teacher who tells you which colors to use or how to do it like he does it.  He guides and offers suggestions and teaches us about so many amazing artists -- historical and contemporary.   Through his teaching I have learned to see art differently and to pick and choose which inspirations I think will help ME on MY journey.   Last fall he offered a brushwork and color theory workshop which I have been trying very hard to practice and decide which ideas I like and want to use more of.   Now I'm taking this design class and my head is bursting with thoughts of shape and line and calligraphy.  Once again we hear of great examples...  Alfonse Mucha, Hiroshi Yoshida, Dan Pinkham, Stuart Shills and so many of the other "usual suspects".  Wow......... just wow.


As I painted I kept thinking about shapes, pattern, placement,  line (fast - slow - calligraphy), mood, aesthetic, edges, gradations, contrast and then so much of the elements of brushwork and color theory...   It would be so great if someday this became less deliberate and more intuitive.  But perhaps that will never happen.  In any case, I was happy with the painting I ended up with.


"Lava Canyon: Early Morning Shadows Along The Colorado"


And now I'm excited about painting a small piece of a canyon that I think everyone drives past but nobody really sees or even knows much about.   I'll blog about that later.






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Someone Left A Cake Out In The Rain..... (!!!)

Caballero Canyon Shadows..... (Drowned)

A late afternoon walk into the canyon near my house afforded me a chance to paint these delightful shadow patterns.



"MacArthur Park" is a song by Jimmy Webb.  I always wondered what those words I used for the title of this post meant...  now that I had a reason to look it up, I know.  I decided that I will use it in this post.   The song, "MacArthur Park", was a commercially successful song multiple times after it was released, but it used flowery lyrics and metaphors (most famously, love being likened to a cake left out in the rain).

So -- being a California girl -- and rather unaccustomed to rain -- I often put my paintings out on my balcony deck outside my studio to "cook" in the sun.  I totally forgot that I put this plein air piece from my local canyon outside on the balcony.   I am toying with painting a scene from my local canyon and this was one of several I have tried out, but this was not really what I wanted to use for the upcoming show.  I had finally began working in earnest on some canyon pieces from the Grand Canyon and just plum forgot this little plein air study.  As another song lyric tells us, it never rains in California -- NOT!

The drizzling rains of the last few days have let up and I went outside to enjoy a beautiful brilliant sunset from my balcony deck.  I took a couple of photos and turned around and there was my poor, sad plein air painting melting in the rain.   It was painted on a Centurion Linen Painting Panel.  The panel backing was sagging and droopy and the linen was separated and bubbling up from the backing.  Since I had forgotten it outside on the table for two whole rainy days, I doubt that even a more durable RayMar panel would have survived.  Sooooooo   while I loved my canyon shadows, leaving them out in the rain wasn't a good way to show my love!  It's history!  (But I may be able to use some of the patterning for some shadows in a future piece...  who knows.)

I have to say, though, that we surely need this rain.   We need every drizzly drop and I sure hope we get more even though it means I won't be able to get outside to paint as often. 

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Nocturnes and a Sunset In The San Gabriels

Sunset In The San Gabriels 8x8 O/L


Seeing In The Dark
As you may remember, I have lately had a fascination with nocturnes.   However, it is difficult for me to go out to paint at night.  Occasionally I get to go out with a friend but that doesn't happen often.  Also it's difficult to leave the family behind in the evening.  During the day they are all out and about doing their own thing so it's easy for me to get away to paint outside.  Not so in the evening. 


So in order to get a bit of advice and information from an expert as well as to have some companions while painting at night I decided to take a nocturne workshop from Eric Merrell.  Eric's work intrigues me.  It's different in a way that goes beyond subject matter and I really like it.  PLUS he is one of the few artists around who offered a nocturne workshop.


The weekend of the workshop was the weekend the temperature was over 110 during the day.  We met at Eric's house in the late afternoon.   Eric talked about his work and showed us lots of wonderful examples of both his field studies and his studio pieces.  We stayed there at the house reviewing this work while he talked about how he takes notes about his feelings and the mood of the scene.  He showed us studio pieces that were based on his field studies.


He also helped us with our lights.  We attached filters over the lights he had suggested we purchase. 


We drove to the Cobb Estate about sundown.  I was so absolutely surprised to see how many hikers are still out in the fading light.  Amazingly there were hikers on the trail until quite late at night.


Eric took us to an area surrounded by trees, hills and trails.  As light faded, he helped us see the shapes and shadows still there in the night.  The moon is an amazing light that castes beautiful shadows.  It was clear that at night there is quite a range of values.  Color, however, was not as clearly seen.  The filtered lights did help with seeing the colors on the palette.  They didn't help at all with seeing color in the environment. 


It was all quite challenging.  I tried like mad to see color but I couldn't.  Also every time a hiker went by with a headlamp or flashlight, I had to shield my eyes so I could still see the surrounding fields and trees. 


Eric did a demo both nights.   I thought it was interesting that he uses chipboard to do his field studies.  It underscores his feeling that these are studies... not finished paintings.   He talked about color temperatures when doing nocturnes and demonstrated it in his demo. 

I tried using the chipboard each night.  The chipboard really sucks up the paint, but I sort of liked using it.  While painting my own study, I had to fight my inclination to use color that I "knew" rather than color I could see.  Since I really couldn't see color, or temperature most of what I painted was my best guess.


Here are the two studies I did during the workshop -- they are pretty sad.    However, I really enjoyed Eric's workshop and I think his advice will help me with future nocturnal adventures.  I've decided, though that I will use my nocturnal studies as experiential and if there is anything I like about them when I see them in daylight, I may use them to do studio paintings -- but I'd never use them as final products.



The painting you see at the top of the page was started in about a 15 minute window while we were waiting for dark.  We were standing in the field talking about equipment and color temperature and seeing in the dark when I looked up and saw the most magnificent light on the mountains and across the field.  I sat down and put as much down as I could before it all disappeared.  I finished up at home.

Sunset In The San Gabriels



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Where will YOU be this Saturday from 5-7 pm?


I hope you'll be at Segil Gallery in Monrovia, CA for the opening reception of our show this coming Saturday:


Opening Reception:  Saturday, October 11, 2014, 5:00 - 7:00 pm


"Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light"


Golden by Marian Fortunati     Dancing Skies by Marian Fortunati

"Golden"  18x14                                                 "Dancing Skies"  12x16


On Sunday we spent the afternoon hanging the show at Segil Gallery. 
There are six of us and we each did our best to share the spirit of our adventure in Canyon de Chelly with you through our work. 
It is a gorgeous show which does well to honor a very special place in our country.



The PAC6 artists are Linda Brown, Marian Fortunati, Nita Harper, Debra Holladay, Laura Wambsgams and Sharon Weaver.
Each of us has a unique style and outlook and this provides the show with wonderful variety, vision and vitality.


Dawn by Marian Fortunati     Chasing Sunlight by Marian Fortunati

"Dawn"  8x8                             "Chasing Sunlight"   18x24


Sixteen of my paintings will hang in this exhibit. 
The almost eighty paintings in the show will present you with a teaser of the wonders of Canyon de Chelly.


Segil Fine Art Source
110 West Lime Avenue
Monrovia, CA  91016




Gallery Hours:  Tuesday-Saturday 1-6 pm


I hope you will come on Saturday evening to enjoy the show and meet all of the artists.  Please make sure to find me and chat for a while.  I'd love to hear about some of the special places you save in your heart.



If you cannot come to the opening reception to see the show and meet the artists, please plan to spend some time with the paintings during the month the show is hanging.  Perhaps it will help you get your adventure on for a trip of your own to this magical place.


October 11 through November 8, 2014
Tuesday through Saturday 1-6 pm


I'd love to hear your thoughts about the show.


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Peaceful Pride

Peaceful 10x10 O/L


Group Show
I am sitting here on my bed tonight surrounded by the paintings I have been working on for the last several months in anticipation of our group show,

"Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light".


I've purchased the frames and now have all the paintings leaning against the walls as I go through the process of installing the canvases and panels into the frames and wiring the frames so they can be hung.  Aside from the relief I feel at having almost completed 16 paintings for this show, I realize now several other emotions.   Hopefully, I won't sound arrogant or boastful, but darn.... I feel proud of myself!!


I have to say that the women I traveled to Canyon de Chelly  with are amazing people and wonderful artists and I was feeling a bit intimidated.  When I was at the canyon, I was afraid I couldn't paint a thing, but heck, it turned out that I did just fine.   Then when one of the gals was able to arrange a group show for all of our paintings, I was thrilled, but I also almost panicked! 

Goal:  Don't Embarrass Yourself
Initially, my one aim was to paint some studio pieces well enough not to embarrass myself.  I really worked hard to use color and texture and design which is unique, interesting and different from that of my talented colleagues.  Of course, we're all painting the scenes we experienced together from the same canyon, but I was hoping to differentiate myself a bit -- (and not in a bad way). 


We all went together to arrange an ad in Southwest Art Magazine and the editor decided to write a piece about our show.  I was really pleased when we got the "collector" copies of the magazine and I discovered that she had chosen one of my paintings for the editorial!!   (She selected "First Light" which was painted from a small study I called "Dawn".)

Whoo Hooo!  What a thrill!





Right now I am surrounded by my Canyon de Chelly paintings and they make me feel proud. 


And that gives me a sense of peace.

"Peaceful"  is the last painting I created for the show and it's fitting that both the painting and my state of mind are in sync.



If you're anywhere near Monrovia, please consider coming by to see the show!!!


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Mystic Ruins -- "Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light"

Mystic Ruins 14x18 O/C


I wonder how many people realize how much thought and time and work goes into creating a single artwork.  I know I really never did.  It's not always about sitting in front of an easel with a paintbrush in your hand.  There are so many facets to it:

  • You need to go on location to get impressions, sketches, small paintings, photos, gather feelings and notes about the place.
  • You need to pour through all of that to decide which sketches, notes, or impressions to use if you're going to create a studio piece.
  • You need to decide on what you want to feeling of the piece to be... the story.
  • You need to decide what size it will be -- what aspect (horizontal or vertical).
  • Will you sketch it out or will you let the final image emerge as you paint? 
  • Will your painting be more about the paint or more about the scene?
  • Will your painting be imaginative??  If so, in what way will you push it?   (pushing color, adding clouds, not including shapes which don't add to the story... )
  • How can your painting escape the mundane... stand out?
  • Are your values right?   Are the colors playful and interesting?  Do your edges help the painting read?  And what does the brushwork say about you?
  • Can you have a painting that is about the scene but still be mysterious, painterly and playful?
  • How will you frame it?   Where will you get the frames?
  • Where will you show the work?
  • How will you market or advertise the work?

Seriously, those of you that are painters know these things, so I'm sure you could add many, many more thoughts to it.  Actually I'd love it if you'd add some of the things I've left off.


I've been working hard to get paintings ready for our upcoming show, "Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light" which will open on October 11th at Segil Art Source Gallery in Monrovia.  It is a culmination of the work of the six artists called the PAC6 Painters who traveled to Canyon de Chelly to paint last April.  We all have different styles and visions and we know it will be a great show.  I would love it if you would come!


Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light
October 11-November 8 2014
Segil Art Source, Monrovia, CA


"Mystic Ruins" is one of 14 or 15 pieces I have painted for the show.  I wanted to include at least one painting depicting the ancient Anasazi ruins which still remain in the canyon.  We were able to see them from the canyon edge as well as closer up when we rode into the canyon.  The Navajo, on whose reservation the canyon sits, are proud of their heritage and our guide, Irene, told many stories about the People (The Dine') who lived and struggled to survive in these lands.


If you are in the area, please put this show on your calendar.  I'd love to meet you and share all of our work.

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Malibu Moonrise (Working On The Night Moves)

Malibu Moonrise 9x12 O/L

Diane Nelson-Gold
and I headed out to paint the August Super Moon as it rose over the coast.  We headed up over the Santa Monica Mountains, but as we neared the coast all we could see was a thick blanket of fog.  So we decided to paint the moonrise over the Malibu hills off of Mulholland Highway.  We got there while it was still light and weren't really sure where the moon would rise. 


It was sure beautiful when it began to peak out over the top of the mountain!

I got my block in and then realized I was standing on an ant hill.  As I slapped my legs and stomped my feet, Diane came over to help and what did she see?  --a scorpion at my feet!   It hadn't bitten me, but it certainly was worse for wear after the fright it gave us.


Such is the life a a plein air painter!


I've been working on several low light painting...  evening, like this one where the values are very close together.  I haven't been really satisfied with my efforts, but I really do know that the more often I work at it, the more likely it will be that I WILL be satisfied with how it comes out.  Sometimes painting is just a struggle.  I think that's true especially when you are trying something new or different. 


Sadly, I think I'm a pretty slow learner.   I do, however, seem to keep at it and I'm ever-hopeful that, like the tortoise, I will cross the "finish" line a winner.


Actually I've come to the conclusion that just BEING ON THIS JOURNEY of learning and growing as an artist makes me a winner.


In addition to my Venice nocturne from my last blog post, here are a few other nocturnes/ moon rises  I've attempted lately (and one from a while back that I've always liked).


Malibu Moonrise   9x12     O/L                     July Moonrise   8x10  O/L                  


  Good Night, Moon  12x12  O/L                 San Pedro Evening Sky     9x12     O/L



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Beach Play

Beach Play 10x10 O/L

Another fun day at Mondos Beach.




I have mentioned many times before that I take a regular weekly class from artist, David Gallup.  I always enjoy the critiques, the many challenges he throws our way, his demos and his advice.  I started studying with him years ago during a weekly plein air class which I loved.  However, because of conflicts with my schedule and several changes in his schedule, I moved to his Master class.


One of the other students in the class, Julie, always brings in the most interesting questions complete with photos and research.  Because David had started doing his plein air class at Mondos, I learned about the surfing classes for Tyler.  David's emphasis at Mondos had been to challenge us all to add figures to our work.  This is not an easy thing to do en plein air when people are moving all over -- the interesting ones are always moving.  After several questions from Julie and an ensuing class discussion, it becomes clear that the key element is composition.  Finding a pattern of light and dark that attracts you.  Manipulating the scene, -- the placement -- the values and the color to create a pleasing story.


After my first attempt, I wanted to go back and try it again.  Tyler, however, was off at camp.  But I decided to go anyway and join the group.  It was a gorgeous day... bright and sunny and lovely.  I'm glad I went.  We all had a nice time painting.  Mondos is just past Ventura and so after I packed up, I drove up to Santa Barbara to visit with my daughter and her family.   -- A perfect day, I think!


The plein air sketch had some good bones, but as I said, everyone moved, so after I got home, I used the photo reference to clean up and jazz it up a bit.  (I was initially drawn to the light on the back of the girl's leg and the way it pointed at the light on the forearm of the little girl sitting in the water.  I hadn't even remembered the red of her wet suit or the way the turquoise in the other wet suit blended into the water.  Then when I looked at it at home, I realized that the foam had formed a bit of a heart around the children...  I hadn't consciously noticed that, but I liked it so I kept it.)


Hope you like my little plein air piece,

"Beach Play"

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Surfing At Mondos

Surfing At Mondos 8x8 O/L

Tyler went surfing at Mondos.  He had a blast!
While he surfed, I painted a few of the kids on the beach in front of me.
It was a fun day.




There is an exhibition of some of the body of work of Joaquin Sorolla, who has long been among my favorite artists.  I never learned about him in school.  Frankly my art education was rather dismal.  I learned of Sorolla's work after I began taking classes from John Paul Thornton at Mission Renaissance about 12 years ago.  John Paul taught me the basics -- drawing, values, and oil and helped me learn to love painting and art history.  I owe him an immense debt of gratitude.


If possible, I plan to go several times to see this wonderful exhibit down in San Diego.  Sorolla's work is an inspiration to me.   Joaquin Sorolla's work is masterful in catching light and color and freshness.  It is joyful, enriching and influential.


Children On The Beach   1917



Sorolla and America

Now through August 26, 2014

The story of Sorolla and America begins in 1893, with Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida's prize-winning submission to the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.


                                                                                                             Sewing The Sail  1896



Many of my favorite artists were influenced by Sorolla and I have been too.  Those that immediately come to mind are John Asaro and Dan McCaw's early work.  Here are some examples:


   On the left is "Watchful Eye" by Dan McCaw

   On the right is "Sisters" by John Asaro


Both of these artists have moved on and are exploring somewhat different styles, but it is clear that Sorolla's work tremendously influenced both artists.


And I am hoping all three will influence me.  I know I was thinking of their work as I did my plein air sketch at Mondos.  I was there watching Tyler on his first attempt at surfing.  He did a GREAT job.  I am hoping to go back and paint at the beach again... always with the beautiful work of Sorolla in my mind and heart.


I enjoyed painting Tyler and his friends at the beach a while back.  (It was called "Boys At The Beach" )   Perhaps after I've done several plein air sketches like this one and the other one, I'll try a studio piece with Asaro, McCaw and Sorolla as my muses.

"Surfing At Mondos"

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Picnic Spot - Boquet Creek (Leaving the Publisher's Invitational)

Picnic Spot - Boquet Creek 8x10 O/L


Leaving for home usually invokes a mixed feeling.  I'm always happy to return home, but usually not ready to end an adventure.  On the last day of the Publisher's Invitational, we all joined together as usual for breakfast and to make a sack lunch.  Eric Rhoads had a few announcements and thanked us all for coming.  (Of course he reminded us all of the special deals he was offering on next year's return trip and for the Plein Air Convention in the spring.  Eric is fun.  Eric is a painter.  And, of course, Eric is a salesman!  LOL)


Mary and Lynne and I all packed up, said goodbye to new friends and headed out.  Our plan was to find a great spot to paint where we hadn't been before on the way home.  We stopped at several spots and explored,  but none of them was "just right".    It was almost like Goldilocks testing all of the beds of the three bears.  We did, however, see lots of beautiful scenery.


Finally we arrived at a spot we all agreed was perfect.  It was a beautiful creek which we initially thought was part of the Ausable River.  We later found out it was called Boquet Creek.  It had shade, almost no other people and someplace private we could pee.  After we each saw to our needs, we hauled our painting gear in. (Mary pointed out where the poison ivy was... egad... all week I hadn't known what it looked like!!) 


We set up, started eating and painting and spent a lovely mid-morning painting by the stream.  When we left, we discovered we were almost to the freeway.  It was a good thing we found our perfect spot when we did or we wouldn't have been able to paint!


The drive home was uneventful.  I didn't fly out until the next afternoon, but I spent my morning blogging and looking at my photos.  I finally arrived home late at night.  Home was empty.  My husband had flown to Seattle and Tyler had gone to Oklahoma.  I was home alone.  I picked up my boys a different airports on different days later that week.


In the meantime, I had lots of art club business and painting clean up to catch up on.  I also connected with some of my new painter friends on FB.  It was a good week.


These are the paintings I did on my trip.  Some are pretty good, others -not so much.  But all will remain as good memories of a nice time.


Day 1          Heron Marsh                      From The Bridge At The Vic

Day 2          Cloud Study                        Lower St. Regis Lake

Day 3          Heaven Hills Irises          Above The Flume

Day 4          Monument Falls                Gabriel's

Day 5          Picnic Spot - Boquet Creek

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Heaven Hills Irises -- Almost Wrapped Up - Publisher's Invitational Paint Out - Adirondacks

Heaven Hill Irises 8x6 O/L $200


During the Publisher's Invitational Paint Out in the Adirondacks, NY, we went to many different sites.  One of them was a farm which is available to non-profit groups.  The whole group was invited -- all 100 plus of us.

We drove out there and got out to paint but when I looked around I really didn't see anything which struck my fancy.  It was basically a green stripe of grasses/farmland then a green stripe of trees and a blue stripe of mountains and blue sky.  Since then, of course, I have looked at the photos I took and I realize I could have painted something with a bit more composition than four stripes, but at the time I was unmotivated.

Instead I sat in a wind-protected area on a chair and painted a little picture of some of the beautiful flowers growing near the huge farmhouse.  It was a rather nice, unhurried morning.  Afterwards, we ate lunch then drove on to a new paintings spot -- The Flume.

I didn't paint well at the Flume, (it was worse than a "frisbee") but it was a beautiful spot

and I'd really love to return next year.  I also missed High Falls because Mary Burkhardt, the friend I made while rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and who picked me up in Albany and drove me up to the event was afraid her knees weren't up to the climb down.  Next year I'll go alone and also back to the Flume.  They are "not to be missed" sites and I'm hoping I'll be able to capture them in paint.


On day four we went back to The Flume.  Mary had lost her camera case and was hoping it would still be there.  Eureka!  It was!  We walked around to another side from where we had painted previously.  That is one magnificent waterfall!   We decided to drive back a bit to Monument Falls and that is where we stayed for the morning to paint.  Happily, this painting was a bit more successful than my painting at the Flume.


After lunch we drove to a farm because our other car-mate, Lynn Fleming, wanted to paint a barn.  Of course I fell in love with the field of flowers.  What a breathtaking site.  The wildflowers all over this country are just amazing!  The range from giant lupines to tiny little yellow flowers and bright orange flames with everything in between.

We painted until we were about to drop and then headed back.


That night Eric Rhoads invited the entire group over to his home.  What a beautiful "camp"!!    The camp is unique and huge and totally awesome.  Despite the fact that I'm not really good in big crowds or in trying to be super social, I had a really nice time.  I thank Eric and his wife and his triplets for hosting this fun event designed to help us all get to know one another better. 









All these are various views of the Rhoads "camp".   It was great fun.  Thank you to entire Rhoads family!

Oh...... and to the fabulous muscian/artists who had so much fun jamming and playing wonderful music for all of us.

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Heron Marsh -- Painting in the Publisher's Invitational

Heron Marsh 12x9 O/L

I have to say that Eric Rhoads really does know how to do things right.  There are just over 100 of us painters here and I think we're all having a great time.   We don't all have to do the same thing or go to the same places, but he has arranged for groups who wish to paint together and discover new spots to caravan out to places.

On our first day all of us went to the Visitors Interpretation Center (VIC) which is part of Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks.   We are all staying in the dorms at Paul Smith's College and the food is provided.  We eat in the student union for breakfast and dinner and we pack lunches to take with us wherever we decide to paint.


Yesterday I didn't join any of the groups because I had scheduled a boat trip around all the lakes and waterways up here.  I really enjoyed myself.  The local guide told us stories of the old money and the new money people who own "camps" around here.  It really is amazing how so many people live.


I got some things sorted out then painted a little 6x8 cloud scape in the morning and after the boat trip I went down by St. Regis lake and painted a tree hanging out over the lake near the main student union.  This is a lovely place in the summer.  I imagine it's pretty darn cold in the winter.

I stayed after dinner and listened to a tiny bit of music.  More artists brought instruments.  There are several guitars, 2 banjos a mandolin and another instrument I can't name.  These are very multi-talented people.


Today we went out to a beautiful farm... all of us together.  The home is part of a foundation and it was really beautiful.  After eating lunch out on the lawn, leaning up against the cars and chatting and laughing we headed out to go to the Flume.  The Flume is an amazing cascading waterfall / waterflume which is quite beautiful to see.  Actually all along the river there were fabulous views.  Unfortunately I couldn't paint my way out of a paper bag.   I'll have to see if I can do anything with my reference photos, because that was truly a spot to be memorialized.


While there I received an email from a fellow who had purchased my sycamore painting in an auction.  He had such nice things to say about it, that it totally made my day, so I didn't feel so lousy about not being able to paint well at the Flume.


Tonight there will be a bonfire.  I'm totally whipped so I think I'll skip it... do this post and head for bed.


The painting at the top of this post was painted on the first day at the VIC.  Heron Marsh has very interesting rock formations with trees growing out of the tops of them.  I think they are left from the last glacier ages.   I will probably tweak it a bit more once I get home, but the bones were good, I think.  ( As far as I can tell the painting shown above is from the photo I took while I was in my dorm room.  Actually the panel got messed up a bit in transit, so I did touch it up a bit after I got home.  You can see it in its current state by clicking the link below.)

"Heron Marsh"

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Adirondack Adventure

Mountain Meadow 12x9 O/C

The understatement of the year is that the Adirondacks in upstate New York is nothing like the Southern California area.

When I saw the notice that Eric Rhoads was inviting painters to attend his annual Plein Air Invitational in the Adirondacks I thought it would be a chance to see a new part of our wonderful country and to meet some new painters.  Then I saw that a gal I had met on my Colorado River river rafting / painting trip through the Grand Canyon was going, so I KNEW it was going to be good.  I was looking forward to

hooking up again with Mary Burkhardt.

I packed all my painting gear and hopped on an airplane to Albany.  That's where Mary and her friend, Lynne picked me up.  Mary was driving up from Connecticut.  The trip from Albany to the Adirondacks was lovely and uneventful.  We all chatted and got caught up for the 3 1/2 hour drive.

We arrived in time to check in to Paul Smith College where the painters were being housed.  We have great brand-new dorm rooms.  After a cocktail hour get together, we had dinner then settled in to listen to some of the painters who were absolutely fabulous musicians as well.  Among the entertainers was C.W. Mundy, a painter whose work I have long admired.


 In the photos above and to the side you can see some of the the grounds, the nearby lake, the dining hall and a visiting flock of Canadian geese.


There was a storm during the night and although the morning was overcast, it had mostly stopped raining.  After breakfast many of us carpooled to the Visitors Interpretation Center (VIC Center) and we spread out through out the vast area to find our spot to paint.  Mary and Lynne and I found a spot overlooking Heron Marsh.

We had a lovely time and I was extremely happy to have invested $10 for a lovely black net which went over my hat and covered my whole head.  The black flies, mosquitoes and other such pests were merciless.  We had all doused ourselves in bug repellent as well.

So far I think I survived without being carried off or eaten alive.


After lunch (which we packed during breakfast) most of the other painters went off in two groups to paint in other areas.  Mary and I decided to find another spot at the VIC to paint.  

While exploring, we saw another painter quietly painting this little fawn who stayed there the whole time she painted.  Apparently Mommy deer had left her/him in that spot where she/he obediently waited.   You can see how well the fawn blends in in the photo on the left.

The marshes were filled with all sorts of dead trees and so many interesting areas.  The photo on the left is dotted with wild irises.  It reminded me of a trip I took with my California painting pals up to Pine Mountain one memorable June.    (I've included a painting I did on that trip, since it's too dark to photograph my sketches from today.)

Tomorrow I'm on my own.  I decided to take the 2 hour boat trip which explores the local lakes and the fabulous "camps" of such notables as Vanderbilt and Post.   It's in the middle of the day so I'll paint on campus before and after the trip.   There are many pretty spots all over this campus and the clouds are spectacular so I'm sure I'll find something to thrill me.

In the meantime, I hope you are able to explore a bit and spend time doing what you enjoy!!

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North Rim Overlook

North Rim Overlook 10x10 O/L


I am getting packed and getting my head around my upcoming trip to upstate New York.   I'll be painting with a friend, Mary Burkhardt, whom I met on the ten day painting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.   I'll also be painting with a lot of other artists.  This is the Eric Rhoad's "Publisher's Invitational Paint Out" .... Paint the Adirondacks event.   It's going to be fun and I'm hoping to get lots of brush time in and maybe even come home with some fabulous memories.  Mary was great fun as was her husband, Phil, so I'm looking forward to painting with her again.


While going through my stuff, I realized that I had never finished posting my paintings from the Canyon de Chelly trip that I took with my 5 friends in April.  Gosh, time sure flies!!  We've realized that we like one another a lot and enjoy painting together so we'll be taking many trips together... We're calling ourselves the PAC-6 Painters...  (PAC = Painting Across the Country).


This little sketch was done on the north rim of the canyon.  I should have written the place but I didn't.  (Note to self... at a minimum.. write it on the back of the sketch.)  I THINK it was painted at the edge of the Antelope House Overlook looking northeast up the canyon.  Maybe one of my PAC-6 painter pals will confirm or correct this.  As I remember it was our last afternoon of painting and as happened each afternoon, the wind had come up.


Wind is always annoying for a plein air painter.  It pushes your hand and brush around (thus giving you excuses for marks where they don't belong) and it also pushes pochades and tripods over.  (-Always disastrous)  We all walked around until we found places either on the leeward side of the cliff or behind a rock or a tree which would offer some protection.   Happily, we all were able to finish without disaster.  No one blew off a cliff and no paint boxes went over either.


This painting wasn't quite finished... I guess I couldn't take the wind any longer, so I packed up before it was done.  I blocked in some sky and put in a few highlights before posting it.  But it did bring back some great happy memories.  Canyon de Chelly is a very magical place and I'd love to visit again.  --- Perhaps in the fall when the trees, which were mostly bare on this trip -- just beginning to leaf out -- turn yellow and gold.


In the meantime I'm ready for another painting adventure.   I'll try to be better about writing about it.

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Placerita Sycamore --- Getting Outside Does The Trick

Placerita Sycamore 12x9 O/C SOLD


It was a fine sunny day in Placerita Canyon.  It's always great to go outside to paint with friends.  Sometimes when you're just feeling "blah" a day outside painting will do the trick.


In fact, I'd say just about ANYTIME I'm feeling the blues, a good hike out and about and a time observing nature will turn my mood around.  When Sharon Weaver let me know she'd be painting in Placerita Canyon last week, I asked if I could join her.  Even when my painting isn't going well, just getting outside and listening to the birds --or the waves --or observing nature will lighten my mood.


And Sharon and I can always find something great to talk about.


I love trees, and sycamores are among my favorite kind of trees.  As we hiked into the canyon, I was drawn to the golden grasses surrounding a grove of sycamores.   Sharon sat in the shade, but I decided that if I was going to paint what I wanted, I'd have to stay in the sun.   I pulled out an old panel that I had painted over with white so it was bumpy and uneven... but sometimes that makes it more interesting.  There was a breeze which kept me cool.  However after a couple of hours the wind really picked up and rather than have my palette and paints blown down into those beautiful grasses, I decided to pack it up and join Sharon for a bit of lunch.


Although it's not a masterpiece, I liked my little study of grasses and sycamores.  --- And I definitely enjoyed my day!


Placerita Sycamore

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Sacred Canyon -- Visiting Inner Canyon de Chelly

Sacred Canyon 20x16 O/L


After we had explored both the north rim and the south rim of Canyon de Chelly, we took a guided tour into the canyon.  Visitors to the canyon can only go into the canyon if escorted by Navajo guides.  I'm sure there are many reasons for this, but it does restrict access.  Of course, without these restrictions, many of the fabulous pictographs along the walls and the Anasazi ruins would be at risk.  Additionally, the canyon is the home of Navajo ranchers and farmers so allowing thundering herds of tourists unrestricted access would be fool-hardy.

The Painters (L-R)
Marian Fortunati, Linda Brown, Laura Wambsgans, Nita Harper, Sharon Weaver, Debra Holladay


Bright and early on Monday morning we all met at the Visitor Center.  Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument which is on the Navajo reservation.  It is run jointly by the Parks Service and the Navajo Nation.  We met our guide, Irene, and piled in to a big SUV which held all 6 of us.  Initially when we stopped to explore and take pictures, it was a bit hit and miss, but we eventually settled on a great system where we rotated clockwise one seat each time we got out of the car.  It worked well.  We stopped frequently and we saw lots of beautiful land.

This was one of two tours into the canyon that we had hired.  This was our early morning tour.  We headed up the north side of the canyon and explored Canyon del Muerto.  We learned about the horrible massacres and valiant efforts to save lives that the canyon dwellers have had to withstand.  We saw some beautiful areas and just had a wonderful time seeing and learning and laughing.


One of the beautiful spots in just begged to be painted.  I called my painting:

"Sacred Canyon"


In the afternoon after lunch we headed out to paint again from the rim.  One of the problems we encountered was that in the afternoons, the wind came up.   So we always had to figure out ways to protect ourselves from the gusts, yet still paint.  We did and we all had a grand time.  The study that I did in the afternoon called canyon shadows was intended to capture the pattern of light and shadow on the canyon walls.  It was probably my least successful painting of the trip. 


Canyon Shadows
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White House Overlook -- The first days of our Canyon de Chelly Adventure

White House Overlook 10x10 O/L


In early April I set off with five friends (Laura Wambsgans, Sharon Weaver, Nita Harper, Linda Brown and Debra Holladay).  Actually, I knew three of these friends well, had enjoyed conversing with another and wasn't even FB friends with the fifth.  But by the end of our trip, I feel that we are all great friends having shared a wonderful art adventure together.


I have dreamed of visiting Canyon de Chelly for years and years.  I saw a video made by Karl Dempwolf when he went on a trip to the canyon years ago and have yearned to visit and paint the canyon ever since.  Sharon and I talked about it.  Laura and I talked about it.  But it wasn't until Laura actually got the ball rolling, did the research, set dates, got reservations and got it all rolling that I realized it was going to become reality -- my next exciting painting adventure!


We decided to drive to northeastern Arizona in twos.  It was just easier.  I went with Laura in her snazzy new CRV.  (I wanted to check it out to see if I might like it enough to buy in the future..... It's great!)  We all joined together in Flagstaff and had a great evening together -- sort of set the tone for the whole trip!


The next morning we left heading north east for Chenle' where we would stay.  It is a small town just outside the Canyon.  Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument within the Navajo Nation and very near the four corners area.


After we arrived we decided to scout around so that we could decide where to paint in the coming week.  We drove to the farthest end of Canyon de Chelly where the well-known Spider Rock formation can be seen.  We photographed and explored and had our photo taken.  It was everything we expected.  We kept trying to decide about what time of day might be best to visit each spot.

As we headed back toward Chinle, we stopped at White House Overlook which was a great spot.  There are many ancient ruins which can be seen from the canyon rim.  The ruins were built by the Anasazi.  It was amazing to imagine how these people lived and climbed to these hard to reach cliff dwellings.


During the next stop (Sliding House Overlook), I got too carried away with my exploring and was careless.  I tripped on a rock and went down hard falling flat on my face!  After I realized I was going to live and that I hadn't rolled off the cliff, I began to try to get up very slowly.  I wasn't sure how close I was to the cliff and realized I was bleeding all over the place, so I decided that I'd better get some help before I did something worse.


Laura rescued me.  She helped me back to the car, tried to clean me up and insisted that I visit the hospital.  She was a great nurse. 


Actually the visit to the Navajo hospital was interesting.  It was much like any urgent care facility except for a few questions on the questionnaire I had to have Laura fill out for me.  (I had also broken my camera and my glasses along with my face.)  The most memorable questions:   "What is the color of your house?"   "What is the color of your house's roof?"     (no addresses... the houses were on the reservation --- no typical streets)

Can you see my shiner?



After making sure I didn't have a concussion or other horrible thing, they glued me back together and taped me up.  Aside from a very ugly... I mean really ugly...  swollen black eye.  I was fine.   Happily I had a spare pair of glasses and a second camera.


The next morning we headed to White House Overlook where I painted this little sketch:


"White House Overlook"


Original sketch

Knowing what wonderful artists and people my five friends were, I was a bit hesitant to share my painting, but on the last day of our trip we did a "show" and I think I fit in okay.   Overall, I thought my paintings didn't use the range of values that they should have, so I'm in the process of touching them all up a bit.   Also on this first painting, the original plein air piece included the cliff right in front of me (which was there.)  Upon reflection back at home I decided that I didn't like that element for the composition, so I've painted it out.

Despite the really awful mishap, it was a great beginning to a spectacular adventure!!

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Red Tail View -- Malibu Creek


Return To The Back Side


Okay...  On Tuesday I hiked in to the back side of Malibu Creek Side Park.  (I blogged about that adventure on my last post.)  What I didn't mention was that as I was hiking out, I realized that I wasn't wearing my glasses.  I turned around and hiked back to where I had painted and searched all over but... I didn't have my glasses on...so I really couldn't see well.

Why, you may ask, would I take my glasses off to paint in the first place?  Well, basically there are two reasons:  First, I hate squinting but I really want to capture the values and the large shapes and second, my glasses are the kind that turn dark.  Sometimes I don't care, but sometimes I feel that I get a better handle on values and color without the darkened glasses than I do with them.


So on Friday I went back and hiked back to paint and to see if I could retrieve my glasses.  Happily with my spare pair of glasses on, I had better luck finding the original lost glasses.  Victorious, I continued on the path closer to "the gorge" at Malibu Creek.  I got down pretty close but didn't like the view as well, so I turned back and hiked up about halfway between where I had turned and where I had painted earlier in the week.


Once again, I set up and painted happily away.  I did my value sketch.  I blocked in the scene with 3 values using an umber undertone and then I pulled out the color and began laying it in.  I was pretty happy with this second painting of the back side of Malibu Creek.


"Red Tail View -- Malibu Creek"

In comparing the two paintings, I think the smaller square painting that I did first has a somewhat better composition, so I will use it to create my larger studio painting.


Safety Concerns


I had a wonderful hike in to the back side of Malibu Creek State Park from Mulholland Highway.  My efforts were rewarded by this spectacular view!!  As I sat there painting, I was thrilled to see many red-tailed hawks soaring down below.  I think I will add them to my studio piece.


After my last post, many of the people who read it commented on the dangers of painting alone.  Although I WAS looking out for rattle snakes, I didn't see any.  It never occurred to me that the native cougars are also roaming the mountains....  Happily they didn't find me.  And despite the fact that I had a bit of worry about crazy people on the trail, I never saw anyone at all either day until one lone hiker passed me as I was on my way out on the second day.  I realize that I SHOULD paint in company... but I can't always find someone who can go along and I really do like to paint.  -- So I do.   

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Malibu Creek -- Bird's Eye View

Malibu Creek -- Bird's Eye View 8x8 O/L


Right now I'm in Canyon de Chelly, AZ, painting with five other WONDERFUL artists.  We are having an absolute ball -- seeing sights that are so awe inspiring and painting our hearts out.  I will blog about this soon, but I wanted to catch up a bit with other plein air work I did just before leaving first.


This painting was the result of taking a different route and then exploring a trail I never knew existed.  I wanted to head out to paint outside.  I couldn't make arrangements with friends, but I wanted to go, so I just took off.  I decided I needed to paint something other that the beach so I headed toward Malibu Creek State Park.  Just before I got there, I decided to head west or north on Mulholland Highway.  I knew it would go to Peter Strauss if I didn't see something that caught my eye before.


However, as I rounded a curve, I saw a pull out and I thought I'd check it out.  Once I parked, I realized there was a trail.  I grabbed my gear and off I went.  Up and up and up I hiked.  At first there was the foundation of an old building which overlooked the highway.  Then a trail that went on up and over the hill toward what I assumed was Malibu Creek.  After a bit of a hike I was rewarded with a view of the back side of Malibu Creek.  WHAT A VIEW!!


I found a spot and set out to paint a little 8x8.  I did my value sketch which I decided to call my "prayer" like Dan Pinkham does.  I liked it and then started blocking in my three value umber sketch on the canvas.  Then I put in the color.  I was really happy with this little plein air sketch.  It is kind of different that what I've done lately.   It was an almost perfect day.  I got a great bit of exercise in, I got outside to see wonderful nature in a place I hadn't been before and I had fun painting!   I liked my little painting so much that I've decided to do a larger version in the studio.


I just hope the larger one turns out as much to my liking as the little celebration sketch!!!


Malibu Creek -- Bird's Eye View

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Toss The Plans

(Robert's) Gratitude 9x12 O/L


Sometimes it's best to throw away the plans.

A few weeks back my friend, Diane Nelson-Gold and I got together to go to Santa Paula to paint.  It's a long drive but there was a chance we could find some suitable studies and reference photos for an upcoming exhibit opportunity.  We always have fun together.  I love talking about painting with Diane.  She's fun and social and I get to hear all about what some of my friends are doing -- even though I don't see them.  We also do a lot of talking about art and life. 


I had a list of places to paint that my friend, Laura Wambsgans, and I had gathered from a previous visit.  The California Art Club had thought they would have a paint out up that way, but it never came to pass.  So I took the list of suggested places with me.


Diane, however, let her adventurous spirit take over and headed off-plan once we got into the Santa Paula area -- after all, - she was driving!  I didn't object.  We were enjoying our conversations and we stopped at a bunch of "likely spots" to explore.  We drove through nearby Fillmore and noted that there was a flower festival coming up in April or May.   None of the spots we stopped in to explore, however, really grabbed us until we were heading back toward one of those spots on our original list.


We were driving along one of the ubiquitous roads surrounded by citrus and avocado that wind through the countryside when we spotted a flower farm.  We decided to stop and explore.  While we were exploring the rows of flowers and the many hot tents of flowers, we looked up and saw that a truck was trying to enter the farm  --  AND WE HAD PARKED RIGHT ACROSS THE ENTRANCE!!   OOPS...


Thinking we were going to get yelled at and tossed off of the property by a very angry farmer, we hurried back to the car to move it.  However, the flower grower, who was named Robert, was good-natured and, we found after a lively conversation, loved his farm, his flowers and his life.  He told exuberant stories and shared his grateful feelings about his fields and his life.  He even let us return to the middle of his flower farm to paint... (as long as we promised not to break a leg or something.)


We each spent the rest of the day in heavenly contentment as we painted our paintings and shared our day in the middle of Robert's flower field.


I decided to call this little painting

"Robert's Gratitude"


(And yes, Russell Black, I did do a 3 value sketch before I started blocking it in.   I've been doing that with all of my plein air work over the last few weeks.....  I think the hardest part of doing that isn't really getting the values right, but simplifying the masses so that there aren't too many shapes.)


Both Diane and I feel very thankful for our ability to get outside to see and enjoy the beautiful gifts of nature.  We, also feel gratitude.

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Foggy Day At Elephant Rock


There seems to be so much to do that it doesn't seem like I can get anything done.   I'm working on a few larger pieces and wallowing in frustrated self-doubt.


I have no real reason for it... but it's there.  I imagine we all go through phases like this.


Good things are happening in life.   My daughter had a wonderful healthy baby daughter yesterday.  Everyone is doing well.  The immediate family is doing fine.  Both artwork pieces that I entered into a show in a new venue were accepted..  I have no excuse for the anxious feelings I have.


They are just there. Perhaps I need to do what Robert Genn suggested in his blog a few posts ago and don a wizard's hat to fool myself into believing that I CAN do it.


HOWEVER... when I get out and paint outside.. I can forget my self doubts, anxieties and frustrations.  I can just have fun.  I went out with my friend Diane Nelson-Gold the week before last.  I haven't spent much time with her because our schedules aren't the same so it was good to get together.  We went to a spot she likes.  I am so impressed with how her work is blossoming...  makes me feel like a snail with my progress.  But no matter.  Progress of any kind is welcome.  


We both decided to work on getting the values right.  I tried the value sketch that my blogging friend, Russell Black, keeps telling me to use.  I know it really helps many, many painters, but I have to say..  it just doesn't do anything for me.  I much prefer blocking in the 3 values with umber or another neutral as I've learned to do in David Gallup's class.  The thing I need to do better is stick with my initial plan.  That's pretty much what I did. 


Diane and I both chatted happily away and had a grand time.  The fog came in shortly after we arrived down on the sandy beach at El Matador.  We had seen it from a distance when we first arrived, but by the time we decided to set up it was upon us.  It made the day pleasant but the light was fairly filtered, narrowing the values.


Although I was fairly happy with my plein air piece, it was boring... no interesting color.  I decided to add some color in but to keep the values the same when I worked on it at home.   This is a close in view of the famous Elephant Rock at El Matador State Beach in Malibu California.  (Another view from the opposite side is posted on the right.)


"Foggy Day At Elephant Rock"

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Crystal Clear - Day 3 Matt Smith Workshop


Will I ever "GET" it?
As I have known (and apparently not been able to embed into my brain) since 2007 when I went to Italy to join Scott Burdick's plein air workshop in Cinque Terre, that getting the values of a painting "just right" is THE most important work you can do in any painting.   I keep thinking I'm making progress...  actually I AM making progress....  but getting the relative values right away still eludes me at times.  On our last day following Matt's demo when we had a chance to paint and receive advice, once again, I let "what I know" tell me a value rather than judging the sunlit and shade values as relative lights and darks as I should have.  I continually fall into painting the local color that I "know" rather than what I should be seeing.  Of course, I believe, painting in plein air helps me with this.. when I use photos, I often fall back into old bad habits.


After being reminded once again, I went over my block in and made the little painting work a bit better.

"Crystal Clear"


Matt's final demo

On the last day of our workshop, we had a special treat because Glen and Karen Winters were there from the California Art Club with their cameras.  They were able to project what Matt was doing onto a large screen which made it much easier for all of us to see.


Once again he used a small photo of a scene as his stepping off point.  It was actually a similar scene to one he has in the current Masters Of The American West show at the Autry right now.  Here are some

things Matt talked about as he painted his wonderful demo:

  • Ask yourself - "What do you want the viewer to look at?"  eg.  the mountains or the stream
  • Always establish the horizon line so you can relate vanishing points
  • Establish a series of major shapes first
  • Shadows define the drawing
  • Ask yourself how you can use patterns to move the viewer's eye around the painting
  • Get in there and paint it like you mean it
  • Don't be timid
  • It's okay to start a little dark
  • When you're out there everything out there has one goal.....   (LOL.. to ruin your day).. gnats, heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, etc.
  • During the first stage at least 50% of your paintings will look clumsy
  • If you give your viewer a chance to leave your painting, they'll take it
  • The last 10% of the painting often takes 90% of the time... you're fine tuning
  • Use a mirror to help you re-see your work   ... helps you find errors and problems
  • Work your edges
  • Create planes that add depth to a 2 dimensional panel
  • All abstraction can be found in the natural world
  • Don't put too much finish into your work too quickly    It's all about doing then undoing several times
  • Always emphasize warm shadows and caste shadows
  • The fundamentals are totally important
  • Tries to train himself to see in terms of form not line
  • Use textural passages... determine when and why... they don't make sense if you have thick paint everywhere
  • Light defines texture.. thickest paint is usually around the lightest light or the focal point
  • The foreground is one of the easiest parts of a painting to overwork... You have to define what is there but keep it simple enough that the viewer can move beyond it

Master Artists to influence our work

Another nice treat during the 3 day workshop was hearing about all of the wonderful artists and their work which Matt admires and who he studies to gain insights...   some mentioned were:

  • Victor Higgins, Edgar Payne, Scott Burdick, William Herburt Dunton, Len Chemiel, George Carlson, Bill Anton, Carl Rungus, Eugene Bracht, Zoladz Stanislaw, Scott Christianson, Ralph Mayers (Guide To Artists Materials and Techniques), Sir Alfred Munnings, James Elwood Reynolds, Frederick Judd Waugh, William Frederic Ritschel, Alan Been, Frank Tenney Johnson were those I managed to write down. 
  • When pressed about why there were no women on his lists he named some but said women have families first in their minds... artists are more selfish....     The women he named were Laura Robb, Rose Franzin, Susan Lyon, Jean LeGassick

Matt says that using a large variety of artists as inspiration is wonderful but using only one is derivative and copying.


This reminds me a lot of a book I read recently called "Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative" by Austin Kleon.   I highly recommend it for all creative types.


All in all it was a fabulous workshop... well worth my time.   We all learned from the lectures the demos and the critiques.






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More From The Matt Smith Workshop

Desert Wash 8x10 O/L


After a morning filled with inspiration and stories (see my last blog post) we broke for lunch.  When we all returned, we were enthralled to watch Matt put action to all of his words.  He demoed using a small 4x6 photo reference of a waterfall cascading down a jumble of rocks.  He reminded us that a real artist doesn't copy...   the photo is used as a springboard for the "conversation" with the paint.  In the studio he will use a series of photos and studies and the springboard for studio creations.  He warns us not to be "a slave" to the subject.  We are not painting photographs.  We are creating paintings.


Matt talked about surface quality -- pushing and pulling the paint.  Surface quality of the paint is what we all enjoy seeing up close.  Typically he will use a different brush for each color/value shift, but during the demo he continually emphasized the importance of keeping a clean palette and a clean brush.  He enjoys pushing paint.   He pushes his brush into the paint to load it up and twists as he lays it on lightly for highlights and "calligraphy".   He turns his brush all of the time when he paints.  Sometimes he "scribbles" as he is looking for a design.

  • He softened the edges of cascading water to give the effect of motion.  
  • He asked us to continually ask ourselves, "Does it look right to you?"
  • He said that the only deep dark sky is when we are looking straight up toward the zenith.
  • A photo lies every way it can.
  • You can turn an edge with color.
  • Where 2 values come close together, make them one.
  • Your painting is either about value or it's about color.
  • When Matt does the sky he creates a "velour effect" to give the sky some modulation...  Not one big block of color.
  • A dynamic sense of design has lost and found, light and shadow and lots of interesting brushwork

For his waterfall painting that is in the Autry Masters show right now he used several studies...  one horizontal small, one vertical close in, and one backed out.


On DAY TWO we all painted as Matt came around to make suggestions, show us how and give us tips and more encouragement.  I painted the first painting above which I called "Desert Wash" from a photo Matt had in his files for us to use.  Matt gave me quite a bit of help on this one reminding me that we need to add modifiers to the blue, not to add blue into the modifiers...   sigh.  I have to admit the beautiful color he came up with on the far hills just set it all off beautifully.


Marble Canyon Reflections   9x12 O/C

The second painting I did was done from one of my photos from my Grand Canyon trip.  I once again had difficulties... I tried to paint everything blue.....   Obviously I missed the whole point.  So I began again and tried to get the values right... sunlight shadow... warmer cooler.   Painting is really so much harder than most people realize.   I finally ended up with the second painting of the day, "Marble Canyon Reflections".


On my next blog post I'll describe the last day during which we watched a demo (fabulous) and painted another under Matt's supervision.)


One of these days if I practice often enough, I may "get it".  Until then... at least I'm enjoying the journey.  

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Crescendo --- My Painting and A WONDERFUL MATT SMITH WORKSHOP

Crescendo 12x16 O/C


Origin of my work, Crescendo
As many of you know, I visit Leo Carrillo State Beach to paint outdoors often.  Sometimes I try to paint Leo scenes in the studio.   I always take a lot of photos and this one really caught my eye.  It was taken the same day I painted the plein air piece in the last blog post. 




The wave was just building up and it seemed to be very special so I wanted to paint it.   I started with the building wave and then painted the rocks later.  I was really happy with the water and the waves, but less satisfied with the rocks.


Tall Ship Adventure

However, I didn't have time to figure out what was wrong with the painting.   Over the weekend my husband returned from Italy and we went up to a show opening in Ventura to meet our daughter and her family.  Then on Sunday we went back to Ventura to meet our son and his wife to board one of the tall ships which were in the harbor.  The tall ships were going to have a mock battle.  We all had a great time -- even though it rained during the last part of the battle.  The good news was that after we came ashore and before we went to dinner we were greeted with a beautiful double rainbow... you can't see the second one in this photo, but you could see the whole arch... It was gorgeous.




Matt Smith Workshop

The California Art Club organized a workshop led by talented artist, Matt Smith.  As soon as I heard about it, I jumped on the opportunity.  There were 16 people in the group and I knew 4 of them.    We all felt it was one of the best workshops we could have taken.

Here are my some of my notes from the first day:

  • Always decide what the subject is about before you design a painting
  • Drawing, value, design and color -- most important elements
  • The most important understanding is how natural light works... It is wildly different outside than it is in the studio
  • Photos make our life easy and at the same time they are a nightmare
  • Matt works in the field most often but also feels that studio work is important
  • Warm light sources do NOT have warm shadows
  • References should be the source of conversations  -- they shouldn't "tell" you what and how to paint.
  • Every filter between you and your subject alters your work
  • Color equals:   hue -- value -- intensity --  temperature
  • Even though color is the most emotional element if the following   -drawing, value, design and color , color is the only one that you can do without
  • Drawing
    • There is a big difference between line and form  -- line is 2 dimensional -- proportional     form is 3 dimensional -- perspective
  • You must always be fighting what you "know" with what you see
  • Warm light source - cool shadows
  • Put in cool colors for shadows such as blue and modify them ---  warm up from the blues as needed -- never the other way around
  • There are three light sources outdoors -- direct light, reflected light, reflected blue skylight (flat surfaces looking up)
  • There should be a separation between form shadows and caste shadows
  • Sneak up to subtleties
  • Highlights on clouds in the distance get warmer as they get farther away  -- cloud bodies cool as they recede
  • Clouds that are higher above you are rounder than they are farther away
  • As per Carlson, there are 4 basic values in a landscape:  sky (lightest), ground, incline and upright (darkest)
  • Always paint large to small, dark to light, thin to thick, cool to warm
  • Design
    • Motif = subject   How do you resolve everything around it to resolve the negative shapes
    • Try to keep masses within relationships close
    • STRONG, SIMPLE design
    • You should always be able to describe the painting verbally
    • Format:  vertical, horizontal, square, etc.
    • Contrast
    • 2 D shapes
    • 3 D shapes
    • Balance -- left to right, foreground to background, linear movement into the painting
    • The artist MUST know where the horizon line is in his/her painting.  Vanishing points are established from the horizon
    • The vanishing point could be a focal point ... you use vanishing lines to flatten your foreground and create the illusion of depth
    • Texture
    • Edges
  • Color
    • Hue, value, intensity, temperature
    • Light direction, light intensity and color all depend upon time of day... (value contrasts are closer when the sun is lower)
    • You can turn form with color like Sorrolla did

The first morning was basically a lecture... not a dull boring one, but one that was full of information, clear concise and well organized and rich with humor and personal examples.  Additionally his information and examples were peppered with great references to the work of historical artists and contemporary artists that Matt felt we should be using to educate ourselves further.   He studies the work of many artists to further his own growth.  He encouraged us all to "steal".   He said if we steal from only one artist then our work will be derivative and just copying.   If we steal from 50 artists then we are learning from the best and will use what has meaning for us and for our own unique work.  All of us in this workshop felt very lucky to be there learning from a world class artist and an outstanding teacher. 

To bring some relevance to why I started with a painting I didn't even do in the workshop, I will say that listening to Matt talk, I was reminded many times of the admonishments of teachers I've had in the past...  During my ten-day Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon with Kevin Macpherson he was always talking about sunlight and shadow and warm and cool.  Of course David Gallup, my mentor, peppers all of his information with examples of other great artists' work.   But I have to say that as I listened to Matt, it occurred to me why I wasn't happy with the painting.   The areas that were clearly in sunlight were not lit up.   I was painting what I "knew" not what I saw.  SIGH...  Why do we continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

Anyway, I went home and over several days have altered the painting called




to light up the sunlit areas a bit more.  I will REALLY work to make the sunlit areas clearly sunlit using value and temperature in all of my future work....  I am sure, however, that one lesson will take lots and lots of practice to become habitual. 


I'll write more about the workshop which lasted three days in subsequent posts.

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There are always so many things to do that it just doesn't seem like I "should" make time to go outside and paint.   At times I feel like it's an indulgence.   Even though I KNOW that it's an important part of my developing better thinking, "seeing" and application skills, I enjoy it so very much it seems like I'm playing.

However, last Wednesday I reached a point where I had gotten many of the things off my "to do" list (and my studio painting was stalled..  sigh) so I took off for my favorite spot, Leo Carrillo State Beach.  I often enjoy going there all by myself.  I don't think about anyone else..  I go where I want for as long as I want and just enjoy being.


David Gallup's Master Class
On Monday during our Master class with David Gallup, he had shown us a painting he had done en plein air the previous week at Leo.  It was a very different composition... from vantage point of the far flat rocks that stretch out into the sea, looking back toward the cliffs and across the cove.   He used this study during class as the foundation for a demonstration.  Although he thought he had put a lot of color into the rocks when he originally painted it, now that it was back in the studio, it obviously was a GREAT composition but needed some work.  After showing us examples from Waugh, Payne, and especially Rischel (see examples below) to illustrate how the darks have such great color David painted some rocks in the studio as he demoed how to enhance the interest and color and value in the rock areas.



On Tuesday I tried to practice what he had suggested while I worked in my studio.   It wasn't happening.


So on Wednesday I took off to the beach and settled in to practice while in the field.  It was a rather nice California day... not really warm... but not cold, not foggy, not windy... pretty much perfect.  I climbed and hiked and scooted out onto the rocks as far as I dared.  (Carrying all my gear and not being the youngest spring chicken, I always worry about falling into some hole...)  I sat down right in the middle of the formation and looked all around, thinking I would try the same view as David had.  However, what totally made my heart soar was the formation facing the other way and the way the waves moved in and out - sometimes lapping at my toes through this wonderfully shaped wedge.  THAT was what I would paint!   The point was to paint interesting rocks.. and they were everywhere.



I was having such fun!  The painting was going well and there was no one there but me and my pochade!   I guess sometimes when you're really enjoying yourself.. the exhilaration simply translates into paint.  Anyway time flew by but when the surge began to close in and touch my toes more frequently I decided it was time to pack up and haul myself up the cliff and away from the waves.


Leo Close-Up


It was so strange.  The day had been clear and beautiful but by the time I got to the top of the cliff and looked back the fog had rolled in!   I had never even seen fog while I was down on the rocks painting -- it came in THAT quickly!



Bye Bye Leo Carrillo... Thanks for a beautiful morning.

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Taking Flight


Sometimes I just feel like heading out and painting all by myself.  I often like to paint with others, but sometimes, I just don't want to try to arrange schedules or chat -- I just want to be by myself to practice.


In checking the weather forecast it looked like the only day of the week that would be nice was Tuesday.  Rain, cold or wind was scheduled for the rest of the week.  And of course, Monday was my day out in Camarillo in David Gallup's master class.  We had been doing figure painting.  David always says figure painting -- especially quick studies like he has us do sometimes is great practice for plein air.  -- It's all about light and form.


I headed out to my favorite place and enjoyed a beautiful winter day at Leo Carrillo State Beach!  I paint there so often, one would think I'd get tired of it, but it is absolutely NEVER the same.  On that Tuesday the weather was perfect.  No fog, no wind and almost no people.  But there were lots and lots of birds!  I edged up pretty close and set up my easel and got busy painting.   The birds didn't move around too much, but they certainly weren't in the same place when I finished the painting as when I started.     


That's okay, though.  I learned earlier when trying to capture human figures in a plein air piece, to just block in a bit of a shape for placement.  I could refine it more later if I wanted.


After about two hours, I had to get up to go... (Tuesday is Tyler's early day.)   All in all a day well spent!   I am indeed one lucky artist to be able to enjoy such a wonderful day outside.


"Taking Flight"








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Surfrider 9x12 plein air O/L


Surfrider Beach is one of the most famous spots in Malibu.  It is right next door to the historic Adamson House State Park. 


Before I left on my family holiday vacation I joined friends to enoy our beautiful SoCal weather to paint outside in Malibu, CA.  My friends, Jan Cipolla and Sharon Weaver, and I were wandering around at the Adamson House looking for spots to paint.  Jan painted Malibu pier which is directly to the south of Adamson AND Surfrider.  I tried to paint the surf and the surfers at Surfrider.  Neither of us painted anything at the Adamson House.  Sharon painted a colorful pot and fountain she liked on the beach side of the house.


I have been intrigued while watching David Gallup paint various views of surfers and beach birds en plein air at one of his favorite spots, Mongos.  I thought it might be fun to try it too.  


Although this painting's not perfect, on the whole, I was pleased with my little plein air sketch.  



I might use it as a start on something a bit bigger.   I'll need to make some major changes, but it might be fun.  Time will tell.

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Big Paintings... Some Things I've Learned

Spring 30x40 Oil on canvas


I've mentioned the "big" painting in several past blog posts and I think it's time to say it's done and show it. 


The "Journey"

It was an interesting learning journey to create it.  It started as a joyful and wonderfully successful plein air painting done while out on a road trip with my friend, Kay Zetlmaier.   I loved the plein air piece and it sold right away which is always a great thing. 


When my mentor, David Gallup, challenged his master class group with creating a large painting I decided to base the larger work off of my plein air piece called "Delight".  David gave us this challenge because he really does want us to grow and develop our skills and he KNEW that painting a large piece would present many challenges and new opportunities to learn about ourselves and our artwork.  I would work on it a while, then put it away and then work on it again. 


Here are some of the lessons I learned or re-learned along the way:

  • You can't shouldn't simply copy and make a small piece larger.
  • The larger piece needs to convey the same sense of freshness and joy but be its own unique artwork.
  • Starting out with a 3 value block in is just as important in a large pieces as it is in a small one.
  • Brushwork and texture on larger pieces is even more important BUT different than it is on a smaller piece.
  • Use bigger brushes.  Use palette knives.  Use sand paper, rags and anything else that works.
  • There are large empty spaces in a big piece that aren't there in smaller pieces... but they still have to be interesting to the viewer while being part of a consistent whole.
  • The reason we discovered this lovely spot in the first place was because I saw an egret which I followed up the coast and up a cliff to get a better look at.   It turned out there were several of them AND I love egrets so I included a couple in the piece to keep it fresh and interesting.   (There were turkey vultures soaring above as well, but I decided they just didn't have the same appeal, so I left them out... LOL)
  • Sometimes you just have to make things up -- maybe it wasn't there when you were out in the field -- But you need to ask yourself, "Does it help make the larger artwork interesting and beautiful?"
  • Framing a larger piece is more costly... seems obvious, but it needs to be considered.
  • Not all venues will accept larger pieces for showing...   one needs to plan accordingly.
  • Larger pieces might not fit into your vehicle.  Check.   (or get lucky like I was this time.)

I'm sure there was a lot more that I learned during the process.   I know I tried to work on layering paint and doing some scraping, sanding or carving into the layers like David does to create beautiful textural passages, but that didn't work too well.  That will require not just a lot more experience and practice, but really shouldn't be done on a stretched canvas.   I will work on this skill using a mounted canvas or linen in future work.   I hope you like my big piece as much as I do:




I also have been working on a large, but smaller piece which I don't feel is as successful as "Spring".   The sky turned out beautifully but I am not as happy with the land part of the painting.   In some ways I like it, but in others I don't .  I might work on the land part further or I might end up cropping the painting if I can figure out how to cut it, create new stretcher bars and re-stretch it.   We'll see.  

Here is the big one called "Malibu Sunset -- Broad Beach"  in its current stage of development.


What are your thoughts?


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Sky Over Malibu

Sky Over Malibu 10x8 O/L


If you were to look at my portfolio, you would find far more seascape/coastal paintings than anything else.  I guess that's because I paint outside often and I most often go to the beach to paint.  It is ever-changing and almost always beautiful. 

Even though the place I paint more often than all others - Leo Carrillo State Beach is my favorite spot, it is never the same.  It changes with the seasons, the weather, the time of day, the tides.  The elements are the same but I am constantly surprised at how varied the same place can be.

On the day I painted this scene, I simply turned and looked up instead of down toward the water.  It was a rare day of beautiful clouds and clear light so I tried to paint it.  As with all things, when I become interested in something I find challenging, in this case, skies and clouds, I find that the more often I try to paint it, the better I get.  This was a fun day ... I enjoyed the challenge and the practice.



Although the painting above is not in the exhibit, one of my six paintings which are now hanging at La Galeria Gitana was also painted at Leo Carrillo State Beach.  It is a view looking straight down from the top of the rocks into one of the many pool-like coves at Leo.

It is called "Carrillo Cove".   

This is a great show with many fine paintings from a variety of wonderful artists.   -- It's worth a visit if you can make it before the end of December.



Glorious California: The Lay Of Its Land


Reception: 11/2/2013 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Location: La Galeria Gitana
(818) 898-7708
120 N. Maclay
San Fernando CA 91340


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Liquid Amber Reflections -- Last Day of Kathleen Dunphy Workshop

Liquid Amber Reflections 10x8 O/L



The day of the workshop continued to be awesome.  Kathleen Dunphy had so many great tidbits to remember.  On the third day we all met in the morning at Ironstone Vineyards.  This was quite a posh place with huge grounds and great rooms and places for parties as well as gorgeous reflecting lakes.


Here are some of Kathleen's suggestions:

  • Work against your tendencies in order to grow
  • Caste shadows will create a design rather than a form -- save them for last 
  • Before you start painting, you have to decide what will change first and get that down
  • Squint
  • It's better to start out loosely and tighten up later
  • Sneak up to the lights
  • Every cool has some warms
  • Sky holes are slightly darker than sky around it
  • Sky holes should have very soft edges
  • In general the light reflections on water are darker and the dark reflections are lighter

At Kathleen's house (wow!) she answered questions and led a discussion about the business of art

  • When setting up a studio consider the following
    • ventilation and circulations
    • north light is consistent ambient light
    • use warm incandescent light to balance the north light
    • have the longest square footage behind the easel so you can step back and look at your work from a distance
    • have a mirror behind you
    • work big
    • simplify
    • use big brushes
    • put a good frame on your paintings... it's like jewelry enhancing a nice outfit
    • participate with groups like CAC, OPA, AIS
    • constantly push yourself
    • work a weakness until it becomes your strength
    • always be professional
    • draw a lot
    • it's the half steps that make a painting
    • let the viewer fill in information with their minds...... don't do it for them

"Painting is a lifelong profession where frustration is your constant companion" - Dan McCaw.

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Twisted Oak Vineyard -- Lessons from Kathleen Dunphy

Twisted Oak Vineyard 10x10 O/L


Kathleen Dunphy's workshop started out with several quotes which I really liked... 

"Art is long" 

"No one workshop or one teacher can do it all for you". 

Kathleen encouraged us all to keep an open mind as we move along on our art journey.   For me, that was the perfect way to start out.    It's not that I want to paint like her or any other artist I admire... but I'd love to paint as well and each artist I've studied with adds just a bit to the mix.  Kathleen is a superior teacher and I highly recommend studying with her.


I'll break up the last two days into two posts and list some of her thoughts as bullet points for any of you who may be interested.

  • I mentioned in a previous post that for me the most valuable lesson was her use of her "OCD" notebook.  I really needed something solid to use to better evaluate my own work and although I knew all of the elements, this habit is one I will try to make my own.
  • Direct observation is the first line of attack despite all of the "guidelines" we learn.
    • graphic symbol... most important element
    • does the thumbnail sketches to check format and design
    • less is more in design
    • use a focal path rather than a focal point
    • every mark you make is part of the design -- even the angles of skyholes in the trees
    • look at other artists like T. Allen Lawson or Dean Mitchell for good design
    • there should be a clearly defined light and dark pattern of overlapping shapes
    • get "simple" down first   --  can make it more complex later if you wish
    • also a critical element
    • value helps you see form
    • squint... don't wear glasses... don't look for detail
    • white in shadows is DARKER than black in sunlight
    • there are many light sources outside
    • she mixes the lightest warm color she can to remind herself of the highest key on the piano she's playing
    • sneak up to the lights
    • depth is value
    • you can paint light areas more thickly because the ridges of the paint will catch more light and look sunnier
    • she uses a limited palette (see previous post) to create beautiful harmonies
    • mud comes from dark paint into light paint mixed on the canvas
    • put the darks down first... pull any lights down on top
    • try to paint what will change fastest first (eg shadows)
    • don't ever wipe a painting in the field
    • observed and convey as truthfully as we can -- the goal is good information
    • there is no pure white in nature
    • keep your drawing skills honed...  practice with still lifes
    • every cool has some warm in it and every warm has some cools
    • edges separate the "men from the boys"
    • sophistication in edges is essential
    • edges move the view through the painting
    • atmosphere is all about correct values
    • the eye seeks sharp edges then color intensity then design....
    • put your paint marks down "like you mean it"
    • edges are hard toward the origin of the shadow and softer toward the ends
    • shadow values warm up as it moves from the origin
    • build up slowly
    • add thicker paint where you want people to look
    • think about the abstract quality of the paint
    • thickly --- thinly -- scratched through -- all of this is eye candy .... the reward
    • it's why we paint
    • "Art is what happens between the viewer and the painting" - Tim Lawson
    • we artists have been given a gift -- we must honor the gift

She also suggested that in order to grow we must sometimes work against our own tendencies.   She uses a #10 bright brush (large) to avoid details.   Try it, try it, try it ... then paint it all out "like you mean it".

The painting above is my first painting of a vineyard.  It was painted in the afternoon of our second day.  We all had a grand time and enjoyed the day as we all tried to apply the many lessons Kathleen described.

"Twisted Oak Vineyard"

I'll describe the last day and some thought Kathleen shared about marketing when we visited her beautiful studio and home in my next blog post.

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The Italian Store --- Kathleen Dunphy Workshop

The Italian Store 8x8 O/L



This is the second little painting I painted during Kathleen Dunphy's workshop.   I highly recommend Kathleen as a teacher, and artist and... heck, she's just a really nice and fun person to be around.  The workshop was offered up in Murphys, CA, near her home.  I really had no idea where that was -- just up north somewhere, but I'm glad I went.  Murphy's is in Northern California in the gold country.  It is an unspoiled little town that now does most of its business through the tourist trade who come because of all of the wine tasting and also because of the history of the area.

I went to the workshop alone.  I had tried to get my husband to go up with me.  I figured he could fish while I was painting.  But he couldn't make it.  So I drove up alone.  It took over 7 hours by car and it was pretty miserable on the way up because the winds along the 5 were blowing dirt across the highway.  Between the low visibility and the many trucks, I was happy to turn off the 5 and cut across to the 99. 


I finally arrived, took a walk around town and then met my fellow workshop takers at a dinner Kathleen had arranged at a local Mexican restaurant.  I could tell already it was going to be a good workshop because she set the stage for learning and being comfortable.


We met the next morning a bit out of town at an old historical school house which is used as a community center in Murphys Flats.  All morning Kathleen talked about her approach, her color palette, and plein air painting in general.  She demonstrated mixing colors with her limited palette.  Many years earlier I had learned to appreciate the use of a limited palette when I took a few classes in Mexico from Frank Gardner.   Frank's palette uses cad yellow, lemon yellow, cad red, alizarin, ultramarine blue, thalo blue and white.  It is very versatile and I used it for many years before expanding my palette when I began to study with David Gallup.

Murphys Flats Schoolhouse study by Marian Fortunati

Kathleen sent us a list which was very specific about colors and brands.  She used Utrecht and Rembrandt colors.  She asked us to bring Naples Yellow Deep (U), Lemon Yellow (U), Ultramarine Blue (R), Cold Grey (R), Permanent Red Medium (R) and white.   Although I'm pretty good with color mixing, this was a bit different and it took me a while to manage.  She feels that by using this palette one can avoid the MUD that many people end up with when mixing.  I enjoyed trying it and will definitely add Cold Grey to my repertoire but feel that I can avoid the mud and mix colors well enough without this limited palette.


Murphys Flats Schoolhouse study


I totally enjoyed the morning lessons and, although I found the area around the school house somewhat uninspiring, I did paint a little view of the schoolhouse in the afternoon.  Kathleen went around assisting each of us a couple of times each giving thoughtful advice and encouragement.

The next morning after a brief recap we went out on the street where we were invited to watch her demo or paint alongside or paint somewhere else.   I watched.   Then I tried to paint but ran out of time so only got the sketch, the block in and part of the painting finished before lunch.   I finished the painting at home.

"The Italian Store"

I also photographed the historical info about the store which has had many uses over the years

but now is part of a property that is a bed and breakfast.


I'll post some of my notes in my blog about the afternoon and last day of our workshop.   Bye for now.

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My View From The "Throne"

Contemplation from the "throne"

Just before I left for my three day workshop with Kathleen Dunphy up in Murphys, California, I pretty much "finished up" my "large" painting.  Now I'm back.. and, of course, I realize I'm not finished at all.

A few things have happened which caused this change of heart.  

We all know that stepping back from a painting is critical during the time you work on a piece.  A happy accident of how I arranged my work area is that the easel I use is directly in line with the toilet.  Not only can I stand back to look between applying paint, but I can contemplate the painting during potty breaks.  (LOL)

Of course, getting away from the artwork that you spend so much time in front of is something I've learned over the years is really important to seeing "better".   Some people turn their paintings to the wall for a while or put them in another room.  I need to be more disciplined about doing this each time.  I also think that the need to get away is amplified with larger paintings.  This is the biggest painting I've ever done -- It's 30x40.  David Gallup, my mentor, challenged all of his Master Class students to create larger paintings.  (Actually to him, this isn't really large..... but to me it is huge.)  I've been working on this painting ever since I did the plein air study called "Delight" last spring when I was painting with Kay Zetlmaier.  It sold right away, but the collector who purchased it told me I could keep the plein air piece until I had finished my large piece.   (I don't think he realized it would be THIS long, however.)

Once you've been away from the work for a while you can begin to better assess what needs to be done.  During the workshop with Kathleen, she shared what I think is a superb way to analyze your own work.  She called it her OCD notebook because after every painting reaches a certain "finished" stage, she takes out her notebook and formally analyzes how she can make it better.  (And then she applies what she was thinking.)  Although she uses her own shorthand, these are the elements she reviews with EACH PAINTING she creates.

When I used her "OCD method" with this painting, I really saw some things that need continued work.   I like the design.  It's not symmetrical, I think I avoided repeated shapes and I think the eye travels nicely through the painting.   I think the values are good but might need a little tweaking to make the far ground recede even more.  However, the color is way off in the water -- I'll need to rework that whole area.  This is frustrating, because I have repainted this section many times already... I WILL get it so I like it... really I will!   I like what I've done with my edges although I may try to work on the foreground egret a bit more to see where some of those edges can blend into the background.... maybe.   I like the paint quality -- I worked very hard to build up layer after layer and to avoid having repeated brush marks, etc.  I also think there are some more restful areas of paint, to balance the work.  Generally, I like the feel of the painting and think it will be even better after I make some of the changes mentioned above.

Any thoughts??

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So Sorry To See It End -- Channel Islands Adventure

Cathedral Cove - Anacapa 9x12 O/L

After a glorious day spent hiking and kayaking on Santa Rosa, we spent the night anchored off a safe anchorage near Santa Cruz then motored over to Anacapa Island.  The weather was amazing.  On our previous three trips we had spent our last days near Anacapa.  Those were amazing days spent swimming and snorkeling and kayaking in waters teaming with a whole colony of sea lions.  But on those years, the weather was mostly grey and foggy.

This year it was beautiful and bright and just the right temperature.  We snorkeled in some of the clearest waters.  We kayaked in and out of the arches and caves that surround Cathedral Cove.  On our fourth day we anchored near one end of the cove and on the last day we anchored on the other end.  By kayak we could traverse the entire cove, but having our home base in a slightly different spot enabled us to paint from a different vantage point if we wanted to paint from the boat.  

I painted sea lions from the kayak at our first spot having grown weary of painting rock walls.  During my first attempt the water was calm and my seaweed anchor held me very nicely.   To my surprise those darn sea lions were quite a challenge.  I just seem to think of them as just lying there on the rocks -- easy peasy to paint, right??   NOT....   Those critters are constantly moving!!   They look up, they lie down, they flop this way and that.  Then a friend will hop up on the rock and they move over.  Sheesh...   Another thing....  At first I thought they were just different colored animals.  It took me a while to realize that they are dark black/grey when they exit the water, but after hours of sitting on the dry rocks, their fur dries out and becomes that tawny brown color.  Hmmmm.   I should have realized that, but I hadn't... Until I sat there trying to paint them.

Later in the day I went out with a group and tried to paint a sea lion again but it was a bit windier and I had a hard time anchoring my kayak with the seaweed.  I kept drifting away or running into the others who were painting.  I had to finish that little guy up at home.

We had the morning to paint on our last day before we headed back to Santa Barbara.  After a quick kayak across the bay and back I settled in and painted Cathedral Cove -- Anacapa.   The night before I had seen Jennifer Moses demonstrating her use of luminous greys and wanted to try to get that effect in this painting.  I will continue to work on it because I so enjoy those subtleties in Jennifer's work.  Check out her work... I absolutely love her skyscapes!!

The trip seemed too short.  As we dashed across the channel we were excited by the playful dolphins who briefly chased us.  And then we were home.  

After unloading my gear and driving out of the harbor, I spent my evening enjoying my daughter, grandson and son-in-law who live there in Santa Barbara.  -A perfect way to end the last of the "Legendary Channel Islands Painting Adventures led by David Gallup."


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Santa Rosa Aerie



Santa Rosa Aerie   10x10   O/L 

For some reason I'm finding it difficult to sit down and work on blog posts.  I've been trying to figure out why.  I certainly had a great time and there are many fun things to share about my recent painting trip to the Channel Islands.

Perhaps it was that once again I returned from an exciting adventure to then face too many things to complete to get ready for an upcoming show.  I'm the exhibit chair for one of my clubs and there are so many details to complete before opening each show, that I feel a weight over me.  Happily Friday we closed one show and hung the next.  All went well.  With a few more lose ends to finish up, I'm done.  The show looks GREAT!!  I think it will be well received.  AND.....  this is my last official show as exhibit chair.   I've done this job for two years, and it will be someone else's job in the future.  I know I am certainly not the only capable person in the club... there are so many talented people so I'm hoping there will be someone eager to do the job. 

Another reason could be that, once again, I really wasn't happy with most of what I painted during the 5 days aboard the Conception.  But I shouldn't let that stop me...    So I'll  post the ones that are decent and then perhaps post all the losers in a little collage I did in a future post.   We'll see.

I think I'll just let you know that I spent a lot of time kayaking and snorkeling and enjoying the beauty that abounds around Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands.  

During the second day we were anchored off Platt's in Santa Cruz.  This is a lovely spot I really like because the snorkeling is amazing --- the rocks are filled with colorful starfish or sea stars  (which aren't really fish, by the way, -- they are echinoderms).    I painted from the kayak and then painted a quick sketch of Maude, the wonderful model who traveled with us while sitting inside the galley.

On the third day we went to Santa Rosa and were able to get off the boat and walk on land!  The painting at the top of this page, called Santa Rosa Aerie was painted after hiking way way up a steep cliff above the beach and over across a rocky outcrop.  My friend, George, hiked up with me and painted about twenty feet away. 

I'm going to include some photos from the trip as well as some of my paintings just so you can begin to get a feel for what a great experience I had.

Santa Rosa Outcrop  9x12  O/L




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Yellowbanks --- The Beginning Of Another Adventure

Yellowbanks 6x8 O/L


I have been really remiss about blogging lately.   I was on a wonderful painting adventure aboard the 45 foot dive boat, Conception, painting around and on the Channel Islands -- Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa.


This was the fourth and probably last of the painting trips led by David Gallup.  We all had a ball.  We kayaked, hiked, snorkled, sang, ate, laughed... and oh.. we painted.


I had decided to paint small studies.  I knew we would be facing lots of rock walls as always and I had painted MANY MANY rock walls on the previous trips.  I took mostly 6x8s, some 8x8s and 10x10.  I did have a few 9x12s to use, but wasn't sure I'd use them.  


We boarded the Conception on Saturday night after a raucous dinner together in the Santa Barbara Harbor.  Much later after bringing all of our stuff aboard and finding places for it, we climbed into our bunks,  fell asleep and woke up off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. 


There was a tropical depression causing a swift current, surges and difficulties with finding safe anchorages.  We started out at Yellowbanks which is on the south side of the island -- on far side rather than the side closest to the mainland.  Although I knew that California's cold water is caused because the currents travel from north to south from Alaska, it hadn't occurred to me that the swells and surges that carved out all of the caves on Santa Cruz Islands are carved on the mainland facing cliffs -- mostly on the north side of the island because of the currents flowing from north to south and because of this, the areas on the side of the island opposite the mainland are less affected by those currents.


I was really disappointed to find out that we could not go onto land on Santa Cruz.  I had thought we would be hiking on the island, but we couldn't.  The Nature Conservancy has authority over a great deal of the island and visitors aren't welcome there.  The section of the island controlled by the National Parks Agency has a new contract with Island Packers (another boat company which does mostly day trips) to bring visitors to the island.  The Conception couldn't land us. (I plan to use Island Packers  in the future to go on an overnight camping trip to Santa Cruz.  ..... Especially now that I have learned out how to put up a tent because of my Colorado River rafting adventure.)


We anchored at Yellowbanks and painted from the boat.  In the morning I painted in one direction (see above) and in the afternoon I painted looking the other way. 


(the painting at the top of the post)


"Looking The Other Way"



I also donned my every-so-chic rubber wetsuit and snorkeling gear and swam all around looking at the beautiful fish and the swaying kelp.   It was gorgeous.  Between that and painting I spent some time kayaking all around to explore the rock arches and caves.


The food was good, the company was good and we were so tired that when we crawled into our soothingly swaying bunks, we slept like babies.

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El Matador -- Another California Art Club Get-Together

El Matador 10x10 O/L



Whenever possible I enjoy joining with friends in the California Art Club during the Ventura/Malibu Chapter's monthly paint out.  For whatever reason during the last few times the "crowds" have thinned somewhat, but that doesn't make going any less worthwhile.  I enjoying painting with others -- seeing how they approach the work... what they choose to paint... how they do their lay-in... how they apply paint.


"El Matador"


Usually we're not all that close together, and most of the time we're pretty focused on what we're painting, so it's not like we stand around and chat the whole time, but when one of us is ready to take a short break we wander over to the others and spend a moment or two. 


A week or so ago our leader, George Malone, set up the paint out to be at El Matador State Beach.  El Matador State Beach is just a few miles south of where I usually paint at Leo Carrillo.  We are so lucky to have such terrific State Parks in California.  Even with all of the cutbacks they are wonderful.  I try to make donations to keep them going every year and I'm sure many of you do too, as they really make our life richer.  I used to paint at El Matador a lot, but have found the steep staircase and path down (AND UP) the cliff less appealing lately.  Also, Leo has a whole variety of vantage points and it totally changes its "look" with the tides and seasons. 


But Matador IS beautiful.


I drove there with my friend, Sharon Weaver.  Triple digit temperatures had been the daily routine in the San Fernando Valley and we were looking forward to the cool of the beach.  However, for the last several times I've gone there had been varying degrees of fog blanketing the beach.   Fog can create interesting atmosphere, but rarely inspires the joy that sunshine does in MY heart.  There is a certain point as we cross over the tops of the Santa Monica mountains on our way to the beach where we can always tell what the beach would be like.  As we approached, all I could see was a dark - almost black --bank out to sea and my heart sank.  However, as we drove down the hill to the Pacific Coast Highway, I realized that the dark bank of fog was very far out to sea and that the area near the shore was delightfully sunny.

We arrived, greeted George and then carried our gear to the places each of us decided to set up.  We were all in different spots.  Some were down on the sand, some remained on top and I walked about half-way down the cliff to a sort of turn-out at the top of the steep stairs.

The water was just glorious.  The colors spectacular!  I was intrigued by the reflections of the cliffs on the water between wave sets.  I decided to try to capture that.   We all had a wonderful day which ended in shared stories and laughter around lunchtime when we all gathered together to catch up and enjoy lunch together.


I love the California Art Club paint outs!!    Check out the CAC website if you're ever interested in painting with the group.  It would be fun to meet you!

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Relentless 8x10 Oil on Linen

Plein Air -- I love it

Every chance I get I like to get out and paint outdoors.  I do it because I love getting out to paint.  It helps me really SEE my world.   There is so much beauty if you just stop to really see.


I've read several articles in blogs and newsletters lately about what exactly plein air is and whether it is "better" or more important than studio work.  Of course, there are two very strong opposite camps, but in my opinion each is important and each is necessary.

Just the other day I read an article written by a wonderful artist that I follow named Keith Bond.  Here are a few of his thoughts on the subject:

"Does It Matter?
The short answer is 'No'. It doesn't really matter where or how a painting was created. What matters is twofold: quality and authenticity. I define authenticity as being an expression, filled with meaning, that is a true reflection of what inspires the artist.
Plein air work has its place with many, many benefits. It also has some drawbacks.
Likewise, studio work has just as many pros and cons.


First and foremost, my plein air work is all about my relationship with nature, having a conversation with nature, finding inspiration in nature.
When something strikes a chord with me, and I know I have to paint it, I am more likely to capture that emotional response if I paint from life while that emotional response is actually happening.
If I merely take a photo and try to paint that scene back in the studio, I may capture the scene's beauty, but that emotional response is one or two steps removed."


You may enjoy reading Keith Bond's blog on your own.  This is a link to his website and blog:  Keith Bond  His work is beautiful as well.


This painting is titled "Relentless"  after the constantly pounding waves that ever so slowly wear down rock and land along our shores.   I painted it a Leo Carrillo one day when I just went outside to paint on my own.  Since then I have painted outside with a friend two different times (once at the beach and once in Franklin Canyon) and with two different painting groups (once in Echo Park and once at El Matador State Beach). 


Being Relentless

I keep looking a the work of wonderful artists.  Gosh there are so many!  They do landscapes, and portraits and still lives.  Their work is traditional but more and more, I'm coming to appreciate those who have moved toward abstraction.  I know I have a long, long way to go to reach the level of these artists.   I've had a few setbacks lately which sometimes slows me down emotionally.  But I realize that I need to take a lesson from those waves.   I need to be relentless. 


Actually that sounds a bit "overboard".   I just need to keep on painting.  My progress is very slow, but it IS progress and the more I paint, the closer I will get (albeit slowly) to the quality I'd like to see in my own work.


By the way, there is a little silver bowl study that is on Daily Paintworks Auction.  It will close on 8/23/13 at about 4:30 p.m.
Interested???   It's a great deal!



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Boys At The Beach - A Plein Air Done At the California Art Club Paint Out

Boys At The Beach 8x8 O/L

The California Art Club is a great club!

The California Art Club Ventura/Malibu Chapter has hosted a monthly paint out for several years now.  They have been arranged by George Malone and the event ranges from 4 painters to 20.  I always try to make it because it is a great way to meet other painters and I sometimes find a new great place to paint.


This July the paint out was at Sycamore Cove Beach.  I had painted there once before with the CAC group and hadn't returned because it's a bit further up the coast than my favorite beach painting place, Leo Carrillo.  Last May there was a terrible fire that burned all the way from Camarillo across the Santa Monica Mountains to Sycamore Canyon State Park.  I wasn't sure whether the beach part of the state park was affected.  Sycamore Cove Beach is just south of Point Mugu, but it has a nice camping and picnic area.


Summer Vacation
Since it is summer and the kids are out of school, I thought it might be fun to bring Tyler and his friends along to play while we all painted.  Tyler loves to be with his friends.  He isn't really a beach person, and he spends far too much time playing on the computer so I wanted him to get outside and active.  He isn't keen on going with me when I paint -- saying "it's boring".  But I exerted a bit of coersion and convinced him to invite his friends.

I crossed my fingers that they would have a good time.  When we got there, I was a bit worried because the beach is very steep and had strong rip tide warnings posted.  The other boys were boogie boarders, but they hadn't brought their boards, thank goodness.  I asked them not to go in deeper than knees and to stay in front of us.  (That SORT-OF worked -- no one went in past their upper thighs -LOL.)


A Great Summer Day At The Beach
It was a grand day!!  The boys stayed safe.  They ran from the waves, waded, dug sand castles, forts and moats and got thoroughly wet and sandy. 


I decided not to just paint the rocky formation in the cove, but rather to try to capture the fun the boys were having.  It was a new challenge for me.   I just tried to place the figures with gesture strokes (because obviously they were running and moving all over the place.).  Then I put in the waves and sand and rocks around them.    When I got home I cleaned up the figures a bit, but left them pretty "unfinished" on purpose.  I was pretty happy with my first figurative plein air.


"Boys At The Beach"


They had a ball and all of us painters totally enjoyed listening to their screams of joy as they played in the sand and waves.


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