Monday, December 8, 2008

Buttermilk Country

Looking S/W towards Basin Mountain (?) behind a rocky outcrop on Mc Gee creek. 8x10 O/P

Check out Mike Dutton's painting from the same day. Mike started later than me and caught that glorious magic hour light skimming the tops of the peaks looking N/E.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanksgiving on the East Side

East side of the Sierra that is. Took a nice trip the week of Thanksgiving over to Bishop with a side trip to Bodie hoping for a little bouldering and sketching. Did very little of both! Here's a quick watercolor sketch in a Fabriano sketch book, done after a great day bouldering.

A couple scribbles in my mini watercolor moleskiene from a morning trip to Bodie. I had camped just south of Bridgeport so I could get to Bodie first thing in the morning. I woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and chilly 20 degree temps. I could have spent all day there roaming around, but it was so damn cold, and I got really hungry... : )

I did manage to get in an oil painting, I'll post it when I can get around to taking a pic.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Denali 2

Finally took some pics of the oil sketches I did up in Denali, and the reasons they look muddy are 1) my crappy photography, 2) my muddy painting, and 3) it really looked like that due to mostly overcast conditions. Despite the overcast, there were times when the heavens opened up and the most amazing fall colors just exploded in front of you. Painting up there was definitely challenging, and I'm not just making excuses for these paintings, I actually enjoyed the different challenges. That's what makes you better, right? Well the weather was obviously the primary one, as I said, it was mostly heavy overcast and a few days of rain too. When we found a scene we liked, with dramatic lighting contrasts, it was more than likely to change in a heart beat. Those clouds move fast. Wind was another factor, it's what drove those fast moving clouds and was at times a little too stiff to set up an easel and canvas that are only too efficient at mimicking a sail or a kite in flight. Wind and weather of course are not exclusive to Alaska, but they can be just a little more extreme up there. What was a little more frustrating was limited access to roam. It sounds funny, because Denali N.P. is probably the most easily accessible of all wilderness areas in all the U.S. Parks system, but our timing was such that we landed there in Moose rutting season, so the usual "roam anywhere you want to" policy was limited to "roadside only". And with only 15 miles of accessible road (not counting the $30 shuttle), and less than ideal weather, options quickly grew slim. I'm still learning anyway, so any bit of mileage on canvas is good for me. Quickly changing conditions, have been teaching me to quickly lay down my ideas, and I can feel that I'm getting a little better lately. On this trip, I had one composition laid in (in line work) that had to be abandoned due to weather, one total scrape down because it was too ugly, but the rest were done or at least close enough to finished that when the weather turned for the worse, I was able finish the few remaining bits later. It's the mantra for the teachers I've had and have read, to lay in your broad values early. So when I do that, and the scene changes in front of me, and I'm able to finish a sketch because I've got the structure down, it's a real "aaaaa, so that's why" moment. Unfortunately though, that won't help a crap composition, or poor drawing, but at least you can see early enough before you invest too much time and paint so you can still scrape it down!
As Pablo mentioned in the comments for the last post, there's a great PBS series on Plein Aire painting featuring Matt Smith, Kenn Backhaus, and Jean LeGassick as they paint in Denali and other spots in Alaska. This series was the direct inspiration for this trip, as I think Frank had heard of their trip before the show came out, and also heard stories from Ralph Oberg who apparently has made several trips to Denali. This series is a must see, not only for following these remarkable artists and hearing their musings on painting, but also to hear of the history of painting in Alaska. I had never heard of the great Sydney Laurence, or Belmore and George Brown, and the series shows some of their amazing inspirational work. These guys mastered plein aire in ALASKA! On GLACIERS! Man, I feel so wimpy : ) Who could turn down this call of the wild?

Along the Nenana river, just outside the Park. 4.5x8 O/P
Our first day in Alaska, and we were amazed that the rain held off just long enough. I had been checking the weather forecasts before leaving Ca. and all I saw was rain, rain, and more rain. The truth was though, that it was more like typical Colorado weather, where the weather moved in fast but could also leave just as quickly.

I think this was Riley Creek, which feeds into the Nenana. 8x10 O/P

Along the park road looking south. 6x8 O/P
We were filmed by a Japanese film crew here for a story on the activities in Denali! If anyone gets Asahi TV, look for two scraggily painters in Denali!

Some of the Alaska Range behind the Thorofare River (dry)near the Eilson Center. 8x10 O/P
A long bus ride (4hrs each way) to get this sketch. We were again photographed by several tourists while we painted, including full video by a very nice German guy. I guess people just got tired of taking pics of the 'other' wildlife in the park ; )

Looking south down the Savage River (great name!) 6x8 O/P
This was at the last mile on the road (mile 15) that you were allowed to drive a private vehicle on. Had most of the painting done, when a giant squall came rolling in forcing us to beat a hasty retreat to the truck!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

North, to Alaska!

I just got back from a painting trip to Denali National Park in the Alaskan interior with my buddy Frank Serrano, and damn was it beautiful up there! We flew into Anchorage where we rented a camper, then drove four hours north to the park, it was so easy. The weather was chilly, and mostly (heavily) overcast with a few showers and wind storms here and there just to test your plein aire mettle, so needless to say, I completed far fewer canvasses than I had hoped for. But I can't really say that I was disappointed because I took a ton of photos, saw all the "big five" animals in the park (and then some), viewed Denali (Mt McKinley) at least twice which I'm told is very rare indeed, and even got a few pages done in the mini moleskiene sketchbook while waiting for weather to improve (while sitting in the cozy camper!). I'll post the oils when I get a chance to take some snaps, in the mean time peep these if you please.

That's me on the left. We hopped a shuttle bus (the only way to get this far) to the Eielson center 66 miles and four hours down the only road in the park. We had just enough time to get a quick painting done before a squall moved in bringing heavy clouds and rain.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yep, it’s definitely been a while since my last post… I’m not saying I’m not lazy (because I am) but I DID have to move house, which pretty much ate up any painting time I may have had. The result was a tough struggle when I finally busted out the paints. Let me know if you see a progression from the bottom image (oldest) to the top one (just last weekend). I’ve got an even more recent painting from last night when I tried to capture the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland with Mike Dutton, but oil and scanner beds don’t mix.

Above Lake Chabot 6x8 O/P

China Camp 5x7 O/P

Fishing Boat @ China Camp 5x7 O/P

Schnitzer Steel @ the Port of Oakland 5x7 O/P

With the exception of the bottom image (at the Port of Oakland) these small sketches were done right at last light, which was a result of lack of planning, but the cool thing is that it really forces you to be focused. There's no time to let your mind wander, as you have to race to get your info down before you lose the scene. Even when the results are less than stunning, the process is exhilarating and a little liberating. More soon!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mt Diablo... again

A quickie from last month from one of my default spots. This is in the field at the crossroad of Claremont Ave., Grizzly Peak Blvd. and Fish Ranch Rd. in the Oakland/Berkeley hills. I just love this spot because there are so many views packed into such a small area. You can stand in the field and spin around 360 degrees and have a compelling composition. Factor in time of day and you have a life time of paintings. Added bonus on this day was a guy practicing his bagpipes at the top of the field, cool!

Grizzly Peak Blvd. X Claremont O/P 8x10

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

A few more sketches in the mini Moleskiene from a climbing trip up to Klamath in Northern Ca.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Header madness!

Slowly but slowly, I'm customizing this old blog. The new header is from sometime last year, probably summer by the looks of the hills. Picked by default because it was roughly the right size: )
The type placement (which I don't know how to adjust up and down) offends my design eye. I'll get it eventually!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I've been bad...

...about making time for painting lately, and when I do finally get out, I'm faced with more tossers than keepers. Sheesh! and my last post was so full of promise... To at least make a vain attempt to keep my eyes and brush hand from completely rusting over, I've been trying to get in an occasional lunchtime sketch in my mini watercolor Moleskiene. So here's some not so recent stuff. Oh yeah, for the 5 of you out there who might be following this, I think I got the comment thingy working. Fire away!

Steep way down from the Ivan Dickson trail at Briones Regional Park
6x8 O/P

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hooray for Daylight Saving Time!

That means more time to paint in the evenings! To celebrate, I went to one of my favorite spots up in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills. It was a late start and I was thinking I was going to lose light fast, so I rushed out this sketch. I was psyched to see so much light left at 6:30, and it's only going to get better (the light that is, and hopefully the paintings too)!

Grizzly Peak @ Claremont O/P 6x8

Here's one done on Busy San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley a few weeks earlier. Lots of people and cars and noise all of which I edited and blocked out : )

Woodshop on San Pablo O/P 6x8

And wrapping things up, I just found out over the weekend, that this one sold from the EarlyBird Painters show to someone from L.A. That's three paintings sold from my first show. Now I can buy a house ; )

Missouri Lounge O/P 8x10

Friday, February 29, 2008

Point Molate

I struggled to find a composition of a great old building with crenulated walls out at Point Molate at the base of the Richmond/San Rafael bridge, but the light just wasn't working for me. I think it's more of a morning light kinda place. So I followed that 18o degree rule and did this tree in front of another little building (also with those cool castle like crenulations).

Point Molate generator building O/P 6x8

Monday, February 25, 2008

Studio Gallery opening and some nice guys

So the opening went really well. The rain held out (mostly), saw some great friends old and new, and… (drum roll) I actually sold two paintings! These two:

Steel Plant, Berkeley O/P 6x8

Aquatic Park, Berkeley O/P 5x7

The second one, done at the AquaticPark in Berkeley was sold to a nice chap from Seattle who happened to be wandering by the gallery earlier in the day. It’s a pretty gray little piece, and I can only imagine that it reminded him of home ; ) Thanks to all, especially Jennifer and Rab at the Studio Gallery for making it all happen. Anyway, I’m feeling uncharacteristically chatty so I might as well update the ol’ blog a bit and add a few more links, and recognize a few good people. If I were hip, I’d be giving a “shout out” to these peeps, but I hate that phrase, unless I’m drinking with a Kiwi or an Aussie. The guy to blame for my addiction to this oil painting en Plein Air stuff is the super talented and all around nice guy Ian Berry. I worked with this guy back in the Lucas Arts days, and he invited me to come out and paint during lunch. I was doing these dull little watercolor sketches at the time, but Ian inspired me to switch back to oils and it was all over after that. I even have the exact day in one of my sketchbooks.

Check out the date! After LucasArts, I went to work for Activision at their Z-Axis studio in Foster City for a while, but eventually transferred up to Novato at their Toys For Bob studio where Ian had landed a job too. We resumed our lunch time paint sessions until Ian moved to New York (sniff…: (. Ok, a few more influences. My first Plein Air workshop just luckily happened to be with Matt Smith and Ralph Oberg in the Colorado Rockies, I just can’t say enough about these guys. Both talented, generous and supportive artists at the top of their game. Truly a remarkable week. The next workshop I took was Frank Serrano’s in the Sierra just last fall. Met some great people, the painting sites around June LakeTuolumne were beautiful, and I got a new painting buddy. Stay tuned for Jimmy and Frank’s Alaskan painting adventure in September. Besides the Studio Gallery here’s another gallery that bears mention, The Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco. I first discovered this amazing little gallery a few years ago completely by accident while wandering Fillmore St. It was so easy to miss, but it was one of those serendipitous little finds that happen every now and then in life. Besides having impossibly good taste in art Thomas is a gentleman in the true sense of the word. Recently, he generously took the time to give this artist, his honest and insightful (and yes it was solicited) opinion on some pieces I brought by the gallery. During this impromptu critique, I was treated to several colorful local characters who dropped by. This isn’t just a gallery, it’s a neighborhood institution! It was also through this gallery that Kim and I discovered the art of Terry Miura. We were both so taken by Terry’s work that we eagerly await each new show, in hopes of new work from this Sacramento based artist. Kim surprised me on my last birthday by taking me to Sacramento for one of Terry’s open studio evenings. I guess the theme of this post is “nice guys”, and Terry was no exception. He couldn’t have been more personable, and we spent an enjoyable evening drinking wine, and discussing art. Now that I’ve brought up Terry, he’s a perfect segue to my next topic here, and that’s the sharing of artistic knowledge. No not me, I’ve got too far til I can start imparting any pearls of wisdom, but Terry, through his blog really does just that. Rummage back through some of his posts and you’ll find a virtual art class on the web with salient thoughts on everything from color theory to design. The last link I’ll mention has much the same sense of sharing of artistic knowledge. You may or may not know James Gurney from his Dinotopia books, and if you don’t, crawl out from under that rock. You will be as blown away as I was to see Mr. Gurney’s amazing Plein Air paintings and sketches. Terry Miura and James Gurney’s blogs are must reads on the web. They are wonderfully personal accounts of working artists and their processes, so bookmark them now! Many more links to share, but for now I need to re-think the title of this blog. Laconic, yeah right… : )

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Time an Early Bird!

Whooops! Look how time flies. Somewhere between too busy and too lazy, I just plain forgot to post notice of this group show that I’ll be in. It’ll only be up for a few weeks and the opening reception is this Saturday. It's a painting show (duh) and the people in the show are some (mostly) new to me friends who loosely organized to get up at the crack of dawn before our "real" jobs and go out and paint "en plein air". See our blog listed to the right to see the talent. So it's the Early Bird Painters Show! Here's the particulars:

Wednesday, February 20th - Sunday, March 9th

Reception: Saturday, February 23rd, 4-8 pm

And here's the Gallery info:

Studio Gallery

1718A Polk Street (between Clay & Washington)

San Francisco, CA 94109


For those of you who'll miss it, here are some of the pieces I'll have up at the show.

Cement plant in Berkeley. Oil on panel 8x10

The road out of China Camp. Oil on panel 6x8

The view looking south at Pirates Cove near Muir Beach. Oil on panel 8x8

Hope to see ya at the show!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A few more from Yosemite

Made it out to Yosemite a few times last year (three to be exact), but it's never enough...
Here's a stand of trees (I don't think they're aspens) in front of Yosemite Falls in May.

Oil on panel 8x10

The same trees in November. I loved the hot spark of light behind the trees. Everything was glowing like embers.

Oil on panel 6x8

Another in the Valley from the trip in May.

Oil on panel 6x8

I'll see if I can dig up some from Tuolumne that I did in Frank Serrano's fall workshop. Thanks to Mike Dutton for giving me "tips of the day" on blogging (see the link to his excellent site on the right).That's it for now!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Half Dome

Oil on panel 6x8

Testing out this new blog thing. Let's see if it works...