Wednesday, March 1, 2017




31 Paintings in 31 Days

 On New Years day I committed myself to painting a painting a day from life for 31 days. This was a challenge that I had always wanted to try but had never gotten myself to do.  Then a fellow artist and Strada Easel designer set up a challenge where we checked in every day on Facebook. I was game.

This challenge was one amazing adventure as January turned out to be a stormy month full of flooding and falling trees. To make it more complicated, I house/dog sat for three of the weeks in addition to my teaching painting classes several days a week.

Armed with bullheaded stubbornness, I persevered through the month of January. Sometimes I painted in the rain or icy cold wind while other nights I would burn the midnight oil after teaching all day.

This experience was very validating.  I rediscovered why I first became a plein air painter and fell in love with it.  I found that in extreme conditions, I am still able to paint a decent painting and it forced me out of my comfort zone.  I explored areas I would have never done so without this challenge and made new friends who were also participating.

Below is the accumulation of those 31 days.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

From Here to There


In my studio I have hundreds of photo references.  My photos are not precious, they are a leaping off point.  They give me a a light and shadow pattern and remind me why I was excited about that subject matter that day I snapped the shot.  In fact, I am always a little disappointed with the photo reference because so many values get flattened through the process of development.


When getting ready for a composition from a photo, my first thoughts are about elimination of unnecessary subjects.  I ask myself what drew me to this image and do a mental exercise of removing objects to see if it is stronger or weaker. I love negative spaces around objects and look at them as their own windows into smaller scenes.

If my composition includes vertical lines such as telephone poles, fences and in this case awning support, I look at ways to push or pull their angles to create interest. When laying out the composition, I look for bad tangents where objects meet at awkward points and I am careful not to unconsciously line up objects in rows. Originally I painted the tree trunk centered directly over the bike.

Composition always takes the most time.  Even when I am painting on location under the gun of changing light, if my composition is off, I will erase the whole thing and start over.  This lets me keep my paintings fresh in color since I am not later trying to paint over mistakes resulting in mud.





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Make a Paint Out Successful

Just returned from a glorious week of nonstop painting in Mendocino.  This was my second year to participate in MOPO (Mendocino Open Paint Out). A few people have asked why I do paint outs.   For me, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. It is adventure every time I pack my trunk full of paint supplies and set out.

A typical paint out begins weeks ahead. Applications are do months in advance.  Deciding on frame sizes and canvases, ordering supplies online, canceling classes I teach and working out housing are all part of the preparation.

I always plan to arrive two days early so that I have one full day to scout out painting locations.  Then I make a plan.  My paintings are large for plein air so the small windows of changing light time means I arrange to return to the same location at least twice. After running around frantically the first day taking a hundred pictures, I allow myself some relaxed time to sort them out and crop on my phone to sizes of canvases and decide on a strategy.

My strategy is usually divided up the day into three painting locations.   A morning painting, an afternoon and an evening. In Mendocino I only had one evening painting.  That beautiful glowing light had such a short window that it took extra visits to finish.

                                "Main Street" oil 16" x 20"

Every time I do a paint out I come away with memories of very special moments. One of my favorites from this last visit was after finishing up my Russian Gulch bridge was meeting a couple of wayward travelers. We sat in the parking lot watching the amazing sunset and swapping stories.  One of the travelers had driven up in a classic old red and white VW van.  He was on a journey traveling with his great great niece retracing his wild 1960s days.  While the other traveler, was on a abalone mission, traveling up the coast from Santa Barbara.

                          
                                                                                           "Tranquility" oil 15" x 30"

                                                            

There are also so many special moments, painting plein air offers.  There are those magical moments when light shifts and more beauty is revealed. Then there is that whole immersion experience where while painting you are experiencing most of your senses and trying to infuse them into the feeling of the painting. Even with all the wind, bugs on my canvas, challenging weather conditions,  painting plein air is amazing and well worth it.

    "Weller House Tower" oil 15" x 30"

                                "Safe Harbor" oil 24" x 24"

"Swan Song"  oil 8" x 10"                                       


Helpful Hint- When taking pictures always take multiple angles from multiple sides. Both my 
"Main Street" painting and the above Packard were unexpected compositions decided on from my      
  photo references later. When first discovering them, I thought I knew which angles and sides I wanted, but since I always make myself shoot extra images on all sides I later discovered stronger                   compositions from other angles.
  



Helpful Hints- Always give yourself plenty of time from framing and cleaning up edges on the day the paintings are due. I am always surprised at how much time this takes and will usually make a point of not painting on location the last day.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Breakthrough

Recently I had a breakthrough with my portrait painting. What the catalyst was I have no idea but there was a turning point about three weeks ago.  And because I have kept the weekly succession of portraits, it was clear a barrier had been broken. They suddenly went from flat to intricate and full of form.  The only explanation I could come up with was consistency. Every week I paint a portrait from a model for fun. There are weeks when I am tired, rushed or plain lazy and I think I would rather skip a session.  But I know that once I am there I will fall into a beautiful trance of painting. That consistency has allowed me to hone my ability to get the structure faster and give me time to explore pushing colors and edges.

This was painted at a local cafe with dim light I find I push colors much more. Still wet so sorry for the glare.






Below was a painting I almost did not do but was happy I stuck it out. I was fun playing with abstract brush work on the blouse and I was challenged by the black lipstick.

 Above I was experimenting with painting over old landscapes.





To the left was one that I seem to have a breakthrough with form and found myself able to work on smaller details. This was from last week.

This was an older but interesting one. It was painted in almost no light.














The face is a landscape full of intricate beauty and the subtle shadows of unexpected color.  Wendy Brayton

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Transitions


This painting was created from several photos that I snapped of a young family on a train ride in Santa Cruz.  It was their hats that first drew my attention followed by that lovely negative space between the mother's gaze and son's. It went through numerous transitions as I first included the solid diagonal bench behind and dark wooded background.  It evolved to a park bench with sunshine and foliage.  I love working from images and also love using them as a jumping off point. At the end I made a slide show showing the stages and below is my Youtube link for video.