Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My New Studio

It's official, Sky Ranch Studio is open.  We had a party in September to celebrate its completion and I started teaching classes there in October.  This has been crazy wonderful year!

Up until October, I had two studios.  One I used as a show studio in Sebastopol.  It was a room I rented for eleven years and it was in a beautiful Victorian home almost in the center of Sebastopol. I had done so because my other studio was a working one on my families ranch.  It was a partial basement with cinder block walls and old cabinets.  There were amazing views outside but no wall space to display .

Then in January I was given a gift or as I like to call it, "I won the studio lottery".  My father offered to turn the shop next to my home into a new studio.  He is a Studebaker man with an large car collection. The shop housed up to 9 cars at that time.

And then it happened.  Over the next seven months the once bat filled Studebaker shop transformed into a fabulous studio with gallery rooms.

I have always been a joyful person and feel blessed and sometimes even a little guilty that such an amazing place like that is mine.  Why "Sky Ranch Studio"?  When I was three, my mother and father purchased this piece of land from my grandparents and built a cabin on it.  My grandfather named it "Sky Ranch"


Saturday, June 3, 2017

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.

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.