The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kaye Franklin

Kaye Franklin is another artist I'm considering studying with. She works in both pastels and oils, and I love her plein air work.  She's teaching in Fredericksburg (Texas) in the fall.  Her website is

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Eat Yer Greens -- Color Charts

I love Richard Schmid's paintings, and watching his DVDs are always fun. I frequently reread his book Alla Prima. One of the best things he teaches is the importance of doing color charts with the paints you use all the time. He had a teacher early in his art schooling who insisted on making color charts, and I am so glad he did (and that he also preaches it).

Yes, it was tedious the first time I did it, and it took me one or two charts to really understand what a useful tool it is.  Richard says it best:
Surprisingly, the charts took only two weeks to complete, and when I finished I knew more about my paint than I had ever thought possible. It was an astonishing experience -- imagine being taken into the kitchen of a great chef and shown everything he could do with flavors -- that was what it was like for me! There was nothing tedious or boring about doing the charts; each was a revelation of the power that awaited me when I did start painting.

I also liked his list of things you learn about colors beyond just how they mix. For example, adding white changes mixtures to a new, cooler color, instead of just lightening the mixture.  And have you ever noticed that most colors appear more vivid in the mid-value range?

So after reading this again, I decided to make more charts, just for greens, using the paints I wanted to carry in my pochade box. It was definitely enlightening, even using only three values instead of five. Here's one (I won't bore you with all of them):

A parting note from Alla Prima on the charts:
My advice -- my plea to you -- is to do the charts for your sake. The charts are not a sure-fire gimmick guaranteed to make you a color wizard, but they are the best way I know of to understand your pigments and enter the study of color on sound footing...impatience will well up, so will exasperation as you make mistakes or struggle with decisions about the right color and value, but I urge you to stick with it. In a way, the charts are intended to be somewhat agonizing so that you will develop the patience and self-control so necessary in painting. It should be like an initiation ritual before what is to come, so you may endure it without giving up. As a dancer learns to tolerate paint and endless falls in order to some day soar with grace, so must you have the stubbornness to mix a color until it is precisely what you require to make your painting sing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tibor Nagy

Here is another fantastic painter whose work I ran into in my web travels. Tibor Nagy is a Slovakian painter who uses a lot of very expressive brushwork and knife work in his landscapes. See his work at including the following amazing pieces.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Plein Air Painting Magazine

Just received my special issue from American Artist called Everything You Need to Know about Plein Air Painting.  It's a gorgeous publication, full of lovely paintings, tips, and articles on everything plein air.

Get your copy from the Interweave Store here:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

John Poon

In researching workshops, I found another artist I’d like to share. (Well, I didn’t “find” him, but you know what I mean.) John Poon’s landscapes are full of color, even the green ones. Here’s a sample:

He’s teaching at the Scottsdale Artist School in March, which is too soon for me. But he does have some workshops in Sante Fe in the late summer. I think I’ll have to look into those. Good reviews of his workshops on his website:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hey look, another quick study

Ok, these are definitely fun. I didn't really have a plan for the last one, other than maybe varied greens, and I think it shows.  With this one, I wanted to convey distance and depth. I wanted to make the field near the ridge appear farther away than the field near by. I think that part came out well. However, the trees could have been grasses or bushes, until I added the red structure to give it some scale. This was about 40 minutes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quick study number 2

Did this one last night in 60 minutes. Sorry for the flash on the picture, had to take it indoors today because of the rain. Still a bit too fussy, and I have a hard time making streams look like streams instead of paths. Sometimes my paths look like streams....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Quick study number 1

Hey, I did a quick study!  Woo hoo!  LOL. This was 45 minutes.

After this, I also pre-mixed some paint to relieve a little of my time-stress:

The color in the photo isn't very good, but that's a mix of ultramarine blue and cobalt blue, on the left. Then a cool green (ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow light) and a warm green (ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow medium). My thinking is that these will make good bases, and can be easily modified.  Then when I'm done, I just pop it in a sandwich bag and throw it in the freezer until the next time I have an hour to spare.

Techniques for Quick Studies

I'm continuing to read Nelson's 60 Minutes to Better Painting. In it, he offers some specific techniques to completing quick studies, so you don't try to make everything a finished painting.
  1. Do a quick sketch on your canvas (about 5 minutes), then paint in the basic shapes.
  2. Use the two-value statement technique. Create a light value and a dark value of every color, and use only those two values. Then add details as your time limit allows.
  3. Block-in technique. Don't sketch, just block in the various color masses, then refine as your time limit allows.
  4. Use brush strokes to define masses (he calls them control strokes).
All of these techniques will help me in something I know I have problems with -- editing out the unnecessary details. It's funny, but in my professional life, my mantra is "simplify" and get rid of unnecessary detail. Now if only I can learn to do that with paintings! I have a problem with trying to paint every leaf on a tree, when I know I need to paint masses of leaves. Doing quick studies will, I hope, help me learn to leave out the superfluous details and decide on what is important.

Another technique I'd like to add is one to help with the "limited time to paint" factor. Or maybe I should call this the "limited time to paint for cheapskates" factor. To prepare for creating quick studies, I am doing two things, both of which will likely be frowned upon (but that's ok, they're studies!):
  1. Premixing some basic colors and storing them in a pill box. I think I'll target two or three greens, which I can modify quickly depending on the subject matter. 
  2. Here's the cheapskate part -- Instead of preparing canvas, I'm gessoing some watercolor paper and painting my studies on that.

The Importance of Quick Studies

I'm reading Craig Nelson's 60 minutes to Better Painting and I think he may have written it specifically for me. This is how it starts:
"Painting is sheer joy when it goes right and a great frustration when it doesn't. It is impossible to be a genius every time you set up to paint."
And later in the introduction, I would swear he's been spying on me:
"A common problem that is constantly encountered is the lack of time to paint. Each painting becomes precious and must continually be better than the last, or so one thinks. This can burden the artist to overanalyze and overwork a piece."
Ok, so he hasn't been spying on me -- he's been reading my mind!

Nelson advocates quick studies to help eliminate this overanalyzing tendency, and add to your brush mileage. Quick studies of 20 to 60 minutes help bring your painting skills to a more intuitive level. (Practice, the way athletes or musicians practice.) In summary, he says that quick studies will help you:
  1. Break inhibitions (get over that fear of the lost masterpiece)
  2. Be less fearful of mistakes (practice, practice, practice)
  3. Learn the difference between line and mass (we learn to draw in line but see in mass and should paint that way)
  4. Learn brushwork (and when to use which kind in specific situations)
  5. Learn how to see, or how to take what you see and put it on the canvas
  6. Learn how to get started (lose that fear of the white canvas)
  7. Learn and explore different themes, subject matter, etc.
So how can I apply this to landscape painting? I can make a resolution to do more quick studies and worry less about finished paintings. Resolved!  Stay tuned.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Scottsdale Artists School

Would love to have any feedback on the Scottsdale Artist School.

The website doesn’t yet have the schedule for the last part of the year, which is what I’d be interested in. But for a first workshop, this one has a lot of positives going for it: location that is easy to fly into, a lot of variety to choose from as far as instructions and topics, and I could easily get art supplies there if needed. Traveling with all the oil painting accessories is going to be a pain. There appears to be a lot to do in the area. Ron and I both love the desert, and he could go off photographing to his heart’s content. The school is geared for workshops, obviously, versus some place that does workshops only once in a while. Weather in October and November looks tolerable, although average high in September is 99 (89 in October and 77 in November). Hmm, I wonder when their fall schedule will come out?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Creating Depth, Part 6

6. Reduce saturation in color as objects recede. AKA “atmospheric perspective”.  This is the most familiar landscape painting concept, where objects become more muted and lighter as they recede.  The atmosphere is full of moisture and other junk like dust and pollution, even on relatively clear days.  The more moisture or air between you and the object, the more muted the color and the lighter in value the object appears.  On a typical summer day in Atlanta, you don’t even need to be an artist to “see” the air.  From a practical perspective, colors are bluer or colder farther away, and warmer up close.
Here are some examples of reduced saturation in the distance.

This first example is from Jeanne Mackenzie, and really exemplifies the difference between warm colors nearby, cooler colors farther away. You know that, from a geological perspective, the vegetation and rocks are the same in the two planes, and possibly even in the far background. But if you painted them that way, there would be no “space” in the painting.  This is “Sedona Vista” (

The second example shows just what you can do to show that thick air.  This is “Sea Salt and Eucalyptus” by Joseph Paquet (

And because I just couldn’t decide between the two, here’s another example by Joseph Paquet, called “Late August, Menomenie, WI.” I can almost feel the summer humidity in this one.

Some closing thoughts:

I was never one to paint space; I paint air. Fairfield Porter

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the light and the air which vary continually.  For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.   Claude Monet

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Creating Depth, Part 5

5. Reduce the contrast of values as objects recede.  This is related to Details in Front, Lost Edges in Back, especially since one way to highlight detail is to have your lightest and darkest values next to each other.  The farther back in the picture plane something is, the less contrast there should be.

Here’s a great example from someone I wish did workshops, Mark Haworth (“Fredericksburg Autumn”,

You can see that every tree, every building, are reduced in value contrast as they recede.

This effect is especially apparent in foggy or misty scenes, like this one from Skip Whitcomb (“Yellowstone Fog”,

See how the pines trees get lighter and lighter in value the farther away they are?

To be continued.....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Creating Depth, Part 4

4. Details in front, lost edges in back. The closer an object is to the viewer, the more details it will have. The farther away something is, the fewer details it will have. Easy, huh? This is the same theory taught in still life painting classes. The details bring attention to your focal point. In the case of landscapes, your focal point may not necessarily be the foreground, but the details add to the sense of depth.  Here are some examples:

In Bob Rohm’s "Summer Pine", you know immediately what the focal point is because of the level of detail of the tree. (See as well as his book The Painterly Approach.)

In Don Demers’ fantastic "Light Beyond the Marsh" (see, the foreground grasses are much more detailed than even the middle ground grasses.

To be continued....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Creating Depth, Part 3

3.    Reduce the size of objects as they recede. AKA “Linear perspective.” This is the one that scares people but it’s helpful to know, especially if including man-made objects in your landscape.

I won’t attempt to explain one-, two-, and three-point perspective in this blog (not unless I can paint it lovely shades of green!).  Forget the math and geometry aspect of this and make your life simpler. (I’m all for forgetting the math *and* making things simple, not just in painting).  This is not the place, and I am definitely not the person, to explain vanishing points and foreshortening and nerdy things like Cartesian coordinates.

So, I like to keep it simple. Things get smaller the farther back in the picture plane they get. If you have two rocks, and one is in the foreground and one is in the middle ground, the one farthest away is a little smaller.  The degree of difference in the size depends on how far apart they are.

Here’s an example by Dan Young (“Late Summer on Crystal”).  You can see the bushes in the middle ground are the same kind as the one in the foreground.  Try measuring them. The one in front is bigger than the middle ground bushes. This helps create depth.

So what happens if there are man-made things with straight lines involved in your composition? Do you have to worry about things like vanishing points? Well, yes, I’m sorry, but you do.  If it helps, just call it the horizon line instead of vanishing point.  Make the lines of your object point toward the horizon. Here’s an illustrative example by Joseph Paquet (Roman Ruins,

To all you drawing teachers out there, pulling out your hair in frustration, I apologize. I guess I’ll never be an architect. I’m ok with that. There’s too much math involved anyway. ;-)

To be continued.....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Creating Depth, Part 2

2. Overlap objects. This is another of the still life composition fundamentals that can be effective in landscape painting. Take a look.

In Fran Ellisor’s Fisherman’s Cove (, the overlapping boats and shoreline add to the sense of depth and receding space:

Ned Mueller’s wonderful Paradise ( is another good example of overlapping items adding to the sense of space. You know there is distance between that big rock in the middle ground and the distant shore.
 To be continued....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Creating Depth in a Landscape Painting

Creating depth in a landscape painting is just one way to engage the viewer, kindle imagination, and invite him or her in to your painting.  How do you create the illusion of distance and space on a flat surface? Well, I’ve discovered a few ways how *not* to do it, but instead, let’s look at the various methods the experts recommend.

Many people would say you create depth using atmospheric or aerial perspective.  But the word “perspective” tends to send chills down the spine of many a budding artist.  But I think aerial perspective is only one method of adding depth. And it’s not really all that scary, honestly.

There are actually six different things you can do to create depth in a painting.
  1. Vary your planes. And no, I don’t mean planes of the 747 style. Make your foreground, middle ground, and background distinct and separate. While this division of planes isn’t always possible in compositions with a short visual range, it works well with longer range vistas.
A great example is this painting from Jim Wilcox, called "A Colorful Dawn." You can see its foreground, middle ground, and background are very obviously distinct. (Jim’s site is
Another good example is Armand Cabrera's "Summer Relief." (

This one also has a very distinct foreground (the pond and birds), a middle ground (the grassy hill and trees) and a background (the hazy mountains).

To be continued.....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Self-disciplined Activity

Painting and art cannot be taught. You can save time if someone tells you to put blue and yellow together to make green, but the essence of painting is a self-disciplined activity that you have to learn by yourself. 
Romare Beaden

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jeanne Mackenzie

Jeanne Mackenzie is another artist I would love to study with. She is yet another Colorado painter whose work just amazes me. It’s impressionistic but not extremely so. Here are a couple of samples.

Her workshop schedule is interesting also. She’s teaching in Telluride in June, and then in Tucson in December. Hmm, there’s that desert again. And look at this description for the Tucson workshop:
Give yourself a Holiday present! This workshop will include both outdoor plein air and studio. We will capture on location the beautiful Catalinas and desert color. Then, we will spend a few days in the studio bringing one of the plein air studies up into a studio painting. We will learn to make it feel as fresh as the plein air experience.

Could that one be more perfect? Too bad Telluride would be hard to get to and December is so far away! Check out Jeanne’s work at

Monday, February 8, 2010

Studio vs Outdoor revisited

I'm reading Kevin Macpherson's book "Landscape Painting Inside and Out" and ran across this passage.
Indoor and outdoor painting are complementary experiences. As memories of nature breathe life into your studio work, the disciplined approaches and principles you practice indoors will enable you to attack the canvas outdoors in new ways.
However, before I justify myself into staying in the studio forever, there is also this from the same page:
Each truthful color note on a plein air study is a priceless seed of information that can transform your studio work to higher levels.

That Particular Green

"They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never." -- Pablo Picasso

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Word Regarding Plein Air Purism

I live in the real world. I have a full-time job. I have a family. If I am lucky, I get 4 hours of uninterrupted painting time on Sundays. That may happen 20 times per year.  I live in Atlanta, so the chances of the weather being tolerable at the same time I am free are relatively slim.  (Can you stand in 95 degree heat and paint?) Let’s be generous and say it happens 10 times a year. That’s perhaps 40 hours per year I may be able to devote to loading up my car, driving somewhere previously researched, setting up my pochade box, and getting real bugs in my paint.

Yes, I totally and completely understand certain artists who insist that the only way to learn to paint landscapes is go plein air painting. Yes, I understand you can only really see color and details with your own eyes. Yes, you lose a lot of detail and shadow color nuances by working from photographs. Of course, the light changes frequently. I get that, I truly do.

But I live in the real world, as I said. I would love to paint outside every day, but Life won’t let me at the moment.  You can be sure that if my plein air painting time happens as infrequently as 10 times a year, I want to be prepared to make the most of it.  Therefore, I make no apologies for trying to learn landscape painting in the studio with only occasional forays into the outside world. Will my progress be slower? Of course. But I will still be progressing.

Viva la studio landscape painters! Stop feeling guilty. Go forth and learn what you can, when you can.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don’t Eat Yer Greens, Installment 1

You will read a lot about greens in this blog. Atlanta has long summers and vegetation is green, green, green for months at a time.  (Even the bugs are green.) While it’s lovely to look at, it can be difficult to paint. I have to admit, lots of green intimidates me.

Just like with the kinds of greens you are allowed to eat, variety is the spice of life. With landscapes containing nothing but green, you should have a variety of:
  • temperatures
  • edges
  • values
  • hues
  • textures
 Here's one example I like, from Dan Young, an artist I've short-listed for possible workshops.

Look at all those greens! They're Colorado greens, not Georgia greens, but this is a green landscape that is anything but boring and green. There are warm greens and cool greens, yellow greens and blue greens, soft greens and textured greens. It's even got greens with lost edges and found edges. 

Please take a look at Dan's work:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Best Birthday Present Ever

Who said that aging is all bad? At the end of 2010, I will be turning a big number with a zero at the end. My husband has obviously been racking his brain already trying to find a good gift. He knows a surprise party is not a good idea.  He then suggested a long weekend at Biltmore in Ashville at Christmas and when he saw my reaction (rather lukewarm, at best), he went back to the drawing board. Bingo!  An art workshop, any art workshop I want. Wow! That got my attention.

So now the fun begins – what workshop? What artist? What location? What time of year? Desert? Mountain? Coastal? Winter? Summer? Oh the choices! This will be too much fun. 

Anyone have any suggestions? I first thought of Weekend with the Masters, the second annual extravaganza sponsored by American Artist magazine. ( Last year’s event sounds like a weekend of painting workshop heaven. However, I’m afraid I would overload at that one. Not sure I’m quite ready for that much art instruction crammed into a few days. I need to start a bit smaller, I think. Maybe I can talk my husband into making this a birthday tradition every year, and I can do Weekend with the Masters in 2011.  Well, a girl can dream! Stay tuned as I work through all the possibilities.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I admit it. I finally succumbed to the call of the blogosphere. While I managed to resist it for years as I pursued painting, I found a reason for blogging, at long last.  I know there are many, many art blogs out there. I wanted one that had a purpose in life. This is it.

I want to learn to be a better landscape painter. I have always admired the more famous landscape artists but when I tried landscape on my own, it was generally a disaster. I’ve watched my Richard Schmid videos multiple times, read Carlton over and over, practiced making all kinds of green blobs of paint, but *it* is still eluding me. I make my living as an analyst, and decided to try analyzing the art of landscape painting to see what progress I can make.  

Finally, a good reason for a blog!  “Bugs In My Paint” will help me organize my thoughts; it will be a place to analyze and distill the rules of landscape painting; and maybe, just maybe, I can use it to crack the secret code.  This blog is for me, but feel free to tag along. Or not, that’s ok too.  But I will be here, learning and practicing.