Friday, February 27, 2009

Scott Gellatly

Scott Gellatly taught painting in the Art-Zones/Continuing Education program at Bellevue Community College before accepting his position as Techical Support Represenative for Gamblin Artist's Oil Colors in 2005.

“I really like the immediacy of working outdoors without any preconceived ideas. As I’m working in the landscape I edit what I see so I can paint the essence of the place. I always want to strike that balance between the specific and the general, or the aspects of the landscape that are associated with one place and those that more universal characteristics of nature. I want viewers of the paintings to sense they are looking at a sky in the Northwest or the Southwest and yet not know exactly where I was painting.” – Scott Gellatly

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Frederic Fiebig - 1885 - 1953

A very much overlooked plein air painter in the history of 20th century art, Latvian born Frederic Fiebig studied in St. Petersburg and at the Julian Academy in Paris. His work was well received in Paris where he exhibited alongside other well known avant-garde painters during the pre-World War I years. Despite this and periodic successes thereafter, his life was mostly a downward spiral of isolation, misfortune and poverty culminating in a hermit-like existence in the mountains of Alsace before his health broke during World War II.

Fiebig was a painter of integrity, following a unique path of absolute individuality far from convention. “The tragic terms of his miserable life never compromised his art.” 1. His distinctive style of the 20s and 30s was expressed in tiny (as small as 3” x 5”) jewel-like plein air paintings done on paper with a palette knife. Although these are objective paintings, they have an underlying structure of triangular forms evocative of Cezanne and cubism. The painting shown is View of Rodern from a Mountain, 1934, oil on gray wove paper, 6 ¾” x 5 ½”.

- Carl Judson


1. Kashey, Elizabeth, Frederic Fiebig St. Petersburg-Paris-Alsace: Fall Exhibition 1990 Shepard Gallery. New York, 1990

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Clyde Aspevig: A Living Landscape Legend

“My first concern when beginning a landscape outside is capturing the overall feeling of light as it affects the forms. I use broad brushstrokes to block in the overall color and values of the masses while simultaneously trying to create movement. As I progress, my intuition drives me to concentrate on the idea or purpose behind what I’m painting. The further elaboration of the concept comes later in the studio. Field studies supply you with information that you can then use on a more complete painting.” - Clyde Aspevig
From an interview by Allison Malafronte
American Artist, April 29, 2008

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Painting as a Pastime - Winston Churchill

Currently out of print, but available used, Winston Churchill’s compelling invitation to take up painting as a life enriching pastime was first published as an essay in his book Amid These Storms (New York 1932). A chance reading of this little book convinced me to start painting almost 30 years ago. I find myself re-reading it every year or two, and it never fails to re-energize me.

At his lively and engaging best in this charming little volume, Churchill makes a case for the all-absorbing activity of painting (particularly plein air) as a respite from stress and overwork. His argument is particularly aimed at the care-worn professional contemplating taking up painting late in life, to whom he recommends bypassing deliberate study and getting on with it – “a joy ride in a paint box,” for which “audacity is the only ticket.”

Churchill took up painting at the age of 40 and quickly became an accomplished painter. He recounts his beginning painting experience in 1915. He had just hesitatingly made a sky blue spot “about as big as a bean” with a tiny brush on the canvas when a friend, the wife of a painter, drove up: “‘Painting! But what are you hesitating about? Let me have a brush – the big one.’ Splash into the turpentine, wallop into the blue and the white, frantic flourish on the palette – clean no longer – and then several large, fierce strokes and splashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back. No evil fate avenged the jaunty violence. The canvas grinned in helplessness before me. The spell was broken.”

He makes a good case for oils, but Churchill, the (mortal) sensualist, is also revealed: “Just to paint is great fun. The colors are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so – before you die.

I would add to that exhortation to make sure to read this little gem, too.

- Carl Judson

Churchill, Winston S., Painting as a Pastime. New York 1965, 52 pages, 18 color plates, 8 1/4 x 5 1/4, hardback

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jean LeGassick

Jean LeGassick was born in California in 1950 and lived there for her first 47 years. She graduated from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, in 1979 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Her artist affiliations include the Plein Air Painters of America and the California Art Club. Jean was recently honored by being chosen as one of six artists filmed for the PBS series, "Plein-Air: Painting the American Landscape." An art instructor at Cerro Coso Community College in Bishop, California for many years, she continues to teach an occasional oil painting workshop. The summer 2008 issue of American Artist's Workshop Magazine features Jean teaching a recent Art in the Aspens Workshop in Pueblo, Colorado. Jean now lives in Silver City, a small, historic mining town in northern Nevada.

“I’m happiest when I’ve taken some effort to get to the place I’m painting. There is nothing more exciting for me than to hike, snowshoe, or mulepack to remote peaks, hidden canyons, windswept desert outcroppings or the rocky shores where land meets sea.” – Jean

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friendly Chaos

This notion is a direct affront to the German & Swiss DNA that I have, but it's true that chaos is always there, lurking just beneath the surface, so we might as well make friends with it.When you think about it, isn't chaos the wellspring for all our bold, mysteriously beautiful creations?

Granted, a finished painting is usually considered to be the antithesis of chaos. Composition, color scheme, perspective, proportion, you know the drill. Trouble is, after you've worked hard to get all of those things right, you might still have a spiritless painting. Very pat. The kind of painting where you look at it once and say, "Wow, that's really good," and walk away, dismissing it from your mind & memory.

Watercolor has a special affinity for chaos. It tempts you to improvise.

Pick up a wild card, give a nod to the personal, unverifiable and unpredictable. Designate a "Chaos Appreciation Day" (or two, or more).

- lady guerrilla painter

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dwight William Tyron 1849-1925

Dwight William Tyron considered a series of more than 20 small pastel seascapes (~ 8” x 12”) painted in the autumn of 1915, which he called “Sea Phrases” or “Sea Moods”, among his best work. When you look at these, that these are probably not, strictly speaking, plein air paintings is hard to believe – especially since they are so evocative of the composition and subject matter of Whistler’s plein air pochade box paintings of the 1880s and 1890s. (see "Afternoon Clouds" on left)

Whistler had a strong influence on Tryon and they shared a patron, Charles Lang Freer, the Detroit industrialist, who had made his fortune building railroad cars before becoming one of the most astute American collectors of art in the early 20th Century. Not surprisingly, the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian houses the largest collection of Tryon’s work.

Tryon was a passionate lover of the outdoors and a meticulous observer of the New England landscape (and seascape). He had rigorously trained himself to commit his observations to memory and then to render them in paint later. This carefully honed skill particularly allowed him to record fleeting effects of dawn and dusk with great veracity. Although his paintings are almost all studio paintings, done from memory and pencil notes on little scraps of paper, they give a sense of immediacy and direct observation characteristic of plein air paintings by an artist who has really “seen” the subject.

- Carl Judson

Merrill, Linda, An Ideal Country: Paintings by Dwight William Tryon in the Freer Gallery of Art. Smithsonian Institution, 1990, Hardcover, 10 ¾ x 10 ¼, 200 pages, 80 color plates.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nancy Albrecht

We saw some of Nancy Albrecht’s recent plein air paintings in New American Paintings book #77 Midwest Open Studios Press. Here is what Robert Kameczura, Chicago art critic has to say about this urban plein air artist:

"Nancy Albrecht’s recent paintings represent something of the duality of Chicago’s personality. On the one hand the city is earthy, seemingly rough, massive and jumbled, on the other side Albrecht sees the city representing the acting out of the cycle of life, the eternal pattern of birth, death and rebirth.

Her paintings show a Chicago that is made out of tough steel and stone, in neighborhoods which include heavy buildings, El platforms, streets and alleys, with a particular emphasis on things which are being torn down for reconstruction. She takes a certain delight in the bizarre shapes and counterpoints of urban structures. Her Chicago views are all painted in a raw painterly style, done almost exclusively with palette knives, laid on in thick textured layers with small touches of lyrical bright color to enliven the scene…

“Albrecht’s Chicago paintings, with their strong geometry, bold paint surfaces, lyric details, and optimistic strength, seem very much in line with Carl Sandburg’s mythical image of Chicago as ‘…cunning as a savage, pitted against the wilderness, bareheaded, shoveling, wrecking, planning, building, breaking, rebuilding.’”

Robert Kameczura
Arts Writer and Critic
Big Shoulders’ Magazine, Chicago Artists’ News, and etc
January 10, 2007"

You can see Nancy's blog here:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Painting on the Edge (or Art vs. Craft) – An Opinion

For contemporary painting to be taken seriously by the “real art” world, it is expected to create some element of surprise, incongruity, or discomfort (if not shock), be a little off kilter or unsettling – what is sometimes referred to as being edgy.

Although, like almost everyone, there is much current art that I don’t like, I find the idea appropriate. This is not a new idea – it has become a thoroughly engrained part of our culture’s painting tradition over the last 150 years, with roots going back 500 years.

Painting, once one of the skilled crafts, was nudged from its utilitarian moorings as a conveyor of information and narrative by (among other influences) the twin forces of Luther and Gutenberg – the former giving rise to the idea of the importance of the individual (and individual creativity) and the latter conveying information by more efficient means.

At first, the evolution of painting from craft to what we now call art was slow, but by the time photography came along, some painters (most of the ones deemed important today) were staking out non-traditional territory for themselves in some pretty edgy places: Manet with his roughly executed “Picnic on the Grass,” showing two well dressed gentlemen with disrobed women in the woods; shortly afterwards, the Impressionists with their dabs of paint depicting ordinary subjects (profoundly shocking at the time); followed by the Fauves (“wild beasts”), the Cubists and so on through the Pop Artists and the Minimalists, et al.

Edginess now marks one of the boundaries between art and craft. The arts are full of surprises and tension, the crafts are comfortable and predictable – the arts challenge convention while the crafts are guardians of the comfortable past (a valuable and valid role – just not art).

Turner found some of his edginess in technique, Manet in social values, the Impressionists in subject matter, the Fauves in color, the Cubists in form, and Pop in the everyday. Some edges are rediscovered and reinterpreted – today, just painting plein air is so reactionary that it can have some pretty edgy connotations.

Wolf Kahn and Fairfield Porter are modern plein air painters whose work is widely acknowledged in the broader art world. The edges that they staked out are now familiar. Ironically maybe the edgiest of images of the late 19th century were the tiny, abstract pochade box landcapes of James MacNeill Whistler. The renewed interest, after nearly a century, in the small and intimate scale of many plein air paintings once again challenges convention.

For me, the risk of leaving behind comfortable tricks of the trade, familiar materials and pictorial formulas is that I’ll fail (frequently) or fall over the edge into shallow contrivance (sometimes). Pushing the envelope is frustrating, exasperating and uncomfortable, but when I’ve found a new edge and negotiated it more or less successfully, it sure beats just cranking out another pretty picture.
- Carl Judson

Monday, February 16, 2009

Donald Demers

Donald Demers was born in 1956, in the small rural communityof Lunenburg, Massachusetts. His interest inpainting maritime subjects began while spending his summers on the coast of Maine near Boothbay Harbor. Crewing aboard schooners, square-riggers and other traditional craft has provided both the foundation for his technical expertise and the vision to transfer his first hand experience to the canvas. His love of sailing has not diminished over the years.

Don acknowledges his high school art teacher as the most formative influence in his early training. He continued his education at the School of Worchester (MA) Art Museum and Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, MA.

His professional career began as an illustrator. A move to Maine in 1984 marked a shift in his career in which illustration yielded to marine and landscape painting.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Whistler: Landscapes and Seascapes

The author, Donald Holden is a painter, educated at Columbia and Ohio State Universities, the Art Student League of New York and the Parsons School of Design. He brings the perspective of a practicing artist to this volume on Whistler’s landscapes and seascapes.

“Whistler’s radically simplified paintings, with their flat planes of color, free brushwork, and elimination of detail, became potent weapons in the guerrilla war which the avant-garde waged against the pompous, literary salon pieces which dominated nineteenth century art. In an era of story-telling pictures, Whistler declared war on subject matter and insisted that the painter’s subject is painting. Like Turner and Monet, he gradually evolved an art in which outlines of the visible world began to melt away and the language of painting emerged as an end in itself.”

Of particular interest to plein air painters in this book will be the reproductions of the seldom exhibited modest “thumb box” paintings (mentioned above), which represent the ultimate experimental works of one of the most influential artists of the 19th Century.

– Carl Judson

Whistler Landscapes and Seascapes Donald Holden, Watson-Guptill, New York, 1976, (88 pages, 11 x 10 1/4, 32 color plates, paperback)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Joseph Paquet

St. Paul, Minnesota artist Joseph Paquet uses a combination of on-site and in-studio processes, and a combination of factual scenes and personal vision, to draw our attention to the subtle poetry of ordinary objects and settings.

He begins a painting by toning the canvas with raw umber, followed by a drawing of the main shapes and dark vaules with a cool grey thinned with mineral spirits before adding local color.

He credits his teacher at the Ridgewood Art Institute, John Philip Osborne, with letting him come up with his own decisions, to learn by taking risks and making mistakes rather than by following a formula.

Joseph Paquet is a Signature Member of the Plein Air Painters of America, the Salmagundi Club and an Out-of-State Artist Member of the California Art Club.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"The Talisman"

“The Talisman,” an exquisite small plein-air landscape by Paul Serusier, marked a turning point in art history. Painted in 1888 on an 11”x9” wooden panel in colors almost straight out of the tube, this single painting became an inspiration to a generation of Post-Impressionists.

Born in Paris in 1864, Paul Serusier studied classical philosophy, Greek, Latin, and the sciences and began his art training at the Julian Academy in 1885. From there, he went to Pont-Aven in Brittany, a town popular among artists (both French and foreign). Just before he went back to Paris, Serusier decided to show one of his paintings to the well-known Paul Gauguin, who had spent much of his childhood in Peru and had no academic art training. He encouraged Serusier to free himself from the constraints of imitative painting, to use pure colors and exaggerate his impressions, giving the painting its own logic. Returning to Paris, Serusier carried a small painting he had made following Gauguin’s advice, which became known as “The Talisman,” and began sharing the new ideas with his friends at the Academy - Bonnard, Denis, and Ranson.

Serusier named his group, which later included Vuillard and Roussel, “The Nabis” (Hebrew for “The Prophets”). In their departure from linear perspective and modeling, they had an affinity with Japanese prints, Italian primitives and contemporary graphic posters on the streets of Paris. Denis defined their view of painting as “basically a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order,” which put the emphasis on the two-dimensional, “decorative” use of the visible world (in French, the concept doesn’t imply triviality, but rather work that is personal, evocative and even spiritually significant).

The Nabis disbanded in 1899, but they had created a link between the remote past (medieval tapestries and frescoes), distant places (Japan & Africa) and the future (Matisse and Picasso) as well as between fine art and applied design (theatre sets and Art Nouveau)... and all because of that one little plein-air painting.

– Sarah Judson


Ellridge, Arthur, Gauguin and the Nabis, Terrail, 1995

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shaun Horne

Shaun Horne was brought up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. He graduated from SUNY at Stony Brook with a degree in Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Studio Art. In 1995 he entered the Colorado State University graduate art program and came out as a committed plein air painter. While at CSU, he taught the upper division painting course and discovered he did not want to teach; he wanted to be outside painting.

Shaun estimates that he paints outdoors about 1000 hours a year, making upwards of 50 large-scale realist plein air landscapes in all weather in the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Utah. Shaun lives with his family in Crested Butte, CO where he and his wife, Dawn Cohen (also a very fine plein air painter), have the Oh-Be-Joyful Gallery.

“Currently my commercially available oil landscapes are working largely to capture and share Earth's beauty. With this function my paintings are essentially consoling to a viewer: this to the extent that beauty is real (it is) and endures any level of scrutiny or skepticism. However one so inclined will notice realist inclusions in subject matter which I hope begin a dialog about apparent, contemporary relationships between humans and Earth.” – Shaun Horne

Friday, February 6, 2009

Heiner Hertling

Heiner Hertling received his formal art training in Hamburg, Germany. After his immigration to the United States in 1965, he owned a commercial art studio until his recent retirement. He has now established an open art studio and school Milford, Michigan, where he conducts classes and workshops covering a variety of media. He also conducts classes in framing and gold leafing.

Heiner is the author of Your Brush With Nature, which has now become a PBS Series with Hiener as the host. He is a plein air and studio artist working in oil, pastel and watercolor.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

James Abbott McNeill Whistler – 1834-1903

Born in America and educated at West Point, James McNeill Whistler was an expatriate living in Europe his entire adult life. He was a legendary character, cynic and artistic revolutionary in Victorian London (and Paris), counting among his friends Monet, Degas and Rodin. Whistler was a real “painter’s painter, whose ideas and work influenced many leading painters of his day including John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase.

Of course, he was best known for his portraits, particularly Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother (“Whistler’s Mother”). His mature work, the lesser known small plein air paintings, anticipated abstraction and shocked his Victorian audience at least as much, if not more than, his outrageous behavior.

These small pochade box oil paintings (some of my all-time favorites), done on wooden panels, are about 5” x 9” in size. The paint application is fluid and the brushwork deliberate, deft, direct and spare. For such a flamboyant personality these remarkably modest and unassuming little paintings stand in stark contrast.

Fortunately for us in America, Charles Lang Freer, a Detroit industrialist, became Whistler’s most important collector. Consequently most of these little gems are in the collection of the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian.

- Carl Judson

References –

Whistler: Landscapes and Seascapes Donaly Holden, Watson-Guptill, New York, 1976, 88 Pages, 11x10 1/4, 32 color plates, paperback

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sharon Calahan

A Pacific Northwest native, Sharon has had a lifelong love for nature and active outdoor activities. Her art education in illustration and design led her into a career as an artist in the motion picture feature animation business. She has spent her career studying the effects of light and color to enhance beauty and mood in the film world and has recently endeavored to transfer this knowledge into landscape painting. Sharon loves to hike and paint out of doors, and then to use these field studies as direct inspiration in the studio. She has participated in juried events such as the Sonoma Plein Air Festival, the Napa Valley Art Festival, the Emeryville Art Show, as well as selected gallery shows.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lori Putnam

Lori’s interest in art began before she was 5 years old. By age 11, she had won her first student competition and used the $5.00 prize to purchase pencils and a large sketchpad. As an adult, she managed her own successful graphic design company for more than 13 years while continuing to study art independently. Scott Christensen, Michael Shane Neal, Jason Saunders, and Quang Ho are among her most influential teachers. She credits her love of learning and dedication to the challenge to her friend, mentor, and accomplished artist, Dawn Whitelaw. Lori finds it both a joy and a privilege to share her knowledge and talent with students through plein air and studio workshops across the United States and abroad.

"Like a candid snapshot, I strive to record my first impression, to capture a moment in time or everyday life. I express the effects of light and atmosphere, translated so that viewers can experience the beauty in something seemingly ordinary – something they may never have seen in that way before." - Lori Putnam