Thursday, April 30, 2009

Instructional DVDs

We've been wondering what kind of resources were available in the realm of instructional DVDs. Of course, many professional painters make their own DVDs that are available on their websites. Here are some places that are more general:

Creative Catalyst Productions and Art Workshops TV have been working together to produce and distribute DVDs for all skill levels and media. The DVDs are available online or can be shipped.

The Artists' Place is the distributor for (British producers) APV Films in USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and some South American countries. APV has been making films since 1985 with renowned painters on location in extremes of climate and terrain as well as in the artists' studios.

Artist Network TV lets you watch online. You can sign up to watch one or more DVDs online for six months. They also offer DVDs for sale.

The Carder Method is a system that combines a two-DVD set with two tools, a Color Checker and a Proportional Divider, as "training wheels" to teach you how to see accurately when painting from life. Absolutely no talent required. ("Spend a year. Paint ten still-lifes. Learn to see.")

At Amazon, you have to search "Movies and TV" for art instruction DVDs. Only about nine are about painting, and then it starts to get into playing music and bellydancing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Earl Carpenter

We received a note from painter Earl Carpenter (he also has a page at Ask Art), who has been traveling for weeks at a time, over the last forty years, to paint on location. He was wondering if there are any orgaizations for people who do this, to share information, ideas, suggestions and support. We've heard of RV organizations (there are several), but is there one for painters?

We are always amazed to see the Dogwood trees in bloom when we travel through the midwest in spring, and there must be a thousand such spectacles if you know where to look. On the other hand, maybe ordinary situations, like prairie grass when it begins to turn green, cropland in the fall or a pasture full of cattle, can inspire.

If you know about an existing group, or if you'd be interested in creating one, you can get in touch with Earl Carpenter at his e-mail address,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Hudson River Fellowship

The Hudson River Fellowship is a program to revive the traditional skills of the landscape painters of the Hudson River School. Field studies are an essential part of the curriculum, including pencil drawings, tonal studies and plein air oil sketches. Theory and larger studio painting are also covered.
This charcoal and white chalk sketch is by James David Smillie, dated 1881.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Landscapes of Gustav Klimt

We all know Gustav Klimt from his decorative Art Nouveau paintings, such as "The Kiss," involving gold leaf and mosaic effects. It might come as a surprise to learn that he was also a plein air painter.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire that he grew up in was a cultural center for music, politics, architecture and psychology as well as art. Klimt was the son of an engraver and was influenced by everyone from Freud to Monet and Van Gogh.

His landscapes are quite decorative, flattened and patterned, as opposed to representational. He is said to have used binoculars when choosing a scene to paint. He includes little or no sky, focusing instead on earth, wood and water.

A Symbolist, he painted an apple tree as "The Tree of Life," a house as an archetypal House, a lake or swamp as the primordial source of life. The elements and colors in the paintings are arranged in a naturalistic harmony, like a hymn. He used a square format which implied tranquility and stability, and his pointillistic brush strokes implied infinity without resorting to the use of perspective.

These fairly large (2-3 foot) paintings are a combination of plein air and in-studio work, and a combination of exterior scenes and inner visions.

- Sarah Judson

Johannes Dobai, Gustav Klimt - The Landscapes, Verlag Galerie Welz, Salzburg, 1981

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Anderson Ranch Art Center

Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass, Colorado offers all kinds of workshops in the summertime, for all ages and skill levels. It's a beautiful place to study with prominent artists, and you might be able to sit in on a presentation that's entirely different from what you came for. In addition to traditional classes in ceramics, woodworking, printmaking, photography and drawing and painting, they offer unusual interdisciplinary and "new media" classes such as...performance drawing, bookmaking using sheets of mica and wood as well as paper, digital imaging on clay, digital storytelling, etc. They also offer field expeditions to Jamaica (for pottery) and Utah and the Outer Hebrides (for photography).

On the "drawing and painting" list, there are several classes that might interest a plein air painter, such as the following (all are 5 days, except Figure in the Landscape, which is 12 days):

Beginning Oil Painting - Paul Collins
Fresh Air, Fresh Paint - Gregory Botts
Flower Power - Glenn Goldberg
Figure in the Landscape - John Hull
Site and Story - Annice Jacoby & Julie Heffernan

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Weekend With the Masters

American Artist magazine is hosting Weekend With the Masters this fall, from September 9-13. It will be held at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, about an hour south of Denver.

The event will include not only workshops and demos but also panel discussions, presentations, an exhibit, a benefit silent auction of donated small works, a sunrise painting demonstration in the Garden of the Gods, lunchtime lectures from noted art historians and museum directors, a showing of the film Local Color followed by Q&A with writer/director (and painter) George Gallo, and an evening reception for all the participating painters, including:

Richard Schmid
Daniel F. Gerhartz
Kevin Macpherson (see painting, top)
Mary Whyte
David A. Leffel
Quang Ho
Scott Christensen
Timothy J. Clark
Sherrie McGraw
Scott Burdick
Joseph McGurl
John Salminen
Jeremy Lipking
Susan Lyon
Skip Whitcomb
Stephen Quiller
Jacob Collins
Frank Serrano

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sketching Birds from Life

If you sit inside a blind (maybe near a water source), remain quiet, wear subdued colors or camouflage, use binoculars and your peripheral vision, have your materials at the ready (using toned paper would be less disturbing to wildlife) and practice patience, you can fill your sketchbook with all kinds of birds and other wild creatures. Focus closely for a second or two (take a "snapshot" with your eyes), then look at your paper and re-create the pose & gesture.

Here is a birder's blog, and here is a quote from one of the posts:

To draw something is to own it. You take home a sheet of paper with an image filtered through you, and you have an intense experience of the subject that can’t be taken away. You have absorbed it’s every motion, nuance, feather tract and life-force and it becomes a member of the academy of brain cells and nerve fibers. If, someday, you see that species again, you have the reserves to work from, the muscle memory, and the proportions are stored where you can retrieve them again. ~ Debby Kaspari

This is her website. Most of her work is done on paper, either in graphite and pastel, pen and ink, or watercolor; acrylic on board or canvas is used as well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tim Horn

Timothy Horn started out as a graphic designer after graduating from the Cooper Union School of Art in New York City.

He has been painting full-time since 2006, a combination of plein air, studio and commission work. He offers workshops through the Marin Agricultural Land Trust in the summertime.

This painting is called “Two Brothers from Detroit.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

High Country Artists

High Country Artists is a lively group with lots of good ideas. A non-profit organization in central Washington state, they encompass all ages and media (painting, writing, music, etc.) They use a local history museum (a 1914 mansion) as a meeting place and gallery.

They sponsor weekly plein-air painting ("Fresh Air Friday"), indoor painting sessions, art classes & workshops, traveling exhibits for their members, an information booth at the weekly Farmer's Market, field trips to area galleries, "art trekking" (hikes with a camera and an artist's eye, either on trails or on the streets of town), and an annual Artists Festival with well-known plein-air instructors giving demonstrations and workshops. There is a schedule and a link to register on their website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ray Roberts

Ray Roberts worked as an illustrator and art instructor for many years before focusing full-time on his painting. He still enjoys teaching, and offers workshops in California and Colorado.

He received a strong foundation in art at the Orme School, a ranch & boarding school in Arizona. He then attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he studied under John Asaro. He has also studied under Dan McCaw, Len Chmiel, Ned Jacob, and Mark Daily, among others.

Even with all his education and experience, painting (especially plein-air) is an adventure for him. He might go backpacking for days, or set up his easel in the surf or on a cliff. "For me, painting is like driving to a new, exciting place. I have a vague sense of what it may be like but really no idea until I’m actually there. And when I get there, I’m always surprised at what I’ve “found”

Friday, April 10, 2009

The River Rocks in Idaho

The River Rocks is the name of a plein-air event along the Snake River greenbelt and historic downtown in Idaho Falls this spring. The entry deadline is May 15.

The June 17-19 event includes a get-acquainted breakfast, two and a half days of painting, an awards party and art auction.

On Saturday the 20th, there will be a Festival to display the finished paintings and offer children's art activities and vendor booths. New this year, members of the Eastern Idaho Jazz Society will be playing at two locations throughout the day, with a free headliner concert featuring the Kristin Korb Trio at 7 pm. The festival is free to the public.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Brian Stewart - Artist

St. Paul, Minnesota, painter Brian Stewart learned the classic fundamentals of painting at The Art Center in Los Angeles and later at Atelier LeSueur in Minneapolis.

His web-pages of plein-air paintings include stories about the places shown. Here are some examples:

"I painted this in southern Arizona near the town of Arivaca close to the Mexican border. It’s typical of the dilapidated shacks surrounded by mesquite that you find in that part of the country. I was attracted to the color and character of the place and felt it would not be there much longer."

"The Civilian Conservation Corps was an offshoot of FDR’s WPA Program and New Deal. It employed young men who did rural construction projects that ranged from building bridges, roads, cabins, etc. that were part of our parks and wilderness areas. The structures were of indigenous materials and were always beautifully designed with an Arts & Crafts feel. They are just today being appreciated as an art form and social program. I’ve painted many of them and plan to do more."

"These pens were in the inner city Minneapolis/St. Paul at the University of Minnesota’s experimental, agricultural fields. In the background is the State Fair Grounds. We’re fortunate to have this kind of inner city scenery. This kind of stuff I’d normally drive by unless I was looking for something to paint. The way the early morning light was hitting the chicken coops made it irresistible."

"I painted this at the Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota near the Canadian border. The park has rangers who are living history re-enactors that give you a feeling for life in the 18th and 19th Century by doing presentations and demonstrations. This one was smoking lake trout near an Ojibwe hut. I got to taste the trout later."

No wonder he calls himself "a visual raconteur."

The Atelier in Minneapolis is one of the places where Brian Stewart offers instruction.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Constable in Context

John Constable (1776-1837) was, along with J.M.W. Turner, a visionary who brought pure landscape painting into the spotlight. It had existed in Holland as early as the 17th century, and (in an idealized form) in the Romantic picturesque scenes of Gainsborough, but it was Constable and Turner who paved the way for the plein-air painters of the Barbizon School and later the Impressionists.

Constable grew up in Suffolk, where the rural landscape of canals, barges, mills and heavy horses became his muse. In the face of the Industrial Revolution, these ordinary scenes were a political and religious, as well as an aesthetic, commitment for him. He saw agriculture as the foundation for a stable society.

He spent two years at the London Royal Academy but preferred studying nature first hand. He often spent summers sketching outdoors, and in winter his large (often up to 6’) paintings were done in the studio. He was concerned with the accuracy of his sketches and noted time of day, effects of wind and weather, and specific relationships between plants, animals & elements. He focused on patterns of light and shadow, the “chiaroscuro of nature.” This emphasis on authenticity and spontaneous sketching outdoors as a counterbalance to classical painting resonated with French painters, and he received a gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1824 for The Hay Wain.

The only major painting he completed on-site was Boatbuilding Near Flatford Mill (top right), but as he grew older he painted many expressive plein-air watercolors, such as Stonehenge (below right).


Belsey, Hugh, From Gainsborough to Constable, Boydell & Brewer, 1991
Mendelowitz, Daniel Marcus, Drawing, Stanford University Press

- Sarah Judson

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thomas Wood, Customer Comments

Thomas Wood is a third-generation California landscape painter, living in Marin County.

He sent us a letter recently after filling out our survey with some additional thoughts. We quote:

"The Shadebuddy umbrella is by far the most practical and useful umbrella I have ever used, and I have used many. Its only drawback is in soft earth or sand, but I think I will adapt some sort of deeper stake for these conditions. A great product! Tall enough for standing up, large enough to cover, and no-nonsense adjustments. Really does the job, and makes painting more enjoyable.

I must say your "guerrilla" approach to plein air painting is a breath of fresh air (pun intended), and your equipment a welcome alternative to conventional gear like cumbersome French easels. I enjoy your articles and tips, and your promotion of outdoor painting. You create the sense of a brother-(and sister-)hood of like-minded painters out there working, a community of artists. I always enjoy reading your catalog cover to cover.

I was intrigued by your survey question 'What keeps you from painting plein air more often?' I suppose there could be a whole essay answer to this one... The one symptom I am sure every painter feels from time to time is that some days everything seems paintable, and other days nothing seems paintable. I don't know how to explain that one."

Thanks, Tom, and may you have continued success as well.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Video demonstration of the Jewell Box Viewfinder

This is a very helpful demo about how to use the Jewell Box Viewfinder. Artist, educator and inventor Dr. Russell Jewell shows how to find and capture an effective composition when you're outdoors, surrounded by infinite possibilities.

Dr. Jewell originally discovered the concept for this product while teaching a quadriplegic student to paint (by using his mouth to hold the brush). He realized that any painting student could benefit from this useful tool. There will be an article by him in the June 2009 Watercolor Artist Magazine.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dianne Panarelli Miller - Bermuda

The Empty Easel (a website for artists) has an article by plein-air painter Dianne Panarelli Miller about her annual four-day solo trip to Bermuda. It's a colorful place with (relatively) good weather, so it's an ideal haunt for painting outdoors.

Ideally, we'd all find time amid the routine duties of life to paint every day, but sometimes it helps to *go away* for awhile. Four days doesn't seem like a long time, but she always comes home with 10-12 paintings and a feeling of refreshment and satisfaction.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Prairie Art - a plein-air painting event

Prairie Art is holding its eighth annual plein air paint-out, show and sale this year on May 2-15. All artists are encouraged to participate. Artists may paint for one day, a weekend, several days or the entire length of the Prairie Art event.

Tallgrass prairie once covered nearly 100,00 square miles of North America, from Ohio to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Texas. Today, less than one percent of this ecosystem remains, much of it in the untilled expanse of grass in Kansas known as The Flint Hills. This ecosystem is unique to the United States and it is disappearing. Every spring, the prairie is burned to create the rebirth of the tallgrass.

For more info, contact

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ghost Ranch Retreat and Workshop

is offering a combination workshop/retreat at Georgia O'Keefe's former home, Ghost Ranch, which is about 65 miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Beginning on Labor Day weekend, this multi-media workshop will include photography, journaling, watercolor, text, drawing and an optional Georgia O'Keefe landscape tour to see the views she painted. All skill levels are invited.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great New Products

"Bugs In a Can"
Couldn't make it outside to paint today? Want to give your studio paintings that authentic "plein air" look? Try Bugs In a Can! Just sprinkle a few of these little winged friends onto your wet painting and voila! It's as though you had just spent all afternoon lakeside in Minnesota in August.

"The Plein-brero"
Forget the umbrella, this modified sombrero is all you need on a sunny day. Shade your person, painting, palette, your lunch, your dog and a friend as well! Generous 8 ft. diameter covers everything you might possibly want in the shade. Complete with vents and heavy-duty chinstrap.

"Invisible Paint"
Talk about no-mess! Create your own masterpiece, and no one can argue otherwise. Any color imaginable, and you can re-use your canvas indefinitely.

"The Inflatable Buyer"
Take this handy companion along for your upcoming plein-air outing. With just the push of a button, spouts handy phrases like:
"WOW! That's amazing!"
"You're the best painter in the world!"
"I'll give you a million dollars, and that's my final offer."
Intrigue passers-by with his/her charming comments. Weighs only 2 lbs. Male and female versions available.

Happy April first!