Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review - Inventing the Landscape by Richard Crozier

The cover painting obviously contains a big dose of imagination, but most of this book (5/6 of its pages) is about painting from life. Evidently, if you want to invent the landscape, you need to study it first. And if you want to use your imagination as subject matter, you need to feed it regularly, give it resources that you can call on when the time comes. So, it's not so much about converting your plein-air studies into larger studio paintings as it is about paying attention when you're outdoors and then, in the studio, starting from an impression, a mood or a vision. "My small paintings are seldom made with larger paintings specifically in mind. They are mainly attempts to learn something, or to work with some motif. In my invented paintings, I build off of my many plein air experiences, those sense-memories, without drawing on any specific site directly." It's a slow process compared to painting outdoors; the painting can take months (or even years) to evolve and may change in unexpected ways.

This book is about oil painting, which lends itself to revision (even re-visioning), moving, removing or adding details, darkening or lightening various elements, changing proportions, trial & error, all kinds of playful improvisation.

Crozier is interested not just in the process of creating a painting, but also in processes in the landscape (erosion, the change of seasons, excavations and wildfires) and in the process of creating structure in everyday scenes by changing one's viewpoint or eliminating details, maybe just focusing on light & shadow.

There are 276 full-color examples of Crozier's paintings to illustrate his thoughts, including plein air studies, close-ups of flowers, figures in the landscape, and large (sometimes multi-panel) landscapes.

This is not a how-to-paint book, but rather a book about paying attention and then adding those subtle qualities of memory & imagination to the usual equation of landscape + skill + vision that most plein air painters are familiar with.

~Sarah Judson

Crozier, Richard (with Thomas Bolt), Inventing the Landscape, Watson-Guptill, 1989

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Genevieve Tuck - Plein Air Centenarian

Genevieve Tuck died last year at the age of 100, having spent her last 27 years as a plein air painter in all kinds of weather in Snohomish county, Washington. She wanted to capture the landscape before it was changed by development in the state's fastest-growing county.

An exhibit of her paintings will open next week at the Frances Anderson Center in Edmonds, Washington, on Monday, August 3, and be on view through Friday, September 11. This is a partnership exhibit presented by the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation and the Edmonds Arts Commission with the support of Genevieve’s family.

Her uncle and mentor was the well-known Western painter Frank Tenney Johnson, who studied with John Henry Twachtman at the Art Students League in New York City.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pamela Turnbow - Artist

This is our first summer in our newly expanded retail space, and we've been happy to see how many people from around the country make a point of stopping by when they come to Colorado. We've had several painters from the Midwest visit us this summer, including Pamela Turnbow from Indiana.

She works in both watercolor and oils, as well as graphite, concentrating on rural subjects. She was a history major, so these subjects include antique still-lifes and people in traditional dress (both natives and settlers).

Pamela is also a regional editor for Fine Art Connoisseur magazine.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Plein Air Day Trip Idea #1

Plein Air Day Trip Idea #1

West Fort Collins, LaPorte, & Bellvue

Sometimes all you need to get out to paint is for somebody else to suggest a location or provide you with some inspiration. We've put together the first of what we hope will be many plein air painting day trip maps for our Colorado and Wyoming readers. The interactive map below shows a few locations around our area (just outside of Fort Collins) where we've been known to paint. In addition, we've marked a few restaurants and bathroom facilities. Each marker has a picture when you click on it to give you an idea of what the scene is, and you can enjoy the "street view" by Google to get another idea of what you're in for. So if you haven't been out in this area to paint, grab your easel/pochade box and paints and make a weekend of it! Please feel free to contact us with any questions about these locations. ~Alicia

View Pleasant Valley Plein Air Day Trip in a larger map

"Pleasant Valley" is a still relatively untouched foothills nook just outside of Fort Collins which offers lots of plein air opportunities. Pleasant Valley is the site of the French trapper's powder cache that gave the Cache La Poudre River its name. A great spot to paint is from the top of Bingham Hill, from which you can survey the whole of the valley. The little village of Bellvue has several subjects including the Grange, General Store and the historic Flowers House. To the west is a beautiful old log house farmstead, to the east is Watson Lake and the Poudre River, and to the south is Lory State Park and Horsetooth Reservoir. Throughout the valley are lots of little roads leading to bucholic, derelict, historic and scenic jewels. On the east side of Bingham Hill, located on the original Overland Trail, is the old Fort Collins Waterworks. Of course, with the growth pressures along the Front Range, Pleasant Valley won’t survive intact forever, so paint it while you can! - Carl

Do you have an idea for a plein air painting map? Email us and we'll work with you to make it a Google map available to your fellow plein air painters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sanjeev Joshi - India & Bhutan Watercolor Sketches

Sanjeev Joshi is an architect and painter in Pune, Maharashtra, in western India. Check out this page where he's posted lots of sketches from a trip to Bhutan (and earlier trips to Dubai and Japan). He also does pottery and calligraphy.

Book Review - An Artist's Book of Excuses

We discovered a great new product at the National Art Materials trade show in May: a spiral-bound (take it in the field with you) guidebook written by artist and Soltek Easel inventor Jim Wilcox. Illustrated with cartoons by his friend and fellow-painter John Potter (check out this page on his website that shows his painting process from sketch through beautiful finished painting) the book contains 52 reasons why things can go wrong and suggestions on how to survive the situation, put it right and possibly avoid it in the future.

Here are some sample pages, including the excuse and Jim Wilcox's advice:

"I just can't paint (a) trees (b) figures (c) animals.
"The really wonderful news about painting is that we don't need to be able to paint any particular subject. All we need to do is find the shapes of color in our subject and repeat them on our canvas, thus putting the right color in the right place."

"They said art is a relaxing hobby, but I get so uptight!
"Some people have said that they find painting relaxing. Either they are missing something or I am. It can be pleasant and occasionally rewarding, but I find it taxing and mentally challenging as well. On occasion, a most successful painting appears to 'fall off the brush.' It will be easy to paint and exhilarating, but even this wonderful experience isn't usually what I would describe as relaxing."

"It was too (a) hot (b) cold (c) rainy (d) windy.
"The more comfortable you are when painting, and the fewer unpleasant distractions, the better you should paint. However, some of the most dramatic moments in nature are a result of atmospheric stress."

And, our favorite (based on a true incident):

"A bear ate my white paint.
"Don't try to get your white paint back - you can't outrun a bear. If you brought your watercolors as well, you are in luck. If you brought a friend with paint, your luck is even better, and painting can continue...assuming the bear has left."

This helpful guide is available from or from our website.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wayne Thiebaud

Wayne Thiebaud is best known for his Pop Art images of cakes and pies sitting in a bakery shop display. The retrospective of his work on view this summer at the Loveland Museum and Gallery in Loveland, Colorado, includes those paintings along with other still-lifes, charcoal sketches, figures and abstract landscapes. We were fortunate to be able to see it last Friday. The exhibit even has its own Facebook page. There's a 60-minute interview that you can watch in a room alongside the exhibit. Thiebaud is animated and articulate (at 88, he still plays tennis and teaches) and his sense of humor is as keen as his knowledge of art history.

Thiebaud is also known for using thick layers of paint (like frosting on a cake) and "halation," which is a line of bright color that our stereoscopic vision causes us to see on the edges of a subject in bright light or strong sunlight.

These works are obviously not plein air, but he doesn't work from photos.

"Photography takes the world all together as a source...Painting starts with nothing and has to get's a world of its own. So if you are trying to mix the two together, it's probably okay if you're Degas, who used photographs, but, how deeply he was trained first to be able to use those options. If you start copying photographs, you're going to always be on this flat surface, and it's so easy to tell when something is photographically based. You can't lie about it.

"I just spend a lot of time drawing from objects and people and things, and then, like reading a visual dictionary, you develop tools."
- Wayne Thiebaud

The exhibit will be at the Loveland Museum through August 16.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Don Coen - Artist

Don Coen has a painting in the new Hamilton Building of the Denver Art Museum. Most of his paintings are large-scale (8' long or more), hyper-realistic images of the rural West. Some are air-brushed acrylic on canvas, some are oil-stick on paper and some are monotypes. With their size and level of detail, they could never be mistaken for plein-air.

His ink-and-wash drawings, however, do look like they were done on the spot. That's the only way you could get that combination of accuracy & spontaneity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Larry Cannon - Watercolor Artist

Larry Cannon started out as an architect and urban planner in San Francisco. The analytical and deliberative qualities required in those fields certainly help when painting in watercolor. No matter how spontaneous it may appear, a watercolor painting needs to be planned.

Larry Cannon works primarily in watercolor using a direct painting method on stretched paper utilizing large washes, glazing and reductive techniques. His work is focused on landscapes and seascapes of Northern California, especially Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Charles Fritz - An Artist with Lewis & Clark

An exhibit entitled "An Artist with the Corps of Discovery" is on display through August 30th at The Buffalo Bill Historic Center in Cody, Wyoming.

Although Lewis & Clark made maps and recorded plenty of scientific data, they didn't have an artist along with them. To celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition, plein-air painter Charles Fritz visited the sites that were recorded in their journal. His paintings were done at the same time of year as when the expedition was at the location, and each one is accompanied by a journal entry. The scene above shows Captain Lewis at the Great Falls of the Missouri, and the journal entry reads, "I wished for the pencil of Salvator Rosa or the pen of Thompson, that I might be enabled to give to the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnificent and sublimely grand object..." – Captain Meriwether Lewis, June 13, 1805

Charles Fritz has been a professional painter for thirty years. He lives in Billings, Montana.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jane Shuss - Artist

Jane Shuss is unusual in that she not only paints in both oils and watercolors, but she is a sculptor as well.

I'm happiest when I'm out in the field with all the elements focusing on a small piece of a beautiful landscape, out comes the juicy paint, the rather small canvas, the turps, paper towels, brushes, and hat. Suddenly everything around me disappears. In that two to three hour segment, I peer, squint, and search, the excitement builds as I see and relate the nuances of mother nature. Then I'm off to another locale as the sun has changed its effect to begin anew this most enjoyable passion we artists are so fortunate to engage in. ~ Jane Shuss

Jane Shuss studied with Sergei Bongart (1918-1985), who was the youngest pupil to be accepted at the Academy of Art in Kiev. He emphasized the way colors (and values) related to each other, like a chord in music. We're not trying to capture the colors of nature so much as to exaggerate, to "make color sing, ring like a bell."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Artists for Conservation

Artists for Conservation is a non-profit, juried association of artists dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation, biodiversity, sustainability and environmental education through art.

The 500 members participate in benefit sales, sponsored expeditions, an advertising program, awards, a newswire and an events calendar in order to raise both money and awareness.

Shown above is a watercolor sketch done by Alison Nicholls during a sponsored expidition in Zimbabwe to study the endangered Painted Dogs, a genus separate from wolves, dogs, hyenas or jackals. Alison lives in New York and regularly travels to Africa. Regarding her process when creating paintings from sketches, she says, "I find I need to be out of the studio so I can clear my mind of any distracting images. I must admit that it can be quite bizarre walking in a snow covered park in New York while in my mind’s eye I see elephants taking an evening drink from the Chobe river!"

In addition to various locations in Africa, AFC has sponsored expiditions in Bhutan, Siberia, Mongolia, northern Canada, Panama and along the headwaters of the Ganges River.