Monday, August 31, 2009

Ken DeWaard - The Fine Arts Examine the Medical Arts

Of course, most plein air painters focus on landscapes, cityscapes, skyscapes, plants, animals and architecture, but here is something entirely different.

Ken DeWaard participated last year in a project at Chicago-based Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science called "The Fine Arts Examine the Medical Arts."

The university opened its doors to six artists who set up in operating rooms, classrooms and clinics, creating works in oils, watercolor, pastel and graphite.

"Artists, like doctors, observe the physical world. Their sense of curiosity drives their art just like curiosity drives students and physicians here."
- David McKay, curator of the exhibit

Ken also participates in plein air events around the country.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook

We've published a compilation of Carl Judson's essays, A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook, and it's available on Carl's new website for only $6.00 (includes shipping and handling).

Michael Chesley Johnson says, "Over the years, Carl has traveled a bit - Bermuda, Central and South America, Maine, California and elsewhere - taking his box with him. I always enjoy hearing about another painter's adventures and discoveries, and also a little bit of technical talk, too. This is exactly what I found in his new book, A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook, which collects fourteen of his essays. It's a pleasant and informative read, and I especially enjoyed his essays on alternative surfaces for oils and lunch hour in Bolivia. While everyone else in town was engaged in a siesta, he was busy - painting. I'm looking forward to the next volume."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sidewalk Sale This Weekend

Our annual Sidewalk Sale is coming up this weekend, and we're looking forward to clearing out our seconds, floor models, one-of-a-kinds, close-outs, samples and other clearance items at 25%-70% off.

There will be stretched canvas, Colourfix primer, canvas panels, Fredrix canvas pads and watercolor canvas, Arches and Cotman watercolor blocks, Waterford watercolor post cards, Wallis pastel pads, Guerrilla Backpacker covered palette trays, Silver Brush cases, Lama Li leather jurnals (3"x4") one Shadebuddy umbrella and one Watercolorboard (1/4 sheet size)...

There will be 40% off our Sennelier oil paint and select brushes, 20% off backpacks and 10% off our chairs, tables and frames.

There will be baskets of items at $1, $5, $10, $15, $20, $25, $30, $50 and $75.

This is an "in-store" sale only, so click here for our address and an interactive map. The hours are 11-4, Saturday and Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ken Backhaus Demonstration

Here is one of two demonstrations that Ken Backhaus has posted on his website. It takes you through the steps from block-in to finished painting, with comments at each stage describing what he was focusing on.

Ken has been a plein air painter for twenty-five years. His aim is to find visual interest in subjects (an arresting combination of shapes, value or colors) and to portray it with confident brushstrokes, a sense of light and atmosphere, and enough left unsaid to keep viewers engaged.

"My approach or technique to the painting process is first to trust my eyes and not my mind. Through years of media corruption; TV, print media, advertisements, etc. our minds want to take over and paint the scene with some of those bright gaudy colors that we have become use to seeing in the media."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jeffrey Marshall - "A Flood of Images"

Speaking of New Orleans (and the Katrina anniversary that's coming up), former resident Jeffrey Marshall was invited (along with David Roberts, Karoline Schleh, Jacqueline Bishop and Paul Rogers) by the New York Times to participate in a plein air project called "A Flood of Images." Beginning on the first anniversary of the hurricane, they spent time sketching and painting images of the slowly recovering city.

An assistant professor at the New England Institute of Art in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Marshall has also been documenting the fishing industry there. "Since beginning my work in New Orleans, I have been unable to do simple landscapes. I find the need to make images that have some social context; in this case the fragility of the Gloucester fishing industry."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Patti Adams - Garden District Gallery

What a treat to talk to Patti Adams when she came in earlier this week. She lives in New Orleans (she's a flutist with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra) but she and her husband always spend August in Colorado, where she paints outdoors.

She talked about how New Orleans is changing with the post-Katrina renewal and incoming migrants from all over the country. But the unique spirit of the Big Easy lives on, in the Spanish architecture, the rich music (and food) and in its artists. Patti is the director of the new Garden District Gallery which will celebrate its Grand Opening September 26th - October 31st with an invitational exhibit of fourteen landscape painters who will work plein air in the historic district in the weeks leading up to the show. The opening reception will be on Saturday, September 26th from 6-8 p.m.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paul Ferney - Artist

Paul Ferney is a Northern California oil painter who does both small plein air sketches and larger works. We're intrigued by the seemingly dry, almost powdery texture that makes some of his oils look like pastels, while others are done with a thicker, much more liquid effect.

His blog contains a huge quantity of images, including photos, value studies and sketches.

"I love that feeling when you know you're seeing something amazing...
Painting for me is a way for me to share these moments
." - Paul Ferney

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Estes Park Plein Air

It's time for the annual Estes Park Painting the Parks plein air event. From August 15- 28, about 60 participating artists from around the country will be painting in and around Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The public is invited to watch the artists as they work. The paintings will be exhibited and sold between August 29 and September 30.

Nashville, Tennessee artist Lori Putnam stopped by on Sunday, on her way up to Estes, to buy some panels. If her name is familiar, it might be because she's the designer of the Plein Air Porter - a safe & secure way to carry large canvases or even send them as checked luggage. She had just come from a two-week plein air event in Wyoming (she travels often, offering workshops in different parts of the world).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Escalante Canyons Art Festival / Everett Ruess Days

Everett Ruess was was 20 years old when he vanished in 1934, a lone wanderer, poet and artist who loved the Sierras and the Red Rock Country of Arizona and Utah. He was a friend of Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Maynard Dixon and his wife Dorothea Lange. The mystery of his disappearance, the poignancy of his letters, journals and poems, and the power of his artwork have made him into a legend.

Since 2004, there has been an Art Festival in his honor near the place where he was last seen. This year it will be held from September 20-27 in Escalante, Utah. Events include a plein air paint-out, a fine arts and crafts exhibit and sale, lectures, poetry and discussions about Everett Ruess, exhibits, workshops, gallery open houses, walking tours of nearby historic buildings, and performances by cowboy poets, dance groups and musicians.

There will be an all-day free workshop on Wednesday, September 23rd with several professional painters demonstrating throughout the day. A four-day workshop with Linda Feltner from September 26-29 will also be offered ($780).

W.L. Rusho's book Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty explores his life and the mysteries surrounding him. Recently, his body was found and a story has been revealed about how he was murdered (with robbery as the motive, which seems a terrible shame, given the small value of his possessions and the huge value of his potential as an artist).

"I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bread by cities. . . it is enough that i am surrounded by beauty."
- Everett Ruess

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ian Frazier Sketchbook Slideshow

Here is a link to an audio slideshow of writer Ian Frazier's sketches from a trip through Siberia. He's written a two-part article about his travels for the New Yorker. This sketch shows the power poles for the trans-Siberia railroad, which is run on electricity.

When you're traveling, sitting down for awhile to paint or sketch plein air is probably the best way to make sure you really see what you came so far to experience.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

There is a relatively new social network site whose address is It is designed for people to create their own site around their particular interest, and (so far) it has three plein air groups. One is by invitation only (Lower Hudson Valley Plein Air Painters) and the other two are open. The larger of these is called Plein Air Artists and has 637 members, with a page for photos (5,442 so far), videos (40), events (69), blogs (104), groups (24), a forum (42) as well as your own page and a chatroom.

The other group is Austin Artists which has 39 members including painters, sculptors, other fine artists in & around Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gertrude Hudson

A while back, we mentioned the second annual The River Rocks plein air event in downtown Idaho Falls. Gertrude Hudson, who lives in Idaho, was the winner of a ThumBox that we donated for the event. The link shows several of her plein air paintings. A link from that page shows her in 1950 as a second-year art student, painting a wildlife mural in Heritage Hall on the campus of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Calgary, Alberta, and in 2005 painting a companion wildflower mural.

"The life out there stirs renewed life within me and brings out energy I often don't realize I have." - Gertrude Hudson

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gesso - Traditional and Acrylic

Gesso (which is Italian for "gypsum" or chalk) comes in two kinds - acrylic and traditional - depending on the binder used. In Europe, the word gesso is reserved for animal-glue mixtures, while the modern product is called "acrylic polymer primer." This acrylic "gesso" doesn't create a chemical bond with oil paint, but a mechanical bond is formed if the proportions of acrylic and chalk are correct. It's helpful to wipe acrylic-primed canvas with a damp cloth to remove any residual surfactant from the surface (and let it dry) before applying paint. Acrylic gesso creates a flexible surface suitable for paintings on stretched canvas.

Traditional gesso offers a unique surface which is both smooth and absorbent. It is inflexible when dry, and this makes it an appropriate foundation for oil paint, which also becomes hard and brittle when dry. It's possible to use it on stretched canvas, but only if the canvas is subsequently mounted on a rigid panel. When painting outdoors, it's usually easier to paint directly on panels, which are sturdier and more compact than stretched canvas.

There are recipes for homemade gesso, but to make it easier and to avoid problems caused by inexact proportions, Gamblin's Traditional Gesso is what we recommend.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stephen Quiller - Artist

Earlier this week, we visited friends in Creede, Colorado, a picturesque, out-of-the-way, high-altitude silver boom town where Stephen Quiller has lived and painted outdoors for more than thirty years. He works in watercolor, gouache and acrylic and has authored or co-authored seven Watson-Guptill books on the subject of watermedia.

Regarding their place in history, he says, "We have a great tradition, heritage, and history in our water media world. We are where we are today because of past well-known painters such as James William Millard Turner, William Blake, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, John Marin and Charles Burchfield, among many others. They continually tested and pushed the limits of watercolor and gouache. I know that if acrylic and casein were available during their time they would have explored these media as well. These artists realized that the expression was of utmost importance, and the media were there to serve the expression. They chose to work in the water media because of the unsurpassed beauty and spiritual qualities, and the spontaneity and immediacy the mediums offer. It also took courage to work in water media, much as it does today. Many galleries choose not to show works on paper for a host of reasons: glass, reflections, shipping, pricing in contrast to oils, and the cost of framing. However, the masters kept returning to, and spent much of their lives devoted to, water media."

We would add that, whatever other difficulties it might present, watercolor is by far the quickest and easiest medium for the plein air painter to carry around. If you run out of water, you can find more at the nearest drinking fountain, rest room or creek.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Camille Przewodek - Plein Air Colorist

Camille Przewodek studied with Henry Hensche, who taught the Impressionist use of color, that "every plane change is a color change." Instead of the old masters' way of creating an image by drawing, using perspective and shading and then using glazes to suggest color, Impressionism looks only at the way colors interact with each other and with light to create the shapes and perspective that we see. Painting plein air is the only way to learn to use color in this way, and mixing colors directly on the panel instead of on the palette is the only way to see them in context as you work. Camille blocks in the basic shapes, making sure to have the color notes correct before adding details. Using a palette knife also helps in keeping the colors true and avoiding too much detail.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spike Ress Watercolor Video

Spike Ress has posted a video of his process as he paints a watercolor - what fun to see it all come together. Sometimes watercolor can go fast (if you know what you're doing).

He paints in both watercolor and oils. "In recent years I have returned to painting in oil on location. However, I continue to work
in both media. I’ve used watercolor most of my life because it’s a friendly medium for the traveling
artist. It’s lightweight, fast drying, and lends itself to capturing a direct impression. I now find that
working in both watercolor and oil serves to heighten my skills in both media

Monday, August 3, 2009

Plein Air in the Palouse - Workshop

The Palouse is an area of rolling prairie hills and farmland in eastern Washington State. This was where Appaloosa breed of horse was developed by the Nez Perce tribe.

Each Saturday between September 12th and October 31st, Kathleen Cavender will be hosting a plein air workshop there (weather permitting). After an optional 8:00 A.M. breakfast, participants will carpool to a predetermined destination around 9:00. Kathleen will give a one-hour demonstration, and then people will set up to paint while she answers questions & gives further instruction. Each session will last until about 3:00 P.M. Each Saturday is on a first come/first served basis, or you can sign up for the whole series. There is a minimum of six and a maximum of ten people required for each session, and all skill levels are welcome. The cost is $50, which includes your panel or canvas. For further information, send an email to

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Teresa Vito - Artist

Teresa Vito loves to paint from life, whether it's a still life, a figure or a landscape. She was fortunate to study with several good teachers, including Ramon Kelly, Quang Ho, Doug Dawson, Bruce Cody, and Richard Schmidt (with whom she painted for 5 years). She has also taken workshops from Clyde Aspevig, Ray Vinella, Greg McHuron and Laura Robb. She returns the favor by teaching classes herself, both at the Loveland Art Academy near her home and in France.

"Painting for me, brings the wonders of life into visual form. When I am painting, the subject comes to life as I receive the energy of it's beauty and harmony." - Teresa Vito