Tag Archives: plein air

New Direction

I’ve been striving to take my paintings beyond a good likeness of the scene and into something painterly, exciting, full of life. So I seek out those qualities in other painters, and even going so far as copying their work, to help me feel handling paint differently and find out what it takes to create a certain look.

IMG_4882 (1)Last week I painted out at a local spot nearby and found reasonable success but I wanted to use what I learned there and back up, see a longer row of eucalyptus trees, make the subject less about the horse and barn and more about the setting, the place.


This small painting accomplishes my goals, not just to change the composition, but more importantly to add more paint and allow more freedom and life to the picture. I will try it again, bigger, on a board not simply canvas paper. Very happy with this new direction!



Beyond the Opening


I’ve been itching to paint after all the attention on the show. I was able to paint on a property with an amazing view at the top of Sonoma Mountain. The sketch I did quickly, plein air. It cried to be done in a wider format. I’m tackling a slight change of course by leaving more portions of the work unresolved but hopefully interesting through color or marks, shapes or simply the contrast with the more distinct parts of the piece.

I also wanted to add a touch of conceptualism to the studio painting by indicating a change in season, turning the lush green to dry, golden brown. We have had a wet spring and the grasses are still juicy, in fact it’s been drizzling all day. But green turns golden in a week, given the right conditions. It’s the soft browns with dark green round oak shapes that defines the California landscape for me. This painting seems to be one of anticipation.

Wow! Such a fabulous turn-out at the opening of my Spring Painting Show at Bump Cellars. I was overwhelmed. And to have sold so many on top of the praise. Such a boost to my confidence, I am most grateful to you all. Thank you!

Practice Seeing


I’ve painted these trees many times. Each time, I see them differently. They are patient and lovely and always exciting. I even see them from my kitchen window and watch the wind blow through their branches. As if they are waving.

Today, I was the second pass on this painting that I started last week and have only just gotten back to. I’m going to have to pick off some debris when it’s dry, it was windy out there, but I’m happy with it now.

I’m very excited to be signed up for a painting class at the College of Marin with Chester Arnold. Chester is a valuable resource, a painting teacher with amazing depth and thousands(?) of students in the bay area. And he’s a farmers’ market regular at our stand! I look forward to learning and sharing.

After the first pass...

After the first pass…

Paul got me...

Paul got me…

I got the pickles canned, then felt entitled to paint for the rest of the day!

I got the pickles canned, then felt entitled to paint for the rest of the day!

Spring Hill Cows

Spring Hill Cows

Thursday I set aside the whole day to paint. (Hoping to make that a regular thing…) I headed toward Open Field Farm, west of Petaluma. Seth and Sarah generously offered their gorgeous setting and myriad of big animals, to my visual self. The car was loaded Wednesday. I packed a lunch and headed out by 10.

Before I even got there, I pulled over and painted an irresistible view. There were cows (youngsters) grazing and playing in the field, off in the distance. They shyly came to see what I was doing, then got bored and left me to my work. It was a beautiful day and the road was quiet and lovely.

Then, just as I had almost completely finished the painting except for the foreground pasture, they came back. How could I resist? I used a big brush with black paint, and laid them in as fast as possibly, not really thinking about the rest of the painting. It felt like I’d been thrown the proverbial Hot Potato.

2015-04-09 14.05.28When I got home, I really loved the painting with the sloppy cows and managed to figure out how to make them more believable.

And then I went to Open Field Farm and painting one of their barns.

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And look what waits for me the next time I go! I feel so rich!


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Irresistible Clouds


Here in California, it’s not all that common to have a sky full of continually morphing playful shapes floating above, describing a wholly different experience outside. Maybe a little tease of rain? I just had to paint them. I packed up and got out into the wind. There is something about bracing oneself to the weather, working quickly, squinting, hearing birds, that often leads to a better painting. And, I always learn something.

Today I was thinking about an artist I admire, Quang Ho. His painting graces the current issue of Plein Air Magazine. In the article he discusses that a painter must have a concept for a painting before they start. I formally declared the concept for this painting was the similarity between the shapes made by the lights and darks which describe both the clouds and the hills, and to use paint to describe that fact. And then entirely forgot my concept as I worked to just get it down. Maybe next time I’ll keep the concept closer to the front of my brain…

The board I chose to paint on had much more tooth than I have been using, and it was fabulous! I was able to move that paint in new ways. Some areas were almost dry brushed on, really scumbled. I used my fingers and could work edges in new ways. Love the tactile approach, really working the paint into the surface. Because the surface was unique, the whole process felt new. I thought about a yoga practice I am watching that reminds one to enjoy being a beginner.

I so enjoy being a beginner.

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Paint Out

IMG_1866A week ago, I joined a group to paint at a beautiful park, Olompali Park in Novato. Thrilling to be out on such a gorgeous Northern California spring day.

Oil on board, 6"x6" Oil on board, 8"x10"

I was able to paint three small studies. Today I finished larger paintings referring to two of the three. Though I lost some of the energy in my second tree painting, it’s been a great learning painting. And one thing I’ve learned is I want to bring the works closer to finish, in the field. Nothing beats standing in the weather, observing!

Oil on board, 12"x12"

Long Road to an Empty Field



This painting took me weeks. I went back to the same spot four, maybe five times, building it slowly, though would have very much liked to finish it in one go. Somehow, it just didn’t come together. It do like it now. It was a struggle to show the field in the foreground, with nothing growing, but somehow interesting. I want to show agriculture in my paintings, in a way that is real. To show the beauty of a just tilled field, or the different stages a field on a farm like this. More paintings are certainly coming, with that focus.

Last weekend I took a Plein Air Workshop with a great plein air painter named Paul Kratter. He was fabulous, fun and accomplished. His quick demos took our collective breath away. I so hoped I could learn how to accomplish this level of finish, quicker. Being that this was the first time I have taken a plein air workshop, my expectations may have been a tad over-the-top. I got a tremendous amount of information from the experience, held in a sweet spot in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. I’m still processing, and I believe I know how to paint faster now. Adjustments in my materials may be what turns the tide. That will take some experimentation. Plus, the “rule” “Is it lighter or darker, warmer or cooler”. And a bit more freedom happened when Paul was demonstrating and using white. I had always reserved its use until the very end, choosing to lighten colors with yellow whenever possible. Allowing white into the picture, even at the initial block-in stage, really opened my eyes.

More to come.