Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Wirlwind Trip to Escalante 2012

Devil's Garden Hoodoos, 9" x 12" Oil on Canvas Panel
Last year I spent nearly the entire week at the Escalante Canyons Art Festival, but because of other matters, this year Escalante was put off until the last moment. I called on Wednesday to ask if I could still register for the plein air competition, and left at 5:00 the next morning for the long drive to southern Utah. Finished paintings had to be turned in by 7:00 that evening. Sandy Larsen registered me and stamped my canvas panels around half past ten, then I headed straight for the "Devil's Garden" where I did the painting shown at the top of this post. The painting was finished, framed, and turned in before 5:00 PM, well before the deadline. Later that evening I spent a little time at the artist's reception, then headed out into the desert to find a place to camp for the night.

Competition rules require that paintings entered not be signed until after the judging so as not to influence the judge's decisions. I wonder about the rules effectiveness, but of course follow it anyway. The paintings have to be signed before the "silent auction" on Saturday or they won't be sold. So, late Friday morning I drove back into town to sign my painting. Taking my little cherry wood pochade box into the exhibit hall, I signed my painting. Then Brad Holt, last year's winner and a featured artist at the show, asked if he could borrow my brush and paint to sign his painting. Of course I was happy to let him do that, and left him so I could go peruse the exhibit and visit with other painters there. When I returned to my pochade box, I found other painters had used my stuff to sign their paintings, too, and most of them were this years award winners! If I wasn't an award winner this year, I was happy to be of good use to those who were.

Later, I traveled out to a different place in the Escalante Desert to camp, once again under the full moon. That evening I did a painting in the little cherry wood pochade box and the next day painted two more before returning to the plein air show. There I found my painting had sold.

More about Escalante 2012 later...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pastel Sketch - Red Haired Woman

12" x 9" Pastel on Textured Paper
Here is a sketch from a few years ago.  It's a pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix paper, drawn at the weekly drawing session I attend.  She was a model I just HAD to get the colors out for!  Not only is red hair fun to draw, the skin tones in fair-skinned blonds and redheads are full of color.  Look carefully and you'll see not only pink and orange tones but also yellows, greens, blues, violets, and lavenders.  These subtle and natural colors are challenging - but so much fun to draw!  Exercises like this also help open your eyes to the various kinds of subtle color shifts that are present in skin tones of people of all ethnicities, races, and backgrounds - and to the colors you might not have originally known were there.

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Evergreen Framing Co. & Gallery

Evergreen Framing Co. & Gallery has accepted several of my plein air oil landscapes into their gallery. I'm excited to be included in their gallery! Evergreen has a wide variety of artwork by Utah artists, as well as jewelry, gifts, and custom framing for sale. Be sure to visit and see all the exciting things they have in their gallery. Evergreen Framing Co. & Gallery is located at 3295 South 2000 East in Salt Lake City, UT. For a map and directions click on the "Location" link at the bottom of this post.

For more information, visit their website:

Evergreen Framing Co. & Gallery can be reached by phone: (801) 467-8770. or email:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sketch Everything! Part 2

This is part two of a series about sketchbooks. Part one can be found here

The sketchbook page shown above has three different sketches. One is a trompe l'oeil of an antique fishing lure. One evening I got out the colored pencils, placed the lure on a white sheet of paper and drew what I saw. It was done for practice.

The other sketches on the sheet are simple line studies done on a different day. On that day, the leaves were being drawn in a backyard in Pennsylvania when a bumblebee suddenly landed on one of the leaves close to me. I was a little concerned about possibly being stung by such a large bee, but then I began to notice unusual things about it. Bumblebees look for flowers, but this "bumblebee" had parked itself on the face of a a leaf and then didn't move - something I don't think bumblebees can do. Closer inspection showed it didn't have a bumblebee's face, but a head more like that of a fly. Overall, it looked like a bumblebee but acted like a fly. I dubbed it "Bumblefly." It stayed put long enough to have it's portrait done. That's it on the lower left quarter of the sketchbook page shown above.

There are a lot of color studies in some of my sketchbooks, done to see what happens when this color is mixed with that color. Here's a small sample (this one in colored pencil) next to quick sketches of honeysuckle blossoms:

Written notes find their way into my sketchbooks, too. Here's just two of several pages of notes taken during a painting workshop:

Quick studies of people who don't know they're being sketched is a way of strengthening people drawing skills without always having to hire a model. It also catches people in natural, unposed attitudes. The next sketchbook page shows quick gesture studies of children playing in a park:

It's important not to draw attention while sketching (pun not intended, but I like it anyway). People are often flattered to learn they've been sketched, and sometimes after the fact I might show them the finished sketch. However, to keep the gestures natural it's important that they don't know they're being sketched. Adults are less likely than children to notice someone is sketching them. One day I went to a local park, sat down on a picnic bench and began sketching children playing nearby. I'd scratched off only a few gesture studies when one of the kids suddenly shouted, "Hey, that guy is drawing!" The next thing I knew I was surrounded by children wanting to see what I was drawing. So much for that! My cover was blown. I quickly showed them the sketches, excused myself and retreated.

On the other hand, sketching pictographs found in a red rock alcove in Canyonlands didn't attract any attention - at least, none that I could see:

Sometimes I'll just doodle in my sketchbook. Doodles can be a useful way of exploring design and other ideas:

One of the most important uses for sketchbooks is planning out finished works. The image below shows a series of thumbnail sketches done in preparation for a finished painting. These "notans" were used to help work out the design for the finished painting. The painting sold in an exhibit and unfortunately I didn't get a photo before it went out the door, but the design I used was the one in the middle of the bottom row (seen on it's side):

Sunday, September 2, 2012

One More from Spring City 2012

Stormy Sky over Hayfields, 9" x 12" Oil on Canvas Panel
Here's another painting I did during the Spring City plein air event. I looked at this spot a couple times before deciding to paint it. Driving up to paint this scene, I saw a deer gazing out from between the trees. Too bad Bambi didn't hang around long enough to be painted! 

The stormy weather intensified during the late afternoon. As one particularly strong storm bore down on me, I tossed the painting gear into the car and took shelter there myself to wait out the storm. After the lightning and thunder had passed and the downpour lessened to a drizzle, I set up again under the hatchback of my SUV and finished painting. 

Returning home later that evening I had to drive through a flash flood area near Fountain Green. Police were there directing traffic as heavy equipment worked to build up banks and clear channels in an attempt to redirect the floodwaters. My 4Runner got through the flood zone just fine, but now it's covered with mud. Of course for me that's nothing new!