Friday, June 24, 2011

Painting Flowers

I usually don't paint flowers. I struggle with some of the color with my three color palette and the drawing and rendering can be a little complicated and delicate. When done right though they are of course gorgeous. I submit Richard Schmid and Dan Gerhartz right off the top of my head.
But I do have a couple I like to paint. And they are both weeds. Mention them here in Middle Tennessee and the farmers cringe. One is the Creeping Buttercup and the other is the Thistle. The thistle has about as much character to me as anything. They have a long Celtic history and are the national flower of Scotland and are prickly and tough and will grow anywhere with a little sun. And when they bloom they're beautiful . Beautiful, tenacious, delicate and full of character. Yikes, I just described my two daughters to a tee.

Friday, June 17, 2011

On The Shoulders Of Giants

As plein air painters, being exposed to crowds and having contact with the public as we paint, we are all asked questions about what we do and how we do it. But I have noticed there are certain questions that are asked repeatedly:
Whatcha' doin'?
How long you been doin' that?
Do you know Bob Ross?
The first two I understand. They're pertinent. But the last?
When asked the third question I always respond with this "yeah, I know who he is" that is laced with a tone that says,"I can't believe you asked me that. I am a serious artist." And I am asked this question over and over and over. I have thought about putting a counter on my blog and keeping up with how many times I am asked, "do you know Bob Ross?"
But I had an incident recently that has caused me to re-think my response to the question.
I had a slow leak on an outside faucet and called a plumbing company to come and fix it. When the plumber shows up, he walked in and saw my easel and painting set up and didn't ask "where's the leak?" or "what's the problem?' Nope. The very first thing out of his mouth,"Do you know Bob Ross?"
I started to respond with my patented smug "yeah" but then I noticed here is a guy standing in my studio and we have started an artistic dialog thanks to Bob Ross. He goes on to tell me that he has a mother and cousin who paint consistently due to the Bob Ross t.v. show exposure. And that is usually how the stories go when people talk about Bob Ross. "I have a cousin..." or "I have a mother-law..." or a neighbor or a retired executive or bored housewife or, or, or...  There are thousands and thousands of people out there who Bob Ross made believe they could be artists and he got them up off the couch and in front of the easel and got them started. Thousands. I have them show up for my classes and workshops. And I bet almost all the other artists I know, at some point, have had Bob Ross started students. Bob Ross exposed people to art that may never had the opportunity or resources to begin an artistic life. He got them started. And some may argue the artistic merit of his style and methods but you have to admit, he has had a huge impact on art in this country. People don't come up to me and ask,"hey, you know that John Singer Sargent guy?" I've never been asked. But how many people out there got to John Singer Sargent via Bob Ross?  How many has he started on that quest and journey and constant lifelong pursuit for the betterment of their craft?  I guarantee  more than anybody else you can think of.
So the next time I am asked, "do you know Bob Ross?"
"You mean that artistic titan that has had such an impact on the arts? You mean that creative powerhouse with that quite soft hypnotising demeanor? The guy with the afro?"
"Oh hell yeah I know him."
Just don't ask me about Thomas Kinkade. I'm still working on that one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


A 12x16 done afield. That is massive for me.
After calming down from that first initial burst of frenetic paint application to block in the big stuff it didn't seem to be any more time consuming than a 9x12.  Go figure. Granted it wasn't the most complicated painting I have ever done but again having only about 2 hours in it was quite surprising especially since I didn't abandon the number 1 brush I use. You gotta' dance with the one that brung ya'.
The other photo is mid-painting in a field of roundbales.  It's that time here in Tennessee. Roundbales seem to be everywhere you look.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Three Hour Time Limit

I have an imaginary time limit when I paint outside. If I have painted for three hours I generally have a problem or just finished fighting a problem. I tell myself that if I don't have it done at the end of three hours stop and re-group. Quit fighting it. Such was the case a few weeks ago on the painting above. The distant trees and hills went just fine. Like clockwork. But when I started laying in the foreground field my head just couldn't make it happen. I tried rows to the left, rows to the right, foreground textures, vegetation, rocks, posts, trees, etc., etc. Nothing made me happy and the three hours had expired so I scraped off the bottom half and when I got back to the truck I threw it in the tool box and there it stayed for about two and a half weeks.
Last week I revisited the same spot at the same time, fetched the half painting from the tool box and painted the foreground field in about 15 minutes. 15 minutes. That was all it took. I don't know if I was tired or frustrated on the first attempt but putting it away and recalibrating my head made a difference. I typically don't have the patience to go back a second time or try it later when I get it home. I am ready to move on to the next one. But I do believe in stepping away for awhile to let your head clear. I think it saved this one.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Heat Sissy Steps Up

I have always admitted I am the biggest heat sissy that has ever plein air painted. I'm an eskimo. So if you would have told me I would be painting outside at 2:00 in the afternoon in 96 degree heat last Thursday I would have called you a liar. Yet there I stood, painting, sweating and whining.
Anne Blair Brown had called me the night before and suggested we go downtown for a few cityscapes. We would meet at 8:00 so I assumed I would be back in an climate controlled environment by 10:00. My bad.
We painted first on Rutledge street downtown. The area I picked had one small shade tree and that was the only shade I saw in that area so that's where I set up and apparently it was the same shade that most of the homeless use. Spent an hour talking to "homeless Mike" and he actually had some very pointed questions about what I do for a living. It was 10:00 and he had just finished his first stove pipe so I noticed the questions becoming a little less pointed.
After finishing that painting and regrouping at the Farmer's Market my painting posse, Anne, Cathleen Windham and Bitsy King all turned to each other and said,"what now?" Being the only man I couldn't be the one to snivel and cry about the heat so I said "whatever". That's how I wound up standing on the bank of the Cumberland River in 96 degree heat. All and all it wasn't that bad in the shade and I got some paintings done and got to use the heat for an excuse to spend the evening with the "posse" at an East Nashville establishment for conversation and libations.
I will say this about the summer though. There is a thick humid density to the atmosphere that you don't get as well in the winter that is fun to try and paint. It creates real grey atmospheric perspective that is a challenge to try and pull off but when you stick it it looks fantastic.