Friday, September 30, 2011

It's about the work....

"Last Days of Summer:West Fork"; 8x10; oil on panel
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"The Park House"; 8x10; oil on panel
A friend watching me finish a study the other day commented "I don't know how you do it....amazing..." To my amusement, they were referring to the fact that I try to finish at least a small study every day (I don't always post them because...well, frankly...some just aren't any good, and therefore are only for me as information about what didn't work).

In all honesty, I feel like a slouch many days. One of my favorite "big-name" painters, when he started out, did five studies a day -- small, 6x8, etc -- but still, five?! Another fellow painter that I greatly admire averages a 16x20 a day. And yet another one that I follow did 21 paintings (medium size), plein air, in seven days....while fighting the elements at the Grand Canyon....and 20 of them made it into a show with the likes of Curt Walters, P.A. Nisbet, and Scott Jennings (for those of you who don't carry those names around in your head everyday....these guys have about fifteen Prix de West awards between them).

What I'm getting at is, for most of the painters out there, this is not an idle pursuit. Not a relaxing distraction to wile away the hours. It's work, pure and simple. And like anything else, those who want to do it well work....very, very hard. That isn't to say that they don't enjoy every moment at some level while they're doing it -- only a masochist would pummel away at something eight or ten hours a day, if they didn't. But there are days when you realize that things aren't going the best they can. The pain isn't moving, your brushwork looks like a highway map of Los Angeles, the drawing is off....whatever. That's when you pick up the brush and say, "It's about the work. Let's try and get one thing to work today and I can sleep tonight."

Incidentally, music is exactly the same. The number of days in my previous life (and still current), I would shake my head and tell myself, "today, it's just about putting in the work..."

This is the answer that so many people look for when they take a class of a workshop in anything; they just don't know it. They think there is some little secret that will be imparted them in the class, and "poof" they'll be brilliant at whatever they're dabbling with. The vast majority of them (those that profess to be VERY serious about painting or flute playing or whatever) don't want to hear that the reality's work and lots of it. Some days it's going to be bad.....heroically, tragically bad. Most days it will be okay. And some days, that moment will happen, the heavens open up, the adrenaline rushes, and you realize that something worked that didn't work before......and nothing is the same after that. Those are the days you work for.....

"West Fork"; 8x10; oil on panel
"The Park House"; 8x10; oil on panel

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Still wishing for fall....

"Last Days of Summer #5: Schnebly Afternoon" 8x10, oil on panel
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It seems summer just wants to hang on....

Every morning Kim and I wake up to a cool breeze from Oak Creek Canyon and say to each other, "this is really it....."

(For those of you wondering, I don't pay any attention to The Weather Channel. They seem to be far more preoccupied with inventing plausible-sounding scenarios that are designed to scare the hell out of everyone in different parts of the country, and then investing in some serious production effects to make it that much more real-looking, rather than just telling us what the weather is doing. For that matter, even when there is a significant weather story -- i.e. Irene -- it's not enough for them. They insist on saturating the five days preceding and following with hysterical reports of what could happen. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and we used to have to go through the nuclear bomb drills -- as if a forty year old school desk at St.Mary's Academy was going to shield any of us from a thermonuclear explosion. As you get older, you start to wonder just how much of all of that was propaganda masquerading as vigilance. We have to have something to be afraid of....always.....if not an evil empire, then terrorists.....if not terrorists, then a recession or mortgage collapse....if not economic strife, well then how about the most unpredictable of all events -- the weather. Certainly the most frightening of all the evils that could befall us because, let's face it, does anybody really know how the damn thing works? The more money they spend on doppler radar and computer modelings, the fewer times they get it right. And then comes the fall-back position -- my personal favorite. The "30% percent chance of rain" prediction....that lasts for three weeks.....And when the heck did a stock market update become a relevant weather story......)

....okay...that was a bit of a tangent -- but it's been bugging me now for a few months. Sorry about that.

Let's just say that every morning Kim and I hope that the Weather Channel is just as wrong about the predicted high for the day as they are about Kansas being taken out by a volcanic eruption.

Until then....

"Last Days of Summer #5: Schnebly Afternoon"; oil on panel; 8x10
"Across the Strait"; oil on panel, 8x10 -- leftover from the Northwest trip

Friday, September 23, 2011

Last of the Summer Heat...(hopefully)

"Last Days of Summer: Sunrise Junipers"; 8x10; oil on panel
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The heat is definitely on....

And not just the ambient air temperature in Northern Arizona. Even though we're officially into the fall season now, the temperature today was close to 90. I don't know if it's actually considered an Indian Summer, but whatever it is, most of us are ready for the cooler temperatures. Our corgi puppy Lucas, always a nudgy bundle of energy is even feeling it. After heading out to hike the trail at 6am, he was ready for a serious nap in the air conditioning -- he usually needs another two or three hours of heavy play-time, even after a four mile hike, before "nap" enters his mind.

For me, the word "heat" carries additional meaning. I've committed to entering my first-ever plein air festival. Right in the middle of a major slump...paint-wise (see previous post). Bear in mind, I'm not counting any chickens or such before they whatever, I just want to get some experience and be part of an event right now.....but I don't want to make an a** of myself either. Nevertheless, the registration fee is paid, panels are ordered....I'm doing this thing.....and I've got about ten days to get my head together.

"Last Days of Summer: Sunrise Junipers"; 8x10; oil on panel

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


"Last Days of Summer: In Oak Creek"; 12x16; oil on panel
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"Last Days of Summer: Coffee Pot View"; 8x10; oil on panel
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So, two days ago, I hit one of those walls. You know the kind I'm talking about. The kind that you inexplicably don't see coming at all. I say "inexplicably" because when you come up against it, the frigging thing towers over you.

In short, I lost my swing. Big time. Hook, slice, shank.....water hazard, sand trap, heavy name it -- for the last two days, I've been in it. Could not paint my way out to save a paper bag.....see, I'm even mixing metaphors.......

Just in time for my favorite season too. I actually thought about throwing a panel in frustration into the canyon. I'm ashamed to say, it wasn't environmental awareness that stayed my hand. It was economics -- these damn things are expensive.

Anyhoo....I only know one way to conquer walls like this when I come to them. I get depressed, I get angry, and then I get to work. The really lovely thing about this blog thing is that you, dear reader, get to go through this with me (should you choose to do so). Unlike when I was in college, suffering through blockages in music, secure in the delusion that I was doing so in complete anonymity -- I wasn't, of course; there are no secrets in college music buildings because everyone can hear everything you're doing -- I'll document it here in all its gory detail.

Call it cathartic......

"Last Days of Summer: Coffee Pot View" 8x10; oil on panel
"Last Days of Summer: In Oak Creek" 12x16; oil on panel

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Last Days of Summer cont...

"Last Days of Summer #2: Towards Brin's Mesa"; 8x10; oil on linen
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The second daily study for the end of the summer....

This is looking back towards Brin's Mesa in Sedona; 6am - 8am

"Last Days of Summer #2: Towards Brin's Mesa"; 8x10; oil on linen

Friday, September 16, 2011

Last Days of Summer

"Last Days of Summer #1: Chavez Ranch at Oak Creek"; 8x10; oil on linen
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A long hot summer is staring to come to an end. The monsoons of the last week brought some cool mornings and nice evenings. I know we're supposed to get a slight warm-up this week, but fall is definitely in the air.

I've been frustrated with my painting of late....nevertheless, I have to keep up the brush mileage.

With this in mind, and the autumnal equinox just around the corner, I started a series of quick plein-air studies to mark the last days of summer...

#1 Chavez Ranch at Oak Creek; 8x10; oil on linen

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moving along....

"At The Crossing" 8x10; oil
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Difficult decision behind, I needed to clear my head...

A familiar spot...but different view. Some might consider it sacrilegious to depict Red Rock Crossing without showing some semblance of the iconic Cathedral Rock. I figure I'm going to be painting this spot for a long, long time.....there will be plenty of time for Cathedral Rock paintings.

"At The Crossing" 8x10, oil

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back to work...

"Red Rock Crossing Study" 8x10
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A sign in one of the bars in Jerome reads: "No Whining."

...good advice....

"Red Rock Crossing Study" 8x10; oil

Saturday, September 10, 2011

One of those days....

"Perkinsville Road" 8x10; oil
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Gotta be honest, folks....been one hell of a sh**ty day.

...painting seems to be going nowhere, hung out to dry by a long-time friend, myself and wife insulted by a colleague, and professional integrity questioned by a client....some days you just want to wander off into the forest and tell the world to f**k off.

....but then I remember, others have it worse (please see previous post).....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Benefit for Carol and David Marine

As many of you know, the terrible wildfires across Texas are ravaging not only the state, but people's lives. I've just heard that the very talented artist, Carol Marine and her family lost their home and Carol's studio to the fires while managing to escape with very few belongings.

Even though we've never met face-to-face, Carol has been a inspiration to me as I've begun this journey into painting. Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious and her dedication to daily painting was one of the forces that got me to actually get a brush in my hand after so many years of wistfully thinking about starting. Her husband David is the programmer behind the Daily Paintworks website which has allowed so many of us to share our work. I'm grateful to both.

In the hopes of raising some money for the fund that as been set up to help them, I've placed this painting (there might be more, as well) in an auction with a very low starting price.

The winner will receive a confirmation of the donation.

Daily Paintworks

"Lake Crescent Morning" 8x10
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"Sail Rock Study 2" 8x10
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Short and Sweet.....

Daily rocks! Simply said, it's an inspiration to be on a site with so many talented painters.....check it out.

So.....I'm still trying to catch up from the trip and getting things posted -- as well as getting back into the habit of blogging. But today, I'm going to jump ahead for a minute.

Sail Rock, in Sedona, is one of my all-time favorite rock formations. And in this town, that;s saying something. Cathedral Rock and Coffee Pot may be more well-known, but there is something about this large fin of sandstone jutting out from the surrounding Mesa and rising above the uptown area that intrigues me. The shadows change throughout the day, presenting challenges nearly every hour with the morning being especially tricky.
Needless to say, I'll be posting several studies here and on DPW until I find my way around this subject, and on to a larger canvas for a studio piece.

"Sail Rock Study 2" 8x10, oil on panel; also one from the trip...
"Lake Crescent Morning" 8x10, oil on panel