Friday, November 29, 2013

Cool Painting

"Winter Morning , San Miguel de Allende"
9 x 12 in. oil on panel

I say "Cool" because it was a cool painting session - cool as in Cold! Donna, Luc and I met up at the plaza principal about 9 am. on a foggy morning last week. We knew it would clear during the morning so we chose a spot in what would be the shade of the historic Casa Allende. Well, it was cold to begin with in that damp fog and it was cold after the sun broke through and this chilly wind came up from calle Umaran at our backs. It was a cool morning indeed but all the onlookers (and there were plenty) were friendly and encouraging and we too got pretty excited about our paintings, nonetheless. I tried to warm up in the sun around the corner a couple of times but of course the light was changing and I was drawn each time quickly back into the fray ..................... once started you really can't stop, can you?  We have decided to switch to afternoons next week. It takes all morning to warm up during December and January here in the mountains of central Mexico. Of course it becomes summer again most afternoons between noon and six. That's one of the primary reasons I moved here to paint in Mexico - sort of endless summer - a plein air painters dream. (the other major reason was color) 

I completed the painting minus the people and a little detail work on site. I feel I have to give very careful consideration as to the placement of bodies in my pictures and it's enough of a challenge to hit all the hues and values correctly on location. I spend a lot of time thinking about the overall color and composition as I begin placing the first elements on the panel and I have a rough idea of where a figure or two might be helpful to the design but with the style I prefer to work in I can't see how I'll ever be able to complete a complex scene with a convincing smattering of hominids in 2 or 3 hours. But I don't fret about it much -I enjoy leisurely dropping volunteers into a scene at a later date. I like to give the characters the consideration good characters deserve. They're part B of a two part creation and possibly the hardest part. Also, I place them when part A is still a bit wet. That demands a little more decisiveness but they blend into their scene a lot better. I hope you like the result. If the air looks a little cooler than the last few dozen ones I've posted that's because it was and as I say .........we're switching to afternoons for a couple months. Stay tuned for the "Golden Hour" ..............

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A trip to Guanajuato

"Sunny Morning - Nov. 2013"
9 x 12 in. oil on panel

Auction ends 11/27/2013   8 pm

"Guanajuato Centro"
12 x 16 in. oil on panel
Auction ends 12/05/2013  8 pm

This painting was begun mid July as a short demonstration of how to get off to a bold start. - you can see that start on the July 17th blog entry. I meant to get back to that picture and finish it but somehow didn't until this past week. I thought I would put an hour or two into it .................... Well, I got caught on it and ended up putting quite a lot of effort into it. If Donna hadn't wrestled the brushes out of my hand I'd probably still be working on it! At any rate - I guess it's complete now. It certainly is a very active picture. Well, I wanted it to be pretty active as central Guanajuato is an active place. What you see here, is about the spot you emerge at street level, after trying to navigate their totally confusing, ancient underground roadway system in the dark. The feeling is always one of shock - you're suddenly hit by this blinding light and sea of moving people. It's almost always hot, hot, Hot. The main part of the city is built in a canyon bottom and there is really only one main drag. It's a very interesting place -  the capital of the state of Guanajuato. It was a very wealthy city back in Colonial times due to gold and silver in the surrounding hills. There are lots of large old domed churches, winding back streets and peaceful squares to paint. Most of the residential part of the city is built on the steep canyon walls and beyond, up and down the slopes of the surrounding hills. Most people have access to their casa via very narrow foot paths, of the switchback variety. If they have a car at all, it's parked somewhere far, far away. Needless to say, they all have strong legs! It's only about 50 miles from here but it has a totally different feel to the place.

I hope you like the picture. I tried to get that hot, afternoon feeling into it. I left out most of the people that are usually bustling through.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sunny Morning on Montes de Oca

Luke thought the view was better from the middle of the street! Here he is "risking it all for art".
He had some close calls but Luke is a dedicated plein airist and it seems to have been worth 2 hours of facing down the muzzle of death. Neither the many cars that crept slowly by scraping their fenders against those buildings on the right, nor the passing burro trains did any lasting damage at all. He ended up with a great painting! When we left he was priming up another panel - this time a little closer to the wall, enjoying a  vastly greater margin of safety. What surprised me was that only one or two dudes seemed to be the least bit upset with the situation. Sure, the ricos may have lost a little magnesium here and there. It was admittedly hard on a lot of tires!!! - I didn't much like that chafing/squeely rubber sound ............ , a lot of "commute time" was lost.
Maybe I'm just overly sensitive and shy. I don't even like being in the "limelight" much. Luke is a Waldorf school graduate and those people really know how to release the right side of a persons brain. Though only centimeters were between him and a trip to the morgue, he paid absolutely zip attention to all that passing metal.

Do not even think about trying this. To survive in the middle of the calles of San Miguel for more than a few moments requires a superhuman degree of  luck and optimism - don't say I didn't warn you.
Below is the one I did from safely against that orange wall on the left.

"Sunny Morning - Nov. 2013"
9 x 12 in. oil on panel


Luke was beside and behind me a couple of meters. The rest of Donna's students were at the top of the street - a good hike up the hill. One of them had one of 3 legs of her easel fall off when she tried to set it up for the first time. I lent her mine while I went dashing around town for a replacement - which I found but then it was missing a critical adjustment knob. These were brand new "in the box" easels so I was more than a bit annoyed ............... however ................. I took it home and fired a screw into the hole where the missing screw should have been, ran back down the hill and got a nice, very late start. So, needless to say, you are seeing a goodly amount of studio work in the one above. I like the result though - the color was all pegged pretty much in the calle, in the first hour. Maybe I'll do a larger version at some point, with some of those little burritos in it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On the Block!

update: sold  (Tuesday Nov 19)

"Mexican Fishermen"
12 x 16 in. oil on panel

Just to let people know - this painting is currently on auction at Daily Paint Works and has just under 3 days left in the bidding. It's the first time I've placed a painting up for auction anywhere but I like DPW and their auctions are quite active. There has been one bid of  $300. U.S. on the painting thus far. For this first go I set a pretty low threshold to "test the waters". It's worth a lot more than that, so if you'd like the chance of getting one of my originals at perhaps a rock bottom price - now is your chance!

By the way:  for all you San Miguel plein air painters - we'll be up on Montes de Oca Monday morning 9:30 - see you there if you can make it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Manana en San Mguel de Allende

"Manana en San Miguel"
9 x 12 in. oil on panel
$ 350. U.S.

I started this on Monday with Donna's plein air painting group in the Plaza Civica across from the Oratorio. Since then, every time I've walked by it I couldn't help but diddle with it until now it doesn't exhibit much of it's fresh plein air beginnings. I'm hoping it still has some vestige of the spontaneity it had in the beginning. It was a fun picture to work on and I guess that's why I couldn't stop working on it. I finally decided to STOP! this afternoon as it was starting to ask for a high degree of "finish" and I would rather reserve that for a larger version of the same scene. If I had persisted with this one I would have figured everything was solved and there would be no point in doing the theme over. I will set this aside and not look at it for awhile - when I do I'll decide if it wants to grow. 

By the way - some purists feel that a painting worthy of the term "plein air" must be executed, start to finish in one sitting. It's a matter of definition, I suppose. I almost always start small to medium size oil paintings on location. I finish them there, maybe about a third of the time. The others get varying degrees of "overtime" back in the studio - sometimes just a touch here and there and other times, here and there and everywhere. The important thing to me is that the work has been launched with excitement -the inspiration derived from being in direct contact with ones subject. As you work on the painting during those first hours, all the surrounding sights and sounds sink into your psyche and if that panel asks for more attention later, back in the studio, you find that any additional work you do on it takes you right back to the location again.In this state of mind you can continue the act of creation with what I would call the "right artistic attitude" and the piece will almost automatically retain a lot of freshness.
I have to say I like the spontaneous look of a painting done quickly and accurately. Less is definitely more. In the hands of the vary best plein air painters the results can be sublime. But even they don't get "five star" results every time. I think good advice to anybody journeying along this plein air route would be not to worry too much about purity of process. There are purists and there are purists. I might not measure up to one persons definition because I just can't let a little painting go without further investigation but take note of this;
I have painted with pros that rely on smart phone screens and special apps to help them compose and find colors ........................ well folks - most of the time I don't even pull out a view finder when starting a picture and I certainly have no need for color suggesting apps. So, what does that make me? - I guess I'm a purist too, right? I can't help but smile when I see the "shortcuts" people try to take. Shortcuts have no place in lovemaking.
Final word, - about the only thing I really find obnoxious, even fraudulent are the printer people that  pass dem photos through, dob a lick or two and claim them as originals. Oh, and come to think of it - how about those Chinese sending me emails that quote me a price for doing my future paintings for me??? Hey! - easy street here I come .........................