Monday, October 17, 2011

Highlights from Burnsville 3 Day Plein Air Workshop

On Thursday September 29 thru Saturday October 1, the Blue Ridge Fine Arts Guild hosted my 3 day plein air workshop in Burnsville, NC.  I had 9 enthusiastic participants who were fired up and ready to paint.  The weather started out beautiful about 75 and sunny.  On day 1 we started off at Sandra Gates studio for a 55 minute talk and then headed for Mountain Farm, our 1st paint spot, near Burnsville.  The Farm specializes in growing Lavender and raising goats.  The location had a wonderful vista of Celo Mountain which is just below Mt. Mitchell. There I did a 1 hour demo and then everyone jumped in to paint. 

Most of us couldn't resist painting at least a piece of the mountain.

Sandra picked up Subways for everyone.  After lunch most students continued working on the 1st painting, as it was one of those days that was most enjoyable and most didn't want to quit.

 Day 2

On Friday we left at 8 am to go straight up Roan Mountain which takes most of an hour.  We all stopped at Bakersville to check the weather as I was concerned about some showers moving in from Tennessee.  Susan showed me a picture on her phone she had taken from her mountain home and it appeared Roan was in the clear.  Also Steve checked the radar on his I-Phone. What would we do without our devices??? Several of the ladies said lets go up even if the weather is a little bad.  Then off we went.

We parked up at the Cloudland  Parking lot on the NC side, which has some real nice restroom facilities.  This is one of my favorite locations in all of North Carolina to paint.  I was glad we got to go up as several of the students had never been.  It started out cloudy and everyone started an overcast scene before lunch.

This is a small 8 x 6 demo during the lunch hour as the sun began to shine.

  Most started on their second painting in the sunshine as occasional cloud would brush our heads - what fun - trying to capture them!

As usual up at Roan the weather is unpredictable; the winds began to increase and clouds rolled in again and I could swear I saw a snowflake!!!

About 4 pm we threw in the towel and headed for the coffee shop in Spruce Pine.

I tell you, a cup of coffee never tasted so good as to come off a cold wind blown mountain and drink coffee with your painting buddies.  As the smartphones began the get the weather updates we saw the weather man's forecast was way off for Saturday.  He was now predicting high winds and a hi of 47 with sprinkles.  We had planned to paint the South Toe River.  I think everyone was happy to switch to the indoor studio under the circumstances.  Sandra Gates was so kind to offer her studio for all of us for the day.

Day 3

On Saturday morning we started at 9 am at Sandra's.  I gave a short talk and explained my process of using my plein air studio to produce larger paintings indoors.  I reminded everyone to spend some time drawing out a detailed plan before starting.  This was a great exercise as most of us had no way to produce a photo image of any value.  So we had to rely on our plein air study and memory.  Some had never done this before, so they got to try it out.  I think most of us learned something in the process.  At 4:30 pm we cleaned up and had a little group exhibit.  I had one of my studies which turned out really well,  So everyone put their name in the hat for a drawing for a give away.  It was a great workshop and again I want to thank everyone who made the sacrifice to attend!  I look forward to next year.

Below is a slideshow video of some of the beautiful scenery and fun we had! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2011 Roan Mountain Trip

 During the second and third week of June I made my annual Roan Mountain Paint Trip.  This is the fourth year I have been up.  I had such a good time this year I can hardly contain myself.  This blog is a great way to share some of these experiences and encourage other artists and nature lovers to go up to Roan Mountain to experience some of the beauties.  While I was up at Roan I enjoyed painting with Craig Franz and Arlene Daniel.  My trip started Tuesday June 7 at sunrise until Wednesday the 8th about 3pm. and I returned again on Tuesday the 14th and returning Wednesday the 15th.  I was able to overnight in my truck again.  The conditions were beautiful and varied as you can see in the images below.  We had threatening skies but missed many rain showers. The paintings below are in order of each day I painted.  Some I would consider completed paintings, but many I will work on later through the year as well as use for inspiration for larger studio works.

8x10 oil on linen

8x10 oil on linen

 6-7-11 (3)
8x10 oil on linen

 06-7-11 (4)
8x10 oil on linen

6-7-11 (5)
6x8 oil on linen

 6-7-11 (6)
6x8 oil on linen

 6-8-11 (1)
9x12 oil on linen

 6-8-11 (2)
8x10 oil on linen

 6-8-11 (3)
9x12 oil on linen

6-8-11 (4)
10x8 oil on linen

 6-8-11 (5)
8x10 oil on linen

#5 was actually done near Bakersville, NC on the way down the Mountain.

 6-14-11 (1)
9x12 oil on linen

 6-14-11 (2)
9x12 oil on linen

 6-14-11 (3)
8x10 oil on linen

 6-14-11 (4)
8x10 oil on linen

 6-14-11 (5)
5x7 oil on linen

 6-14-11 (6)
4.25x6.25 oil on canvas

 6-14-11 (7)
9x12 oil on linen

 6-14-11 (8)
6x8 oil on linen

This was a first for me, to paint a sunset and moonrise just moments apart. The painting above was a 
6 x 8 sunset obviously just roughed in about 15 minutes, when Craig Franz said to me, "Look at that moonrise!"  I dropped everything to do another 6 x 8 of the moon rising between the clouds.  This was a real finale completing 9 for the day.

 6-14-11 (9)
6x8 oil on linen

 6-15-11 (1)
6x8 oil on linen

 6-15-11 (2)
8x10 oil on linen

 6-15-11 (3)
9x12 oil gesso board

6-15-11 (4)
5x 7 oil on linen

 Craig Franz

Try painting these colors!

Standing here to paint is a bit overwhelming, but everyone should try it.  Just to stand here for a couple of hours to figure it all out.

 My Father's Day gift created by my Daughters and money from my 5 kids

I hope to encourage you to take a trip up to Roan Mountain this summer.  Most of these scenes were painted from Cloudland and Roan Gardens for a map to see the area and location click this google map

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Should I Take a Plein Air Workshop?

1. Learn to Paint Faster and More Efficiently

Because of the dynamics of painting outdoors we are pushed to capture our subject matter quicker than in the studio.  The dynamics of course are the weather and moving light source, including moving clouds, cows, boats, people, and shadows.  These variable features require the artist to paint with energy.  Painting with an experienced workshop instructor will teach you how to grab a bigger brush, paint on smaller canvases, use fewer colors, and to get those initial colored shapes in quickly.  As you begin to practice a bolder approach while painting outdoors, speed and efficiency will be the end result.

Marc Hanson Workshop with his Dog
2. See Demonstrations

During most plein air workshops your instructor will demonstrate painting outdoors, and a good instructor will explain the whole process while he or she paints, including why they selected the scene and how to approach it with paint including value and color relationships and handling their medium.  Not all instructors can answer questions while painting fast, thinking, and explaining their process, so have a note pad ready to write down questions that might come to mind during the demonstration in which you may revisit these questions with the instructor when he or she may have more time to articulate an answer.  You won’t be able to learn everything you need by watching an instructor demo, but it will help.  It is especially enjoyable if the instructor produces artwork that you admire or is intriguing to you.

3. Finding Solutions to Our Painting Struggles

As artists, we all struggle, for life is full of trials and testing and art is no exception.  Maybe you are having trouble with mixing color, composition, simplifying complex subject matter, knowing when you are finished, mastering a certain medium, selling your artwork, using fewer colors, or organizing your outdoor equipment without bringing the whole studio.  I have found solutions for many of my painting struggles as a workshop participant with the help of an instructor as well as other students.  Surprisingly many solutions will be discovered within the group of artists you are painting with.  When choosing a plein air workshop seek out ones that will address some of your current struggles in art.

4. Immersion

Just as in learning a foreign language it is often helpful to immerse yourself in the language.  A plein air workshop will allow you to work plein air without interruption away from the family, work, the cares of life and other distractions.  Several days of intense instruction, painting exercises and group painting is a great way to immerse yourself into outdoor painting.  I know this sound like a lot of work, but the true artist at heart would consider this experience a VACATION!!  

For those interested in a 3 day plein air workshop in the mountains of North Carolina, I am announcing today my fall 2011 workshop in Burnsville, NC – September 29 thru October 1, 2011.  

Burnsville is a beautiful quaint mountain town Northeast of Mt. Mitchell, which is the highest point East of the Mississippi River in the lower 48.  This workshop will be limited to 10 students so if you are interested don’t procrastinate in reserving your spot in the workshop. For more information go to  for more details.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Limiting Color Choices Outdoors

I really appreciate what Arthur Wesley Dow says about color in his book Composition.  On page 161, he states in the first sentence, "Color, with its infinity of relations, is baffling; its finer harmonies, like those of music, can be grasped by the appreciations only, not by reasoning or analysis."

In the past I have used a fairly large palette of colors outdoors.  However, reading this profound statement from Dow has caused me to rethink some of my ideas.  So I have been limiting myself further for the sake of appreciation.  You might say reducing the infinity of relations a bit.  So here is what I have been working with lately - the primaries, cad red light, ultramarine blue and cad yellow light, plus yellow ochre.  Of course you can paint with the 3 primaries but the yellow ochre just make me happier and gives me a quicker flexibility.  The mixed pile on the left are the 3 primaries mixed about equally plus titanium white.  The pile at the right are those primaries plus yellow ochre and white – Lovely!  

Here is a small quickie out back 8 x 6.5.  It was a warm cloudy misty afternoon and as I painted this location the sun began to peak through the overcast which added drama to the scene.


Here you can catch the mood; as you can see I used up all my blue and yellow ochre.  I didn’t really have much to start.  The cad red light goes a long way.

 And here is one from out back of an old play house next to a wonderful Beech Tree.  The light on this day was similar, overcast giving way to near sunset light.