Friday, January 3, 2020

On My Easel, continued  

   I never get tired telling the story of these longhorn cows that I’ve been painting over and over. A few years ago, Jeff and I took a few days off and drove up to visit the wild Sonoma coast. Our usual inn was booked up, so we decided to stay at a funky little place called Sonoma Coast Villa in the town of Bodega (where the Hitchcock movie The Birds was filmed). 

   Anyway, I was painting by a pond on the property when a herd of these amazing longhorn cows came wandering down the hillside. I dropped my paintbrush,  picked up my camera and clamored over to the barbed wire fence to meet them. They were gentle and curious but their horns suggested that I keep my distance. Despite my sincere pleas, they refused to stand still long enough to paint their portrait, so I’ve relied on photographs and memories to capture the essence of these lovely creatures. 
   I’ve never seen longhorns quite like this, usually they are more curly, but these seemed to point straight out or only slightly curved. Maybe they were a new breed, found only in California! 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

On my easel today, another cow. 

Here you see my underpainting that is a mixture of Transparent Oxide Red and Liquin. I slosh it on, then wipe it around until it looks like something. After it dries, I will start laying in the color.

I might title this one, “Get Serious in 2020”

He is quite stern compared to my last cow. 

Stay tuned for phase two

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Looking Back on the Year, continued

One of my favorite workshops this year was with Terry Miura in Arcata, CA. Yeah, we did cityscapes in July, in the middle of a gorgeous redwood forest. 

The road up to the workshop/studio. Wish we had a four wheel drive for this one!

What a fabulous studio/workshop to have for any kind of art. Thank you, Claudia Lima!

Terry demonstrating the value of doing a value sketch before starting a painting.
Valuable information!

We all agreed that the one on the right was more pleasing even though the ground plane is a little darker than the reference photo. Don't be a slave to your photo, Terry sez. 

Second day of workshop, Terry did another value demo, this time using secret brown, yellow ochre and white
The finished painting was scooped up by one of the artists at the workshop--lucky duck!

Fun times, good memories, learned a lot!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Learning about Still Life painting with Philippe Gandiol

I was lucky enough to score the last opening in Philippe's workshop a few weeks ago and loved every crazy minute of it! His teaching technique was straightforward and inspiring. We started by watching him paint a demo, which he did masterfully but took the time to explain everything he did step-by-step. Next, we were able to choose a still life set up and were given some time to work, but not too much time. I appreciate having a deadline, which keeps me from overthinking and overpainting.

If you get the chance, go see his show at the John Natsoulas gallery in Davis. His cityscapes are breathtaking.

Philippe Gandiol painting a skull still life demo at his recent workshop, held at the fabulous Terry Miura Studio.
Here is the set up on the second day of the workshop. It was very challenging to decide on a focal point and eliminate any distracting elements. Simplify!

My finished painting, titled Sunflower Morning. I am proud that I was able to render the clear vase, not easy to do, I found. Notice how the persimmon has morphed into an apricot! 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Fun in the studio

Looking back at 2019: what a great year it was  

April come she will

Just to mix it up a little and have some fun, daughter Allison and I messed around with drip paintings courtesy of a Bob Burridge and his clever drip technique. Follow the link below to watch his You Tube video and play along! When I say messed around, I mean really messed. I dripped paint everywhere on the garage floor, oops. But as you can see, we made some pretty pictures. 

Bob Blast Drip Paintings

Thursday, June 20, 2019

February-June, 2019

Sorry, it's been ages since I've posted anything and I told myself I would start up this blog again as soon as....well, you know how that goes. No time like the present to procrastinate. The month of February was hectic with selling old house and buying new then the wonderful people of the Main Street Arts asked if I would be a guest artist and I knew I had to squeeze it in because it is such a friendly and talented group and the space downtown is my dream gallery. Go to this link to check them out: Main Street Arts. If you get the chance to be there for the art walk, go! They know how to have fun in Martinez. I was lucky to sell a bunch of my paintings (even though it was pouring rain) so I didn't have to pack them for the move. 

I love the Main Street Arts Gallery in Martinez, especially for its cool storefront windows


Moving, uggg. I know people who love to move every four or five years but I am not of that ilk. I am happy to plant roots as deep as I can and not budge if I can help it. That said, I am very happy to be in a smaller, more manageable home with my studio in the garage. I like being able to spill stuff on the floor and not have to scream and pull out my hair at the stains I make on the carpet. I've got my Richard Schmidt color charts up and my drying shelves--currently displaying older paintings since I haven't any wet ones yet to put up. I'm totally faking the action here...not actually putting paint on anything...It will take me some time to settle in enough to get the juices flowing. 
My new studio in Lincoln, CA
Our first plein air session since the new move: Horton Iris Farm in Loomis. I just love to say the word Loomis. It's such a great sounding name for a cool little town. This is a great place to paint with lots of choices of where to set up. And there are baby goats!
Jeff, my painting partner. He helps to schlep my stuff and tells me when it's time to go home for martinis.

BACK TALK: If you can't get away to paint outside, stay home and paint in your yard. Someone's grandma once said that, I'm sure of it. It can be such a hassle to pack up all your gear and drive around looking for a good spot. Sometimes you don't have to look any further than your own backyard. I think Dorothy said that. Or her grandma. 


When the roses started blooming, I realized I had no idea how to paint them! They are complicated little suckers. The little painting below was left unfinished for now. You can see I had problems with values and shapes. I promised myself I would keep trying.


Lincoln Hills: Used to be ranch land, now retiree heaven. This pond is not far from my house and is a wonderful open space. Don't tell anyone, but I stepped off the path to set up my pochade and paint. Here, I have taped off the panel to do a quick study of the tree and its reflection. 
MORE OPEN SPACE NEAR MY HOME. We've been given warnings about the dangers of rattlesnakes in the area. People I barely know come up to me and tell me their snake stories. I have yet to see one, but as soon as I do, it will be plastered all over the internet. 

The pond on one of the hottest days in early June. I set up in the shade, but it quickly disappeared. Then I forgot to put in a duck or two, sheesh! Not bad for an hour of painting, though the 5x7 size was about all I could manage in that time.
How hot will it get in the Sierra foothills you ask?
Everyone keeps telling me to gird my loins for major sun action. 
Underpainting the 40x30 big boy canvas. I love Transparent Oxide Red because it is transparent and red. I have no idea what oxide is, but I love it too. I do this because I can't draw. I just move the paint around until it looks good enough, then I let it dry and start slapping paint on top. 

My subject is the dogwood tree in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon where painters who have been very, very good must go when they die. This one is a much larger version of a painting I did last year and now is owned by my good friends John and Kathleen. Here, I am starting to add some blue and green notes to the background

More progress in defining shapes and trying to bring the dogwood flowers forward. I will be sure to post a picture of the finished painting. Sometime in the next century. 

Just in case you didn't get enough from the dogwood series. This one was back at the old studio, just before we sold the house. I had been looking around for something to paint when I came across Jeff's old sheetrock hammer and I fell in love. My friend Kim Homes, who is a painter and a potter, gave me this funky coffee cup that seemed to fit in well in the story of the sheetrock guy who had to put down his tools and stop for a break. Jeff said he liked it but the nail looked a little bent. I said that was why the guy had to find straighter nail. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Emails from my Father, continued... snippets of encouragement and random musings on life, art, and literature

On Feb 13, 2013, at 4:34 PM, "Norman K Vance" <> wrote:

As Cyrano de Bergerac said in his final soliloquoy " My salute will sweep away all the 
stars from Heaven!!,,,,This is how I feel about you and your astonishing painting 
progress! The painting of the  rusty bike tells me how much you have learned in these 
past months.  There are many things I want to say about the painting:Good background. The weathered and vari-colored boards were a good choice.The bike: Very well done, except that worrisome spike on top of the seat.  Just brush 
it out with a dab of white. The wheels, tires and spokes are just perfect.  
Highlighting the few spokes was a good idea.  It would be my guess that you used the 
ellipse guides to draw those wheels!  Ole!  Foreground: The bike is sitting on the ground, instead of floating above it.  That is a mistake made by many painters.Good for you for considering this!

No criticsms...I find your rusty bike a fine work, hopefully wanting to see it in one 
of your local art exhibits.  Now, don't be shy, you are ready to show the public your ability!!!
Love, Daddy

From    : Tamsen[]
Sent    : 2/13/2013 7:18:34 PM
To      :
Subject : RE: Re: rusty bike II

Hi Daddy:
Your salute to my rusty bike and progress in painting is very much appreciated. I took 
the photo at my friend's Stinson home last fall and have been itching to make a 
painting of it. I printed the photo in Black and white to study the tones and shapes, 
then painted in the fence and bike in thinned burnt sienna. I did use the ellipses! 
They were a big help, though I still think my hand is shaky when I painted over the 
sketch making the tires a bit off kilter. 

The multi colored fence was my own invention as the real life fence was dull brown and grey. I wanted a contrast to the orange rust of the bike, so I used a complimentary color scheme. I used a little comb to add texture to the wood pattern and a razor knife for the spokes.  

I also liked the idea that the bike was so old that it had sunk into the sandy soil and that helped keep me 
from having it float on the ground. It was nice that you noticed that detail! The spring protruding from the seat is a disturbing detail that Jeff also questioned . I will take another look and maybe paint it out, but I may do the opposite and enhance it just for fun!