Sunday, May 04, 2008


10x4 inch original oil painting

Parrots were making a racket outside my window as I packed for the plein air class where I did this painting. Parrots are really loud, did you know that? But they’re beautiful, especially when sitting on palm fronds in the morning sunlight.

I used to live in the Midwest, and I enjoyed painting outdoors there also. But I prefer Southern California. It’s truly a paradise, with scenery and color like this.

Putting emotion into your painting is what I feel plein air painting is all about. And capturing a true sense of the place. That’s something you can’t get in the studio.

When you try it you will realize there is nothing like the thrill of coming home with a painting that actually shows what you saw and felt that day!

It will always bring back fond memories like the cries of seagulls or the smell of the ocean breeze at this location. (At one point we stopped to watch a small lizard that scurried past our feet and paused to bask in the warm sun.) This is why I call plein air painting “making memories.”

We had a great workshop here and a wonderful day together. One woman brought a home-made cake baked to look like a sand castle, with brown sugar sprinkled around the base to simulate sand. Yummm. (Thanks Kathy!)

But back to painting. A strong painting starts in your head, not on canvas. And here I showed my students how to clearly identify what you want to express on canvas before picking up your brush.

For example I wanted to capture the panoramic grandeur of this scene, so I chose this long horizontal panel from among an assortment I had with me. I also showed everyone how to draw attention to the “keyhole,” a unique opening formed by erosion in the base of the cliffs.

(This place feels like something right out of South Seas Pirate novels like Treasure Island. In fact a small island to our right is actually named Treasure Island.)

To draw the eye to the keyhole formation I showed how we could view the scene from a vantage point where a strong contrast in light and dark values would naturally attract the eye. And I demonstrated how to anchor this dark and light pattern during the initial sketch while the idea was fresh.

Once we all had a good start on our canvases I continued helping everyone by explaining recipes for effective color mixtures, how to use the brush differently for various effects, when to use thick or thin paints and why, plus lots of other things.

One of the students suggested I should call my workshops “Plein Air Painting for Dummies,” because I make everything so easy. It IS fun and easy if someone shows you what to do. That’s what I do for my students, and it’s probably the reason my workshops are always full of happy painters.

In fact this is what has made my TV show catch on so quickly. I explain everything you need to know, from how to lay out your paints to how to hold the brush. I tell all my secrets, tips and techniques.

Recently I’ve been able to make 4 of these TV shows available on DVDs. The response has been overwhelming and I’m happy to be able to help so many artists get off to a good strong start with plein air painting.

The DVDs cost $30 each and I’m excited about all of them, but if you want to get just one I would suggest “BACK BAY.” In the “BACK BAY” video I show how to make a simple outdoor painting kit that costs nothing. It’s great, because you can try your hand at outdoor painting without wasting lots of money on unnecessary things like a French easel.

If you want all 4 DVDs I can give you a discounted price of $100 for the full set. To order just email me at I accept PayPal or personal checks, whichever you prefer. Shipping is free anywhere in the USA.

If you are an artist I strongly urge you to try painting outdoors directly from nature. You’ll bring home valuable memories from every outing and you’ll be glad you tried it.

Happy painting!

Today’s thought to smile about:
Sand castle cakes

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