Art, Landscape, Painters, Painting, Plein Air, Workshop

And now for something completely different …

It’s been a long time since my last post and, in fact a long time since I touched a paint brush. I’m having my studio space expanded now and therefore have no where to paint for a few weeks but I hope to start back painting on a regular basis very soon.

In August I attended a week long workshop on Orcas Island with Jordan Wolfson and a small band of other painters. This workshop was different from others I’ve participated in. Although it was billed as a plein aire painting workshop and we did indeed paint plein aire, we didn’t focus just on capturing form and color as it appears in life. We did start out, as most workshops I’ve done, trying our best to paint what we saw but, as the week progressed, Jordan introduced exercises that encouraged us to be more interpretive of the landscape.

I didn’t really do anything close to a finished piece but several starts of an hour or two.

Most of the paintings are 8″ x 10″ and all are oil on linen panels. Click on them for a larger view.



On the third day of the workshop, we did an exercise in which we did a sort of wire frame of the scene.


Next we did a sort of combination of the first two days work by painting from observation but introducing lines and marks that searched out how the scene was constructed. I found myself thinking about painting, not just the objects in front of me but the air between me and them as well.


On the last day, Jordan encouraged us to be really expressive and experiment with any kind of mark making we could think of.



I’ve admired Jordan’s work for a long time and I was interested in working with him because of his ability to work across a spectrum of realistic to fairly abstract imagery without leaving representation completely. I’ve been trying to move myself in that direction and I enjoyed spending a week with Jordan and other serious painters who were also interested in exploring similar ideas.

This work is very different from what I’ve done in recent years and I enjoyed stepping beyond my comfort zone. I’m looking forward to getting my studio in order and seeing where this leads me.

For more pictures of the workshop and information about Jordan, check out Jordan Wolfson Workshops on Facebook.

Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Plein Air, Plein Aire Painters, Portland, Workshop

Plein Air with Stephen Hayes

I received a last minute invitation, from my friend Shawn Demerest, to attend a plein air painting workshop on Sauvie Island with Portland based painter, Stephen Hayes. I was only able to attend one day but it was well worth it.

Caldera by Stephen Hayes

16″ x 120″ oil on canvas panel – Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Since I’ve started painting again, I’ve focused on learning traditional painting techniques and the workshops I’ve attended have been about painting that way. Although Stephen has spent years painting plein air, he is a contemporary painter who doesn’t limit himself to traditional techniques. In fact, he uses the landscape before him more as a jumping off point rather than trying to capture the moment or scene. (Those are my impressions of his work, not Stephen’s words, btw).

Having originally started out as a non-traditional painter,  it was freeing to see Stephen paint more experimentally. Stephen shared some interesting ways to rework areas of the painting. I especially liked how he talked about working a painting back and forth, losing it and bringing it back, pushing and pulling it toward and back from the brink of disaster.

One “rule” I hear over and over from traditional painters is to put a brush stroke down and leave it. That is a rule Stephen is not afraid to break.

I did a couple of studies, during the workshop, starting out my normal way but found it a lot more fun to play with them, not being afraid to damage them or destroy them.

8″ x 10″ oil on panel

6″ x 8″ oil on panel

Although these sketches may not look a lot different from paintings I’ve done in the past, they were a lot more fun to do.

Portland, Sketchbook Artists, Sketching, Urban Landscape, Workshop

Urban Sketchers announce Sketching Symposium in Portland

Participants are encouraged to register early due to limited availability. To register, check PNCA’s website.


Gabriel Campanario
Urban Sketchers
Executive Director
gabicampanario at gmail dot com
or 425.686.2398

Patrick Forster
Pacific Northwest College of Art
Director of Continuing Education
pforster at pnca edu
or 503.821.7864

Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Plein Air, Plein Aire Painters, Portland, Workshop

From Sauvie Island Convenience Store



6″ x 8″ oil on panel

Sauvie Island is popular with bicyclists, fishermen, bird watchers, hunters and plein air painters.  The easiest place to meet up is the Cracker Barrel convenience store, which is a short distance from the bridge that is the only way on and off the island. I did this little sketch of the fields across the street from the parking lot, last Saturday while waiting to meet the group I was painting with.

Portland plein air painter Celeste Bergin showed up to meet another group of painters, which she wrote about on her blog.

A couple of things are different in this painting from the others I did during this weekend. One, I didn’t use any alizarin crimson, two, I did this by myself while waiting for my painting companions to arrive. I find that I’m able to get into a sort of meditative state of mind while painting alone that seems more conducive to what I need to enjoy the process.


Art, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Portland, Workshop

Sauvie Island


Sauvie-Island-Marsh 8″ x 10″ oil on canvas


I spent 2 cold damp days painting on Sauvie Island last weekend with Eric Jacobsen. I’ve been fussing with this since I got it home and I’m going to stop now. There are some fundamental problems with it, like the fact that I cut it in half with the stream. The point was just to get out and get some PA practice and I accomplished that.

This one was painted on day one from a covered wildlife viewing stand. It rained off and on all weekend.

Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Plein Air, Plein Aire Painters, Workshop

Painting with Elio Camacho – man of mystery


I was delighted to spend the last three days painting with my friend Elio Camacho. Elio did his best to coax more color into my plein air paintings and I resisted as much as I could but I think he may have gained some ground on my precious grey palette.

Elio studied with Ovanes Berberian (some of his work can be seen here), who studied with Sergei Bongart.

My paintings got progressively worse as the workshop continued and I think that’s a good thing because it means I was trying new things and I expect that, as I’m able to find my way with these new ideas, my work will be better for it.

It was great fun to finally meet Elio, after coresponding with him over the internets and blogosphere for the past year or so.  I hope we get to paint together again.

Art, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Workshop

Thoughts on Art College and Atelier style study

. warning, long winded and somewhat rambling opinion follows


8″ x 8″ oil on canvas panel

disclaimer: I am not pretending that this painting is done in the style of Classical Realism

In my travels among blogs, I’ve read several complaints about the value of college art programs and I want to express my thought about it.

Even though I also feel that I didn’t receive a very thorough training in college, I think that I got what I should have expected. My opinion is that, at least in the U.S., students who enroll in college art programs usually have little or no training in drawing or painting prior to entering the program. Usually, as in my case, they’re kids who like to draw and were always told they were talented and, (especially in my case), have no interest in academic study. A four year Bachelors program has barely enough time to introduce it’s students to the rudiments of several different media or approaches to making art. By the time a student is in his/her senior year, they may have decided which media they think they might want to focus on but haven’t had time to really develop a mastery of it.

Graduate school, as I understand it (I didn’t attend grad school), is focused on developing imagery, not on technique. Technique is supposed to already be mastered.

Further, the instructors who staff these institutions are working artists who are passionate about their particular art. In the seventies, most of my instructors were working abstractly and, in fact, conceptual art was in vogue, in which there was not necessarily an artifact produced as a result of the art making. The idea was the art. Realism was not highly thought of at the time. And as far as developing technical skills, in four years of introductions to multiple media, it was more like dabbling than immersion.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. I was very excited about those ideas at the time and I enjoyed spending time with real working artists getting a sense of what it meant to be one. Having an exposure to printmaking, sculpture, photography, ceramics, etc was a good thing.

I find myself trying to fill in the gaps because now I’m interested in those technical skills I didn’t develop earlier but I don’t blame the schools I attended for not teaching me. I think undergraduate school is just not the place to develop those skills.

I’ve spent some time, recently, reading about atelier style study and wonder if it might be an appropriate step in a young (or older) artist’s development to spend some time in an atelier style environment. It seems to me that, even if one isn’t interested in ultimately painting in this precise and methodical way, there is a lot of benefit in learning to draw and paint precisely. It seems helpful to know the rules to break them intelligently.

There are a few blogs by artists who have studied this style of painting. The paintings are often really wonderful and one of the blogs in particular was really interesting to read. Sadie Jernigan Valeri, in her blog, gives an account of her pursuit of this study over about three years as she attends workshops by some of the masters of the style like Ted Seth Jacobs and Julia Aristides, and attends atelier schools, like the Gage Academy in Seattle and Studio Escalier in France. She’s also a very good writer. I read her entire blog, over a couple of days and, although I don’t know if I have the patience for this study now, (I know I don’t have the time, since many of the workshops are weeks or months long) I do wish I had done it.

Other blogs concerned with atelier style study and Classical Realism include:

Tobias Hall

Timothy Stotz and Michelle Tully of Studio Escalier

Jeremy Lipking


Sarah Merideth

Oil Candy

Neil Nelson

John Reger

Tali Gai

Tony Ryder Studio Blog

Harmony VanLue Tanguay

Seree Bayne

Kate Lehman

Jacob Collins

Janus Collaborative School of Art

Michael Grimaldi

David Larned

Edward Minhoff

Dan Thompson

Art, equipment, Painting, Portland, Still Life, Workshop

Lemon Megilp


6″ x 8″ oil on paper

I attended the first of a 4 session ‘Head Studies’ painting class last Saturday. I’ve accepted that I shouldn’t expect to make good paintings at a workshop, where you’re trying to paint using unfamiliar materials and techniques (although I have to really resist the urge to try).

This lemon study is an attempt to get more comfortable with the materials and palette we’ll be using in the class. The instructor, Gage Mace, has asked everyone to use a palette of White, Burnt Sienna, Ult Blue, Cad Yellow and Terre Verte and to use a Gamblin medium called Neo Megilp.

Neo Megilp is a safer alterative to maroger medium. It’s very different to work with than what I’m used to. I usually use only a little Gamsol for most of that painting and maybe little thinned down Galkyd Lite toward the end.

This painting was constructed by first toning the support with Terre Verte mixed liberally with medium. This creates a kind of waxy, buttery surface to paint into rather than onto. Eventually you end up with a surface of paint that you can really move around. I could almost move that entire lemon a quarter inch to the right by pushing the paint. It’s interesting but a little hard to get used to, as is the palette.

Another thing that is different for me is that, I’m used to putting in my darkest values first. Gage is encouraging us to put in the mid-tone darks and mid-tone lights first and work out from there. It actually makes a lot of sense in that, since the value range of a painting is compressed from life, you’re less likely to get outside your boundaries by working from the middle out to the lights and darks.

One more thing that he stressed, and I’m guilty of this, is that you’ll make a richer color harmony if you depend less on white to raise values.

Anyway, there’s a bit of shared insight for what it’s worth. Gage Mace is the instructor at Hipbone Studios in Portland.


Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Workshop

Eric Jacobsen Workshop in Hood River Oregon

This past weekend I attended a plein air painting workshop with Eric Jacobsen in Hood River OR. I’ve known of Eric for a number of years and admired his work greatly. It’s always interesting meeting someone you’ve looked up to for a long time and it was a real joy to meet Eric. He turned out to be a very friendly and down to earth guy who welcomed us all with a big smile.

Although I think sometimes that there is no substitute for just putting time in at the easel, this was a great opportunity to watch a masterful painter work and then to be able to step immediately to an easel and practice what I just observed, while it’s still fresh.

On a side note, I hadn’t been to Hood River in about 10 years and it’s really grown into an international windsurfer mecca since then. It’s in the incredible Columbia River Gorge and at the foot of both Mt Hood and Mt Adams of the Cascade range. It’s kind of a cross between a surfer tourist spot and college town (without the college) with meditation centers and fabulous restaurants. I recommend the house martini and Brian’s Pourhouse, btw.

I arrived Friday night to attend the opening of the Plein Air Paint Out show sponsored by the Columbia Art Gallery which included work by some artists I’ve met or workshopped with recently. After that I painted during the day, at the workshop, and dined at the great spots in Hood River and sketched around town in the eveining.

The weather was perfect – clear blue skies and two snow capped volcanoes close enough that it seemed you could reach out and touch them.

Hood River is also surrounded by apple and pear orchards, which are coming into harvest time, and is very scenic.

Eric did three demos during the two day workshop, explaining his decisions as he made them and talking about his training and the personal preferences that he’s developed. He was extremely generous spending a lot of time with each participant answering questions, making suggestions and even critiquing paintings brought from home. I know that one of the hardest things to come by is honest and informed constructive criticism and Eric was really terrific at making astute suggestions in an encouraging way.

I took some snapshots of one of the demonstrations and Eric agreed to allow me to post them here. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

EJ demo 1

Because of a back injury, Eric was sitting down to paint although he prefers to stand.

EJ demo 2

the canvas was first toned with a very light wash of Burnt Sienna and an underdrawing was done with the same color

ej demo4

he starts laying in local color

ej demo 5

the sky was put in rather late in the process and the mountain really jumped out at that point

ej demo 6

ej demo 7

ej demo 8

ej demo final

We unceremoniously threw his completed work on the ground to photograph it but still failed to avoid the glare.

This demo took about an hour and he talked his way through it and answered questions so it probably took 4 times as long as if we hadn’t been there.

What did I learn? Two things come to mind immediately:

1. Don’t try to paint with worn brushes. Duh! Eric did his demos with a single brush, a brand new #6 flat. He said that with that brush he can make marks any size between #1 and #6 depending on how he holds the brush.

2. To determine the color of a mass in a landscape, rather than look directly at it, look at the adjacent mass and use your peripheral vision to see the color you’re after.

It was well worth it and if you ever have the opportunity to study with Eric, I recommend it. Although he demonstrated painting close to life, some of his work is more interpretive and pushes past traditional landscape painting, check out his website.