Sunday, September 04, 2016
Plein air painting or painting on location has become a "thing" for landscape artists. All the talk, the term plein air, has trickled down to the masses. Competitions, workshops and so on have reinvented the basic idea of plein air painting. With rare exception until recently the process of painting on location was to learn, create studies, explore ideas, to then take into the studio for a work of art that would eventually find it's way to the gallery wall and then on to a collectors home. It was a long journey that took time and thought.
With the last 20 year or so, reinvention of the plein air movement, artists, organizations and collectors have put on the pressure to create finished, super paintings. With all the "painting process plates" of value, composition, design, color, edges etc. in the air, it's tough in the field not to drop one or two. For the beginner it's almost impossible. With that pressure the simple pleasure of painting on location can be lost.
Admittedly I enjoy the pressure of a plein air competition. It forces me to finish each painting, knowing I will be judged by the formal juror and all the other artists.
During last years event in Carmel I made an effort to paint scenes that offer the collectors a nice selection of local views with the mood of the day, highlighted. Below is an example of catching the incoming fog bank off the ocean as it drifts up the rural Carmel Valley.
Carmel is a tough plein air event because you never know what the day will bring as far as the light. It's not unusual to wake up the morning, a thick layer of fog hanging over the trees. Tempting as it is to tuck down in the warm blankets, I jump up and dash off to paint. I didn't mention yet and some may not know, time is fleeting. In this event we have 2 days to finish as many paintings as possible. Most artists finish at least 4, often as many as 6 or 7.
Here is one morning set up of all my gear and the view I picked to work with.
At this point the painting is pretty well figured out and nearly finished. It's time to move on to the next location and start again.
Talk about a change in the light! Just a little while longer and bright sparkling light is bouncing off the sand and sea. While painting on location it's a good idea to at least have a guess where the light is heading and the weather in general for the day. This way you can paint where the light is headed, not what you see when you first set up. Then you have a bit more time to paint the scene before it's entirely gone. Again, this is very tough for the artist first starting to paint on location, unexpected clouds can ruin their experience. My advice to them would be to take that sunlit canvas off the easel put up a blank one and create a new study of the cloudy day. Think of the learning possibilities, not the fact that your original scene is gone with the light.
At the end of a plein air competition all the artists frame and hang their paintings. You can see two of the paintings that you saw in process, framed and on the wall in this photo.
If you decide to venture out painting, give yourself the freedom to explore, enjoy and paint with pleasure. Sir Winston Churchill, wrote a lovely little book "Painting As a Pass Time", on the joys of plein air painting, saying eloquently what we all feel struggling out of doors.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Very early in the morning the plant life on the dunes take on a violet hue to match the cold breeze off the ocean. It is so very quiet, even the waves seem like a hundred miles away. Standing there painting, I felt like the only person on the earth with a strong sense of timelessness.
14" X 18", Oil
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
One of the advantages of camping along the Big Sur coast, is that you can stumble out of your tent as the sunlight comes streaming though the mountains at dawn. Without another soul around, accompanied by the singing of the birds and just absorb the cool quiet beauty of a fresh new day. That is the inspiration for this new painting, for an upcoming exhibit featuring California's Highway One.
Oil on canvas, 24" X 36"
Thursday, June 09, 2016
Last January while staying in the lodge at the base of Yosemite Falls it snowed all night, blanketing the world in pristine shades of white. This was the view as I walked down the lodge staircase, being very careful not to fall on the ice but all the time gazing at the sunlit granite. Next year I will be showing in an exhibit of paintings highlighting the Sierra Nevada range and painting this little piece allowed me to explore the possibilities of creating a very large painting with this scene.
18" X 14", Oil
Saturday, January 30, 2016
This group of Sycamore live in the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, just down the road from my home. The California drought has been rough on all the plant life and this years rains have brought promise for wildflowers and some beautiful landscapes that have been absent for a long time.
From the creating side of this piece, it's so difficult for me to decide "it's done". I keep attacking the trees, pushing light here and there, adding limbs and tweaking here and there. I stopped at this point and will let it rest for a few days, out of my sight and look at it anew. Usually, only then is it really easy to see, what needs to be addressed to make it a good painting or possibly, decide it's truly finished.
18" X 24", Oil
Friday, January 01, 2016
"Alpine Glow", 16" X 20", Oil
"A Break in the Storm", 16" X 20", Oil
In a couple of weeks I am showing with PAC6 at Hillside Fine Art in Claremont, with a show that has a very unusual concept. Here was the task: Create 2 sets of paintings. Two views of the same scene in different weather, season or time of day. Above are images of one of my set's. Last October I traveled with PAC6 to Yosemite and we experienced painting in rain storms, frozen meadows and in sunny fall glory, all in the span of one week. My first two views are along the Merced River behind the Yosemite Lodge. What a difference a day makes!
If you would like to come to the show and see the "double takes", created by PAC6, please come! The show opens on January 17th and runs until February 28th. We will all be present for the reception February 6th, from 5pm - 7pm. Here is the gallery website for more details.
*PAC6 is a group of 6 women artists committed to painting the beauty and grandeur of the American landscape. The group is: Linda Brown, Debra Holladay, Nita Harper, Marian Fortunati, Sharon Weaver and Laura Wambsgans.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Christmas day I started this painting and shot the process for an upcoming January workshop. It seems to help people if they can see how you painted the piece from the start and they realize how truly simple the process is. Which is encouraging for everyone, including me, when the the look of realization gleams in their eyes. I enjoyed every moment painting the cliffs, picking my way though the warm and cool colors, watching the rocks take on form. I will probably keep tweaking this one for a long time because there are so many opportunities to fine tune the details.
Oil on Canvas, 20" X 24"
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
"Canyon Evening", 11X14, Oil
"Canyon Morning", 11X14, Oil
Already painting for next years shows, these two paintings are headed to the Hillside Gallery in Claremont, California in February. The show will be called Double Take, two different lighting situations at the same location. I took to the idea instantly, because it allows me to observe and paint the difference between two times of day or seasons and get work done for an upcoming show. Double delight!
Monday, October 26, 2015
"The Soloist", was painted on a whim for a student wondering about how to paint the confusion of leaves and branches in a tree. Trees are one of my most favorite subjects because the possibilities are endless. To help my student I told her to think of simple big shapes, in three values to get the basic tree established. After that it's pure fun, pushing and pulling the light though the tree, softening edges here and there and playing with all the shapes. After I finished the demonstration, she smiled and said, "it's so simple!"
Oil 16" X 12"
Posted by Laura Wambsgans at 9:10 PM
Monday, September 21, 2015
A few weeks ago a small group, known as PAC6 Painters, packed into Lake Ediza to paint for a week. All of the words that John Muir wrote came to life visually on that trip. We saw scenes that took your breath away, stunned you to silence and made you want to sing and cry at the same time. This painting is the trail to Iceberg Lake and we actually did sing, hiking down the trail.
Oil on Canvas, 20" X 24"
This painting is available for sale at the Traveling The West Art Show & Sale, Southwest Gallery & Featherstone Arts, 4500 Sigma Road, Dallas, Texas or online
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
24" X 30, Oil on Canvas
Today I am framing up paintings for the Thousand Oak Art Festival this weekend. This painting, "Pacific Morning Glow", was an experiment in layering paint, allowing the rosy glow behind the yet to be sunlit clouds show just a bit. If you are in the area please stop by the festival and say "hi".
Here are the details:
12th Annual Thousand Oaks Arts Festival
September 19 - 20
10am - 5pm
Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., T.O.
Monday, September 07, 2015
For the next couple of months this painting, along with 4 others are hanging in the College of the Canyons Art Gallery. The exhibit is called Plein Air, California Landscape painting and has some very good pieces. Mike Hernandez, Alan Garber and Karl Dempwolf have paintings that are worth studying for a long time. Karl loaned two original William Wendt paintings and there is a nice collection from Steve and Doris Marie Zimmer. A good painting buddy and friend Lorelle Miller has several paintings in the show too and it's always a bonus to hang with a friend.
Oil on canvas, 24X30
Saturday, August 08, 2015
As you drive from Santa Clarita to Agua Dulce the road winds though this landscape. The terrain is dry and roughed with a sprinkling of ranches, a famous cafe and a very nice French Restaurant, named Le Chene. No matter the season, you can always find a beautiful painting location along the road.
Oil on canvas, 24" X 36"
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Ventura View, 12X16, oil
The city of Ventura has held an Artwalk for decades and this year added a plein air competition to the event. Artists were invited to paint for a week and then display their paintings, along with some studio paintings for sale during the Artwalk at the Bell Arts Factory. I was one of 17 lucky artists to be invited to paint and enjoyed exploring Ventura.
The painting above was my first effort. I set up on the side of the CVS building on Olive Street looking up the off ramp of the road to Ojai. I left the off ramp out of the painting and just focused on all the elements that felt like Ventura to me.
Surfers Point Wave, 8X10, oil
This little painting was a quick sketch, watching wave after wave roll in. I think it was successful to some extent because of a comment by a surfer. He told me, hey you got our "concrete" water perfectly. I would like to spend more time painting these little waves, soon.
Maricopa Hwy to Ojai ~ PINK! 16X12, oil
Pure luck, catching this view. I was going to head home after painting all day and looking at the clouds I thought something good might happen soon. I headed up to Grant Park, hoping I would have the best view of the sunset and pow! This huge cloud, turned cotton candy pink and it lasted a long time for a sunset. The little valley below, looking towards Ojai, started to twinkle as lights came on. Of course I was unable to get all the little buildings and lights, but put in enough to get the idea across to the viewer.
Monday, July 27, 2015
The last 10 days I have been painting pieces for an upcoming show of historic and contemporary landscape paintings of the Santa Clarita Valley and nearby areas. Vasquez Rocks is a location that many people recognize and respond too with fondness. With this in mind I added the park to my group of paintings.
Oil, 24"X 30"
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
The Julia Pfeiffer Falls has been an iconic location for photographers and painters for decades. Usually the scene is captured in the late afternoon, with the falls and cliff face warmly lit. I happened upon the scene early in the morning and was struck how the opposite lighting created a whole new view and thought I would give it a try.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Lower Saint Regis Lake, 18X24, Oil
Last week I traveled with Marian Fortunati to upper state New York, deep in the Adirondack's to paint in the 2015 Publishers Invitational. The variety of the color green, from the trees to the fields was endless. Around every bend in the road you didn't know if you would find a pond, waterfall or stream. Eric Rhoads put the event together and I can't think of a thing that could have been done better. We were very well taken care of from check in to the final goodbye party.
At the same time there is a very serious man hunt for the 2 escaped convicts and it's still going on. Most of the painters stuck together for safety and only a few saw wanted posters tacked up in the forest.
It was a great week full of painting everyday, singing songs at night to Rick Wilson's guitar and making new friends. The world of plein air painting is small enough that I am sure my path will cross with some of the wonderful people I met. The photo below is the whole tribe of painters, about 120 in all.
If you would like to see more photos from the week, I have an album on my Facebook page you are welcome to view.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
For this painting I experimented with Gamblin's Fastmatte oil paints. I wanted to see how the paint would work, because I was considering taking Fast Matte paint on my trip to the Adrirondacks, since they dry fast. Bringing wet paintings home on a plane is always a bit of a concern. To get wet paintings home safely, I have figured out how to use little beads as spacers, placing the panels face to face and then taping the "bundle" together to prevent any movement. Finally, taking the bundle and placing it in a plastic trash bag and taping the bag tightly around the bundle, works well.
Here is a picture of how I pack my paint. If you are flying with oil paint, NEVER call it paint when speaking with the TSA. Use the words, "artist pigments", which is what they are. I print out the MSDS's from each manufacture and place that with a letter to TSA explaining that I am an artist and place these clearly visible on top of my packed suit case. So far the TSA agents have never removed any of my pigments or gear.
Each tube is wrapped in plastic kitchen wrap and then wrapped in bubble pack. This way the sharp tube corners won't bite into any of the other tubes. Finally, I place all of the tubes in a zip lock bag for extra protection. There is nothing more frustrating then squeezing a tube of paint in the field and having paint sneak out of a hole in the tube, into your hand. If a tube or cap does happen to leak, at least the paint will be contained by the plastic wrap.
Friday, May 29, 2015
In a couple of weeks I am flying to Vermont and driving up to the Adriondacks with my gear to paint the classic scenes of the Hudson River group, from long ago. In this painting I was thinking about those tonal paintings of water and hardwood trees but truly I don't know what to expect as I have never been to the Adriondack National Park. Along with painting everyday, I made more linen covered gator board panels, ordered bug repellant clothing and have started making little piles to be packed. I really can't wait to jump on the plane!
Oil on canvas, 16" X 20"
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Over the last few weeks I painted twice in the area of Carmel, California. Part of that time was during the Carmel Art Festival, which hosts a plein air competition for four days. 60 artists have two days to paint and two days for the judging, auction and final show. It's not an event for sissy's. While painting, I plowed though rain, fog, wind and a dog using my back pack for a fire hydrant. One time while painting my water bottle started whistling in the wind and I knew it was more then just a little windy. It's such a beautiful area, the light shifting, clouds drifting that you really don't care about the adverse conditions. Every moment is a surprise, as the ocean changes from dull gray to brilliant turquoise.
Oil on Canvas, 18" X 24"
Friday, May 01, 2015
At the recent Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival I had the opportunity to demonstrate oil painting during the art show. This little painting was the result and easy to paint while talking to all the people.
This weekend I will be showing 30 paintings at the 53rd Annual Sierra Madre Art Fair. It is a fun weekend full of good art, music and food trucks. If you are in the area come on by and say HI!
Sierra Madre Art Fair
222 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
*my booth is #31 near the Cannon
Friday, April 10, 2015
This studio painting was created using the plein air painting as the reference. This weekend Saga Gallery in Monrovia is opening an exhibit of the gallery artists work, plein air to studio paintings. I will have 6 paintings in the show and look forward to seeing how everyone else approached the project. The reception is this Saturday evening from 5pm - 7pm and all are welcome.
Oil on Canvas, 20" X 24"
Saturday, March 21, 2015
With a little rain, spring greens are popping up in the canyon. After so many months of muted gray brush the bright green is almost shocking and clearly a delight for all living things.
Oil, 16" X 20"
Monday, March 09, 2015
This spot is one of those hidden gems you find hiking along the trail. Not a soul around, just a few birds bidding the day goodbye, tiny flying wings skimming the surface of the creek and an occasional ripple from the trout cruising for dinner.
16" X 20", oil on linen
Thursday, March 05, 2015
Grand Tetons early in the morning, what could be more grand? A FB friend Gary Keimig, another painter, generously allowed me to paint this from his photograph. I saw the image and knew what the painting would look like before I started. Fortunately I have painted on location many times all around the Tetons, from both sides of the range and know the landscape very well, which always helps when working from a digital image.
Oil on Linen, 20" X 24"
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Placerita Creek had a dribble of water for about 10 minutes with the brief rains that fell. California needs more rain, yet with this bit the trees are greening up and the hills are emerald. I am happy to report my right hand is working well enough after surgery to paint outside again. Standing at the easel in the wilderness without any sounds but nature is pure joy.
Oil on Canvas, 16" X 20"
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Sycamore trees always seem to have a unique and interesting branch structure. You can get to know one and no matter how long in between visits, you will know your old friend the minute it comes into view. It may have lost a limb, yet like a friend that is aging you don't really notice, it's the same tree. I painted this one, simply because I wanted to explore those branches once again.
Oil on Canvas. 24X20
Monday, January 05, 2015
Elsmere Canyon is just down the road from my home and offers nature at her best for small hikes. You see prints in the dusty trail of animals, large and small and the trees vary from coastal oaks to pine trees at the top of the canyon. This scene is painted at the beginning of the lower trail with creek bed bushes and sycamores hanging on to some winter leaves. It's hard to fathom that this canyon was destine to be a dump before a furious fight.
oil on canvas, 20" X 24"
Sunday, December 14, 2014
This painting of a small roadway or path cutting though the aspen trees is my last left handed painting. The cast is off my right hand and I have been given permission to start using my hand for light duty in short amounts of time. I have learned some unexpected lessons painting one handed. First and most surprising was how everything I painted leaned left. Second, being forced to pick up the palette knife mix the paint, set the knife down, pick up the brush, paint the stroke and so on, slowed the process down to such a snails pace that I spent more time then usual making decisions. It seems to be an improvement and will try to keep a slower pace as a rule now. I do miss painting outside very much and can't wait until I get the go ahead to hit the hills.
Oil on Linen, 18" X 24"
Friday, November 28, 2014
Years ago an artist friend that lived nearby told me the most difficult landscape painting to create is an all green scene. Since hearing that I have sought ways to work a green piece successfully. Scott Christensen told me the most valuable piece to the puzzle. His advice was that a green painting cannot survive without red. In this scene he might have suggested to have one pine tree on deaths door, in shades of red, just before the tree shifts to gray. I chose to add reds in the path. Still painting left handed until my right is healed up from surgery, it's all I can do to separate the trees and give the scene a sense of depth. Later on I may address the painting further, but I need the other hand.
oil on linen, 20" X 16"
Monday, November 10, 2014
Painting left handed has been quite a humbling experience. Timing is the most dramatic difference. Every move I make takes twice as long, from squeezing out additional paint to wiping out the brushes in between colors. I feel like I am watching a hand that doesn't belong to me moving the brush on the canvas willing it to go in the right direction. Soon I will have my right hand back and will be back to my normal speed and rhythm but until that time I will go with the flow.
Oil on linen, 16" X 20"
Sunday, November 02, 2014
20" X 24", oil
Two weeks ago I had surgery on my right hand, repairing damage from sculpting stone for many years. The result will be complete use of my hand but meanwhile I am learning to paint left handed. It's been an interesting time of discovery. The most difficult task is cleaning the brush after using each color. The second task that I often fail at is opening tubes of paint. Even with pliers squished under the half cast I have now and turning the tube, success is "iffy". A dear friend suggested bringing in a small bench vise from the shop to help, which was a super suggestion. As far as painting my brain knows the principles of value, color temperature, composition and so on, so I am getting some work done. The brushwork is lacking in interest and I am working to increase the action with my left hand. Tomorrow morning I will get a full hard cast and that will decrease the pain and increase the mobility of the little all knowing right fingers sticking out. I wouldn't suggest anyone right handed painting with their left as an exercise but if you are ever forced into it, know that it's possible and just as pleasing of an activity as working with your right.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
"Hidden Pond", 16" X 20", oil
Three exhibits, 28 paintings, 2 receptions all opening this weekend. This painting, "Hidden Pond" is one of the forest pieces that will be on exhibit at Gales in Pasadena.
20" X 24", oil
This painting "Pasadena Twinkling at Twilight" was juried into the Contemporary Masters Artistic Eden IV exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History. The exhibit will be up for a few months and the artwork depicts the San Gabriel Valley, from landscapes to cityscapes and more.
24" X 30", oil
18" X 24", oil
Finally, the finished paintings from Canyon de Chelly by myself, Linda Brown, Debra Holladay, Nita Harper, Marian Fortunati and Sharon Weaver will be on exhibit at Segil Gallery in Monrovia. Our reception is tonight, Saturday October 11, 5pm - 7pm. We have worked towards this exhibit for over a year and a half, from planning the excursion to painting studio works and when you walk in the gallery door you are transported to Canyon de Chelly.
Posted by Laura Wambsgans at 9:44 AM
Sunday, September 21, 2014
This is one of the new paintings that will hang at a special show next month in Pasadena. It's a wonderful desert scene with all the classic features from the dry wash to the distant mountain. You can just feel the heat and see a rabbit dash from one group of bushes to the next.
Oil on Canvas, 18" X 24"
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
This spot is only about 20 min. from my home and is a constant pull as I pass for a painting. In the past painters have often painted scenes over and over again. I guess until you feel like you really captured the scene or find another scene that has a stronger pull it's just what happens. I am not done with it yet, that is for sure.
Oil on Linen, 24" X 24"
Friday, September 12, 2014
This painting is all about the contrast of the tree dressed in it's winter white coat against the shadowed stone wall behind. It was an exercise in exploring high contrast and enabled me to decide whether this idea might work for a larger painting. I have lived with this little guy in the studio for a few weeks and instead of growing tired of it, every day I become more fond. So it's passed the test of time and a larger composition within the same story of contrast is painting waiting to be painted.
Oil on Linen, 11" X 14"
Monday, September 08, 2014
Deep in the depths of the Canyon de Chelly, other then the tracks in the sand, time seems to have stopped a 1,000 years ago. Imagine a hawk soaring above, calling out as the shallow water snakes it's way along the cliffs, this is what you experience.
Oil on Canvas, 24" X 30"