Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Junction Overlook, Canyon de Chelly" © #canyondechelly #painting #laurawambsgans

Canyon de Chelly is often called the "sacred canyon."  After painting on the edge of the canyon for a week I agree with this name.  Hawks soar, small squirrels scurry and in general life moves on without considering all that people at home seem to be distracted with.  Cell phones do not work, the television news seems distant and home feels like a globe away, not just a days drive.  Truly, I can't wait to return to this sacred canyon.  

Oil on linen, 18" X 24"  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Canyon Morning" © #canyondechelly #desertpainting #Navajoreservation

Oil on Linen

Last week I had the luck to go to Canyon de Chelly to paint with 5 other Southern California painters, Marian Fortunati, Debra Holladay, Sharon Weaver, Linda Brown and Nita Harper.   Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument located in the north east corner of Arizona and part of a Navajo reservation.  We experienced wild weather from a desert dust storm, to 33 degree mornings to perfect sunny days on the reservation.  

Here is a photograph of Nita and Linda painting along the South Rim of the canyon.  The views were endless and painting the canyon is easy.  You can find spots to paint out of your trunk or you can hike a bit, depending on your comfort level.  

Nita Harper, Marian Fortunati and Sharon Weaver in the 3rd seat.  

To explore the canyon floor hiring a Navajo guide is necessary.  We used Canyon de Chelly Tours, Leon Thomas Skyhorse is the owner and Irene was our guide.  She couldn't have done a better job, making sure we made it to all the best spots for painting.  We were riding in a Suburban with the 3rd seat and rotated seats clockwise with each stop so everyone had an opportunity to see well.  Irene told us that clockwise is the Navajo way and she was surprised we came up with the system as none of the other groups had ever suggested it.  Although we spent the night outside the canyon in the Best Western and Holiday Inn, we felt like Irene was able to give us the canyon experience that people talk about after camping overnight in the canyon.  

If you ever have the opportunity to see or paint Canyon de Chelly, go for it!  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Pink Mountain Moment" © #BorregoSprings #desertpainting #pleinair

For a brief time each morning the mountain in the west that hovers over Borrego Springs turns every color of orange and pink.  It is a free light show the sun offers the desert residents, until the evening show at sunset.  

I have been on the road painting Canyon de Chelly, Arizona and will start posting that adventure when I get all the paintings and cameras unpacked and unloaded.  It's funny when I am out painting far from home it's easy to forget what I have painted until I start opening the wet panel boxes.  I enjoy the surprises and reliving the painting experience.  

Oil on panel, 8" X 10"

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Hopper Creek Heritage Valley", #Heritagevalley #paintingprocess #onmyeasel

 I must have painted this spot 10 times, at least.  Sometimes you will hear collectors comment on artists painting the same locations over and over again.   It's been done for centuries.  And really, how can anyone blame us?  The place is easy to get to, lovely to paint no matter the season and as we grow as painters the paintings evolve, always ending up quite different.  

It has been a long time since I posted any process photos so I took a couple on this one.  When I started the painting I was sick with a sinus infection and I had a very difficult time making decisions.  After fighting the little cooties for a week I was able to finish the painting to some degree, which you see in the image above.    

Here is the "start".  I painted a rough line drawing of where all the elements would be placed and started just throwing in big colored areas to find the rhythm of the painting. I am painting the main  areas in their local color and value.

At this point the painting is all there.  Now is the really fun part of pushing the paint around and defining the scene for the viewer.  I used some quick dry medium, so that I could paint layers, leaving enough of the initial layers that they peek though in broken color.

This is the final painting.  I took the photo, just now, on the floor of my bedroom, trying to find a spot in the house that wouldn't create a glare.  The actually painting isn't quite this "hot", especially the mountains but it's pretty close.  

Oil on canvas,  24" X 36"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A couple more Borrego Springs paintings.... #Borregosprings #desertpainting

On Church Street, where you can find a variety of church services I painted this view one afternoon, while the bells rang out every half hour or so.  The singing bells kept me in line from staying too long in one spot by reminding me that time was marching on.

This little painting of a Palo Verde tree was done at the Anza Borrego visitors center.  Usually I don't post paintings in frames but I had not photographed the painting before it was hung in the Borrego Art Institute.  Below is the Institute with the sunrise reflecting in the glass windows.  I a few minutes later the whole mountain lit up in shades of pink.  


This is very typical of the terrain in Borrego Springs, surrounded by the Anza Borrego State Park.  It really is quite beautiful in it's understated hues and ever changing skies.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

#Borregosprings #desertpainting "Sunrise Serenade" ©

The desert is complimented in the morning by birds, roosters and coyotes serenading the rising sun.  I believe it's the nosiest time of the day.  All the other creatures that venture out as the sand heats up are very quiet.  A ranger told me that when the little lizards do push up's, it helps them to determine how far away something is.  It is as though their bodies are just too low to the ground for them to judge distance.  The things you learn out painting are endless.  

Oil on Canvas, 20" X 24"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#Borregosprings #palmtrees "Sun Lovers" ©

Outside the Anza Borrego visitor center gates, these palms seem to spring up out of the desert floor soaking up the sun and loving it.  I painted this early one morning before the crowd arrived to visit the park.  This painting is one of the 10 I painted during the Borrego Springs Invitational last week.  

Oil on Linen, 11" X 14"

This is the gallery walls before the final hanging.  As the artists finished the paintings we brought them into the gallery framed, ready to hang.  The artwork was hung so that visitors could see the work accomplished each day and decide which paintings they would like to purchase.  There were 15 artists and we produced 158 paintings, in 5 days.  It was worth stopping into the Borrego Springs Art Institute to see the wet paintings and different views of the desert.  The paintings will hang and sell through the end of the month.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

#smoketree #Borregosprings #oilpainting , "Desert Beauty", Borrego Springs CA

Last week I had the opportunity to paint in Borrego Springs California, during the annual plein air event hosted by the Borrego Springs Art Institute.  This image is my favorite painting, out of the 10 that I painted, shown as it hangs on the gallery wall.  Painting in the desert it was so quiet you could almost hear the silence.  I was smitten with the subtle colors and constantly changing light.  The main mountain that Borrego Springs is nestled up against, Indian Head, starts out a brilliant pink with each sunrise and ends the day in shades of blue.  

Oil on Linen,  11" X 14"

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

#pleinair #oilpainting #Towsleycanyon #Keltyredwing44 "Towsley Canyon Plein Air" ©

Saturday I am driving down to the Anza Borrego State Park area to participate in the "Borrego Springs Invitational".   As a necessary treat (is there such a thing?) I bought a new plein air backpack to replace my little Ross Store backpack that only holds paint and paper towels and is ripping apart.  The new one is a  Kelty Redwing 44 .  I wanted to take it out on it's maiden painting trip, so we headed out for a quickie at Towsley Canyon.  The pack will hold an EasyL 11" X 14" easel and everything else needed to paint.  I have graduated from carrying 3 items (backpack, easel and tri-pod) to just 1 item on my back, leaving me hands free.  This is a great feature if you start to fall while hiking or just need to grasp rocks/trees for balance.  So far I give the Kelty a 5 star rating....

Oil on panel,  8" X 10"

Friday, February 21, 2014

Oil Painting #Farmland #Santa Paula, "Santa Paula Farmland", ©

I painted this scene as a trial for a larger painting.  The process helped me see how to create a better design and decide what to feature in the landscape.  Now the real work comes, going big.  

Oil on Canvas, 16" X 20"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Gate Guardian" ©

For this little painting I zoomed in on this palm tree to really play up how the beard and fronds shifted color in the sunlight.  Hard to believe but this particular palm tree stands right at the back entrance gate to the Phoenix Zoo.   

Oil, 10" X 8"

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Early Morning Light" ©

One of the many things that Matt Smith taught me was to not work the whole painting to death, something I am very good at.  On this one I tried so very hard to keep a lot of the painting rather loose and just have fun in the paint.  If it flies with collectors, this is just a super fun way to paint and I'll do more.  

14" X 11"

Monday, February 10, 2014

"End of the Road" ©

This is another painting that Matt Smith critiqued for me.  His suggestion was to simplify the tree mass in the background and add some interesting color here and there in the foreground.  He also commented that the sky I had painted was the right value and that many artists paint their skies too dark.  Of course I took his advice and here is the finished painting.  

Oil on panel, 11" X 14"

Friday, February 07, 2014

Matt Smith advice.....

This week I had the opportunity to study with Matt Smith, a painter that I have admired for many years.  A long time ago I was told by a top painter that it's a good idea to study with another artist once a year to kick up your artistic game.  Matt has been on my wish list ever since I saw his original work in Scottsdale at Trailside Galleries.  One of the many gems that Matt told the group was to spend a month painting in the field, 6" X 8" panels.  I photographed the little painting with the easel so you can see how tiny the panel is, yet the scene is huge.  Here are the main nuggets that Matt passed along:
  • Use the best equipment and materials you can
  • Always work large to small shapes, dark to light and thin paint to thick paint
  • If there is a warm light source, the shadows will be cool
  • Earth colors are only used as modifiers
  • Save the painting of the sky for the end, otherwise it may be too rich/dark
  • Value does all the work and color gets all the credit
  • Rules can be broken / laws cannot
  • Balance the painting front to back, not just left to right
  • Always, always establish your horizon line, even if does not show in the painting
  • Study the masters / look at and learn from great art
  • It's easier to rich a gray color then gray a rich color
Here is a list of the artists that we showed take a look at on Google images he mentioned:

                                                              Frederick H. Waugh
Michael Karas
James Reynolds
Odgen Pleissner
Alan Bean
Frank Tenney Johnson
Sir Alfred Munnings
Carl Rungis
Stanislaw Zoladz
Eugene Bracht
Scott Burdick
William Herbert Dunton Frederick H. Waugh
Michael Karas
James Reynolds

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Having a little fun....

Yesterday I installed new paintings for sale at Gale's Restaurant in Pasadena.  A new artist has been added to the mix, Jose de Juan.  His brilliant street scenes got me all excited and I you know how it is, as an artist you can't wait to hit the easel and quench that desire.  What could be brighter and more fun the a giant sunflower?  Now looking at the painting on my easel, it really does bring a lot of sunshine into the room. 

Oil on canvas, 18" X 14"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Lake Los Carneros Park Trail" ©

This little painting is in the same area as the last one, near Santa Barbara in the small town of Gaviota.  The lake is just to the left, surrounded by paths meandering around the lake and across the golden fields.   The houses that boarder the park are invisible once you start walking and it feels as though you are in the middle of no where, all alone with just bird songs breaking the silence.

Oil on canvas, 14" X 18"

Friday, January 24, 2014

"Los Carneros Lake" ©

Lake Los Carneros is located just above Santa Barbara in Goleta, California.   The spot is a great painting location, safe, quite, lots of different views all day long.  As I was just about ready to leave the little fellow on the other bank showed up to fish, so I popped him into the painting.  

Oil, 16" X 20"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Huddled Up" ©

Herd animals have a unique way to huddle, some facing out, others buried deep in the pile of hide.  This little study explores the idea of a small group of cows huddled up in the warmth of the early morning light glazing the snow.  Anyone that had ridden a horse can imagine the amount of heat generated by a large animal and appreciate the "huddle".  

Oil on panel, 8" X 10"

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Wintery Morn" ©

This week I traveled up to San Francisco to view the Anders Zorn exhibition at the Legion of Honor Museum.  Zorn is considered Sweden's Master Painter of all time and viewing the exhibition, it was easy to see why.  A friend asked me what I learned from the exhibit and I made a short list, sharing it with a few artists.  They seemed to appreciate the reminders and observations so I'll share it here for everyone.  

1.  Be really thoughtful about what you leave out of a painting or add to support the main idea.   
2.  Use diagonals to add drama, whether it be a stream of light or a shape etc.
3.  Don't be shy about painting the odd part of the scene, embrace it.
4.  Notan is the foundation to the composition
5.  Thickest paint on the lightest highlights
6.  Big painting, huge brushes
7.  Paint as if from 20 feet away from the canvas
8.  Be sure the painting has it's "own" light and isn't dependent on room lighting
9.  Paint fearlessly, confidently and with a main idea in mind
10.  Never loose sight of the main idea and emotion you want to depict, another way of putting it, never let the painting take charge of the outcome, stay in control till the end.
11.  Use every tool (paint, composition, brushes, color choices etc.) available to tell your story in paint and then know when to stop, earlier is better.  

The little painting above is oil on panel, 8" X 10" 

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Red Rock Creek" ©

 Recently I read an article by Marc Hanson  about focusing on the one thing that inspired you to paint a particular painting, especially in plein air work.  It's so easy to get distracted with the world around you painting outside that you can easily get lost.  This piece is a studio painting, created while also painting crown moulding, floor moulding, walls and so on during our never ending remodel job.  Even so, I kept Marc's words of advice up front and really concentrated on the brilliant golden tree.

Oil on canvas,  14" X 18"

Monday, January 06, 2014

"Sunset Splendor" © and books, books and more books......

Years ago Maggie Price taught me how to paint water using pastels.   For this painting I used her method and painted this scene of Hansen Dam just as the sun was setting.  Maggie passed away, a huge loss to the art community, but as so many great teachers her lessons continue to benefit all the artists she instructed.  

Oil on Canvas, 16" X 20"

I LOVE books, real books with pages to turn and weight to hold in my hands, especially art books.  Yesterday we pulled all the books off the shelves and re-organized the titles.  It's so hard to not sit down with one and dive in.  

The art books are sitting pretty in the case and now I know where each title is for quick reference.  It's a nice way to start 2014.  Here are some of my favorites books on painting methods:
"Brushwork" by Emile A. Gruppe,  "Composition of Outdoor Painting" by Edgar Payne, "Problem Solving for Oil Painters" by Gregg Kreutz,  "Alla Prima" by Richard Schmid and "Oil Painting, The Workshop Experience" by Ted Goerschner.  Happy painting, reading and New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Hansen Dam Fall Colors"

Hansen Dam recreational area is about 14 minutes from my front door and offers incredible views that seem like you are thousands of miles in the wilderness.  There are many waterfowl in the reeds and weeds along the banks, especially beautiful white Egrets that might really add a nice detail to this painting.  I can add them and welcome any feedback as to whether or not to include the fine feathered beauties.  A rain storm moved in today and may have wiped out a lot of the gold leaves but if not it is a glorious place to paint in between the holiday festivities.  

oil on canvas, 14" X 18"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Evenings Splendor" ©

It's December, a time full of parties, shopping, cooking and a non-stop march to the 25th.  I have to admit painting on the fly with all the distractions is not a skill I am gifted with.  Three paintings all poorly executed lay taunting me, around my easel.  To quell any thoughts that I am not at the easel this month, today I took charge, blocked the Christmas carols and decorations out of my mind and brought this painting to an end.  The scene is the trail heading down from Elsmere Canyon to Whitney Canyon in the Santa Clarita Valley.  The evening light is truly lovely.

Oil on Canvas,  18" X 24"

Monday, December 02, 2013

"Nuestra Sra de Belén" 18th Century Sculpture at Mission Carmel

Today is the entry deadline for the California Art Clubs exhibit, "California's Heritage: The Mission Trail." I decided to enter at the last minute and painted this sculpture from a digital image I captured last May during the Carmel plein air event.  On a break from painting I slipped into the Carmel mission to explore what I had heard was one of the most beautiful of the 21 missions.  This sculpture display of the Virgin was the one thing above all on the property that I wanted to paint, so I photographed her and filed it away.   As a landscape painter it's hard to justify slipping into another subject area and yet the call for entries from CAC opened the door.

Oil on canvas, 20" X 16" 

Friday, November 29, 2013

"Cloud Chasing"

Purely for the fun of it, I painted this warm soft sky today.  The location is on the coast in the small magical seaside town of Malibu.  Todays rainy weather had clouds gathering together quickly and separating just as fast, reminding me when painting a moving sky, you just have to pick a pattern in the clouds and stick to it.  

Oil on canvas,  14" X 18"

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Elsmere Canyon Glow" ©

Got this one fairly close to finished and dumped it face down on my palette while trying to get a decent photo of it.  It reminded me that rushing just never works and trying to squeeze a painting in while getting ready for the Thanksgiving Holiday is ridiculous, and yet I cannot find the discipline to stay away from the easel.  I will tidy up the nice blue, orange and white blobs of paint here and there and bring the piece back to something desirable in between brining the big bird and washing floors. 

Oil on canvas, 14" X 18"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Placerita Creek" ©

Green and gold mixed together as fall sinks into winter, is the story behind this painting.  Placerita Canyon creek runs though the nature center where I discovered this view last week.  The color is leaving more and more each day as the weather cools.  It's tough for painting,  short days and the briefest of daylight striking the ground from the south quickly approaching.  The good news is that it is too cold for snakes to be very active, the bad news is my new car was hit today.  What can you do, life marches on.  

Oil on Canvas, 18" X 24"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Cottonwoods in Shades of Green" ©

Often I see a spot and know it's a painting but the timing is off.  Either I am driving somewhere with a timing issue or working on a show or I am just not up to painting the piece technically.  A while ago another artist Janet Anderson and I spotted this idyllic scene as we were driving from Jackson Hole back to Scott Christensen's studio in Victor, Idaho.  Both of us wanted to stop and paint but time was banging it's drum loudly and we couldn't spend the time.  My delay in trying the painting was technical, I could see the painting in my mind but couldn't make the connection to my hands.  Without the pressure of a show in the wings I decided to give it a go and feel pretty good about the painting.  Since this photo I have changed quite a bit but you can get an idea of the serene scene of the Cottonwoods on a gray day.  

Oil on Canvas, 20" X 24"

Sunday, November 03, 2013

"Beginnings of a Bright Day" ©

A couple of days ago the coastal fog was making it's way over the mountain into our valley and I zipped out the door to capture the unusual view.  By the time I got to a good spot, the fog had disappeared leaving a bright morning scene in it's wake, at the trail head leading to the old Walker Ranch.  Still beautiful in the cool quiet morning light I went ahead with a painting.  

Oil on canvas,  20" X 24"

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Golden Poplar Trees" ©

 Usually I would paint and post the plein air piece first but in this case the studio piece was painted and posted first (see the previous post).  I went back to Pine Mountain Club on Saturday to actually paint the Poplar Trees from life.  The golden leaves rained down with each gust of wind, people passed by with their dogs curious about the 5 ladies painting and we, the painters (Marian Fortunati, Sharon Weaver, Diane Nelson Gold and Nancy Angelini Crawford) were in heaven.  

12" X 12", oil on linen

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Autumn Poplar Trees" ©

Earlier this week I had a few days to explore Pine Mountain Club near Frazier Park, California.  The Cottonwood and Poplar trees are just ablaze with golden light, contrasted against the deep blue distant mountain ridge the word "glory" came to mind.  

Oil on canvas, 14" X 18"

Last weekend while I was exhibiting and selling paintings at the Craftsman Expo in Pasadena, my painting "Canyon Trail" won Best of Show at the Santa Clarita Artists Association, 2013 Art Classic XXIV.  Here are the judges comments:

*​​​​​​The Best of Show was awarded to the one painting that simply took our breaths away. It is a stunning landscape that excelled in all criteria. The color was impeccable, beautifully muted tones with lots of atmospheric perspective that led us round every bend, over the hills to the mountains beyond. The brush work was evident and it energized the painting. It felt as if the artist loved his/her subject and it showed.*
​ *Landscape breathes of the local back country's light, shapes and textures. There was a slight haze in the air as the light rose or sank in that canyon. Composition, foreground, mid-ground and background, shapes, colors, tones, textures all blended into one true experience of the power of nature. Not a Wagnerian nature of huge mountains and fluffy white clouds but the nature we visit to renew our spirits and come back from with our perceptions elevated.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Eaton Canyon Evening" ©

This weekend I will be exhibiting 22 paintings at the 22nd Annual Craftsman Exposition at the Pasadena Convention Center.  The Craftsman weekend includes tours of local Craftsman homes, lectures on antiques and art collecting, besides the Expo full of venders of all things Craftsman.  If you want to learn more about the weekend please visit the Pasadena Heritage website.  

Oil on Canvas,  16" X 20"

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"China Cove" study

China Cove in the Point Lobos State Reserve is a tough spot to paint.  It's hard to find a place along the trail that won't interfere with hikers and at the same time offers a good view of the cove.  The trail sweeps around the cove and out onto the land mass so you are looking back at where I am standing for this painting.  The pristine water and pure white sandy beach, untouched by humans lets you dream of what this hidden cove would have been like to discover 100 years ago.   This painting is the "first draft" of an idea.  Lately there has been a lot of discussion online of the value of plein air paintings versus studio work.  Every artist works differently but I need a balance of both painting outside, observing nature first hand and studio work.  Without the direct study paintings I think my studio pieces would suffer.  

Oil on canvas, 12" X 16"

Thursday, October 03, 2013

"High Desert Highlights" ©

The rabbit bush is blooming!  This is one of those paintings that I spent hours moving bushes around.  Now seeing the image on the computer I am questioning the bunch on the right.  Generally it's frowned upon to have a grouping that is set apart without connecting shapes and this is a good example of why you would want to keep to the rule.  Having an element floating like an island just "feels" wrong.  Tomorrow morning I will solve the problem by adding some more rabbit brush on the right.  

oil on canvas, 16" X 20"

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

"Eucalyptus in Cambria" and don't do what I did....

Oil on Canvas, 16" X 20"

After painting oceans for a week it was a pleasure to paint dance in the eucalyptus trees of Cambria California.  Now for the bad news and a lesson to pass on.  I painted a nice little study of a wave with the master Ruo Li.  He had requested a long canvas which I didn't have so making "do" I took some linen and taped it to a panel with black tape.  So far so good.  Then at the end of the day I slide the wet painting into my new Raymar wet panel carrier facing the back because I had a bunch of other panels flopping in the front sections.  For those who are unaware of Raymar's wet panel carriers, they are light weight and have inserts down the sides to accommodate different panel sizes.  

Upon arriving home I slide the painting out of the carrier, only to find the corrugated walls of the carrier left nice straight lines across the painting.  It was my fault completely, since my taping job wasn't tight enough to keep the linen tight to the panel.  Even so, I was very disappointed.

Here is the painting on my studio easel with it's lines.  I took a soft brush and tried to obliterate the lines.  Later on I may try to save the piece.

Here is the panel carrier.  Again it wasn't the fault of the carrier, I have them in all sizes and have used them for years without a problem.  
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