Monday, November 15, 2010

Day Three, at Mt. Evans

The final day of Don Sahli's plein air class was west of Evergreen, with a fine view of Mt. Evans.

Mt. Evans, oil 20" x 24":

This was the warmest day and we just enjoyed ourselves, painting in the sun. I didn't set up on purpose to get Diane and Weatherly in the picture, but there they were, and remembering Don Sahli's painting of me yesterday I just proceeded.

Between our first and second pictures Don showed us how he carries canvases in his car, on custom plywood racks. He had a 30" x 40" canvas handy, to show us how large a canvas the French easel will take, and even larger.

He likes big oil paintings, and doesn't limit himself to small canvases to begin with.

I used a cool blue turpentine wash to begin my first painting, and learned how much that initial wash affects the temperature of your entire painting. After this I'm sticking with warm washes, although on my second painting I used a green wash that I won't use again.

Red Barn near Evergreen, oil 20" x 24":

I thank Don Sahli for the great painting experience. I'm pleased with all I learned, and happy with what I produced. And I'm looking forward to producing more on my (not-so-new-now) French easel.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lair o' the Bear Day Two

Day two of Don Sahli's plein air oil painting class was also in the Lair o' the Bear, where beautiful views along Bear Creek abounded. We went a little ways downstream from yesterday. I finished my first painting, with Don's help, by noon.

Lair o' the Bear 3, oil 20" x 24":

As I was painting in the upper left area Don said, "Make that darker, I know you're going to put white on top of that. Look at that fallen tree." He took my brush and produced a deep purple, which he quickly used to draw in the fallen tree and the area around it, and repeated that color on the water to the lower left. Finally he quickly pointed to the sky and painted that color in two wavy spots on the water in the middle of the painting. I complimented him on not referring to those as reflections, but only as colors and values.

Don gave a class to begin this day, where he showed how to lay out the major views of the scene before us on his canvas.

He counted about 5-7 major areas, with the sky and the water clearly defined, and particular trees, fields, groups of foliage and the hills all had clear places in his initial sketched layout.

Then he went straight for the darkest darks.

He gave brief critiques of everyone's work from the day before. He complimented me on "how loose" I was with oils. "You obviously know what you're doing." he said. "But your problem--we all have problems--is that you pixelate, on and on." He said to make more contrasting areas, smooth as well as pixelated, horizontal and well as vertical. He compared me with Seurat.

My vest was a gift from Judy that I'd seldom worn, but now it was handy for warmth, and for keeping my paper towels and trash bags handy. To keep the trash bag from flapping around in the wind I literally tied it to myself, and was prepared to stuff it into one big pocket. Don made me keep a role of paper towels handy.

I set up for my second picture directly in Don's view. So he put me in his painting, answering my earlier question about if he put people in his paintings.

He said, "Jack saved my painting."

Lair o' the Bear by Don Sahli, oil 20" x 24":

When I completed my second painting, drawing some trees red as is my wont, he commented "Kinda red, white and blue, but it works."

Lair o' the Bear 4, oil 20" x 24":

Next post: Day Three

Plein Air Oil Painting Class

My Late Fall Plein Air Oil Painting class taught by Don Sahli was Nov. 3-6, three gorgeous days in the foothills west of Denver. Don lives in Evergreen, and he took us to 2 different favorite locations near his home.

Lair o' the Bear

The first two days were at Lair o' the Bear county park, in Bear Creek Canyon. There were five of us total, and Don had us set our French easels near his.

Don Sahli:

It was a treat to get to watch him paint. I like the way he draws the major parts of his picture on top of a turpentine wash, going for the darkest darks at the very first.

He averaged three paintings a day, and while all of us were really trying to crank these oil sketches out, the best I could manage was two paintings a day. It was watching him that helped me produce my first painting.

Lair o' the Bear 1, oil 20" x 24":

The first day started out cold, but Don said that plein air painters have to be ready for all kinds of weather in Colorado. The sun finally came out and that's all you need in Colorado, most days are sunny in fact.

Don began each day with a class. His instruction was succinct: "Train your eye to see the pieces of nature, of form, color and shape."

His three stages of painting are:
80% abstract -- Block in related color spots.
15% modeling - describe the forms.
5% detail - find the darkest darks and the lightest lights.

Among the students in Don Sahli's class was Weatherly Stroh:

If I had the idea that plein air painters were all impressionists, I was wrong. I complimented Sahli on his abstract approach, emphasizing color, value and temperature.

His three rules are:
ALWAYS start in the darkest dark.
Warm light has cool shadows.
Cool light has warm shadows.

As I was completing my second picture, he took my paint brush and showed me what he actually wanted me to do on the canvas, which was to flatten some of the pixelating I was doing. "Make more contrast in your areas of paint," he said. And he put a quick flash of yellow oil in the right side of the picture, next to the tree, which he liked.

Lair o' the Bear 2, oil 20" x 24":

The two other students in Don's class were Shellie Dunham:

And Diane Spickert:

I helped Diane set up on the second day, and on the third day we painted next to each other in the afternoon. She missed the first day of class, but Don has invited her to spend a day in his studio class in Evergreen. She is a retired geologist, and the author of a children's book: Earthsteps: A Rock's Journey through Time - Paperback (Mar. 1, 2010) by Diane Nelson Spickert and Marianne D. Wallace, available through

Next post: Day Two

Monday, November 1, 2010

One More Hour of Painting

I've finished my practice 3-day class in preparation for my real 3-day plein air painting class that begins in just a couple days in Denver. I wanted to be sure to be able to set my easel up at 9 a.m. all 3 mornings. Here's how it went:
The first morning it rained, and the next 2 mornings was below freezing at 9 a.m. It has not hardly rained here in the past 2 1/2 months, and had not yet frozen, until my practice class. I can only hope my real class will be better. I showed you the painting I started that first day. All I needed was one more hour of painting to get it to where I liked it. In the next couple days I did get one more hour in, and here's the result.

Garden of the Gods, oil sketch, 20" x 24":
It took me 2 1/2 hours total. If I can just get 2 or 3 pictures like that a day in my class then I'll be happy.
I didn't go outside to paint again after the first hour and a half before it rained the first day. By that afternoon the rain had turned to sleet and then snow. The mountains had 2 feet of snow that day.
The second day at least was sunny, but it stayed below freezing til 10 a.m. and had a hard, cold wind. I could not have got out that day to paint, since I needed a winter jacket and I was unwilling to trash my good ones. So instead of painting I went to ARC to get a jacket for $6. That made it possible for me to get out the 3rd morning, even though it was so cold. That day was sunny and warmed up nicely.
But I have to admit, on that first day I set up my French easel in my studio to dry out, and I proceeded to actually make a Garden of the Gods still life, and that's where I painted one more hour.

My new studio:
My new easel and pallette got well broken in by the time I was done:

I love how the new easel fits so well into my old studio, with the bright light flooding in on my painting. I can see that I'll still have lots of fun in my studio this winter as we're waiting to put our home on the market in the spring.
I'll keep you informed about my class.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventures in the Plein Air

I want to keep you informed of my progress toward my plein air oil painting class that is next week, starting the day after the election.
I have to document my adventures, beginning today. I took my new French easel to the Garden of the Gods, pretending that my class was starting today. That's a great place to paint, I've hauled a number of large canvases there to paint. Today was dramatic:

A rainbow in the west greeted me.
My goal was to get one 20" x 24" canvas as finished as I could in 2 hours. As it turned out I had to quit because of wind and rain after an hour and a half; it hasn't hardly rained here in the past 2 months. I just want to show what I got done, not only as a point to compare my class canvases with, but also to show that I am actually getting some oil painting done.
Oil sketch of the Garden of the Gods, 20" x 24", Oct 25 2010:

I know it's pathetic, it's easy to see I need to learn a lot. I was determined not to draw it first in oil, as is my wont, but instead just to paint the colors I was seeing. I was just starting to add blues and greens, and was having to hold my cap and the easel at the same time, and when I discovered my wind breaker was not waterproof, I folded the easel and got it back to my truck, which conveniently was nearby. The painting and I were soaked, but the water didn't affect the oils.

Here's what the scene I wanted to paint looked like when I began it:

The scribbled gray blue at the middle top of my painting was where I had been hoping to place Pikes Peak, which is ordinarily spectacular at that spot. But I left it alone, thinking I could add Pikes Peak the next time I go.
Here's that scene as I painted it in 1990. This took me considerably longer than an hour and a half.
Garden of the Gods, 1980, oil 24" x 36":

The Palette
I was using my new palette, which Don Sahli specified:

There are just 16 colors, from lower left: carbon black, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, viridian green, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium yellow deep, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, burnt umber, English red light, yellow ochre and titanium white.
Sahli said in his Youtube instruction video that a new palette should be prepared ahead of time, using a lot of oil that will become hard, so new oils won't run out of the box. I ended up scooting those first oils to the edges of the plexiglass, and had to spread them and lower the height of the oils so I could get the easel closed without getting oils on it.

I'm excited that my class is so near. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Art Show Photos

I'm glad to show the photos of my art show, Aug. 13. They were taken by Dave Hughes Jr., a professional photographer associated with the Old Colorado City History Center.
Dave is like me, he too loves the images on the High Road, and pointedly showed me his photo of St. Francis De Asi in Ranchos de Taos because it was a different, more uncommon view of the mission than the two views I had shown in my blog:
This view from the southeast corner is more familiar, and of course the view from the back was made famous by Georgia Okeefe and was the inspiration for my High Road pictures:

I warn you about the rest of these photos, there are several pictures of myself. There could have been a lot more, but I want to show you pictures of some of my friends.
The first people to walk into my art show were Ron and Juli Hinkle, from Florence but formerly from just down the street from us in Old Colorado City:

Ron and I worked and carpooled together at the Air Force Academy for several years.
I was especially amuzed with my son-in-law Rick Munoz, who was recording mly artshow on Utube, and sending it out on emails from his new iphone 4. Judy Wise replied in the middle of the evening:

Don't you love it when friends show up to see your show? Among my longest friends here in Colorado Springs are Todd and Kathleen Ryan:

Todd has "8 more years" to go in his graphic art job in the marketing office at the Academy where I worked. He is an incredible aviation artist, just waiting to draw and paint more.
And my oldest and longest friends here came to my show, Fred and Beryl Clark, who live in Black Forest:

I met the Clarks in 1978 when I went to work at the Staff Artist at the National Carvers Museum in Monument, and Fred moved here because he made carving tools, and was President of Warren Tools.
And I want to show you Nate and Orion Kiser, who now live just a few blocks from us. Thanks Nate, for purchasing a High Road painting:

I could show lots more photos, Dave Hughes Jr. outdid himself. I offered to pay him for his good work, but he said, "I'd only like one of your pictures, Jack, maybe just a little sketch that you might otherwise throw away."
I gave him a drawing I made of our home, which is just a few blocks from where he and his family live, and only a few blocks more from his parents' home, where he grew up "surrounded by your artwork that Dad always had around":

Thankyou to everyone who was at my art show.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Don Sahli, Oil Painter

I don't have a picture of any new oil painting to show, but that's not going to keep me from showing you photos I took at the Vail Fine Art Gallery last week of works by an exciting thick oil painter, Don Sahli.

Autumn Glory by Don Sahli, oil 54" x 54", amateur photo by Jack Ekstrom, with apologies to the artist.
I hope it's ok to use my photo, which truly does not do justice to his painting. His paintings must be seen up close, they're absorbing presentations of vibrant colors, with extremely thick oils that are more alive than any I've seen. In one of the two Vail Fine Art Galleries, Alex, working in the gallery, showed us one of Sahli's large paintings under 6 controlled spotlights with variable luminosity, and the oranges, especially one extremely thick stroke that resembled tree foliage, had by far the most glow, when it was too dark to see the other colors.

Here's Judy with Richard Munoz between two of Sahli's paintings. We were all very taken by Sahli, whose works were on display with many astonishing oil landscapes by 20th century Russian impressionists. Don Sahli is known as the last apprentice to Russian master Sergei Bongart.

Here's Christine Tilson looking at Sahli's Autumn Glory, next to two other Sahli paintings including the triptych Elisabeth's Cathedral, 45" x 58", which is three deep oil panels with no frames. Those especially appeal to me in their presentation.

Plein Air Painting

Sahli lives near Denver, and paints plein air all over Colorado. Since I'm looking for new mountain scenes to paint, I'm especially drawn to his paintings. I must have mentioned to Rick how I started a number of my large oils outdoors in the plein air, which I thought were my best paintings, and I'd like to learn how to start them better than I started those. I never used a French plein air easel, I just hauled my large canvases in my truck or Judy's van, and the resultant outdoor experiences were like katzenjammer cartoons with the wind and furious thunderstorms.
While we were looking at Sahli's paintings, Rick found Sahli's website on his iphone and emailed it to me. When I got home Rick had learned that not only did Sahli live near Denver, but that he was offering painting classes through the Denver Art Students League. And Rick offered to give me a gift of Sahli's next class, which I very gratefully accepted.
So my news this post is that I'm enrolled in a class by Don Sahli: Late Fall Plein Air Painting, Nov. 3-4-5. I've already bought a new French easle, an Italian version of a full-sized Julian, and I've set it up in my basement and am gleefully dismantling my old oil table, to replace it with my easel which I can take anywhere!
I'll keep you more informed about my class.
Next Post: I've finally got photos of my Aug. 13 artshow.

Friday, September 3, 2010

St. Elmo is Sold

No, not the ghost town in the Colorado mountains above Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, but my diptych oil painting of East and West St. Elmo. This is my absolute last chance to show this on my blog (did I hear sighs of relief?), especially since I've vowed to start each post with a view of an oil painting (and I confess I have no new oils to show):

The Long Sale

I would have reported on my art show and this sale sooner, but I had to wait for the entire sale of St. Elmo to be completed, which it was only yesterday. Did you ever sell a picture that took over 3 weeks to conclude? Thank you to Dr. Joe and Barbara Vuillemin of Tucson, AZ, our summer neighbors, who bought East St. Elmo during my art show, Aug. 13 at the Old Colorado City History Center.
Barbara assured me that "I'll buy West St. Elmo next year, I can only buy one painting a year!" Then they went to St. Elmo and stayed overnight at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. They enjoyed it so much that Barbara had me bring West St. Elmo over and hang it on the wall in their master bedroom, along with East St. Elmo.
"This is our new St. Elmo room!" she exclaimed happily. "Look at how the colors of your oils come out!"
I'm headlining this post with this sale because I feel great, and am encouraged to paint more Colorado mountain paintings. I have many started and many more in my head.

Judy Wise's Comment

Judy Wise made a comment on my last post, about my art show: "And that HUGE painting (Holy Taos Mountain)- congratulations o fearless leader. You inspire me. I am curious if it is acrylic or oil and which you are loving the most right nnow. I keep thinking I will switch to oil but my impatient nature stays my hand."
Thanks Judy. It's an oil painting, I love oils most of all because of the deep, changing colors that literally are alive. I do still love acrylics and I start all my paintings with them, and finish in thick oils. You certainly do need patience waiting for the oil to dry, and I don't recommend thick oil painting to anyone who can't wait.
And I didn't receive any encouragement at all in my desire to paint two more parts to Holy Taos Mountain. At this point I'm not planning on continuing with those new paintings.

At Last My Report on my Art Show

I was hoping to show photos of my art show last month, but I've given up waiting on them. Time passes in an odd, slow way in Old Colorado City, because I only learned a few days ago how successful the show was. Everyone at the center is pleased with the money they made, and of course so am I.
I did sell one High Road painting, of San Jose de Gracia Church at Trampas. Thank you to Marni and Nate Kiser. At this time I'm not planning on painting any more High Road scenes.

Woe Begone

Because nothing moves very fast in Old Colorado City, I want to show this picture of Garrison Keiler which I took just last week, when we attended a Prairie Home Companion concert with Chris and Rick in the gorgeous surrounds of the Chatfield Botanic Gardens, near where we want to move in the next year (more about that):
Life here is like life in Lake Woebegon, laid-back, easy-going, folksy. And slow, very slow. I think I even look like Garrison, and I'm infected by his ambling pace and rambling story telling, which makes me think of life in Old Colorado City and the characters I met at Founders Day, the day after my art show. Here are a Victorian dancing couple:

Some people like to appear old, and yet young and stylish at the same time. There is a nostalgia for olden days:

And some people just like to appear old. These folks may not appear to be having fun, but they are, they're Victorian dancers and are trying to appear proper and distinguised.

It's fun to imagine what these folks may be, bankers, politicians, hat salesmen, teachers, singers, madams, merchants, gamblers, snake oil salesmen, they were all here in Old Colorado City's early days.

Our Big Move

And now we're going through a big change in our lives, which is one big reason I've been trying to move my paintings. We've decided to put our house up for sale and try to move to Littleton, in south Denver, much nearer our family. Our home is too big for us now. We've been planning this move for decades, and were just waiting for us to be retired.
All of my unsold paintings are now back in our home, and will help sell it. I will continue to produce art, in fact I have a commission now I am working on, and I will show my artwork on this blog as I get it done, and I'll certainly keep you up to date on our progress. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Art Show is UP!

At least it's not the last minute, I do have my art show up with a day to spare, at the Old Colorado City History Center.
The exhibit space is a big old church, and my show is Friday, Aug. 13, 6-8 p.m. I had a show here at this time last year, I featured my Old Colorado City pictures, and they were received very well. This exhibit has been much easier to prepare, since I didn't have to rush around renting and assembling display panels as last year.
Thanks to Johnie Johnson, for letting me use his display panels and light stands. And thanks to all the volunteers, who are going to help with a wine and cheese reception. I'm using the single spot light that belongs to the center, and I've purchased 4 clamp lights and good bulbs, spots and floods, and I'll give all the lights to the History Center for future exhibits. Everyone agrees it's a great art gallery. And everyone's pleased to have this art show because last year's was a great success.
I'll keep you informed.

My Triptych.
In my blogs this summer I've mainly been showing this particular collection of artwork, and I've been showing various pairs of pictures, including my one diptych, of St. Elmo. One of my paintings was planned at the beginning to be a triptych, of "Holy Taos Mountain". Here it is, with sketches of the other two panels, each 30"x60".
The views are to the left, looking toward the Sangre de Cristo range that extends north of Taos into Colorado, and to the right, showing the rest of the location extending toward the Taos Mountains, that extend south to Santa Fe.
The finished painting itself is my largest painting, and while I do have the other two canvases ready to paint, I've never had the room to paint, much less hang, such a large finished work.
I'll see what kind of reception I get at the art show, as to whether I want to continue with this diptych.
Next post I'll have photos of my show.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Art Show is Confirmed!

Whew, I thought it would never happen, but the planning for Founders Day weekend has finally been completed, with my art show on Fri. Aug. 13 at the Old Colorado City History Center scheduled to begin a weekend of activities:
Thanks to all the volunteers at the center, we all know it was like herding cats, but now my show is all ready to be put on display, helping to commemorate the 151st anniversary of Old Town. We're not done herding cats yet, but already it's fun.

My brochure is 2-pages:

My apologies for taking so long to get this posted, I'm not showing any new paintings for now in my blog, and I kept thinking this was all going to come together any time, but it took a lot longer than I'd hoped for, and now I'm rushing to print and distribute flyers and invitations. I'm excited about having this show. Once it's done, hopefully I will have accomplished one big objective of my blog: to sell all my accumulated artwork, so I'll have room to produce more!

My Diptych
I especially wanted to show another of my pairs of pictures, my only true diptych:
East and West St. Elmo, oils, each 20" x 30":

I now have a collection of 6 St. Elmo pictures. I want to show 4 drawings, which I've completed with my relatively new watercolor pencils and--voila!--better paper.
Here's the original view of St. Elmo I painted both halves of the diptych from:

You can see that St. Elmo actually is a long town, which I had to break in half to get all of. And I "scrinched" all the buildings together to make the compositions I wanted. My view of the steeple came from this scene, and I blatantly put it into the middle of the second half of the diptych, West St. Elmo:

The drawings of the 2 landscapes seem rather innocuous compared to the paintings themselves. The oils are very thick and rich, they're the most vibrant colors I've ever used; I let people touch them.
You may be able to see why I paint few landscapes, but instead primarily use buildings to give me forms, colors and shapes that I can "weave" together. Here's one scene I know would make a good painting, Judy in St. Elmo in the middle of the old town:

These two buildings survived the fire. Four buildings were burned, including the court house (that I depicted as a church). These buildings also remain:

Art in Denver
I also want to show you some great artwork that we've scene lately in Denver, notably the outdoor exhibit of at least 20 huge sculptures by Henry Moore. Most of them are at the main Botanic Gardens, where I forgot my camera. Don't you hate it when that haopens? At least I can show you a picture from their website:
However, two Henry Moore sculptures are also on display at the Chatfield Botanic Gardens, which we went to see with Rick and Chris:

Each is a reclining figure, as are nearly all of the Moore sculptures. This is a woman with a child, and is nearly the smallest of all the sculptures on display:
This past weekend we went to the Denver Biennial of the Americas with Chris and saw their art show in the newly remodeled McNichols Bldg., which now is a vast cement, steel and brick edifice, empty except for the artwork. Two pieces are shown here:
Cardboard box interior, by Lucia Koch, Porto Alegra, Brazil:
This uses the old visual trick of making you think you're walking into a room. Judy is just seeing the flat surface, you have to get close. Then you can read the lable which tells you you're looking at a 2"x3" cardboard box photographed with a super megapixel camera and enlarged to 15'x15'. Astonishing printing job.
350,000 pennies, by Sandra Nakamura, Lima, Peru:
Basically what she did was buy $35,000 of pennies, which she then paid installers to arrange altogether on the floor. Judy and Chris are talking with the guard, who was a volunteer, who said his job mainly was putting pennies back together after they get kicked out of place by kids. He wasn't amused by my joking around, pretending to trip. What the 350,000 pennies represent, of course, is what its all about, but I don't remember what that was.
Next blog, and will show you my years-old scheme to paint a large TRIPTYCH, one painting of which is completed. It's my largest painting. Can you guess which one it is? (You should be pretty familiar with all my paintings by now, since I'm currently just showing the same old pictures.)