December 01, 2016

This is the plein air painting setup I was using on my recent painting trip to Mauritius. I am using a Mastersen seal palette box mounted onto a tripod using an Easel Butler. I put the palette in a big freezer overnight to slow down the drying of the paint. This system gave me much more palette mixing area to work with, which I find helps with finding a good color harmony.

October 27, 2016

Moody Evening, Garrapata, Big Sur - 16in x 20in - Oil on Canvas

This is a plein air painting I did on my recent trip to California and the Big Sur Coastline. This was one of my favorite places to paint during my time living in California. I was originally hoping for an evening of shimmering light on the water, but the actual evening developed in a very different direction. There was a faint sliver of light on the horizon where the sun was setting beneath a band of clouds. In the end I liked this effect since it let me concentrate on the emerald green hues in the water and their contrast with some of the rich oranges in the foreground vegetation.

If you look closely at the painting, you will see that I am using a combination of watercolor techniques such as thin washes, as well as impasto oil painting techniques. This is something I have been experimenting with in some of my recent work. It may have some relation to my exposure these days to the work of several traditional Chinese painting masters during my work in China.

December 30, 2015

The sunsets on the grass plains of Zhaosu in Xinjiang, China are amazing. The grasslands are 5000 feet above sea level and the light here is very intense The surrounding snow covered mountains add to the light drama. You have just a few moments to capture the light before it changes.

A painting from the grasslands near Xiata in Xinjiang. It is fascinating to see first hand the life of the sheep herders here, living a simple life in sheepskin yurts on the plains, surrounded by this magnificent scenery. The colors on the grasslands at sunset are rich and varied. 

For a very brief moment a dramatic light falls across the grasslands and creeps up the side of the Tian Shan mountain range. You have to work quickly to capture these effects when painting plein air. Painted near the village of Xiata in Xinjiang, China.

March 15, 2015

Stormy Sky in Mauritius

An interesting sky in Mauritius after the rain. I liked the emerald green color of the ocean contrasting with the beautiful gray sky, and the forms of the clouds. (9"x12" oil on board). Had great fun painting here.

November 22, 2014

Unlikely inspiration

Sometimes inspiration for a painting comes from unlikely places, such as this farm in Xinjiang, China which was used as a barbecue and party area. The bright red boxes of what is called 'white wine' in China (actually a strong spirit that is used on social occasions) are a nice contrast against the soft muted greens of the woodland. The interesting thing is that if you look at the photo below, you cannot really see the color harmonies and beauty that is in the painting. I could not have painted this from a photograph and got the same result. Yet when I was actually at the scene, you could see the color harmony and abstract possibilities quite clearly. Maybe it was because the light had changed by the time I took the photograph, or maybe it was because the camera did not capture accurately the colors I was actually seeing? I'm not sure. Anyway I was quite happy with the result. I had great fun too with the brushwork. I included a couple of closeups so you can see the brushwork more clearly.

For those of your interested in painting composition, the painting uses a double split complementary color harmony, with a dominant gray notan structure, a contrast of temperature where the cool colors are dominant, contrast of saturation, an abstract design based on point, line, mass and an organizational structure based on radiant lines.

Not that I had time to think about those things while I was actually doing the painting, because I was too preoccupied with swatting the mosquitoes that were starting to bite me. One day in that painting location was enough! The next day I headed higher into the mountains and painted studies for the three friends.

April 18, 2014

Painting in Hunan

My painting trip to China has just come to an end. I ended up getting invited to paint in a small village in Hunan where the red army hid out fifty years ago! The area has very characteristic mountain shapes and has been turned into some kind of plein air painters retreat.
I found myself part of a group with 30 university instructors, their students, and several well known painters from Beijing. The group included two of China's most famous contemporary landscape painters Wang KeJu, and Chen HeXi.
One of the nice things about the place was that all the nice painting spots had special shelters built so the painters can shelter from the sun and rain! Now that's what I call an "artist friendly" place!

January 24, 2014

Beijing Street Vendor

I went out painting one night to do a nocturne and forgot my brushes, and so I had some fun with a knife and my fingers doing this abstract painting. It was actually based on the real scene: a street vendor selling some food on a Beijing street at night. Although abstract I followed all the general principles of design: contrast of texture, contrast of thick and thin paint, dark/light/gray, contrast of saturation, notan structure with dominant value, point/line/mass, shape distinction, amongst others. The values of the shapes were also accurate in comparison with the actual scene, even though the shapes were highly abstracted.
Beijing Street Vendor 6" x 8", oil on linen

This is the actual scene that inspired the above painting.