Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thirty Minutes to Paint

Quick draw events are fun, frightening, sometimes furiously fast and often rewarding!  Many are an hour or two in length which is not a lot of time to execute a painting but easier compared to the 30 minute events.  In a 30 minute event there is no time to ponder.  You need to have pondered and made choices in the preparation stage!  You need a limited palette and a distinct plan of action when the horn blows to begin your work.
So goes the story of the popular quick draw at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale sponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum held every May as part of the world famous Bucking Horse Sale that brings thousands of spectators to the town of Miles City.  Only a few (25 or less) artists participate in the Riverside Park QD at the culmination of the annual parade.  The QD is sandwiched in between the parade and the Grand Entry of the sale and horse races and once the 30 minute draw is complete, the artists have 10 minutes to get their piece framed and the live auction of art begins.  It’s fast and furious and the crowd is filled with art collectors and spectators.  The QD is strategically timed to be certain those spectators can get to all the BHS activities and maximize the crowd attendance for the auction that is a benefit to the WaterWorks Museum and Art Center.
This year I lived on the dangerous side…I decided to paint a larger than normal piece, 26×12 vertical pastel.  (Most works are less than 16 inches square.)  I prepped my paper by gluing it to a foam core board for stability, then selected a very limited palette of pastel sticks.  I planned a painting of buffalo from a photo I shot on my way to MT via Yellowstone Park.  The day before the event, the preparatory chores were done. (I could have saved a little stress by doing this 3-4 days earlier!).  I did numerous pencil sketches arranging my composition, as the photo was a horizontal format and I was painting it as a vertical.  In my sketchbook I made lines of quadrants and adjusted the subject to best fit the format of the proposed painting.  I “roughed-in” focal points and large shapes to make what I believed to be a good composition.   I put all my supplies – selected pastels, 91% alcohol, sponge brush, Workable fixative, wet wipes, paper towels, gloves and framing equipment in my backpack.  I had a plan and felt I could make it happen, but knew I would have no time to spare.  Before the event started I found a place to paint…in the park’s gazebo  where there was some protection from some gusty winds (not helpful when painting is a tall piece!) and a place to sit if one wanted to before and during the event.  And I was able to tone my painting  with one color – a mix of dry pigment and alcohol before the QD began.  Doing an underpainting like this assists one in pastel application by speeding up the process.
The QD begins with the sound of an air horn…now it’s time for autopilot.  Your colors are laid out and you instinctively apply them, not second guessing your choice.  Large masses are painted carefully noting that  the values are where you want them.  When someone says “you have 15 minutes left, you want to be at least half way thru your painting.)  I am, but there is no option to make changes.  I stick to my plan.  Once the landscape is satisfactory to my eye, I draw in and paint the buffalo.   As I put the final touches in the most distant animal, the horn blows signifying the end of the QD.  Hands go up (no more pastel to the paper), I am satisfied, pleased to have finished what I had planned and the framing begins.  I had hoped to get my piece in the auction so it would be auctioned somewhere in the middle, but I needed all the time allotted to get the framing accomplished, so the painting was in the last spot on the auction docket.  Not my favorite spot to be, but as it turned out the auction was  a surprise.  One know there is not always a predictable outcome to auctions and this one was not an exception.  Early pieces were sold  from $200-500. Then one sold for about $800 and another for $1700.  I saw a couple of pieces of work of popular artists sell for less than I have seen before.  Now I begin to have some anxiety.  It’s now the time for my piece to go.  I hold the painting up and the auction starts.  Bids start immediately and I hand the work to one of the guys on the platform to show.  Bids continue to be raised and my anxiety lessens.  The auctioneer worked his way to $1500 +.  I am relieved and happy to have completed a sought after piece of art and for sharing the sale with the museum.
So, when the opportunity arises to compete in a quick draw, do it.  The key is preparation and planning.  Then execute the painting in a confident manner, not second guessing palette and composition.  If you are an art collector and someone who appreciates the arts and the process…know what happens for these works to come to be!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pastel Dust

Do you wonder what drives an artist?  What's the motivation to keep painting?  For me it is about the color and the diversity of the landscape and wanting to share those images you see with others.  And why paint en plein air?  I think it is painting "true."  Nothing is in your way of what you see.  There is no excuse to what you put on that board or paper.  It is right in front of's your interpretation!

I had the opportunity to be part of a plein air event in Walla Walla a week ago.  It was a 5 day paint out organized by a tiny 90-year-old watercolorist, Margaret Walters.  About 20 artists came together for the event, painting it partly or in total.  I think this was the third year of the event and there were several painters who had been on all tours.  The event ended with an art sale that benefited the Carnegie Picture Lab.  It was certainly a stress-free, enjoyable schedule and people to paint with.  Each day a new favorite was going to this beautiful farm/vineyard at the base of Cottonwood Canyon.  It is a favorite of mine and to be able to drive up through the farm to a high point and paint it from a different vantage point was great.  Another day of endless opportunity was painting at the Robison Ranch north of town.  I found a secluded spot where I painted two pieces.  The only thing that drove me out of the field was the heat creeping up to 104!  These two venues, for me was what painting plein air is all could stand in one spot and paint in any direction...the dilemma is...what do you paint!
A note about the Picture is an art education program for area students.  It is a nonprofit that depends on funds from outside sources.  Commissions on sales of the plein air paintings benefited the Picture Lab.  Happily 4 of my 6 paintings sold for this great cause.

What's on the schedule...

July 11th I will be painting in the Art of the Beartooths, the fund raiser and painting event and sale to support the Carbon county Art Guild in Red Lodge, MT.  We will be painting a quick finish during the day that will be auctioned that evening.

Pendleton Art and Frame, Pendleton, OR is showing the bronzes of Rip Caswell and my plein air landscapes July 9- September 1.  The opening reception is Thursday the 9th, 5-7:30

Off to the beautiful area around Hood river, OR for the Columbia Gorge Invitational Plein Air event.  About 30 artists have been invited to paint August 3-7 in the area with a reception Friday the 7th, 6-8 pm.

I feel very blessed to be able to "work" at my art and take part in these events.  So with that said, go out there and take a shot of drawing or painting "en plein air!!"


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pastel dust...

The new year brings on renewed energy and promises of commitments and resolutions.  I am determined to get a painting a day done at least for January.  I do believe daily paintings makes one work to problems happen and stronger paintings result.  I like to challenge artists to do the 100 daily paintings.  Pick a simple composition and paint it daily..a hundred different ways...look back over my old posts and see how it evolves.  You will be surprised.

A handy tool for us that utilize iPads and such are the art apps.  Some are amazing and great fun creating art digitally!

So happy new year and paint on!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pastel Dust is moving...

With 2010 coming to a close, I am ending the year with one of the images from the series of 100 small works that is visual of what the northwest can and does look like this time of year.  A few days before Christmas we had several inches of snow, only to be washed away with the rains.  This is part of the world where the saying "Like our weather? Wait a minute and it will change..." must have come from.

Now, I am also closing this blog site and entering my blogs on the  site.  I have transferred all the old blogs from this one, but what I don't seem to be able to do is to transfer "followers" to the new site.  Please take a moment to sign into the new site to follow the journeys painting through the 50 off the 90 series and more.  I have some plans for painting in a couple of different areas this year and I am sure there will be some tales of interesting bits along the way!  This landscape artist is always looking for something of interest- whether it is in the back yard, by the river, in the mountains, etc.

We traveled the 82 to the 90 to the 5 over Christmas to visit family and friends in the Seattle area and what we saw was something akin to the painting above,  as well as sunshine on the west side of the pass in the Cascades to rain to fog and more sunshine.  Mid mornings the clouds lifted and the sun shined on Rainier for one of those spectacular views.  Driving through the Tricities and onward to Yakima was a little tense as the temperature dropped to about 27 and the rains came down.  A few cars were in the ditches, but as we got further west, the temperatures increased and the rains stopped.  Sometimes driving you see things that are just bizarre.  We witnessed such with the adventures of a little BMW of vintage age with a less than well kept convertible top and its lone driver drive sort of oddly through the hills and valleys from Yakima to Ellensburg.  He was zooming around semis and cars and then slowing up, passing again, etc.  Now, as you crest the last big ridges and look over the valley where Ellensburg lies, it is a beautiful site any time of year.  Snow covered on the 22nd of December, roads are clear except for some snow along the edges.  As you come down the long hill into the valley, the semis are gearing down for the distance and at the bottom is where you get to make the decision to get on to I-90 east or west.  82 ends there.  So this little car and his driver have now sped past everyone and we are watching as he opts for the I-90 east exit.  WRONG!  He really wanted west!  He slams on his brakes, skids around and is just about to make it back onto the lane that takes him to I-90 West when he skids into one of the interstate sign poles.  It seemed like all is good until the sign starts to sway and then falls over on the car and then bounces onto the ground creating a cloud of snow as it hits.  The driver seemed unscathed however, sitting in his seat, both hands on the wheel with that look of bewilderment on his face.  It was probably one of those things you had to see for yourself, but it was quite the site to see this sign give way and attack!

So it is back to getting some painting done.  First thing is finish the poster for the Snow White production and work on some backdrop remember to go to the new blog site and follow from there.  If you have me: .  In meantime...happy painting and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!