I’ve been teaching a Saturday afternoon oil painting class at GalleryOne in Ellensburg, WA. We started with a small still life of a lemon…. not so easy, but everybody did great. The second Saturday we got a good start on a landscape, learning to simplify and look for values. Next week we’ll dive into a portrait. It’s an interesting process to figure out where people are at and what they need. I hope I’m doing a good job.


Sunny Kiss 10×8 watercolor

We’ve been socked in with winter fog for days. This morning the glorious sun hit the hills outside our kitchen window. I’m trying to narrow down my view in a few small watercolors trying to catch one fleeting effect. An enjoyable hour with morning coffee at the kitchen table.

Snow on the Hills 8×10 watercolor

After being completely focused on the straw bale building project for eight months, I’m feeling a bit burned out. So my watercolors and notebooks showed up and I started to play with some little landscapes again. It feels good to put the brush in the paint. The curves and shadows of nature are endlessly inspiring.

Notebook color sketches

I’ve been working out this idea for a while and finally got the under painting pretty close. Then it started peeling off between the gesso and primer. I had to just take the whole thing off.

Peeling off between gesso and primer!

Redid the whole thing in about 2-3 days. Now to let it dry and start the next layers.

The redo of the underpaint


I’ve been at Mille and Bill’s amazing land on Maui for the last two weeks, painting everyday. The plants have such different colors than our eastern Washington plants. Here I’m trying to get the subtle pastels on the tops of these leaves. Watercolor is so fleeting and dynamic, such a challenge of spontaneity. 30 sketches … some aren’t too bad. 

It’s a time-honored tradition to make copies of master paintings. The best way to really get into the mind and techniques of the past masters is to be right in front of the real painting in a museum, but if we can’t do that then utilizing the amazing access we have through the internet is pretty good. Some of the great world museums let us download a high resolution image of a painting, and print that out to work from. But, I still like having a real book with good prints to look at. This is a copy of the face from a 1623 painting called the “Merry Fiddler” by Van Honthorst. It just makes me smile when I see it.

oil painting copy of the face of the Merry Fiddler from 1623
Copy of a Van Honthorst from 1623

This last weekend I went to a 2 day workshop lead by Aaron Coberly at Gage Art Academy in Seattle. It was great to go to a class and be a student again and observe a great painter doing his thing. The workshop was titled “Alla Prima Figure Painting” and we had a model take a pose and Aaron did a 3 hour painting in the mornings, talking through his process. Then we did a 3 hour painting to a new pose in the afternoon. I learned a some new techniques and shared some board time with new painting friends. The limited time really requires a focus and some chops that I will need to work on. Aaron is a good, supportive teacher for any level of painter, as there were some beginning painters and several more experienced people and his style and comments seemed helpful to all who attended.  You can see Aaron’s work on his Instagram page or website: @aaroncoberlyart      or    www.aaroncoberly.com

I’m at Mille and Bill Kohls on Maui. Yesterday we went to the March for Our Lives march and concert at the Maui Arts Center. A heart felt local event, amazing young speakers with clarity and vision. They really are getting their skills as public speakers down. The Kohl’s have welcomed me and let me use the double decker bus to stay and paint in. This is a painting in progress of Lulu and Penny, Bill and Mille’s daughter and granddaughter. Picture of Sam painting a portrait of Lulu and Penny on Maui

Picture of painting the hills outside the shop
Painting the hills outside the shop 3-2018

I’m trying to get the winter color of our hills today. The gentle clouds drifted over the lip of the ridge and then vanished. Such fine gradations of muted grays. There are a couple of geese that come to our pond every spring, we want to think it’s the same pair. They flew in, honking to announce their arrival, landing together in the water. I’ve been thinking of some kind of bird flying by in this painting, but it can’t turn into a cliche. These Canadian Honkers might be the ticket.