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.

Lemons

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

When I’m a bit lost I remind myself to get back to the basics. Composition is the foundation for all that sits on top of it. Value is where form is described and color is like the flavors that make up a good meal. Out of many tiny thumbnails a few will stand out and call for more exploration and refinement. It’s design at this stage, pushing the shapes around and easy to adjust anything at a small size, no more than a few inches. Then after many small idea sketches a few will stand out and hopefully one will be interesting enough to take into a painting. This is just one process of many, but a good one to remember.

Thumbnail notes to myself
Color -Value study 3.5 inches

In my little watercolor notebook I start working this out. I want the brightest glow from the sky to just hit a bit on the right wall and around the figure. Perhaps the left wall is still too light. And I have to do a couple real vanishing points so the walls read correctly. And then the water reflection shapes need to be worked out as I don’t have a real photo of this, just a snap from a TV image.

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

Up in the loft the last straw bales are going in. This area is just above the tub on the first floor so I used conventional stick framing to make the walls less permeable to moisture from the tub and shower. You can see here the extra layer of rock-wool insulation on the outside. Way overkill on the insulation but it was much easier to set these bale vertically than cut them all around the 2x6s and wiring.

Last Bales

The long days of summer 2021 have been spent on this 12 sided “Yurt House”. Our old 30ft canvas yurt gave 20 years service and will be set up as a gathering spot next spring. Now I’m finishing the “brown coat” of stucco on the outside walls of the new building. The cement/lime mix should have enough moisture permeability to let the strawbale walls breath.

East Windows and Stucco walls

It’s been almost a year since Covid19 raised it’s ugly head and it will be another year till the vaccines have any effect. Feeling the depth of change that is happening to the world, my general enthusiasm is not holding up and I need some new ideas to explore. I envision doing a quick loose idea sketch everyday for a while. Not sure where it will go ….. let’s see.

I’ve been putting some final glazes on these flowers and foliage and really enjoying it. Some manners of painting don’t use glazes at all, going after that modern matte flatness, the truth of paint on a surface. In this type of painting I want the illusion of depth. I want the viewer to look right through the picture plane, with forward parts almost popping in front of the painting itself. It’s a dimensional composition leading your eye in, around and back out again. And when you are up close there is no doubt it’s just paint on a board. We always have to simplify, leaving out as apposed to leaving in. I’m leaving a lot in at this point, it’s consciously full. Now I want it even brighter… maybe the next one.