Plein Air Stories




Plein Air Stories

Since I got out to plein air paint last week, it got me thinking about my history with plein air painting and some of the crazy stuff about my humble beginnings thereof. Back in the day, I was the “Sanford and Son” of location painting. This was long before the fad showed up in Florida, with fancy equipment and everybody and his cousin calling themselves plein air painters. There were no paint outs then and no publicity. In fact I had never heard of the term plein air and I still think it is pretty hoity toity. I called it painting outside.

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It used to take me all day to load everything up in my old pick up truck. I had never heard of French easels or pochade boxes. I used an aluminum Stanrite easel from my studio. Not one of the little field easels, it was a regular studio easel. I had a folding card table, boxes of stuff and just about every paint I could bring. It was like moving into a new studio each time I decided to go out. I then met my painting pal David Johnson who would meet me out on location just to laugh, I swear. He had an old Julian easel and a back pack. We would plein  air paint about once a month together. To make matters worse, I would take huge canvases out to paint, making awful paintings. I did not know that alla prima work would be more successful in a small format. Once I did a hideous 30×40 inch painting in about four hours. I once drove over a hundred miles to paint and discovered I had left my paints at home.

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My first actual formal paint out experience was in Ozello Florida. I had been painting on location for a few years. I wanted to know if there was anyone besides David and myself who painted outside in Florida. I went to an artist forum online and put out a call to artists to met me in Ozello ( Sleepy, remote fishing village)if they wanted to paint. I arrived about 5 AM and discovered that the wind was blowing about 40 miles per hour. I had a huge canvas to paint and had to tie everything down with bungee cords and duct tape. In all, we had 24 people from Pensacola to the Miami area who showed up for the day. We painted all morning and then broke for lunch at a local seafood restaurant. It was a great fun and a wonderful experience I will never forget. That was the beginning of Plein Air Florida, the state organization for plein air painters. David and I dreamed it up, put it together and made it happen.  It was something I am very proud of and I know he is too.

Small Paintings

I don’t have anything to do with organized plein air anymore. At one time, I was a consultant for just about every paint out that was started in Florida. In those days the paint outs were great fun and the artists were treated very well. Artists were housed and fed with no fees or expenses other than gas money. They were all invitational in those days and the art quality was very high. I was proud to be a part of those events.


Now, artists are charged application fees, etc and are not provided housing or meals at many  of these events. No thanks. I don’t pay to play other than commission fees on sales. I find that painting on my own time, when and where I wish to paint outside is much more satisfying. These days I use a paint box, tripod, a bottle of water and hat to paint. The box holds my canvas, 6 tubes of paint, solvent and three or four brushes for my plein air excursions. I have have simplified my process considerably, making it a calm, enjoyable experience.


Today’s Recipe:

Cherry Bread

This recipe is from my catering days. it is a beautiful bread and wonderful for dainty cream cheese sandwiches.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


four cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Mix together:

2 eggs
2 C sugar or sugar substitute for baking
1 can cherry pie filling
2 T oil

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Don’t over mix. if more liquid is needed, add a 1/4-1/2 C milk

Divide into pans and bake until a toothpick or straw comes out clean. Yummy bread. My family loves it. It makes a particularly good chicken salad sandwich too. Refrigerate before slicing and store refrigerated.

Receive Critiques


Receive Critiques Notes

Many artists ask to receive critiques for their work. There is a productive way to receive a critique that is helpful rather than a random wringing of hands. Here are some questions I often ask an artist who wants to receive my critique:

What do you like about your painting so far?

What do you consider to be the main problem issues with the painting? Be specific about your thoughts.

Do you like the color scheme you have chosen for the painting?

What dominant value have you used and do you have accents of other values in the painting?

Have you used a good balance of armatures, intervals, directional cues in your composition to lead the viewer around the painting?

 Have you found a method to lead the viewer to areas of interest in the painting , also providing resting spaces to linger?

Have you created paths in some way throughout the painting, meaning connection between primary, secondary and tertiary elements?

What is the light source and is it consistent throughout the painting?

Do your cast shadows make sense in tandem with the light source?

Is your brushwork crisp and varied in strokes, directions and texture? Is it clean or muddy?

After these questions are received and sorted through, the artist will have a better understanding of how successfully they understand their painting and how to proceed in a more fruitful direction.

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Critiques can be very sensitively received. By putting the bulk of a critique in a logical Q&A format, the giver is not as likely to hurt feelings. It is a very constructive method for giving good advice on painting techniques.

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There are far too many amateur painters who are willing to give critiques, unasked for. Take critiques from the unskilled with a grain of salt. They can be damaging and lead you down the wrong path. Receive your critiques from skilled painters who have the knowledge to truly help you.

Painting teachers have a huge responsibility to their students. They can crush a student’s joy very easily. I know people who wanted to paint, but were given harsh critiques at their earliest stage and turned away from a lifetime of joy in front of the easel. Painting, above all else, should be great fun and joyful. Find a good painter who is kind, and receive critiques, knowing they will help you along your journey as a painter.

Today’s Recipe

12 Kings Hawaiian rolls
1/4 cup cheddar jalapeño soft cream cheese
5 (21g) slices Muenster cheese
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cilantro herb paste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Leave rolls connected; do not break apart or separate. Slice rolls in half lengthwise to open. Spread cream cheese over bottom half of bread; top with cheese slices. Combine mayonnaise and herb paste; spread over cut side of the top half of the bread.
  2. Melt butter. Pour one-half of the butter into 9-inch square baking dish; place bottom half of bread in dish. Top with other half of bread and drizzle with remaining half of the butter. Bake 12–15 minutes or until top has browned and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. (Makes 6 servings.)

Business Art


Business of Art Notes

I have been thinking about the business of art and what I wish I had done as a young artist. My advice to emerging artists or beginning older artists is to take classes online or at colleges in beginning finance, beginning business and beginning marketing. Add to that a basic html, and a basic Internet marketing class.


The biggest handicap I see in emerging artists is their unwillingness to gain knowledge in these areas of business. Too many are unwilling to learn how to use Paypal, E commerce, how to set up their web site so that purchases can be made, and other related issues.  I believe the future of art sales will depend more and more online. If you want to make a living you must learn these thing or outsource them. I pay a web master and a blog master to help me when I don’t know how to do things. I don’t sit in the corner and say, I don’t like doing this so I wont.

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Anybody who really wants to, can learn how to do this or pay someone to do it. It is essential that you have a working knowledge of marketing , social media, and an ecommerce  web site in order to make a living. Ignore the Internet at your own peril. That is the way of the future for artists.

My other advice is that you get to know a local framer and offer to work for free for a few weeks or a couple of months. You will learn a lot about presentation, how to cut glass and mats, and the tricks of framing.

You must realize that art school teaches you nothing about selling art or the business of being an artist. You have to take the initiative to learn these things about studio management in order to thrive and proper as an artist. Being a good artist is only the beginning.

Art sales are still made person to person, but fewer galleries survive by using the traditional format of brick and mortar sales. I do still show in a couple of galleries but the majority of my sales are made directly to collectors by my own hard work. These days  collectors are interested in actually knowing artists personally and being part of their lives. They want to visit studios and purchase directly or online from their favorite artists.

More musings for artists and collectors…..

Today’s Recipe


Crock Pot BBQ

This is a favorite in my family. Easy to do and so delicious.

One pork roast or beef roast

salt/pepper to taste
garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 small onion chopped finely

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and set on low. Let cook all day. When ready for dinner, pour off stock to save and freeze.

Pour one bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce over the roast and put the lid back on. Cook another half hour and then break up the meat and stir the sauce in evenly.

Place meat on buns.


Color Work


Color Work

I have begun to use simpler color schemes in my dotage as a painter. I used to use hundreds of varieties in my work as a novice painter. As I’ve become more advanced in my thinking, I have become more and more minimal in both value ranges and color palettes. it really makes painting easier and more harmonious in my view. I’m not much of a theorist about painting. My brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t have to know why. Does it work is my thinking.

I often use a color scheme based on two sets of compliments. The color scheme uses four colors arranged into two complementary pairs with white. It is a great palette and gives me a lot of variations.I try to make one of the four dominate if possible, allowing the others to mix as neutrals. So I would be making green dominate a landscape, using orange and blue as neutrals, and using the red to dominate the trunks, fences etc. For a water scene I would let blue dominate the painting with orange and blue as neutrals, and again red and green in the tree masses. I have been using this rectangle palette for about 7 months. It gives me lots of room to use variety as an accent to the two sets of compliments and yet provides harmony for me when I premix neutrals to incorporate into all of the color in my palette. This palette has made me much more aware of the correct use of neutrals, and has controlled my wayward palette much more than any other I have used, except for my old standby of three primaries and black and white.. Combining this palette with the study of NOTAN, has improved my work. At least I hope so.

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One of the exercises I give students is to think about the palette they choose and why they choose it? I think it is helpful to have a dialogue about the colors we choose to paint with. What made you chose them? Why use them? What is the advantage? I am constantly tweaking my palette here and there. I love certain ones that I have charted over the years and I get in the mood for them from time to time. That is the big advantage of charting palettes. My charts are usuall 5 to 7 colors only for a particular chart. When I get antsy for something new, I go to my chart book and reuses some of these favorites, to get me in the mood for paintings.

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There are some neutrals I like to pre-mix. I like to use UB/Titanium White or Naples Yellow/Red Iron Oxide. For cool I like Thalo Blue/Ivory Black/Titanium White. There are lots of others of course, but I like these.

More musings for artists and collectors to come…..

Today’s Recipe:

I used to make my version of Quiche Lorraine all the time as a caterer. It is an old standard but really good. I do know some men who eat quiche.

4 OZ chopped ham
2 slices fried and drained, crumbled bacon
1/2 small onion finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
pinch of dried thyme leaf
8 oz shredded swiss cheese
3 eggs beaten
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup mayo
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 T all purpose flour

1 pie crust in pie pan or quiche pan.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Mix up cheese,ham,bacon,onion parsley, thyme, pepper and spread into pan. Smooth out the top but don’t pack it down. Mix mayo, half and half, nutmeg and eggs together thoroughly. Place pan on a baking sheet and carefully pour mixture over the cheese/meat mix. Place in oven and bake until golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool a bit before serving.

Other ingredients can include broccoli,mushrooms,asparagus,cheddar cheese,spinach, or anything else you like.

Composing Armatures



Composing Notes

Composing is one of my favorite parts of making art. One of the fun toys I use in composing is my armature exercises. Armatures are the structural lines or skeletons of a painting. They are most often referred to by sculptors who use real armatures to hold up their pieces, but I like to use them in a 2 dimensional way. Composing with armatures is a fun way to keep paintings fresh and interesting.

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My illustration above gives you an idea of what I mean. I will make up armature compositions at the design table and try to figure out how I can use them in real paintings. it’s a fun exercise and a good way to think about composing.

Common armatures in paintings include:
1. S curve
2. L shape
3. Diagonal
4. Triangle
5. Radiating
6. Fulcrum
7. O
8. Portrait

I’ve tried all of them at one time or another in painting and they all work well depending on the scene I’m going to paint. One of the fun things I do for myself is to look at other paintings and try to figure out the armature in them. I spend a fair amount of time looking at landscape paintings.

Always interesting and insightful. It’s interesting to me that I see a lot of work I have no desire to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, it just means I can admire it but not want to go in that direction. When I was a young painter, most of the work I looked at was better than mine and I wanted to emulate those painters. They were well known with a national reputation. I see a lot of copy cat painters on the Internet who want to be Carol Marine,Richard Schmid,Charles Sovek,  etc.,etc. Some are copied because they are masters, others because they have come up with a great gimmick and are making tons of sales.


When you mature and come into your own,finding your own muse makes you less desirous of being someone else.You learn to celebrate your own style with self confidence. You find out that it’s ok to be different, that some will even admire you for being different. I’ve been a lot happier since I learned to paint for me.

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Try using armatures, intervals, and directional cues to beef up your composing skills. Avoid those pesky tangents.  I find that doing these exercises helps me to compose. Whenever I start to do the same thing, I go to my design table and play with composing ideas to breath new life into my paintings.

More musings for artists and collectors to come….

Today’s Recipe

I love chili and I make it all the time. This is my lazy, easy chili recipe.

2 cups dried pinto beans

2 cups dried black beans

1 onion diced

1 carrot diced

1 can tomatoes

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp oregano dried

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 pound ground round

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 package chili seasoning

2 cans beef broth

salt and pepper to taste

I use a crock pot for this recipe.

rinse dried beans and put into the pot. Pour in the beef broth, tomatoes, seasonings. Put in fridge overnight. The next morning, add fried beef with carrots and onions to the pot. Add about 6 cups of water. Stir well and cook all day. I serve mine with sour cream, diced onion and fritos.