Locations Less Chosen

I've been painting on location for The City of Walnut Creek's Fourth of July Celebration and Valley Art Exhibit.  The show is Friday the 4th, 4 - 7:30 PM at Civic Park at N. Broadway and Civic Drive in downtown Walnut Creek.  After that it will be at Valley Art Gallery from July 8 to July 26, 1661 Botelho Drive, Suite 110, Walnut Creek...for those that are interested.

The part of the experience I wanted to share was being on location.  I have difficulty finding areas that I enjoy painting in Walnut Creek - or at least that's what I felt until I went for out painting for this plein air exhibit.  To begin, I'm usually trying to capture a vista, but if you know Walnut Creek, you know that it sits down in a tree covered valley.  I usually find myself looking at lots of trees, short vistas and distant mountains.  This time instead, I went for the less obvious locations - and that made all the difference in the world.

I started painting at Shadelands, you know, the big piece of land that is supposed to be a Safeway development by this time next year.  I drive by this big, beautiful open parkland every Monday morning on my way to teach class.  Last Monday I was searching for a spot to paint where I could still get to class on time, and there it was!!  I had been driving by for years and never stopped to paint.  I am so happy that I did.  This is a wonderful spot to paint and I would encourage anyone to get out in paint in this spot before it's gone...or a spot like it in your own town or city.  There is probably more to see than you're noticing and the time to do it is now, before it is changed forever.Shadelands SunriseThe second spot I chose to paint had me encountering that age old problem of painting in Walnut Creek.  All far off vistas and close mountains.  But I love to hike so I took on the sunny morning (okay, HOT morning), searching for a spot with shade.  I found it by the open space for Lime Ridge entrance near Boundary Oaks Golf Course.  As most everyone parking there is headed for golf, the foot traffic on the hillside was light, friendly and fun.  Again, I didn't have to travel far and enjoyed the morning, escaping the searing heat at noon. 


Ridge Rise

Ultimately, the last two days were the best!!  I was still looking for that "vista" that wasn't far off, but also not so close that there was nothing in the distance.  I started hiking Lime Ridge and found the quarry.  It was beautiful.  I began painting but had to return to finish it.  The second time to took my bicycle.


Plein Air Painting  

So, in truth, I've found a beautiful new place, not just to paint, but to hike and bike, filled with lots of vistas, quiet reflection, local wildlife (and ants - more "annoying" than "wild")... and it's all in my "backyard"!  This, seems to me, to be the best reason to get out and paint!!

Lime Ridge Quarry


Creating Time - The Zorn Exhibit

Yesterday several of my students and I attended the Anders Zorn Exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.  We had a great time!

The part I want to share, that enthralled me the most, was the variety of work... watercolor paintings, oil paintings, etchings, sketches, photographs and bronze statues.  That's a lot of proficiency in the field of art!

Some students were surprised that not every piece was finished to perfection or completely refined.  The truth is that all artists have many unfinished and unrefined pieces of work; we just don't share them with the rest of the world.  But it also reminds me, an artist of this modern, busy world, that I find it difficult to dedicate the amount of time he did to his artistic pursuits.  It makes me want to draw, to paint, to sketch, even to sculpt (although I am not a sculptor) all the more!

The answer: well, I don't actually have an answer.  But I do admire a student of mine, who despite his busy life with a young family, draws every opportunity he can.  You can see Doug's work at  In the meantime I will be aspiring to that same level of focus and to a greater degree of efficiency in my life so I can put more of my time into painting and drawing.

I understand the Hockney exhibit at the DeYoung Museum is equally inspiring, even if you, like me, are not necessarily in love with his work.  That's why I'll be going there next week.  In the meantime I'll be carving out all the time I can in pursuit of my art.  I hope you find time to do the same. 

Une premiere, Anders Zorn, 1888 (a piece he cut up because he was unhappy with it)


A Summer Blog

Happy Dog Rufus!

It's Summertime!  

Everyone is busy in the summer and taking classes doesn't always fit into our plans.  So if you can't take a class, keep "in-shape" by sketching!

Sketching rules are as follow:

1.) Draw everyday for 30 minutes!  Yes, just like any exercise, aim for that amount of time and do your best.  And just like any exercise, if you miss today, don't quit, just pick up and go ahead tomorrow.

2.) Pencil in a sketchbook, any size or shape that you like is great!  You don't have to be painting.  Drawing is fine.  The most important step:  Just do it.

3.) Any subject is fine: the salt shaker, the dog, the person on the couch watching TV, the figures on the TV, the potted plant....anything.

4.) Sketch, date the sketch when you finish, include how long it took (if you would like), turn the page and Let It Go!  

5.) No judging!  No showing anyone who isn't an art instructor!!  This is a process of practice and lots of our practice is unfinished or incomplete.  Let it be unfinished.  The part that matters most is the that you're doing it.  So let yourself enjoy the process and don't tie yourself to an outcome.

6.) Have FUN!  Enjoy your summer!  See you in the Fall!


(Happy Dog Rufus! was a quick, fun painting that had no outcome attached to it.  The circles were just for fun; the lines were from a previously unfinished painting which I flipped upside down so I could use the board.)




Spring Refresh

Spring has sprung!  It's time for new beginnings - watching the flowers bloom and seeing the wild variety of new greens from the grasses to the oaks that assault our senses (including our sinuses!).  It is also a good time for thinking about new beginnings in our paintings.  Time to refresh!!

Instead of new goals or giant leaps of change, take this time to blossom forth by making small changes or choices. 

When people paint, frequently we get caught trying to "do it all".  Instead, take this time to "refresh" - focus on one idea or one aspect in painting or drawing. 

Try focusing on learning a new technique, a new color scheme, strengthening values, or your composition?  Ask yourself "what is this painting/drawing about?"  Instead of trying to do it all, pick one.  And for your next painting or two, just for now, focus on learning/practicing that one area you feel you need to work on the most.

And of course, don't forget to Have Fun! 

Rufus, 6 X 6", oil on board


I painted "Rufus" on a day that I was enjoying working on the direction of my brush strokes.


Focus on Today

Everyday that you paint...or draw...or interact with any aspect of life, it takes time and effort.  For all of us.  So all one can do is focus on today.  If you are focusing on your art, then focus on what aspect you are trying to learn at the moment.  Is it color? Or brushstrokes? Or composition? Some other aspect?

As long as your mantra is practice, practice, practice; and you realize that all we ever do, and are doing, is practice, then I do believe you are headed in the right direction!

My focus on this painting was bringing up the saturation of color in the foreground and simplifying the background.  I am happy with the results.


Trail to Vogelsang 11 X 14" oil on linen board