Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pacific Northwest Plein Air event - 2017

The Pacific Northwest Plein Air event has come and gone, and what a great time it was. The Columbia River Gorge was breathtaking. A little late for the post, but better late than never. Here is a little write-up of my painting trip. (As I write this, the Eagle Creek fire is burning up a lot of the areas I painted. Hopefully the fire will die down soon. It's such a beautiful area.)

Friday, July 30th my wife and I set out from Phoenix. We decided to camp along the way, and day one we made it to Zion National Park in Utah. We camped just outside of Zion. Here's the first painting - a quick little 6x6 from the camp site, with beer and citronella candle to keep me company.

Saturday morning we headed north to Idaho. After a day of driving we got to Lake Walcott State Park, about an hour or two east of Boise. I was able to get in an 8x10 before the sun went down. The Snake River had some nice falls, and they were pretty loud too.

Sunday we were able to make it to the Gorge. We camped at Maryhill State Park, just a couple miles away from the Maryhill Museum - the event host. This is the view looking west from the Washington side of the river. You can see Mt. Hood in the background - a feature we would soon miss! But more on that later...

Monday morning was orientation at a coffee shop in Hood River. Once everyone was on the same page about the week's activities, everyone went off to paint. I joined a few other artists up on top of Mt. Hood. The area was experiencing some record-breaking heat (well into the 100's down below) but it was really nice at the high elevations.
Myself, Thomas Kitts, Sally Reichmuth, and Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers. Photo courtesy of Sally Reichmuth

I worked up this 8x10 from the shade of a tree, just above Timberline Lodge. What a great view. 

Tuesday, August 1 we met for a day of painting at Griffin House in Hood River. It's a great little venue for weddings and other events, and the owner, Claire, was a wonderful host. It was another very hot day, but cool enough in the shade. 

My first painting of the day was this 9x12 looking west. This was morning light and the sun was almost behind me, so there weren't too many shadow shapes. I normally like composing my paintings with lots of strong shadow shapes, so this was a good challenge. 

I liked that first challenge so much I decided to paint it again. This time it was an 8x10. The shadow shapes were stronger in the afternoon light, but the colors were much more flat. 

Wednesday morning I wanted to paint a large panorama from up near the Stonehenge War Memorial in Maryhill. I was looking forward to a view with Mt. Hood in the background, but... nope. A ton of smoke moved in from wildfires up in Canada. There was so much smoke in the air, the sun came up a bright cadmium red. I could look at it without squinting. So much for that view of Mt Hood!

I decided to focus on the farms and buildings in Maryhill, and moved the horizon up towards the top of the 16x20 canvas. This was my progress after the first session:

I went back to the same spot on Thursday morning, hoping that the smoke would have lifted so I could paint the background. Nope! The smoke was even worse that the day before. Oh well, that's what happens when you paint from life. Not to be discouraged, I painted what I saw. I brought in some more crimson notes into the water and background, to capture the feeling of that blood-red sunrise. 

I forgot to take a progress picture of the second session's progress. Whoops. 

Wednesday afternoon was spent at Tanner Creek (also called Wahclella Falls). Big thanks to Thomas Kitts for showing me this painting spot. After hiking about a mile in, there is a bridge with access to the water. With tall cliffs above on either side, and huge trees giving plenty of shade, this area was the perfect spot to escape the heat wave. I worked up this 9x12. 
Since the cliffs are so tall, you only have a small window of light to paint from. It gets shady in the canyon pretty quickly. My wife and I left after finishing this painting, and we went looking at some of the huge waterfalls along historic State Route 30. 

Thursday was a half-day. Paintings had to be turned in later that day, so I only had a small amount of time to do another painting. After touching up the 16x20 in Maryhill at sunrise, we drove west to Hood River (about 30 minutes from our campsite in Maryhill), and pulled off at one of the Oregon state park swimming sites. 

The smoke was even worse. We could barely see across the river. So I decided to do an atmospheric, 16x8 vertical piece. I think that is some sort of fishing platform in the foreground. Some people came to swim and a couple of them thought it was a good idea to jump from the top of those rocks. No, thanks. 

With that painting wrapped up, we booked it back to camp where I framed everything. 

The next day, Friday, was the opening reception. There were tons of great paintings. Our judge, Mike Hernandez, really had his work cut out for him. 

I was really happy to have received a ribbon for my large piece. I received the National Scenic Area Award. It was a great way to cap off a really fun trip. 

Plein Air Magazine did a great write-up of the event. You can take a look at all the other winners here: http://www.outdoorpainter.com/an-area-worth-painting/

Thursday, June 1, 2017

How To Build A Glass Studio Palette

My wife and I have spent the past few weeks buying a house, packing, and moving. We're finally starting to settle in at the new place, and I have a ton of projects in mind for my new studio. Now that I know I'll be staying put for a long time, I feel a lot more comfortable investing time and money into a great studio space.

I'll be posting about my studio progress and detailed tutorials of each of the projects.

The finished studio palette, on an old nightstand which I have turned into a painting cart:

In the coming months I plan on building a large painting cart, but until that happens I need something else to get by. I've used this small nightstand for a while now, and my old glass palette used to sit on it. The cool thing about this nightstand is that it's 16x20 inches; just the right size for a 16x20 piece of window glass from the hardware store.

Supplies: 1/2 inch plywood (cut to the exact size of the glass on a table saw), 7 feet of wood corner molding, and a 16"x20" pane of glass.

Paint the back side of the glass with your preferred color. I like a medium grey. 

Using some clear silicone adhesive, apply the glass to the plywood (painted side down)

Make some 45-degree cuts on your corner molding. Measure twice, cut once! 

Once the four sides have been measured and cut, it's time to start gluing. Apply a line of silicone adhesive on the glass. Apply wood glue on the edge of the plywood, on the inside edge of the molding, and on the corner edges of the molding. 

Detail shot of the corner

Use your favorite clamps to hold the molding until it dries. These clamps are strong, so I used some scraps of cardboard to protect the wood.

Leave it to dry overnight, sand, and you're all done! You can apply stain and varnish if you like. I used "golden pecan" wood stain (Minwax), followed by three coats of polyurethane varnish. 

The finished palette! 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

5 Steps to Spring into Great Greens

Potawatomi Overlook, Door County, Wisconsin. 6x8 inches. Plein Air. 

Spring is coming, and with the changing of the seasons comes a whole lot of... GREEN! Green can be a difficult color to get right. Here are a few tips to keep in mind...

1-Greens tend to be a darker value than you think - Remember to squint, and check the value of greens in your subject. Compare that value to other objects. You'd be surprised how dark it actually is. 

Note the values of the greens in this piece. Pretty dark, compared to the sky and water. 

A small black and white gouache study for this painting. The black and white study helps show just how dark of value greens can be. 

2-Keep greens subdued - Keep your greens a little more muted than you think you need. Greens in nature are actually very muted. Once your subdued greens are placed and the value is correct, then add in some "punches" of more vibrant greens. One trick you may like is to use yellow ochre for most of your green mixing, to keep greens a little less intense than you want them. Then, dip into the cadmium yellow for those bright accents at the end. It's surprising how little of the cadmium yellow you'll end up needing. 
The desert is great for practicing with muted greens. Note the small "punches" of brighter greens in this saguaro and the surrounding bushes. Using a more intense (higher chroma) color is a great way of adding accents, just be careful not to overdo it. 

3-Remember atmospheric perspective - Colors change as they get farther away from us, and shift towards blue (in most cases). What's lesser known, however, is that yellow is the first color to fade, which is then followed by red. What this means is that greens will have more yellow in them in the foreground. Greens a little farther away will appear more purple, followed by very blue-greens in the distance. This is another reason I like to save my brightest greens until the accent stage, and keep the cadmium yellow-heavy mixtures reserved mostly for foreground accents. 

Here are two detail shots of the greens in Potawatomi Overlook (pictured at the top of this blog post). Note the vibrancy of the foreground greens (left), and the subdued background greens (right). Both the yellow-green highlights and blue-green shadows have changed due to atmospheric perspective. They have decreased in intensity (chroma) and lightened in value. 

4-Never use pre-mixed greens - Well, that's kind of a lie. While I do have a couple greens on my palette, and they are useful, I never use these greens as the starting point when I am mixing a green for my painting. Those greens are on my palette for "tweaking" colors only. All of the greens in my painting begin with yellow and blue. If the green needs to be more olive, I'll add some cadmium orange. More grey? Add some alizarin crimson. Needs to be a little higher in chroma? Now, and only now, is it time to add a little bit of Viridian or Phthalo Green. My basic rule of thumb: Never just squeeze out a bunch of sap green and paint a tree with it! 

All the greens in this piece, "Courthouse and Juniper", were started with a mixture of cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue. Other colors, including viridian, were later added to tweak the base mixture and create variety.

5-Variety, variety, variety - Having a full-spectrum palette is great for many reasons. "Tweaking" greens is one of them. I like to dip into just about every color when I'm mixing greens, and I like to have every brush stroke be a slightly different green. Trees are made up of thousands of leaves, and each leaf is a slightly different color, and is reflecting sunlight at a different angle. It would make sense, then, for a tree to be made up of many different kinds of greens. 

Note the variety of greens here in Fresh Fruit. There are less intense greens, really vibrant greens, yellow greens, blue greens, and very dull greens. The greens in the background are pushed even farther away by knocking back their intensity. The cactus has the most yellow in it's greens, so it visually wants to come forward. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sedona Plein Air Festival (Part 2)

Here are some final photos of all my pieces from the Sedona Plein Air Festival. It was a great week!

"View From Brins Mesa Trail" Oil on linen, 9x12 sold
(This piece sold before I was able to get a good picture of it, so I only have the field photo taken with my phone)

"From the Broken Arrow Trail" Oil on linen, 12x12 sold

"Gnarled and Twisted" Oil on linen, 9x12 sold

"View From The Top Of Cathedral Rock" Oil on linen, 8x10 

"Courthouse Butte and Juniper" Oil on linen, 9x12, sold

"A Day At Slide Rock" oil on linen, 6x8

"Looking Up At Cathedral Rock" oil on linen, 12x12 sold

"Looking North From Broken Arrow" oil on linen, 8x16 sold

"Swirls in Oak Creek" oil on linen, 9x12

"Rachel's Juniper" oil on linen, 9x12 inches

"Looming Over Chimney Pass" oil on linen, 8x10

"Draped In Scarlet" oil on linen, 8x10, sold

"Broken Arrow Juniper" oil on linen, 12x12, sold

"Looking Out From Rachel's Knoll" oil on linen, 8x16, sold
(This piece was painted at the Seven Canyons resort and sold during the Sedona Plein Air Festival Paint-Out, so the only photo I have of it was taken with my phone)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sedona Plein Air Festival (Part 1)

I'm very happy to say that I was invited to participate in the Sedona Plein Air Festival, which started Saturday, October 15.

Orientation began at 10am on Saturday morning, and we were given information about paint-outs, reception times, and we were able to hang our studio pieces. We also got our panels stamped.

Saturday afternoon I painted this 9x12 on the Brins Mesa trail.

"View from Brins Mesa Trail" oil on linen, 9x12 inches

Today (Sunday) I painted two, a little off the path of the Broken Arrow trail.

"View from Broken Arrow Trail" Oil on linen, 12x12 inches

"Twisted Bark" Oil on linen, 9x12 inches

Monday, September 26, 2016

8th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art

The artists pose for a photo after the 8th Annual Celebration of Art Quickdraw and Auction
"Inner Warmth" oil on canvas, 16x24 inches, is my studio piece for this year's exhibit.

Well, the 8th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art has come and gone. I had one heck of a great week painting with some of the country's best landscape painters, and it was an honor and a privilege to be part of such an event. The proceeds from this event are split between the artists and Grand Canyon Association, with the goal of funding a permanent art venue on the South Rim, to house the Park's extensive art collection.


The event is hosted by the Grand Canyon Association, the official nonprofit partner of the Grand Canyon National Park. 24 artists were invited to paint in the park for one week. Blank canvases were stamped on the back side at the beginning of the event (Friday Sep. 9th), and artists had one week to paint as much as they like. All completed paintings had to be framed and ready to hang by Friday, Sep. 16th at 5pm, and delivered to the historic Kolb Studio.

Matt painting at Moran Point

Saturday morning, the 17th, was the Quick Draw competition. Artists had to complete a plein air painting in just two hours, from 8am to 10am. The painting then had to be framed and delivered for a live auction at 11am. The public was able to witness the paintings come to life before them, and bid on them just an hour later!

"Smokey Quickdraw" 8x16 inches. Sold at auction. A forest fire on the North Rim caused a lot of smoke to settle in the canyon, which offered an opportunity to really push the atmospheric perspective.

Saturday evening was the sneak preview opening reception. It was great seeing all the artists fresh work, and speaking with the collectors, volunteers, and GCA and Park staff.

Matt at the Kolb Studio opening reception, September 17th 2016. Photo courtesy of Marlene Whitlock

Sunday morning was another sneak preview reception with brunch, followed by the public grand opening at noon. It was a weekend full of buzz and excitement, and "red dots" were flying everywhere.

I managed to paint 24 paintings during the week, including my Quickdraw piece pictured above. Here are the other 23 pieces. To purchase any of these paintings, please contact the Kolb Studio at (928) 638-2481. The show will be up until January 16, 2017.

"First Light at Moran Point" 9x12 inches, $500

"Still Chipping Away" 6x8 inches, $300

"Cloudforms over Mohave Point" 6x8 inches, $300

"Number 237" 8x16 inches, $900

8x10 inches, $400

9x12 inches, $500

8x10 inches, $400

"Far Above the Colorado" 8x16 inches, $800

"Yaki Duality #2" 6x8 inches, $300

"Yaki Duality #1" 6x8 inches, $300

"Hermit's River View" 8x8 inches, $400

6x6 inches, $300

"Sunset study at Hopi Point" 6x8 inches, not for sale. 

"Dancing Shadows" 8x8 inches, $400

"Reaching Out over the Edge at Hopi Point" 9x12 inches, Sold. 

"Fallen Ancient" 6x8 inches, $300

"Into the Abyss" 16x20 inches, $1600

"In Open Arms" 9x12 inches, Sold. 

8x16 inches, $800

"First Light on the Battleship" 8x8 inches, $400

"Last Light at Yavapai Point" 8x10 inches, $400

Sunset Study, 6x8 inches, not for sale

"Ribbon of Silver" 8x8 inches, $400