the art and times of a plein air painter

 

 

The art and related matters, RGS

Best of Show, LA

"The Secret Rights of the Atchafalaya Swamp" was honored by taking Best of Show in the "Shadows on the Teche" Plein Air Festival in New Iberia, Louisiana. I spent almost the entire week falling in love with the Louisiana swamps, and the people of the area. This was my first-time painting in the rural areas of Louisiana, but it will not be the last. I look forward to my return.

Best of Show, OK

"Stop or Keep Going" took Best of Show in the "Plein Air Tulsa!" event in Tulsa Oklahoma. Was it the oddity of it being a little mud puddle? It was one of those times when you are going from point "A" to point "B" when something catches you from the corner of your eye and you say "why not?"

Award of Merit, VA

"Sunday Stroll" one of my favorite pieces created at the Plein Air Richmond event. It's a beautiful old city that I just love to paint. This is up on Church Hill near where Patrick Henry gave his "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death" speech in 1775

Award of Merit, TX

“West Sirius, SeaDrill” taking an Award of Merit at the Southwest Plein Air Festival in Rockport Texas. This was simply a Kansas boy being enamored by one of the largest oil rigs I’ve ever seen and wanting to capture some of it’s size on a small 14x11” canvas. Reaching almost 300 feet tall, this was one of 3 monsters in a row in for service.



Best of Show, KS

Through adversity we paint, and in it sometimes comes our best comes forward. This is a painting from the “Chase County Plein Air Festival.” I had passed this scene at different times of day, and decided on an early morning try. Up well before the sun, I had to guess on where my bovine subjects were. Not so easy, I was asked to “move on” by a rancher, then the cows moved on, and in came a skunk, and I politely urged her to “move on”. But as plein air artists we do our best and go on from there.

Cusco, Peru

“To Run with the Puma”, part of my “Plains to Peru” series from my journey from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu by way of the Classic Inca Trail To look over this ancient city of Cusco from Pukamuku was for me a thrilling experience. There before me lay the heart of the Inca civilization laid out in the form of the sacred Puma. I could stare at this for hours just imagining. And I still do.

Painting Workshops

April-Augusta Missouri, May-Mt Pleasant South Carolina, June-Kansas City, September-Mumford New York, Newnan Georgia, October-Mount Airy North Carolina, November-Palo Duro Texas

the MVIS

The Missouri Valley Impressionist Society.Summers painting on location at Indian Cave State Park, with fellow MVIS founders Jeff Sparks and Rachel Mindrup. (not shown, Brent Seevers) Here some of the ideas on creating a group for representational artists, to help grow, and build impressionistic art in the upper Midwest were formed. (Loosely, mostly we painted )

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An Early Spring

March 4, 2019 by admin

I’ve been part of a little group of artists that head down to the Big Bend National Park area to paint each February now for 3 years. Nothing more than a few like minded souls getting together and doing what we come to do best.

Paint

If you’ve not been to this area along the Rio Grande River, I tell you you are missing out on something. It is simply spectacular. It is one of the largest National Parks in America and at the same time the least used. That’s okay with me because the influx of folks to this area by the millions would totally ruin it’s nature. Kind of what it’s done to Yellowstone, or Zion.

Sure, it’s people that needs to come appreciate and enjoy what this wonderful land before us, but at the same time, it’s people that totally ruins it. Tourists in general think much only of themselves and their conviences and do not consider what their actions do to the land around them. Not all, but more often than not it seems.

Enough of my little soapbox, let me step down and get back to our trip.

I look forward to this trip with these fellow artists, Dick Sneery originally asked me to go about 4 years ago on an Outdoor Painter Society trip to Big Bend but I didn’t because of I have no idea why, but the very next year after seeing all the paintings and photos that Dick had returned with, I had to find out for myself. I jumped on the chance and the two of us rode down together stopping for Tim Oliver in Lubbock Texas along the way.

What an unbelievable place this was, completely different than what I had expected. A spectacular array of mountains, desert, river canyons, ghost towns. A painters treasure trove all wrapped into one area. Mind you the area is VERY big, and it takes hours to drive from one end of the park to the other, but in between those ends are vistas and painting opportunities gallore.

Each year our group seems to add a few more artists, and have affectionetly become known as the “Rattlesnake Gang”. And luckily our encounters with said critters have been to a minimum, but just in case high top boots and gaiters are a pretty darn good idea.

I have never really gone to the area with any other goal than to just paint, and paint some more. As my Dad says, “from can see, to can’t see”. That was always my goal, but this year I thought to go a little differently.

That was to have a plan besides just painting. I always try to improve on what I do, I find nothing easy to paint, and have rarely done anything that is completely to my satisfaction. Probably never will, but this time to have a little bit of direction to what I’m doing.

This year was, “paint objects, not scenes”.

Painting a lot with Lon Brauer last year I got a good chance to banter things back and forth quite a bit, and one of those was things was painting objects. I love Lon’s work, it’s amazing, and he’s brave as hell, always pushing himself, experimenting with materials, with process, with subjects. I love it, and I am envious.

Lon in the desert

Me? I’m a little chicken.

I tell myself I’m pushing myself, trying new things, but not to the extremes that I want to, or need to. I can’t even add another color to my palette I’m so darn comfy with the 4 that I’m using!

But small steps, I can do that. I have another color in my pack, not used it yet, but I will put it on my palette this next trip. The other thing was working on objects.

One of the biggest things I noticed when I began painting outdoors was the amount of information out there. It was everywhere, in the darks, in the lights, it was information overload, and I never had this problem painting from photos. There, you had never enough info, or the wrong info. So when I began outside I tried to paint it all, and it took forever. I came back to the same spot for weeks painting on the canvas and painting and painting some more and I just couldn’t get it all.

I’ve cut that down to being able to paint the same thing in one session of about 2 hours, but I find myself many times painting “scenes”. Sure that’s okay, and I love scenes. I grew up loving the Hudson Valley painters work, and what better scene painters are there than them? But I found that when I zoomed in on a subject, grabbed one thing and focused on it, that’s when my paintings became stronger.

It is harder for me to make a good painting of a scene than it is to find a simple object, break it down to simple elements, and make a winner out of it. If I were to go back and look at all the awards over the years, the majority have gone to simpler subjects. Not always the case, but I know I do have to work harder when painting a view of the river valley than I do when I paint just a boat on that river.

So my goal this trip was to paint more objects, less panoramic time consuming views.

Not that you can’t spend the same amount of time painting a simple subject, and I have. I love simplifying anymore, and it’s those type of paintings that really attract my attention at the galleries. Those wonderful abstract shapes that are strong and dynamic. I want this, and it’s only pushing oneself that you can do this. But I need to push harder, get out of that comfort zone and push my boundaries. I have set up these barriers myself, no one else has told me to stay where I am. I won’t grow if I don’t.

If you can’t do it yourself, find someone to tell you what to do. That’s why we take workshops from others. To see and feel how they do it, and learn their approach. Is it better, is it faster? Is it for you? We don’t know if we don’t try, and if we can’t physically push ourselves, find someone to help. Don’t just listen and say, “okay, I will”. Go that extra step or two.

Doesn’t work, what have you lost? But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

I did do more simple subjects this trip, trying to focus on objects. I painted a total of 15 paintings in the 5 days along the Rio. For the most part I’m happy with what I created. They can use some tweaking here and there, some I would like to make into larger studio pieces. Out of those 15, 8 were focused more on a subject than a scene. That’s not 100% but small steps like I said are better than no steps at all.

I love the hanging with other artists at these events and especially here at Big Bend, talking art till late in the night as we stare into the vast depths of the winter sky above. Sharing stories of there exploits during the day over an evening meal at the local dinner. Each one of us with our own agenda and our own direction in life, but for these few days in the West Texas winter we are bonded by the rawness in this land that is as hard and sharp as bones of those that came before us.

Johnny Cash wrote about this area along the Rio Grande in his song “Mean as Hell”, kind of describes things nicely…

It’s a hell of a place that he has for hell
The heat in the summers are hundred and ten
Too hot for the devil, too hot for menThe red pepper grows upon the banks of the brook
The Mexican use it in all that he cook
Just dine in with one of ’em and you’re bound to shout
I’ve hell on the inside as well as it out

If you want fine dining and fancy beds, then maybe you might find a group further North to paint with, cause if you’re wanting to join the Rattlesnake Gang, and we’re happy to have you.

Just check your pedigree at the door

The Rattlesnake Gang, 2019

 

What’s it all About

November 3, 2016 by admin

“Well it’s about this long, and about this wide, and about this country, about which we are singing about…” to paraphrase Firesign Theater

If you are looking to me for what it’s all about, whatever “it” might be, you are looking in the wrong place. I have no idea. I think you have to take this question on an individual basis, and then don’t hold them to it. What is it all about for me? I don’t know that either, and I’m NOT one out here searching the world for answers to life’s questions. I just happen to be enjoying life and all the riddles that come before me, and take them as they come.

Just back from “En Plein Air Texas” and packing my bags for the “Zion Invitational” and thought to expound on my little demo at Fort Concho last Saturday.

If you didn’t see my little post on Facebook, here’s basically the scene…

After all the painting for the competition and sales event had been done, the folks there at “En Plein Air Texas” asked for artists to speak in schools, and do demos and the likes. I had volunteered on Friday to speak to Lamar Elementary School to 100+ 5th grade students, and do a little “plein air” demo. On Saturday, Lon Brauer and myself were dressing up in period clothing from the 1800’s and painting around the old chuck wagon at the Fort.

Lon & I circa 1860

Lon decked me out in some pretty sweet early 1800’s, circa 1810, while he wore the more styling 1860’s gear.

Lon set up to paint the fiddler that was part of a trio on the porch, I was painting more of the entire scene. After nigh on an hour or so, well into the 2pm-4pm gig, I turned to see this little girl watching me paint with big curious eyes. There was who might have been her grandparents with her. I asked her if she would like to try to paint, and she looked at her grandmother who nodded yes, and the rest was pure magic!

She took the brush and carefully dipped it into the paints and placed it precisely on the canvas and burst into a smile of delight. She spent the next half hour mixing and putting paint to canvas, with thought and concentration, and the delight that we don’t normally see in you and I.

img_3264The “little girls” name was Avery, and she was 17 years old. Avery has down syndrome, and with that maybe she doesn’t let some of what I get caught up in to fill my head. I don’t know enough about it to say, but when she mixed the color green from my limited pallet and placed it on the painting, the look and way she said “green” was to die for.

She painted bright beautiful color with perfect precision, and I just watched and learned, and let the joy fill my heart.

I’ve had others paint on my paintings before, young and old alike and usually it’s only a stroke or two, which is kind of what I had intended when I asked this young lady, but when seeing the delight in her eyes as she painted, I was not going to be the one to stop her, no matter what she did to the painting. If it were someone who was scribbling, and acting a bit out of sorts, I would have put an end to it immediately (politely of course), but Avery was different.

I have no idea if letting her paint will turn her into the newest “Picasso” , or if she will ever pick up a brush again. That’s not really important, but for that one little piece of time it was everything, not just for her, but for me seeing what can be done with just a little offer of encouragement.img_3262-3

I don’t wear shirts that have a list of things on the back discouraging interaction. I don’t put headphones on to keep folks from stopping and asking questions. I’m out here painting the best I can and trying to learn from what I see. But sometimes that learning experience isn’t before me or what I put onto the canvas, sometimes it’s what behind me, and the painting is merely secondary prop.

I don’t profess to be any better than anyone else, I tell you I was a “hellion” growing up, just ask my sisters. Okay, don’t ask… I’d rather you not know. But I’ve learned a lot through the years, and hope I’ve passed this on to my children, and my students. When I do workshops, my goal is not to create a pretty picture for all, or for them to do the same, (okay, maybe just a little 😉 it is to teach the tools, and values of plein air, and get them to enjoy the experience no matter what befalls them, so that they will get out and do it again and again.

And yes, it does include being kind to others. I’ve had that drilled into me as a youth, was it scouts, 4H, or the FFA? Maybe it was just Mom & Dad saying to be nice to your little sister.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s been exactly 4 years to the day since my mentor and friend Rick Howell passed away unexpectedly. He believed in me unlike no one else, and he also spoke of “giving back” to others. He was an amazing artist and a superb human, what more can you ask for?

So, “what’s it all about”?

I still have no idea, it just depends on the situation. But lower your expectations, and drop the egos and get out and paint. It does makes a world of difference.

It’s not easy, but the results are incredible!

Thanks,

Greg

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