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Outside the Realm-hiking the Inca Trail

September 13, 2018 by admin

I am still baffled by the fact that when I climb a flight of stairs, or walk up a steep hill that I am winded and my heart is going “boom-boom-boom” in my head, and yet it was only a month ago that I somehow coerced this old body all the way to the edge… and then just a little bit farther, to hike the Inca Trail.

I went into the “Camino Inka-Inka trail” hike with the attitude of no problem, I can do it, probably not from being physically fit, because I’m not, but more from that arrogant air that others did it, so can I!  Even after I read and heard stories of people turning back after the first day, and not able to continue, I thought that “well, it’s just a hike”.

To ever think that trekking the Inca Trail is “just a hike”, it is akin to saying that John Singer Sargent was “just another artist”… and he wasn’t!

But I still had that attitude, even after some failed attempts to prepare for my trip. First,  a hike up Mount Wrightson in Southern Arizona, where almost to the summit, I could not continue because I was cramping up in both legs. Then, there were two days of strenuous hiking in the front range of the Colorado Rockies. Lastly, a few day hikes in and around home, when just the weekend before Peru, I ended up with my first blisters on my toes after just a 2-hour hike on a well-used “chip” trail.

Still I had no idea!

I chose this “cover” painting for all that it says to me. Here, we look across the ancient Inca city of Ollantaytambo in the heart of the Sacred Valley. The day before we were to start our trek, our guide suggested  a “little climb” to the ruins on the east side of town called Pinkuylluna.  This is where the Incas had their storage facilities, high above, where the cooler winds and temps would help to preserve the grains for later use.

Our entire group of 16 were more than game for this little hike, and after grabbing daypacks, water and cameras off we went, winding through the narrow streets and alleys created over 500 years ago.

Somehow, and I don’t know how we did it, we totally missed the sign warning hikers against this trail up the mountain, and its dangers. And I still to this day think that Nick, our lead guide for the Inca Trail, was taking us here as a test to evaluate each of us and how we handled ourselves in an actual “live” situation.

It was NOT the easy hike that I had expected, and it didn’t take long, as I climbed the narrow switchbacks up the side of the mountain, before I realized I needed to rethink what I was about to do. This was “1/2 hour up”, said Nick. Well maybe for him, but my pace quickly diminished, and I needed constant stops to catch my breath, and my wits…

…but we kept on.

When we finally made it, I looked out across the Sacred Valley. The sun was creeping down slowly behind the Western mountains, and what a sight it was. Just across on the near mountains were the ever-incessant terraces of the Inca temple of Araqhama, and what is referred to as “The Fortress” which is quite wrong being more of a sacred area than a defensive structure.

The place was breathtaking, and here I felt ever inspired from what lay before me, and then all that lay behind. The people and civilizations that had come and gone as they too looked out on the fading light through their sacred valley. Here with the pilgrimage of the Inca’s ahead of me, across “Warmiwanusca” or “Dead Woman’s Pass” at 13,780′ all the way to Machu Picchu. I began to see that before me was not a hike like any I had done before. This was to be something I had to dig down deep into myself just to put another foot in front of the other.

This was a search of what I was really made of.

Later that evening, back at the last night of lodging in a bed for this journey, I quickly reassessed everything that I was putting into my backpack and if it was not essential for the trip, it was not coming with me. Out went the extra pair of pants, extra shoes, deodorant, wet paint carriers, (I went from 3 with 24 canvas papers, to 1 with 8) everything that we thought might be considered “non-essential”. My personal pack went from 14 kilos to 9.6 kilos (21.2 pounds). Much better, though still twice as heavy as the average pack that the rest of the group was carrying, but I needed my painting gear…

…or so I thought.

Besides my preparations for my journey with physical training, I was going to paint! But I needed to revamp my gear; it was entirely too heavy for an actual trek across mountains. My backpack I normally use with my Soltek easel weighed in at 37lbs (16.8 kilos) this was NOT going to work, and if you read my previous blog (Pleins 2 Peru) you’ll see how I slimmed it down. It wasn’t easy, but before I left for Peru it was half what I normally carried, which made me think it would be a cake walk.

We began this trip in the dead of winter, winter south of the equator, at least. As we waited in the lobby of our hotel, we heard from guides and hikers who had been turned back from their Lares Trek to Machu Picchu because of snows and impassible trail. Not what I was wanting to hear, because “surprise, surprise”, I had tossed out some of my warmer gear for some lighter layering. The predictions for the next four days on the trail were lows below 0 to 1-15 above (centigrade) This, I was expecting, and thought doable, but the threat of snow was not good news. However, the day the 16 of us began, the sun was out, no winds and about 4 degrees.

I want to mention the group of fellow hikers on this journey. There were 16 total, along with Nick and Miguel, the two guides from G Adventures. We flew down to Peru with good friend Phyllis and Gary from Nebraska, and there in Lima Peru we met the rest of the clan. 12 others from around the globe, mostly from Europe, but one fellow American, a Megan Summers who was no relation… at least not to my knowledge. There was Olly and Emily from England, along with Kieran and Steph. Also, from Great Britain was Ruth, who like Megan, was traveling alone. Then from Norway) were Christian and  Christina, and slightly closer to the Atlantic were the four Irish girls, Yani, Jane, Helen and Maggie.

What I noticed about the 12 other hikers we met up with was that everyone was young, or younger at least. Ruth was the youngest at 22, and then the oldest was in their early 30’s. Phyllis, Gary, Susie and myself were the seniors of the group in our early 60’s.

To tell the truth I had thought originally that traveling with such a large group of strangers was going to be odd, then all of them so young, there was going to be this big gap in generations. But what I found was what had to be some of the best hiking partners I could have asked for. I would have been hard pressed to pick a better group of people, all with the common goal of Machu Picchu via the Inka Trail. They were there cheering us on, ready with a helping hand, or steaming cup of coca tea when needed.

You never know what or who you are going to get when a tour group throws this many together for an adventure such as this. But no complainers, no whiners, all the drama was saved for the landscape.

What stuck with me most about the Inca civilization was all their terraces. They put them everywhere, and it didn’t matter if the land was too steep to even set a foot on, they would just spend a few years in building terraces up the side of the mountain. I realize if you need to grow food, and don’t have an inch of flat land available, it was necessary. But the amount of work put into these things, and they were everywhere! I know there will be some paintings to follow that feature some of their terraces.

As we set out on the first day, the sun was warming us from the mid-winter chill. We crossed the Urubamba river, which runs through the Sacred Valley, on a suspension bridge, and then began a slow rise up the valley side. The procession of porters with our equipment and the group of 16 really seemed like an expedition heading out on an adventure. I suppose it’s not so different than those before heading out from this exact spot. For whatever reason for this journey, for spiritual enlightenment, soul cleansing, or just some good old south of the border adventure, we were on our way.

Day one of the hike had been billed as a “warm up” for the rest of the trail. For the most part it is flat, or as I learned “Inca Flat”, which is more like up, down, up, level, up, down, up. Or something like that, you get the drift. We began that day at about 8,000 feet, and towards the end of the day I was literally thinking, “there is no way”. The terrain was steadily increasing, and my steps becoming slower and shorter. My 10 kilos back pack was feeling more like someone was dragging on it.

The landscape was beautiful, and if it weren’t for Nick our ever-present guide telling us to go at our own pace, there is no hurry, and to stop frequently and enjoy the scenery, “take pictures”, I would have never made it. This came to be one of my favorite and anticipated things, the “rest stops”. They came much more frequently on the following days, but the last couple hours of the first day made me doubt that day 2 would be possible.

We finally made camp about 5:00 that afternoon. Susie and I were the last ones in and I did not mind. This would be a pattern we did not break the entire trip. It gave me a chance to visit with the guide at the end of our gang. which was usually Nick, and I would hear about some of the history, and geography of the area, along with tales of the locals, and his adventures.

We camped that night just above Wayllabamba, and as I drug myself into camp and saw the row of tents all neatly lined up in a row, and the smell of dinner in the air, I thought to myself… I must paint something! So quickly I pulled out my painting gear from my pack. I was using the nice lightweight “Fly on the Wall” easel for this trip. The thing only weighs about 1 kilo, then of course the tripod, which was double that. But despite my weariness, I wanted to paint, so I set up at the end of the campsite and began throwing something on the canvas. Here in the southern hemisphere things are a little different. Sure, the sun still sets in the west, but it’s winter time, and it sets about 5:30pm. Another thing, the arc of the sun takes it around so that it’s to the north of where you are, the moss is on the southern side of the trees. But no matter what it did, I had to do something before the sun was gone. Happy Hour began at 5:30, then after that was supper, and I could miss the happy hour, but I needed that food.

I don’t know if it was my being beat and tired, or hungry and disoriented, but I know the painting that I made had to have been the worst thing I had ever painted in my life, and of course I was doing it for an audience of porters who carried our tents and food to the camp. I think they probably wanted to not transport my gear after they saw that, but at least I got something going. It’s good to get that bad painting out of the way so the next one can be a winner.

Dinner was great. Seriously, the G Adventures people who outfitted us had some of the best chefs who made wonderful meals out of thin air. It was something I grew to look forward to. Okay, that’s a stretch.  I look forward to every meal, no matter where I am, but they did some amazing things along that rock trail there in the Andes.

After dinner it was what, about 7:30? I think this could have been the earliest I had ever gone to bed in my life, but it was needed, and everyone was retiring, knowing what was coming tomorrow… Dead Woman’s Pass.

The night was cold, getting down below 0, but I was quite cozy in my sleeping bag. Most were awakened in the night from the festivities in the local town of Wayllabamba. It was the Fiestas Patrias peruanas, their Independence Day from Spain. Music and fireworks were heard well into the wee hours of the night. I only heard the fireworks about 9pm and went right back to sleep, but along the trail, I spoke to other hikers who camped closer to town, and they told of music going to 3-4 o’clock in the morning. This is when I did not mind hiking a little further past the town to our campsite. Small miracles!

The morning came with porters knocking on our tent flaps saying ‘Up-Up’ and handing us steaming hot cups of coca tea to help us along. This was a godsend, I tell you. The coca was an amazing resource, with that quick picker-upper, and helpful against altitude sickness… and it was passed out like candy, and who was going to turn down candy?

Not me.

Today was the day we all had circled on our calendar. Today was up, uP, UP! Up to Warmiwañusqa, or “Dead Woman’s Pass”. This was the highest point of the Inca Trail at 13,800 feet, and did I ever mention STAIRS? You would not believe it without seeing it. The trail up these mountains are made up of cut stone, or steps cut into the stone. For each and every step, I found myself looking for the smaller step up, but there were times the steps were almost to my knee and there was no way to avoid pulling oneself up to that next level. I found my trekking poles extremely helpful in doing this. Putting my poles on the step above helped to lift myself and my backpack up to the next ridge.

Stairs are handy, but this, like the terraces, was overkill. I found myself stopping and looking up and saying to Susie,” okay we’ll go another 20 yards and then rest”. We saw the porters doing these things like they were nothing, and they were carrying triple the weight as us.  We noticed that they did little switchbacks on the stairs, which seemed like a good idea. I would go up the smallest step, then walk a couple steps on the same level before I went up. It seemed like a lot of extra steps, but it seemed to help… and any little thing that made this easier was a blessing.

Like Nick had said earlier, “go at your own pace, stop, rest, take pictures”, and that I did. I took over 2,500 photos along the way, I’m not sure how many are going to be tossed, but on Facebook I posted about 200.  The scenery along the way was amazing. I just loved the cloud forests. I would gaze deep into the jungle, where at times it was pitch black, absolutely no light getting through the forest canopy, and listen to rushing water somewhere buried inside, and the brilliant snow on the mountain tops across the deep blue sky. It was otherworldly.

There was not a single place where I would not have liked to have stopped and set up my easel to paint. It was beautiful all around, but the trail was narrow, and time did not allow. Photographs for the moment would have to suffice.

There were many group resting points along the trail, where we gathered together, and Nick would give us a little history of the area, show off some Inca ruins, and tell of the people before. It still amazed me that people would build cities at this elevation, with no   modern technology to cut the stone and set the foundations. But in some of the most remote places we would find this the “perfect place for an Incan village” or “Temple”.

Lunch was an oasis with llamas and alpacas grazing in a meadow, and “Dead Woman’s Pass” looming overhead in the distance. It is not named this because of any tragedies that happened here, but for its shape, like a woman in repose. These are the same folks who see bunnies in cloud formations I think, but I sort of saw it. At least the large breast that we had to travel under, that was evident, and my new landmark for the next couple hours.

This was a hike to the lost Inca civilization at Machu Picchu, but for most of us traveling this trail, Warmiwañusqa was our “Rubicon”. And getting to that pass was no easy feat. One of our team was suffering from the altitude and Nick took her backpack and carried it up to the top. We kept our slow pace, and maybe even slower. Never before had I put so much thought into each step I took. Never before had I taken so much time between each step. I began questioning my choice of bringing all the painting gear, especially after seeing yesterday’s painting, but I brought it… so I’m carrying it. Nick came back when we were maybe 500 yards from our goal and offered to carry my pack. I would not have it, I was the one who packed it, I would be the one to suffer with it. Susie was not so stubborn, so gladly gave her pack to Nick.

We tread on.

The great thing I found about being the last, everyone was already there waiting for you, and as you came in to sight they began cheering you on, and when you finally made it, a rousing round of applause greeted you. This, I’m afraid, didn’t happen for those who arrived first, and I loved it.

I’m not sure if I was on my knees when I finally made the top, but as I arrived, Gary, my friend and traveling partner from Nebraska came up and took my pack from me.  I fell to the ground to rest!

There is a bad thing about being the last to a rest stop. By the time you get there, everyone else is ready to go already. This is the way of the world, but we did do group pictures here, and a little pep talk from Nick. Now as we crested the pass and looked at what was before us,  we could see was stairs winding around the mountains as they went off into the distance, as far as the eye could see. But down for me was so much easier, but even so, going down steps for hours on end was wearing on the feet and knees.

Still the land spreading out before us was an amazing sight. And as we traveled on, we took an occasional look, back at where we had come from, and that monumental pass between the peaks.

Descending seem as long as ascending the mountain side, only gravity on your side now, but as time wore on the camp for the night seemed further and further away. The twists and turns were often and I thought, or it could have said loud that “surely we did not go up that far”.

Camp on this day was a welcome sight, set along on the terraces built hundreds of years ago by the Incas. What might they have thought, if they knew of the travelers and use of their structures still to this day.

It was much colder this night as our camp here at Pacaymayo was at almost 12,000 feet. Each day they woke us earlier and earlier, and this morning was at 5am. We had to get an early start because today’s hike was to be our longest day of hiking. They say about 11 hours, but by the time we made it to camp this night we had were using our lights to see the way, because at our somewhat slower pace, it took 12.

Yesterday we had our highest climb, tomorrow we make it to Machu Picchu, but today was, I’d have to say the most beautiful, and well, maybe the most treacherous. We had a nice combination of up and down, stairs and paths, cloud forests, and Inca ruins. The scenes that surrounded us were right out of a postcard.

Of course, we began the day with coca tea, and maybe an extra dose, because we had another pass to conquer, but this one a mere 13,000 feet, before we head down to some sweet Inca ruins of an old fortress built to protect those along the trail.

The Peruvian government has limited the number of people who can hike the Inca Trail, and I am so grateful for this. It is a pristine trail seemingly untouched by modern man. The people you meet along the trail are few and far between, and though some facilities are very very primitive, I would have been somewhat disappointed had we had running water and flush toilets. There are rangers who come daily to clean the trails and pick up any litter. I cannot imagine what condition these people must be in.

The porters along the way came in all shapes and sizes, all of them carrying the food and sleeping gear of the trekkers along the way. There were other groups from G Adventures, and similar outfitters, and private guides. One had to have a guide to be allowed on the trail, another requirement by the government. I know, more restrictions, but I believe they are doing well at preserving its ancient heritage and culture.

The third day’s hike took us on some precarious ridges, with narrow paths and steep drop offs, with me, as frightened as I am of heights, always hugging the inside of the trail, constantly warning Susie to do the same. Then, after hitting her head on a tree root while doing as I suggested, she went back to her own way of hiking.

What works for one, does not always work for others.

As the light of the sky grew dimmer we came upon the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna, a very steeply terraced Inca village overlooking the Urubamba River. The entire trip had been filled with amazingly picturesque locations but few more than this location. The well-preserved terraces of the temple near the top, and the cascading spring to the bath levels, all this with the Urubamba thousands of feet below. Of course, we did the group pics, and then Maggie was not going to leave without climbing down a couple of terraces to feed or pet one of the llamas.

The descent down from the top of Wiñay Wayna was as steep as anything we had done before, only straight down, and by the time we were too the bottom the light had complety left and we still had a little way to go.

I never really saw this campsite in the light, and I wish I had. I hear it has wonderful surroundings, but after hiking for 12 hours, all I could think of was food, shoes off, and bed. This was the last time we would see our porters, and chefs, so as tradition has it, they all came into our small dinner tent and we thanked them, with Megan translating to Spanish, and we gave them their tips. By far these men earned much more than what they get. We all tipped on the generous side. These folks worked their tails off trying to make our stay and experience the best it could be. They were always cheerful, with a smile or a friendly word. They earned every solas, and then some!

We had been warned when we began that the 4th day of the trail would begin early, and they meant it. Just after 3 am there came the familiar greeting at the tent flap.  This time they would not leave until they saw our smiling face peek out and confirm we were up. We had to have breakfast, break camp and be at the Inti Punku (Sun Gate) by 5:30.

It is the pinnacle of this trip, the watching the sun come up on the lost city of the Inca’s, and there are few who actually get to do so anymore with the regulations the way they are. One can stay at the hotel just outside the city of Machu Picchu, or you can hike the Inca Trail. We went the long way around, and I would not have done it any other way now that it’s all said and done. (I would like to say that before the actual trip it was all about going to Machu Picchu and seeing it, but as I look back, it was the Inca Trail and its challenges that I will remember most fondly.)

Hiking the trail in the dark was a bit treacherous, but if you stay on the trail, no problem. Do not step off the side, that first step is a doozy! We all hiked along the last few miles with occasional chatter, but myself I was mostly deep in my own thoughts of what was behind us, and the sacred Machu Picchu just a few minutes away. One big subject was taken from my shoulders, and that was painting at Machu Picchu. I had found out just the night before that they were not allowing me to bring my paints into the lost city. Nick had been in contact with the authorities on my behalf to paint there, but there were many restrictions about what you can and can’t bring in, along with what you can and cannot do once inside.

I was disappointed and bummed out at first, but it wasn’t long that I brushed this aside because there was nothing I could do about it.

I think one of the things that has saved me many a time is something I have heard all my life, but never really applied it to myself till 2002, and that is the old “Serenity Prayer” from Alcoholics Anonymous… “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Here I needed it as much as ever. I did not let this spoil the rest of my journey, nor let my disappointment affect any of my party.  We go on.

This place, heralded as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World was amazing. It really was, and to me, just totally unbelievable at what such an ancient culture could have done. Most of the structures were still standing as they were hundreds of years ago, surviving countless earthquakes and time and Spaniards.

We wandered through this beautiful ruin of the Inca’s as Nick told of its history and purpose. I clicked my camera over and over here, taking the pics that I would now hope to paint in studio, taking notes on color, and light. But as we look around it was the crowds of people that one really takes over some of the scenery.

It was packed! There were guided groups, and individuals galore, looking, talking, gawking and panning for photos. No selfie-sticks though, that’s another thing that is not allowed. I was actually looking forward to getting on the bus to head down the mountain. I knew it was going to be very touristy, and that’s what we were, exactly that. Tourists coming to see this amazing place. But a different kind of tourist we were. We were part of an elite group of travelers who came the old way, the “Classic Inka Trail”, the Pilgrimage… and we looked it. Unwashed and unkept with all of our hiking gear strapped on to our packs, I’m know we did not smell as fresh as those “LBR’s” who just arrived from below. We received looks from some of the crowd, giving us the “once over”, but so what, we earned every one of those stares.

It was an enjoyable trip down the mountain on the bus, feeling the comfort of a real padded chair after only a few days seemed like a luxury fit for a king… and maybe it was, “back in the day”.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal all together for the last time at an upstairs restaurant in Aguas Caliente, then on to the train for a leisurely journey along the Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley, back to Ollantaytambo to our motel. Here we would gather the things we discarded before we bus it back to Cusco. We were in dining cars on the train with an observation roof where we could look up and see the peaks of the Andes Mountains as we rode by. Up there, somewhere, is an ancient trail made by ancient people, where we were granted the chance to follow in their footsteps, to see and feel some of the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever encountered.

It was a trip of a lifetime, and I am so glad I did it.

Would I do it again?  Not a chance, I’m too old now 😉

But I will travel it again with paint. I have begun my Inca Trail paintings and hope to finish in the “off season”. I hiked the Inca Trail and made it to Machu Picchu. If I can capture some of that feel in the paintings that follow, I will be pleased.

I do plan more hiking adventures, maybe the Appalachian Trail, or the Pyrenees? Who knows, but I’ve got the gear, and the knowledge that “I can do it”.

Now all I need is the compass to stop spinning.

Ollantaytambo the Sacred Valley

Giving it all Away

July 1, 2015 by admin

I was recently asked “what did it take to get to that next level?”

What? Rethink, reconsider, and recalculate that one! I’m here flailing around like a ship in a whirlpool. What “next level” are we talking about?

Looking from within, it looks as though I’m just spinning my wheels in the same old spot. Kind of like being around your children all the time, they never change. But when relatives come from afar for that rare, but sometimes “too often” visit, all you hear is “oh my how little junior has grown,” or “what happened to that little girl I used to bounce on my knee?” When you look at things on a daily basis, it is only the drama that gets noticed.

I believe it must have hatched as I bantered thoughts and ideas around with artist Jeffery Sparks as we talked of creating a group for artists here in the Midwest similar to the Hudson River school of artists, or the Southwest artists. he pointed out that we had to be good to help set an example. He believed we could be among the best in the region as we led this organization that is now called the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society. (MVIS for short)

Sure I agreed, but did I believe it? No, not really.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think I had the talent, I knew I had some, but being the best sounded insurmountable. I mean there are literally thousands upon thousands of artists just in this area. How in the world? No way!

So I put that pipe dream on the back burner, and just focused on painting, and me.

The next time anything like this came up was with my friend and mentor, Rick Howell. If you didn’t know Rick, he was a one of a kind guy, always giving, always caring, helping people, the land and all that inhabited it. He sat me down in his little artists’ retreat and gave me the “low down.” “It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “If you think you have worked hard at anything in yourlife before, you are mistaken.”

Rick told me about making a serious commitment, and passing that boundary of fear that keeps one from taking that step into the unknown. He talked of the proverbial “miles of canvas” that I had to put behind me before I even came close to those goals we wrote down.

What I heard in “Casa Estella” was not new stuff. But hearing it from this unbelievable artist who actually thought that I had the potential to be great was different! It’s one thing to hear words of praise and encouragement from friends and family. But Rick Howell was a professional with an amazing talent, and he began to help me to believe in myself.

Keyword “BELIEVE”

Belief is important. If you don’t believe in yourself, how in the world are you going to convince someone else ? But belief was not all, talent helps, now what in the world are you going to do with it?

Even with Rick behind me, I was still skeptical of all involved, and what it would take to take that next step. Could I do it? Could I commit so much of my time to these goals that we worked out around the kitchen table in a high plains desert? Commit so much time and energy, and money! I was working full time still as a master engraver. Itt was going to cost me quite a bit in salary to reroute into the world of fine arts.

But try to believe.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The time commitment, the energy, looking, seeing, feeling. Eeverything had to change. I did not realize this, but as I went along, this is what I found had to happen for me to even minutely close the gap between me and the upper echelon.

Did it begin slowly? I don’t know, but for me I had to change quite a bit. I had much to learn to take my art from the amateurish to the professional. I knew nothing of color, values, composition. Sure I studied in college, but that was what, 30 years ago, and we just began brushing on things when my career as a fine artist took a turn to the commercial side and family. So I’ve shelved the tales by Stephen King and replaced them with Carlson and Payne.

When I am alone my thinking turns to my art. I am now always questioning what I see, and how I might recreate it on canvas. I see things as I’m driving just around the block or to the next show and try to figure out how to mix that color up with my 4 color palette.

I squint all the time in the middle of a conversation seeing how things look in just a few values. If you see me kind of drift off, it’s probably not a flashback from the late 60’s. More likely I see something that caught my eye and I’m thinking how it might fit best in a horizontal or vertical format.

Is it a case of living, sleeping, eating art? Yes it really is, and I still feel like I’m not doing enough. At night I lay in bed working on inventory, and invoicing, and applications, and social networking. During the day it’s the same thing, but throw in the things that life puts before you, plus if possible a little painting.

I work on a balancing act because, yes, there are other things in my life that I love besides paintingmy wife Susie, and my wonderful family. I have friends and a home, and I still sculpt as an engraver on occasion, though that is becoming rarer by the minute. I do what I must first, then I do what I can after that.

It is a commitment, and it takes a good supporting cast around you. I know I could not have gotten this far alone. At one time I thought so, but for me admitting that I needed help was freeing. I’m not the great and powerful Oz that I once believed.  (I think my parents kept trying to tell me this, but would I listen to them?) Well, this is something you must build and nurture constantly, starting in the home, the community, and then beyond.

All this just so I can paint. That’s really what I want to do, and maybe one day that will come. I now believe in myself, and I have seen a little glimpse of the potential within me. I am slowly, ever so slowly, beginning to paint the things that I love to get lost in when I visit galleries.

What does it take to become the best?

I have no idea and will probably never know. What I do know is that it’s not just having the talent.Talent is nothing if you don’t do anything with it.

I’ve heard forever “you’ve got to want something bad enough”. (sports cliché)) I always thought that it doesn’t make a difference if everyone wants the same thing, that doesn’t help. What in the world does it mean “they wanted it more than me?” No way!

What I’ve found is that what you do because you want something bad enough makes all the difference in the world. Maybe that’s what they really mean?

“If you can dream it, you can make it a reality. The possibility lies in your ability, enthusiasm and hard work to realize it.”  Lailah Gifty Akita

I’ve changed the way I live, the way I think, the way I see. Everything and anything I can think of that might make me a better artist. I see it helping, and I’m enjoying the journey. You’ve got to do that because if and when the end ever arrives…

rg at heaven hill farm

photo by Turner Vinson

…that’s it.

The END

 

Going Green

May 6, 2015 by admin

I do not write advice or tips very often on painting, and probably for good reason.

I’m just a beginner!

Though not the sole reason, that is a good one. The other is I don’t really like advice, probably something I picked up along the way, but growing up I always knew that I knew more than my parents or any of the establishment, so what could they tell me? It was not till later years I found that maybe I should have been paying attention instead of playing around.

Now you tell me!

But I’ve been asked a number of times in the recent months to write something about the “greens” of my paintings, so here I am. This way I think, or I hope, that at least those people will read this and be satiated by my banter.

My mother’s favorite color was green, so I have to like it. I’ve always said my favorite color was blue, but I’m not sure anymore. If there was only one color I could keep for the rest of my life and it had to be one that’s actually on the color wheel I might pick maybe a blue that was leaning a bit towards green, though a blue that has a tinge of violet in it is pretty nice too.

But GREEN? I don’t even have it on my pallet!

Krugg Park 007Many of you know already that I use a limited pallet of 4 colors and white. 2 warm colors, and 2 cools. Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarine Crimson & Ultramarine Blue.

First it was Phil Starke in the spring of 2011 that threw out most of my paints and left me with 7 to use, then in the fall of that same year when I began mentoring under Rick Howell, he whittled that pallet down to what I am using now. No greens, no earth tones, just the 2 reds, a yellow and a blue.

Now get out and paint!

I live in an area where most times of the year when you go outside to paint you are going to see green. Green grass, green trees, green water. It’s pretty much the dominant color.

So why no green on the pallet? Seems like it would sure make things so much easier and quicker just to go ahead and throw a Viridian, or a Sap green on the pallet.  Maybe it would, but right now I seem to be doing okay without, and just in case, I actually have a tube of Viridian in my backpack and have for years. It’s for that time I might need some color I can’t get, or that extra punch that I’m not capturing with my typical 4 paints, but so far I’ve not pulled it out. I mean I love all those wonderful tubes of green that they have made up for every scene you could think of, but I’m still liking the greens I get from my primary colors.

It’s not just mixing the greens the way you like, but you really need to see them first. Phil taught me how Shoc & Awe demo startto look and separate the greens, and push them one way or another. Different times of the year the same trees are a different green, along with different times of the day. Cool greens, warm greens they are what the forests are made up of, but just because you know it’s green, you don’t have to paint it that way.

It’s like everything else you see, and everything else you paint, comparing one tree to the next, one color to the next. Is the tree bluer, or does the tree have more yellow in it?

I love painting outdoors and if you go out in the spring and summer around my neck of the woods there is going to be a lot of green, and you want to keep it interesting, so push those greens one way or another seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

If you’ve read any of Carlson’s landscape painting books you know you have to learn the tree, and where it’s from and what holds it up. It’s not just leaves on branches, but knowing and understanding how they grow, and what makes them twist, and the unbelievable amount of weight that each limb holds up. Just seeing your subject is not enough, it’s the understanding that grounds it into believability. It’s like trees with larger leaves are going to reflect more light, trees with smaller leaves will generally be darker, the earlier the season the warmer the foliage. There is a lot involved, and I do find it helps to understand, but I don’t quite go into the politics of trees as Mr. Carlson sometimes does 😉

One could spend an entire life just painting trees, and I’ve seen master artists doing just that, and still  they study and learn. I don’t know if I have painted a tree that I am completely happy with. I don’t know if I ever will, though I will continue to try.

When I mix up colors to paint, I don’t make giant piles of color, I mix a bit up and then start pushing one direction or the other. Lighter/darker, warmer/cooler. These are the things I continue to say to myself throughout my painting.

I have no formula for my greens, each time I approach a subject, there is no preconceived notion. I start afresh. I let the light dictate what I do, and what I mix up.

Each time is a learning experience, and know there is something wrong if it’s not. I can paint something a thousand times and still feel the beginner. There are not more shades of one color than another, it’s just that the human eye can pick out more shades of green because of where it is on the light spectrum.

I know, boring so I won’t go there.

Just get out and paint, really look at what you are seeing, and see how the light and surrounding objects affect that subject… and then push it one way or another to best suit your needs.

Sometimes it works, and then other times…  scrape it!

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire

Art with Benefits

March 11, 2015 by admin
mom_n_pops

Mom & Pops

The first painting I did after trading the bottle for the brush was one for my Mother. In the previous 20 years I had completed maybe 1 painting, and I was totally excited about methodically stretching my canvas, and putting my paints in position around the pallet. There is something about this process that helps clear and focus the mind for me.

My Mom had the misfortune of being born on January 1st. Sure it sounds good, but for those of you who have been born on a holiday know that forever you are sharing your day with something else, and rarely get 100% of what you deserve. Mix in the Christmas holiday, and you are really losing out, let alone being a Mom who always puts everyone else and their needs before her own. So I wanted to do something special for her and a painting of the farmstead where she grew up was what some of my ever so helpful siblings helped me come up with.

Mommo funeral scan 2 032

The Farmstead

The farm had been auctioned off after my Grandmothers death, and many things had changed, the barn torn down, windmill removed, trees replaced, so I set about gathering old photos from my sisters and my Aunts. What I ended up with was a time capsule of photos in all shapes and varieties and here is where the real work begins.

There’s a lot of research involved in doing things such as this, and planning. Much more than what I was used to, but what I ended up with was a painting of what it could have looked like to her as a child. I didn’t know really, grabbing a black & white photo from one angle, and then heavily faded photos from different views you take what you can and hope for the best.

We celebrated my Mom’s birthday on the same day as we celebrated the family Christmas, a day predetermined months in advance when everyone could arrive on the same date from out of town. But after things had settled from the gift exchanges and after the big Christmas dinner we all gathered around in the dining room and had cake and ice cream with my Mom.

I managed to get my gift moved towards the back of the little pile of things for my Mom, most knew what it was, and were in on it in some way or another, but it was finally given to her to open. It was a 16×20″ painting with a good sized frame so it was a bit hard for my Mom to handle. She had suffered a severe stroke in the early 70’s and had almost no use of her left arm, but like she managed to run a household and raise 6 children with my Father gone on the road most of the time, opening a present was child’s play.

This was in the winter of 2002, and I was born in 1957, so in my 45 years I don’t remember my Mom ever breaking down in tears. Through all the pain and trouble that she had gone through in her life, 6 very dysfunctional children, (okay 5, Kathy might be normal) and having to deal with her own and Dads alcoholism that would have I thought brought most people to their knees,  and maybe it did, but I don’t remember her ever crying.

B0004852

Christmas

But when she ripped away the gift wrap, and saw what was in there she broke down and wept. I could not believe it, this was totally surprising and unexpected. I don’t know what kind of response I had expected, but I nothing like this, and I was so embarrassed, and yet so pleased.

I think she liked it!

I had always loved to paint, and out of college I had begun to enter competitions nationally and internationally and was winning awards, but this was different. To have something I did move my Mom so much. It was unimaginable, and so rewarding.

How many careers are there in this world where what you do stirs up such emotion? Plumber? Dentist? The tears these people cause are from pain or when they hand you the bill! But I’m talking tears of joy.

Actually I guess there are really quite a few professions than can do this, writers, musicians, clergy… politicians?

But I didn’t know that I could do this with my art.

It is not an everyday occurrence for me, and I don’t know if my heart could take it, but I do love to put something into my work, a feel of where I was, or what I saw, maybe what I felt. Rarely does it come across, but when it does there is a overwhelming sense of satisfaction for me.

But the creating of something specifically for another, whether a gift, an act of kindness, or a commissioned work and it reaches into that person and stirs emotions and feelings that only they could know.

That is a reward to me like no other.

Being an artist is great, taking a beautifully empty piece of canvas and turning it into something visually appealing is amazing. But then taking that same talent, and using it to help and benefit others is amazing. Whether teaching, or sharing, just taking the time for another when they need it.

And one of my most favorite quotes is of course from a song, “Wond’ring Aloud” by Jethro Tull, written by Ian Anderson

“.,. it is only in giving that makes you what you are”

A Harrington Hike SOLD

A Harrington Hike

 

 

Need a Push

February 5, 2015 by admin

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, but it’s not because I’m not thinking about it. When I began writing that first blog I knew there was no way I could do this daily, even trying to commit to weekly was pushing my limits.New Orleans Day 5 123

This is more about pushing yourself out of that little comfortable place you’ve found, going past what you know you can do and try to improve.

As many know I paint landscapes, big giant chunks of earth that just sits there holding still waiting for you to paint it.  I’m not perfect at it, but I’m practicing. Well I had an opportunity come along that took my comfortable little niche of landscape painting and pushed it to the other extreme… to paint the battles at the 2015 Bicentennial of the War of 1812, more specifically the Battle of New Orleans which ended up being the deciding battle in the war and we have enjoyed peace with Great Britain ever since.

New Orleans Day 7 081My sister and brother-in-law (Kathy & Ron) has a place on Burgundy in the French Quarter and had sent me contact info to some of the organizers of this event. After months of back and forth as these things sometimes go, I was working with the Louisiana Living History Society who were the instigators in much of the reenactments happening to celebrate 200 years.

I was going to be allowed on the battlefield amidst almost 1,500 reenactors as they recreated the infamous battles.

I don’t think I ever really thought it out, but while packing my gear and ensuring I had clothing that would pass as “period” attire, it came to me what I was about to do.

What in the world was I thinking?

I do pride myself in being somewhat adept at painting quickly. I usually spend no longer than 2 hours on a piece out on location, with the initial block-in done in the first 30 minutes. The clouds move across the sky, the water cascades across the rocks, and the sun is forever changing the light all around us, and I’ve grown used to this occurring while I paint.

…but troops running in formation across a battle field, guns blazing, cannons roaring. What was I getting into? I had no idea, and I was a bit frightened to tell the truth.

Excited, yet scared of the unknown that was about to come down.New Orleans Day 5 112

There was not a lot of preparation for me ahead of time. I had to be in position 30 minutes before the start of the battle, and once in place I had no real idea where on the battle field the fighting was going to take place. I’m not sure how large of an area was that was cleared out for the reenactment, but there had to have been at least 10 acres in front of me and the action could be anywhere, so little was done to prep the canvases ahead of time save toning them, and then putting in a horizon line.

Conveniently there was a PA system that had a master of ceremonies announcing and narrating some of the battles, but the speakers were facing the audience, and once the gunfire began I heard nothing again till the battles had concluded. So with this I was made aware that things were about to begin.

My knees were shaking now!

But once I began looking, composing and throwing down a little paint, things began to recede around me. I was focused in what I needed to do. I still was not sure how, but it is really just notes of color next to each other and how they compare to those around it. It doesn’t matter the subject, or how long they are there. Put it down as you see it, or as you feel it.

“Luke, use the Force”

Do I think of it as notes of color when I’m out there? No, I don’t think so, in fact these battles took place and were totally over in from 39 minutes to 50 minutes. There was no real time to think, only to act or maybe “react” would be a better word. And while this was going on, I would occasionally grab my camera and take photos for reference material for other paintings done from these studies.

New Orleans Day 5 087Different battles had different things going on of course, the night battle there were the Choctaw Indians scurrying through the woods around me, another battle had friendly fire going over my head as troops were falling all around. I was told I should have earplugs on because of all the explosions and gunfire, but it all fell away as one enters that “zone” to create.

I deemed it a success, I created a total of 12 paintings on the trip, 1 of each of the 4 battles, and then other supporting studies from around the campsite and original Chalmette Battlefield.

I am a far cry from an expert in the field of plein air painting, but there are some things that one grows comfortable at. I guess it’s essential in order for us to grow as an artist to push oneself. I don’t feel the need for me to become an expert at portraits, or painting still life’s. I think one can grow without the necessity to learn every medium there is.

There is so much work to be done here learning oil painting the land, it would take several lifetimes to even come close.

I would be be remiss if I did not mention the article that Bob Bahr from Outdoor Painter Magazine wrote on my little adventure. It’s a short little article that won’t take much time at all, and has a few nice photos, plus Bob is a much better writer than me.

Check it out here: CLICK

I’d better get going, I’m wasting precious time, and so are you 😉

Dec 28, 1814 Battle of New Orleans - SOLD

Dec 23, 1814 Battle of New Orleans

 

thanks

Greg

 

Sunshine Daydream: Day 1

June 16, 2014 by admin

Well I’ve started the little contest on guessing the final mileage of my road trip, I figure why just go half the way? I’m blogging about

"honey do's"

“honey do’s”

who knows what anyway, it might as well be the road trip.

It officially got going today, though there has been much leading up to the trip that really shouldn’t go without mention. If you are going to be gone from home for a length of time, there is a lot of “honey-do’s” that need to be done. Actually if you could do some extra special things around the house that would help your ever dwindling stock value.

Buying supplies is another thing. In many of my destinations there won’t be art supply stores around so “stock up” while you can. Hopefully you’ve been using those coupons at your local art supply store wisely!

When you have a sweetheart that is as supportive of me as my lovely wife is, you do not take things for granted. It’s hard to be happy if your spouse isn’t, so this is #1 in any and every case, at home or going

Love you, I won't be long.

Love you, I won’t be long.

abroad.

My “paint-mobile”, a 2003 minivan is my vehicle of choice. I believe it was a couple years ago I replaced the engine in it after a road trip, and last year replaced most of the front end. This year I’m hoping all that pays off. One never wants the distraction of auto failure to take away from your journey. You’ve got plenty enough to think about, do NOT need to worry whether the tire will fall off, or that hiccuping engine means much of anything.

I loaded my van up with paints, brushes, canvases and frames. I know I will not come close to using all of these canvases in this trip, but I believe it is better to have too many in this case, than not enough.

83 canvases, 5lbs of trail mix

83 canvases, 5lbs of trail mix

I packed 83 canvases of various sizes into my paint-mobile for my mission!

I arranged everything in a manner that was easy to get to, my 5lb bag of varies trail mixes courtesy of Susie and my thoughtful son Miles, Ipods, GPS, notepad… I’m good to go.

“By Suz”, I’ll keep in touch, without texting and driving of course. (this is frowned upon in many circles I hear)

…and I’m off!

There we go! Driving in most cases is uneventful, and that is pretty much how we want that part to be. I did see an armadillo on I-70 between Blackwater and Rocheport, Missouri. I didn’t think they had come this far North, but surprise surprise.

I love cruising the highways with the windows down and the  music turned up. Just something about it, doesn’t matter the

my F-4 phantom cockpit

my F-4 phantom cockpit

temperature, if it’s above 70 I’ve got the wind blasting through the paint-machine along with my tunes.

There are periods where I turn the music completely off and just observe, think, ponder. Not ponder as much as Joseph Loganbill, but I do have my moments. I spend a good amount of hours just trying to figure out what color something is, and how in the world could I make it out of my 4 tubes of paint.

I have my note pad attached to the dashboard for notes on focal points, and values… don’t forget to think “simple!” This I always forget.

Well, so much for the 1st day. No painting, but I did get to a good starting point for day 2. It’s a long trip, I hope to post daily. Maybe I will, if I don’t it could be I’ve run off the road and the paint-mobile is in the fork of a red oak tree, or maybe I’ve been sequestered by the king of plein air himself and requested not to disclose the secret handshake to anyone, or I maybe just too tired from another day of working in the fields and forests.

Thanks for listening, now get out and paint a picture… pass it on!

Going Where the Wind Goes

Going Where the Wind Goes

 

Too many Fires

October 19, 2013 by admin

You into  “Buzz Words?”  What is it that everyone in the world is trying to be a master of anymore?multitasking

Multitasking!

In these days and times if you are not proficient at doing many things at once it seems like you are being left behind, or at least I feel that way.

In this rat race of world we live in, who is it that comes through in the end? The multitasker, or the… hmmm, what is the word for someone who does not “multi-task”? They are all kind of crass, so nevermind that.

It may seem like you are accomplishing so much more with your ability to burn the candle at both ends, but probably in actuality, you are doing a disservice to whom ever you are working with, or for. And I am as guilty as sin at this. How in the world can you give 100 % of yourself when doing 3, 4, even 5 things at once? I can’t, though I kid myself that I can, but I am writing down notes here and there from different plans, events, activities, checking emails and flagging, tagging, and logging things in their different folders. There is just no way in the world I can do as well at something when even before I’m completed with it, that I’m already thinking about the next project, or where I’m supposed to be at 8:15.

Trying to organize things into groups is helpful, there are many ways to do this, whether separating and working on things that are related in geography, or subject matter, or medium. But still we are watering down the quality of work that we, or I provide. Is 85% of something good enough?

Well you might just be shortchanging someone here, like yourself! I’ve seen some of the art I’ve created when my attention is not fully there, vs when I’m giving it my all. There IS a difference!

Maybe it’s the adult form of “attention deficit disorder”? Could it be that all the children we pumped full of ritalin would be the ultimate multi-taskers? Maybe.

show 002I find that there is just so much to get done that I have to be going 110 mph just to keep up, and if I slow down to catch a breath, I then have to double time it just to get back to where I was. I’ve found the world does not stop or slow down when I take a break.

It could be that I spent over 2 decades spinning my wheels in a self made trough of booze, and now that I’ve sobered up I feel the need to “overachieve” to make up for this.

Could be.

Whatever the reason, I find myself with 3-4 easels with different paintings being worked on simultaneously. Working on blogs, and webpages, spreadsheets, and schedules all at the same time. How about driving, eating, photographing, taking notes, and talking on the phone? Have you tried that? When I’m painting in competitions or events, I paint, I run around and photograph, and socialize, then go back to painting, munch on an apple. I mean it’s fun, but at what expense?

I love keeping busy, that’s really who I am. To get up and work hard all day. I like to have that feeling of accomplishment before I sit back and relax at the end of the day.

I want to be good at what I do, and I work very hard at it, and will continue to do so, but I believe cutting out the self imagined need to multi-task just to keep up with the Jones’s is important. I’ve found when I compare myself, my deeds, or my art to others is a recipe for heartache and disaster. It is myself that I must stack my work up against. What have I learned since my last piece? What will I do differently? Also I have quit jumping back and forth in mediums and am focusing on becoming proficient in landscape oil painting. That’s what I love, that’s what I need to focus on. I really don’t see a need to be good at everything, I am starting much too late in life for this. Just 1 thing, be good at that, and enjoy the process.

I can still keep busy, and get much accomplished, but save the multi-tasking for the quad-core 24 bazillion megabyte processing units.

I’m sure the world will keep on.McQueeny Lock 043-1

Saving the Best for Last

August 25, 2013 by admin

As I pass around the trays of food at the table loading on portions of everything that comes my way I of course try to get away with putting a little bit more of my favorite. Sometimes it’s not possible when there are measured servings, but I do look for opportunities. I’m not the type of eater that eats 1 item then methodically moves to another, well  not anymore. My parents through repeated teachings removed this habit, but one thing I’ve been able keep all these years is my saving just a little bit of my favorite food for last.  Something about going away from the table with the memory of the “pièce de résistance.”

steak dinnerThe dinner table is not the only place I would do this. I’ve found myself doing it for years with my art, and probably to my own detriment.

What do you do when you enter an art show? You enter your best piece right? Not me! Forever I would take what I thought was my second best painting and enter that, because I would not want to “show my cards” so to speak. Seriously I have no idea why, some sort of crazy mixed up thinking that has nothing to do with eating your peas first and your steak last.

Is it that “Ace up the sleeve” mentality, wanting to always have something you can throw out if the card you put on the table wasn’t quite good enough? How about when you are at your local art store, and the bonus rewards card says you’ve earned a $10 credit, do you want to use it now or your next purchase?

Well I am pleased to say I will now take that $10 credit on this purchase, and I put my best painting forward. For me time is ticking too fast to be messing around and holding on till next time. There may not be a next time, no guarantee there. And if your artwork is not good enough, I’ve got more paint, get out and try again.

What Rick would tell me when I’m painting, don’t be afraid to lose a painting in going for a great painting. Put forth your best effort, and

Late on the Klondike

Late on the Klondike

if it’s not your best, make it your best, and if that doesn’t work, try again.

Since I have adopted this phylosophy, I have won more awards, and accomplished so much more. My confidence is up along with the quality of the art. I’m not a gambling man, but there is risk when throwing all your cards out on the table, but like they say, “without risk, there is no achievement”.

But I still save my favorite foods for last. Some habits die hard.

Let’s try Art

July 24, 2013 by admin

It’s strange I don’t always blog about art here, so I thought I would give it a try, just for a change of pallets.Shall we keep it general, or go specific?

Warm up on Crystal Creek

Warm up on Crystal Creek

Let’s go with my latest projects, this is taking “so-so” plein air studies and making large paintings from them. 1st off, let me say I am not a pro at this, I saw a blog by Kathleen Dunphy’s about doing just this, and thought to give it a try. It makes so much sense though, I mean there had to have been something there in the first place that caught your eye, then you bring home a less than adequate study? What is up with that? I find that it makes so much sense to take one of those “rejects” and creating a larger working painting, even more so than a plein air study that came out great. Well, maybe… we’ll get back to that.

I’ve always loved painting large paintings. In college my average size was about 36″ x 48″. Okay, it’ s not big for a lot of artists, but for  those who paint outdoors that’s kind cumbersome. So coming quickly back to the present before I get too lost in memories, the average size painting I now do plein air is approx. 18×24. My mentor thought this the perfect size for painting studies, and I was totally okay with that. Lately I have begun to paint smaller outdoors, mainly to help generate a little money to buy more paint. Seems that the smaller pieces

Me at Crystal Creek

Me at Crystal Creek

have been moving a lot better in these times than the larger paintings. In this instance, I had an 11×14 plein air painting from a paintout with the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society at a place called “Crystal Creek”. A beautiful autumn day along a slow running stream in the woods. I had given a 3 hour workshop earlier that day along the Blue River, and quickly found my way here afterwards to join in while I still could. Many had left already, but I saw that they had still left the beautiful scenes behind them. Great! What I came away with was an okay study, I loved the colors, and the composition, but I thought it left a lot to be desired, and I tossed it onto the shelf. There it sat for months and months. I kept going out painting more, bringing good pieces that needed just a little tweaking into the studio and finishing them up. I would find older studies I really loved and finished some of them up, but an ever-increasing pile of paintings kept nagging at me.

Then I saw Kathleen’s blog and thought what a great idea.

I grabbed one of the 1st ones I came to, set it up next to an easel with a 30×40″ canvas on it, found an old reference photo, and “went to town”! To help keep things loose, after my initial block in, I would set my timer to about 30 minutes (as per Rick) and paint in spurts. Not spending too much time at any one setting so as to “overwork” the painting. I spent a lot of time looking through a mirror at it, getting away and studying it. There were things that I embellished that I swept over in the smaller piece. In enlarging the painting I did not approach it much differently than I do my plein air paintings. I did mix up larger amounts of paint, and used a #12 brush more than my favorite #8, but I did finish it up with the smaller #8. I quickly sketched in a few key lines of the painting, then began blocking in the values, keeping the cools in the cools, and keeping it warm guess where… you got it, where the warms are supposed to be.

I was very tempted to begin going into detail, there is so much you can do with a 30×40″ canvas, so so much!

But I resisted, and I believe I came away with one of my better paintings. What an exciting thing this was to me, it gives so much hope to all those canvases that had some good things about them, just didn’t quite “do it!” Plus now I have a large painting for the corporate buyer, and then a moderately priced piece for the average collector… either way, I hope that’s you.

Now whether an artist, or art lover, go grab some sort of canvas and smile.

Fall Enchantment

Fall Enchantment

Finding Shortcuts

June 13, 2013 by admin

I love shortcuts, if I can find a way to somewhere that is quicker than the regular route, I usually take it. In this world  of convenience shortcut to successstores and the microwave, time is everything. I think mankind has been trying to find shortcuts to thing since the beginning of time. Now this I am assuming, I’ve only been around for about 55 of those years.

Maybe it’s my coming into the AARP age that has made me look a little bit harder at these decisions to do the fastest route. I mean on this road of life, there is no turning back, but maybe I can extend the ride just a little bit longer, or make it a bit more worthwhile.

I had read a blog by an artist I admire about their purchasing a “candy store” of colors, with the thinking these are the ultimate colors for their newest painting. What this did to their work was create a dissonance to it that was nothing like what was originally intended. I found this same thing true in my art without even knowing it. If someone would have told me that my painting lacked a harmony of color, I know I would have thought “harmony?” It’s not trying to sing something.

Well it was not till I eliminated this modern convenience of color did my art become a little more soothing on the eye. No more shortcuts on my pallet, I put 4 colors on my pallet and figure it out from there. I know that for me, less is better, though it may not be true for others. I am finding that it has really helped me.

I knew nothing of “color theory” when I first took my paints beyond the studio door just barely 3 years ago. Cools, warms, chroma, hue, tertiary, analogous… it was really someone speaking a whole new language to me. I really just put paint on the pallet, and painted, with no real thought. Sometimes I came up with a “pretty” painting, but always something lacking. Not what I so admired in other artists work. Now everytime I go out I approach everything a bit differently. Not rushing in, but still being quick, because this is “plein air” you know, and that rain cloud is coming your way. I now enjoy trying to evoke a mood or capture an atmosphere of some sorts through my limited pallet. Sometimes it works, more often not, you would think I would learn from some of these mistakes, but it takes longer for some of the “unteachable”.

Sure it’s frustrating at times, struggling to get the right color, but when you finally get what you are looking for, what a sense of accomplishment! Did you mix up enough of it? It’s been many a time that I didn’t and found myself in need of more

limited pallet

limited pallet

and wondering how in the world I got it in the 1st place. There are some who say, “if you did it once, you can do it again”…”yeah, right”,  in theory!

It’s all a process, and I’m sitting here learning it everyday. I believe my work has benefited from taking away those shortcuts, plus it’s much easier to make sure you have all your colors packed when you only have to count to 4… I can handle that.

When speaking with someone in a favorite gallery last week, he mentioned how my paintings have improved and grown more sophisticated over the short time he had known me. I believe it is due to my working very very hard to improve, the hard work of my mentor to bring me to a higher level, and the taking away of those shortcuts to painting. I know that there are other ways to get from point A to point B, and I know I will take them at times. But it’s like learning anything, learn to do it the right way, before you take the shorter route.

It works for me, but then I’m “old school”

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