Greg's Blog

Sometimes I'll throw a little useful info out here for you, other times it's just a bit of mumbo jumbo



  • Newly elected member of the Salmagundi Art Club, New York, New York
  • Artists of the New Century at the Bennington Center for the Arts
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The New Golf

July 21, 2015 by admin

I heard this at paint camp this year… the Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks, and then heard it again while painting last week with George Van Hook. We tossed it around, and considered some of its possibilities…

“Plein air painting is the new golf”.Dogwood Canyon 012a

Okay, I think I heard it during one of Eric’s morning announcements. It’s kind of like the “morning sing” at day camp many moons ago, but it got some people talking. I think I actually missed him saying it outright, it was like I caught it out of the side of my ear, and asked another, “did I just hear what I think I heard?”

If you don’t know Eric Rhodes, he is the publisher of Plein Air Magazine, and Fine Arts Conniseuer, along with Streamline Publications, he puts on the “Publisher’s Invitational” each year, and the “Plein Air Convention”. He’s an all around fun guy, very instrumental in bringing plein air art to the forefront, and is looking towards creating a major art musuem in “the City” for this genre of art.

What do you think? Do you think it is, or could be? Maybe you don’t even like golf, maybe you don’t like plein air? Either way let’s look into this.

First things first, golf is a sport, painting outdoors is an art. I’ve heard arguments either way in this, but let’s just say it is for this little blog.

Now I play a little golf, I’m terrible at it, but I still enjoy it. Will I quit because I’m so bad at it? No way, I do hope to get better, and I think it is a lot of fun, and a blast to do with a few others… like painting plein air.

I’m a little better at the plein air thing, but like golf I didn’t start out that way. Working hard at improving your “game” will make you a better “player”, and if you have some natural skill lying away inside you, it’s possible that you might be able to hone it to a professional status… like painting plein air.

But only a small fraction of golfers make it to the pro circuit, why do they do it? I have no idea, ask them actually, I know why I do it, I love the outdoors, it’s challenging, a bit of a work out, and get to spend some time with friends.

So why not consider plein air painting the new “golf”? What does that really mean?

Here I’m only second guessing, but my take on it, and then what I would love to see is more artists out and about painting on location. Getting together for weekend outings for paintouts with friends and inviting others from around the area.

This IS happening more and more every day. In some parts of the country I actually don’t have to explain what “plein air” painting is, they tell me, and mention artists, and festivals they are aware of. I found this strangely comforting, it’s not like that everywhere, but then some places still have telephone booths.

I’m one of the “Newbie’s” to painting outdoors, but from listening to others around the country it has taken an upward swing in popularity. From an occasional plein air festival or competition in our city to almost a half-dozen, with plein air groups popping up everywhere meeting and painting quite regularly.

It’s amazing

The New Golf

The New Golf

There are still many who feel that these plein air studies are just that… studies for larger more detailed studio pieces. I can see that, and there are many I use for exactly that purpose, but more and more I am loving the fresh, live feel that I can only capture outdoors on location and leave them alone when I bring them home.

What would happen if everyone went out and painted after work or on weekends? Do you think it would water down the market and make what you do at your easel outdoors not so special? Or are you one who thinks that if everyone was out there painting they would understand better what it takes to make a good plein air painting? I know it’s not easy to make a successful plein air painting, believe me I’ve gone through a lot just to get a little. So maybe everyone being familiar with “live on location”, painting would be good for the field?

No not everyone will take to it, but maybe it would create a greater appreciation, and in turn open up more galleries to this new plein air phenomenon?

Personally, I would like to see more artists out painting. It’s so hard to visit artists and check out their artwork when they are closed up in the studio. (maybe that’s intentional, you think?)

But is it the “New Golf?” (and which side of the quotation marks should the question mark be on?)

I think it could be, or even should be. It’s for the young and the old alike. You can take all day at it, or you can just go out for a “quickie”. It can be done alone, or with friends. In towns, on the countryside, and in any sort of weather. You can travel the world taking part in plein air festivals, competitions and just good old paint outs. There are a few major invitational’s around the country that bring out the “creme de la creme” of the art world, you can meet, see the artists create, and a chance to purchase right there.

Now that I think about it, it’s better than golf!

It’s a fun little thing to consider.

This is ART, and there is some amazingly beautiful pieces being created across the world amidst the bugs, and wind, and between the curious onlookers and those who pretend they don’t see you. The good will rise to the top, and the rest will be testimony that we were out there trying.

It’s not easy, but is anything worth doing?

That’s my take on it, wish I had been paying better attention during Eric’s announcements, and then never actually got to ask him about it when we painted. What I would do is I’d ask him, I know he’d be happy to tell you. Give him a shout, Eric Rhodes, Plein Air Magazine.

In the meantime, get out and paint, and then do it again.extreme-golf

License and Registration Please: 7

June 22, 2014 by admin

After today, there’s tomorrow.

But I won’t be painting tomorrow, at least not in the Adirondacks. I’m going to keep this short (yay, I know) because I must be leaving Road Trip NY Day 7 007about 4am to get to Richmond VA in time for registration.

On the agenda for today was painting at Tupper Lake, Bog River Falls, and then a closing party at our hosts summer home just around the corner.

With painting gear, plenty of gas and a feeling this is going to be the best day of painting ever because this is it, I’m out of here after today I set out on the 35 minute drive to Bog River Falls. There are good things and bad things about jumping out on your own to get to a painting location instead of caravaning over with the group. The good thing is you don’t have to wait for everyone to get ready to go, you can go at your own driving speed, and you get to the best painting spots for yourself. The bad thing is you don’t know where all the best painting spots are. Road Trip NY Day 7 016I did get a pretty good painting place here, but I wanted to get out on a little (okay it probably weighed 10 tons) boulder in the river, and I had brought my hip-waders to do just that, cut across the river without getting wet, but the water was up and rushing through at such a rate I know if I had tried I’d have been swept away with the current… so I stayed put.

Next on to Tupper Lake, just a few miles around the bend.  I ended up setting up along the highway in what IRoad Trip NY Day 7 036 thought was a pretty wide shoulder. The view was across the lake at a couple little islands popping up out of the lake that are pretty typical of this area. The sun was coming in and and, then out and in. It did not really know what it was going to do, so I worked with it.

If I something catches my eye along the highway, or roadside, I tend to pullover and paint. Not always the safest thing, and if it looks like I’m going to be a hazard, or that it really does look dangerous, I’ll not do it. But I’ve a few wonderful Facebook friends that were concerned and have sent me little warning triangles you set on the road, and a bright yellow reflective  vest. Now I can be seen by orbiting satellites I believe.

I set up and painted, and while doing so I had some motorcyclists stop and take pictures, and a family stop and visit. Next a State Trooper drove by, saw me and made a U-turn with his flashing lights on and pulled in behind me. (now flashing lights would be a good way to get people to slow down and avoid me, hmmm?)

The officer was a nice guy, and really enjoyed the painting, but he said that parking my car straight across from where I was painting was creating a possible bottleneck and wanted to know if I could move the car a little. I guess I wasn’t thinking when I saw what I Road Trip NY Day 7 070wanted to paint, pulled the car way way over, grabbed my gear and crossed the street.

The officer did have some nice things to say about the painting, and asked for my card, I told him that this was the first time a policeman had asked for my card instead of my “License and Registration” please.

The party at Eric’s house was splendid. A home to simply die for, I’ll post some pics of it on my FB page, so check that out. Everyone was cleaned up and ready for a little meeting and greeting fun.

Always a sad thing when something like this comes to a close. You remember going off toe camp and meeting some great people, you build a friendship, now with not just the art in common, but a week painting with each other at “Paint Camp” what a blast!

I don’t think the final count has been done, but I believe there were about 900 paintings in the “Great Room”  from all of the artists. Simply incredible, all made by wonderful people of wonderful places.


…and on that day

November 3, 2013 by admin

It was a year ago the world lost an amazing artist, much much too early. Rick Howell was a friend and my mentor in art. It is his words and spirit that drives me on in my quest.

Rick was more than a master artist, he was a world class human being. His passion to help others and mankind was like no other I have known, and it was not just people San Luis Valley Day 2 009Rick was concerned about. I don’t believe there was a stray animal along the border of Colorado/New Mexico that didn’t know where to go if they needed a meal, and it did not stop there. Rick spent much time with causes to help our planet, the reefs, the rivers, the land. These he gave time and money quite freely to help clean up, and preserve for the rest of us. He put in time regularly helping out at the local high school. Not because he had a lot of free time on his hands, time was something he didn’t have, he did it because he cared, and he made time.

Do I sound like I’m pounding a drum? Heck yes I am! But why?

I hate to see things go to waste, it is something my parents instilled in me, and I hope in some way I passed it along to my children. (this I hope I passed on, my hairline, sorry boys) Whether it’s the land and it’s resources, or people and their abilities. All of us have skills, I have had the talent for art, you may have a talent for music, or numbers. Whatever it is we have, don’t let it sit and atrophy, hone those skills and pass them on to another.

Rick died at a young age, I had just turned 55 when I was up there and we joked about both being “double nickels” and that we had to get hustling because we had a long ways to go and a short time to get there. He had an interesting sense of humor, kind of a quirky guy with a grin. This was my 3rd trip back to work with him this year, I would get up early and paint, then meet him at 9am where the two of us would go out and work together. He worked tirelessly, as soon as lunch was over he would get back to working with some of his other artists, or his foundation, his book, this while I would head off in another direction. Casita Estella had the proverbial “revolving door” when it came to artists coming in and out and working with Rick. He took each one of us on personally, and worried when things did not go right, or when the ever failing internet would go down, and he could not communicate with his students.

Rick gave his all to so many doing so much, and when he passed there was a very large piece taken out of my life. Why I was to return in just another week or two, this really couldn’t be true. What do we do? All of us that benefited from Rick Howell being on this earth now had to take what he gave us, and continue on, because Rick was now gone.

Physically gone, yes. Yet his art will be around for centuries, and if those he helped continue in his teachings and beliefs Rick will never really go away.

I was told many a time by Rick that I need to give back to the people. To help others become better, and to pass on what has been given me. I work hard at doing just this, San Luis Valley day 4 023helping, teaching, sharing, it is all giving back in some way that I can. Each of us can in some way, helping a child, a student, a person in need. It doesn’t need to be big time consuming things, there are hundreds of ways we can all give back if we just care enough.

There is not a day goes by that I do not think in some way or another of Rick and his teachings. I no longer mourn his loss, there is no sense in this. I celebrate his life and listen to what he taught me.

Many times while out painting he would wander the land looking for arrowheads. Rick was very fast at painting and would be done with his block in before I even got set up. Anyway Rick brought me an old horseshoe he found out while searching for treasures. Him being the superstitious man that he was, thought I could use this for luck. I have found it to be an important part of my plein air equipment. I have since carved into it with some of his words.

There are times when we all doubt our abilities, and what exactly our purpose is. This man believed in me and encouraged me like no other. The best way I can pay tribute to Rick is by continuing to learn, and improve, and help others to do the same. I will always be saddened that we lost this person much too early. It’s a mysterious world we live in, a roller coaster ride of triumphs and heartaches. What helps me is an occasional remembrance of the serenity prayer: 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.


Winter Grays

March 27, 2013 by admin

I was in a juried show late in 2012, where I was fortunate enough to take an award for a painting I was not holding much hope for. Into the Los Pinos ValleyDuring the reception, the juror, a Dr. William Eickhorst was good enough to talk to all the artists, and to explain why he picked what paintings he did. It is not always required at juried exhibitions for the juror to do this, but always appreciated. What Dr. Eickhorst had to say about some of the art he chose and didn’t choose was to say the least informative, definitely entertaining, and at times brutally honest.

I love this sort of candidness from a juror, he pulled no punches when letting the artists know what he thought was good, or should not even been ever painted EVER! Now if he’s picking on your painting, this can be quite a blow to not only your ego, but wondering whether you should be even considering a career in art. It takes a very thick skin to be an artist, and to put what you worked so hard on out before the people and their sometimes rude insensitive remarks. But Dr. Eickhorst knows what he is talking about, and has quite a resume to back up what he says.

I try not to let it bother me too much, I’ve seen a juror reject a piece of art, and then that artist enters it in a different show, and it wins “Best of”.  Try to figure that one out! (actually, that’s easy, different juror’s like different things)

At this show, on this night, Dr Eickhorst was discussing with the artists afterwards, and was talking about some of these “gray” paintings. “What Monet was doing when creating the Impressionistic movement was light and colorful! Not dark and gray! He actually pointed to one of my pieces when refering to the grays. Some of the other artists when their piece that they had toiled long and hard over actually got into verbal battles with the guy trying to rationalize their creations. When he pointed out my painting as one of those art in parkville“grays”, I said nothing. Was it from biting my tongue in anger, or dumbfounded by the pure audacity of this guy? Really, I’m no different than the rest of you, I have feelings, though I have had to become a little more resilient from all the rejection through the years, but this time it wasn’t that. I was smiling inside, because I had finally did it. I had finally stepped away from the brilliant colors of my previous pallet. For over the past year my mentor had been working with me with creating “beautiful grays”, and it was hard. My colors were always too bright, too rich. Not that that is a a bad thing, I love color, but I was looking for more subtle color. Rick’s paintings mastered this, and he had been working with me to achieve this on a different level.

Rick had died shortly before this, and will be truly missed, though I still turn to him for help and direction. And on this occassion when Dr William “Bill” Eickhorst was talking of the impressionistic colors of the masters, and not these grays, I again turned back to Rick, and this time he was smiling. He had did it!

I have a long way to go in this pursuit, but I will get there.

March of the Wildcats

February 19, 2013 by admin

Okay, what in the world was I thinking when I started this? Someone suggested that I submit an application to be one of 30 artists creating artwork from “wildcat” statues, similar to the cows in Chicago, or the boots that were done in Texas.

Each artist had to submit a proposal to the University, find sponsorship, get approved, materials. But honestly I thought it sounded RG and the Traditionlike fun.  There were some ideas on painting the cat, but when it came down to it, I wanted to paint it “en plein air”. That’s what I do!

So a plan was forming, painting my Wildcat live on campus, but what? To KSU I went to search for interesting subjects for the project. I finally decided on a place I always loved the look of and that’s the old Memorial Stadium, built of native limestone. It had a lot of history in this building, and it had good access all the way around for painting the cat.

We have the canvas, that’s the cat, now we need an easel that could make this possible. I toyed with a number of crazy ideas, a hydralic stool on wheels. kitchen cart. No, no and no. A wagon? Yes! Not just any wagon, but we found a garden wagon that would hold up to 800 pounds, had collapsible sides, and some awesome tires. I created a platform to attach the cat to on the top of the wagon, so it would not slide off, loaded it and all my painting gear in my van and headed West to Manhattan.


To keep a long story short, I took the cat on campus, carting it around in my wagon painting scenes around the old Memorial Stadium on my wildcat. I’m used to painting in populated areas, but nothing drew so much attention as painting a Wildcat on a street corner. The weather was wonderful for all of my trips to campus. The people were all very friendly, stopping to talk or get their pictures taken with the cat, or of the cat. The news media were out a couple times, I’ll see about getting the little video clip from Fox 4 news up here.

It was a great experience, though a very difficult and challenging subject matter. While I was in the process of painting “Tradition” I came across problems that I had not foreseen  and swore I would do something different if the opportunity arose again. Now looking at the finished piece, I’m pleased with the results, and I would do it again… sort of.

Extreme Painting

February 15, 2013 by admin

Extreme Painting


Searching for Brook

Do you paint outdoors at all? It was something that I would not even consider before 2010. Why would I even give it a second thought? Things are just the way I like them here inside this nice comfy studio. And you, do you have nice lighting, with digital stereo, all your paints where you can get to them without even looking, plus the dial on the thermometer set on a comfortable 76 degrees?  I do! But that’s not extreme painting, that’s like Clark Kent and being a mild mannered reporter.


Now look at me, outdoor painting is all I do, grab my gear and go. It’s like I can’t stop doing it now. Sometimes I have a destination, other times I’m just heading out waiting for something to catch my eye. I don’t think that’s extreme at all… just driven.


I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, the season changes, weather of all conditions. I find it exhilarating. So to be out in it is great, then to be out in it creating art is like a dream come true. AND, I’m learning how to do it is the amazing thing. Any time, anywhere, when the mood strikes… GO!


Extreme Painting? It’s painting outdoors when the drama is there. If you only go outdoors to paint on clear blue days, its clear blue days you are going to get. I love drama in a painting, and there is no better drama outdoors than what old Mother Nature throws at you.


In recent months there have been articles with photos in “Outdoor Painter,” Plein Air magazine’s online affiliate written of me. Then November’s issue of Plein Air Magazine has me in their “Extreme Painting” section. Of course I love the press, who wouldn’t, but I am not one to put myself at great risk like a snowboarder going blindly off a mountain side, or you won’t see me “base jumping” from your local water tower. Now those are extremes. I’m a mild mannered artist, who just loves to paint outdoors.


Plus you get better results this way.


Painting in conditions that are less than perfect takes much of the control “that I pretend to have”,  right out of my hands, and I must rely more on instinct. When you are holding things down because the winds are picking up, and the rain is beginning to come horizontally, you tend to speed up your strokes. It gives that “loose” feel that I spend so much time trying to achieve, when all I really needed was a bull barreling down on me from across the pasture.


I love the look, the feel, that added sense when looking at some of the work from the masters of Plein Air painting. They do in just a few strokes what I work forever on, and still don’t come close. But I will, or I may die trying.


I have tried the setting a timer on me to try to paint faster, which in turn should bring about what I am trying to accomplish. But knowing that when that buzzer sounds, you can say, “okay, just 1 more minute” Then paint for 2 more minutes… or even 3 when I’m feeling really bold. For some reason, I don’t quite get the same results as when I’m out in subfreezing weather, bundled in layers with mittens to keep my hands warm and my strokes loose. Or, give me an 18×24” canvas, and a number 8 bright brush, then crank the heat up to 105 in the shade and let’s get painting. It’s all good!


So is it extreme painting that I love, or painting in the extremes? Hmmm



Co-founder Missouri Valley Impressionist Society



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