Tuesday, August 27, 2013


RIVER CANYON    8x10   oil on canvas panel
I want to use this post to, again, touch on something that continues to be the most powerful tool I use to make painting more fun and satisfying. NOTAN.

It can seem overwhelming, when we consider how many things there are to learn and bring in to practice in our paintings.  Right?  Well, I can't over emphasize how much developing an awareness of notan can greatly simplify the process of integrating what you know, and open doors to further understanding.  Notan moves us out of the mindset of trying to copy what we see, and into the realm of creatively responding to, and designing what we want to paint.  And, THAT'S where the fun is!  Notan thinking deals with the essence of planning values, shapes, edges, composition and color.  At its core it deals with what's in the light shape, and what's in the shadow shape.  But this gives us a very simple and useful handle on everything else.  Once you become aware of this in the scene you're looking at, you're in a position to identify and creatively arrange things to bring out what you want to emphasize.  You begin to see opportunities to compose things intuitively according to how you like them.  Best of all it gives you a chance to discover why things do or don't seem to "work".  That's how we grow!

To keep this manageable, I'll relate things to my painting, "River Canyon". First, here's a black and white version, revealing the value structure, but still rather complex in what is happening visually.

But, below it is a notan version of the basic idea for the painting.  This was arrived at, after several very quick, small (no bigger than 2"x3")
marker roughs.  The power derives from beginning to see the whole scene as an interlocking arrangement of light and dark, rather than beginning with the subtleties of multiple values and shapes.  A strong arrangement at this stage will allow you to orchestrate all that comes after.

The notan sketch gives the visually exciting "big view" of what will make the painting  compelling, and helps us to avoid the pitfalls of becoming bogged down in description and detail.  Shapes can be adjusted, balanced and made more interesting. Focal area and eye movement can be enhanced.  Brushwork becomes more confident.  Even our color mixing improves as we now know when we're mixing colors that must hold either to the shade or the light shapes, and this is the major key to beautiful natural color.

Try it.  Experiment with it.  See if NOTAN helps you have more fun and confidence in your paintings.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


PEDERNALES A.M.    11x14    oil on canvas panel

The sun had just come up over the ridge and illuminated the valley at 8:45 a.m.  This lighting passes very quickly, so I was set up and ready to paint.  The temperature began to rise, and I thought I was going to cook on those limestone rocks.  I was out by 10:45, soaking wet.

One of the most difficult things about painting outdoors, of course, is catching the fleeting effects of light at a given time of day.  You could say, it's the wave we ride.  Once you start, you can't just lay back and coast.  You have to take what is in front of you and begin to react.

The first thing I look for is a worthy focus for the painting.  Then, I quickly work out a design for the values and shapes.  Miss this and you're in for a rough time and probably a wipeout.  With that in place I begin laying in paint that represents my observations about color temperature.  It can look rather wild, but it helps me organize the effects of how warm colors advance and cooler, more neutral colors recede.  If I have the values and the color temperatures accurately indicated, I can begin to confidently lay in the local color of things. While the hue may now change radically, I am careful to hold to the value and temperature relationships I've tried to work out.

After about an hour and a half, the scene in front of me usually bares little resemblance to what initially caught my eye, but if I remain faithful to my value design and temperature relationships I have enough information to try and bring the painting to a finish.  This isn't the time for refinement of details.  It's about the big feeling related to the moment that became the wave I wanted to catch.  Sometimes you put it together, make something out of the wave, even ride in the tube, and sometimes you wipeout.  Either way, you enjoy seeing and feeling at an uncommon level.  Cowabonga!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


BARN and TACK SHED   11x14  oil on canvas
Here's a case of being open to unplanned opportunities for subject matter.  While driving the road into the main area of Reimer's Ranch Park, I passed this old shed.  At the time I was pre-occuppied with just what I might find to paint in the park, that day. I hardly paid any attention to what I was seeing, as I tried to visualize some area I had seen before in the park.

About fifty yards past the shed, my subcoscious mind brought up the image I had just seen.  My mind had registered all the nice contrasts and arrangement of shapes, and presented me with a pre-edited view of the painting!

I did a U-turn back to the shed, parked the car, pulled out my equipment and went to work.  It was something like auto-painting, as I used the actual scene to construct and bring emphasis to the way my sub-conscious mind had seen it.  Part of getting better is a matter of getting out of our own way.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Time Off   12x16   oil on canvas
I've dropped the ball, again on my blog posting while I've been juggling keeping up with supplying my galleries, and getting out to paint.

Starting back in the Spring of this year, my paintings began to sell, and I've had to press to keep them supplied.  A good problem for me to have, but I know some painters seem to keep all the balls in the air.

I'll do a series of posts to catch you up on what I've been up to, while I continue to work on my juggling routine.

This is one from early summer, when I was thinking about all the folks looking forward to spending some time on the beach with a book and a cold drink.  I wanted to use the same colors of the umbrellas in both the shadows and clouds.  The painting struck a chord with a collector who grabbed it the first weekend it was in the gallery.  (Austin Street Gallery, in Rockport, Texas).