Forever Young

Enjoying California Treasures Image
“Enjoying California Treasures,” by Trowzers Akimbo for Children’s Hospital.

I love that Dylan song! It’s Bob at his best, raising an intimate toast to an individual, he identifies all the challenges, pitfalls and fears we face throughout life and, possibly, gives criticism to a youth who dismisses all those older than herself. But that’s not what this post is about.

I’ve been fortunate to have worn a lot of creative hats throughout adult life: tv graphic artist, print illustrator and graphic designer, animation director, game creative director and fine artist. Some of my favorite work has been aimed at children.

Kid's Castle Image
Cover for “Sesame Street Magazine,” by Bill Davis.

I love kids! Everyone says that, but I really mean it. They crack me up in a way adults rarely do. They’ve figured a lot of things out for themselves, often wrongly, but share this misguided information with love and confidence. Maybe I enjoy their company so much, because there is still much about me that is a child. I’m pretty good at being an adult too. I happily accept responsibility and deliver my best, when others are depending on me. I’m happy to share anything I’ve learned, but enjoy many of the same things children do.

I love pure, non-local color. I want to paint things in the colors I choose, not necessarily the colors nature has assigned to things. I’m also most intrigued with that I’ve never encountered before, the first book in a new genre (I remember my ravaging my first Marquez book), a painter or illustrator with a new take on the everyday (VanGogh blew my mind, when I was 7 or 8 years old), new music, I mean really new, something I haven’t heard before. This joy in surprise is probably why I enjoy abstracting so much.

Croak Show Image
Children’s style art for the “Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson,” by Bill Davis.

So, no surprise, I’ve always been attracted to illustrated children’s books. I love the anything goes approach in the content and the often experimental illustration. I’ve been fortunate to create a lot of artwork for children. I illustrated a lot of text books and workbooks (the most fun), early in my career and was a monthly contributor to all the magazines produced by Sesame Street Workshop in the ’80s.

I was recently commissioned to created a 3′ x 6′ painting for Valley Children’s Hospital, in Madera, CA. That painting led to orders from multiple other children’s hospitals for large gicleé prints of the earlier described work I created for kids.

The work is living a second life. The best kind of life, one offering distraction and lifting the spirits of children and their families, if just for a short time, while they face the greatest challenges of their young lives. May you stay forever young!

Picasso Haters! – Part 2

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon Image
“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” Pablo Picasso

The purpose of this second installment in my discussion of Picasso is to explain WHAT it is about his work that makes it so important and , yes, why it IS art, in fact, likely the most important contribution to art in the 20th Century.

Japanese Print Image
“Evening Shower at Atake and the Great Bridge,”Japanese Print by Hiroshige

In my last post, Picasso Haters!, I mapped out the representational art environment/history that led up to Picasso’s appearance on stage. You can catch up by visiting that post HERE.

So, one last huge development that changed Western painting, before Picasso makes his appearance. Japan ended it isolationist policy in the middle of the 19th Century and  began exporting to the outside world. Japanese Prints were so plentiful in Europe, that you could even find them wrapped around exported pottery, to protect the objects from breakage. Contemporary artists at the time, among them,

Van Gogh Painting Image
Painted copy of the Japanese Print by Vincent Van Gogh

VanGogh, Gauguin, Degas and Lautrec saw this stunning artwork for the first time, with its strong use of outline, flat color and its lack of shadows. The effect caused a seachange and Post Impressionism was born.

This is the world Pablo Picasso entered in 1900, when he arrived in Paris. His first efforts were highly influenced by the work of the Post Impressionists, but he still managed to contribute something brand new here: monochromatic painting. Before Picasso’s Blue and Rose Periods no artist had thought to limit their palettes to a single hue.

Blue Period Painting
Painting from PIcasso’s “Blue Period.”

But an even bigger invention was presented around 1910.  Inspired by the later works of Paul Cézanne, Picasso and Georges Braque blew apart painting and reassembled it. Frustrated by the fact that, unlike sculpture, painting had been limited to describing subject matter from a single point of view, Braque and Picasso sought a more honest way to represent a 3 dimensional world on a 2 dimensional surface. The result was the multiple view point perspective approach, Cubism (Analytical Cubism) to be more precise.

To better understand Picasso, it’s important that

Analytical Cubism Image
“Portrait of Ambroise Vollard,” Picasso, analytical cubism.

you understand how Fine Art changed direction here. With cubism, fine art was no longer just about a beautiful esthetic, as it had been up to this point in history. Cubism raised concept to the top of the list, above beauty. So now we have art divided into 3 general categories: commercial art (illustration), gallery art (a search for a beautiful esthetic) and museum or fine art (intellectual pursuits). Picasso was the king of conceptual art and would remain so his entire life.

Others before him, had already separated painting from its marriage to the realistic representational image, Picasso realized he was now presented with the ball and given the opportunity to run with it as far as he could.

He broke painting into 6 graphic means, means for arriving at an end: line, form, value, color, texture and pattern. This enabled him to think of them as independent entities, to be used all alone, if desired, as well as used together in combination. This led to uncovering various systems of abstraction (ways to abstract): reductive abstraction, geometric abstraction, organic abstraction and the use of multiple viewpoint perspective in abstraction.

Guernica Image
“Guernica,” Pablo Picasso, synthetic cubism.

Through his exploration, in addition to cubism and monochromatic painting, he invented collage, assemblage and found object construction. Before he was done, he’d produced 200,000 pieces of art and covered every form of abstraction that could be created from subject matter. Since Picasso, any time an artist, abstracting from subject matter, believes they’re on a new course,

The Artist's Mother Image
“The Artist’s Mother,” Pablo Picasso, realism.

they round a corner and run right, smack into Picasso. In fear of taking on Picasso, after world World War II, painters in New York avoided subject matter altogether and Abstract Expressionism was the result. Even here you could make the argument that Abstract Expressionism was heavily influenced by some of Picasso’s brushwork.

Many believe Picasso did what he did, because he lacked traditional skills. They’d be wrong. Picasso could draw and paint like an angel and did consistently, alongside his abstractions, throughout his career.

Three Musicians Image
“Three Musicians,” Pablo Picasso, geometric abstraction.

So when you stand before a Picasso, realize what you’re looking at is an intellectual pursuit, that values concept over pleasing esthetic, created by a genius who invented many of the forms of art in use today, that this artist almost single handedly brought us Modern Art, taking art from the Post Impressionist to the Abstract Expressionists. It’s not important that it be pretty, just that it’s brilliant!


Picasso Haters!

Girl Before a Mirror Image
“Girl Before a Mirror,” Pablo Picasso

I work both abstractly and representationally, so my work connects me with representational painters and enthusiasts, as well as those who work with or love abstraction. Because I use multiple viewpoint perspective* in my abstract work , it often initiates conversations about cubism and Picasso. Contributing to these discussions, I’ve discovered a whole lot of people who tell me they don’t like Picasso…in fact, some say they HATE Picasso!

Rare Sighting Image
My multiple viewpoint perspective painting, “Rare Sighting,” 40” x 30, ”oil on canvas, $4,000.00.

Further inquisition reveals that most of this group misunderstand what they’re perceiving when they stand before a Picasso work. You’ll often overhear a judgement like, “That’s not art!,” from someone viewing one of this Spaniard’s paintings or sculptures. In a way, they’re right, it’s NOT a particular KIND of art. The reality is that since the middle or late 19th century Art has been divided into categories.

Prior to the mid 19th century all Art fell into one category, representational art.  Art had actually been more of a  commercial endeavor and was often the product of a team of craftsmen, working under the direction of a master craftsman to arrive at a product commissioned by a paying customer. Most of those commissions were initiated by the Catholic or Orthodox Churches, which both required an almost impossible number of images, sculptures, stained glass windows, alters and even churches to communicate their message to an illiterate public. These collections of craftsmen were often capable of designing and fabricated all the above listed items for their customers, a kind of one stop shop. Representational imagery was key to communication, so the competition among the Art Shops was fierce as to who could delivery the most convincing Realism.

Camera Obscura Image
Demonstration of an early Camera Obscura

The artisans had no qualms or guilts surrounding mechanical assistance in arriving at their representational ends. They were competing with each other in a race to create the most realistic images possible. Realism translated into bucks, more commissions meant more money in their pockets, so when the single or vanishing point perspective system, for achieving realistic perspective, was uncovered, they lapped it up. The camera obscura, a mechanical device that allowed projection of the world onto a piece of paper, panel or canvas for tracing, introduced during the Italian Renaissance,  was welcomed by many of these craftsman, as a quick and accurate method for achieving realism. The point is, Art was a highly commercial endeavor, the faster, more accurate and efficient images could be created, the better. No one cared how they got there. There was no such thing as a Fine Art, only paying customers.

In the 16th Century Protestantism arrived and brought with it The Reformation, which sought to return believers to religious fundamentals and strip away, what was felt, were blasphemous religious practices, among them, the creation of graven images or idolatry. Remember the printing press had been invented by now and people were beginning to read, the church was no longer dependent on imagery for communication.

With the loss of this meal ticket, the popularity of the multi-artist studio began to give way to solo artist practitioners. They may have utilized an assistant or two, but the production process was greatly scaled down. Efficiency and the assistance of whatever devices were available was as important as ever. The major customers now, were civic institutions or wealthy patrons interested in having pertinent events, important individuals or history (real or fictional) recorded for posterity. Again, communication was the goal and realism the best vehicle for the communication.

Early Photographer Photo
Early photographer

Remember the artist’s friend the camera obscura? Well, over time it was fitted with a ground lens and reduced in size, from its original configuration as a small room, to something that could be carried around and used on location. In the middle of the 19th a practical method appeared that could take the image captured directly by the camera and reproduce multiple copies of it. Photography was born. With real images of people and events now available, painted versions, as documentation, were less necessary or desirable.

This unexpected development (excuse the pun), changed the way artists perceived what it was they were doing. They became more introspective, started looking at how they applied paint, how they mixed color, how they delivered the illusion of space, etc. One outcome was Impressionism, where, less concerned with realism, artists applied paint loosely and dabbed raw color directly on the canvas, requiring viewers to complete the paintings, in their mind’s eye. Here, for the first time, a division in art begins. Art is divided into art for commercial purposes (illustration) and a new Fine Art, an art for art’s sake.

Galleries for public viewing of art began to appear in the middle 18th century, where, prior to this, all would have been secreted away in private collections of the church, royalty or the wealthy. These public spaces really took off in the 19th century, where the average citizen now had access to viewing art in every city, around the world.

With the stage now set for Picasso’s entrance, I’ll present the man himself in my next post and explain why he is considered the creative genius of the 19th and 20th centuries.

*An approach that considers the subject matter from all sides, then represents that data, at the same time, in a single image…think cubism.

Too Good to Be True

Starry Night Image
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Any painter I’ve ever met, regardless of experience, possessed the desire to expand their abilities with each new canvas. I never met anyone who felt they possessed all available knowledge or had developed all necessary skills. We’re all seeking growth, but there are hazards to avoid along the way. When you encounter an artist that seems to always get it right, always chooses the best point of view, lays out the best composition, chooses the perfect palette, puts down paint with seemingly effortless skill and confidence and consistently delivers one beautiful image after another, it’s a good bet there are yards and yards of canvas in their history.

Beware of those who would offer you shortcuts to becoming a master painter. Along the path to accomplishment you’ll be offered both knowledge and illusions. It’s important to absorb the first and avoid the last. When someone tells me these colors must be used in creating the perfect flesh tones or that counting the number of hard and soft edges in my paintings will lead me to Nirvana, I run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. Flesh tones change based on environment: available light, reflection, what the model is wearing, etc. How edges are rendered should be suggested by the subject matter, not arbitrarily contrived in one direction or another by me. The greatest KNOWLEDGE I ever received was that everything I needed to know was right there in front of me, I only needed to learn to SEE it.

Value Guide Image
Value Guide

That’s where the years of experience come in, learning to see, takes time. Baby steps at first, giant strides later. The good news is, all of us can achieve it, the only requirement is a passion for getting there.

Color Wheel Image
The Color Wheel

Consider Vincent Van Gogh. A man in his 20s decides, one day, that painting is his future. Lacking any affinity for his newly chosen profession, he embarks first on teaching himself to draw. The first products are crude and childlike, but within 2 years of drawing anything and everything he encounters he becomes a master draftsman. He then picks up paints and travels down a similar road, producing crude amateur works first (his Potato Eater period), masterpieces later. Friends know I can never get over the realization that while Mr. Van Gogh made one of the greatest contributions to art, both in number and quality of works, his time as an artist, from deciding it was what he wanted to do, until he breathed his last breath, numbered only 9-10 years.

Right Brain Drawing Image
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

There ARE some good solid vehicles available to inform us of what we’re looking for with our artist’s eye: right brain drawing exercises, the color wheel, value guides and the rule of thirds, for example, but be forever suspicious of the quick-fixes presented. There are no shortcuts to good painting, we have to put in the mileage!

The Power in Painting with Friends

Painting Annette Photo
Painting with the YWA, © 2015 Trowzers Akimbo

I’m a recluse by nature. I rarely volunteer to leave my home studio. Necessity has to drag me out the door, kicking and screaming: re-supply needs or occasions it just would not be right to avoid. I rarely initiate get-togethers, but do attend, when others put them together. I like to work, work, work! For me painting is a solitary undertaking, my best results achieved while all alone, uninterrupted, in the zone. Sound familiar?

I’m primarily an abstract painter. It was a sudden realization in the late ’80s that I might have something to say, using multiple viewpoint perspective, that drew me away from my commercial (animation direction, illustration, computer game creative direction) work towards fine art. As a kid, from birth through high school, I did create representational works and, of course, my commercial endeavors required my work to be representational, in one form or another, but my adult fine art works were abstractions.

A few years ago, some portrait work from artist friend, Terry Robinson, was posted on Facebook. Terry and I first met and worked together, when I was the Chief Creative Officer at Sierra Online, a computer game company in the Sierra Mountains (unbelievable, huh!). When I realized the postings were occurring weekly, I asked Terry about them. He let me know he was meeting weekly with a group that brought in a live model and encouraged me to join them.

Like a lot of us, drawing from life had slowly migrated to the bottom of my daily to do list, since I’d left art school, and here was an opportunity to move it back towards the top.

So, I showed up one Friday for a Yosemite Western Artists (YWA) live model session. This one small, seemingly insignificant action broadly expanded my world.

The Yosemite Western Artists are primarily representational artists. Fearing that my abstractions would cause these strangers to gather up torches and pitchforks and drive me from the building, I first worked representationally with the group. My first surprise was that I enjoyed working representationally again and that I had a lot of areas still to explore in this direction. I realized I was a different artist than the one who’d abandoned representational work in high school. Another was that, weeks later when I abstracted from the model during a session, that others were interested, not necessarily appalled, by what I was doing. In fact, based on member request, I’ve since hosted workshops on abstraction.

YWA also introduced me to plein air painting (a big part of what I do these days), through their monthly group outings.

Trowzers, Terry & Vicki Photo
Plain air with friends, © 2017 Kerby Smith

The relationships I’ve developed with other artists, through the group has not only been good for the soul, but it’s provided me with kindred spirits that love to discuss art and art challenges as much as I do. I haven’t rolled art around this much in conversation, since I left art school. And collectively they’ve exposed me to art competitions, gallery and exhibit opportunities in the local area that, for the 24 years I’ve been painting up here, I had no idea existed. I’ve learned of brilliant artists whom I’d never heard of and museum exhibits I surely would have missed, left to my own devices. These accidental acquaintances have blown my world wide open. I suppose this is how and why so called schools of painting, in distinct geographical areas, developed, like Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art: groups of artist circling the wagons and within painting, discussing, critiquing and supporting each other, as they drove their creative expessions in new directions.

I’ve since widened my creative circle by joining another organization, the Society of Western Artists, a group originally established in the ’30s, with current locations in Fresno, CA (near my studio in the Sierras) and the San Francisco Bay Area. While newer to this organization, I’ve already had extended conversations on art, through road trips, as we’ve transported works for group exhibitions from Fresno to San Francisco.

When I first stepped through the doorway of the historic Gertrude Schoolhouse (headquarters for YWA), I never saw any of this coming. Thank you Terry for dragging me out of my cocoon!

If you, yourself, don’t already belong to an active artist group in your area, I recommend you join one quickly. The rewards, both practical and spiritual, will be unpredicted and immeasurable!


Artist in Residence in Yosemite – Day 7

Anderson's Cabin Image
My days work, © 2017 Trowzers Akimbo

We traveled out to paint, a large group, this final day, Sunday, May 13th, of my week-long Yosemite Renaissance artist in residence stay in Yosemite. The painters, in addition to myself, included Terry Robinson, Lura & Kerby Smith and Vicki Thomas.

We decided to avoid the tourist insanity that was going in the Valley on Saturday and select a painting location closer to the cabin. Our first choice was Alder Creek, but the two ladies in our group were leery of navigating the steep drop, while carrying there painting equipment from our parking location, along the roadway, to the bank of the creek. Lura had recently injured her leg and wasn’t sure how well it would hold up traveling down the steep trail. While beautiful, the vistas offered by Alder Creek were too similar to the churning water paintings I’d created of Chilnualna Falls the first 3 days of my stay, for me to bother nudging the ladies down the hill. We decided to choose a location from the offerings of Wawona’s Pioneer Village.

After individually scouting the many offerings presented by the Pioneer Village, we all independently  set up in front of the Anderson Mountaineer’s Cabin. There’s plenty to choose from, as far as painting goes, here, I highly recommend it as a painting destination, if you’re in Yosemite. The local artist group I belong to, Yosemite Western Artists, travel up here as a plein air group often to paint. In fact, they’re heading up there again today.

Anderson's Cabin Plaque Photo
© 2017 Kerby Smith
Trowzers, Terry & Vicki Painting Photo
© 2017 Kerby Smith

At one point during the day we were joined by a visiting artist, who plopped down on an available log bench and began an ink drawing of the cabin in his small sketchbook. We introduced ourselves and he shared the drawing on which he’d been working. Turns out he and his son have got a challenge going to each do at least one drawing a day. I love the people you meet when you’re out painting plein air and in a location like Yosemite, those you meet are from around the world. Someone looking over my shoulder, as I work, told me I was new Bob Ross. Whether that’s a complement or a cut depends on how you feel about Mr. Ross. Must have been my “happy little trees.” Given the enthusiasm of the delivery, I’m sure it was meant as a compliment. That’s how I’m going to accept it, anyway!

We put in another long day, wrapping around 5pm, when the sun began shining through the backside of our canvases.

Trowzers Painting Indirectly Photo
Indirect painting, © 2017 Kerby Smith

Those of you who’ve been following these posts may recall that I set out on this week-long outing, switching from my normal indirect painting approach to direct painting to see if that technique would be faster and allow me to complete a plein air painting in a single day. Well, unhappy with the direct painting results, I switched back to my indirect painting technique on Day 5, the Half Dome painting from Glacier Point. I paint from dark to light, realizing that the darks are the armature that paintings are built upon. Direct painting required me to constantly clean my brushes and mix up darks of various hues. When I paint plein air indirectly, my underpainting is a monochrome turp wash (50% painting medium, 50% solvent) of ink blue, requiring no brush cleaning or additional color mixing. I get all my darks down more quickly (critical, given the rapidly changing light with plein air painting) and can move on to the opaque laying in of medium and light polychrome values. I’m much happier with the end results of this approach.

The bottom line is, I just don’t like my plein air painting final results. They look like color sketches to me. I can’t help but feel they require more time to deserve hanging in a frame. While I love the process of painting plein air (you absorb information about the scene unavailable painting from photos alone). In future, I think if the result warrants it, I’m just going to use the plein air painting as a color sketch for a larger, more finished painting.

As the day ended, I put my visitors in their vehicles, wished them a safe trip home and after a quick clean-up of the cabin, started down the mountain to my home in Oakhurst…a melancholy ending to a wonderful, fruitful week with friends!

P.S: I’ve just been informed there’s going to be a show of the work produced during the week, at Gallery 5, in Oakhurst, CA in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned to my blog for the details, which I’ll post once they’re available.

Artist in Residence – Day 5

Half Dome Painting Image
My in progress 12” x 9” oil painting of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

With a promise of rain, we rose Friday morning, May 12th, and still headed over to Yosemite Valley to see if we could capture the stunning POV of El Capitan we witnessed yesterday. We were hoping we could get something accomplished, before the storm hit and, when it did, that the rain would be light.

Halfway there, our hopes faded, as we climbed into misty clouds that required the occasionally swish of windshield wipers to refresh our view. On arrival, it wasn’t raining, but all the rock monuments in the Valley were hidden behind clouds. We stopped a Pohono Bridge, hoping to set up and paint there.  Didn’t need clear skies for that, since it’s on the Valley floor, but with the snow melt swollen Merced River, there was no bank to set up painting gear, on either side of the river. Anyone wanting to paint this bridge will need to wait until later in the year.

We decided to pick up the Valley Loop trail there and walk the 1.5 miles to our El Cap beauty shot. We wanted to hang out in the Valley awhile and see if the clouds cleared from the monuments. A walk along the trail was a pretty beautiful time-killer. Much of the loop was underwater and we had to make our way forward, roadside, until we’d passed the flooded sections. A word of caution to anyone planning to trail in Yosemite Valley in the near future: if you’ve got summer mesh hiking footwear, be sure to bring along an extra pair of socks, you’re likely to get your feet wet.

El Cap was still deep in cloud cover, when we reached our destination and it started to rain. So, we pulled our hoods up over our heads and backtracked along the trail, the mile and a half to the cars. I decided I was heading back to Wawona to do some painting, in the cabin from reference shots taken earlier in the week, if I had to. Let the rain come down outside, I wasn’t going to miss out on a day of painting. Kerby decided he’d stay in the Valley for a while: he had a few photographic ideas he wanted to play out.

Me Painting in Cabin Photo
Photograph © 2017 Kerby Smith

Back at the cabin I looked around outside for something to paint. Itwasdefinitely going to rain, but I was willing to get started out in the open, take some reference shots and finish inside. I seriously considered the exterior of the cabin we were in staying in. It was interesting enough to paint, but who, other than those of us staying there, would find it interesting enough to want to buy it. I could imagine the gallery curator’s pitch, “It’s the cabin Trowzers Akimbo and the rest of his artist friends were staying in, while they were up in Yosemite painting for a week.” “Trowzers who?”

I decided a better idea would be to paint from one of the photos I’d taken earlier in the week. In fact, I had some good ones on my new Verizon phone, that I’d taken at the destined El Cap location. I just needed to get the photos from the new phone to my laptop and from there to my iPad. I linked Bluetooth between the two devices and attempted to send the photos over…nothing. After a few more tries, I gave up. This wasn’t going to work. Android didn’t seem to be interested in conversing in OS X with my MacBook Pro. With no Internet connection, I couldn’t get online to run down a solution to my problem. I seriously thought about chucking the idea of painting, at this point, and taking a well deserved nap the rest of the afternoon. A lessor man would have, but I’ve learned to embrace my neurosis and harness the fears of failure lurking there to keep me plodding forward towards success!

Small Half Dome Photo
Thursday’s photo of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

My digital SLR camera memory card was full and I’d emptied it onto my laptop, the night before, so I could clean the card and make room for new photos. I poured over the photos in the folder for something worthy of a painting. The only candidate far enough removed from the Chilnualna Falls paintings I’d been creating all week, was one of the shots I took yesterday of Half Dome, from Glacier Point. I loved the photo, but I wasn’t sure that once it was translated into a painting, it would still be legible as Half Dome to on-lookers: so much of the rock was obscured by the clouds and the Glacier Point perspective offers a less than typical point of view of the monument.

It having reached 3:30 or 4 pm, it was going to be this image or nothing. I set up my french paintbox near a window that would offer me the latest possible natural light and began slapping paint down on the canvas.

Only the finished painting will tell me whether Half Dome reads of not, but as you can see by the in progress painting above, at least I didn’t allow myself to succumb to a nap. Remember what Salvador Dalí said, “No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist!” Okay, Salvador, I skipped my nap, now where’s the masterpiece!

Artist in Residence – Day 3

In Progress Chilnualna River Painting
Today’s in progress plein air painting of the Chilnualna River.

No, you didn’t miss a blog post, I’m posting day 3, before day 2, because I’m back in my studio tonight and I forget to bring the day 2 painting back with me from the cabin.

I don’t have an Internet connection (I’m told they shut their Internet connection at the cabin down in the winter. May is winter?) or even cell phone service anywhere in the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park, where the Yosemite Renaissance artist in residence cabin has been provided for me. Thank you AT&T! What are you thinking? No one with one of your cell phones visits Yosemite? I’m going back up to the cabin tomorrow afternoon, after I finish teaching art to  my two 5th grade classes at Woodland Elementary School tomorrow, so you won’t see another blog post, until I’m back in the studio, late Sunday.

Here’s today’s in progress plein air painting. It was my second day painting with artist friend, Sandy Kowallis. This time we hiked down the trail that runs from the top of the falls, along the river, to where it joins the south fork of the Merced River. We picked a section we liked and set up there. The water is so ice cold that any slight breeze sends air-conditioned air in our direction. It made for a very comfortable day, at a temp much lower than what we found, as soon as we left the river’s edge.

Tomorrow I’m painting with friend, photographer and artist, Kerby Smith. Something other than the Chilnualna, I suspect.

Artist in Residence in Yosemite – Day 1

In progress Chilnualna Falls, oil on canvas 12″ x 9.”

I’ve been awarded artist in residence by Yosemite Renaissance, which comes with a 2 bedroom cabin at Wawona, in Yosemite National Park, for a week.

I’ve invited many artist friends, in the area, to come up and join me, so we can go out together and paint plein air. Some are staying with me overnight in the cabin for a day or two, others coming up for the day. 7 days of painting with friends in Yosemite.

I’ve decided to use the week to see if I can make selections and simplify enough to finish the paintings on location, in one sitting. True plein air. It’s tough for me, because I generally like to add a little more finish to my paintings. I haven’t been able to resist taking all the plein air paintings, I’ve produced so far, back to the studio for more polish, but it’s hard to justify all the extra work put into paintings so small. Better to find a personal shorthand I can apply to my plein air paintings.

Today was the first day of the residency and I was joined by Carolyn and Sandee, two artist with a lot of experience painting plein air. We chose to paint a location close to the cabin, Chilnualna Falls. With all the rain and snow we had this winter, combined with the current warmer temperatures, our waterways are breaking records. This normally trickling stream’s been converted into a torrent of quickly moving, twisting, splashing gallons of water.

All good, but I didn’t reach my goal today. This painting still needs more work, before it’s finished, even by plein air standards. I think, with the waterfall, I took on too much for the time allotted. Wish me better luck tomorrow.

Brothers & Sisters in Art

CalArts - Chouinard Logo

Last weekend I made the trip down from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where I currently live, to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, for the CalArts/Chouinard Art Institute alumni reunion. I don’t often make it to these get-togethers, but they were giving special awards to my good friend, artist, Dennis Lewis, and posthumously to my illustration lab professor, Harold Kramer, so it was a must attend.

Only 4 of my actual classmates were there, the group ranged from geriatrics to students currently attending CalArts. I was sitting next to an architect, a graduate from a class many years before my own. I unexpectedly ran into, Tony, the son of artist (a Chouinard graduate) whom I’d worked with for 12 years, when I was directing animation for Kurtz & Friends. Tony and my own son used to hang out together at all the Kurtz & Friends events that included family, which were most of them.

The reunion presentations were fine, my friend, Dennis’, acceptance speech being the highlight of the program. Dennis is a great natural storyteller and can’t help but crack the room up with his cast of a thousand in character portrayals of student interactions, from his many years of teaching and his rendition of how he met his beautiful wife. But there was a rich reward, above the joy of watching my close friend of 50 years receive the recognition he deserved and that was introductions to and conversations with the alumni, most of whom I’d never met before.

Art knowledge is timeless, so when you converse with an artist that’s 90 years old or one that’s 19 years old, you share common interests and speak a common language. Age or generational differences melt away as you discuss Richard Diebenkorn and the influence Matisse had on his work (a current exhibit at SFMOMA) or the Calder retrospective at LACMA last year or the student from this class or that who’s recently gained international recognition. In the company of artists you share like interests far beyond those bound to generation and become part of a living, breathing organism with a focused passion for art.

Pick up a paintbrush, chisel or other creative tool and you’re rubbing shoulders with Leonardo, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Hockney and all artists past and present. Welcome to the fraternity of artists, take full advantage of your membership!