Sunday, November 22, 2015

Stephen Quiller Workshop at the 4UR Ranch

"Nature's Confetti"
19" x 14" Watercolor

"Trout Fishing at the 4UR Ranch"
19" x 14" Watercolor
"Nature's Beauty"
12" x 15" Watercolor
After travel to Colorado and Japan, an October visit from a good friend, and two workshops, I am back to blogging about three art adventures. Here goes with the Steven Quiller plein air workshop at the 4UR Ranch in Creede, CO, Steven's home town. I attended with friend Jeannie from the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, and the whole experience was just so special. Jeannie and I found that we were very compatible travel companions. 
The ranch was so much more than I expected -- a Cordon Bleu trained chef gave us beautiful meals; the ranch has breathtaking scenery; we could take advantage of horseback riding, swimming, fly fishing, and hiking trails; though we were mostly busy painting); we were also treated to two meals cooked on the chuck wagon hauled into the mountains; and the accommodations were superb. I loved this dude ranch that has hosted the likes of Presidents, John Wayne, and Walt Disney. Steven gives two workshops a year at the ranch. We had an interesting range of temps, from low 20s early in the day to 70s by afternoon, mostly clear skies, and just a bit of rain a couple days.
A frosty scene from our porch on our first Colorado morning
Steven gave us our money's worth. In addition to working from 9 am to 5 pm, he hosted several evening sessions. Everyday we painted at a different location in the San Juan mountains: by the Rio Grande, by a trout lake, and amidst spectacular fall colors. Steven would demonstrate his approach, and then we selected our subject and painted. At the end of the day, we returned to a workshop area at the ranch where Stephen did a critique of the day's work.  
When I finished the week, I felt like all my paintings were pretty mediocre as I was pushing myself to try new approaches to watercolor. However, after going back to the paintings a week later, I decided to do a bit of work and apply Steven's critique suggestions to three of them. I was then satisfied with my results.
"Fall Confetti" was done on the morning of our second day when we went high in the mountains on an unpaved ranch road to a spot Steven had previously selected. Steven is a color expert and has written several books on the subject. He always emphasizes that the greyed colors and neutrals are what make the pure color pop. His suggestion was to use pure acrylic to add in the dots of falling leaves. The name came from a statement by Angie, our carpool driver in her large SUV -- she gazed at all the fallen leaves and stated they were nature's confetti. That day we had to return to the ranch workshop area and finish our paintings due to rain.
Painting fall color before the rain
The third day was spent at a beautiful trout pond backed by spectacular scenery. Steven arranged from two of the ranch hands to do some fly fishing while we sketched and photographed them. I worked one of images of the two fisherman into "Trout Fishing at the 4UR Ranch." The fourth day we painted along the Rio Grande, which runs past the trout pond. Steven arranged for a wrangler and one of the horses, Navajo to do some posing for us  along the river. I have not yet gone back to that painting.
The final day we went even higher in the mountains, roughly 10,000 foot level to paint an area of nature that was both affected by a fire a few years ago and by a beattle blight in the evergreens. The area is called Station 10 for the purposes of trout fisherman. The result is quite spectacular with the colorful aspens against the burn and the deep magenta and purples of the blight. It was extremely cold that morning, and I wore 4 layers, including a light down jacket. Later I would shed a jacket and flannel shirt as the day warmed nicely for the fish fry done on location by the chef.

Attentive artists at Station 10
Steven demos at Station 10
On Thursday evening, we had a voluntary visit to the Quiller Gallery in Creede and the local historic theater where Steven recently installed a gorgeous 4 panel mural. Part of the gallery is devoted to his "Beauty in the Burn" series done in paintings and monoprints. The "burn" refers to the devastating fire, a small bit of which we painted on Friday.

On Friday night, we were invited by Steven and his wife Marta to their home for a delicious catered dinner. They graciously allowed us to view Steven's paintings throughout the house. Steven gave us a tour of his splendid studio, which we entered into the top level office retreat and descended into the working studio. Spectacular views of the Rio Grande that flows below them and the mountains across the value were icing on the cake. Steven said the view paid for the studio as he has painted it many times in all seasons and weather.

Mary, Steven, and Jeannie behind the studio
The following day, Jeannie and I toured the area by car, seeing the remains of the old mines that built Creede in their day. A day-long scenic drive back to the Denver area completed this art adventure. We flew home the next day.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Morning Pastel: Susan's Roses

"Susan's Roses"
12" x 14" Pastel

The traveler is back and I attended Monday drawing class last week. Friend Susan brought in some lovely roses and an interesting pitcher. Instructor Bob paired it with a lovely drape and good lighting. With just a few hints from the instructor and some work after at home, I was able to complete this one to my satisfaction. I find floral bouquets in pastel quite the challenge. How to suggest without doing every pedal? It's all about values and edges.  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Enough about Me" Pairs Well with Perfect Match

"Enough About Me"
16" x 12" Torn Paper Collage
One way to pair with "Perfect Match"

Reverse pairing
Between travels I managed to complete a collage for my wine series. This one features red wine and a variant on the blue poppies I saw at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC. I reversed the background, but used similar colors and design elements so that it would pair well with "Perfect Match."
I find it easiest to put down a basic background first, then start with the large elements and work to small. Finally, I continue to work the table and the background until I achieved harmony and interest. I also have to work to vary the edges, a bit of a challenge for me, so everything is not hard edged. The yellow orange color was really necessary to add a lively touch, and I like using checks and polka dots to pull things together.
A change of scenery will take me to a dude ranch in Colorado for a Stephen Quiller plein air workshop featuring Fall in the San Juan Mountains. I expect to see colorful Aspens. I hope to have a few paintings to share when I return.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More Collage with Perfect Match

"Perfect Match"
12" x 16" Recycled Paper Collage

In Santa Clara County, we are surrounded by many wineries, some well-known, and many small, high quality businesses, often family-run. I wanted to honor the many beautiful places that offer wine tasting. The design of this piece is from imagination. I took out two of Reidel glasses designed for some white wines and used them as my models. Then I had to think how the white wine would look against a deep blue background. It was fun to get the translucent look and the highlights.

I also called upon my recent visit to Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC. I took photos of some gorgeous pale blue poppies. They were the inspiration for the flowers on the table. The blue and white definitely needed a pop of color, so I added some random shapes in orange-yellow.

I finished off the piece by adding interesting colors and textures. I find that I cannot finely plan the final piece. Each piece applied changes the relationships and influence the choice of anything that follows. That is part of the challenge and the satisfaction in doing these collages.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Melon Monday

10" x 12" Pastel
Bob decided to go simple so we could really "dig into" the finer shading and rendering. Unfortunately, this photo is not quite true to the color and I am not that good at Photoshop. I really enjoyed this exercise. In less than three hours on a Monday, it's difficult to get to more than the basics on a more complex setup. So this gave us the opportunity to work on the melon surface.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Imagination at Work and a Nice Surprise

Recently I sent for some small canvases online that had no explanation of depth. I like to do my collages on canvases with 1.5 to 2 inches of return. These turned out to be just 3/4" return. So I decided to have some fun. I squirted some liquid acrylic paint onto the canvas and started smearing it. I then added more paint to vary the look and conjured up a scene of a garden. I wanted this to have a modern feel and did not worry about a lot of detail on the flowers. I plan to put this one in a floating frame.

An organization has purchased "Mountain Peonies" from viewing it on the blog. Every now and then that happens, and it feels really good,.

On the Road Again with Sketches

Coast Trail
9" x 5" watercolor sketch

"Standing on the Corner"
9" x 5"Watercolor Sketch

Foggy Day at Half Moon Bay
For my long-term blog friends, these scenes will look familiar. Bob attends a Flutes By The Sea Master Class in Half Moon Bay every July. This is his third year. I go along for the fun -- the B&B, the good restaurants, the quaint shops, the coastal trail rides on my bicycle, and the sketches I do with my tiny travel set. You can check out previous workshop experiences in 2014 and 2013. My favorite sketch from those trips is the greenhouses in 2013. This year we were there for 4 days.

I actually painted Foggy Day first. After dropping Bob at the workshop, I drove to a parking lot and sat on a wonderful bench over the sea. The following day I went to Pillar Point Harbor, but that was a more ambitious piece and not done yet. I took photos along the coast from my bike in the afternoon. The third day I rode my bike again to a bench and painted Coast Trail. You can probably guess that I amped up the color because the views are so beautiful that it seems that bright.

Standing on the Corner is just a cute scene on a corner near the B&B. Someone has done a very fun bench and I couldn't resist painting it. I did not attempt to do this plein air with traffic. Instead I worked from a photo on my phone. One of my friends really liked this one.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Another in the Purse Series of Collages

"Beautiful Baubles"
10" x 10" Torn Magazine Collage with Hand-painted Rose
In this piece, I expanded my process to include a rose that I painted in acrylic on Arches paper, cut out, an applied with gloss medium. I was inspired by a purse ad that showed a retro purse covered with black and white flowers that a friend gave me. My purse is neither flowers, nor  is it the same shape. It is, though, black and white and I loved the geometric papers I found going through my bins of magazine papers.  The flap of the purse is actually a graphic of high heel shoes!

I then found myself draw to geometric shapes for the background, but I wanted a little excitement so there is quite a bit of variation. The jewels really grabbed me as having potential, so I heaped them on the table. Then I repeated the jewelry theme in the background.

I believe I achieved some amount of simplicity, but it was not without a lot of trial and error. I don't know if I will ever get very speedy at creating my collages.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

North to Alaska

"Riding the White Pass and Yukon Railway"

"Morning at Mendenhall Glacier"
Misty Fjord from the Float Plane
"Sailing Queen Charlotte Straits, BC"
This is a big year for travel. As the years pass, I am determined to get out and see the world while I can. This trip was a largely unplanned cruise to Alaska. After getting back from the Panama Canal in March, we had an offer from Celebrity that was really reasonable. Alaska was on our bucket list for next year, so we moved up the timetable. This was a repositioning cruise so we started in San Francisco and returned from Vancouver, BC. Our neighbor dropped us at the train station and we took Caltrain to San Francisco and a taxi to the pier. So nice not to have to fly to the start.

I wasn't in the mood to paint until about 3 days before the end of the cruise. I was sitting on my balcony on a warm day as we sailed through the Inside Passage surrounded by islands and the mainland of British Columbia. I grabbed my little travel kit and captured the scene. I did the remainder of the paintings from photos I had taken along the way over the next two days.

Bob hasn't met a railroad he did not want to ride, so we took two train trips. The first out of Skagway is documented here. I highly recommend this ride that lasts several hours and takes you up a high pass and into BC from Alaska. You can appreciate that gold is quite an allure when you see what they endured on foot to get to it. I captured a moment when I could see the front part of the train from our car. We also could see huge trestles suspended hundreds of feet above the valley floor that we would be crossing, but I didn't paint that scene. In spite of my fear of heights, I was not at all bothered by the ride. We also got to see a large bear right by the tracks, a rare sighting we were told.

From Juneau, it is very easy and reasonable to make the 45 minute ride to Mendenhall Glacier National Park. So we went off of the local shuttle bus service and enjoyed a beautiful morning at the Center using our National Parks Senior Pass to get in free. The scene I painted was the first I captured from the parking lot. The glacier is rapidly receding. In fact, we practically had California weather all during our trip, much warmer than average. I learned that Juneau, though it is the capitol of Alaska, is not connected by roads to its constituents because it is on an island. The locals have a saying, "You arrive in Juneau by boat, plane, or birth canal."

In Ketchikan, we treated ourselves to a boat ride deep into Misty Fjords and the weather was indeed misty that day, perfect for our morning ride. We saw many bald eagles, porpoises, and star fish, as our naturalist gave us background on the area. Many people live on islands without bridge connections to the mainland. The public schools teach the children survival skills. Before leaving grade school, the children are dropped off in twos for their test. They have to live off the land without any supplies for three days. This is a far cry from our very protective approach to raising mainland children. Deep in the fjords, we tied up to a floating dock and our float planes arrived to wisk us back to Ketchikan. I just loved the ride, the views, and the excitement of a small plane.

I am glad I got in the mood to paint. Travel sketches always help me recall the moment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Susan's Pitcher at Monday Morning Drawing Class

"Susan's Pitcher"
Unfinished Oastel
I have been attending Monday Morning Drawing Class whenever I'm in town, but I have been unable to finish anything so I have not been posting the pieces. I know that this will lie there in the stack unfinished, so I decided to show the part that is more done. There is actually the rest of the tray and a couple red onions to the left, but I only got to draw them.  There is a bit more table to the right, also. It was fun to do this piece. The finish on this old pitcher is wonderfully worn and a challenge to reproduce.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


"Early Morning Shadows on the Rio Grande Gorge
Taos, NM
14" x 19" Watercolor
$300 (unframed)
The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) will be having a summer show, "Shades of Summer" in Saratoga. I called upon some photos and memories of early morning at the eighth highest bridge in the USA to create a painting for entry in the show. A hot air balloon was suspended over the landscape and the bridge shone in the early morning light.
I used a lot of imagination for the colors. My challenge was to subdue enough of the painting to put the focus on the center part of the gorge, bridge, and balloon. I just finished the work so I may yet make the some changes. I have to walk by it for a few days so it can tell me if it is done.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Painting in the Diablo Mountain Range

"Mountain Peonies"
14" x 19" Watercolor
Another great day painting with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. We are so fortunate to live in an area with many beautiful gardens, so that is the focus for Spring outings. We visited the Chateau CharMarron Peony Gardens high above the Valley in the Diablo Mountain Range. I had been here once before with the group, in 2013, and knew I didn't want to miss this event. The owners are so welcoming. The place is also open to the public during Peony prime time.

It was sunny and hot, with temps predicted in the 90s. I had planned to find a favorite clump of flowers and paint them close focused, but I decided I needed shade. Thus I did a floral landscape, along the idea of last week's Irises in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

My models
 You can see that I had some lovely models, though I did not choose to paint all of them nor all their leaves. I liked the mountain backdrop with deep, richly colored evergreens.

Some of the day's production
After a few hours of painting we gathered under the covered structure where I had painted to appreciate the day's work. You can read more about our adventure on the SCVWS paintsites blog.

Another beautiful day of being inspired by my fellow artists.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Going Backwards: Plein Air Two Weeks Ago

"California Poppies"
10" x 13"

A few weeks ago, my Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society plein air group painted at a reserve that is about a mile from the 49ers Levi Stadium. Amidst the commercial properties and new condos, Santa Clara managed to set aside an old golf course and restore its natural state. We arrived at Ulistac Nature Reserved on a sunny, hot morning. I love California Poppies so they became my subject. I have some of these babies in my yard in spite of being warned that they like to spread where I don't want them. So far, they are spreading where I do want them.

You can read about our adventures on the SCVWS blog.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Plein Air Painting in the Mountains

"Sailor's Warning on a Foggy Morning"
14" x 20" Watercolor
My models
 Plein Air painting can mean sitting out in all kinds of weather. Today we went to Cummins Iris Garden in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was overcast at my house, predicted to be 75 degrees with sun later. I knew that the mountains would remain fogged in longer, so I was prepared. Some folks arrived and left when they realized we were not going to have Valley weather.

This garden is gorgeous, a loving project of Jim and Irene Cummins. We were there May 2013 on a hot day. You can see the post.  The setting is lovely, even on a foggy morning, so I found some Irises that I loved and painted them against the backdrop of the mountains. You can see that their name is "Sailor's Warning", I am guessing because they resemble a sunset often seen before a storm.

We gathered at one to have our picnic lunches and view the truly lovely paintings. We were entertained by wild turkeys who seem to think the garden is their home. The three males got all puffed up in fight mode, looking about three times their size with beautiful, blue, and white on their necks. They are much handsomer when they become protectors.

"Don't mess with us"

Some of the garden area
Some of the day's production


Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Spring Beauty"
22" x 30" Torn Magazine Collage
on Canvas
The first buds are on my Irises in the garden and I looked at a few paintings I've done of Irises over the years. I liked one where I did lots of negative painting, so I decided to use the same approach on this piece. I've worked many hours this week, starting by putting in the background and then doing the images on top. I'm not sure I'm done. I think I may put more color in the Iris on the left.