How To Do a Painting in 143 Seconds

Enjoy this short video of a 90 minute demo I did for the Society of Western Artists reduced down to about two minutes.  After watching this, it seemed I was turned around talking to the audience as much as I was painting!


You can also read about this demo and a revolutionary new painting technique on my weblog here.

A Revolutionary New Painting Technique

The Quest

CreeksBookFrontWeb


The quest started as a simple idea. I didn’t even know if I would, or even could finish it.  After all, it was a commitment for a year.  

I didn’t know if any of it would turn out any good, or just a bunch of bad paintings for the scrap heap.  I didn’t know if anything would be interesting or worth looking at.  

I didn’t know I would eventually paint ghost towns in Silicon Valley, or haunted springs, or wild beaver sign in a metropolitan city, or the worlds largest homeless camp, or the world’s first ‘plein air selfie’.  

I didn’t know eventually strangers would walk up to me, give me a hug, and say I brought back their fond childhood memories.  

I also didn’t know it would snowball in scope and public interest way beyond my first simple idea.

Four years ago today, I started the year-long quest to paint a different “Creek and River of Silicon Valley” each week en plein air, or on location.

At the time, even finishing the year successfully was not known, but I ended up with 60 paintings of 43 different creeks all over the South San Francisco Bay area.  Little did I know it would grow with articles written by international art publications, multiple showings in various venues, and a book.  Discover about the quest, including a short documentary video, interactive map, and other information here–

http://www.donaldneff.com/creeks.html

The collection of 60 paintings is still intact and will be for the foreseeable future.  I am still seeking venues both local and nationally for showings, so if any of you have ideas for venues, please let me know!

A Revolutionary New Painting Technique

AKA How Not to Transport a Painting
AKA A New Type of Street Art
AKA Society of Western Artists Demo

The story starts at a demo I did for the Society of Western Artists in San Bruno, CA, last Saturday.  I never thought in a few hours I would discover a new painting technique not heard of before.

Four years ago I did a demo for them of a snow scene along the Truckee River and they wanted me to do another snow scene.  I had recently been doing a number of miniature paintings for the holiday season, and a number of misty mini’s of moody, misty, seascape, landscape and Sierra scenes, so decided to do a larger, 16×20 misty Yosemite scene of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley, CA

It was a great two hours of demoing, technique, and jokes with a lively crowd constantly peppering me with questions. Here’s a few pictures during the demo– Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture


I am usually not crazy about my demo paintings, but this one was turning out well, even though it was only half done, so I was anxious to complete it back in the studio. Here is a picture of the piece as I was nearing the end of the demo–

Original painting near end of the demo (courtesy John Barrow)
Original painting near end of the demo (courtesy John Barrow)

After loading up, and heading out for the hour drive home, as soon as I entered the freeway, realized I had left the wet demo painting on top of the car!  I pulled over, and it was gone!  So, I turned around, went back, and found the painting face down in the middle of El Camino Real, the busy main boulevard.  It was in the middle of the lane and didn’t look run over, but one corner was damaged. Here is a recreation of the scene with the painting in the road.

Recreation of my painting face down on El Camino Real
Recreation of my painting face down on El Camino Real

…and the painting now looked like this:

My demo painting was now a snowstorm!
My demo painting was now a snowstorm!

The asphalt had gouged out spots all over the surface and my misty Yosemite painting had turned into a snowstorm!  I just accidentally discovered a new way to paint snowstorms!  What a great new technique! Just do your painting, then go out and rub it on the road! Asphalt probably works best, but maybe I can try cement streets also!

To top it off, a copy of a Neff original, even though half done, is now in the asphalt of San Bruno, albeit a reverse image.  Maybe I should charge them?!?

All tongue in cheek of course, and I actually don’t recommend you transport paintings this way!


So now, the decision is: 1) pick out a few pieces of asphalt, trim the bad corner off, leave it as is and finish it; 2) paint back over it; or 3) start a new painting.  The corner was damaged enough I started a new painting since at most a couple hours painting time was lost during the demo.  Here is the new painting at about the same development as the demo was before the snowstorm–

The new painting at about the same  completion as the demo.
The new painting at about the same completion as the demo.

I spent the next few days finishing the painting —

Misty Sentinel,16x20,oil on board
Misty Sentinel,16×20,oil on board

So now, what do I do with the original snow storm painting? Any suggestions?


BTW, we are planning on producing a short video of the demo as SWA videoed much of it, so stay tuned!

Drops of Color, Everywhere

Carson Colors, 8x16, oil on panel, plein air
Carson Colors, 8×16, oil on panel, plein air

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus


Just returned from my usual annual fall trip to the Sierra’s to paint and explore the fall color. I generally go to Lake Tahoe and Hope Valley, but sometimes over Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park and around the Lee Vining area along the eastern Sierra escarpment. This year was Tahoe.

I didn’t really have an agenda to do a lot of finished world class paintings this trip, but take it slow, enjoy the colors, do some paint studies, explore, and absorb the surroundings.


Sunday, I drove up Hwy 88 looking for color around Silver and Caples lakes, but color was past it’s prime, so decided to keep going over Carson Pass into Hope Valley. I have painted here many times for fall color. I settled on a spot by the West Fork Carson River and close to where I had painted in prior years. I ended up right under a highway bridge, and painting a scene looking under the overpass.

(Click on a thumbnail picture to see an enlarged version.)

I got about half done with the painting, but was tired after the drive, so headed into South Lake Tahoe to check into the motel.


Next morning, I waited until it warmed up a bit from below freezing to go out. I have painted in rain, sleet, snow, freezing temps, etc. so been there done that, and today it was wait for a little warmth!

It was back out to Hope Valley, which is about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe, and started a painting just across from Sorenson’s Resort, again on the Carson River as it starts to tumble out of Hope Valley. This time I was painting on top of a bridge!

I got about half done, then decided to head back to yesterday’s spot and finish yesterday’s painting. Bonita Paulis, an art acquaintance stopped by for a chat. After living in the area 35 years, she gave me some great out-of-the way places to paint.

The most complete piece I did on the trip
The most complete piece I did on the trip

Tuesday morning I trekked down to Carson City, NV, to have breakfast with an old childhood friend I hadn’t seen in years. After a great time reminiscing, went back up the mountain to Tahoe, and in the afternoon ended up on the Upper Truckee River, which had some great spots Bonita had told me about the day before.


Time to head home Wednesday after stopping at James Harold Gallery in Tahoe City to swap some new miniature paintings with some older pieces.

On an artistic note, I many times have a difficult time painting fall color aspen trees, so this trip was helpful. They are harder to paint than it seems. After trying to faithfully reproduce the color and value of the leaves, it always looks a little too bright and gaudy to me, and I need to tone them down. I did get one painting finished, and two started to finish in the studio. The journey of art never ends!

On a technical note, I have found Grumbacher Cadmium-Barium Yellow Medium is almost the exact color of the aspen at their height of yellow color. Other brands don’t seem to match as well.

A Third Trio

Continuing my seasonal miniature paintings, here are three more, all in Yosemite National Park. I have already sold a number of miniatures this season and am departing slightly the 6×6 square format to other sizes.

Dropping a total of 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, and one of the highest on the globe.

Misty Yosemite Falls, 5x7 miniature, oil on panel
Misty Yosemite Falls, 5×7 miniature, oil on panel

Here’s another 6×6 in Yosemite National Park. This is one of the falls or cataracts as the Merced River tumbles out of Yosemite Valley.

Turgid Merced, 6x6 miniature, oil on linen panel
Turgid Merced, 6×6 miniature, oil on linen panel

Built in 1922, Yosemite Creek Bridge is the oldest stone bridge in Yosemite Valley, spanning Yosemite Creek below Yosemite Falls (shown above).

Yosemite Creek Bridge, 4x6 miniature, oil on canvas board
Yosemite Creek Bridge, 4×6 miniature, oil on canvas board


There are more on the easel, so stay tuned!

A Trio of Misty Mini’s

Here’s three more 6×6 mini’s. I started with the Elkhorne piece, then decided to do a few more misty moods. Maybe I should have named them Mystic Moods, after the orchestra popular in the 60’s and 70’s. You have to be pretty old to remember them!

Elkhorn Slough is a tidal slough and estuary on Monterey Bay. It is the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of the San Francisco Bay.

Misty Elkhorne, 6x6, oil on panel
Misty Elkhorne, 6×6, oil on panel

Garrapate State Park is just south of Carmel, CA, and my favorite place to paint on the Pacific Coastline. I actually took a scene in full daylight and changed it to a foggy day…they call it artistic license.

Misty Garrapata, 6x6, oil on panel
Misty Garrapata, 6×6, oil on panel

What can I say about Yosemite? I did this painting almost exactly from a photo I took in 2010. This might make a good subject for a larger painting…what do you think?

Misty Yosemite, 6x6, oil on panel
Misty Yosemite, 6×6, oil on panel

Hang on, more mini’s coming up!

‘Tis the Season

Around this time of year I paint a number of miniatures. They make great holiday gifts, or anytime gift for that matter, and they usually sell fairly quickly. I also paint them for both gallery and juried miniature shows this time of year. Many times, these are miniatures of larger paintings I have done, or studies for possible new larger paintings later on.

I am starting off with a trio of 6×6 pieces. Some experienced artists can probably guess which juried show I might enter these!

These are currently available directly from me, but some destined to gallery/juried shows. On a regular PC browser, they should show life-size…

El Dorado, 6x6, oil on panel
El Dorado, 6×6, oil on panel
Tahoe Squall, 6x6, oil on panel
Tahoe Squall, 6×6, oil on panel
Truckee Thaw, 6x6, oil on panel
Truckee Thaw, 6×6, oil on panel

Thats it for now…more on the easel. The next batch, a little more ‘moodier’ are on the way.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

AKA Painting the Los Gatos Plein Air Festival

My panel at the show
My panel at the show

I was honored to once again participate in the Los Gatos Plein Air Art Festival which is sponsored by the Los Gatos Morning Rotary. It’s a plein air event where we have about 4 days to produce paintings which are then sold off Friday night and Saturday. It is also a charitable event as proceeds help local schools and art programs. This show is a little easier as it is local, and I don’t have to travel, plus have the advantage of my home studio for touch-up and framing, etc.

 


Tuesday

Cowell, 16x8, oil on panel, plein air
Cowell, 16×8, oil on panel, plein air

After getting my canvases stamped, I headed to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I had done a redwood scene for the recent Carmel Show, and it turned out well, so I thought I would do one for this show. I love the backlit giant redwoods with light filtering and spotlighting the colorful trunks. I ended up painting in the exact same spot I had many years ago, however did an entirely different scene and canvas orientation. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

After finishing up, I still had time to make Hakone Gardens in Saratoga before it closes at 5. I had been doing a Japan studio series, so wanted to put in a Japanese like painting in the show. I also wanted to make it a continuation of my recent vertical water series. Another painter buddy in the show, Mark Monsarrat was there. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

Hakone Pals, 24x12,oil on canvas
Hakone Pals, 24×12,oil on canvas

 


Wednesday

The Old Swing, 8x10, oil on panel
The Old Swing, 8×10, oil on panel

Wednesday morning I touched up the prior days paintings, then headed out to Penitencia Creek to a spot I had painted for The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley year long quest a few years ago. The place had totally changed in the last three years! Besides felling some trees, the creek was different, probably because of the record wet winter we just had. The scene I had painted was no longer there! The creek was still there, of course, and flowing well after our wet winter. I did find another spot just up the creek which satisfied my tastes. There was also an old swing, somewhat of a trapeze, which made for a good story. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Silicon Valley View, 12x16, oil on panel
Silicon Valley View, 12×16, oil on panel

That evening I went up the hill behind the house and did a nocturne of downtown San Jose and Silicon Valley. I had painted a sunset at this location not too long ago, and it is just high enough to see all the way across the Santa Clara Valley. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Thursday

Vasona, 11x14, oil on panel
Vasona, 11×14, oil on panel

Thursday morning I touched up the prior days paintings and then headed back to Los Gatos for a luncheon the Rotary was putting on for the artists. The Rotary always treats us artists well, with receptions, lunches, and plenty of wine! Later in the afternoon, I went to Vasona Park to do the final painting for the show. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Friday

Friday morning was touchup and framing time. The empty spot in the lower left of the Hakone painting bugged me a bit, and there were a lot of turtles in the pond, and I wanted more koi…then the thought struck to combine them and re-title the painting. I put the turtle and koi eyeing each other as pals in the pond. Their shadow on the bottom of the pond also gave the water a look of more depth.

My wife also suggested I add some ducks to the Vasona painting, so I put in a Canada Goose, and some goslings, which were all over the place while I was painting.

Ready to hang!
Ready to hang!

Friday evening was a VIP Gala in Los Gatos, so I headed over about mid afternoon to try to beat the Friday rush hour(s). We had to put up our one ‘best’ painting for the event, so I chose the Hakone piece. The gala was at the Los Gatos Hotel. It was outside, and hot, but still had a great time relaxing and chatting with the other artists and collectors. They had a delicious buffet and Hors d’oeuvre, plus plenty of wine! (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Saturday

Today was the main event where all paintings are put up for sale to the public in downtown Los Gatos at the Town Plaza Park. Crowds seemed a little lighter than past years, probably due to the heat wave. Besides discouraging people to come outside to the park, many in our valley head to the coast clogging up traffic going through Los Gatos. I did sell two paintings, however, so I was pleased about that! (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


All-in-all, the Rotary once again put on a wonderful show, and a great big thanks to them for their work!

Some photos courtesy Ron Lykins.

Decked!

AKA Painting Alaska from the deck of a cruise ship

Many of you know I recently took a cruise to Alaska. Since this was our fourth cruise to this destination, I wanted to concentrate on painting rather than touring and sightseeing. We embarked out of San Francisco, and was our first cruise where we didn’t have to fly to the embarkation point, so I considered taking my oil paints rather than the usual acrylics I travel with. In the end I took my acrylics as I didn’t want to smell up the cabin with drying oil paints. I did take a Strada mini easel, which is the first time I have taken an easel on a cruise.

I won’t turn this blog entry into a travelogue, but just concentrate on the painting.

 


Ketchikan

Creek Street,9x12,acrylic on canvas
Creek Street,9×12,acrylic on canvas

Our first stop was Ketchikan, called ‘the first city of Alaska’ because it is always the first stop north. I made a beeline to Creek Street. Creek Street is infamous as being Ketchikan’s red light district during pioneer days and is actually a boardwalk mounted in stilts on a high slope on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.

I painted for a couple hours and then it started to drizzle, so had to pack up. I wasn’t sure it was finished, especially the water. While I was painting, the water level in the creek had dropped several feet! I assume it was the tide but possibly some controlling dam upstream. Here’s a few pictures from the morning. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

 


Juneau

Douglas, 9x12, acrylic on canvas
Douglas, 9×12, acrylic on canvas

It was a bit of a drizzly day, so in the morning just painted from the Promenade Deck on the ship. Looking across Gasteneau Channel is the town of Douglas, and behind that Mt. Bradley. While I was painting, a crew member told me several humpback whales had been playing around the ship all morning. Sure enough, they were still there, and I would occasionally see them surface, spout, and play around. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

It cleared somewhat in the afternoon, and the sun occasionally broke out which was first time on this cruise which was already almost half over, so I went into town for a bit, and took a ride up the Mt Roberts Tramway, which gives spectacular views of the ships, Juneau, and the areas beyond.

 


Skagway

Taiya Inlet, 9x12, acrylic on canvas
Taiya Inlet, 9×12, acrylic on canvas

It was another drizzly day with clouds hanging around the mountain tops and valleys so I spent the morning painting from the ship deck looking across the channel to a mountain west of Skagway. The sun was spraying light here and there through the clouds, which make for dramatic scenes, and good paintings. The top of the mountain was obscured by clouds, so didn’t really see it until the end of the painting. By the time I finished, it had mostly cleared off. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–


Skagway, 9x12,acrylic on canvas
Skagway, 9×12,acrylic on canvas

I headed into town, hoping to do another painting before the ship sailed. I walked to the end of the main drag, Broadway Street, found a bench to spread my materials out, and did a painting of a mountain and the street. I mostly finished the mountain, but the buildings were not complete when it started to rain. It was almost time to head back to the ship anyway, so packed up intending to finish the painting later. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

 


Even though it was overcast most of the cruise, it was still a great time being on board the ship, visiting a few familiar places, and painting!


Next up is the Los Gatos Plein Air Show June 16-17!


Cleaned Out!

(AKA 2017 Carmel Art Festival)

Perkins Park, 12x16, oil on panel
Perkins Park, 12×16, oil on panel

 


I have been participating in the Carmel Art Festival annually since 2006. There have been great years where I won awards, had paintings bid up twice my normal prices, and sold everything. I have also had bad years where nothing or very few sold. This year was one of the good years! The weather was great…sunny, however very cool. Enjoy this brief day by day post painting and showing at the festival…

 


Wednesday

I headed to Monterey/Carmel around noon for about the 90 minute drive. After checking into my motel, I stopped by the festival around 6pm to have my canvases stamped. In plein air competitions such as this, you have several days to paint at least two paintings, which are then auctioned off. The festival coordinators stamp the back of the canvas to ensure all work is done in the two days allotted.

After having my canvases stamped, I headed to Perkins Park in Pacific Grove. My plan was this: Since I was having relatives from the Philippines coming tomorrow afternoon to visit, I figured I would start a painting here late in the day, and then finish it tomorrow afternoon where they could easily find me.

I have painted here a number of times in various times of day and vantage points. Its a great spot as the iceplants are in bloom this time of year with their bright pink flowers. The common denominator is all those paintings sold, so why not stick with a good thing! I worked a little over an hour before the sun was too low to continue. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

After heading back to the motel to get cleaned up, I finished the day with a dinner at my go-to Indain Restaurant, Ambrosia.

 


Thursday

Vertigo!, 24x12, oil on canvas
Vertigo!, 24×12, oil on canvas

The next morning at the crack of dawn, I headed down the coast. The forecast was to be completely clear.

My morning plan was this: There is a specific cove I wanted to paint in the style of my recent “Vertical Water” series. The cove is on the trail out to Soberanes Point in Garrapata State Park. When I got there, the entire area was closed and a number of crews were working on rebuilding the trails. I asked if I could go out to paint for a few hours and they said no.

Time for Plan B. I went around another trail and found a spot on a bluff overlooking an inlet. You can see Soberanes Point in the background. I worked on the painting for a couple hours, fighting the blustering wind, hoping nothing would blow over the cliff! When I was trying to put in some details, the canvas was buffetting so much, I decided the piece needed to be finished in a more sheltered area. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Palo Colorado, 14x11, oil on panel
Palo Colorado, 14×11, oil on panel

Driving a little further south, I took a turn up Palo Colorado Road to get out of the wind. I have been on this road before, but hadn’t contemplated painting there this trip. The little creek was really flowing, and all of a sudden a redwood scene popped up which I just had to paint! It only took a little less than two hours to get most of the piece done, as I have done a number of redwood trees in this style. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

I headed back north to Monterey, and after a bit of rest and lunch, on to Perkins Park to finish last evenings painting. Late afternoon, my wife Josie and my relatives arrived. After cleaning up, we all went to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Friday

Prior to starting any other paintings, I wanted to touch up and frame the three ‘keepers’ I had, so hung around my motel in the morning doing just that.

After lunch, I headed down the coast again to possibly do another painting. The pressure was off, however, as I had ‘three in the can’, so I just soaked up the atmosphere, scouted out places for possible future paintings, etc.

I turned in two paintings around 6:30 for the show, and hung around for a VIP reception. Part way through the reception, I turned around, and there was my brother in-law and his wife. I didn’t know they were in town, and neither did they know I was until they saw ads for the festival. We ended up going to dinner. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Saturday

After sleeping in Saturday and having a leisurely brunch with my in-laws, headed over to the festival. I was honored with the “Plein Air Magazine Award of Excellence” for the Vertigo! painting.

An award!
An award!

The Palo Colorado redwood tree painting sold at auction.

 


Sunday

Carmel Beach, 10x8, oil on panel
Carmel Beach, 10×8, oil on panel

 

All artists who win an award are requested to participate in the Sunday morning quickdraw. You have 2 hrs to produce a painting, framed and ready to sell. This means you have about 90 minutes to actually do the painting. After I got my canvas stamped, I drove to Carmel Scenic Drive, a mile or so away, found a good spot, and did a painting of Carmel Beach. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

The quickdraw auction was well attended. Here are a few pictures, including my painting–

By noon all my paintings had been sold. Normally we have to wait until the show is over at 3pm to pick up unsold paintings, but since all of mine were sold, a little after noon, I packed up and headed home. It was a great week with good weather, sold all my paintings, got an award, re-acquainted with fellow artists, and a little more tan!


Next up is the Los Gatos Plein Air Show June 16-17!