Donald Neff, Artist


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Donald Neff, Artist

Paintings of Donald Neff

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Art Demonstrations in Oil and Acrylic, Plein Air

Harley Davidson

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WebLog History:

Oct-Dec 2005

Jul-Sep 2006

Apr-Jun 2006

Jan-Mar 2006

Oct-Dec 2005

Jul-Sep 2005

Apr-Jun 2005

Jan-Mar 2005

Oct-Dec 2004

Jul-Sep 2004

Apr-Jun 2004

Jan-Mar 2004

Oct-Dec 2003

Jul-Sep 2003

Apr-Jun 2003

Jan-Mar 2003





A Personal Journal of Art

This WebLog or "Blog" is a journal of my personal experience with creating, observing, research, musing and other information about art. Note that dates are in reverse order.

January-March 2004

Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Soaring Between Two Blues".


Today I received a very nice and personable letter from Joseph LeBaron, the US Ambassador to Mauritania thanking me for lending my painting as part of the Art in Embassies Program. According to the letter, the painting is hanging in their Den.

The Art in Embassies Program was established by the United States Department of State in 1964. The Art in Embassies Program is a global museum that exhibits original works of art by U.S. citizens in the public rooms of approximately 180 American diplomatic residences worldwide.

Monday, March 1, 2004

The spectacular lighting in Yosemite Valley.

Painting along side the road.



This was my last day in Yosemite National Park, and I had not done much serious painting. So, it was an early rise and checkout from my motel room to do a couple canvases prior to heading home.

Although the day had started fairly overcast, it quickly cleared to partly cloudy. I drove around and caught one of those 'light moments' as the sun streaked through the clouds to the north wall of the valley. I decided to quickly try to catch the values and colors on canvas. I knew they would last just a moment and by the time I was several minutes into the painting, the light changed. I did acheive the goal of this painting, however, and caught the values as seen through my eyes, and not a camera.

It soon began to cloud over and started to rain with increasing intesity. I realized it would be impossible to do anymore paintings as I was using water soluable acrylic paints. More paintings will have to wait for my next trip to the valley.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Merced River beneath El Capitan.

Another Valley View shot.


Like the prior day in Yosemite National Park. I decided to take the day fairly easy, do a little driving, hiking, and lots of picture taking.

I decided to explore some of the smaller picnic areas around the valley which I had not visited in years. Most of these areas are dotted along the Merced River. I was rewarded with a lot of good photo studies of the Merced River as it meanders through the valley.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Painting Half Dome.

Almost finished "Half Dome " on the easel.


My day today started slow in Yosemite National Park. I decided to take the morning fairly easy, do a little driving, hiking, and lots of picture taking.

After having a leisurely brunch, driving around taking pictures, I decided to stop and do a painting of Half Dome. Half Dome is one of Yosemite's most famous landmarks. It towers over 4500' above the floor of Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 8842'. It is an impressive site to see from the almost anywhere in the valley as it sits proudly at the head. Click here to see a webcam view of this unusual monument.

The painting was quickly done, as the clouds would change the lighting every time I looked up from my easel.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The storm was just clearing as I stopped at Valley View lookout point.

Your's truly at Valley View.


I am off to Yosemite National Park today. I am showing in the Yosemite Renaissance show again this year and thought I would attend the reception, plus stay a few days, and hike, explore, paint, and relax.

We had just had the biggest storm of the season, in fact the biggest in some years. I was anxious to see the park after all the snowfall. It wasn't disappointing. I arrived in early afternoon and the storm clouds were just clearing as I approached the valley.

I originally planned on doing a painting prior to checking in at the Yosemite Lodge. However, I quickly changed plans and decided to just drive around and take pictures. I could tell it was going to be an "Ansel Adams moment". I drove up to the "Valley View" lookout point to view this famous scene of the valley. Some of you may be familiar with Ansel's famous painting "Clearing Winter Storm". Well, that is exactly how it looked. The clouds clinging to their new dropped snow on the magnificant clifts were a sight to see!

After checking into Yosemite Lodge, that evening was the opening reception for Yosemite Renaissance. The Yosemite Renaissance juried show runs the gamut of art. There is everything from abstract to realistic paintings, photographs, silk screens, and fabric. It was a good show and the place was packed wall to wall, including the superintendent of Yosemite Park. The show will be in the park until May 2, then travels to various venues in the San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco Bay Area.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Unfinished oil over acrylic painting along Going to the Sun Road.

Unfinished oil over acrylic painting of river in Glacier National Park.

Unfinished oil over acrylic painting of Glacier National Park.


I had mentioned in a prior weblog entry about using oil over acrylic in one of my studio paintings. I had played around with this techique before, but really hadn't done any serious paintings. It has worked out quite well and I have started several other paintings, pictured on the left.

There has been some discussion in the art world about the permanence of this technique. Everything I have read indicates there is not problem. Most canvases are primed with acrylic gesso, which oil painters have used for years. The gesso, however has more of a tooth than regular acrylics. With this in mind, I am careful to just wash in the acrylic underpainting which leaves plenty of tooth from the gesso for the oil paints to adhere to.

The three paintings to the left are part of a series from my recent trip to Glacier National Park. Look for the finished paintings in my Gallery section in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Harley along the California coast. Notice the Open Box-M pochade box next to the Harley.

Part of the California coastline at Wilder Ranch.

More of the coastline. Notice the terracing of the terrain.

My painting as I finished it at Wilder Ranch.


A few miles west of Santa Cruz on Highway 1 (the Coast Highway) is the old Wilder Ranch and dairy, recently restored to show what a 1900s dairy was like. The surrounding property includes beautiful walks to the cliffs at the edge of Monterey Bay and the dramatic marine terrace terrain that is found at only a few locations in the world.

The site was originally the main rancho supplying Santa Cruz Mission. It later became a successful and innovative dairy ranch.

The marine terraces in and around Santa Cruz, California, represent a set of well-preserved terraces formed as a product of geology, sea level, and climate. This marine terrace was the destination of today's Harley ride and plein air painting.

By now, I have my paint equipment slimmed down for the Harley saddlebags with room to spare. I have an Open Box-M "palm" pochade box, small tripod, and smaller size containers for fluids. (Pochade is French for a "hasty sketch" or a "sketch made with quick strokes.") It now only takes a few minutes to pack everything up and hit the road.

I got to the ranch late in the morning, and it was over a mile walk to the ocean bluffs. It was a glorious, clear day, slight breeze, and lots of sunshine. The sun boring down on the sea gave it a bright aqua blue as the waves crashed against the dark encrusted rocks. The sun illuminated the cliffs to a bright sienna against the blue sky.

After basking in the sun and eating a light lunch, I finished a painting of the cliffs as shown on the left. I could not resist taking the long, winding way home on the Harley. Up through the twisties in the Santa Cruz Mountains I went from ocean terrace to redwoods, hardwoods, vineyards, christmas tree farms, and finally the urban setting of Silicon Valley.

Monday, February 2, 2004


The long awaited article in the Evergreen Times finally came out today. It was worth the wait! They gave me front page, full color exposure, including about a page and a half of space. You can see a copy of the article by clicking here.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Unfinished Going to the Sun/Harley painting.

Unfinished Glacier painting from Logan Pass of St. Mary's Lake. St Mary's Lake is far in the background.

Unfinished oil over acrylic painting of Glacier National Park.


It seems I rarely talk about paintings I am doing in the studio. Most of my weblog entries are about plein air painting trips. I am trying some new techniques, so thought I would write an entry about them.

I currently am working on a suite of paintings from my trip to Glacier National Park last September. You can read about the trip in prior weblog entries. On the left are three paintings currently in progress.

The first is my 'Harley' painting mentioned previously in my weblog. Although it is developing, I got stuck on how to proceed at this point to get the exact lighting and effect I want. I set it aside temporarily to think about how to finish it.

The second is probably 80% complete and is a painting of St Mary's Lake from Logan Pass. St Mary's Lake is way in the background at the base of the far mountains. I will probably finish this work in the next week or so.


The last painting is a departure in my usual technique. This is a combination acrylic/oil painting. I have used this technique on smaller, quick paintings, but not on a larger studio painting. I first block in the painting in acrylic paints. I get the major color and values close to what I want the final painting to look like. I then use oil paints over the acrylic. In the bottom picture to the left, the top half is the oil on top of the acrylic, and you can see in the bottom half, the acrylic underpainting. You will notice the top half in oil is more finished than the blocked in bottom half.

If this painting turns out, I may use this technique more often. I am also documenting this with progress pictures as a subject for a future painting demo article.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Yours Truly painting at Donner Pass.

Donner Lake from Donner Pass.

Some fellow sight seers and Harley owners.

The painting of Donner Lake.


Donner Lake is situated just a few miles north of Lake Tahoe, CA and is one of the prettiest lakes in the Sierras.

It is named after the ill-fated pioneer Donner party. They were caught in the snow of the Sierras by the lake in their westward journey and many starved to death. A state park now sits where they camped.

Donner Pass is just above the lake, and close to many ski resorts. After dropping my son off to snowboard, I headed to the pass to do a quick painting.

The day was sunny and beautiful! Last time I was here, was in a heavy snowstorm. I set up at an overlook to the lake and did a painting in little more than an hour. What a magnificent view! What a pleasure to paint! The lake would change minute by minute as the wind, clouds, and sun moved in random patterns. One minute the lake would be smooth, reflecting the wondrous colors of the sky and clouds. The next minute windswept into a deep dark blue.

The painting went rather well. The temperature was in the 40's, but a wind came up and my hands began to get cold, so I called it finished.

Many a passerby came to absorb the view. A lady from the Ukraine with two small daughters stopped and graciously took my picture. A group from Maryland posed by my easel. One was a Harley owner, so we talked shop.

Too soon I had to pack up and return to the ski lodge to pick up the snowboarders and head back to civilization. Look for a large studio painting of Donner Lake sometime in the future!


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

My Harley parked at Uvas Canyon Park.

The scene I decided to paint.

My easel along the "Trail of Falls"

The painting as I was finishing on location.


We have had quite a bit of rain the last few weeks, so I decided to take a painting trip to Uvas Canyon Park. I had visited this park once before, last April.

Uvas Canyon Park is nestled in upper Uvas Canyon on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains several miles south of San Jose. Swanson Creek cascades through the canyon and creates many waterfalls and cataracts. With the recent rains, I figured the water would be flowing nicely.

I loaded up the Harley and headed out in the foggy morning. The drive to the park is mainly along winding and hilly back country roads filled with cows, horses, barns, and an occasional country estate. The heavy, dense, wet fog set an eerie tone to the landscape as I motored along on my cycle.

Close to the park, the fog lifted and sunlight bathed the landscape. As I approached the park, and drove up the canyon, the rolling California countryside turned into dense, wet, ferned redwood forest. Here, just minutes from Silicon Valley, and you could be anywhere in the remote mountains.

After arriving at the park, not a soul was to be found. I was totally alone. I ended up painting part of the stream, not far up the trail.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

Thomas Cole
Scene from "The Last of the Mohicans," Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund 1827

Thomas Cole, Mount Etna from Taormina , 1843

Albert Bierstadt, In The Mountains


The Hudson River School of Art is America's first "school" of painting and the dominant landscape style until the Civil War. The name derives from a group of seventy-two 19th-century landscape painters working in New York state. With realistic composition, they depicted romantic views of unsettled areas of the Hudson River Valley especially lakes, rocky gorges, and forests in the Catskill Mountains.

Some of my favorite artists came from this era, including Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and Frederic Edwin Church. In fact, some of their paintings are a part in inspiring my own artistic endeavors.

The Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University is having an exhibition of works loaned by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. I visited the exhibit today, and it was very impressive. The exhibit had a variety of works from these well known artists, from portraits to landscapes of Italy. My only wise was there were more landscapes of the American West, of which I primarily paint.

Next: Oct-Dec 2003

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