When you're stuck for ideas, or just warming up for your painting session, try knocking out some small, fast studies (try for 20 minutes).   Remember how it was when you were a kid and you just invented things to draw?   You can still do that, and practice painting at the same time.   It's surprising what emerges sometimes.  This first little figure has a plaintiveness that I really like.

Think about one or two elements while you're doing these--proportion/drawing, value grouping, color mixing.  The benefit is in "thinking with your brush" rather than trying to rationalize.  Every bit of practice establishing correct figure proportions will help when the time comes to work from a model.

If you don't have a model or any suitable photos, grab a fashion catalog.  Put up the photo and look at it as if it were a model, not right beside your canvas.  Try to get the gesture and proportion.

It's not essential to know human anatomy when mapping out a figure's proportions, but it is SO helpful if you want catch a realistic gesture.  Arms and legs are not just cylinders, and the shapes are in specific places for a reason.  I did not enjoy having to draw the skeleton and muscles over and over in art school, but it makes a world of difference to know how the muscles overlap and what structures underlie the shapes that you see.  In fact, knowing these things will enable you to see shapes that you would otherwise miss on the model, and to portray them convincingly even if your reference material doesn't show much detail (like this figure above).  If you're going to do much figurative work at all, I strongly recommend getting some good reference material on human anatomy and physiology.  This one is my all-time favorite, but there are many inexpensive guides (like $4 or less) also available which will get you started. 

And remember, if you paint from a copyrighted photo which is not your own, it should be attributed if made public.  These last two studies are based on images from a Hanes catalog.


DPW Help Japan Challenge

This is a benefit sale with all proceeds going to charities that directly benefit the stricken population of Japan.  The theme of this challenge is "home", so I've posted this La Playa Cove painting for auction, with all proceeds to go to the Japanese Red Cross.  This scene is the view out my window, but it's more than "home."  The tsunami showed itself here, elevating the tides several feet beyond normal with fluctuations that lasted for a week.  We were fortunate not to have any damage here (though other parts of California were not so lucky); but observing these effects here at home is a tangible reminder of the interconnectedness of all beings.

6" X 8", oil/cp.  The bidding starts at $50 for this painting, and if it goes over $100, then I am offering the winning bidder a second painting of La Playa Cove. 

Update:  These two paintings sold for a very generous donation, which I made to the Japanese Red Cross in the name of the buyer.  Thank you Michael!

"Cloudburst"  6" X 8", oil/cp

The benefit auction is still ongoing!
The link to the DPW page, with all paintings posted:


Indian Canyons

9 X 12", o/cp.  Finally getting around to blogging the last day of my three-day painting trip to Palm Springs and the surrounding desert.  This is from Indian Canyons, just three miles south of Palm Springs.  It's a wonderland of stunning rock formations and steep ravines.  There are miles of trails throughout this almost-untouched area of incredible beauty, sacred to the Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribe.  These views are toward Fern Canyon.  Palm Canyon Creek is in the foreground.

6" X 8", o/cp.  By the way, the seemingly infinite numbers of Washingtonia Fan Palm trees throughout Palm Springs and Palm Desert are indigenous.  They're the only palm tree that is indigenous to Southern California.


Coolidge Springs Road, near Desert Shores/Salton Sea

Above:  Morning light, looking west.  These are all 6" X 8" canvas panels.  Afternoon paintings below:

These scenes were side by side.   When put together, they make a nice diptych:

Most of the desert flora is very subtle in color, but that intense green shrubbery is creosote, which thrives in the harsh desert environment and can grow to be hundreds or even thousands of years old.  Very green leaves with grayish branches and yellow blooms.  Beautiful in the pinkish desert sunlight.  Here's a photo I took, it was everywhere and blooming like crazy:


Coachella Valley Preserve

Last week I painted with a workshop group in the desert near Palm Springs, Salton Sea and Indian Canyon.  Here are the efforts from day one, both are 9 X 12".  Things are quite a bit greener over there this year because we've had quite a bit of rain.

And while painting, I was visited by the beautiful creature pictured below.  Thanks to the internet, I can tell you it's a Desert Spider Beetle, Cysteodemus armatus, also known as the Inflated Beetle.  It ran around for a few minutes as if looking for something, then scurried off to safety.  The second shot shows the heel of a large shoeprint for scale.  You'll find a much better close up shot at this link.


Saturday Paint-out landscapes

These are from last Saturday, a paint-out with a great group here in San Diego, affiliated with SDAI and CAC.  We were at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, one of the real treasures of living here.  It was the first plein air work I've done since working with PKR, and I was anxious to see how those principles would show themselves in my landscape work.  Simplifying the value plan, grouping the values, 2/3-1/3 balance, letting the color and the paint speak for themselves--it all works, regardless of subject.  These felt absolutely joyful.  They are small because I went there on the bike, so I had the 6 X 8 paintbox (see my setup in the photo at the top of the blog). 

Here are some pics of what I was looking at, more or less:

And here's a little resident who purposefully came RIGHT UP to me (that's my shoe at lower right), sat there and looked at me for about a minute, before meandering on.  So sweet.


Golden Beets

11" X 14", o/cp.  More goodness from the farmers market.  If you're not a big fan of beets, try golden beets.  They're sweeter and milder than red beets (which I also love), and their greens are fantastic.  So are the greens of red beets--never throw those away.  Paint them, then eat them.


Farmers Market!

Turnips, 8" X 17", o/c.  This is another Edges/Palette Knife study.  We have a great farmers market once a week, just a block away.  Organic local produce is unbeatable, and these turnips made a great subject for this exercise.