Monday, December 31, 2012

TSEGI Canyon de Chelly

     This place always seems to have some kind of spiritual connection for me. It can be just certain feelings or images in my mind, or one time I got really ill in the middle of a painting and it took a couple days in the campsite to recover. It is a beautiful and enchanting valley with a long and dramatic history. There were wars in the canyon between the Indians and American Cavalry. The Indians were sent to Oklahoma and then brought back again. You must have a guide with you to go down into the Canyon and he must own property down there. There are also old 6 wheel drive Trucks that take groups of people for tours. They have to know where to drive because of the quick sand.
     The river used to take a little different path every year to erode the bottom of the canyon in more of a flat manner. The Army cane in a planted 100s of Cottonwood trees to "stop the erosion". What it ended up doing was to cause the river to erode huge ditches making it very difficult for the inhabitants to navigate down there with their vehicles. The trees all turn colors in the Autumn causing the bottom of the canyon to "glow" when you are down there. The yellow trees light up against the purple canyon walls creating a gorgeous and wonderful marriage of light and color.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


     This is one of those scenes I've painted before, but for me, like Monet's hay stacks or waterlilies..I continue to be inspired by it. It is a place that is close for me to drive to from where I live in Arizona. I have been going there for many years, camping, hiking, and painting this lake from different spots. On this particular piece, I wanted to give priority to design and spontaneous brush work with a minimum of detail. I keyed the painting in from the front bottom and moved up while working back and forth somewhat with "atmospheric perspective" in mind. Then I went back over it, adjusting areas I felt needed more or less. I think I kept it simple and said all I wanted to say.
     In the Design, I tried to use all the painting elements in support of the bowl in the distant snow covered mountains. Art rules are made to be broken, but I usually try to follow a few guide lines in the "Sequence" of the painting process. I like to start fast with more emotion and as the painting progresses slow down and put more thought into it. I work Large to Small shapes and brush sizes; Thin (but not runny) to Thick paint; Dark to Light values; Brush work and painting handling Loose to Tight. I always do thumbnails sketches and then a final drawing, and I like to work from a small field study for color information.

Monday, November 26, 2012


     I've got a show coming up in Jan, so have been doing some larger studio pieces lately.
     If you are in the Phoenix area next month, I am doing a couple all day workshops. They are on Sat Dec 1 at the Salt River Canyon and Dec 8 will be at the old historic town of Jerome. Contact Scottsdale Art School to sign up.
     I will also be starting a new session of Basic Painting classes in Jan starting on the 12th. Every Saturday morning. There is a Part 1 and 2. This class has evolved over a 10 year period and has become very popular. We really cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. It is hard work with homework every week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


     I did this cactus study one morning during a workshop I was attending with Kathryn Stats. I donated this painting to the Daily Paint Works help the Hurricane Sandy victims auction.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


     Well the summer monsoons are over and the river has dwindled down to a creek. The mornings here in the AZ desert have become very pleasant for anything, especially a walk down to the river with the dogs to paint.
     I have started my fall classes at Scottsdale Art School. Click to check them out. I am going to do 2 one day workshops this Winter and 2 more in the Spring. If you are in the area, they will be a lot of fun. Going up to historic Jerome, AZ,  Sedona Red Rock, Salt River Canyon, and the Gold King Mine with it's Ghost Town and old trucks. The other class is a long time favorite, Basic Painting and Design Part 1 & 2 that is held every Sat. morning.


Monday, August 27, 2012



     When I was pulling out to leave our campsite in Colorado last time I was here, both dogs were staring out the window at this little road. So this time I got up early in the morning and painted a 12x16 of it. I call it "My Dog's View"

     It's always somewhat of a challenge painting all the different shades and temperatures of "GREENS" in Colorado in the summer. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012


     I have been camping at this "Pass" for many years. There's something very relaxing about looking out into the distant mountains over a soft golden meadow with a small glacier run off creek passing through it; As the sun goes down.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


     I had finished a little 6x6 and was still waiting on the lake mist to rise enough that the distant mountains at the south end would be more visible to paint. I saw some early morning people down below on the north end where they can put their little paddle boats in or just fish from the shore. You can also see the quaint little cabins down along the edge of the lake. A really enchanted location.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


          This is the same scene as the last post only a little larger and I had a little more time to paint it. The dogs and I ended up hiking up this hill a ways.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012



     I did this painting very quick as the sun was going down on my arrival. I had to drive back to AZ the next day because of Camper Trouble. (16 hour round trip)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Click Here To Bid
     I was finally able to escape the heat in Arizona for a few days. The dogs and I took the camper up to Telluride, Colorado and it sure felt good. I did this 6x6 early in the morning when the mist was just rising from the lake. Totally relaxing!  I'll be post some more paintings in the following days.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


   This scene is located a little ways north of Silverton, CO. There was an artist, Jack Stern who has lived there for many years in a one room cabin with his wife and 2 boys. They usually get snowed in for a few weeks every winter. He told me at the time that this is where Jon Claude Killy set a down hill ski record back in the day. I wonder if he was wearing his cowboy hat? Jack had a tenancy to tell a "story" once in awhile to had a little spice to life. It took a little four wheel driving and a short hike to get up here. It was one the the few places that I had been late in the summer that still had a good amount of glacier left.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


     This is Boulder Creek in Boulder Colorado. It runs through the town along with a path where you will usually find couples,  people walking their dogs, or riding a bike. I lived in Boulder for a short time and it is a very "Green" city. The city would purchase individual farm type property and make hiking trails through it for the public.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


     I thought I'd go up north a little ways to where it was cooler to paint. The dogs and I arrived at Groom Creek, only about an hour drive up in the forest right outside of Prescott, AZ. Jack took off running at full speed through the cool forest. We hike as far as I could go, it was at least a few miles...then sat down, set up and just looked around from that spot for something to paint. I wasn't moving another foot. I just picked out this tree pattern on a hill with some sky behind. It was not something I normally paint, nor did I followed my regular scene decision process, but I loved it. The air was clean and cool with a pine scent and it was a challenge.
     To me, painting outdoors is very different than painting in the studio from photos. I think many times I prefer a bad painting done plein air than a masterpiece done in the studio. The outdoor piece touches me at a deeper level. The studio piece is more technical, detailed, and thought out, but the field study is more poetic. Painting from "life" with an added time element forces the painting to be fresher and more spontaneous with better color. I also like the challenge of painting outdoors. The simplification decisions that must be made as the light rapidly changes the whole scene. I am right there as time is passing during my painting process, I'm interacting with nature. The information available from Nature gives me a million times more options than a photo reference.
James, Jack, and Lexi   Groom Creek Forest
           This spot is not too far from where a good friend of mine used to have a cabin. The dogs and I would often come up and hike here. There's a small lake nearby, that I often have trouble finding. That's whey we hiked so far, before collapsing on the forest path. Notice we found a nice shady spot.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


     I finally had to bite the bullet and go out in the 3 digit heat and do some painting. It was a little cooler closer to sundown, but I still put up my umbrella to give me some shade. The dogs went over behind a bush and looked at me like I was crazy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


     I thought I would post a few of my 3 hour figurative studies.

Friday, June 8, 2012


    You can look up this tree's history if you want, another spelling is Tamarix. I think it goes back to biblical times, a very fast grower (considered an epidemic in some places).  It's one of the bushes down in the riverbed and this one is about 175 yards from the spot I hit my golf balls from. Right now the county is thinking since we've had some wildfires lately, that when the monsoon hit in a few months, there will be more flooding than usual because of the added run off. They now have big tank looking backhoes digging all these Tamarisk up...for what reason I don't know. Someone said they are going to re-route the river. I've seen the floods hit here and they just sweep these trees right up and carry them away; along with a few small culvert bridges and a few RV trailers that are parked too close to the river. It will be interesting to see what happens when the flood hit.

Friday, June 1, 2012


     This is the view across the road from my studio. It seems I'm painting a lot here at home. It's because it's handy and it's going to get too hot, soon. It was in the 90s by the time I was done today.
     I've also been excited about finding out that my Standard (12x16) Palette will fit into a medium size back pack (Kelty Redwing 50)! All I could find before were those huge Mt. Everest expedition types. This one is great, it only weighs less than 20 lbs. with all my essential painting equipment and has plenty of compartments for extra stuff (like the kitchen sink). It comes in s/m or m/l and has a waist adjustment strap to balance it on my hips.
     Here's a photo of it with my palette and wet panel box still inside.
     Here I am in the shade with one of m dogs, Jack. I'm using my 12x16 palette to paint that little 6x6 and I'm using the left wing to mix my sky colors. I love extra paint mixing room, that's one of the reason's I invented my Coulter Plein Air System.  (

Thursday, May 31, 2012


     I got start late this morning, so it was already getting hot. I found a shady spot and then looked for something to paint. I really felt motivated to slap some paint around today.
     This tree is growing in a location that will shade my studio some day. I spotted this one when he was about 3' tall down in the desert riverbed. I went down after a big rain thinking that the ground would be soft and easy to dig up. In the process, I fell into some quicksand. It wasn't life threatening, but I was covered in mud and sand before I got the tree dug up. I had to ask for my neighbor to come down with his ATV to haul it back up to my yard. When he answered my knock at his door he start laughing at the mud man standing there. We got it back up and I got it back into the ground. We got a freak freeze a couple days later, and all the leaves fell off. I figured it was dead. A few months later I noticed a couple little leave coming back out again. Almost a year later it's about 8' tall.

Monday, May 28, 2012


 This is the same Palo Verde tree, only from a different angle and in the morning instead of late afternoon. This is an 8x10.

Friday, May 18, 2012


    I strapped on my painting back pack and was heading down to the riverbed again, when I saw this Palo Verde tree with a little Barrel Cactus in my front yard. There was also a nice shade tree to sit under. The dogs were a little disappointed at first, as they thought we were in for a long hike. They soon adjusted to the situation and Lexi actually went back in under the air conditioner and watch me paint.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


     It's starting to warm up here in Arizona now. It's not HOT yet, only in the 90s. Won't be hot until it gets into the 110s and above, 100 at night. This scene is the same one I painted recently. I didn't like the other one, so I went back and re-did it. I actually physically trimmed that little bush in front of the rock formation. I could have just painted in shorter, but I decided it needed trimmed. I have a golf driving range down in this river bed and have to trim it with a weed eater in order to find my golf balls. The neighbors think I'm crazy down there doing yard work in the desert river bed.


     Here I am again down in the dried up river bed below my studio. We have had a drought this past year, so there has been no water running all year. Usually we have a flood or two. Last year we had a 50 year flood and it washed away a bunch of trailers at a RV park located on the river's edge. It peaked at 35 feet down where it washed out a bridge. I went down to look at it and my silly dog Jack jumped in and swam across this raging flood water about 100 yards wide; Then he had to turn around and swim back. He thought he was pretty cool, I didn't. He's done something like that with a couple rattlesnakes and found out he wasn't as fast as he thought. I had to pay the Vet bill of course.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


    This is the Mingus Mountain range again. Caught it a few hours before sundown. Fun to play with the nuances of atmospheric perspective, with fading values, intensities, and yellow, red, and then finally blue.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


                         This is one of the first Palo Verde Trees along the river bank to be blooming. .

Saturday, April 14, 2012


      I saw this spot one evening when the dogs and I were walking down below where I live. The next late afternoon I went down and tried to capture the sun just going down behind the mountain.

Friday, February 10, 2012


     This gentleman was one of the street vendors in the largest village at Cinque Terra, Italy.  He is selling Limoncello, a lemon liqueur. I spent a few days hiking with my paints in these enchanted hills full of vineyards, orchards,  and flower gardens along the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


     This is one of my favorite spots at the Grand Canyon. I have painted it many times at different times of the day and of the year. This one was done from an 8x10 field study and photo reference.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


     I found this rolling, height adjustable table on line for $79, free shipping. It holds 200 lbs. It adjusts from 33" to 48". It comes in a box so you have to put it together, (only around a dozen nuts and bolts). I strapped my PVC frame (courtesy of Carol Marine's blog), to a piece of plywood and just set it on the top of the table. It is very sturdy and I love that it rolls around because of the close quarters in my studio.
     You can order one of these from Craig's Fordable Tools.
     I just found out that Craig's is out of these right now. I looked on Amazon and found 3 that look similiar. The first one is around $60, second one is $100, and the third is also around $60 but says will only hold 50 lbs.
     Mobile Table 1               Mobile Table 2             Mobile Table 3

Sunday, January 1, 2012


     The first day of 2012, my dogs talked me into going down to the river bed below where we live and do a painting. They picked out this tree, so as to supply them with enough shade while I painted. I think it's in the 70s today without a cloud in the sky. A great way to start the New Year!
Jack and Lexi