- Lesson Details
The scene where this lesson takes place is known for its single live oak tree, but Stapleton will reveal its “gremlins”. Gremlins are foreseeable design problems that you need to look out for. You will learn to control your color while painting landscapes from life. This lesson includes a tour of Movalli Gallery, focusing on the work of Charles Movalli.
Throughout this course, you’ll have access to the NMA community for feedback and critiques to improve your work as you progress.
The building is from 1787.
It was a tavern once, but in 1924, a group of artists led by Aldro Hibbard,
founded the Rockport Art Association, raised the money to buy this building you
see behind me, it is the home of Rockport art and is the center of the Rockport
art, which still exists to this day.
It's full of wonderful paintings.
But right now there's a show of
And we're going to go inside look at the shell.
Why don't you come on with me.
Let's just take a pan around the room and look at these quickly.
We can just walk them off.
Here's - here we are in Jeffersonville.
We may be on this location in a day or two.
This is Jeffersonville, as is this.
Here's Rockport we'll stand on this location, the famous motif, number one,
fishing shack built in 1850 something, but everybody - it actually blew down
in a storm in the blizzard of 78.
So what we'll see is a new one, but they had plans from the old one it' pretty
much identical and it's starting to get weathered enough it's believable.
Again, these are all paintings by Charles Movalli of every subject and every
place, most of them are landscapes.
So there's still lifes and heads and everything else.
Story with that easel.
He ran over it with the car.
His mother had given it to him and he glued it back
together with about 50 clamps.
He was determined he was going to get more life out of it.
That other voice you're hearing is Dale Movalli.
She's here to explain anything that I get wrong.
Half the show is what people would mostly expect from Charles Movalli
and the other half is what we call the experimental work.
Stuff that's more outside.
Cause he could get really wild and we threw some in the show over here
that's just as wild as we could find.
So it's almost - you almost might think it's work from different artists.
Step into this room all of a sudden we're at a different level of abstraction.
This stuff is almost cubism.
It flies apart as you watch it.
Very, very loose painting.
Very different approach.
I love having to love this one.
Look at the color in there and how beautifully colored that thing is.
It doesn't do that.
You're going to make that happen in a painting.
He's making color choices to make the painting exciting and vibrant.
Slashing brush strokes.
It's just barely there.
There's so much attack and exuberance in the picture.
He gives you no more information than it takes to tell a story.
That's exciting looking.
And then over in this corner, we've got one that's completely taken apart.
You can almost tell it's a forest with some trees, but it's very, very abstract.
Again, very abstract.
Artists have returned to this place over and over again.
And we'll go there too.
You can see this is still there.
It won't be made out of brushstrokes, when you go there, you may look at it
and say, well, he sure made it look nice.
That's be the fun of comparing the paintings with the original locations
you look at them and then you look at the painting, you realize all the things the
artist has done to make it interesting.
Look at this.
He made a drawing.
Remember we talked earlier, maybe a little bit of that demo I did.
I talked about the four or five defining lines that make a painting.
Well, here he is letting them show.
Here's the lines that painting is about.
He's letting the drawing show through, something he doesn't do it all over here.
This is strictly a tonal painting.
He's got the lines showing here.
Notice how many of these paintings Charles likes to
throw this red accents on.
It's everywhere, all over this part.
Red accent here.
Look around the room.
There's one in that, there's one in that painting everyone.
Almost everyone of these paintings.
He just loves to show that bright red accent into painting.
Look around it just happens over and over again.
It's one of his favorite sort of tricks and look at how
different his color could be.
Same things on the palette all the time, but some of the paintings are rather
grave and subdued and then others, I mean, this thing is well bright, vibrant.
These colors are, but it's the same palette.
The same group of pigments went into making this picture.
How's this one, this is subdued and grayer.
And here's one that's very, very gray, same colors on the palette.
Just mixed it in different way, responding to different kinds of grays.
This is my, one of my favorites in the whole show.
I love this one.
Again we're in the experimental wing.
This is the wilder stuff.
Out in the other room they're more, you know, what you expect knowing the
landscape painting, but Charlie's got a strong modernist streak to look at
this wonderful color changes here.
And I've painted places like that.
I don't see that kind of color.
I don't know if Charlie did or not.
I think he invented a lot of it.
I've talked about taking a ring and sliding across the painting so you can
see all the different notes within it.
Let's do that right here for a moment.
I don't know if I can do it in the light here, but if I could
direct attention just what's within a circle.
I see all the different colors, just within little areas there.
That color's never static, like a house painter works, never a broad
stroke of just one plain color, but always this color broken over that
color, it jumps in front of your eye.
It's vibratory color.
It's alive looking.
We have a wonderful color in here.
And this design lifted from another painter.
We've talked about Lester Stevens.
I know he was looking at Lester Stevens when he drew that tree
in the middle of the picture was just typical Lester Steven's move.
And look at the colors in there, greens and greens and russets, and not just a
subtle green, that's a phthalo green.
That thing screams.
You know anybody else that paints tires?
There's three or four pictures in here with stacked up old tires.
No matter what it was, it's just colored him, designed to him.
He didn't care.
So they're old tires he's never asked or said to himself well nobody's
going to buy a picture of old tires.
They're just pain tot him, just different colors and shapes.
So what we have here is a mountain of manure covered by discarded rubber tires.
It looks gorgeous in paint, in real life it might be something you wouldn't want
to hang on your living room wall, but you put into paint and it's beautiful.
There's not what it's a picture of, but how it's painted
that's important here.
These are all pretty much one shot.
Once and done.
Outside set up the easel, bang the thing out, walk away from it.
Some of them maybe have been worked on some in the studio, but for the
most part they're once and done.
Here's - look how lively these branches are, rather than being
strainer like sewer pipes, everyone of these just wiggles and weaves
that goes up into the air.
Lovely, bright exuberant color.
Can you walk up on and get the brush stroke in this?
Look at what's really here.
Look what happens when you get up close here?
Very rapid, very, very intentional painting.
This is a wonderful one.
This will be used in the cover of the catalog.
Again, it's another one of
those you walk up close to it and it's all just brush strokes, and there's
really kind of two parts to this painting.
There's the lead in, the intro of this painting, which goes like this.
There's a big diagonal.
See here, it leads your eye across here.
And then there's the turn, this big arrow takes you up to this,
and then all these lines point you up into this different area and
everything's different up here.
All these are diagonal zig-zaggy lines to you get up to here, the
punchline, and then everything quiets down, becomes horizontal.
So the whole purpose of the bottom third two thirds is painting us to
lead you up and to the punchline.
And up here, everything calms out.
And you get this red up against this green, this perfect compliment, which
sort of rewards you for getting there.
And over here, more discarded tires.
Did we mentioned discarded tires before?
And look at them.
They're so beautiful, but they're discarded tires and there's nothing here.
He wants you to go out here and see these boats.
This is the punchline, he wants you to go back and see these boats.
So you have all these piers and you can, you can tell there's
piers and columns here, but.
He doesn't give you enough detail to hang you up.
Your eye says old, old tires, you look up and you go right through this passage
and move on right through because it doesn't -nothing there to hold your eye
particularly, just makes a statement.
This is the pier.
It doesn't get hung up in representing it though.
And then out here to these boats where he does want you to look out there.
Thank you once again, for your participation this afternoon's activities.
Have been glad to show you the work of Charles Movalli here at
the Rockport Art Association.
Transcription not available.
Transcription not available.
Joshua Tree National Park. I'm lined up. I found a place I
want to paint. I guess I'm ready to go, got my palette and easel
set up just like I did the other day. Everything is still
in the same place. Got a nice big pile of white, got plenty of
paint laid out here. I may have to refill some of these as we
go but I've got a lot of paint laid out here and I intend to
use it. I've got
a scene that I like and if you look out there you'll see that
big live oak. Evidently they're very rare, the park says
they're very proud of it. And there it is. It's a live oak
and it's a nice big dark shape and
I don't know what's going to happen. The light's
going to change as I work here today, I just know it. I can't
do anything about that, have to work with that.
It may get better. It may get worse. I may lose everything
that I like about the scene. But what I like about it right
now is just the big simple shape. We've got this big, dark
rounded, pierced profile or silhouette of this wonderful
tree that's so interesting with these branches and it's lacy
holes in it, sky holes in it up against this rock, which really
almost echoes its shape that's half the size. You know, I'm always
trying to make an arrangement of lines and shapes that set one
another off. So when I come out here, look at what I'm going to
paint, I'm looking for the abstract shapes. If I could just
forget what everything is, I'm not painting nouns, I'm
painting arrangements of shapes. That's what's important
to me and that's how I find my design is looking for
interesting shapes in nature. And of this course place abounds
with that sort of thing. It's a wonderful place to paint. This
is the Joshua Tree National Park and we're just west of Los
Angeles and it's not too hot here right now, but it's going
to be a hundred before this ordeal is over. I'm certain of that.
And I guess the major starting point for me is going to be, you
know, how I'm going to arrange the stuff on the canvas and I
can kind of see it in my mind's eye. A lot of times the success
of with painting is going to depend on how well you can
pre-visualized the painting here, meaning if you have a
really good idea of what the thing should look like when
it's done that's a great head start.
in reality though often times you get gremlins. Gremlins are
things that pop out that you didn't foresee being a problem.
But boy they're a problem. Once you get them on the canvas,
there's lots of sneaky little problems that get popped out,
something that looked great when you looked at it, but if
you studied for very long you realize it looks like it's got
a face on it or
tangents where things come together in unusual ways. And
as I lay this thing I would be watching all the time there are
problems here that I didn't anticipate. I call them gremlins
and when gremlins pop-up you want to do battle with them as
early in the game as you possibly can. The longer a
gremlin is preserved in the painting, the more powerful it
grows and the harder it will be to get rid of so as I lay this
thing in the side where things are going to work on my my big
arrangement, the biggest shapes possible, four or five big
shapes ought to make the picture. The simple, big shapes is what
makes a painting go. You get that everything else is just
decorating it. That's the key to make or break. You can make
or lose a painting in the first 20 minutes of work.
And then I'll start looking for gremlins. What's
going to jump out here? What's going to be a problem and what's
going to be hard to paint
and I'll fight those early in the game as I can. I'll try and
work on the entire painting at once, that is I'll work in a
circular fashion, always trying to find my furthest back
straggler. Which part of my painting has fallen furthest behind. So I'll
be chasing after those furthest back stragglers and makes the
whole painting march along as a flock to my desired end.
Hopefully, you know, there are three stages in this creation
of Stapleton Kearns' painting as I told you before. The first one
is I'm almost done. I begin with enormous confidence, this
going to be easy. Look at that. That's great. It's going to be
easy. Number two is boy, I sure hope I'm doing this right and
that's at the problems begin to appear, the gremlins pop out and
what am I going to do about this? What about that? Uh
oh, I got to figure this thing out. And then lastly
this was going to be really good. I have a mindful of the
finest paintings ever made. The Rembrandt's and the Rubens, I've
hundreds of museums and spent all my life looking at art and
I'm going to fall short. I just know it. I'd like to think that
wasn't the case. One in ten I get really lucky for some
reason but I make enough I get lucky. In fact the more I make, the
luckier I get. One in ten I get something that's really there.
It's stand-alone great, love it, and I photograph it and I sent
it off to the magazines and they publish it.
Two or three out of ten, they're real good, they're
professional. They're just fine. Most people going to like
them, people would be happy to own them. One or two on the
bottom end just don't work at all, you know,
after all the paintings I'd make you think it would be easy
but it doesn't get any easier the longer you do it the harder
it gets. So batting average, every ten I make I get
a couple that are might as well just throw away. I get a couple
that are so and so, I get five that are very
professional, very good, and out of that five a couple of those
are going to be just heads and shoulders above the rest and
about one in ten I really
add it to my portfolio and say this is as good as I
can do. Have to make a lot of pictures to get the good ones.
I make a lot of pictures. I've made thousands of paintings.
Let's see if I can make just one more.
got a number one.
Got a number four though. Keep my brushes in of though keep my brushes in
this brush wallet, got a lot more than I'm ever going to need.
There's one the same one of these yesterday seems like
it's still good. Remember I work with new brushes all the
time, a brush has any wear on it I throw it away. I want them as
sharp as razors, and I guess that's probably unusual to me.
When I teach it's
necessary and I'll say it now to tell you that a lot of what
I do is idiosyncratic. It's just the way I do things. It's
not necessarily the right way for you. Look at what I do and
see what you can take from it. What's the useful to you? And
some of the - most of the things I do are the result of years
and years and years of experience but somebody else
you might have in a workshop or another artist will do ita
totally different way and that's just fine. I just show
you - I can show you how I do things, can't show you a right
way because there's a lot of different right ways to do things.
And again, I'm not wearing gloves. If I had my choice I'd
be wearing my black gloves. I don't like getting paint on my
hands. If I don't wear gloves, I get paint all over myself. I
paint pretty clean when I'm wearing gloves, but it's too hot to
Maybe I'll take a little different approach today and
I'll lay in a line drawing first, draw some lines.
Oftentimes if I can get four or five big lines in the right
place, I'm home free.
Again the first lay in, the first starting of a painting is
designing it, but people who design well have made thousands
of paintings. You learn the whole design thing goes down in
the first 20 minutes anyway, and the more I paint and the
longer I paint, the more it's about design. And when you get
together with with professional painters or seasoned been doing
it a long time, they'll tell - most of them tell you the you most of all tell you the
same thing. Rendering, the ability to draw the thing
accurately, it's just assumed, you've got that and it's not
all that useful all the time. We're not cameras. We are
But design is something you're always working on the longer
you paint, the more years you paint, the more it gets to be
about design. The arrangement of the big shapes. You get that
right the painting will look good from a hundred yards out.
Even before you can get close enough to tell what it's a picture
of just, the big shapes look good. I can spot a well-made
painting 50, 75 yards out in a shop window and it's only that
big in my vision but I can look at it and that looks like a pretty
good painting there and see the design and that's not the
details and it's not the finesse of handling or
often even the subject matter. It's just the
arrangement, the big shapes that are the root that make a
painting really go.
I've got that cobalt violet again. I like laying in
paintings with that.
I got a $200 tube of cobalt violet with me, you may want to
use something else but it works for me.
If I weren't using that I might use
or burnt sienna. Either any of those alone or in some mixture
of the two. Oftentimes it's nice to lay pictures in with
and burnt sienna because you got a warm and a cool and you have
control over color temperature and not just
Well, I sure don't want that right in the middle of the
canvas. I want it close to the middle, but I don't want it
right in the middle. I can check that measure from either
side. There's the middle of that mass there and take my
brush and I just hold on to the canvas like so I'll go over and
turn it the other way. Well, that's awfully right in the
I don't know about that. That could be a problem. I think
I'll shove it over a little bit. I haven't touched my
white. That means I can shove this painting around my with my rage.
Until I touch that white
I can wipe in, wipe out, give another shot.
A lot of times in the old days - I don't do it anymore - but a
lot of times in the old days I'd draw thumbnails, don't do it
anymore because I'm impatient. I like to think I'm more
practiced but really I'm impatient, but I want to be
careful of the center of the canvas. I want to not put
anything that's totally important in the very center of
the canvas. That being said I've done it successfully a
time or two also, but let's put that tree over here and see
whether that doesn't work better.
I'm doing this with the number four little brush.
I've gotten this branch leaning this way. So I've got a form
that has thrust to it. It isn't sticking straight up by the
ground. It leans and there's a form here that
has thrust to it. Next to it I have this enormous rock
and it also has a thrust to it. And these two things have a and these two things have a
relationship to the each other. See this thrusting
stem of this tree here and this rock have a relationship to one
has a thrust to it, see it goes like this. Standing next to it
is this big rock here that also has a thrust to it.
And in fact, it goes the same way. I don't know if that's gonna be
a problem or an asset. I haven't figured that out yet.
But I want to be aware of it. I need to know that that's there.
That's an important thing, these things both lean the same
way. My guess is that that because I've got these two
things leaning this way, I want to get make sure that I get the
other half of the tree leaning the other way. I'll be
very conscious of how the forms in this tree
go this way. In fact, I may seize on that and make sure
sure, that tree leans this way.
To the left. So I've got this part of the tree leaning
this way, I got this rock it also has the thrust in the same
And then I want to make sure that this side of the tree goes
the other way. It's like a balance. If I've got a bunch of
forms thrusting this way, I'm probably going to want
something leaning the other way to balance my painting.
I'm going to operate under the theory that I need it anyway.
This canvas is almost square, not quite, but almost square. I'm
fond of those shapes. I find them pleasant to design.
I was asked
I think yesterday what the focal point of my painting
I don't know. I'm not sure it's got one. Not always a focal
point. Sometimes just a mosaic of attractive shapes but this
painting is going to have focal point. Right here. That's what
this picture is about. The name of this picture is the Live
When people ask me for what I do for a living I tell them I
paint pictures, they say what do you do? I say I paint pictures.
I like that for a couple reasons: one because if I say an
artist that seems kind of pretentious, you know, I'm an
artist. I feel like that's kind of pretentious. Not only that
but everybody's an artist now. Everybody I meet's an artist
so I don't tell people I'm an artist. I tell people I'm
either a professional painter, professional oil painter and
more often than not I'll just say I paint pictures. It doesn't just
say what I do, but it implies the kind of art that I make as
well. I'm painting pictures, I'm making pictures of the world.
I'm not just in a studio doing abstract, which is fine, but
it's not what I do. I paint pictures, I'm making pictures.
That's important to me. I'm a picture maker. That is I'm
making things to be enjoyed for the long haul, usually for
people to collect and have in their homes and live with for a
lifetime. I have to make paintings which are not used up
at a glance, they're paintings you can make that are
apprehended in an instant and then they're no longer interesting.
Whereas a good painting you can watch like a television, it will
unfurl itself over the years on your wall. Good paintings
hold your attention for as long as possible and takes a lot of
practice to know how to get them to do that. They aren't
simply the most accurate representation of nature in
front of you but something that's crafted to be beautiful
for the long run.
And since this is all again it's got no white in it. I can go in
I can pull things out of it. Just the tip of my rag out
I guess that's a Joshua tree. We're at Joshua Tree Park there's where Joshua Tree Park there's
our Joshua Tree
in front of
our oak. And I like that because I like to stack my values.
Whenever I can put a light behind or a dark behind it
and light behind that dark behind that, I can stagger or
stack my values back into a painting. Every time I've got a
value change dark over light over dark over light gives me
visual interest and it also establishes depth
just like those sets you've seen in the opera with the
cutouts of trees and such that emerge from the sides of the
opera and the dancers emerge from between them. They're
staggered back onto the stage. I can stagger things in value
back into my canvas. It gives me a visual interest
and it gives me distance. This is in front of that, this is
behind that, this is behind that, that's behind that.
I'll talk more about that later.
When I can, I want to chain the two sides of my canvas
together. Here's one side. Here's the other. I want to see
if I can get these two things through a progression of darks
or by the arrangement of shapes or whatever. I want to chain
this side of the canvas
to that side of the canvas.
I don't always want to do that, but it's a nice thing to do.
I can pull that picture together by chaining one side
to the other.
I already see one decision that we have to make here.
This tree, that's my main player. That's the hero
on the stage, this tree. It's got to be more important than
everything else. Make sure it's bigger than that weird rock
beside it and it needs to be the dominant shape. This is the
dominant shape. This is the subordinate shape. I'm going to
subordinate that rock to the tree. I'm going to say big tree,
big tree, little rock or big tree, little Rock. I'm gonna
think and the strength of the presentation of each of these
items is plotted to make sure that this is the main player
and that this is a supporting player.
I could have made just the opposite decision and said well, this is
about the rock and made the tree subordinated to the rock.
I could have made a rock picture. I'm making a tree
You know, I've been painting trees all my life and they
still come out looking wooden.
Temperature is going up fast now must be close to a hundred
degrees out here.
Way up in the nineties. Anyway, I think
I have no cell phone reception. I can't look at my phone, look
up the temperature. I'll just have to guess but I'm guessing
it's way up in the 90s already and we'll be at a hundred
degrees probably before this is over.
Might help you get a better idea of what's going on here.
If you run out to your front hall and get a wool jacket and a sweater,
wool jacket and wool stocking cap and put that on it it will be
easier for you to follow along and really understand what's
going on, turn the thermostat up as high as it will go and put
on a heavy winter coat.
I'm getting in touch with my inner lizard.
It sounds a little silly, but I actually when it's hot, I want
to be out here feeling the heat. I don't want to hide from
the environment that I'm in. It gets into the painting. bet it gets into the painting
If I'm out here, I'm painting in a hundred degree weather,
it'll get into the painting. It shows.
Either in the feeling that with which I paint or the look of
the thing it gets into it. That's why sometimes people
tell me that they want to paint snowscape. I paint a lot of snow
scape. They'll tell me they want to paint snow scape but they
want to do it at home in their basement from
photographs. I'll tell them how you going to get the feeling of
cold in a painting if you're not willing to feel cold? What
you feel, the way you relate to all of this
around you it gets into the painting. That's why we work
outside, besides the fact the landscape is actually stored
But if it's hot, I'm happy, I want to experience this place. Got a
wind, nice breeze blowing today, too.
I want the experience of being here, it gets into the
And if it works the viewer's gonna look at it and say it
feels like I'm really there.
Still no white.
I'm still working
only with my colored pigments. I have not touched the white
Which means I get my values, I get my high values by painting
transparently, letting the white of the canvas show through to give me
Again, I do that because this painting stays mobile. I can
move this thing around shove it anyway I want until I
touch the white. As soon as I touch that white I'm locked
down, better know where things str going to go because once you
hit that point, it's much much more difficult to shove the
painting around and make corrections. Transparently it's
easy to move this, move that, rearrange things and I still -
I'm figuring out where everything goes. I may have to
move something. It's transparent that's easy.
I had a great mentor when I was learning to paint one of the
number of people taught me to paint. A guy named Robert Douglas
And Robert Douglas Hunter was very Bostonian and he had what
we used to call a Mid-Atlantic accent and he talked about the
the big look of nature, get the big look of nature Stapleton.
I'm not very good at imitating Boston accents, even though
I've lived there all my life nearly all my life.
But what he meant by that was what it looked like when you
apprehended it at a glance, what you'd see if you look through
eyelashes devoid of detail, knows nothing specific, just the
big big look of nature and he was always saying that was the
most important thing you get that you're home free. You can
decorate it up with all the detail or variation you want.
You get that big look, you try and keep it. It's sometimes
it's hard enough to get it on the canvas to begin with but the Cameras to begin with but the
trick is to keep it throughout the entire process to always
have that big look of nature.
And it's just shapes of color, masses. I don't care whether -
what anything is at this point. I will later, but at this point
I don't care what t anything is. It's just patches
of light and dark. There's an oblong shape and here's an oval
This rock goes like this off to the right over here. There's
another one goes like that. Well, I want that.
Almost always if I have a shape leaning or aligned going one
direction I want to counter it with another one going the
other way. Don't always do that, but it's something I like to do
I've got this big rock over here leaning this way and I see
smaller one out there. So triangular one out there
leaning the other way, it's good. I'm going to use that.
I don't have to put everything in, don't have to put everything
exactly where it is.
I don't have to paint everything exactly what it looks like but
that's the default setting. If I don't I need to have a good
reason for not doing it that way. The first thing I try and I
ask myself is what does it look like?
Place like this
just begs to be painted.
I'm going to make those mountains shapes a little bit
bigger in the background though. I like them.
If I like something I'll often allot it a little more real
estate on my canvas.
If I don't like something I'm gonna leave it out entirely.
And here's my chain coming across the bottom here. I want to try
and tie into this side of the canvas,
which is going to mean rearranging this corner.
This corner right here is going to be your entrance while
you're going to look at this painting
you going to theoretically go into it just like so.
For generations and centuries artists have worked at what
they call eye control. Plotting how the eye moves through the
canvas. You look at the canvas and this point shoot of this
place and then you go over here, then you go over there,
then you go to the subject matter and then you exit out
In recent - and painters have worked at eye control since the
Renaissance. However in recent years we've developed the
ability to actually track the way an eye looks at the
cameras on the eyes and put a painting in for a picture or
whatever in front of people and they can track the way the eye
moves through the through the picture.
It's very different than what they artists have thought all along,
very different. The eye just seems to skitter randomly about
the picture, scattering all over it. Nothing like the way we
arrange paintings for controlling the eye.
But I still use those ideas because it installs an order
subliminally, a geometric order below the surface of what you
see. At a glance it's the painting but underneath it
there's a geometric order going on and I use the traditional
one, which we once thought was I control and isn't but there
still is a logical path leading through the picture and at
least subconsciously I think the viewer sees that and realizes
this has been ordered.
You know those great big murals you see in the dentist's office
of the forest, the big photo murals, you can use one of
those up in two minutes. You look at it and two minutes later
you never look at it again. There's
nothing there to hold your interest. Paintings that hold
your attention are a mix of the appearance of nature and the
personality of the efforts of the artists and those two
things are inner woven, often so suddenly it's hard to tell
which one is which. But that's what makes it art. Rather than
just being a random copy of what's in front of you it's
had order at least some order installed and thought put
in it to make the arrangement so that the painting is a waltz
between observation and intention.
I've stood back. I like to stand back and just look at the thing,
figure out what's going on here. And I'm going to drop this little
bit. This painting is really going to be
built on the width of this tree and the upward thrust of that,
the difference between those two is where this picture is
hopefully going to work. I've -
at this point. I don't care where anything is it's just a
pattern of darks and lights. I'm starting to hint at the
color and things but really what I'm after it's just
the big pattern of lights and darks. I get that, I'm home
free. I can decorate it with all the detail I want. I can go
home decorative in detail in the studio if I want. If I can get
the big shapes and the relationships between them not
just exactly like in nature, but I have to make them
attractive and interesting shapes. I knew that
that's the goal. What I'm trying to do out here today a lot of
times I'll look at that painting when through my
eyelashes drops all the extra detail out of it. I see it as
simply as possible. In my studio I've got a big mirror
behind me. I can pull out my mirror and look at it. Don't
have a mirror here with me today, but
oftentimes in the studio I'll check things in the mirror and
you got a mirror things will jump out at you you didn't
notice when you're making the painting you see in reverse.
It's like a having a fresh eye at the painting.
You can see a whole lot with a hand mirror. You can just get a
lady's hand compact, sort that has that dust they put on their
faces and a little sponge in, you throw all that stuff away
and just keep the little box with me, right? Just look at it
like so you can see your painting in the mirror, good
thing to do.
And I keep
looking up there and
noticing the width of this tree from here to here is
going to be real important to get this tree so it's broad.
character is is one of breadth. And so I want to be
certain to get that.
Some of you, probably few of you now are old enough to remember
and the cartoonist, political cartoonist, had a great time of
Richard Nixon. He was just a cartoonist dream and they would
exaggerate that ski-jump nose and the little piggy eyes and
bubbly jowls and the five o'clock shadow and you look at those
cartoons they did of Richard Nixon and they'd look more like
Richard Nixon than Nixon himself. You never look at them and think
that's Spiro Agnew. You always knew a cartoon of NIxon when
you saw it. Why? because the cartoon artist
had seized upon the essentials. What was unique, individual to
Richard Nixon that made him look like Nixon that particular
nose, the eyes, and they've exaggerated though slightly.
Now a lot of cartoons, of course, they take it to extreme,
they do it on purpose so that it's you know comedic but
same thing goes on out here to a certain extent. I'm looking
at things like that tree. I'm asking myself, what is this
individual about this tree? Why is it looking the way it does?
It's not like some other tree and then I'll make a point of
in that end of the painting just a little bit just making sure
that you see it characterizing it, I'm trying to seize
upon its essential character mistakes and state that boldly
and proudly. Maybe not the gross exaggeration you'd have
in a cartoon of Richard Nixon but enough that I've
characterized that tree almost like a little bit of a cartoon
edge to it. I'm exaggerating its important characteristics
just enough to show them that I know it.
I got you.
I'm going to alter the look of that wash that's out there and
see if I can't use it to draw the viewer in this way into the
painting. Whenever I can get things in the painting that
point into my subject matter I like that. I've got a couple
of them here today too. I've got this points in, I'll keep in mind I
want this to point you in to the subject matter. All these
lines are going to converge radially on my subject
if I can get them to do that.
This mountain, this mountain, these lines come down and I've
twisted a little bit to make then do that too, these
mountains run down here and point at my rock, tree subject
matter area. And this wash here I'm going to clean this
up and stylize it, change it a little bit so that it too takes
you from the foreground into
to our exciting tree area.
And as long as I'm making that color seem like there's going
to be a lot of that color in this
environment I'm painting.
Throw a little bit in there. It'll get covered up by
something later, but it's nice to have that
And that's violet and yellow ochre I'm using here.
They're compliments, exact opposites or near opposites of
I like to keep my mixtures real simple. I don't make many
mixtures with three different colors in them. I mean other
than white. White's not really a color.
But I generally try and keep my mixture simple just two colors.
It gives it a better look to the painting, a simpler look to the
painting and also makes them more repeatable. If I've got
four or five different ingredients in that note that
I'm making in front of me, it's almost impossible to make it
again if I need more of it. I try and keep my color mixing
simple. That means that I'm not exactly always perfectly
hitting the color what's in front of me.
Sometimes I think that's necessarily but a lot of times it
isn't. I just get close enough. In fact lot of times I bend
colors so the painting will have a color harmony that is
all the colors work together to the larger hole rather than be
a mosaic of unrelated color. You don't want that.
So I've got a simple color mixture going down here. Just
get two colors.
Notice I've painted this whole thing with this brush. I've
used one brush today for all my different colors and it's a
little unusual. You'll see a lot of painters out there with
10 or 12 brushes in their hands and they're reserving a
different brush for every color. It's fine. In fact, I
was taught to paint that way, by getting in Rockport and
getting this almost production mentality, I got to make the
art, got to make it fast, make it good.
On of the shortcuts just working with one brush. I just working with one brush. I
got a rag in my hand and I'll dip that brush in the mineral
spirits and clean it out somewhat and go on to the next
What that means is that little bits of the color already in
this brush. You're going to do it in the next mixture. I'm
okay with that. Now I wouldn't want to be a straight cadmium
yellow but I get a little pollutions going to my colors
and I think that's good. There's not a lot of clean
color out here in nature and the little overlap that happens
in my colors, make my color a little less accurate but tends
to hold the picture together a little bit but nature spends
her colors, very parsimonious very very -
like it's wicked cheap.
Not a lot of real bright colors of nature, and particularly out
here in the desert. And now and then you get a splash of bright
yellow of wildflowers. Parsimoniously. That's what I
meant, parsimoniously. You get a splash of bright yellow for a
flowers or you know, but most of the time every color you see
before nature has got a little bit of its complement and it's
just kicked a little bit this direction, that direction,
and often I'm looking for what they call what has been
called the odd note of nature. They mix the note. That's what it
looks like and then you look again and you study it more
carefully and say, you know, there's a little bit of a kind
of a violet in there that I didn't notice at first. That's
the odd note of nature and just as I characterize by maybe a
slight exaggeration or at least seizing on the individual
characteristics, the objects out there, I do that with my colors
too, I try to characterized them and that's done by looking
carefully for the odd note of nature. Not the note you'd
first mixed up when you look at but what you'd notice about it after
you looked at it for a little while. Incidentally everything in
painting looks two different ways.
The first way it looks is when you look at the entire big
picture and you see everything in the painting in relationship
to everything else.
The second way things can look - and it's totally different - is
the way it looks when I looked particularly a little object
within it. All of a sudden I see the details within it, its
edges grow harder, and if I work just paint this little part and
this little part and that little part, I'll get a painting,
that's 30 paintings on one canvas all vying for our
attention. I want to put one big unified picture on the
canvas. So I have to paint - imagine I'm a portrait painter. measure on a Portrait Painter.
I'm going to paint the head while looking at the hand ,I
want what that head looks like when I'm looking at the
hand. The first time that I heard somebody say that it was
long ago and I thought well, this is like Zen I can't
understand this, but as I've worked over the years I've
developed the ability to see the whole thing and paint the
various parts of painting the way they look when I perceive
the whole and drops out a lot of detail and then everything
is interrelated. The whole painting is woven together and
then when it works, it's perceived as one big unit, has a
unit of effect.
Remember that color I mixed up. I don't remember it either. The color
I mixed up for this stuff,
real high key kind of a dirty ochrey Curry.
kind of a blue in there.
I'm going to go ahead and
dump that into my sky, just a little bit of it. Boy it looks
dark up there too doesn't it? Maybe too dark.
But I want to get some of that up in my sky. I want to get an
overall tonality in this picture which that everything
out there has got this
gray sandy color laced into it.
And I'm going to seize on that and try and get it a little bit
of our overall tonality into the painting and do that. I
want to take this note from down here and stick it up in my
sky. I want to paint over this another color later, but this
will make sure it's there percolating in the
And of course if you look at it nature in front of me, it didn't
really look that, it's not really that color. If you were
just someone who came along behind me right now without
hearing that explanation they'd say, what's that all about? Why
is he doing that? Well, I'm going to bury this color under
the subsequent colors I put down over the top but it will
still be there. It gives me complex color. It operates - just
because I put another color over top of it, it doesn't
dissolve or go away. It's still at the root of my mixture, it's
still in the color. I can strike other colors into it,
but it's always going to affect what comes next, it's always
a root underneath my color.
Keeping that pretty thin though. I don't want to have to
fight it when I do come in on it later. I'm out here in the
desert, things are real dry. I paint it thin. It's going to dry
fast, everything that's in this painting will be may even be
dry by the end of the work day here today. This entire painting
may be dry. It's very dry out here.
And it's cooled off a little now, but I'm sure it'll be a
hundred most of the day, a hundred degrees.
And I'm starting to get
enough on this canvas I can begin to get an idea of what
are the things going to work. Until I get my lay in done
you notice probably a third or more of the time that
goes into this painting is my lay in, I'm pretty careful
about my drawing and the lines and looking for where the
gremlins are going to pop out later.
I'm actually pretty precise about this even though it looks
sketchy and unfinished. It's actually very carefully
Is this is the scaffolding on which the painting is
built. If I get this part right, the big
shapes of nature
I'm almost home free. And if I don't get it right no amount
of adding detail or rearranging or wiping out or other forms of
obfuscation are going to save me. Really the make-or-break is
in lay in, the
battle is won or lost
at the start.
And it's graying out out here.
It probably means the light's going to change -
not going to change too much as I work. That's good.
And most of these passages, I'll look at them and say well what color
is it mostly?
I have come back later and I've got here's this little
thing and that's that little thing. But for now, I just get
the big smear. Just what color is it mostly? I can do that. A
lot of colors can't do that, with oil paint I can always
strike something out. I can always,
virtually always anyway, unless I get too thick, I could pretty
throw another opaque layer over the top of it. My paints a little
less opaque today because I'm working with a mixture of both
flake lead and titanium. Gives me a little better flow and I
love the way lead looks on a painting. Again if you're a
beginner or you aren't a hardened pro lead's probably not
something you would put on your palette and you probably
wouldn't notice the difference if you have unless you're painting
for a while you wouldn't notice it. There's not enough gain in it
for you to experiment with it.
So you're probably going to use titanium white out here.
Remember I said zinc was - zinc's a no no, no zinc.
Is it the locus of evil in the contemporary world? Well, I'm
not sure but don't paint with zinc.
Most of the titanium whites have a little zinc put in them to
improve their handling
and I have a feeling over - in fact virtually all of the
commercially available titanium's have a little zinc
in them and we didn't know until very recently that it was
as much of a problem as it is. I'm guessing that they'll be
less zinc in all available paints in the future.
Again, I don't have any cerulean out here today.
I'm traveling and I'm working with a little bit of a reduced
kit. So I'll use viridian.
Lots of white and some veridian in the place of cerulean
for my high key blue. I've got -
and I will no doubt work on this in the studio when I'm
done and skies are usually what I'm going after. In the studio
if anything's liable to get changed it's going to be my
sky, but I always take a stab at whatever's out there during
the day, but then I get in the studio often times I'll say
well that looks a lot like the sky that was out
there, but it's not the most effective sky for showing in the
picture and I'll put a whole new sky in the painting
in the studio.
But I'll always take a stab at what's out here.
And sometimes it works
or serves as a model for
what I'm going to do to it.
Did you say you brought lunch? Anybody out their have
It's not that it's my stomach was grumbling. I was thinking
what if the mic's picking that up?
Almost never use straight white out of the tube, always throw a
little something into it. I guess occasionally I do but
very rarely do I ever just use straight white. I always throw a
little something into it. A lot of the times in my lightest
lights I'll just a little cadmium yellow in there, a little ochre.
The brightest note I can make, remember I showed you the
darkest note I could make with the viridian and alizarin, the
lightest note I can make is not straight white. It's white with
just a little tad of cadmium yellow in it.
It's higher key or it looks higher key anyway, then just straight
white. It may be an optical illusion, but it looks as if pollution, but it looks as if
trying to be aware that
I want to get this guy all up and all brighter than anything
down here. There are variations in value up here in the sky
and if you only look at the sky without comparing the landscape,
the tendency is to paint it too dark, to have too much - the darks
too heavy in your sky. It's really easy to do and the way
you avoid that is by constantly comparing the notes in your sky
not just to each other or not particularly to each other but
to the rest of the painting. That comes back to
the big look. You want that sky to look as it looks when you look
at the entire picture rather than when you study some
individual section of it.
If I look right at it, I might think these are really dark. If
I compare the darks in those clouds to this rock, I squint
down and look at the my eyelashes, everything up in that sky is
much much lighter than anything down here below.
And that's often the case, usually brightest thing in a
painting usually is the sky. It is the source of light after
all, there's nothing on our palette which is actually as
powerful as the light of the sky. Often really can't hit
notes as bright as illuminated things in the sky. We have to
give the illusion that we've done that but we usually can't
really make the brightest notes that are in a skey, they're above the
level of what our palette is capable of doing.
We have to fool people to think we've done it.
copy this little part of cloud is here and that little part of a
cloud is there. Outside with everything moving and the needs
of making this whole painting I don't have that luxury. So
I'll go ahead and kind of ask myself how it's made, what
characterizes the way this guy looks and try and paint
works the same way as the sky rather than trying to imitate
every little particular piece of it.
And sometimes it works
but I'm also going to pull out my phone right about now.
What happened to my phone? There it is. I'm going to pull
out my phone. I'm going to shoot a picture of that sky. I
may never need it, but it's a little insurance policy. If I
don't get a sky that I like or I've got it, but I haven't got
enough information I'll have a photo of it later. I'm very
glad I've done that. I'm buying a little Insurance here.
There is that sky right there.
I take all these photographs, seldom use them there. Always think
they're gonna be more useful than they really are. I go on
locations, I'm driving around, I pull the car over and say what
a great place, what a great location this is. I get out my
camera, I take pictures of it and oh, this is fabulous. I get
home. I look at the pictures and it's not there. It's just
evaporated. It looked so good when I was standing in front of
it. The photo is somehow just didn't get it, bring it
home. Maybe that's one of the reasons why we're painting
outside is because of that phenomena happens
in painting, too,
different when you're standing in them and actually feeling
them rather than at the removal provided by a photograph.
But the reason we paint outside
is because that is where the landscape is stored.
If they kept the landscape inside, I'd probably paint
inside. But they don't, it's stored outside. So here I am.
I had a friend who's pretty darn good landscape painter. I
don't think I wanted to paint like him, but he was
good. He really had some skills.
And he never paid outside. He had a slide projector and in those
days we used colored slides in the studio, sometimes a slide
His skin was a color of white sugar, looks like he'd never
spent an hour outside in the sun in his life but he was
a darn good painter and he made a lot more money than I did. He
was making these big things going into corporate
collections, and he was
making a lot of money and I remember grousing at this wife
I used to have I'd say to her well, he never goes outside.
I'm out in all kind of weather and getting sunburned and I'm out
when it's 25 degrees below zero and I'm hauling easels on sleds
through deep snow and I'm out in the deep woods and you know,
it's exhausting I'm tired and I got all this stuff and if I
forget anything, I might have to go back and get it and she
said well, you wouldn't like being in the studio anyway,
you want to be outside. I do, I like being out Dad? Do I like I like being out
here and I paint outside. I think it's the best way to make good
pictures, but also I like being out here in this stuff. I've
spent my entire life standing in front of the most beautiful
places I could find.
Oddly enough he decided he'd rather fish and so he moved to
South Carolina, Hilton Head, and now he spends his time fishing.
I never see his art out there anymore. Maybe it's still out
there. Maybe he just doesn't show anywhere that I'm seeing
it. I think he might have quit though. He might have gotten
bored. There's nothing more boring than sitting in a in a
studio copying photographs. It's tedium.
At least for me it is and I think maybe he quit. If he'd
been working outside to the excitement of the challenge of
doing this out here the changing light, the weather, and
wind and all that goes on he might still be painting.
Boy, I sure hope I'm doing this, right.
You know, all the mistakes are out there just waiting to be
made. They pre-exists their commission. There are no new or
original mistakes, every mistake you can make has been made
Like that one.
Is that a duck?
Suppose they have ducks out here?
I usually think of them as being
in the water.
I often like to darken this passage right above the horizon
line. In nature probably three-quarters of time you're
lightest light inandthe darkest dark always seem to occur at
the same place right here.
I want to control how people look at my pictures, what they
see. One of the ways I do that is by contrast where light and
dark come together tracks the eye.
And if I just go by what nature does every painting I make the
lightest light and the darkest are gonna be right there where the
sky meets the horizon.
Oftentimes I'll darken it up to give myself a choice of
where I paint my lightest light, my darkest dark with it having
imposed upon me and in a single picture, that's probably not a
problem. It's okay, but if you've got - you're putting on a
show when you got 30 of your paintings hanging on the wall,
and the lightest light and the darkest dark at the same place
in every painting in the room it looks like it's a
problem, so I like to
often will run this little lower. Just soft-pedal
this contrast between those two. So something else can be
more important. I don't want that horizon line to be the
most important thing in every painting I make.
I stop and clean my palette when I no longer have a clean
place to mix, the whole palette dirtied up, stop and
clean the palette off.
I've paid all those sky notes in there.
And remember I didn't even try and finish that sky. I just
brought it up to the same level as the rest of the painting.
I'm herding sheep here. Now that sky is arguably
as good as the rest of the painting so it's time to move
on. I can come back to it later. I know it'll move and
change the sky's moving changing all the time. That's just the
way it works.
I'm not going to get hung up on one little corner in the
painting and put all my work, time, into one little corner of
the painting, trying to get it just right and then paint the next
thing next to it right just right. I keep moving, work over Great. I keep moving work over
the whole painting. I look at this thing and saying what's my
furthest back straggler, what I need to work, what's falling
behind the rest of the my flock? How can I bring it up
so it's as finished as the rest of the painting and I'm going
to step back from it. Go on to my next furthest back
straggler. I'm always hunting the furthest back straggler.
As long as I'm taking a pause I'm gonna check my whole palette, make
sure I've got everything I'm using, know I'm running out of
stuff. I don't want to quit once I get rolling. So I'll make sure
I've got enough of my medium
which today is liquin. It's an alkyd medium.
I'm not real picky about mediums, there's a dozen different
mediums I could have happily be using
right now. Liquin is the one I grabbed. It's an alkyd medium.
I talked about alkyd the other day.
This stuff is -
doesn't smell good and it'll bite your nostril working at
the studio. You don't want to work with this in the dead
of winter in a closed-up studio. It will start bothering your
sinuses, at least for many people. And
I've a time or two had to put it away and say I can't use that
for a while.
There are other alkyd mediums that don't have that
they also don't work quite as well as this one. This is a
fast drying meeting and once this painting is dry it's gonna be
bullet proof. It stays - it will stay down and I can work over
top of it. And if I don't like what I've done I can wipe back
to the drawing underneath without destroying it. That's a nice
Originally it was thought of as an illustrator's medium. All
the illustrators used liquin
and now it's -
a lot of people use it, very common medium,
but again outside it's not a problem, in the studio
it may well irritate your sinuses and your nasal passages and you
want to keep a lookout for that.
There's a very similar medium
called Galkyd which I think is less likely to do that, that's
made by Gamblin and Gamblin is a company that besides
making quality paint has worked hard to make safer painting
products that they make the solvent I'm using now which is
and it's been purified, a little extra work put in to make sure it's
And they also make alkyd medium
that I think is less noxious, has
which is called
Galkyd and they make a different varieties
of that, they make it
I think maybe they put it in tubes. There's other mediums
like this that come in tubes.
I have a friend who's a fabulous guitar player. I'll go
see him a lot and one of the things he'll say, you know,
somebody will ask him about
you know, what's the best guitar and all that and he'll
say, you know, it's not in the guitar.
And it seems true here it's not in the paint. I can paint with one
brand and paint with another brand. I have the materials I
like but I can use others. It's not in the paint. It's a mental
My paint is better than almost every artist in history. When
we look back and Rembrandt would kill to have my palette. I got
stuff that Rembrandt would just have loved, they didn't really
even have effective blues. A lot of those Old Dutch guys, blue is
so expensive that they used black instead.
I think if Rembrandt were to get look at my phthalo blue
he'd be real excited by that. What is that you've got there?
And why don't you paint better using it?
If I had that blue.
You could put about a week into drawing that tree. the drawing that tree.
I don't have a week.
I've just got a couple hours.
So I have to go in and try and figure out what the big masses
look like, get some idea of those,
and hope that hope that that's going to do because there isn't
time to - well if I sometimes I'll come back repeatedly
different days but one shot there isn't time to
something out like that.
Got to go in and summarize it.
I've moved down to a smaller brush. I'm on the number four
Which looks like that. It's about the width of my
fingernail. Maybe a little smaller.
And it's number four.
Brush sizes are not really constant. One company's number
four may be a little bit bigger, a little smaller but...
Oh and this is a number four too. That two is a number four.
Evidently for bigger or little brushes there's a different
standard both of these are marked the number four. This one's a
quarter inch wide. This one's a 16th of an inch wide if that
and there's no consistent color
that matches up with any of these names. One company's
Veridian might be warmer and other one cooler. There is no -
every brand of paint is slightly different and there's a sort of
a general idea of what things is supposed to look like but
they're all - it all varies from company to company and all
and that's sometimes about quality. But other times it's
not. A lot of times you just sort of figure out what it is
that you like in a color
and what company you get used to stuff, you know, and then of
course, they quit making it.
There are a lot of things that I painted with 30, 40 years ago
that I would love to have but I can't get now. Used to be we all
used Tobby's Copal Medium, everybody used it, it was standard and
it was copal is a it's a sort of a varnish like damar only
it's not and it was very standard in painting all
through the 40s, 50s, and 60s. A lot about the guys, my
grandfather's generation that are my heroes painted with
the usual, there was a fella named Tobby
Line of copal mediums that just about everybody I knew used.
And then one day I went to the store
and it was gone.
Never saw it again. For a couple of years if I wanted copal I could
go to fancy art supply stores and they'd have copal. Comes in a
form called tears, little crystals that you'd melt down
in solvent make your own. But after a while even those
disappeared, I don't know whether copal is
available anywhere in the world now, but I wouldn't know where
to find it. I'm sure if you - you can find anything if you're
willing to pay enough and look hard enough, but I haven't seen
copal in an art supply store in years, you just have to find here's you just have to find
My guess is that there's better mediums that the mediums
I'm using are better than the copal anyway, but the old
paintings I painted with it still look pretty good.
You know when I was in art school
and I only used to get juiced in it. I lasted a year in art
I had friends who had thousand dollar stereos, 1970 a thousand
dollars was a lot of money and they had these stereos that had speakers
this big and they had big amplifiers you can hardly
carry and they were -
they had a lot like strobe lights on the turntable, that
thing you put the record on, the plastic black plastic
records and they watch that little cuts on the side of the
turntable, make sure that turntable was turning exactly
perfectly at the same speed. If it didn't that was wow or
flutter. I forget which ones wish but there were distortions
that could be put in the music from inferior equipment and
they'd spend like a thousand bucks to have this perfect sound
coming out of these stereos.
A thousand bucks was big money. Annie
And you go over and you look in their
record collection and they'd have like the Sound of Music and
three Kansas albums.
It wasn't about the music they didn't care about the music. It was
all about the technology.
They were not hip frankly. They just weren't.
They didn't know Dr. John
never heard of Leo Kottke, much less John Fahey.
Well, the same thing goes on in painting too. There are people
who mistake the art for the materials and there's an
endless endless world of rabbit holes you can go down with
materials. I'm not disparaging the need to have good quality
professional level materials. I'm not advocating using
cheaper inferior materials, but there's a point at which it's
good enough to get the job done. Now if you're married to
a thoracic surgeon, you buy anything you want no matter the
cost, but for most of us we have to sort of be aware of what
we're paying for things and what the relationship is
between what it costs and how well it works for the job I'm
trying to do. I need professional level materials,
but it's not in the paint. It isn't about the paint and I
meet people who spend -
grind their own paint, probably smelt their own
artillery, build their own in the basement, televisions in the basement,
but they're all in the materials and they've got
perfect pure pigments that are all ground up just so and they
mold their paint and mix it at home and they're so
concerned about that
and they make paintings that are guaranteed to last a
thousand years that should never have been made in the
It ain't about the paint.
Well, I sure hope I'm doing this right.
I'm making decisions that are smaller now. Remember when I started
out I had my number fourteen brush and I was putting things
down nothing smaller than that, made no decisions, but made no -
nothing on the canvas. If it wasn't that big it didn't make
it onto my canvas now. I'm going down to a smaller
brush. Keep having trouble with that. I'm down to a smaller
brush. I'm working on a smaller box than I usually do and it's
kind of there in my way.
I'm making smaller decisions now. I'm making marks about
And I sometimes take paintings to a very high level of
And other times I only take them a little ways and I think
looking back the ones I were I felt were most successful were
those that I managed to keep them big, keep them up in
larger brush strokes. I think those are the most effective
paintings I've done. I collect paintings, besides making them
I collect them and one of the paintings I own
is by Emile Gruppe. He was a Gloucester artist
died in maybe the mid-1970s. I never knew him,
I wished I had butI didn't. But I knew, met people who did
and I met I can't really say I know his son, his son's painting today,
But they were a painting family. One of the brothers was a
sculptor and they were an art family. His father had been a
painter. But it's an Emile Gruppe and it looks like groupie and it's it looks like
it was jammed out in about two or three hours and probably was
he made a lot of art very fast. I'm not a particularly
I can live with that but there are people who are a lot faster
than I am
and Emile was certainly one of them, but that - there isn't a mark
in that painting any smaller than about that. No, no
little mark, no
really explanation. Everything is ispresented
large and it works just fine. You don't look at it and think
well, I wish he'd had niggled more on it,
painting works just fine. It's all that it needs to be, in fact
its strength is in its simplicity. It's sort of abrupt
broad statement that it makes.
As the years go by it gets more and more important to me. I
care less and less about
the little details and try and more and more to get the big,
broad look of what's before me and modify it to get a little
art in there. You know, the art isn't just going to show up on
its own incidentally. You got to put it there.
You got to actually install the art in the painting. You cannot
observe the art into the painting, therefore
you got to put it there. It won't just show up unbidden. It
won't just somehow show up because you copied what's in
front of you. You have to put the art in the paintings. You
cannot observe art into a painting.
You just can't, okay?
Don't paint with your fingers.
I'm gonna bend what's out there in front of me a little bit
and try and get these lines, remember talked about lines
feeding you into the painting. I look at this and I
see this line tends to rise up right here the underneath
that tree. I'm just going to bend this one down like that
so it hits the opposite. Now I've got a big triangle,
see my big triangle.
Maybe it won't work, but I'll throw that in there, bend a
little bit see if I can't get that, lead your eye up there
a little better. Now I've got that tree in that big rock
sitting up on top of a
tree, see that big triangle there? Nice solid shape. Puts a good
base on him. Triangles are real stable. They got a real broad
base, narrow top, real stable shape.
put that triangle shape in there like that
give me a look of solidity I hope. There's a case of me
doing something that's not based on what's actually in
front of me. In fact, all this whole patch is going to have to
be invented. It
doesn't do - nature itself in front of me doesn't really do
what I want to do. It's sort of a wild jumble through there. So
I have to make it up.
Sometimes I do a little of that.
Always I do some of that.
You just have to think.
No alternative to it, you've got to think while you're out
Okay, so let's take a little break now.
We'll come back in a minute.
take a second and thank the landlord for allowing to be
here. They provide us with a park ranger who's watched over
us. Make sure we don't get eaten by snakes and we're
very very happy to have the opportunity at this absolutely
stupendous place. It's about two hours from Los Angeles and
it's bigger than the state of Rhode Island's. There's a lot
here. It has two deserts within it, the Mojave
and another desert that's not the Mohave. I believe we're the most B-but, I believe we're
in the Mojave section right now, but there's two distinct
desert ecosystems that meet here for people who are experts
in that sort of thing. I guess that matters but it's dry and
it's very very deserty indeed here and I'm delighted
to be here painting it.
I'm going to go back. I've got my number 4 and I'm going to go
back to trying to characterize these items and as I do I'll
keep continue to keep trying move throughout, paint the whole
picture at once, get the whole thing moving, travel all over
the picture. If I get too far behind too, far ahead and my
furthest back stragglers now are those areas I've hardly
addressed where I've got the -
that should be blue, but I haven't put much thought into
here and this is just simply washed in so I've got to get at
these. You know, everything affects everything else
around it. The way that a painting looks,
the way this looks is influenced by the way that
looks. Everything is locked together. And if I change
this, this look different, so I have to work the whole painting
at once. You can't really just paint one item in isolation. I
have to paint everything the way it looks compared to
everything else and to do that I have to have it all on the
And it's so easy to get just hung up on one little piece. How
many times have I sort of come to my senses and realized I've
just been working on this one tiny essential portion of
this canvas on and on and neglecting the whole of it. I
have to kind of monitor my behavior and make sure I'm
working all over the canvas, work the whole thing.
You know, there's a lot of different sides and points on
this brush and I can paint with the flat part of the brush or I
can paint with the edge of the brush. I can pull lines like
this, there's all different ways I can pick up that paint and put
it on this canvas. I don't always do it the same way. It
isn't always the same brush stroke. I can turn the brush
strokes to follow and display the form or I can turn them a
ways to obliterate the form when I don't want to give
Brush handling -
painters talk about that as being handling.
Handling is your handwriting, what the painting
looks like. And there is no handling for us in nature. So
whenever I'm making decisions about the brushstrokes and the
way they were arranged and the way it looks I'm thinking I'm
installing something in nature. There is art in handling.
And that's one of the reasons why painters,
painterly painters, are so fond of brushwork and the
handwriting of the artist and the painting because it's
individual, it's one of the things that yourself that
you put into that paint to give it style
and you cannot observe handling into a painting.
Sometimes I get little hairs coming off these brushes.
And I'll take my palette knife and then just cut them right
off of there like that. Little random hairs on the edge of a
brush and as the brush dulls it starts to give a
raggedy-look to the brushstroke and I'll replace it. For now
it's okay, but even this brush is starting to wear on me to
say I paint with what are essentially brand new brushes
all the time. I want
my brushes to be as sharp as razors.
Other people - I have friends who use the same brushes for years
and years and they treasure their brushes and for me they're
disposable, they're just popsicle sticks.
Good thing I'm not a guitarist. I imagine throwing
away that Stratocaster at the end of every night. Well done
with that one.
Brushes - I ll through this brush away, might be good for
another hour then I'm gonna throw it away.
All this is lit up out there. It was all pretty dark and
simple when I got here and now it's all lit up. I'm not going
to - it's all chopped up into various shapes and I'm not
going to go in there and find them all and chop it up. It
doesn't add to my picture and it looked better before
that. So I'm going to keep this just real simple. In fact
wt's way more complicated than it was and I don't want to draw
attention away from my tree. I wanted big, simple broad shapes,
so I'll lay it in
and then cut it up as little as I possibly can. I'll
go in and throw some of the darks into it. Or it can just
sit over there and shut up. It's not my subject. I'm
always kind of aware of what's important, who's the
supporting actor and who's a hero and that big rock over
there is definitely supporting actor. I importing supporting actor. I
don't want to get too involved in digging out the niceties of
it. I'm just keep it real simple. Simple at least that is
There is a big rock down here that I had to have in, think I
And I want to subordinate all of these rocks to the larger
form of that cliff. I want to paint a cliff not a jumbo of
I want to keep everything within here,
all one big thing
rather than chopping it up into
needless extraneous detail which
will detract from what my subject matter is but I am
getting captured by that one particular rock there, that sort
of square one in there. That is interesting. And if I can
characterize one rock you'll imagine the rest. Oftentimes you
got multiple something rather than painting - if you just
characterized one of them like if you got windows in the building
you got through, you know, you're looking out on a harbor
scene and you've got all the buildings around the harbor and
you've probably got 500 windows out there and the painting
won't be better for getting every 500 in, you get a couple
of them in, it ll serve to let people know what it is. You paint
something about once or twice and you're good to go.
And again, I may come back, throw more detail later, but
it's now no longer my furthest back straggler. So I'm going to
move along and get it the next thing. No.
Because I'm working in a rotary fashion all over the entire
I'm not interested in nailing something down into perfection.
I just want to get the big look of it
and then move on to something else.
I'll all that down for now.
It's no longer my furthest back straggler. It's as far along as
a this stuff. Something else is now my furthest back straggler.
I keep worrying about this rock. There's something wrong
with this rock. I don't know what it is. I hope I'll figure
it out, but there's something it's not working for me. by it's not working for me.
I'm afraid it's becoming what I've referred to earlier as a
And when you've got a gremlin that's unresolved you have a
picture with a problem.
You want to watch out for that, you want to make sure that
you've got a solution and all the problems you don't have to
have a lot of finish or a lot of detail, but you don't want
any problems. I want to make sure you've got a good idea of
how each part of this picture is going to work. I may take it
home in the studio and I may trick it up. You know
it's a handy thing
and I take photographs, every location I'm on
and a lot of times I don't even look at them when I'm
in the studio, but now and then I do. I'm more likely to look at
a photograph in the studio
when I'm painting architecture or buildings. I need to know
whether the rake boards or the returns on the gables and above
or below the headers of the windows.
Is there a boom crutch on that catboat?
Those are the sorts of thing photography is good for. Almost
anything is pure nature. I can just - if I've been there and
paint it I can fake my way through it. I can make a tree.
I can move a tree, I can do all of that. So photography is not
terribly useful to me.
But if I've got photos,
if I need them, sometimes they'll save a project. And
in the old days I used to carry a digital camera and
worry about it. And before that was film you'd have to take
and be developed.
But now I've just got my cell phone and the camera on my cell
phone so good. I do have a fancier camera I use sometimes
at home, but by and large I just shoot on my cell phone. It's
just fine, got everything I need. In the studio paintings
almost always have enough detail and often too much.
Isn't really about detail. It's not about the
micro, it's about the macro. And so when I'm working in the
studio from the photograph, I tend to set the photograph here,
the painting here. I look at this goes here, that goes there,
this goes here, that goes there.
I put that photograph away and work out of my head my thought
process but the process becomes what does this painting
Very different from just transferring something
photograph on the canvas and saying what's going on. What's
this painting need? What do I need to do this painting to
make it work and those solutions come out of your
head. They aren't going to be in a photograph as often as not.
I'm in the studio, I'm discarding information outside
and gathering information back in the studio. I'm adding art.
And we'll get to the studio later and you'll see somehow I do
that, but right now go back to working on gathering
There's that rock I mentioned earlier. It's in the shadow.
Now it's changed. That's okay I still want it because I like
the thrust of it. It opposes the lines over here in a nice
Over here by gremlin rock.
Oftentimes when you get gremlins, you ask yourself well it
looks good when I'm standing in front of it, if it doesn't
look good on my canvas I must have missed the drawing the.
First thing I start looking at when I've got a problem
is my drawing right, am I accurate enough to make this
Sometimes that's the answer and I can more carefully examine
what's before me and
there's the solution. I just missed the drawing. That's
what you want. However
other times the problem isn't in observation. The thing just
doesn't look good in the picture. It doesn't work
well with your design or it's -
God didn't put in the right place. There's a lot of things
out here that,
you know, we look at nature. We're not very critical don't we're not very critical
of, it's nature. That's the way it looks. You start getting
things onto a canvas into picture all of a sudden
your eye is less accepting and that's why it's
so important know what your painting's going to look like
rather than just have its appearance dictated to you by
the randomness of
unfettered nature before you,
you cannot just copy what's in front of you and make a good
There are places in this world where that's almost true. There are
places in the mountains out west you go and it's so fabulous. If
you just get it on the canvas, you're probably going to be
okay and they're places like New England you go up in Vermont
painting in the woods and painting sugar houses or the
harbors and Gloucester and you just you gotta arrange,
arranging all the time. You got to
BYOP, bring your own picture. Most of what
ends up on the canvas came to the landscape with you in your
head. There's everything got to be arranged and different
places, some places call for a lot of arrangement, some very
out West, the big mountain ranges and the vast distances,
often times things
don't take a lot of fooling around, look just grand. But in
the woods or in the harbors of New England where I
live and spend most of my time
that's not the case. And I see a lot of people visit New
discover that it calls for skills that they don't use in
the west much, enormous amount of arrangement. The idea is there
the pictures there but you really got to bring your own
And of course things are changing all day long when I'm
out here. Sometimes for the better, sometimes the worst.
Most of the time I try not to change it, follow it, but sometimes I do
it gets better. I'm starting to get light on the side of this
rock. I like that, it defines the form. So I'm going to - I'm going
to go in there and follow a bit, get some of those
facets that show on the rock, get a little more solidity to
But you do have to know what you want your painting to look like
from jump street, otherwise - and that gives you ability to work
longer times outside. If you're just copying, blindly copying
what's in front of you you'll spend your whole day chasing
after changing effects. Every time the shadow is elongating
you'll reach in there and elongated. You got to kind of
stay aware of that you're making a picture, not copying one.
that enables me to deal with
the changes that happen in front of me as I work.
Done a lot of figure drawing over the years, really like it.
There's a challenge. In fact, you want to be a better
landscape painter go draw figures. It's very very good
One of the things that happens in figure groups is the models
move. They just do. They do their best to hold still and some
more than others, but they move and you'll often hear people in
a figure group saying, can you raise your arm a little bit,
bring your elbow a little bit further forward, just a little bit
further forward than you've got it a minute ago.
But the real real good
figurative guys, they're not the one saying that they're
okay because they're drawing from a knowledge of anatomy and
they've got a good idea of what they want that painting look like or
that drawing to look like. And the model moves a little bit, it
doesn't mess them up. They know where the bones are and
where the muscles are that are strung between them and the
model can move and it's okay.
The same goes on out here
Light can change, shadows can come and go but if I know what
I'm trying to make and have a good idea what I want it to look
like it doesn't put me out of business. That means I can work
three, four, maybe even five hours sometimes, particular a
day that's a little grey out like today that just isn't
enormous amounts of change going on by knowing what
I want the painting to look like
I can keep working even though nature's changed somewhat in
front of me. This pass was all in the shadow when I got
here, now it's in the light. I'm not going to move it into
the light. I liked it in the shadow, liked it simple. And in the
studio I may trick this up a little bit and that might be
one of those occasions when I will get my photography, like
I say, I don't use photography very much, but that might be an
occasion where I would try to get a little more detail on
that rock, more than I could get just in the hours that I'll get
Of course, I want the illusion of detail. I want to paint
something simply and you look at you think that you see in a
lot of detail, but really aren't that's the real
trick and you see that in the finest painter's work you look
at you can imagine all that detail there that's good for a
couple reasons. One it speeds up making the pictures and keeps
it simple. But there's also a slight of hand in there that
you look at it, see it done. It's kind of amazing, you know, how
do they do that? People routinely
look at my paintings and they'll say oh well, it looks
so real but I walk up to it, it's just a bunch of brush
strokes and marks and that's interesting to them. It isn't -
well for one I think of involves them. They help make
the picture and also it
it seems like a bit of a bit of magic that you're performing.
An economy of means, you make the few simple marks that
explain more than the average Joe bag of donuts would
imagine that they would.
And again a lot of time I'm not caring about what I'm painting.
I don't really care what things are very much. There are
times when I do but most of the time at this stage in the
painting I'm just concerned with shapes and color.
Here's this shape, here's that shape. This is next to that.
This is darker than, that making comparisons across my painting
and going for the shapes. That is what the thing would look
like if we were flat.
I've spent a long time working at that. I learned that
in studio. That's the sort of thing you learned from drawing casts.
So if you can't draw casts, you do still lifes great training
for this you get out here and
ability to see it, to imagine if it were flat. That's a big
And we need all the help we can get. This is
one of the harder things you can try to do in your life is paint
pictures. I don't mean to be discouraging. I think it was
William Paxton a Boston painter from the turn of the last
century who said that painting is so difficult that no one
would ever do it, except it's so much fun.
It's an endless challenge. There's always some new
thing to be learned and you go to the museum - I go to the museum,
I see a painting, I stand in front of the painting and say, oh, that's the way Tennessee. Oh, that's the way
you do it. I'm going to paint just like that. And I walk to
the next painting that's totally different by different artists
and I stand in front of that painting. Oh, no, that's the way
I'm going to paint like that. I do it all day long in the museum,
I'll stand in front of 30 or 40 different paintings, great
paintings by totally different artists from different eras and
times with different methodologies and I'll look at
every one of them and say, okay that's how you do Kit. That's that's how you do
it. I want to do it like that. And then when I go home at the
end of the day, I'm a little bit smarter, but I'm still me,
everywhere I go there I am.
I always look at my painting and saying
oh no, it's another goddamn Stapleton Kearns. I thought it
was going to be different this time. But everywhere I go, there
I gotta light corner over here. If I can I'll make this
corner dark. I'll get greater variety that way. I want
arrangement of shapes as different as one another as
possible. One of the ways I can get that is by just
mechanically altering things. If I get a light corner over here,
I get a dark corner over here if I can do it. Doesn't always
work, but I want to try it. So I got this corner is bright,
this corner is dark. They're different from one another. In
fact, I can progress my values all the way across this painting.
I can start over here light and get lighter and lighter and lighter and
lighter and then darker and darker and darker and darker.
So I've got a passage across the painting which is graded
from one side to another, that's interesting. And people look at
it and say oh yeah it looks just right. It doesn't occur to them that I've
got a bit of a method going on that. I've got
making one side light, the other side dark, that's more interesting than
having the same way all the way across.
And sometimes I try it and it doesn't work. But othertimes it does.
A lot of this is experimental. Doesn't look good, I can paint it
out. Try something else.
The important thing is I'm trying stuff though. I'm
thinking, I'm trying to make a painting.
And I know that I can't
just transcribe what's before me. One, nature is fabulously
intricate and it's moving all the time. It's like painting a -
drawing a figure that's dancing in front of me, the light's
changing and there's way more than you can there's way more than you can
actually get into a painting frankly and you can - if you've
got enough time you can replicate exactly what's in
front of you and you see that sometimes there's a lot of
nineteenth-century work that's that tightened. Go to
Gettysburg and see those big dioramas they've got, forget the
guys name but they're unbelievable there. So
convincing. And you go to the Museum of Natural History in
New York and you see the work of
the guys who did the boxes of those stuffed animals and it's
worth a trip, fabulous painters. Hanson Puthuff was one but
the best-known was Perry
can't think of the thing of the rest of his name, maybe it'll come to me
later. But those guys are amazing, the Museum of Natural
History in New York is full of the back of those
boxes with the stuffed animals in them are just fabulous works
of art, but they're walking in with a constraint. The whole
point of the whole thing is to make people believe they're
actually outside standing in front of
you know out there with that animal out in the
landscape where it actually lives,
Africa the Arctic, and to be as convincing as possible and it's
amazing. It looks so real
but it's also stylist, looks so real, is stylist. Style is a
result of decisions you make yourself. There's no style
before me in nature. I can't copy what's in front of me so
carefully that I have style in my painting. I don't want my
paintings to look like the box of animal design, you know, a box
designed for a stuffed animal to live in. So there are times
when the illusion, perfect illusion of
reproduction of nature's good, but often it's not - you want
to bring some personal style into things, get some life
in them. They can get dead and very brittle in a big hurry.
Need some life, some some fight in your painting,
some punch. I do things to make my paintings have punch on some
life. I want to grab that viewer, grab a hold him by
the collar and haul them in, come over here, look at this.
You stay here for a while. Look at me for a while.
I do things I can to hold their attention as long as possible
appearance of nature doesn't necessarily do that anywhere
near as well as a lot of other things. You got to think to do
You know it hurts when I think.
Let's get back to work here.
I've checked, made sure I've got everything on my palette that I
need. I don't want anything run out. So while we were
stopped there I replaced ultramarine. I better get some
more ochre out there too.
Don't want anything running out, don't want to be trying to make
bricks without straw.
Let's see now. Well things are changing fast now. It's
12:30. I probably work maybe another 40 minutes and then the
light's going to be so different I'll have to quit.
Sometimes I can get four or five hours in if the light doesn't
change so much. But other times you only get an hour or two and
the lights changed so much you can't work. I can take a
fair amount of change. But at some point the light flips over
is coming from the opposite direction and things that get to
be ridiculous. It's time to quit and go start another one.
I can make two maybe three pictures a day. A morning
session, afternoon session, maybe a quickie in the evening, but
most the time, you know, I'm old now, so most the time I'll
paint two a day. So I'll work on this one for another 45
minutes. I'll take a break, have some lunch. I'll come back and
do another one this afternoon and early evening.
And I like the afternoons better, you know in the morning, in
fact you go out in the morning and the light's raking across
the landscape and looks great and you start laying the thing
in and by the time you get the whole picture on the canvas and
you're really rolling, the sun is directly overhead and
doesn't look anywhere near as a good as it did when you
started out. In the afternoon though, the effect gets
stronger and stronger, the shadows grow and light drops
lower and lower and effect grows in the afternoon. So given
my druthers I would work in afternoons rather than
mornings. I can't afford to take all my mornings off. But
the best time for me personally it paint is late afternoon, what
the old poets used to call the hour of the muse. There's an
ideal light at the end of day when things look their very
best. And you probably noticed that yourself out driving
around the late evening, everything is so beautiful. The Everything is so beautiful. The
late light is really the ideal time to paint. Oftentimes I'll
shoot for that. In fact if I started painting in late
afternoon, I may kind of really stall a little bit on
committing the thing knowing that it's going to look really
great for an hour later in the day and I'll hold off on really
punching in things until I get to that late day. That's
my favorite time of day to paint.
My rock has changed so much I can't even work on it anymore.
It's like someone snuck in there and put a different rock
Let's see what hasn't changed though.
There's something I do. If the light changes a whole lot,
oftentimes I can say well what hasn't changed though?
Often times that's the shadows, the things within the shadows
tend to stay more the same. Of course, the big outlines don't
change, everything's still in the same place.
other things I can remember but at some point you reach it's
just too different you just kind of have to start another
project. It's just painting days, painting
But we're not quite there yet.
It's funny when I first started painting, I'd only made 25 or
30 paintings in my life, there was all so precious to me.
Now I've made thousands and they're almost disposable. In
fact, I'm not really all that concerned about the paintings
anymore, I'm much more concerned with the ability to
make them. That's what's important to me, building my
skills to do it. So if painting doesn't come out, I'm okay with
that because every day I'm either going to get a picture or
I'm going to get a lesson. I'm all right with that. If I
leave here smarter, that's almost as good as a painting, I
learned something or I've learned to deal with some
problem. I'll see it again next time it comes up. I know
how to deal with it. I'm not making paintings. I am building
It isn't a big problem out here in the deserts of California, but
still there's not a lot of green out here. You know green.
There's just too much green in the world for a landscape
painter anyway. I mean, would you wear green clothes every
Green's kind of the enemy a lot of times and I work to deal
with green lot. One of the ways I do that is by smuggling red.
There's three colors out here: yellow, blue, and red. And for
some reason blue's always easy to pick out, there it is.
Blue sky. And the yellow is common enough to the grasses
and that and everything is green is blue and yellow put
together. So the blues and yellows are always out there
we're always seeing them, they fill our paintings they're always
blue and yellow everywhere.
But there's a lot of red out there too, but it snuck into
everything else. And in fact, it's the reds that you put into
greens that characterize them, make them different from one
another. Red goes into green, starts to form an olive. There's cool
reds, all the different reds affect your green. So I'm
constantly feeding reds into my greens. I'm smuggling red. I'm
sneaking it in everywhere I can, almost every note, every
place in this thing. If I can I'm going to sneak a little red
in there. I go almost automatically make sure I've
got red, half the time I'm painting notes out there are
looking, have I got some red in there? Anywhere I can
get a red in I'm going to do it because red is the medium
color. It's in between yellow and blue,
the hinge between the two. Paintings rarely suffer from
not enough red in them. And a lot of the Old Masters and
Rembrandt's and things they're half - their whole darn thing's
red. A lot of the times you get those red grounds they put
underneath their paintings and there's lots of red you almost
can't use too much red. I'm constantly trying to sneak reds
into everything, particularly my greens. I am smuggling red.
The reds up in here because later in the day things have
changed, all this red up in these greeneries. All
these greens are a color that
I guess you'd say they're olives. You know painters there olives, you know painters
don't talk about colors the same way that the average
interior decorator does.
People will, you know, when you go to the paint store you go to
Sherman Williams or MartinSenour or whoever your paint dealer is
and all the colors have names. This is coral and this is puce
and this is sunlit beige or sunny skies. All these names
of these colors, we don't use these colors as artists, we don't use
those words to describe things. Oh, you might offhand to try to
talk or something but most of the time we talk about colors we
use the names of our pigments because we're not painting with
colors. I don't really have a red, I got a cadmium red. My
blue, I got a couple of them, I got ultramarine, I phthalo, so I altering I got Phthalo, so I
think in terms of the names of pigments.
I also realize the limitations what I do with my
pigments. With a little effort I can hit almost any color. I
can see maybe not quite every color, those weird jackets, they
sell at Kmart they're oranges and yellows that life preservers
now and then you run into things, typically man-made things that
you can't hit and they're colors of flowers that you have to buy
special paint to get to that. I wouldn't be carry it with me
today, but by and large I could make mostly colors I see out
here. But I don't necessarily feel compelled to do that. I'm
just as likely to make my painting look like my palette.
I've got nice colors here. I can happily
use the colors I've got here without a lot of doctoring up
to make something that recalls that out in front of me without
having to step all over my paints and make these really
complicated mixtures. Simple is good and simple mixtures just
one or two colors together work really well. And when I
first started painting I spent hours trying to get that note
exactly right, I go home and I couldn't remember the right or not
because we don't remember color all that. All I'll have to do
is convince people it's right. You look at all that - John
Constable, Jan van Goyen and say
great masters and their color's nothing like what nature looks
like and we look at their painting, we're imperfectly accepting of them.
Hitting the exact color's a nice thing and a useful skill
you need to have but it doesn't necessarily make the art better
what you get beyond learning stages and you develop a sort
of a personal feeling for color. You have your own kind of color,
the colors you like to use and the ways you like to make your
mixers or part of the style of your painting. And your style
should be the result of the things you've learned and not
the result of the things you have left unlearned.
Remember the other day I was talking about my planar
structure how the things, if I had those 5,000 foot long vinyl
arms could reach out put my hands on the things in front of
the landscapes, you know, some things are walls like this and
other things of the floors that face down like this but
something that's important to remember is that the sky tends
to shine down to light the tops of trees. As I've been
standing here it's doing it more and more. Often
times I'll take a note that represents my sky color a
little bit of a blue or something. I'll mix it with the
local color the trees and show the tops of those forms being
illuminated by the sky note and you can see that the tops of
these forms are starting to pick up light from the sky and
even when I don't see it, sometimes it's good to do that.
It'll make the top of that tree go over like this rather than
the tree being a flat panel against the sky, which you might
grab ahold of and peel away. It's actually got some form to
it. So I round over the tops of my trees by influencing the top
planes with the sky note. And so as I see it and sometimes I'm
just stick it in there because I know it'll look good and that's
the result of experience being outside. It isn't necessarily
so obvious that you'd always see it but it's a nice
touch to get the tops of those trees to turn over.
And everything does that oddly enough, the things in the
foreground, it happens everywhere, but particularly
the tops of trees. I like to just take a little bit of that
sky note, stick it in the local color of the tree and just turn
that form over the top a little bit.
I won't want that tree to be just that tree to be just
just a flat shape. I want to indicate that it has form. I
want that D which is three.
In order to get it I'm going to explain the volumes of the
tree. We have two eyes. We have binocular vision if I had but
one eye I'd have no depth perception everything would
appear flat. Look at Maxfield Parrish's work. He
only had one eye and his work is flat, it's very decorative, but
it's flat looking. In order to get the appearance of two together. The appearance of to
eyed vision I can only fake it on a 2D surface. I can't actually
represent what two eyes see, but I can fake it a little bit
by looking around the sides of things. I exaggerate the sides,
would I touch with my hands like this? So I'm not just
painting what I put my hands on like this, the walls in front of
me, when I'm making a point of trying to express the sides of
things as they turn away from me into space.
It's good to do that.
And of course at the top of the painting, I'm going to
influence it with the sky color.
And it's just subtle, just a little bit of it ought to do
If I need more
I can do it in studio. I'm not
necessarily going to have to be all over it. Just
enough to get a little form there and I'll expect that sky
color to show up a little bit up in here too in the top of
that rock. I'll run just a little bit of the sky note in
This is a pretty big canvas. I'm thinking I'll be lucky to
get everything I want here in one shot. It may well be that
I'm going to come back on this tomorrow. We'll have to think
about coming back and putting a few more hours into this. Maybe I
get back to my motel room I'm going to look at it, I'm going
to say oh that's just fine. I got everything I need, I can
finish it in the studio. I may look at it and say gee
that's not good enough. I need to get
more information. But as often as not paintings
rarely suffer from not enough information. It's one of the
least common problems of painting can have is enough
Can you imagine if I'm writing a book about the Civil War, say
let's go to Gettysburg,
and we'll talk about Longstreet's division
and say I go the first thirty, forty thousand pages explaining
the biography of every single soldier on the field. I tell
you what he had for breakfast, how he laced his shoes up, what
his aunt's maiden name was,
go 40, 50 thousand words, nobody's going to read it.
Just not important information.
But if I follow a select two, three, very typical soldiers
through the Battle of Gettysburg and write about what
their experience was we can extrapolate out from their
experience to understand what the larger picture was, what
went on. To be selective you can tell more by being
selective and presenting a few representative examples, then
you can buy just loading people people up with information.
There's a thousand times more information than is necessary
out there somewhere. I'm going to show you a painting Edward
Seago during this course. I'm going to show you somebody who
used almost no information. He used the smallest amount of
information possible so you can see what it was and they
Filing things down and losing information and simplifying
things really is the first step in design. It's the root skill is
being able to simplify things enough that they're symbol almost
for what they look for. Everybody looks at they notice
a tree that whether this branch goes this way or that way,
irrelevant, and you don't need to know it. We're fighting too
much information out here all the time. There's a banquet
served us here that has thousands of entrees more than
we can ever eat. So we'll just take some typical things from
it rather than trying to get everything out there onto this canvas.
The first couple hundred landscapes I did,
maybe more than that, but first 500 maybe thousand landscapes I
were so true. I worked so hard to have all this
accuracy and get everything just the way it looked in front
And I get them back in the studio and I'd wonder why isn't
this thing better? I realized that there's a
difference between the accuracy and the information, that it was
good to have some and there's a reason why we're out here and
not looking - there's a reason I'm looking this way not that way.
I want a certain amount of information, but I'm a filter,
I'm very careful in deciding what what makes my - what
makes the cut. It's important, what isn't. What is it?
Detail is not your friend.
I'm your friend though. You know, I've learned to feign
empathy. I'm concerned, I see you out there. I'm concerned for
I'm here for you. It's going to be okay.
I can put my brush on this canvas and follow through the
darks so all the way through the entire picture. Once I do
I got the two edges of that canvas chained together, two sides
right here chained together by my dark darks deliberately
positioned so you can travel through the entire painting,
through the darks, without ever having to lift your finger,
And that gives - pulls the design together. Makes a bigger, more
solid design and I want - I get strength in my pictures that
way I want to do things. A lot of times I'm thinking about
getting power. I want punch in my paintings. I want them to
have a certain
effect on the viewer. I want them to
crackle with a certain certain power. Sometimes I get
It could happen.
Well, I guess the light's changed enough that I guess
we're done for today. Might comeback another shot on this
picture. Maybe I'll decide it's enough, but I think I'll call
it quits for today. Thanks again for watching.
stretch a canvas.
I think that'd make a good assignment. Your next assignment,
stretch a canvas. And I know a lot of you think, well I can
just buy a canvas.
But you're going to make lots of paintings and when they
don't work out, you're going to pile a lot of them up that don't
work out and they don't work out there's nothing
wrong with the stretchers. It's only the
canvas that you've damaged. You need to be able to pull
that canvas off and reuse, uh stretchers. You can't just be
throwing - spend your whole lifetime throwing away
stretchers. That's where the value is anyway, the stretchers,
that's the wooden parts you put together, you know, I
constantly get students in workshops who are absolutely
unintimidated by the difficulty of learning to paint, which is just
like learning to play the violin or do surgery. It's a
big deal learning to paint, it takes years and years of work.
They have no problem with that at all, but they're totally
intimidated by the idea of stretching a canva. Ssomething
you can learn in an afternoon or less. It's really nothing to it,
it's pretty darn simple. All you need is you need a stapler, a
staple gun, some staples, a flathead screwdriver, a pair of
and canvas pliers. And canvas pliers you can get those from
any of the big online suppliers, they're not a very
expensive tool. You need a pair of canvas pliers. And sit down and
stretch a canvas. You'll probably screw the first one
up, but you do one or two, you'll have it. There's nothing
to it. Valuable skill. It means you can change the size of
something, you can come up with a canvas any shape or size when
you need it. You'll save enormous amount of money buying
canvases at the big box stores and not only that but then you
can start buying a canvas that you like. There's all sorts of
different canvas. I always on oil prime canvas and
the canvas is the 18 by 24s that I've been working on out
there at the big box stores, they're 60 bucks a piece. I can there 60 bucks a piece. I can
stretch one for probably 15 bucks, 20 bucks.
So there's a you know, it's a lot of a lot of unnecessary
expense not stretching your canvas. It's not that hard to
do. It's time you learned. Okay humor me on this, really do it,
stretch a canvas. Once you do not want you're going to
say well there's nothing to that.
made out at Joshua Tree. It was a hundred and six degrees. Now
you remember you'll see in a later lesson that I've finished
this up. So this is not exactly what I came in with from
outside. We worked on this a day in the studio. But this was
a pretty successful picture.I thought. A lot a lot of nice
things happened here and I was kind of hitting my stride. The
first day I just got off an airplane, I was doing doing my
best but the second day I'm hitting my stride and one of
the things a talked about a whole lot was was hooking. I've
chained the two sides of this canvas together by hooking my
darks together all through this canvas.
Your assignment should you choose to carry it out will be
try and make a painting and link your darks. See if you
can't find ways when two things are close together that are
dark move them together a little bit try and link darks. Maybe you won't
be able to get them all the way through your whole picture like
I've done here but try and go outside and start a picture
and try and link your darks trying to connect all your
darks together so you can put your finger on top of one dark
passage and travel throughout the entire painting without
lifting your finger. See all my darks are hooked together,
Excellent for simplifying and getting the more basic
composition in your picture. That's the assignment: try and make that's assignment try and make
a painting and link your darks.
Transcription not available.
Reference Images (34)
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1. The Work of Charles Movalli8m 21sNow playing...
1. Learning Recommendation24sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. How to Stretch a Canvas19m 27s
3. Previsualization: What are the Gremlins?5m 41s
4. The Importance of Design34m 39s
5. The Big Poster Shapes26m 23s
6. The Landscape is Stored Outside34m 34s
7. Copying Information Vs Adding Art31m 6s
8. Smuggling Red into Your Painting25m 38s
9. Stretch Your Own Canvas2m 16s
10. Assignment Instructions1m 26s