Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Swisher Painting Prog.

Here's kinda the progression of the previous Swisher portrait post. A LOT of in between playing/searching steps are missing. That's what I like about painting in acrylic, it allows changes within minutes. No scraping or long dry times like oils. Shorter blending time, but that doesn't bother me.

Christmas Present to Oakland A's Outfielder Nick Swisher

Last year, I was commissioned to do a portrait of San Francisco Giant's pitcher Barry Zito (at that time, he was finishing his contract with the A's). It now hangs in his home. This year, the same publicist hired me to paint a portrait of Nick Swisher of the Oakland Athletics. He will get it this Friday before he travels to Western Virginia for the Holidays.
16"x20" acrylic on stretched canvas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting On The Wagon

I sure am posting on my blog quite frequently of late. Am I getting a tad compulsive? I'm putting myself on the wagon until my next commission is completed! I started my blog in June of this year with a watercolor of Barry Zito who pitches for the San Francisco Giants. It was commissioned by his PR person. She had it beautifully framed ( painted on a full water color sheet- 22"x 30") and gave it to Mr. Z for a Christmas present. This year she has commissioned me to do another Holiday portrait for another of her clients, Nick Swisher, of the Oakland A's. Except this time, I'm doing an acrylic painting. I've got to get it done in a hurry before the fat man comes to town! So the next blog will be highlighting a Nick Swisher acrylic. Now it's time to get off the damn blog and onto that beautiful easel! Bye Bye.

David's@Paul's Jolly Green Giants

In my Dec.1 post, I wrote about how I was inspired to paint a helicopter (nicknamed "jolly Green Giant" during the Vietnam war era), simply because of an earlier and exquisite pencil sketch my good friend Paul Bianchini had rendered. Speaking of "green", one might say that when I saw his sketch, I was GREEN with envy! Anyway, here is my acrylic and his pencil. Kinda interesting seeing something rendered by two different people in two different mediums.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dorian Grey In Reverse

This artist is aging, and he's not going to take it anymore! My birthday is Feb.1. When that day comes around this 2008, I'm going to DELETE one year off my age. Instead of being 61, I'll be 60! In another 50 years, I'll look close to my childhood photo. An idea (for us baby boomers) whose time has come!
OK,OK... enough tom foolery (that's how we aging boomers talk), the next post will bespeak (that's how we aging boomers talk) to art issues again.
Yes, I had braces put on my protruding teeth during my teens. I'll have them put on again and then taken off as I travel back to my miss spent youth. Reverse time travel can be complicated.

Good, Good Pals

Here I am with my good, good pal Barry Zito, pro ball player and winner of the Cy Young award! Notice his portrait in the background. DON'T notice my pot belly. DO notice the "Have You Hurled Today" on my T-shirt ( the word "hurl" is in reference to hurling a stone with a medievil siege machine called a Trebuchet. Maybe I'll save an explanation for a future blog). Barry makes millions of dollars a year. I make diddly squat a year! But if I practice as hard at throwing a baseball as I practice painting paintings, well, who knows? There may even be a "signing bonus" in my future.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My Good Buddies

The Maloof brothers own the Sacramento Kings (GO KINGS!). During the 2000/2001 season, they commissioned me to do their annual art print that is send out at the end of the season to all their season ticket holders. During the playoffs at Arco Arena, I went upstairs to the exec. offices to meet them. All of a sudden, the MBA commissioner walks in for a photo op. I'm left in the dust! One of the photographers says to me "why don't you get in the picture". Bless his little Fstop heart! Really looks like I'm buddy, buddy with the boys. Had to number and sign about 7000 prints. My good friend (and REAL buddy), Paul Bianchini (see previous post), helped me in this arduous task. He numbered, and I scrawled out my John Handcock. We started with 1/7000 plus sig. until we ended with 7000/7000 plus sig. Took about 3 days working about 2-3 hrs. a day! I added an extra $1000 to number and sign all those buggers. I'm posting this, because I can't figure out how to add a photo of me to my blog profile. Anyone out there know an EASY WAY to do this?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

One of my first plein air paintings

In November of 2006 I discovered a plein air painting group in Sacramento headed up at the time by a very accomplished painter, Terri Miura ( I took over the reins, I think, about April 2007). I have referred to him at least once or twice in previous posts, and he is a link on my blog. So... in Nov. of '06, I suggested that the group might want to paint out a the Sacramento Air Museum. They have all sorts of aircraft on display outside on the tarmac. I remember that Terri painted a little world war II trainer, and I tackled a helicopter. The helicopter you see here normally would NOT have been an aircraft that I would have wanted to paint except that a good friend of mine by the name of Paul Bianchini had done such a fab. job of drawing it about a year before, when he and I were there pencil sketching, that I wanted to challenge myself. I'm happy with the fact that the rendering of its shape in this painting came out pretty good. I met the challenge of doing the same foreshortened view that Paul did so masterfully! On the other hand, one can see that I struggled with the sky, foliage, tarmac, and cast shadow. Again, at this juncture in time, I was a plein air wannabe and was still figuring things out. Now, more than a year later, I still have much to figure out but at least I'm more comfortable and proficient at painting out doors.
But the main reason I'm posting this is to establish the date that I started my plein air journey and education. After all, one of the reasons why I'm blogging is to document it all and learn some things through self reflection. The other reason is for my college and workshop students to hopefully pick up a thing or two by reading portions.
So the date is now marked, and I'm happy about that...on with the journey!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


There is a universe of great artists out there and if you snoop around enough in galleries, art museums, coffee houses, bookstores, online, etc., you are going to find some that really touch and inspire you. I found Stephen Doherty in the 2007 issue of American Artist's "Oil Paintings Highlights". This was AFTER I had done three acrylics that I call my "Working Man series". " U.S. Mail Truck Driver on Morning Break" is in an earlier post. The two in this post are titled "Car Wash Steam Wand Operator" and "Window Fitter" The only comparison here is the subject matter. In reference to Mr. Doherty's oils, what inspires me is his sensuous brush work and dramatic values. I have no desire to copy his painting style, but it is always wonderful to have someone at a higher level, if you will, that pushes you to push yourself (as soon as I can find a better way to phrase this idea, I'll edit my post!). I am very excited to continue my Working Man series with renewed vigor thanks to Stephen!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

En Plein Air Painting@Hunting

This Monday, I was out on the American River Parkway. What a beautiful Fall morning it was! About an hour later, fellow plein air artist Marti Walker showed up to pastel this idyllic scene. Then a gaggle of geese swooped down and landed in the water right in front of us! They then waddled up onto our beach. My car was parked only about 20 yards away, so I hot footed to it and pulled out my firearm kept locked up in the glove compartment (don't think I have ever put gloves in my glove compartment). I casually came back to my easel so as not to frighten our goosey friends. Taking careful aim, I shot the fat goose you see in the foreground of my canvas. Marti let out a scream not to be believed! I told her to chill out a bit. I explained that I was merely going to take the dead duck, uh, I mean goose, home to pluck it, gut it, freeze it, and on Christmas eve, cook it. Marti felt a lot better and proceeded to complete her pastel.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Blog Title Change

Over the course of several recent postings, some comments from Mike Bailey, Silvina Day, and Terry Miura have got me to thinking about my blog title "Plein Air Wannabe". Added to this, I've had a good sales month in the two galleries I'm in. I've sold six paintings, four of which have been en plein air. So I have been convinced to change my blog title to simply my name... NOT that I'm satisfied yet with my plein air endeavors (do we ever get to that point?), but I guess it's a matter of degrees. I've got a lot more degrees up the plein air ladder that I want to go! Changing the subject now, I've just gotten back from a little mini Thanksgiving vacation where I took about an hour out to do two ink/wash sketches. One is from our motel window (second floor) and the other is looking back towards the unit our second floor room was in. These were done on a cheapo water color sketch pad. I first started out by drawing with a non-water soluble ink fine point Sharpie pen (no pencil drawing. Ink focuses the mind and eye better!). Then I added dabs of water soluble ink from a Tombow pen and made them into value washes with an all- plastic Waterbrush. I wrote a short article on this sketching technique in the January, 2006 issue of American Artist Magazine. It's great for travel and for painting composition/value studies.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More or Less?

I'm still finding my way with plein air painting. These are two I did late spring of this year when I started outdoor painting seriously and on a regular basis. For a long time, I've considered them as somewhat unsucessful. The only problem with this assesment is that my wife, Cheryl, likes the bridge, and the owner of the latest gallery I'm now showing in accepted the field/ clouds/ skyline painting. What is common in both pieces is the direct simplicity in painting style as opposed to others that I've noodled more on (including studio time!) Come to think of it, these two were 90% completed on site! A rare occurance for this plein air wannabe. So where does this leave me? Maybe do some more! By the way, they are both 11"x17" on gessoed medium density board.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Steamboat Slough

This acrylic is about 36"x48" and painted on canvas ducktaped to my studio wall. It was done over a 3 day period about a year ago and before I started my acrylic journey en plein air. It now hangs in the Elliott Fouts Gallery here in Sacramento along with seven small plein air paintings that I did over the course of this summer 2007. I worked from a photo I took of this wonderful, old articulated bridge on the California delta. The bridge was designed by the same man who designed the Golden Gate bridge! Anyway, the point I'd like to make with this piece is that one should never do a literal translation of a photograph. What's the point of that? Do something with it. In this case, I painted in a warm yellow glow coming in from the right side and down river. People who have seen this painting always mention its appeal. Now that its in the Fouts Gallery, maybe that appeal will turn into a buy. I have attached a link to the Elliott Fouts Gallery where you can see samples of some of the other artists showing there.

Monday, October 29, 2007

You pissed me off Terry Miura!

A few months ago, Terry Miura, an artist that I really respect ( you can link to his site from this blog), wrote on his web site that it's challenging for him to frame his art for galleries and sales. He must pick the appropriate frame and at a price point that won't break his pocket book. If any of his pieces don't sell immediately, hopefully they will in the near future and defray the framing cost. He's a fantastic studio and plein air oil painter and believes (no ifs, ands, or buts) that he MUST frame his work. Well... I commented back that if an artist is as good as he is, he doesn't need to do this! His work speaks for itself, and the buyers have the option to choose frames of their liking. "No, no!", Mr. Miura shot back. He was taught, and he believes that one must put one's best foot forward. Well, a few weeks ago, a very good gallery in town accepted some of my acrylic plein air paintings to display and sell (hopefully and keep my fingers crossed!). The owner insisted that I frame them! Miura's words came back to haunt me! But first, let me say this: I have had numerous medium to large paintings on stetched canvas sell at another gallery with ZIPPO framing! I asked this latest gallery owner, "Do I have to frame them?". Not one iota of hesitation... "Sure, it's the cost of doing business". Now what was I to say?.. "NO!" Of course not. I want to be in his damn gallery! He has a reputation for selling art. This afternoon, I picked up my framed pieces. Most all of them are 8"x16" on stretched canvas. They are all floated in a simple gallery-style frame. Hot damn, they look good! It has now dawned on me that if you do not let the framing cost get out of hand, the enhanced presentation increases your odds of selling (even if the buyer plans to later reframe). And, that extra mile you go, ultimately enhances both your sales and your reputation as an artist. As far as very large canvases are concerned, many buyers hang them on their walls as is, and indeed, if the sides are finished off nicely, there is nothing wrong with that (especially with more modern style paintings such as I paint). Come to think of it, one does not always have to frame small pieces either! But... I think most of the time, it's awfully hard to beat that framed look. You can't go cheap, but neither do you have to break the bank. And, you need to get just the right type of frame. OK, OK, Miura!.. ya dun got a point! can be a pain to frame but the frame can add to your fame. Now that's poetry to any artist...even a plein air wannabe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Block This!

Whether outdoors or in, starting a painting begins with the "blocking in" process. Simply outline the shapes to get your composition (usually a drawing process with a small round brush). Then you can paint in large areas of tone (value) and simple color to finish this initial blocking in stage. From this foundation, you can start to detail or polish your painting to a point where you say, "Looks good! I'm done." Never do you want to start with a lot of fine detail with all the time committed to it. You most likely will end up with a poor composition and a reluctance to "erase" what you have done, considering all the time and effort put into it! Blocking in is relatively fast, and if your composition heads south, it's no biggie to start over. Never settle for less when you can get more by blocking! Here is an easel shot of my blocking in stage. Yes, I worked from a photo I took early in the morning of a U.S. Postal worker taking five and reading the sports page. Loved his left leg on the dash board the the sun piercing through the paper. The second photo is the completed polished painting. Sometimes I take a break from plein air, especially when it's raining...nowhatta I mean?!

Eat My Dust!

Three hours of painting here "en plein air" and another 3 "en studio" (fake french for sure!). If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, someday I'll finish an acrylic en plein air! This piece must have at least 12 exploratory painting layers on least! I played! I played with color schemes and brush work. All this painting activity was completed within a time span of 3 days, working off and on. This is something that you would fined very difficult to do in oil because of the medium's slow, slow drying time. Did I say slooooowwww? But with acrylic...nooooo problem! I like my work to have brush marks and not a lotta fine blending. Acrylic's fast drying time (between 5 to 12 minutes, depending on the day's humidity) precludes super fine blending unless you can do it fast. Even a drying retardent medium added to your paint doesn't really buy you much extra time. What can I say...I just like bold painterly strokes and this rough hewn, urban gritty look with a cherry Mack 4 Mustang in your face. my dust!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Fine Kettle of Fish

Ya know...being a plein air wannabee, I sometimes do not know what I'm getting into. Thought these industrial huts would be a snap, and the truck and car in front would be fun too. Three hours later, my painting looked like shit (if I may put it ever so delicately). often happens, I took a photo and finished the next day in my studio. Another half and half! Half plein air and half photo referenced studio painting. Go to: It's a fabulous and very educational web site. He is a phenomenal plein air artist. His new Sept. post shows his latest paintings. One has a wrought iron gate in it. A COMPLEX wrought iron gate. He writes about this challenge and mirrors the kettle of fish I got into. But ya know, ya gotta face these challenges, however frustrating they may be, to learn and grow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dust, Steam, and other Vapors

Ever seen some atmospheric Whistler or Turner paintings? I've always loved them! Maybe its because I have always loved the transition of Summer into Fall here in the Great San Joaquin Valley. The temperature cools down, and we start to get misty, hazy days that eventually transition, as we go into the winter season, to deep "tullie' fog. No sun for days and weeks on end! Driving conditions are horrible. But to see things such as trees, people, buildings, being shrouded and obscured in the fog is amazing. Well, we are only on the cusp of that season, but I'm already limbering up. About a week ago, when I was doing my plein air thing in downtown Sacramento, I saw a street person who spends his days randomly sweeping. I have dubbed him "Mr. Clean". He was sweeping dirt in the early morning and was somewhat back lighted. Wow! Fortunately, I had my camera at hand, and took a few reference snaps. I'm not sure at this posting if I'm finished with this acrylic... sometimes I polish my paintings too much. I think I like it the way it is. I especially like the billowing dust. I took some photos over 35 years ago when I was a college student (that's just after they invented college) of a car wash in Stockton (where I grew up) during the fog season. They had a young man, handling a steam hose, cleaning off the cars as they went through. So not only was there fog in the background, but this billowing steam coming out of the kid's hose. That's a double wow, and the image has never left my mind. I'll try to dig out the photo soon and post it. Meanwhile, as you can see, I'm getting limbered up to transition into tullie fog season here in the Great San Joaquin Valley.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Paint the good, bad, and ESPECIALLY THE UGLY

If you can go out there in the big world and find something "ugly" to paint and make it into something beautiful, well...I think you are going to become a better painter. Instead of relying on beautiful pastures, mountains, ocean beaches etc., etc., to draw in the viewer, you start to think more about composition, brush and color work, dramatic values etc. I know... you think about these things anyway , but guess what?... you think about them even more when painting the "ugly". For me, at least, the so-called ugly or prosaic is really not at all ugly or prosaic! We all grow up to dismiss a lot of what we see as not worthy to look at for more than a second or two. I suppose this is OK, because we have to get on with our lives. But when one takes the time out to paint something, its fun to look these types of things for maybe an hour or 2 or 3 or more! And like I said, you need to dig deeper down into your bag of artistic tricks to end up with a compelling painting. This I am learning as a plein air wannabee.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Plein Air AND Abstract Wannabe

Sometimes one takes artistic side excursions. I've been invited by a Northern California art supply chain store (University Art) to teach acrylic painting workshops here in Sacramento. This means representational AND abstract painting workshops. Now as a plein air wannabe, I feel that the skillsets I'm developing and practicing are really not too different from abstract art. I have not ever specialized in abstract painting, but every time I've done it, I find it very challenging and exciting...gee...just like plein air painting, come to think of it. But unlike plein air painting, there is nothing to look at. I find that a little daunting! To overcome this very scary situation, I like to mull over thoughts and feelings and maybe even do a thumbnail pencil sketch with notes. Do I want a hard line feel? A geometric look? Something natural and organic looking? Do I want vibrant colors or monotone or earthy? Texture and impasto? Mystery? Anger? Softness? Do I want a highlighted element? Do I want the eye to travel about the painting or come to rest on an element? I could go on and on at the expense of boring you dear reader. The point I am trying to make is that these are all similiar questions I ask as a plein air wannabe! With a great deal of humbleness, I present an abstract canvas I've just completed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A closer look at "Ranching Equipment"

I want everyone to see more detail in the painting from my previous blog. By the way, in California, a Farm is sometimes a Ranch. This painting is a good example of not only watery or soupy washes but also a good example of charging in other colors while the previous wash is still damp.

Ranching Equipment

Nice thing about teaching my college summer plein air ink/water color wash sketch class is I too get educated. The contraption next to the 1947 Ford truck, one of my studenets told me, is a seed spreader. The contraption behind the truck, another student informed me, is a harrow. What's a harrow? breaks up hard soil to prep it for plowing. Obviously, all three items have seen better days. This sketch was a demonstration I did for my students to show how to paint nice watery washes of color. Water color painting has been defined as "controlling the flood". What an apt definition that is!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Changing The Light

I mentioned in my last blog that there is a wonderful twice- weekly letter you can recieve from an artist in Canada . His name is Robert Genn. If you want to check it out, go to Anyway, in his lastest email letter, he wrote about painting en plein air in the Queen Charlotte Islands. He was faced with a flat, overcast, grey day. He captured the scene alright, but at the same time, he remembered the sunset of the previous evening. He wrote about painting over what he had just done with those beautiful sunset colors. Robert , like me, is an acrylic painter. He could do this rapidly, because he did'nt need to scrape or wait hours for the paint to dry like an oil painter must do. Again, I must add that I'm not putting down oil painters! I'm merely deliniating the possibilities that lie within the medium of acrylic painting!
One can respond to his letters. I attached a painting I had just completed this Monday, and, like him, completely re-orhestrated the colors to a sunrise. Here is what I wrote: "Imagine my surprise when I read your latest missive titled Changing The Light. I go out with fellow plein air painters here in Sacramento, CA every Monday morning. We paint from 8AM to about 11PM. Same thing!... I captured the colors in the water, tree lines, and distant city buildings. Only one problem...BORING! I've spent a number of hours now in my studio simply changing the colors. I work in acrylic, so this is easy to do within short periods of time. I think i'm finally there. We're looking south down the Sacramento River. It can't be a summertime sunrise or anytime sunset. Maybe its an early morning winter view. Ahh...who cares!...its pretty and anyway...sometime in the future, I may paint over it. Hey... maybe a bright noontime view!
I'm probably going to look at this painting in the future and say "ugh!" But that's growing as an artist and meanwhile, I got lots of practice working with warm sunrise/sunset colors! As many artists have said before me, don't make your paintings too precious. Use them to learn and grow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

One of my early acrylics

This is an acrylic painting I did in 2005 of the "ziggaurat" building on the west side of the Sacramento River. I was not doing plein air yet, and therefor painted this in my studio from a photograph I snapped. The photo was a mid afternoon shot that was pretty damn boring. I wanted something with drama. I decided on a sunset atmosphere with emphasis on lots of foreground river. Quite a challenge when I had no reference for that time of day to look at!. The great, great thing about acrylic is that I could play with color, sky, and water to my hearts content and all within the space of a day's worth of effort! With a drying time of about 15 minutes or less, I could work on achieving the sunset look over and over again until satisfied. There was really no limit to layering as long as I stayed away from thick impasto applications. Only towards the end, when I was happy with my goal of achieving a convincing sunset atmospher, did I add final touches of thick paint to key areas.
There is a great web site called "the painter's keys" for painters at: This week, they had an article on the joys of acrylic painting and its rising popularity. I, along with at least 20 other acrylic painters, added samples of our work and comments on the article. It's a great read if you are thinking of taking up the medium!
Like I wrote in my first blog, I am a plein air wannabe. But by jove (there's a lovely Victorian phrase), I now have about 4 months of acrylic plein air painting under my belt (or should I write under my easel?) Anyway, I will start to write in future blogs about the challenges of taking the medium outdoors. Often, when I speak to oil painters, they will sneer at the idea. I hope that my readers will see that not only can one successfully acrylic paint "en plein air", one can also add grand and exciting features that the oil painter can't. Am I saying one medium is better than another? Of course not! I'm just saying that out door acrylic painting is an option for artists that is well worth investigating!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Long time watercolorist goes plein air acrylic

I have been a water color artist for 35 years now (how time marches on!). I teach water color painting at Sacramento City College and conduct many workshops at different venues within the Northern Calif. region. But about 3 years ago some commission work came my way that had to be painted larger than your standard 22"x30" water color sheet size...we're talking around 5 feet x 8 feet. I've done gyclee enlargements about that size, but these pieces had to be origional art. So...I decided to fullfill my commission obligations by switching from water color to acrylic. As a water color artist, and with my relatively fast working style, I really learned to enjoy my new found medium! If I paint something not to my satisfaction, I need only wait a few minutes, and I'm ready to paint over it. I can correct or play within a short time span! Not much time to blend colors like an oil painter, but the trade off is worth it. I may change that thought in the future, but again, the ability to improve or change a painting without waiting for a long drying period is exciting!
I am new to blogging as well. I deleted my first one a few minutes ago, because I forgot to attach "Barry". "Barry" is a full sheet water color painting on water color cold press paper. It is a portrait of big league baseball pitcher Barry Zito. This was a commission from his publicist. She gave it to him as a Christmas present in 2006. In the near future, I want to post some blogs with thoughts and images pertaining to my acrylic plein air endeavors... and of course, hopefully get some feedback from fellow painters.