Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Sea of Green In Augusta, Missouri

Patrick teaching at one of his Augusta Plein Air Festival workshops. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

We just finished up a beautiful weekend of workshops in Augusta, MO as part of the Augusta Plein Air Festival. After a few weeks of spring rains, the view in every direction is green, green and green. We spent the majority of the classes discussing all of these variations of green and how to bring out the subtle differences in a painting.

I'm always amazed with the way color themes change as we travel around the country. In Sedona, it's reds. In Kansas, it's yellows and golds. In Florida, it's blues and turquoise. The differences are sometimes subtle, but often dramatic. For me, this journey through color themes is akin to a change of seasons, one that gives us as much variety as the journey from summer to winter.

- Patrick

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Up Before Dawn

"Bloom, Riviera Marina" (oil on linen, 16"x20")
After a week in paradise, I need a vacation. I was once again back in beautiful Tequesta, Florida for the Lighthouse Art Center's 4th Annual Plein Air Festival. I love everything about this place - perfect weather, beautiful boats, palm trees, but most of all, I love the light.

No matter where we are, the light is always different, and the Atlantic Coast of Florida is no exception. When that sun breaks the horizon in the morning, it's an explosion of color. The sunrise blasts through the clouds and rakes intense warm colors across everything it touches.

"Riverbend Breeze" (oil on linen, 14"x18")

It was for this reason, that I found myself waking each day at 4:30 am, so that I could get where I wanted to be to catch the first rays of the day. The moment lasts for about 15 minutes, and then it's over. I set up in the dim morning twilight, paint in the darks areas and wait to see what the light will do when it arrives. Sometimes, it hits exactly where I expected, and sometimes the entire theme of a picture changes.

I had no idea that the clouds would reflect so prominently in the water as I began painting this scene in Port Salerno. "The Sky In Port" (oil on linen, 14"x18").

That's not to say that I don't paint during the height of the day. Sometimes some very quirky scenes present themselves. I find myself painting all day. Who says the life of a painter is easy?

This suddenly happened. I only had a matter of minutes to capture the scene.
"Winter, Juno Beach" (oil on linen, 12"x16")

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Photos by Saunders Fine Arts.
When I tell someone I've just met that I'm a painter, they often ask "what do you paint?" My answer is always the same - "Everything."

Variety in subject matter is essential to any representational painter wishing to further their skills. There are painters known for landscapes, portraits, flowers, nocturnes, dogs, or even "painters of light." Painting only one subject can quickly make an artist's work formulaic and eventually devolve into a gimmick. It's natural for us to find "rules" that govern our approach to painting certain subjects, but in so doing it's also easy to drift away from painting what we actually see. When faced with a challenging subject, we tend to fall back on the rules rather than truly painting the scene before us.

The choice to be or not to be formulaic is a personal one, and many great artists utilize formula to create beautiful and moving works, but it can be limiting. A new formula is required for each and every subject. I know many landscape painters who are afraid to paint portraits and portrait painters who are afraid to paint landscapes. How is painting a landscape any different than a portrait? Aren't they both just a collection of shapes, values and colors laid out in a specific pattern that creates the illusion of the physical world?

It's easy to fall back on the shorthand our brain creates for everything around us. We remind ourselves that eyes are a certain distance apart, flowers are made of petals or that water reflects, but these things do not always visually appear the way we think they should. When we rely on the "formula," paintings can become disjointed, as we might have a clear understanding of the thing we're painting in one portion of the canvas but not in another.

Painting a variety of subjects can improve the ability to paint what one actually sees, as it forces us to confront the unknown which we do not have a formula or shorthand for. Forget that you're painting a face, or a tree, or a flower. Paint shapes defined by differences in value, edges and color. Every subject should be approached the same way.

In my own work, I tend to go through periods of painting different subjects, and when I shift gears the effects are astonishing. Last winter I painted a number of portrait studies at the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in San Antonio, Texas. That experience provided me with a tremendous improvement in accuracy - which is required to capture a likeness. The nine months that followed was spent painting landscapes on the plein air circuit. It's very easy to stylize a landscape without the painting looking inaccurate, but stylization can also create issues when elements such as architecture are added. The practice of painting portraits made it much easier for me to quickly and accurately capture the landscape before me, whatever it consisted of. Now, I'm once again painting portrait studies at the Coppini, and I can now see the effect landscape painting has had on my portraits. My brushwork is more exciting, colors are more varied and the compositions are far more spontaneous.

In reality, I may be painting a variety of subjects, but in approach the variety is only in shapes, values, edges and colors. - Patrick

Sunday, January 8, 2017

SFA Design: Miles and Mountains and Bears Oh My

SFA Design: Miles and Mountains and Bears Oh My: I have a thing about bears just like I have a thing about sharks. After Paint Annapolis, we headed for the Allegheny Mountain Range ...