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Jun 22, 2017

Announcing my Summer 3-Day Workshop...

Sauvie Island, near Portland, Oregon

Cost: $450

Learn to paint with your pencil or charcoal! Become more skilled at composing your paintings before you pick up a brush. When you paint alla prima en plein air you must work quickly and state things in a clear and concise way. This class will focus on how to create a dynamic design using the light and shadow pattern Nature provides. There will be fundamentals, but also advanced concepts as well. So learn how to stitch smaller bits and pieces into larger, more unified masses. Create dynamic compositions by pitting light against dark, and dark against light. Downplay the line work and emphasize the shapes. The things you learn in this three day outdoor class will improve your painting in every way possible, indoors or out.

This workshop will focus on: 

How to simplify the complex values you see

How to exploit the power of positive and negative shapes

How to transform natural light into beautiful rhythmic patterns and punctuated marks

How to find or create pleasing proportions

And much more…

The material list for this workshop is minimal. All you will need are some soft vine charcoal sticks, a few kneadable erasers, a few pencils, a medium-sized drawing pad, a lap board or portable easel. (And of course, a chair if you must sit down.)

My thirty years of painting outdoors has lead me to teaching design and composition in the simplest way possible, by drawing outdoors. Each day I will present ideas and demos and share the decisions I make in real time as I work. You will receive helpful direction and valuable one-on-one critique and a group discussion will be held daily. With this class, it is my goal to help you become more sensitive to the potential of conscious design.

Do not underestimate the power of this workshop to improve your work! I have spent many years teaching students how to paint and this class is specifically designed to share what every outdoor landscape painter should know about value and composition. Sure, you will just be drawing, but what you will learn 0ver these three days will impact your painting for a long, long time. Why? Because the value decisions you make from the first stroke in paint must be solid. And drawing is a faster path to gaining that skill...

Registration is now open. Class size is limited to maintain maximum quality instructor time. To register, email Thomas at:

May 19, 2017

Color and Culture – Culture and Color...

By the time I arrived in art school I was convinced I was severely color blind. Largely because my previous art teachers and peers would talk endlessly about color distinctions I did not seem able to make. They'd say things like "Oh, look at that beautiful 'pinkish-green'", or "Can't you see the red in that (green) tree?" (I tried. Oh, how I tried...) Such discussions always left me feeling inadequate and ill-prepared to make art until my sophomore year in school when it became time to take a semester-long class devoted to only color.

At first I was intimidated but that class was the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, that class was life-changing. It literally opened my eyes. Or more accurately, it opened up my mind because the professor who taught it offered tools I could use to understand what I was looking at. He gave me (and my fellow classmates) a precise language I could use to analyze, comprehend, and parse color.

In his class, I learned there was objective terminology one could use to reduce a color into its fundamental elements (as in Hue/Value/Chroma). I learned that we do not see isolated colors, we see relationships between colors. I also learned there is the color of nature, which is out in the world, and there are optical effects of color that only occur within the eye and brain. I learned about the interaction of color. And color persistence. And so much more. As a result, that professor opened up color to me like a light bulb. My hardware, my eyes, hadn't changed. But my perception had. And all that talk about pinkish-greens, and red-trees began to make sense.

In addition to explaining the simple mechanics of color, that professor delved into the cultural constructs of color – both in how different cultures at different times in history categorized the visible spectrum, and the ever-evolving symbology of color; meaning, what certain colors represented to certain people in different parts of the world. Even the whys and hows of such symbology. (For example, white often represents purity in most parts of the Western World, but in contrast, often represents death in Asia. And red often represents impurity in Western Culture, yet again in contrast, can represent purity on the Asian side. I know, I know, I simplify things greatly, but you get the picture, yes?) And while I learned there is no universal color code that can be applied to all of humanity, there are common color stages most cultures incorporate, and the more nuanced the terminology, the more nuanced the seeing.

So I was pleased to stumble across a short Ted Talk video (below) that neatly summarizes a few of the cross-cultural stages of color I remember from that class. The anthropological aspects of color continues to interest me today even though I have remained mostly a naturalistic painter. While I may not believe color is as quantifiable as the video below will imply, I do accept our individual perception of color is greatly impacted by what we expect to see. Or perhaps, what we have been told to see! But then, as this video shows, there does seem to be a few things about color that develops in a similar manner across different cultures and perhaps that part of our color perception is hard-wired. I dunno.

Color, and the Perception of Color are two of the things I enjoy teaching most in my classes. Largely due to that one day, in that one class, when suddenly I understood color. I just got it and could see so much more. That moment had a profound impact on the rest my life and I will always grateful for that teacher's ability to make someone see what they couldn't see before..


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May 16, 2017

Los Pequeños Dibujos de Sorolla... (The Little Sketches of Sorolla)

Los Pequeños Cuadros... Fernando, a good friend of mine visited the Museo Sorolla in Madrid back in 2014, and while he was there he photographed some of the hundreds of color sketches Sorolla executed to keep his hand busy. (I just found the jpgs Fernando sent to me four years ago.) The little paintings you will find below are now hung behind a large glass case in Sorolla's main working studio and many of them have never appeared in print. Some were clearly experimental explorations, and some of them were preparatory designs for larger work you can recognize. In any case, to spend time with these little goodies is revelatory and worth a trip to the Sorolla Museum alone.

And no, I don't have titles for any of them. In truth, I doubt there were titles since it would be unlikely that Sorolla thought of them as finished work. I remember most of these colorful sketches being thickly painted on cheap brown chip board, and sized quite modestly between 4 x 5 to 8 x 12 inches or so, with a few of them being a bit larger.

Okay, mental note to self: Start doing quick little studies!...


(click images to enlarge)

May 1, 2017

Charles Movalli (American 1945 - 2016) – One of the Last Old School Cape Ann Painters...

A winter scene in Essex (Cape Ann)
Charles Movalli: one of our great outdoor painters from the early to mid-century, mid-Atlantic tribe, who lived and worked along the coast above Boston, MA. (Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Emile Gruppe being but a few other tribal regulars that go back nearly 200 years.)  Movalli, who managed to navigate the vicissitudes of 20th century American Modernism without stumbling off his chosen path, was the last of this tribe. Sadly, Charles passed away recently, leaving thousands of paintings and many inspired students behind. He will be missed.

Watch this video of Charles discuss how to use light and shadow patterns to define a painting composition. Go ahead and watch it several times because there is a lot of information to take in at a high rate. In fact, I am told Movalli would paint with the same intensity and energy we see him using here as he 'splains his ideas to the students behind the camera...

Pay attention! Even though he is gone you (and I) can learn a lot from this guy. 

Here is his website:



Mar 19, 2017

Plein Air Tuscany 2017!...

Improve your Outdoor Painting Skills in Tuscany with Internationally-renowned Instructor, Thomas Jefferson Kitts, this September 9th-16th, 2017

Join me for my 3rd Annual Plein Air Tuscany workshop in the beautiful hills of Chianti outside of Florence!…Eat, Drink, and Live like an Italian as you become a better outdoor painter!

Note: If you register by July 15th you will get the Early Bird Discount!

Here is a short video of this workshop. What we will do, where we will go, and what we will paint. 2014 and 2015 were awesome, and 2017 will be even better!...

Hey Everyone! I can offer the Early Bird Rate for this workshop until July 15th. – At this rate, your workshop instruction and lodgings will range from €2100 to €2900, depending on your choice of  accommodations. There are single and double occupancy rooms available, with and without a private bath. There are also several self-contained apartments on the grounds if you prefer more privacy. Your actual US cost will depend on the international exchange rate at the time you register and the type of accommodation you reserve. Airfare is not included and a €600 deposit will be required to reserve your space.

To receive your comprehensive
FAQ sheet click:
Plein Air Tuscany 2017! 

Paint en plein air in the sun-drenched countryside of Tuscany. Take your outdoor landscapes to the next level. Stay in a remodeled country farmhouse with sweeping vistas over the hilltop town of Certaldo, where you'll be near Florence and San Gimignano, places we will paint. This workshop is open to the beginning-to-intermediate oil painter and Thomas will offer six hours of instruction a day.

We will take numerous trips to vineyards, farms, and ancient hill towns so you will paint the history and culture of Tuscany. And each day will end with the group enjoying the pleasures and comfort of outdoor dining, overlooking the countryside, and sleeping in a comfortable bed at night. Your week will culminate in a private tour in Florence of the Macchiaioli Painters, the little-known plein air painters of Italy, exhibited in the Palazzo Pitti – followed by the rest of the day spent touring or painting in the streets of Florence. You won't need a car for any of these this trips. We will take you everywhere you need to go!

This workshop is a fantastic way to experience the heart and soul of Italy while you concentrate on your outdoor painting skills. It is an opportunity to create new friends and treasured memories of a lifetime!


Jan 6, 2017

Sorolla and his Vision of Spain...

Happy New Year Everyone!

Here is a present from me to you – a five minute sweeping video I produced of the astounding murals hung in the Hispanic Society of America in New York City. This is one of the grand, but lesser known, bodies of work from the great Valencian master painter, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923)

Sorolla was commissioned to paint fourteen monumental canvases by the American railroad-heir Archer Milton Huntington fill a room at the society – only minutes away in uptown Manhattan.  Paintings which were meant to represent all the people of Spain in their various costumes and culture. It was a commission that would demand eight years of his life when he was at the height of his artistic power, and require constant travel throughout Spain in search of models and inspiration for what would eventually be championed as Sorolla's "Vision of Spain."

Nearly 12 to 18 feet tall and over 200 feet in combined length, these canvases were painted in various locations throughout the country between 1912 and 1919. The final canvas, Ayamonte, was finished in July 1919. Sadly, Sorolla died before his murals could be installed in 1926.

If you ever have the chance, visit the Hispanic Society and see these painting in person. They are just minutes north of midtown Manhattan and trust me when I say you will never forget them. 

For more information visit:

This video will play at high resolution if you click on the HD setting. (check your bandwidth!)
If you have trouble viewing this video, click here...
To stream a smaller version off my Facebook page, click here...

Dec 23, 2016

Happy Holidays and a Look Back at 2016...

Hello Everyone! 

Happy HannuChristmaKwanzaSolstiFestivus to you and yours during this bright holiday season – and please, accept another hearty congratulation from me for almost making it through 2016!

What a year, right?

This is a long read so read as much of this post as you wish. But, if you make it all the way to the end there is a little surprise for you...ha!

. . .

I toyed with the idea of writing up a year end review of 2016 like a family Christmas letter, then photographing the family and dog in antlers and sweaters, but decided that would be too cute. So I’ll just jump in and ramble about my year in painting...

January, 2016, was one of those rare months when I stayed home and endured the vicissitudes of Oregon's wet winter rain. But the upside of being home was I could rest up and prepare for the coming Spring which was packed with trips, events, and workshops.

At the end of February I drove down to Borrego Springs, CA to compete in a plein air event new to me. Borrego, if you don't know, is east of San Diego, way out in the low California desert, and is kind of how Palm Springs used to be before the Rat Pack discovered it. Or so I am told. All there was to do was paint in the desert in the wee hours of the morning and late evening, and sit around in town during the middle watching the desert rats come and go. Oh, and spend the nights gazing up at the stars. (Borrego is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary where you can see actual nebulae with your naked eyes.) There were occasions when I felt like an movie extra waitin’ ‘fer a shoot out in a Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood Western but I enjoyed painting the harsh landscapes nonetheless. In fact, I had never painted in such an austere environment before and I thrive on new experiences and challenges so I was good. After painting in the Borrego area for a week I thought, heck what could be more harsh or interesting, and drove further east to the Salton Sea. Talk about quirkiness. To get there required driving through a giant dust storm and an unexpected epic off-road Lolapolooza of dirt bikes and ATVs that made Mad Max: Thunderdome look like a family flick. (Just to maintain the movie references.) After which I pulled some of the leftover work from Borrego and drove it up to Palm Springs where I painted for another week and opened a show in my gallery there. (Brian Marki Fine Art | Palm Springs)

Mid-March, My lovely wife flew down to meet me at for my Palm Springs opening and we stayed a few extra days to hike around to see the magnificent Jefferson Palms in Indian Canyon, and tour Joshua Tree, before setting off back home to Oregon along the backside of the Sierras. Driving up highway 395 seemed like a good idea at the time until a storm front blew in on day two, which made it difficult to get across the Sierras, the Siskiyous, or the Cascades, and back home. It was early Spring after all, right? What was I thinking?

But hey, we made it safe and sound by swinging into Nevada and so at the end of April my next task was to drive back down to Carmel, California to teach the first workshop of the year. I love Carmel but I had just driven up the entire east side of California only to find myself driving halfway back down the west side again. Which can give you a more nuanced understanding of Willie Nelson’s "On the road again".

I finished up April by flying out to Atlanta, Georgia, where I participated in Olmsted Plein Air for the first time. Again, what fun. What a great event and fine group of people. I got to experience southern hospitality for the first time, and well, liked it so much I am prepared to experience some more when I return in 2017 with a smile on my face and a better idea of what to expect. I sold well during the event, with my signature painting being purchased by the Cherokee Town & Country Club for their permanent collection, a social milieu generally referred to in something of a hushed voice because the Cherokee is one of the old-school clubs in Atlanta. Amusingly, one of the things that stuck in my mind at the Cherokee – go figure – was a rivalry going on between a another club as to how much maple sugar could be carmelize onto a piece of fried bacon. Stop and think about that for a minute. I am a foodie – I'll admit it – and I tried some, and well, talk about gilding the lily, right? "Baaaacon" + a thick crunchy layer of sugar crust, right? But who am I to judge, given some of my own personal culinary quirks? And apparently, some southern tradition foodstuffs are sacred. Especially if they are deep fried. Clearly this rivalry was good-natured for most, short of coming to fist blows, and better than the Sharks and the Jets or the Bloods and the Crips, and I plan to try more of Cherokee bacon when I return. Because I am Switzerland when it comes to food. Unless Brussel Sprouts are involved.

Immediately after that event, the first week of May, I threw the few remaining Olmsted paintings at a UPS employee and jumped into my rental car to drive down to the Forgotten Coast of Florida where yet another plein air competition was scheduled to begin. I took the back roads all the way down and got a nice long look at rural Georgia. The Forgotten Coast Plein Air would be the second of two long back-to-back events, and surprisingly I still had the energy for it. For those who might not know, the Forgotten Coast is so called because it lies along the panhandle between Panama City Beach and Alligator Point, with Apalachicola in between. (Note to self: Do NOT keep inadvertently calling Apalachicola, "Appalachian-cola! Just don’t...) The Forgotten Coast is definitely not the Miami Vice/CSI: Miami kind of FLA you see on television. It was, well, even more colorful and everyone there kept proudly telling me it remains one the last holdouts of The Old Florida. I wouldn't know, but it was all good to me. I liked the people, the working boats, the 'elegant decay', the area in general, and whatever there was to paint. Oh, and the oysters. I ate more oysters than I ever have in my life. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snack. I even painted a plate of oysters (sold). I hung out at the Raw Bar with my new friends until closing time. (Some of whom could have inspired a Carl Hiaasen novel). I even painted the Raw Bar at night. And painted a lot of stuff that looked like it came out of a 1972 issue of National Geographic. (Cool!) I did well again with the sales and I can't wait to go back and paint some more fishing boats and bayou culture. Oh, and to eat more oysters...

I flew back home in mid-May, looking forward to time with the family but the first week of June I had to drive up to Annacortes, WA, to the tip of Puget Sound to judge a show of really good PNW painters, and then drive partway back and take a ferry over to Bainbridge Island to teach a workshop for a Washington artists' group. Both Annacortes and Bainbridge can be stunning if you catch the weather just right and I was blessed to do so. Always good for a plein air class.

After all the judging and teaching was done, and the hugs and tears exhausted, I drove home looking forward to painting in my own backyard for a while. Backyard in the sense of painting the area where I grew up, where I learned to paint, but had been sorely neglecting over that past ten years. I spent the rest of June, all of July, and the first few weeks of August painting in old haunts, revisiting favorite subjects, and feeling more grounded as a result, producing work that would eventually appear in one of my rare Portland gallery shows in the Fall.

Not being one to lounge about, I submitted and had several paintings juried into national shows, such as the American Impressionist Society and the Western Regional of Oil Painters’ of America. That sort of thing. But still, I was happy to be home in the Pacific Northwest quietly making art in my own ‘hood.

Then late August rolled around and I remembered I’d juried into the Pacific Northwest Plein Air held out in the Columbia Gorge and packed up the kit again. However, this event was only a couple of hours east of Portland and I'd be painting an area I knew intimately with many long-term friends. PNWPA went well too. I had a great time, sold well, and was honored with First Place…Best of Show?… whatever it is called, and more notably, was also honored with a Museum Purchase Award from the Maryhill Museum. Yes, this was my second museum purchase and it felt good. (The painting is now hanging but I have not yet gone out to see it.) It was a painting I hadn’t planned to execute. I just got a wake up call from a couple of friends encouraging me to paint a tribal fishing ladder at sunrise below the Dalles Dam and I thought, heck why not? Well, thank you for waking me up. That painting turned out to be one of my favorites of 2016, and that was before it was purchased by the museum. (Have I mentioned it was purchased by a museum yet? ha!) Every now and then, when you aren’t paying attention, you knock one out of the park, and on that day it was my turn. Truthfully, it could have been any other the other painter as well. Actually is was. Another artist also had work purchased by the museum.

So a few more weeks go by and I hit late September. I find myself frantically preparing for two major events at the same time: a show of a large body of work at my local gallery (Brian Marki Fine Art | Portland) and what would be my final plein air competition of the year on the East Coast. It may have been two weeks of pure craziness, but on the first Thursday of October, my gallery show opened and went well.

Five hours later I found myself on the 4:30 am flight to Boston, dozing. Cape Ann Plein Air was brand new spankin' event launching out on the coastline of Massachusetts above Beantown and I wanted to be in on it. So after I landed I grab my rental and drove up to the cape and begin scouting locations to paint, in and around Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. (Note the English names, yes? That's not even all of them on the cape.) Cape Ann is juts off into a major Atlantic fishery and it is filled with American history writ large, and in many ways its presence and culture was the precursor of our country today. Skip forward a few centuries to the late 19th and early 20th century and the cape becomes the birthplace and nursery of what I have pursued most of my professional life – American Impressionism. Almost all the exemplary American landscape painters of that period spent time on the cape, from Homer, to Potthast, to Duvenek, to Hopper, plus many more. For me, Cape Ann Plein Air was another opportunity to paint old-timey boats again, with old-timey flotsam and jetsam lying about, which I did with much gusto. (Thank you, CW, Steve, and Stape, for sharing some of your finest and perhaps few remaining 'fishing holes' on the cape.) And again, I did well, walking away with a lovely ribbon and a new gallery in Gloucester, which, if you are a local you pronounce 'Glawsta', not some other three-syllable word you think you should say. 

So, if you are ever near Boston and need to conceal the fact that you are a tourist, try practicing with this list:
  • Gloucester : Glawsta
  • Worcester: Wuhsta (or Wistah)
  • Leicester : Lesta
  • Woburn: Wooban
  • Dedham : Dead-um
  • Revere: Re-vee-ah
  • Quincy: Quinzee
  • Tewksbury : Tooks berry
  • Leominster : Lemin-sta
  • Peabody: Pee-ba-dee
  • Waltham : Walth-ham
  • Chatham: Chaddum
  • Samoset: Sam-oh-set or Sum-aw-set but nevah Summerset!
After Cape Ann, the plein air season came to an end for me and it was time to go home and rest up – the usual halfway-hibernating thing I do in late October and November. And of course, spend time with the family. And start some long-delayed house remodeling projects. Why? Because it rains constantly around here this time of year and I need to expand my studio so I can teach a few long term students in my own space. I love to lead destination workshops, but like to also cultivate a few dedicated students willing to pursue more long-form instruction. You'll hear more about all that later at some point… (ha!)

And now it is December and 2016 is winding to a close. But my thoughts are already turning towards January, 2017 when I will head out the door again. I'll be starting off in Florida, painting in Key West and working my way up to Key Largo, wear I will teach in Ocean Reef, before flying directly out to Scottsdale, AZ to teach some more and paint in the desert (see above). Then home again for a week before flying down to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with my wife and our best friends to teach again and paint with more good friends. Then home and off to Borrego Springs like a ricochet Then home and back out to Atlanta to teach and compete. Then home and back to the Forgotten Coast to paint some more. Boing, boing. I think that takes me to the end of May. And then…?

Well, the fun never stops…


P.S., I lied...or can we all just agree that I am being 'post-fact'? If you made it all the way down to the end you've probably realized that I did turn this post into a family Christmas letter after all. So here is the requisite shot of the family dog in antlers. The rest of the family refused to step into the frame. (kidding!) Really, I just couldn't get anyone out of bed this early in the morning...

Anyway... Merry Christmas to you, and I wish you a Happy New Year filled with lots of painting, lots of collecting of paintings, and any other kind of adventure you will have!