Search blog...

Mar 19, 2017




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


Hey Everyone! I can offer an Early Bird Registration 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 severalself-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.

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! (My comprehensive FAQ sheet that will all your questions is shown right)

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!




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

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: www.hispanicsociety.org

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…

TJK


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!




Dec 2, 2016

PleinAir: The Next Generation...

Hey, they are just doing what your Grandmother used to tell you: 
"Go outside and play"...

If this video won't play properly you can watch it here:
https://youtu.be/E0Be9rDz6ug


Brought to you by:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/10209836058512231/10211747640514549/



Nov 28, 2016

Myths, Facts, and Common Misconceptions Regarding Oil Painting...


St. Luke, painting the Madonna | 1515
Part of the Triptych of St. Luke and Egil 
Niklaus Manuel 


Here is some sound advice regarding best practices and materials for the oil painter. It comes from a FAQ made available by the Department of Conservation at the University of Delaware College of Arts & Sciences: 


I may not carry much academic authority on such matters but everything this FAQ covers agrees with my own research and over thirty years of personal experience. Information which was hard won and difficult to find at the beginning of my career. So if you are concerned with the longevity of your work (and please carefully note I did not say permanence) you may find the following information of interest...



MATERIALS INFORMATION and TECHNICAL RESOURCES for ARTISTS – Myths, FAQs, and Common Misconceptions
1) Lead white, cadmium, copper, and chromium pigments should never be used because they are toxic...

Some metal pigments can pose a significant health risk particularly those that contain lead and other heavy metals. Lead white and other poisonous pigments are still considered essential for some artists, especially in oil paint where their unique handling, flexibility, and permanence have no adequate substitute. The dangers to the artist are primarily associated the pigment in its dry form where inhalation is a possibility. Pigments already ground into paint pose far fewer risks to the user. While most pigments are not readily transdermal, some solvents can facilitate absorption through the skin. These risks are completely mitigated by the use of gloves and proper hygiene. Dry pigments can be handled safely by using the proper precautions. Those working with dry pigments should only do so in a designated studio space and always wear a dust mask and nitrile gloves. Studios should be free of food and drink and the artist should make sure that they have completely removed any residual pigments or paint from their hands and clothing before leaving the studio. The area around the working space should also be covered with sheets of paper to catch any accidental spills. All materials contaminated with toxic pigments, including solid and solvent waste, should be properly disposed of. Please refer to the Health and Safety document for additional information.


2) Oil paints are toxic...

The binder in traditional oil paint is generally a drying oil derived from edible oils (flax, poppy, walnut, safflower, etc). On their own these do not pose any health risk (although there are a handful of individuals who may possess a particular allergy to certain oils). The toxic components in oil paints come completely from the pigments, additives like artificial driers , and solvents. Many commercial oil paint lines do incorporate vary small amounts of dissolved metal salts that are used to promote rapid or uniform drying. These driers often contain cobalt as well as other heavy metals and therefore care should be taken to avoid contact with the skin if these additives are present. By eliminating the use of solvents, many painters will find that they are able to paint using oils as long as proper precautions are exercised regarding driers and potentially toxic pigments. Please refer to the Health and Safety document for additional information.


3) Oils are bad because they yellow...

All drying oils will yellow to a certain extent but this process is a natural phenomenon and is not one associated with degradation. The yellowing of oil binders in a properly formulated oil paint is generally masked by the pigment load; however, adding too much oil to your paints can lead to pronounced yellowing, an effect that is particularly noticeable in lighter colors such as whites and blues. The manner in which an oil binder is prepared can also have an effect on the overall degree of yellowing as well as the presence of certain pigments (such as non-coated rutile titanium dioxide and anatase titanium dioxide), driers (oleates and resinates), and the environment (heat in the absence of light). There are measures that can be taken to combat yellowing. Some artists choose to place their paintings in direct sunlight for a certain period of time as UV light can break up some of the chemical bonds that are responsible for yellowing (although care should be taken if your painting contains a significant amount of wax and/or potentially fugitive pigments).


4) Alkyd mediums, polyurethanes, shellac, and hard resins (i.e. copals) are great as varnish coatings...

Today there is a wide-range of lacquer-, alkyd mediums- (e.g. Liquin), polyurethane-, and enamel-based coatings available to artists, some of which consistent of nitrocellulose (and other cellulose derivatives) or vinyl-based/acrylic resins dissolved in solvents. While many of these products dry fairly quickly, they are not recommended for use as surface coatings as they are irremovable once dry, can produce brittle surface coatings, and can potentially yellow and darken over time. These types of products have experienced a rise in popularity among contemporary artists and while they may create aesthetically pleasing surfaces for some, they have not yet been thoroughly tested for compatibility with art materials or for their long-term aging properties. Please refer to the Varnish document for more information on surface coatings.


The entire document may be found here: 




Enjoy!

TJK



Myths, Facts, and Common Misconceptions Regarding Oil Painting...


St. Luke, painting the Madonna | 1515
Part of the Triptych of St. Luke and Egil 
Niklaus Manuel 


Here is some sound advice regarding best practices and materials for the oil painter. It comes from a FAQ made available by the Department of Conservation at the University of Delaware College of Arts & Sciences: 


I may not carry much academic authority on such matters but everything this FAQ covers agrees with my own research and over thirty years of personal experience. Information which was hard won and difficult to find at the beginning of my career. So if you are concerned with the longevity of your work (and please carefully note I did not say permanence) you may find the following information of interest...



MATERIALS INFORMATION and TECHNICAL RESOURCES for ARTISTS – Myths, FAQs, and Common Misconceptions

1) Lead white, cadmium, copper, and chromium pigments should never be used because they are toxic...

Some metal pigments can pose a significant health risk particularly those that contain lead and other heavy metals. Lead white and other poisonous pigments are still considered essential for some artists, especially in oil paint where their unique handling, flexibility, and permanence have no adequate substitute. The dangers to the artist are primarily associated the pigment in its dry form where inhalation is a possibility. Pigments already ground into paint pose far fewer risks to the user. While most pigments are not readily transdermal, some solvents can facilitate absorption through the skin. These risks are completely mitigated by the use of gloves and proper hygiene. Dry pigments can be handled safely by using the proper precautions. Those working with dry pigments should only do so in a designated studio space and always wear a dust mask and nitrile gloves. Studios should be free of food and drink and the artist should make sure that they have completely removed any residual pigments or paint from their hands and clothing before leaving the studio. The area around the working space should also be covered with sheets of paper to catch any accidental spills. All materials contaminated with toxic pigments, including solid and solvent waste, should be properly disposed of. Please refer to the Health and Safety document for additional information.


2) Oil paints are toxic...

The binder in traditional oil paint is generally a drying oil derived from edible oils (flax, poppy, walnut, safflower, etc). On their own these do not pose any health risk (although there are a handful of individuals who may possess a particular allergy to certain oils). The toxic components in oil paints come completely from the pigments, additives like artificial driers , and solvents. Many commercial oil paint lines do incorporate vary small amounts of dissolved metal salts that are used to promote rapid or uniform drying. These driers often contain cobalt as well as other heavy metals and therefore care should be taken to avoid contact with the skin if these additives are present. By eliminating the use of solvents, many painters will find that they are able to paint using oils as long as proper precautions are exercised regarding driers and potentially toxic pigments. Please refer to the Health and Safety document for additional information.


3) Oils are bad because they yellow...

All drying oils will yellow to a certain extent but this process is a natural phenomenon and is not one associated with degradation. The yellowing of oil binders in a properly formulated oil paint is generally masked by the pigment load; however, adding too much oil to your paints can lead to pronounced yellowing, an effect that is particularly noticeable in lighter colors such as whites and blues. The manner in which an oil binder is prepared can also have an effect on the overall degree of yellowing as well as the presence of certain pigments (such as non-coated rutile titanium dioxide and anatase titanium dioxide), driers (oleates and resinates), and the environment (heat in the absence of light). There are measures that can be taken to combat yellowing. Some artists choose to place their paintings in direct sunlight for a certain period of time as UV light can break up some of the chemical bonds that are responsible for yellowing (although care should be taken if your painting contains a significant amount of wax and/or potentially fugitive pigments).


4) Alkyd mediums, polyurethanes, shellac, and hard resins (i.e. copals) are great as varnish coatings...

Today there is a wide-range of lacquer-, alkyd mediums- (e.g. Liquin), polyurethane-, and enamel-based coatings available to artists, some of which consistent of nitrocellulose (and other cellulose derivatives) or vinyl-based/acrylic resins dissolved in solvents. While many of these products dry fairly quickly, they are not recommended for use as surface coatings as they are irremovable once dry, can produce brittle surface coatings, and can potentially yellow and darken over time. These types of products have experienced a rise in popularity among contemporary artists and while they may create aesthetically pleasing surfaces for some, they have not yet been thoroughly tested for compatibility with art materials or for their long-term aging properties. Please refer to the Varnish document for more information on surface coatings.


The entire document may be found here: 


Enjoy!

TJK



Nov 17, 2016

Finding the Courage to Paint 'en Plein Air'...


Yes, that is who you think it is...and wouldn't you love to see that painting? 
“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.” – Lucille Ball

Hey All:

Here is an email I received a few days ago from a follower on Facebook. And, after responding, I decided to post my reply here because perhaps it will encourage others to try painting outdoors as well.

Hello Thomas: 
I am 68 and have never had an art class.  But I’ve sold watercolors for $2,000.  I’m very interested in plein air now so I can get out of the house and meet people. Could you please take a quick look at my work and tell me whether you think I can convert to plein air?  I have the equipment. 
Thank you SO MUCH!

--------------------
Jean


Hello Jean:

All it takes to become an outdoor painter is some gumption and the willingness to bring your gear outside – and yes, a little courage. I looked at your work online and you seem handy enough with your chosen medium to give it a go, so heck, why not?

Here are a few thing to consider as you begin...

1. Since the sun is in constant motion, start off by choosing simple subject matter that does not involved too much going on in the immediate foreground. Crop the bottom of your painting somewhere out in the distant or middle ground so you won't get caught up in the minutiae at your feet. Avoid the temptation to tilt your head downwards as you paint and limit yourself to composing with what you can see while holding your head level.

2. This next tip is important: Start by painting large simple shapes and leave out the smaller ones, unless you are intentionally trying to create an area of focus. If you are, place your larger shapes along the periphery of your painting and work into the smaller ones around your point of interest. This is a classical way to compose, regardless of genre. subject, or media. But doing this will require some conscious effort and a continual awareness as you work. Avoid the temptation to jump into detail because if the underlying larger shapes are not correct all that detail will inhibit you from fixing them. And speaking of detail, before you start putting it in, step back and look at your painting as a whole. You may not need much.

3. In general, when you are painting outdoors, if it is a sunny day with few clouds in the sky, the temperature of the sun will warm up the local colors of your subject – this means the light parts of trees, mountains, cacti, roads, houses, barns and your precocious small grandchildren playing on the beach will appear warmer to you than they would if it were an overcast day. And correspondingly, the shadows on all those things will not just be a darker version of the local color, they will be both darker and cooler in comparison. (So hypothetically, a shadow cast onto a red barn will appear to shift towards the purple, and a shadow on green grass will appear to shift towards a blue-green, and so on. This ‘cooling effect’ is called a temperature change and it can be easier to see in nature's more neutral colored objects such as rocks, earth, and snow.) This warm/cool temperature contrast is a visual effect that occurs both inside your eye (via the effect of simultaneous contrast in hue), and outside the eye because the ambient light in the sky is reflecting into the shadows and biasing the darker local color towards the cool. Inevitably, you will encounter exceptions to this cooling effect, and when you do just paint them you see it. But for the most part, on a sunny day, begin with warm lights and cool darks and you will catch on. This warm/cool, light/dark temperature alignment is essential to creating a convincing atmospheric plein air painting*. This discovery is perhaps the greatest gift the French Impressionists gave to the world of art after they moved their easels outdoors.

4. As a rule, for now, work small and no longer than two hours at a time. Any longer and the starting light and shadow pattern will have changed too much for you to continue using it as a reference. This is true for the warm/cool temperature relationships as well. The sun will keep moving along so you should too, as in, to another painting. So seriously, work small and as quickly as possible within a two hour limit and accept that you won’t be as accurate as you are when you work indoors under artificial light. This is fine because your outdoor work will begin informing your indoor work, and vice versa. At this point, don’t worry too much about ‘finishing' or resolving your plein air work. At least not yet. If you do find yourself struggling with a painting just put it aside and start something new. You will learn more from one hundred starts than you will from one hundred finishes. Trust me on that axiom, okay? I didn't make it up.

There is more. Of course, there is always more... But the best classroom is located on the other side of your studio door. So pack up the gear and walk on through because right now you are burning daylight.

TJK


*Of course, when you begin painting outdoors on overcast days you will quick learn all those sunny temperature relationships you worked so hard to master are now inverted. Instead of warm lights/cool darks, you'll see cool lights/warm darks. Nature is fickle that way. Just as you start to competent she confuses you in a new way...