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Sep 25, 2014

Sometimes you just have to have enough sense to leave it alone...

This clip was shot surreptitiously by one of my students during a Carmel plein air workshop I taught in September. She later shared it with me and it seemed a nice thing to share with you. And below the clip is a scan of the demonstration itself. I think the whole thing ran a little under one hour...


Bird Island (as seen from the southern tip of Weston Beach)
Point Lobos, California
approx. 8 x 13 inches | oil on linen | 2014


If you are interested in taking one 
my painting workshops the next 
one will be held this February in 
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. 

I have invited two great outdoor painters Anne Blair Brown and Frank Gardner to join me and teach as well. Besides being a very informative and entertaining time for everyone who participates, San Miguel will be a fine place to paint afterwards, during the depths of winter, and the culture and citizens offer many delights to every kind of artist.

For more information click here

Mi amigos, it will be a painting experience like no other!...


Sep 24, 2014

Building a Plein Air Shelf...

Me, painting over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, loving the shelf...

I painted with a French easel for almost 25 years not knowing there were any other viable options out there to consider. And, for the first twenty years, there wasn't. However, about six years ago I ran into some friends who preferred painting outdoors using a clamshell design utilized by the Openbox M™, the Easy-L™, Alla Prima Pochade™, and now the new Strada™ and I could immediately see why.

A clamshell design is great for its compact simplicity and robust nature – if you mostly paint at 16 x 20 inches or smaller. The open and close, hinged form makes it a convenient and easy set up for any painter on the move like me. 

But there is one problem...

If you prefer to paint with your canvas vertical, and have your mixing area vertical as well so the light falls equally on both, then having a place to put your solvent, paint, brushes, knives, and other gear becomes an issue. Sure, all manufacturers of clamshell easels offer a shelf in some form or another but if you use their solution it will restrict the angle of your palette to something not too far off from level. Otherwise your stuff will roll off unexpectedly.

Not exactly what I want to be dealing with as I am pushing the paint around.

So I designed a shelf for the tripod underneath the easel, only to discover that everywhere I went other painters wanted to know where they could get one. I'd tell them I made it myself, and that when sized to fit it can act like a cover, and blah, blah, blah... with the conversations invariably ending with photos being taken so they could build their own.

The shelf, in all its humble and simple glory...

Personally, I am too busy traveling and painting and have no interest in becoming a 'plein air shelf manufacturer' so you can find the specs below. Anyone with moderate woodworking skills, access to a decent table saw and a few tools, can make their own. I can't think of any equipment mod I've ever come up with that has improved my outdoor painting experience more than this shelf. I can paint faster, my back thanks me, and well, apparently it just looks b*tchin' out on the street...

The measurements in bold should work for most, if not every tripod I've encountered, assuming the legs are set at the standard angle. (I try my shelves out on everyone's tripod I come across.) I've even used my shelves with tripod legs set at a 45 degree angle under windy conditions. Although admittedly the shelf tilts sharply backward when I do. And no, I've never had a shelf collapse. After you place weight on it the structure becomes stable. As much as 10 to 12 pounds.

The last mod I've been thinking about incorporating into my shelves is a slot to accommodate a stemmed wine glass. After all, one must remain civilized while we paint outdoors, yes?


For more practical advice about painting en plein air, consider taking one of my workshops. Like this one in San Miguel de Allende, this February. Mi amigos, it will be a painting experience like no other!...


Sep 3, 2014

"No Mind"...

No Mind.

Substitute the words artist for warrior, and painting for combat,
and you will grasp what is necessary to paint at a high level.

From wikipedia:

Mushin (無心; Japanese mushin; English translation "no mind") is a mental state into which very highly trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. They also practice this mental state during everyday activities. The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

Mushin is achieved when a person's mind is free from thoughts of angerfear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction or what is felt intuitively. It is not a state of relaxed, near-sleepfulness, however. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.

Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, that person will no longer even consider themselves as "fighters" but merely living beings moving through space.

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said: "The mind must always be in the state of 'flowing,' for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy's sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man's subconscious that strikes."

However, mushin is not just a state of mind that can be achieved during combat. Many martial artists train to achieve this state of mind during kata so that a flawless execution of moves is accomplished — that they may be achieved during combat or at any other time. Once mushin is attained through the practice or study of martial arts (although it can be accomplished through other arts or practices that refine the mind and body), the objective is to then attain this same level of complete awareness in other aspects of the practitioner's life.

Aug 15, 2014

A Little Plein Air Humor...

Hey you all – here's a little insider joke...

Question: How can you tell who the plein air painters are in a fancy museum?

Answer: They're the ones in the corner talking about tomorrow's weather!

Hee hee..!


Aug 13, 2014

PleinAir Today and OutdoorPainter.com Offers Tips on Painting in Tuscany...

...Based upon my recent trip to Italy last May.

If you would like to read the full article online click here...

If you would like to read a downloadable and printable
pdf copy of the article click here...

If you would like to see Most of the painting 
from my trip in greater detail click here...

As the author Bob Bahr mentions at the outset of his article, I have already agreed to teach in Tuscany again in September 2015. The experience was so good, so fun, and so rewarding for everyone who participated, how could I say no? 

Next year could include you!

So, if you would like to join me one year from now, and work on your plein air painting skills under the Tuscan sun then click here and place yourself on the early notification list. 

Those who do will receive the details this October!

– TJK –

And don't forget, if you want to know who is who, or what is going on in the plein air world, consider subscribing to PleinAir Magazine!

Aug 12, 2014

How it Feels...

(Facebookers, click here)

Yup. This pretty much describes what it can be like on some days...

From the film "Modigliani" (French Drama, 2004). The story of Amedeo Modigliani's bitter rivalry with Pablo Picasso and his tragic romance with Jeanne Hebuterne.

  • Set in Paris in 1919, biopic centers on the life of late Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, focusing on his last days as well as his rivalry with Pablo Picasso. Modigliani, a Jew, has fallen in love with Jeanne, a young and beautiful Catholic girl. The couple has an illegitimate child, and Jeanne's bigoted parents send the baby to a faraway convent to be raised by nuns. Modigliani is distraught and needs money to rescue and raise his child. The answer arrives in the shape of Paris' annual art competition. Prize money and a guaranteed career await the winner. Neither Modigliani, nor his dearest friend and rival Picasso have ever entered the competition, believing that it is beneath true artists like themselves. But push comes to shove with the welfare of his child on the line, and Modigliani signs up for the competition in a drunken and drug-induced tirade. Picasso follows suit and all of Paris is aflutter with excitement at who will win. With the balance of his relationship with Jeanne on the line, Modigliani tackles this work with the hopes of creating a masterpiece, and knows that all the artists of Paris are doing the same.
    Written by Sujit R. Varma

It's surprisingly good. 

Bonus points for identifying any of the artists being portrayed...


Jul 31, 2014

Come Paint en Plein Air in San Miguel de Allende!...

A TJK International Workshop Announcement!...

Come Paint Plein Air in
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
with Three American Masters!

February 26th - March 1st, 2015 

San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico 
4 Days of Painting Instruction! 

Registration Status: We have 9 registrants already!

Learn to paint outdoors in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site listed by Condé Nast Traveler readers as one of their Top 25 Destinations in the World. (They actually give SMA first place!) Come paint beautifully preserved 16th-century Baroque/Spanish architecture, and experience rich and vibrant mestizo culture, and dine in fabulous cafes and restaurants, all while being team-taught new exciting ways to paint en plein air by three internationally-renowned instructors! 
  • Anne Blair Brown, who is currently featured on the September 2014 cover of PleinAir Magazine!
  • Frank Gardner, who not only paints and teaches in San Miguel, he also lives there.

There will be plenty of opportunities for you to paint, with ample one-on-one instruction tailored to your individual needs.

All instruction will be offered in English, and coordinated to avoid unnecessary overlap. This workshop will also be an informal cultural exchange. Many artists from Mexico City have already registered and they will be fun to paint and socialize with before, during, and after class. You can make new friends and work on your Spanish too!

This will be a cultural experience as well. You will not only be learning from three excellent instructors you will be painting and socializing with plein air painters from Mexico City! So you can work on your Spanish at the same time you are painting, if you wish.

San Miguel de Allende was founded in the 17th century at the epicenter of the Spanish silver empire, and it has had a long history with the arts. So the people who live there love to welcome painters from all over the world. There is a large American ex-pat community, a solid infrastructure, and an international airport close by, all of which make San Miguel de Allende an easy and inexpensive international destination. Here's the bottom line: SMA is the perfect location for any artist looking for easy in-and-out travel that also offers exotic and exciting subjects to paint!

So don't wait. This workshop will fill quickly.
Come join us in San Miguel de Allende and
paint in the heart of Mexico!

For more info contact Thomas at

Registration Status:
We have 9 registrants already!

Cost if purchased in one single payment: 10,000 Mexican pesos | approx. $773 USD, depending upon that day’s exchange rate.

Cost if purchased over six installments of 1,917 Mexican pesos | approx. $889 USD, depending upon that day’s exchange rate.

Visit: www.talleresdepintura.com to register.


The FAQs:

What language with this workshop be taught in?
Our instructors are American and they will offer instruction in English.

Is airfare included in the price of this workshop? No, airfare varies from place to place so you must make your own arrangements. If you are coming to San Miguel Allende from outside of Mexico we recommend you fly directly into the closest international airport, Queretaro, or into Mexico City. (International airport codes: QRO and MEX, respectively)

Will there be transportation from the airport to the workshop? You are responsible for arranging transportation to your lodgings in San Miguel Allende. If you fly into Queretaro (less than 30 minutes away by car) you can either hire a private taxi or take a bus. Both are inexpensive options. The bus system in Mexico is fantastic and easily navigated by Americans, and if you purchase a 'Primera Plus’ class ticket your ride will more comfortable than most first class airfare.

Is lodging included? You are responsible for booking your own lodging. We can recommend several hotels close to the Jardin in the most picturesque part of town. We also recommend using www.AirBnB.com as there are many short term rentals available at surprisingly affordable prices. However, San Miguel Allende is a popular international destination so it is best to reserve in advance.
Will transportation be provided to and from our painting locations during the workshop? Yes. We will meet every morning before the instruction begins. Transportation to and from painting locations outside of San Miguel Allende will be provided. We will walk to any painting location within San Miguel Allende.

Do I provide my own paint and materials? Yes. You will be provided a material list after you register. If you paint in oils then you may already have much, if not all of the things you will need. However, you must bring a portable easel suitable for plein air painting for this workshop. If you do not already own such an easel then we can offer recommendations.

Are there art supplies available in San Miguel Allende?  There are some supplies but only the basic items. So we strongly recommend you come prepared with what you find on the workshop material supply list.

Is there something to do for non-painting spouses and partners? Yes, there are many things to see and do in San Miguel Allende besides painting. SMA is a romantic get-away destination visited by honeymooning Mexican couples and by people on long weekends out of Mexico City. There is always something going on. It is filled with culture, fine dining, and shops of all kinds. There are luxurious hot springs and spas nearby, horseback riding, and day hikes. Even yoga for those looking for a moment of relaxation and calm. There is a large ex-pat community from all over the world. There is bull fighting, artisan-cafe culture, and a vibrant night-life. Just walking around in the streets can easily fill several days. We will be happy to provide a list of enjoyable activities for you and your partner to consider after registration. You can expect your fellow students to be interested in touring the town as well.

Where can I find information about the Instructors? You can visit their web pages here:

Anne Blair-Brown
Thomas Jefferson Kitts
Frank Gardner

How do you select your instructors? They are vetted carefully and with deliberation. They know each other and we know them and their work first-hand. They have been selected based on their reputation, experience, excellence of teaching.

How can I confirm you have received my deposit? You will a notification welcoming you to the workshop after we receive your deposit.

For more info contact Thomas at