Drop Down MenusCSS Drop Down MenuPure CSS Dropdown Menu

Apr 13, 2014

More Cowbell…oops, I meant More Paint...

Here is a recent email exchange with a reader I want to share with you. With permission from Hal...

On Apr 5, 2014, at 3:04PM, Hal DeWaltoff wrote:

Hi, I read your blog all the time—and was especially interested in your info re other artist’s palettes.  Would you happen to know what Michael Lynch puts out to paint?  Looking at his work, I’d be amazed if he didn’t include black.

Keep up the good work and thanks,  Hal    

On Apr 13, 2014, at 1:44 PM, Thomas Jefferson Kitts wrote: 
Hello Hal:

Thank you for your question. If you mean this Michael: http://michaeljlynchstudio.com then I could not definitively say what his palette is without asking him directly but I would guess he is using tertiary earth colors, a few pure primaries and secondaries as modifiers, and black to reach the darker values.

It's great work and I am quite impressed at the veracity of it. Thank you for introducing Michael to me.

I took a quick look at your work too. Good foundation to build on. Why don't you contact Michael yourself and ask? Then let me know what you find out. We all like to talk about our process.



On Apr 13, 2014, at 11:18AM, Hal DeWaltoff wrote:
Thanks for getting back to me.  I did try to contact Mike Lynch but no answer, and he lists galleries where he isn’t showing anymore—mystery man.  So, in one word or two tell me what hits you about my work that needs building. First impressions are usually pretty accurate.  Just what hits you.  And, I won’t bug you anymore!  Though I am very jealous of your travels! 
Best, Hal

On Apr 13, 2014, at 1:44 PM, Thomas Jefferson Kitts wrote:

Easy-peasy, Hal.

I think the values you establish in your paintings are good and for the most part the color feels naturalistic. So if those are your primary goals then you are doing well with them.

Early Peaches
12 x 16 | oil on panel | Available

However, it may be time to start putting down more paint so you can push it around for further effect. Especially if you are enamored of Lynch's work. Think of your existing method as an underpainting that determines the essential light and dark value masses and use it for blocking in approximate color. Don't worry about maintaining a consistent surface or adding detail, just work rapidly and as accurately as possible at the outset and set up the painting for what will happen on your second pass. What will come next is you putting more paint down in select areas. In regards to where to put the thicker paint, you can follow the classical approach of the lighter the value, the thicker the paint while keeping your darks thin and transparent. Another way to think about this is the old adage, 'lean darks and loaded lights'. Or, if you prefer a more contemporary feel you can instead throw down thicker lights and darks in the area you want the viewer to read as the focal point. Almost everyone will interpret thicker paint as a directive to "look here!" if it is also contrasted by areas of thinner paint.

Early Peaches, enlarged detail

I would also recommend you start breaking your color along the surface planes of your subject more clearly. (This is the true definition of 'broken color', Not at all what the Impressionists were doing.) For example, when you are painting outdoors, depending upon the position of the sun, the top of a green tree may exhibit a blue bias from the sky as the foliage rolls away from you. Or, instead, if the sun is directly overhead that same tree top may exhibit a yellow shift. My point is when a plane changes so will the underlying hue, not just the value. This is what is meant to turn the form with color. 

So here one of the few rules in observational painting: Every time a plane turns towards or away from the light there will be a corresponding change in value. But there will also be a change in hue as well. For example: a red may shift towards orange or towards purple, a yellow may go more green or blue, and a blue may become more green or purple...that sort of thing. This is an color change which can be difficult to see at times but it is always present and such subtleties are often lost or unrecordable by cameras. So use your eye and look to Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn for clear examples of how effective broken color can be. Or as I keep repeating, simply remember each time you see a plane shift know that the local hue will be affected as well.

When you put more paint down some very interesting things occur. Sure, the color become more opaque, which some view as a bad thing, but when the edges of thick paint come together it can create beautiful marbling and rich surprising blends. You can see this in Michael's work and he appears to be in full control of it.

Admittedly, forcing yourself to throw down more paint will be daunting at first. It is a entirely new game with new rules to learn and master. And trips to the art store will become more common. But thicker paint is what separates you from the colored renderer. So squeeze out those tubes onto your palette. Scoop the color up with your brush and lay it onto your canvas. Push it around. And start buying your paint by the pound.

Good luck. And remember, more cowbell...


Mar 29, 2014

In and Out...

I've been home from New York City not even a week and here I am again packing for another trip. 

This time I'll be out for two weeks. The first week will be spent down in Palms Springs painting for a new gallery. The second week will be spent at the 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo, where I'll be demo'ing and lecturing on How to Paint with Traditional Oils Solvent-Free. (My time slot will be 9:45 am on Thursday, if any of you readers are going to be there.) I'll also be an official 'field painter' through out the event.

Two weeks is a lot of time to be on the road. Oh, did I mention I'll be traveling with two other painters in just one car – a Prius – and we will all be driving from Portland, Oregon, to Palms Springs, California, and then back up to Monterey? Producing wet paintings every day?

That's a lot of stuff to cram into one car. Space will be precious.

Towards that end, I will do an experiment. Since I'm known as the fast & light guy I thought I'd try to push the idea to an extreme without scaling the size of the work down. 

This is all the stuff I will take on this trip:

Here is all that stuff stuffed… 

You can see I'll bring the easel, tripod, jars of paint, and my brushes – the usual and sundry items I always pack – but look more closely at the boxes. Or better yet, look at what is inside those boxes.

There are sixty-eight surfaces to paint on inside those three boxes. Yes, you read that correctly, sixty-eight.

There are:
    Eleven 12 x 16 homemade or modified panels.
    Nine sheets of 12 x 16 sheets of oil primed linen bound into a single block.
    Forty-eight sheets of Arches Oil Paper bound into four blocks.

   (It only cost me $6.00 to turn the pads into blocks at FedEx/Kinkos!)

The idea is I will paint on the paper and linen pads like you paint on a watercolor block. When one top sheet has dried enough I will slice it off with a knife and slip sheet it into a black drawing portfolio also in this photo, freeing up a fresh surface to paint on. I'll rotate the blocks as needed, and then after I return home, if I decide to consign any of the work, I'll mount it to a rigid support and frame it. Thus I eliminate most of the space required for traveling and leave the weight home. Fast & light 

The homemade panels are along for the ride as backup in case the blocks fail. If they do I'll buy some additional panels on the road after I use up the backups. It's not like I'll be in Timbuktu or Bhutan or anything. I'll be in California.

Why am I doing this? Because next month I am off to Italy for yet another extended trip. (phew!) I will be teaching a week-long workshop in the heart of Tuscany (see upper right) and then touring the Cinque Terre and Venice with my wife and friends afterwards – again, in a crowded car. So if these blocks work in California I'll definitely take them abroad.

Yes, the fun never stops


Last chance to register for my May 2014 Essential Plein Air Techniques workshop in Tuscany! If you would like to work on your outdoor paintings skills with me in Italy check out the upper right corner of this blog! Or, click here to visit my Facebook Page. Spouses and partners welcome too! 

But don't wait, only a few spots left and registration closes soon!

Cost is inclusive, from €1640 to € 2400. 
(Approximately $2,220 to $3,240 US; airfare not included.)

Mar 20, 2014

Madame X...

Need I say more?


Mar 5, 2014

I am back from the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational...

…and boy, was it was a difficult week.

Obviously, I am not complaining, because hey, it was Maui in February and I got to paint in the sun. 

But still, it was a difficult week.

The weather started off well on the first day but stopped cooperating on day two and then kept fussing about until the day before we turned our paintings in. There was the vog, there was the overcast, there was the rain. And early in the week there was some unexpected transportation problems. On top of all that, on Monday I lost my wallet somewhere on the island and found myself without cash or credit cards. Reduced to bumming rides from fellow painters while I waited for replacements.

So as mentioned – a difficult week. 

But hey, let me repeat: I was on Maui, surrounded by friends, and there to paint – not to mope or complain. My problems were of the first-world order, and in paradise to boot, so it was important to keep telling myself that!

I think the best thing about doing these events is the caliber of the people you meet. Our fellow painters, the event organizers, our hosts, and the collectors and general on-lookers who get excited about what we do. I don't think this changes from place to place. It seems to be the same everywhere I go. I can't say what the experience is like in other genres of art but the plein air milieu is filled with folks who just want to help. Even a cashless, cardless, (and now carless) artist freaked out about how to get from point A to point B without becoming a drag. But it turned out I had to decline more rides and offers of assistance than was needed to accept and that was a moving moment for me. Kindness teaches a lesson. So thank you Ned, Mary, Keith, Barbara and Wally, Pierre, Jenny, Jeanne, and everyone else who lent a hand. Without you the week would have been worse. I not only owe you, I want to pass it on.

As I keep saying – it is Maui. A place filled with the Aloha Spirit, a way of life that goes beyond greeting someone with hello and goodbye. After all, how bad could things get in paradise? I may have felt penniless and temporarily itinerant (and in truth I was neither) but this experience helped me refocus on what is truly important. Painting. I am grateful and humbled by that.

So the big lesson for me last week was: When life give you a bunch of lemons break out the cadmium yellow light. 


Here is most of the work I produced on Maui. It's kind of funny. I intended to just paint a few – maybe as many as five – and really work each piece to a more finished state, as I have recently been doing at other events. But somehow this time the numbers got away from me. Didn't even realize what I was doing. While I'm not crazy about everything I produced these are the ones I am most happy with...

12 x 16 oil on panel
Currently at the Village Gallery, Lahaina Maui

Sorry about the crappy iPhone copy shot. It was our opening event of the week and I barely remembered to take a snapshot during the three hour paint out. The Jodo Mission Buddha is the largest sitting Buddha in the US as far as I know. It has a greenish cast which reflects all sorts of interesting colors from whatever is around it and the contra jour illumination interested me. I want to come back and paint it again at a larger scale. Little did I know as I painted this that I'd be needing a little serenity myself. The irony doesn't escape me.

Lahaina Harbor Rain
12 x 16 oil on panel
Currently at the Village Gallery, Lahaina Maui

Painted during a rainy afternoon while waiting for my friends to come back from a whale watching tour. I would never have purposely chosen this as a subject but it turned out to be one of my favorite paintings of the week. I liked it so much I came back to this same spot for the QuickDraw at the end of the week.

Honokohau Church, Maui
12 x 16 oil on panel
Currently at the Village Gallery, Lahaina Maui

I rode out to this church with Ned Mueller and we painted it between breaks in the rain. It is on the Kahekili Highway north of the Kaanapali/Kapalua areas and feels like the old Hawaii, before development. The narrow two lane road turns into a narrower single lane, with hairpin turns, no guard rails, and 500 to 1000 foot drops into the ocean below. So it's a good idea for the passenger to act as a spotter, anticipating any car coming from the other direction. Pull-outs and pass-bys are few and far in between the curves so someone must back up until the other can get by. If you have ever driven this road then you know what I am talking about…

The Jodo Mission from a Distance
12 x 16 oil on panel

The Jodo Mission is an interesting place to paint. Located towards the northern end of Lahaina, it offers a refuge from the intense activity of the town. I like painting there for the quiet atmosphere. This is an unusual view of the pagoda, largely unnoticed and seen from the backside of Mala Harbor.

Lanai Sunset
8 x 16 oil on panel

When I arrived the 'Vog' had settled in to create the oddest light I have ever tried to paint. The vog erupts out of the volcanos on the main island and when it blows in it tints everything pink and gray. (Believe it or not, the sun is setting directly behind the cloud cap in the center of the painting. Pink and gray is not the usual palette you find in Hawaiian art but that is what was there. Sometimes I can be an idiot with my painting titles. I identified this painting as 'Molokai Sunset' on the opening night. When a kindly local corrected me I re-wrote out the title card somewhat embarrassed. It's important to get the islands right because someone will notice.

12 x 16 oil on panel

Green. Green. Green. Maui is green. Especially after all the rain they had before we showed up. I'm from the Pacific Northwest – you know, the wet part, so you can either choose to paint it as you see it, or gray the greens down. I painted them as they are. Ned Mueller, Colin Page, David Santillanes, and Hai-Ou and I drove up into Olowalu Canyon, past the general store, past the 300 year old petroglyphs, to this hidden spot. And we had to contend with the clouds coming and going all afternoon, which is Nature's way of toying with the plein air painter. David's version garnered the People's Choice Award. It was well deserved.

Luau Girl
12 x 16 oil on panel

This was from the Wednesday evening 505 Sunset Paint Out. Each year we've had a figure come out and strike a pose while the sun sets. In this case it was a young Luau dancer waiting for a performance that night, and she chose to stand between the front bows of a wooden outrigger. I'm not that crazy about this painting, or the composition and cropping I chose, and in no way do I think of it as a complete artistic thought. But I am sharing it with you so you can see how I often start a painting, by blocking out the major planes with warm and cool passages, and then looking to refine the shapes and soften the edges as I go. My original plan was to use the dancer's profile as my area of focus because it was so awesome in the side light, and then work more loosely out from there, but well, I ran out of time. She had to go dance down the beach. I also painted this on a dry cobalt purple ground that sucked all the oil out of my paint like a sponge. Seemed like a good thing to try at the time but I won't be doing it again. Ever. (ha!)

The Back of Front (Lahaina)
16 x 12 oil on panel
Available at the Village Gallery, Lahaina, Maui

This is my other favorite painting of the week. On Wednesday afternoon the sun came out for good and I was alone so I wasn't distracted. It was just me, the sun, and the painting. And hordes of tourists constantly passing by along the seawall. (Such is the life of the urban plein air painter…) However, there was amazing contrast between the lights and darks looking towards the south, and yet the color remained strong, so I had to paint it. We are essentially looking into the sun as it is dropping into the upper right corner, which is why the sky is so light. This is what happens when you look into the sun in the tropics. What you think is blue sky, isn't. Even though there can be a lot of blue reflected into the water. And shallow water being what it is, if clear like this was, you start seeing into it as it comes up to you in the foreground. That blue to green, contrasted by the reddish wet sand, was like crack cocaine for me. It had to go down.

The Beach at Kapalua Bay
12 x 16 oil on panel
Available at the Village Gallery, Lahaina, Maui

This beach is as about as Hawaiian as it gets on Maui. It is public sandy crescent  with shade and services, and the kids can wade into the water line all day long while parents can lounge or snorkel the reefs immediately offshore. When I take a dip I always encountering turtles in the murky wash, and once a spotted eel came up to my face mask unexpectedly. (Not an experience I wish to have again. All I remember of that moment was a circle of fine teeth pointing inwards with a big hole in the middle.) This painting is so impressionistic because I wanted to play with little daubs of color, with the idea that the image will pull together if you stand back. Dang, those French knew what they were doing!

Lahaina Harbor Morning (The Friday QuickDraw)
16 x 12 oil on panel
Available at the Village Gallery, Lahaina, Maui

Yes, the harbor again, but this time in sunlight. For those who may not know, a QuickDraw is a bit like the TV show, 'The Iron Chef'. They both contain an aspect of contrived competitiveness, and to a degree some showmanship. All of us artists are expected to set up in a small confined and very public area, in this case the harbor itself, and knock out a finished piece within a short period of time. We may paint at any size we wish but it must be complete before the horn goes off. In this case we had two hours. Then, after the horn we must tear down and pack everything up, and frame our quickdraw before bringing it to the gallery to be hung for the Gala show later that evening. No worries, no stress, right? It's kind of a publicity stunt and everyone tries to have fun while doing it. I try to execute all my plein air work as if they are quick draws, so standing in the middle of a curious public mob and fielding questions or wise-cracks and working at a fast clip is no big deal. It makes doing stand-up comedy in a club look easy except I'm not funny. (heh!)  I think all the quickdraws I've done are largely responsible for the improvement I've seen in my own work over the past five years. So I like doing them and specifically encourage my workshop students to paint fast and furious too – and if necessary – not to worry about picking up the pieces afterwards. After all, no matter how good or bad a painting may turn out it's still just a painting. You can let it go and move on to the next one without beating yourself up about it.

Facebookers and anyone else unable to view this video: click here!

I want to thank all the event organizers and participating artists for the good times and chance to come paint at the 9th Annual Maui Invitational this year. It really was an exceptional event!


Jan 28, 2014

PleinAir Magazine's 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo...

Most of you know I have enjoyed attending, presenting, and field painting at the First and Second Annual Plein Air Convention & Expos. And I am going back again to do it for the third time this April. Both previous events were satisfying, informative, and presented a chance to meet some of my favorite artists and to network, and the after-hours fraternizing was fun too.

This year I have been asked to demonstrate how to paint with traditional oils, solvent-free. When the weather turns wet and cold in my part of the world I head indoors. I put away the thinners and solvents because it can be difficult and expensive to properly ventilate my studio during the winter. And what I have learned from doing this? That I don't need a bunch of secret sauces or magic elixirs to do the voodoo I do. Don't get me wrong, some gels and juices have their place in my toolkit, but with few exceptions, solvents and volatiles have become outside toys not meant to be brought into the house. Have you notice a general increase in sensitivity to oil paints over the past decade? I have and I can offer an informed guess as to why it is happening. (Spoiler alert: It's not the oil or the pigment.) So I'll share a lot of information about painting without solvents during my demonstration at the convention. Look for me on the schedule.

Another benefit to coming the the PleinAir Convention & Expo: If you like to take workshops to improve your outdoor painting skills, or if you intend to start taking them in the immediate future, then PACon can be a convenient way for you to meet and greet a lot of potential instructors in one place and time. In fact, you could conceivably compile a list of your favorites and schedule out the next few years from the ones you will see demo at the convention. In effect, you can discover who can paint, who can talk, and who can paint AND talk AND answer your questions all at once. A nice thing to know before you shell out the workshop fee.

Plus, just hanging out and painting with everyone is cool – whether you are a pro, an enthusiast, or a first-timer – hey, it doesn't matter because at the PACon you are unlikely to meet a plein air jerk. (I'm sorry, how do you pronounce that in French?) There is something about painting outdoors that cultivates humility. Likely because anyone who is crazy enough to set up outside to paint quickly learns no matter how good they might become Mother Nature is right behind them waiting to raise the stakes. This makes for a nice group of artists who share your passion.

See you there!...


Last Call to register for my May 2014 Essential Plein Air Techniques workshop in Tuscany! If you would like to work on your outdoor paintings skills with me in Italy check out the upper right corner of this blog! Or, click here to visit my Facebook Page. Spouses and partners welcome too! But don't wait, registration closes soon.

Cost is inclusive, from €1640 to € 2400. 
(Approximately $2,220 to $3,240 US; airfare not included.)

Jan 22, 2014

The "Biz"...

At some point, after someone learns you are a professional artist they usually follow up with "Neat! What galleries are you in?" And frankly, that is a fair question to ask because first, what they are asking is where can they see your work? And second, what may also be implied is, does someone besides yourself believe you are good enough to be doing this? (Ouch!)

Whatever. The point I would like to share here is that being represented in an old-school brick and mortar gallery still has merit even though the internet has fundamentally changed how artists can sell their work.

However, there is one thing that hasn't been changed by the internet, and that is there are better and worse gallery relationships to enter into. Every relationship will be different for you, me, or anyone else. Because what might work for you may not work for me, and vice versa. Why? Because not everyone's, dreams, desires, goals, or standards of success are the same.

So if you are considering gallery representation read on. The following is a little hard won advice culled from thirty years of flogging my own work in galleries and on my own – some good, some bad, some productive, and some perhaps pointless digressions.

But let's just jump in...

1. Before you approach the gallery you want sit down and ask yourself honestly, "How will this relationship be good for me?" Then ask, "How will I be good for this gallery?" Be realistic and flesh out the answers with as much detail as you can. Don't just picture you painting a lot of art and them will selling it hand over fist, then everyone heading off to the bank to deposit the checks. Be specific. Put your answer in terms of what services and benefits are going to be exchanged. Define who will be responsible for what on paper. If you don't end up with answers you like it is unlikely that gallery relationship will last long.

2. It may be cliche to say this but I can't help myself – a gallery relationship is like a marriage. So it serves you better to play the long game. Don't jump into bed with the first good looking gallery that comes along – at least wait until the third date. (ha!) A gallery relationship can start off with an intense attraction and lust accompanied by spectacular fireworks and earthquakes and all that. But if you don't remain sensible about certain things from the git-go there can be a lack of personal boundaries. Ideally, there will come a time when things settle down, with periods of quiet harmony so both parties can focuses on raising the children. But if somewhere down the road you begin feeling unhappy or unfulfilled it will be up to you to press for change. Don't expect the gallery to initiate. They may be willing accommodate your concerns, or not, because irreconcilable differences can and do develop over time. But hopefully the communication, trust, and respect has been maintained so you can avoid all that.

3. Ideally, you want to date a gallery that isn't seeing too many other people… er, I mean representing too many other artists at once. Galleries survive – yes even prosper – by sending a lot of artwork out the door and some of them do it by stockpiling more artists than they can effectively promote. Be leery if you encounter this business model because it never works in your favor. In that kind of environment you risk becoming commoditized…of becoming a painter of 'this', or a painter of 'that'. You can lose your voice and artistic freedom to go in different directions. And yes, things can get worse even if you are selling a lot of art. Those same galleries who load up their roster also have a tendency to grind their artists down. They may apply subtle (or not-so-subtle) pressure on you to replace whatever wen out the door with another painting just like it. Because clearly that painting was validated by the credit card used purchased it. Now, if you are content to be that kind of artist you've found your place in the world. If not, well…

4. Don't think you can drop your work off and expect the gallery do everything else. That may be the fantasy we all dream of but where is such a division of labor this clear-cut in any other area of your life? I tried this approach back in the '90s with some reputable galleries through an agent and while it started off nicely and got everyone excited it ended badly. I wasn't paying attention to the obvious signs. Frankly, I didn't want to. So get intimately involved with your new gallery. Get to know the receptionist, the sales staff, the owner, and yes, even the collectors who like to hang around on the weekend.

5. Be aware of how the gallery presents the art. Not just your art after you are accepted, everybody else's as well. Once the newness wears off you are likely be treated the same way. As previously mentioned, drop by unannounced very now and then and hang around. Don't get in the way of any transactions occurring on the floor but make yourself available. Have coffee and enjoy the visit. Chit-chat. On the upside it will remind people who you are, and if someone don't already know, well, who doesn't enjoy meeting an artist in a gallery?  I've helped sell paintings to walk-ins after being introduced by the owner as one of their 'best and favorite artists who happened to stop by today'. On the downside you may find out your new gallery isn't hanging your work on the wall. Which may be a bummer to discover but still good to know.

7. Don't expect the gallery to become your mom. This may be obvious but let me illustrate my point in more detail: Your new gallery isn't going to tidy your bed. It isn't going to shelter you through bad times. And it isn't going to change your nappies. Galleries gravitate towards self-sufficient and productive artists. Do your best to be one.

8. Payment. This is a tricky issue because every artist complains about not being paid in a at some point. Me too. Because even the best and most responsible galleries must delay a check sometimes. (Admittedly, the worst offenders delay checks as a matter of course to bank the interest.) My advice? Before you sign on to a gallery – and perhaps before you approach a gallery – contact some of the artists who are represented and ask how things are going. Start off by being purposely vague and then listen very carefully. Most gallery artists are willing to share their experience with their peers in a candid way, and, if there is a serious problem, warn them off as a professional courtesy. If that artist says the gallery is great, and takes a liking to your work he or she might be willing to introduce you to the gallery itself. An offer worth its weight in gold. Nothing speaks more highly about you to a prospective gallery owner than for one of their own to put you forward.

9. Slides, prints, jpegs, portfolio of original work, studio visits, emails, cold-calling, unannounced walk-ins, submission dates, fancy resumes, impressive CVs, artist recommendations, editorial articles…and more: In a word, yes. Every gallery wants to be approached in their own way, on their own schedule so be open and flexible to doing it their way. Find out what submission process they prefer and consider following it. If you do not you run the risk of being rejected on that basis alone. Don't become disheartened if the hoops you are made to jump through seem engineered to discourage you. They probably are. Just appreciate the most desirable galleries are hit on all the time by unsuitable or ill-informed artists so the shield is there to deflect as much of the chaff as possible. Whatever you do, if you are rejected don't take it personally. Laugh it off. If you still think you are a good choice for the gallery, wait a few months and try again. And show new work. Getting into a great gallery can be a bit like asking someone to the Prom. (Ouch, again!)

10. And finally, remember that everything is negotiable. If you keep this in mind as you go in then no matter what happens afterwards you will be fine. If the gallery offers you a contract then and there take it home and look it over before signing it. Don't close the deal in their space. That's always a bad idea. Better yet, show the paperwork to a lawyer. (Trust me on this. Hire a lawyer. It may be the cheapest advice you ever pay for.) Look at the deal you are making and be sure to fully comprehend both the expectations and the obligations of both parties. If anything you read makes you uncomfortable go with your gut and revise it. (Again, lawyer!) As long as you can walk away you are in control of your artistic life. Don't settle for anything else because what you do is a precious thing. If anything I have said about this point is confusing go back to No. 1 and start all over again.

In any case, good luck. I hope to see your work in a gallery someday!


If you would like to work on your plein air skills with me next May in Tuscany check out the upper left corner of this blog! There are five spots left, so don't wait! Spouses and partner welcome also.

Cost is inclusive, from €1640 to € 2400. 
(Approximately $2,220 to $3,240 US; airfare not included.)

But don't wait to sign up, the early discount ends December 31st!

Jan 17, 2014


Hey Everyone: 

I am in the final few weeks of registration for my May, 2014 Tuscan Workshop. 

I've put together a fun and educational 7-day experience guaranteed to improve your skills as an outdoor painter and create wonderful memories for a lifetime. So send me an email if you would like to join us!…


Come Paint Tuscany, al Fresco!
with world renowned painting instructor Thomas Jefferson Kitts
May 17th - 24th, 2014 | A seven day workshop
For more info email: tuscany@thomaskitts.com

This May, 2014, come paint en plein air in the sun-drenched countryside of Tuscany. Take your artistic skills to the next level with an experienced instructor and stay in a comfortable four-star farmhouse above the ancient hilltop town of Certaldo while you do so.

Picture this… 

Six hours of demos, individual instruction, private painting time, and critiques each day. Your morning starts off with coffee and a freshly baked Italian breakfast served out in the gardens. Then you paint with respectful instruction before and after lunch. In the early evening you join us for a fascinating trip to a local winery, a historic farm, or a nearby town where you may continue to paint or leisurely explore the area. And afterwards you return to the Fattoria to the pleasures of dining family-style on the veranda and watch the sun set over the beautiful countryside below. Sounds perfect, right? Wait, it gets better. Each night you'll sleep in a comfortable bed and wake up the next morning completely refreshed to do it all over again! And your week will culminate in a private tour through the Uffizi Museum to take in masterworks by Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and many other Renaissance artists – before you spend the rest of the day painting in the streets of Florence. 

Fantastic! You won't need a car for this trip. If you fly into Pisa or Florence, or train into Certaldo we will come pick you up!

This workshop is geared for the beginning-to-intermediate plein air painter. Non-painting partners and spouses are welcomed at a reduced rate.

So don't wait, register now!

For more info email: tuscany@thomaskitts.com

"This is a fantastic way to paint the heart and soul of Italy. I promise you'll create memories for a lifetime!"

Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Jan 9, 2014

"That's nice, but is it a painting?"

I think one of the hardest things a plein air painter must learn to do is decide if a subject is worthy of painting. 

How many time have you jumped into action only to discover halfway through your painting isn't going anywhere? How many times have you squeezed out more paint and struggled on, using up the remains of the day, only to conclude at some point whatever it was that first inspired you died a pathetic and whimpering death? Man, I hate it when that happens.

I had the good luck of running into Greg La Rock years ago one morning down in Sonoma County. We bumped into each other while scouting the same subject: Ernie's Tin Bar near Petaluma, a funky garage and bar where you can get a beer for a buck while your oil is being changed. (Not sure if that's such a great combo, but hey…) Greg and I walked around and chit-chatted for a while as we scoped out the various angles. Eventually I found a spot first and settled.

Greg LaRock, painting a
worthy subject...
Greg continued to mill around before finally wandering over. He looked past my shoulder, squinted, and said, "That's nice, but is it a painting?" Well, that gave me pause and deflated my enthusiasm a bit. But that question turned out to be something I needed to hear. Up to then I hadn't invested much thought into whether or not a particular spot was worthy of painting. I just started painting if I liked it. Up to then I had believed if you were good enough artist – say, like Sargent – then anything you saw could be turned into a work of art. And, perhaps this is true if you actually are Sargent. But even so that still doesn't mean somebody else is going to care.

So give Greg's question some thought the next time you are out scouting for a place to paint. We all have to choose a subject at some point, and our choice can either be a help or hinderance. Years later, Greg's question has become the first thing I ask myself when evaluating a subject.

Here are a few more questions I ask:

1. What is it about this scene that made me stop and look?

        and its corollary...

2. Is it something that will make someone else stop and look after it is framed?

3. Will the light remain stable enough to pull it off? Or, instead, can I come back and work it over several sessions – yet still create the impression it was merely 'dashed off'?

4. What do I need to modify… no, wait, let's be honest here – I mean how much must I edit/change/add/reinforce/alter/switch/finesse/and yes, even lie about this subject to turn it into a painting?

       and its corollary…

5. Am I willing to do all of that or should I simply move on…?
Silly and imprecise questions to ask, perhaps, but in my experience there are no hard and fast rules you can apply to guarantee a successful choice. No formula, method, or check-list. Just your own intuition and that doggone nagging question:

"But is it a painting...?"


If you would like to work on your plein air skills with me next May in Tuscany check out the upper left corner of this blog! There are five spots left, so don't wait! Spouses and partner welcome also.

Cost is inclusive, from €1640 to € 2400. 
(Approximately $2,220 to $3,240 US; airfare not included.)

But don't wait to sign up, the early discount ends December 31st!