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Oct 1, 2014

Mad Dogs and Englishmen...

I've been painting en plein air outdoors for over thirty years now, long before anyone knew what to call it, and spent even more years before that hiking, camping, and climbing various mountains under the sun. There was even one summer back in the '70s when I worked high up on the slopes of Mt. Hood as an outdoor lifeguard at a BSA summer camp. I stood around all day on a dock wearing nothing but a Speedo and way too much baby oil. (No, no, do not attempt to picture that!...

So like an idiot, I've exposed myself to a lot of UVs in my life and it seems to be finally catching up with me.

That goofy hat you see me wearing when I paint comes with a reason. It offers the best coverage from the sun I've found, apart from dunking my head in sunblock SPF 250,000,000,000. Which I also now do as well.

It is a Paddler's Hat from REI and what makes it great for the outdoor painter is the way the brim is shaped longer in the back and points downwards to increase neck coverage. Even better, the underside of the brim is colored black and it absorbs any light bouncing off the ground, the water, or snow at your feet. (Such reflections are a concern because you can still get burned from below.) And this hat crushes into a small ball for easy packing. It washes and dries quickly. And it provides ventilation around my head so I can continue painting during the hottest part of the day. (Do you know the old Noel Coward song: "...Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun...?" And now, apparently, plein air painters can be added to the same group.)

Here is a good review of the hat. I agree with what this guy says except I don't have trouble with the liner and I replaced the pointless fob on the strap with a zip-cinch that works. My hat stays on in gale-force winds. It flaps around a bit, maybe, but stays on my head...

So hey, if you don't mind looking a little goofy give this hat a try. Because in the end buying a good sun hat is a lot cheaper than paying for a bunch of Mohs surgeries. Besides, if I have any more of my face scraped off I'll start have to start wearing an eye-patch and spontaneously yelling out, "Arrrrrrrrr!"


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 come 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 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...