Improving my craft

Up Escalante Canyon, oil, 14" x 18"

Up Escalante Canyon, oil, 14″ x 18″

Buffalo Creek Willows, plein air oil, 8" x 10"

Buffalo Creek Willows, plein air oil, 8″ x 10″

How an I improve my craft? It reminds me of the old joke: A guy gets in a cab in NYC and asks the taxi driver,”How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The driver replies, “Practice.” I’ve been practicing. Also attending a workshop, doing more plein air painting with others and sending out my work via the Internet for critiques. Paint, paint, paint. And so I am.


Thoughts on Plein Air painting, the weather and good gear.

I consider myself a hardy person. After all I am the incident commander for West Elk Mountain Rescue and we go out in the wilderness areas and national forests in Gunnison county looking for lost persons all year around. I dress appropriately and have great all-season outer wear. I also walk my dog every day of the year, no matter what the weather. (My neighbors tease me about dog walking in the dark on 10° winter mornings.) I am usually prepared.

Today was almost no different as far as me being prepared for the weather. I went to join the group of PAAC painters in Montrose, CO. Myself and my faithful companion, Tova, met with several other painters at Baldridge Park along the Uncompahgre River. I set up my plein air kit and it seemed like it was going to be a lovely day. Warm, sunny, calm. Tova even took a dip in the river and spread out near me for a sun bath. Seemed a perfect Plein Air painting day.

HAH! About 1 1/2 hours into it, someone flipped the wind switch. At first it was just a few gusts but after about 20 minutes, dust started pelting me and my easel blew over a couple times despite the anchoring.  My backpack with stuff in it blew over. My little table was lifted up a bit, but I caught it in time. I had taken my heavy Carhardt jacket off and it was blowing off, too. When a wall of dust launched itself at me and embedded about a pound of gravel into my wet painting, I packed stuff up and called it a day. I noticed a few others were doing the same as we were all spread around the park.

My wet oil painting was not prepared for the weather. Tova wasn’t too happy about it either, she kept nose punching me and heading towards the path to leave and then looking back at me like I was crazy. I think I left in just in time. By the time we made it home to Paonia, it was grappling (snow pellets or soft hail) with about 40 mph winds.

Dust storm in Montrose, CO

Dust storm in Montrose, CO

Very windy!

Very windy!

I was really concentrating on my painting and somehow the weather didn’t bother me until the dust turned to sand and started to interfere with the actual painting. Call me nuts, but I think it added some interest to the painting. When I got home, I just had to clean up a few spots and knock off a clump of something (dust, leaf and dog fur-ball most likely). Plus add a few touches without overworking it. I also got a good photo of the location, pre-cyclone.

What was really great about the day was that I felt really confident about what I was going to paint, the process I was going to take and the confidence I felt about it all. This was the first time I didn’t feel totally overwhelmed & awed by everything and its beauty around me. I was able to pick out a specific scene and define its boundaries, look for the centers of interest, lay out the composition, values, focus and colors without much difficulty. I also was able to work pretty quickly having done a separate sketch, charcoal layout on the canvas board, under-painting, blocking in and laying down of colors, etc. in that short time.

"Baldridge Park Eddy" plein air oil 8" x 10"

“Baldridge Park Eddy” plein air oil 8″ x 10″

This little plein air painting gives me lots of information about the light, the feel and the energy of the location. Combined with the photo, I feel I could do a larger piece if I wanted in the future. It was a good day. Its not my best work, but its getting much better!

I learned a lot about my set-up, too. I need a good easel and palette. It seems like good equipment is important, even though I have a nice set-up, I think I want something more hard-core. I always have a hard time deciding to get good gear with anything. After I suffer a while, then something trips a switch in me and I make the plunge into good gear. True for me with hiking, riding, gardening; pretty much everything. I think I may spring for a Strada with tripod kit. Now to sell some paintings to pay for it………!

One Person Exhibit at Paonia Library

H. Cedar Keshet, A Brief Retrospect: 2009-2014

Canal Stroll, oil, 12" x 9"

Canal Stroll, oil, 12″ x 9″

Back Yard Clouds, oil 12" x 9"

Back Yard Clouds, oil 12″ x 9″

Artists H. Cedar Keshet will be exhibiting her paintings in the Paonia Public Library starting February 18, 2015. The paintings will include watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings. Many are landscapes of the North Fork valley and the surrounding areas.

Trinchera Ranch Thunderhead, oil, 14" x 11"

Trinchera Ranch Thunderhead, oil, 14″ x 11″

Adobe Obsession 2, acrylic, 24" x 18"

Adobe Obsession 2, acrylic, 24″ x 18″

Keshet paints the landscapes of the West as well as the occupants within these areas. This exhibit is a retrospective of works from 2009 to 2014. New works will also be included. All works are for sale. The Paonia Public Library is located on 3rd street in Paonia. Hours are 10-6, Tuesdays through Fridays and 10-2 on Saturdays.

On the Road to the Chama Put-In, acrylic, 36" x 24"

On the Road to the Chama Put-In, acrylic, 36″ x 24″

Did You Say Hay?, oil 12" x 9"

Did You Say Hay?, oil 12″ x 9″

Plein Air and Workshop

Painting along Buffalo Creek.

Painting along Buffalo Creek.

I have been on the Front Range (of Colorado) at a Stacey Peterson painting workshop. It was great! I really moved out of my comfort zone and learned a lot. I can feel my painting style moving and me becoming a better artist because of it. I am very happy to have had such a transformative workshop experience with Stacey. She is a great teacher, very experienced in helping her students make measurable progress. She is warm and welcoming and very hospitable. The other members of the class were an enjoyable bunch as well, all working to take that ‘next step’ in their craft.

Sue Plein Air painting along Buffalo Creek

Sue Plein Air painting along Buffalo Creek

I also went Plein Air painting with my best friend, Sue, along Buffalo Creek yesterday. It was a beautiful morning, sunny with a few clouds. By noontime the clouds had moved in and the temperatures dropped.

9" of snow this morning!

9″ of snow this morning!

We awoke to a lot of snow – about 9-10″. We shoveled out the walk and started our day!

Painting next to the truck.

Painting next to the truck.

I am still rounding out my Plein Air kit. I know I need a good portable palette, that’s a big item. I am also figuring out what brushes to take and how to pack everything up into a backpack. My umbrella is really tall as it comes with a pole that stabs into the ground, that is if the ground is soft. Propping rocks would have helped but I just didn’t use mine as it was getting cloudy as the morning proceeded. All and all it was a good couple hours painting. I am going to continue on the little painting tomorrow in the studio.


Maintaining a clean environment in the studio

Its important to maintain a clean environment in the studio. This keeps anything that could make you sick, like dust from some paint chemical or whatnot, from floating around on the air and getting inhaled.

You shouldn’t eat or drink in the studio. But most artists don’t follow that rule. At least put your tea mug on a different table than your brush cleaning solvent. And really, don’t eat in the studio. You could ingest toxins or get grease or crumbs on your artwork.

And the BIG ONE. Pet fur!  Pets should not be in the studio.

Tova, Enzo & Ruby

Tova, Enzo & Ruby

So after taking a look at my “helpers” who are always underfoot in the studio, you can consider me a hypocrite considering studio cleanliness. Yep, dog fur is everywhere. In my paints, solvents, on the painting, in my tea mug, in the corners and under foot. As a result, I have a special tool I use exclusively when this becomes a problem. So its all good. More or less.

Helpful hair removal tool

Helpful hair removal tool

If you ever get one of my paintings, chances are there is at least one dog fur somewhere on it. I like to think it will bring you good luck.

The process begins….

I am still engaging in a well thought out process for starting out my paintings. I really enjoy laying out my canvas with both the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds. I also use other composition methods to enhance my painting and keep the viewer’s eye engaged.

Sketch of painting showing the layout lines.

Sketch of painting showing the layout lines.

After the sketch, then I make a monochromatic value painting with acrylic paints. After its dry, I then use the “notations” to add my color with the corresponding value.

Monochromatic Value Painting

Monochromatic Value Painting

I think its been making a huge difference in the quality of my paintings.