Sketches are the bones of painting

Sketches are the structure on which I base almost all of my paintings.

Wild Horse Crossing Campground

Wild Horse Crossing Campground

I love to do sketches, even if they are tiny small thumbnail ones, of a painting before I begin.

Moses Lake baseball field, WA

Moses Lake baseball field, WA

So I sketch a lot.

Big Southern Butte, from Crators of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Big Southern Butte, from Crators of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

I’ve included some sketches I did while on our trip through 5 states earlier this month.

Firehold Canyon Campground view, Flaming Gorge, WY

Firehold Canyon Campground view, Flaming Gorge, WY


Painting gets in a show: San Xavier in Tubac

St Xavier, en Plein Air Oil, 8" x 10"

St Xavier, en Plein Air Oil, 8″ x 10″

San Xavier (A-Vear) is a mission south of Tucson, AZ.  Ansel Adams made it famous in his photos he did mid 20th century. I painted it en Plein Air when I was at the Plein Air conference in April 2016. It has been accepted to the exhibition: “Wish You Were Here”. It is a national juried exhibit of art that focuses on Southwestern Arizona. The show opens July 29 through August 28, 2016.


Working on getting it down….

Cedar painting  in the snow in Cerrillos

Cedar painting in the snow in Cerrillos

I’m working on painting where ever I go. I went camping at Palo Duro canyon in texas. Not my favorite spot but I did attempt to paint there. I am also in Cerrillos, New Mexico visiting for a while and have been painting here a lot.

I am resolved to paint cholla cacti and have them look alright. The paintings have been turning out pretty lousy. I was really disappointed about that. But I’ve been keeping at it and finally I’ve had a break through. Today I did a cholla cactus painting that I don’t want to set on fire in the wood stove. Practice makes perfect, or at least tolerable. So I plan to work at it until I am really comfortable painting those spiny plants.

Early Morning Cholla

Early Morning Cholla, Oil, 9″ x12″, plein air

Outside Painting this summer!

Grand Mesa Visitor Center

“Grand Mesa Visitor Center”, Oil, 9″ x 12″

I’ve been doing a lot of plein air painting  this summer.  Despite the rain and mosquitoes in my surrounding areas, I have gotten out a lot. I also took a couple great workshops this summer.

Here is our instructor, Dave Santillanes, helping a student. We took an exciting drive up Mt. Evans and painted for a good part of the day. Later, back at the Evergreen Fine Arts Gallery, we had critiques and a demo by Dave. I recommend his workshops as he was super helpful, instructive and also a real down to earth kinda guy.

Dave Santillanes & Student

Dave teaching us up on Mt. Evans

Yellow Rock

“Yellow Rock”, Oil, 11″ x 14″

I did this one in Dave’s workshop. We were standing on the edge of a cliff about 1000+ feet high. Dave commented “Wow Cedar, that is a really yellow rock” I mentioned he told us not to use white. He started laughing and said he never told us that. All around from the woods lots of voices piped up saying “yes you did!” Well, he did say that if we used white, to warm it up with yellow. I guess I wasn’t paying that close attention but I did get a yellow rock painting and its not half bad.

So now its fall and the Super Blood Lunar Eclipse Moon. Stay tuned for more paintings as I am about to go into a retreat and paint, paint, paint!


Trees in a desert environment

I love trees, there is no doubt about it. I am a tree hug-er, literally! I must admit I do get a lot of sap and needles on me but that goes well with the oil paint, horse snot and dog fur already on my clothes. I am always impressed when I see trees growing in the desert. Its a tough environment and the trees are equally tough to live there. Their adaptations are laudable.

Utah piñon tree

Utah piñon tree

When I was camping in Utah last weekend, there were lots of trees around us. Piñon and Juniper were the main species. Juniper are one of my favorite trees with Piñon coming in second, so I was content. I painted a couple of really informative plein air paintings of one juniper. The first one I did in an hour, the second one I did in 20 minutes. The short times were to get me to glean the important information I wanted and put it on the canvas fast. I didn’t think about any side details or worry about minutia. Just getting the impression of the moment was the goal of these paintings.

Piñon at 10 a.m. plein air oil painting, 8" x 6"

Piñon at 10 a.m. plein air oil painting, 8″ x 6″

Pinon At Noon, plein air oil painting, 8" x 6"

Pinon At Noon, plein air oil painting, 8″ x 6″

With the information I got outside, I came home this week and painted another tree. I did it from a photo and in the studio but I still felt like I was out on the flats. I referred to the 2 tree paintings to get information I included in the bigger studio painting. I believe it worked. I call it McKay Flats Juniper.

McKay Flats Juniper, 14" x 18" oil painting

McKay Flats Juniper, 14″ x 18″ oil painting

You can view and bid on these 3 paintings on my Daily Paintworks gallery. More work is at my FASO website,

Are Drawing & Painting Related?

Are drawing and painting related? What does drawing have to do with painting? After all one is in color and one is not, right? And painting is using a brush and not something pointy, right?

My answers are: Yes, Everything, wrong and wrong.

Drawing has everything to do with painting. It helps artists work out the shapes, sizes and values of the color of paint we daub on canvas, paper or where ever we paint. Using black and white helps define and commit to the values of our composition as well as lay it out in a pleasing manner. Artists can use lines the same way we use brush strokes.

I recently got some gray markers for sketching in values in a drawing before I started painting. I took them to the life drawing sessions that meet weekly at the local art center and planned to try them out. They are great! I really enjoyed working with them.


Next I used them to do a value drawing of a little study I wanted to do.IMG_0009

Here is the photo I used:


I think it really helped me to see the shapes of the horse, trees and ground and the values I wanted to use. I also used it to set up my composition.

Here is the little 6″ x 6″ oil painting so far:


Its part of a few I plan to do as studies for a larger composition. I like it so far and think its working well for me.

Drawing and painting are related the same way as toast and jam or cornbread and beans! One without the other is just plain lonely.


Hazards of Plein Air Painting: Horses

These horses are curious about what is happening.

These horses are curious about what is happening.

Today I went over to my friend’s hay and horse farm to do a little plein air painting. I thought I would set up my easel in the dry lot with the horses. They all know me and are not afraid of me. You can see in the above photo they are looking at me but not running away. In fact, they were really happy to see me. They wouldn’t leave me alone.

Cookie, the black horse with a white blaze came over to me and stuck her nose on my nose for a sniff while Silkie, the bay horse with the white star, was behind me nibbling on my pony tail while I was fooling with my camera. Pretty soon I had 6 horses and a mini-mule around me, close, way too close. Not the safest place to be so I shooed them away and decided to set up outside the dry lot.

This horse is too close!

This horse is too close!

I am also a horse trainer and I know and ride most of these horses. Silkie is my lesson horse and listens to my verbal commands very well. My advice is not to go into a horse pen and paint with nothing separating you and the horse. They could step on you, kick or bite you or otherwise harm you. And they would want to sniff and play with your easel and otherwise get in your stuff. They are worse than dogs when they get curious. In my case, they would kill me with kindness as pretty soon one of them would decide to chase the rest away to monopolize the attention. That results in biting and kicking and a lot of running around by the herd. So stay on the other side of the fence and paint. Much safer and more productive, too.

Changing is not easy

I know my style of painting is changing because my way of feeling and thinking about painting is changing. Its not easy. I’ve been painting a lot but nothing that feels good is showing up on the many newly painted canvases in the studio. I’m trying not to get discouraged or stuck. Here is what I like to do when that happens: Invent!

Invention #1

Recycled materials plein air brush holder

Recycled materials plein air brush holder

I sewed a flat holder for my brushes to travel in but it was more like a sail once I got it clipped on my plein air set-up. So I’ve been thinking about what I could use to make a sleek one like the other PAAC plein air friends have. I didn’t want to shell out a lot of $$ and also want to use stuff I save and have around the studio and garage. Voila! Old mailing tubes and some construction adhesive plus a cord = brush holder. I painted it and added a Velcro and webbing strap to keep it closed inside the backpack.

Invention #2

Recycled cardboard canvas holder

Recycled cardboard canvas holder

This is a canvas holder for wet boards. I had a couple spacers laying around from a RayMar holder I have. But it only holds up to 8″ x 10″ boards. So I used the spacers and put them inside a fruit box I cut down and patched the front together with more cardboard. (Can you guess where I get my dog’s food?) A bit of packing tape and some industrial strength Velcro were all the supplies I used. I can put 6 – 11″ x 14″ canvas boards in it and carry it. I didn’t put on a strap handle as I thought that was overkill.

I felt like I was doing something to improve my craft, yet not putting paint on canvas. I also was thinking and processing what is going on inside myself while working. I spent a couple hours total on these two inventions and ended my day in the studio. I feel better today and have a clear head, ready to get painting!

Daily Paintworks

I am giving it a try! I want to paint a painting a day (5 days a week) and sell them online at Daily Paintworks.

I’ve painted 5 already but there is a problem with a few of them, which I hope to get to later today or tomorrow. I want to post my best work and letting a painting “ferment” for a few days helps me with that. Also getting some great feedback from my artist friends is another way.

So here I go……. More later on what daily painting is feeling like to me!

Cathedral Peak, a 8" x 6" oil painting that I have on Daily Paintworks.

Cathedral Peak, a 8″ x 6″ oil painting that I have on Daily Paintworks.

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.