Salzburg Paintings

Painting of the Mirabell Garden statues in the snow, Salzburg, Austria.

Statues in the Snow, Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

These are the rest of my sketches from the last two weeks in Hallein, Austria. As I’m not used to driving with heavy snow on the roads I tended to move around more on sunny days. Hence the clear skies in many of these pieces.

The first few are from Salzburg, a city rightly famous for it’s beauty. It also has a really Italian feel to it as a couple of the architects who designed the major structures hailed from Italy.

Plein air painting of Salzburg in winter.

Salzburg. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of church towers in Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg Steeples. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

The next ones are from the small villages in the foothills of the Alps around Salzburg.

Plein air painting of Faistenau, Austria.

Faistenau, Morning. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Faistenau, Austria.

Faistenau Afternoon. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Faistenau, Austria in the evening.

Faistenau Evening (color study). 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of St. Gilgen, Austria in winter.

St Gilgen Roofs. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of St. Gilgen, Austria.

St. Gilgen, Evening. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of St. Leonhard in the winter.

St. Leonhard. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And the last two are from just over the border into Southern Germany.

Plein air painting of Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Berchtesgaden (unfinished, I left out their cathedral). 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Oil painting of St. Bartholomä am Königssee.

St. Bartholomä am Königssee. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

These paintings as well as some enlarged studio pieces (done from these sketches) will be in a group show of local landscapes in Hallein in June.

 

Winter in Hallein, Austria

Plein air landscape of roofs in the snow in Hallein, Austria.

Hallein Roofs. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Here is the first group of the plein air landscapes from the last two weeks in Hallein, Austria. We had a lot of snow, but enough sun to give us a bit of variety in the lighting.

Plein air landscape of Hallein in the sun.

Winter Sun, Hallein. 35 x 22 cm, oil on panel.

Croatia and Austria were part of the same country not so long ago, and it’s only four hours by car from Zagreb to Salzburg (by contrast, Dubrovnik is eight hours to the south of us). The architecture in that part of the world has a similar feel to the old parts of Zagreb, and there is some overlap with the food and customs.

Plein air landscape of factories in February.

Factories. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

These paintings are for an exhibition I’ll be having with a few other painters in June of this year, and in May I hope to go back and paint some ‘warmer’ pieces. Also, some of these sketches will be enlarged over the next few months as well. March and April are my least favorite months to work outside.

Oil painting of Hallein, Austria in the snow.

Hallein. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape of a snowy street in Hallein, Austria.

Snow in the Streets, Hallein. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape of an overpass in the snow.

Overpass in the Snow. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape of the Upper Town, Hallein.

Upper Town. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

I drove quite extensively, as usual. Next post will be the sketches from Salzburg and the surround towns, villages, and countryside.

Plein air painting of a path in the woods, Bad Durnberg.

Path in the Woods, Bad Dürnberg. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Winter Gear for Plein Air Painting

Plein air painting in heavy snow.

The joy of plein air painting in winter.

I love painting snow scenes outdoors in the winters, but I really, really hate being cold. I also struggle to work when I’m uncomfortable, and I believe painting is difficult enough even in the most controlled of situations.

Picking the right gear for plein air painting can be a problem as most winter outdoor gear is made for hikers or skiers/snowboarders, where the wearer will be moving a great deal. The manufacturers’ ‘minimum temperature’ is based on a much more active user than the average plein air painter, and I find that for standing still for hours in the snow means you pretty much have to double the listed temperature range on clothing. Ice-fishing and hunting forums are great places to research winter plein air gear, as they tend to have similar needs to us.

For staying really warm the key is lots of layers. Sierra Trading Post has a good guide to layering. Their interest in layers, however, is on being able to remove them when one warms up. I find I rarely remove a layer while plein air painting as I’m gradually getting colder the longer I stand still. The layering is important to me for getting warm enough in the first place. The downside with lots of layers is that movement gets harder, and for painting one doesn’t want to feel restricted in their arm movement. After painting for hours in multiple layers I get really sore shoulders.

Photo of my plein air at painting set up at St. Bartholomew's Church,  near Berchtesgaden.

Plein air at painting St. Bartholomew’s Church, near Berchtesgaden, Germany.

The last two weeks I was painting outdoors in Austria and Bavaria in below-freezing temperatures and really suffered from the cold due to poor equipment planning on my part. I had to stop painting a couple times due to the cold, and I was often tense and stiff from standing still for hours without a proper kit on. Over the course of the trip I gradually picked up the gear I needed to work comfortably.

My plein air footwear collection.

Three seasons worth of plein air painting footwear.

My old, cheap, pair of hiking boots weren’t waterproof enough for the amount of snow we found. After struggling a couple days with wet, very cold feet and trying to find some decent winter boots locally, I ended up just driving to the Meindl factory in Kirchanschöring, Bavaria, about half an hour north of where we were staying. I have a pair of Meindl hiking shoes which I’ve worn every day for a few years now and they’re still in great shape (on the left in the photo above). They were also really comfortable from day one and this trip I didn’t want to waste time breaking in new shoes. Furthermore, because of all the scouting I was doing by car, I wanted a smaller winter boot that I could wear while driving. Having a large choice at the Meindl store in the small town was perfect. In the end I picked up their Garmisch Pro GTX (in the middle in the photo above). The trade-off for being able to drive safely is that they’re not as warm as the moonboot-style boots that most winter plein air painters wear. These Meindls keep my feet warm in snow for over an hour, but after that I start to feel the cold. On the other hand, they’re such comfortable and well-made footwear that I later drove back and picked up a pair of Dovre Extreme boots (far right in the photo) for the rest of the year.

From people who know much more about standing still in cold weather, Stapleton Kearns recommends the Trans-Alaska III Pac Boot from Cabelas, and the Baffin Polar Series are recommended on ice-fishing forums. I hate the idea of buying shoes online, so I’ll look at them in stores when I’m over in Canada this August. Amazon also sells boot blankets, which get high praise from hunters, though I would think painters who stand would move too much and wear them out.

Another idea I’ve seen on ice-fishing forums is to take a piece of styrofoam to stand on to keep the shoes from touching the ice. Leo Mancini-Hresko uses the mats from his car for keeping his feet from touching the snow for the same reason. (In the photograph from 1893 posted below, Finnish painters Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Albert Edelfelt are clearly keeping their feet off the snow as well.)

Photograph of Finnish Painters Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Albert Edelfelt Painting in the Snow

Finnish Painters Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Albert Edelfelt Painting in the Snow in 1893.

For socks I was using Salewa and Meindl merino wool hiking/hunting socks. The Salewas kept their shape better, but the Meindls were warmer. When it was really cold I put Little Hotties handwarmers in the toes of the boots and, for those times, I preferred the thinner Salewa socks. Good American sock brands I see recommend a lot are Darn Tough and Smartwool. Electric, heated socks are always tempting too.

I find keeping my feet warm to be the most important thing in winter plein air painting.

For baselayer leggings, I have a pair of merino wool bottoms from Patagonia which have worked well in the past. This year I somehow forgot them while packing and could only find the synthetic ones available in the local stores. The synthetic ones supposedly work well for activities such as hiking or climbing, but for standing still they’re a disaster. I layered two pairs and still felt the cold in my legs. Winter hunting forums recommend First Lite, Ibex, or Icebreaker for merino wool baselayers. (Many are on sale at the moment, if you can find your size). In past winters I’ve always worn snowboarding shells over my regular pants and usually never had problems with cold legs.

For me, the upper body is the easiest part to keep warm. Even though my current Patagonia parka isn’t great for really cold days, I find that with enough sweaters on it works. I also have a Patagonia down ‘shirt’ (really just a lightweight down jacket) which I use as a mid-layer when it’s really cold. As I said above, wearing lots of layers makes it more difficult to move your shoulders to paint. Someday I’ll pick up a dedicated painting jacket, one that is both really warm and allows a great deal of mobility, something like the Arc’teryx Ceres, or Rab Neutrino, but I’d like to try one on before dropping that kind of money. The really warm jackets which allow great mobility get really expensive really fast. Also, as superficial as it sounds, I dislike the really bright colors that much of this gear comes in. I paint often in city centers in Europe in the winter, and I try to attract as little attention as possible while I’m working (something like this, as tempting as it is, I feel is out of the question). More importantly though, the bright colors can reflect back onto the painting while working in the sun, which affects the way one sees their colors. I find muted colors in the middle value range, or blues, are the best for shirts, sweaters and jackets.

For my hands, I find any decent winter glove works on my left hand where I hold my brushes. On this trip I was using a cheap, lightweight wool glove without problems. On my painting hand I can’t wear a glove and paint comfortably, but I find my hand gets cold after a while. My solution is to carry a Hibbard Mitten in my pocket and put it on when I feel the cold. During those periods I’ll work on areas which don’t require much precision and after a few minutes my hand is usually warm again, and stays that way for a while. When it gets cold again I rinse and repeat. If there is a wind or it is really cold I can do a whole painting wearing a Hibbard Mitten, but I prefer not to.

For my neck I wear an old cashmere scarf and never have issues with cold on my neck. A good neck-gaiter would probably be a better idea as the scarf can sometimes come lose and hit your palette. I’ve also looked into balaclavas, and will pick one up to try, though it will probably be a good idea to keep the face open while painting in cities.

Hat-wise, my wool fisherman-style hat worked fine this trip. For anything colder a fur-lined bomber hat would probably work better. Though if things get that cold I’ll probably paint from a heated car, or through the window of the hotel or house where I’m staying. When it’s snowing heavily I put the hood on my parka up and it’s designed to stick out from my face quite a bit and keep the snow off.

Photograph of my plein air set up above St. Gilgen, Austria

Plein air painting above St. Gilgen, Austria.

Also, when it’s snowing heavily I use an umbrella from Easyl to keep the snow off of my palette and the painting. I’d like to thank whoever left it in my car, it works great.

I’ve read that other painters have problems with their paint stiffening up with the cold. I’ve never had this issue. My Williamsburg titanium is a little bit stiffer perhaps, but nothing unmanageable. The only real difference I find painting outdoors in the snow is that I go through a lot more white and ultramarine.

If anyone else has any ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’m still trying to figure this out.

Two English Studio Landscapes

Here, briefly, are a couple of larger studio pieces I recently finished from sketches done in September in Norfolk and Suffolk, England. They’re off to Constantine Lindsay Fine Art.

Landscape painting of Boats at Low Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe.

Boats at Low Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe. 80 x 100 cm, oil on linen.

Painting of Pin Mill at low tide.

Pin Mill, Low Tide. 70 x 100 cm, oil on linen.

I’m off to Austria to paint outside in the Alps tomorrow. It will be good to get out of the studio for a bit.

Social Media for Painters

Traditional media tends to ignore contemporary traditional painting. When I was first starting out as an artist I found this really frustrating. I was searching for art training which did, as it turns out, exist but it was there was no mention of it anywhere. Today the internet and social media have really changed things for the better. There are a lot of great traditional painters working and we now have a myriad of ways to see the work of these artists, as well as network, sell paintings, and discuss issues relevant to realism with painters from all around the world.

Screenshot of Pinterest.

Pinterest is my favorite online resource for art. Google Images and Bing are both stunningly awful for any generic art search, and even refined searches quickly descend into irrelevance. Looking for 19th-century Italian artists, for example, starts to turn up soccer players and starlets very quickly. When you first go to Pinterest, all the images are of clothes and furniture. The trick is to set up an account, unfollow all the boards they start you with, and begin looking for painters you like. From there you pick boards you like via the ‘this painting is also on this board’ link, and follow them down the rabbit hole of great artwork. The way I have it set up now gives me a large number of inspiring artwork to peruse, and it’s usually a wonderful mix of historical and contemporary artists. It’s also great for finding a very specific genre of work, as generally the people curating their boards do a good job with it. I don’t post work much myself, but my profile is here.

ArtStack is similar to Pinterest, but focused on art. I’m new to it, and the art is mostly Contemporary with a big C. The layout is very elegant and clearly made by people who understand looking at artwork (they even convert from centimeters to inches for you, and list both). Currently they are having a crowd-source art contest which I’ve entered, and if you have a free moment you can ‘stack’ my work here.

Wahoo Art, on the other hand, has to be one of the least elegant sites on the web. They make up for it with a ridiculous amount of work on display by historic artists. Here are the results for a search of Isaac Levitan’s paintings, for example. My wife actually just showed me that link yesterday and many of those works I had never seen before, despite having seen a large number of his monographs.

Other online catalogs for paintings that I sometimes use are the ARC Museum, Wikiart, and Olga’s Gallery.

Facebook is the social media platform where there seems to be the most activity for artists. I’m personally very thankful to the site for getting me in touch with old friends I wouldn’t have found again otherwise. For painters there are some good groups worth joining to see historic as well as contemporary realists, and participate in some interesting discussions. I find it is also an excellent way to get in touch with painters around the world before I travel there to paint. Having a local artist show you around is the best way to work. Unfortunately Facebook has a limit of 5000 ‘friends’, but you can follow me here. I only post painting-related things these days, and it’s always set to public.

All the cool painters use Instagram these days. I really dislike everything about it. I rarely use my cellphone, and if I’m looking at paintings I prefer a big, color-calibrated screen. It’s also really snooty about what phone you use and my old Nokia didn’t make their cut. After recently inheriting an Iphone I’ve started using Instagram more, though I find the quality of photo that can be taken with any phone to still be seriously lacking. Photographers sometimes use Dropbox to get their high-quality photos onto their phone and then upload to Instagram from there, so I’m trying that.  Another clever social media trick is to use IFTTT to automate your posting with ‘recipes': This one, for example, posts anything that goes on Instagram to Facebook, this one does the same to Tumblr, and this one posts it as a native Twitter image. So, after that rant, you can follow me on Instagram.

Twitter I find to be very useful for specific things. When I was setting up this blog I started following all the ‘how to start a blog’ twitterers and found tons of useful links and information. If I need to find art materials in a new city I can just tweet to the company that makes them and they’re usually good at responding. I know of other artists who use it to great effect for finding clients, commissions, etc. and it clearly can be a powerful tool for those that understand how to use it. On that note, here is my (rather uneventful) twitter.

The online world has also opened up access to new markets for painters. I personally still do most of my sales through brick and mortar galleries, but I’m a big fan of the Painting a Day movement. It was originally pioneered by artists such as Julian Merrow-Smith, and has now been taken up by lots of great still-life and plein air painters. The premise is simple: Have a blog, paint every day, and sell the works one by one as they’re finished. I think it’s great that so many artists around the world have used the internet to find a new way of making the daily act of painting interesting, and that so many clients are able acquire beautiful, original works of art at the same time.

There are some good forums for artists, though nothing really stands out since RationalPainting went full Munsell (edit: I was informed that Rational Painting is no longer Munsell-only, it was just for a brief period after they changed servers). Natural Pigments has a good materials forum, Wetcanvas is very active with every style and technique, and ConceptArt has a good fine art section, among its various offerings.

The only podcast I know of for painters is the Suggested Donation Podcast (I was interviewed for it in November).

The most comprehensive list of painting schools is the ARC Approved Atelier List.

And finally, the online media on art I subscribe to are Plein Air Magazine (it’s a real magazine, but I read it online), The Artist’s Road, Artists on Art, and Underpaintings. Stapleton Kearns, Painting Perceptions, Lines and Colors, The Hidden Place, and Fine Art Views are some of the free blogs I peruse when I’m not arguing on reddit.

Edit: As Maike mentioned in the comments, I use my Flickr account to host large images of all my paintings. I do this since Lightroom has an easy upload system for Flickr (for some reason, there isn’t a similarly functional way to upload into Adobe’s own image-sharing website Behance). I didn’t list it as social media simply as I don’t use it as such. The one thing I did do for a while, which I’ve discussed before, is to use geotagged photos from my phone to keep a database on Flickr of some of the places I’ve painted so others can use them. For more ideas of locations, Paintmap does the same thing but with artists from all over the world.

If anyone has any suggestions to add, please list the in the comments.

Bordeaux Plein Air Paintings

Here are a few of my plein air paintings from last week in Bordeaux, France.

Plein air painting of a park in Bordeaux, France.

Statues and Circus Trucks. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Bordeaux.

Tram and Scaffold, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

It’s a very beautiful city. My paintings don’t really do the place justice (and it wasn’t the best time of year for colors). They say it’s like a little Paris and it does have that feel to it, while still seeming small and manageable. It would probably be a great place to live as the climate is mild for Europe, and the food and wine are so amazing.

Plein air painting of a sailboat at Cap Ferret, France.

Sailboat, Cap Ferret. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of evening in Bordeaux, France.

Evening Strollers, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And below is a small sketch of Porta San Frediano in Florence from our trip back. I lived in San Frediano for ten years and always wanted to paint the neighborhood more.

Oil painting of the Porta San Frediano in Florence, Italy.

Porta San Frediano. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Apologies for not painting out the clip holes in the skies. It’s been a busy few weeks.

First Place in the Plein Air Salon

Plein air figurative painting from Gregurić Breg

Gregurić Breg. 100 x 80 cm (40 x 32 inches), oil on linen.

There has been a proliferation of online painting contests recently. In many I find the judging to be erratic and I don’t usually enter twice if I find I strongly disagree with their choices.

On the other hand, I don’t mind losing if I feel the winning works were excellent. The bimonthly contest offered by Plein Air Magazine is the one contest I both regularly enter and regularly lose. Even though I get beaten by other artists most of the time, I think the quality of the work selected for awards is almost always great. Their judging is done with an intelligence and taste that I almost always agree with, even when my submission is not selected.

So I’m happy to announce that, after entering numerous works over the past few years, my painting of Tina in a field in the little hamlet of Gregurić Breg took first place in the recent October/November Plein Air Salon.

The painting was done outside, on location, over the course of a couple of months this year. Below is a photograph of my set-up. It’s in a small village in the hills above Samobor, a small town just outside of Zagreb.

Plein air painting in the mountains above Samobor.

The location at Gregurić Breg.

The grass is of different heights in part because it grew the whole time. It was at the level of Tina’s waist when we started in April, and over her shoulders when we finished in late May. Our landlord was nice enough to leave that little patch of field for us uncut, so I could finish the work.

(Gregurić Breg is currently available for purchase via my London dealer, Constantine Lindsay.)

A second entry, my painting of a snow covered road near Les Plans, Switzerland also took first place in the plein air catagory:

Plein air painting of a road in the snow near Les Plans, Switzerland.

Road in the Snow, Les Plans. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Below is a photo of the location:

Plein air painting in the snow in Switzerland.

The location in Les Plans.

Update: There is a short piece on my win on the Plein Air website here.

Suggested Donation Podcast

suggested donation
While in New York last month I did an interview with Tony Curanaj and Ted Minoff at the Salmagundi Art Club for their podcast series Suggested Donation. You can hear the interview on their blog here, or via iTunes.

It was the first time I’ve given such a long interview and I didn’t really prepare much for it due to time constraints with work and family in NYC. Thus, I was something of a deer in headlights in front of the mic and didn’t really get to flesh out some of the points I was making. I thought I would elaborate on them a bit here.

First, on Hardy Hanson at UCSC. One of the things I forgot to mention is that he would say to us over and over again to never stop improving. His idea (mantra almost) was that as we lay in our deathbeds painting a still life from the bed, our very last brushstroke should be the best brushstroke we’ve ever made. It’s something that has stayed with me all these years. Hardy Hanson passed away in 2012 and I remember wondering then about his last brushstroke. He was a great teacher and I’m very thankful for everything he gave me.

I think I only cleaned the toilets once at Charles H. Cecil studios. I’m really the last person you want in charge of keeping anything clean.

In the discussion about pigments, the alchemical idea of using four colors in figure painting is based on creation myths from various cultures. These stories describe the creation of man as occurring when god gathers four dusts from the four corners of the earth and mixes them with some elixir to give life. The dusts are red, yellow, black and white. It’s discussed in the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (a Jewish exegesis of Genesis), and some Native American tribes had similar myths. It’s not that I think painters are gods when creating paintings, I just thought it was interesting that people around the world assumed god used the same four colors. The fact that the limited palette actually requires glazing with alizarin could be seen as a sign of humility. The medium would be the elixir.

The squat in Paris where I worked was called Pôle Pi. There is a film on Youtube which documents a bit of it. I’m visible in the area where I worked for a second around the 43rd minute. It was a beautiful space, the poor quality of the film doesn’t really do it justice.

Discussing the Russian painters we met in St. Petersburg, I mention Evgeny Grouzdev, you can see some of his portraits here. The Burmese artist, Maung Thiha, I wrote about back in 2009.

The museums with large Russian Socialist Realism collections in the US are the Springville Museum of Art in Utah and the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.

You can pick up Nick Beer’s sight-size book on Amazon.

I’ll do a blog post later on the great Italian 19th-century painters. In the meantime some names to look at are (in the order in which they appear in the bookshelf next to my computer): Francesco Lojacono, Ettore Tito, Luigi Nono, Giuseppe de Nittis, Antonio Mancini, Guglielmo Ciardi, Emma Ciardi, Domenico Morelli, and Telemaco Signorini.

Atelier Book and Plein Air Magazine

atelier
21st-Century-Atelier
Tony Winters has written a thorough book on artist’s studios called ATELIER: Building the Visual Arts Studios of the 21st Century. It’s interesting as it is written from the point of view of both an architect and painter. There is a small part on my ex-studio in Piazza Donatello in Florence (currently part of Charles H. Cecil Studios).
You can pick the book up on Amazon.
plein-air-magazine

Also, Plein Air Magazine has a short piece on my use of sight-size and scraping down in outdoor figure painting (Joe Paquet has the cover and a longer artist’s profile).

The Iphone as a Painting Tool

A short post on using an Iphone as a black mirror. Like most of my tips, this is not my idea and I understand this has been common practice for a while at the ateliers like the FAA which teach sight-size. I mentioned it to other painters who hadn’t thought of the idea and it was well-received, so I decided to post it here.

I made the following video a few years ago demonstrating the use of a mirror in sight-size portraiture:

And in the next video of Ben Fenske painting a landscape you can see how often an artist will reach for the mirror while working:

The fact is, the mirror is one of the most efficacious devices for checking shapes and proportions in painting. It can be used without sight-size, but having everything visually locked-in makes the mirror especially powerful as an artist’s tool. For commissioned portraiture, where speed and accuracy are so important, it is really essential.

In landscape painting, artists will often use welding glass (sometimes called a black mirror) as it also greatly reduces the values. This allows the painter to see a value range closer to what they can actually capture in paint, and simplifies the number of values they need to compare.

Enter the Iphone, the $700 black mirror.

The Iphone has a flat, black glass screen and works perfectly for measuring shapes, proportions and values while landscape painting. Most of us also carry our phones around with us all the time. I recently inherited an older Iphone to replace my Nokia. While I’ll miss the maps and the privacy of my previous phone, I hated the rounded screen as I couldn’t use it to check shapes. Since I often forget, lose or break my painting mirrors when I travel, it will be a nice upgrade (that and the fact that iOS supports Instagram so I can stop borrowing the wife’s phone to post).