Grenning Gallery Solo Show

Big Sur Cows Grenning Gallery Solo Show

Big Sur Cows. 55 in x 42 in, oil on linen.

My solo exhibition in Sag Harbor, NY opens today at the Grenning Gallery. You can see all the images of the paintings on their website here.

The works included in the exhibition are mainly smaller plein air landscape paintings from the last couple of years in Italy, Croatia, Russia, France, South Africa, Holland, Norway, and the US. There are also a couple of larger plein air paintings, and a few studio pieces as well.

There are articles on the show on Fine Art Connoisseur, Underpaintings, and Lines and Colors.

Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Bow of the Aurum Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Bow of the Aurum. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I spent the last week cruising around the islands of the Dalmatian coast with my gallerist Ann Long, her husband, and some friends. Before photography it was normal for British and American travelers in Europe to take a painter with them to record the trip.

The mechanics of painting on a boat took some getting used to. The boat turns a lot when at anchor, which restricts the choice of foreground. Then there is a lot of wind and the movement of the waves is annoying. Next, the decks of boats are notoriously fragile, so I had to be very careful not to get any paint on anything. I also cut corks to fit on the bottom of my easel so as to not scratch or scuff the deck. While I’m used to painting portrait commissions in houses where I have to be careful about my paints, the wind and the movement of the boat add new challenges. Later the crew explained that since it’s a working charter boat, their decks are designed to take any stains or damage as the crew will quickly sand it off.

Morning on Sipan Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Morning Light, Šipan. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Two of my favorite plein air painters, Charles-François Daubigny and Edward Seago, both owned boats that they painted from. I was looking through their work before I left on the trip. One of the problems with painting from a boat is the foreground is always going to be water, which is a view that I don’t really associate with.

Cruising to Vis Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

En Route to Vis. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Afternoon Vis Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Afternoon Light, Vis. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The rest are painted from solid ground on the various islands where we stopped.

Mljet Painting Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

By the Lake, Mljet. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Aurum in Korcula Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

The Aurum in Korcula. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

knick knack seller hvar Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Tourist Stands, Hvar. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Sailboat Mljet Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Sailboat, Mljet. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Street in Korcula Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Hydrangeas, Korcula. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Hvar Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Hvar. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Stari Grad Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Stari Grad. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Hvar Street Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Street in Hvar. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Cafe in Hvar Paintings from the Deck of a Boat

Cafes, Hvar. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

On Green

Greguric Breg Hrvatska On Green

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

Three different people have written to ask me to clarify my video on mixing greens for plein air landscape painting lately. Apparently I mumble. So here it is again, written down, my mixes and recommendation for greens.

First off, I should mention that there are many people whose opinions I highly respect that think my greens are terrible. Acidic, garish, too bright, too yellow, etc… That said, I try to honestly paint what I see and I like my greens. I was always partial to the story of John Constable who, when painting at a time when artists would cover their finished paintings with brown violin varnish to make them look Old Mastery, took a violin and laid it on the bright green grass to show the difference between the accepted pictorial norms of his contemporary artists and the colors of real life.

Secondly, I only mix my greens, so I don’t use viridian. I’ve tried putting it down on my palette but I end up never using it. However, it was on Gammell’s recommended landscape painting palette and you can see it in the work of many of the best painters so, if you like it, you’re in excellent company.

There are two blues and two yellows on the palette I was taught to use: Cerulean blue is a greenish blue, ultramarine is a purplish blue, cadmium yellow light is a pure, bright yellow, and Roman (or golden ocher) is a dirty yellow.

With these four colors you can get four different greens:

  • For a light, spring green (grass, or light coming through leaves as in the painting shown) I use cerulean and cadmium yellow. This is the bright, acidic green. Adding white or a touch of red or ocher is often useful to knock the chroma down.
  • For the dark greens in the shadows, I use ultramarine and cadmium yellow. Even though the ocher looks darker, the chalkiness of it will make a lighter green. Cadmium yellow gets a rich dark shadow green. I’ll add cadmium red medium to darken it even more.
  • My favorite foreground or middle-ground ‘tree’ green is cerulean and ocher. It gets the perfect color of cypress or oak trees in sunlight. More ocher if it’s late afternoon or sunset.
  • The last possible green is ocher and ultramarine, it gives a grey, chalky green which I almost never use for foreground or middle-ground greens. I’ll sometimes use it as a base color for olive trees. On the other hand it is very useful for distant tree-covered mountains.

The brand of paint is very important for getting the right colors.

  • For cerulean blue, Old Holland makes the best one but it is outrageously expensive. For less important projects, Williamsburg or most other brands are just as good.
  • Ultramarine Blue Deep by Old Holland is the only functional ultramarine I’ve found. It’s better than hand-ground ultramarines and is probably the one absolutely essential color on my palette.
  • In my opinion, Williamsburg makes the best cadmium colors and their cadmium yellow light is perfect. Lately I’ve been using both their cadmium yellow light and cadmium yellow medium to vary my bright greens a bit.
  • Zecchi’s Roman Ocher is the best yellow ocher I’ve used, though Old Holland’s golden ocher is a similar hue (if a bit stiff to work with, and slightly cooler).

Lately I’ve started using cobalt blue (any brand), but I don’t have any clever green mixes with it to speak of. I mostly use it for skies, shadows, or to mix a quick grey with cadmium orange.



Here are my plein air landscape paintings from last weekend in Copenhagen. Technically it was really four days.

Cafe in the Kongens Nytorv Copenhagen

Cafe, Kongens Nytorv. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The weather was beautiful but very windy. After a couple years of painting with the Art in the Open in Wexford, Ireland I have no problem painting in heavy rain, but wind still annoys me to no end as the panels move the whole time. Many of these views were picked because they were sheltered a bit from the strong winds.

Back of the Glyptotek Copenhagen

Back of the Glyptotek. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Path in the Ørstedsparken Copenhagen

Path in the Ørstedsparken. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Towards City Hall Square Copenhagen

Towards City Hall Square. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Market in Christiania Copenhagen

Market in Christiania. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

They don’t allow photography in parts of Christiania, but they let me set up and paint. I did have a few ‘guards’ come by to check the tripod though. That said, everyone was very friendly when they saw what I was doing.

Grafitti Artists Christiania Copenhagen

Grafitti Artists, Christiania. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Boats behind the Opera House Copenhagen

Boats behind the Opera House. 20 x0 30 cm, oil on panel.

After my last post on painting back-lit paintings, these were almost all done with front-lighting. Not for any particular reason, that was just the effect that I found inspiring.

Bus Stop Copenhagen

Bus Stop, Copenhagen. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

English Garden in the Rosenborg Castle Gardens Copenhagen

English Garden in the Rosenborg Castle Gardens. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

I had been to Copenhagen 25 years ago, but remembered nothing of the city. It’s much prettier than google images would have you believe. The hotel had bicycles to rent which made it much more convenient to navigate the city with all of my landscape painting kit, though I always find bicycling in places like Denmark and Holland scarier than driving in Southern Europe.

Along the Peblinge Sø Copenhagen

Along the Peblinge Sø. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Rickshaws Copenhagen

Rickshaws, Copenhagen. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Morning on the Nyhavn Copenhagen

Morning on the Nyhavn. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

De Mayerne Medium in America

greguric breg De Mayerne Medium in America

Gregurić Breg (unfinished). 100 x 80 cm, oil on linen. Painted with the new medium from Blue Ridge Oil Colors.

Blue Ridge Oil Colors is going to start pre-making the medium I use and selling it in the US. (For people in Europe who don’t want to make their own, I would recommend getting it from Zecchi). If you want to make your own I also have a youtube video showing the process.

I was trying it out recently on this large plein air figurative piece, and in my sketches from Copenhagen. The Blue Ridge version dries faster than what I’m used to using. I know that’s a plus for a lot of artists and it certainly is for me when I travel. During longer projects though, like the one posted above, I sometimes like to scrape down a fresh painting at the start of the next session, and this medium dries too quickly for that -just a heads up.

The recipe is a variation of the medium developed by Charles Cecil and is originally based, in part, on the writings of Theodore de Mayerne. De Mayerne was a Swiss doctor who was friends with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. He wrote one of the rare documents discussing painting materials of the 17th-century, and he appears to have consulted with both Rubens and Van Dyck regularly on their opinions. His writings discuss straw-colored Strasbourg turpentine and thickening oil with lead in the sun, as well as many other art material related topics. You can buy an English translation online De Mayerne Medium in America.

While I much prefer the smell of Strasbourg turpentine to Canada balsam, the Strasbourg turpentine sometimes beads a lot when beginning again on a dry painting. (Looking closely at Isaac Levitan’s paintings you can see the same beading, which makes me wonder what he was using).

At any rate, it’s a great medium for laying-in (add some turpentine), as well as glazing at the end of a project. I’ve been using it for over twenty years now and my early pieces are all in fine condition.

Wet Panel Carrier

MAD 3775 Wet Panel Carrier
Ray Mar Art Supplies makes these great wet panel carriers for plein air painters. Unfortunately they’re only available in inches. I tried to get Sandro at Zecchi to make them with centimeter sizes but no dice. Since I’m about to go painting on a boat for a week I decided to make my own with that hollow plastic sheeting they sell at hardware stores, and I just copied the Ray Mar design (actually my wife figured it out, I discovered I can’t visualize a 3D object as a flat shape).

Here are few pictures of it:

MAD 3776 Wet Panel Carrier

MAD 3777 Wet Panel Carrier

MAD 3778 Wet Panel Carrier

MAD 3779 Wet Panel Carrier

And here is the design, for 20 x 30 cm panels, if anyone wants to make their own. I just sealed it up with electrical tape, and made the slots from slices of the plastic sheets. I would get a medium thickness for the plastic, the one I used was the full-sized one and it’s too thick. Also, next time I would rip up an old CD case for the slots to hold the panels.

wet panel carrier cm Wet Panel Carrier

Wet panel carrier for 20 x 30 cm panels.

Zagreb Paintings – Spring 2014

Ribnjak Ulica Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Afternoon Shadows, Ribnjak. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel

Here are some recent plein air landscape paintings from Zagreb and the surrounding countryside.

Tina Speech Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Tina Practicing a Speech. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Ribnjak Sculpture Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Modern Sculpture, Ribnjak Park. 20 x 15 cm, oil on panel.

Zvijezda Garden Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Garden, Zvijezda. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

While the Croatian coast is rightfully famous for it’s beauty, the countryside inland has a lot of charm to it as well. It’s a very peaceful place to work since there is a real emptiness in some areas. Often I’ll paint on the side of a road and no more than one car or tractor will pass during the hours it takes me to finish a painting.

Sisinec1 Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Šišinec. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Brkisevina Chapel Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Chapel near Brkiševina. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Below is an updated image of a large plein air painting of a path in Maksimir park. It’s for an even larger studio painting that was requested by a gallery I work with.

Maksimir Park Zagreb Paintings   Spring 2014

Path in Maksimir (updated) 60 x 80 cm, oil on linen.


Recent Larger Landscape Paintings (2014)

Korcula Boats Recent Larger Landscape Paintings (2014)

Korčula. 29 x 37 in. Oil on linen

Here, quickly, are some of the recent larger landscape paintings I’ve been working on. A couple are plein air landscape paintings, the others were done in the studio.

These are off to Sag Harbor for my solo show at the Grenning Gallery in late June.

Laundry in the Wind in Korcula Recent Larger Landscape Paintings (2014)

Laundry in the Wind. 36 x 28 inches, oil on linen.

Big Sur Cows Recent Larger Landscape Paintings (2014)

Big Sur, Afternoon. 42 x 55 inches, oil on linen.

The portrait of Tina under an olive tree will be in the show, as well as a number of small and medium-sized plein air pieces from the last year.

I spent much of the winter on the painting below but I can’t figure out how to resolve it. I hate abandoning large pieces after months of work, but sometimes artists have to cut their losses.

Afternoon in the Tuileries Recent Larger Landscape Paintings (2014)

The Afternoon Chat (unfinished). 42 x 55 inches, oil on linen.

I have a few more larger pieces on the burner which I’ll add soon.

Backlit Tuscany

Below are some paintings from a very short (weekend) trip to Tuscany. Since I had so little time to paint I chose only subjects that were backlit, i.e. had the sun behind them.

Mercato Santo Spirito Backlit Tuscany

Market Stall in Piazza Santo Spirito. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

It’s probably different for every painter, but I find I can work much faster and get better results when painting towards the sun. It becomes much more about drawing and values. Frontlit subjects require a painter to capture every small nuance in hue and chroma which, for me, takes much longer.

Montisi Backlit Tuscany

Burning Leaves, Montisi. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Piazza del Carmine Backlit Tuscany

Piazza del Carmine. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Pescatori sul Arno Backlit Tuscany

Fishermen on the Banks of the Arno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

It’s interesting to look at historic landscape painters and their preference for lighting in their views. For example, the Spanish painter Carlos de Haes went for the backlit subject in many of his plein air and studio landscapes.

haes 600x380 Backlit Tuscany

Carlos de Haes -La Torre de Douarnenez

picos de europa c 1875 600x374 Backlit Tuscany

Carlos de Haes – Picos de Europa.

And Camille Corot’s best works are usually backlit:

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot 006 600x414 Backlit Tuscany

Camille Corot – The Bridge at Narni.

As are Dennis Miller Bunker’s:

Chicago art inst bunker larmor 600x381 Backlit Tuscany

Dennis Miller Bunker – Brittany Town Morning.

The French Impressionists were also big on the midday backlit view, which is surprising since their draftsmanship wasn’t the best and they seemed so focused on color.

Claude Monet   The Cliff of Aval Etrétat   Google Art Project 600x427 Backlit Tuscany

Claude Monet – The Cliff of Aval.

On the other hand, the Spanish painters Joaquín Sorolla and Martín Rico y Ortega seemed to love the bright whites, dark skies, and strong hues of frontlit subjects in Spain and Italy. And the Italian painter Rubens Santoro painted some amazing sunlight-filled views of Italy which are also often frontlit.

Sorolla 600x311 Backlit Tuscany

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida – The Return of the Catch, Valencia Beach

view of paris from the trocadero by martc3adn rico y ortega c 1883 600x297 Backlit Tuscany

Martín Rico y Ortega – View of Paris from the Trocadero.

santoro 600x354 Backlit Tuscany

Rubens Santoro – On the Mediterranean Coast

Isaac Levitan’s best paintings are usually frontlit (or overcast).

levitan 600x491 Backlit Tuscany

Isaac Levitan – March.

And finally, on the other side of the world, the great Australian painter Arthur Streeton also used the frontlit view often to show the heat of the Australian summers.

streeton 600x398 Backlit Tuscany

Arthur Streeton – Sunlight.

Obviously, all of these great artists tried to capture a wide variety of light effects in their paintings. Still, looking over a single painter’s oeuvre, it’s fun to try to discern a pattern. Some of the other great landscape painters I (briefly) researched for this post were John Singer Sargent, Telemaco Signorini, and Edward Seago, but I wasn’t able to see any preference in their work (even Sorolla was a bit of a stretch).

Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

I was in Cape Town, South Africa for a week last month, escaping the long European winter. It’s a beautiful part of the world. The foliage, colors, and climate are all very similar to Central California.

Here are a few of the sketches:

View from DeMorgenzon Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

The View from DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Stellenbosch Vineyards Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Vineyards near Stellenbosch. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Banana Trees in the Kirstenbosch Gardens Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Banana Trees in the Kirstenbosch Gardens. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Towards the Lions Head Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Lion’s Head from Victoria Road. 22 x 33 cm, oil on panel.

Sea Point Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Above Sea Point. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Hout Bay Afternoon Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Afternoon in Hout Bay. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

The wine and food are terrific and their currency is way down too so it was a very reasonably priced stay. I would highly recommend the place for anyone looking to paint in the Southern Hemisphere in February. I hope to go back soon.

Stellenbosch Sunset Plein Air Painting in Cape Town, South Africa

Sunset, Stellenbosch. 18 x 28 cm, oil on panel.