Swiss Plein Air Workshop

Here are a few photos from my week of teaching plein air landscape painting in the valley around Les Plans in Switzerland. I was working for the Alpine Atelier based in Gryon.

Plein air landscape painting course in Switzerland

They are very unrepresentative photos as we only had a few hours of sun all week. Most of the time it was low clouds and snow. Nevertheless, the students managed to squeeze out a lot of great work.

Plein air landscape painting in Switzerland

It’s often the case that sparse subject matter produces better work while painting en plein air. In my experience, having too many wonderful views to choose from can be more paralyzing to the painter than struggling with difficult or meager subject matter.

Plein air landscape painting in Switzerland

Update: Here are a couple more off my phone.

Plein Air

Plein Air Fog

I also shot a video of the 40 minute demo I gave on the first day of the course. You can view it below or on my youtube channel:

Alpine Inspiration

At the end of March I’ll be teaching a plein air landscape painting course in the Swiss Alps. The class is organized by the Alpine Atelier in Gryon, Switzerland. I’ve always loved the views in Switzerland and this particular area has been one of my favorite places to paint.

Here are a few of my favorite Alpine landscape paintings by historic artists.

Edward Theodore Compton was a British painter, trained in Munich (probably at the same time as Duveneck). He was an avid mountaineer and climbed 300 mountains, including 27 first accents. He settled in Bavaria and traveled the world painting mountain views.

Edward Theodore Compton

Edward Theodore Compton. The Aletschhorn in Switzerland

Edward Theodore Compton. Grossglockner.

Edward Theodore Compton. Grossglockner.

His children were also painters, and his son Edward Harrison Compton produced some of the most incredible landscape paintings I’ve ever seen. He unfortunately suffered from polio in his late 20s and had to give up the Alpine views. His English and Sicilian views are equally stunning though. The BBC has three here and this German auction house has more (unfortunately small) images.

Edward Harrison Compton

Edward Harrison Compton. Monte Rosa and Lyskamm seen from Gornergrat.

Edward Harrison Compton. Kirchstein

Edward Harrison Compton. Kirchstein.

Eugen Felix Prosper Bracht was a Swiss painter. His dates are 1842-1921. The Athenaeum shows he painted a lot in the Middle East, but it’s hard to find any information about him online. For a country with so few well-known painters, they should step up a bit and promote these amazing works.

Eugen Felix Prosper Bracht. The Matterhorn.

Eugen Felix Prosper Bracht. The Matterhorn from the West.

Luckily the Americans are never short of promotion. Here’s a great Sargent from the Simplon Pass.

John Singer Sargent. Simplon Pass.

John Singer Sargent. Simplon Pass.

And Edgar Payne.

Edgar Payne. Saint Gervais.

Edgar Payne. Saint Gervais.

Isaac Levitan painted some Alpine views while traveling in Switzerland in 1897.

Isaac Levitan. Mont Blanc.

Isaac Levitan. Mont Blanc. (Apologies for the image quality).

Issac Levitan. The Alps in Spring.

Issac Levitan. The Alps in Spring.

I’ll post more when I have time. In the meanwhile, John Mitchell Gallery in London always has a great collection of Alpine scenes. You can see this years selection here.

Mountain Paintings has more Alpine art on their website as well.

Minute Painting Video #6: Grinding Lead White

Here is the sixth installment of my Minute Painting Videos. It’s about how to grind your own lead white.

Hand-ground lead white handles differently than tube paints, much more so than any other color. It’s the only color I still grind myself as I find there are many impasto effects a painter can not achieve with machine-ground lead white. Unfortunately lead white in powder is getting harder and harder to find.

Be very careful in handling lead white. Wear gloves and a mask and work in a space with proper ventilation. Lead white in power is very toxic.

You can see all the Minute Painting Videos here on Youtube. My previous post with the videos embedded is here.


Zagreb Nocturnes

Since the days are so short here in Zagreb (and I’m losing my mornings to language classes), I’ve been trying my hand at plein air nocturnes lately.

The Bar at Zvijezda (2011). 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The Bar at Zvijezda (2011). 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Last winter I tried one nocturne of the small bar around the corner from my house. The idea was to sketch the composition in pencil and then begin the lay-in on site. However, for the bulk of the work I had the painting elsewhere and, in the evenings, I would stop and try to memorized the view and then paint later from memory. It was like sight-sizing from a block away. The idea was based on the quote by Degas about memory drawing:

“If I were to open an academy I would have a five-story building. The model would pose on the ground floor with the first-year students. The most advanced students would work on the fifth floor.”

This year I’m more prepared. These new clip-on LED lights work very well, and have a much cooler light than the ones you could buy, years ago, when I last tried plein air landscape painting at night. The brand I’m using is Mighty Bright from Santa Barbara, CA and I have the two pronged ones they make for orchestra conductors. (Edit: As Jerry Campbell commented, these lights can be slightly blue. I also found myself compensating to knock down the oranges. Pushing the light right up to the canvas warms it up a bit, but if anyone one has a suggestion for a more neutral plein-air-at-night lighting solution, I’d love to hear it).

My set-up for nocturnes.

My set-up for nocturnes.

A second set of lights would be great as I don’t get enough light consistently across the panels and have to move the light to where I’m working.

Painting in the snow at night can be really cold. I wrote a post last winter on keeping warm, which you can read here.

Cathedral Nocturne #1. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Zagreb Cathedral Nocturne #1. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Cathedral Nocturne #2. 30 x 20, oil on panel (unfinished).

Zagreb Cathedral Nocturne #2. 30 x 20, oil on panel (unfinished).

The Central Train Station at Night, Zagreb. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

The Central Train Station at Night. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

More to come. In the meantime, here are a couple more from the heavy snows we’ve had this month in Zagreb.

Winter, Britanski Trg.

Winter, Britanski Trg. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Mirogoj in the Snow.

Mirogoj in the Snow. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište

Steps of the HNK. 30 x 20 cn, oil on panel.

Ulica A.G. Matoša, Zagreb

Ulica A.G. Matoša. 28 x 18 cm, oil on panel.

Croatia: The Local Talent

Continuing my series of great ‘regional’ painters (previous ones were Holland, California, Italy, and Russia), here are a few great painters from Croatia.

Vlaho Bukovac

Bukovac was born in a small town on the coast south of Dubrovnik to an Italian father and Croatian mother. He studied in Paris with Cabanel and worked in Zagreb, Belgrade and Prague. His life story is quite interesting and included a stint in a reform school in New York and painting trains in Peru (more here).

While famous for his large Salon-style pieces and portraits, he also painted a lot of beautiful plein air sketches.

Gundulićev San (Gundulic's Dream). 1897

Gundulićev San (Gundulic’s Dream). 1897

Baron Ljudevit Vranyczany. 1898

Baron Ljudevit Vranyczany. 1898

Courtyard in Cavtat. 1899

Courtyard in Cavtat. 1899

This nude reminded me of his teacher’s famous painting:

Reclining Nude. c. 1900

Reclining Nude. c. 1900

Alexandre Cabanel. The Birth of Venus, 1864

Alexandre Cabanel. The Birth of Venus, 1864

Miroslav Kraljević
was only 27 when he died of tuberculosis. He studied in Munich and Vienna. (He kinda looks like Valdemar Lethin).

Self-portrait with Dog. 1910

Self-portrait with Dog. 1910

Unfortunately the above image quality is rather poor. Below is a great detail of the dog from Croatian painter Valentino Radman’s blog:

Self-portrait with Dog (detail).

Self-portrait with Dog (detail).

Josip Račić also died very young, only 23, but is considered one of the most important modern Croatian painters. He was part of the ‘Munich School’ with Kraljević and a couple of others.

Self Portrait. 1906

Self Portrait (detail). 1906

Portrait of the Artist's Sister. 1907

Portrait of the Artist’s Sister. 1907

Pont des Arts. 1900

Pont des Arts. 1900

Another good 20th century painter who’s work is in the museum here in Zagreb, but is hard to find online, is Vladimir Filakovac. Valentino Radman has a couple of blog posts on him here and here.

Other interesting historic Croatian painters are Čikoš SesijaRobert Auer, Mato Celestin Medović, and Mirko Rački.


A Short Fenske Plein Air Video

Below is a short video of fellow plein air painter Ben Fenske painting a quick (2 hour?) oil sketch of the road to the farmhouse where I’ve lived in the summers for the last few years.

I filmed the plein air video a couple of years ago and found the footage today while organizing old files on my computer. A couple of people have written to me asking about Ben’s technique, so here it is in all it’s badly-color-graded glory.

Update: Some people were having problems watching the video, so I uploaded a new version.

November Exhibitions

I thought I should briefly mention a couple of exhibitions I have on this month. The first is a number of small sketches at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC and the exhibition webpage is here. The second is the Converge show organized by Allison Malafronte in New York. It opens this Friday and the website for the exhibition is here.

Lago Maggiore to the Simplon Pass

Here are a few recent sketches from a trip to Lago Maggiore with Ben Fenske. We went up to the Simplon Pass for a day, but never made it back as the weather was uncooperative.

Evening at Verbania. 24 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Evening at Verbania. 24 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape painting of Feriolo, Lago Maggiore, Italy

Feriolo. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape painting of the Ossola Valley

Sunset Sketch, Ossola Valley. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape painting of Monte Rosa from the Simplon Pass

Monte Rosa from the Simplon Pass. 25 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Here is a short time-lapse video of the above sketch:

Landscape painting of Monte Leone, in the Swiss Alps

Towards Monte Leone. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape painting of Lago d'Orta, Italy

Evening Fog, Lago d’Orta. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape painting of Domodossola, Italy

Rain, Domodossola. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape sketch in oil of a cutting garden near Stresa, Lago Maggiore, Italy

Cutting Garden, Stresa. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Landscape painting of a Villa near Stresa, Lago Maggiore

Villa near Stresa. 40 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Painting of the Promenade at Stresa, Lago Maggiore, Italy

The Promenade at Stresa. 40 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Bordeaux and Chianti Sketches

Here are some of the plein air landscape sketches from Bordeaux and Chianti painted the last month. We stayed in the little village of Pujols near Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) in France, and then in Chianti near Tavarnelle val di Pesa.

My liver will need some time to recover.

Haybales near Pujols. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

The Dordogne east of Bordeaux is especially interesting for plein air landscape painting as it is unusual to have such strong tidal effects so far inland.

Boats on the Dordogne. 23 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

The Dordogne at Castilion-le-Bataille. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Petanque. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Branne. 30 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Saint-Émilion is a beautiful little city for plein air painting. We took the workshop students there a couple of times with great success.

Gate at Saint-Emilion. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Gensac. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Sketches of the Church at Pujols. 20 x 15 (ish) cm each, oil on panel.

Here are a couple of plein air landscape sketches of the annual grape harvest, or Vendemmia, in the Chianti region of Tuscany. It was interesting to paint the workers en plein air as they moved quickly up the vineyard rows. I would paint the vineyard row ahead of them, then move row to row to paint the grape harvesters as they worked.

La Vendemmia. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

La Vendemmia #2. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I’ll post the rest of the Chianti plein air landscape paintings later in the week.