For the latest in news, shows, upcoming events, new works, contests and special offerings… sign up today for John’s Newsletter.

John's Blog

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Roots of Creativity

"Creativity is not simply a property of exceptional people but an exceptional property of all people"
Ron Carter, Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk

It was during the Renaissance that this belief began to change. In the 1800's modern thought had pretty much replaced the "outdated" belief that God was the source of all creativity. After all, man had become "enlightened" and come to believe that creativity was not a result of the divine at all, but rather an ability that solely originated with man.

The great Jonathan Edwards in his dissertation "The Nature of True Virtue" countered this belief. 
"For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent; and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who hath an infinite fullness of brightness and glory; the foundation and fountain of all being and all beauty."

Of course, if one denies God as Creator then it's obvious some other explanation must be devised. Filling the void are many wonderfully crafted and creatively presented explanations, all in the name of science, that are designed to convince us of anything other than there being a loving, personal, creative God who spoke all this into existence.

Name one dance move that was not imagined, then designed, practiced and refined. What about writers, sculptors, architects, painters? The list is endless. Every visible thing in our world formed by the hand of man, whatever it may be, was at some point imagined, designed, and brought into physical being. To acknowledge this, while at the same time debunking God doing the same thing on a much larger scale with an infinitely more complex creation,'s beyond comprehension.

I like how Leland Ryken explains it in his book "The Liberated Imagination".
"Human creativity is rooted in divine creativity. Artists create because God created first. In Genesis 1, the first thing the Bible does is introduce us to the God of the universe. He is introduced as a creative artist. Before we know anything else about Him, we know that 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. This divine artist began, as all artists do, with something formless: 'The earth was without form and void'. God then proceeded to create the forms that comprise our universe. Like a painter working on a canvas, God assembled one detail after another until the picture was complete. He then pronounced the creation 'very good'".

Ryken goes on to say that God's creation was only the beginning as He also delegated the ongoing work of creation to His human creatures.

We see that in the statement, "God created man in His own image". When that truth was revealed, none of God's other attributes are yet mentioned. This doctrine, that the image of God resides in people, emphasizes that we, like God, are creators...and that ability comes from Him alone.

"We create because we have been endowed with God's image. This, in turn, deflects the ultimate praise for artistic achievement from people to God."

Whether God is acknowledged in the creative process or not, the truth remains...and humanity still benefits. It's kind of like just IS. Bow to Him or not...

"We are ourselves creations. We are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. This is the God-force extending itself through us. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using creativity is our gift back to God"...Julia Cameron, Heart Steps.

George Washington Carver

Over the centuries, many great creative people have credited the God of "The Book" for their achievements, one of my favorites is George Washington Carver. Born into great poverty, hardship,and being of poor health, he achieved international fame when he revolutionized the economy of the south by introducing hundreds of uses for the peanut, soybean, pecan, and sweet potato, in the place of cotton. Many of you may know the story. What you may not know is that he approached all his experiments and eventual discoveries with great humility. As most creative people will admit, we create best when alone. Dr. Carver was like that. He entered his laboratory alone and would lock the door behind him. He once said, "Only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets"He believed God would show him what questions to ask and how to conduct each experiment. He reasoned that the One whom created the plants was also the same One who had all the answers as to their use.

Before a Senate Committee in 1921, he was asked how he learned all these things. "From an old book." "What book?" asked the Senator. "The Bible", replied Dr. Carver. "Does the Bible tell about peanuts?" inquired the Senator. "No Sir", Carver replied, "But it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and He did."

I have no doubt that the ability to create is a gift to us from God. It didn't just light upon us through some impersonal cosmic happenstance. With the gift comes responsibility. George Washington Carver understood this and we, as artists, can learn from his attitude as it applies toward our life's work. He was a man of unusual creativity and humility and possessed an attitude worthy of our emulation. "The secret of my success is simple", he said. "It is found in the Bible, 'In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths'". 

I agree.

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter, please click HERE

An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view work and bio, please click HERE


Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Cherished Memories" reviewed

We all have them, you know, those special memories?

At the time we didn't think much about them, we were just kids, but over time after we've acquired a few wrinkles and come to realize there are more years behind us than before us, those special memories become cherished.

Oh, they don't need to be monumental events, in fact, in most cases they're not. They're often just the simple joys of living...going to grandma and grandpa's house, that first kiss, catching fireflies and putting them in a jar, walking to school, learning to tie our shoes, ride a bike, or jump rope...even falling asleep on daddy's lap. They're all that we can look back.

My painting, Cherished Memories, captures some of that. It's one of those beautiful, sunny autumn days. The birds are singing. With each passing day the leaves declare their beauty but eventually they abandon their place and gently fall to the ground. Neighborhood friends have come over to play. It's a perfect day.

Photo reference for Cherished Memories

Writing about it and painting it are two different things. Now I can't honestly say all these thoughts ran through my mind as I developed this painting. I had a general idea of where I wanted to go with it, but I seem to work best when I allow ideas to evolve and eventually become specific as I work through a piece. That's why I like to do small color studies. It's here that concepts, composition, values and color schemes can be tried and then accepted or rejected.

Color Study - 3.75"x 7.5" - Oil on paper

I've done two other versions of this theme over the years and in each, selected a different composition and color scheme. The focus here was to press into the scene somewhat and really expand on the feeling of autumn. To do that I experimented with a number of color schemes.
I will often select bits and pieces of the color wheel when selecting a palette for any given work. It helps keep things simple, greatly aiding in achieving color harmony.

For this painting I chose a red dominant color scheme. That means everything on the color wheel that contains red was put on the palette. Here's a red dominant palette (above) using ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, and cadmium yellow pale as primaries.

The palette used for Cherished Memories looked like this.

Left>Right: blue-violet, violet, red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange

Ultramarine blue, cadmium red and lemon yellow were the primaries. Grays were achieved by mixing those colors farthest apart.

Cherished Memories - 12"x 24" - Oil

This painting is available through Abend Gallery in Denver, Co
View large image of the painting HERE

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter, please click HERE
An ARC Associate Living Master
To view art and bio, please click HERE


Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Kissed by the Sun" reviewed

"All creative endeavor is toward a definite purpose. Therefore, it is imperative that we have a definite conception of this purpose as well as a clear understanding of the means to accomplish it"....Edgar Payne

A few years ago, on the recommendation of one of my collectors, my wife and I traveled to Holmes County in Ohio. It's located in the northeast-central part of the state and is home to the largest Amish community in the world. It is a place I could easily enjoy painting for many years, for it pretty much captures the emotional and physical essence of everything I enjoy about landscape painting.
One of the paintings from that trip, "Kissed by the Sun", has received a lot of exposure lately because of the kindness of friends sharing it with others on Facebook.
Below is the photo reference used for the painting. There are many things I like about this photo but it's primarily the composition that prompted me to stop and take a longer look. There's a distinct and clear focal point, nice lead-in, a variety of contrasting shapes and sizes, and an obvious foreground, middle ground, and background. In addition the subject itself, the rolling countryside, the winding road, and the embankment on the right with large tree, are all appealing.

The scene: Holmes County, Ohio

As an artist I try to bring something of myself to each painting, not as a conscious, deliberate act, but as a natural result of focusing on what is to be communicated...the concept or "purpose" as Mr. Payne puts it.
Sadly, I'm not always successful. When I'm not, it's usually the result of not spending enough time thinking on the front end, not doing preliminary work, and not having a clear idea of where I want to go with the painting. I fall into the trap of reproducing a photo. Hopefully, in these cases, I have enough sense to at least pick a good photo.

A few things about this photo are lacking...the feeling of warmth, of intimacy, a place of comfort that makes one feel right at home. I know, it's a subtle thing. The basically flat lighting has something to do with it, but also the new almost perfect barn, the modern asphalt road, random spots of color, and an imposing background also contribute.
I sought to resolve these issues with this preliminary color study.

Kissed by the Sun (Study) - 4.5"x 6" - Oil on paper

By simplifying the background and changing the value, casting the foreground into shadow, and moving the light in order to cast part of the barn in shadow, the scene becomes more interesting, unified and less confusing. At the same time the size of the barn was reduced, aged for character, and highlighted. The road was narrowed, asphalt removed, thereby making it much less traveled. Finally, the tree on the right was enlarged, forcing the viewer to stay within the painting.

All the preliminary work was a great help in clarifying the concept and actually enabled the final painting to come together more quickly with less problems. As you can see however, from the completed piece, I continued to make changes I thought necessary in order to clearly portray the feeling I was after.

Kissed by the Sun - 12"x 16" - Oil on canvas

The painting is available through Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio, TX

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter, please click HERE
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view work and bio, please click HERE


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Charles Warren Mundy Interview

I first met C.W. Mundy when I stepped into the back of a limousine one evening in Cincinnati. We were participating artists in the Great American Artists Show and were being transported to the show venue.If you know anything about C.W., you know he is not shy. An outspoken Christian, it was not long before we discovered our common faith. I admire his authentic boldness and fearlessness, and it seems to permeate every area of his life including his work.
His painting has gone through a continuous evolution. Always experimenting, never content to rest on his past successes, he is a bundle of energy, continually looking for new challenges. If it's not painting, it's music. If it's not music it's something else. He's not one to sit around wasting time. 

The Train Station - 36"x 24" - Oil - 2012
2nd Place, Masters Division, 22nd Annual OPA National Competition

He just won second place in the Master Division at the 22nd Annual Oil Painters of America National Competition in Fredericksburg, TX., yet on the drive home to Indiana with his wife, Rebecca, he took the time to answer my questions for this interview...just another example of an active mind making every second count.

I'm very pleased to bring you this wonderful interview with Charles Warren Mundy:

As I've watched your work over the years, it seems you are always experimenting...trying new things. Are you fearless about experimentation?   I've always been fearless to experiment because for me it is necessary to have a challenge, otherwise I'd be bored. The quest is the search.

It seems you paint anything and everything, is there any subject you shy away from?   You won't find me painting little kittens with a ball of yarn!...On the other hand, who knows, I might just do that sometime.

The creation of All Along the Boulevard

All Along the Boulevard - 24"x 36" - Oil - 2012

There is a certain unpredictability to your work, not in a negative sense, but in that one is never absolutely sure what you're going to paint next...or how you're going to paint it. How do galleries and collectors feel about that?   I've done this from the beginning, so my collectors and my galleries are actually used to it. 

What do you see as the future direction of your work?   My future direction - more experimentation! Especially right now, I'm experimenting in the area of "paint manipulation". There's a multitude of ways that one can make a mark on linen. I've figured out that since these things are called "paintings", the paint expression is very important!

Sunrise, Our Backyard - 20"x 16" - Oil

How do your Christian beliefs affect and direct your art career?   My wife and I pray about everything! This has directed us in every facet of the career, from conceptualizing, in painting, and in the business aspects.

Prague, Church of Saint Nicholas - 5"x 7" - Pen and Ink - 2000

I consider you to be a pretty savvy marketer of your work, please explain your strategy. What has been your most effective marketing tool?   Taking the leap of faith from answered prayers. (Psalm 32:8)
Early in the career, for 10-15 years, I did much advertising. That's how I became known in the industry. Currently I use social media, newsletters, exhibitions, website, blog, trying to stay in front of people. You must continually remind people. A quote I'm known for..."It's one thing to launch your career, it's another thing to sustain it".

How do you balance market expectations and artistic growth?   I'm more concerned with artistic growth. My galleries allow this and don't place high expectations on me.

Sailing Into Rockport at Sunset - 24"x 36" - Oil - 2005

Early Afternoon Light, Williams Creek - 9"x 12" - Oil

You are heavily involved in music, and for a time, sports. How have these contributed to your ability to succeed as an artist?   I've always worked hard to achieve my goals, in sports, music, and in art. There's no substitute for hard work!

The relationship of painting to music is frequently made, could you explain what is meant by that?   There are many parallels between art and music. Here are just a few examples:
There must be unity and variety in correct proportions. In music and in art, if everything's too unified, it's boring. Too much variety, and it's fractured. You want to have as much variety as possible, but still have it unified.
You must have an "attitude" about your work.
In music as well as art, you must have a "centrality of focus". With music, the centrality is in the lyrics of the chorus. Just as in a painting, it's where you want your viewers (or listeners) to have a resolve or anchor in your composition. The musical verses have to point to the chorus. In art, the secondary and tertiary areas have to support and not challenge the centrality of focus in the painting.
The dynamics of when to be loud and when to be quiet.
There are music notes and color notes - how do you want them to play out or speak?

Why did you select art over music as your career?   I was in a great 5-piece band in L.A. in the late 1970's. We wrote all our own music, and were getting ready to record with a major music recording company, when one band member became very sick and then passed away, and the band dissolved. Our dream ended and I was dejected, not only at the loss of our friend, but because of the investment of time and effort for the band. I felt that God really spoke to me at that time and told me to go back to art and painting, where I didn't need to rely on other people to make a living, just my own hard work.

Emily with Basket at the Beach - 9"x 6" - Oil - 2012

Red Striped Umbrellas, Santa Margherita Ligure - 16"x 20" - Oil - 1996

Silver Coffee Urn - 12"x 9" - Oil - 2011

Why, at this time, is there such a move in America toward realism...even the classic kind?   The pendulum swings! The American Impressionism of the last several decades has had a good run, but that continues as well.

How do you decide on a dominating color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it?   If you're concerned with color as opposed to tonality, one might take advantage of playing up complementaries. There is a reason why colors have their complementary. In the history of art, the greatest colorists had a sophisticated usage of color and chroma. Painting straight out of the tube is OK for modernists, but to me it's like "finger nails on a chalkboard".

What part does photography play in your work?   When subjects move and it's your only option. Sometimes as well, it's very advantageous to record spots where you can't be around such as Europe or other travel destinations, although 90% of all my European Collections of paintings were painted en plein air. If I have to paint from a photograph, I often paint it "upside down" which is much more right brain and creative and helps me stay out of the mode of just painting "things".

Musee d'Orsay - 12"x 9" - Oil - 2012

What are the key points one needs to know when creating a true sense of atmosphere?   It mostly really boils down to "edges" and being very careful with color notes. In a landscape, many times in the distant trees and distant hillsides, I add more sky color into those masses. Value as well has to be adjusted from the literalness of the scene.

C.W. Mundy painting on location in France

What are the main problems encountered when translating a field study to a large studio work?   The loss of the human spirited endeavor and the inability to make large masses interesting and exciting with paint manipulation...are starter problems. The problem continues on when unnecessary details are added. Less is always more!

Do you have basic rules of composition that you adhere to?   Almost always I go for the exploitation of a centrality of focus, what I call a "resolve" or an "anchor". I gravitate toward compositions that have a strong primary, a supporting secondary and supporting tertiary. The Equalization theory which is the exact opposite invented by the modernists was to exploit the eye floating randomly everywhere in the composition with no "resolve" or "anchor".

How does your work reflect your personality?   I'm a charismatic person and I'm too old to have any interest in rendering anymore. I've grown into becoming a child trapped in an adult body. I'm like a child wanting to experience things that I've never experienced.

July Sunset - 20"x 16" - Oil - 2011

What is your major consideration when composing a painting?   First of all, composition rules over all the other tenets in painting. You can do a great job with value, color, edges and paint manipulation, but if the composition is not good, the painting will still "circle the drain". Your composition will support and explain your love for the subject.
I hate formula painting; it's the death of an artist. So each experiment in composition in many ways is unique to itself. In a series however, the variables in composition are more consistent for research purposes only. Doing an experiment is different from doing experiments.

What advice would you have for a young artist/painter?   You have to become a painter and understand the "science" of painting before you graduate to becoming an artist. Study, hard work! There's no substitute for mileage.

What advice would you have for a first-time collector?   If you really love a painting and can afford it, you'd better purchase it! It only takes one or two regrets to learn your lesson.

When you become discouraged and feel the well is dry, so to speak, what do you do?   The first and most important question you need to ask yourself is "why is the well dry?" The second question is "Would it be more productive to work through this or take a break and get a fresh start".

Kinderdyke (European Collection 2002) - 24"x 36" - Oil

If you could spend the day with any three artist, past or present, who would they be?   Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and daVinci.

If you were stranded on an island, which three books would you want with you?   The Bible, a Hebrew concordance and a Greek concordance!

What's your opinion of art competitions and how do you go about selecting paintings for these shows?   Art competitions are only relative to the judge and shouldn't be taken too seriously by the participant. These competitions have probably destroyed the enthusiasm of the participants in the same proportion to the careers they have resurrected. My selections for shows...Find an artist who is very experienced and has your best interest at heart, and allow him or her to be more objective concerning your entry.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why?   To say one who has had the greatest influence would be very misleading and not include the many who have inspired me. It's always a compilation of many.

Thank you C.W. for a very interesting interview. We're going to look forward to all those interesting places your continual experimentation with paint will take you. 

Mr. Mundy is a Master Signature Member of Oil Painters of America, the American Impressionist Society,and a Signature Member of the American Society of Marine Artists. He is also a member of the Disco Mountain Boys, an Indianapolis based bluegrass band. They just released their debut CD, Road Trip.

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter, please click HERE

An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view art and bio, please click HERE


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Debra Joy Groesser Interview

She's currently exhibiting in two shows: The Missouri Valley Impressionist Society 2nd Annual Juried Exhibition that opened May 1st...and "Earth and Sky: Women of the Prairie" which opened May 31st in Wichita, Ks. In April she exhibited her work with six other ladies in Carmel, CA - "Powered by Nature: Seven Women".  This July there's the Door County Plein Air Festival in Wisconsin; In August the Plein Air Artists Colorado 17th Annual National Juried Exhibition; the 14th Juried Exhibition of the American Impressionist Society in September...and she just returned from a month long painting trip to California.

She's a signature member of the American Impressionist Society, American Plains Artists, and Plein Air Artists Colorado. She's an associate member of the Oil Painters of America, and American Women Artists...and she's on the Board of PAAC.
This folks is your current president of the American Impressionist busy lady to say the least.

It took several months to finally complete this interview, but I believe you'll find it worth the wait. I first met Debra a couple of years ago in the Flint Hills of Kansas during a plein air event organized by Kim Casebeer. I found Debra to be a delightful person. 
There is more to this interview than shown here, so I will include some of her other comments in future blog topics I have planned. I hope you enjoy the interview.

What's the correct pronunciation of your name?   Grow-sir

How did you first become interested in art and what led you to becoming a professional?   I just remember always being interested in drawing. My favorite thing to do as a child was to copy the illustrations out of my story books. I also copied the words and by doing that, taught myself to read at age four. My favorite book was "Barbie Goes to a Party". I would love to find a copy of it! Back in the days of Romper Room (giving away my age here), they would put pictures up on the TV screen for kids to draw and mail in to the TV station. My mother sent one of mine in when I was three and they put it on TV...I don't remember it but I guess you could say that was the start.

Heading Into the Storm - 12"x 30" - Oil

In my coloring books I always put light and shadow on everything. It was never just flat coloring. I had a friend in 5th grade when we moved to Nebraska who was also very artistic. Instead of playing the usual games that kids played, we would draw for hours. We set up tennis shoes, still life's, drew the trees in the yard...anything we could find. I just loved it. From there, I took every art class I could in high school and then earned my BFA degree in college (studio art/painting). 
After graduating, I married my first husband, and began working as a graphic artist for a local bank. I tried to do a little painting when I could find time. My husand decided to start a home building company in 1980. We had two children, and when they were almost two and four, I left my graphics job to stay home. For the next couple of years, I did the bookkeeping for my husband's business, painted and did freelance graphics work when the kids napped and at night after they went to bed. That lasted a couple of years until it became necessary to get my real estate license so I could help my husband's business by selling his homes. Ironically, the week that I was waiting for the results of my real estate test, Denise Burns, founder of Plein Air Painters of America, was in our town to teach an oil painting workshop, which I attended. She really inspired me and encouraged me to pursue my art (the painting I did in that workshop still hangs in my studio next to my easel). 

Last Hours Before Sunset - 18"x 24" - Oil

At the Cliff's Edge - 9"x 12" - Oil

I passed the real estate test and, reluctantly, ended up having to put my art career on hold. With two small children, the demands and time commitment of a real estate career and still doing the bookkeeping for the home building business, there was no time for art (other than drawing architectural renderings to advertise the homes we built). Three years later, we divorced.
Throughout my time in real estate, I never lost sight of the goal of returning to my art career someday. I always considered myself an artist first, and real estate was just temporary.

Silver Symphony - 14"x 18" - Oil

In late 1991 I married my husband Don, with whose love and support I was able to return to my art career. By this time I was doing architectural illustrations for several home builders and little pen and ink drawings (sometimes with watercolor added) of people's homes to give as closing gifts. I also did note cards printed from my pen and ink drawings of homes. Soon, other realtors started ordering my drawings and cards for their own clients. Eventually I got to the point that I was earning almost as much from the "house portraits" as I was from selling real estate. 
I started painting again a couple of years later. When Don saw my paintings and how happy it made me to be painting, he encouraged me to let go of the real estate career and get back to creating my art full time. We remodeled our basement into a small classroom where I taught art classes for children. I painted, and continued doing the house portraits, renderings and graphic work. Eventually, my art took over the spare bedroom, the basement, the office and then the dining room. At that point, in 1996, we bought a small building in our little downtown area and remodeled it to house my studio, a large classroom, a frame shop and a gallery...and I let my real estate license go. That freed up my days for art and my evenings and weekends for family time. Each year we analyzed which areas of my art business were profitable for the amount of time and money being spent, and reviewed and set new goals. I closed the gallery after four years to spend more time producing my own work, and eventually stopped doing commercial framing for the same reason. Next, I let go of the renderings and graphics work, and started scaling back on the house portraits (which were all deadline oriented and not as enjoyable as painting) so I could concentrate just on painting. 

The Promise - 10"x 20" - Oil

Also in 1996, the same year we opened the downtown studio, I began taking one painting workshop a year to help improve my painting skills. The first one was with Tom Browning in 1996. In 1999, my first plein air workshop was with Kevin Macpherson in Bermuda...AND I FOUND MY PASSION. I went on to study with Kevin several more times as well as Kenn Backhaus, John Cosby, Kim English and Scott Christensen. Other than traveling to workshops, I stayed pretty close to home until my children graduated from high school. I began entering juried shows and competitions, first locally, then regionally, and finally nationally. Being accepted into several, and winning a few awards, brought attention from some gallery owners and resulted in representation by three of the four galleries who currently represent me. Although I'd been a full time artist (which included painting too) for about ten years, my goal was to be a full time painter. I made that transition about seven years ago.These days, I try to paint during the day and do my marketing in the afternoons and evenings. Some weeks I'll set aside a couple of days just for marketing. I spend probably about as much time on the business side of art as I do actually producing art.

Faith Strength, and Perseverance - 24"x 24" - Oil

What is your role as president of the American Impressionist Society?   I'm still very much in the learning process since I've only been in this position since the end of January of this year. Communication and coordination best describe the biggest roles I have at this point, and working with the board, the founders and the officers. The first priority was to get to work on our 14th Annual National Juried Exhibition with our Show Chair, Suzanne Morris, who had already been working hard on the show for a few weeks. The show will be held at M Gallery in Charleston SC in October. I've worked on things like writing the show prospectus, arranging for the workshop in conjunction with the show, communicating with our web designer, recruiting volunteers to help with various aspects of the show, updating the AIS Facebook page as needed, and writing communication for the membership. Now that the online entry system for the national show is active, I'm fielding questions from members and helping however I can. I'm actively seeking ideas and suggestions for new opportunities and ways to serve our membership so we can continue to build on what is already a great organization. We already have one exciting thing in the works...but as nothing is finalized yet, you'll have to stay tuned for more information as it progresses.

Red Onion with Garlic - 5"x 7" - Oil

There are so many art groups today that differentiate themselves according to medium, subject matter, style, region of the country, or even gender...what are your feelings about that?   There really are a lot of them. I think that many of these groups do give artists a place where they feel their art fits in (style, medium, subject matter), as well as opportunities to meet other artists, network, paint together, take part in workshops and, often, group exhibitions. The main thing I've done is research what they offer and decide which of the groups fit my needs, my goals and my work. My style of painting is more impressionistic and I do a lot of plein air painting, so I've done well with AIS and plein air groups, such as Laguna Plein Air Painters and Plein Air Artists Colorado, as opposed to other groups who, for example, favor tighter realism. There are not a lot of artists in the area where I live, but through one fairly new group, the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society, I've been able to connect with many artists who live in about a three hour radius of me. Through MVIS I can participate in paint outs and exhibits closer to home that I otherwise would not have known about. I paint landscapes, but I also do portraits and figurative pieces, so I've been encouraged to join the Portrait Society of America, which I'm now seriously considering. In my experience, there are a lot of benefits to be gained from being a member of a group or groups.

Several contemporary art movements seem to have a pretty fuzzy definition as to what fits into their "movement"...What is your definition of Impressionism? Is it merely surface appearance, intention, a philosophy...or is there more to it?   Impressionism is more about spontaneously capturing a moment in time, an "impression" of the subject, by carefully observing and quickly rendering the effects of light on the subject, the colors, the atmosphere, movement. Impressionist paintings are representational with visible brushstrokes but without a great amount of detail (think plein air paintings as the most obvious example). Tightly rendered pieces with a lot of detail and smooth surfaces wouldn't fit into that definition. The American Impressionist Society, Inc. defines American Impressionism as "the concern for light on form, color, and brushstrokes. It allows equal latitude between these attributes, and recognizes not a single definitive element, but several factors - including high key light and hue, visual breakdown of detail, concern for contemporary life, and cultivation of direct and spontaneous approaches to a subject".

Just Chillin' in the Shade - 14"x 18" - Oil

What proportion of your work is done en plein air?   Probably about 70 to 75%.   

What qualifies as a plein air painting?   There are so many different opinions on this subject. To me, if the majority of the piece is painted outdoors, on locatoin, from direct observation, from life, it qualifies as plein air. Now "majority" can mean different things to different people. I think some touch ups in the studio are permissible for it to still be considered plein air. I have a couple of pieces I did in Zion National Park that need tweeking, but probably 85-90% of these pieces were completed on location. Just because I will finish them in the studio, the overwhelming majority of each was plein air. In my opinion, they will still qualify as plein air. I've had to paint from inside my car during rain and thunderstorms, and because I'm painting it from life, on location, from the actual observation of the scene in front of me, I consider that plein air as well.

Whaler's Cove Solitude - 11"x 14" - Oil

Cliff Shadows - 8"x 10" - Oil

What are the major problems encountered when translating a field study to a large studio painting?   The major problem is to translate that freshness and immediacy that you achieve in the field on to the canvas in the's very, very difficult. So much of that freshness is achieved because the time is limited in the field...the conditions are changing so rapidly that to capture the scene, you have to paint quickly and more intuitively. In the studio, there are no time constraints. The light isn't going away. The shadows aren't moving. There is much more time to think about what you're doing and that in itself takes away from that original feel of the field study. I no longer try to make the studio pieces be an enlarged 'copy' of the field studies. Instead I use the studies as color reference and inspiration. It frees me up to play with composition, color, mood, etc, in the larger paintings and is much more fun.

What advice do you have for a first-time plein air painter?   Keep it simple! Pack as lightly and as compact as you can when it comes to your gear. There are a lot of options out there for equipment. Be sure to have a hat with a good brim, sunscreen, bug spray   and plenty of water to drink. Avoid wearing bright colors when you paint outdoors as they will reflect onto your canvas and skew the color in your painting. Keep your canvas and palette out of the direct sunlight...even if it means having your subject behind you. Keep your compositions simple. Block in your shadows first and commit to them. Avoid 'chasing the light' (changing your painting as the light changes). Work quickly.

Hidden Treasures - 18"x 24" - Oil

What are your artistic goals for 2013?    To stay organized, to successfully serve and lead AIS and find new opportunities for our members, to produce another 20 paintings for the solo exhibition this fall with historical works by artist Abby Williams Hill, to have a successful National Juried Exhibition for Plein Air Artists Colorado (I serve on the PAAC board and am the show chair this year), be more consistent with my blog, to get out and paint on location locally as much as possible, and to create a new body of seascape paintings from the plein air studies and reference photos from a recent trip to California. I will be traveling and painting for a month this fall as well.

Thanks Debra for your time, for your active participation in so many art organizations...and for your boundless energy. From your resume, it's pretty're not done yet.

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletter, please click HERE

An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view art and bio, please click HERE