Tuesday, November 24, 2009


And again, it´s time to think about turkeys and pumpkins!
A year ago, during a non-painting-trip to Austria, I saw a field full of pumpkins, ready to be harvested. It looked very pretty and I took some photographs. A week later, quite a few pumpkins remained in the field when early snow surprised the place. Now the view was even more stunning. The sun had melted the snow away on the south side to reveal bright orange dots, randomly strewn over the field.
With winter approaching, it felt like the right time to paint the scene now!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Right Brain and Plein Air Painting

As studies have shown, when we give our right brain hemisphere a chance of being active, life is more enjoyable, we become more open minded, creative, at peace, and we experience ouselves as being less judgemental, less critical and less frustrated.
There is no doubt in my mind that plein air painting is a good way of activating one´s right brain. Being exposed to all the sensory stimulations, the beauty of the view, the atmospheric properties of each scene, like sun, wind, rain or fog, sometimes a fragrance, the soft noises of nature, all that gives the artist the opportunity to become part of the landscape, to really understand it´s essence.
In such a state of mind, painting what you see becomes spontaneous and exhilarating and, unlike with studio painting, the memories of each individual experience are going to stay with you.

Friday, November 13, 2009


At the end of the rainy season in central Mexico, wildflowers appear just about everywhere. This landscape is in Jalisco, near a quaint little town, called Tapalpa.
Moisture still hangs in the air after one of the last downpours in October, but the sun is coming through to illuminate patches of flowers and the vibrant green of the high grasses.
I have painted years ago in almost the same spot, but every season the flowers form other color patterns and, depending on the atmospheric condition, everything looks different every day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick Oil Sketches

A San Diego art group invited me
to participate in a session
of figure painting. I accepted, of course, as the human figure has always been one of my favorite topics.

The model posed with her dog and we had about an hour and a half to paint. The experience was a bit of a challenge, since the pooch sat down differently after every break, but I have often considered challenges to be an artist's best friend.
Try limiting your time, reduce the assortment of colors on your palette to the bare minimum, choose an unfamiliar size of canvas, or a model in movement and you will see that, in response to these "obstacles", your attention will be more focused and your concentration heightened.

As far as time constraints are concerned, I feel that a quick, sketchy color note can say more than a perfectly rendered painting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Beach Paintings

I love to watch - and of course to paint the waves rolling in at the beach. There is something reassuringly artistic about the fact that such a repetitive action can happen without it's outcome ever looking quite the same.
Not long ago I walked on a beach of the Pacific Ocean, at the Nayarit village of San Pancho in Mexico. A woman of the Huichol tribe, dressed in her brightly colored traditional outfit, was sitting on a pile of sand, looking at the sea. Maybe she was pondering the same thing while her daughter played with a dog nearby.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Color Harmony

After a long period of time of painting mostly landscapes, I felt itchy to do some figure again.
This nude was painted from a photo I had kept in my "2 paint folder" since a while. It's composition had attracted me from the very beginning and I am planning to do at least four of that theme and shape, 1 meter square, in the near future.
Olga started out with much stronger colors and a much more pure blue background, however, as the painting progressed, I decided to keep the color harmony much closer, in a middle key of chroma and mainly in cool tones with just enough warm reflected light to explain volume and to keep it interesting.
Given the relatively large area of background, I worked with very wide brushes from the hardware store, which gave the surface an unexpectedly beautiful texture.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The dangers of painting commercial themes

Painting certain themes can be dangerous to one's reputation.
Romantic scenes, cute children and countryside with rustic barns tend to be the popular choice of amateurs and Sunday Painters. And, of the less discerning buyers.
I normally avoid these topics, but sometimes I confront the challenge and see if I can make a good painting, despite the commercial overtones of a view.
This is a street scene in a romantic Mexican village, called Tapalpa, a popular getaway for the people of Guadalajara. In order to pull it off I stuck with muted colors and little detail, as well as a limited range of contrast and color intensity, the opposite of which are the deadly sins, frequently committed by beginners.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Color Relationships

In landscape painting, being able to express the atmospheric circumstances is desirable. Whether it is rainy, foggy, sunny or dull, all of it can be captured by closely observing the relationship between the colors of the scene before putting it down on canvas or paper.
All three dimensions of color - hue, value and croma, change with changing weather and even with the changing hours of the day.
Light illuminates objects differently according to the angle at which it touches down. That affects the hue or color we see.
Shadows will appear darker when the sun is stronger, less contrasting when the light is weak. The result is a constantly changing value relationship between the elements of the composition, one of the difficulties in plein air painting and the reason most plein air painters work small.
The intensity of the color depends on the waether too, particles in the air may create duller colors or a stunning, red sunset. After a rain colors look fresher, pollution or fog will put a veil around colors, and so on.
So, watch out if someone claims to be the "painter of light", it's no more than a catchy phrase. You can't paint light, just the effects it has on the natural world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Not all realism is alike.
Since so called realistic, as well as impressionistic painting requires abstraction from reality, no two dimensional work can ever be totally "real", not even photorealism. The painter has a choice as to how much he or she wants to (or can) adhere to the scene at hand.
For me, realism is not about slaving over detail, nor is it about sticking to the correct number of trees, waves or rocks in nature, but it is about conveying the overall impression I get from the scene: The movement, the light, the texture of things, the temperatur and if possible the joy of being part of it all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When is a painting finished?

Knowing when to stop is always an issue and sometimes a problem with painters. You get so involved and fascinated by the process of creating and refining the image, that it is hard to quit at the right time. Who hasn't ruined a painting by overworking it?
A good painting should be good at any stage, right after the block-in, half done and at the end.
Some paintings look better when they remain sketch-like, others when they have more detail. The personal preference of the painter and the viewer have, of course, a lot to do with the way of judging this, but my rule of thumb is the following:
A painting can be considered finished when no additional time spent working on it will improve it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mexican Pacific

I can't believe how long I have not posted anything. I have painted a lot though in that time, but have been slow photographing the new pieces. Here's one, it's called Playa Los Cocos.

The moment I saw the evening light on that scene, I knew I had to paint it. Colors and shadows were changing rapidly and I had to come back to finish the painting the following evening.

Capturing the angle and temperature of the light is extremely important for a successful landscape painting, all the shapes and colors depend on those two qualities. It makes me feel warm just looking at this scene of the Mexican Pacific coast - kind of nice, now that the temperatures have dropped!