plein air

Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational

I'm making frames and double-checking all of my tubes of paint, getting geared up to head out to Colorado next month for the Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational in Crested Butte, Colorado. I'll be painting on location in Colorado for about two weeks prior to the exhibition opening, which will be July 11-13. If you plan to be in the area please stop by and say hi!

I'll also be teaching a 1-day painting workshop on July 3 in conjunction with the Crested Butte Center for the Arts - check it out!

Master Workshops: Pasadena, Carmel and More

Why should an artist paint on location? How do I know what to paint? How do I create personal work that stands out?

I hope you'll join me for a few workshops that I'll be teaching this October in the Pasadena area, and we'll work on answering those questions. I'm especially looking forward to the Seeing at Night class, as we'll be focused on how to paint on location at night. I think this will be unique, as not many artists work on location to paint nocturnes - I'll show my approach that allows you to see REAL subtlety and color, not invented color.

The Water That Is Entirely Jewels 11" x 14", © Eric Merrell

The Water That Is Entirely Jewels 11" x 14", © Eric Merrell

LANDSCAPE PAINTING, October 4-6, 2013 (3 days)

SEEING AT NIGHT, October 12-13, 2013 (2 days)

I've also partnered with Carmel Visual Arts to do a 3-day workshop in Carmel:

PLEIN AIR ALONG THE SEA, November 9-11, 2013 (3 days) Register here

And if you've been following my California desert workshops, I've just scheduled the 3rd Annual workshops for both Anza-Borrego and Joshua Tree. There aren't many workshops taught in either place, and my experience painting on location in the desert will help to bring the classes to great locations and have a great experience.

3RD ANNUAL ANZA-BORREGO LANDSCAPE PAINTING WORKSHOP, March 14-16, 2014 (3 days)

3RD ANNUAL JOSHUA TREE LANDSCAPE PAINTING WORKSHOP, April 11-13, 2014 (3 days)

Painting Workshop in Joshua Tree

I held my second landscape painting workshop of the year in Joshua Tree during April, a beautiful time to be in the desert. Rain has been pretty sparse the last couple of years, so the annual wildflower bloom was pretty much nil in both the high and low deserts, but the cacti and Joshua Tree are pretty dependable for producing some showy flowers. I've been to the JT area numerous times, but there are always new places to explore and paint. Once you become familiar with different areas, you start to notice differences in elevation, plant life, and color.

We began the workshop at Hidden Valley. I chose a few different locations throughout the high-desert section of the park that would provide different landscapes to paint - open vistas full of Joshua trees, areas packed with huge monzogranite boulders, and mountaintop views of the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea. Even the color of the soil varies from place to place. After painting all morning, the class would take a 3-4 hour lunch break to relax, heading back to hotels or into town for a sandwich. Though we didn't encounter too much wind or heat, the intense light really tires out your eyes, so a siesta is crucial. When we returned in the afternoon after a good rest, everyone was ready to jump back into painting. I began each afternoon session with another demo, same as the morning, and we would paint until sunset. The town of Joshua Tree is not that far off the beaten track (much more established than the sleepy town of Borrego Springs), so we would gather in the evening to eat at one of the good restaurants in town, chat about art, check email, or do a little grocery shopping for a BBQ.

During Day 2 we painted in Lost Horse Valley in the morning and spent the afternoon at Quail Springs. I had initially planned for us to paint at Key's View, a spectacular lookout with views over the Coachella Valley including the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, and San Jacinto, but after we arrived the wind nearly blew us off the precipice. We enjoyed the view for a few minutes before we retreated back down to lower elevations to paint.

Our timing was perfect for nocturnes - the full moon was due to rise just a few days after the workshop ended, so during the workshop weekend a bright moon would already be in the night sky by the time it was dark. I had arrived in the desert a few days before the start of the workshop so I was able to paint a few nocturnes, but after painting all day during the class we just never had enough energy. There was quite an interest in trying to paint the moonlight though, so I'm going to be planning a nocturne-only workshop in the near future. Bookmark this page on my website for upcoming workshop news.

After a very productive workshop and informal critique, we headed out for dinner at Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, a must if you're going anywhere near Joshua Tree. They feature live music most nights and the food is awesome. The Santa Maria tri-tip BBQ is always hot, and the bowl of chili is amazing. A good evening to wrap up a solid couple of days painting in the Joshua Tree desert.

Painting Workshop in the Anza-Borrego Desert

I've just returned from a week of painting and teaching in California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This was the second 3-day workshop I've taught there, and was excited to return. I love this part of the desert, and this trip afforded me a little more time to explore and paint a few new locations. I also painted a few more nocturnes on location, something that has to be experienced. Even with less than a quarter moon, color temperatures and shapes are apparent, and there is also starlight to see by. NOTE: If you missed this trip, I'll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013.

Each day began with the importance of using your sketchbook - finding what your piece will be about, drawing thumbnail sketches and writing about them. I'm not interested in copying the landscape, but rather finding what it is that excites me about the location. I see painting as a way to dig a little deeper, to try a little harder.

I began with a demo in the morning and did another after lunch. I want everyone in the workshop to come away with a structure or process that they can use to interpret the landscape when they're working on their own. We talked about color, value, shapes, materials, umbrellas, and many other items of concern to artists working outdoors.

We started early each morning while it was still cool, painting until 1 pm or so, and then took a 2-hour lunch and siesta. After the rest, we'd get back out on location for the afternoon. For most folks who haven't painted on location before, one thing they don't realize is how physically and mentally demanding it is. This trip also sprouted a new tradition of starting the afternoon session with ice cream. At the end of a full day of painting, we'd gather for a good dinner at a local restaurant to relax and discuss painting.

I selected three different locations around the park that provided three different types of landscape, with a variety of underbrush, cacti, and change in elevation.

On the last day we created a little shade and held a critique to talk about the work everyone had produced. I'm always glad when I see such a sharp improvement over a short period of time, and there was a notable jump in seeing and painting color in each student's work over the three days. Though we were pretty tired when we departed at the end of the workshop, I think everyone seemed pleased with their efforts and had a sketchbook full of new ideas to put into practice in their own future work.

If you're interested in learning to see and paint color on location, I'll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013. Sign up here: http://ericmerrell.com/workshops.html

Eclectic L.A. - Four Perspectives

These paintings will be exhibited along with a few more of mine at American Legacy Fine Arts (ALFA) in Pasadena, CA, as part of the exhibit "Eclectic L.A. - Four Perspectives." One of the fascinating parts of Los Angeles is it's history, which it always seems to be trying to sweep under the rug as the city tries to reinvent itself daily or weekly with shinynewfacades and such. The truth is, L.A. has a great amount of history: colorful, storied, and widely varied to suit any interest, but Hollywood and it's parade of celebrities make all the noise and so receives all the attention. Swing by the Artists' Reception on November 10, 2012 from 4 – 6 P.M. and see another side of Los Angeles.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

In "Eclectic L.A." you'll also find work by these three fellers: Scott W. Prior, Tony Peters, and Alexander Orlov. The exhibition runs from November 10 - December 8, 2012.

Hollywood Reservoir, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Hollywood Reservoir, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Striking a Note: Sunset on the San Gabriel Mission Campanario , 12" x 12", © Eric Merrell

Striking a Note: Sunset on the San Gabriel Mission Campanario, 12" x 12", © Eric Merrell

Fresh paint from the Arroyo

Arroyo Seco Afternoon, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

These are a number of new pieces I've done recently - since moving closer to the Arroyo Seco, I've been painting there almost entirely. And since I'm temporarily without a studio, everything is done on location. It's a fantastic place to paint, and as the birthplace of plein air painting on the west coast and California Impressionism, offers some pretty special light. Jean Mannheim, Franz Bischoff, Elmer and Marion Wachtel and William Lees Judson are just a few of the artists who lived on or near the Arroyo. The high western edge of the Arroyo casts a shadow a little earlier than sunset and creates some unique painting opportunities - below are some examples of this: "The Arc of Evening" shows the eastern rim of the Arroyo and "In the Gloaming" looks up at the western edge.

The Arc of Evening, Arroyo Seco, 9" x 12", Oil on canvas panel, © Eric Merrell

Summer Heat in the Arroyo, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

San Rafael Bridge from the Arroyo, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Hillside Oaks and Shadows, Arroyo Seco, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

These three paintings, "Hillside Oaks and Shadows," "In the Gloaming" and "Down to Earth Sinks the Sun" have been great challenges. I spent at least three consecutive days working on each, developing the color and subtleties.

In the Gloaming - Arroyo Seco, 12" x 9", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Down to Earth Sinks the Sun - The Arroyo Seco, 9" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

The New Year @ LAAFA

The winter semester at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art in Van Nuys, California starts next month, and the Landscape Painting Class will be in full swing again beginning Saturday, January 16th, 2010. The class runs for eight consecutive Saturdays, and class size is kept small so students will receive plenty of individual instruction. LAAFA is offering an Early Bird Special if you sign up before January 4, 2010.

In these classes you will learn how to paint what you see, not what you think you see. Learn how to interpret in terms of paint, using light and color to create form. Color relationships, design/composition, simplifying, and the benefits of painting on location will be discussed, as well as how to design and build a painting that carries an emotional impact. Make an investment in your art – gain confidence and knowledge that will inspire all areas of your creativity.

At the Edge (The San Gabriels), 16" x 16", Oil on panel, Private Collection, © Eric Merrell

As artists, we need to be able to interpret what we see and understand what we paint. Ample time is given to demos by the instructor as well as individual painting time. All experience levels are welcome. Limited space is available – call 818/708-9232 or visit www.laafa.org to register your space today!

For more information, please visit www.ericmerrell.com and click on Workshops.

Paintings from Joshua Tree

See more paintings and photos from the trip on Facebook. Roaring_Rock_s

The Roar of Time, 14" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Joshua_Nocturne_s

Joshua Nocturne, 10" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

Near_Desert_Hot_Springs_s

Near Desert Hot Springs, Afternoon, 10" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Fallen_s

Fallen Joshua Tree, 10" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

After_the_Storms_s

After the Storms, 14" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Keys_View_s

Out Over the Desert, 10" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

After_the_Fires_s

Fire Victims, 11" x 14", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

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Hidden Valley, 10" x 8", Oil on canvasboard, © Eric Merrell

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Lack of Shade, Midday, 10" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Ending on a High Note in the Desert

Less_Traveled_s The Road Less Traveled, Joshua Tree, 14" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Eric_DHS-s

As the end of the residency approaches, I'm trying to get in everything I wanted to work on. July was windy and then really hot, but August has been beautiful. Mostly in the 90's during the day and in the 70's at night. Just awesome. I wonder if this bodes badly for September? I've worked on broadening my approaches, trying some new things, exploring new places. I think I have some 70-odd paintings. (I haven't been able to shoot very many of them yet, but will at some point for a future post.)

Some of the best memories: out looking for a spot to paint the full moonlight, I stopped along the road in Lost Horse Valley. As I stood there in the moonlight, I started to notice a shape or two flitting about in the half-darkness: bats. Then I noticed a few more. After my eyes adjusted, although only a handful were ever visible at any given moment, you could sense the hundreds of bats flying all around you, sometimes only a foot away. I don't know if something with the moon brought out more bugs, or that they naturally congregate there, or something else. But it was so quiet, the only sound was of the approaching bats' clicking, echolocating, like the sounds of a few marbles bouncing quickly onto a tile floor.

My easel and umbrellas were quite battered by the winds, and knocked over a few times. One evening, though, in the lower Colorado desert, I set up to work about 20 feet to the side of a large wash. After painting a bit, I heard a noise like a car approaching in the distance. As it grew closer, the sound distinctly became the rushing wind, barreling down the mountains - straight through the wash. From my vantage, I could see the smoketrees and creosote in the wash straining under the onslaught; but the only thing that reached me was a nice cool breeze. As this tended to happen every so often, I grew accustomed to it and congratulated myself for being clever enough to avoid painting in the wash, my original intention. As I heard another gust approaching, I must have reached over to grab a tube of paint, or brush, or something - I don't recall what - but as soon as the wind hit the wash this time, it made a quick turn and blasted into the easel from the one weak spot. Though it was tied down, the easel was still thrown a few feet, and the palette skidded face-down across the sand, leaving streaks of yellow and orange on the desert floor. I decided to call it a day, and laughed while I cleaned everything up. Not much of the paint was salvageable.

Palette_s

Southern_Desert_Horned_Lizard_s

I can't wait to return home now and sort through everything from the residency. Already have many ideas from the sketches and notes.

Tony Peters, San Diego

TP-TP_s I drove down to San Diego recently to scope out some new locations and paint with fellow artist Tony Peters. Tony and I went to Art Center together awhile back, and have been in a couple of exhibitions together, so it was great to catch up. We talked quite a bit - the journey of art, ideas and inspiration, artistic philosophies, etc. - when your work demands that you spend most of your time working solitarily, it's great to have a meeting of the minds (and some drinks). Tony has a lot of great ideas that he puts into his work, and has been developing a very personal approach. He's also a collecting nut when it comes to art books. If you don't know Tony or his work, check out his blog when you have a chance, as there are a lot of good thoughts to peruse.

Peters_s

Looking Outward, 32″ x 48″, Oil on canvas, © Tony Peters

We sketched over at Torrey Pines State Park most of the time and stopped by the harbor too; I did a sketch around sunset overlooking Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve before I made my way back home.

Artist Residency in the High Desert

LunaMesa_s I recently learned that I've been selected for the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency program, which will take place in July and August. We (I believe there are a few other artists, but not sure how many) are provided with a place to stay out in the rugged desert landscape, surrounded by cholla and jackrabbits, close by the National Park.

Although this time of year is super hot, I love the area and paint there often (and the houses have swamp coolers); this will allow me to really spend some time with the landscape and explore other places too. I hope to get back down to the Salton Sea again, and also to paint some desert moonrises. A moonrise over the Salton Sea would be spectacular! I'm thinking I'll need to organize my days to avoid the heat: up super early to work, hide out under some cacti during midday, and get back to painting when the sun drops a little lower in the sky. On the checklist: plenty of water and sunscreen, and of course umbrellas. The paintings below are from the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree National Park.

NearAndFarJoshuaTree_s

Near and Far, Joshua Tree National Park, 24" x 20", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Renewed Confidence_s

Desert Sunset, Joshua Tree National Park, 16" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell, Private Collection

American Art Collector; Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

aac1_s The February issue of American Art Collector has a great story of the Maine trip and upcoming exhibitions, including lots of images. It should be out on newsstands soon if it isn't already. And still plenty of time to book your tickets to Boston!

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Christina's World, 1948, © Andrew Wyeth, tempera on panel, 32" x  48", Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Relatedly, but on a much sadder note, I've just learned that Andrew Wyeth, one of the greatest American artists, just passed away last night or early this morning at the age of 91. You can read about him and his life here and here. The small town our group of artists stayed at up in Maine is where Andrew lived. Paul Schulenburg, one of the guys on the trip with paintings in the upcoming exhibitions (including a painting of Andrew's studio) put it nicely: "Although we didn't get to meet him on our visit, it was nice to know he was around."

"Paintapalooza" at Cape Cod Museum of Art, Addison Art Gallery

the-proximity-of-a-town-monhegan_s The Proximity of a Town, Monhegan, 12 1/2" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Happy New Year to everyone; a new year filled with Art, Music, Food, Family, and Gingerbread, all the good things in life and not necessarily in that order. We really are living in the best period of history, with lots to be thankful for. The gathering of artists at Port Clyde, Maine in September 2008 (see my previous posts about the trip here and here) will be the focus of two concurrent exhibitions on Cape Cod early this new year. The first, opening at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, will feature a painting from each of the artists and will run from January 17 – March 22, 2009 at the museum. A reception will be held on the evening of February 13.

anchored-in-good-foundations-port-clyde_s

Anchored in Good Foundations, Port Clyde, 20" x 24", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell; Exhibited at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA.

The second part will be at Addison Art Gallery, with the opening reception on Saturday, February 14 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the gallery (President’s Day Weekend) and continuing through March 15, 2009. This exhibition will feature many more works from the twelve artists on the Maine trip. See the gallery’s page for the exhibition here, and click on the photos of the artists to see more of their artwork in the exhibition. Book your travel plans now, as there will be a lot of great art to see! Hope to see you there.

You can see a slideshow of the six paintings I will be sending for the exhibitions, online here.

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Eric Merrell and Glenn Dean, Monhegan Island, Maine, September 2008.

The California Art Club's 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition

aspirations-of-man Aspirations of Man, 22" x 28", Oil on canvas, © Eric Merrell

You've probably noticed by now that I exhibit with and write quite a bit about the California Art Club. I first encountered the group sometime in spring 2000 when I took a term off from Art Center College of Design where I was enrolled (and later graduated in 2001). Luckily for me, there was a landscape class at ACCD at the time I was there, and I had a great time painting at all sorts of locations with Mike Hernandez (unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge and from a couple of first-hand accounts, there are no landscape classes there currently). I must have taken this class a couple of times as an independent study just to allow me time to work outdoors. Anyhow, I began to get involved and exhibit with the CAC before I left school and soon realized that many of my goals were paralleled by theirs. So, almost nine years later, I'm excited to announce that I've been elected to Artist Member of the California Art Club! Their idea of juried membership levels are loosely based on the National Academy of Design in New York City (fun fact - William Wendt (1865-1946), the 2nd and 4th President of the CAC, was elected as an Associate member of the National Academy [ANA] in 1912, the only member in Los Angeles at the time, but he never reached Full Academician [NA]). I've always thought that one of the best aspects of groups like these is the camaraderie one encounters, the myriad artists, gallery and museum directors, framers, historians, collectors, patrons, art lovers, etc.; it's an incredible network of people.

Along these lines, I've just learned that my painting Aspirations of Man has been accepted into the California Art Club's 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition, to be held at the Pasadena Museum of Art April 26-May 17, 2009. (See a history of the Gold Medal Exhibitions.) This piece is from a solo painting trip I took to France from September through December 2002, showing the 14th c. Pont Valentré at Cahors. It was really cold by the time I got to the city (I spent Thanksgiving there, which is somewhat depressing without friends and family, with only a Sandwich Americàin and a bottle of wine instead of a turkey...the "sandwich" consisted of a hamburger and two eggs stuffed inside a pita, topped off and overflowing with french fries(!)). I had bought myself a jacket by this point, since the warmest layer I had brought with me from home was a sweatshirt. Three months is just about the right amount of time to spend working alone, you really get to know yourself and only start to get homesick towards the very end. It was an awesome trip, and I ended up coming home with 60-70 sketches.

I keyed the painting really cold to strive for that crisp air and chilly wind. The type of weather that lets you know snow is coming.

The Cobb Estate

Afternoon in the Foothills, 11" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

These were painted at the Cobb Estate in Altadena this past spring. A beautiful area right at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, on clear days you can see all the way out to the Pacific. Hardly anything besides the original foundation of the 1915 mansion remains amidst great groves of eucalypti and oaks. The driveway is flanked by rows of old pines and cypress, and now serves to lead hikers to trailheads.

No More in a Moment, 12" x 12", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

These were both painted on location. I knew the moon was due to rise, but I couldn't tell exactly where it would appear over the mountains - so I spent some time pacing the trail, trying to determine where best to paint from. When it finally came into view, shadows were advancing quickly, and I had only 30 minutes or less to paint.

Landscape Painting @ LAAFA

The Fall Semester at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art in Van Nuys, California is beginning next week, and the Landscape Painting Class will be in full swing again beginning Saturday, October 25th. It runs for eight consecutive Saturdays (excluding the Thanksgiving holiday) through December 20th. The class size is kept small, so students will receive plenty of individual instruction. 

In these classes you will learn how to paint what you see, not what you think you see. Learn how to interpret nature in terms of paint, using light and color to create form. Color relationships, design/composition, simplifying, and the benefits of painting on location will be discussed, as well as how to design and build a painting that carries an emotional impact. Make an investment in your art - gain confidence and knowledge that will inspire all areas of your creativity.

Focusing Intensity, 18" x 20", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

As artists, we need to be able to interpret what we see and understand what we paint. Ample time is given to demos by the instructor as well as individual painting time. All experience levels are welcome. Limited space is available - call 818/708-9232 or visit www.laafa.org to register your space today!

For more information, please visit www.ericmerrell.com and click on Workshops.

"Port Clyde 13" in Cape Cod

Monhegan Harbor, 8" x 8", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

Thanks to the tireless efforts of some of our east coast compatriots, plans are coming together for an exhibition of work from the recent trip to be held at The Cape Cod Museum of Art in January 2009, followed by an exhibition at nearby Addison Art Gallery in February. Check out the nice video clip of the trip put together by Jeremy Lipking. For more about the trip from some of the other artists, check out Frank Gardner's blog and Colin Page's journal. Make your travel plans to Cape Cod now, because the artists are hard at work creating some great art to see in January!

Jeremy Lipking and Eric Merrell painting at Marshall Point, Maine.

Port Clyde Neighborhood, Maine, 8" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

Logan Hagege, Glenn Dean and Eric Merrell at the Monhegan House.

Outdoor Still Life

Silver in Shade, 12" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Here are a couple of recent still life paintings done outdoors working in different qualities of light; overcast, full sun, shade. If you can find great color, you can paint in any light, on any type of day. Light doesn't become flat or dull - the quality of it is always changing throughout the day, but it is never uninteresting.  

 

Red Bowl and Oranges, 12" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

  

Sunflowers, 16" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Blues in Sunlight, 12" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell