Magazine articles

Seeing Color in the Desert - International Artist Magazine

My article Seeing Color in the Desert (originally posted on CaliforniaDesertArt.com) has been reprinted in the August/September 2014 issue of International Artist magazine. It originally started with notes from my sketchbook about what I was observing while out painting, and what to do about certain problems that color posed or provided a solution to.

The Artist As Critic: Art That Inspires

An Interview with Eric Merrell Discussing His Salton Sea Haze and Gustav Klimt's (1862-1918) Attersee, 1909 by Stephanie Campbell (Summer 2013 issue, CAC Newsletter).

Salton Sea Haze, 30" x 30", © Eric Merrell

Salton Sea Haze, 30" x 30", © Eric Merrell

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918),  Attersee , 1901, Oil on canvas, 31.57" x 31.57" Leopold Museum, Vienna

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Attersee, 1901, Oil on canvas, 31.57" x 31.57" Leopold Museum, Vienna

Eric Merrell was recently interviewed by Stephanie Campbell for the Artist As Critic series featured in the California Art Club Newsletter (previously featured artists include John Asaro, Amy Sidrane, and Tony Peters, among others). Here is the article:

STEPHANIE CAMPBELL: When did you first learn of Gustav Klimt, and how did he and his work impact you?

ERIC MERRELL: It was in my early college years, while I was at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia that I first learned about Gustav Klimt. I was initially introduced to his figurative work, which is what he is best known for, but a few years later I cam across a book that was specifically dedicated to Klimt's landscapes. Immediately, I was intrigued by his use of color and shapes, and found his landscape compositions innovative and fresh.

SC: Can you tell us a bit about Klimt's era?

EM: Klimt was classically and conservatively trained at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts where he focused on architectural painting. His career began as part of an intimate group of painters with his brother, Ernst, known as the "Company of Artists." The group provided him with important public projects including interior ceiling murals in large buidings on the historic Ringstrasse in Vienna. One of his most successful series was the "Allegories and Emblems." Some years later he became one of the founding members of the Vienna Secession movement. The secessionists were a group of many different kinds of artists who were trying to find a bigger and newer voice, but not necessarily with the purpose to get rid of the tradition. They were just trying to find their own place in the art world.

SC: How do you classify yourself as an artist?

EM: That's hard to say. I feel an affinity with the California Impressionists and also with some of the Romantics, but I don't know if it's completely accurate to place myself in those categories. The title "Romance of the West" that American Legacy Fine Arts gave to my summer 2011 exhibition was very apt. Romance in the classic sense is missing from the contemporary art world, and I think that is a big part of what my work is about. The ideal American West, pulling oneself up by your bootstraps and making something out of an opportunity, is something that I feel is lacking today.

SC: What ultimate effect would you like to have on society as an artist?

EM: I want to show that there is still something new that can be said with painting. I want to paint subjects they may have otherwise not thought of as being paintable. I find myself avoiding "traditional" perspectives of landscapes and digging a little deeper. For example, some of my latest interests have been painting right at dusk and during the middle of the day, periods which many artists refer to as "flat light" as there are no shadows to use for contrast. Of course, the world doesn't change from 3-dimensional in the morning to 2-dimensional at noon and back again in the afternoon - these situations are all paintable, they just need to be approached differently. I have also found that nocturnes provide a lot of room to explore artistically. In these types of situations I find I can solve some of these problems by playing with abstractions, shapes, and color. By doing so, I hope to show people how to see things from a different perspective. I truly enjoy taking a very traditional scene and making it my own, as Klimt did.

SC: How would you compare your style to that of Klimt's?

EM: Our color sensibilities are different, as is with every artist, because color becomes a very personal thing. Our training is also very different; he was trained under the much more classic academy and atelier style, whereas my education was (initially) based more on commercial illustration. Despite these differences I feel a kinship with Klimt. I can relate to the way that he saw the world. He didn't just do landscape for landscape's sake, he was doing something more unique with it.

SC: How do you think your painting Salton Sea Haze and Klimt's Attersee are similar and how are they different?

EM: Though our color sensibilities are different, our palettes are similar in this case where our use of colors are in the same family, such as the silvery violets and the cooler sea greens. I wasn't familiar with Klimt's painting, Attersee, until after my wife Ramona, went to Austria and saw it in the Leopold Museum. She emailed me a picture of it, because she thought the similarity (including the square format) was uncanny to my Salton Sea Haze. Despite how similar the tones are, the paintings are climatically different: Attersee depicts the cool damp European climate while Salton Sea Haze shows the dry heat of the southern California desert.

SC: What do you find particularly interesting about the Salton Sea, and what do you think Klimt saw in Lake Attersee?

EM: I've become more interested in temperature and color contrasts, beyond value contrasts, and because the desert lends itself to those qualities I often paint there. In particular though the grand scale of the Salton Sea and the fact that not a lot of artists have explored it as an appealing subject matter, gives it a pioneer aspect. It also has a bad stigma to it (drug trafficking, dead fish, and abandoned trailer parks) but I want to show the beauty that is there that people don't think about. The feminine aspect of depicting a body of water is what first comes to mind with Klimt as inspiration for Attersee, as his work often featured women. There is also the challenge of painting a body of water, Unfortunately most of what we are taught about Klimt relates to his figures, historically his landscapes and the inspiration behind them have received little attention.

SC: How would you compare Klimt's landscapes to his figurative work?

EM: They all have a mosaic quality. A 2006 LACMA exhibit of Klimt's work had a few figures and a few landscapes. The exhibition allowed people to see that although the subject matter is different in the paintings, there is a lot of crossover between the two areas. His landscapes may have been more of a breath of fresh air to him, because most of his figures were commissioned works, which meant dealing with individuals and committees, while his landscapes would have been painted by personal choice.

SC: What in particular attracts you to Klimt's Attersee?

EM: There is something about this painting that always seems to retain a certain freshness; it's one of those paintings that you can keep looking at and it never gets old. It has a contemplative quality that can put you into a meditative state.

SC: Do you think that you and Klimt were trying to achieve the same visual effect?

EM: I feel like he was honoring traditions, while still using his own voice and creating something different. I hope that is something I am also achieving. I'm in this funny position contemporarily where I feel as though I'm more modern than a traditionalist, but I'm too traditional for the modernists. Somehow, I like that.

SC: How directly do you think Klimt's style has influenced you?

EM: I don't think his style has influenced me so much, but it's rather the way he sees things in simple shapes and design. Our textures and brushwork are different, but the way he views the world and translates that onto his canvas has had a big impact on the way I see the world.

SC: How do you feel Klimt has influenced other contemporary artists?

EM: Klimt was so unique in his own way that it is hard for people to be directly influenced by his work without having their work inadvertently look like his. Indirectly, I think that he has influenced contemporary artists such as myself in a way that inspires us to follow our own voice.

Interview with Michael Corbin (ArtBookGuy)

I was recently interviewed by Michael Corbin, who runs the website artbookguy.com. I really like what he's doing there - interviewing artists in a unique format via email that is rather like a conversation, and working hard to make art more central to our everyday lives. Here is the start of the interview:

Shadows Between the Sky, 16" x 20", © Eric Merrell. This painting was conceived solely from thumbnail sketches, written color notes, and observations from the landscape.

Shadows Between the Sky, 16" x 20", © Eric Merrell. This painting was conceived solely from thumbnail sketches, written color notes, and observations from the landscape.

Eric Merrell is one of the most gifted and insightful painters, I’ve ever interviewed www.ericmerrell.com. His observations are right on target and he’s a truly informed artist who has lots to say that may be of use to other living artists. What does he say? Check out our cool chat …

MICHAEL: Hey Eric, Your work is cool. First off, what is it about plein air painting that appeals to you?

ERIC: Hi Michael, I grew up camping with my family, so have always had a great love for the outdoors. I like to visit places and immerse myself in them – I look around a lot and compose mentally while exploring. Often when I’m on a painting trip, I’ll read about the location in the evenings after painting – history, geology, legends. Being on location gives me the opportunity to know the place better and to discover why I’m going to paint. Painting on location continually presents challenges that keep me engaged.

MICHAEL: There's a lot of landscape out there. How do you determine what you'll try to capture on canvas? What's your process?

ERIC: My process evolves into a new direction or approach every so often...

Continue reading the interview here.

The New Naturalists: Borrego Landscape Painters

by Ann Japenga [CaliforniaDesertArt.com], published in the The Sand Paper, Fall 2012 issue of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association [ABDNHA]

"Borrego Desert, Wind Canyon Cliffs," © Victor Schiro

"Borrego Desert, Wind Canyon Cliffs," © Victor Schiro

If you meet a woman in Surprise Canyon who can name 40 different wildflowers, or a man in rapture over the strata of the Wind Canyon cliffs, you might mistake them for scientists. But in fact these are contemporary landscape artists Kirsten Anderson and Victor Schiro.

Any wash or slot around Borrego these days is likely to harbor an artist. They're part of the statewide revival of landscape painting, spurred in part by the renewed vigor of the prestigious 100-year-old California Art Club.

The current crop of Borrego painters follows in the distinguished steps of early landscape masters who painted here - Maurice Braun, Charles Reiffel, Marjorie Reed, and Edith Purer, also California's first woman ecologist.

With the explosion of outdoor painting and the opening of a major new gallery by the Borrego Art Institute this winter, Borrego seems destined to be an arts destination. Local collector Jim Anderson says Borrego has everything it needs - isolation, iconic scenery, artists, - to draw art fans. "We should definitely promote it as an artist's retreat, like Bisbee (the eclectic mining town in Arizona)," he says.

For painters, the desert is one of the "California classic" essentials to be mastered, along with the Sierras and the coast. Like traditional naturalists, landscape painters bring intense observation to their study of the desert. As Victor Schiro says: "I do this for no other reason than to record the natural world."

For ABDNHA members, getting to know the local artists and their styles can be as rewarding as getting to know the names of 40 wildflowers. For every "known" painter there are ten discoveries waiting to be made. Due to space limitations, only a few of the best contemporary painters are profiled here.

"Desert Moonlight with Jupiter Setting," 24" x 26", © Eric Merrell

"Desert Moonlight with Jupiter Setting," 24" x 26", © Eric Merrell

How do you decide who is good? That's the fun part, as there are few experts. You have as much chance as anyone of finding the next Maurice Braun. Shannon O'Dunn, owner of O'Dunn Fine Art in La Mesa, says what you should look for is "a soul connection, a reverence."

CAROL LINDEMULDER [website]

Lindemulder moved to Borrego Springs in 2007 after the Fallbrook fire destroyed her home and four years of accumulated artwork. Following the fire, she faced hip surgery, nearly died from anesthesia and was in serious need of refuge. "I think I needed a womb," she said.

So she and her dog moved to Borrego Springs. Her paintings contain human traces such as trailers, roads, housing tracts, and agricultural fields. She is especially taken with the trailer communities of Ocotillo Wells. Still, she says, " I consider myself basically a landscape painter - we all live in the landscape."

It was a good day for the Borrego arts community when Lindemulder moved to town, as the painter supports her fellow artists and brings a sophisticated presence to the local scene. She would be right at home at any urban art opening, yet she's a true desert rat who even appreciates the annoying desert wind. As she wrote in a poem, she loves the sound of "sticks and rattles and bones."

VICTOR SCHIRO [website]

Schiro discovered the Mojave Desert as a toddler, romping across 120 acres his uncle owned. He studied art at California Institute of the Arts and exhibited his work widely as a modern painter. Later, while working as a producer and writer in the movie industry in Los Angeles, he developed a love for California history and the early exploration artists who toted sketchpads to uncharted places. When he took up traditional landscape painting, he says he did it "for the same reason those guys did it." Experiencing a place is paramount for him; painting it is secondary.

The Camarillo-based artist has been expeditioning in Borrego in recent years in his 4-wheel Land Cruiser, with his beagle and Jack Russell as crew. He plans to spend the next few years concentrating on the region - the rocks, crystals, geology, and landscape. When he paints the wind cliffs, you can feel the grit. He once wrote about his paintings: "If I buried a doubloon there, I'd want you to be able to find it."

GEOFFREY STONE [website]

Stone belongs to an exclusive subset - artists who actually grew up in Borrego Springs. "The whole park was my playground," he says. The Brawley-born artist moved to town at age four. His late mother, Barbara, and father Herb were both schoolteachers. Geoffrey's grandmother, Catherine Stone, was a watercolor painter who took him on painting trips. "I would splash the paint around," he says. She was always looking at the "long vistas" and instilled the same habit in him. (Catherine and her husband, Joe, were active in ABDNHA; Joe edited The Sand Paper for years).

Geoffrey later worked as a State Park aide and also studied animation and illustration at San Jose State University, where he earned an MFA. Defying recent trends, he is not a big fan of painting outside. He jokes that "plein air" is French for: "Painting outside while wearing a big hat and ignoring tourists who want to come up to you while you're desperately trying to determine the correct shade of blue..."

Look for Geoffrey Stone to take desert art in unexpected directions as he is now working on a study of Borrego life and residents, inspired by his background in illustration and animation.

KIRSTEN ANDERSON [website]

Anderson has a demanding job as a radiation therapist, competing in outrigger canoe races in her spare time. She's lived in Alaska and rafted all over Utah. Formerly married to a desert tortoise researcher, she has read widely in Chemehuevi Indian and desert history. "I am a renaissance person who likes to paint," she says.

Based in Long Beach, Anderson has attended the Borrego Plein Air Invitational three times. Her subjects include iconic landscape features such as Palm Canyon and Indian Head - but also airstream trailers and roadside motels. Like most of the artists featured here, she's dedicated to conserving the lands she paints. "Contemporary plein air painting is about recording the landscape before it's built on or torn down," she says.

Watch this artist in the future for her brainy, ceaselessly reaching paintings incorporating her wide interests in history, mythology, environment, science, and nature.

BARBARA NICKERSON [website]

Director of the Borrego Art Institute, Nickerson lives part-time in Borrego Springs. In the hot months she's found with husband Jul aboard their yacht, Sounder, in the Pacific Northwest. Working in Sumi and watercolor, Nickerson has painted classic Borrego subjects such as Font's Point, the mudhill formation called the Elephant's Knees, and the resident comedic ravens. She brings texture, contemplation, and a primeval feeling to any subject she tackles.

Nickerson, who has a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, is teaching a class in Gravity Painting this season. If you're a budding desert artist, sign up and learn to work with paint that moves in a landscape - some would say - that moves as well.

MARK KERCKHOFF [website]

Kerckhoff and the next artist profiled, Eric Merrell, are active members of the influential California Art Club. Both teachers as well as painters, they are introducing new landscape artists to Borrego and influencing others with their distinctive styles.

A sixth generation Californian based in San Juan Capistrano, Kerckhoff is known for his elegant abstract realist landscapes. He likes to make a solo camp along the Borrego-Salton Seaway and paint "the best arroyos in the low desert for color and design." A true naturalist-artist he can tell where he is by the color of the sand (a pink cast means he's near the Arizona border). Kerckhoff likes working in the Arroyo Salado, Truckhaven Rocks and Palo Verde washes, and a place he christened "Blistered Lip Arroyo" in honor of his own parched lips.

ERIC MERRELL [website]

Merrell is the historian for the California Art Club and is increasingly well-known around the state as an envoy for California art. A desert aficionado, he has completed an artist's residency in Joshua Tree, and participated in an exhibit of Salton Sea painters, "Valley of the Ancient Lake." He came to Borrego Springs for the first time recently as a judge for the Plein Air Invitational sponsored by the Borrego Art Institute. It was an immersion experience as the young artist was stuck in the sand at Coachwhip Canyon, impaled by a cholla on the Earth Narrows Trail, and soaked up Borrego ghost stories about a driverless stagecoach each evening.

He aims to return soon to visit the Pumpkin Patch and the Ocotillo Wells region. Until then, Merrell and the other highly regarded artists featured here are Borrego's best ambassadors - exporting images of this lesser-known desert region to L.A. art circles and the world.

New articles

I'm excited to be featured in two new articles which have come out recently -

“Eric Merrell – Tranquil Landscapes in the Desert,” by Molly Siple Plein Air Painting Magazine, Fall 2011 (Click the images for larger readable versions)

plus “Painting the Desert with Eric Merrell,” by Steve Doherty OutdoorPainter.com, August 6, 2011

The New Sublime

An article about the current exhibit at the Salton Sea History Museum will be coming out in the new June issue of Palm Springs Life, written by Ann Japenga and titled "The New Sublime: Artists Working at the Salton Sea Capture the Beauty and Decay with a Fresh Perspective." Click on the images above to read the article.

Cape Cod

Mackerel Dip Net, 12" x 12", Oil on linen, ©Logan Maxwell Hagege

I'm heading out to paint in Provincetown, at the end of Cape Cod, MA, which was home for many years to artists Charles Hawthorne and Henry Hensche, among others. Looking forward to the trip - this will be the third annual assembly of a group of artists from the east and west coasts (and Mexico as well). The first year we all descended on Port Clyde, Maine; last year's target (which I unfortunately missed) was San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I know most of the artists, although there will be some new faces joining us this time, so I'll have to post a complete list of everyone later.

Above is one of Logan Hagege's great pieces of the Northeast coast.

Article on CaliforniaDesertArt.com

Spaceship Landing (The Salton Sea), 30" x 30", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

If you're in New York, my exhibit opens today at The Forbes Galleries with an opening reception next Tuesday, July 20 from 6-8 p.m.

Article below by Ann Japenga of californiadesertart.com:

"Most Manhattan gallery-goers don’t know the names Jimmy Swinnerton or John Hilton; they can’t tell a smoketree from a cholla. While desert art is expanding its geographic appeal, it hasn’t reached the east coast yet. That transcontinental link may finally be forged, though, with Eric Merrell’s show “No Man is an Island”, opening July 14th at the Forbes Gallery in the lobby of Forbes Magazine headquarters in New York City. The exhibit is a collection of Merrell’s paintings made during an artist’s residency at Joshua Tree National Park in 2009."

"Will east coast viewers take to the yuccas..." [Read more]

An American Paradox

An American Paradox (found here)

A Country That Loves Art, Not Artists In a survey of attitudes toward artists in the U.S. a vast majority of Americans, 96%, said they were greatly inspired by various kinds of art and highly value art in their lives and communities. But the data suggests a strange paradox.

While Americans value art, the end product, they do not value what artists do. Only 27% of respondents believe that artists contribute "a lot" to the good of society.

Further interview data from the study reflects a strong sentiment in the cultural community that society does not value art making as legitimate work worthy of compensation. Many perceive the making of art as a frivolous or recreational pursuit.

USA hopes to help close the gap between the love of art and the ambivalence toward artists in society.

Other insights further illuminate the depth of the paradox: • A majority of parents think that teaching the arts is as important as reading, math, science, history, and geography. • 95% believe that the arts are important in preparing children for the future. • In the face of a changing global economy, economists increasingly emphasize that the United States will have to rely on innovation, ingenuity, creativity, and analysis for its competitive edge—the very skills that can be enhanced by engagement with the arts.

As author Daniel Pink posits in his book A Whole New Mind—Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, we have moved beyond the Information Age and into the Conceptual Age. "In short, we've progressed from a society of farmers to a society of knowledge workers. And now to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers. . . . We've moved from an economy based on people's backs to an economy built on people's left brains to what is emerging today: an economy and society built more and more on people's right brains. . . . aptitudes so often disdained and dismissed—artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursuing the transcendent—will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles. It's a dizzying—but ultimately inspiring—change."

Statistics referenced above provided by Urban Institute, Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists (2003), and Rand Research in the Arts, Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate about the Benefits of the Arts (2004)

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Twin Mystery To many people artists seem / undisciplined and lawless. / Such laziness, with such great gifts, / seems little short of crime. / One mystery is how they make / the things they make so flawless; / another, what they're doing with / their energy and time.

-Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

Glenna Hartmann Invitational

Glenna Hartmann, pastel

Glenna Hartmann Invitational Fine Art Exhibition February 19-21, 2010 Artists Reception: February 19, 6:00-9:00 p.m. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Glenna Hartmann (1948-2008) was a well-known artist, loved by everyone who knew her. This exhibit of 100 new works by 60 California artists has been organized in her honor. A bio on Glenna from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History's website:

An accomplished plein air pastelist, Glenna Hartmann began her lifelong passion for nature and painting at an early age. Growing up in New Jersey, she found great pleasure in exploring the hundred acres of protected woodlands bordering her family's home. She received formal art training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where she was guided and inspired by her mentors there: Arthur De Costa, Will Barnet, Dan Miller and Marshall Glazier. The Academy awarded her a Schiedt Traveling Scholarship which took her to Europe for independent study.

After moving to Southern California in 1975, her focus on figurative work, portraiture and animals gradually shifted to pure landscape. She began painting outdoors with artist friends in Santa Barbara and eventually these friends formed the nucleus of the Oak Group – a group dedicated to raising funds from their art exhibitions for environmental causes. Today, nationally recognized for their preservation efforts, the Oak Group has donated over $1 million to organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Center, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Even though painting is a solitary experience, she enjoyed the camaraderie of painting with other artists. Some of these invitational trips have taken her to the Forbes' Chateau de Balleroy in Normandy, a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, and with the Plein Air Painters of America, Catalina Island and Lake Tahoe. Glenna was a Signature Member of the California Art Club and a member of the Oak Group.

Two of my paintings will be in the exhibition:

Further Along the Path (Ellwood Mesa, Goleta, CA), 24" x 24", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Orange Groves, Santa Paula Valley, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Participating artists: Meredith Brooks Abbott, Whitney Brooks Abbott, Peter Adams, Jamee Aubrey, John Budicin, Marcia Burtt, Chris Chapman, Patricia Chidlaw, John Comer, John Cosby, William B. Dewey, Dennis Doheny, Michael Drury, Erika Edwards, Michael Enriquez, David Gallup, Rick Garcia, Karen Gruszka, Robin Hall, Anita Hampton, Whitney Brooks Hansen, Jeremy Harper, Tom Henderson, Jeff Horn, Ray Hunter, John Iwerks, Larry Iwerks, Hans Kegler, Mark Kerckhoff, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, Jean LeGassick, Calvin Liang, Manny Lopez, Eric Merrell, Laurel Mines, Clark Mitchell, William Mitchell, Charles Muench, Dan Pinkham, Jesse Powell, Scott Prior, Camille Przewodek, Ray Roberts, Rob Robinson, Ann Sanders, Rick Schloss, Frank Serrano, Randy Sexton, Skip Smith, Arturo Tello, Libby Tolley, Kevin Turcotte, Thomas Van Stein, Sarah Vedder, Ralph Waterhouse and Jim Wodark.

Winslow Homer's Maine

A Summer Night Interesting article on Winslow Homer's studio in Prout's Neck, Maine, recently from the NY Times. Makes me miss Maine. Something to aspire to - surrounded by what you love so you can just work. It looks as though his studio will become a small museum in the near future.

“Nowhere else is there so rich a spectrum of an artist’s chosen subject matter,” said Daniel O’Leary, a former director of the Portland Museum of Art and the studio project. “There is no place like it in America because no where else can you see a great American artist’s inspiration take shape and observe the actual views that he enriches and preserves. At no other single spot can you see 15 or 16 views that inspired great paintings.”

Winslow Homer (1836-1910), West Point, Prout's Neck

Update from the High Desert

Breaking camp to find another spot. I've been painting out in the high desert now for just about a month, and thought I'd mention a few things since I've been asked (Yes, mom, I'm wearing sunglasses and plenty of sunblock). Although I've been here numerous times previously to paint and hike, this is the first really extended period of time I've had with the landscape. Being able to plan out ideas and know when certain effects will happen throughout the day.

My schedule has been (modified) to head out very early to paint when it is still cool (in the 60's or 70's), rest or take a nap during the hottest part of the day (no idea exactly, but 100-108, somewhere in there), and return to paint later on when the heat starts to taper off (the high desert is much cooler than the lower desert areas, like Palm Springs, which tends to be around 115 degrees. You can't do anything when it's 115 outside). Knowing when to return indoors is key, as you acclimate easily and don't notice the temperatures rising. I've tested myself a few times, intentionally or not; once painting at the Oasis in 29 Palms at 4:00 p.m., it must have been 110 degrees. I put frozen water bottles in my pockets to stay cool in addition to a hat, sunblock, sunglasses and umbrellas. Also nearly blinded myself - it's very reflective out there - not so fun. The desert is wonderful, but you are made much more conscious of how far you should push yourself working in this environment.

The wind is also another constant factor, so staking and weighing everything down is now part of the normal routine. Easels blow over, sand blows into your paints, tumbleweeds blow into your easel (yep, they do). I once had to stand and just hold onto everything for about 10 minutes until the wind died down. (If you have a rock band and need to shoot photos for your album, the desert is great because you always have that wind.)

One of the local papers out here, the American Free Journal, picked up on the residency. The publisher happened to pass by one evening and they ran a photo of me standing out against the wind in front of Mount San Jacinto one week, and the following week had a short article on the residency and the artists, both of which were nice to see. The local artists, residents and artists-in-residence have all been wonderful to meet and very hospitable.

Glenn Dean painting in Joshua Tree National Park

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a great place to visit in the summer, they blast the air conditioning and have some nice artwork to enjoy. I managed to make it there when a few paintings by members of the Taos Art Colony were on view. Plus, every summer the museum hosts artwork from an anonymous local collector - including Manet, Monet, two Van Goghs you've never seen, one of which he left his thumbprints in when carrying the canvas; plus Matisse and Degas, among others. The cicadas outside are deafening.

Maynard Dixon (18

This little guy likes to eat all of the cacti in the yard. So I give him watermelon rinds and he's pretty pleased.

My apologies to the residents of Pioneertown and the Joshua Tree Highlands if I startled anyone with my easels and umbrellas.

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!

wyeth_s

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."