Monday, June 6, 2016


I just returned from a painting workshop (May 19-22, 2016) in Santa Cruz, taught by the trio of John Crump, Richard Robinson, and Scott Hamill. John is New Zealand's best plein air oil painter. I've wanted to take a workshop with him for a long time, and own all of his DVDs. It was a bonus having the others teaching at the same time.

The first thing that I learned by going to this workshop was: Always make sure your driver's license hasn't expired before you go out of state and try to rent a car.  I ended up having to take an Uber car to the AirBnB place I was staying, and begged rides from other workshop attendees (thanks, Mireille, Mary Jo and Reiko!). Scott, John, and Richard were kind enough to pick me up for the first day's painting at Shark Fin Cove. I'd never painted along any coast before, so I was pretty anxious to begin.

The workshop started on Thursday, but I arrived on Tuesday, because I wanted to have a day to settle in, buy any extra art supplies I might need (like solvent and paper towels), and maybe do a painting or two. Unfortunately I was slightly hobbled by the whole "no car" thing, so I couldn't go too far. Luckily, Mission Santa Cruz was about a 10 minute walk away.

Mission Santa Cruz 9x12"
John did a demo at a local art supply store on Tuesday afternoon, and Richard did one on Wednesday.
John Crump painting demo at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz, CA
Richard Robinson painting demo at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz,CA

I thought I'd watch Scott paint his demo on the first morning at Shark Fin Cove, since he decided to paint the view that attracted me. Unfortunately, by the time he finished, the light had changed too much; I wasn't interested in painting it any more.

Scott Hamill demo at Shark Fin Cove
Instead, I painted a view through a hole in the rocks, where some algae was glowing in the sunlight. Richard came over as I was finishing, and took a photo of me on location.

Painting at Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove, Afternoon 9x12"
Day two was at Garapatta State Park near Carmel. This time, I set up to paint right next to Richard while he demoed; I could listen to him and take the occasional photo of his progress while working on my own canvas.
Richard Robinson, Garapatta demo
My painting Garapatta State Park, Morning 9x12"
Scott was off somewhere else doing his demo painting, and I didn't get a picture of it. John painted nearby; I got a photo of his finished painting.
John Crump, Garapatta demo
My afternoon painting was less successful. I was doing a backlit painting of some rocks, but the clouds came in and I lost my light. Plus, I wasn't too thrilled with it to begin with.
My attempt to paint in the afternoon (thanks, Scott, for taking the photo)
Day Three was at Panther Beach. I didn't paint along that morning; I watched John paint his demo instead, so I might actually learn something (I couldn't concentrate on my own painting and learn from Richard at the same time on the previous day). I wanted to buy this one, but another student got it before I opened my mouth.
John Crump's demo at Panther Beach
After John finished, I walked out onto the cliffs where I set up to work. I even caught sight of a whale swimming past. Richard thought I was too hard on myself for hating this one. (Frank: "It's lousy." Richard: "Compared to what?" Frank: "Compared to art.") I was very disappointed with my painting, but I can use it as a color study for a larger painting if I want to. Unlikely, but anything's possible.
Panther Beach, afternoon 9x12"
Day four was held at Moss Landing, where a bunch of boats were in for repair. I set up to paint a boat called Jennie Rose, which happened to be the same boat that Richard and Scott put in their paintings. Once again, I took photos of Richard's every so often; he was set up just to the left and in front of me.

Richard Robinson demo of the Jennie Rose
My painting, Jennie Rose 9x12"
I started another study of a small boat, but didn't finish it, because I wasn't happy with the way it was headed (that seems to have been a trend this week with afternoon paintings). I wasn't the only one unhappy with the afternoon's painting. John scraped down two of his because he didn't like the way they were going.
My afternoon small boat study 9x12"
John Crump's afternoon painting in progress, just before he scraped it down.
I got the guys to sign my easel and had a photo made with the trio before we all packed up for the day and got dinner at a local fish restaurant. Luckily for my vegetarian self, they had a really good roasted artichoke, onion rings, and beer. I can never think of artichokes without saying the line from the Little Rascals, "It mighta choked Artie, but it ain't gonna choke Stymie." I clearly had a serious addiction to TV as a kid.

Robinson, Hamill, Crump, and Gabriel
I bought a painting from each of the guys. John forgot to bring his to the last day of classes, and so he and Richard delivered it on Monday, as I had no car. I pointed out to John that he'd forgotten to sign it! I grabbed my gear, and he quickly remedied that.

John Crump signs the painting I bought from him.
Richard's was still wet, so I don't have it yet. Scott is finishing a larger studio painting based on the one I bought from him, the demo he painted on the first day. So far, I've bought at least one painting from each of the people whose workshops I've attended. A good way to build a collection.

I called another Uber car to take me to the airport, and watched the driver scrape hell out of his rear hubcap as he pulled to the curb to pick me up, then straighten out and scrape hell out of his front hubcap. Oh... then he backed up and I had to holler "Stop!" before he bumped into another curb. He didn't inspire confidence. I got to the airport early enough so that I had some time to scribble a few drawings in my sketchbook as the disembodied voice over the loudspeaker called for stragglers to get to their flights.

sketchbook scribbling

Friday, May 27, 2016


In September 2015, I loaded up my car and headed out, taking a drive that ultimately took me on a lap around Lake Erie. I wanted to meet up with my friend, Australian painter Colley Whisson, as well as visit my family up north. I decided to take the car since it would allow me to stop along the road and paint anything that might interest me.

Sketchbook scribbling
The first night was spent at a B&B in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the morning, before heading out of town, I painted the Junction Bridge, near the Clinton Presidential Library.

Junction Bridge,  Little Rock, Arkansas 9x12"

I wonder if this sign was vandalized, or if it's sorting itself out. Either way, it made me chuckle like a seventh grader.

Sign for the Clinton School of Pubic Service (Ha!)
While still in Arkansas, I saw an abandoned "shotgun house" and met the owner as I was painting it. He told me that 10 people, who worked for him picking cotton, lived in there at one time... and there was only an outhouse out back.
Shotgun house, rural Arkansas 9x12"

Next, it was on to Tennessee, where I met up with my friend Colley, who was in the US teaching some workshops. I took a workshop with him several years ago and we became friends. I highly recommend his classes and videos.  We did a little painting and photographing around Leiper's Fork after he finished his classes there, then took a drive to visit painter Lori Putnam and her husband, Mark Putnam (who created the Value Viewer app for iPad and iPhone). Lori is a terrific painter, and I was more than a little jealous when she and Colley traded paintings! Colley was kind enough to give me the painting shown here when he finished it.

Colley Whisson stands between our paintings of a barn in Leipers Fork, TN

Some more Sketchbook scribbling 
The former Gray Drug Store in Franklin, Tennessee is now a restaurant. I stood in a doorway and painted it one evening after dark.
Gray Drug sign in Franklin, Tennessee 9x12"

I dropped Colley off at the airport so he could go teach another class in Atlanta, then headed up into Cincinnati, Ohio to visit my oldest brother George and his wife Martha, who took me to see the Loveland Castle (or Chateau Laroche), a museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. I went back to paint it after I left their home.
Chateau Laroche in Loveland, Ohio 9x12"
After painting the Loveland Castle, I drove up into Cleveland, where I stayed at my brother Tony's house overnight. Tony and I then hopped in my car and drove to Windsor, Ontario, where we visited my cousin Frank Gabriel (son of my uncle Frank Gabriel) in the hospital. He unfortunately passed away the night after we were there. Then it was across Ontario to Stayner, where my sister Mary and her husband Ken live on their farm. While there, we also drove to nearby Collingwood, where our oldest sister, Gina, is in a nursing home.

The Richardson Farm in Stayner, Ontario 9x12"

Tony and I completed the circuit around Lake Erie, and then I did a bit of painting at  Squire's Castle, in the Metro Park in Willoughby, Ohio, near where I grew up.

Squires Castle in Willoughby, Ohio 9x12"
Next it was back home to Texas. On the way, I stopped only to sleep in a truck stop parking lot for a few hours and then at a rest stop in Texarkana for about an hour. The only time I didn't drive on the entire trip was when we got back to Cleveland, and Tony drove his wife Lisa and me in his car to dinner with our sister Maria and her husband Paul.

No doubt about it, I like a good road trip. I need a trailer.