Monday, August 27, 2012


  Her staring at my plein air piece let me know my design was not good. Blogging is hard when doing a paintout, here is my link to last weeks blog for OPA.

  Workshop attendees always explain why they aren't improving faster, in this link I reiterate what they say and explore some keys I hope, love to hear what helps you.

  I hope this link works,my next blog will cover  some of the beautiful sites during Plein Air Rockies

  My very best to all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



   It seems to me like something happens when we are forced to paint from life in less than perfect conditions.The weather looked bad , than got worse and I never could finish this painting because of the rain, it had rain drops on it and all over my palette. I just left it cause it was how I felt that week in less than ideal conditions (loose and shifting) after teaching a workshop to some brave artists in Provence the week before.


   They were really challenged but what growth. It never ceases to amaze if you are inspired, happy and upbeat you rise to challenges, each artist performed unbelievably and I believe partly because of the ability to remain lighthearted. Cranking down on yourself seems to be restrictive.


   Admittedly it is easy to fall back on what you know but it gets boring and stale. Awareness may allow us to shift to new more creative ways of painting. Admittedly it is a struggle and hard not to whip yourself, but in painting for the gallery my paintings had shifted to different types of lighting. This resulted in paintings like above. Another gallery saw these images and forwarded to a collector that wants paintings from their incredible properties. It is amazing to me that by being aware of change and going with it, things worked out better than if I had tightly controlled everything. It is like Joseph Campbell describes in "The Power of Myth."


   I really like my artists friends, and the art world because most are not too egotistical. It is great to want to achieve at a very high level, the new psychological studies are supporting that real risk takers are lighthearted which allows for failures. They go from one failure to another without much of  loss of enthusiasm, exactly how Winston Churchill described success. I like teaching my workshops in a lighthearted manner. Artists crank down on themselves enough without any help, they actually need some relief.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Things Go South in Plein Air, Growing

My final version of Gordes 12 by 9 from my workshop in Provence. It was than to Charleston for PAPSE paint out and finally The paint out at Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, after seeing a show of William Trost Richards that totally moved me.

The issue is what is happening when you are painting well and you slip, I just did,I don't really totally know but here are a few ideas?

   1. Distracted by phone calls or current events, not focusing;

   2. You are trying to shift your normal painting techniques and ideas, so you don't feel or look stale and, thus you are growing;

   3. You have subtly shifted a color, added new colors, or a shifted one of your methods.


   1. Turn off phone , or put yourself under some pressure to focus;

   2. Go back to old ways, boring but safe;

   3. Be really aware of how you changed your techniques and colors, and filter what is working or not.
  Maybe we can always keep growing by asking 2 questions?

    1. If I was just 5% more aware of what is motivating me to paint it?

    2. If I was just 5% more aware how I would love for my paintings to look?
   ART and all of life needs to give both pleasure and meaning, even the things we enjoy. Trying to get both is a real key, just pleasure is unfulfilling. Artists are such a pleasure to be around, what a energizing collection of people.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reflections on Redesign to Improve

Below is my final product for Western Visions, lets see if I improved it,

Perhaps better cloud and snow work, more atmosphere in back mountains, more form in  mountains, better lighting in trees, and maybe better design of front rock which allowed for a better lead in and more transparent rocks in water:

    This was just too flat, poor front design of rock, yet maybe decent other large shapes:


    Funny, but the sketch painting of different subject matter I did for Western Visions I think I like a lot (it could be I get tired of them if they require a lot of extra work.), I try to always ask this question , how does it go to extraordinary in my view, which may not be in someone else's view, just a good question. I will cover the changes to it next time, and than report on the wonderful set of artists at my Provence workshop hosted amazingly by Anne Huff (fluent in French), of Huff Harrington Fine Art Gallery

Monday, May 7, 2012

Separating Layers in Plein Air Paintings

  Tis the season, just finished a great workshop in the streams, mountains, farms and vineyards of North Georgia, what great excited group of artists, and my thanks to Elder Ridge Studios, Donna and her husbands beautiful land of streams, buildings, etc and the gorgeous Three Sisters Vineyards and Doug's hospitality.
  Now off to teach in lovely Provence for Huff Harrington Gallery. I am actually in JFK airport on way to Nice.
  In preparation I did this quickie plein air, of a closed in scene that people seem to like, it took less than an hour so it stayed fresh with not so bad brush marks, but I think part of it was creating depth through the use of layers, that is trying to separate a strong front, mid front, mid, and back sections. I also tried to use spots of light to move your eye through the painting , maybe it works. I have learned the eye bounces around in the painting so the use of spots and lines of light maybe useful.
  Of course a lot of paintings don't make the cut, but it is always a learning experience. Painting abstract designs in all paintings is a great joy, just shapes and values. Next time we will compare the different versions of paintings done for the Western Visions Show.I love this statement "Small incremental growth is better than great failures. "
  You can only hear what you are ready to hear, so enjoy where you are in your painting.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From Demo, to demo, to plein air, to sold

Wow, what a great group of artists in St Simons workshop hosted by Anderson Gallery. Thanks y'all. Sometimes we just have to improvise and not all paintings have a normal life. This one had the quirkiest history.
 I confess I always struggle with shapes. I teach an advanced class were we break down the painting process including shapes. In that class I quickly did a tonal of this 16 by 20 marsh scene with no color and not looking at anything, it helps me with my struggle to force myself to be creative and try to get a good design.
Than at St Simons workshop I had already done a beach, cloud demo and some of the fine artists decided they wanted to paint marshes also, so I quickly painted on this tonal in a parking lot without being able to see the real marsh colors. I hate that and it does not work well, but it got a demo done so some could proceed to the marshes and see the real colors. And thanks to Fred , who gave me a bike to get to both the beach and marsh people I was able to adjust artists' paintings on site.
Finally, after the St Simon's workshop I was able to relook at my colors, which I hated , and paint more accurately from life, repaint water reflections and make other adjustments , including more subtle detail up front. The first one in this blog is the finished painting, and I felt really fortunate it sold within 24 hrs in the gallery.
I hope showing you my mistakes and changes maybe helpful , from the emails I get this is appreciated, I shall try to keep this up as long as the response is good. Sometimes we just have to let them go though, this one had a good base I think.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Plein Air?

Just finished teaching a plein air workshop, and wow there is no faster way to accelerate your growth , as plein air quickly forces you to make decisions, but really the most important thing about it is you just cannot get the color harmonies from a picture, and dark and light values are too blown out.
Once you get the shape design right , really observing the harmonies and taking the time to mix the colors correctly is just amazingly enjoyable and rewarding, just paying attention to the subtle lighting effects. I have tried to capture this inside and the effects are not even close. Just another great reason to enjoy nature. They may not all be a success but they are all a learning experience.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reflections on Design

   One of the most interesting yet challenging things to me is to get interesting shapes(a good design), when we are working in the workshops we do some things to see what each students particular struggle is, design value or color. We all struggle with one,my real tough one is shapes, color is my easiest. I wish it was reversed, why? Because people see the shapes first, and I have always tried to convince myself, that isn't true. It is amazing how we will avoid the truth, even when we know it. Abad design and the painting will almost always fail.
   If you think you are good at shapes, do some value studies and redesign the shapes several times, try to paint an interesting tree, rock pile, or set of clouds. Make them up if you are used to copying from photos. High level artists seem to paint in shapes from shadow, light and mid tones, so subject matter becomes almost irrelevant, that keeps everything exciting no matter what you are painting. Which keeps you motivated, thus painting, thus you are always getting better.
   Here is a painting I painted a while back. because I love yellow trees.  I would change a few things now( mostly shapes), but I would do that in all my paintings. Be grateful you can see the changes you would make now and don't cringe at your earlier paintings. Revel in your learning. Heading to teach in St Simons, the plein air season really begins, exciting.
   Next time more comparisons of paintings trying to make them better I hope. There is one thing I think would be helpful for sure. Will explain next week after this workshop.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Creativity , Being Loose, Latest Research

Wow, We always try to work hard in our workshops yet, break, play music, and have joy in the workshops, even paint for the trashcan, now the latest research supports all of this, please check out this article in the Wall Street Journal "THE SATURDAY ESSAY March 9, 2012, 7:07 p.m. ET How To Be Creative
The image of the 'creative type' is a myth. Jonah Lehrer on why anyone can innovate—and why a hot shower, a cold beer or a trip to your colleague's desk might be the key to your next big idea."

     I love all my students and some are achieving really great things, and others seem to be really growing, it is important to revel in the learning and not become too frustrated. Here are a few pictures of a few of my workshop classes this past year, sorry I don't have all of you. Check out the Oil Painters of the South, with their fake mustaches. Martha Lynne has great skits and Daly is the one pretending like he is my brother. Gaze at the hysterical painting they said I painted of the Tetons. My very best to ALL my students.
     Two great lines for us all "You are where you are, and you will only get more when you are ready." "Small incremental growth is better than great failure."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Clouds From Small to Large

     One of the things we try to work on in the Advanced Accelerated Growth Workshops is being able to creatively design , so you can handle moving clouds when outside and rearrange nature into a better design. This is one of the advantages of painting anything moving in plein air. It forces you to leave your photo or any other crutch behind. Eventually you will be able to paint anything while the subject matter is moving.
     I usually try to improve on the larger painting in design, values and color transitions, hopefully these decisions improve the painting.
     The pieces above went from a 12 by 16 to a 24 by 36. You will see I completely redesigned the lower beach, dunes and water. In addition I softened values in the clouds to get them to float better and also redesigned them. The color I lowered the separation between cools and warms to try to create a stronger harmony. Hopefully the painting got better. So you know by now which is the 24 by 36. The smaller piece has a nice home and the larger one heads to a gallery this week.
   I am in the process of preparing for my St. Simons Island Workshop through Andersen Gallery so I am working on lots of skies. My next posts will involve these and some plein air from the workshop and the trip.
   I am also looking at scheduling some mentoring sessions in my studio in Atlanta.
It is important to me to revel in the learning, to make it an enjoyable learning process, I have learned making learning enjoyable is a key to learning more regularly and being more creative, thus growing and stretching. Over stretching creates frustration and under stretching creates boredom.

     My very best, Bill

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


   I love the seriousness of entering tough national competitions and real striving to get better all the time, but I also notice too much of anything tears down desire, joy to live and creativity. You need leisure to enjoy life, have energy , be at your best and be creative. I just watched three different workshop classes and the hardest thing to get them to do was to break from their paintings, yet when they did the always saw better and made better decisions.
   What great artists and students I always seem lucky to have, and when I notice a dip in attitude, we have a 1.5 hour session where we just go for it. I call it "painting for the trash can" , cause the result is unpredictable yet you  loosen up feel joy and feel freer.
  I read somewhere "An emotional response is what will give a piece of art a unique quality." It never ceases to amaze me how different one paints after a painting trip to a new area or a workshop. Being technically good is needed, adding the emotion, that moved you to paint in the first place makes them sing. I love energy and texture in paintings. Some brush, some palette knife , a combo of both, a freedom to use all the tools. Most artists also seem to love a fresh , energetic painting, that just seemed as if it just flowed off the brush.
 Maybe more will be in our future, till than I try to appreciate the love of paints and their application, although it doesn't always work. Here are a couple of fun pieces I enjoyed. I would always change a few things, but it may kill the energy.
   My many thanks to all my workshop attendees.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Plein Air to Finished Piece

This is the finished piece, I think it is better than the below piece, I primarily made the foreground rocks simpler and stronger, I think this really helped. Shifted the rock values between the front and mountains to create more depth. Eliminated some of the rock holes between the trees, shifted the upper mountains and did I think better work in the clouds. To me seeing the progression explains the thought process, regardless of the rightness of the decision.

This was my plein air piece, not my best effort and I found it in my pile of not so goods, but on second look the concept and arrangement of shapes looked interesting so my jumping off point.

We will start looking at some simpler scenes in other blogs that don't have such grandeur, hope this is of some benefit to someone, my best , Bill

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Small to Larger Paintings

                    40 by 30
                    16 by 12
   I just finished the 40 by 30 and am too close to it, and it may need some shifts. But I am curious if any of you have a preference and why?  Please feel free to email if you like at This is the situation where the study was gone , something not advisable. It always seems easier with the study to match to the colors and values. I believe the shape, separation, and atmospheric recession are better in the larger one. The color of the real paintings is not as different as in these photos. It seems you resolve 80% of issues in the smaller, yet logically we should than be able to improve in the larger. Better thought out shapes, more transitions, and resolution of some of the remaining 20% hopefully but we all know we crash and burn sometimes, cest la vie.
   Art is challenging yet the process should also give pleasure and meaning. Thanks to all no matter where you are in your process. I heard a great quote unfortunately I can't quote the source, sorry. An advanced artist said "I thought it would get easier", and the reply was "it did , you just raised your expectations." 
   Maybe we should realize we must be joyful where we are, as we will never arrive fully, we are always in growth. 
   Will be comparing 2 paintings of the same scene and what maybe helped improve one over the other in the next few posts . Thank You

Monday, January 2, 2012



               Some of the Kelleys

     FIRST, my thanks and gratefulness for the beauty of art, and all artists that create for the benefit of us all, past teachers and those who have advanced or helped, great friends, wonderful students, and warm family. 
     My greatest teachers always helped me kindle my joy fire for what makes me feel alive and living in awe. Too much discipline is rigidity and stifles creation.
     Play with these questions throughout the year and get a little better every week. All real change occurs in small increments most of the time. Find your joy in life and art and enjoy your advances only by measuring against yourself. Wishing all a joyful New Year.