Friday, June 14, 2013


Last month, I field-tested Gamblin's new medium: Solvent-free Gel, during my trip to Kauai.

The flash point of the solvent-free gel is high, so it can fly!  Time to test it on a trip. The tube is great: it fits right in the box with the paints.  Don't have to worry about getting that last bit of gel out of the nasty bottle.

The gel allowed my paints to move easily across the canvas, without dragging on underneath layers that had already become tacky.  This is important to me because my painting style is to push color into color.  Most alkyds, even gels, become tacky within twenty minutes of hitting the canvas (possibly because of solvent evaporation) making it hard to continue pushing the paint around.  The drying oils I've used do not become tacky.  In this respect, the Solvent-Free Gel is more like using linseed or safflower oil.

Drying time:
I'm sure Gamblin can tell you a lot more about the drying time of this medium.  For my practical purposes, paintings left in my room (80-85 degrees and humid) dried in 2 days.  Paintings placed in the car (90 degrees plus) dried in 1 day, with a few extra hours needed for very thick yellows.

This medium appears to be just a little glossier than Neo Megilp, and a little less glossy that Gamblin Gel.  A little glossier than I am used to, but within an okay range.  My dry paintings didn't dull down from drying in.

Working methods:
Putting a dab out on the palette:  This worked great for picking up a little medium to mix in with colors.  The gel stays put, even on a steeply angled palette.  No need for cups or containers.
Whipping some medium in with the white:  I used a small amount of medium, maybe 10 percent of the mix.   I like this method because it distributes the medium pretty evenly in with some of the slowest drying colors. I may even try whipping some into my Indian yellow and sap green.  I can also see whipping some into any colors that have gotten stiff at the end of the tube due to oil separation.  The disadvantage is that any leftover color on the palette will skin over pretty fast if you don't get your palette into the freezer.
Brush cleaning:  Using the medium as a brush cleaner during the painting session worked great.  I didn't have to worry if any bits of leftover medium got into the paint mixes.  After each painting session, I cleaned brushes with mineral oil so they didn't turn into solid sticks.  After the trip, I cleaned them with soap and water as well.


I love this medium.  It fits the way that I paint, and the paintings come out with just the right amount of subtle gloss.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Tranquil Shadows, 6 x 8
I buy a cute purple bag/purse/thingy and take it with me to Hawaii.  I carry it over a white sun shirt during a garden tour, and the purple dye stains my white shirt.  Once I get home, I am able to remove the stain from the shirt.  But I figure I'd better do something about the stain-producing purse.  So I rinse it in cold water just to see how loose the dye is.  It produces lots of purple water and stains the plastic bucket purple.  I soak the purse in vinegar overnight and dump the rest of the purple water in the sink.  It stains the sink purple.  Now I have a purple purse, sink, and bucket.  I put the purse in the washer and run it through a hot cycle.  Now the washer is purple.  I use a rag to wipe out the washer, but the purple doesn't come off the rubber gasket.  Now I have a purple purse, sink, bucket, rubber gasket and rag.  I put the purse in the dryer and run it on hot.  Now I also have a purple drier.  My plan is to wipe everything out with one rag and throw the rag out.  Cat-in-the-Hat PLEASE tell me that this will work!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Three Palms at Dawn, 6 x 8
Swimming in from snorkeling the outer bit of reef at Tunnels Beach, I come across a shark cruising the rocks below me.  It is small, maybe a four-footer, but a rare daytime sighting unless you want to explore caves.  Later that same day, Rick and I are watching the sunset with a log turning in the surf.  Off to the left, two new dark shapes poke out of the water, right in the shore break.  I'm thinking it's another log, until it thrashes around and disappears out to sea.  A shark has run in out of his depth, maybe chasing dinner.

Shark sightings are the rare treat, the highlight, the reminder that more is going on in the world than we know.  You don't plan for sharks.  You show up, they happen.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Kapa'a Dawn Light, 6 x 8
It is evening and the shore crabs have come out of their burrows to sit on their front porches.  They appear to be willing to nibble on anything--shells, grass, bits of sticks.  They stay very close to home, little holes spaced about a foot apart, just in case a wave comes.

Once a wave comes, it is necessary to clean out your burrow.   Each crab scuttles sideways into his burrow, always the same side first.  Some are right-sided and some left-sided.  I wonder, is it to do with which claw is larger?  They come out with an armful of sand, take a few steps from the door, and fling the load across the beach, creating little funnel-shaped patterns.

One little crab must have lost his home.  He goes in and out of burrows, one after another, finding them all occupied, along a good hundred feet of beach.  Or maybe he is just delivering the seaside mail.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Ironwood at Dawn, 12 x 16
Roosters are everywhere in Kauai, and to a less noisy extent, hens.  The roosters here don't say, cock-a-doodle-doo, they say cock-a-doo-doo.  Somehow, one of the beats got left out of their program.  You don't hear from the hens nearly as often.  This morning we hear a loud squawk, which reminds me of a peacock.  Looking down over the balcony for the culprit, I spya hen, standing alone in a sea of grass.  Nowhere can I see anything to provoke the loud complaint.  Mostly all you hear from the hens is a soft buck, buck when they want their chicks to move.  In sound, as well as plumage, the roosters steal the show. P.S.  You know that annoying song from the musical Peter Pan, "I gotta crow"?  Every time I hear a rooster, that song runs through my head for the next twenty minutes.  Either I'd have to get over that, or I'd go insane living here.


Riverlight and Boat House, 9 x 12
My summer plein air workshop schedule is HERE:
Note: These are half-day workshops, easy to fit into schedule and budget!

Friday, June 7, 2013


Ironwood and Sunrise, 12 x 16
After multiple calm mornings, I set up with a larger canvas, only to face strong gusts of wind halfway into the painting.  I've experienced these conditions before, and it's pretty easy for a canvas to become a kite.  So I pack up the painting and take it back to the room to finish.  I spend a good half-hour lifting bits of sand off the paint before painting the trees.
   Then the housekeeping staff come to clean the room.  I put the newly finished painting on a shelf in the closet, where nothing can fall on it, and come back after they finish to find that they have put a pillow on top of my painting.
   So this is a slightly blotted version of the original expression.  I hope you find it makes it soft and mysterious.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Kapa'a Sunrise Palms, 6 x 8
At the Allerton Garden, our tour guide shows us a group of giant fig trees, with huge buttress roots.  You may have seen them in the movie, JURASSIC PARK.  Life finds a way.  He tells us that the plants were imported from Australia for the garden.  Australians who look at them now don't even recognize this form as belonging to the same plant.  Here in Hawaii, where they are exposed to so much rain, their growth pattern is altered beyond recognition.

How many of the choices we make are conditioned by our surroundings?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Captain Cook Pines at Sunrise, 6 x 8
We snorkel today at Poipu.  Finally, some fishes!  All of the spots we've snorkelled have been overfished, and the remaining residents are so skittish you can hardly see them.
  The little bay at Poipu is mostly rubble, with very little coral in an area protected by rock walls.  Rubble means lots of wrasses.  Yellow-tailed Coris are my favorite beauties, both adult and juvenile.  We find lots of rock movers.  I watch one twelve-inch fish move a ten to fifteen pound rock with its mouth, then catch a crab that was living underneath.  The crab is a difficult bite to get down.  The fish has to turn it in his mouth until it is claws outward.  I guess that's what you get for swallowing your food whole.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Kapa'a Beach Sunrise, 9 x 12
Hiking along the beach trail in Kapa'a, I am captivated by the shapes of bushes and trees along the shore.  Three main types: a tall tree with waxy, rhododendron-like leaves; beach naupaka, with its juicy leaves in rosettes and white half-blossoms; and the ironwood, with its sturdy twisting trunks, and needles reminiscent of horsetail rushes.  All of them are pushed and pulled by sea and wind into giant bonsai creations, with little windows of sky and ocean between the branch clusters.  A shape-painter's gallery.


You are invited to my show at Lane Gallery in Portland, info below.  The shark painting on the postcard is one of my pieces inspired by a visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Kapa'a Sunrise Rose, 9 x 12
This morning, just as I am finishing my sunrise painting, I turn around to see a crowd of onlookers: pigeons. Many of the pigeons are pecking hopefully at the ground, but the rest have an eye turned on me.  I've been sitting here for so long, I must have some food for them.

Down on the beach in the soft sand, some movement catches my eye.  It is a shore crab, running for his half-inch burrow in the sand.  Once I see one, I see twenty, scuttling in and out of bits of driftwood, picking with their claws for food.

Suddenly I'm hungry too.  Back to my room for breakfast.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Kapa'a Sunrise Cumulus
The roosters began announcing the dawn at 4 AM.  I know this because I set my alarm for 5 to give me time to walk down to the beach and set up for the 5:50 sunrise.  The roosters beat me to it.  On Maui, I always had to sit in the sand to paint sunrise.   Here there is space under some ironwood trees, with scrubby, broad-bladed grass to keep the sand from leaping into my paint box.  (I have not yet acquired my obligatory three-dollar grass mat.) Some intrepid grains of sand still manage to make the leap into my paints (two feet, I make it), and a few even get onto the painting, which is a full three-foot leap.  How do they do it?  Maybe I should give up and stand.  Except that sitting by the beach to paint sunrise is tradition.  It's part of the peaceful experience.  I will sit, and risk the sand.