Monday, January 27, 2014


During my mid-twenties, I competed in whitewater slalom kayaking races.  More than most sporting events, kayak racing involves the uncertainties of turbulence.  All your practice maneuvering through gates on waves and current will not predict the exact timing of a wave's surge or the strength of a whirlpool on an eddyline.

In a slalom whitewater event, racers are given 2 scored runs on a course, and the better score is the one that counts.  Invariably, I had one run in which I repeated several of my practice mistakes, and one run that I "pulled out of the hat."  Not that I did anything magically well.  More that I was "on."  Every move would coordinate with the currents,combining in a single run all the best moves I had done during practice.  In one race, I pulled my best run with a boat that had torn and was gradually filling with water.

Sunrise Light on Windows, 6 x 8 oil
What does this have to do with painting?  It is an example of performance..... of bringing a set of skills together to apply them all at once.  And painting in performance mode has a special quality.

All previous paintings have taught you habits and ways of working.  In one piece you can focus and apply these techniques in an elegant execution of your painting art.  This is why paintings in limited time can sometimes be better than the ones we slave over.  They are performed rather than worried into place.

Plein air painting lends itself to performance.  There is a tendency in the studio to linger over the painting, to second-guess decisions, and to fuss around your brush marks.  Outdoor painting requires a relaxed concentration, sustained throughout the painting process, brush strokes placed and left alone.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Moonset at Sunrise, 6 x 8 oil
I am headed for the river, but it's socked in with fog.  Backing up the hill, I see this scene.  Sometimes what happens by accident is better than the scene you plan to paint.