Friday, September 19, 2014

Traps on the Coal Cabin

Yesterday we went out to visit John Finley's cattle ranch, a half hour drive down a remote dirt road on the east fork of the the Wind River here in Wyoming.


John is a working cowboy and a scrimshandler whose grandfather established the farm over a hundred years ago, not far from Butch Cassidy's spread.

I set up my watercolor rig next to an old log cabin which was festooned with rusty coyote traps.


I was attracted to the way the traps were reflected in the window against the bright sky behind us. Since the reflection of the clouds was the lightest value, my first step was to run a wash over all the other whites, including the window mullions, the mortar, and shelf of mildewy old magazines seen through the window. 


(link to Soundcloud audio track)

The traps speak to the constant life and death struggle of ranch existence. John told us a story of having to shoot a mountain lion as it was devouring one of his bottle-fed calves.




A week ago, a surveyor was found mauled to death by grizzlies not far from here.  None of us artists are allowed to venture off without a bottle of bear spray.

The authorities relocate the Yellowstone man-killers in this remote area, on the fringes of the Wind River Indian Reservation. As another cowboy, John Phelps told us, "Grizzlies are no joke."
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Biography of John P Finley
Painted in a Pentalic sketchbook with Schmincke watercolors using a Richeson travel brush set
Download Watercolor in the Wild video

Thursday, September 18, 2014

School Bus

Yesterday the high school in Dubois, Wyoming sent a group of their art students out to join us on a ranch to learn plein-air painting. They were mentored by the scholarship students attending the SKB Foundation Workshop here.


Most people were painting old wagons or log cabins or picturesque bends in the stream, but I decided to paint the school bus. I love school buses. This is a beautiful brand new vehicle, built in January of 2014. 

I used a ruler to get those windows straight in my little gouache painting. Press the "play" button below for a quick audio greeting from the driver.

(Link to the voice of the driver) To me, the bus represents the pride of this town and their dedication to getting young people excited about art. That's what the day was all about, as far as I was concerned. 

I made friends with the bus driver when I asked her to help me get one of my paint tube caps unstuck. She brought out a pliers, saying, "We western women have a whole tool kit in our purse."
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Read about the SKB Foundation Workshop, a unique week-long gathering of landscape and wildlife painters.
If you're a young artist who wants to be a part of this, check out the SKB scholarship program.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Constructing with the Brush

Here's a little sketchbook study I did yesterday at the CM Ranch in Wyoming. It's about 5x8 inches, painted in casein.


This detail is about the size of a credit card. I knew when I started that the horses would be moving around. None of them were going to pose for me. Groups of them came and went from the corrals as the cowboys did their daily rounds.

Given those dynamics, and given the many layers of detail in the middle ground, I constructed the entire scene with the brush, without a detailed preliminary drawing. I worked from background to foreground, overlapping detail. Below is how the painting looked partway along.


At this stage there are no horses or fences yet.

Because of its opacity and quick drying qualities, casein is very well suited to this sort of approach, but it wouldn't work so well in watercolor or oil. Watercolor demands more careful preliminary drawing, and oil can get messy if you try overlapping too many wet areas.

I fully documented the process for my upcoming video "Casein in the Wild," which I'll start editing in a month or two. So please ask me any questions you might have about this way of painting, and I'll be sure to address them when I record the voiceover.
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LINKS
I'm at the  SKB Foundation Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming.
Previous video Watercolor in the Wild
CM Family Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Painting a Saddle in Watercolor


Yesterday I did a watercolor demo of a Western-style saddle at the SKB Foundation workshop here in Wyoming. (Direct link to YouTube video)

Here are two stages in the hour-long painting. On the left is the painting halfway finished, with the large color areas blocked in.

I then defined the smaller details and textures using water-soluble colored pencils and just a few touches of white gouache for highlights.

The time lapse is shot with a GoPro Black set at a two-second intervals. The GoPro is mounted on a DIY rig that uses two kitchen timers for a compound (pan and tilt) move.
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For 72-minutes of watercolor demos with voiceover, check out my video "Watercolor in the Wild":
HD download: (Credit Card)  from Gumroad
HD download: (Paypal) from Sellfy
BONUS FEATURES (a half hour of additional bite-size inspiration)
DVD: (NTSC, Region 1-North America) 
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If you like painting workshops, the SKB Foundation has an emphasis on landscape and wildlife painting, with a half-dozen instructors in a beautiful setting and a congenial atmosphere.
Thanks to Hunter at the CM Family Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming and to artist Lee Cable for the info about the saddle.

Monday, September 15, 2014

John Seerey-Lester

 Portrait sketch of Sir John Seerey-Lester, fellow instructor at the SKB Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming.



Video of the antique boiler


Here's a short behind the scenes look at the gouache painting of the antique steam boiler at Fairplay, Colorado. (Direct link to video)