Tag Archives: Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters

Your Plein Air Roots

Thomas McGlynne  Blossoms  1878 – 1966  20 x 24 inches  Medium: Oil on board   Available at Karges Fine Art.

“I aspire to become an inhabitant, one who knows and honors the land…I follow various and sometimes crooked paths, yet I am always driven by a single desire, that of learning to be at home.” ~ Scott Russell Sanders

What are your plein air “roots?”

We dug in the dirt. Light was miraculous. During my California youth, down on hands and knees to touch, smell and fondle beach flowers tendrils, pungent and squishy succulents, inhaling the scent of tiny cliff side scrub, peeling puzzle-shaped eucalyptus bark, running my fingers along those arrow-like leaves was a daily ritual. Every canyon trail was fair game.

There’s something from every art movement to love, but before I even knew what it was, plein air painting was in my blood.

Sullivan Canyon Trail

Childhood years were a nirvana of clamoring, swimming and hiking in and around the Santa Monica-Pacific Palisades-Malibu landscapes. We lived on a Sullivan Canyon hillside, on Old Ranch Road, in a Cliff May home. At the foot of our long, winding driveway was a large open field, and we called it… “the Field.” Cross the Field and you found yourself on Sullivan Canyon Road. Open and dusty, we kids played, and people rode horses, picnicked, threw frisbees. Now the Field is an established riding arena, and its scrubby oak tree terrain seems shrunken.

But the Field was where I first saw plein air painters at work.

I was 10, my brother six when, one morning, we walked down to the Field. A group of plein air painters had gathered under the eucalyptus. Their clothes, easels, hats…all were “foreign” to us, figures materialized from another era. My brother and I made our way over to the group.

One artist focused on a view oriented toward our house. Holding hands, we watched as the artist suddenly painted us–I with my white blonde hair and John a carrot-topped red-head–into the scene. Two tiny children dwarfed by ancient oaks, eucalyptus, wading in wildflowers, California’s hills sweeping skyward behind us. Nature is the master, we are only suggested.

Dennis M. Doheny “Late Light Poppies, Oil on Linen, 24 x 30”

I’m still in contact with California grade school friends. One of my classmates is the great California landscape Impressionist Dennis M. Doheny. His paintings are among the most awarded and sought after works by a living California plein air painter. He’s represented by another classmate, Karges Fine Art’s Whitney Ganz.

Jim Wodark, “Night Spirit,” Oil on Linen, 12 x 12″

I discovered Jim Wodark’s work at last summer’s Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters “Plein Air for the Park” event. The paint-out is back this summer, a fine venue for meeting and cultivating your plein air palette. So many artists, so many painting styles. Wodark, I think, is a master. His works emit Western dry heat and that silver, scented light permeats the sage.

Lamya Deeb, also new to “Plein Air for the Park” last summer, caught many art lovers’ attention. A quiet presence, she lives and works near Boulder, Colorado. Her paintings are soft whispering masses of color, form and light. Floating, sometimes bordering on the abstract, her paintings represent a departure from more representative plein air styles.

Lamya Deeb, Billowing, Oil on Panel, 8 x 10″   “My aim is to convey the unique essence and beauty of a particular moment and place, and to share the feeling of that experience with the viewer,” says Deeb.

Whenever a plein air work feels so rich that I can “smell” the landscape, I’m a goner.

Plein Air season approaches! It’s my favorite time of year here in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and the Greater Yellowstone region. Artists are out painting everywhere, offering new work fresh from a session on Antelope Flats, Jenny Lake, Mormon Row, Oxbow, the Elk Refuge, the Teton Village area, Moose, Moran Junction, Spring Gulch Road and Hardeman Ranch .

This summer’s major plein air events in the Jackson Hole/Grand Teton National Park/Greater Yellowstone/Teton Valley, Idaho include: Plein Air for the Park, the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Plein Air Fest (which includes artists creating works other than plein air paintings), Artists in the Environment, Driggs Plein Air, the Teton Plein Air Painters, and during the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, artists spread out for the “Quick Draw,” a festival favorite!

The Jackson Hole Art Blog is full of plein air stories! Just enter the words “plein air” in the search box to find dozens of stories on Jackson Hole artists and their work! See you out there!

Travis Walker, “Niko.”

Sketching With Bill Sawczuk; Crushing on Rob Kingwill

By Bill Sawczuk

“I don’t need a sketch to paint.”  
 
“Sketching is too time consuming.” 
 
“I don’t like pencil work.” 
 
And the real reason:
“I don’t wish to spend the time practicing to sketch.”  

 

These are reasons artists chafe against sketching, as cited by plein air painter Bill Sawczuk. In this post, I’m letting Bill do the talking. A consummate professional, he’s always thinking of composition, technique and hard work. In his mind, the definition of sketching–and its importance in the artistic process–is largely misunderstood.

Sawczuk says that the resistance to pencil work stems from the fact that many artists tend to take a pencil sketch too far.

“They labor at technique and finish. The feeling of spontaneity and freshness is gone, and an overworked sketch is the result,” explains Sawczuk. “Look at the sketches that Sorolla did of people sitting in restaurants in New York and Chicago. They were very quickly done, but they capture the attitude and character of those people.”

Bill Sawczuk is quick on the oil sketch draw. No evidence of coffee stains!

As Sawczuk is predominantly a plein air oil painter, he often uses oil as a sketching medium to do a quick study on 8-weight museum quality paper board.

“The big advantage of this material is its ability to soak in the oil paint, which allows you to keep painting on a relatively dry surface. I completed this oil sketch (above) in one hour, and it could have been quicker if I hadn’t dipped my brush in my coffee,” says the artist.

Bill Sawczuk, Conte Figure Sketch

Many world-renowned artists executed highly descriptive yet simple renderings of buildings around the globe using a pencil, Sawczuk tells us. A pencil, he says, is a handy tool, easily obtained, easily carried, and quick to use with plenty of practice.

Photo of Bill Sawczuk by Tammy Christel

“Carry a nice soft pencil and sketch pad with you…no eraser! Using an eraser might cause you to over-correct, negating the time-saving benefits of a quick sketch. Your subject might be anything, but your purpose is learning. If you are drawing from a live model, take advantage of your chance to quick sketch, and see how quickly you improve.”

Sawczuk’s ability to capture the heart of Jackson Hole’s Western culture and wildlife is unmatched. His dynamic portrait of a bull moose sold like lightning at the Art Association’s recent “Whodunnit” fundraiser sale. The painting’s power and surety, its “moose essence,” made it jump off the wall. Sawczuk was also recently featured in the prestigious Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine in that publication’s article on figure drawing, “Go Figure.”

A member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters group, Bill Sawczuk is also represented at Trio Fine Art in Jackson Hole. You know he’ll be out and painting up a storm this summer!  www.triofineart.com

Rob Kingwill for Nike

I’m old. And that’s why, when the coolest of the cool snowboarding – art crowd talk to me, it’s HUGE! The other evening I ran into Rob Kingwill at a friend’s birthday party, and I have to say about this young man: he ALWAYS smiles and says hello, he’s always positive, he’s “clear,” and he’s good to his parents.

We talked for a while. Really, Rob talked and I listened, because I’m not close to his arts group here. He creates for the joy of it; he’s not weighted with angst, but he’s also, I think, hungry and ready for more exposure in the Jackson Hole art scene. For his genre to be taken “seriously.”
To be considered….fine art?  Take a look!

AVALON7 SNOWBOARDING AND FLYFISHING FACEMASKS

It’s certainly sought after. It’s as disciplined as any other form of art. Understand the snowboard culture and you understand the art.  I think a few more pop-up shows for Kingwill and his colleagues are in order, don’t you? There are some pretty sweet sponsors we could hit up!  Check out his company on Facebook:  AVALON7.

Thanks for the talk, Rob. I learned a lot. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-kingwill-ab8487b/

 

What Has Winter Wrought?

Kathy Wipfler  “Deep Winter – Jackson Hole”   7 x 11″   field study

“Greg McHuron was known to wrestle sheets of plywood through various Ice Ages just so he could stand on them without sinking into the frozen depths. But Greg was part Woolly Mammoth.” ~ Plein air painter Erin C. O’Connor 

This Jackson Hole winter!  Folks have mentioned a craving to chew their legs off. But if you’re an artist the show goes on, and being shut in or facing stupendously challenging weather conditions often leads to improvisation, new creative themes and awakenings of a different sort.

I contacted some legendary badass women artists and asked them how winter has affected their work. This post, we hear from  Kathy Wipfler, Kay Stratman and Erin C. O’Connor.

KATHY WIPFLER

Plein air painter Kathy Wipfler is a true veteran of painting outdoors. Solid and sensible, her practices spring from a lifetime of ranching and hard outdoor work. A long-time member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters, she knows a thing or two.

“Having painted on location here in every season for 36 years, I have a few tricks of the trade to stay as warm as possible. Painting a small format is one of them,” writes Wipfler. “Standing on Blue Board keeps the cold from my feet just a little longer than standing directly on the snow, and having the right boots is important. Painting sunlit snow is a passion, but there have been limited sunlit days so far this winter.”

Wipfler says another challenge is simply finding an accessible turnout to set up her easel and park. “Parking on the road’s shoulder is not so smart. I’ve spent time and effort shoveling out spaces whenever it’s feasible.”

Wipfler’s “Deep Winter – Jackson Hole,” pictured above, is so painterly I can almost feel the artist’s rich brushstrokes simply by looking. They convey the weight of this winter, its frigid cold, and a sense of muffled winter beauty. Wipfler’s snowdrifts are a pillow upon which the mountain rests.

Read more about Kathy Wipfler in this Jackson Hole Art Blog post, “Kathy Wipfler & the Boys!” 

KAY STRATMAN

Kay Stratman’s new abstract works are charged with color.

Kay Stratman is experimenting with her “alter studio ego.”

Stratman’s “Natural Abstractions,” comprised of watercolor and wax works, focus on what the artist describes as “amazingly colorful natural occurances that scream for exploration/exploitation/ abstraction.”

Stratman’s work (which she says has always favored essence over traditional form) is focused on subjects ranging from Yellowstone’s brilliant hot springs to “the mysteries of stellar nebula or northern lights.”

“People are familiar with watercolor as a medium and perhaps even encaustic wax,” writes Stratman. “But I combine both media in my work to present an interesting dichotomy. Watercolor and wax shouldn’t even be able to mix, should they? However, each medium becomes obvious upon close inspection, and the view from farther away brings the suggested subject matter to light.  The pieces themselves are splash and poured watercolors on rice paper, infused with encaustic wax (molten beeswax) that makes the paper translucent, allowing me to fuse layers together to create depth of color.”

Erin C. O’Connor – “El Gato Negro.”

Erin C. O’Connor 

“I know an artist who used to work for the phone company; he swiped one of those tents that they put over utility boxes so they can work in inclement weather; now he uses it to paint outside. At 17 below zero, I’d need the tent, the Enormo-Heat-Blaster, and the heated brush handles,” reveals painter Erin C. O’Connor.

I imagine O’Connor’s “Uppity Chick” smile.

Erin C. O’Connor in her studio.

During winter months O’Connor focuses on studio work and brings unfinished “warmer months” paintings to completion. At this time last year O’Connor was in Nicaragua, and she’s “finding welcome refuge in re-exploring those scenes.”

“It all plays back to me like a tape recording ~ the warmth, the humidity, the lyrical conversations, the people I met, all the things I learned,” she says. “Color upon color upon color. This has been my antidote to grey. This has been my rebellion to the cold.”

O’Connor updates her website during winter months, and she’s just been named as the newest member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters Board of Directors. When Plein Air for the Park ” gorgeously unfolds in July, it’s because we’ve thoroughly scrutinized the acrobatics well before summer.”

Next post, we’ll hear from a few more of Jackson’s ultra-talented women artists! All strive to be the best that they can be. Transcending fads and trends, they are wicked strong rungs on Jackson’s art history ladder, and their art endures.

In national art news, it was announced earlier this month that the NEA is in dire straits. Our new administration is strongly considering budget cuts that could eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. If executed, this spells disaster for art interests across the country. Such a step even stands to cancel important exhibitions like SFMOMA’s Matisse-Diebenkorn show.  Read a little about this impending legislation here

 

Wherever We Go, Art is the Heart

I was going to tell you that if I could live on art, I would. Then I realized I already do. And so do we all, in some way or another. Art is, literally, all around us. The keyboard I’m typing on is someone’s imaginiative creation. The lamp on my desk, the paintings on my wall, my books, the clothes I wear (though in my case I have to fall short of calling what I wear “wearable art.” It’s more like “wearable earrings and sweatshirts.”).

Outstanding in her field: Kathy Wipfler.

Recipes are art, the chairs we sit on. Loving one another and sticking by the Golden Rule is an art. That particular rule is, for some reason so difficult to follow. Why is that? It’s so simple to do the right thing. One of the most obvious “right things” is to respond to friends and colleagues when they reach out. When we don’t respond, the thing we remember IS the non-response. That’s not what you want people to remember, professionally or otherwise.

Todd Kosharek at work. Todd’s passion, work ethic and kindness are the best of Jackson Hole’s art heart.

My wish for us this year is to always try to do the right thing. Think it out. Be honest, but balanced. Who are your mentors? Who do you hold up as a hero amongst us? When trying to decide how to act, what choices to make, how to respond, how to walk this earth, I implore you: Do the right thing.

Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters’ Quick Draw” at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center in Grand Teton National Park.

One “compassion researcher” I know of says this: “We are taught that there is a right and wrong way to behave, to act and to think. Stepping outside this construct is a big shift. Non-judgmental acceptance of what it means to embrace all suffering on the planet takes development.”

Plein Air Cowboy Bar!

I’m not religious, but I try to find the good path, make choices that align my soul and help me towards peace and contentment. So often that effort winds up involving huge, ongoing struggles. Breaking things down to day-to-day triumphs is a better choice. Much of the time our thoughts are of the future, one dream after another. I can be guilty of spending more time dreaming than doing, especially during these challenging winter months.

Today my goal is to break that pattern up a little and re-start this blog! I will begin my book in earnest this year. I will work and produce positively to the benefit of arts here as they are related to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s phenomenal beauty and the wealth of art in our galleries and superb new generation of artists.

Bronwyn Minton, for “View 22.” I purchased my first “Bronwyn” this year!

I will try to present all forms of Jackson’s visual arts to the best of my ability; none of us relates to EVERY SINGLE work of art, but we can appreciate every effort, love that it exists, discuss art and feel lucky our particular creative vortex is so powerful.

Borbay and Friend. Connecting with this guy was a highlight of the year! He’s really a softie.

And so this first post of 2017 contains some of my favorite images and moments from 2016’s Jackson Hole art offerings and events. Just a very few~~there were SO many! To see more images from the past year, visit my Art Blog Facebook Page .  If you enjoy those posts, please “Like” the page and tell your friends! 

Dean Cornwell (1892–1960)
Portrait,1929. The Jackson Hole Art Auction had some exquisite works.

As ever, my deepest gratitude to everyone who appreciates and reads The Jackson Hole Art Blog. I’m thankful and proud.

David Michael Slonim at Altamira Fine Art.

The Jackson Hole Art Blog’s new header image: Detail from David Michael Slonim’s “Bailando,” at Altamira Fine Art.  

 

Painting For Life: New Book Celebrates Gregory I. McHuron

"Plein Air Mentor and Master: Gregory I. McHuron," by Susan Hallsten McGarry

“Plein Air Mentor and Master: Gregory I. McHuron,” by Susan Hallsten McGarry

“If you are attaining your goals, you’ve set your goals too low. The last painting you do should be the very best.” –Greg McHuron

Words to live by. Words to paint by.

Gregory I. McHuron (1945-2012) is considered by many admirers the sole plein air painter that could stand up to the Tetons’ majestic size and power, as well as their surrounding valley. Indeed, McHuron stood for the majesty of ALL wilderness and wildlife, and he left a permanent legacy when we lost him to cancer.

Four years after his death a seminal book worthy of McHuron’s life, artistry and passion for wilderness has come to fruition: “Plein Air Mentor and Master: Gregory I. McHuron,” lovingly authored by former Southwest Art Magazine editor-in-chief Susan Hallsten McGarry,  will soon to be available through the Grand Teton Association.

McGarry says that this book, a retrospective, “is not only a story of living in the now; it is also a guide to finding what McHuron called the “WOW” that serenades your soul.”

“Painting has never been a job to me,” McHuron said. “It’s why I live.”

Greg McHuron near Menor's Ferry, Grand Teton National Park. It would be his final "Artists in the Environment" demonstration. Photo by Tammy Christel

Greg McHuron near the Chapel of the Transfiguration, Grand Teton National Park. It would be his final “Artists in the Environment” demonstration. Photo by Tammy Christel

“In the summer of 2013, Linda McHuron, Peter Ward, and I got together to discuss the idea of a book,” says McHuron’s long-time friend and fellow plein air painter Stephen C. Datz. McHuron was a member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters, a group painting annually in Grand Teton National Park in support of the Grand Teton Association. Datz served as the group’s president for four years.

“We made contact with as many family, friends, colleagues, and collectors as we could and began collecting stories and remembrances. Peter began the work of gathering, collating, and cataloguing images of Greg’s work,” said Datz.

McGarry feels that this book, a retrospective, “is not only a story of living in the now; it is also a guide to finding what McHuron called the WOW” that serenades your soul.”

Gregory I. McHuron, "Seasonal Differences," Oil, 40" x 30"

Gregory I. McHuron, “Seasonal Differences,” Oil, 40″ x 30″ Photo by Tammy Christel

For the next two years, through emails, phone calls, one-on-one meetings and gatherings hosted by Peter, we accumulated a huge stash of memories of Greg and advice that he had given his students,” recalls Datz. Matt Montagne and Charlie Craighead contributed an invaluable cache of candid photos of Greg out painting and doing AIE (Artists in the Environment, an open-to-the-public plein air painting program McHuron co-founded in 1974 with Connie Schwiering and Chuck McCurdy) demos.”

McGarry notes that “true artists must live their art and paint from the heart.” McHuron’s lifestyle epitomized that philosophy, she says. His paintings expressed what he felt, and he shared those feelings with others willing to listen, including mentoring artists, in workshops or in his own “no bull*@#!” critiques.

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