M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Artist Mentors Online

My good friend Kevin Macpherson has a great website of advice and personal critiques. Check it out at www.artistmentorsonline.com

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jerry Pinkney Opening at Rockwell Museum

Artist Jerry Pinkney Lecturing at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts during the opening weekend of a major exhibition of his watercolor paintings.

Right: Artist Jerry Pinkney and Author Gloria Pinkney autographing books at The Norman Rockwell Museum on November 14, 2010.

Our good friend and neighbor Jerry Pinkney is celebrating 50 years of being an artist and award-winning illustrator. About 150 of his original watercolor paintings are on display at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts until next May, 2011 when the show will travel to other museums. Jerry won the Caldecott Medal in 2010 for his illustrated book The Lion and the Mouse.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Artist's Road

My good friends John Hulsey and Ann Trusty have just launched an informative website for artist called The Artist's Road. It offers informative painting demonstrations, interviews, and advice based on the two artist's years of experience. The first installment includes a three-part interview with me. Here's the address of the website:


Friday, October 22, 2010

Painting Landscapes: Composing Shapes and Values

I'm learning to use iMovie to turn my digital photos and videos into movies I can share with other artists. Here's one about organizing shapes and values in a plein air landscape created with oil colors. I'll be interested in your comments and suggestions. Thanks, Steve

Monday, September 27, 2010

Florida Watercolor Society Convention

 Jack Nolan (jacknolan-watercolorist.com) participating in the 
paint around.

 Sue Allen (sueallenart.com) demonstrating her painting techniques.

 Taylor Ikin (taylorikin.com) demonstrating painting on Yupo paper.

Vilas Tonape a professor at Polk State College, demonstrating 
portrait painting

The Florida Watercolor Society (www.floridawatercolorsociety.org) staged another exciting, informative, and fun convention this past weekend at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Innisbrook, Florida. The program included painting demonstrations, slide lectures, an exhibition opening, and an awards banquet. The annual exhibition was judged by Carrie Burns Brown, and she gave the Susan Lattner Lloyd Gold Award to Susan Hanssen.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Plein Air at the Grand Canyon: Sales

Evaluating Sales During the Recent Grand Canyon 
Celebration of Art

                                   First Prize Winner Cody DeLong
After looking carefully at the paintings on display in the Kolb Studio along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, I came to some conclusions about sales of plein air paintings created during a week long event that was part of the Celebration of Art (September 11 - September 18, 2010). I reached these conclusions after considering why some paintings sold immediately, some were acquired during the run of the exhibition, and a few will probably not sell at all. 
I should explain these are my own conclusions and may not reflect the opinions of other participating artists, collectors, sponsors, or judges. I welcome comments from any of those folks, as well as from artists who have participated in similar events. 
The obvious point to be made is that when a plein air event is held at a location that is a landmark, historic site, national treasure, natural phenomenon, or source of local pride, patrons are most likely to buy paintings they feel accurately represent the place. Those can be works that range from tightly detailed presentations of the most emblematic scenes to paintings that capture the emotional, atmospheric, or personal aspects of the place. 
At the GCCA event, several artists challenged themselves to find scenes that were unexpected, personal, or interpretive. In general, those failed to sell. The most popular images were those that depicted the well known peeks in ways that captured the dramatic lighting, vast space, and geological phenomena of the canyon.
The next big factor influencing sales was pricing. The work that sold fastest was prices in the range of $5 - $8 per square inch, whereas the pieces that sold most slowly or not at all were priced in the $10 - $13 per square inch range (including frames). 
Let me quickly mention that I am not factoring in the artistic merits of the drawings and paintings exhibited in the Kolbe Studio because in every case the works created by the 28 participating artists was of a very high technical and aesthetic quality. If that hadn’t been the case, as so often happens in outdoor painting events, I would be the first to point out that poorly executed paintings are not likely to sell at any price, especially if they present the favored landmarks in an amateurish manner. 
In general, people who are actively looking to buy paintings are confident in their own judgements, but they can be influenced by the decisions of the judges. The four award winners in the GCCA event sold almost all of their paintings, in part because the judges’ decisions confirmed the positive opinions  people had about the artwork. 
Most of the artists who participated in the GCCA event live in the Southwest and are known for painting regional landscapes in general and the Grand Canyon in particular. Moreover, those artists are familiar to regional collectors because they participate in other plein air events, museum exhibitions, and gallery shows. The artists who traveled from California, New York, and Utah were less likely to be known. However, their paintings did lend variety and interest to the exhibition, and collectors responded to the fact those artists brought a different style and interpretation to the subject matter. 
A number of buyers at the GCCA event came specifically to add a painting to their collection by one of the better known artists such as Curt Walters, Merrill Mahaffey, and Bruce Aiken. That’s probably the reason the quick draw paintings by Gregory Hull and P.A. Nisbet sold for prices well above the average. Astute collectors knew they were getting a bargain even when they paid the highest prices in the live auction. 
Although most of the participating artists worked in oil, as is so often the case in plein air events, those who did drawings or painted in watercolor or acrylic sold works for comparable prices. 
It should be noted that the Grand Canyon event was extremely well organized and promoted, the artists were treated as the stars of the event, and the staff and board members were totally supportive of the celebration. In fact, a number of GCA board members helped sponsor the event and bought paintings. All of that contributed to the overall success of the event. 
It is also worth mentioning that last year many paintings sold after the opening weekend events, and the show will be hanging through Thanksgiving this year. The park expects as many as 10,000 visitors to view the exhibition in Kolbe Studio, especially during the Thanksgiving holiday when the number of park visitors is quite high. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Award Winners National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society

NOAPS Presiden Ken Gerardy and me with Elizabeth Robbins' Best of Show winner.

The awards I selected in the Best of America 2010 Extraordinary Painting in Oil and Acrylic show sponsored by The National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society (www.noaps.com) were announced this weekend at the Ella Carouthers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar, Missouri (on view through October 10). The show will travel to the Katy Depot Historic Site in Sedalia, Missouri (October 11-30), the Etta and Joseph Miller Performing Arts Center in Jefferson City, Missouri (November 2-13), and the Stone Creek Mall in Osage Beach, Missouri (November 15-30).

NOAPS Founders' Endowment Fund "Best of Show" Award: Elizabeth Robbins for "Hydrangeas, Copper and Cantaloupe."

Platinum Palette Award to Rulei Bu for "Annapolis Spring."

The Gustafson Art and Education Fund "Best of Light and Color" Award to Charles Harrington for "Path to Pavillion #6."

The Janet Ross Commemorative Fund "Most Realistic Landscape" Award to Cecy Turner for "Late Afternoon Solace."

Lake Arts Council "Trendsetter" Award to Ron Ferkol for "After Work."

"Best Portrait" Award to Jian Wu for "Asami in a Blue Kimono."

"Best Still Life" Award to Ann Hardy for "Samovar and Cup."

Bank Star One Galaxy Club "Rising Star of the Galaxy" Award to Esperanza Chavez for "Out to Pasture."

Monteverde Memorial Fund "Best Impressionist Painting" Award to Paula Holtzclaw for "Evening Shadows."

The Ragar Award for Creativity to Sharon Warren for "Earth and Water."

The Narrative Excellence Award to Del-Bouree Bach for "Working the Tides."

The Best Landscape Award to Barbara Nuss for "Shawnee Valley."

Congratulations to all the exhibiting artists and winners!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sherrie McGraw in her New Mexico Studio

In developing articles for American Artist Studios magazine, I interviewed Sherrie McGraw in her spacious studio outside Taos, New Mexico. The magazine is now available in bookstores. Many of the great still photographs of the studio were taken by David Huff, a wonderful professional photographer from the Phoenix area.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with Joan Potter in her Santa Fe Studio

Joan Potter is a fascinating artist who built a studio as an extension of an historic building in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She talks about Gerald Cassidy (who build the compound of adobe structures in the 1920's), her extensive art collection, and her paintings in this interview. The studio is featured in American Artist Studios magazine that is on sale now in bookstores.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interview with Michael Van Zeyl in his Chicago Studio

An interview with Michael Van Zeyl in his Chicago studio that he built as a second floor addition to his suburban home. The studio is featured in American Artist Studios magazine that is available at local bookstores. It turns out this will be the very last magazine I edited for American Artist because my position was abruptly terminated last Friday.

Michael is a gifted painter who is also an astute business person and loving family man. Check out his website after you watch the video: www.michaelvanzeyl.com.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sam Knecht's Studio and Painting Commission

Sam Knecht's Hillsdale, Michigan studio will be featured in the new issue of American Artist Studios magazine. The publication won't be available in bookstores or inteweavestore.com for a few more weeks, but I want to post this interview now because Sam Knecht's large painting of the signing of the U.S. Constitution will be unveiled in Washington D.C. on September 17, 2010.

American Artist Studios will also feature the workspaces of David A. Leffel and Sherrie McGraw, Nelson Shanks, Carl Samson, Joan Potter, P.A. Nisbet, Arthur Egeli, Heidi Presse, and many other professional artists.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Interview With David A. Leffel About His Art Studios

I interviewed David A. Leffel for American Artist Studios magazine in his Des Montes,New Mexico studio. He talked about the various studios he rented or owned over the years, from the early workspace with no heat in the winter and too much heat in the summer, to the later studios with plenty of room for painting and teaching.

For a copy of American Artist Studios (available in September, 2010), visit www.interweavestore.com.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Plein Air Painting Video Demonstration: Rockwood Hall

Here's a video I made while working on the painting described in the last blog. I'm still learning to smooth things out in iMovie, but I like the ease with which I can edit and add content to videos.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Plein Air Painting at Favorite Locations

Rockwood Hall Demonstration, 2010, oil, 11 x 14. Collection the artist.

I start off in search of new painting locations, but more often than not I wind up back in one of my favorite spots where the site is familiar, no one bothers me while I'm painting, and the vista challenges me to create a good painting. That's why I often return to Rockwood Hall, a state park near Pocantico Hills, New York. on grounds given to New York State by the Rockefeller family. The park offers one of the most expansive views of the Hudson River from an elevated site.
I followed my normal painting routine in developing this picture, except that I exaggerated the dark shapes that framed the view and accentuated the strong light pattern cutting through the tall trees and hitting the middle ground of the landscape. I liked the way those changes added drama and impact to an otherwise common summer scene.
Increasingly, plein air painting becomes an emotional rather than a technical process. My mind seems to stray from the color mixtures and brush work and ends up focused on the feeling of being alone in a vast and stunningly beautiful location. No matter what is on my mind when I begin painting, those thoughts quickly slip away and are replaced by the a joyous recognition of being in nature on a beautiful day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Creating Studio Paintings from Plein Air Sketches

Bash Bish Falls in Western Massachusetts

14" x 11" plein air sketche of Bash Bish Falls

The first stag of my 24" x 20" studio painting

The finished studio painting

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Painting Changing Light on the Landscape

Croton Reservoir, June, 2010, oil, 9 x 12. Collection the artist.

After painting on location for about 16 years, I can finally get past the challenges of controlling the oil colors well enough to record what I see and, instead, I can focus on the momentary conditions of light, atmosphere, and mood. That makes the experience more satisfying and the paintings more appealing to observers.
Recently I went back to a foot bridge over the Croton Reservoir to paint a familiar scene, and I spent about 2 hours capturing the layers of greens influenced by the light and the distance. I knew from the moment I started the painting that the most important aspects of the scene were the way the sunlight cut between the first and second arc of trees and the clouds bleached by the hot, mid-day sunlight. Painting the land formations depended on balancing warm and cool greens (warm: ultramarine blue + cadmium medium; cool: Winsor blue + cadmium lemon), as well as the dark, middle, and light values; and recording the cloud pattern called for softening the edges of shapes painted with warm whites (titanium white with a touch of transparent oxide red) and blues (ultramarine and Winsor blue).
Lots of people stopped as they were biking and jogging over the bridge, and they made both stupid and profound comments. One woman asked if I had painted the picture, making me wonder if she thought I bought it a Wal Mart and brought it to the location; and a serious biker stopped to ask if I might sell the painting. The man didn't actually purchase the painting, but I was flattered that he thought my painting captured all the reasons he enjoyed nature.
P.S. Everyone who stopped to admire my painting was pleased that I eliminated the telephone wires crossing over the dam.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Suggesting Motion in Landscape Paintings

Schneider's Willows, 2010, oil, 9 x 12.
While photographing Bill Schneider's workshop on composition in his Illinois studio (www.schneiderart.com), I took a couple of hours to paint a large willow tree next to a pond in the back yard. I designed the arrangement of shapes to suggest the movement of a gentle breeze that was coursing its way across the lawn through the trees and causing the branches to brush along the surface of the water. I'm writing about Bill's five-day class for the fall issue of Workshop magazine (www.artistdaily.com).
Bill studied with Daniel Gerhartz (www.danielgerhartz.com) and has a large collection of his work on display in his home. It was fascinating to see so many of Dan's figure paintings in one place, and I was in awe of the way he uses a few strokes of thick paint to define the elaborate figures, costumes, and backgrounds of his paintings.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thomas S. Buechner 1927-2010

Still Life by Thomas S. Buecher, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

Portrait of Clare Doherty Deyo, by Thomas S. Buecher, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

Portrait of Michael Lindsay Doherty, by Thomas S. Buechner, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

I lost a great friend and mentor on Sunday with the death of Thomas S. Buechner. During his long and distinguished career, he had been director of the Brooklyn Museum, President of Steuben Glass, Director of the Corning Museum, and a board member of many foundations and art organizations. But I'm sure what Tom would prefer to be remembered as is an artist because he always managed to stay active as a painter of landscapes, still lifes, and portraits.
I first met Tom in 1979 when he took me to lunch in the King Cole Room of the St Regis Hotel so we could begin an interview that resulted in one of several articles I wrote on his work for American Artist magazine. We continued the interview aboard the Corning Glass corporate jet when Tom took my to his studio in Corning, and I never stopped learning from him over the course of the next 30 years. He introduced me to plein air painting, did portraits of my two children, sold me still life paintings, and gave me valuable advice about editing the magazine.
I often quoted Tom in my editorials, blog, and lectures because he said relevant and quotable things. For example, he remarked that "the older I get, the more attractive the subject matter becomes that is closest to the bathroom." And when telling me how to make small plein air paintings look important, he said "if you want it sold, frame it in gold." But aside from offering those amusing quips, he had a friendly way of challenging me to do my very best work. I'm sure he did the same with others.
I had lunch with Tom last fall and he said he didn't remember every saying the things I attributed to him, but he appreciated the mention and wanted me to continue giving him credit for such sage and humorous advice. I certainly will do that.
I received a letter just a few weeks ago from Tom and he made no mention of the lymphoma that was bringing his rich life to a close, but then he wouldn't. I'm assuming he wrote to a number of people over the past few months as a way of saying good bye without really saying he was leaving. Instead, he thanked me for recognizing him as an artist and publishing articles on his use of alkyd paints and mediums, how he used photographs as source material and avoided the mechanical look of the photograph, traveling efficiently while painting supplies, and a number of other topics. He also urged me not to become a bitter old man now that I am semi-retired but, rather, to focus on the new opportunities before me. I will try to do that, always remembering that many of those opportunities were provided to me by the friend whose voice I will continue to hear and whose paintings I will continue to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Painting Rushing Water

Continuing my efforts to paint bodies of water, I set up my easel along the creek by the home of my friends Jack Beal and Sondra Freckelton. I drew outllines of the major shapes with thin oil color mixed with Wingel alkyd medium on a 9" x 12" panel, designing the composition to suggest deep space and layers of atmosphere. I then blocked in the major shapes with more thin oil color mixed with Wingel, and then refined those shapes with paint mixed with a small amount of linseed oil.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Landscape Painting in Oil: Plein Air on the Croton River

I used my HD Flip camera to record the progress of a painting I did along the Croton River over a two hour period.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

8 Tips on Painting Landscapes in Oil

The view from above the Hamilton/Appel home in upstate New York

Tip 1: Draw the composition with a blue/purple oil color mixed with fast-drying alkyd medium.
Tip 2: Paint from the top to the bottom of the canvas, and from the background to the foreground of the space so the layers overlap coming forward.

Tip 3: Warm the horizon line by painting a mix of titanium white, yellow ochre, and quinacridone red to create the sense of distant light and to separate the layers.
Tip 4: Paint distant forms so they have less contrast and more blue/purple; and lighten those colors at the bottom of each horizontal band to separate the layers of space.

Tip 5: Toward the end of the painting process, add linseed oil or painting medium to the color mixtures to slow the drying time.
Tip 6: After painting an area, soften the edges of the shapes by gently rubbing them with a clean, dry brush.

Tip 7: To paint highlights, mix the colors with alkyd white (often called "fast-drying white") or a stiff medium (stand oil or sun-thickened linseed oil) so they sit on top of the blended colors.
Tip 8: Make sure to have a diagonal shape that leads viewers into the paint, and zig-zag the flow of shapes to take viewers through the entire picture.
"Hamilton/Appel Home," 2010, oil, 11 x 14. Collection the artist.

Talking about the painting process in terms of "tips" may be overly simplistic and obvious, but it's a handy way of sharing some of the advice I've received from artists I've interviewed over the years. In my experience, that advice helps record a lot of information in a short period of time (2 + 1/2 hours, in this case), it helps convey the sense of atmosphere and space in a landscape, and it helps capture the beauty of the location.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Painting Waterfalls No. 1

The subject in a state park on the border of Massachusetts and New York.

Step 1: The major shapes blocked in in shades of purple and gray

Step 2: Adding a poster-like display of the local colors.

The completed painting: Bash Bish Falls in May, oil, 14 x 11.

Align Left
I've started painting a series of waterfalls because there is something so appealing about the subject, and because I want a more romantic, atmospheric look to the finished paintings I'm softening edges before the paint dries. I'll add hard edges as I get close to finishing the paintings while leaving some areas soft and gestured. I'm adding linseed oil to the paint mixtures to slow the drying time and therefore allow me to blend the edges after I've blocked in the major shapes.
I did a plein air sketch at one of the most popular waterfalls in the region, Bash Bish Falls, a natural phenomenon on the border of Massachusetts and New York that was drawn and painted dozens of times by the likes of John F. Kensett. I mixed M. Graham's walnut alkyd medium into the oil colors because it is a high-gloss medium that dries more slowly than other alkyd mediums. I wanted to be able to blend the oil colors throughout the painting process and mediums like Galkyd would have caused the paint to dry too quickly. I finished the sketch in about 90 minutes and took photographs I can use to develop a larger studio painting of the scene.
I'm also working on waterfall paintings in my studio that are based on photographs I took in Hawaii and at the New York Botanical Gardens. I'll post those when they are finished.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Creative Options With New Art Supplies

The scene of the workshop: Maui, Hawaii, a real paradise of great weather, flowers,
landscape, and artists.

Carmen Gardner

Jim Lynch, co-sponsor and organizer of the workshop

Michael Clements

The view from our suite at the Hotel Wailea where the workshop was held.
I recently taught a three-day workshop in Maui, Hawaii during which I introduced the participants to new and improved painting materials that weren't familiar to them. One the first day I offered samples of products artists can use with oil colors: R&F's Pigment Bars, Gamblin's new FastMatte alkyd paints, M. Graham's oil colors, and SourceTek panels.
On the second day, workshop participants were given samples of a range of acrylic paints and mediums including those manufactured by Winsor & Newton, Daler-Rowney (Cryla paints), Chroma (Atelier paints), Dick Blick (paints & retarder), and Utrecht (canvases).
On the third day, I provided samples of Jack Richeson's Shiva brand casein paints and mediums that are water soluble but dry to a hard, porous finish. Some students later applied Unison and Jack Richeson pastels over the dry casein paints.
The point of the workshop was for students to have a chance to understand the chemistry and creative options available with paints they have never tried. All of them were glad to be able to learn about materials that would open up new possibilities.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Landscape Paintings by F.E. Church

The Icebergs (originally The Union), by Frederic E. Church, on display
at the Dallas Museum of Art

The Icebergs, by Frederic Edwin Church, 1861. Collection the
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas.

Oil Sketchs for The Icebergs

Sunset from Olana, by Frederic Edwin Church, July 2, 1870, oil, 11 1/6 x 15 1/8. Reproduced in the book Glories of the Hudson. Frederic Edwin Church's Views From Olana
(Cornell University Press, 2009).
I've always considered the 19th Century artist Frederic Edwin Church to be one of the greatest landscape painters, in part because I live along the Hudson River that he painted so often, and in part because his technique was so efficient and effective. His oil sketches show how much information can be recorded quickly if one is skilled at handling a bristle brush and various combinations of oil colors. In addition, his skills as a painter were matched by his cleverness in creating dramatic pictures and marketing them expertly. He made a point of painting exotic, unknown locations and exhibiting them in tents set up to make the massive canvases available to the general public.
Take for example, his painting of The Icebergs, one of the jewels in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. I had a chance to see the painting during a recent press trip sponsored by the Dallas Sheraton Hotel, and I bought a book on the painting that details its fascinating history. Church first titled the painting was The Union because he wanted to appeal to northern collectors during the Civil War, but he later changed the title when it seemed likely a British collector sympathetic to the Confederacy would purchase the painting.
Church's home in Hudson, New York has become a mecca for landscape painters who admire the 19th century artist as I do, and there is a new book reproducing a number of the oil sketches Church painted from his mountain-top home. Most were done quickly to capture the fleeting colors and light of dawn and dusk, and very few were ever developed into larger studio paintings. The founders of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York acquired a large collection of Church's sketches because they believed they would be instructive to art students. I totally agree with the women who bought the sketches from the artist's estate.