Painting in San Miguel de Allende

Workshops are an important way to improve all around; new place, new people, new ideas…all coming at you super fast. It all works its way into the psyche and comes out in new and exciting ways…and continues to influence work miles ahead.

Here is a quick recap of my recent Art Travel Trip to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico this winter. I love this workshop because you get an awesome good deal with three amazing artist instructors: Anne Blair Brown, Thomas Kitts and Frank Gardner.


Before the workshop starts, I tour around San Miguel. There are botanical gardens, courtyards, easy-to-read-signage. The city is a colorful, magical place.

We begin most days in front of Frank’s Gallery. My fave morning vistas from the short walk there:

And coffeshop stops:

During the program, we divide into three groups and rotate. Each day a different instructor teaching a different aspect of plein air.

Thomas in the Garden; cast shadows, pedestrians and architecture.

Anne in a quiet courtyard; warm imprimatura (underpainting), loose brushstrokes, composition and perspective.

Frank at his land off the Old Camino Real; forced perspective, cactus, animals and tack.

There isn’t a lot of down time, but I manage to work on Tiny Sketch San Miguel, 100 pages almost!

Paint a few studies:


Meet critters…

…and great people!







Adventures At Altitude

During the second leg of our journey, the sky is the limit.

Sneak peak of our greatest heights (with Chihuahuas for scale):

Melting snowdrifts make the best patterns, so amazing. Todd is cool…

Actually, the more shapes in your composition, the easier it is to get the proportional relationships right (if you are measuring).

Our route takes us from Durango to Pagosa Springs, over Wolf Creek Pass, to Creede, through Wagon Wheel Gap, over Slumgullion Pass to Lake City.

We camp above the Gap. Quick Gorge sketch.

This eerie landscape is created by massive spruce beetle kill. The forest will always be an inspiration to me, no matter.


I make a transparent tracing of the scene I want to paint. I let the sun shine through it onto the paper and trace over the projection with charcoal pencil. Then, using the traced lines as guides I mix up hues and lay down the paint with a bristle brush.


Palette: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Scarlet, Magenta, Ultramarine and Cerulean. This palette is cool in the mountains.

Near Lake City is Lake San Cristobal, created by an earthflow eons ago. A little icy still for swimming…

Up from Lake City are two high passes, Cinnamon and Engineer. We take Cinnamon but first camp at Mill Creek Campground, where it is warmer and less windy.

Gorgeous spot, so I paint. (watch out for ticks…eek!)

DSC_1132Oil on Arches.

DSC_1136Palette: Titanium White, Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine, and Magenta.

Mill Creek feeds the campground faucets-good water.


At the pass, me and Jack take a roll in a meadow, (again, watch out for ticks…eek!)


…and meet Mr. Surly.




We leave you here for now.

More Adventures At Altitude to come.



We are traveling. Pepe is a veteran. Best travel dog ever! (Jack is a mess…)

First stop, Vallecito Lake, near Durango, CO.

Forget painting, let’s go sailing!

This post explores quick ways to get oil paint down outside/on the road/en plein air with minimal materials.

First, a “dry run”, walking the lake paths making tracings on a transparent film for composition and scale/perspective. After a trace,  I make a detailed drawing with line.

While away from the lake, I daydream about it, remembering the colors and qualities of the trees, rocks and water.

Working with the sun is fun! Speed things up with this trick: Project the trace right onto the canvas or paper, then, trace the projection, fix it, and paint over it. This takes the pressure off when measuring proportions or drawing is not your forte or just to get a really general outline, or map, or composition.


The projection can be distorted, fun!


Accomplice, Mr. pepe.

A lightweight and space-saving alternative to canvases/canvas boards is paper. Try out different “mixed media” papers. So far Arches Oil Paper is my fave because it doesn’t soak up the color.


After drawing, when I go to paint, I can simplify, focusing on formcolor temperature and value contrast.

Palette: Cerulean blue, cadmium scarlet, indian yellow, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and titanium white.

Try It!



  1. Trace
  2. Transfer
  3. Fix the Drawing

4. Limited palette of red, blue, yellow and white:


5. Wash of tones

6. Apply layers of thicker paint

See you in a week!


Jack’s Glass and Trash

Okay, it was a busy week painting (the house).


Art-wise, we made time for collecting and practicing our design skills. Better than nothing!


Collecting while fast-walking Jack makes for “multitasking”, although I prefer “collaboration”.  Always more fun with more than one!


Finally completed our smashed glass cube. Leftovers to the right, not all glass.


Good thing I have more than one cube. I get pretty excited when we find glass that isn’t clear. Pink is rarest, blue second rarest, brown is next, green, then clear.

In addition to the glass, we finalized the Yellow composition.


There is an abundance of blue in trash. Not so, yellow.



I am selecting for a dominant hue with complementary accents.


Bricks for scale. Compositions are 14×14 inches.


It will take more time for purple and green, something to look forward to!

Food for thought: Collage is a great way to practice design and composition skills. Organizing magazine clippings, bits of collected papers, scraps of anything into arrangements that feel balanced and expressive is great practice, if not the final concept. Just look around wherever you are; plane, train, downtown, France, etc.

Never let time be an excuse for not playing with the elements (and principles)!


Azo Coral…and Friends

This Summer, I’m thinking of short projects that explore drawing, composition and color.  My color-box holds many tubes (freebies, trades, impulse buys) that I wonder about but haven’t really seen in action. So, exploring these untried hues will be the driver for the following series of compositions.

Our first selections include: Kings Blue Deep, Golden-Green Deep, and Azo Coral.


I’m captivated by this truck-stop-dime-store elephant and love to draw it. The funky Krewel pattern is a favorite backdrop subject



Tracing the scene on clear plexi really helps figure out the best placement of the elephant on the square canvas format I’m working with. I use expo dry erase black marker.

Tools: Many sharpened soft charcoal pencils, rubber pencil eraser. I don’t like to stop to sharpen things when working so I prepare many in advance.


The first drawing is compositional and drawn from looking at the dry erase trace. The second is its development working from the actual still life.

Below you can see I made the drawing the same scale as the canvas panel so I could transfer it directly to the canvas, which you can see to the right. I fix the canvas drawing with a fixative so I can paint a colored wash over it. (toes for scale;-)


Now, for the big guns!



I am pre mixing the palette so I don’t need to stop and mix the right hue/value/chroma with each brushstroke. I can just locate the pre mixed pile and plug it in. Believe it or not, this method gives you more choices plus, if seeing is believing, this will help you on your way.

That does it for the first day of painting. I want to finish it now…but much better to wait until tomorrow. Slow and steady wins the race.


Above see the Azo Coral possibilities, with the hue plus ivory black and titanium white.  Azo coral acts a bit like cadmium scarlet. It could be an alternative, less expensive and less toxic selection.

Now, for Golden-Green Deep. Love this color!

Kings Blue doesn’t really stand up to prolonged mixing, as it is a mixture to begin with. But, gave it a try with this model of the plane Dad flew during the Vietnam War, since it is Memorial Day today. General Electric F-111D.

I tend to get wrapped up in the concept of things and rush them, as in the painting below. The background needs more evaluation in terms of temperature and contrast. I should have given the plane an overnight like the Elephant.

Continuing on, I shall slow down in general.

Okay, this is good for one week of practice. I think 2-3 days on each work is doable. I hope this gives you something to chew on!

We’ll see how many obscure tubes of paint I can dig out of the paint-box.

Paint on!

Upcoming Classes in Oil Paint and Pastel

Hello Friends,

I am teaching the following classes this Winter/Spring.

I teach through Art Verve Academy (AVA), Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum Art Institute (ASDM) and offer individual and group classes and workshops on demand.

To sign up please go to:

or and


contact me directly at


Take a look at the following classes and their locations. Sign up for a class today!


Introduction to Plein Air Painting, Plein Air Basics, and Plein Air on Location:

February 21, 28, March 11, 18, March 21, 28

Tuesday Afternoons, 1-4PM

$75 for each 2 session class

to sign up and pay please visit:


Oil Painting: Self Directed Projects

March 17, 19, 26, April 2, 9, 23

Sunday Afternoons 1:30-4:30

$170 for 6 sessions

to sign up and pay please visit:


Pastel Landscapes in the Studio: Sky, Rocks, Water

April 2. 9, 23,30, May 7, 14

Sunday Mornings, 9-12

$75 for each 2 session class

to sign up and pay please visit:



Pastel From the Ground Up

February 15, 22, March 1, 8, 15

Wednesdays 9-12

$150 members/$200 non-members

sign up at:


The Colored Wilderness: Pastel Workshop

February 17, 18, 19

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10-4PM

$150 members/$200 non-members

sign up at:


Thanks for taking a look. I hope you find something that will fit into your schedule. If not, feel free to send me suggestions for future classes and times/dates: or respond to this post.