Because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words:

Every time I log onto my Juried Art Services account to enter a show, I see this list of my entries and have a good laugh.

See all those red x’s? Those represent years of rejection.

I know a lot of artists who take it personally when they don’t get into a particular show, but here’s the deal – behind EVERY artist you see posting excitedly about their latest show acceptance on Facebook, there is a long list of rejections. Rejections from shows, galleries, whatever. And every successful artist had to brush off those rejections and keep trying to get to where they are today.

So, even though it sucks when I don’t get into a show, I try not to take it personally. That show up there that I got rejected from for five years in a row? I got into it the previous two years and won awards. Totally unpredictable.

You have to laugh when you fall, brush yourself off, and keep on trying. And also, just use it as motivation to make your paintings even better – sometimes getting better is the best revenge.

Interpretations – Group Show

“When the Day is Done”
Oil on Panel

Phew!! It’s been a busy week. My sister got married last weekend (congrats Shannon!!! I’m working on your present!), and I’ve been getting everything ready for a group show that opens tonight. I know it’s a bit late, but if anyone is in the area, feel free to stop by the opening tonight or check out the show throughout the month.

Here’s the official spiel from the gallery:

“We are proud to bring together the work of Robert Spooner, Stacey Peterson, and Steven Hileman. While these three artists share many similarities—all left careers in other fields to take up full-time gallery painting, all paint in oil, all express themselves with boldness and exquisite control—their works clearly reveal three distinct personalities.”

The show is at Roundhouse Gallery in Fort Collins, Colorado and the opening is from 6-9 pm tonight with the show running through the end of the month. Robert Spooner and Steven Hileman are both great painters, and I’m humbled to be in a show with them both. You can preview my paintings for the show on my website here.

Bug Bitten and Sunburnt

“Sunset Over Byers Peak”
Oil on Panel

This week is officially arts week in Winter Park, and the main event up here in Grand County is the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters paint out and show. The plein air event is an invite only type of thing, and I’ve been bugging the powers that be to get me on the list for a while. I made it onto the alternate list, and I lucked out Monday and got a spot when someone didn’t show.

So, I’m pretty excited – I’ve wanted to do this show for a while. It’s a good group of artists, I already know it’s at a good gallery (they do a great job selling my work!), and when you have a toddler it’s definitely more convenient to participate in an event like this if it’s in your own backyard.

The only drawback? Getting into the show Monday meant finishing seven (good) paintings on location in just a few days. So, I’ve been in a plein air painting frenzy for the past two and a half days, and it’ll continue with more painting tomorrow, the show opening on Friday, quickdraw on Saturday morning (eek – hate these!!), and a couple more events on Saturday afternoon.

All in all, it’s been a busy few days, but it’s been great to get back outside with my pochade box and paint with some other great painters. The painting above is the one I just turned in for the show preview – it’s a little bit simple, as are all of my plein air paintings – guess that’s my style! I’ve painted this scene a couple of times before, and I knew it would be a great sunset scene.

Anyhow, if you’re in the area (or live in Denver and want to drive a bit to see some good art), the show opens Friday evening at Elk Horn Gallery in Winter Park. Visit the RMPAP website for more info on the official schedule.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to head out to my studio and sign, varnish, and frame some paintings. The work doesn’t end!

Demo – Enlarging a Painting PART II

So, when I left off yesterday I had just finished a block-in of the major shapes and colors in acrylic paint. A lot of people ask me about the acrylic whenever I post these demos, and I know it’s a bit unconventional. When I do smaller paintings, or paint on location, I usually do a block-in of the major masses with thinned oil paint, then build up texture and detail on top of that block-in. I think a lot of artists work this way – it’s pretty normal. When I’m working on larger paintings in the studio, I often use acrylics instead for two reasons. First, the smell of oil paint thinned with mineral spirits gets to me if I’m working on a large scale, even though I use the best mineral spirits I’ve found to date (Gamsol). The acrylics don’t smell, and I can work on top of them with oil paint without any problems. Second, I like the fact that the acrylics dry immediately. I can work over them right away without having to worry about mixing with the paint underneath, which allows me to change and refine how I want.

Anyhow, once the block-in was done, I started to rework the painting in oil. At this point, I was using oil paint straight from the tube for the most part, using OMS and res-n-gel to thin the paint as needed. The first step was to put down the dark shadows of the pine tree:

I often work from back to front when I’m doing a large painting, but when I’m doing a more organic subject like this, I sort of go from dark to light and skip around the canvas a bit. So, once the dark shadows of the tree were down, I started to bring in the mid-tone greens on the pine branches and the general masses of the red tree behind it. I was blocking in major masses at this point, and wasn’t too concerned with allowing the sky to show through the tree quite yet:

Next, the “solidity” of the pine tree was distracting me, so I decided to go ahead and paint in the main tone of the sky, working the sky color back into the edges of the trees, and adding some sky holes throughout the mass of the pine tree:

Now that the top half of the painting was taking shape, I started to work downward into the foreground vegetation, starting with the willows at the top of the hill:

Then moving on to the foreground grasses:

Next, I painted in the rocky trail, and started to refine the foreground a bit by adding some of the red twigs/bushes:

At this point, I decided it was time to paint in the aspen trunks before refining the foreground any more. When I paint aspen trees, I often paint everything around them before tackling their trunks. I don’t really know why I do this, but I do know that if the painting is working around the trunks, it will only look better once I complete them. I usually paint the knots on the tree trunks first (dark to light convention), but in this case I decided to paint the light mass of the tree bark first:

Then I added in the knots on the trees, which are what really give aspen trees their character:

At this point, all of the main masses in the painting were complete, and I set it up on the mantle above the fireplace for a couple of days so that I could spot the problems before finishing it up. The uniformity of color of the red bushes in the foregound was really bugging me, and the rocks on the trail at the bottom of the panel were too black. I brought the painting back into the studio and did some rework on the trail itself, added some color to the rocks at the bottom of the painting, and brought some varying colors/values into the foreground grasses and bushes to add dimension:

I took a final photo of the painting at that point, and decided there was too much sky showing through the pine tree on the left and that it was a bit distracting. A bit of work to make the pine a more solid mass, and the painting was done:

So, here’s a picture of the OLD 16×20″:

And here’s the NEW 24×30″:

I prefer the new one, just because I think it’s painted better (a year makes a difference!), which is what I would hope for. I also think I achieved my goal of giving the composition more room to breathe, and painting the branches of the aspen trees so that they have a more lyrical quality and aren’t so stilted. Nate says he still likes the old one better, but we don’t actually have it around to compare, so who knows!!

The Show

My first opening was Friday night, and it turned out to be a great experience! A lot friends and family came out to support me, which made the whole experience less intimidating than I thought it would be. A bunch of my (ex)coworkers from my engineering job came as well, which shows what great, supportive people they are. There was a decent turnout of collectors, and we sold some paintings, which is always nice! Quite a few people showed up who already own paintings of mine, and it was great to meet them and talk to them about my work.

I think that just about everyone I talked to asked me the same three questions (or a variation of each):

1) Do you paint on location?
2) How long does it take you?
3) Do you use your engineering degree?

The show hangs through the end of this month, but my work is done for the time being. Now it’s back into the studio to get some paintings done for other shows and opportunities!

Now that I’m not working towards a show, I’d like to try some new things in the next few months. First, I really want to try out pastels. Second, I want to start doing some smaller work in an attempt to paint everyday – I like to paint wet-into-wet, so when I’m working on larger paintings I often don’t paint unless I know I’m going to have a devoted chunk of time. I think doing smaller 6×8″ studies would give me a way to pick up the brushes even when I have less time.