William Trost Richards sketchbooks


I have been planning for some time on showcasing obscure Australian Artists and I am collecting images for that series, however something sparked my getting this blog off the ground.


I read artist Joseph McGurl's article on the American artist William Trost Richards. Since I am doing a workshop soon I thought it would benefit students everywhere to take a look at Richards sketchbook images. We as artists rely on the camera too much. I have often been very happy when I forget my camera and only have a sketchbook. I try and bring my sketchbook everywhere I may have a chance to use it. At Richards time of course photography was not available. I cannot stress enough how important it is to sketch a subject. It remain so much more vivid than any photograph and trains your eye to seeing value, composition and shape. So next time you are out, forget your camera, but don't forget your sketchbook!


Note: I have been using Strathmore toned paper sketchbooks as of late. Using both charcoal and white charcoal pencils starts the brain thinking about the lights. In oil painting I generally add the light passages at the end, but with watercolor where you are saving you white paper is of supreme importance, so using the white charcoal to highlight those "white" areas in a sketchbook is a great exercise for a future painting. Richards coastal sketch here is a good example.


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Plein Air Watercolor Workshop

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Plein Air Oil Painting

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Ivor Hele Australian Artist

It is not often I come across a new artist that knocks my socks off. I mean someone I never heard of before.... at all. Ivor Hele was one of the most productive Australian artists in their history completing more commissioned works than any other artist in the country to that time. He is primarily known as a war artist stationed in North Africa and then New Guinea during WWII, He later drew with Australian troops in Korea. After the war, though he became a bit of a recluse, doing commissioned portraits ( Winning the top Australian prize for portrature, The Archibald prize, five times ) and many drawings and paintings of his second wife, all nudes from what I have seen. These intimate drawings seem to be viewed as a release from depicting what must have been the horrors of war in his earlier career. Little is seen of his work outside of Australia from what I can dig up. 


His drawing especially appeals to me. I see a very lithe, languid and sensuous drawing style in much of his portraits of single figures. In his war drawings a very earthy workman like quality shows up where the toil and energy expended in the scene are very evident. His drawing style most reminds me of D. Cornwell, F. Brangwyn, N. Fechin and R. Fawcett


I can find only two published works curently available:


1.) Ivor Hele, A Productive Artists published 2002 Wakefield Press

     Focusing on his post war figure work


2.) Ivor Hele The Heroic Figure published 1997 AWM

    Published by the Australian War Memorial Which holds the bulk of his war art.




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From Russia with Love part I

My son spent two months studying in St. Petersburg this past summer. He came home with a few illustrated books and I thought I'd post some of the pictures.


These  fine clean, loose little vignette pen and ink sketches accompanied a volume of  Pushkin poetry. Circa 1950's





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Northwest Plein Air Competition 2011

Another wrap in  Hood River, Oregon. I had to cut short my painting by two days. I had one awful day, one productive day and the third somewhere in between. I have a problem in this particular show. There are specific sites chosen each day that the artists CAN paint if they want. I find that typically when I go to a site... I end up not painting that well or talk too much and don't get a painting started. I usually need to find my painting and with 20 to 30 artists at one spot... well I feel all itchy. I want to head off to some little corner. It is too bad because I love painting in the company of friends.


This year I spent part of the time painting with a couple of friends, but most of the time alone. My painting brain seems to function best when it is tuned to it's own peculiar frequency. I did go downtown with a handful artists and do a night painting. We had a great time and people seem much more interested and responsive when I paint at night ( maybe I look more approachable?) . There were all sorts of headlamps shining up and down Oak Street. I find I can only paint with ambient light, either from a street light or store window. This year I did "Checkin' it out". The figures hangin' in front of Trillium Pub were watching fire engines down the street, however I like to think they are checking out a female passerby. When the young fellow in the hat asked if he could be in my painting I said I only do nude models. He started undressing until his buddies told him he was embarrassing himself!


Here are three of the oils in the show. Two sold and my watercolor Rasmussen took Third Place.


All the folks at the Columbia Center for the Arts do a bang up job putting it all together.









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Drawing the Blues

Once again I was able to chronicle the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues festival. It has come to be one of my favorite art events of the year. It is sometimes a bit too much of a challenge to get a good sketch in with all the movements a musician makes.... but when you knock one off you are happy with it feels all the more sweeter.


Here are three favorites from the week. This year I decided to stay late for the jam sessions that go from 10:00 to 2:00 in the morning ( I remember ART JAMMING in college but I do not know how musicians do it!). My friend Jim Nyby was playing at the piano.


I usually work in pencil, and/or watercolor. This year I decided to use General's Charcoal on toned paper with some white chalk pencil. The scans of the paper color is lighter than actual color. I really like the Strathmore Artagain papers.



The wonderfully talented musician Chieck Hamala Diabate is a bit easier for me to capture. He plays in a very hypnotic easy rhythmic fashion that allows me to capture a good likeness.




Lastly, sometimes I find it hard enough to draw hands from a posed figure.When I can capture a rapidly moving one it makes my day!


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I was a bit concerned about all I heard about the heat from last years event. I wondered how the high heat and humidity would affect my watercolors. The day I arrived artists Thomas Kitts and Hai-Ou Hou drove me around to look for painting spots. We were caught in a downpour with no umbrellas ..... warm and wet! We had a few days before the festival began and had a few opportunities to paint. I sold a couple of 8x10's right off the bat which really was a nice way to start things off.

The festival is so well run. I met a bunch of artists I am familiar with and had the chance to paint with a few of them.

Ned Mueller ( who won best of show last year ) and my Oregonian friend Eric Bowman gave me a hard time doing sissy watercolors. We were painting inside the Cutts and Case boatyard where I did this small 10x7 "Cutts Patent Method".




The first day of painting I ended up doing three keepers for the show which made me sigh and relax a bit. The heat index was just starting to creep up. The first few days were relatively mild, however by Friday the temps were well over 100 degrees with high humidity. I was still, surprising myself, able to keep painting as long as I had some shade. The sunrises and sunsets were wonderful with all the humidity diffusing the light. I ran out early to catch a sunrise at the Maritime Museum in St. Michael's. Greg Larock was already well underway with his piece. I titled this 8x10 "Good Morning Mister Jim".




This was one event I did not do a "pure" landscape. There was so many other subjects to consider... I ended up doing, without planning to, mostly boats. There were a lot of great street scenes as well. Easton protocol requires each artists to paint within city limits for two days. St. Michael's is full of great townscape subject matter as well. I finished this "Evening" painting in the morning! I got up well before sunrise and did a backwards nocturne. What was nice about working this way is that I could tighten up as it got lighter. This may be my favorite piece of the week, "Tucked Away" 14x10.





I had heard from other watercolorists that oils tended, in their opinion, to sell better. With that in mind I decided to do approximately  50/50 oils and watercolors. I ended up selling seven paintings........ six were oils! I will continue to push the watercolors however. Here are two of my favorite watercolors of the week.




In all I had a wonderful time. One of the highlights for me was the quickdraw. I always love the challenge of these. I decided to push myself and do a 12 x 16 oil. I rarely work that big on site... and I had two hours to paint a Farmers Market scene. Maybe the heat was getting to me. I had a ton of fun, even though the artists around me and I did NOT hear the horn to begin. I slashed and sketched away, framed it and put it up on my easel and it was sold within about 30 seconds. I only have this in progress shot. This experience encourages me to do more pieces this size.  The turnover at easton is high each year. A fair percentage of artists do not repeat the following year so I won't be surprised if i don't make it in,,, but I will definitely apply!


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Will it work?

Just like any other artist I get excited when I come across something that hits me in some certain odd way. Recently while walking my dogs on the beach I came across a 78' long tree on the beach. It sat there like some ancient ship, or old pier. The root ball sticking defiantly into the horizon. I was so struck by it, especially with the soft grey light that I wanted to try to make a painting of it. I initially did a quick sketch and the next day did an oil sketch.

Try as I might I just could not get it to work.... the initial feeling I had would not fit into the constraints of a frame. My good friend Gregg Caudell is my go to guy for things I am unsure of. He spent some time with the great artist Bill Reese ( who passed away just last year ). Gregg reminded me of what Bill might say... something like"Why in the hell did you paint that thing".


There have been many times I see a composition in passing but when I return with paints in tow... I cannot make it work as a picture. That is the struggle we all face..   picking and choosing subjects matter that we can turn into our best work. What may work as inspiration for poetry, or music, or a short story doesn't necessarily make it as a painting.


Last year while at the Sonoma Plein Air Festival I tried three separate times to paint a townscape. I know it will make a great painting... I just have to persevere. Maybe this year I'll get it down.

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Snow........ it is the earliest snow we’ve had here in the northwest since I can remember. I am not accustomed to painting in the snow but today gives me a good opportunity to do a couple of paintings.


After driving around a bit, looking for a place where I could paint from my car I decided to just go across the street to Mystery Bay State Park. In between wipers moving from time to time, and getting more heat in the car I produced this little 6 x 8 panel. What I really love about the grey weather we have here is limiting my palette. In this case I used four colors:


Viridian, Alizarine, Titanium White, and Raw Sienna ( for the hint of warmth in some of the bushes.


Of course a few times the view was completely obliterated with heavy wind driven snow, and the original reflective quality of the water disappeared immediately. The boats moved with the wind. I really like the subtlety of the middle and background. If the sun was out I’d need to add say a Cobalt blue to may palette.


The other shot is down my driveway from my studio. With this picture I added Ultramarine and Cad Red Light, as well as Thalo Green... 


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