Category Archives: plein air

The Painting Business

big paintings outside copy

I have a new show of my paintings in oil up at the Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara. It’s shocking to realize that I’ve been in their care for over twenty years, and this is my tenth major show with them.

big paintings out back3

Every time a show is coming up for me, I set out a considerable display of new paintings in my back yard for the gallery representative to come out and select the pieces.


I hope for about a third of what I present to be chosen to show in the gallery, but sometimes it’s less. I’m always nervous about this, because I have my favorites, and the way I work, with several distinct styles and different palettes, means that selecting paintings that will hang well together, and not claw each other off the walls, is a challenge.

My personal desire is to have a range of sizes, approaches, and palettes represented, and I favor keeping prices down. There are curious prejudices though, where some buyers will look at a lower-priced work and decide the price is its real value. Not so. Paintings in a show like this are always underpriced. Each one is far more than the hours of work and research it took to paint. Each one represents the artist’s life to that moment, and is made by the tides of all the past. Because of this, any hand-made piece of excellence should ¬†rise over time in value. And as for me, I’d prefer my small paintings to be a gateway ‘drug’, reasonably affordable, so that my paintings will go out into the world and be enjoyed by all kinds of people.

studio replete

Fifty percent of each sale goes to the gallery, which may seem high to you, but you must remember that the gallery has a range of upkeep costs– advertising, staffing and security among them. It’s a complicated business, and requires expertise and judgment. Galleries come and go at the drop of a hat. The staff need to have a good sense of people, and when a strong match might be made between a particular work and a particular customer. I’ve tried selling my work, but I am untalented at this matchmaking.¬†Looking at what the gallery people do, I can only feel intense gratitude that I’m represented by them.

When you think about it, a painting should keep its person company for a lifetime.





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One place, two ideas

I went to a cliff over the sea and considered the Monterey cypresses standing in attitudes. Here are the two oil paintings that came of it.

number one cypresses


number two cypresses

For my part I find it fascinating what shapes my brain seized upon in each of these, what’s missing, what’s not. One is brutally simple, almost like a wood block, the other fretted and trammeled with the little urgencies of branches and twigs as they trap the negative spaces like prey. I also see some darkness in the eye on the second one, the true brilliance of the day didn’t make it through, though I can argue that’s not important– both are interpretations, my own translations of the place and time.

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At Los Banos

Two Trees Los Banos copy

Every time I have come here, the wind was blowing, and never seemed to stop. Shining oatgrass, under an open sky. In the night the gray shining grain moved in waves, like some moonlit sea. It made me think of a Ray Bradbury story I read long ago of a house set among wide fields where however long you stared, no other features but grass and sky were seen. The men inside that house floating in the grass were isolated like a crew upon a ship, the illusion of sailing unending.

We have camped near the slope I painted in the picture above, several times. An owl frequented the place, you could hear the calls over the susurration of the grass. Never when we were there did we see more than a few other folk, all seemed content to give a token wave from the distance and let the grass blades speak.

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