Virtual Reception for "Vibrancy"

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The reception was very fun yesterday.  We had a good turn out with the Art Walk also going.  Over 50 people, just for the reception alone.  I'll take it!  Music was playing, wine was flowing, and a there was lots of lively conversation. Yay!  Thank you to the gallery mates and my wifey, who helped run things while I chatted up patrons.  But not to fret if you missed it.  At the very least, you'll have this "virtual reception" to browse through.  

I also had an article run in the local paper (The Benicia Herald) on Friday, which was fun.  It talks about my process a bit.

Often, watercolors are considered beautiful, but pale and washy.  But they don’t always need to be that way!  If luscious color juxtaposed to nuanced greys and darks excites you, then “Vibrancy”, Stephen Berry’s September show at the Benicia Plein Air Gallery, is just for you. 

Berry is one of those chatty artists that gets very excited talking about art.  “All the world is… vibrating with light,” he says, moving his hands about, “and one of my desires is to bring that sense of color and vibrancy to the viewer’s eyes, as if the paper were lit from behind!  What really makes those bold colors sing, though, is how you compliment them- the colors you team them with and the greys that work in tandem.  And thus the focus of the show is that dynamic pairing.”

Berry's loose, gestural paintings are inspired by places both close to home and far flung- Hawaii and Muir Woods, Alameda and the south of Spain, Guatemala and good ol’ Benicia- but the love of nature expressed in the work is universal.  While traveling he takes photos, sketches compositions, and paints plein air, gathering material for his future studio works.  In Vallejo, he sets up shop in his little back room studio, and gets to work.  He paints standing up, and he’s clearly having fun- playing music, singing and bopping around a bit as he channels his memories and on-site studies into something new. 

With a single-minded focus, Berry sometimes paints the same subject 3 or 4 or more times.  He tapes them all up on the wall, which is a mishmash of 20-30 paintings, some layered one on top of another, and stares at them.  Some are good ones that will make it into the show, others only studies, others outright failures.  Each is done quickly, within only a few hours, to keep the brushwork and outlook fresh, but each iteration also has its own personality, as Stephen tries out different ideas and approaches.  “My goal isn’t necessarily to replicate what I physically see in nature,” he explains, “but instead to paint an image that will create for you the emotional experience I myself had when I was there.  So I stay true to the memory and feeling of the place, not to the incidental details.”

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Please note that I'm going through the process of opening an online store too.  That should be fully up and running in the next week or so.  In the mean time, preliminarily, all the paintings in this blog post are available for purchase online.  Below each painting, you'll see a Buy It Now button.  If you click it, it will take you to my Store, where you can purchase paintings through PayPal.  Paypal, of course, takes credit cards, or you can sing in to your account.  If you're a local patron, please contact me through the Contact page, and we can arrange a time to meet in person.  Please note that the prices for framed pieces in the gallery are different than the unframed paintings sold online.

A Good Start
450.00

Watercolor, 15" x 22", mailed unframed

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Alive
450.00

15" x 22", mailed unframed

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A Break In The Clouds
450.00

15" x 22", mailed unframed

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Spanish Doorway
300.00

11" x 15", mailed unframed

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A Warm Lazy Light
300.00

11" x 15", mailed unframed

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I actually sold the painting below, before the show even began, on Friday (thank you Eddie and Jan!).  Instead, I brought in a 3rd painting from the Alameda Bird Sanctuary, and made a triptych.

Seam of Light
325.00

SOLD, 15" x 11"

They Like To Swoop In Low
300.00

11" x 15", mailed unframed

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Circling On An Updraft
300.00

11" x 15", mailed unframed

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Ripples
300.00

15" x 11", mailed unframed

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A Bird's Life
450.00

22" x 15", mailed unframed

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Deep In The Woods
450.00

22" x 15", mailed unframed

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Whole Beach to Myself
450.00

15" x 22", mailed unframed

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As I've been manning the gallery the last few days, as well as today (Sunday, Sept 10th), I get to bring in additional work.  These pieces have been hung outside, and in additional free spots in the gallery.

Davenport Beach Stroll
450.00

15" x 22", mailed unframed

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Getting My Feet Wet
600.00

30" x 22", mailed unframed

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Hanalei Valley Taro Fields
600.00

30" x 22", mailed unframed

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Sherbert Sunrise
450.00

15" x 22", mailed unframed

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A Long Blue View
450.00

15" x 22", mailed unframed

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And that's it for now! I'll be in the gallery today (Sunday, Sept 10th), and then I'll be back in the gallery (with the "additional" paintings) Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24th.  If you've got any questions about the paintings, about technique, where they were located, etc. please let me know.  That's what receptions (virtual and physical!) are all about.

Announcing "Vibrancy", My Upcoming Show at the Benicia Plein Air Gallery

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Hi Y'all!  The reception for "Vibrancy", my month long show at the Benicia Plein Air Gallery, is this coming Saturday, September 9th, from 4-6 pm.  I'll be featuring 11 works, many of which are freshly painted.

Additionally, I have a particularly robust schedule at the gallery for the month of September, as I'll be manning the gallery for 5 days this month.  On those days, I'll be bringing in additional artwork, featuring clouds, seascapes, and landscapes.  If you missed the chance to see my work at the Umpqua Bank show or the Benicia Open Studios back in May, this is a great time to come down to the gallery, visit with me, and perhaps take a piece home with you!  :)

My show will be up from September 7- October 1st, but my schedule at the gallery with the supplemental art will be-

September 8th, 9th and 10th- Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1200- 600 pm

September 23rd and 24th- Saturday and Sunday, 1200- 600 pm

The gallery is located at 307 1st St, Benicia, CA 94510

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I've Been a Busy Bee

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This is mostly a show and tell this week.  I've been sequestered away many hours this month painting, in preparation for my September show at the Benicia Plein Air Gallery (reception is Saturday, September 9th, 4-6 pm!).  Finding time in the mornings.  Doing some in the evening.  Doubling down (literally, doing two paintings at once- working on one while the wash dries on the other) when I have unscheduled time on the weekend.  I don't think I've ever painted so much in my life.  It's probably somewhere around 20 hours a week on average, for the month.  I'm at 23 paintings (including 2 throw-aways that didn't make it to the wall) for the month so far.  I anticipate coming close to 30.

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The show will include 10-12 new paintings for the main area, as well as an assortment of older pieces that will fill out additional areas in the gallery.  Many of these are studies, some plein air, and some in the studio.  Some were ideas that went no where.  Some I know will take a great deal more experimentation and learning to complete to my satisfaction, and so are being put away for now.  Others are actually completed and will be in the show.  A few others are almost there, and will probably be repainted atleast once more to really try and nail it. 

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It's been exhausting but fun.  One thing for sure though- when I'm painting this much this regularly, I'm really not bothered about trying something out just to see what it does.  I know I've got more coming down the line, so the fear of failure is greatly reduced.  I am, however, burning through paper and pigment like nobody's business! Ha!

As always, I tape them up the wall and assess them, critique their strengths and weaknesses, and get outside input from my wife and visitors.  Coming back later to view the work again and again can open you up to new approaches and things you might fix.  Other times, things that greatly bothered you when you painted it no longer seem important.  From it all comes an opportunity to look at my work from the outside, and assess what I will be changing on my next approach (if there is one).  This is a really great way to teach yourself.

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Why Pigments Matter

 
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Here we have a photo of my palette with 3 different oranges on it- M. Grahams Cadmium Orange (PO 20) in the upper left, Winsor Newton's Cadmium Orange (PY35 & PR 108) in the bottom left, and Scarlet Pyroll over on the upper right.  Why?  Since the Joseph Zbukvic workshop I took, I've recently have been using a lot more Cobalt Blue.  Cobalt is cleaner and slightly greener than Ultramarine Blue.  It also mixes lighter greys more easily.  It also lifts whereas UMB stains.  UMB tends to get dark quicker, in my opinion.  They do different things, and so are a good combo even though they're close in hue.  The mixing compliment for Cobalt Blue, if I want to make a grey, is.... orange.  I recently ran out.  So I went to the little file on my laptop (I actually keep a record of the pigments on my palette in a file, dating back a few years).  "Sacre Bleu!" I hadn't updated since the workshop.  What orange had I been using?

And so the journey began.

What follows is a record of how different oranges mix quite differently.  If you've not looked at some of the older posts I made on color mixing (linked to here), they're useful and relevant to the conversation, because these different shades of orange where shooting me around the color wheel in different ways.  Here's a mixing chart I made to illustrate the point (half to myself as much as to you guys!)-

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What's the chart meant to show?  At the top is the reddest orange of the bunch (PO73).  As such the neutrals are the coolest and richest purples.  As we go down the chart, I show different oranges I tried, each warmer and more yellow than the last, until I reach WN Cadmium Orange (the yellowest of the bunch).  What should become clear is the subtle yet definite shift from cool purple-greys to warmer, greener greys as the Oranges become warmer too.  As an example, for comparison, WN Burnt Sienna is a yellower brown and so mixes warmer greys, whereas Venitian Red is a redder, more purple-brown, and so mixes cooler greys.  The hue bias of the mixing compliment matters, as we move around the circle!

I started off with PO73- Scarlet Pyroll.  I happened to have it in my pigment bag (yes, that bag full of all the extra pigments you bought that you tried out and don't really use!), and so squeezed some out. 

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It's a nice vibrant orange.  But I quickly discovered that it only mixes violets and purples, and sort of dodges the greys.  The PO73 is too red of a orange.

Next up, I moved to Venitian Red.  I like its muted purpley-red. 

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It's an old school color that I use for mixing deep, muted warms.  Handprint says its one of the mixing compliments, so I gave it a go.  It's better, for sure, but was still giving me cooler mixtures.  Everything is sort of a deep, muted purple.  Even the browns.

So I went and bought a tube Winsor Newton Cadmium Orange.  I was pretty sure that was the pigment I'd been using.  It arrived, I put some on the palette, and got this!

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I checked the tube, and discovered that Winsor Newton is no longer using PO20 for their Cadmium, but have instead created a hue mixture (PY35, PR108).  It is far too yellow of an orange, which is why I'm mixing blue-greens and muted pea-greens.  Waaaah!  :(

I go back to Handprint (link here) and it suggests Burnt Sienna.  I was suspicious of this, as WN Burnt Sienna is my mixing compliment for Ultramarine Blue, and that is a more violet blue. 

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However, it mixes pretty well with Cobalt Blue, although it definitely has (to my eyes) a gentle green bias.  This is what I'm seeing in the warmer neutrals, as a "dirty" (aka not reddish) brown is a muted yellow.  This particularly becomes clear when you compare it to things like Venitian Red or Scarlet Pyrrol (go back up to the chart above, where comparison is easier) which are clearly cool.  Still, all in all a good warm grey combo.

So I go back to my little Word doc, and hunt through some of my notes on my older palettes.  Thank goodness!  There I discover I'd been using M. Graham's Cad Orange.  This rings a bell, as I remembered it would sometimes run out of the well- a problem with some honey-based pigments (which M. Graham uses).  :(  Still, I go and buy a tube of that.  It worked before, hopefully it'll work again.  I actually bring the WN Cad Orange and Scarelt Pyrrol tubes with me, to be able to open them up and compare pigment color.  And indeed, the M Graham Cad Orange lies right in the middle of the other too. 

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Not too hot, not too cold, but still a cool grey.

It's DEFINITELY worth noting that the two Cadmium Oranges are different hues.  Brands can matter.  Not that one brand or pigment mix is somehow better than the other,  but that different brands shift their hues around a bit, and I needed a mixing compliment for a specific blue (this one is Winsor Newton's Cobalt Blue). 

For comparison, here's WN Ultramarine Blue mixed with Burnt Sienna.  Still the truest grey of this bunch, in my opinion.

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In the end, my Cobalt Blue + M Graham Cad Orange (PO 20) mix has a slight cool bias for the greys, but it makes a nice true, warm brown (not too purpley), and the mixing line extends for a longer distance (into the bright oranges) than when I was using the Venetian Red.  Besides this, I like Cads in general- they're a little heavy and so don't explode so much when I apply them wet into wet, and Cad Orange (PO20) is a much gentler mixer than Scarlet Pyroll (PO73, that brute!) was.  Cobalt Blue is so gentle, I'd put a dollop of PO73 in there, and it would take over the whole mix in a second. Ugh!  As an added bonus, to make some lemonade, having to use Venetian Red so much for a few weeks helped me learn it's value as an alternate mixer for Cobalt Blue.  Once again, all is right in the jungle, and I can mix a blue and an orange and get a muted grey.

Lesson learned?  An Orange is not just an Orange.  Test your hues and keep records!