American Impressionist Society

I am very happy that my painting ‘Anytown USA’ won the ‘Award of Excellence for water media’ at this year’s National Juried Exhibition of the AIS. The Exhibit runs from September 27 to October 28, 2018 at the Guenzel Gallery, Peninsula School of Art, 3900 Co Rd F Fish Creek, WI 54212, USA. It is the same venue that hosts the famous Door county plein air Festival every year.

EBERFRANK_AnytownUSA,web

This is the second time I have won this prestigious award (2016 was the first)
Many thanks to juror Dawn Whitelaw, AIS master as well as Debra and Don Groesser for all the hard work. I am very honored!

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A week in Maine!

Once again I was hosted by Coastal Maine to teach a workshop in this beautiful state. In 2016 I was teaching in Belfast and this time it was held in Rockland. A beautiful seaside town, famous for its lobster industry, among other things. The best (and reasonably priced) lobster roll is available at “Claws” on Hwy1.

I also went back to see Andrew Wyeth’s work at the Farnsworth museum in town. Always a treat to see his paintings.

I had a full class with 16 students and the week was a blur of painting, sightseeing, eating and more painting!
Thanks to everyone who who came out! I’ll be back in 2020

Dealing with the heat!

What to do if the temperatures reach 100F (38C) or more? Is it still possible to paint in watercolor? Well, as the old saying goes: ‘they paint watercolor in England and NOT in Egypt’, I’d say forget about it. It would be like trying to go for a run in a sauna. Something like that.

I went to the coast instead and painted in oils. We had a perfect 65F or 15C as a high and I actually had to wear a jacket while painting. I loved it. The good news is, Highway 1 has re-opened last week, so it is possible to drive up to Big Sur again. It will be a relief for business owners in our area, from Cambria all the way to Big Sur. The road closures have kept many people away for the past year and a half.

As you can see we found a nice spot and painted the beautiful California coast. Just another day at the office! It was of course foggy and overcast, muted colors everywhere, just the way I like it!

I am hopefully past my painting slump. This weekend I am teaching a workshop in Northern California near Eureka. Another beautiful place!

Amazon prime membership; is it still worth it?

 

Not the content of today’s blog post, but it certainly gets more attention than talking about painting. Or maybe we should discuss politics in America instead!
Wait: it *is* better to talk about painting!

I find myself in a bit of a painting slump right now. Coming back from painting and teaching on Cape Ann MA I have a lot of new references to paint. I took lots of pictures in Gloucester and surrounding areas. It’s just that I don’t feel inspired to paint them. Quaint boats in harbors. What normally sounds great just makes me yawn. Maybe it’s the heat, I don’t know..

How do you find new, inspiring subject matter? You have painted the same things over and over. You need something else! One of the biggest things in painting is the continued inspiration to keep it up. Being able to be inspired over the years.

Below are my thoughts on this topic. Feel free to pipe in what works for you. I would certainly want to hear it! Thanks.

Travel to a new place
Arguably, this one should always work, except it didn’t for me this time.  A new place – new inspiration!

Paint something you’ve never painted before
This is harder than it sounds. If you’re like me, painting a still life might not be something that sounds so interesting but it is definitely worth a try.

Start sketching with pencil or charcoal
If you just draw, you get into the mood. I do this quite a bit in my sketch book. It usually works to get new ideas for painting. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’re still sketching and therefore honing your artistic skills!

Look through art books
Very good for inspiration! We all have books with high quality prints of artist’s work we like. Internet can work too but pictures are usually not high resolution and often distorted. Colors also look different on every screen.

Experiment within your medium
When painting in my studio, I always try to do something new. Well, almost always. It can be something really small like experimenting with new pigments, white paint, or some new technique. It can lead to new discoveries and bring freshness in your work Take risks you normally wouldn’t take, even if you ruin it…that’s how new styles are discovered!

Change medium
When I don’t feel like painting in watercolor I paint oils. It’s usually so much easier and more relaxing, so a very nice change.

Go paint outside
That one almost always works for me. Meet with some friends and go paint. Even if you don’t feel like it, you have no choice. Once on location I usually get into it.

Pick a picture and just do it
That is another good tip. I just pick any reference and just start without thinking much. The motto is, better to paint than not to paint..

Visit a museum or a gallery exhibit.
Great for inspiration. Nothing like seeing new work or paintings of artists you admire in person. Makes you want to go home and paint!

Do something completely unrelated to art and painting
Taking yourself away from the whole thing form time to time is important. There is a whole world out there and if you’re like me you have other interests as well: hiking, playing a musical instrument, researching the next gun you’re gonna buy etc. (I do live in the wild west, it hasn’t changed)

Spend time in your head
You need to be alone for that one. It helps to zone out sometimes, clear your head

Listen to music!
Doesn’t have to be classical, can be anything

Work out your body
Another unrelated activity that can recharge the creative juices. A run or workout in the gym etc. can make us feel like new

Do Drugs
Some artists do drugs or drink when they want to write songs or paint. I’ve never tried it and wouldn’t know what drugs to get, but it’s no secret that many experimented with LSD, Cocaine or even just Marijuana. Probably not a good tip!

Play with your dog, cat or your kids!
Less harmful than the drugs!

I am sure everyone goes through creative slumps every now and then. To get out of it will be a different process for every one of us. I will most likely just paint portraits for a while. Something I am not that known for but love doing. That will get me back into watercolor landscapes eventually.
On another note: my 2019 workshop dates are up on my site! Consider joining us!!
http://www.frankeber.com/workshops/

 

 

California scenes!

 

If you ever find yourself inside the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, check out the paintings by Swedish/ American painter Gunnar Widforss. They are all over the lobby and some of them are huge. All watercolor and painted about 100 years ago. Some are better than others (just like with any painter) but they are all worth looking at. From what I heard, he was strictly painting outside which is remarkable given the sizes of some of his works. A truly dedicated artist!
Widforss painted the tunnel view (Yosemite) in his time. Nowadays you mostly see photographers there to capture the sunset. I also painted it many times in all kinds of weather/ daylight.

Anything can be good painting material, depending on the condition. Not many watercolorists tackle cascades and waterfalls as they are quite difficult to paint. In the right light, though, it can be a wonderful subject.

Before painting anything I always look for the following aspects:

Will the light work as a painting vs. as a photograph? This is not as simple as it seems. Often I am tricked into believing that a scene/photograph will make a great painting only to find out after painting it that it didn’t really work out the way I thought it would. Experience helps here.

Will the value pattern work? Just making sure I have everything from super light to super dark somewhere in the picture. There is nothing worse than a painting that’s all mid-tone.

Am I emotionally invested? If not, forget it! In other words, if I am not 100% sure I like the scene, if I am not really psyched, I won’t paint it. Done that many times and the resulting painting was always mediocre, at best.

Do I have a strong design and composition? Are there areas that seem unresolved? Is my focal point there?
This is also tough to judge, especially outside. When painting watercolor it is easier because there is drawing time first. While drawing it is often obvious what’s not so great and fairly easy to change before the paint goes on. In oils, I can always scrape off areas but that is definitely best avoided.

Lastly, I will think about my color palette for a particular painting. It is important to have good color harmony and think about the interaction of color in all the major shapes, i.e. foreground, middle ground and background.

Yosemite Ranger stables

Visiting and painting a scene at different times of the day is a very good idea. I have my favorite scenes that I just keep painting over and over. This scene in Yosemite valley is definitely one of them. I keep learning about how light changes color appearance and value patterns.
For instance, in a back lit scene like the horses in the morning there is less color range compared to the afternoon scene. Or is there? Yes, in the morning the colors are predominantly cooler in temperature, the warm colors are there too but they are less warm than later in the day. That is the major difference in the two scenes. The morning is more atmospheric, however, both scenes have the full range of value from lightest to darkest.
In fact, one might argue that the value range is even more drastic in the front lit scene. Notice the darks under the roof of the barn building.
Both paintings do have warm vs. cool colors. The dark shadow in the afternoon scene is cool in temperature overall, but upon closer examination you’ll find warm accents within it.

In terms of painting, the interplay between warms and cools make a painting work. In fact it might be one of the most crucial things to learn to do right besides control of value.

On the road to Baiwucun Village (2018)

On the road to Baiwucun Village (2018)

The Quotidian (2018)

The Quotidian (2018)

This blog post was originally published in my newsletter earlier in March. Edited for clarification.

Being invited to the inaugural 2018 Huize Watercolor Exhibition in Qujing, China, was a big honor for me. I did not expect it. There are plentiful outstanding painters in the watercolor world, and I was surprised (and flattered) to have been invited. Our Western contingent hailed from Australia, Brazil, Italy, Ukraine, Russia, the US, and Germany. The Eastern contingent arrived from Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and over 50 Chinese nationals from all over the country. I met so many first-rate, virtuoso painters, it was intimidating and especially inspiring! After 20 hours’ total travel time (San Francisco to Chengdu to Kunming to Qujing) I fell dead asleep in bed. Let me tell you, the airport at Kunming is regarded as “medium-sized”, with just over 150 gates. This was my first hint that It’s Different In China (and it wasn’t the last). Everything is big. People are everywhere. It took time to get used to that!

As this was a plein air event, the group of artists were shuttled to various painting locations: traditional villages in the heart of a bustling town or in a sweeping valley (It’s Different In China), a river surrounded by mountains, a factory in the countryside. Painters were given a choice of locations, and my selections, as a first-timer in Asia, were based on curiosity. As with painting outdoors, the first step is finding a scene. By the time you’ve decided, an Asian artist has already finished their first wash. While you’re waiting on your first wash to dry, they’re on their second painting. Some of the Asian artists were fast!

Portrait of a Chinese Girl (2018)

Portrait of a Chinese Girl (2018)

The work I saw were impressive explorations of composition, perspective, and proportion. Interpretations of scenes ranged from graphic to naturalistic, wildly imagined to actual color. The variety was exemplary. Not to mention the artists themselves who, despite the language difference, were affable. Art transcends many barriers: visual and visceral, it extends a hand to everyone, reminding us we are all the same inside.

There were other things to do, of course. A first-night opening ceremony was followed by a group painting demo and an East-West seminar the following night. (Yours truly croaked out a few jetlagged words.) An outdoor picnic the third night preceded a bonfire and celebration. I participated in jurying a student show on the fourth night. On the fifth and final day there was a public paint-out (a long strip of paper was rolled out and sectioned on a long table, and artists were invited to paint a section), followed by a closing ceremony and a public exhibition. Because this was a government-sponsored event, the care and detail with which they coordinated the last day was breathtaking. The only time we (as in Westerners, really) do something on a similar scale is during the Olympics. Yes, I am exaggerating, but not by much. As my Australian friend and fellow painter Herman put it, “in our countries they only sponsor football players”. Sad but true, the Arts are always the first thing scratched in most budgets…

Factory Mining Town (2018)

Factory Mining Town (2018)

Boulevard of Lanterns (2018)

Boulevard of Lanterns (2018)

On that last day, the Chinese held a public presentation at the Huize Hongse Culture Exhibition Hall. There were dance performances and gifts made by children in the local schools, professional singers, and celebrity MCs (It’s Different In China). There was a short demonstration of watercolor painting and calligraphy writing. Speeches were made by government officials, after that came a presentation of the results of the juried student competition. All the artists involved in the day’s earlier paint-out were invited onstage to stand behind their section of painting. Finally, everyone was invited into the Art Museum to view all the work submitted by the painters. Back at the hotel, one last dinner with multiple toasts from various officials and organizers concluded the event. Perhaps it was just coincidence that the Chinese Lantern Festival ended that Friday; at any rate, fireworks later that night were a very appropriate ending.

Three weeks later, I am still processing my thoughts on China. I’ve started posting images on Instagram (and Facebook), and I’ll continue through the end of the month. China was interesting on many levels, to put it mildly. Art is given attention that cannot be compared at a public (as opposed to privately-funded) level: travel and accommodations taken care of in advance; readily-available shuttles and cars to drive to painting locations; intriguing or eclectic painting locations; good, local meals; and engaging interpreters. The climate in southwest China is similar to California. It was very dry and sunny, not ideal for watercolor painting but not bad either. Thankfully it was not hot. I was able to take a break one day to walk along the streets, a brief respite from painting. Outdoor markets, the sound of children over the constant barrage of cars, stray dogs, people hanging laundry out to dry. Slices of life, a familiar refrain around the world.

Factory paint out!

Factory paint out!

That is not to say there aren’t problems in China. There needs to be better education about trash disposal and pollution in general, environmental problems to the scale of 1.3 billion people. Often the beautiful countryside is littered. People also smoke everywhere, inside and outside, like it used to be in the US 25 years ago. On our way home we flew into Shanghai, and true to all the rumors about air quality, the city was having a foggy day. Well, it wasn’t fog… But I digress. You’re here for the art, right?

Final thoughts: Personally, the best part was connecting with the people in the villages we visited. At one, an old man was so happy to have me painting outside his home, he invited me in for tea! A smile, an offer to watch my easel while I wandered looking for other painting spots, an impulsive gift of rosehip tea in a bag. The Chinese people are joyful and friendly, and despite not having much of anything, open their house to you. It was a humbling experience.

A gift of rosehip tea

A gift of rosehip tea

Would I go to China again? In a heartbeat. Once you get past politics and policies you always meet wonderful people wherever you go in this world.

There is still a lot to paint in China.

 

 

 


My heartfelt gratitude goes to Mr. Li, Mr. Tu, and all the organizers of this inaugural 2018 Watercolor Exhibition in Qujing-Huize, Yunnan, China for extending the invitation to me. To the hotel staff, the Tea Lady, our drivers (!), and the various people who turned out each day to watch plein air painting, thank you. Last of all, thanks to Dande and David, whose English skills were honed during those 7 days. Xièxiè!


A VERY, VERY BRIEF TREATISE ON PAINTING IN CHINA: The watercolor tradition in Chinese painting goes back as far as 400 BC. We are all familiar with the traditional style of Chinese painting: calligraphy, court/royal vignettes, grandiose landscapes. Exposure to Western art and artists, from the late 19th century onwards, gradually influenced subject and technique. Today, invitations extended to international watercolorists maintain that creative exchange, and the benefits can be witnessed on both sides.