Tuesday, May 26, 2009


24 x 18 x 0.75", acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

In my last post, I mentioned that I came out of teaching my workshop with two paintings that I liked, which was a bonus. This is the second one. When the earlier painting looked finished at Step 2 (I usually paint in three steps; see the last post), I needed another Step 2 painting that I could use in a demo and develop to Step 3. So I went home and created a tremendous mess. This one has some dry wall tape, in addition to the regular texture material (stucco patch, flexible patching compound). Then I took it to the second day of the workshop.

When it came time to discuss developing a painting, we used this as material for sharing ideas. So we kind of painted this as a committee. My purpose was to demonstrate simplifying a painting (in other words, you shoulda seen this before I simplified it). The students sat where they could see my easel, and we discussed different features of the painting and directions we could go in developing it. For instance, just right of center and a little up is a wonderful wrinkly section that we agreed looked like a dragon's head. I could have punched up the detail in it and made it a focal point. But it fought with the orange circle at the center of the spiral, left of center, so I attenuated it.

The whole experience was wonderfully fun: throwing ideas around, demonstrating what you can do with texture when you're putting a second layer of paint on it, figuring out what delicious little bits to sacrifice to the whole. I got to see how much the students really did know. I think I'll keep this exercise it as a feature of future workshops. I was initially kind of terrified of having to take a painting to completion. After all, I can't guarantee that any given painting will come out well. But if we all do it together then the learning happens whether or not the final result is ideal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Connie Kleinjans contemporary abstract18 x 14 x 1.5", acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

I was fortunate enough at my workshop last weekend to create not one, but two paintings I'm pretty happy with. This is one of them, and it came about kind of by surprise. You see, I often paint in three steps: Step 1.) Apply the texture material. Step 2.) Add the foundation paint layer (this is usually a tremendous mess, lots of free form color applied any way I feel like). Step 3.) Take the tremendous mess and simplify it. I have to say, Step 3 can be difficult; Step 2 can result in wonderful passages where colors run into each other or trickle around the texture or whatever. But it's usually too busy. So in Step 3 I have to paint over parts of it, which can be heart breaking.

This one was a surprise because, at the end of Step 2, I didn't think it needed a lot of work. I figured it should need work, but I wasn't sure what to do to it. Eventually I did go in with some gold and pick out some highlights. And I had to go home that night and create another Step 2 painting for a demo the next day.

I have to say, though, that Step 1 and Step 2 are enormously liberating. You kind of put your logical mind on hold—well, after choosing your palette—and you enter the moment and just go on impulse. I should do something about that...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First workshop: How it went

I finished teaching my first workshop today. This was the title:

Painting Fabulous Textured Abstracts
(or why the hardware store is your best friend)

(Later it occurred to me that I shouldn't have used the word "fabulous." No man would take a workshop with that in the title.)

Two people signed up for the workshop. On the one hand, I'm bummed not to have had a full group. On the other hand, it was nice to have a small, intimate group, especially for my first workshop.

Both days were hot. Saturday, Day 1, the German restaurant next door was having a beer garden in the back parking lot, so there was a lot of oom-pah music plus partying people. It was also a local open studio tour. So, on the whole, pretty busy. In fact, a bit overwhelming. And I hummed polka music for hours. Sunday, Day 2, was even hotter, and we agreed to start a half hour earlier. It was much quieter, and I played some Hawaiian slack key music on my iPod (no oom-pah!). Mostly we all developed the projects we started on Day 1. I did a demo that actually came out well! This was one of my fears: I can't always guarantee that I'll be able to create something good. Both days, people kind of ran out of gas an hour or more before the nominal end time. I can understand this; I've felt kind of overloaded at all-day classes. And the heat was really hard.

I learned a lot. There's one explanation I know I need to improve. Like, it's really hard to estimate how long things will take. Also, even when I give students the composition and the technique for applying paint, they can come out with really different paintings. And we did a few group discussions: One of us would want to talk about a painting, and we'd set it up on an easel and gather round. I loved those. They weren't critiques, per se, since it wasn't about what was wrong, but rather about what they wanted. I don't want to give students a solution, but, rather, give options or remind them of the color or composition guidelines.

And nice students! Willing to share experience and knowledge and enthusiasm. One of the students said she'd been looking for a class like this for years, and wants me to tell her if I ever give another workshop. That's really encouraging.

I'm content. I asked the students if they had enough information to take home and work with on their own, and they said yes, they did. This was good to hear, since at the end of Day 1 I could tell that not everyone was feeling successful. That was a bit hard. I really want them to feel empowered by the class. But Joyce Faulknor, one of the other artists at my gallery and also a teacher, said something that helped: All you can do is give them all you got. Then, even if it doesn't work for everyone, you know you did all you could.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Connie Kleinjans contemporary abstractSOLD 30 x 40 x 1.5", acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

[UPDATE: I redid the picture of this painting. The earlier one dropped out a lot of texture, and the color was difficult, since I used metallic paint. If you want to see the texture, click the image. I also uploaded a larger JPG.]

It's been a busy time recently. I'm teaching my workshop this weekend, and also coordinating one with another artist for July. Specifically, I've invited Rececca Crowell to come to Northern California. Her wonderful paintings have amazing depth and texture, and I think I could learn a lot that might transfer to what I'm doing. Do check out her blog and web site. And let me know if you're interested in the workshop.

Meanwhile, although I'm probably in reasonable shape for my own workshop this weekend, I do need to finish up a few things. Got the syllabus in pretty good shape, the hand-outs either planned or done, detailed notes on supplementary information. Just need to finalize. So this post might be a bit short.

So, about this painting, remember my admiration for texture and depth? I keep finding new ways to use hardware store material to create that. In this piece, it had occurred to me that the textures I'm creating might look wonderful with metallic paint. So I used a flexible patching compound and dragged through it to create interesting bumps. And I added my beloved stucco patch. After a few interesting starts with bright colors, and a visit to Photoshop to play with composition, I developed it as you see it: lots of layers of paint, and lots of darker colors rubbed into the metallic color and catching the contours of the patching compound. I like how it looks old.

I'm also developing (or redeveloping) an interest in primitive symbols. This one seems sort of like Stonehenge. I have one in the works that has a circle. I'm looking into Hawaiian petroglyphs and ancient wall paintings, as well as patterns of water and totem symbols. They strike some sort of chord in me, and I'm listening.