Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lesson 4, The Maestro Makes A House Call

Today (Saturday, July 23rd) was my fourth lesson with young Maestro William Zwick.  I called him a couple hours prior to ask if he'd be okay coming to my studio for a consultation on three paintings in work.

He was amenable to that, and luckily, my call caught him before he'd laid-out the colors for the still life he'd planned for today.  The subject was to be a mango to continue working on improving color temperature and value identification and organization.  We'll save that for next week. 

He could find his way to our building without a problem, but I love seeing the work in his studio, so I went over there.  Soon, we were back here and he was answering my many questions and making suggestions about how to make those three paintings better.

The time flew by, especially when he agreed to my invitation to correct the Kaneohe golf course painting on the canvas.  I was seated nearby, intensely watching him mix colors and make corrections.  As he worked, he kept a running explanation of exactly what he was doing and why.  As always, everything he said made perfect sense and seeing him put the words into corrections was a fantastic experience.  I know this will sound a little dramatic, but it was like watching a miracle happen.  Here's a link to a YouTube video capturing nearly three minutes of our session today.  I would've gotten more, but I was too busy concentrating on watching and learning.

My palette after William did his magic on the Kaneohe golf course painting today.  You can see I've taken his advice about using a wood palette in order to make it easier to mix colors correctly.  I've been using white disposable palettes for the past three years and never realized how dark most every mixture looks on the stark white surface.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

This is the painting as of yesterday.  I must admit I thought it was coming along quite nicely, but still bothered that it lacked something.  It just didn't give me the same feeling inspired by the photo. 

This shows the painting AFTER William's corrections.  Above the canvas is a print of the original photo.  The print is 5 x 10-inches and the canvas is 10 x 20-inches.  He left the broad fairway and the strip of ocean to the left for me to correct, but I wouldn't let him escape without leaving me with some words, or should I say, color and value suggestions.  His main focus today was the mountain, sky and the dark green strip.  His eye is so well-trained, he immediately mixed a color in a value to significantly improve the atmospheric perspective.  When he put the first brushstroke on the mountain, the change was so obvious, yet had completely eluded me, I simply broke into a broad smile and thought, why didn't I see that!?

You may recall an earlier post in which I said I was looking for a sunset to try.  This is an early stage of my first attempt at this subject.  We discussed it and I now feel confident of how to proceed on this.

Here's the photo which inspired the attempt.  It's obvious there remains a long way to go before the canvas resembles this.  My goal is that the painting will eventually look better and more powerful.  Today, William reminded me that it's the painter's prerogative to change things sometimes.  I often forget that, instead, becoming a slave to the photograph.

No photos, but we also discussed the Doc's Dad's portrait.  I've had some doubts about it for the past week or two and asked William for his opinion of what was bothering me about it, and also my plan to fix it.  His advice will enable me to proceed with a bit of confidence.

This, and the next photo were taken from the 23 July late news on local TV channel KHNL, Hawaii News Now.  Tropical Storm "Darby" is passing the islands even as I type this.  It's the first tropical storm to hit the islands in two years, losing much of its strength passing over the Big Island and Maui.  This photo is from Maui earlier today.  On O'ahu, we've been spared the worst of the storm, but I did get rain-soaked on my jog today.  Sustained winds are down to 40-mph. 

Another VERY dramatic image from Maui.  No deaths reported, along with some downed power lines and, of course, some flooding, mostly on the Big Island and Maui.  All-in-all, not too bad.  Hope we continue to get lucky!

Have a nice Sunday!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Something You Don't See Every Day

Indeed!  Local TV station, KITV channel 4 news Monday evening featured video of a live fire exercise with the target being a decommissioned U.S. Navy ship.  The "SINKEX" was part of the in-progress RIMPAC 2016 International Naval Exercises.  Here are some photos taken from the broadcast.  Thanks, as always to the staff of KITV-4.

We froze the picture to get this great image of an anti-ship missile about to impact the bridge of the  decommissioned navy guided-missile frigate, U.S.S. Thach.  She was sunk in 15,000-feet of water by fire from several navies here for RIMPAC 2016.  Click on the photos to enlarge.

KA-BOOM!  On the telly, the colors were more "explosive" yellow and orange.

Game over.   

Another thing you don't see every day:  The Doc's Dad's portrait is coming along.  I've been diligently applying the teachings of young Maestro William Zwick in an attempt to take less than my normal year or so to finish a painting.  I'm now using my wood palette to mix colors, instead of a bright white disposable palette, or on the canvas.  Four or five brushes now come into play, too!  Not only is it much easier to judge mixtures for correctness, it's also so-o much more efficient, in both time and materials.  Still, quite a way to go.

And finally, something new.  I immediately loved this photo taken two weeks ago at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii golf course, Kaneohe Klipper.  This is the original photo cropped to 10 x 20-inches.  The big shapes and great colors (better in person) should make an interesting painting, in my humble opinion.  I'd love to see what Richard Diebenkorn might've done with this scene.  Hope there's a canvas this size at one of the local art supply stores. 

That's all for today.  Have a great tomorrow. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lesson 3

A day or two prior to Saturday's third lesson with young Maestro William Zwick, I decided I was quite tired of painting the canary.  I called William to see if he was amenable to a change.  Returning my call at lunchtime Saturday, he said he liked my idea and would see me at the appointed time.

The idea was to bring him home to see my studio, make suggestions that might improve it and evaluate and offer a critique and advice on two paintings currently in-work.  We were back in a mere ten minutes, and after a short tour of the amenities, in my studio.

William is a great teacher, and after a look around, he discussed the studio lighting and my improvised sight size rig.  He approved of the wooden palette I'd dug out of my painters box and recommended some tips to bring it back to life.  I showed him a container of Turpenoid Natural, my brush cleaner alternative to turpentine or odorless mineral spirits, and the variety of mediums on hand.  It was nice to know nothing I've been using raised any concerns. 

Next I fired a barrage of questions about every aspect of the painting process.  He confirmed much of what my old Maestro, William Matheny, told me over the years, which was most gratifying.  Then came the best part of the lesson, as we discussed specific paintings, the problem areas and ways to resolve them.  I can hardly express how wonderful it was to have such a talented and well-trained professional make a "house call".  Listening to his own problem solving methods was like receiving the keys to the kingdom.  I should have been recording everything he said! 

I feel like I've stumbled upon much more than a teacher.  He's a mentor, guide, guru, consultant and counselor, a friend and very giving person.  When it's all said and done, William is a very nice human being--a credit to your species.  Just kidding...mine, too. :)  If I should ever be fortunate enough to be introduced to his parents, they would receive my most hearty congratulations for raising such a fine son.  It's my fondest hope that each of you--artist or not--might someday find your own William Zwick.

No paintings to show today, but I will share some photos taken recently, of ships participating in the RIMPAC exercises and, of course, a sunset.

HMAS Canberra (L02).  She is the largest ship ever operated by the Australian Navy, commissioned in 2014.  She's on her way to Pearl Harbor in this image.  Click on the photo for a closer view.

Here's the U.S. Navy "Wasp"-class amphibious assault ship, U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) .

Not sure which nation owns this vessel, but it may be one of the Chinese ships taking part in the exercises.

A submarine heading for Pearl Harbor passes by the reef runway.  Couldn't see a number to get the name.

An airliner departs Honolulu International at sunset. 

And here's that sunset I promised. 

Have a good day tomorrow!   

Monday, July 11, 2016

Textbook Definition Of A Wild Ride

This link to an amazing video on YouTube a few days ago will give you a front row seat to the thrills of aircraft carrier aviation.  It might also serve to explain the theory that Naval Aviators are adrenaline junkies.  And sadly, eight sailors were injured when the arresting cable snapped. 

Notes:  In case you're wondering how the video was taken...There are two television cameras, one positioned on the island and another mounted in the landing area of the flight deck of every U.S. aircraft carrier for the sole purpose of recording every launch and landing.  During flight operations, all concerned departments, including every squadron ready room, has a live feed available.  The system is called the Pilot Landing Aid Television, or Plat.  Replays are used to help pilots improve their skills and as a record of all mishaps. 

Carrier pilots are trained to apply full-power at touchdown, for just such an occurrence.             
And, speaking of Naval Aviation...

The U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN-74) headed out today at about noon, for the RIMPAC international naval exercises.  I was content to view her departure from the lanai, instead of rushing over to see the enormous ship in the Pearl Harbor channel.  Busy painting, don't cha know. :)

The "big picture" looking west toward Pearl Harbor.  It was a glorious day to head to sea.  I'm guessing most of the crew had just about spent all their liberty funds, too.  It was always good to get back to work after visiting a great liberty port--we needed the rest!

That's the ship in the upper right quarter of this zoomed image.  Click for a bit closer view of the aircraft crowding the flight deck and the towering superstructure.  The buildings in the photo are part of Honolulu International Airport, mostly for parking cars.

At sea!  She doesn't seem all that far off the beach, but I'd hate to have to swim the deceiving distance.

It always seems a little strange to see clear through such a massive vessel, and I'm sure the crew on the hangar deck are enjoying the view and breezes.  I've no idea where she's heading for the RIMPAC exercises, but if she maintains this course a little longer, the crowds along Waikiki Beach will be in for a thrill.

A final photo with a helicopter from Paradise Helicopter Tours sneaking into the frame.  They have done a great job of recreating the famously colorful helo from the 1980's TV series, "Magnum P.I.".  For you older visitors, and those who enjoy "vintage" television, remember, "Magnum P.I."?  Most episodes featured a scene or two of a bright orange, yellow and brown "chopper" zooming around O'ahu.  I'll refresh your memory with the next photo:

 A "two-fer".  Magnum's Ferrari and the famous helicopter.  This photo is courtesy of

And finally...A photo of some very colorful clouds at sunset back on July 5th:

Time for me to get back to the studio.  Have a nice tomorrow everybody!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Practice, And Lesson 2

Since my first lesson last Saturday with young Maestro William Zwick, I've been busy working on the classic method he so successfully employs in his painting.  I prepped nine canvas boards and started out with a simple apple on a box.  It doesn't matter how these practice paintings turn out, since the goals are improving color and value identification, correct mixing those colors and using as many brushes as it takes to paint the set-up.  Not trying for any masterpieces.  In fact, my plan is to devote a maximum of two sessions (or less) to them.

This was the apple set-up photo.  I decided to ignore the color variances of the box, and paint only three values of the top color.  That's the trouble with working from photos!  Not sure if it's the camera or the printer.  I may have to add some sort of table to the studio for "live" set-ups and skip the photos. 

This is the peach set-up photo.  There is no way to achieve the darks required for such a set-up in the studio, so the master bath vanity was again, the site.  To block the light, I draped a cardboard box with a black apron (borrowed from Michele), while I held a black tee-shirt to eliminate glare from the mirror.  The camera was set to a ten-second delay, with a darker-than-true setting.  For the sight-size painting, I used a 5 x 7-inch print, placed next to the same size canvas board on my easel.  Whew!  I REALLY need a bigger studio!  

Here are the two practice paintings--each is 5 x 7-inches, oil on canvas board.  The apple was a Honeycrisp, with, in my opinion, garish colors which I didn't do much of a job color matching.    The peach may be a bit truer to the real thing, but, again, that's only part of the goal.  I took these to William's studio today, for his evaluation and suggested improvements.  Lesson 2 was postponed until today, Sunday.

As I entered William's studio, this magnificent cast painting was the first thing I saw.  In real life, the 3-D effect is remarkable.  Also, the colors are warmer and the wood plank background looks stunningly real.  Sorry my camera didn't do a better job.

William's palette today:  Manganese blue, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, ivory black, vermilion, yellow ochre, Naples yellow and titanium white.  He had already mixed the darks we'd use, leaving me to mix the lighter colors--under his gentle guidance.  Today, we would continue refining the canary from Lesson 1.  After the color mixtures were completed, we "oiled-in" our respective canaries and got busy.

Two hours later, this was William's canary.  Actually, the colors and shapes are a virtual match to the set-up on his right.  Again, the camera is the culprit.

This is where I normally start making excuses, but not anymore.  The difference between our birds is striking.  His confidence with color, value and mark making is immediately apparent.  William offered one more session with this subject and I was all for it.  You can see I've failed to keep my colors clean, need more work on proper ID of values and obviously, the box.  It was way off from last session and I didn't spend enough time making corrections today.  The bird held my attention almost the entire session.  Next Saturday I'll have one more try.

Lesson 2 was a little less nerve-wracking, since I'm already very comfortable with William, even though it's hard to tell by looking at my effort.  My hope is that one day before the lessons are over, I completely impress him with my progress.  I'll continue practicing the method in the coming week, working hard to see, and mix the subject's colors in the correct values.  Looking forward to next Saturday!

Hope you all have an excellent week.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Kaneohe Klipper

Every aspiring not-so-young artist needs a day off every so often and today was that day for me.  The group of ageless golfers I often join on Wednesday mornings at Mamala Bay, played at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course today as there was a RIMPAC participants tournament at their home course.

I've been to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii several times, but never to play the golf course.  It's well-known for several holes on the back nine which follow the shoreline and offer golfers spectacular views of the beach, ocean and Ko'olau Range.  I met a frequent player on the putting green this morning, and he referred to the course as, "the poor man's Pebble Beach".

He was not exaggerating.  Here are some photos from my "day off":

I arrived at the course well-ahead of our 6:49 AM tee time and took this photo of sunrise from the practice putting green.

Monet came to mind when I passed this wetland lily pond with waterfowl.  Click on the images for a closer view.

Working our way uphill to the 12th-green.  The course signature 13th-hole was next.

One of the great views from the 13th-hole blue tee box.  But wait!  There's more!

Some of the base housing and the beach below.  Notice the stairs to help sun seekers, swimmers and surfers safely get to the water.

Panning to the left, what a view.  That's Leroy getting ready to tee-off.

Richard Chang enjoying the view.  You could certainly use the word, "paradise" to describe this.

Say "Aloha" to Leroy, former Hawaii Air National Guard fighter pilot, Hawaiian Airlines Captain and automobile aficionado.  He's a pretty darn good golfer, and the only member of the group who walks the course.  Not bad for a guy who flew with the Wright brothers!

Another big "Aloha" to Marvin Baum.  Here, you can see the ball just flying off his driver.

The leader of the pack, Stan.  He's a forever young 84, and still hits the ball like Ben Hogan.  He's a stickler for fast play and always keeps us moving along at a good pace.

Richard "Rick" Chang watches his shot fly to the green...or somewhere.  Just kidding.  He and his wife, Annette, are good friends and we enjoy spending time together.  Rick was the person who invited me to play with the group.

These objects could be seen from the course today, and Leroy told me they are clean energy turbines operated by wave action.  They are located here to test corrosion resistance.  Who knew?!

If you click on this photo, you'll see two people enjoying the water.  This is the beach just off the 13th-fairway.

A final image of the stunningly beautiful view.  It does kind of remind me of Pebble Beach.

It was another great day in paradise and I hope you enjoyed the tour.  Tomorrow, it's back to the salt mine. :))

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The First Lesson

After a week of anticipation and a little anxiety, Saturday finally arrived, right on schedule.  To help break the ice, I called William a day or two earlier to confirm our lesson and let him know I planned to bring lunch--Italian style.  He said it sounded good and Saturday morning, I headed for Whole Foods and their deli counter. 

I exited the store with olives, grapes, prosciutto, mortadella, finocchiona and Tuscan salame, two types of pecorino cheese, a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil and a bottle of DaVinci Chianti.  The Chianti was a nod to William, who immediately noticed the label bearing Leonardo's portrait.  I picked-up some decent Italian-style bread at a nearby Safeway to complete the menu.

Along with the groceries, I took along several of the paintings from my studio, in hopes of giving William a better sense of how I've progressed over the years--or how I haven't.  Since my visit last week, the walls of his studio held many more examples of his fine work, returned from a recent show.  As I spread out my paintings along a wall opposite our lunch table, the enormous chasm between our respective works became evident. 

We chatted about his life and art school experiences during pranzo (lunch), and he did an insightful critique of my work on the floor.  A day before this lesson, I wrote down what I consider to be my many weaknesses and as he would point out something about a painting, I'd show him the corresponding word to explain what he saw.  It was almost funny.  I also encouraged him to be brutal in any evaluation.  It's not his style, but I want my medicine without the sugar.

We did finally get around to the actual lesson, though a nap would've been welcomed, too.  William had two easels set-up, each with a vertically-mounted, roughly 5x7-inch toned canvas board at eye level.  Between the two easels and slightly forward, he had placed a stuffed canary standing on a bluish-green box, surrounded by a shadow box draped with black cloth.  The set-up used the "sight-size" method.

First thing was to mix the darks, from darkest-to-lightest.  Boy!  What a great learning experience!  He used colors I would have never thought of to perfectly match the color and value of the background and the bird.  Next, it was my turn to mix a series of the light colors--from shadow-to-highlight.  Thankfully, William helped guide me through this series of mixtures and it was now time to place these colors where they belong on the canvas boards.

As we worked on our respective boards, his speed and confidence at applying each color exactly where it was on the "model" made me quite envious.  He coached me on brush handling, paint application and medium use.  Everything he said rang true to the countless books I've read over the years, but failed to fully grasp--or worse yet--put into practice.  Even the number of brushes in my hand set a new record!  "Lazy" is the applicable word for my "old" working method.  I often used a single brush for all colors and values, hardly ever doing anything more between color or value changes than a quick wipe on a paper towel.  Dull, muddy colors resulted from that desire to minimize the number of brushes I'd have to clean.  I'll readily admit that my own laziness caused all the color problems and starting today, that will change!  I made a still life set-up this morning and will use it to apply the lesson from yesterday.  I'll take my time to identify both the color and value of each area and not begin painting until all mixtures are complete.  I'll also have at least five brushes in my hand.  I can hardly wait to finish this post and get busy!  I know this won't go perfectly, but that's okay.  One can only do their best and hope each successive attempt is better.

A monumental painting by William.  As impressive as this is, it's even better seen in person.  The light effects are breathtaking.  That's William's easel with the small still life we worked on today.

William's start on the canary still life.  Too much glare, but trust me--even this simple start is not only beautiful, it's also a great learning tool.  Compared to my work today, this is perfect.  Looking at our respective starts, my errors are easy to identify.  In particular, my very bad habit of making too many brushstrokes with most every brush load.  Muddled colors are the inevitable result of this inability to stop, clean the brush and re-load, or wipe out the passage and re-do it. 

My effort on Saturday, with the model on the left.  William does everything to make a person comfortable, but I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous painting along side him.  We'll continue this painting next week and as I said, I'll be practicing on my own until then.

Have a nice Fourth of July!       

Thursday, June 30, 2016

U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN-74) Arrives For RIMPAC-2016

For over three years, I've hoped to be at the entry channel to Pearl Harbor to watch a Navy aircraft carrier pass by.  Yesterday, that dream came true.  It was late-morning when I decided it was time to take a short break from painting.  Hunger wasn't an issue, so I passed the kitchen and wandered over to the open lanai door for a look out to sea.  With RIMPAC-2016 underway, there is an excellent chance a carrier will be visiting Pearl Harbor, so I'm always on the lookout.  That routine look resulted in spotting the unmistakable profile of an aircraft carrier.

Electrified, I immediately told Michele that this might be our chance.  The ship was far enough from the entrance to Pearl Harbor and moving fairly slowly, so the odds were on our side if we acted fast.  We were out the door in less than three minutes.  The short trip to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam took only about another fifteen minutes and we were quickly through the main gate and on our way to the the channel side.

The parking lots in the area were mostly filled due to both lunch hour and the carrier's pending arrival.  Seems lots of active military personnel knew precisely when the ship would arrive and had beaten us to the spot.  I panicked at the thought of missing this because we were driving around in search of a parking place and asked Michele to take over as I bailed out and headed for the channel shoreline. 

As it turned out, she found a spot to park and arrived in plenty of time to watch the show.  I apologized for being so crazy to see this event, but not too much.  So, at long last, we were perfectly positioned as the U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN-74) sailed closer and closer.

One of the waiting tugboats put on a show for the large number of people lining the channel shoreline.  It did a series of 360-degree spins to the applause and cheers of the crowd.  The tug captain could certainly have heard the positive reaction since the channel is quite narrow.

Several military and civilian aircraft passed over the harbor entrance on their way to landing and the roar must've been deafening to the sailors manning the rail in their dress white uniforms.  It took me back to 1977, when several junior officers, including me, were ordered to represent our E-2 squadron, in our whites, on the flight deck as the ship rendered honors passing the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.  The Stennis crew yesterday was greeted with cheers of Aloha as their giant ship passed by on her way into the harbor and responded with their own waves.

And speaking of waves...I was surprised by the size of the waves hitting the seawall as the ship passed.  It didn't seem to be going fast enough to generate as much wake as it did.  The channel is between 350 and 400 yards wide, and that's not much room for the huge vessel.

What a great thrill to finally see this from shore.  I have no doubt the crew, especially the younger members, will never forget the experience.  I never have, and it's been almost forty years!  Here are some photos and a link to a short video:

There she is in the distance, and this great ship really did look about this small.  After all that hustle, we were there with plenty of time for a bit of sunburn.  There was no time to lather-up with sun block before we left home, but neither of us thought we'd be there long enough to need it.  Oops.

One of several tugs and security vessels waiting for the Stennis to get closer.  Here's a link to the tug which was doing "doughnuts".

I also had plenty of time to get some photos of several aircraft making their approach to the airport.  If you click on the image, you can practically see the C-17 pilot finishing a cup of coffee prior to touching down. :))

Man, is that impressive, or what!  1,092-feet long and 103,300-long tons (231,392,000-pounds) of ship heading for a very small channel.  I'm as peace loving as anyone, but if you must have a defensive capability, this will do nicely.  Here's a link to a short video of the arrival.

Who would've thought a new-ish navy Boeing C-40 Clipper would fly in just as the Stennis was entering the channel?  This is the aircraft which replaced the McDonnell-Douglas C-9B I flew for six of my twenty years in the navy.  We were treated to an air show and the carrier!

Back to the star of this post.  Click on this image for a closer look at the carrier and the well-armed fast boat zooming along providing security.

Zoomed into the bridge, also known as the island, tower or superstructure.  Click on this, or any of the images for a closer look.  You may know some of the crew!

Crewmembers on the bow of the ship.  That's an F/A-18 Hornet behind them.  It may be a "Super hornet, but I'm not sure.  Anyway, it's one heck of a capable aircraft.

Sailors viewing their arrival from one of the ship's gigantic elevator openings.  You can get some sense of the enormity of the hangar bay in this photo.

I'd be remiss if a photo of this Northrup-Grumman E-2D wasn't included in the post.  Nostalgia demanded an homage to this massively improved version of the E-2C I flew off the U.S.S. Coral Sea and the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk during the Stone Age. :)

One last photo of the Stennis' superstructure and her gigantic "74".  It's always lit-up at night, helping crewmembers find their way home after a fun-filled liberty.  I am able to confirm it works! :)))

The Stennis stern as she passes by.  That yellow line is actually the drop lights which help pilots maintain their line-up during night, or low visibility landings aboard.  Here's a link to a short YouTube video of a night landing aboard a carrier in which you can see the drop lights hanging straight down the stern. 

What a magnificent sight as the great ship heads for the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and her berth.  It was a wonderful experience to finally see a carrier arrive at this historically important harbor, from so close up.

Hope you all have a wonderful tomorrow and a peaceful weekend.