Painting in Mendocino MOPO 2018 – Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse

Contemplation for Mood No.1 – Curtis Green

In music, there are two terms called consonance and dissonance.   Consonance could be considered the pleasing sounds, dissonance could be the dis-pleasing sounds.  In a minimalist work of music, one might hear the tranquil and steady current of sound mingling agreeably in the soundscape.  At certain intervals a sharper distinguished sound may swell and recede, as if fleeting across from one place to the next and then it’s gone.

Imagine the sounds of seagulls and ocean waves roaring to the cliffsides.  The background noise is there and yet it is as if we don’t hear it, and we cherish the so called silence.  Once in a while, a distant bell or a soft distant horn is heard and we are reminded of the silence, tuning in again to the steadiness of the background sounds of gulls and waves, until we don’t notice, and then, until we do again.

The Mendocino Coast in Northern California is a sanctuary for these type of meditative spaces and environments, one of them is the Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse just south of Fort Bragg.  As part of MOPO 2018 hosted by the Mendocino Art Center, a group of us artists went there to spend about half a day, capturing this historical structure.  Walking across and through the tall weeds and grass, looking for the pleasing angle and distance to find the “right spot” to paint was very tactile and real.  The smells and sounds of the ocean, the wind it generated across my face, the nearness of the crashing waves just a few feet from the unprotected cliffside was a moment in Earthly Heaven.

At about 39 degrees north latitude, the sun creates that “perfect light” that I love as the Fall season comes close.  The light is stark but the shadows are soft.  Again, another inherent dichotomy where one condition supports the other in a natural balance.  It invites contemplation, and sets a philosophical mood.  At first sight, I immediately had the picture in my mind before the painting began.  The light house off to one side, far enough away to show the vast space around it.  The neutrality of tone, the buttery walls, the light within the shadows.  I wanted, somehow, to paint the sound and the air.

Note: Inquiries for purchasing this painting can be made to the Mendocino Art Center Gallery at (707)-937-1764 ext. 14


Painting in Mendocino at MOPO 2018

My umbrella and easel is seen in the distance while painting at Pt. Cabrillo Light Station, just north of Mendocino, CA. – Photo by Roz Templin.

I write these weekly posts pretty much on the fly.  They are inspired by recent work, a museum visit, or some idea or reading that might pertain some interest to the lay reader of art.  Now, I am about to try something new.   I going to try to stitch together a series based on a recent visit to the Northern California coast, specifically Mendocino for the annual Mendocino Open Paint Out (MOPO), based at the Mendocino Art Center.

As a preface, it may be good to be aware that not all artwork is made in the studio.  Likewise not all artwork is made out of doors.  However, when a painter does set up outdoors and paints directly from what the painter sees in the given light, it is referred to by the French term, en plein aire, or in the plain air.

There is a history of painting out of doors before the use of the term was attached to painters.  The etymology of Plein Air as a way of describing an artist who works outdoors from nature is typically placed around the time of the Impressionists around the mid-eighteen hundreds.  Before that though, many of the artists who would later become known as Impressionists were inspired by a few Romantic painters in the French Barbizon Forest, radically painting directly from nature outside the studio!   Thus the so called “Barbizon School” that some may be familiar with.  Before the Barbizon School, English painters like John Constable and friends would take extended trips into the English countryside and paint on whatever was handy, like cardboard or wood as well as paper or canvas.  These “sketches” would be the studies used to make a final work back in the studio.  Whereas, for the plein air Impressionist, the sketch would be the final work, inspired and finished on the spot where the painter stood.

Today, Plein Air seems to have new connotations and meanings beyond the original use of the term.  Regardless, it has been understood for centuries, by early Masters, Romantics, Impressionists etc, that to learn Nature’s secrets one must observe and note them by direct observation.  The following few weeks I’ll be posting my results from participating in my first Paint Out.  The world we share is everywhere we look.  From the majesty of the tall trees, the solemn beauty of a sea side cliff, or the banality of alleyways and harbors in patchwork color, the artist’s eye seeks to compose, so, what should hopefully become apparent is the variety and comradery that occurs each day during an event like a Paint Out.


Searching for The Hit

Ready for a New Day.

The other night at a painting event, a large group  of painters were enjoying a dinner at days end.  The seating was community style at long tables in a courtyard.  The gentleman I was seated next to started to converse.

“How do you pick your subjects?” he asked.  “I don’t know”, I said.  We continued talking and probing this topic for a little while, finding similarity in our processes of selecting subjects for a canvas.  Finding “the hit” seemed to be the common idea.  It’s an idea that is hard to put your finger on, so to speak.  The search is just kind of intuitive while in “looking mode” that when something simply strikes you, it rings true to some kind of sensibility and one feels compelled to work with that particular thing or scene.

We spoke more about it and it seems we both agreed that a lot of it depends on mood, or more appropriately, what is found that may match the sentiment already carried by the artist.  That’s an interesting thought.   It may make us ask the question; what is the artist bringing to the subject?  What is it within that particular artist that causes a response to what is before him or her?   We loosely concluded  that the response is usually less about the actual subject or objects but rather some aspect of it that is mostly responsible for the interest.  A streak of light, a contrast of forms, a sense of space, or an  shot of color.  These are the things that are searched for in a way that cannot be calculated before hand.  It is simply seeing for the want of a story to share.

Poetic Decisiveness of a Lonely London Painter

Surrey Side of the River – Grey Day circa 1886 Paul Maitland 1863-1909 Presented anonymously in memory of Sir Terence Rattigan 1983

While visiting a show called British Art from Whistler to WWII, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, I was taking in several pieces and passing along to the next one,  until I came across the work of Paul Maitland.  I stopped, stayed, lingered, walked away and then returned to stay even a little longer.  I immediately responded to the two small paintings hanging there as something extraordinary from a painter who lived long ago and of whom I knew nothing about.

Someone once said, every painting is a self-portrait.   Let this idea resonate and it makes sense that each artists’ interpretation or delivery of the subject has some indication of his or her trait and personality woven into the artwork. Another adage is that silence is often louder than words.  This is what I believe I find in Paul Maitland.

A little casual internet research tells me that Mr. Maitland lived in the mid to late eighteen hundreds in Chelsea outside of London, England until his death in 1909.  He was a contemporary and friend of Whistler (Think of the so called “Whistler’s Mother” painting) and other artists known informally as the London Impressionists.   As nature gave way to industry, Paul and a few others turned their eye to the new warehouses and factories popping up here and there, during the new industrial age.  His sphere of influence was limited as he apparently never travelled too far from where he lived due to a spinal condition that was a handicap for him.

It was said apparently, that while walking along the river Thames, even on the greyest of days, one would see boats, buildings, trees and the “painter”.    So, it must be the man, not the subject, that I see in his works.   I sense an echo of solitary determination, with a limited use of color, his ability to transfer his honed observation and sensitivity to the most benign and rudimentary subjects into abstract descriptions that reach to the edge of modern familiarity and fascination.  So precise and economic are the painters decisive strokes, that I felt the painting, and I pictured the painter witnessing the transition from nature to industry, treating everything as a poetic meditation.

See more of his work by visiting the Tate Museum website:

Also see:

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, British Art from Whistler to WWII

and also this Maitland painting from SBMoA Collection, (the one that impressed me so much)

(This post is not a scholarly article, it is the opinion and impression of an artist writing about another artist for the simple  purpose of introducing the enjoyment and discussion of art and artists to a general audience.)



Dullness Shines from the Lamp of Perfection

Painting titled Aycil with Orange Chair Unfinished by Curtis Green

I was at the studio of a  good friend and sculptor the other day. The humorous opinion developed that, nowhere in art does dullness shine brighter, than from the lamp of perfection.

We were having a stimulating conversation that somehow landed on the idea of extremes.  We were comparing perfect technique versus an intentionally naïve  approach.  Perfection in technique we decided, especially in the age of the camera, is pointless.  The humorous opinion developed that, nowhere in art does dullness shine brighter, than from the lamp of perfection.  An artist’s technique can get so perfect, there is nowhere to allow for the art to exist.  Little actions that are left not “corrected” can do several things.  The so called “dithers” of tool or brush handling adds a certain life to the work.  These little leftovers can add interest that compels us to want to look closer.

Sometimes the artist must make a decision to pull back the perfection for some specific reason.   A purposeful distortion may provide an excitable energy or a quiet a mood.   Artistic intention can make the poetic idea or message be better communicated to the viewer.  In other words, these are the things that turn a perfect rendering into a work of art.

It is in our human nature to share our experiences.  Telling a story with embellishments makes it really captivating.  However, one must first learn to speak before exercising  artistic license.  Oh, but that certainly, would be another and perhaps very long conversation.

Note: This painting (Aycil with Orange Chair Unfinished, 2018) is of my friend and working partner, Aycil Yeltan who is an actress and art model.  She is certainly not dull or uninteresting!  Thanks to her again for posing, What, I ask myself, would we artists do without our hard working models?



Impressionable Women

Berthe Morisot, The Sisters (1869). National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, gift of Mrs. Charles S. Carstairs, 1952

9 Trailblazing Female Painters of the 19th Century You Really Should Know About

This weeks addition is in the form of a link to an article by ArtNet  senior writer Sarah Cascone.

The article features some fascinating work and stories about the women, some famous and some unsung, during the height of the impressionist movement.  Most of these women were contemporaries of Monet, Renoir, Manet etc.  However, only a few are known.   Please visit the link above which will take you directly to the article on  ArtNet website.



One of those Hot Lights

Midday at Medrona Marsh - Curtis Green
Midday at Medrona Marsh

Many times we may have heard about an artist looking for that particular “quality of light”.  This may prompt us to ask what in world that might mean?   I often think of the caricature artist in a blue smock and beret, sporting a Van Dyke beard running around and framing everything with his hands and saying, “Ah-HA!” every fifteen seconds.  We might whisper to someone to explain that he is “looking for the right light”.  Light is typically everywhere, and daylight especially is beyond our control in the larger sense, so what is there to possibly “search” for?

Well, talk to any photographer and he or she will most likely say that twilight is the “golden light”.  The shadows are long and soft, the form of things are readily defined and the sunlight has a flattering amber glow.   It’s this “amber glow and soft shadows” that are often referred to as light qualities.  A lot of times, painters (and photographers) rib each other if they always work at twilight because it is argued that it is hard to fail if working at that “golden hour”!  Although this is a familiar joke, light quality always seems to play a role in artworks.

Consideration of light quality may determine the success of a painting or may even be subject of the painting.  Consider the light quality in this painting at Medrona Marsh. The sun was almost a little bit past overhead, the day was hot and frankly, the location was dry and somewhat barren.  Like the caricature artist, I actually was walking around framing everything with my hands when I found this natural arrangement of brilliant afternoon light contrasted with the cool under canopy of the shade tree.  The light quality was so stark and the location so resilient in the pounding sunlight, that it resonated a kind of silent perseverance – (defined as: persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success).  In a way, the shade was an invite from the harshness of the hot fields.  I hope that this painting may cause a few viewers to squint momentarily while looking at it and perhaps, sense a place to simultaneously stimulate and rest their thoughts.

Summer Poppies Pop

Poppies at the Theodore Payne Foundation - Curtis Green
Summer Poppies  – Curtis Green

Sometimes, the surprise of color shows up out of nowhere.   It may catch you off guard, looking for one thing and then finding something other than what was being searched for.  This occurred while visiting a site nested in the hillside north of Burbank, California.   The day was very hot, but the place was on the visit list for some time.   While exploring up a small trail, from behind branches of small oak trees, this explosion of color presented itself as a glorious surprise among the otherwise dry grasses surrounding it.

Fortunately, some shade was available from a nearby tree and I got to work very quickly as the inspiration had set itself up as excitement from this happen chance!

I believe most of this painting was done with applications from the palette knife.  I may have used a brush here and there.  That was another surprise, since I don’t often use the palette knife throughout the entire process of working.   The deliberateness of this process was enjoyable.  It caused me to lay out the facts of what I saw as it also invited an expressive interpretation as well.  This painting was done in June, so it was really amazing to still see a whole hillside of poppies still in bloom.


Immeasurable Details

A Sketch of Aycil Yeltan by Curtis Green

Landscape paintings are easy. A tree is a tree, so a landscape may be rendered any old way and still describe what it is.  Eh … yes and no.  Is there a quantity that often cannot be measured? A tree, it is true, does not usually have the familiar given proportions like that of the human body. Some freedom of the so called “artistic license” is understandable when looking at a tree in a painting.  So here perhaps, is a large point  to consider when it comes to looking at art.  It is a point often discussed. Is it necessary to render a thing so exact for the rendering to be considered art?

The human face, for example, requires more exacting observation in that we are built to intuitively understand the basic proportions and placement of our features.  We may look at ourselves in the mirror and lament that our forehead is too high or our ears are small or too large.  These are little moments of micro analysis, as we instantly determine how our features measure in relation to other things.  How much of this analytical critique is actually necessary in  regarding the essence or character of the face or for that matter, the landscape?

A common remark about paintings is about its detail.  Yet, many artists often remind themselves not to get hung up on the details.  The Mona Lisa by none other than DaVinci, is arguably the most famous and possibly greatest portraits of all time. It captures the sitters mystery that beguiles us to this day some six hundred years later. Yet the portrait itself may only be a contemporaneous characterization of the woman?  For that matter, consider the lonely yet moving work of Edward Hopper, famous for his painting “Nighthawks“. 

A lot of importance is placed on determining the quality of a work of art by how accurate it is in the rendering of the scene.  However, it is possible that the intrinsic impact toward the appeal of our emotion may be the real power behind a work of art. Those deemed as great art possess a quantity that often cannot be measured.