Category Archives: artists

Thirty minutes to paint


Quick draw events are fun, frightening, sometimes furiously fast and often rewarding!  Many are an hour or two in length which is not a lot of time to execute a painting but easier compared to the 30 minute events.  In a 30 minute event there is no time to ponder.  You need to have pondered and made choices in the preparation stage!  You need a limited palette and a distinct plan of action when the horn blows to begin your work.

So goes the story of the popular quick draw at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale sponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum held every May as part of the world famous Bucking Horse Sale that brings thousands of spectators to the town of Miles City.  Only a few (25 or less) artists participate in the Riverside Park QD at the culmination of the annual parade.  The QD is sandwiched in between the parade and the Grand Entry of the sale and horse races and once the 30 minute draw is complete, the artists have 10 minutes to get their piece framed and the live auction of art begins.  It’s fast and furious and the crowd is filled with art collectors and spectators.  The QD is strategically timed to be certain those spectators can get to all the BHS activities and maximize the crowd attendance for the auction that is a benefit to the WaterWorks Museum and Art Center.

This year I lived on the dangerous side…I decided to paint a larger than normal piece, 26×12 vertical pastel.  (Most works are less than 16 inches square.)  I prepped my paper by gluing it to a foam core board for stability, then selected a very limited palette of pastel sticks.  I planned a painting of buffalo from a photo I shot on my way to MT via Yellowstone Park.  The day before the event, the preparatory chores were done. (I could have saved a little stress by doing this 3-4 days earlier!).  I did numerous pencil sketches arranging my composition, as the photo was a horizontal format and I was painting it as a vertical.  In my sketchbook I made lines of quadrants and adjusted the subject to best fit the format of the proposed painting.  I “roughed-in” focal points and large shapes to make what I believed to be a good composition.   I put all my supplies – selected pastels, 91% alcohol, sponge brush, Workable fixative, wet wipes, paper towels, gloves and framing equipment in my backpack.  I had a plan and felt I could make it happen, but knew I would have no time to spare.  Before the event started I found a place to paint…in the park’s gazebo  where there was some protection from some gusty winds (not helpful when painting is a tall piece!) and a place to sit if one wanted to before and during the event.  And I was able to tone my painting  with one color – a mix of dry pigment and alcohol before the QD began.  Doing an underpainting like this assists one in pastel application by speeding up the process.

The QD begins with the sound of an air horn…now it’s time for autopilot.  Your colors are laid out and you instinctively apply them, not second guessing your choice.  Large masses are painted carefully noting that  the values are where you want them.  When someone says “you have 15 minutes left, you want to be at least half way thru your painting.)  I am, but there is no option to make changes.  I stick to my plan.  Once the landscape is satisfactory to my eye, I draw in and paint the buffalo.   As I put the final touches in the most distant animal, the horn blows signifying the end of the QD.  Hands go up (no more pastel to the paper), I am satisfied, pleased to have finished what I had planned and the framing begins.  I had hoped to get my piece in the auction so it would be auctioned somewhere in the middle, but I needed all the time allotted to get the framing accomplished, so the painting was in the last spot on the auction docket.  Not my favorite spot to be, but as it turned out the auction was  a surprise.  One know there is not always a predictable outcome to auctions and this one was not an exception.  Early pieces were sold  from $200-500. Then one sold for about $800 and another for $1700.  I saw a couple of pieces of work of popular artists sell for less than I have seen before.  Now I begin to have some anxiety.  It’s now the time for my piece to go.  I hold the painting up and the auction starts.  Bids start immediately and I hand the work to one of the guys on the platform to show.  Bids continue to be raised and my anxiety lessens.  The auctioneer worked his way to $1500 +.  I am relieved and happy to have completed a sought after piece of art and for sharing the sale with the museum.

So, when the opportunity arises to compete in a quick draw, do it.  The key is preparation and planning.  Then execute the painting in a confident manner, not second guessing palette and composition.  If you are an art collector and someone who appreciates the arts and the process…know what happens for these works to come to be!

 

 

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Gallery Representation – thank you!


I am honored to be able to show my work in some of the best galleries in the west.  These originals can be seen in Yachats, OR at Earthworks Gallery, The American Art Company in Tacoma, Wa, Dodson’s in Spokane, WA, Pendleton Art and Frame in Pendleton, OR, Valley Bronze in Joseph, OR, Caswell Bronze in Troutdale, OR, Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA, Eagle Art Gallery in Eagle, ID, The Depot in Red Lodge, Mt and Moccasin Mountain Art in Lewistown, MT.

I am very pleased to work with these galleries who in my opinion, represent their artist well.  That is so important to an artist to have a gallery or galleries that  promote your work and really try to sell the art pieces.  And ones that pay promptly, according to your agreement, when works sell.

When you are in these towns and cities, please visit these fine businesses and be prepared to be treated well as a customer too!

 

 


Pastel Dust…Quick Draw/Quick Finish | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog


Pastel Dust…Quick Draw/Quick Finish | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog.

You get anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 or more hours to complete a piece of art.  It is adrenalin producing, energy charged time for the artist and a smorgasbord of art options for the collector.  Lots of art centers and other art venues host these as part of their fund raising activities.  I love them.  I like the challenge and I like the interaction with the collectors!  The quick draw usually indicates that the piece of art with be completed in total during the given time frame.  The Quick finish is just that…a piece of art is started before the event and then just finished at the event.  Sometimes artists will complete the entire work during the quick finish, however.

 

A favorite, challenging quick Draw is the event held in Miles City, MT. where the artist has the challenge of completing a piece of art on 30 minutes that is then auctioned in a live auction in a downtown city park.  Another is a more leisure 1 1/2 hour QD at the Festival of Arts at the Joseph, OR that is held in their community center amidst all the art from the festival and with live music and a silent auction of the newly created work.  Added to these two great events is a new fave…the Art in the Beartooths to support the Carbon County Art Guild.  I was invited to participate in this event this July 11 and it proved to be a grand time.   We painted  anywhere on the property of the center from 9-2.  Your choice of a start from the scratch approach or applying the finishing touches To an already started painting .   I decided to paint from beginning to end and with abundant time, it was pretty stress free.  This venue, being in the destination spot of Red Lodge, MT is a gem.  The setting, in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, is inspirational in of itself.  The staff was delightful to work with and were most attentive to artists’ needs.  The QF culminated with a benefit dinner and live auction under a big tent in the park beside the art center.

 

My creation was done in pastel…I think the only pastel at the event.  I decided on painting some favorite things…Creekside willows in the early spring when they are this incredible orange color, still snow on the ground in places and streams running free of ice.  I worked about 3 hours on a 24×12 vertical painting that gave me the feeling I wanted to project.  I had plenty of time to visit wth old friends, students of mine and new acquaintances.  As a result, we are looking at a workshop three next fall (2016) to coincide with the opening of my solo show there opening September 2.

And “March Willow” sold well.

 

Next plein air painting in the Columbia Gorge Plein Air event AUGUST 3-7 in Hood River, OR

 

 

 


Pastel Dust


Do you wonder what drives an artist?  What’s the motivation to keep painting?  For me it is about the color and the diversity of the landscape and wanting to share those images you see with others.  And why paint en plein air?  I think it is painting “true.”  Nothing is in your way of what you see.  There is no excuse to what you put on that board or paper.  It is right in front of you…it’s your interpretation!

I had the opportunity to be part of a plein air event in Walla Walla a week ago.  It was a 5 day paint out organized by a tiny 90-year-old watercolorist, Margaret Walters.  About 20 artists came together for the event, painting it partly or in total.  I think this was the third year of the event and there were several painters who had been on all tours.  The event ended with an art sale that benefited the Carnegie Picture Lab.  It was certainly a stress-free, enjoyable schedule and people to paint with.  Each day a new venue…one favorite was going to this beautiful farm/vineyard at the base of Cottonwood Canyon.  It is a favorite of mine and to be able to drive up through the farm to a high point and paint it from a different vantage point was great.  Another day of endless opportunity was painting at the Robison Ranch north of town.  I found a secluded spot where I painted two pieces.  The only thing that drove me out of the field was the heat creeping up to 104!  These two venues, for me was what painting plein air is all about….you could stand in one spot and paint in any direction…the dilemma is…what do you paint!

A note about the Picture Lab…it is an art education program for area students.  It is a nonprofit that depends on funds from outside sources.  Commissions on sales of the plein air paintings benefited the Picture Lab.  Happily 4 of my 6 paintings sold for this great cause.

What’s on the schedule…

July 11th I will be painting in the Art of the Beartooths, the fund raiser and painting event and sale to support the Carbon county Art Guild in Red Lodge, MT.  We will be painting a quick finish during the day that will be auctioned that evening.

Pendleton Art and Frame, Pendleton, OR is showing the bronzes of Rip Caswell and my plein air landscapes July 9- September 1.  The opening reception is Thursday the 9th, 5-7:30

Off to the beautiful area around Hood river, OR for the Columbia Gorge Invitational Plein Air event.  About 30 artists have been invited to paint August 3-7 in the area with a reception Friday the 7th, 6-8 pm.

I feel very blessed to be able to “work” at my art and take part in these events.  So with that said, go out there and take a shot of drawing or painting “en plein air!!”

               


Pastel Dust 2014


Happy New Year!  It’s our chance, once again to plan, scheme, make resolutions, etc.

Take a moment and make some plans with your art.  Is it to enter a few more shows, seek out a new gallery for representation, schedule a workshop…Maybe it is to paint or draw every day.  That is my goal.  Each day to pick up a journal and do some sketching or the iPad and do something in ArtPro or ArtRage.  Challenge yourself…if you normally paint landscapes, mix it up and paint still-lifes or try some new products.  don’t be afraid of failure or rejection.  All these things will make you a stronger artist!

Happy New Year!Sheep markers...WHAT???


Pastel Dust in Winter


It can be a gloomy time in the Northwest during early months of the year with fog often shrouding the landscape. So when there is a day of sunshine, I am out there soaking it in. But…don’t ignore the opportunity to paint weather….here’s my story…last Wednesday when I left my house it was overcast, not too cold and I thought about the fact that there was still no snow. The park’s grass was still green and created an interesting contrast of the grays around it. By the time I had driven the block from my house to the. Ross street, it had started to snow huge flakes. The air was filled with snow and I stopped to take a couple of photos. In a matter of a couple of minutes, the snow had nearly covered the green blanket of grass. This was a snow storm! I made my way downtown and stopped to take a few photos in some of the neighborhoods along the way. It continued to snow heavily and the transformation of the gray gloom to white was beautiful One stop was at First and Main where I snapped a photo with my phone of the Beehive Building, Starbucks and other buildings along the south side of Main….I noticed the car tracks in the snow created some great contrasty patterns and the snow flakes and light fogginess created some great atmosphere…I knew at some point I would paint this…Later…

Using bold strokes with the side of the pastels I created a cityscape of the First and Main intersection and the buildings lining the street complete with snow flakes. I used my image on my cell phone as a reference and created a nice impression of Snow Day! So my message is…always be looking for an opportunity to paint…always have your camera, phone w/camera with you to record a reference shot…don’t wait for a sunny day to paint…and take a risk sometimes at what you paint! Snow Day – First and Main sold the same day it was painted.


Pastel Dust in Landscape


No b lack Sheep in this Family

What makes a painting happen?  In my world it starts with something that triggers my interest.  Painting happens nearly every day…at least some sort of sketching or drawing if not a painting.  If I am the passenger on a car trip, I might be sketching.  I have my iPhone or camera handy also when driving to record – not a specific scene to paint, but a chance to shoot a reference photo of something for a future painting…I am always looking…

So Saturday I had to deliver some work to Vintage Vine in Roslyn for the next show that opens the first part of July.  I decided to make a day of it and spend it scouting around the Cle Elum and Roslyn area for painting spots for the upcoming Fresh Air Festival paint out event July 14-20.  I have the opportunity to teach a workshop in pastel (July 17-19) and also do a demo (Monday July 16) as part of the event, so finding some good spots to take artists to paint and also spots for my own work was on my list of things to do.  We drove the streets and backroads and found some good spots with a variety of scene.  I shot a lot of images and enjoyed watching the weather change from bright and sunny to a dark clouded rain storm.  But  – leaving home early, about 630 a.m., driving the Walla Walla valley had the most impact on my eyes…and it reminded me why it is so worthwhile to get up early and go out and paint.  The trees that follow the river and the fields next to them planted with wheat or peas or potatoes or onions were cool greens of various values and the early sun cast a soft light on the terrain.  The distant hills were a soft lavender, a bit hazy in the early morning.  There were many opportunities for a great, tonal painting in the peacefulness that presented in the landscape.  I shot some photos, but none render the actual beauty seen with the human eye…it’s why we paint en plein air!  So paint when you can from life…it makes a difference!


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