Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Perils of Plein Air Painting"

My plein air easel at Heisler Park. Buzzzzz.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"WIP Sycamores"

I spent the morning in my Plein Air class. It was held in Irvine Regional Park. In about three or four hours I went from sketch to an 80% painting while enjoying beautiful weather.

I expect I'll finish up with another 3-4 hours of studio time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"WIP Matanuska - Fifth Session"

Fifth Session
I spent about 4 hours (including set-up and clean-up) adding fur to Matanuska's right ear. Each fur strand has a gradation of subtle warm and cool neutrals. Capturing that gradation in a somewhat realistic manner is not an easy task.

You can see a photo of the adult Matanuska and read her story on The Greenacre Gang blog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Fright Light"

"Fright Light"
5"x7", Mixed Media on Canvas Board
© 2010 Bernard Echanow

Alice Thompson's "Spooktacular Challenge" for Halloween inspired both the poem "The Sorceress on Crow's Nest Street" and the the painting "Fright Light."

In June, in the dead of night, I took several pictures  of a night light near which I had sticky tacked a couple of rubber spiders. I was preparing to submit to a "painting the night" challenge. I couldn't quite get motivated at that time, but I kept the photos.

Earlier this past week I did a couple of preliminary sketches while visiting a local coffeehouse. I followed up with a couple of quick drying acrylic underpainting sessions on Friday.

On Saturday I did most of the overpainting using oils and Galkyd Lite medium. I do not know how Gamblin's Galkyd Lite got named. It is hardly "lite" for it has the consistency and color of warmed honey. Undiluted it causes the paint to drag and can be used in for creating a "dry brush" texture - just what I wanted. It also speeds up drying time. On the palette, paint mixed with Galkyd Lite tacked-up and dried within a half hour.

Because the painting was mostly dry from using the Galkyd Lite, I was able to finish and photographed the painting today, Sunday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Fourth Session for Matanuska"

Fourth Session
Today I spent about 1-1/2 hours on the background. I, also spent about 2 hours on Matanuska's left ear. First time I recollect painting fur. I mainly used a No. 4 Winsor & Newton sable watercolor brush and a 1/2 Gamsol and 1/2 Walnut Oil medium.

I did paint most of the hair with the painting turned upside down so that I could pull the strokes downward affording me greater control. The left ear is about 90% complete and the right ear is about 50% complete.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"WIP Matanuska - Third Session"

Third Session
I worked some more on the eyes. Matanuska's right eye is filled with a universe of beautiful reflections.

I painted the ears a solid black. In future sessions I'll be adding delicate white and gray fur to convey the insides of the ears. Right now I'm a bit unsure as to how that will go.

Getting the shape and size to convey a warm wet nose is, yet, another challenge. And, I'm sure I'll be spending an entire session on the happy tongue.

Lots more to do - at least 3 or 4 more sessions of 4 hours each!

"WIP Matanuska - The Beginnings"

First Session
Matanuska is the working title for this painting. When I consider the painting finished, I may rename it.

The dog belongs to a former co-worker. When I first received the emailed photo I knew it was portrait material; it was really cute.

I've had the photo for about 3 years. It has taken me a while to gather up courage to attempt painting a furry animal. Along with other art classes, I attend a studio workshop and decided to plunge into the fall semester with Matanuska.

The reference photo stands on its own. It gets ooohhs! and aaahhs! in class. The dog's owner tooked the photo and it is definitely "print, frame, and smile" quality. I don't want to compete with it, so, for now, I won't be posting it.

To get a quick start I blew up the photo and outline traced it onto the 11"x14" canvas. I started with a Burnt Sienna value study underpainting and then quickly went into an alla prima overpainting. On the first day from a blank canvas to what you see above took about 4-5 hours. I was moving so fast, I forgot to take progress photos.

I used every imaginable mixture of Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Gray (Gamblin), White, and Ultramarine Blue to block-in the background. To the "gray" combinations, I added some green for the foreground block-in.

Second Session
I concentrated on Matanuska's eyes for the 4 hour second session. I adjusted size and configuration of the eyes to convey more of the animal's personality. I painted the pupils  primarily with Ivory Black mixtures. The irises were created from Gray, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and White.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Ice Tea Prelude"

"Ice Tea Prelude"
8"x10", Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010 Bernard Echanow

There's a bit of work in this painting for Rookiepainter's Challenge 11.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I've been somewhat frustrated by how long some of my paintings have taken to complete. I attribute part of the problem to rework created by attacking the canvas without building a stronger foundation. So, I figured I'd draw a detailed sketch of the subject before painting and see how far that took me.

The subject matter for the current Rookiepainter Challenge Eleven is a still life of a sliced lemon. I began this art challenge by first downloading and printing the reference photo. I then worked on a 6"x 8" detailed graphite drawing to understand the scale,the relationships of the objects, and the location of the lights and darks.

It surprised me that I spent only 4 or 5 hours on the drawing. I've always enjoyed pencil drawing and began when I was very young tracing pictures of horses in a "Book of Knowledge" encyclopedia set. The tracing paper was some old "onion skin" typewriter paper that was kept around the house. (Long ago I used a No. 2 pencil for tracing the pictures of horses, but for the lemon drawing I used HB through 8B pencils and woodless pencils and nothing was traced.)

Using the reference photo and my grayscale graphite drawing, I proceeded to do an underpainting wash with Burnt Sienna and Gamsol on an 8"x10" canvas board. Because I had done the pencil study and gained understanding of the values, the underpainting went quickly. It was really easy to wipe off to lighten over-saturated areas and darken other areas. I'm unaware of passing time when I'm painting, but I think the underpainting took less than 3 hours - which was much faster than I expected. This was my first Burnt Sienna underpainting for a still life.

Burnt Sienna is a fast drying earth color, especially when thinly applied. So, the following day I was able to begin the final painting. One or two more sessions should wrap it up.

Monday, July 19, 2010


5"x7", Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010

This was my submission for Challenge Eight on the Rookiepainter's blog.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Hot Fudge Sundae"

"Hot Fudge Sundae"
8" x 10", Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010

My wife and I ate the painting's was so goood! Thankfully, I took pictures first from which to finish the piece.

Whipped cream, ice cream, hot fudge have all been replaced on my menu with organic, this was a rare treat, indeed. (I have been known to have the occasional shake...shhhh, don't tell anyone.)

I should note that this painting was originally inspired by a March challenge on the Calypso Moon Artist Movement blog. I didn't make the deadline. I put the finishing touches on the painting yesterday. (The sundae was purchased at a nearby Red Robin Restaurant.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Clothes Pins"

"Clothes Pins"
6"x8", Graphite on Paper
© 2010

My submission for Rookiepainter's Challenge Seven.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


 7"x10", Watercolor on Paper
© 2010 

My Rookiepainter blog submission for Challenge Six.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

'47 Chevy Truck

'47 Chevy Truck
5" x 7", Oil on Gessoboard
© 2010

Over a year ago Frans Carlson requested a painting. Since one of his life-long hobbies was photography, I asked that he email me personally meaningful snapshots.

One of the scanned photos he sent showed a beloved, but dusty, Chevrolet and a contented family cat, both catching the warming rays of the morning sun. The photo was a bit faded and color-shifted. Dark shadows cast by the barn-like garage obscured some of the Chevy's details. Nonetheless, the nostalgic quality of the photo spoke to me of a time far more gentler and far less complex.

I wanted to know more about the Chevy's form to fill in the missing details. I sent the image to my life-long friend and car aficionado, Don Colucci. He quickly wrote back that the vehicle was a Chevy Truck, vintage 1947 to 1954. I did an internet search and found a few pics.

I started and stopped and started again to draw and paint the image, but a year ago I was just beginning to rediscover and reconnect to the fundamentals of oil painting. Should I include the cat, the garage, the ladders hanging on the garage wall? I re-reviewed the internet pics and found the composition that had been so evasive; a restored model had been closely cropped to emphasize the nose, grill, and headlights!

Although I focused on the truck's front end, I found that there is a greater degree of precision required in capturing the man-made attributes of a solitary mechanical device than those of a nature-made vista.

I don't really know if the Chevy was a 1947 model, but the painting's title reminds me as to why I was attracted to this particular bit of nostalgia.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Mary's Trail at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park"

"Mary's Trail at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park"
8" x 10",  Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010

I could not resist contributing to Alice Thompson's latest art challenge, "The Secret Garden." Alice asked, "Do you have a secret garden? Do you retreat to a pond, park, tree or nursery? Do you have a small patch of earth to cultivate? If so I’d like for you to paint that and tell us about it."

The challenge appealed to all my interests, gardening, landscape architecture, flowers, browsing nurseries, Spring, parks, and botanical gardens. A recent spring visit to Descanso Garden, past visits to Filoli, our community greenbelts, flowers in our garden, and even parks I've had a hand in designing yielded a multitude of images from which to choose. However, I finally decided I needed to capture a vignette of the magnificent abundance of wild flowers and lush native growth we are currently experiencing in southern California.

The heavy winter rains brought forth an incredible array of colors and textures in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The trail and scenery that inspired my painting is near the Nix Center at Little Sycamore Canyon.

This past spectacularly clear Monday I completed most of the painting "en plein aire." I further refined it, Thursday, in Victoria Templeton's Painters' Connection class. Today, Friday, my wife and I had a very pleasant and easy hike down the trail.

Thanks Alice!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Bell and The Bug"

"The Bell and The Bug"
7" x 5", Acrylic on Gessoboard
© 2010

The Challenge
Alice Thompson has begun an art challenge blog. I wasn't able to participate in her first challenge. However, I was not about to let her down for her second challenge entitled "Collectors."  For the "Collectors" challenge she wrote, "I’d like for you to take only two things that you collect and make an interesting painting that reflects your personality and or history."

I was stumped at first, but then I started thinking about significant items that had been with me during my moves from the West Coast to the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and back to the West Coast. There, sitting on the shelf with my books on art and landscape architecture, was a Volkswagen Beetle-like wood toy, and quietly resting nearby was a cowbell.

The Bug
I never had a desire to own a VW Beetle, a.k.a. bug, and I'm not a toy collector, but the beautifully fluid lines, the subtle graining of the wood, the chubby little tires securely doweled to deftly hewn axles, and the wonderfully smooth surface elevated this "toy" to a visually-rich and tactile-friendly sculpture. All these attributes were immediately identifiable when I purchased it at a Renaissance Faire in the early '70's. Branded into the wood on the bottom of this bug is the craftsman's name, Hugh Gundry, and the name of his shop, Whimsical Woodcrafts.

Mr. Gundry told me the little toy was so well engineered that it could hold several hundred pounds if anyone wanted to sit on it and ride it; why anyone would was beyond my comprehension. I have no idea where Mr. Gundry is today, but my thanks go out to him for creating such an amazing bit of craftsmanship.

The Bell
Paul Thornburgh was a college counselor and a life-long friend. Paul embraced the "New Age" from Tai Chi to Mu Tea. In the last quarter of our senior college year a group of us met once a week to talk about life, love, annoying classes and incoherent professors, and to chant, sing, play intruments, and quietly meditate to the pulsing light of a strobbing candle.

During these meditations we drank Mu Tea. (No kidding, we did not imbibe or smoke anything else.) And, as I mentioned, we all played our favorite meditative instruments from Paul's' basket. I played the clapperless cowbell. It would make a beautiful reverberating "ding" everytime I hit the bell with a small drumstick. Somehow, I could make the candle pulse in rhythm with the ringing bell.

The only college graduation present I remember receiving and keeping was a shiny new clapperless cowbell. It came from Paul, because he said I played the bell so well.

The bell now has a forty-year old patina but still produces a wonderful sound. At a gathering of family, friends, and the old meditation group members, I last played my bell at Paul's memorial service.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Dirty Dishes"

"Dirty Dishes"
5" x 7", Oil on Gessoboard
© 2010

This is my intepretation of a photo posted on the Rookiepainter art challenge blog. Because of a three week deadline, I painted as fast as I could. I took the photo while the paint was still wet. Despite all the rushing to get the painting in on time, I'm proud to say I got less paint on myself than usual!

I had a heck of a time rotating and cropping the original photo to come up with a composition I could live with. Given the colors that I could see in my recomposed source image, I decided to use a limited palette. I used only Burnt Sienna (M. Graham), Ivory Black (Gamblin), and Alkyd Titanium White (M. Graham) to render the image.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Wilderness Park Boulders"

"Wilderness Park Boulders"
8" x 10", Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010

While painting these large boulders in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Lyndelle Stonick explained that the dried grasses and ground vegetation was warmer in color than I had painted. When I next had the opportunity, I added Burnt Sienna to my foreground palette.

"Robert Curtis Park, A Palm"

 "Robert Curtis Park, A Palm"
8" x 10", Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010
I took some photos and completed an underpainting of this palm and distant view on-site during a plein air class in November of 2009. After letting it sit for a couple of months, I returned to it and completed the detail work.

"James Dilley Park, A View"

"James Dilley Park, A View"
8" X 10", Oil on Canvas Board
© 2010

I was determined to realize a long time dream, to complete a painting in a single "en plein air" session. Our class met one pleasant Thursday morning at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. As the morning became afternoon, I was deserted by my classmates as they went slinking off to the warmth and comfort of a nearby museum. Left alone to fend for myself, staving off hunger, thirst, and little bitey insects, and with an afternoon chilling breeze blowing at my back and the bright sun sliding down to rest in the west, I took palette knife in hand and bravely slashed color onto canvas.

If it had not been for my Boy Scout training, no doubt I would have not survived the 4-hour ordeal. However, I made it through and went onto apply a few minor adjustments suggested by my wayward classmates at the following week's critique.

Yes, I faced my deepest fears and I'm a better man for it!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lavender Fields

"Lavender Fields"
30" x 40", Oil on Canvas
© 2010

I worked on this painting, on and off, for over a year. Throughout that entire time my instructor, Victoria Templeton, provided the coaching I needed to help me realize the completion of this self-imposed challenge. It now hangs on what was a (long-time) bare dining room wall.

Thanks Victoria for offering the encouragement and imparting the knowledge as I "push paint" on my artistic journey.