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Spring Radiance

  Spring Radiance 12 x 12 watercolor on paper  Newest painting of the bright colors of a sunny Southern California spring day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

LowCountry Colors, Boone Hall Plantation

LowCountry Colors, Boone Hall Plantation, 16 x 21
I painted this for my nephew's wedding back in June. We all flew to Charleston for the first marriage of this generation. The wedding reception took place at the cotton dock at Boone Hall Plantation.
While not a plein air piece, I tried to keep it consistent with my plein air approach: simplifying shapes and pushing colors toward vibrancy..thus the title.
I took about 10 photos during the reception and also stared at the colors and did a small pencil sketch that I labelled with color names to jog my memory( ie soft gold, russet , orangey green).
The three challenges I faced were: I usually avoid foregrounds, because they are hard to simplify, I don't usually paint water and there wasn't a hill in sight. Also, there was so much moisture in the air compared with California, the effect on the light was very different. I also wanted the bride and groom to like it and do a painting that they would want to keep a long time.
I am pleased with how the painting came out.
Charleston was really beautiful, we stayed on Sullivan's Island and although I didn't have my paints with me, I hope to get back there to paint.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Article on French Blog/masmoulin

Here's something I love about the blogosphere. A painter in France named Pierre de Broucker has kindly, in french, published an article about my California Plein Air paintings. The french artists ,of course, being the ones who invented plein air painting. His blog is very good and he discusses a lot of color theory from what I can understand from my 30 year old high school french. Any one who would care to translate is welcome! A link to his blog entry with illustrations is here:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Valona Paint Out

The first week of November there was a paint out in Crockett sponsored by the Epperson Gallery. It was a good thing we had a whole week because the weather switched from warm and sunny to cold and rainy a couple of times. I got to paint three of the days. I did two paintings I am happy with and one flipper. Here are the two keepers:
McEwen's Jewels 14 x 14 
Painted on McEwen Rd on the way to Port Costa on a sunny day. I presume the ranch there is McEwen's Ranch and the black cows were persistent in trying to get me to give them food. I suppose my white SUV looked like a rancher's truck. It was interesting that when I brought this painting to the gallery, I realized my interpretation of eucalyptus trees owes much to those mop- headed trees in the Dr Suess books.
Crockett Roller Coaster 11 x 8
As an experiment, I decided to try something very different, a Wayne Thiebaud inspired scene looking up at the steepest hill in town. Sort of the opposite of Valley Vertigo, looking up instead of down. It was fun to try to get the atmosphere of the light reflecting on the pavement and to push the colors but not too far. From a design standpoint I wanted to see how large the road could be and how little of the stuff around it I could include and have it still read road. It reminds me of taking the girls into San Francisco and taking them up and down the hills for thrills when they were MUCH younger.
This sold one during the reception. The exhibit lasted only two days, but there was some really fine work by Leslie Wilson ( First Prize) Tim Horn (Artists' Choice) Linda Sutton (Honorable Mention) Mamie Walters (Second Prize- I think ) Mary Lou Correia and Tara Keefe.The Epperson Gallery is done with a major remodel and looks good. It is located at 1400 Pomona Street in Crockett and the web site is http://eppersongallery.com/

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Tangled Place Watercolor

A Tangled Place 14 x14

This is a studio painting done from a plein air piece from earlier in the year. I took my tendency to tighten up in the studio and turned it into something like embroidery. I try to have your eye meander up the paths of color and tightly control the values to make the meadow shimmer and lead you to the three trees at the top. Even though it is not a mountain or hill painting, you'll notice I've kept to my favorite high horizon format.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Valley Vertigo Watercolor of Carmel Valley

Valley Vertigo 21 x 14
This is a half sheet I started in Carmel Valley way back in May after the Carmel Art Festival. It was painted near the top of El Caminto, which has unbelievably beautiful views everyway you look. It overlooks Holman Ranch which was closed last year because of construction. I ended up doing a lot of painting on the foreground in the studio but the horizon and upper third were pretty much what I did on location.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Carmel Trip Watercolor Paintings

Highland Fling 14 x 21

Painted on a perfect day on Point Lobos,no wind! It is of Carmel Highlands. I had the idea to make the painting look plaid because of the sharp shapes and clear colors on the ridge and the highland fling name. It was an interesting experiment as I usually paint things that are more rounded off.

Carmel Mission Ranch Morning 12 x16

This was painted from the porch of our room at the Carmel Mission Ranch Inn. It is Clint Eastwood's well located place to stay. It's a little rustic but perfect for our purposes. This was the morning fog lifting over the ridge and meadow and I am very pleased how with soft and majestic the ridge in the distance looks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Santa Cruz MAH Plein Air Affair Sneak Preview

Eucalyptus Forms 14 x 11
Quiet Saturday Morning 11 x 14

Ravine and Fog 11 x 14

Here are the other three paintings I finished for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. As you can see, it was mostly foggy when I painted but I am happy with these. It was my most challenging painting conditions, damp foggy and cold but I compensated by painting smaller, using a smaller brush and drying the paintings off in the car!
The fourth painting, San Vincente Canyon, Davenport was already posted as the demo in the prior post.
A Link to the web Site for the event is athttp://santacruzmah.org/

Friday, June 27, 2008

Plein Air Painting Demonstration / San Vincente Canyon , Davenport

San Vincente Canyon, Davenport 14 x 14 watercolor on arches

I often get asked how I paint all those shapes. I usually use a high horizon as a starting point. With atmospheric perspective, the distant hills usually (but not always) have the lightest values. Because I paint standing up with a vertical board, painting from top to bottom also helps as a practical matter to allow me to correct the occasional drip. Above are three stages of a painting I just finished painted near Davenport just north of Santa Cruz.

Artists Days at Tao House

California Barn 12 x16
Eucalyptus Dance 21 x14
Mt Diablo Morning A full Sheet! 22 x 28

Well ,the good thing is I have been too busy painting to keep the blog up to date! Way back in May, I spent two lovely days painting at Tao House, the name of the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site. This event was sponsored by the Eugene O'Neill Foundation and the National Park Service. It was a good warm up for the Carmel Plein Air Event. I painted the full sheet of Mt Diablo on the first day and the two experiments on the second day. The second day was way too hazey to do a a panorama so I decided to try my hand at close ups of the barn and a eucalyptus tree. The Foundation's web site is http://eugeneoneill.org/events_artists08.html

Local Voice Exhibit Acceptance of two Paintings Update;Award

Top : After the Rains, Bottom: Canyon Dance(Award Winner)
Every three years the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek CA mounts an exhibit of the art being created in Contra Costa County by highlighting a small cross section of the artists working here. I was accepted into the inaugural exhibit in 2005 and am gratified to have been accepted again with two paintings, "Canyon Dance" and "After the Rains" .
Local Voice 2008 June 29 - August 31, 2008

They received 661 entries of artwork from the local community, and the juror Phillip Linares, Chief Curator, Oakland Museum of California, selected 186 artworks for the exhibition.
More information at:

UPDATE: Award: I just found out Canyon Dance won an Award in this Exhibit. I was able to get to the reception briefly and saw the landscape painting section near my paintings. Three of my favorite landscape painters also won, Geri Keary, Paul Kratter and Thomas Tanneyhill.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Award at Statewide Contemporary Landscape Painters Exhibit from Juror Jean Stern

My painting "Old Blackhawk View" was awarded the 3rd place Watercolor at the 78th Annual Statewide Exhibit of Contemporary Landscape Painters at the Santa Cruz Art league. The exhibt is titled "Poems Without Words" and was jurored by Jean Stern, Executive Director of the Irvine Museum and a noted Art Historian. The exhibit runs through June 29th and is well worth seeing.. More information is at http://scal.org/. I got to visit the exhibit last week and was very impressed. I particularly liked the paintings by Julia Seelos (first prize oil) and Mark Farina (third place oil)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Terrain, Group Exhibit at Studio Gallery SF

5 O 'Clock Shadow, 14 x 14 Plein Air Watercolor
I have been invited to show for the first time at a group exhibit in San Francisco at the Studio Gallery SF. This gallery hosted a wonderful show earlier this year of the plein air painting group the early bird painters(http://earlybirdpainters.blogspot.com/) which is how I found out about it.
Here is the information from the web site:
"Terrain" Views of California
June 18th - July 13th, 2008
Opening reception Saturday, June 21st, 4pm-8pm
Summer is the perfect time to contemplate the great out-of-doors and consider the natural beauty of our Golden State. Lucky for us, we have work from two dozen artists who've gone out and captured that beauty for year-round enjoyment. This year's show includes work from Rab Terry, Tae Park, Brandon Smith, Proehl Studios, Jeremy Mann, Greg Gandy, Scott Grabowski, Laura Williams, Sookyi Lee, Chris Grassano, Chris Leib, Paul Ferney, Barbara Wyeth, Carol Bigot, Lucinda Kasser, Phyllis Rockne, Jennifer Wasson, Susan Landor Keegin, Megan Wolfe, Jesse Mangerson, and Michele Feder. We're especially happy to welcome Jim Heron and Robin Purcell, who are showing with us for the first time "

The web site for the show is at: http://studiogallerysf.com/Terrain.php and there is a preview of the paintings as well as gallery information(directions, hours, etc).

I won't be able to attend the opening(June Wedding), but will go to see the show another time as it looks like there are some very exciting paintings on display.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Open Studios June 7 and 8

My Studio in Danville will be open from 10 to 5 this coming Saturday and Sunday. You can email me at robin.purcell@gmail.com for directions. It is a part of a town- wide event that raises money for art education in the SRVUSD. I have been neglecting both blog and easel bringing some sense of order and an aesthetic other than clutter to the house and studio. In the meantime here are two newly finished pieces of work I am showing:

"View to Pleasanton Ridge" was one of those paintings that fell off of the brush. It was painted plein air at Curry Point on Mt Diablo looking down and across the valley instead of up at the Summit. It is a view I have glanced to the side at while painting all the Summit paintings. 12 x16

"Colossus" stayed in the studio a very long time. I was hoping to use it to help complete a series of eucaylptus paintings, but it seems this tree was uniquely inspiring. It reminds me of yoga tree pose. 17 x 13

Thursday, May 22, 2008

At the Carmel Art Festival, part 2

Top of the World, Carmel Valley 12 x 16

This painting was done first thing Thursday morning when I was freshest. It is about 100 feet from where Eastward Afternoon was painted. It sold during the festival at a gallery in Carmel along with a painting called Garrapata( from a previous post).

Hidden Valley View 14 x 14

Painted under the mid day sun in the heat, I was uncomfortable in the heat, but it made me paint faster and simplify the shapes. I am pleased with this. I tend to be happiest when I try something a little different.

Carmel Knolls View 12 x 16

My only painting not done in Carmel Valley. I took advantage of the time Wednesday night to paint near town. I did not want to drive then paint (as opposed to paint then drive)when daylight was limted. This is the first neighborhood off of Carmel Valley Road and the residents were very friendly. Two of them were artists and were very encouraging. I've painted this view before and I like the chance to do the coastal colors instead of the inland colors.

The festival was cancelled , then rescheduled. I think because of this there was some confusion and fewer art bidders. I hope the festival successfully raised money for art education this year. I saw some bidders behaving badly and suffering bidding remorse. (crossing out bids that had been up all day in the silent auction at the last minute...ouch.....)I think the extra paintings we were allowed to display on Sunday was a good idea. I liked the challenge of getting four done in two days, the deadline has a way of making me focus.

I started this blog almost exactly one year ago to report on this festival. If you want to compare paintings and experiences the first entry is here http://robinpurcellpaints.blogspot.com/2007/05/blog-post.html

At the 15th Carmel Art Festival Part One

Eastward Afternoon, Carmel Valley

Here is my favorite painting done at the festival. We had from Wednesday night at 5 until Friday at 6 to produce two to four paintings. I didn't luck out with an award this year, but in this slow economy my sales were up. (But not because of the festival. More on that later) This was my only sale at the festival itself. In the past , I have sold out. I enjoyed painting this because it was Thursday afternoon and I hardly ever get to paint afternoon light. It was also looking down and across a lovely open space.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mt Diablo Northern View, plein air

Pure Joy to paint a completely different angle of my favorite subject matter, this is Mount Diablo as painted from Deer Hill Road in Lafayette. I love the swirling movement. The mountain is so gorgeous from this angle that I feel like a mere editor! Burn out was so early this year, that it looks like summer in April. 14 x 14 watercolor on 300 lb arches. Plein Air.

New Camera Test

Old Camera

New Camera
What a difference! I manipulated the top one a lot to get any color in the top of the painting , but the lower part is really too bright. The bottom one is more in balance, but overall paler than the actual piece. It was taken outside in the shade.I need to figure out how to take pictures of my paintings with my new digital camera. It is an Olympus 850, shock proof and waterproof. My old 35 mm had been dropped so many times but kept working until last month. Any suggestions for a complete novice would be helpful. For instance I did not plug my camera into the computer ,I took it to Wolf Camera and had them make prints ( which are great) and a CD.......is this how you do it?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Upcoming Art Events

Green Day, 14 x 21, Watercolor on Arches, Private Collection
Why I have not been posting! Busy prepping for these events. I also broke my ancient 35mm camera and am learning the world of digital photography!

I have an exciting set of events and exhibits coming up this spring and summer.

Carmel Art Festival, May 17 and 18

I am preparing for the 15th Annual Carmel Art Festival and Plein Air Painting Competition. This year artists have a chance to display up to four paintings instead of the usual two, so the selection for collectors will be increased greatly. The festival is May 17 and 18 in Carmel -by- the- Sea and more information is available at carmelartfestival.org. This my 3rd consectutive year of being invited to this event .
National Watercolor Society

The National Watercolor Society selected "October Canyon" for it's annual All Members Show at the Viva Gallery in Moorpark Ca.

Statewide Landscape Exhibit "Poems without Words"

Santa Cruz will be a frequent destination this summer as three of my paintings have been juried into "Poems without Words" the SCAL 78th Annual Statewide Exhibit of Contemporary Landscape Painters of California. It was juried by Executive Director of the Irvine Museum and noted Art Historian Jean Stern. On exhibit May 31 to June 29, with a reception on June 7, 3 to 5. More information at SCAL.org

Plein Air Affaire, Santa Cruz MAH

It will be my privilege to take part in a new event, The Second "Plein Air Affaire" with the Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, Santa Cruz. After a week of painting in June, plein air paintings will be on exhibt for the weekend of July 12 and 13. A complete schedule of events is at santacruzmah.org.

 the Garden Gallery

There are ongoing displays of my works at  The Garden Gallery, Half Moon Bay. I am delighted to be represented by these two outstanding galleries. Information about The Garden Gallery is at artonmain.com.

Splash 10, National Publication

My painting "Green Day" will be published in North Light Books Biennial Collection of the Best in Watercolor. The publication date of "Splash 10, Passionate Brushstrokes" is set for May 21 and the book is available at Amazon.com now for preordering.

After all of this, I will be grateful for a lull during the dog days of summer. I hope you can join me for one or more of these events.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Acceptance into "Poems without Words Contemporary Landscape Painters of California", Juror, Jean Stern

I am happy to announce I received my acceptance into "Poems Without Words", Contemporary Landscape Painters of California" The 78th Annual Statewide juried exhibit of SCAL. The juror, Jean Stern is Executive Director of the Irvine Museum, which owns the best collection of California Landscape Paintings that I know of. The exhibit runs May 30 to June 29, with a reception on June 7 from 3 to 5. For more information, including a lecture on 100 years of California Landscape Art by Jean Stern on May 29 go to http://www.scal.org/

Friday, April 25, 2008

Two Plein Air California Hill Paintings

Poppy Hill,14 x 14, watercolor en plein air

Spring Hill 14 x 14, watercolor en plein air
We have had a lot of wind and the driest April in years, so these may be the only green ones for this month. The Poppy Hill was painted near Morgan Territory. Spring Hill on Mount Diablo on SouthGate Rd less than 1 mile up. It is now that stage where half the hills are brown and half are gold. And of course ,the poppies are gone.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thank you to Artists Blog Search

RobinPurcellPaints.blogpsot.com has just been added to artists blog search as one of their 500 handpicked art blogs. I just visited and searched under plein air and most of my favorite plein air blogs are there. The web site is http://www.artistsblogsearch.com/

Sunday, March 2, 2008


This is a very pale image of this painting. It is much brighter in person. Anyway, this was done from memory and a photograph I took. It has been changed a lot from the photo because I wanted the flowers on the bluff to stand out and I wanted to play with the coastal colors. I had fun with the tree. An 11 X 14. Watercolor on arches. Near Garrapata State Park. link :http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=579

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Spring Tapestry

15 x 12 watercolor on arches. Loosely based on Las Trampas Ridge in Danville, across from the Pioneer Art Gallery where I was gallery sitting. There was quite a bit of foot traffic into the gallery so it was one of those where I was talking and moving around frequently and painting on auto pilot. Sort of a variation on my canyon and hill series.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Oxalis At Wilder Ranch,Plein Air Watercolor

A small study,11 x 14 From a trip to the Coast. Spring training continues. I feel like I painted the obvious, the yellow of the oxalis was just too much to ignore. I had fun doing the line of eucaltyptus trees. The foreground was very wet, and I hope it looks the colors on the coast at Santa Cruz.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pacific Meadow,Plein Air Watercolor

Painted along the San Mateo Coast near bean hollow. I am doing a series of Pacific Coast paintings. The meadow here had a lovely texture created by the wildflowers and the dreaded invasive ice plant. It still has a high horizon as I love it when your eye travels up the painting. Watercolor on Arches 300 lb hot press. This painting screams spring to me. It was one of those sunny days with very little wind.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Curator Portfolio Review Notes

One of the regional art museums here in the Bay Area has a Curator who regularly conducts portfolio reviews for artists seeking exhibtions. I was scheduled for the fall, but for various reasons had to reschedule to this month. I am not at my best in the winter, having not much recent plein air painting to show. I usually have much more energy and excitement for the new stuff.

It didn't matter that my presentation was not very articulate. My listening skills were working overtime. I was actually there to learn, it was like a very gentle 45 minute graduate school critique. Here are the main thoughts I came away mulling over.

The work is generally strong with good design. I need to think about freshness vs overworking it. The movement I feel looking at the hills comes across, as does the tactile quality of velvet. I do vertical landscapes well and the ornateness of my hills works well with the atmospheric perspective where my horizons receed and the skies are simple. I may be getting too much dark in my work and not enough luminosity.

I am thinking about what the curator said about my concepts having potential as being good for LARGE field paintings where the viewer can surround themselves in my world. (4 feet by 6 feet) There are lots of challenges in painting something at that scale, but it's something to keep in mind. I like working in half sheets outside, and can do full sheets when the weather is good. I think I would need to do them in the studio from smaller paintings. My current works remind me of looking through windows. I wonder about a vertical format that is large enough to evoke a doorway.

Finally, in our conversation we discussed my use of high horizons. I think it would make a good title for my next exhibit "The High Horizon, paintings of the California Hills" has a nice ring.

Update: George Rivera, the Senior Curator of the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara was kind enough to give me permission to identify him as the professional who reviewed my work. He had given one of my paintings an award at a CWA landscape exhibit, which is how I found out about the monthly reviews and the courage to go. I need to do more of this.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Art Reception this Saturday

I have been selected as a featured artist at the ADAS Pioneer Art Center ,Danville. I am in a two person exhibit "Close to Home and Far Away", The plein air paintings of Robin Purcell and works inspired by Diane Pruett's travels.
There is a reception this Saturday from 4 to 7 at the gallery , located at 524 Hartz Ave in Danville. The gallery is open 3 to 7 on Friday, 11 to 7 on Saturday and 1 to 5 on Sunday. The exhibit runs from Feb 1 to 12 .
I selected 15 paintings for this show, six of which are of Mount Diablo . Canyon Dance, pictured above is one of them. All are invited.
The installation looks good and I will try to post a photo here if the glare on the plexi isn't too bad.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Artist Statement, Second Draft

Well. I've had some help editing it and I am pretty happy with how the statement reads.

Robin Purcell Artist Statement

I grew up in New England and was a realistic Studio Painter for many years. California has always been a mythic land of sunshine that stirred my imagination. A fortunate set of influences helped me arrive at my own style of interpreting the California Landscape. I was probably permanently warped by doing paint by numbers as a child. I fell hard for the work of the early California Impressionists, particularly Granville Redmond and William Wendt. Their work helped me to see the landscape as shapes. It is much easier for me to control hard edges with watercolor while painting outdoors. These factors led me to develop a style that simplifies what I see and organizes it into shimmering patches of color. I am a Plein Air Painter who ventures outside to see colors and shapes from life so that I can push them in ways feel true to me and express my personal artistic vision.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Artist Statement Draft

It is too wet out to paint so I am FINALLY writing my artist statement. I've been thinking about it for a while. I've had a bio in the 3rd person for a long time, just never felt I could sum up my reasons for painting the way I do in a succinct enough form. Here is my first draft. I really would like some advise. How does it read? Does it make sense to you? As a writer I always say I am a very good painter....all suggestions welcome

Robin Purcell Artist Statement

I grew up in New England and was a realistic Studio Painter for many years. California has always been a mythic place of sunshine to me. A fortunate set of influences helped me arrive at my own style of interpreting California Landscapes. I was probably permanently warped as a child by doing paint by numbers. I loved the way flat color areas could make something. An amateur art historian, I fell hard for the work of the early California Impressionists, particularly Granville Redmond and William Wendt. Their work helped me to see the landscape as shapes and movement. This combined with the fact that in watercolor hard edges are easier for me to control in the heat, led me to develop my own style that simplifies what I see and organizes it into connecting patches of color for my eye to follow. I am a plein air painter who goes outside to see the color and shapes from life so that I can change them in ways that feel true to me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Favorites of 2007

Day of Emeralds,14 X 21 Plein Air Watercolor
After the Rain, 14X21 Plein air watercolor

Hill at Carmel Valley, 12 X16, Plein Air Watercolor from the Carmel Art Festival
I love looking at these, for various reasons, the color blue is always my favorite. These just make me happy to look at.