Sergio Lopez - North SF Bay Area Fine Artist

Upcoming Shows and Events

•Spoke Art: April 7, 2016. "The 5th Annual Moleskine Show." San Francisco, CA.

•Bakersfield Museum of Art: April 9th, 2016. "Kern County Plein Air." Bakersfield, CA.

•Christopher Queen Gallery: May 1st, 2016. "The Golden Hour." Duncans Mills, CA.

•Abend Gallery: May 13th, 2016. "Contemporary Figuration." Denver, CO.

•Paso Arts Fest: May 26th, 2016. "Signature Exhibition." Paso Robles, CA.

•Los Gatos: June 18th, 2016. "Los Gatos Plein Air." Los Gatos, CA.

Sonoma Plein Air: September 10th, 2016 "Sonoma Plein Air." Sonoma, CA.

•Modern Eden Gallery: September 17th, 2016. Beautiful Bizzare Invitational Show. San Francisco, CA.

•Christopher Queen Gallery: October 2nd, 2016. "A Splendid Journey: 40th Anniversary Show." Duncans Mills, CA.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Quick Trips And Paintings

I've been having a good time getting out of Santa Rosa for little chunks at a time this summer. Here are a few paintings that I've done recently.

Mendocino

I met my buddy Judson for a few days out in Mendocino Follow his Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/jud_fine_art/) to see the paintings he did out there, they're pretty sweet.

I got there on a rare sunny day for the area (the main downfall of that part of the coast, soooo many gloomy days) but I had not yet recovered fully from my trip to Easton, set-up-wise, because I had some some missing parts to my plein air gear, AND I my tripod connection had loosened, making dealing with the wind that had picked up pretty impossible without jerry-rigging a tightening solution using some rope. Part of the reason this painting is so loose and sketchy is because I was fighting with the set-up. I still had fun trying some different paint application.


Later in the evening I worked on this one at the beach. There was a really nice light effect that I tried to capture from life.


Last night I took it into my studio and finished it up. It's 8x10".


The next morning was gray and foggy, but the headlands have such interesting unique structures that you can make cool designs easily. I used plenty of ivory black to get quick color harmony and focused mostly on value control. This is probably my best one. 9x12".


Before I left the area that evening, I walked down Big River to find this scene which also feels at home in any western state, really. There were a steady stream of kayakers along the river, so I managed to capture one as I finished the painting. This one is 9x12".

Sardine Lake

This weekend I went with my lady and her friends up to Sardine Lake, home of the majestic Sierra Buttes. This lovely spot is in Tahoe National forest, and if you want classic granite peaks, it might be the quickest way to find them from where I live. I probably would have painted more had I been alone but here is the one 6x8" painting I did out there. I took a lot of photos, and I plan on working on larger pieces in the studio soon. 

There is still plenty of plein air painting events for me this year. Next week I'm heading up to the Columbia River Gorge area bordering Oregon and Washington for the Pacific Northwest Plein Air event. I'm looking forward to seeing many friends, and for the first time ever, I'll be camping the entire event! Should be a fun time, and I am looking forward to painting in that area, as always.

For all the necessary info, you can go here to check it out: http://www.maryhillmuseum.org/2016-plein-air-event

Sonoma Plein Air

Because of a big snafu in scheduling and unmet expectations, I wasn't able to participate in Sonoma Plein Air last year.... But I am so looking forward to coming back this year! It's always one of my favorite events, not in the least because it takes place in my home area. I already have some spots picked out, and I plan on approaching it similar to how I did Easton this year. If you read my post about Easton, you will have learned about my future plans on strategizing for plein air events in the future, so I am looking forward to testing it out.

Paso Arts Fest

This is going to be my 3rd year in a row participating in Paso Arts Fest. I LOVE painting in that area, I have done well before, and I just always have a good time there. There is a large "Outdoor Fair" component of it that is open to other artists, but we are part of the "Signature Exhibition" at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, California.

We arrive the 26th of September and exhibit our work on the 29th.  For a list of the participating artists, click here: http://pasoartsfest.com/artists/signature-exhibition/

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Plein Air Easton 2016: The Major Leagues

So I did it. I went all the way to a small town in Maryland to compete in a plein air competition. Why would I do such a thing? Was it even worth it? 

Well for starters, Plein Air Easton has always had the reputation of being the best plein air event in the country. It may be debatable between a very small handful of shows, but from everything I can tell, it is the best-run event I'ver ever been a part of. Basically, everything I like about the other good events are done even better here. From the hospitality, the hosts, the opportunities for socializing between artists, the organization, etc. it's exceeded my expectations.

I arrived in Maryland on the 6th of July. I flew into Baltimore and it was almost a two hour drive to get to my hosts place in St Michaels, an even smaller town than Easton about 15 minutes away. I settled in and took a nap to recover some from my red-eye flight before I drove into the town of Easton to familiarize myself with the place. I met up with some friends who were hanging out at the Avalon Theatre (the hub for the event.) After a bit of grumbling about the heat and humidity we got some dinner and talked more shop. The day was ending, and then it was going to be time to sleep and get ready for what the event might have in store.

Pre-Paintout: Tilghman Island

They have a couple of pre-paintout events that are created for the purpose of letting artists familiarize themselves with painting in the area, and getting the locals psyched about the event. The locals were all very nice, and very few people DIDN'T know what we were doing in the area. It was clear that the Plein Air Easton staff had done an amazing job of promoting the event because there were a lot of people who were happy to see us out and about painting, and they knew where to find us.

I put a lot of effort into trying to do a good job of painting for this event. An opportunity for a nice cash prize for the Artist Choice Award winner was a good motivator. I made the first terrible mistake, one I'd be sure not to make again. I set up in a spot with no shade and no sunscreen. At least I had a hat and LOTS of water (omg water is crucial out there) but it exhausted me in a way that took me some time to recover. I am happy with this painting. I think it was one of my best paintings I did out there but it has yet to find a home at this point.

Apparently, a lot of artists put a lot of effort into their paintings, because this showing turned out to be one of the strongest of the whole event, in my opinion. When I walked into the show room, I was like "Geez, this isn't even the main show! If it's this good now, what chance do I have of being successful?" Was great to see everyone together and getting to meet all the East Coasters that I had never met before.

"It's Not The Heat (But It Is Too)" 10x8 in. oil on linen mounted on board. $550, Available.

Pre-Paintout - Cambridge, MD

This was a brand new event for Plein Air Easton. Cambridge was a town a half hour south of Easton which I thought was pretty cute and cool, and was the home of the favored IPA in the area, RAR Brewing Co. Most people chose to paint the waterfront; however, I found the downtown area plenty appealing so I stuck around. I started on a painting of a cemetary that did not turn out well at all, so I wiped it, turned 90 degrees, and painted this view instead. The lighting made a nice composition here. It was one of my favorites of the show as well, and got some compliments. Even though sales were light at these pre-events, this one found a home by the end of the show.
"Past The Bell" 9x12 inch oil on linen mounted on board. Sold.

Friday night was the night of the orientation and canvas stamping. They are smart about it, because they know the orientation is loooooong, and there are a LOT of rules they go over, and everyone seems to have a question, some a little less ridiculous than others... So they feed us and give us alcohol first, and they do a bit of a song-and-dance (literally) before they get into it, then they do the stamping afterwards so that no one bounces out before they can tell us everything. 

Side note: There was a special event Saturday at this beautiful estate called the Wye House, but I didn't take pictures of my painting or the show there, just forgot to, with everything else going on. I'm sure you can find pictures of it if you search for Plein Air Easton on Facebook.

Sunday: Paint Oxford

"Turquoise Sky" 8x10 in. oil on linen mounted on board. Sold.

I wish I had spent more time in Oxford. It was a cute little town with plenty to paint. However, this painting was a little rushed. However, I did end up selling it, and I was fairly happy with it, considering the circumstance. Again, a strong show here by the other artists, Tim Kelly did an awesome luminous interior which I really liked.

Monday

"Morning At Sleepers Pond" 12x24 inches. $1875. Available.

In the mornings I would paint at my hosts' house during the event. This was one I spent the most time on. I probably spent 4 days total on it. It was really nice to have a place that I could find something beautiful to paint right where I was staying.

"Maryland Pastoral" 12x24 inches. $1875. Available.

There is a lot of scenic farmland in Talbot County. However, it's hard to know exactly where it's ok to set up and paint. Oh, one thing I'm bringing with me next time? A good umbrella! It's dangerous to paint in the sun out there without proper protection. I did like this scene; however, half the reason I chose it was because of the tree that shaded me AND the cool breeze from the river nearby.

Tuesday

"The Birdhouse" 9x12 inches oil on canvas mounted on board. $750. Available.

Tuesday was the day I spent in the town of St. Michaels. It was a nice little town to paint in, This was painted from the yard of a host who let me paint there. I attempted a very ambitious evening painting at the harbor, but I learned my lesson: If I want to complete a multi-day painting en plein air for a competition, I better make sure that every piece of the composition will be there every day! I started a painting I was happy with, until I came back the next day and found that my boats were gone! ...And they never came back...

"Wanting What I Can't Have" 6x8 inches. Sold.

I had wanted to do a nocturne in St. Michaels ever since I drove back from Tilghman Island. One of the requirements for the show was to do a 6x8 for Sunday's special show. After hunting around for a bit, I found an interesting shop front that I purposely isolated in my composition. It was one of my favorite paintings to do of the whole event, and got me really psyched to try to paint another nocturne the next day.

Wednesday

I don't remember how Wednesday morning started out for me, but I do remember a storm drenching the area for a few hours. It was the only storm we had to deal with over the course of the event besides the 15-minute rager at the Wye House that soaked many of us. After that passed through, I went out to the town of Easton where we were required to paint for the rest of the event(more about my thoughts on that later). I was getting tired of painting "pretty" things at this point. More specifically, the monotony of the well-manicured, stately, and sameness of the foliage of the Mid-Atlantic. I found an old gas station at the Easton Marina. I enjoyed the angles and shapes of the scene in front of me. It wasn't my best painting ever, but it got me out of my rut a bit and let me hit everything again with a fresh perspective.

"Sick Of Being Pretty" 8x10 in. oil on linen mounted on board. $550 Available.

"The Warm Colors Of Night" 16x12 in. oil on canvas mounted on board. $1200 Available.

There were a lot of us who hung around the town after the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner to paint nocturnes. I found a scene in front of a building with a charming stone facade. Nocturnes can be done pretty quickly, but you have to be careful to get the color temperatures correct since you are relying completely on artificial light. You may have your own light shining on your painting/palette, but it doesn't mean the light in the scene is the same color at all. Best to knock down the saturation and work with the values/design of the scene instead, or you may be surprised when you look at what you actually painted the next day.

Thursday

We could begin bringing our paintings for the show. It was very exciting to see some of the paintings coming in already, even though the hard deadline was actually the next morning. I walked in the Academy Art Museum (where the event was being held) to see Jason Sacran's stunners. Here is one his pieces.

Courtesy of Jason Sacran via pleinaireaston.com

Friday

It's showtime! The judge Tim Newton did a good job of keeping all of us guessing what was going to win awards. There were tons of awards given, sometimes more than one to the same artist. I will do my best to post the awards here. I would link to their blog instead, but they kind of slacked this year on it.


Zufar Bikbov's Award Winners.

Eric Bowman "Best Hospitality"

Natalia Dik "Best New Artist"

Best Architectural, Ray Hassard.

Vanishing Landscape Award, Tim Kelly

Best Maritime, Elise Phillips

Life On The Farm Award, Patrick Saunders.

Best Painting By A Maryland Artist, Nancy Tankersley

Honorable Mention, Palden Hamilton.

Third Place, Camille Przewodek.

Second Place, Trey Finney. 

Grand Prize Winner, Sara Linda Poly.

Saturday

Saturday was Quick Draw day. We scoped out some areas the day before. I chose this scene because it had 3 of my requirements: Shade, Light, and Interest. Had I more time, I might do the drawing a little bit more carefully but I was satisfied with the color and brushwork. I sold it as soon as I put it on the easel, AND I nabbed a $100 Honorable Mention Award for it, so all in all it was a solid day.

Final Day

The final day of the event was a final day of sales too, They did a very smart thing where they had us all do a 6x8 painting each, which was eligible for an extra award too but more importantly they were unveiled to the public only on the last day. It was a great way to get people back into the showroom on a day that is notoriously slow. It worked, because not only did people buy a lot of the 6x8's but they bought a handful of the other paintings too. 

Was The Event Worth It?

There are very few gripes to be had with the event. The main one for me is how they "shrink" the eligible painting area for the competition paintings. We are required to have 2 paintings finished by Friday morning for the competition. To be eligible, they must be completed within the boundaries they set as the competition goes along. So for the first two days you can paint anywhere in the Delmarva Peninsula, the next two days in Talbot County, and the last two days in the town of Easton. I understand that the reason for it is that they want to give the residents of Easton a chance to see us at work during the week, but I feel like that is what the pre-events, the optional paint-outs, and the Quick Draw event is for. If we had free reign the whole event, it would help those of us who could use all the time we can get for our competition pieces.

The Quick Draw was slightly disorganized for us participating competition artists. The event was open to everyone who paid the $10 fee. There were probably 100 artists who painted that day, it could have used a bit more organization to let us know where to be to display our paintings the best we could. They could have easily designated a space for us competition artists to show our work together instead of being scattered everywhere along Harrison Street. Because it was a long street to walk along and see eveything, I didn't want to leave my easel unattended for too long while I mingled.

The Weather

The outdoor painting conditions in July on the East Coast are pretty unforgiving. The heat plus humidity is brutal and is capable of draining all the energy out of the unprepared Californian. Fortunately I was given plenty of forewarning. It was bad but not too unmanageable. The bug situation wasn't bad either. A few mosquito bites but fortunately no tick incidents. They make a big deal of them for good reason, but I was pretty cautious for the most part. Good pro-tip was to bring a tarp to stand on and set your gear on top of. It also came in handy when a flash thunderstorm came and drenched us but not my gear because my tarp saved it :) The weather is much less predictable than California but if you put your big boy pants on, you can survive.

Sales

Sales are a tricky beast. I have always heard fables of the amazing sales that are had at Easton. In fact they boast of record-breaking sales year after year. They are pretty forthcoming about that information both before and after the event. When you do an event and expect to sell tons of paintings, and you dont, you can't help but think there is a disconnect. Sales were fairly evenly spread over the almost-60 artists, Of course there are people like Mark Boedges who pretty much sell out, but he is the outlier. And then there are people who don't sell anything, which is pretty heartbreaking. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle. Depending on travel cost, you never know where your profit margin is going to lie. If you are consistently selling over 2k worth of paintings in your local plein air events, then by all means, step up to the majors and give Easton a try. You are probably a really good plein air painter or at least know how to sell yourself like one, which is probably as important. People who can keep their travel costs down will be rewarded, I think.

Given these obstacles, is worth doing? By and large, yes. Besides the money you can stand to make, the experience and growth as a painter that you gain is also valuable. You will find yourself a changed plein air artist at the end of the show.

Thoughts On My Approach

As is often the case with these places I'm new to, I finally started to get a good feel for the area after being there over a week. I was expecting to paint more maritime scenes out there but I found myself drawn to many varieties of different subjects. Had I been better prepared, I might do more paintings of the beautiful countryside, and bringing in a lot more of my natural propensities into my approach next time. I normally tend to paint hills and vistas here in California, and not having those to fall back on, I painted things where the mid-ground/foreground are more dominant in the scene.

There is a strategy to events like these. You can go about it in 2 different ways - go for the prize money or paint for the library sales? Meaning, do you put all your time into painting two amazing pieces for the shot at winning the big prizes, or do you try to put together a solid body of (not too expensive) work that appeals to the buying public instead? Neither strategy is clearly better, but it does mean you have to plan accordingly. They treat you extremely well, with dinners provided for the artists almost every day if we choose to take advantage of them, but they do cut into valuable painting time. If I were to do the event again, I might skip a few of these extra events, fun as they are, for good painting light. 

This is a long event. Counting the pre-events and the duration of the gallery show, it's a week and a half. That's almost double the majority of events I've done before. You can use this opportunity to learn to pace yourself, and/or stretch out and try new things you may not have before because of time constraints. Some people tend to consider "plein air" to always be "alla prima" yet the majority of paintings that won awards clearly had been worked on over several days, or at least not done in one shot. All this extra time, and long talks with fellow artists like Brenda Boylan, Jason Sacran and Danny Robbins, made me pause to consider what I am really trying to accomplish with my plein air paintings in the grand scheme of things. I'm excited to consider what might be in store for my landscape work in the future.

There is a lot I learned about my ability, and how to paint for such a high caliber event. I will go forward with plein air events with the mantra: "Paint Like You're In Easton."

I am hoping to come back next year and have an even stronger showing.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Los Gatos Plein Air 2016: Success in Silicon Valley

It had been 2013 since I had come to participate in Los Gatos Plein Air. Historically, I haven't done that great at this show, but they treat us so well, and it's such a fun time, that I have wanted to participate every year since. I almost didn't even apply this year because of not getting in again for years, and a lackluster sale last year. But I'm very glad I did. Let's walk through my adventures, ok?

Day 1

This was the first painting I did while in Los Gatos. It has some decent color I like, but the composition and design put it in the "Reject" pile for me.

"Vasona Lake Afternoon" 8x12 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board.

This one ended up selling at the show. I think the rich blues and subtle orange hits in the background foliage sold it.

Day 2

"Surf Cove, Capitola" 5x7 in. gouache on paper. Sold.

Morningtime, looking east from Capitola Beach at New Brighton.

"Junior Lifeguards" 5x7 in. gouache on paper. Sold.

I sketched the class of kids learning how to be lifeguards. Very California.

"Capitola Rooftops" 5x7 in. gouache on paper. Available for $150.

It was a bit windy and hot with no sun shade, but i still had fun painting this one.

"Surf Cove, Capitola" 5x7 in. gouache on paper. Sold.

I painted this one from the pier in Capitola. This painting sold first.

"Santa Crus Sundown" 6x8 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board. Available for $450.

I love painting backlit seacliffs in the evening. The light, the color, the atmosphere, it's everything I love to paint en plein air. I will most likely do a larger version of this one.

"Natural Bridge Sunset" 5x7 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board. Sold.

I played with the color scheme on this one. It's like they say. If you get the value and color temperature right, you can do almost anything to the color. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time atypical color schemes will get you closer to the mood of the actual scene.

Day 3

I enjoyed painting this scene and I like the composition in this one, but I I think I can execute it in a more interesting way with enough practice. It's a little clumsy. I think I can make it better next time.

"Novitiate Winery" 14x11 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board.

One of the optional avenues for us to participate in was to paint at the Testarossa Winery. The owners of the winery are going to choose one of the paintings and put it on the cover of Los Gatos magazine, AND a magnum of their good wine. Quite a little prize on top of a potential sale, I'd say. This was my first attempt at a painting there. It's decent but I knew I could do better if I came back to paint it... hmmm....

"Mountain Estate" 12x16 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board. Available for $1200.

I was actually running out of places I was familiar with to paint, so I consulted our packet for a list of places to check out. I looked up "Aztec Road." It went along one of the hills around Los Gatos. It has some GREAT vistas that overlook all of Silicon Valley. The problem is, there is almost nowhere to park, This was the best view that wasn't obstructed by a huge house. Sure there is a huge house in this painting, but you still get a decent vista view.

"Sierra Azul Sunset" 5x7 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board. Available for $350.

This was one of my favorite paintings I did during the event. It was also one of the smallest. I liked the big dark shape caused by the hill shadow in the foreground and I think I did well with the color in the background. I forgot to take a good photo of the scene but I can substitute a scene around here to do a large painting of this one, I think.

Day 4

"Vasona Boat Launch" 12x10 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board. Available for $850.

Now in events, I am trying to go back to scenes I enjoy in order to make better paintings if I'm not satisfied with the first attempt. The format of this painting worked better for the scene, and the design is much better than the 6x8. I contemplated putting this one in for my Artist/People's Choice consideration.

"The Tasting Room" 14x11 inches. Oil on linen mounted on board. Available for $1000.

I came back to Testarossa Winery to create this other version of the tasting room. On my second try, I was much looser, having the experience of painting it the day before. I made different choices design-wise as you can see, but the values and edges are better on this one. I don't know if or when they have made their decision on which one they are planning to use, but I think I have a good shot with this one.

Sale Day

This year I went way beyond my previous sales years in Los Gatos, selling almost $1600 worth of paintings whereas before I've sold about 400-800 in previous years. My costs were kept very low, probably only spending $100 the whole time I was gone. I mostly subsisted on meals provided to us and the leftovers from it. I filled up my tank only once the whole time, and there wasn't much else I needed to spend money on(a couple of toiletries I needed anyways). It helped having a good range of painting prices and sizes. The group of gouache paintings paid off since they were within the reach of impulse buyers. The small works sell themselves, which is good since I'm a horrible p2p salesperson, lol. The nice thing is that the town of Los Gatos is starting to finally wake up to the art we're creating and it's beginning to pay off in the sales.

Side note, the NUMU Museum in downtown Los Gatos has a good little show going on in its gallery right now. The range of work is kind of all over the place but I was surprised with who was showing. They had an Odd Nerdrum, Aron Weisenfeld, Seamus Conley, and even Brad Kunkle! I love Brad Kunkle's work so I was happy to see it in person as it's so rare for me to get to do.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Magic Hour: A Group Show at Christopher Queen Gallery

Just letting you know that I'm in a show at Christopher Queen Gallery with some brand new studio landscapes. The theme of the show is "the magic hour," so-called because it is that often-photographed/painted time of the day that fascinates us as humans. I often wonder why we are so drawn to it; is there some sort of biological imperative? Anyhow, these were all finished recently, and were done from a combo of plein air studies and reference photos I shot.

 "Vermillion Cliff, Timber Cove" 10x28 in. oil on linen mounted on board. $1800
 "Golden Marsh" 16x24 in. oil on linen mounted on board. $2400
"Waking Up In The Evening" 20x24 in. oil on linen mounted on board. $2800

Along with my new paintings, you can see what else is going to be on display by the other artists in the show. The color and detail is nowhere near what they are in person, so I encourage you to take the trip out there to the gallery if you are in the area.

Christopher Queen Gallery
"The Magic Hour"
Sunday May 1st. 2016
1-3 PM
#4 John Orr's Garden
Duncans Mills, CA 95403


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