Sunday, October 5, 2014

My Unbelievable Night!

As I get ready to submit my paintings for the 2014 Colorado Plein Air Arts Fest, hosted by the Golden Triangle Museum District in downtown Denver, I realized I never wrote a post about the FANTASTIC night I had last December at the 2013 show.

Scott Ruthven -  2013 Colorado Plein Air Arts Fest Awards

I entered three paintings and all three won awards!!!  Wow, was I shocked when I walked in and saw the award medallions.

  • The painting on the left, "San Pellegrinos & Lime" won 2nd place in the professional artist category
  • The middle painting "East on 16th From the D&F Tower" won the "Prudent Man Award of Excellence.
  • And the painting on the right, "Aligned and Sublime" won an honorable mention.
54 professional artists had work juried into this show, which makes winning these awards even more special to me.

You can see all the work and full list of award winners here.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Paint The Poudre Plein Air 2014

Here are my five paintings from the "Paint The Poudre Plein Air" competition in Fort Collins, Colorado this July.

Drive-in, Mishawaka Style, 12"x9", Oil
©Scott Ruthven 2014
Fist Place Winner and Purchase Award Winner

Balance and Grace, 12"x12", Oil
©Scott Ruthven 2014

Evening Walk, 11"x14", Oil
©Scott Ruthven 2014

Quiet Pastures, 11"x14", Oil
©Scott Ruthven 2014

Last Light on The Poudre, 9"x12", Oil
©Scott Ruthven 2014

To cap off the week, I was thrilled when the amazing landscape painter, Marc Hanson, awarded my painting "Drive-in, Mishawaka Style" first place!  
Marc is a wonderful person and artist whom I have learned a lot from over the years.  Receiving this award from him is something I never would have imagined just a few years ago.

Receiving my award!
Photo credit: Ani Espriella


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Banish Your Paintings To The Closet!

The value of putting a painting away for a while then taking a fresh look at it later.

As artists, we get so involved with a piece that our brain starts to see what it wants and often will overlook the most obvious of flaws.

Here are two of my paintings where this happened.

"B's" and Smiley faces

In the painting with the plane, somehow, the dashes and dots of color I built up in the trees formed a perfect capital 'B'.  You can see it dead center in the detail photo (2nd below).  It wasn't until I was looking at thumbnails of the painting on my computer that I noticed it.

Scott Ruthven

Scott Ruthven

In this painting, done plein air, the tangle of roots and dead branches at the base of the fallen tree formed a pretty clear smiley face, complete with a long nose!  It looks like a character from the Wizard of Oz.

Scott Ruthven

Scott Ruthven

Maybe, there is something else happening here...some larger code being delivered through me over the course of my painting career.  Hmmmm....just saying :-)  Anyway, fixing these was easy enough, you just hope you find these things before the painting makes it out into the world! 

Of course, once you find a flaw it is the ONLY thing you can see from then on.  It SCREAMS at you to be fixed!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ahhh, Springtime!!

Finally, Spring has come to Colorado.  I love painting winter scenes, but it sure is nice to mix up some greens and dollop on some pure cadmiums!

Here are two recent paintings.

Plein Air
Springtime In Boulder, Colorado
10"x8" | Oil on linen panel
Painting this scene of the foothills and snowcapped peaks from Boulder Colorado was a real treat.  In this one scene you experience the cold, snowcapped mountains, the foothills, which have just a bit of now on them and the fields bursting with golds and greens of Spring.


Plein Air Garden Birds
A Spot For Tea
10"x8" | Oil on linen panel
This was a quaint garden at an early 20th century home in Eaton, Colorado.  The Forsythia is in full bloom and the larger trees on the property create that wonderful dappled light on the lawn.  What a lovely spot to sit with a cup of tea and listen to the birds.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Painting At The Historic Daniels & Fisher Tower in Denver

This past September I was given the opportunity to paint from the observation deck on the 14th floor of the Daniels and Fisher Tower in downtown Denver.  Built in 1910 and modeled after St. Mark's Bell Tower in Venice, Italy, the D&F tower was the tallest structure between the Mississippi and California for decades.  

This observation deck is not open to the public but a generous supporter of the arts has offices in the building and extended this offer to a handful of artists.

I arrived at 8AM and stepped out onto the three foot wide balcony for a wonderful view of downtown Denver.  This deck wraps all the way around the building, allowing me to choose from several views.  It was clear, however, that the soft, cool morning light streaming between the buildings and the atmosphere that builds as your eye travels up the long street was what I wanted to capture.

The street in the painting is 16th and it is closed to cars.  Instead, trees are planted down the center with nice, deep sidewalks down either side and in the middle, under the trees.

I brought several different shaped panels to paint on but felt this 20"x10" format was the best fit.  Compositionally, I used the long, dark rectangle on the's a building of course, but for my painting I left it as a single dark tone with only a few suggestions of windows and ledges.  This framed the street, gave scale to the buildings and contrasted with the light and detail in the street.  Likewise, the distant buildings are suggested tonally but without detail.  These distant buildings create an interesting shape and blend with the sky to build the feeling of atmosphere.  The corner of the rooftop in the lower left points the view into the picture.  From there the delicate shapes of light take your eye on a journey up the street.  People walking, the colored awning and details on the building facades on the right give us some places to stop and look at more closely.  It is a city waking up, people enjoying a quiet walk and merchants setting up for business.

The View!

These are the artists I painted with from left: Mikael Olson, Ken Valastro, Cheryl St John, Terrie Lombardi.  Click their names to check out their art.  We were having a toast with our wine served up in bowls since we forgot glasses!  Wine in bowls, pizza, and a day of inspired painting with wonderful people....I'm blessed!

"View of 16th From The D&F Tower" - ©Scott Ruthven
20"x10" Oil on canvas panel 2013

And, as if the painting experience wasn't wonderful enough, the painting was juried into the 2013 Colorado Plein Air Arts Fest (The country's largest urban event of its kind) where it won the "Prudent Man, Award of Excellence" and sold on opening night!

If you like my art please tell your friends by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ by clicking the links below!  

Also, consider signing up for my newsletter.  I will be offering special pricing on a bunch of paintings for the holiday season soon - available to my newsletter subscribers first!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Make a Paint Box and Panel Support - Part II

This is the second in a series of posts on how to make your own portable painting palette and panel holder for plein air painting. 

After staining and coating the panels with 2-3 coats of polyurethane the next step is to attach the side trays to the center palette with some hinges.  I clamped the side tray/lid pieces to the center palette in their closed position then placed the hinges where I wanted them and drilled pilot holes for their screws.  Repeat this for the tray on the opposite side.

Once the hinges are in place I stuck one vinyl feet/bumper next to each hinge as shown below.  These provide a stop for the side trays to rest against when in the open position (second picture below).  This is important to ensure the side trays don't open past 180º.... because if they do then anything you rest on them (turps, brushes, cellphone) will slide off!

Now you need some way to attach your new paint box to your tripod.  I cut two "L" shapes out of 3/4" plywood (I'll call these the "hooks" from now on).  Since each tripod is different I suggest you hold up your new paint box to your tripod to get an idea of how big the hooks should be and where on your paint box they should be mounted.

Once the hooks are cut out you will need to drill a hole through them and into the side of the palette portion of the paint box.  I used a 1/4" threaded bolt that is 3" long to attach my hooks.  Therefore, I drilled a 1/4" hole through the hook and palette (see below).

Now these 1/4"x3" bolts will need to screw into something.  So, I decided to use a product called a "T-Nut" pictured below.  Basically, these are female threaded parts that have four spikes that bite into the wood and provide a strong hold.

I inserted one T-Nut into each of the 1/4" holes just drilled.  Insert them from the INSIDE of the palette and then use a C-Clamp to push the spikes on the T-Nut into the wood.

Now go ahead and thread the bolts through the hooks and screw them into the holes with T-nuts on the palette.

Now, take the palette box to a glass store and have them cut a piece of glass to fit inside the palette.  Cutting glass is easy and if you have a cutter and feel comfortable doing it then just pick up a piece of glass from the hardware store and cut it yourself.  You don't want the glass to fit too tightly or you risk breaking it.  I left a 1/32" gap around the perimeter of the glass.

I then took some grey oil paint straight from the tube and smeared it on the perimeter of the glass surface filling the gap between the glass and palette box and leaving a thin coating on about 1" of the glass.  I took a straight edge razor blade to scrape off excess paint from the glass and leave this nice straight edge before the paint dried.  This coat of paint serves two purposes - 1. filling the gap so paint and mineral spirits don't seep under the glass and 2. providing a surface for the puddles of paint to grip to so they don't slide across the slick glass.  Let this paint dry thoroughly before you start using the palette.

And here's how your paint box / palette should look when open! 

One other note:  I counter-sunk magnets into the ends of the side trays (pictured below).  When you close the trays the magnets pull together and keep the box closed and when the trays are in the open position, the magnets are a great place to stick your palette knife to.  I bought the magnets then drilled a shallow hole the same size for the magnet to sit in.  I then used a two part epoxy to glue the magnets into the holes. These "earth magnets" are strong so you need epoxy to keep them from pulling out when they stick to one another.  Magnets are a nice touch but are optional.  You could use a clasp or some other type of simple latch to keep the box closed when transporting.

That completes the palette / paint box.  In my next post I will show you how to make the painting panel support.
Closed palette box shown here hanging from my tripod

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How To Make An Inexpensive Paint Box and Panel Holder for Plein Air Painting - Part I

Ok, so here's a way to make a very functional, nice looking paint box and panel holder for under $80 bucks.  This is the type of setup I hook on to my tripod for painting plein air.

This paint box and panel holder can be made inexpensively and relatively quickly.  However, you will need to use a table saw, hand saw, drill and electric sander.  Please be sure you follow all safety recommendations for these is much harder to paint if you cut off your hands.

You can buy this type of setup already made from James Coulter and I highly recommend you do so because he makes great product and you won't have to labor over it to save a few bucks.  I however, happen to enjoy woodworking and love to customize stuff to my needs so I made my own.  Remember the adage: Do as I say, not as I do.

Here is a photo of the finished palette box and panel holder:

To make this project as easy as possible I'm using two Blick brand cradled panels for the palette box; one becomes the mixing palette and the other is cut in half to become the side trays / lid.

In this case I used 11"x14" panels but 9"x12" would make a nice box too.

The panels are shown below...the one on the right is in its wrapping still and you are seeing the front surface.  The one on the left has been unwrapped and I'm showing the back side here.  Note, when I took this photo I had already applied a grey paint to the inside of the back which I will discuss more below.

Cutting your panel
Take one of the panels and measure out and mark a point exactly half way along the long edge.  (14" long panel, so 7" is the midpoint - you're welcome.)  Cut this one panel in half at the midpoint mark you made.  You can use a handsaw but the table saw will give a precise cut.
The one panel after being cut in half

The photo below shows how the two halves will be oriented on either side of the second panel.  The second panel is NOT cut in half since it becomes the center of your palette box.  The backside of this panel becomes the palette where you will squirt out your colors and mix paint while painting.

One note: when you cut the first panel in half, if you used a table saw, the blade removed 1/8" of wood.  So, when you put the two halves back together they now measure approximately 13 7/8".  You will need to trim 1/8" of an inch off of the outside short edge of the remaining panel so it measures      11"x13 7/8".  That will make this bottom palette the same size as the two halves put together since they will become the lid to the palette when closed.  Sorry if that's confusing :-(

I prefer my palette be a mid-tone grey to help me better judge color mixes.  Therefore, I used some grey oil paint to tone this palette.  Simply paint it on the inside back surface and rub it in a bit with a cloth to  remove the excess  paint and reveal a bit of the wood grain.

The center palette with the two "wings" set out on either side.

Sanding, staining and coating with polyurethane

The cradled panels come nicely sanded but you might need to smooth the edges from the cut you made.  Just lightly sand the cut edges with 150 grit sandpaper so any splinters are removed.

Now, blow or wipe away all dust from the surfaces to prepare the wood for stain.  To customize the look, I chose to first stain the outside perimeter with a stain (red in this case).  This is optional...skip it if you want and just use the polyurethane.  After the stain had dried overnight I put a coat of polyurethane on all surfaces EXCEPT the grey palette surface that has oil paint on it.  The polyurethane probably won't stick to the oil paint and I will be putting a piece of glass on it later anyway.  You will have to apply the poly to one side of the panel at a time so that can dry before you flip them over to coat the other side.  The first coat of polyurethane will take a day to dry since it is soaking into the wood.  Subsequent coats will dry in six hours or less (depending on the temp and humidity).  I put three coats of polyurethane on. 

Here are the products I used:

Stay tuned for part II where we will cut some more pieces and assemble the box!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Paint'n Cows

Lunchtime | 6"x8" | Oil on mounted linen

There's something so therapeutic about painting cows grazing in a pasture.  I painted this group as they meandered around a lush, tree-lined field.  At times they would come up to the fence right next to me and check me out.  Of course I would talk to I talk to any animal that comes up to see what I'm doing.  The time spent in nature observing these creatures makes me so thrilled to be an artist.

Thanks for your Facebook "likes" too!

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