2/16/2015 10:57:12 PM

Don't Paint the Thing

Jolyn Wells-Moran / 2 Comments

We're always told in painting classes and workshops not to be attached to what the thing is that we're painting, but it's a tough thing to do -- or not do. Anyway, although we may know that, it's a far different thing not to paint a thing. Well, not not paint a thing, just not a thing. We always paint things, but try not to think about it being a thing because, the thing is, we'll be more artistic if we don't paint it as a thing we know. And how hard is it anyway to go at a thing with a warning of what not to do, like not paint the thing? See, things are a picture we have in our minds, and you know what tricky things our minds can be anyhow.  As soon as we say, or hear ourselves in our minds say, that we shouldn't think of a thing, of course we always think of exactly that thing. There's that. Then, most importantly, when we paint the thing and are thinking of it as that thing, it becomes a caricature of the thing, only what our  brains think the thing looks like -- not what we actually see. So, here are three very recent paintings in which I think that I remembered to not forget to not paint the thing



"Still Wild," 20" x 16", oil


Artists strive to paint the shape - not the thing.


norrissglasses.comHave a good evening and don't think about a thing...


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11/14/2013 11:22:41 PM

Photo Trouble

Jolyn Wells-Moran / 1 Comment

norrissglasses.comI'm not much of a photographer, but I'm slowly learning, for the sake of my paintings and to give my pocket book a break from professional photographers. I photographed three paintings by one camera on the same settings, but two show canvas through the paint. I couldn't see the canvas when looking directly at the paintings, though. Do you know why I could see it in the photos?

Well, in two of them, I'm apparently not painting quite thick enough for working on canvas. The third is on a gessoed wood panel and the photo is fine. When this has happened, I always thought it was something in my camera settings or that the camera was bad. Finally, I have a decent camera, but today it happened again. And finally, I asked fellow painter, Robin Weiss, what the problem is.

norrissglasses.comAha! Thank you, Robin!


Here are two of today's photos. (I won't even show you the third!) Can you tell which one has the problem? (Hint; you may need to increase the sizes to see the canvas issue.)

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2/18/2013 2:51:29 PM

Send to a Friend: Free Ebook on Plein Air Painting

Jolyn Wells-Moran / 2 Comments


Santuario de la Virgen, 12" x 16," oil

Know someone who'd like to paint landscapes en plein air, but doesn't know how to get started? Me too. That's why I wrote this free ebook, "You Can Paint Plein Air." It starts with everything a person needs to get out there and paint. Short and to the point, it's basic enough for the beginner, but many experienced plein air painters are likely to find some reminders and new tips too.

There are lots of specifics in the ebook, such as chapters on, "Objects, Details, Brushwork and Edges," "Clouds," "Water," and finally, the unadulterated truth of what it takes to progress at it, a chapter titled, "Pain, Humility and Learning." Passion, inclination and, perhaps, some raw talent, aren't enough.This realization, especially when a painter has invested time and effort in many paintings, yet procrastinated at disciplined study and learning from a skillful art instructor, can be devastating. This is often the point of a commitment to learn or throwing one's hands up in disgust and quitting.

The artist must learn the skills of painting and what works for certain painting challenges before even the rudimentary vision of how she or he would like to paint can be expressed. Feel free to share this ebook with anyone who might benefit. It's a solid first step to successful plein air painting, a helpful guide to the artist who has been struggling with plein air painting and a reference for the more experienced outdoor painter. Write in "Free ebook" in the comments on this page,, and we'll send you the free ebook right away.


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11/17/2012 4:15:13 PM

Massing a Mess

Jolyn Wells-Moran / 1 Comment

Beginning a painting of the desert here in Baja Sur always starts with a huge sigh. There's so much scrubby vegetation that hills appear fuzzy. Bushes obscure the larger masses. Values are often so close that it's difficult to discern shapes of bushes and small trees. It's taken me awhile to learn to ignore the scrub for the larger masses and then to simplify the details, a challenge we all face as painters anywhere to be sure, but here I've found the vegetation particularly distracting. Not so much now, though. I finally learned to simplify masses here in favor of the compromise between the composition I want and the one that's there -- while igoring the vegetation and then, coming back to it later.

In the painting, "After the Rain," the landscape is largely of varying greens -- it had rained hard here awhile back, which always brings the desert from browns, golds and grays to suddenly grren life. As a native of the northwestern US, this doesn't faze me much here because the greens are varied enough, shadows really do have color and enough other colors, values and shapes exist in the vegetation that the greens are more easily controlled than in the evergreen states.

We paint. We learn.

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10/17/2012 3:27:58 PM

Waterfall at Chesterfield Gorge

Jolyn Wells-Moran / Comment on this

Most of the aspen leaves had fallen in early October, obscuring the undergrowth beneath, when I walked the Chesterfield Gorge in Massachusetts with my family. The rocks and this small waterfall weren't completely covered, though.

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9/18/2012 5:50:23 PM

Distance, Understanding and Finally, Seeing

Jolyn Wells-Moran / Comment on this

The eye can be surprisingly incorrect when faced with distances, as is true in other situations too. As most artists know, the brain tends to make up fictions to fill in gaps in our sight -- until we know better. Painting this landscape, I had to push against those fictions to make the right shapes of the quilt-like fields. I could see that most of it consisted of rectangles, but rectangles laying down. I was looking down on an angle at those shapes and it took a few tries to make the fields look flat. I was right back again to lessons in perpective.

norrissglasses.comThere was a slight mistiness in the distances in the scene, probably caused by the proximity of water on a hot day in the late afternoon/early evening of a late summer day. It distorted the colors, even when I had adjusted for loss of yellow and other phenomena of viewing far objects. I was back again to what I've learned about color in distances -- and sorting through the color changes caused by that particular mist, season and time of day.

norrissglasses.comThe values were also affected by the mist and time of day, although just the fact that it was a vista I was looking at had the usual, basic challenges of distances. If I had gone with one part of my thinking, I would have painted them darker and more colorfully. After all, my eye saw that darkness and color, but it was seeing in relation to what was immediately around it. I had to ignore my eye in order to understand  and paint in relation to what was next closest to the foreground. Colors gradually disappear, of course, but some disappear more quickly than others, leaving blue and then violet. They also grey out and become lighter. 

If you're an artist, you likely know all of this. Knowing helps us paint better, often until our eye learns.

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8/7/2012 5:59:36 PM

Painting from a Small Study

Jolyn Wells-Moran / Comment on this Whidbey Overlook II

norrissglasses.comI painted Whidbey Overlook II as a 16" by 20" from Whidbey Overlook I, a 4" by 6" plein air study. I see that the colors are more saturated and with less red mixed with the greens in the larger studio piece. In the larger painting, I changed the position of the golden field to a slant and I think it lost some of the perspective and a sense of ground by doing that. Whidbey Island is such a great place to paint and I'm going back soon.

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6/3/2012 2:54:46 AM

Deception Pass Painting

Jolyn Wells-Moran / Comment on this

I recently visited Deception Pass where I painted with Plein Air Painters of WA (PAWA) and here's one of my paintings. The group ended on the beach on Saturday afternoon, but I stayed and did this one on Sunday. The rock and trees were a challenge to simplify, so I had to re-work it a bit. If you've never been there, it really is an awe inspiring place to go and for artists, there are challneges everywhere. Not getting too dizzy from up at the end of the bridge, looking down to paint this, was actually my biggest challenge.

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1/8/2012 8:56:51 PM

Silver Town

Jolyn Wells-Moran / Comment on this

Another of my series from Baja Sur, this is a tiny old silver and gold mining town called El Triunfo, although the mine works closed in 1926. A smoke stack designed by Gustav Eiffel is still there. This view is from a high point of the highway. Massing in the values and hues was challenging during the painting process, since there was so much variety of landscape to cover. The hills were also challenging, but in another way. All of them were covered in what looked like fuzz, the small bushes and low trees. If I had been further away, the mountains would have been blues and more solid looking, but as it was, an almost dry brush scumbling over those expanses was necessary.

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norrissglasses.com1/3/2012 1:26:21 PM

2012 Paintings of Mexico Auction

Jolyn Wells-Moran / 1 Comment

"Serene Sierra de la Lagunas 1" is January's auction painting from my time in Mexico, starting off the new year, at a starting bid of $149. Email me your bid to [email protected] Watch for a new painting of Mexico to be auctioned each month of 2012.

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