Phil Starke Studio Newsletter

JUne 2016  ✦

Boat in Kalymnos


I’m glad we are well into June, that means that May and early June are over and things can start settling down. I spent all of May in Greece, teaching a workshop and painting for 3 weeks. It was a great time. I painted and spent every waking hour with 18 wonderful people that made the trip a good and productive one. We traveled to several different islands, The names I can remember were Kos, Symi, Nissiros, Kalymnos and Leros. These were fishing islands that haven’t changed over the last century so the architecture was beautiful as well as the atmosphere and color.


We painted everyday, always close to a cafe and good food. Everybody got a lot of painting done and worked hard. Painting is hard work, enjoyable but hard. I got 35 pieces done on the trip, small color studies. It’s always helpful to spend solid blocks of time doing nothing but painting and searching for good compositions. It’s unrealistic most of the time but helpful in small stretches. Here are some of the paintings from the trip.

Travel was by boat which is new to me, any wind or rough weather had me thinking about how far I can swim. I spent a lot of time sketching, drawing and photographing boats, they were everywhere. The most paintable ones were old and broken down, beached for repairs.

After returning home I had back surgery waiting for me. No fun at all. Shari has been doing double duty for more than a month now and has to wait on me for another 6 weeks. I don’t know what I would do without her (a gift from God).

I do have an on-line workshop starting this week with The Tucson Art Academy titled A Painterly Approach to Street Scenes and Architecture. It’s 4 weeks of critiquing students work and discussing the different aspects of painting as the students go through the videos and demo’s provided in the workshop. Perfect for me as I can’t do much more than sit in front of the computer.

As far as painting goes I’m starting some larger pieces from the Greece Studies as well as some compositions from Wyoming.

Looking forward to July, it's the start of the monsoons.

Phil Starke
Phil Starke Studio

Ivan Shishkin, 1832 - 1898

Ivan Shishkin was born in 1832 in the Yelabuga province of Russia. He studied at the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts from 1852-1860.

He became one of Russia’s most famous landscape painters and was called the “tsar of the woods”. He also studied in Munich, Prague and Dusseldorf. When he returned to St. Petersburg he joined the landscape group called the Wanderers’.

Shishkin created epic Russian landscapes mostly of pine and oak forests,where the horizon line is lower on the canvas giving the trees a majestic feel that almost overpowers the viewer. The trees are massive and always have a strong sense of light and shadow.

Shishkin rejected the loose brush work of the impressionists as well as the practice of seeing larger, simpler shapes. He was able to suggest a lot of the detail in his scenes but still hold them together with strong value contrast.


I recently taught a workshop and painted for 3 weeks in Greece. For about half of the paintings, I did a thumbnail drawing first, and for the other half I didn’t. I know the importance of thumbnails but I will talk myself out of them when I can; “I’m only here for a short time so don’t waste it on thumbnails.” “My last painting didn’t go well so I need to hurry up and do a good one”, or “I’ve been painting for so long now I think I know what I’m doing”.  

I almost always regret not doing a thumbnail when I’m done with the color sketch. They really help me reduce everything to a simple shadow or dark pattern, and I can redesign that pattern where I need to and create a workable composition so that by the time I’m ready to lay in my first stroke of color I’ve avoided a lot of the problems that could pop up.

The thumbnail only takes about 5 to 8 minutes, I use it to get the simple drawing on the canvas and it forces me to think in terms of shape instead of detail.  Part of the problem is they don’t look very good and they shouldn’t. They should just give you the 2 or 3 big shapes to start with and how to position them. They're not something I’m going to be sharing on Facebook. It is hard to spend time on something that isn’t an end result, we want everything to look good. But when I don’t do them it shows.

Below are some of the thumbnails from Greece. I use a layout pencil or a carbon pencil and sometimes pen and ink:


Below are some drawings that are not thumbnails, drawing for drawing's sake. Using contour and shape to (hopefully) sharpen my eye:

Share This Newsletter With A Friend

Sign up for my free Newletter!

Download My FREE 5 Art Guides now.  Download here.

The Plein Air Tip Guide Package. Click here to see all the new options.

The Plein Air Tip Guide Package.
Click here to see all the new options.

Exhibitions & Gallery Shows

Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale
Sept. 23, 2016
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Cody, WY

Small Works, Great Wonders
Nov. 11, 2016
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Tucson, AZ

Settlers West Great American West Art Show
Nov.,  2016
Settlers West Gallery
Tucson, AZ

Mountain Oyster Club Art Show
Nov.,  2016
Mountain Oyster Club
Tucson, AZ


Share This Newsletter With A Friend

Copyright © 2015 Phil Starke Studio, All rights reserved.