Phil Starke Studio Newsletter

November 2014  ✦


In November I'm looking forward to gallery shows at Settlers West Gallery on November 22nd starting at 5:30 pm. The Mountain Oyster Club Art Show on November 22 and 23 both in Tucson Arizona and at the American Legacy Gallery in Kansas City, MO on November 21.

One of the pieces for the show in Settlers West is an 18x36 landscape depicting the Buffalo River Valley outside of Teton National Park. I painted and photographed there on a painting trip earlier in the year. It's a beautiful valley with small ranches and streams with large cottonwoods and aspens.


Buffalo River Valley, oil, 18 x 36.      Available at the Settlers West Great American West Show, November 22, Tucson, AZ

Buffalo River Valley, oil, 18 x 36.      Available at the Settlers West Great American West Show, November 22, Tucson, AZ

River Road Wash - oil - 12 x 12

River Road Wash - oil - 12 x 12

River Road Wash is a 12x12 painting that's showing at the Mountain Oyster Club Art Show.

I painted it while hiking up the large wash that runs along River Road. There is some small corrals and homes with large sycamores. Tucson is full of small views like this but they can be hard to find and it takes a lot of hiking and investigating small roads and canyons expecting to see something amazing around the corner. Searching out the scenes are part of the painting process and almost as enjoyable as painting.

Phil Starke
Phil Starke Studio

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Workshop Schedule

Historic Tubac, AZ
Jan. 26 - 30, 2015
Scottsdale Artists School

Online Workshop Schedule

Tucson Art Academy Online
February 2 - March 2, 2014
click here for more info

Anatomy of A Tree

Trees are like the human figure, they have a particular anatomy to them. (Read John Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting chapter 9.) The trunk is the skeleton of the tree, it sets up the motion and movement. The trunk should always gradually taper so the wider the trunk, the taller the tree. Also, make the trunk and branches more angular when you paint them, don't round them off, that tends to make the trunks and branches look like wet noodles. Angular brushstrokes look stronger, like they can hold up a lot of weight. Like most objects in painting, the trees have to look solid and 3-dimensional and are generally darker because they are an upright plane. Making trees too light gives them a feeling of floating, not heavy.

Reflections, 20×24, oil,  by Phil Starke

Reflections, 20×24, oil,  by Phil Starke


The local color of the barn is red but we don’t really see it on a sunny day, instead we see the effects of the sunlight and shadow.  

The only time we really see local color is on a cloudy day.  Color is a lot richer when it's cloudy.  There isn't any sunlight effecting the color and value.  We tend to think of cloudy days as gray in color but they are actually more saturated.  So when you're mixing color, remember you're mixing the effects of light.

Gertrude Fiske 1879-1961

Gertrude Fiske Portrait

Gertrude Fiske Portrait

Gertrude Fiske was born into a wealthy and socially prominent family that traced its ancestry to the colonial Massachusetts governor William Bradford. In about 1904, after obtaining a general education in private schools and making her formal debut, she entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she studied for six years with Frank Benson, Philip Hale, and Edmund Tarbell; she took the latter's advanced painting master's class in 1912-13. She spent summers in Ogunquit, Maine, in classes with Charles H. Woodbury, the teacher who perhaps had the strongest influence on her work. She would continue to make Ogunquit her favored summer resort throughout her 

life. Fiske's first major success came when she was awarded a silver medal at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. She was given her first solo show the following year at the Guild of Boston Artists (of which she was a founding member). In 1917 both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design presented exhibitions of her work. By the mid-1920s, she was well established. Commissioned portraits comprised Fiske's mainstay. Her subject interests ranged broadly, however: figure studies in both indoor and outdoor settings, landscapes, beach scenes, amusement parks, and the occasional still life. All were painted in 

vibrantly colored, simplified forms and powerful, free brushstrokes that attested to her affiliation with the Boston Museum School and Charles Woodbury. She also worked in etching and belonged to both the Chicago Society of Etchers and the Boston Society of Etchers. She was regularly represented in Academy exhibitions and was awarded the Academy's Julia A. Shaw Memorial Prize in the winter exhibition of 1922, the Thomas B. Clarke Prize in the 1922 and 1925 annuals, the Thomas R. Proctor Prize in the winter exhibitions of 1929 and 1930; and the Shaw Prize again in the 1935 annual. Among her other distinctions was her appointment to the Massachusetts Art Commission in 1929; she was the first woman to serve on that body.

My Online Mentoring Class

One of the lessons in my Online Mentoring Class was "How to Start Your Painting at the Center of Interest".  When we start a landscape painting, one of the things we usually need to establish is depth,  so it helps to start, back to front, getting the value and color temperature differences to make planes and objects recede.  But there are some paintings where depth isn't part of the focus.  Paintings where the center of interest is not just the main focus, but the only focus, no messing around with background or a secondary center of interest.  Everything is simplified so the one object is what the viewer looks at.

Composing is very important in a more vignetted subject because there isn't much depth to pull the unwanted stuff and composing flatter shapes.  In this demonstration of some fallen tress my focus is the trees, everything else is secondary and kept very simple.  The viewer sees the trees first and they take up most of the painting without any secondary interest.  The darkest darks and lightest lights are in the trees as well as all the detail and strongest color.  Find out more about my Online Mentoring Class here.

Exhibitions & Gallery Shows

Great American West Show
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Settlers West Gallery
Tucson, AZ

Mountain Oyster Club Art Show
November 23, 2014
Tucson, AZ

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

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


Plein Air Workshop
Historic Tubac, AZ
Jan 26 - 30, 2015

Focus will be on how to understand the thought process of mixing color outside, using colors that will give your painting the effect of light, not just copying what you see.  We will also work on understanding the painting process in the studio and the importance of setting and achieving goals in your work. The workshop will take place in Tubac, Arizona’s oldest settlement. Tubac is backed up against the Santa Rita Mountains and is surrounded by cotton woods, streams and canyons. Old adobe street scenes, as well as the Tumacacori Mission, are excellent examples of the old Spanish architecture we will explore.  Contact Scottsdale Artists’ School at 1-800-333-5707 or click this link  We will be residing at the wonderful Tubac Golf Resort.

Museum Shows


Kimbell Museum, Dallas, TX
On view in the Renzo Piano Pavilion

Faces of Impressionism explores the character and development of the portrait in French painting and sculpture from the late 1850s until the first years of the 20th century. The major figures of Impressionist portraiture­­—Caillebotte, Cézanne, Degas, Monet and Renoir—will be represented in depth. Among the approximately 70 masterworks on loan will be Cézanne’s Portrait of Gustave Geffroy and Woman with a Coffee Pot; Degas’s Self-Portrait with Evariste de Valernes and L’Absinthe; and Renoir’s Portrait of Claude Monet and Yvonne and Christine Lerolle at the Piano.  More information is available at the Kimbell Museum website:

Tucson Desert Museum of Art
The Dawn of American Landscapes:

Masterpieces by the Preeminent Nineteenth Century Landscape Painters”. Works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Jean Baptiste, Camille Corot, Hermann Ottomar Herzog, George Innes and William Trost Richards. September 15 – Ongoing.  Find out more about the exhibit at their website:

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