It’s with pleasure that I share with you the newest members to be awarded Master Signature status by the Outdoor Painters Society (OPS).
Tina Bohlman, Diane Frossard, and Rusty Jones were elected by ballot vote of the entire Signature membership body in December.
To qualify for this special recognition, all applicants must meet the following requirements to be considered: 1) Be a Signature member of OPS for the last five years. 2) Exhibited in the last three Plein Air Southwest Salons. 3) Received an award in three of the annual PASW Salons.
The Outdoor Painters Society has grown significantly over the years and has become an important part of the plein air community. It’s members come from many parts of the country and include some of the top names among plein air painters.
I thought you’d be interested in learning more about these wonderful artists that have achieved this well-deserved recognition.
“This is a significant achievement and high point in my 46 year journey as a professional artist. To be recognized in this way by my peers is a distinct honor and at the same time very humbling. I am committed to work hard at producing quality work worthy of a Master Signature.”
“I am humbled and incredibly honored to receive this distinction in an organization of artists I so greatly admire. The quality of work at PASW improves every year. I love the lifelong journey of learning, discovery and improvement that being an artist provides. The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know and every obstacle we encounter provides growth. We become stronger for the next challenge and learn from failures. It means I will continue to strive for excellence to make the next painting better than the previous.”
“Becoming a Master Signature Member of OPS is the highest honor I have achieved as an artist. I was on the board when we developed this class of membership and I remember how special we wanted it to be for anyone who achieves it and I can tell you that it is. OPS has been a huge influence on my work because the membership challenges you in many unexpected ways. This level of achievement within OPS is not easy and it shouldn’t be. It is special and I am so honored to have been selected.”
Share with us your art background leading up to where you are today.
Tina: Wow, John….we’re talking almost 7 decades! My life & career has taken many turns but always at the core, there’s been my need to create. I’ve been “making art” all my life. My mom & grandmother were “creatives” and some of that trickled down to me, I suppose. I don’t remember learning to draw; I’ve just always been able to do it. My first and only “academic exposure” to art was in high school – we moved from the “country” to the “city” – I filled my class schedule with as many art classes they would allow. After graduating from high school in 1960, college wasn’t an option so marriage & children consumed my life for the next few years.
In the early 70’s I joined a local art group and I began making art again with anything that involved a pencil, chalk, or a paint brush. The art group sponsored a weekend watercolor workshop and during those 2 days, I discovered a medium that excited and frustrated me all at the same time….and that excitement and frustration continues to this day.
For almost 20 years, I traveled the art festival circuit participating in 20 to 30 events a year, wearing out 3 vehicles. I learned how to market myself as well as my work. It was a hard way to make a living and given the chance for a do-over, I wouldn’t change a thing.
So, my art background consists of the desire to learn – absorbing information from all sources possible – books, workshops, demonstrations – and a gazillion miles of brush strokes trying to make every painting better than the last one. The past 25 years have probably been my best; the learning curve has straightened out somewhat, but there are still occasions I feel like a novice in comparison to the extraordinary watercolor painters out there today.
Diane: It was always my plan from early childhood to be an artist but I pursued a degree/career in geology, not wanting to do illustration and apprehensive about supporting myself in fine art. I started seeking out the best artists I could find for workshops beginning in the early 90s. My husband soon realized that the ultimate Christmas gift for me was a workshop vacation- even when my two girls were very young, he would play Mr. Mom to enable me to travel. As a result, over the years I attended workshops and was influenced by many- including Robert Shufelt, Loren Entz, Joseph Zbukvic, Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, Carolyn Anderson, Dan Gerhartz, Michael Workman and Marc Hanson….but it is from Bruce Peil that I received my initial training in oils and plein air. We had a small group that met on a fairly regular basis for plein air instruction. He is VERY patient and blunt, which I like. He’d stay out as long as we wanted to paint and taught me so much about all aspects of plein air, color relationships and values. Through Bruce, I also learned about OPS. As with many of us, Richard Schmid was also a huge influence. Now, with the internet, DVD’s, etc., we have so much available in order to better study and analyze the works of masters, but the workshop experience enables one to get away from all distractions for total emersion as well as networking and sharing ideas with other artists in person.
Rusty: I was introduced to plein air painting at the age of eight by my grandmother who was an avid outdoor painter. I would carry her equipment and she would show me how to mix colors and look at the landscape through an artist’s eye. It would be over thirty years before I stepped outside to paint again. Along the way I made a career as a certified medical illustrator and sports illustrator which made for an interesting combination of skills. One day I would be illustrating a step by step manual on total hip replacement for surgeons and the next I would be on the golf course illustrating something for Golf Illustrated Magazine, or a poster for the Olympics, or a fine art print for the Dallas Cowboys.
Today, painting outdoors gives me the greatest thrill. If I can do it with the company of friends I enjoy painting with, even better. Painting to keep the galleries in a constant flow of new work and painting for national shows chews up most of my painting time. But I still find it necessary to push my skill set by taking on new artistic challenges like figurative work and still life painting. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, as long as I’m pushing paint I’m a happy dude.
What in your opinion are the most important contributions you have made to the art world?
Diane: I want to help representational art, and the classical training and hard work necessary to create it, make a comeback (in contrast to an en vogue mindset that anything goes…where more merit is given to elements such as process, theory, or shock value). Thankfully, it is making a comeback. Although never really satisfied with anything I do, I strive for technical excellence and honesty, painting only for myself, and hope that in doing so, my personal vision resonates with others. Art is visual and whether abstract or representational, good art should move the viewer at first glance (not after hearing a long explanation of the artist’s intentions and meaning of the piece, being influenced by who signed it, a high price tag, or being convinced it must have merit because it’s in a museum or high profile gallery).
The OPS embodies this philosophy of striving for a high standard with paintings that capture beautiful fleeting moments that stir the soul and need no verbal explanation. I am eternally grateful for the body of work left behind by others for all to enjoy and for the many artists, past and present, who have shared their expertise and inspired me. I want to share what I have learned with others in return.
Rusty: The best contribution I have made to the art world is sharing the joy of painting. Putting on workshops and doing demos for various art groups brings me a tremendous amount of joy. Its always special when you see the light go on in someone’s head, and the next thing you know you see that person at a paintout enjoying the process.
Tina: I “pay it forward”. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to observe and study with some of the finest artists in the country and I’m passing that information on to others through classes, workshops and painting demonstrations. The past 20 years, I’ve been an avid arts advocate in the DFW area, particularly in my home town of Waxahachie. I serve on the board of the Arts Council and I’m President of the Board of the Ellis County Art Association. I joined Outdoor Painters Society about 12 years ago and I’m honored to currently serve as president. Somehow I manage to end up in leadership roles – I have a hard time saying “no” when I’m asked to be a part of anything that involves art.
How much of your work is done en plein air and why is it so important to you?
Rusty: About 50% of my work is plein air. It is vitally important to constantly go outdoors to paint. Larger studio pieces that come from my plein air work have a freshness to them. I get to relive the trip that went into collecting the plein air studies. Plein air work is so important to training the eye and brain so the hands do what they are told. Visually capturing the nuance of the landscape and locking that into your mind is what makes a successful studio painter.
Tina: I’d say that about 70% of my work is plein air. Raised a “country girl”, I love being outdoors and painting landscapes comes natural to me. I started working on location back in the 70’s, before it was “cool”. Money was tight; I was a single mom with two teenagers. I didn’t own a camera, and even if I had one, I couldn’t afford film and developing…so working from life (or memory) was just part of my process. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that the knowledge I gained from direct observation is fundamental to creating a good painting in the studio. With few exceptions, my sources of reference in the studio are my plein air studies.
Diane: Whenever possible, I work directly from the subject since it forces me to work quickly, not get bogged down in detail, and accurately see all that gets lost in a photo reference: color, value relationships, edges, and correct proportions. In the comfort of the studio with unlimited time, I can potentially slow down too much and overwork things I should have left alone. I prefer the studio when I want to have more time to contemplate concept and composition… and of course for things that won’t sit still.
When choosing a subject, what are you looking for?
Tina: It’s not the subject so much as it’s the light and how it defines the subject. What gets my attention is when the scene has strong value patterns of light & dark. If those elements are there, then I look for interesting shapes & angles. Occasionally color will attract me if it’s a “discord” – a color that is unexpected. I can usually evaluate pretty quickly whether a scene can be translated into a composition that will make sense to me as well as the viewer. When I was younger, I’d hike with my gear for a mile or more, looking for that perfect location. In the past few years, however, I’ve found there are just as many interesting scenes to paint within 15 feet of my SUV. It’s not what you’re painting so much as your interpretation of it that makes the difference.
Diane: It’s most often the light and a strong abstract design and value pattern rather than any specific subject. It can be anything that has a beautiful quality of light and atmosphere. The ranch keeps us fairly tied down so I don’t take many painting trips. Many of my landscapes are scenes from the ranch that catch my eye serendipitously when I’m out taking care of the horses, riding or taking a walk. My favorite subjects would include my daughters and horses.
Rusty: I rarely go looking for a subject, the subject just finds me. I can find a scene to paint that really excites me and by the time I set up my equipment the feeling is gone. Am I weird? Most times, however, its the play of light on the main objects that gets me going, so by the time I’m twenty minutes into the painting I know if it’s what I intended it to be. I operate on about a 70% success rate on my outdoor paintings. By the time I’ve made the decision to stop by the road and set up my equipment I’m pretty sure what the painting is going to look like.
Please explain your plein air painting process.
Tina: I rarely paint out on overcast days. I favor subjects and scenes that have strong value patterns created by bright sunlight. The first thing I do is use a compass App on my phone to determine the path of the sun. Morning light is cooler, shadows change quickly and if the sun is moving in the same direction as the cast shadows, the lights & darks will start to reverse in about an hour. I prefer painting in the afternoon; the light is warmer, and there seems to be more time to paint as cast shadows are more predictable. After determining the path of the sun, I make two or three value sketches – defining values, editing out unnecessary details and shifting shapes around to make a good composition. Once I’ve got a sketch I’m happy with, I unpack, set up my easel and lightly sketch the large shapes on my paper. I don’t draw many details except in cases where details are necessary “accents” within the focal point. I place my easel so that the sun isn’t shining directly on my palette and painting surface. Finding a nice shady spot isn’t always an option so I use a clamp-on umbrella if it’s not too windy. Since I work in watercolor, the sun and wind have to be factored into my process – a stroke dries in a matter of seconds. I work with #12 & #16 rounds, fully loaded with lots of watery paint. My easel is almost vertical, slanted slightly so the watercolor “beads up” at the bottom of the stroke. I keep the bead moving, stroke after stroke until I’ve filled the area I’m working on. After about an hour, the value sketch is my main source of reference – with the changing light patterns, it keeps me on track. At this point, I’m painting more intuitively – adjusting values or softening edges. Actual painting time is about 90 minutes. Start to finish I’m usually packed up in 2 hours.
Diane: I am a slow painter and have trouble with decisions, which is not ideal for plein air, as everything is rapidly changing. However, the extra time spent thinking it through can pay off in the end by having a strong composition and specific plan. (If necessary, I would rather come back out a second day to finish, not rush it). I decide on the one specific thing that I am fired up to paint and downplay everything else. I try not to lose sight of that in the completion and get distracted by unnecessary details. Then SQUINT & COMPARE constantly to simplify the values.
Rusty: My plein air process is fairly basic. To me design is the key to success so I will spend a good while just finding the design that inspires me and gives me the best chance of controlling the viewers eye. After that I put in the darkest dark wherever it might be, and if I’ve pre-toned my canvas I’ll find the lightest light and put that in. Now I’ve set my value range at the very beginning; then I block-in the big main shapes in flat color, and after that place one color note next to another until I’m finished.
What do you hope to communicate through your work?
Rusty: I want the viewer to emotionally connect in some way with my work either because of the subject matter or the execution of the painting. I know when I look at other people’s work I want to feel charged up. I could care less if the painting is a nicely rendered image with well executed application of paint. I want to be moved out of my comfort zone. I want it to challenge my senses. I want it to move me in such a way that I can’t look at anything else. So if that’s what I expect other people’s work to do for me, then it’s only fair that I demand the same from myself.
Diane: Art is a universal language we all respond to that communicates and evokes an emotion in ways that words cannot. It has the power to uplift and unite all people in a very positive way – people that ordinarily wouldn’t get along in other areas (such as politics!). As our society increasingly becomes fast paced and electronically dependent, it’s easy to fall prey to stress over all the turmoil and craziness in the world. We lose sight of what matters and get caught up in small stuff and materialistic trappings we are bombarded with. I hope my work is a reminder to slow down and enjoy the beauty in ordinary things all around us that make us feel truly at peace and happy. Painting is my way of giving thanks for all we have been given.
Tina: My inspiration for a painting has never been driven by the need to communicate or make a statement. It’s pretty simple, really – I paint things and places that don’t necessarily have a meaning or a purpose. What it all comes down to is, I want my work to summon up a “I want to go there” feeling – a sense of place.
Thanks Tina, Diane, and Rusty for your contributions to the art world and the Outdoor Painters Society.
For more on each artist, here are links to their websites:
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click H