Chester: A Demonstration

As many of may know, I really enjoy painting cattle and other farm animals.  They have a simple, unassuming manner to them that I really find attractive.  I found this bull on a recent trip to the wine country of Sonoma Valley.  I have included a number of photographs to give you a general idea of what my approach is for one of these cattle portraits.

Diagram 1: The painting is a 24 x 22 and I’ll be working from a studio study that I completed a couple of weeks ago. I begin each piece with a general drawing of the important shapes and features of the cattle just to get an idea of where everything finds itself on the canvas.   I then begin to block in all the shadows in the piece using a mix of darker warm and cools.  Most of my values at this point are what I consider my darkest darks in any given area. I’ll lighten up these areas as the painting continues to move forward.

Diagram 1














Diagram 2: In this stage you can see that most, if not all, of the shadow areas are blocked in.  Again, notice the combinations of warms and cools in the the colors.  This stage is still very rough and is designed to simply tell me how the balance of light and shadow are working together.  How are my shadows? are they too dark? Too cool? too Warm? In this stage I’m working very quickly to get everything blocked in without getting bogged down in any details.

Diagram 2














Diagram 3:  In this stage I lay in the background.  In this case I’m using a dark steely blue which compliments the colors in the cattle it self.  The value is very close to the value of the lower part of the cattle and lightens and gets slightly cooler as it gets closer to the top. I also start painting the light on the cattle.  It’s hard to see in the photo but I’m using combinations of cools and warms that are of the same value to create the light.  The same is true of those areas in shadow. The play of warm and cool colors that are very close in value is key in good picture making.

Diagram 3














Diagram 4:  In this stage I’m continuing to lay in the light and I’m also starting the lighten up the shadows and adding more reflected light, especially in the shadows of the face.  Notice how cool the shadows have become. I’ll continue this process of refining colors and values until the painting is finished. I’ll also be softening edges through out the painting, you may notice this on the final piece seen in diagram 5

Diagram 4














Diagram 5:  Here’s the final piece.

Diagram 5: Chester, 24 x 22














Diagram 6:  Here’s a shot of the set-up including the study I used to complete the larger painting of Chester.

Diagram 6: Studio Set-Up












It’s difficult to capture every step required to create a painting in this blog format, let me know if you have any questions regarding my process that I may not have shared in this post.  I’ll do my very best to answer any questions you might have.

I’ll be starting a series of monthly in-studio demonstrations starting November 28th, 2012. (Yes, tomorrow)  If you’re interested in attending these demonstrations just sign up for my newsletter which will contain monthly dates for each of the demonstration.
I hope to see you.


Painting & Biking: How the 2 Work Together

As many of you may know I love biking and painting.  The great thing about these 2 passions of mine is that they really do go hand in hand.  My wife, Janice, and I recently planned a bike ride in wine country, wine country in the fall, that is.  Now I’ve spent a lot of time in wine country photographing and painting the landscape in all seasons.  But a bike ride through the wine country of Sonoma is something I haven’t done. Why didn’t I think of this before?

We started out in the quaint square of downtown Sonoma and we headed north towards Santa Rosa on Highway 12, right through the heart of Sonoma’s wine country.  It was a beautiful ride, although a little dangerous at times.  The shoulder consisted of little more than a white line and maybe 2 inches of shoulder with a few 2-3 foot drop offs right next to the shoulder, very exciting to say the least.  The fall colors were beautiful.  The great thing about being on a bike is the fact that you’re able to see so much more.  You’re more likely to take that little road to see where it leads, hopefully it doesn’t lead to a guy in overalls with a gun in his hand yelling at you to get off his property. (Thankfully nothing like that happened on this ride) The road less traveled often leads to some pretty spectacular, often rarely viewed scenes.  Traveling relatively slow means you just see that much more.  Driving through at 50 miles an hour is nice if you just want to get somewhere as quickly as possible, but if really want to see, try riding a bike or just walking.  This ride wasn’t about seeing how fast we could finish the 5o mile loop.  It wasn’t about trying to see how fast we could climb Bennet Valley Road.  It was about simply seeing. It was about smelling the grape harvest in the air.  It was about slowing down and enjoying all the wine counrty had to offer.This is a good lesson for life as well.  “Stop and Smell the Roses” is how, I believe, the saying goes.

Some paintings will certainly come out of this trip, I’ve already finished a portrait of a sheep and a bull.  Stayed tuned as I post some of those images.

One our big dreams is to paint France while riding our bikes throughout the countryside. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy some of the pics taken along the way.

Missing Friends & Painting on Location

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to really get out and paint.  While painting for my last show at New Masters Gallery in Carmel, I found myself painting in the studio a lot.  I enjoy painting in the studio with all of it’s creature comforts, like no wind, no hot sun beating down on me, no threat of rain, no bugs crawling up my legs just when I’m about to lay down that most important brush stoke, nobody yelling at me to get off their property and no Jack-Wagons honking their horn just as they pass me on the road.  But you know what? I really miss all these things.  But most of ll I missed hanging out with other painters.

In the past 2 weeks I’ve spent some time painting with my good friends Kim Lordier, Jesse Powell, Brian Blood and Laurie Kersey.

We spent a lot of time painting but we also spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking. We talked about more than just art, we talked about or families and life. We talked about the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series.  We discussed the pro and cons of the Ipad II versus the Ipad Mini and talked about our struggling economy and the upcoming elections.  We ate good food & wine (Brian Blood is an amazing cook.) We watched the news as Hurricane Sandy was making landfall in New York.

As you can probably see, It was really good for my soul to get out again. But not just to paint, to reconnect with friends. That was the real blessing to my soul.

Here are some shots from my recent excursions.

Kim working on her pastel

My painting of the hanging Petunia’s.

Laurie Kersey, Jesse Powell and Brian Blood at Garapatta

Jesse Powell painting from the cliffs at Garapatta.

On the precipice

Newsletter Launch

I’m pleased to announce that we have finally launched our first Kevin Courter Fine Art Newsletter.  In this news letter you’ll find information on recent events, photo’s from painting excursions, workshops & demos, new paintings, paintings exclusively available through Kevin Courter Fine Art and more.  If you’d like to receive this monthly newsletter please go to my website to sign-up, or you can view the first newsletter here.

These two paintings,and more, are exclusively available through Kevin Courter Fine Art.  If you’re interested in receiving more information and pricing on these paintings, or others, just send me an email.


Pumpkins & Cornstalks, 12 x 16


Moonlit Surf, 13 x 9

Something’s Not Quite Right

Finally a new post here on the blog, it’s been a while since my last.

A few days ago I completed a painting titled “Sweeping Light”. After posting it on Facebook and allowing the piece to sit around the studio for a few days (in full view) I realized that something was bothering me about the painting. After thinking about I realized that the painting was very stark, both in design and in execution and lacked mystery. The long sweeping shadows on the hillside were way to dark and their edges were very hard, not sharp, but not soft either. It needed softness as well as some additional light and, most of all, the mountain in the background need to be simplified.

I put the canvas back on easel this morning and immediately began repainting the hillside.  First by removing most of the horizontal shadows then lightening the values of the shadows themselves while adding softness to the edges. I added light to the top portion of the tress to created more interest and warmth to the foreground.  I also added the grove of trees a little further in the background on the right side of the painting to create balance, this also kept the viewers eye in the painting.  The last thing was to have the transition of shadow and light at the base of the hillside more gradual which creates the mystery it was missing.

Making changes like this requires taking a risk.  The painting was OK before, but that was the problem – it was just OK.  I wanted something better.  Taking the risk was the only option.  I think it was worth taking, I hope you agree.  I plan on making a larger version of the revised painting sometime in the near future.

Thomas Kinkade: He Deserves Some Respect

As I find myself writing this post I’m deeply saddened at not only the death of Thomas Kinkade but even more so at the lack of respect shown him on Facebook over the past couple of days.  Though I haven’t read any blogs about his death I’m sure there’s some pretty distasteful blog posts as well.

I worked for Thom’s company for 10 years.  I’m not here to comment on the work he became known for, I can’t say that I’m a fan of that particular genre. I believe Thom spent much of his time wanting the respect of other artists.  He spent a lot of time in art rich Carmel, he even owned a home there.  I know for a fact he visited many galleries in town to see what was new, perhaps even be inspired, he appreciated good art.  He even took the time to visit my gallery, New Masters, to see my work and comment on it to the people working there, he always had good things to say. I’m sure it anguished him to know that so many painters had little to no respect for him, for what ever reason. Many people disliked him for what they would consider the commercialization of his work, or maybe they just didn’t like the quiant little cottages with all the lights on or maybe, dare I say, envious of a man who got to paint for a living and make a very good living doing so.  Isn’t that what many of us want, to make a living doing what we love, doing what we dreamed of since we first had a crayon in our hands? Who gets to the draw the line and say when something has become “commercialized”?  I certainly don’t want to.  I feel very blessed doing what I get do for a living, am I commercial simply because I’m making a living selling my art? Are you?

I’ve had the chance to visit Thom’s studio in Monte Sereno, CA on a number of occasions. I can tell you, again, that the man appreciated good art.  He had an original Thomas Hill and Albert Bierstadt along with many others hanging in his studio.  It was like walking into a museum.  He appreciated good art.  He was also a very good painter.  Some of you might find that surprising, I did. Most of us are only familiar with what made him famous; cute cottages, lighthouses and idyllic scenes that seemed to capture a simpler time. I had the chance to see another side of Thom the artist, a side very few have seen.  There were paintings around his studio, his paintings, that were beautifully painted.  They were “painterly”.  His plein air work was very well done, big juicy stokes of paint layed down with confidence. Studio paintings that anyone would enjoy just sitting in front of for awhile. Thom was a very good painter and he simply wanted his fellow artists to see that.  But we were too blind. We couldn’t see past the cute cottages, past the corporation, past his sins, or maybe past our own envy, to see a man and an artist that simply wanted respect.

For years I was very careful about how people found out that I worked for Thomas Kinkade. What would they think of me? Would they think less of my work? For that I’m truly sorry. Thom supported my family for 10 years and many other families as well. I can’t say that all my years there were good, they weren’t.  The last 5 years I was miserable.  God used those years to get me to where I am today. I am very appreciative to Thom for giving me the chance to work for his company. To  visit his Studio. I even had the opportunity to paint with him at Point Lobos near Carmel many years ago.

I guess what I want to say the most is that Thom was a human being, a son, a father, a husband, a friend.  I’m not here to say he did any of those things perfectly, he didn’t.  He was simply another broken human being just like the rest of us, just like me. I’m very grateful that my mistakes, my sins aren’t written up in all the newspapers for all to read, aren’t you?  His were. Lets remember this before we write some snide or “funny” remark on Facebook or our blogs.  Let’s remember a human being lost his life. A mother lost a son, a wife lost her husband, a few kids lost their dad and many people people lost a friend. You may not like his art, you have that right but lets respect the life of another human being, let’s take the high road.

I hope and pray that Thom gets the respect he so longed for one day, he has mine.

Thom painting at Point Lobos

Painting with my friends Raffi Minasian, Andre Baylon and Thomas Kinkade.

The Love of My Life & My Best Friend

Today marks 25 years of being married to my best friend, Janice. I love many things about her, these are just a few.

The love of my lfe

I love her faith.

I love how she dreams…big. And I love how those dreams include me.

I love how she continues to love me when I can’t always fulfill those dreams…at least not yet

I love how she loves our kids, she is an amazing mother who gives so much.

I love how brave she is, she had open heart surgery a few years ago to repair a very large hole in heart. (the size of a quarter!)

I love riding bikes with her

I love how she’s willing to laugh at herself.

I love how she was willing to hold my hand when I quit my job to pursue a life long dream off painting.  It was like walking off the rim of the Grand Canyon and she was willing to come with me. And, by the way, she continues to hold my hand.

I love how we witnessed the sunset on the Grand Canyon together for the first time.

I love how we stood atop Half Dome in Yosemite to celebrate her 40th Birthday.

I love her slighty deformed left hand fingers that makes her uniquely her.

I love her sexyness ( That’s right, I said it)

I love how she loves Jesus; with all her heart and brokeness.

I love the cute grin on her face when she sneaks a bowl of ice cream. It’s the same cute grin she has when she wants something from me.

I love how she’s willing to push past her fears and race downhill on her bike going over 40 miles an hour.

I love how she loves good wine, good food and even better friends.

I love how she supports me and my wild dreams.

I love how she can calm my soul when it most needs calming.

I love how much she likes chick flicks and likes them even more when I watch them with her. We’re watching one as I write this post, Notting Hill. I love that movie.

I love her loving patience, and kind heart.

I love how much she loves this wildly unpredictable life that God and has given us, even though it can be very hard.

Speaking of unpredictable.  I love how she’s willing to go skydiving next week to celebrate our daughters 21st birthday.

Most of all I love how God brought her into my life 27 years ago and that she found it possible to love me as she does.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend, lover and love of my life.