Montana, Day 1

We arrived in Bozeman, Montana yesterday afternoon. We were greeted with very cloudy skies, but at least it wasn’t too cold…not yet.

Today we woke up in Missoula, a cool little college town at the north end of the Bitterroot Valley. Our plan was too spend 2 days here painting and photographing the valley, including the long, twisting Bitterroot River. My plan, however, had to be adjusted. The weather has been very cold, wet and windy. Painting was out of the question. However, I did take some pictures of the area. It’ a beautiful Valley, especially in the fall with all of the cottonwoods turning gold. Farms dot the landscape with their historic barns and herds of cattle, along with Whitetail deer, filling the pastures.

Earlier in the day we had the opportunity to meet with artist Brent Cotton at his home/studio in Stevensville. His paintings of Montana, especially those of the Bitterroot Valley, are magical. I hope to have the opportunity to paint with him in the near future.

All in all, our day in the Bitterroot Valley has been good. We’ve had to be patient with the weather and fluid in our plans. Monday holds the same. The weather forecast is calling for very strong winds, rain (snow on the peaks) and cold air. Apparently this kind of weather in early October is unusual. We’ve added an extra day in the Bitterroot Valley with the hope of catching a little bit of sunlight on Tuesday morning before heading to Big Sky, MT.

Oh, and just about everything closes down on Sunday’s. It’s even hard to find a cafe open in the morning for a cup of coffee. Restaurants close early if they open at all. The pace here is slower. At dinner tonight, at one of the very few restaurants to be open, we noticed everyone enjoying their time with friends and family over a meal. Not unusual, Right? None of them had a cell phone in their hand, none of them were checking emails or updating Facebook with a picture of the meal they ordered. Things are different here. Things are good here. We put down our cell phones…for a little while. I’m guessing there are families up and down the valley enjoying their family dinners, talking with one another, connecting. Good lessons are to be had here, I pray I have eyes to see them and ears to hear them.

I hope to be painting soon, until then, here are some shots from the Bitterroot.

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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.

A Great Time was had by All

I’m back at work in the studio after a great weekend in Petaluma teaching my “Nocturne” workshop at the very cool L’Atelier aux Couleurs in Petaluma, CA.

Over the course of the 3 days I spent the first part of the morning working on a demo painting and the rest of the day helping the students on their paintings.  We had a very committed group of painters who would often paint till 6 in the evening, the workshop officially ended at 4 in the afternoon, like I said, “committed”. It’s great to see people so eager to learn something that can be very overwhelming.  Their commitment to improving over the 3 days really showed. All of the students made great strides in their work by the end of the workshop on Sunday afternoon. We also spent the evenings just hanging out eating good food, drinking good wine and talking about art and life.

Thank you to Carole Gray-Weihman and Al Tofanelli for being wonderful hosts and thank you to all the students who attended for making it a pleasure to share.

Not sure when my next workshop will be but we’re in the planning stage now, we might even throw in a couple of “Demo Days” to change things up.  We’ll have more information on future workshops and demo days on my website, my blog and at latelieraux couleursofpetaluma.com.

Here’s a sample of one of my demos from the workshop.  3 of the other demos found homes.

Whispers in the Moonlight, 10 x 12, oil on linen.

Fleeting Beauty

Janice and I had the opportunity to visit some friends in North Carolina this past October. What an amazing time.

Janice and I had never seen the fall colors back east. We tried once a few years ago when we visited New York City in the hopes of seeing Central Park in all her fall glory. It wasn’t meant to be. That year fall had been very mild so we missed the peak of the colors by at least a couple of weeks. We saw glimpses here and there and it was certainly enough to come home and do some paintings, but it wasn’t what we came for. We would have to wait.

The few days we spent in western North Carolina was a different story. The colors were at peak, or at least very close. Our days were spent in the car just driving from town to town seeing the colors in all their glory. If you’ve never witnessed fall colors it’s really quite hard to describe. Bright displays of yellow, red and orange. Whole mountain ranges in the distance had a rosey hue. Rivers and creeks parading through canyons and valleys lined with color not unlike the piles of paint on my palette. It was truly a gift, a gift that was fleeting.

The fall colors, like all things beautiful, are fleeting. Beauty doesn’t last very long. It’s there for a few weeks or even a few moments and then it’s gone. I think that’s the way it’s meant to be. Beauty can be appreciated much more when it lasts but a moment. Take a sunset; can you imagine if sunsets actually lasted all day? They would become boring, ho-hum, just another sunset. How about a dozen roses? what if they never died. Would they still be as special as they are?, as beautiful?  I remember when Janice and I had the chance to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time about a year and half ago. We arrived at sunset. Wow, sunset on the rim doesn’t get much better. What made it even more amazing was the fact that it didn’t last very long. 20 minutes after we arrived it was only a memory, but what a memory, what a gift. We couldn’t wait for sunrise the next morning, which again, only lasted a few minutes.

Even during our short visit to North Carolina, the fall colors were changing. The “winds of change” were sweeping through the valleys taking back the beauty that autumn brought. The trees were being stripped of their “bling”. Soon it would all be gone and we would be left with memories… and a whole lot of photo reference to paint from when I got home 🙂

Someday we look forward to going back to see the fall beauty return. I think the northeast might be in order for our next fall adventure.

Here are a couple of paintings from this trip. There will be many more to come in the coming weeks and months. Check in on my website to see more as they’re completed.

Woodland Glory, Highlands, North Carolina. 14 x 18

Autumn Whispers, North Carolina

Southwest Art Magazine

I’m pleased to announce to that I’ll be one of the featured artists in the February 2011 issue of Southwest Art Magazine.  And if that were not enough, my painting “At Lands End, Point Lobos” made the cover of the magazine as well.  Thank you Southwest Art.

The article can now be viewed on-line at http://www.southwestart.com/featured/kevin-courter-personal-panoramas

Check it out and let me know what you think.

At Lands End, Point Lobos, 24 x 18, Oil on Linen