Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thanks for Listening 2014

Wishing you peace, good health, and happiness in 2015.
Thank you to all my friends, colleagues, collectors, bloggers and loved ones who made 2014 such a wonderful year.
For all of you I am truly grateful.

To my wonderful wife, no words can express how thankful I am for you.

I look forward to sharing more work and ideas about the process of art in 2015!

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
-- Marcel Proust

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

Website - jimserrett.com
Studio Blog - jimserrettstudio.com
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Last Gleam

I have been painting a lot of sunsets lately, there is something about the magical hour just before the sun disappears over the horizon that has fascinated people for eons. For good reason, when you get the bounce of light, the last gleam, under the floating clouds it can be incredible and mystical. I wanted to capture that random sense of order, the character of the light and convey that feeling into the painting.

The Last Gleam, oil on panel, 9 x 12 in, © Jim Serrett

"Paint a little less of the facts, and a little more of the spirit."

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autumn Sky

We've kayaked to and painted this location many times and each time the scene is different.
The division of light and shade is always interesting when on the water, it is a unique interplay of reflections and shapes. As the sky changes so does the water, the cloud cover and the time of day all influence the subject and present an ever changing play of light and shadow.  And as we move from season to season the transformations become even more dramatic.
There is a beauty and complexity in the simple subject of earth, sky and water that will never cease to inspire me.  There is nothing ordinary or boring in nature if you take the time to look deep into your subject.

“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.”― Henry David Thoreau

Jim Serrett, Autumn Sky Over Cedar Lake, oil on panel, 7 x 9 in.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunsets and Training the Visual Memory

The dynamic horizon at sunrise or sunset is the hardest to capture, you have either to chase the light with the brush or prepare yourself for the event. My approach has been both, to do pencil sketches and color studies on location, to use them, and my memory of the experience to create/finish pieces in the studio. The library of information I gather from observation helps me understand what I am seeing and hopefully interpret it in a meaningful way.  As I remember and conceptualize the landscape I attempt to make informed decisions, based on my observed details and the nuances of nature. However I try to be as truthful to the experience as possible, to keep in my mind’s eye that which inspired me in the first place. 

Waxing philosophical, I believe our brains are conscious of almost every experience in our life and every encounter we have, and that stored among those billions of neurons in the brain are endless images and impressions. That it is not only possible to train ones visual memory but a necessity for the artist to do so. Up until maybe the later part of the nineteenth century memory exercises of some type were part of most academic art educations. If it be as simple as practicing blind contour drawing or copying prints of sculptures as in the Beaux-Arts tradition. They recognized the importance of a highly trained visual memory as a skill an artist used in companionship with the direct study of nature. 

There are some fascinating books floating around on the subject. TheTraining of the Memory in Art and the Education of the Artist by HoraceLecoq de Boisbaudran is an interesting read and more current Memory Training for Painters by Richard Lack is well worth downloading. Also a book I have mention several times on my blogs, and on my highly recommended reading list, Harold Speed "The Practice and Science of Drawing" 1913. This is a link to his chapter The Visual Memory.  “Let us assume that you have found a subject that moves you and that, being too fleeting to draw on the spot, you wish to commit to memory. Drink a full enjoyment of it, let it soak in, for the recollection of this will be of the utmost use to you afterwards in guiding your memory-drawing.”  Page 262 Harold Speed

I see memory training as another tool in my tool box helping me interpret what I see in front of me.
Technically I've been able to slowly build glazes of color to explore those atmospheric effects I am after and was the initial inspiration.

I love this quote by Edgar Degas on the subject, “If I were to open an academy I would have a five story building. The model would pose on the ground floor with the first year students. The most advanced students would work on the fifth floor." I can imagine the advanced students dashing up and down flights of stair as they study the model and dart back to their easels to make their marks.

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim


Jim Serrett, Lake Murphysboro Sunset, oil on panel 5 x 7 in
Jim Serrett, Perseids Sunset, oil on panel, 5 x 7 in
Graphite Sketch on toned paper. 
Sketchbook page


Memory Training For Painters by Richard Lack from the Classical Realism Quarterly 1990
Download pdf Here

The Training of the Memory in Art and the Education of the Artist
Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran – Author

"The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed

Information about:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sketches Cedar Lake

Have been enjoying all of this mild weather but there is never a bad day for kayaking and painting on location. This sketch was done at Cedar lake, Illinois one of my favorite painting and paddling spots.
Cedar Lake, oil on panel, 8x10 in, © Jim Serrett

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Watercolor Color Palette - Sketchbook

Whenever I use color in a sketchbook I like to make a small color wheel and color chart to see just how the watercolor reacts and lays down on the paper. It is also a good review about basic color mixing that we tend to take for granted.  A color palette is the actual range of pigments used by an artist, learning how they behave when they are mixed together is essential. Studying color is a fundamental aspect of painting and to that end artist create color charts and color wheels.

Materials Links:

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Sketching the Pomona Natural Bridge

The Pomona Natural Bridge is located in the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. It is a short downhill hike through a mature forest to the natural bridge. Made of sandstone the bridge is 90 feet long, 6 to 9 feet wide and 25 feet above a small stream. It is one of those unique sketching location I have found in Southern Illinois, interestingly this site was a popular tourist spot even in 1877 when the unknown artist's sketch below was drawn.

 Pomona Natural Bridge, graphite and chalk on paper 85.5 x 8.5 inches © Jim Serrett

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Clearance Sale

It’s spring cleaning time in the studio, and I am offering all 5 x 7 inched framed Pochade Box Paintings for sale at only $99.00 USD each. These small gem oil paintings are a collection of plein air paintings and still life studies painted from life and direct observation, they come framed and ready for display in your collection. Any of 5 x7 inch painting you find on my websites Jim Serrett Studio and Pochade Box Paintings are included in this offer.

Please visit my online store (click here and below)
or (contact me) about any work you are interested in.

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

Thursday, April 24, 2014

High Water on the Big Muddy River

The Big Muddy River is located in Southern Illinois, flows southwest out of Rend Lake and joins the Mississippi River south of Murphysboro, Illinois. This river has reach major flood stage so often over the last four years I could only guess a number, closing roads and limiting access to the local parks seems almost routine. With the snow melt off and rains this season I expect this not to be the last flood. This sketch was done from the hill side at the Murphysboro Riverside City Park, most of the lower roads were submerged.

When painting landscape studies I want them to be very descriptive of a particular place. I also want them to be a expression of the experience. These Pochade’s are small paintings and it’s easy to get fussy with them. So I am interested in editing the scene down to the essential elements that will make the strongest statement. So that I can hear the Muddy Waters.

High Water on the Big Muddy River, 5 x 7 inches, oil on panel © Jim Serrett
Click here to bid.

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

Saturday, March 29, 2014

No Expectations.....Wind, Water, Waves and more Caribbean Seascapes

The crash of waves is just a symphony of sounds and images, I knew I wanted to paint something that reminds me of the experience and retells that serene moment. How I would approach the idea weeks later sitting in my studio in the middle of a Midwest winter was to rely heavily on my sketches from the beach and my visual memory. This work was the combination of watercolor sketches, drawings and imagination. So it became a blend of observation and interpretation. It is such a beautiful beach, I hope my memory does it justice. 

This sketch was painted on the beach in Cancun Mexico. This was a tough sketch to do on location because of the intense sunlight. I knew I would struggle with values, even when squinted down it was hard to separate values. Plus I think there was a bit of sensory overload. I just need to keep in mind that painting on location is much more about learning to see than it is about producing a finished image.

The goal is to take the information that nature presents in front of me and express my reactions and feelings about that subject. Which is something a camera cannot do and by staring at a monitor in a studio, you will never experience. When painting on location you have to, at some point trust the process rather than focus on the end result and just let go of expectations. It is also important for you to enjoy the process, in this environment I could have happily spent hours just mixing different shades of blue, learning new colors, discovering new paint mixes on my palette and having the time of my life doing it. There is no better way to hone ones skills.

Wind, Water, Wave, Oil on panel, 9 x 12 in. © Jim Serrett
Cancun Beach, oil on panel, 9 x 12 in. © Jim Serrett

"No Expectations"   Mick Jagger / Keith Richards

Take me to the station
And put me on a train
I've got no expectations
To pass through here again
Once I was a rich man
Now I am so poor
But never in my sweet short life
Have I felt like this before
Your heart is like a diamond
You throw your pearls at swine
And as I watch you leaving me
You pack my peace of mind
Our love was like the water
That splashes on a stone
Our love is like our music
Its here, and then its gone
So take me to the airport
And put me on a plane
I got no expectations
To pass through here again

The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger — vocals
Ronnie Woods — slide guitar
Keith Richards — acoustic guitar
Bill Wyman — bass guitar
Charlie Watts — claves
Nicky Hopkins — piano

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winter Landscapes

I like the small format for studies because they force you to paint with an economy and looseness to your brush strokes. Going for simple notes of atmosphere and light, pushing the abstract forms with descriptive marks and brushwork. What I hope to gain is an honest response to nature.

Snow is a beautiful and challenging subject, winter has a color all of its own, the soft grays and shadow colors are very subtle. I can understand why some artist have dedicated so much time to them as a subject, they are a genre all of their own.

Levee Road, oil on panel, 5 x 7 inches (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm) 

Lob-lolly Pines in Snow, oil on panel, 5 x 7 inches (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm) 

Twisted Sisters, oil on panel, 5 x 7 inches (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm) 

December on Cedar Lake, oil on panel, 5 x 7 inches (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm)

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cancun Sketches

Cancun Souvenirs

Sketching on the beach in eighty degree sunshine, well; just pure heaven. Coming back to the states, one cold reality after another, one Arctic blast after another, Polar Vortex is the new word of the day. Lucky I have my Cancun memories and souvenirs to keep me warm.

It's easy to spend all day on the beach watching the waves. I spent much time just sketching and observing the dynamics of their action. There is a complexity to the energy in waves, add the play of light across them and they become one mesmerizing subject. Throw in a few cerveza, a nice lounger next to a palapa and stay all day…… Oh yea and sketch too…

Any meaningful work of art comes from observation and interpretation, which is ability to slow down and truly digest the beauty of nature around you and to express it visually in a personal way. Collecting memories, images and impressions with a sketchbook and watercolors can become inspiration and source material for later studio work. But if nothing else you end up with the best souvenirs.

Cancun Sunrise

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On location with Edward Seago

Edward Seago (1910-1974)

There is an immediate recognizable freshness and spontaneity to Edward Seago’s work whether it is in his oil or watercolor paintings. His landscapes posses an astonishing sense of place, retaining an essential mood and atmosphere, certainly particular to that location. His directness with watercolor and oil painting make it look simple, distilling down elements to only that which is important to tell the story. His work can become very abstract and still convey a truthful sense of realism. Any painter who has tried to find this balance will tell you these works are inspirational in vision and skill. Strong draughtsmanship and expressive brush work are trademarks of Seago’s work.

Edward Seago, A Norfolk Beach Low Tide, Oil on board, 21 x 31 in

Edward Seago, View of Hungerford Bridge across the Thames, Oil board, 26 x 36 

Edward Seago, A Norfolk Lake after the Rain ,Oil on board, 20 x 30 in

Seago’s paintings present a masterful translation of scenes using color and light. Capturing the atmosphere rather than exact detail of a particular scene. Seago’s world is always on the verge, at some point of transformation, sunrise and sunset, dusk and dawn, rain and fog, snow and ice, mood and movement, an endless range of atmospheric effects. They make you want to walk into the picture and feel the moment.

Edward Seago, A Windy Day, Oil on board, 24 x 30 in

Edward Seago, The Mill at Alphen, Holland, Oil on canvas, 36 x 26 in

Edward Seago, Piazza Navona Rome, Oil on Board, 20 x 30 in

Seago lived very a interesting life, which just adds to my admiration of the work and the man. As a young boy, Edward Seago suffered from heart problems and spent much time in bed as a result. He later said he used this time for drawing and studying the sky, and that this was the start of his lifelong fascination with clouds. At fourteen, he won an award from the Royal Drawing Society, and from then on knew what he wanted to do in spite of his parents' initial disapproval.

Edward Seago, Clouds Over the Alps Oil on board, 26 x 24 in

Edward Seago, The Gleam, Oil on canvas, 26 x 36 in

Edward Seago, Marsh and Sky, Watercolor, 14 x 20 in

His poor health prevented a normal education and he was largely self-taught. However he did forge some lifelong relationships with some prominent artists of the time. He was an apprentice to the landscape artist Bertram Priestman and studied briefly with the artist Sir Alfred Munnings, one of England's finest painter of horses. Seago’s earliest pieces were equestrian paintings and he became very popular for these portraits of aristocrats on horseback. These social and upper class connections would lead to significant patrons and benefactors throughout his life. 

Edward Seago, Paris Morning Sunlight, Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in

Edward Seago, On the Seine, Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in

Edward Seago, Circus Encampment, Oil, 25 x30 in

At the age of eighteen, Seago joined Bevin's Travelling Show (yes, he joined the circus) and subsequently toured with circuses in Britain and throughout Europe. He wrote and illustrated three books about his experiences, "Circus Company" (1933), "Sons of Sawdust" (1934), and "Caravan"(1937). During his time with the circus Seago met Henry Mond, the second Lord Melchett, who would become an important patron. He provided Seago with the funds to travel Europe painting.

Edward Seago, The Little Palazzo Vience, Oil on board, 18 x 24 in

Edward Seago, Yachts on the River Ant, Oil on board, 12 x 16 in 

Edward Seago, Morocco a Street in Amizmiz, Oil, 26 x 36 in

Edward Seago, Fishing Boats on the Golden Horn, Oil on board, 16 x24 in

During the second World War, Mr Seago managed in spite of his heart condition to join the army and served as a camouflage officer in the Royal Engineers. He was invited by Field Marshal Alexander (a keen amateur artist) to paint scenes of the Italian campaign. Reproductions of his paintings were published in three books he authored "Peace in War" (1943) "High Endeavour" (1944) and "With the Allied Armies in Italy" (1945). Seago would go on to pen and illustrated six more books on his travels and painting on location.

Edward Seago, The Piazzetta, Venice, Oil on board, 20 x 30 in

Edward Seago, A Cargo junk, Hong Kong, Watercolor, 13 x 20 in

Edward Seago, South Bay Quay, Singapore, oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in

Seago enjoyed generous patronage from numerous members of The Royal Family. He was one of the official artists appointed to paint the Queen's Coronation and was invited by The Duke of Edinburgh on an expedition to Antarctica. The expedition on HM Yacht Britannia offered him the chance to observe a different light and the completely unfamiliar scenery of icebergs and whaling stations. After leaving New Zealand the ship traveled via Antarctica to islands in the South Atlantic and West Africa. Seago was captivated by the glacial scenery of Antarctica and worked hard during the voyage, painting at least sixty works. Prince Philip and Seago painted alongside each other on the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia and became close friends.

The Duke of Edinburgh, painting at his easel on board the Royal Yacht Britannia
 by Edward Seago

Edward Seago, Entering the Lemaire Channel Antartica, Oil on canvas 20 x30 in 

“Seago responded to Antarctica with an attempt to capture the rapid changes of light, producing over 30 paintings showing the icebergs and other physical phenomena, bases and men at work, and the whalers who were active at that time.”
                                                                               -Edward Seago: The Antarctic paintings

Edward Seago, RRS john Biscoe in Pack Ice, Jan. 1957 oil painting

Edward Seago, Camp at base W, Andersen Island, Jan 1957, Oil Painting

It was a great discovery when I realized that this painting was the one Seago was working on in the black and white photograph of him in Antarctica, you see everywhere online. This made all of my research worthwhile.

Edward Seago, Antarctic Dusk, Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in

Edward Seago circumnavigated the globe painting and sketching in some of the most formidable and beautiful places in the world, and yet a major part of his work and some of his most admired canvases were painted along the shore of Suffolk and his Norfolk England home. Seago had a very successful career, he was a favorite painter of the Royal family, especially Queen Elizabeth. He traveled widely, often in his own boat, the Capricorn, and painted throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and of course Antarctica, the location of his most famous paintings. His landscapes were hugely popular and his exhibitions in London regularly sold out within minutes. He was extremely prolific and he painted at lightning speed, producing an enormous body of work. In his will he requested that one third of his paintings from his estate were to be destroyed. Even so it is calculated that over 19,000 paintings are still in existence today, many in the Royal Collection.

Edward Brian ["Ted"] Seago died in 1974 at the age of 63.

Edward Seago, Boatsheds at Felixstowe Ferry, Oil on board,20 x 30 in

Edward Seago, September Afternoon Palling Beach, Oil on board, 12 x 20 in

Edward Seago, Beach Study I, Watercolor, 5 x 7 in 

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim

To Best View Work, Click on image to enlarge. Scroll through all images with light box.

Links :

Artist Stapleton Kearns has some interesting article on Seago and his technique.