Category Archives: art instruction

Technical Insight # 31, “As Evening Settles In”


Often I am asked where I get ideas for the volume of artwork I have produced.  My answer is always the same. “ I simply have to put myself in the position to be inspired”.  What this means for me is to hire a model (or just stand in a landscape) and watch the light envelope the forms and then work like mad to try to capture what I am seeing.

Several years back at a Weekend with the Masters painting conference, I remember Richard Schmid mentioning that the longer he paints, the more and more he sees in terms of vibrating, scintillating, color dancing before his eyes (to paraphrase).  This is certainly true for me as well as the task of putting down the multiplying complexity of what I am seeing becomes more daunting as my years of study increase.  The job of painting the heavy or thin air, capturing of the warm or cool qualities of light, or conveying of atmospheric color around and between objects is a worthwhile pursuit and a rewarding one in the end.

The light in “As Evening Settles In”, page 21 of “Not Far from Home”, provided ample opportunity to explore the opalescent qualities of this light that I speak of.  The violet and cool tones reflected from the sky behind me washed every form before me. One of the challenges for the artist is to always remember this covering and influence of ambient light, repeating the temperature of this light on all top planes of the forms.  The study shows this violet interplay of reflected light as well.

In addition, these principles are thoroughly explained in our latest painting demo video as we worked through the painting, “The Beginning of Autumn”.  Thank you and great painting!

Study for As Evening Settles In




New Testimonial for “The Beginning of Autumn”…

“You truly are an amazing artist, a modern day master! I have watched many videos on painting the portrait and this one is by far the most informative and exciting. Every brush stroke, every color and everything you say reveals an important part of the creative process. You cover all the essentials that go into making a great painting, variety of edges and shapes, correct values, accuracy of drawing, use of warm against cool and balanced composition to name a few. You demonstrate that dedication, persistence and enthusiasm can carry you through a painting even though the conditions are harsh or change but that it is okay to stop when the light changes too much. Your finished painting is awe inspiring! Thank you for creating “The Beginning of Autumn” video to share your knowledge and enthusiasm. It is a masterpiece!”

Carol Reesor


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Bud… Grandpa’s Favorite Story Technical Insight #30

Bud, “Grandpa’s Favorite Story”

Grandfather's favorite Story 36x60

An excerpt from “Not Far from Home”…

“This was the first painting I did using Bud as a model.  When he arrived, he was sure to be clear that he would not model nude.  I managed to assure him that he was safe.  Having relaxed a bit and noticing the entry of the other model (a pretty girl), the real Bud emerged. The composition of this painting evolved very naturally as Bud proceeded to entertain Wendy with story upon story.  He quickly settled into his new niche in life and has had a long successful career in modeling for me.  Often now, as we are working he will ask,  “How long have we been working together now Dan, fourteen or fifteen years?”  He is a wonderful man.

I have done countless portraits and paintings of Bud over the years. At one point while modeling, Bud looked around the room and counted 14 paintings of himself hanging on the walls, and with a grin, made a point of informing me he was my most significant model.

From a technical standpoint when designing a work with multiple figures, one must always pay careful attention to having one of the figures dominant either in terms of value, color, edge, or any combination of the listed.  In this case with the models in close proximity, they can almost be seen as one focal point.  There are 7 works of Bud in “Not Far from Home”… find them all:)

Grandfather's favorite Story detail

Thanks you for your enthusiast support in following these Insights!

Holiday gifts ideas from Gerhartz Studio.

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Ten years since the release of his best selling DVD, “Her Mother’s Locket”, Dan returns in video to share his practical, accessible approach to oil painting.  During this 6-hour presentation, he brings to viewers his 25 years of experience in painting the figure outdoors, walking his audience through the hurdles and challenges that face the painter. From a thorough discussion of materials to discussions about what truly ignites his passion for painting, Dan spares nothing as he works through the process.  Beautifully filmed, precisely edited, “The Beginning of Autumn” will be sure to inspire. Enjoy!


Thanks much!

“Rain, falling snow, wind… Technical Insight #28

In June of 1987, I embarked on my career as a full time fine artist.  Upon leaving the doors of the commercial art studio I was working at, my dear friend and co-worker Kenn Backhaus handed me a small metal plaque as a gift that has stayed with me through the years.  The inscription read as follows…

“Rain, falling snow, wind…all these things to contend with only make the open air painter love the fight.”      Walter Elmer Schofield


Kenn and I had painted together many times dealing with the elements of rain, wind, mosquitos, hail, snow,etc… trying to come up with a worthy painting amidst the adverse conditions. This plaque has been screwed to the front of my french easel for years, reminding me that the effort is always worth the fight.

We are pleased to announce that our latest video, “The Beginning of Autumn” is now available at

During this production, as you will see in the trailers, we had ample opportunity to work through the elements.  In this production you will see first hand how I worked through many of the challenges that face the open air painter as well as comprehensively talking through my thought process as the painting developed.  From a thorough explanation of materials to discussions about what truly ignites my passion for painting, this 6 hour presentation afforded me the time and opportunity to share my 25 years of painting experience. As is important to me whenever I teach,  great care was taken to explain the complex points of creating a successful painting in the simplest, most practical terms.  My thanks to Masoud Habibyan for the beautiful filming and precision editing.  Enjoy and great painting!


Click DVD cover for more info….thank you!

Technical Insights from “Weekend with the Masters”

Portrait Demonstrations… Weekend with the Masters

I have had the privilege of teaching the art of painting for the last twenty years or so and have chosen the portrait as the vehicle to explain the concepts because of the exacting nature of the subject, forcing the student to be precise in their seeing and drawing.

What remains my greatest challenge in the process of teaching is conveying in the simplest of terms the most direct, systematic approach to solving the problems before us.  As we stand with loaded brush before the model, so many decisions need to be made at once, often instilling panic in our hearts while we try to sort out the visual information.  Organization of thought in the beginning is paramount in the process and seems to be the only way to wade through the ordeal with any peace of mind and success in the endeavor.

“Yes, yes”, you may be saying, “but organize what?”

It has been my goal to stress the critical nature of categorizing the aspects of drawing, value, edge, and color from the outset so as to build on a solid foundation.

This needs to be accomplished before I apply paint to the canvas so I can break down the elements in a way I can wrap my head around and not be overwhelmed as the avalanche of information pours in.  So, before I begin to paint, I will make these visual observations and mentally categorize them in terms of hierarchy of value, edge, color, etc…

Value…  Look to see while squinting where the lightest lights and darkest darks are and then make a concerted effort to keep all other values in their proper range compared to the extremes.  i.e.(Not allowing the reflected lights to become too strong so to break out of the simple shadow shape or applying to many highlights to destroy the subtlety of tone.)

Edge…   When squinting, what edges emerge as the sharpest and which visually subdue to create the most variety to add power and drama to the subject.

Color… Where are the strongest colors and how do all of the others relate to them.  Also, what is the color of the light and do I see its influence on all of the top planes of the scene.

If I take a few minutes before the work begins, often it alleviates some stress and possible mistakes along the way… Keep Smiling!

These two works were completed as Demonstrations at a recent conference in San Diego.

Other news from Gerhartz Studio… we just finished filming a full length video on painting the figure en plein air that will be released in the upcoming months.  Watch for the trailer soon!

Not Far from Home is selling well (thank you)… get one while they are still in print.

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #23

“You want me to use what color on her face????”

So often as I am demonstrating painting a portrait, students are surprised by the fact that black is one of the essential pigments I use in mixing the flesh tones on the light side of the face.  In most lighting situations, the visible play between soft greens, ochres, and pinks seem easy enough to identify, but the question arises as to what pigments should be mixed to capture these tones. So often in striving to achieve the greener tones, students and (myself included early on), would reach for the viridian or sap green, only to overshoot the target and end up with colors too rich for the environment. In studying the works of John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn, I was made aware of the sensitivity of tone by mixtures of ivory black, raw sienna (or yellow ochre), and white for the cooler tones I was seeing. This beautiful portrait by Sargent clearly illustrates the power in reserve of color while his gorgeous, liquid strokes melded the forms to bring forth an amazing lifelike feel.

John Singer Sargent

“Scarlet”, on page 99 in “Not Far from Home”, is one of my paintings that clearly drew from this inspiration in color mixing and tonal control.  I must say that there are a myriad of ways to key a painting and infinite variations of mixes to achieve a similar effect; the above simply describes my path.

I will again take this opportunity to encourage you to copy the masters works, not to profit or plagiarize, but to study and greater understand the sensitivity with which passages and transitions in tone can be made.  You need not copy their work in entirety, but just the aspects that you are struggling with. I have found that I can look at their works for hours and only see in part the subtlety, but when I physically mix the transitions in paint, I better understand the true nature of the color relationship.

I wish you joy and success in the journey!

“Not Far from Home” continues to receive great reviews…

“I pull out your book each time you post a “Technical Insight” and am either reminded of a lesson or learn a new one. This post for me makes turning the form with color temperatures very clear.

Your book is such a treasure, a masterpiece inside and out!“….Laura Albiento

Thank You!

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #22

Glow On a winter evening a few years ago, Jennifer and I attended a party recognizing and celebrating the album release of a friend’s music. The event was beautifully staged and in contrast to the cold, dark night, the warm candlelit environment they created was breathtaking and somewhat otherworldly.  As an artist, my only regret from the evening was that I couldn’t capture the effect on canvas.  From a practicality stand point, I knew I couldn’t ask the hosts to leave their house in disarray for weeks so that I could paint from life, so not to be deterred and let the inspiration slip away, I arranged to recreate the mood in the studio. During the following week, our friends who served the party agreed to model, the food and candles were gathered, and the work began. Among the most challenging aspects in capturing this festive gathering in paint were:

  1. Not burning the studio down.
  2. Establishing the lightest lights and holding the key, specifically not allowing any of the lights in her white apron to supersede the candle’s glow.
  3. Getting enough light on my canvas to see while the models remained in the darker candlelit space.
  4. Achieving a balance of color temperature throughout the canvas.  In an overwhelmingly warm light source such as candle glow, the tendency is to only paint the obvious warmth of the light.  I was again reminded that it is the introduction of the complement that accentuates the warmth and strengthens the forms.  Remember to look for the complete balance in all areas! In this case, it meant finding the cool tones in the models skin and clothes, the candles, the tablecloth, the artichokes, etc., etc….
  5.  Arranging the candles in an interesting line to create negative spaces between them that were as interesting as the candles themselves.
  6.  Creating variety in the candle flames so as not to be to repetitive in the shape, value and color.
  7. Coming up with enough jokes to keep the models smiling for days on end.
  8. Not burning the studio down.  🙂

Enjoy!!!Thanks for considering “Not Far from Home”…

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Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #20

Warm, Cool, Warm…

One of the key elements that I have taken away from years of painting from life is the heightened awareness of the warm /cool interplay on the subject as the form turns.  I know I have mentioned this on previous posts, but its importance bears mentioning again.  In this image and the details to follow, you will see how the shifting of temperature accentuates the volume and three dimensionality of image while holding the values in a simple mass.  It can also be seen in great detail within the two page spread of, “Indigo and Ivory”,  30” x 60” (Page 118 and 119 from “Not Far from Home”),

In these details, you can see the transitions from warm to cool inter-playing throughout the forms, but most specifically where noted with letters W (warm) C(cool).  See how close in value these tones are, yet there is still a noticeable form change.  My first discovery of this application came to me years ago when studying a Sargent painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In his painting, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit”, Mr. Sargent rimmed the outside edge of the light plane on the foreground girl’s blouse with a cool tone to give the added feeling of cool light and also to aid in the turning of the form.   This accentuated coolness along the rim of all of all forms can also be seen in William Bouguereau’s works.  The pictured Dennis Miller Bunker portrait has also been a favorite of mine and illustrates this point nicely.  I would urge you to see their works first hand to study just how effective and evident this application is.

This study of warm and cool as it relates to light and form is discussed and demonstrated in great detail in our re-released Video “Her Mother’s Locket”.  The new On Demand streaming format released at a significantly lower price will enable you to watch this instruction from any computer or iPad with internet capability.   In the new version, we have also added hi-res photos to see the completed painting as it is being painted before you. You will see the 30 x 36 studio painting from start to finish with moment by moment commentary, sharing with the viewer the critical elements of building the design and execution of this work.

To purchase “Her Mother’s Locket” instruction, please click painting.

                                             Click image to see preview trailer…Thanks

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