Milford Zornes Book Review

There is a new, biographical art book on the block about the life and times of the well known and loved watercolor painter and teacher, Milford Zornes. The book is titled, “Happiness Is Warm Color in the Shade,” co-authored by my friends, Hal and Maria Baker.  What follows is a personal review of the book…

The new book, “Happiness Is Warm Color in the Shade,”” is an enjoyable biographical read for artists and non-artists alike.

Co-authors, Milford’s son-in-law, Hal Baker, and Milford’s daughter, Maria Zornes Baker, have created a well documented book about the life, times, and path of a dedicated, determined artist of the first degree. Milford Zornes is among the select group of artists in the 1930’s known as, The California Scene Painters. Milford stated, Art is not my profession, it is my way of life. Elsewhere he has also been quoted as saying, All art, if it is art at all, is abstract.

This book provides a rare, and insightful look into the private life of a dedicated artist and family man. We are taken on a tour of his life, from before he was born, through his high school years where. in his “Junior year, he was elected kindest boy in school, then on into professional adulthood, marriage and family. We learn of his many early interests prior to settling with dogged determination to be, not just an artist, but a successful, full time artist. In this regard the book contains, for the careful reader, a simple outline, a road map, for anyone who might seek similar success as an artist.

Happiness is Warm Color in the Shade, carefully chronicles the good fortune and hardships of a man who could very well be thought of as the last of, to adapt a well-known phrase, the World War II’s Greatest Generation of watercolor painters. It bears noting that much of Milford’s success came at the expense and support of his wife, Pat, who willingly chose to give up her promising art career for the support of husband and family. Continue reading


Swansea Shack, Swansea, CA. Original watercolor painting by Woody Hansen
Title: SWANSEA SHACK – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more about this painting, including purchase information, click on image.


The registration for the 20th Manzanar Workshop founded by Henry Fukuhara (1913 to 2010), will be held from Thursday May 18th to Monday May 22nd, 2017. This year’s title: “Henry and Friends: A Legacy of Giving Back”.

This workshop will feature five days in the Owens Valley. There will be an emphasis on giving back to teachers and to the art community, our cadre of friends-of-Henry volunteer- artists will provide a total of eight demos and three critiques.

The list of artist instructors for 2017 includes: Dave Deyell, Dan Dickman, Phyl Doyon, Woody Hansen, Ron Libbrecht, Rea Nagel, David Peterson, Albert Setton. All have painted with Henry. Shelly Pearson will be the On-site Greeter, Facilitator and Energy Center. Weather permitting, workshop participants will gather at Alabama Hills, Diaz Lake, Keeler, Manzanar, and Owens Lake. Continue reading


COMPLIMENTS, an original watercolor painting by Woody Hansen
Title: Compliments – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more about this painting, including purchase information, please click on image.


Compliments, begins as a non-objective work. The plan is to attempt to create a painting with a different type of Christmas theme, including a modified complimentary color scheme of red and green, in keeping with the season. .

Relative to color selection, the goal of Compliments  is to avoid the usual red and green hues associated  with this particular holiday, in favor of less saturated, cooler choices, while maintaining the basic red and green color scheme.

The composition is developed with brush marks (shapes) of various sizes distributed within the rectangle. Over time the  non-objective direction begins to change as the painting evolves and begins to suggest what might be viewed as bamboo canes.

The painting develops into  that of an “O” composition.  A light area in the center of Compliments, gives the work a seldom used, and rarely recommended, formal balance.

In this case the formal balance creates a light area that is a definite center of interest. Black line work is added to selected shapes during the last phase of development. In its final form, the painting takes on a bamboo, wreath like appearance. Goal achieved. The piece is finished.

With the addition of “Merry Christmas” text, Compliments does double duty as this year’s Christmas card.

Watercolor Christmas Card

“Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And a ho, ho, ho, to you!”


Compliments, gets its title from the use of the two complimentary colors red and green.



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TWO STUMPS, an original watercolor by Woody Hansen
Title: Two Stumps – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more about this painting, including purchase information, please click on image.


On a recent, warm, Free Friday morning my dog, Connor and I venture into the nearby Sacramento, American River Parkway. We are there from about 9:15 to 11:15. We returned to the studio with eleven, 4.5 by 6.5 inch value plans. Probably the best of he group is, as is usual in my case, the first effort.

I rarely work in series. However, what I don’t realize at the time is  this single value plan will become the basis for six future paintings.

After completing the Two Stumps painting in the studio environment, I realize this experience might make an effective method of demonstrating a  simple approach to abstracting a complex landscape.

So, to offer a learning experience for present and future students, I decide to return the next day, same time, same place, to photograph each scene as I experienced it the previous day. Since, as a matter of habit I note the date and time on my value plans I have all I need to recreate a reasonably accurate representation of each scene as I viewed it 24 hours earlier.

It is important to note the photographs are in no way used as reference material for this, or future paintings; The photos are only for illustrating and documenting the creation process described herein. As the late teacher and artist Milford Zornes noted, ” I have no use what so ever for the use of the camera in relation to painting. It has nothing to do with painting and it’s a damned nuisance!”

Posted below is a photograph of the scene as I saw it, followed by the resulting relatively simple value plan, and the final, first of six, paintings.

Photo of location for Two Stumps watercolor painting by Woody Hansen

(Above) What attracts my attention is the contrasting back-lighting of the two, smaller, but unique dark, “U-shaped tree trunks. These shapes are seen slightly to the right of center in the upper photo.  Also noted are the two, larger, dark tree shapes leaning to the right in the upper right, and the dark, flora shapes toward the lower, left-center corner.

On the right side is added an imaginary structure that might be found elsewhere on the parkway. The structure’s purpose is to keep the viewer’s attention from traveling off the right side of the composition.

Those few items, shapes, are about all that are required  for an interesting composition. To my mind and eye, everything else is complex material that can be eliminated (less is more), or best simplified in one way or another

Two Stumps value Plan

(Above)  For compositional purposes, three garbage can shapes of various sizes and values are added to the horizontal rectangle. Garbage cans are readily seen at locations throughout the parkway. Finally, a couple of birds, are added to complete the value plan.


TWO STUMPS, an original watercolor by Woody Hansen

(Above)  TWO STUMPS, is less about reporting the actual subject matter than it is about finding an excuse for acknowledging the importance of Shape (composition),Value, and Color,IN THAT ORDER. I like to think of  this process as resulting in a painting that is deceptively simple.


Days later, a second painting is the basis for a classroom demonstration. The same value plan provides what might be termed as a roadmap on how to achieve a second painting.

Two Stumps 2, and original watercolor by Woody Hansen

(Above) This second painting, Two Stumps 2, uses the same secondary color scheme, but is a bit more colorful, and has more textural content. It is, perhaps, a more assured work. This time the birds are added, as is the blue area at the top of the rectangle. One could imagine this as foliage, ore perhaps that of a sky area, etc. There appears an additional  tree, some fencing, and somewhat more calligraphic detail (or fussiness) throughout the painting.


Two Stumps 3, an original watercolor painting by Woody Hansen

(Above) This painting, Two Stumps 3, begins as a demonstration  of one of several ways to create a non-objective work. In this case the process has absolutely nothing to do with the Two Stumps paintings, or value plan.

Due to time restrictions of the class, the non-objective painting is about half completed. No problem, we’ll finish it next week…or so I thought at the time. At some point during the interim period, my attention is drawn to the Two Stumps value plan laying unattended on a nearby table top.

From a distance the dark values of the TwoStumps value plan easily captured my imagination. What if I superimposed those darks over the half-completed non-objective painting? Could the two compositions meld into one interesting painting? Would they? The only way to find out is to take the risk, accept the challenge and try it.

In the near future I  plan to add a blog post showing several progressive images of the development of Two Stumps 3. So, if you’d care to see the step by step process of how a non-objective beginning turns into an abstract landscape, this is the place. As we say, “stay tuned for further developments.”


Two Stumps 4, an original watercolor painting by Woody Hansen

(Above) Two Stumps 4 is simply a variation on Two stumps, and TWo Stumps 2.  Here, the same color scheme is employed. A gray sky area adds further harmony to the painting. The way the small, grayed garbage can is tilted to the right seems charming. It’s what might be termed a “happy accident.” That happy, little can makes me smile every time I look at it. Also, the small, light valued,rectangular pieces remind me of pumpkins and Halloween. Maybe that’s just because as this post is being written Halloween is near.


Two Stumps 5, a monochromatic watercolor painting by Woody Hansen

(Above) Two Stumps 5, is another demo painting, this time the emphasis is on showing the strength and interest of a monochromatic, three, or four value  painting. One does not always need vibrant color to bring off an interesting, worthwhile statement. If the shapes (think composition) and values are well stated, then the color options are almost limitless. Arguably, too many of us are overly dependent on the use of color to save a poorly designed painting..

Among the goals of this watercolor is to create an exercise in following the original value plan. However,it’s worth noting here that the value plan is only one of the many ways of creating a work of art. In other words, not all paintings must begin with a sketch, or value plan.


Two Stumps 6, a monochromatic watercolor painting by Woody Hansen

(Above) While Two Stumps 5 is a demo for the morning class, Two Stumps 6 is created for the evening group. Admittedly, I seem to get carried away  with the  splashy texture, especially in the mid ground area. I don’t become aware of this until the following morning. What to do now?

The mid-ground area of concern is dampened with clear water, being careful not to disturb ta few marks that are best left dry and sharp. Next, a bristle brush and tissue are used to eliminate, or soften the excess texture. This process is done in several steps, with each step being allowed to dry before proceeding further.

After the fact, I notice the small garbage can is painted in a darker value than originally intended. Thi seems to draw attention away from the two stumps, the desired focal point. Great, another problem to solve. But, isn’t solving problems an important part of the joy in creative painting?

Well, why not go with the  situation and intentionally make that small garbage can the focal point instead of the two stumps? As the late Henry Fukuhara had noted some years ago, “An artist can move mountains.” If that’s true, and I believe it is, then why not move focal points. After all, this is not a test of intended centers of interest.

However, I further complicate matters by not scrubbing out the dark value before continuing  the “repair. Instead, I add a transparent red over the dark, Ivory Black (I know better) to intentionally increase attention to the new focal point. Still unhappy with the effect, an attempt is made to increase the chroma of the can with a more opaque, intense Cadmium Red. Next comes a transparent yellow over a narrow strip of white paper adjacent to the can. Better, but as the saying goes, “no cigar.”

The final appearance of the garbage can seems a bit labored and over worked (perhaps because it is labored and overworked). I intend to lift most of the color of the can and try again. If and when this is accomplished, I’ll[ post the final image here.

I can hear my dad saying to me as a youngster, “Have patience son. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.’ Yes, I agree…but with watercolor it is always best to get it right the first time.

Well, as promised…below is the corrected version. I masked out the original garbage can and removed the color down to the white paper. Once the area is dry and mask removed, a pen line is used to restate the can shape. Various reds and yellows are added to the gan,  plus a few more marks representing sticks, birds, etc. Done. I

‘ll try not to be so wordy in the after.

Two Stumps 6, watercolor with correction.


Want to learn watercolor, or brush upon your skills? Check out my upcoming watercolor classes and workshops.

You’re invited to visit my WEB SITE,



Swansea Shack, Swansea, CA.  Original watercolor painting by Woody Hansen
Title: SWANSEA SHACK – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more about this painting, including purchase information, click on image.


The painting, Swansea Shack,is accomplished May 17, 2015, during  a recent, 18th Annual Henry Fukuhara Manzanar Workshop headquartered in Lone Pine, California.

Day  four of the five day workshop begins on an unseasonably calm, comfortable Sunday. The subject matter of Swansea Shack is located on private property in what is, or was, Swansea. The town has quite a history, some of which will be noted later in this post.

Nearly a hundred of us string out, assorted painting gear in tow, to walk  about a half-block, in a northerly direction on a narrow, dirt road, toward what appears to be the main gate to our destination. The view of the property, on the right is obscured by a rickety, wooden fence which goes a long way toward heightening the portal effect of entering through the wide, gate area. Swansea Shack is waiting just beyond the entrance.

As we enter through the gated area, we get the first glimpse of what lies before our eyes, I am temporarily stunned at what I see. To me, it is a bit like going back to one’s childhood and entering a candy shop, or toy store for the first time! So much to see and enjoy, but so little time to paint it.

In addition to Swansea Shack, here is enough material in this rather small area to last a lifetime. It is what many artist would call a dream come true.” It’s a treasure trove of subject matter, that is if you like old, weathered buildings, structures of a past era complete with all kinds of beautiful artistic “junk” strewn about. Priceless.

Shortly after arriving, we are treated to a wonderful watercolor demonstration by acclaimed California artist John Barnard. The demo goes well before an appreciative audience,made up of beginner, intermediate, and advanced painters of all ages and skill levels. Following John’s successful demo, we spread out over what appears to be, roughly, about a one square block area of private property which is open to the workshop on this particular day.

I am immediately drawn toward a shack like structure, including a type of water tower, and assorted pieces of debris which in my view is “artistic” jewel-like “junk.” It’s like Swansea Shack has been waiting years to be the subject of a watercolor painting.


I begin Swansea Shack by using a black, ink pen to  create a compositional line drawing. Next, come the 4-B, pencil mid-values (about  a five, on an eleven point value scale). This mid-value is assigned to  selected shapes. I attempt to note the value that is needed compositionally, without regard to the scene’s actual values. Lastly, the darks (black) are added over several mid-value shapes, or symbols.

Simple value plan by artist Woody Hansen

Once the simple, loose value plan is completed to my satisfaction, a high percentage of the work is done. This is often the part of the creative process that is the most liberating, the most fun.

In this ghost town of the past atmosphere, I’d swear I  hear Henry Fukuhara reminding us to, Keep it simple. So it goes, after a few enjoyable minutes in the fresh air and  morning sun, the value plan is completed. It now becomes a helpful road map during the creation of the watercolor painting, Swansea shack.


The watercolor, Swansea Shack,  begins with a square, two-inch brush. Shapes are laid in directly with the brush wet on dry,  without the traditional preliminary pencil drawing. In this case the subject matter is blocked-in using only gray and, for the most part, the two-inch brush. The gray tone is about a three or four on the aforementioned value scale. Some readers might think of it as somewhere near a dark light, and a light-medium value.

Once most of the Swansea Shack is blocked in, the paint and paper is allowed to dry completely. When the paint and paper are dry, the black, ink pen is used to quickly and freely accent the various shapes. No attempt is made to carefully delineate the shapes themselves.  To the contrary, the goal is to allow the line work to follow its own path, in what might be referred to as “out of register.”

General color is then added over the grays. This is one method of achieving the duller, less intense, weathered look of the Swansea area. A few additional symbols are added, such as the two palm trees, etc. Of course, to my knowledge, there are no palm trees in Swansea, but these perennials make a good excuse for much-needed verticals in an essentially horizontal composition.

In the final stage of Swansea Shack, the chroma of a few color areas is increased. The last step is the choice of color in specific places like the doorway (the focal point) and water tank. I vacillate between using a red or blue hue. I feel a red is in keeping with the painting’s warm temperature, while the blue adds a bit of contrast and variety to the warm Yellow Ochre. I opt for variety.


What is now a ghost town, Swansea is located in Inyo County, just off highway 190, near the cities of Lone Pine and Keeler, on the eastern side of California’s magnificent Sierra Mountain range!

According to the Swansea web Site:

“Swansea was built in 1870 to support the nearby camp of Owens Lake. Owens lake held the furnaces for smelting some of the ore from Cerro Gordo.”

All that remains are a few weathered structures, some foundations, and several ‘No Trespassing’ signs.


Want to learn watercolor, or brush upon your skills? Check out my upcoming watercolor classes and workshops.

You’re invited to visit my WEB SITE,



EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066. Watercolor painting by WoodyHansen
Title: EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066 – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more about this painting, including purchase information, click on image.

For the past several years I’ve had the pleasure of participating  in the late Henry Fukuhara’s (4/25/19-1/31/10) Manzanar Outdoor Watercolor Workshops. One of the on-site locations is, of corse, the site of the Manzanar Relocation Center, located in California, on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountain range, between the cities of Lone Pine, to the South, and Independence, to the North.


As the reader may know, Manzanar was created on the basis of Executive Order 9066. It was not one of America’s brightest days. Today, Manzanar is part of our National Park System and stands as a reminder of how easily our rights as American citizens can be threatened…and publicly accepted, with little question.


Executive Order 9066, occurred in 1942. This was as a result of World War II, and during President  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. The order authorized the internment of Americans of Japanese, Italian, and German ancestry.

At 31 years of age, Henry Fukuhara and his family were among American citizens who were interned at Manzanar, one of many similar camps throughout the United States.

RELATED INFORMATION found by following this link.

I’m sure the reader can recall the phrase, History tends to repeat itself. Or, as philosopher Santayana noted, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.


So, while at Henry’s Fukuhara’s18th Workshop, May 14-18, 2015, I painted three, half sheet watercolors, of which,  Executive Order 9066 is, to me  the most meaningful of the three.

The creation of the painting Executive Order 9066, doesn’t come easy. Truthfully, it is a struggle. I do eleven preliminary sketches/value plans before setting brush to paper. Prior to that the idea mentally incubates for the most part of two days and nights. Once the basic theme is determined, the problem becomes one of how to present the idea in an abstract manner.

The original concept is to place the phrase, Don’t Tread On Me, on one of the flag’s white stripes. Eventually, I realize this preconceived idea is distracting, taking precedence over compositional considerations, such as the small, white “9066” shape.

So, once the many red and white stripes are changed into one, big, bold earth colored rock-like shape I am on my way. I want the small, white, rectangular area simple and stark in contrast to the bigger, darker rock shape. I finally realize that by placing that same shape against several red and white stripes causes unwanted visual conflict.

I purposely elect not to add the term Executive Order, anywhere on the painting. I want “9066” to stand alone, to contrast against the rest of the painting. For those who know, “9066,” does it. For those who do not know, it would be in their best interest to do some research on the subject.

Perhaps the strength of this painting is that it leaves room for the viewer’s personal interpretation and reflection.  What does Executive Order 9066 have in common with the events of 1776? Furthermore, do those events have any relevance in the year 2015 and beyond? I think so.


Want to learn watercolor, or brush upon your skills? Check out my upcoming watercolor classes and workshops.

You’re invited to visit my WEB SITE,



Image of  Woody Hansen watercolor, , A Rose IS A Rose Title: ROSE IS A ROSE – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more about this painting, including purchase information, click on image.


A Rose Is A Rose, provides an interesting study of how a non-objective painting can evolve into the suggestion of a recognizable subject. In this way the work becomes not a non-objective watercolor, but one of a more abstract nature.

A Rose Is A Rose, begins free-hand,Without a priliminary  pencil sketch, or value plan, and with no other objective except to served as a class demonstration of one of the ways a shape painter might approach the creation of a non-objective painting. However, about half way through the process I begin to see the suggestion of possible subject matter. When this occurs, I’ve learned it is often wisest to either “destroy” any semblance of subject, or “go with the flow” and see what develops.

In this case, I conclude this might be an excellent learning opportunity, both for myself and the class as well. So, out with the objective of non-objectivity and in with a goal of abstraction.

As I perceive A Rose Is A Rose, the viewer is looking outward through a window of some sort, bordered on each side by drapes of a predominantly green hue. It is a bright, sunny, warm day enjoyed by a bit of red, flora which compliments the green drapery. A few harmonious, green leaves gently float into view adding a feeling of texture to the overall composition.

The flora could be of any garden variety the viewer might imagine, but for me, the flower of choice must be a rose. “When all is said and done, a thing is what it is.”  Or, one might say, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” At the risk of opening Pandora’s Box (or jar), I ask the reader, “Can you smell it?”

Ah, well…okay, there is always hope.


The Internet offers a wonderfully powerful  tool with which to work. Thanks to today’s amazing technology, a wealth of information is but a few clicks away. Instant informative gratification is at our fingertips.

It’s fun to randomly select a word or phrase aimed at a bit of research. The process can be informative, and an effective method of refreshing one’s memory of previous lessons learned.  For example,  if we Google (or Yahoo) the phrase, “A rose is a rose” we come up with a variety of explanations and opinions.

I select the explanation provided at the web site, The Phrase Generator, “The meaning most often attributed to this is the notion that when all is said and done, a thing is what it is. This is in similar vein to Shakespeare’s ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.”

The site further clarifies that the phrase’s author interprets the phrase, “Rose is a rose is a rose” differently. “The line is from Gertrude Stein’s poem Sacred Emily, written in 1913 and published in 1922, in Geography and Plays. The verbatim line is actually, ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’:


Want to learn watercolor, or brush upon your skills? Check out my upcoming watercolor classes and workshops.

You’re invited to visit my WEB SITE,