Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blossoms & Light

The area not far from my home is nicknamed "Apple Country." The fruit orchards go on for miles; their perfect rows and patterns emphasize the smooth contour of the rolling hills and mountains. Nestled within these hills are farms occupied by the orchard workers and Mennonite families. It is such a beautiful area to drive through. Each orchard has a store that sells apples, homemade jellies, candy, wildflower honey and other assorted fruits.

These three paintings below are the first available from the apple orchard series that I'm currently working on. They were painted with a limited palette and are full of color, light and texture. Each one comes framed and ready to hang on your wall. Stop into one of my galleries or contact me at to inquire. Thanks and enjoy the blossoms!

 Shadow Path
Oil on linen panel, 9"x12"
$1,000, framed.

Blossoms & Bend
Oil on linen panel, 10"x8"
$500, framed.
Blossoms & Blue
Oil on linen panel, 10"x8"
$500, framed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Confessions of a Cloudy Day Painter

Before I packed my family and drove all the way to Idaho to study under master landscape artist Scott Christensen I felt I had hit a brick wall with my painting. I didn't understand color very well, and I seemed to only be able to paint well in overcast lighting conditions. Capturing the complex effects of sunlight and color was a mystery to me, even after reading all the right books. My paintings lacked harmony and conviction.

One day with Scott showed me where my problems were, and the remaining 9 days showed me how to go about fixing the problems. After the first day of the workshop I thought to myself "Why didn't I do this so much sooner? Why did I go for so long not being able to paint as well as I wanted to paint? Why pass the days stuck in frustration when the answers where there for me to acquire?"

If you can afford the $2,500 tuition and make the trip to Idaho, I encourage any aspiring artist to study under Scott in one of his 7-day workshops, it is an incredible experience. If this isn't possible for you, yet you would still like to learn the principles that helped change my painting forever, contact me at for private painting sessions for only $25/hour. We can meet in the studio or outside for plein air painting. I'll critique your work and set you on a path that will help you become the best painter you can be. I was so happy that I finally took the step toward my goals as an artist. Do the same for yourself and contact me about private instruction or future workshops.

Below is a short demonstration of a plein air study I did at a local apple orchard. This is an example of how I apply what I learned, and what you can learn.

See more about my work and instruction information at

This is a photograph of the apple tree that inspired my plein air painting. I loved the play of light and shadow on the trunk of the tree.
Finding something to paint is over half the battle. You need a subject that is interesting, or at least a subject that can be turned into something interesting. Many other variables need to be considered: is the light going to be consistent? Is there enough time to paint? Will the subject stay in one spot? Will multiple sessions be required? Does the subject inspire? And so on.
I set up my Open Box M pochade box and prepared to paint. I had to sit on the ground in order to get the view I wanted. When painting under a lot of foliage I like to use an umbrella to prevent the greenish ambient light from messing with my color perception.
I used a limited palette of Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Red and Ultramarine Blue to create this painting. I pre-mixed the approximate colors that I saw in the scene before I started painting. This technique that I learned from Scott really speeds up my actual painting time and lets me concentrate on capturing the light. Many times I need to make adjustments to these colors as you can see in the photo. Using a limited palette also lets me mix my pre-mixed colors together without getting mud.
I usually do my field studies on loose 9"x12" sheets of oil primed linen. I will tape this on Masonite or cardboard. I thinned some of the blue and green mixtures with 50/50 Galkyd and mineral spirits and applied them with a large brush. This established my color harmony and value range. The thin application allows me to easily paint over these layers as I progressed.
Next I go for the gusto and block in the main subject of the painting, the effect of light and shadow on the trunk. At this point I have been painting for less than 30 minutes. Values are so important in a painting. It is too easy to make the shadows too dark and the lights devoid of color. Greens and be very challenging, many people make them too intense and unnatural. Keeping your values and colors in reserve is always a good idea.
I'm also concerned about drawing, capturing the characteristics of the tree. It can be easy to make the curves too curvy, or miss proper perspective. Good training and experience can help on overcome these obstacles.
Confident that I have my colors, values and composition correct, I proceed with details. A lot of attention is being paid to the top of the tree. I'm still using a large brush at this point, along with a palette knife. You can use a large brush to create small shapes if you know how to use it correctly. This can give a natural look and help break any stiffness that your paintings may have. But you should never put in details until you're confident that your fundamentals are correct. The structure before the decoration.
The final version. This is a studio scan with more accurate color than my previous field photographs show. Along with details I add color variation, areas of warms and cools to create balance as well as indications of small dandelions and other flowers.
At this point it can be easy to get carried away with trying to capture every detail. Stepping back frequently and looking at the painting from a distance, or even taking a break can help. The primary goal should be to capture accurate colors, values and your feelings about the subject, things a camera cannot capture.
I hope you enjoyed this sample of my procedure. Come study plein air and landscape painting with me, contact me at Best wishes!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Summer Evening on your wall

These two barns, bathed in the light of a beautiful June evening, were just begging to be painted. The front barn was leaning one way, while the other stood firm. I loved how the long evening shadows reached from the grass to the structures. Most of this little painting was completed with a palette knife. This technique gives it thick textures of bold paint that jump off the panel. Since it is painted on cradled wood it needs no framing. Contact me at to add to your collection.

Summer Evening
6"x6", oil on 3/4" raised cradled wood panel
$100. Contact Jason at to inquire.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Selling Like Apples!

Hello Everyone,

I hope that everyone is doing well. I just got done with Plein Air Camp Hill last week-a great event! I will post more about it soon.

I am currently in the process of creating new work based on my spring apple orchard studies. Once these paintings are completed, you will be among the first to see them and have the option to add them to your collection. Below are some of my paintings that I have recently sold. If you would like to add an original Jason Tako painting to your collection, contact one of my galleries , or contact me at Take care!

Front Steps (2 hr quick draw), 9x12, oil on linen panel. Received the People's Choice Quick Draw Award at Plein Air Camp Hill. $1,000 framed-SOLD

Hay Bales, 6x8 oil on panel. $300, framed-SOLD

Autumn Interior, 6x8, oil on panel. $300, framed-SOLD

Snow & Brick, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD

Spring Stream, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD

The Gate of the Sheep, private commission, 11x14 oil on linen panel. SOLD

The Susquehanna, 11x14 oil on linen panel. Received 3rd Place Award at Plein Air Camp Hill. $1,200, framed-SOLD

Under the Bridge, 8x10, oil on linen panel. $500, framed-SOLD

The Stick Pile, 11x14 oil on linen panel. $1,200, framed-SOLD

Dark Interior, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD

Deep Canyon, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD

Desert Rocks, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD

Desert Study, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD

Frosty Morning, 6x6 oil on cradled panel. $100-SOLD
See more at

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Awards and Sales at Plein Air Camp Hill

Plein Air Camp Hill has been great! Last night was the awards ceremony and today the Quick Draw. My painting "The Susquehanna" took the 3rd Place Award, and my quick draw painting "Front Steps" received the People's Choice Award. Both paintings have already sold, along with third not pictured-a nocturnal painting called "Under the Bridge." The event goes through tomorrow. Stop by and get some beautiful artwork for your walls before it's over!

The Susquehanna, 11"x14", oil on linen panel, $1,200-SOLD
Front Steps (Quick Draw), oil on linen panel, 9"x12", $1,000-SOLD

See more at

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Magical Orchard


I hope that everybody is having a wonderful spring. And I hope that my friends and family back in Minnesota are finally enjoying some nice spring weather.

For the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time at Peters Orchards in York Springs, PA. The area consists of rolling hills and mountains lined with fruit trees. This landscape seems to go on for miles. I did a lot of plein air painting and sketching there in order to capture the apple blossoms and spring colors. Below are some of these sketches with a description.

You will see this is a somewhat new direction for me, but one I'm very excited about. While none of these sketches are for sale at this time, I plan to turn this material into finished paintings. If you have a chance, please respond and let me know what you think, and which paintings you like.

Don't forget to come watch me and other artists paint outdoors at Plein Air Camp Hill in Camp Hill, PA next week.

Spring Farm, oil on linen.

This is the painting that essentially started this series. While not in the orchard, it is very close. I wanted to capture the colors of the morning light on this farm. The owner came by to see what I was doing.

Spring Afternoon Woodland, oil on linen, 12"x9"
OK, so this one isn't exactly in the orchard either, but once again it was very close, and one of the paintings I did during this time. I loved the lighting and capturing that was my primary objective. I had to raise the values in this painting to give the effect of light filling the scene.

Moon and Blossoms, oil on linen, 12"x9"
This finally is in the orchard. I knew the moon was going to rise full on this particular evening, so earlier in the day I found this spot facing east and planned by idea via pencil sketches and photos. About an hour or more before sunset, I set up and premixed approximate colors by guessing based on experience. This helped me work faster when the light was where I wanted it. There were no blossoms and hardly any leaves yet, so a week later I returned to the orchards at the same time in the evening and added blossoms and made slight value adjustments. I plan to turn this into a final painting with rows of trees leading into the moon.
Blossoms and Mist, oil on linen, 9"x12"
I returned to the orchards on a rainy and misty day. I loved how the unique shapes of the trees stood out when the background was covered with mist. It drizzled and rained while I painted, but that is what umbrellas are for.
Orchard Rains, oil on panel, 6"x8"
On the same day, toward evening, I did this little oil sketch to capture the effect of the mist on the distant mountains. When I was finished, I walked through the orchard smelling the scent of ripe apples on the ground from the previous season.
Small Apple Trees, oil on linen, 9"x12"
Back in the orchards on a sunny afternoon, I was captivated by the greens which were in such beautiful harmony with the blue sky; the blossoms added a nice touch. This painting was a study in greens on a sunny day. I also wanted to give the feeling of looking uphill. Some of the orchard workers came by and gave me a thumbs up while I painted.
Late Afternoon Blossoms, oil on linen, 9"x12"
Late in the afternoon I walked into a grove of older apple trees and was captivated by the afternoon light on the very pale trunks and pinkish blossoms. I had to paint very fast as this scene had a lot going on in it and the light was rapidly changing.
Blossoms at Noon, oil on linen, 9"x12"
I will always remember the day I painted this. I climbed up a hill and walked into a place that seemed almost magical; a grove of old apple trees planted in perfect rows with sunlight dappling through the overhanging branches. Through the end rows you could see the distant purple mountains and blue sky. The color combinations were incredible! I sat down under an apple tree and painted as the bees buzzed around the blossoms. Of all the plein air paintings I have done over the years, this is one of my favorites.
Spring Shadows, oil on linen, 12"x9"
This painting is from the same session as above. I could not stop looking at this tree. I had to paint it. Once again the light was incredible, you cannot capture colors like this with a camera. I can't wait to turn these into finished paintings.
Apple Tree Study, pencil on paper
John F. Carlson said in order to paint trees well you need to draw many trees. This is an example of my taking his advice to heart. Sketching helps you understand what you are painting. It helps you connect with your subject matter in a way photographs cannot.
Near the Orchard, oil on linen, 9"x12"
This is the most recent painting from the orchard area, and my most recent plein air. As you know, I love painting barns and this was no exception. While not in the orchard, it was close, and beautiful.
I hope you enjoyed these plein air field studies. I will be turning these into finished paintings of different sizes and variations. If you would like to see one of these scenes on your wall, contact me at See more of my work at
Be sure to come see me painting next week at Plein Air Camp Hill!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Saving barns isn't a one-time event.

In front of my paintings, on the left are members of HGAC, I'm in the middle (with the green shirt) with the Lord Nelson's crew to the right of me.
As some of you know, this last Saturday was a great time at Lord Nelson's Gallery in Gettysburg, PA. Around noon I set up for my demonstration and began the first strokes of my painting (after Marsha fed me with some of Lord Nelson's delicious chocolate chip cookies). The barn in the painting is a potential restoration grant recipient from Historic Gettysburg Adams County. HGAC's mission is to preserve original and classic Pennsylvania barns. They make this possible through grants and fundraisers.
This last Saturday, HGAC had several information booths set up at Lord Nelson's. There was food, wine and live music by Dan Diviney, a flute player from New Oxford, as well as the silent auction for the painting pictured below; not to mention all the beautiful artwork by world renown historical, wildlife and landscape artists. It was a wonderful event!
You can still participate in this fundraiser and add beautiful artwork to your collection. Twenty percent of the price of any of my paintings sold at Lord Nelson's Gallery during the month of May will be donated to the HGAC to help this fine organization in its efforts to preserve the classic barns of Gettysburg and Adams County.
If you missed this event, don't miss History Meet the Arts this coming June 13th-15th!
The first strokes of my painting. I'm using thinned down burnt sienna to create the outlines of my design.

The block-in pictured here helps me establish my color harmony and values.
The finished painting.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Save a barn and take one home

Barns are a testament to American culture. They provide shelter for farm animals, equipment, food, and a means of self-sufficiency. They also compliment the countryside with a unique, man-made beauty. Sadly, many of these nostalgic structures have given way to wind, abandonment, and development.
Historic Gettysburg Adams County Inc. works to preserve barns in the Adams County, PA area with fundraisers, grants, registries, and more. I will be teaming up with Lord Nelson's Gallery and the HGAC this Saturday to raise funds for barn preservation.

Come to Lord Nelson's at 27 Chambersburg Street in Gettysburg this Saturday from noon to 6 pm to watch me create a barn painting that will be auctioned off for the HGAC. All proceeds from the auction will go directly to HGAC.  Additionally, 20% of all sales of my work during the month of May will be donated to the HGAC. Be sure to come this Saturday, there will be food, fun and I will be showing my painting technique step by step. Come save a barn by taking one home with you-in a painting of course. Go to Lord Nelson's Gallery for more details.

Distant Fields
oil on linen, 12"x24"
$2,000, framed. Contact Lord Nelson's at 1-800-664-9797 to inquire.