Category Archives: Lectures

Seeing Color in the Desert – International Artist Magazine

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My article Seeing Color in the Desert (originally posted on has been reprinted in the August/September 2014 issue of International Artist magazine. It originally started with notes from my sketchbook about what I was observing while out painting, and what to do about certain problems that color posed or provided a solution to.

Master Workshops: Pasadena, Carmel and More

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The Water That Is Entirely Jewels, 11″ x 14″, Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Why should an artist paint on location? How do I know what to paint? How do I create personal work that stands out?

I hope you’ll join me for a few workshops that I’ll be teaching this October in the Pasadena area, and we’ll work on answering those questions. I’m especially looking forward to the Seeing at Night class, as we’ll be focused on how to paint on location at night. I think this will be unique, as not many artists work on location to paint nocturnes – I’ll show my approach that allows you to see REAL subtlety and color, not invented color.

LANDSCAPE PAINTING, October 4-6, 2013 (3 days)
For more info and to register please visit the Workshops page on my website.

SEEING AT NIGHT, October 12-13, 2013 (2 days)
For more info and to register please visit the Workshops page on my website.

I’ve also partnered with Carmel Visual Arts to do a 3-day workshop in Carmel:

PLEIN AIR ALONG THE SEA, November 9-11, 2013 (3 days) Register here

And if you’ve been following my California desert workshops, I’ve just scheduled the 3rd Annual workshops for both Anza-Borrego and Joshua Tree. There aren’t many workshops taught in either place, and my experience painting on location in the desert will help to bring the classes to great locations and have a great experience.

For more info and to register please visit the Workshops page on my website.

For more info and to register please visit the Workshops page on my website.

Check out photos from previous workshops.

Painting Workshop in the Anza-Borrego Desert


Field sketches from the trip.

I’ve just returned from a week of painting and teaching in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This was the second 3-day workshop I’ve taught there, and was excited to return. I love this part of the desert, and this trip afforded me a little more time to explore and paint a few new locations. I also painted a few more nocturnes on location, something that has to be experienced. Even with less than a quarter moon, color temperatures and shapes are apparent, and there is also starlight to see by. NOTE: If you missed this trip, I’ll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013. Sign up here:

Each day began with the importance of using your sketchbook – finding what your piece will be about, drawing thumbnail sketches and writing about them. I’m not interested in copying the landscape, but rather finding what it is that excites me about the location. I see painting as a way to dig a little deeper, to try a little harder.


Discussing the sketchbook.

I began with a demo in the morning and did another after lunch. I want everyone in the workshop to come away with a structure or process that they can use to interpret the landscape when they’re working on their own. We talked about color, value, shapes, materials, umbrellas, and many other items of concern to artists working outdoors.

Starting a demo on day 1, south of Borrego Springs.

Starting a demo on Day 1, south of Borrego Springs.

We started early each morning while it was still cool, painting until 1 pm or so, and then took a 2-hour lunch and siesta. After the rest, we’d get back out on location for the afternoon. For most folks who haven’t painted on location before, one thing they don’t realize is how physically and mentally demanding it is. This trip also sprouted a new tradition of starting the afternoon session with ice cream. At the end of a full day of painting, we’d gather for a good dinner at a local restaurant to relax and discuss painting.

Demo on the day 2 @ Peña Springs

Demo on Day 2 @ Peña Springs.

I selected three different locations around the park that provided three different types of landscape, with a variety of underbrush, cacti, and change in elevation.

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A workshop student painting on Day 3 @ Coachwhip Canyon.

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Looking south from Coachwhip Canyon.

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Eric’s setup in Coachwhip Canyon. Multiple umbrellas were necessary to control the bright reflected light.

On the last day we created a little shade and held a critique to talk about the work everyone had produced. I’m always glad when I see such a sharp improvement over a short period of time, and there was a notable jump in seeing and painting color in each student’s work over the three days. Though we were pretty tired when we departed at the end of the workshop, I think everyone seemed pleased with their efforts and had a sketchbook full of new ideas to put into practice in their own future work.

If you’re interested in learning to see and paint color on location, I’ll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013. Sign up here:

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An informal critique set up in the shade on the last day.

Still Life Painting Workshop (FAC)

(in conjunction with The Fine Art Collaborative)

I’m looking forward to this great collaboration of artists and instructors coming this summer. Organized by The Fine Art Collective, numerous workshops and lectures will be held over three days by many familiar names, including these folks: John Asaro, Glenn Dean, Frank Gardner, Logan Hagege, Ignat Ignatov, Stacy Kamin, Dan McCaw, Peggi Kroll Roberts, Ray Roberts and myself.

DATES: Saturday, June 2, 2012, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
LOCATION: Randy Higbee Gallery, Costa Mesa, CA
COST: $130
INFO: A one day outdoor still life painting workshop in Costa Mesa, including instructor demo and student painting time.
TO REGISTER: Visit or for more information

Announcing Borrego Springs Workshop

The Western Sky, 12″ x 16″, Oil on panel, Private collection, © Eric Merrell

Title: Desert Painting Workshop with Eric Merrell
Location: Borrego Springs (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park), California
Dates: March 9 – 11, 2012
Time: 9 am – 4 pm (hour break for lunch)
Cost: $450
Description: In this workshop we will emphasize color and design – not copying nature, but using it to create our own voice. The California desert provides a perfect place to learn to simplify, one of the biggest challenges in painting. Californian artist Eric Merrell has spent a good deal of time painting and exploring the California deserts, resulting in two solo exhibitions on opposite coasts of the United States: at The Forbes Gallery (NYC) in 2010 and American Legacy Fine Arts (Pasadena, CA) in 2011.
Materials: See my website under Workshops
To register: Email to register or for more info

Palm Desert and Pasadena events

This Too Shall Pass – Arroyo Seco, 9″ x 12″, Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell (Private collection)

I’ll be giving a short presentation about my work at 1 pm on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at the Henderson Community Building, 72559 Highway 111 at El Paseo (Entrada del Paseo) in Palm Desert for the 6th Annual Desert Garden Community Day, presented by the Desert Horticultural Society, the City of Palm Desert, and the Desert Garden Center in Palm Springs. The events will be a combination of artists and their work along with workshops about desert landscaping. The Palm Springs Art Museum is not far from there, so stop by and make a day out of it!

On Sunday October 16th I’ll be exhibiting new paintings of the historic Arroyo Seco along with other artists from the California Art Club. The exhibition will take place from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm at La Casita del Arroyo, 177 S. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, CA  91105 [map].

Artist Talk at the Salton Sea Museum

Near the Oases,
12″ x 16″, Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

As part of the inaugural exhibition Valley of the Ancient Lake: Works Inspired by the Salton Sea at the newly renovated Salton Sea History Museum, Andrew Dickson, Joe Forkan and myself are scheduled to speak at the museum on April 23 from 1-3 pm on “The Artist’s Eye: Landscape Painting in the Desert,” covering our individual approaches to painting on location in the desert and talking about some of the different goals we’re trying to achieve. The exhibit runs through April 30 and is accompanied by a full color catalogue, available for purchase in the museum bookstore.

The Salton Sea History Museum is located inside of the historic North Shore Beach & Yacht Club on the north shore of the Salton Sea. Recently restored, this architectural landmark was designed by famed mid-century architect Albert Frey, who went on to design many homes and buildings in Palm Springs. The Club was a favorite hangout of the Beach Boys, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra and many other entertainers during it’s heyday in the 1950s and 60s.

UPDATE: The exhibit has been extended until June 30, 2011.

Read more on the exhibit at – Inaugural Salton Sea Exhibit Opens April 1.