Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Tree Study 1," graphite on paper, 8.5 x 5.5 inches.

This is small sketch of a tree at the beginning of winter. Every kind of tree has its own characteristics. I'm terrrrrible at identifying types of trees, flowers, birds, and cars, so I'm not sure what this tree is, but there are tons of them here in North Texas. 

I plan to do several of these landscape drawings and small studies over the next few weeks. This and the others will be available in my Etsy shop

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Colby," charcoal on bristol board, 7 x 10 inches

This is a commission I recently finished for a customer. This is her dog's favorite place to sit while she works.

We have two cats at home that pose for me (i.e., sleep for hours on end), but when I draw dogs I think about how much friendlier they look. I heard an interview with an animal behaviorist on NPR a few months ago. He said that dogs have been domestic companions for humans so long, they've learned to mimic some of our behaviors, like smiling. He believed that cats haven't picked up on these traits yet since they've been relegated to barns as varmint control for so long. I know our cats smile too, but I think it's much more subversive because they know they run the show.

Monday, December 16, 2013

AH Pappy - oil on panel, 16 x 20 inches.

Click here to purchase. Just a few of the leaves hanging on this late in the fall. This was an unseasonably warm day and, incidentally, the day before a snow and ice storm. I had to wait a week for things to thaw before I could get back out to finish it. Here is a photo of the painting as I was working on it, about an hour into the session.

Monday, December 9, 2013


"Buddy," charcoal on toned paper, 9 x 12 inches. Here is another recent commission. This time it's a charcoal drawing on gray paper, heightened with white chalk. It's also a composite from two photos. I really like using a gray, blue, or beige-toned paper for drawings. You can "pull out" the light parts on forms with white chalk and "push in" with the charcoal. I used a little yellow pastel for the flowers.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bryant House

"Bryant House," oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches.

This time of year I usually get a few requests for commissions, which are a lot of fun since they often require me to get out of my comfort zone. I was fortunate to be close enough to this subject that I could work on location.
Though I'm happy with the way the painting turned out, this was a very difficult day for working outside. The wind was blowing dead-on at the back of my easel, which kept trying to tip at my face. I had the easel weighted down, but I was still having to hold it with one hand and paint with the other. After about 2 hours, I got to a stopping point where I had enough information to tighten things up from reference photos.
Not a straight line to be found on that painting yet.
My palette also tried to fly off the easel a few times. Between weather, bugs, and changing light, there are always hurdles when working outside. But I think the results are hands-down better than working straight from photos.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Visitor's Pass

Visitor's Pass”, oil on board, 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Sold.

I drove south on I-35 from Fort Worth to scout for a location to paint and came across this place on a county road. I pulled off to the side of the road, set up, and started the painting. It turned out I was outside the fence of some division of Halliburton, and they sent their security guard to see what I was up to. He was very polite and allowed me to continue painting, but after a while he came back and asked if he could register me as a visitor for the day. His superiors were paranoid about what I was doing there. Thus the painting's title, "Visitor's Pass." Pretty funny.

Painted with the earth color-ish palette shown above: white, yellow ochre, Indian red, ultramarine blue, and ivory black. All the colors in the painting were mixed from only these 5 pigments. They're similar colors to what Rembrandt might have had available to him (they did so much with so little!). As you can imagine, the blue + yellow doesn't give a very vibrant green. Another option to make green is black + yellow, which is still very subdued. I think it's useful for me to limit the palette like this sometimes to shake things up, so I'm not always relying on familiar mixtures.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Camping Cabin

Camping Cabin”, Weston Hobdy, oil on board, 9 x 12 inches (22.9 x 30.5 cm) $160 + $25 shipping (tax already included). Click here to purchase.

I loved the way the fall colors looked under the cloudy/overcast light. The structure is one of the little cabins that are spread around the campsites at Lake Bob Sandlin. I painted this while we were camping there.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New paintings for the beginning of autumn

Park Planter
Oil on board, 16 x 12 inches.
Click Here to Purchase
Here are some paintings from the last few weeks. They're all plein air pieces that were shown at The Grackle Gallery in Fort Worth last Saturday.

Arlington Neighborhood
Oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches.
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I couldn't resist painting this neighborhood. The way all the houses are jumbled up makes for such a variety of shapes, with slashes of lights and shadow.

Fall Landscape, Dawn
Oil on board, 12 x 9 inches.
Click Here to Purchase
I wanted to play with edges in this picture. I liked the idea of incorporating the old portrait painting adage of, "paint the hands as they appear when you're looking at the head." That is, using a kind of selective focus to mimic human vision -- to direct your attention to a given spot. I focused near the horizon and tried to paint the trees in the periphery as they looked with my eyes fixed on the horizon.

It's an interesting idea I want to play with more. I thought of it as I asked myself, "How would Vermeer paint a landscape?" There are no known landscapes by Vermeer, but he did paint two cityscapes. He was a master at pulling off this kind of work in his edges. William Paxton learned to emulate it in his portrait paintings from Vermeer as well.

Old Man's House
Oil on board, 11 x 14 inches.
Click Here to Purchase
A gentleman stopped and spoke to me from his car while I was painting this one. He said when he was a kid in the 60s, a prominent landowner lived in this house. The landowner told him, "call me Old Man ___" (I forget his name). So, I thought it was fitting to call it "Old Man's House." The reflection of the grass onto the side of the house was fun to try and capture. I really liked the dark mass of the house juxtaposed against the bright morning sky, and the way it seemed to be very firmly planted into the hilltop.

Friday, August 30, 2013

New painting, and a demo

End of Summer, Lake Arlington
Oil on panel, 14 x 11 inches
Click Here to Purchase
I did this painting a few days ago and took a lot of photos as I went along, so I could put together a demo. The demo is written and available as a PDF for instant download in my Etsy shop

I talk a lot about the importance of values in the demo. I find myself wanting to use much more restrained color lately and working to "knock down" colors from how they appear in life. I like the old-timey Corot look more and more. 

This was painted with a full palette. My first shot at using a limited earth color-ish palette wasn't as successful as I hoped it would be, but I want to experiment more with it. Maybe I'll do a demo on it too. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Landscape with Extended Zorn Palette

Clarence Foster Park
Oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches
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I wanted to try painting a landscape where the focus was on values, rather than on color. This painting was done using the famous Zorn palette: yellow ochre, ivory black, cadmium red or vermilion, and white. I had to throw in some Prussian blue. I tried starting without it, but couldn't carry the painting through without blue. The low chroma greens were mixed from yellow ochre and either Prussian or black, with various amounts of cadmium red.

On a side note, my ochre is Old Holland gold ochre, and it's the real thing (PY43, natural iron oxide). It's gritty under the brush and has low tinting strength compared to PY42. It's very different and feels like painting with dirt. Previous generations did so well with it. When this tube is gone I'll probably switch back to the synthetic.

The painting was carried out using the process I talked about in the last post: a few thumbnail sketches, followed by a value sketch on the panel (in raw umber this time), then the color.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Handley, etc.

Here is another painting from the Handley area of Fort Worth (see the others in my last post).
Methodist Church, Handley
Oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches
Click Here to Purchase
We had a few rain storms last week and I wanted to include some of the rolling clouds and clear skies. There is a certain clarity to the sunlight after a rain storm that just makes everything a pleasure to look at. And old churches like this seem to have a lot of interesting compositional opportunities.

Since it has been so hot here, I've been thinking about ways to keep myself from having a heat stroke while having the benefits of painting outside. In that spirit, this work was carried out in a few phases. I started with thumbnail sketches to decide on a composition. Next, I went out early one morning and nailed down an underpainting in a mixture of burnt sienna + ultramarine blue, to try and get the drawing as accurate as I could. Then, I worked for another quick session in front of the scene to capture the colors and values. Last, I brought the painting home and tweaked it in the studio to finish it off.

Breaking the painting up over a few sessions is an interesting way to work -- not only for the lack of sunburn, dehydration, and so on. I think it helped me to see errors I might not have noticed if I'd painted it au premier coup. Granted, you have to work to retain a look of freshness. To keep fresh paint on reworked areas, I scraped a lot with my palette knife and repainted directly on the panel ground. It's always good to rattle your own cage.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Historic Handley and Southside

These last few weeks I've been painting some locations around Handley and the Historic Southside area of Fort Worth.

Lancaster Building, Handley
Oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches.
Click Here to Purchase
The morning sun striking the front face of this building really caught my attention.
Forest Avenue, Handley
Oil on board, 9 x 12 inches.
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The above is a painting of an old Masonic lodge.
Historic Southside #1, Fort Worth.
Oil on panel, 12 x 16 inches.
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The summer here is a force to be reckoned with. I did the above painting during a hot and humid 4 hour session. Even though we've lived here for a year now I'm still not used to the humidity, and it's quickly exhausting to be out painting in it.

These paintings were done with a more limited palette of yellow ochre, cad yellow, cad red, ultramarine blue, cerulean or Prussian blue, and titanium white. I've dropped viridian, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, and red ochre to cripple my ability to make certain colors as high chroma as they appear in nature. I really want to focus more on drawing, value, and temperature shifts, so I think I'll continue with this palette for a while.

Friday, May 3, 2013

More Spring Paintings

Here are a few paintings from the last couple of weeks.
Old Horse Barn
Oil on board, 12 x 16 inches.
Lake Arlington Yacht Club, Sunset
Oil on board, 8 x 10 inches.
Click Here to Purchase
Things are really greening up around here, to the point that I think I'll remove viridian from my palette for a bit to avoid relying on it so much. You can definitely see its prevalence in the first two paintings. The "Lake Arlington Yacht Club, Sunset" painting was done in a very quick (hour and a half?) session, until I ran out of light. I'm planning for my next set of my paintings to include some cityscapes, but I'm still scouting out locations.

By the way, I've installed a shop on my webpage where you can purchase my work using PayPal if you don't want to sign up for Etsy. And if there is a work you're interested in that's not in the shop, you can email me to check on availability.

Update: Here's another.
Clouds Over the Lake
 Oil on board, 10 x 8 inches.
Click Here to Purchase

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pinterest for Artists

My Pinterest boards.
Pinterest seems to be all the rage these days. I admit, I was a little hesitant to join at first, but I've found it quite useful as a painter. I recently read an article about using Pinterest for art marketing, but I can't speak to that, as I haven't had much luck with that aspect. But, I do use it a lot as a sort of "visual filing cabinet" for myself as I run across images on the web.

In the past, I collected digital images of paintings I liked in massive folders on my computer, but that practice quickly became cumbersome. I had files spread out over a couple of computers and didn't really have a great system to retain the name, medium, or size of the work I found.

My Pinterest board of Corot sketches.
Thankfully, Pinterest allows you to link back to the site you found the work on (conceivably so you can access a high-resolution copy), and has a space for a brief description. On the downside, it's easy to burn a few hours while browsing.

You can follow me on Pinterest here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Making hardboard painting panels - part 2

Lately I've been using Gamblin Oil Ground to prime my painting panels. The grayish batch in the picture above is coated with acrylic gesso, though, after about 8 (!) coats or so. The oil ground is much easier to apply than the acrylic stuff I was using. It's highly pigmented, so you really only need 2-3 coats, versus 5-6 for the gesso. Gamblin says it's sound to use the ground directly on the hardboard without any barrier layer (like the GAC-100). It's also a lot less absorbent, so the paint retains some of its gloss and just glides right off the brush.

I can get a pretty smooth finish on these with a 4" foam paint roller. I watched the Gamblin tutorial on YouTube for applying it. The trick is just to apply it at the right consistency. They're ready to paint on after about a week.

Making these panels is quite a bit of work, but it's worth having complete control over your materials.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Making hardboard painting panels - part 1


[Note: this post originally appeared on my blog at http://www.westonhobdy.com in January.]
I've been experimenting with different methods of making my own hardboard painting panels for several reasons. For one, it's much cheaper than buying them: a 1/4 inch thick, 4 x 8 ft sheet can be purchased for around $14, and will produce roughly twenty-four panels in the 11 x 14 inch range. Compare this to Ampersand Gessobord, which runs $7.82 for a single, 1/8 inch thick 12 x 16 inch panel. (Though I do believe they make a fine product.) A downside is that it's a little labor intensive, but with the DIY approach and good materials, you can be completely confident you're painting on a high-quality, archival substrate.

What makes these archival, you ask? The method outlined below is basically the procedure given in The Painter's Handbook by Mark David Gottsegen, which is an excellent book that describes sound painting practices. It's fairly new and up-to-date. Gottsegen suggests bracing the panels to counteract warping, but with the 1/4" thick hardboard and fairly small panel sizes, you don't have to worry about it much. Otherwise, I've followed his method closely. A few points to remember: he says it doesn't matter if you use tempered or untempered board, which has been a long-standing issue for painters. In fact, tempered can really be better because it's denser/stronger. Also, do not sand the panels before applying the size and/or ground, as it "opens" the painting surface and allows contaminants to seep up into the painting ground. Lastly, to really seal out any contaminants that might be in the hardboard, he recommends [edit: for acrylic gesso grounds] applying a size (see below). This prevents surface-induced discoloration (SID), which is explained nicely here.

I don't own a table saw, so I've been cutting the panels with my router, a flush-cutting bit, and a straight-edge. This really produces a very clean cut. The biggest challenge for me was to find a way to secure the straight-edge to the panel without getting in the way of the router's path. The trick is to use double-sided tape instead of c-clamps (or whatever). Nothing sticks up in the way of the router, so you can make a continuous, straight cut. At some point, I plan to make a few jigs in common sizes (11 x 14, 12 x 16, 16 x 20, etc.), that I can affix down with the double-sided tape and not have to move the straight edge around for each side of the panel. That will definitely cut back on some of the time involved. That all said, here is the process.
First, mark the outline of your panel, and rough-cut the panels to nearer the size you want. I left about 1/4 inch border all the way around the panel (so, for example, if you're making an 11 x 14 inch panel, you'll roughly cut it to 11.5 x 14.5 inches). The reason for this is that you don't want to force the router through a lot of hardboard, nor do you want to have to wrestle with the full-sized piece while you're cutting it. I used a jigsaw for this step, and ended up with manageable panels like the one in the picture above.
Next, put several small pieces of double sided tape onto your straight edge. I used a 3/4" thick piece of poplar for mine. I put about 3 pieces of 1 in long tape, per 12 in of panel. Then turn the straight edge over and align it with the outline of your panel you marked earlier. Put the straight edge right on the line and push down hard to make sure the tape tightly bonds the panel surface and the straight edge. It's better to adhere the straight edge to the slick side of the hardboard, not the textured side. The picture above shows the straight edge affixed to the panel.

Update: In lieu of a straight edge, I've started using a cradled panel as a pattern for the size panel I want to cut. I put the double-sided tape on the panel surface itself, and stick that down to the rough side of the hardboard. Then you can zip around all four sides with the router without having to stick and un-stick the straight edge four times. Much faster.

At this point I flipped the panel upside-down and moved the straight edge so that it hung down over the edge of the table toward me, which puts the slick side of the panel face down on the table surface, as above.
Here is a view of the flush-cutting router bit. I use the 1/4 inch one. The ball bearing follows along the straight edge, and the sharp blade below it cuts the hardboard panel. This step is very messy, which is why I am outside, even out of my garage. Hardboard dust goes everywhere and is very fine.
Then, just make the cut! Be careful. You should end up with the above. The hardboard fibers are a little fuzzy after cutting, so knock those off with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Repeat until you have a satisfactory number of panels. I think I did six in about an hour.
That's four 11 x 14 inch and two 12 x 16 inch panels. The next step is to wipe everything down with rubbing alcohol, to clean off the dust and whatever surface oil is on the panel.
[Edit: Follow this step if you are using acrylic gesso, but if you are using oil ground, you can skip it.] Apply a coat of Golden GAC-100, which is a Multipurpose Acrylic Polymer that seals the hardboard and keeps any lignin or contaminants from migrating up into your painting ground or painting. This is the reason it doesn't really matter whether you use tempered or untempered hardboard. I brushed it on with a cheap paintbrush. This turns the boards a lovely walnut color. There's no real need to put it on the edges or back of the panel. After this is dry to the touch, apply a second coat. Allow the GAC-100 about 2-3 days to dry completely, and then apply the ground of your choice. More on that in the next post.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A few Spring paintings

I guess I'm back to Blogger again, after a stint with the Moonfruit blog. I thought it would be much more convenient to have all my pages tied to one site but it just didn't work out. They've been taking a long time to upgrade their sites to HTML5, and in the meantime my blog there was bug-riddled.

At any rate, I have been doing a few plein air oil sketches as we have had nice weather here, except for the pollen. 

I started this first painting with a few thumbnail sketches to nail down the composition. In a scene like this, I find it too easy to be overwhelmed by the number of details instead of focusing on the "big look," so starting with a sketch keeps me in the right frame of mind.

A Balmy Day
Oil on board, 9 x 12 inches.
Spring Wildflowers
Spring Wildflowers
Oil on board, 11 x 14 inches.
The second painting was done in intermittent rain, which was a first for me. Oil paint just sheds water, so it was OK. When the rain stopped, I just wiped down my palette and kept going. I also battled with changing light as the rainstorm rolled in. Consequently, the paint ended up being piled on pretty thick on this one since I had to paint over the sky color and distant trees to reflect the differences.