Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Autumn Trees, Late Afternoon - oil on panel, 11x14 inches

Autumn Trees, Late Afternoon
oil on panel, 11x14 inches
Click here to purchase

This painting was done on-site as the light faded, late in the afternoon. I had to catch some of the autumn color, because it doesn't last long here. I was drawn to the way the sunlight raked across the grasses in the foreground, and how dramatic the illuminated yellow-orange tree was. It all made for a very striking effect.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Indian Summer - oil on panel, 12x16 inches

Indian Summer
oil on panel, 12x16 inches
Click here to purchase

I painted this during yesterday's warm morning. I ended up with a sunburn by the end of the painting session. We have very little fall color so far but I think it will arrive this week. At any rate, I was really drawn to painting those rocks with all their varied shapes and shadows, and the way the water gradated to a subtle violet color (which is lost in the photo of this painting, sigh...) as it approached the shoreline.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Waiting for Fall - oil on panel, 16x20 inches

Waiting for Fall
16x20 inches, oil on panel
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It is still very warm and green here as I'm writing this in the middle of October. I painted this in five 2-3 hour sessions, taking it out to the motif every morning this week around 9 AM.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mallard Cove Barn - oil on canvas board, 11x14 inches

Mallard Cove Barn
Oil on canvas board, 11x14 inches
Click here to purchase

I worked this up from a plein air study I painted. The plein air piece was just a little too "truthful" in its coloring, and I wanted something more subdued. So I started over using the original painting as a reference, and did this one using ivory black, titanium white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and Indian red. The black serves as a greyish-blue, and makes green when you mix it with yellow ochre. This palette did a better job at making the subtle colors you see when facing east (i.e., away from the sun) at sunset.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Autumn Heat - oil on panel, 16x20 inches

Autumn Heat
oil on panel
16x20 inches
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This is what autumn looks like around Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, where I live. As I'm writing this (in first week of October) the leaves haven't started to change color for fall yet. And it's still in the 90s for the high temperature every day!

Meteorology aside, I loved all these long, sweeping lines and exploited as many as I could to compose this painting. The reflections in the water were stunning as well.

I'm looking forward to doing some "proper" autumn paintings in the next few weeks, as things start to change color.

Monday, September 15, 2014

James - oil on canvas, 18x24 inches

Here is a recent commission of James, his motorcycle, and dog Buddy. It was a complex lighting situation to paint convincingly: James is almost entirely in the shade, with a lot of light reflecting from the chrome parts of his motorcycle; and Buddy is mostly in the sunlight, with direct light on some of his black fur. So it was quite a challenge to portray direct light, reflected light, and shadow variously illuminating parts of the subjects.

I'm pretty happy with the result and, more importantly, so was James.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mike - oil on panel, 14x11 inches

This is a painting of my stepdad, Mike, that my mother commissioned me to paint for his birthday. I worked from an older photo of him taken when he graduated from nursing school.

Mike's skin tones were painted almost entirely with burnt sienna, ivory black, and white. I used a touch of Venetian red in his mouth and cheekbones. Italian earth colors for his Italian complexion. Also some of Natural Pigments' Velazquez Medium for some of the really subtle value shifts, translucency, and impastos.

I had a terrible time photographing this painting and, as always, it looks better in person. There is something about the direction of the brushstrokes that gives his likeness much better in person.  It's painful when a photo eats your painting's je ne sais quois.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grackle Gallery Show


I'm happy to be a part of this show at the Grackle Art Gallery in Fort Worth, Sept. 6th, 6-11 PM. If you're in the area, please drop in and see us. I'll have about four new paintings on view along with the other artists, live music, and lots o' fun.

The address is:
4621 El Campo
Fort Worth, TX

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interior with Velazquez Book - oil on panel, 14x11 inches

Interior with Velazquez Book
Oil on panel, 14x11 inches
Click here to purchase

Another interior painting--this time of my living room. (You can see the first one here.) The living room also has a skylight, which makes for some interesting light in the afternoon. The light was "right" for about 1 hour a day, so I had to paint this over a week. Any passing clouds outside changed the light too, so that added to the challenge.
Anyway, one of my favorite colors is the red of those chairs. In fact, all the reds in the painting reminded me of some of Velazquez's work, which I had on my mind from reading the book sitting on the ottoman.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Clearing Clouds - oil on panel, 9x12 inches

Clearing Clouds
9x12 inches, oil on panel
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I set up with a paintbox in my lap, and painted this on a small panel the afternoon following a rain storm. All the sinuous curves and subtle colors were really appealing, and there was something mysterious about those luminous clouds, and particularly the light above the trees at the far right. I sustained a few ant bites on my ankles but all in all, it was a good day.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Armadillo's Hangout - oil on panel, 8x10 inches

Armadillo's Hangout
8x10 inches, oil on panel
Click here to purchase
Sometimes when I paint in this spot, I see an armadillo rummaging through the brush. He wasn't around the day I painted this, though.

One day I was worried it might have a problem (rabies? who knows...) because of how close he was coming to me, and how little he was bothered by my presence. It's usually not a good sign. So I put some music on my phone, which didn't faze him. But when I took out my trash bag to throw away the paper towel I wiped my paintbrush on, the noise of the crinkling bag made him run away. And I'll tell you, he could really run fast--almost like a cat.

This woodland interior was fun to paint: lots of dramatic light and shadows, warm and cool colors, and interesting shapes. I've always been wary to paint them because of how much variation there is, but since this was a small panel (8x10 inches), it wasn't too bad.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cove Trees - oil on panel, 12x16 inches

Cove Trees
12x16 inches, oil on panel
This is a great place to paint and I've done several paintings here. It's a somewhat secluded location, with subject matter that works from a number of different angles, and good shade. I liked the shapes of all the tree trunks against the water in the middle ground and the subtlety of the colors. I did this over two painting sessions.

Here's a fun picture where I lined up what I was painting with what is actually there. The colors are different because I'm set up in the shade, and the camera has a hard time correctly photographing the light and shade.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Roads - 11x14 inches, oil on panel

Two Roads
11x14 inches, oil on panel
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A bright, humid, sweltering morning. It was nearly 90 degrees by 10:30 AM when I finished. Painting in the North Texas summer is not for the faint of heart. The sky in this one is white hot and didn't photograph quite right.

Last summer I started doing multiple sessions at the motif to combat the heat. The first morning I would work up a detailed grisaille, which is a monochromatic under-painting in gray. I would use turpentine to wipe back some of the paint to expose the light parts of the painting, but no white paint. I would work out the entire painting in monochrome, making sure I had every element where I wanted it and that it was well-drawn. I would spend around 1-1/2 hours working up the grisaille, and in the following session I would add color for about another 1-1/2 hours. It was a weird way of working for me, but it fended off heat stroke, sunburn, and dehydration.

I think it's time to re-adopt that strategy.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Line Drawing in the Landscape

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.
I've been looking at some very early (late 18th, early 19th century), pre-Impressionist landscapes painted outdoors, like Corot's painted sketches from Italy, or these paintings shown in an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One thing I've noticed is that many of the paintings were executed on paper over a detailed line drawing, or at least planned out in a sketchbook, and I wanted to share some of the drawings here.

Line drawing and mass drawing are two ways of categorizing drawing. Line drawing shows form by way of the outline, whereas mass drawing uses chiaroscuro to show form. Harold Speed talks about both in his book on drawing. And of course some use both styles interchangeably within the same drawing, like the Corot above. He has described the terrain and branches with line drawing, but used a little hatching and darker values (mass drawing) to show the form of the trees. If you look at Ingres' portraits drawn in pencil, he uses the same technique: line drawing to show clothes, hands, etc., but finely rendered mass drawing to show the features of the face.
John Constable
Study for 'Flatford Mill' circa 1816
John Constable
Sketch of Shipping
Line drawing is really out of fashion, it seems, but I love the look of it. I can't find many people who do it anymore, with the exception of Donald Jurney (flip through the preview of his book at the bottom of his post) and Marc Dalessio
Frederic Church
JMW Turner
I'll admit I have a much harder time with line drawing than mass drawing. I think it's probably because of the precision that's required to put an outline in exactly the right place, without being able to "fudge it" by pushing masses around. These have a sureness that only comes from lots of practice.
JMW Turner
The National Gallery's website has an infrared photograph in which you can see a preliminary line drawing under one of Corot's early plein air paintings. Drawing directly on the paper helped him work out complex compositions and solidify the drawing ahead of time.

Looking through all these I feel really inclined to make drawing much more a part of my painting process than it is. I often just set up my easel and go, working out the drawing and composition as I paint. Good draftsmanship for a painter is like having a strong grasp of grammar and vocabulary for a writer, and it's something I'd like to continually improve on in my skill set.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

DWG Pasture - 11x14 inches, oil on panel

DWG Pasture
11x14 inches, oil on panel
Click Here to Purchase
There is a neighborhood here called Dalworthington Gardens that I've mentioned before on the blog; it has a lot of pastoral elements and I paint there now and then. People are allowed to have livestock and large plots of land, even though we're in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. It was part of a program created by Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930s so that people who worked in the city could retain a connection to rural life. 

This painting is of one of the pastures there, although I changed it up quite a bit. I saw the sunlight hitting that patch of land in the middle ground of the painting and knew that would make a great center of interest. I've been looking at a lot of classical painting lately (Claude Lorrain, Poussin, up through Constable and Corot, etc.), so I'm sure that influenced this work. The composition and color scheme in this painting are pretty classical to me. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lola - oil on canvas, 11x14 inches

11x14 inches
Oil on canvas (on panel)

Some friends asked me to paint a picture of their late dog, Lola. She was a really loving and gentle dog, so I did my best to put together a fitting tribute.

Here are a few progress shots from my phone. First, the rough thumbnail sketch I used to plan the composition.
Here is a shot of the block-in.
A little further along. I moved the tree over to the left a little to make things balance better.
I used some glazing and scumbling to unify the fence and grass with themselves. I know these progress shots probably make it seem like I work in a willy-nilly way. Maybe... But I do like to get something rough down first, and then refine it. And I also like working the whole canvas at once, rather than finishing one part all the way, then moving on and finishing another part all the way, etc. Working the whole thing at once keeps me from putting in too much distracting detail.
I painted this on canvas, which went slack as soon as I finished the block-in. Grrrr. So rather than risk ruining the work I'd already done by restretching it, I took the canvas off the stretchers and mounted it to panel. Ampersand has a nice cheat sheet for that here. Panels are much better than stretched canvas anyway... Being rigid, they're subjected to less flexing (from temperature, humidity, and careless humans) than a stretched canvas, which means less strain on the painted surface, less cracking, etc. Mounting canvas on panel gives you the best of both worlds: the texture and feel of the canvas with the stability of a rigid support.

Older works on panel in museums are almost always in better shape than those on stretched canvas. Did you know the Mona Lisa was painted on panel? And the Arnolfini Portrait by Van Eyck, painted in 1434 (!)? I hope I look that good when I'm 580 years old.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Marshland (Summer) - oil on panel, 9x12 inches

Marshland (Summer)
9x12 inches, oil on panel
Click here to purchase

I painted from this spot earlier this year, in the Spring (see that painting here). As you can tell, things have really greened up since then.

Dealing with an overly-green landscape is tough. I looked around to include anything that was not green. In this case it was the sort of purplish-gray reeds in the right middle ground, and the tree on the left of the same color (they're not showing up very well in the photo of the painting, sigh). And it  also helps to respect all the subtleties of different greens out there as much as you can. I think I had about 7 different green mixes going on my palette.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

End of the Trail - oil on panel, 11x14 inches

End of the Trail
11x14 inches, oil on panel
My turpentine/oil/varnish-based painting medium attracted a lot of bees the day I painted this. I think they like the sweet, pine smell of the turpentine. I like it too when I'm outside, but it's too fumey for me to use indoors. Bees swarming around your head while you paint isn't ideal either...
Gamblin's Galkyd is nice, but it is too thick right out of the bottle for my liking, so I have to dilute it by about 1/3 with OMS. Another issue is that it doesn't dry as glossy as the turps/varnish/oil medium. Galkyd Lite is a good viscosity but it dries matte. They both tack up on the palette a little too fast when I use them outdoors.

I've also been experimenting with a 1:1 mix of OMS and cold-pressed linseed oil as a medium, which I dilute with more OMS in the lay-in stage, and use undiluted later on. It's very low viscosity and retains some gloss, plus has a reasonable dry time. I really like the smell of linseed oil too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Painting in Far West Texas

Here are a few paintings from a recent trip to far West Texas (Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis, etc.). They're different from the subject matter I'm used to working on, but it was nice to stretch out and paint some sweeping vistas with a lot of distance. The trade-off, of course, was the risk of being attacked by a javelina, rattlesnake, wild turkey, bobcat, etc. I also lost some painting time to bad weather, when a cold front blew in and I didn't have a heavy enough jacket with me to go out and work for a day and a half. But I still had a lot of fun and got some good paintings.
Davis Mountains. Oil on panel, 16x20 inches. $480, unframed. Click here to purchase.

I pulled off to the side of the road to paint this first one. I liked the way the mountains stacked in front of one another in receding planes. There was a lot of dust in the air, and you could really see it in long distances.
Cliff Fronts in Davis Mountains. Oil on panel, 11x14 inches. $200, unframed. Click here to purchase.

There were so many subtle hue and tone changes in this rock face, it would have been impossible/pointless to capture them all on a small panel in a single session. So I shot for the overall effect. I put down a warm color, let that mostly dry; then I dragged cooler color over it, letting some of the warm color show through. It gives the illusion of detail without putting much detail in.

The next day we went to Presidio, TX, near the Mexican border. In fact, if you cross over the bridge spanning the Rio Grande in Presidio, you are in Ojinaga, Mexico. The landowner of this place said it was originally a slaughterhouse for cattle, a "long, long time ago." Some horses from the field behind took shade in the ruins while I was painting.
Slaughterhouse Ruins Near Presidio. Oil on panel, 11x14 inches. $200, unframed. Click here to purchase.

Later in the day, still in Presidio, I painted these buildings. Love an opportunity to put a deep red like this in a landscape. Presidio also had some purple prickly pear cacti, which I'd never seen before, but unfortunately I didn't have time to paint any.
Presidio Buildings. Oil on panel, 12x9 inches. $200, unframed. Click here to purchase.

The next morning I painted this huge tree at a rest stop. The trunk was probably 5 ft in diameter.
Ancient Tree. Oil on panel, 11x14 inches. $200, unframed. Click here to purchase.

In the afternoon I went out near Mitre Peak, which is a 6000' tall mountain. I was down in a valley with large rock formations all around me. I could hear a gust of wind coming from a long way off and was able to brace for it, holding my easel and palette down. The wind was a little rough.
Near Mitre Peak. Oil on panel, 12x16 inches. $300, unframed. Click here to purchase.

I had a hunch I should bring a tube of Williamsburg Naples Yellow with me, and it really came in handy. It was perfect for mixing the yellowish color of grass in sunlight and it's all over these paintings.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below!

Prints Now Available

I've started selling prints of my paintings through ImageKind. You can purchase those here. I think they're a great option if you enjoy my work but aren't quite ready to purchase an original piece.

They're very reasonably priced, starting at $18 for the print alone, and going up from there for larger sizes and adding framing options. ImageKind handles all the printing, framing, payment, and shipment. Let me know in the comments or by emailing me if there is a painting I've left off you're interested in having printed. I'll try to get more uploaded in the next few days, and to change the default profile picture from their funny Justin Bieber avatar:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Room - oil on panel, 18x24 inches

You can buy this painting here. $650 + $25 shipping, unframed, no additional fees. My wife made a quilt for our bed a while back, and she chose a lot of the other colors to decorate our bedroom. I really love how the skylight illuminates the room with a diffuse, cool light in the mid-morning and gives everything a pleasant color harmony. I've been wanting to paint it for a while, but just got around to it since it's been too windy to paint outside lately. In a way I thought I could show her craft, using mine.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Red Flowers - oil on panel, 8x10 inches

You can buy this painting here. $120 + $25 shipping, unframed, no additional fees. We got a little rainfall yesterday, and the lingering humidity left a fog over the landscape all morning. By the time I painted this, the sun was shining full-force from behind these trees, but you could still see some of the fog in the distance. I noticed these little red flowers in the right foreground, in defiance of all the green.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Above the Pond - oil on panel, 10x14 inches

$250 + $25 shipping, unframed, no additional costs. You can buy this painting here. It's fun doing a design like this with so many squiggly lines (technical term) and nothing parallel to the frame. The color harmony in this picture is also different for me, but I painted it as I saw it. I think after a while you just start to see things differently.

I've been trying to really increase my output lately, so there has been plenty of opportunity for exploration. I approach the next painting with ideas fresh in my mind about the previous one, and that on its own can produce interesting results. Sometimes the end of one painting is a launch point for another, and you can refine your thinking or continue an idea on new work. As Neil Young says, "It's all one song." I've been putting mileage on my brushes and using a lot of paint, and progress is being made. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mallard Cove - oil on panel, 9x12 inches

$160 + $25 shipping, unframed, no additional costs. You can buy this painting here. This one was a lot of fun, with the abstract pattern of reflections on the water. I'm still fighting with the Spring greens. The sorta chartreuse color of the new-growth grass isn't easy to live with, so I try to paint it a tamer color than it actually is. Here's an action shot:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

She Was Born on the 4th of July - oil on panel, 8x10 inches

Click here to purchase. Just like the John Prine song says. We finally had a sunny day with minimal wind, and I saw this house with its strong, geometric light and shadow shapes. This is a pretty small painting, only 8x10 inches, and I had to do a lot with the palette knife. I dragged little bits of paint and texture over the bush and grass in the foreground so it would sparkle.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Quietude - oil on panel, 8x12 inches

Click here to purchase. Gray days give such a nice color harmony, since everything is enveloped in a diffuse, silvery light. There are a lot of opportunities to play with subtlety, and I think this painting is an exercise in that.