Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some Dogs Have Personality Plus

Moose is an Old English Sheepdog. This painting will be presented to his owner as a Christmas gift. I can't say it enough- the key to a great painting of your pet is a great picture, which Moose's mom was able to provide. The multi-layered hair was a LOT of fun to paint.

16" x 12"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Munson Has Great Presence

This American Pit Bull, named Munson, is owned by the Jordan family of Athens, GA. This painting is a gift for Munson's owner, and was ordered by two of her daughters. The photo reference they provided was great, which is always the most important thing. The dogs appears majestic and at ease as he lies on the soft green grass. His pinkish skin is a natural foil to the yellow greenlawn and I played that up quite a bit. The intelligence shining from his eyes is unmistakeable.

Wonderful dog... sometimes you just know when a painting will become a popular print order. I am so tired of Pit Bulls being demonized by the press. Sure there are bad pit bulls, but there are bad dogs of EVERY breed. Owners need to take responsibility for their dogs and train them. You don't keep a loaded gun in the house without knowing how to use it and you don't become the owner of an aggressive type of dog without learning how to train it and make it listen to you.

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Favorite Birds

Cardinals are my favorite birds. I guess because they are so beautiful and also because the father takes care of his offspring. My husband's favorite baseball team is the St. Louis Cardinals and the cardinal is the official bird of our home state: Ohio. They are also fun to paint.

9" x 12" oil on canvas
"Sitting Pretty"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm No Expert on Cows

I am not an expert but I just love watching them and when I am out painting and their are cows around happily chewing their cud, I get happy just watching them. I am NOT thinking about burgers; instead I'm just basking in their tranquility. They are such peaceful animals. We painted in Williams County last year and these cows were amazingly beautiful (to me). I took some pictures of them in the water and on the banks. I even snapped a shot of the bull when he crossed the stream to check us out. He figured we were harmless-- he was right.

This is a composition featuring a mother and her calf. I think they are Jersey cows, but I'm not positive.

14" x 11"
oil on canvas

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stephanie's House

This is a painting I did on commission for Stephanie K. She found me on Etsy. I ask to see pictures before I agree to do a painting of a house I haven't seen. The photographs are the key in this instance. They need to be well-lit and in focus. I liked the fall theme Stephanie had going with her house. It really adds character.

Unlike a photograph it's pretty easy to edit out the cars parked in the driveway.

14" x 11" oil on canvas

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Complementary Underpaintings

If you're an artist you are probably familiar with the concept of using a complementary (or contrasting) underpainting. I don't always do this, especially when I'm painting outside. I do like to use the technique if I am painting from a photo and the photograph is dominated by one color. In this instance I had a client commission a painting of their cabin. It's a beautiful house, set among tall pines on a cool mountainside. From experience I knew the green would overwhelm the piece if I didn't do a little prep work. I completed a loose underpainting in transparent red oxide before I tackled the color and it made a world of difference in how the piece turned out. The base color created harmony and also prevented the greens from becoming too "strong."

I like this kind of project because I have a lot f freedom. I choose the composition, I determine the mood and I am free to make the home more attractive- within reason. It really helps to have painted in many different locations and in all kinds of weather when you paint a house you have never seen. I am always gratified when the client tells me they love the painting and they don't understand how I could paint their house so accurately when I had never been there.

A few things I've learned from painting plein air: the colors are always more brilliant than they are in the photograph. Flowers "pop" in real life, but not necessarily in the photo. Little details like mailboxes and flower boxes are what really personalize the place. Grass is made up of cools, warms and lots of colors in between.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Sometimes I will take a complicated image and reduce it down to a few strokes and/or colors to get to the "essence" of the meaning. My friend took this picture of these boys when we were painting at a lake last year. One boy had just caught a fish and she managed to capture a note of jealousy on his companion's face when she took the picture. It is priceless! She loaned me the picture and instead of doing a full size painting I decided to create an impressionistic 'snapshot' of the moment and keep the focus on what I think makes the image so great: emotion.

6 x 8" oil on canvas

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Portrait of Dave-- Finished

I am finished with Dave's portrait. Can;'t wait to see what he does with mine. I will explain a little about my process when I paint a portrait from a photo. It is very different from what I do when I paint from life. I prefer to paint form life because there is no guessing about what color something actually is or how a certain form turns, eye color etc. Plus it is really more like plein air painting, as you have a limited time period to capture what you see in front of you on canvas and I really enjoy plein air painting.

So when I do a portrait from a photo I try to encourage the person to give me a picture that flatters them and that actually says something about them. I am going to post the picture Dave initially gave me and that I rejected. Here it is beside the one that I eventually chose as a reference.

Again, the one I chose was not necessarily the one that had the best "portrait lighting", per the instructions at the beginning of the WC! thread. BUT it was one I thought made Dave look good and he seemed to be in his element and enjoying himself. He had told me he fixed boats and was on his way to work on one this past weekend. I asked him if he would mind getting some pictures of himself with the boats. That's the look I was interested in.

I think the pose with boats is much more "Dave", but I would be guessing because I don't really know him. Very well. At all.

This portrait was a lot of fun because I got to paint Dave's wispy hair and beard. It is the perfect kind of hair for a wet in wet technique, which is what I always use.

I increased the contrast in the original photo to make the lights and shadows easier to see. I did the umber underpainting and after I had all the values pretty close I did couple coats of color. You can see the umber color is still a big presence in the painting and it helps harmonize the other colors.

This is a limited palette painting. I used titanium white, yellow ochre, ivory black, raw umber, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cadmium red light and cad yellow light.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Dave from the UK

Every year I participate in the Holiday Portrait Exchange at WetCanvas in the Portraiture Forum. I am a long time member of WC! and the artists there are like family to me. This is the ninth year I've participated and the pairings are random. You can state at the beginning whether you prefer to exchange portraits with someone in the U.S. or if you are willing to ship internationally.

I drew Dave from the United Kingdom this year. He is an interesting looking fellow with w fun beard and I asked him to pose outside after the first pictures he took inside a studio were too dark.

This is a 9" x 12" piece of linen canvas which he can trim to an A4 if he wants to frame it in a standard UK size frame. It will also be relatively inexpensive to mail to England, as it will less than 10 Oz.

Here is my initial underpainting, done in raw umber.

Sarah Posing in Costume

The Hyter Group where I paint each Saturday had a pair of new models on Saturday. Sarah was dressed in a "bonnie" green dress and an interesting kerchief. I think she said it was a sort of Nordic vintage look. Whatever it was, it worked for me. I found her fair skin and lovely red hair inspiring to paint.

If I want to be truthful, I am always inspired to paint when we have an interesting model who can hold their pose and who has made an effort to become something more than he or she is when he/she is not posing. I hope that makes sense. You can sense when the model's heart is not in it and on the other hand an artist can become motivated to paint better if the subject is interesting to her.

12" x 9"
2 hours
oil on canvas


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Drawing Matters

I like to paint so much that I often neglect drawing. When I was a child I drew and doodled all the time. As I grew older I lost the desire to draw and I immersed myself in earning a living. Then when my daughter was born the desire to draw returned. Suddenly I wanted to create an image of her that represented how wonderful and beautiful she appeared to me. That was 14 years ago and I am still drawn to create portraits, although I seldom draw them. Today I "cut to the chase" and execute my drawing as a block in made of different values. Line becomes secondary. I don't often think in terms of line anymore; it's all about shape and value.

We had a guest at our Black Swamp Art Guild meeting last month and she posed for members who were interested in drawing from life. It was a great exercise for me because it forced me to pick up the charcoal pencil I had been carrying around forever.

I discovered that I now draw like I paint. There are not many lines. The edges blend and the tones become gradients that connect to shapes. I think if I want to draw and actually make lines again I will have to switch to a medium like pen and ink.

This is our lovely model, Brittany- about 40 minutes.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Back to Anyo - the Final Piece

I am pretty happy with the way the final version of Anyo, our Caeroon model, turned out. I ended up using a lot of paint on my palette knife to go over the rougher edges left by the old landscape painting beneath her. Overall I would definitely recommend the process of "rework" if you have a quality canvas or board that can take the additional layers. I don't think I would put more than one painting over another, although my friend Jim had suggested he might eventually be able to produce a 2 inch thick painting if he kept covering up his disasters. I hope (know) he was kidding but I don't see anything wrong with doing the recycling process once.

The artist has to be aware of and know how to deal with previous bits and pieces from the old painting. If you're someone who likes to paint in a thin layered style this technique will frustrate you  greatly. But if you are someone like me- who likes to experiment, scrape and sometimes even destroy the layers underneath to create some kind of new craziness you will enjoy it.

If you have varnished the old painting you will need to remove the varnish before attempting this technique. I don't usually varnish my loser paintings so that's not going to be a problem with me. If I thought one was good enough to varnish I usually put it up for sale and it's long gone.

20" x 24"
oil on canvas over board (Pintura™)



Friday, November 02, 2012

Quantity Verses Quality: Is That an Equation?

Robert Genn talks about quantity and productivity this week in his "twice weekly letter". This is something I've always kind of suspected so reading his article just affirms it. If I could summaraize the contents in one sentence I might say:

You will learn more from actually making art than you will by studying and talking about it.

Here is Robert's letter, copied with is permission, and below you will find a link where you can go to subscribe to the "Twice Weekly Letter". I have been a subscriber for many years and he is a common sense kind of guy with a great sense of humor; an artist and writer who is competent at both disciplines.

Because this is a bit personal, I'm not using their real names. They're both about 40 years old.

"Jack" got a BFA and then an MFA from a Midwestern University. He's visited many of the major contemporary art museums and follows the work of several "important" contemporary painters. He's written articles on Philip Guston and others. He subscribes to several art magazines and is "the most knowledgeable art-guy in any discussion." After university he worked for a while in a commercial art gallery. He sometimes writes me long, well-informed letters. He's painted eleven large paintings (two unfinished) since leaving school. He's not represented by any gallery. He thinks you need to move to New York and "get lucky" with a dealer who "really represents you."

"Jill" took two years of art school and then quit. She pays little attention to other artists. She subscribes to no art magazines but has taken several workshops. Her hobbies include bowling and travelling. At one time she also worked in a commercial art gallery. On two or three occasions she's written to me. She's painted "approximately two thousand paintings" since leaving school. She's represented by four commercial galleries in four, well-separated mid-sized cities.

There's a great story in David Bayles and Ted Orland's Art and Fear. Here it is: 

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work in the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B" and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot--albeit a perfect one--to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busy turning out piles of work--and learning from their mistakes--the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

Best regards,


PS: "Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work." (David Bayles and Ted Orland)

Esoterica: Both subscribers Jack and Jill are thoughtful and enthusiastic artists. Art is central to their lives. And while success and "being able to function as a full time artist" may not be important to some of us, their current situations are quite different. Jack rents an apartment and makes $2150 per month (plus tips and benefits) as an airport porter. Jill works daily in her converted garage in a home she now owns. These days she's averaging $18,000 per month. She has "no benefits."

Visit his site and read more: Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Letters