Monday, December 29, 2014

Experimenting with the Cadmium Palette

I used to use the warm Cadmium colors all the time and they were always on my palette. As I became more proficient at mixing color I eliminated a few secondary cadmiums. like cadmium orange and cadmium yellow deep. I purchased some tubes of warm cadmiums for the last workshop I took so they are back on my palette. I have, essentially, re-discovered them. I now recall why I had them in the first place. It is impossible to mix the brilliant colors of the cadmiums and they are nicely opaque. Having more choices to choose from when you want to warm a gray also gives your painting more substance. (I like to think so anyway.)

I am not afraid of their toxicity. I don't eat paint and I am not a finger painter. I like to keep my hands clean so I just donĂ½ worry about being poisoned.

I like the glass vase in this painting and the random nature of the grapes. Perhaps there is a bit too much red overall but I did achieve a sense of unity and there is a nice path that takes the eye through the piece.

Apples and Grapes, 9" x 12" oil on canvas

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The terrain where I live in Fulton County is flat. To some artists, and I admit I have fallen into thinking this way occasionally too, that makes it unappealing as the subject for a painting. Because I am so used to viewing the ubiquitous straight horizon I used to look for any and all opportunities to travel to places where I could paint hills and mountains.

There is a lot to be said for the familiar and knowing how a place "feels". I've lived in the black swamp area all my life and there is a certain serenity in that place where sky meets land. The eye moves in a slow, thoughtful manner across the vista. No sudden and jarring growth draw our attention. Instead we are tempted to consider the beauty of subtlety.

I have my camera with me on most days and if I see an interesting arrangement of buildings or a beautiful sky I take a picture.

This farm is very close to where I live and the light was beautiful. What I really like about the scene is how "typical" it is of our little corner of the world. Typical, yet beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

Dusk, Fulton County, December

Friday, December 26, 2014

An Interesting Piece of Work

A woman asked me if I could create a painting of her fiancee wrapped in a Scottish flag, similar to an image she sent me from a movie. She said her boyfriend loves the movie and had always wanted a painting of himself in the same pose. He was being sent to Kenya for a tour of duty by the British Army in a very short time and she wanted to give it to him before he left.

I managed to paint it last Sunday using the reference material below, and I mailed it on Tuesday so it was a pretty quick turnaround.

I call it Flag Guy. 11" x 14" oil on canvas

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sunset Painting

I have painted a few sunset paintings en plein air. This one was requested by a client who had also commissioned a house painting. Her parents own a cottage in Michigan on a lake and this is the view they enjoy most. A small 8" x 10" oil painting with some fun texture in the sun area.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Still Life with Pears and Oil Can

I took a break from the commissions to paint something for myself. I wanted to jog my memory about the class I took a few weeks ago so I decided to use a complimentary violet and gold color scheme. I paid attention to what I learned and even though  I used two pears I varied their position and their color. I think I was pretty successful in keeping the painting loose and the brushstrokes varied. It was a fun exercise and really reinforced the lessons I learned at Huang's workshop.

Pears with Oil Can
8 x 10 oil on canvas

Monday, December 22, 2014

Murphy, A Rescue Terrier

Unlike Dudley, the Springer Spaniel, Murphy is still alive and her owner took a great photo with her iPhone. This painting was done in in two hours and Murphy's owner approved it instantly with the words, "You have captured her personality!"

Murphy is a rescue dog. I am partial to rescue dogs, as I own two of them. They are, it seems to me, more aware of the uncertainties of living on this planet. Most of them have been in a bad situation and they are eternally grateful to have a stable home with you.

Yes, a good photo is worth taking if you want a decent painting. So if there is ever a possibility that you might want a painting done of your pet after she has passed away, make sure you have some clear photos of her taken in her prime.

Murphy 11 x 14
oil on canvas

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dudley, an Irish Springer Spaniel

Another Christmas commission, this is Dudley, an Irish Springer Spaniel who passed away quite a few years ago. He is a gift for someone's sister. Unfortunately she did not have any good reference photographs so I had to use some stock photos from the web to paint the dog. It was a long, frustrating process that reminded me why I usually only do commissioned work from clear, well lit photos. This painting required seven revisions, including one request to put it back the way it was before. Oil painting is not Photoshop and you can't simply hit the "undo" button. I regretted the decision to take this on every time I looked into the poor dog's eyes as he stared back at me from my easel. The suspense about whether my next version would be accepted or rejected did not add excitement to my day; it filled me with a mild uneasiness and an uncharacteristic nervousness when I opened my email application.

Dudley was a semi-permanent fixture in my studio for about 2-1/2 weeks. The painting was finally approved and I have no idea if the portrait actually looks like Dudley or is the embodiment of what several people remember him to be. He is living with his new owner and that makes me happy.

11 x 14 oil on canvas

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Philadelphia Brownstone Painting

This painting was a commission and will be given to the woman's sister, who just purchased the brownstone. I had painted the brick building to the left very symmetrically and it did not look good. So I wiped it out and left some of the bricks out.

When you do a painting you can leave out all kinds of wires and poles and even garbage cans. That's a little more difficult when you have a photograph.

11"x 14"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is it the Twelve Days of Christmas or the Twelve Paintings of Christmas?

When I returned from the workshop last week I had three house paintings, a lake painting and two dog paintings to finish before Christmas. I knew this would happen and I was prepared for it, but it is still never easy to paint commissioned work fast. You want that luxury of time, but I am the kind of person who likes challenges. Luckily they were all small pieces, 9"x 12"and 11"x 14", or it never would have happened. They are done now, proofs approved and sitting around waiting until they are dry enough to mail. I can breathe a sigh of relief and begin to focus on our family's Christmas plans.

This house is in Buffalo. She wanted the farm behind it to show and requested that I remove the snowblower in front of the driveway. Buffalo had received nine feet of snow when this picture was taken, and the painting I did actually tells a story and is much more interesting than a typical straight on view a home.


After the Blizzard
11"x 14"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Third Day: Finally Understanding

9 x 12 oil on linen
Blue Pot with Grapes
By the third day of the workshop I was beginning to understand the process. I was happier with this little painting than I was with the previous two and I think it comes down to edges and brushwork. Keep the edges loose where detail is not necessary; allow the eye to fill in what is not there. This is actually harder to do than one might  think. We want to show and tell. We want to complete the line. It makes the entire process of painting still life more interesting and complex than I ever thought possible. I was having fun and enjoying myself with this one.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Here is painting no 2 from the workshop I attended last weekend

I added the bottle behind the copper incense burner when I returned home because the composition seemed a bit off. Composition is something I really need to pay closer attention to. I used to just throw random objects out there and if they looked good I painted them. I looked for a "thematic" connection and ignored the textural and size ranges for the most part. An important lesson I took away from this workshop is to position the objects intentionally, varying the size, colors, texture and materials.

9" x 12" oil on linen
Chinese Vase with Lemons

Friday, December 12, 2014

Qiang Huang Workshop

I attended a painting workshop at The Coppini Academy in San Antonio last weekend. Qiang Huang, an artist whose work I admire greatly, was the instructor. It turns out that Qi was a physicist before changing careers in mid life. So he has analyzed the painting process as a scientist would and narrowed it down to five basic steps: Placement, Value, Color, Modeling and Consolidation.

I learned a lot from him, mostly by watching him handle the paint and from his spot-on critiques of my work. He is a great teacher, which is not always the case with great artists. Just because you can paint, doesn't mean you can talk about it. He did a great job with both and while he was there he met with the owner of the Greenhouse Gallery and was invited to show his work there. I was very happy for this humble and unassuming artist.

This is the painting I did on Day 1 and I will share the others in upcoming blog posts and talk a little bit about the things I learned and why I think they are valuable. Everyone set up their own still life with things they brought from home or objects the school had on hand and it was fun as well as challenging.

I used 9"x 12"Centurion linen panels and a LOT of liquin (a drying medium), hoping my paintings would dry enough not to get smeared when I packed them for the ride home.

Grapes with Clay Pitcher
9"x 12"oil on linen

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Marking the Years

Every year I try to do a self-portrait a la Rembrandt. Rembrandt created a LOT of self-portraits because it turns out you are the model that is always available when you want to practice.

As we age the product is not always what we would want but it's still an exercise in creating a likeness.

This painting is small- 8"x 10". For some unknown reason I thought a brick wall would look nice behind me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Parker and Penney

Two rescue dogs from the same litter, Parker and Penney are inseparable. I painted this portrait from 5-6 different photo references, the best of which featured the canines cavorting on a pontoon boat! I get the impression they are QUITE spoiled.

11"x 14"oil on canvas

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reworking another older painting

The nice thing about oil paintings is that you can always go back and tweak them years later ifyou're not happy. I think this is possible if you varnish them too it's just a bit more labor intensive. I don't usually varnish a painting until I am very happy with it or it sells to someone on line. Then I like to make sure it is protected.

This painting was started in 2009 and now, five years later, I am going through my closet of "keep or burn"paintings and I rediscovered her. I decided she deserved one last chance before visiting the burn barrel.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

She Needed a Mate

It didn't seem fair to have her hanging out in the snow all alone so I painted  a paramour. He appears to be a bit self-involved. If a bird can BE in that state.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lady in Waiting

8x10 oil on canvas

So many times the male cardinal gets all the glory. I fin the understated elegance of the female cardinal jut as striking. When I really observed her colors I found many hints of violet, gold, peach and green in her plumage. She's a sassy looking little girl.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wash Day

Many thanks to Vincent Whitehead for allowing me to use his wonderful photograph as a reference to create this painting. I tried to capture that warm July feeling when the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

18"x 24"oil on canvas

Sunday, November 09, 2014

11th Annual Wet Canvas Portrait Exchange

I can't believe this exchange has been going on for 11 years now. This is definitely going to be my last year to participate. I have been in it from the beginning and I have too many paintings and drawings of myself now. I actually had too many a couple years ago but it's fun to be in the game. 

My partner this year is Jessica and she has been it a number of years as well. So I suggested something a little different and she agreed. We are just going to have fun with it instead of going for a serious portrait. I asked her to put on some makeup like a Monster High doll. These are zombie Barbie type dolls that all the kids love now. I even picked out one, Rochelle, that I found on line, and Jessica was all for it.

So she sent me her pictures Friday and I found a couple better references of this zombie gal and had a really fun experience mixing deathlike skin tones, instead of lifelike ones.

12"x16" oil on linen

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Art Prize

In October a group of us chartered a bus and visited Art Prize in Grand Rapids, MI. I have always wanted to go and I am so glad I did. Art of every kind and inclination, some of it senseless, but most of it grand and thought-provoking. I wish I had more than a day to see it because I wasn't able to see everything during the time I was there.

I somewhat agreed with the judge's choice for grand prize. It was actually the first ime the public and the judge's agreed on an entry so the artist of Intersections took home $300,000! It was an amazing entry, one that you really had to be present to appreciate.

This is a painting I did of my friend Charlotte from a photo I took of her appreciating some art at one of the venues.

I am using a lot of this pre toned canvas lately and I like it a lot.

12"x 16"oil on canvas

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What Is The Secret to Happiness?

I won't pretend I am going to answer that eternal question here but I will share a few things I have learned about being happy in my half century on this earth. This post was inspired by a friend who is going through some difficult times. I am not without sympathy but I can only listen to the same story so many times without wanting to shake her and tell her life is short! Move on. Instead I will vent a little here and make a plug for an organization I think very highly of at the same time.

1) Other people cannot make you happy. Your joy comes from within. When you focus on how you feel all the time and let's face it, many of us don't feel wonderful all the time, you miss out on life. Living for the day, for the moment and for the surprise of what is going to happen next is exciting. If life is boring it's because you aren't trying very hard. Learn to paint (seriously! I taught myself- you can too), join a club, learn a language. I am re-learning French because I plan to visit Paris next year. Once you acknowledge that you, and only you, are accountable for yourself you will stop trying to make sense of what the rest of creation is doing.

2) Helping and loving others is more rewarding than helping yourself and gives you a high you can't get any other way. I love chocolate chip cookies and I love eating them and I also love baking them. My cookies are exceptional. I have tweaked the recipe over the years and I know the exact ratio of butter to flour and how long to bake them in order to produce the perfect cookie, crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. What do I love more than eating them? Baking the cookies and giving them to others! Giving to others is a gift to oneself and produces instant gratification.

I volunteered with Compassion at a Christian concert Thursday evening. Three fairly well known Christian bands came together to play in a small town venue in order to raise awareness about an organization I have been involved with for five years: Compassion International. Compassion connects children around the world with sponsors who provide a monthly stipend that funds the child's education, medical needs, spiritual needs and makes sure they have enough to eat. In many instances this small amount of money, which averages a little over a dollar per day, allows the child and her family to rise out of poverty. It's a small price to pay for such a huge return.

There were more than 250 people at this concert, which was held in the gymnasium of the high school. 24 people signed up to sponsor a child. That is an amazing response, especially considering that the town where the event was held has struggled economically for the past 20 years or so. This town cannot support a grocery store, yet 23 people came forward and decided to make a difference in the lives of 23 children and their families. The sheer exponential power of their giving is beyond measure when you stop to consider it.

Happiness is a state of mind. I don't deny that there are medical and mental issues that can severely affect ones sense of well-being but I am not talking about those conditions. Depression is a very real illness that needs to be monitored by a doctor. But so many of us are mired down by the in-consequence of our own state of being. In  my experience, looking outward brings inner peace.

I had recently stopped sponsoring my Compassion child from Cartagena, Columbia. I was her sponsor for 5 years and we had a good relationship but she was ready to pursue a more adult lifestyle. I made a new commitment to a child this week. His name is Julio Cesar Ceverino Salas.

Julio is nine years old and lives in the Dominican Republic with his parents and three siblings. I am excited about sponsoring and praying for this new child who I will be privileged to help and encourage through the years.

I don't generally preach the Gospel here but those who know me understand that being a Christian is a large part of who I am, so I will leave you with this message from the book of John:

John 15:9-17 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Two People in a Portrait is Twice the amount of work

I don't charge double for a portrait with two people in it although maybe I should. I usually charge an additional 60-70%. Couples are just as hard to paint together as they are individually. I used a photo of the couple here taken outside in different positions and turned it into a studio type portrait. Yes, I even changed the style of sweater the woman is wearing from a heavy cowl neck to a round neck. I'm not sure that is something a photographer could do.

This was a lengthy and time consuming portrait to get "right". Changing clothing, position and background required some thought. In the end I think (hope) they were happy with it. The painting is a gift commissioned by an aunt for someone so I may never hear what the actual couple think of it.

Here is the original reference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Kosmo is a lovable German Shepherd who lives in Canada on a farm with numerous cats, chickens and other critters. His owners wanted a painting of him because he is getting older and his health is failing. Luckily they took some pictures when he was younger and in his prime.

Clear well lit photographs are definitely the key to a successful painting.

9" x 12" oil on canvas

Monday, October 27, 2014

Row Boats

Last week my adult painting class met for the third week and they painted row boats. The catch here was that they were allowed to change the color of the rowboat if the wished. Or they could stick to the relatively neutral sepia colored boat I gave them for a reference.

It was jun to watch their creativity come into play. As always, no two paintings are the same. They're not even close! Tomorrow is our final class in the session and I think they have all learned a little bit about color mixing and brush strokes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Leaves are Going Fast

This was painted at a friend's house yesterday morning. A blustery kind of day but she has buildings to block the wind.

When I got home I decided to add one of the horses I had taken pictures of to the scene. Karen used to breed Arabians, now she just keeps them and boards other people's horses. It's amazing how an animal (or human) can immediately add a focal point to an otherwise ho-hum scene.

9" x 12" oil on panel


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pastel Painting

This guy posed for our Saturday portrait group last week. He attends Renaissance Festivals on a regular basis and he dressed in his pirate costume.

This was a two hour session from life.

17" x 22" pastel on Canson paper

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Class Update

A few of the students taking my painting class tell me they are checking my blog for updates and are wondering if they are going to see their paintings posted here. To those folks I say-- yes! Unfortunately, we had five people in class last week and I only got pictures of four of the paintings. Someone had to rush away a bit early.

It's worth noting that they struggled with the same issues for the most part.
1) tree limbs are segments and they vary in width and length, becoming narrower as they grow away from the trunk.
2) a little green beside the orange will go a long way toward making the orange look brighter- without having to resort to using so much bright color.

Overall they had some good work to show and I know they learned a few things about color and had the experience of using a preprimed gray canvas board.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Golds

This lovely golden tree was the subject of my next painting for the class. We started with a toned gray ground and painted in the darks in an ultramarine blue. Then we attempted to match the values of a black and white photo of the scene. Finally, we placed the lightest lights and darkest darks. All in less than two hours. I am teaching them to paint fast and fix mistakes later. It's one method. Another would be to paint slowly and get the drawing correct the first try. I am still trying to figure out that method myself.

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Two Hour Painting Classes

I am teaching a two hour class at the Senior Center near my home on Tuesday afternoons. The students must sign up for four weeks and we all paint the same thing from a photo I borrow at 

Last week everyone did pretty good. It's a challenge for people who don't paint very often to start and finish a painting in this amount of time. I'm sharing their efforts here. It's amazing how different they all turn out. Each has their own personality. My version is below the collage.

 11' x 14" oil on canvas
Indiana Barn

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Little Ballerina

I was inspired by a painting I saw last week at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The painting was by Robert Henri, one of the great oil painters who dominated the field of realism at the beginning of the 20th century. He was one of the eight painters of a group informally known as "The Ashcan Painters", They focused on realism and real life subject matter, some of it not always pretty.

The painting I saw was of a little girl and the colors that dominated it were reddish orange and teal. I used the color scheme to make this painting of a little ballerina. My style of painting is different of course, but I used colors I thought he might have used: Venetian red, yellow ocher and viridian. These are colors I typically don't use too often so it was a fun experiment.

Here is Henri's painting and mine is below.

9" x 12" oil on panel
Little Ballerina

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Barn on Finzel Road

This is a barn on Finzel Road in Whitehouse, Ohio. 11" x 14" oil on canvas. I started it on site and finished it recently.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

6" x 12" oil on canvas

Another still life with fruit! The limes will become key lime pie shortly. The avocados are guacamole already.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I started this portrait from life at the Hyter Group, a portrait group that meets in Toledo on Saturday mornings at Common Space 2. Our model was Charlie, a Vietnamese immigrant who was into body-building in his younger days.

I had a pretty good base down and planned to continue it the following week. Unfortunately, I left it in my trunk at Oak Openings when I took my dog for a walk on one of the trails and something happened to it. At home, I removed it from my trunk and discovered tiny track marks all over the painting and also on a leather bag. Something, perhaps a chipmunk or a mouse, was able to squeeze into my trunk. Maybe it was attracted by the smell of the oils. I don't know.

I had to smear the entire painting into a series of tones while it was still wet to get the footprints out. So I decided to fix it and I used a cell phone picture I took of the model as my guide.

11" x 14" Charlie

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Soybean Fields

You might wonder what is so beautiful about soybean fields. I will tell you that I am downright distracted by them this time of year, especially in morning and evening light. The golds and violets are stunning. It is my goal to capture this beauty correctly SOME DAY.

As I said, it's a goal. I'm not quite there yet. The fun thing about being an artist is that you will probably never be as good as you wan to be; so there is always some unattainable goal for you to work toward. It keeps life interesting.

I used two photos to create this painting, plus a little imagination.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gold Star Portrait

This is a portrait of Sgt. Sonny Zimmerman, who was killed in Afghanistan last year.

Every year I do a painting for a program the American Legion does. They present the portrait to the mother of the soldier during a ceremony.

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Rework

Another found painting: this time it is a model who posed years ago for our local portrait group. I could never paint this woman's face quite right. I have a picture of her but it is taken from a different angle than the painting I did. One of the regulars who come on Saturday mornings takes photos of the models and brings them in the following week. I may have grabbed his instead of taking one of my own pictures because I couldn't find a matching reference.

I recalled how well the painting of Bathsheba went. I didn't have a photo reference for her either. So I decided to "wing it". I pulled up a Rembrandt painting on my computer with similar lighting and tried to fix this girl.

I am sharing the various stages I put her through, from beginning to end. I think this might be my second attempt at fixing this painting.

Something amazing happens when you throw the photograph away. You work from your memory and your general knowledge of the subject. My finished painting might not look exactly like the model but it looks much nicer than the attempt I had made at "painting a photograph." This is a general rule I've known about for awhile but it really sinks in when you see it in action and experience it yourself. As Judith Carducci repeatedly stressed in her portrait workshops: "Don't use photos- they kill your eyes!"

Painted from a photo-and not very well

Getting rid of distracting elements and simplifying values

Adding decorative jewery and cool areas to the skin tones and hair

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hope, an Oil Painting of a Friend

Sometimes being an artist means you have the ability create a gift that will mean the world to someone. Hope was a two year old rescue dog whose owner adopted her from a kennel and then spent a ton of money on surgery to repair her damaged hip. Apparently the dog became her best friend and protector for eight years. Hope passed away this year and the owner's mother contacted me about creating an oil painting of her. The picture she supplied was not lovely. It showed Hope in the treatment room at the veterinarian's and was taken from an awkward angle. I focused on her gentle face and beautiful fur, cropping out the background and changing her position a little. I have a Golden so I had a perfect model for the ears.

This portrait of Hope came together easily and I think her mom will love it when she receives it for Christmas this year. I love these kind of projects. 
Hope 11" x 14" oil on canvas 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reworking an Older Painting

Often I will not be able to complete a painting during the time the model poses. I painted this woman at the Scottsdale Artists School during an open studio session. It was a five hour pose and when I was finished I had a rough idea of the color, values and position of everything. Because it was such a complicated scene, I didn't have time to put in much detail. Flash forward three years. I am going through my older paintings, trying to decide which ones to save and which ones to gesso over and re-use and I come across this one.

I will gesso over a canvas once and create en entirely different painting if there isn't much texture on the canvas. Sometimes the painted underpainting provides a really nice element and complements the painting on top.

For this re-work I had no photos of the model since she had requested that we not take any. At the time Daniel, who is the general manager at the school now, was just starting his job as the model coordinator. He did such an awesome job on this set-up with the composition that I decided to save her and try to revive her. It wasn't too difficult to consolidate values and smooth out skin tones. I am putting up the old painting so you can see what she looked like before. The basic lines and shapes are there but the "finesse" was missing.

Now I think she looks like an ancient temptress so I have renamed her Bathsheba.

14" x 18" oil on linen