Thursday, December 31, 2015

Michigan Barn with Herefords

This is a barn in Lenawee County, Michigan, that I photographed the last time we painted in the area. Michigan is full of old picturesque and unique buildings and barns, many of them constructed of stone. This barn seems to have been abandoned and the Herefords weren't actually there. I added them because I like to see a little bit of life in paintings and I think animals add interest. I'll often throw in a cat or someone walking their dog if the picture is too static.

9" x 12" Michigan Barn

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Colors

I packed up the Christmas tree Friday and created a small painting of some ornaments before wrapping up the last of the decorations. I didn't put much thought into the composition; I only wanted to paint something that wasn't commissioned after so many weeks of painting pieces for other people.

This board had an olive green underpainting, which is showing through in a few places. I thought it would make the red pop. A little painting like this takes about an hour and is fun to do, plus it's spontaneous and loose, just the way I love to paint.

5" x 7" oil on gessoed hardboard

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Portrait of a Seven Year Old

I forget the name of this child. He is a friend's grandson and she asked me to do the painting for Christmas so she could give it to her husband. He has an adorable dimple in his chin and the pose is unusual.The reference photo was a poor quality cell phone picture but somehow I managed to make it work. I used an image editor to increase the contrast so I could see the form better. She told me what she liked about the photo was the ratty cowboy hat and the fact that he was sitting still--unusual for this child according to her.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

My sweet rescue dog-- proving once and for all that love conquers all, and there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Philadelphia Brownstone Commission

11x14 oil on canvas

One more Christmas house painting: a Philadelphia brownstone with the owner's Vespa parked in front. I think the scooter adds charm to this painting. It's the first scooter I've ever painted, although I have painted a couple motorcycles. This is another piece where I changed the seasons because the original photo showed some dying flowers and I spruced up the flower boxes and planters a bit.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Remodeled Farmhouse in New York

18 x 24 Oil on Canvas

This was another Christmas commission and the client specifically asked for the chicken coop to remain in the front. Maybe there's some sentimental attachment to it. I also changed the season on this piece. The leaves were already gone and they were doing some construction on the house so I added fall color and imaginary landscaping.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Special Request

11x14 oil on canvas
House Painting

The photos I received showed the house in the summer but this client wondered if I could paint their home in a winter setting. With paint anything is possible!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fall Painting from Photos

18 x 24 oil on canvas

This is the Schrade homestead in New York. They like their chicken coop and the pictures they gave me showed bare trees. I was asked to paint the scene as if it were fall and to add some shrubs because the home was under construction when they took their pictures.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Better Photos Equal Better Results

I'm pleased with this painting. The quality of the photos has a direct bearing on how a painting turns out, so when I receive excellent reference photos it's easier to create a beautiful piece. This house had a wonderful color scheme and some really nice landscaping. The owner also waited for a sunny day and took his photos when the light was at a good angle. A little planning goes a long way@

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Another Holly Jolly House Painting

This is a traditional brick style ranch home that looks like it might have been built in the late seventies or early eighties. Nothing special about it, although it is beautiful. The photo I was given lacked contrast and the plants were fading. The leaves had lost their leaves. I magically returned the leaves to the trees and brightened up the shrubs and grass, giving the painting a late summer appearance.

After I showed her the proof she mentioned that she might not want that little pine tree in front of the house, so I'll probably be doing an edit.

11" x 14" oil on canvas


Removed the tree. It took about three minutes. 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Tis the Season to Paint Houses

People love their pets. And I get that. Because I love mine too. This client wanted three of their dogs positioned near the home. Two fluffy ones on a bench on the porch and a beagle in the yard. I got the impression these dogs were owned sometime in the past and were being included as accessories, but beloved ones. Why did I think that? The quality of the photos of the pets was the main reason. They looked like old faded photographs from an album. Almost like a cell phone picture of a picture. You get the picture--not the best of quality. When I agree to include pets in house paintings I remind the client that I am only able to 'suggest' the animal due to size limitations. I think I'm spending too much time defending the two blobs of fluff I included in this painting. :)

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Friday, December 04, 2015

ARMORY SHOW - December 2015

The Opening Reception is Sunday Dec. 6, 2015 at The Armory, 127 E. Clinton St., Napoleon, Ohio. The show will run through January 3, 2016. This show is sponsored by the Henry County Arts Council. Please stop in and take a look if you're in the area. Hours are 10 AM-5 PM Monday through Friday.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Loving Lemons

When life gives you lemons on sale at Krogers for 99 cents a bag, you buy them, and if you like to paint- you paint them! Then you make lemonade or lemon bars!

9" x 12" oil on panel

Friday, November 27, 2015

Kate's Family Painting - A Surprise Gift for Her Husband!

Kate, who live in New York, recently commissioned a painting of her house as a Christmas gift for her husband after seeing one I had painted for her friend in May. She wanted her family included too, so this is what I came up with. At 24" x 30", it's one of the larger house paintings I've done but Kate says they have plenty of wall space in their new home.

Kate's House

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Final Painting Class

I taught a group of artists on Tuesday afternoons in October and November and the class ended with this painting of a swan. I am always amazed when I see the progress students make over such a short period of time. This session I had two people who had never painted before along with some of my 'regulars'. By the fourth class the new people had caught on to color mixing. We worked with a limited palette so there really weren't many choices.

This painting, on the surface, appears difficult, but the key is the shape of the swan, so I had them spend a half hour on the drawing to get the swan in the right place. The values are stark, and there isn't a huge variety of color so everyone finished in the two hour window.

I know some artists who have the painting completed when they arrive and do another demo in front of the class. I really hate painting the same thing twice though, so I figure out what I'm doing as I paint, and it's easier for me to explain WHY I'm doing it that way, because the experience is fresh.

Tuesday Painters
Sharon, Art, Cora, me, Diana, Cherie, Clara and Scott-(missing Donna and Angie)

The Swan (after I touched it up at home)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sophie's painting of 'moi'

Sophie has a lovely impressionistic style and I am in love with the painting she did of me for the annual wetcanvas portrait exchange.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Sophie, from France, was my partner in the annual wetcanvas portrait exchange this year. The photo she sent me had two light sources, a warm and a cool, so I decided to change it to one light source and eliminate blue from my palette entirely.

There was some violet reflected light in the reference that didn't add anything, so I deleted it.

I used a limited palette consisting of titanium white, cadmium red light, cadmium yellow light, raw umber, yellow green and ivory black. The absence of blue kept the portrait on the warm side and I liked the result.

9" x 12" oil on canvas

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Prize Winner

You never know what a juror will pick. That's for sure. A painting that I entered in a portrait show only because I knew my friend would be attending, won the top prize in the show. It's a painting of her, viewing a painting at Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I couldn't attend the opening of the show so she accepted the award for me. This is a picture of Char in a gallery viewing a painting of Char viewing a painting. That's a bit confusing and it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, which is probably what Char felt like when they announced she (I) had won!

Photo courtesy of Jim White 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chelsea, an Alien (I mean an Italian Greyhound)

A fragile and delicate canine! A birthday gift for a lucky mom purchased by her daughter.

11" x 14"
oil on canvas

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Teenaged Girl with Dark Hair

Another oil painting from a photograph of a friend's daughter. I didn't care for the T-shirt she was wearing so I changed it. Try doing that with a photograph. Well- I suppose it's possible, but it won't look painterly. ;)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Updating an Older Painting

Often I'll save a painting in the back of my closet, knowing it needs something, but unsure of what. When I have a few minutes I'll pull it out and evaluate it from the perspective of time. I did that with this painting, a plein air piece from August, that seemed a bit lackluster.

I decided it needed some signs of life so I added a few Holsteins and a fence so they woudln't run out into the road. I'm happier with it now.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tipp City Victorian Home

I painted this Victorian home on a paint out at Tipp City over the weekend. It was a complicated subject and I decide to add a trick or treater and her mother coming up the sidewalk when I got home. I think it adds a little human interest and makes the composition a little more compelling. Now perhaps I need a black cat on the railing as well?

11" x 14" oil on linen


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Teenager in a Volleyball Uniform

I can't remember this model's name but she came to our group through  a modeling agency and she did an excellent job with her pose. We don't have many people pose looking downward and her face was tilted slightly as well, making it especially challenging for both her and the artists who were drawing and painting her.

This was my effort. I will try a side view next time, where the light is not likely to change if she moves slightly.

16' x 16" pastel on Canson gray paper

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Angel in Red

Angel is a woman from Taiwan who posed in her wedding dress for our portrait group. She was everything you could want in a model: beautiful, poised and immobile. I created a 12" x 16" study from life, then using the study, I painted a monochromatic underpainting from the study and filled it in using color when I went to the life session the following week. There were other corrections that needed to be made, but the basis for the painting is a complimentary color scheme of red and green.
Angel in Red

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Plein Air on a Cloudy Day in Ohio

I enjoy painting outside on cloudy days for two reasons. First of all, the light is consistent. Or I should say it's more consistent than it is on sunny days, when shadows move more quickly and it's more difficult to capture them accurately. Secondly, the light is beautiful and pure on an overcast day, and there is little, if any, glare. My eyes have become more sensitive lately and glare makes it impossible for me to paint. Wearing polarized sunglasses is one option but not the best when you're trying to pick up the delicate value changes in a landscape.

This is a scene from Licking County, painted last Saturday. I was drawn to the scene when the sun was shining and I pulled over and set up my easel only to have the sun hide behind clouds just as I was ready to paint, Rather than move, I accepted the scene as it was--it was still very beautiful to me, just in a different way. Soybean fields attract me every year at this time.

12" x 16" oil on linen

Monday, September 28, 2015

OPAS Competition

This is the painting I chose to enter in the competition. I just loved the the composition and the complimentary color scheme. Unfortunately, there were a lot of good paintings and mine didn't win anything. The owner of the gallery did choose it to be left there for the show through November so maybe someone will buy it.

I didn't have a chance to photograph it before I put it in the frame.

I painted it at Pigeon Roost, a pumpkin farm south of Newark, Ohio.

11"x 14"oil on canvas

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Plein Air OPAS

This is the first painting of five I completed over a two day period in a plein air competition in Licking County, Ohio.
12" x 16" oil on panel

Reeves Farm 12" x 16"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another Painting Completed in Licking County

I'm participating in the Ohio Plein Air Society competition. this weekend. The sky looked pretty threatening this morning but it didn't rain, and I was grateful for that. This scene was painted south of Johnstown on State Route 37.

Oil on Linen

Friday, September 25, 2015

Somewhere Near Newark, Ohio

I was pretty happy with this, the third painting I did today. I spent less time on it and it is smaller than the other two, but I really enjoyed painting it. The sun was hiding behind clouds by the time I set up my easel but that didn't bother me at all.

Field on Cotterman Road
9" x 12"
oil on linen

Monday, September 21, 2015

Strange Stuff

I think it's fun to paint things I've never painted before. There's a challenge in matching colors and textures. A friend gave me some homegrown sweet potatoes a few days ago and I ended up boiling most of them but a few ended up in this still life. I'm not sure it was a wonderful idea, because they're not the prettiest things I've ever painted, but they are unusual, very unlike the ones you buy at a supermarket.

I'm sure I learned something from this exercise, even if it was only not to paint ugly vegetables that look like invaders form another planet.

I couldn't stand this painting. The sweet potatoes resembled hungry creatures from another planet and the pear on the side did nothing for the painting. I really learned a lesson about how important it is to set up appealing objects and not just paint something for the sake of painting it. I did have fun painting the textures of the sweet potato, but there is a reason you don't see many paintings of these vegetables, and the reason is that they are ugly.

Last night I pulled out my vase and the copper incense burner and resolved to fix it or pitch it. It was relatively easy to paint the offending pieces out of the picture and just leave the ones I liked. When I was finished I noticed a benefit of the pinkish underpainting under the vase left by the itinerant potatoes: a nice little sparkle appeared where the potatoes had rested, accenting the bright greens and making the piece more lively.

8" x 10" oil on canvas

Green and Copper 8" x 10"

Friday, September 18, 2015

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith

Another soldier, gone too soon, this one killed stateside by a home-grown terrorist. This is the final portrait I will do for the American Legion Gold Star program. I think I did the first one in 2007 or 2008. Some years I painted two, other years, like this year, I painted one and another artist painted one. These posthumous paintings are a struggle for multiple reasons. The references are usually poor because even though these men are deployed there is an unvoiced expectation that they will survive and there will be plenty of time for many more pictures, so there is a dearth of good photos.  Secondly, it's just too sad for me to stare into their faces for hours, knowing they'll never hug their kids, or throw a ball for their dog or even wake up and make coffee again. Their life has ended and the reason it ended makes very little sense.

Let another artist step in and continue this mission if it does indeed continue. I'm officially burnt out.

Here's Randall's obituary. He was a brave, handsome dad who will be sorely missed by his family.

April 16, 1989 - July 18, 2015

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Scott Smith, age 26, of Paulding, Ohio, stationed in Chattanooga, Tenn., selflessly sacrificed his life Saturday, July 18, 2015 in Chattanooga after protecting his fellow servicemen during the tragic events of July 16. Randall will be remembered by the heroic way in which he saved the lives of his fellow servicemen.

Randall was born April 16, 1989 in Paulding, Ohio, where he graduated from Paulding High School in 2007. Randall served with the U.S. Navy as an active duty logistics specialist on the USS Wasp in Norfolk, Va. for three years. Upon his recent re-enlistment, he was stationed at the Naval Operations Support Center in Chattanooga. He was responsible for the training and transportation of active duty Naval personnel. Randall was honored to serve on special details at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. His intentions were to retire from the Navy. He was also enrolled at Ashford University, where he was on the Dean’s List working on a degree in hospital administration.

Randall and his family were residing in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., and attended First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe, where they were active Life Group members. He was an avid sports fan cheering on his favorite teams including Duke basketball, the Tennessee Titans, University of Miami Hurricanes and the Houston Astros. He gave back to his community by serving as a volunteer for various charities including Stuff the Truck, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, cancer awareness and by providing rescue assistance during Hurricane Sandy. He also aided in the coordination of area Christmas events for military families and donated Easter baskets to hospitalized children. He always looked for ways to help others and was never one that wanted any recognition.

Randall was a loving and devoted husband, father, son, brother and friend who will be remembered for his sense of humor, “tell-it-like-it-is” personality and infinite love for his daughters, who were by far his first priority in life.

Randall was preceded in death by his grandparents, Hiram and Catherine Smith; and mother-in-law, Renee Thomas. Hiram Smith was a U.S. Army Korean War veteran. His grandparents were very influential in his life as they were his primary caregivers.

He is survived by his loving wife of five years, Angie Smith; three small daughters, Lyla, Eila and Kyla; father, Tracy Smith; mother, Paula Proxmire; and sister, Shawna Smith.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Still Life with Hot Sauce

9" x 12"
oil on gessoed panel

Less is more. That's a phrase we hear all the time in alla prima painting. How much detail needs to be spelled out and how much needs to be left to the imagination? It's entirely up to the artist and that's why fifty artists can paint the same thing and you'll have fifty versions of a scene, no matter what it is. Have fifty photographers take a picture of the scene and you might get some different results too, depending on the ability of the photographers, but they won't be as drastically different as the painters'.

What compels you to paint something? Obviously, it;s not always beauty, because looking at a bratwurst on a bun makes most folks hungry. For some reason, it inspired me; the burnt sienna tones juxtaposed against the blackened portions of the meat, contrasting with the pristine whiteness of the bun. I never know exactly what draws me to a subject. The pepper mustard was sitting on the counter next to the brat, so it was a natural choice. Would I throw hot sauce on it as well? Not in real life, but the shape and color of the bottle seemed like a nice foil for the other subjects.

My subjects were set up in less than five minutes, and I added a spotlight for drama and listened to an audio book as I spent a couple hours creating a painting.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Angel in Her Wedding Dress

Angel is from Taiwan. She moved to the U.S. recently after marrying her fiancee. She was the model at our portrait group last week and everyone was inspired by her beauty.

I hope to do a larger painting of her. This one is 12" x 16".

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Barry Sanders Oklahoma State University Painting

This is a large commissioned painting of Barry Sanders in his Oklahoma State University uniform. It was commissioned by a fan in Virginia for his 'man cave.' I used a couple different photos and then changed his right arm so the number 21 showed up better. I'll have prints available at Fine Art America next month.

Barry Sanders
24" x 36"
oil on gallery wrap canvas

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Low Key Painting

When all the values are pretty close in a painting there is not a lot of contrast. This is known as a low key painting. Why would someone choose to execute a painting in this fashion? There's a couple of reasons. One would be to emphasize color. Another would be to emphasize design while maintaining harmony. The low values can sometimes do both, and that's what I worked on in this painting.

The orange color dominates the painting but it doesn't overpower the rest of it because it's the same value. The composition is simple, but effective, as you can see from the black and white photo below.

Green Grapes
8" x 10" oil on canvas

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jamie, a Female Basketball Player

Jamie posed this morning at our drawing/painting group in her University of Tennessee basketball uniform. There is always something intriguing about every model. For me it was this model's eyes. I really liked the shadows underneath them and their shape.
20" x 21" pastel on Canson paper

Monday, August 10, 2015

Frey Farmhouse

This old farmhouse was built by my friend's grandfather in the 1930's and is still owned by the family. We painted in the afternoon because the house faces west and we wanted light on the front. I embellished the flowers but for the most part it's a good representation of what I saw and another unusually pleasant eveningt for August.

11" x 14" oil on canvas

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Plein Air Just Before the Parade

My friend and I set up our easels across the street from a couple of Victorian houses last Saturday. It's a nice empty lot where an elementary school used to sit and the city keeps it mowed, so it was really an ideal place to paint. I am always looking for spots like this when I drive around. Parks are great because they have restrooms, but they don't always have good views. In the country you can look for  substations owned by the electric company, sometimes with nice views of farms or farmland. And of course railroad tracks along unused sections of track are great places to set up too.

The day was sunny and cool, perfect for painting, but when we began to see people walking on the sidewalk with chairs and coolers I realized it was the morning of the Wauseon Homecoming Parade and we would need to move our car very soon if we didn't want to be blocked in, or watch the parade.

I had a pretty good start but I needed to spend another 30 minutes doing touch ups at home. This experience really proved to me that if you have an incentive you can get a lot done in an hour and a half.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Anniversary Flowers

My husband brought me some flowers for our anniversary last weekend. It's kind of a tradition that when he buys me flowers I paint them. That way I have a memory of them that lasts long after the flowers are gone. I waited a little too long to start on these, and the petals on the sunflowers had begun to curl. It doesn't really matter because I enjoyed the process and in the end that's what it's all about. If I ever stop feeling inspired to paint, I'll sell all my paints and brushes.

16 x 20
Anniversary Flowers

Friday, July 31, 2015

Charcoal Drawing

I took some photos of my son's girlfriend the last time I visited him because I think she is a beautiful woman and I want to paint her. I especially love her mass of unruly hair. This is a life size charcoal drawing I did today.

I want to try something different and use a gray toned canvas. I've painted on pre-primed gray canvases for some of my landscapes but I don't think I've ever used one for a portrait. I don't have any pre-primed so I'll mix some black into some acrylic gesso and go from there. I've seen some portraits recently with a plain gray background that I really admire, so I want to experiment.

17 x 23

Monday, July 27, 2015

Old Barn, Plein Air

prefer to paint outdoors when I have the opportunity in the summer. I painted this plein air piece on a warm morning in July last week. The farm has been in the Fry family for generations. When I paint I aim for a "mood" more than a photographic image. The painting should tell the viewer a little bit about how I felt when I viewed the subject.

I was feeling really relaxed and on my game that day, so maybe some of that comes through. It was a perfect morning for plein air and that always cheers me too.

11" x 14"
Turn of the Century Barn

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Light and Shadow

This is an example of a plein air painting that I began in the field and finished at home in my studio. I'm not always able to finish my outdoor studies. Sometimes the weather changes. Other times I spend too long on the details and the light changes so much I find myself doing what's known as "chasing the light."

For whatever reason, there are always going to be paintings that look great and need no modifications when you view them later, and there will be painting that need touch ups. Some plein air artists are purists. They won't modify a painting. Instead they will call it a field study and perhaps create a new painting using the study as a basis for color and value.

I'm not a purist. I don't want ugly paintings hanging out near me, so I will try to bring the painting to a place where it satisfies me. I've learned that I have to do this within a few days of painting the subject outdoors or my visual memory of the scene is likely to be gone. I also need a photograph if there was architecture or a building in the scene, to double check the perspective.

In this painting of a light post at Lakeside, Ohio, I knew I wanted to define the curves on the decorative roof accents and lighten the areas in the sun.

I'm displaying a photo of the finished painting, along with the photo I took as a reference to show the finished piece is not a photographic rendering. I maintained the structure, design and hues of the original and only used the photo as a guide to render the building more accurately and to place my shadows consistently. That's one problem with painting outdoors: your shadows will always move when you're painting on a sunny day.

Sunny Day Lakeside
9" x 12"

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Cozy Corner

Sometimes I have a painting that hangs around for a year or two and I pull it out and think this just needs a little more work. Depending on how the work goes it either ends up in the trash or in a frame. I like how this one turned out. I brightened the flowers and added a cat. It's a very 'cool' painting in tone and hue but sometimes that's OK. I often tend to go a bit too warm on my pieces.

I found this frame at, believe it or not. I didn't actually buy it, I just copied it and photoshopped my painting into it, but wouldn't it look awesome if I did put it in something like this? Frames can make or break a painting, and I have to admit I like the museum look. It seems to add class to ordinary paintings.

9" x 12"
Cozy Corner

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lakeside Hotel Painting

It was pretty warm last week so I focused on finding a place where the shade would be steady throughout the day. There are many mature trees on the lawn of the Hotel Lakeside so it was a good place to set up and paint.

I liked the contrast between the bright green shrubs and the pink flowers.

11" x 14" oil on canvas
Hotel Lakeside

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Marblehead Morning

I live an hour from Lake Erie and I like to go there and paint. I've taken many photographs over the years and this is a painting of one of them: Marblehead Lighthouse. The photo was taken from the rocks in the early morning light.

16" x 20" oil on canvas