Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Summer Grazing"

"Summer Grazing" 24x30 oil on linen

     Just a quick post of a painting I did in June of 2015 of a vista of rolling Virginia hills looking towards the Blue Ridge Mountains.  My mare Gypsy was hospitalized at the Marion DuPont Equine Medical Center in Leesburg and this is the view that helped ease the stress of that time.  This week we were back there again for another hospital stay and once again I fell in love with that landscape!
     This stay there were mostly large, dark ominous clouds scudding over the fields threatening storms. The day we came home was brilliant and sunlit with a sky filled with white fluffy clouds just floating along. Thank God for places like this!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cloud Play

"Cloud Play" 16x20 oil on linen panel

     Many artists have locations that they like to paint again and again.  This is one of mine. Actually I have painted over twenty 6x8 studies, some plein air and others in the studio from memory. This is a scene I see everyday and as it is on high ground and fairly open it is easy to watch the changing sky and how those changes affect the color and light on the fields. This studio painting was developed from the plein air painting shown below.
     There are several exhibits looming in the near future and I think I will submit "Cloud Play" for one of them. This season is so beautiful that I would like to attempt another landscape from this property but next time perhaps the lower field and maybe a spring storm will be on the way. Time for a little drama!

Plein Air study, 6x8 oil on panel

Monday, April 17, 2017

Quick Studies

"From the Kitchen Window" 6x8 oil on panel

     I have a couple of paintings in progress in the studio as I have three exhibition deadlines to meet and I am finding it hard to stay focused when all is coming to life outside my windows. Last week, after painting in the studio most of the day, I was struck by how beautiful the early evening light was. I was standing in the kitchen considering what to cook for dinner when I changed tack and decided I absolutely had to paint that light!  I am so happy that I keep my pochade box loaded and ready for such moments. I had exactly the right panels tucked in the cover of the box and the one I chose had been toned with a wash of cadmium orange. Perfect!  So I spent a happy hour painting this tiny study, "From the Kitchen Window".

My process for studio work

     Studies like "From the Kitchen Window" have become an important part of how I work. Some, like that little painting, can stand alone and might find their way to a small works exhibit but mostly I like to keep them as references for larger studio works. I also work from drawn sketches in my various sketchbooks, most starting off from quick "thumbnail drawings" and then developing from there.  The above image shows how I created "Blues Alley" which I posted a short while back.  I like to carry a 4x6 inch sketchbook with me and just a ball point pen. That way I am ready for whatever scene might entice me. If it is something I feel I want to paint later in the studio I size it up on graph paper (scaled to the size canvas I want to paint)  and then do a color study (in oil) in the sketchbook I keep for that purpose. Those three things are my references for the painting.

Take a trip to the hardware store!
     In my last post I mentioned some new tools.  Here are some of the fun things I found at my local hardware store and that I am finding useful, particularly for larger paintings. Good edges, both sharp and blurred can be created with some of these!


Friday, March 24, 2017

New Tools, New Approach

"Yellow Sky" oil on panel, 32.5 x 32.5

          I began my art career (more years ago than I care to remember) as an abstract painter.  I worked large.  In those days a panel the size of the one above would have been considered a small work by me.  Working on paintings as large as 5x8 feet was physical and liberating. I enjoyed experimenting with the application of paint by using different tools besides brushes.  Lately I have felt the itch to revisit that approach to painting but this time I wanted to apply it to a representational image and this time not so large.

          Off I went to the hardware store and selected tools that I thought would help me create an interesting surface.  I selected a 3" wide, flexible edging blade (love it!), another edging tool which is a one inch wide wooden roller, and a 6" wide plastic paint smoother. I also unnearthed an old rubber brayer I used years ago.

           Next I did a color study in my sketchbook of a view I am very familiar with, it is the view of DC seen from the point off Daingerfield Island on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. I paint from that location often and working from memory I didn't get hung up on detail.  I used a limited palette of Paynes Gray, Alizarin Crimson, Vermilion, Yellow ochre, Naples Yellow and Titanium White. I propped the study up next to my panel and got to work.

          Ampersand gesso board can be slippery to work on so I like to heavily gesso the panel again myself.  I used both my wide gesso brush and a paint roller leaving behind the texture created by both. Then I pulled out my large brushes (2" and 3"), all my palette knives as well as the above mentioned tools and started layering on paint working dark to light. The water was painted almost entirely with the new 3" edging blade and palette knives.  The sky was worked from the top down first with the same 3" blade, then the brayer and the 3" brush. As the sky descends towards the horizon line the paint is applied heavier with palette knives and bristle brushes.
          I had a wonderful time! More to come....

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Warming Up

"Blues Alley" 20x16 oil on panel

        Like many of you on the East Coast of the US I have been enjoying the warm, early spring weather and that has been reflected in my choice of palette for recent paintings. This painting outside Blues Alley, a popular jazz club in Georgetown in an alley of the same name, was originally planned as a moody nocturne. However, I was inspired by the weather and chose instead to paint early morning light, sort of a "morning after" narration of the scene.

        In fact the original, on site sketch was created in morning light last May. It was a quick ballpoint sketch in the 4x6" sketchbook I like to carry with me. I didn't think of it again until last fall when I did a color study for it using the morning light from my sketch and then decided to shelve the painting until I could view the scene at night as I thought a nocturne would create a more fitting mood for the scene. Then flipping through my sketchbook looking for inspiration late in February I decided to go with what I had and add some atmosphere to the strong contrast of light and dark of the morning light. I am pleased with the outcome but I still want to do a moody Blues Alley at night!
        Below are the little 4x6 inch sketch from last May and the color study from the fall. I like working from these better than from a photo because they represent what was important to me in the scene, sort of a short hand of everything that was there.  Incidentally, I originally added the overhead wires in the painting but felt that they did not add to it and were just literal elements so I painted them out to  strengthen the composition.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Black and White

"Rain, Lexington Avenue" 16x12 oil on panel
     New York City is a great inspiration for black and white paintings. I really enjoy doing these as it is relaxing to concentrate on the values and forms just using a tube of titanium white and ivory black. Over the years I have experimented with different blacks and have also mixed my own chromatic blacks to good effect. However this time I wanted simplicity (just out of the tube) and the warmer tone of the ivory black.  For this painting I toned the panel first with a midtone mix of the titanium and ivory and then just dug in when it was dry.

      Needless to say this was not painted on site.  What I like to do when I have the itch to paint NYC and can't be there is go to Google maps street view.  That way I can walk up any avenue to whatever view I desire.  This view up Lexington was from downtown, I think I was at about 36th street. I wanted to go far enough down to get a good image of the Chrysler building which is why I chose Lexington Avenue.  I think the Chrysler is one of the best buildings in New York.  Of course the weather was my invention. The view on Google maps was of a bright, sunny day.  Once I have a general feel for the placement of the buildings I just take some characteristics of them and then invent. I have been painting rainy day street scenes for a long time so I can just create that on my own. The idea is for the scene to look right to a New Yorker but on close view they would tell you that building isn't there or that one doesn't really look like that. They would, however recognize the Chrysler which even though it is shrouded in mist was the reason for the painting.

    Here is the sketch I made before starting the painting. I did this from sitting at the computer on the Google street view I described above. It is the next best thing to being there!  I will be entering the painting in the 2017 Black and White Exhibit at the Salmagundi Club on 5th Avenue in NYC. I wonder what the New Yorkers will think of it.....

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


"Morning at Libby's Cove" 9x12 oil on panel

"Fog Lifting at Libby's Cove" 9x12 oil on panel

"Northeast Wind" 6x8 oil on panel

    The Annual Thumb Box Exhibit continues at the Salmagundi Club for the 108th year!  This is a REALLY BIG little show :-)  Both the Main Gallery and the Lower Gallery at the Club are filled with hundreds of small paintings no larger than 9x12 inches (image size). The show opened on Monday, November 21st and it will run until January 1st 2017.  The public is invited to a reception on Thursday, December 8th from 6:00 to 9:00PM.
    I am happy to say that the first painting above, "Morning at Libby's Cove" has received a "Certificate of Merit"!  I am really honored to have this painting singled out considering the number of really good paintings hanging on those walls! I am particularly pleased because these paintings were truly labors of love. 
     The first two paintings (the Libby's Cove paintings) were painted from memory. Like many of you I have "go to places" in my mind that I can image during times of stress to remind me of better days. This cove in York Maine is one such place as is the beach in front of the beach house we owned for 20 years on the Outer Banks of NC.
      The cove was my summer playground as a child. We spent our summers in a bare bones, one room cabin (camp as Mainers say) atop a hill overlooking this cove for the first 15 years of my life. This is where I first learned to oil paint and I could sit on the porch and paint the cove right from the cabin. Later in life the same would be true on the Outer Banks.  The house was much larger but the porch also afforded an unobstructed view of the ocean.

        My 15 year old dog, Lucky, was dying when I painted the upper two paintings.  I would not leave him alone during the beautiful fall weather so instead of plein air painting outdoors I painted in the studio from the images in my head while he slept next to me. I worked quickly with the palette knife and let the love of place come through as best I could. I will always think of him when I see these paintings and only I will know how much love is in them.