Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wishing You
A warm and happy
Holiday Season
and a
Wonderful 2014! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When the weather outside is frightful

The studio's delightful. So as long as I've plenty of paint, goin' out in the rain I ain't.

Farmhouse, second pass
I was able to get enough good photos of fall color to keep me busy for a while. One that I got last month was this old farmhouse a few miles away that happens to be a great u-pick farm and regional produce store. This is the second painting I did from the photo, because the first was just way too dull for my taste. I guess I'm just going to be doing at least two paintings of everything from now on: if you want it nice, paint it twice! The first (below) for exploring colors, and the second to loosen up and see what happens. Maybe I'm just better at painting on paper.

Farmhouse, first pass
I also tried the smallest canvas landscape I've ever done. I really don't see how people do 6x6's and 6x8's. I don't know why an 8x10 canvas seems so much smaller than an 8x10 piece of paper, but it does. Unfortunately I have a lot of these tiny canvases, so I'll be getting more practice.

Afternoon Trees

I am finding that I really do like painting trees, and of course, clouds.

Love my Oregon—even in the wet season.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Busy collecting photos to paint this winter

Every artist needs a crappy old barn to paint. :-)

Grape arch on the barn gate
I had to stop painting (except for a couple little ones I don't have photos of yet) to get caught up on my garden chores for the fall. Got to do the first fall pass of weeding because they're about to bloom. Yes, weeds bloom in the fall and winter, even when it's freezing. That's how they get the jump on you in the spring. Must. Destroy. Weeds. Anyway, I've also been collecting photos in and out of my garden to paint in the studio, when the thermometer goes South and I'm stuck inside.

Afternoon sunbreak
Last Sunday after showers all morning, the sun came out for this fantastic display of why I love living in Oregon. Wow.

I've made a couple local trips to shoot fall color and old barns and landscapes, which will be showing up on here in the next few months, I hope.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two more cloud paintings, this time with landscapes

Afternoon Light

Hooray! The good weather came back for a really nice fall spell. The good news is that I got outside to paint again. The bad news is that I have to take time now to do as much work in my garden as I can, because when this good weather ends, that's most likely the end of it for this year. But I did get out for a few more plein air sessions, and chose to spend them in the northeast corner, looking at a bigger view. (I gave up on the ligularias for now. I'll play with them more in the studio this winter and see if I can make anything out of it. I did get good photos of the leaves while they and the flowers were still looking good, but I know when I'm in over my head.)

I set up in the new spot three days in a row at the same time each afternoon, and the clouds I painted were there on the first day. The first day I came away with what looked like an unfinished underpainting sketch. The second day I turned it into the ultimate in banal mediocrity, truly awful, laden with superfluous detail; it fairly screamed "Bleah!" The third day I attacked it with a larger brush and the intent to loosen it up, make more of the larger shapes, and force myself to go faster so I didn't overwork any of it. Ta-da! Success! It came back to life with a sigh of relief.

But when I looked at it again in the studio, there was a problem—the sky and the ground looked like two separate, unconnected paintings. It took me a couple days to figure out that it was a color issue. I had painted the clouds pure white because that's how they'd looked early in the afternoon when I started on the first day. But by the time I got around to painting the house and trees, I was seeing warmer, late afternoon light on the house, and trying to get the fall colors in the trees. So the sky looked cool, but everything else looked warm. In the studio, I painted over the clouds with the same pale yellow of the house, and that pulled the two parts of the painting together like a good zipper—it was one image now. But the next day I wasn't quite happy with the yellow; I was unable to recall ever having seen pure yellow clouds. So I tried pale yellow orange, and after I did the clouds, I used the same color to warm up the house a little bit. And that seemed to finally do it.

Clouds #12
I tried one more little cloud painting that week, this time on an 8x10 canvas panel. It was an exceptionally beautiful bunch of clouds—for about 3 minutes—then a huge gray mass blew in from the north to cover the whole sky, and it began drizzling. I took shelter under my woodshed overhang and kept trying to paint what I thought I had seen. Fortunately, I had my camera with me and had taken a shot right before I started painting. When I got back in the studio and looked at the photo, I hadn't even come close to getting the cloud shapes, so on the next day while it was raining, I tried doing a studio painting over the same panel from the photo. Like the other plain air painting above, it was awful. I tried two different color schemes for the clouds, and they were even worse. So I decided (a) it was too detailed, and (b) I'm no good (at least not yet) at making up cloud color schemes. I searched through my photos for an authentic color source for the clouds and, again, took a larger brush and worked over the painting as fast as I could, not worrying about the brushstrokes but just trying to get the colors and values right. Again, that approach gave me a much better painting. Not great, but not awful, either.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Big Sunset

Winter Sunset

Last week I was working inside for a few stormy days. I've had a big figure study sitting on my easel for about a year that I finally gave up on, and decided to see if I could have fun painting a big cloud painting on it instead. The reference was a photograph I got early last winter of a particularly colorful sunset, taken from here in my yard.

I did have a lot of fun painting it, because thanks to my back-yard cloud painting this summer I was able to keep it loose and relaxed. I worked on it for three days and spent a fair part of that time working out the landscape at the bottom. I wanted to have it create a setting for the view without competing or conflicting with it. This was the most vibrantly colored sunset I've ever painted, and it was fun working out how to get the right colors. When looking at the darks of the clouds in the photograph, I at first thought they had violet in them, but when I carefully analyzed them, I found out I could most closely match them with a mix of Napthol red and medium gray. That was a surprise. I never used grays much before I started doing clouds this year. Turns out they're pretty useful.

I spent most of this last weekend expanding and improving my Etsy shop. I've put up almost all my available works, from my small matted landscapes to my big ink abstracts. For now I'm focusing on my paintings, and I'll be adding more as I complete more works and figure out how I want to ship the large stretched canvases that I have. I'm not doing much with glass for now, but as I do more of the mobiles this winter, those will go up there too.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back in the studio

The rains have arrived and I'm back to painting inside. It's pretty windy out there too, right now. There may be more painting weather the end of this week, but for now it's back to the studio. This one is from a photo of the phlox at the height of their bloom in August. They lean against the veggie garden fence to get as much of the east-side sun as possible.

I worked on this one a couple of sessions, and tried to keep it as loose and relaxed as possible.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A fantastic cloud-painting day

What a day it was yesterday! We had a good little rain at lunchtime, then mixed clouds and sunshine through evening. I went out with my paints at 4:30 and the clouds looked good, so I made a cloud painting.

Clouds #9

Just as I was finishing it, the clouds went into a more beautiful arrangement. I thought, why not? and took the first one up to the house and started a second.

Clouds #10

And when I finished that one, they were even more dramatic, so I went on to a third. I could tell I was getting tired by then, this one looks more imaginary.

Clouds #11

After I finished the paintings, the light was going dim but the sky was still bright and the clouds were gleaming gold. I stayed down in the garden, picked some fruit, and walked the fence, taking photographs as the evening came.

This morning I'm thinking about how the good one happened, and it’s all so uncontrollable. The only thing your thinking mind can do is set you up for success and then get out of the way. It’s how much paint you have on your brush, it’s the momentary, constantly changing mix of colors on your palette, and what sequence you make the brush strokes in. It’s all those things you can’t possibly keep track of, so you stop thinking, and just let your intuition guide you. And stop painting, the first moment you can, so you don’t ruin the good stuff you’ve made.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slow progress

After 5th session
It turns out that I picked a really difficult subject in this ligularia and the complex background behind it, but I am slowing making progress. Good thing, because the nice days of painting outside are coming to an end soon. The things that make the ligularia a really choice subject are the same things that make it really a bugger to paint—those big, reflective, undulating leaves, with their visible veins. They're a lot like painting drapery, they are so smooth and curvy and show so many different shades and hues of reflected light, and I have pretty much no experience whatsoever painting drapery. But today I felt like I finally found a good mix of colors to use for the background. The painting is a long way from done still—especially the ligularia leaves—but at least I like the mix and general arrangement of colors.

My previous experiences doing plein air painting, before I started painting in my garden, were with groups who would drive somewhere, paint for a few hours, then leave and come home. I wasn't anywhere near good enough nor quick enough to paint anything worth keeping, so it became ultimately something I had no interest in doing. However, being able to go out almost every day to the same spot and work, not have to schlep the larger pieces of equipment, and be able to take some amenities out with me, like my ipod loaded up with great music, is so different it doesn't even seem comparable. I really enjoy my sessions outside. I always give myself the first five minutes or so to relax, settle into the garden, and remember how much I love being outside in it on nice days. That always puts me in a good mood, and then I start looking at the painting, looking for where I can make headway on it that day. Although I never would have tried the ligularia if I had realized how long it was going to take me, at my stage there is no painting that doesn't help my skills, no matter how slow it goes.

As my summer painting winds down to its inevitable end, it seems that I've learned a fair bit about what colors my plants show in outdoor light, and I expect that knowledge to improve my studio painting this winter. I've had so much fun doing this I'm going to really miss it when it gets cold, and I'll really be looking forward to being able to go out again when the weather gets friendly enough next spring or summer.

Clouds #8

This cloud painting I did two days ago. I got a late start and as a result, got to see some sunset hues on parts of the cloud masses.

Outdoor setup

I'm including a photo of my setup, luxurious as it is. The cloth chair with foam padding in the seat and back is one of the most comfortable outdoor chairs I've ever had, and it makes a great painting seat. The purple bucket on the ground is what I use to carry paints, water, brushes and paper towels down from the house. It works great.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Redeemed by color

I have a small canvas panel that I worked on a couple different times last winter, trying to portray bright sun on an early winter morning, but I couldn't get it to look any way that was pleasing to me. I couldn't go out painting this afternoon, it was too breezy and too darkly overcast—yep, fall is coming soon—and I was desperate to play with my paints, so I picked it up and decided to paint over it with a wide brush and the same colors I'd been using, for the most part. The only color substitution I made was a blue violet for red violet, but I also used a lot more yellow than I did before.

I finally like it! I like it for the simplicity, and for the colors, and for the feeling of it.

It's a little scary to think that I can't get through a quiet afternoon without painting, but, oh well...be careful what you ask for. I feel much better now.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The leftover paint paintings

Once again I finished up my main painting session with way too much paint to throw away, so I got my 12x16 canvas pad and used up the paint having as fun as possible. I decided to paint what was right in front of me, in as loose and abstract a style as I could. I was thinking of Joan Mitchell. I did add a couple more colors than I already had on the palette.

Is it a teapot? Is it a ship? Nope—it's the three young firs growing up in my neighbor's pasture. Every year they get two or three feet taller and are already blocking parts of a view I used to have. At the same time I'm lamenting that loss, I can paint these strong young trees as part of my visual garden, which they are now.

I also decided to vote into this status my little leftover paint study of several days ago, which I played with for two more sessions and also got some valuable lessons from. The main lessons were how beautifully the blue, burnt orange, and viridian and sap greens play together, and also how vitally important that almost black mass is to the mood of the painting.

It really is wonderfully enjoyable to paint for the sheer joy of putting color on a canvas, without expectation, without tension, without obligation to any goal except your own enjoyment.

A new approach for me: Start With The Whole Painting

Ligularia 3rd Day

I have a Ligularia plant right in front of where I've been sitting painting the barn that's been begging me to paint it since I first started painting outside. Its large lily pad-shaped leaves, thick burgundy-colored stems, and very casual but bright golden yellow flowers give it a lot of character. When I first started my barn sessions, its buds were just about to open, and I've been putting it off—not now, I'm busy—but now I'm done painting the barn for now, and its flowers are fully open, so two days ago I got out my biggest canvas pad, 18x24", and started working on its portrait. The first day I got just a sketch of its form, outlined, and a suggestion of values in the background. The second day I went out and made a conscious decision, because it is a portrait, to fully conceive and paint the background either ahead of or in parallel with developing the image of the plant. I'm tired of trying to paint a good background around a complicated subject.

The second day I roughed in the colors of the leaves, stems and flowers, specifically because I knew I had to make every color I used in the background had to support the portrait of the plant and show it off to its best advantage. As soon as I had a good idea of the greens, browns, and mauves that I was going to use for the Ligularia, I started experimenting with the background, roughing in and trying different colors and forms for the background. After that session's work I took this photo:
Ligularia 2nd Day

Most of the colors and shapes are the actual background that I see from my painting viewpoint, but as I was picking and choosing what I was going to include and what I wasn't, a fully formed thought came into my head:

"You don't have to use the colors that things actually are."

In other words, if a deep purple-brown worked better in the area where I wanted to paint one of my mugho-pines-on-a-stick, then it was not only okay, but perfect for me to paint that little pine in shades of deep purple brown, and if the huge green mass of Pineapple Sage doesn't work, it's perfect for me to make it shades of gold. In other words, every single element of this painting must work according to the theme and colors of the finished painting. I acknowledge that I've been getting reminded of this idea for years and years, and yet this is the first time I'm consciously choosing to keep it in mind the whole time I'm working on this painting.

Part of the reason I decided to do this is because every day I'm out there we get one day closer to the cold, wet, rainy season, when I won't have these lovely comfortable temperatures, soft breezes, and brilliant Oregon summer sunlight. I know there are artists who paint outside when it's raining and cold, but I'm not one of them, and I rather doubt I ever will be.

Another principle that I've bought into mentally that I wanted to put into practice was to paint over everything I don't like at the start of each session. I never saw the use of this until I watched the video "Mystery of Picasso", where I learned how much he reworked his paintings while he was working on them, and realized how much more freedom that gives you to try different ideas while you're working.

Today (Day 3) I spent most of the Ligularia session correcting things from the second day that I didn't care for, fixing leaves and where the flowers are. I also worked on the stems, and added the foliage of the different-shade-of-yellowish-green double file Viburnum which actually sits right behind the Ligularia. I didn't like the light colors predominating in the background, and I wanted to see if I could make the dominant color of the whole painting these two tones of green, without having them be confusing or conflicting.

I have a feeling this painting is going to take me several sessions, so I wanted to post what happens while I'm trying this approach to painting.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Barn in the big picture

In the Shadow of the Nine
I wanted to get more of the trees and show the barn more in proportion to its surroundings, so I took a wider view on this one. Today was sunny and I was able to get the last of the highlights and darks.

Barn #5
No clouds today, but I wanted to try something different anyway. I've been looking at a lot of Expressionist and Abstract Expressionist paintings in six books I got from the library last week, and I thought I would try something more abstract. I wanted to see if I could capture more of the feeling of the little barn under the tall, tall trees. It's not what you'd call finished, but I find something compelling about the simplicity of it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How fast do clouds change?

I had another great day painting today. I'm still working on my latest barn painting. For the last two days, when I stopped painting on it outside, I thought it was done; today I even signed it. But when I brought it inside and look at it, I knew it's not quite done yet. Maybe tomorrow. While I was working on it, the clouds in the east were slowly building and changing, so I could do another cloud painting today. I had been taking photos of them changing, and they made a constantly shifting panorama.

Clouds #7
I had used up my cheap, 12x16" canvas pad, so I took down a 9x12" Fredrix canvas pad. I decided almost immediately that small is good when you're painting a moving subject. And I took a slightly different approach, after painting a real POS yesterday, so bad that I'm not going to post it. There was so much blue sky today that I decided to sketch the outlines quickly of the separate clouds, and fill in the sky between them first. That meant that I basically chose my composition first thing and stuck with it, despite how the clouds changed, just using the later clouds for color and texture reference.

I kept taking photos, just for fun, just to see how fast the clouds were changing. I took the first one right before I started sketching the outlines, the second as soon as I finished the sketch and started painting, and the last one when I stopped painting.

When I began sketching

3 minutes later, done sketching

28 minutes after beginning, done painting

What fun!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Running with the rain clouds!

Clouds #4

Yesterday was a fantastic cloud day. It was showering in the morning and I had every reason from the weather forecast to think that the cloud painting would be great that afternoon. I went out about 3pm and decided to set up first on the north side of the back. The wind was blowing NE, and the fastest direction of my two options was looking north. I knew it would be a challenge, but I had no idea how much. It was like being in two different races at the same time. The clouds were changing shape faster than a speeded-up lava lamp while they were blowing left to right like a train going by. I watched for a couple minutes, just to try and get a feel for it, then I picked a couple big clumps that didn't seem to be changing too quickly, and started throwing on paint. I couldn't even begin to keep up, and after a couple minutes I was just trying to pick shapes and add them in. After I got sort of a structure on the canvas, I started filling it in, one area at a time, trying to be sort of faithful to what was in front of my eyes at that moment. When it was mostly done, I switched over to looking at each mass on the canvas and then trying to find something like it in the sky, and use that as a guide to finish rendering it. I ended up having to invent a lot more than in my previous paintings, and my skills at this point fell short of being able to do that. But it was still a lot of fun, and a great experience, maybe like running the bulls at Pamplona, only I came out of this alive. Tired, but alive.

Clouds #5

As soon as I covered that canvas I took it up to my house and moved my setup back to my familiar eastern view and started again. This time the wind was blowing right to left, and not quite as fast as in the first spot. I did the same thing, just watched them for a few minutes, then grabbed a clump and jumped in. It was just the same as the first time—painting as fast as I could, throwing the paint on, grabbing the most interesting shapes and getting the proportion of white to midtones to darks to represent what they looked like in the sky. I did one smart thing and took a couple photos, just a minute apart, once I had sort of a composition. It ended up the same way, with me trying to improvise a finish when everything I'd started with in the foreground had long since disappeared. And I can see that inventing in both these paintings, and it makes them different from the previous three, which were much closer to what was actually there.

You can't really tell in these paintings, but each view had a different feel as I watched. In the north, the big shapes seemed much closer, and the lower clouds resembled them, just farther away. In the east, I'm looking up toward the Cascades, and I can see the darkest undersides of the cloud masses higher up over the foothills.

I can't remember EVER having such an exciting day painting! As relaxing as it is to paint clouds that are less mobile, painting them when they're this dynamic is absolutely exhilarating. I will certainly jump at the chance to do it again.

This morning I referenced the photos I took yesterday and corrected an ugly spot in each of the paintings.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A simple one I like

Barn #3
Third time is seeming like the charm for my barn paintings. I painted from the same location but used a slightly different view, and this one finished up in one two-hour session, plus ten minutes the next day to tweak a couple things to strengthen the composition. I started out with a plan to just paint in the major blocks of color first, thinking that would be my underpainting that would set the mood and tone of the painting—but it ended up being the painting. There's a lot less detail, but plenty of texture, and the feeling is fresh, spontaneous, and alive. Nothing over-thought or over-worked. The cold press surface of the unprimed paper really contributes a lot of texture.

The first day, there was more lighter-colored foliage in the firs, and the background brush in the left center was lighter, with no texture. The second day I made all the fir branches uniformly dark, and that balanced the mass of the barn better. I also added some darker tones and a bit of texture to the brush, and that unified the shapes more.

I'm still doing cloud sketches. They really are a great way to just unwind. All the ones so far have been looking just north of due East, toward Mt. Hood and the Gorge.

Clouds #2
This was a bit later, getting towards evening, when more colors were appearing in the clouds.

Clouds #3
This was a bit earlier in the afternoon. It's a really common configuration when we have moist air coming up from the South, and rain clouds build up over the Cascades.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More plein air

Barn #2

After I finished the first plein air painting, I decided I wasn't happy with it for a couple reasons, even though it seemed a huge improvement over my last one, last year. First, I don't like how dark it is overall, and second, it's way more realistic than I want. It was great practice, but it's not even close to being as good as my best studio work. I looked around for other places to paint but decided to keep working with the barn, try acrylics, and try a limited color palette that I've worked with before.

I started with a one-color value sketch, and each day I added a color or two, gradually building up detail and trying to capture the colors in the scene without overworking it. I stuck with a larger brush for just that reason.

On the next to last session, when I'd done as much as I could without letting the paint dry, I had too much paint left, and the sky was full of paintable clouds. I got a pad of cheap canvas sheets (the one I've mentioned previously) and made an attempt at the clouds, painting as quickly as I could because they and the light were changing every minute. It took me about 15 minutes to get them as well as I could. I haven't had that much fun painting in a long time, and it was a great way to unwind after a session.

Clouds #1

Today I had the pleasure of painting in a pretty good breeze. Every few minutes, a new dusting of fir needles and pollen flowers came down on everything—the palette, the water tub, and the painting. I picked off the big lumps and kept going. By the time I felt that I was done with the painting, the breeze was getting stronger, so I skipped trying any clouds today.

I think I've spent about the same number of sessions as on the first one, and I think I'm done with it today, although I might tweak it a little more. I feel as though I'm making progress, but the big deal for me is that this is the first time I've ever really enjoyed plein air painting. Time to go on to the next one.

Plein air the EASY way

I've finally found an easy way to do plein air—out in my garden! It takes me two trips to get everything down there—I use an old one-gallon bucket to carry all the little stuff. I have a pretty comfortable cloth folding chair and a small metal easel I've taken down and stashed under the overhang of the woodshed so I don't have to carry them down every time. I use two little plastic lawn furniture side tables, one on each side of my chair, to hold everything but the painting. When I'm done, I turn one of the tables upside down and set it on the other one, so neither gets fir sap dripped on it. Fir sap drips on everything out there, even me. Leaving the tables out where I set up means I can get my chair back in the same spot from one time to the next.

I wanted to try watercolor first, just to make it as easy as possible. It took me five sessions of about two hours each to get this one to where I can't make it any better.

The first day I felt very guilty and started telling myself I really should be working. I had to remind myself that I was working—learning how to paint plein air! After the first time that wasn't a problem. It's been wonderful just enjoying my garden for a change. I found that when I sit there long enough for the birds to ignore me, I start seeing the whole place come to life. The clouds blowing around, birds going about their business, an intermittent breeze moving through the treetops, different kinds of insects checking me and my gear out. I got to where I can ignore the weeds I see, look at my plants without thinking of things I need to do, and just enjoy painting.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

New toys, new joys

Garden mobile
I'm branching out in two more dimensions —depth and time. I've been thinking about going into mobiles for about a year. I was wanting to make big ones for the garden, out of the filbert wood I harvested 3 or 4 years ago. But as a first step, to get used to thinking about shape and motion, I decided to go small and make little ones, with some bits of glass in them. This is my third one. The first one is going to get redone, and the second one was pretty good and went to a friend. It's fun to play with making different shapes, and I have many more ideas to play with.

Unfortunately it's a bit hard on my hands and wrists, but I'm constantly trying to find ways to make it easier to bend the large wire. I bought a few new pairs of pliers specifically for bending, and they help a  lot to give me the leverage I need. But I still can't do it every day, which is fine. Plenty of other stuff to do.

Next weekend I'll be showing and selling my artwork, including this mobile, at the open garden of my friend Meredith, both Saturday and Sunday. And I'll be doing the Art In the Garden fair at Laurel Hedge in Estacada the last Saturday in August. It's looking like nice weather for next weekend.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Acrylics as watercolors

Meadow Afternoon
I found this scene one summer afternoon over a year ago but I never felt I could paint it before. One thing transparent water media are great for is skies.

The first painting instruction I ever had was in watercolor, and I guess some of that experience has stuck with me, because I enjoy painting on paper as if I were painting with watercolors. I do love my acrylics, though, and I'm in no hurry to go back. I love that they're so versatile.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

You must play to be good

Flying Dream
After doing three "serious" paintings in a row, I was desperate to do some things just for fun. I wanted to explore some other colors, and I wanted to try doing a painting purely from my imagination. The painting I wanted to do was a dream I had about 25 years ago—it was the first dream I flew in. I wanted to put background figures in it, I wanted it to be full of color and and very loosely painted. In the dream, I was in a rather boring party in someone's yard, which sloped down towards a street. After standing around for a while, I started running down the slope, and after just a few steps, I leaned forward, reached out my arms, and started flying.

I worked on it for about two weeks, and while that work was ongoing, I did several color studies, just totally painting out of my subconscious, thinking about the colors, and seeing how they played against each other. As I painted, wishing that ideas came more easily to me, I was realizing that it's all about vocabulary—you're only fluent with what you've done. So if you don't paint things that you don't think will work or you have trouble with, you'll just keep doing the same things over and over and you'll never do anything new or bold or innovative. So I played.

I used these paintings to try out two different canvas pads, one made by Fredrix and one with the Dick Blick brand on it. The Fredrix one is sheets of really heavy artist's canvas, and despite my using very wet paint, thickly applied, the sheet didn't warp even a tiny bit. In fact, I wouldn't have even thought about warping except that the Blick sheet warped like a cheap sheet of 90-lb. paper. It mostly flattened back out after I used binder clips on the pad to keep the top sheet stretched, but the edge is still ruffled. Both pads say they're triple-primed, but the canvas in the Blick sheets is so thin that except for the loose weave and cotton threads, I'm not sure it really qualifies as "canvas." It's more like chambray weight, just more loosely woven. So if you want a good heavy canvas pad, the Fredrix ones are great. On the other hand, if you want primed fabric that's probably flexible enough to sew, go for the Blick. It's cheaper than the Fredrix, which is why I wanted to try it.

This one didn't do anything except help loosen me up. I do think it looks kind of fuzzy-cuddly.

Expanding Levels
This one convinced me that turqoise and lime green look great together, and also go great with burnt orange and blue-violet. I like the movement in this design. It was on this one that I discovered a new way to mix yellow-green, a very important color for me.

Lines of Direction
This one I resolved to do as an ink painting but with a different arrangement of lines. Love the blue and gold.

Nuclear Dahlia
And this one I worked on for several days, adding one color at a time, as I went from thinking it was a waste, to really enjoying looking at it, even though it's just a dorky flower motif. I think the reason I like it is the colors and the little white highlights, but the radiating form is sort of like a mandala. Or it would be, if it were more carefully drawn.

I really had fun doing all these. Besides finding new colors and new shapes, I also got some practice working wet in wet. The virtue of working on supports that are cheap and take no room to store (if you want to keep them for a while) is obvious. And I can always reuse the heavy sheets. But I think the biggest thing I got out of doing these things is the same value you get from doing any painting—starting with just a vague idea and taking it to some stage of completion. And I was playing—no expectations, no pressure, no tension, just relaxed playing. It was a new experience for me to get up every morning for a couple weeks and feel excited about getting into the studio to just have fun.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Light as motion

I've been painting more this month than any month I can remember. I finished the fourth in my series of the twenty-two dimensions of light. I'm really happy with the amount of energy in this one. I've never done anything with all hot colors before, either.

I've also been working on several smaller paintings and finished two on paper, including one of a PJM rhododendron blooming last spring, down by my barn. PJM's are a family of rhododendron varieties recognizeable by their lavender to pink to white medium-sized flowers and being just about the first ones to bloom. The ones down at the college started blooming this year at the end of January, which was extremely early. Mine will be opening in a couple weeks, from the look of them.

Another one is another attempt to capture the first light of a December morning, coming through the tall firs behind my house.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Nature of Light

One of the reasons I'm enjoying this series is because I really do enjoy working with light. Painting certainly wouldn't be very interesting without it, and I really don't think we'd have a universe without it. It's certainly difficult to imagine any existence without a force as fundamental as light is to our existence. I've finished two more paintings in the series. The second painting is called Light as Force. It feels like strength, or power.

The third painting is Light as Creation. It could be a pool of water, or a mitochondria, or the genesis of an idea.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Twenty-two dimensions of Light

I've started a new series of mixed media abstracts. It's an attempt to show twenty-two dimensions of the fundamental energy of the universe—Light. I finished Radiance last month, and I'm working on the second one now. I'm not sure how far I'll get; twenty-two is a large number, but I have come up with twenty-five possible descriptors. The mathematics of the cosmos has always intrigued me, even though I never got past beginning calculus, and it's been a real treat to see how far astrophysics has come during my lifetime. If I had done better in school, I would have loved to be in on that work. At my age, I figure if I can even contemplate the existence of twenty-two different dimensions, that'll be an excellent workout for my brain...which needs all the exercise it can get.

I've spent the last two rain-free spells re-photographing all the large works I have on hand with my new, better camera, and this weekend I finished getting those images up on my new gallery at Fine Art America, an on-demand reproduction and printing house. All of those paintings are now available for purchase as reproductions in a wide range of sizes from greeting cards to 30"x40", on half a dozen different surfaces from paper to metal. As far as general quality of artwork at FAA, it's the most impressive online gallery I've seen; in just a few hours of poking around I've found several artists whose work is astonishingly beautiful and original. My gallery is at:


I'm also happy to now have good images of some of my favorite paintings from years past.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Got snow? Paint snow.

The second snowfall we had, I took a few photos of the trees and yard that I really liked, including a couple that captured snowflakes falling. I've never made a snow painting before and I was ready to try. I worked on this sketch for a couple days, and halfway through the second day it started making me feel cold when I looked at it. It was fun painting the snowflakes, too.

The color scheme was a bit of a challenge because I didn't want it to be monochromatic, but with plenty of green and blue-green, plus a little blue and the pale yellow-orange in the sky, some almost invisible accents of blue-violet gave it a nice analogous balance.