“The Edge of Morning”
oil on linen on panel, 12″ x 16″
Sometimes, to make a painting behave, you don’t have to be talented. You just have to be stubborn.
After finishing this piece, I found (by surprise ) that I had divided the picture plane exactly in half and had two different paintings. Arrrrgggggghh!! I had painted this en plein air and never saw the division until I put a frame on it to critique the piece. I had a problem that had to be fixed before the paint dried. In between weddings, out of town visitors, plein air affair meetings and household stuff, I was being squeezed. But it got done. I had to be stubborn!

Tropical Mosaic

“Tiled Pineapple”
oil on canvas, 20″ x 16″

First, I made the underpainting with Cad Orange and Cad Red and made a mental note that this would be a blue green painting lots of tropcial colors.

The idea was to make a painting design built upon the pattern on the skin of the pineapple. Looking closely, there is almost a spiral upward of rows of small pentagons. Within them are protrusions, and spikes and dents and all sorts of repetitive tracks.

You can see immediately why it was so labor intensive.

Someone out there has a home in Hawaii or has a tropical decor and would like this painting in an honored place. Please contact me via email if you would like to consider acquiring this piece.

No time today!

Yes, I did paint today. In the early morning, in the beautiful, bright sunlight outdoors I painted. I am participating in week long plein air event . . .my first ever . . . .and it seems this one is a strange one because it stretches out over 5 weeks to a finale sale and gala for the museum that is staging the event.

I didn’t finish the piece, though I am close. Real Estate business, family business, social engagements and plein air painting all came together at once! Crazy! I have nearly finished the third pinapple, too. So, while I will have to wait a day or so to finish today’s painting (making very necessary corrections) (and not show that here) I will, at least give you an idea of the beginnings of the pinapple piece and ask you to wait until Saturday to see it . . .and maybe the plein air piece.
Believe me, it doesn’t show you much!

Can you wait? 😉

Testing the Limits

“Persimmon Tree”
oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″
I have been looking back at my paintings over the last month and find them to be lacking in some ways. By setting little challenges or goals of some experiment, instead of just painting another picture of something, I find that each painting can be a profitable learning excursion.

I have been seeking thicker paint and a more buttery look to my pieces. So, I tried two things: coating the gessoed canvas with diluted acrylic mat medium to retard or stop the absorbance of the gesso and canvas. Secondly, using a big one inch flat brush with tons of paint . . .shovel loading the brush sometimes. As I attacked this painting, it was clear I could not opt for detail, so by creating internal shapes in the leaves, weaving deep darks through the composition and working with color contrasts, I put this one together. I used a photo, taken over two years ago, to get a general idea of the proportions and shapes of the leaves and persimmons. The photo was useless beyond that.

A little scraping had to be done here and there in order to keep clean color . . .and to make the darks come to life with warms and cools. The end result was a buttery painting with some eye grabbing color contrasts. In a frame it sings! Sealing the canvas seemed to be a big help. Testing the limits of the big brush (and my courage) made for some romping good fun!

Carried Away?

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 6″
This is getting to be absurd! Well, maybe not.
I have a mentality that is constantly seeking the ‘different’ from the norm. That same mentality has affected my painting fiercely for years. I suppose it is what sets my paintings apart from others and gives me my ‘style’ . . . .at least it is that way in my watercolors . . .see my website. I call this attitude reaching “beyond the obvious.” In other words, I seek to carry most of my paintings away from actual ‘reality’ and create some of my own Art. Notice that is spelled with a capital “A.” You see, there are literally millions of paintings created daily by those who lust for the obvious . . . .wellllll, maybe not actually lusting for it . . . .but, instead of allowing their own ideas and personal music to creep into the painting, they avoid it.
Don’t get me wrong! There are some painters out there who work very hard at traditional realistic work. They are in my links. Each brings something MORE than the obvious to their work. Paul in the UK, Jeff Hayes, Karin Jurick, Carol Marine and many more offer up reality but in a way that is enticingly their own version of it. And that is what makes Art with a capital “A” in my opinion. Look through the links list here and drink in the rich artwork that is being created! You have your own private art gallery right here!
So, a few days ago I began my pinapple painting . . .that should be plural! . . .remember Saturday’s post of the sketches? It is there. I have painting this one today, and am working on another that is truly ‘beyond the obvious.’ Every now and then I come accross something that throws ideas at me faster than I can process them. Such is the case with the pinapple. This little painting is part of that . . . .the other I am working on in the background is much more labor intensive and required some thought about design. So, depending when I finish it, you’ll get to see it soon enough. I am even taking progress photos as I go along. Who knows? Maybe it will be an abject failure. D’ya think I am getting carried away?

The Pinapple Attempt

“Dual Shadows”
oil on stretched canvas, 20″ x 16″

Okay. Here it is. I am sticking my neck out with this one. I have been painting realistic, traditional stuff till now. After 13 or 14 sketches on Saturday last, I came up with this composition. To place the attention on the shadows instead of the pinapple, I used intense colors and a little bit of texture. To repeat those colors, I put them into the light on the table top, slighty reducing intensity and creating shifts of cool / warm. Overall, the object and the shadows (which really did appear in double because of my studio lighting) form a single shape that connects three edges of the canvas. Also, there is a repetition of the triangle shapes in the negative spaces, which helps the unity.

I had fun with this piece. I must admit, though, while I don’t mind stretching reality or abstraction, sometimes I am not anxious to put them out in public right away. So, I am going for it . . . .(yes, I signed it!) I’ll be very interested in your comments.

On Naming Things . . .

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″

Sometimes, I chuckle to myself when I am painting. Sudden realizations show up at the silliest times. While doing this painting, I found myself saying “Oh, my Gosh! What color is the meat of an apple?! I never thought about it before this moment!” It ‘s funny that I still, after years of painting, have to have a name in my mind for a color. That is the left side of my brain working overtime. Other times, I will look at something and see that there are several colors there and know precisely how to mix them . . . .without naming anything.

Names of things get in our way as painters. The moment we name something, then it MUST be that THING . . . .instead of a shape of this color in that value. When we stop naming ‘things’ is when the creative muscles start to act . . .and that is when our paintings become something unusual. Letting go of names gives the freedom to compose without being “wrong.”

Am working on the pinapple in a larger format. (See Saturday’s post). I had to set it aside to do today’s painting. The naming business showed up to try to trip me up in that painting. You’ll see in a day or two what came out of that.

P.S. Carol Marine has been painting a long series of apples. Her work is really alive. I left her a note that you can almost smell the apples, yet one can sense her expert hand in each painting. In my opinion, the artist’s hand (as I call it) is what sets her work apart from ‘reality’ and makes the ordinary and mundane very exciting. Check her out!

Bananas and Light

“Bananas and Light”

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
Here is today’s painting . . . done yesterday . . . .yellow as promised in yesterday’s post. This painting was just plain FUN! The color variations are myriad in this piece, yet it all ‘looks’ yellow. I really got excited about the outcome on this one!

A Glimpse Into Thinking

I have always been interested in seeing into what makes an artist tick . . .or how their processes function. I can remember seeing a show at a museum of Edward Hopper’s work . . . .his sketchbooks were on display in glass cases. I could hardly pull myself away from inspecting every mark in that book! I could see how that artist reduced his ideas to the essentials that made his paintings bark at passers by. Was it genius in that sketchbook? I am not so sure. Hard work? Absolutely!
I have watched my self slave away in my studio . . .or outdoors . . .and come up with a poor composition or what I call a “Ho-Hum” painting. The sketchbook and many trials before painting can often be the determinant factor between “ho-hum” and “Wow!” And yet, those ‘ho-hum’ paintings were most often preceded with no preliminary trials in the sketchbook.
I purchased a pinapple a day or two ago, to eat, of course, but also to paint. After an early rise this morning, I took the pinapple to the studio to paint. . .all the while with a nagging feeling in my gut that I would have to do something unusual with this object to reach the “wow” factor . . . .and was in doubt as to how I would do that. I needed to put a few ideas on paper first.
Here are two pages from my sketchbook and this morning’s brainstorming process in the studio. (I wish I could get my students to do more of this stuff!) I did twenty different sketches of the silly pinapple. Well . . . .actually I wasn’t sketching the pinapple, I was experimenting with different shapes and their attitudes inside of the canvas format. Different directions, flat shapes and forms, compositional ideas and virtually NO DETAIL worries. Just answers to the question “What approach will give me what I want . . . .the “wow” that I am seeking. There are two or three compositions that hold promise here. My thoughts are beginning to turn to color and value schemes now. My suspicions . . .and that is often all there is to spur me forward . . . .just a hunch that says ‘this might be it’ . . . . are urging me to spend more energy on the shadow with tropical colors and close values . . . . .maybe! When that is the case, I have to be very careful to insure that I have a path planned or it could end up worse than a ‘ho-hum.’ I tell my classes that it is NOT the details that matter. (they really don’t believe me!) What matters is how the artist handles value patterns and shapes and directions and color schemes . . . .or patterns and textures. It all has to work together to make visual music. Leave one of the vital elements out in your planning and you end up with a flop.

So, here is the beginning of my pinapple thoughts. It may be a week before something materializes on canvas. My notions are flying about in my head, so it could possibly be sooner. Then again, it might die a natural death and never make an appearance. I just have to work through the trials and errors to find the breakthrough . . . . .and quantity of trials is what makes the biggest difference. I have to take this beyond the obvious. It is way more than just the pinapple! It’s really about the feelings the final piece will generate from the viewer.


oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
Here it is June First, already. Many of the things I had planned for the year haven’t even begun yet. Where has the time gone?
Little did I realize, as I looked at lemons being painted by other painters, how difficult they are to paint. One must be in absolute top form as an observer to see the extremely subtle color changes on a lemon. Here is my attempt . . . .I am sure there will be more. Yellow is considered by most art instructors to be the most difficult color in which to paint objects. There is a very small range of value (light to dark). (Ya just can’t make yellow dark and still have it be yellow!) So, temperature variations and hue shifts seem to be the order of the day. Tomorrow, I’ll try another yellow subject to see if I can improve.
This month, I will be participating in my first plein air event. Having never done that before, I am open to any advice you plein air event painters can offer. (Please!)