Friday, November 30, 2012


(%40.00.....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Meditation is a meeting with God." Busyness along with too many distractions can completely wipe out time alone with God. It takes an intentional act to put first things first and it is well worth the effort. 

Every creative act is very exciting when it's brand new. The problems begin to arise when it becomes the same old thing. My experience has been that when I begin to feel that way, it is time to "kick it up a notch" with a higher goal or a slight change in direction. We almost need to trick ourselves into getting to the studio with a fresh idea. 

This is not just true of artists, but every person who has a job or specific areas of responsibility will face this challenge. That is why the quote today means so much to me. It harkens back to a very familiar Bible verse..."Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all of these other things will be added unto you." We were all made to find our ultimate satisfaction in God, so by putting Him first, the other things we aspire to do will be accomplished. 

The practical things that I do when I come up against "mundaneness" is to do an analysis of my work. Line up your pieces and take a good hard look and make sure you are going in the right direction. Is your color palette pleasing to you? (Spend some time just mixing color with a limited palette.) Does your work look good from across the room? (Check values if it is not because that's is generally the number one culprit.) Does your work contain any diagonals? (They always add energy to the work.) Does your work contain enough interesting shapes or maybe too many? (Make sure your shapes are different sizes and unequally dividing your design space.) 

These are just a few questions that might cause you to go in a slightly different direction. Keeping things simple is also a good idea because design issues can get very complicated and off into the weeds if you begin with too many ideas. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


($40.00......6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Observation is the optimal skill." This is especially true of the artist. It requires continual practice to see the seemingly insignificant details. It should be a priority in every area of life.

Many liberties were taken in this piece, especially with the color choices. I did try to keep the values the same, but the colors were selected based on all that was happening on my palette. So many times, colors will emerge in the process of mixing that are so lovely and different that it seems like a waste not to use them.

A "colorist" plays with all of these dynamics and it is especially exciting to me to have a reference photo to keep the piece going in a particular direction, but also to have the freedom to play around with color in the process. So what I end up with is an abstracted landscape. There was also a lot of play with the directional strokes of the paint to make the most of the dimensionality of this thick "wet into wet" technique.

Another liberty I took was in the direction of the tree trunks and a few limbs. When a piece is naturally a horizontal landscape, it could end up lacking a lot of energy. Introducing diagonals in the trees and directional strokes of the paint resolved the problem for me. The quote was written with a Mitchell #6 nib in the foreground weeds. There are diagonals there as well. so all in all, I am pleased with the piece because it is not perfectly rendered and has a lot of gestural movement in the way the paint was applied. That is what I live for in these paintings. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Standing Alone"

($40.00....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Standing alone sets you apart from the crowd." If you dare to do things differently or stand for something that runs counter to what everyone else is thinking, it may feel a bit awkward. However, there isn't a single biography of anyone who accomplished something that didn't dare to set themselves apart from the crowd.

My thoughts today actually "dovetail" into the quote and commentary from yesterday. This "standing alone" thing is particularly true of artists. And it all begins where your desires take you. God given desires help us know how we're "wired" and what direction to take. Paying close attention to what you gravitate to and then acting on that direction will definitely take you out of your comfort zone.

What happens next is very important because there will always be "nay sayers" who will question what on earth you're doing and why you're doing it in a particular way. But if the desire is nurtured and you actually have the guts to follow your heart, you will discover that many doors will open. 

For instance, if everyone who paints in oils mixed and laid down the paint in the same way, there would be no need to try to set yourself apart because everyone would be doing the same thing. A very wise instructor once said something..."if you want to learn how to do something, try it on your own for about six months and then go find a teacher." I will add something to that thought. You might not need a teacher if you have already figured it out in your own way.  Although instruction is often needed when beginning a new thing, teachers can often "muck" it up.  It is not good to simply copy another artist (or teacher's style), but to use what they show you to add to your own desire to go in a particular direction. 

Of course, whatever way you choose to go needs practice and many hours in your studio, but we will all benefit from your courage to step out into the unknown and simply see where your desires take you. I have been in a very philosophical mood lately so if this helps you....great.....and if not, my attention will soon turn back to process and especially "design". And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Special Perch"

($40.00.....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Everybody has a special perch." If everyone followed their heart and stayed in their own "lane" (as in a race around the track), each person would discover their very own perch. It's like a fingerprint. No two people have the same one.

Rather than commenting on the particulars of my posting today, I would rather talk about something near and dear to my heart which inspired today's quote.

It is very true that we all receive inspiration from other artists and often long to paint like someone else or do lettering like someone else. And this is the big one can create the same thing you create and you can't create what someone else creates. We truly are that individual and have our own habitual marks, brush strokes, ways of seeing that no one else has. 

So much frustration could be avoided if each artist found their own expression and then did that particular thing with their whole heart. The world would be a better place and there would be no more habitual comparison that kills the art spirit quicker than ice water in the face. This doesn't mean that you can't learn from other artist's work and even attempt to master a technique you might like in their work, but eventually it all boils down to arranging your schedule so there is time everyday to create your own work and if you can manage some consistency....something "magical" happens. 

Your own work will grow and evolve and it will be your work...and your work alone. What an extraordinary thing to discover. And there is one more secret. No matter how excited you might be to try a particular style and go in that direction for the rest of your life, there will still be days when you find it difficult to pursue and that difficulty arises out of fear. It is the fear that you will be unable to create what you feel in your heart and that somehow you don't have what it takes. 

This is also a lie and the only way to overcome these feelings is to ignore them and go to your studio and create. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"A Textured Life"

($40.00.....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"A textured life is always abundant." We all know people who do a lot and think deeply about things, but we may also know those who just float through the day. The life that is textured does meaningful things, gives to others, and thinks deeply about things. That's abundance.

I must say that the hill country landscape has a lot of muted color. It is great fun to try to make it interesting. I think I'm officially addicted to this whole thing! Mixing the colors is a great skill to have for anyone and even though I don't always hit it exactly right, the abstracted landscape is now my passion.

Yesterday, I did mention the importance of diagonals as a key ingredient to bringing energy to a painting. I did take a few liberties to achieve that in today's piece by slightly altering the division between the rock bluff and the ground. There are also a few boulders that were positioned on a diagonal. Tree limbs also help to achieve the same goal.

Try an experiment of looking at artwork and picking out your favorites. Are there any diagonals in the piece? As you begin to search for them in other artist's work, you will notice how it's done and what energy it brings to the work.

Thinking about placing a few of your brush strokes or palette knife strokes on a diagonal is also a good way to enliven the piece. I even switched my lettering to a Mitchell #6 nib and wrote gesturally with some of the strokes going at an angle which also seems to fit better with the piece than writing in script. So you will probably not see any more script in these works and that was my big "take away" from today's work. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"The Hill Country"


"The poetry of the Texas hill country runs deep in my soul." At first I was a bit disappointed in the lack of color in the hill country after being in North Carolina. However, the more I looked and pondered the landscape around me, I knew this was my home and the poetry of it all grabbed me at the core of my being.

I can feel a shift beginning to happen and I expect that my landscapes will gradually become more and more abstract and I will also begin to put my "colorist" hat on again. One of the interesting things about the hill country is the enormous amount of "nondescript" detail around that appears to be a stockpile of "grays" in their various tints and shades. 

In this piece, I opted to delete all of the rocks and "scrubby" little plants that were peppering the hillside. What drew me to this place was the tree silhouetted against the sky on the side of the hill. It is my first effort with a palette knife in very familiar surroundings so I am pleased that it is "funky" looking and yet captures the scene in a way I wanted. 

The design element that become apparent right away was the presence of diagonals in the tilt of the orange tree and the other tree leaning towards and giving a nod to the orange tree. I carried the diagonals on through with the value changes in the foreground. 

My big "take away" from this piece is what I learned about diagonals. They are key to bringing energy to a landscape that would have been quite boring if all of the lines and shapes had been totally vertical or horizontal in their direction. So whether you're creating a totally abstract piece or giving a nod to realism, it is a good idea to pay attention to the dominant directional lines in the piece. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"A Special Day"


"Special days are inscribed with love." Today's posting is lovingly dedicated to my dear friend on her wedding day. Sara, may you have a spectacular day and a joyous new beginning with the love of your life!

This was an interesting painting to do because it was already framed when it was painted. I had to do it that way in order to give it to Sara today.  So in case you ever find yourself in the same situation, here is how it was done. 

I went ahead and painted the sides and back of a 6" x 6" gessobord and floated it on a linen mat inside of a custom frame with E6000. The label on the back plus the wire hanger were installed as well. I then wrapped the bottom and top of a box with the wedding paper and made sure the painting would fit in there snugly by also placing tissue paper all around. All of this was done last night.

So this morning, the adhesive had dried and then I taped all around the painting area with masking tape, making sure to identify the top so as not to paint the thing upside down since the wire was already installed. It was an interesting experience, but Sara will be able to see her painting by simply lifting the lid and it can dry while it hangs on her wall. 

I now know it takes one month for these paintings to dry, but it's worth it to me to have the thick dimensionality of the paint. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. (I now must get ready to go to a wedding!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Sacred Tools"

($40.00.....6" x 6".....Collage on 140lb. HP.....mounted on a 1/8" depth clayboard)

"Tools of the trade are sacred to the artist who uses them." It is also true that the art is only as good as the artist who picks up the tools. In either case, the tools are very special.

Today I am going through the steps of creating this type of mixed media piece. I recently taught a class on design and this type of collage was the vehicle. You can see that just a simple line drawing (very little or no shading) gives a nice focal point set into the backdrop of the other elements.

So the first thing to do is to create an ink drawing with a dip pen or a fine pen (there are many different brands) with a .005 pen size. It is good to create it a bit larger and then reduce it and print it out on silk tissue paper. Spray with acrylic coating.

The next step is to paint a section of 140 lb. HP with black gesso. Dry with a hair dryer and then begin to lay down old text pages from an antique book. You notice that I left only a sliver of black where the erratic edges of the text pages could be shown off. Dry the piece thoroughly.

Overlay the text pages with plain and mono printed rice papers. You can see that the gestural marks created in the mono print serve as areas where the previous layer can show through. Shaper tools or old credit cards are good to accomplish this. I prefer to use Speedball Printing Ink, but you can also use acrylic paint for this part. If using the Printing Ink, you will need to spray the papers with Spray Acrylic Coating before adhering to the piece.

After this is dry, it is good to crop to the image size you want. You are then ready to lay in your silk tissue paper with your drawing and additional mono printed sections if needed. 

The next step is to do some deconstruction techniques to unify the different color blocks. I deconstructed with some of the text pages by gluing down...waiting a minute or two...and then lifting off. You can see those areas in the brush container, the dark area at the bottom and also on the right where the yellow block is located.

Last, I sprayed the piece (2x) with Spray Acrylic Coating and then prepared the piece to receive lettering with a mixture of (2) parts water to (1) part Gel Matte Med. Lettering was done with a pointed pen in an expressive style. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"A Thankful Heart"


"The best poetry is found in a thankful heart." To think deeply about all there is to be thankful for will get rid of negative thoughts and then a poem will emerge.

It really doesn't matter what medium an artist works in, it all seems to come back to layering. In this piece (actually, in all pieces), I think through the entire painting first. In other words, I needed to know how those pine needles were going to be done before any paint was mixed. 

It is very difficult to create thin lines with a palette knife so I used the "sgraffito" technique to carve it out of the paint rather than painting it on. It's like an inscription. So having made that decision, I then decided to paint the entire surface with a very dark green so that when I got around to those pine needles, I could simply carve them out with the sharp point of a palette knife to reveal that dark green.

However simple that may sound, it does involve holding the palette knife at an angle and not using too much pressure. Otherwise, you will carve all of the paint off and get to the gessobord. Another layering decision I used here was to lay in the background first. It seems more "convincing" when I do it that way although others do it quite differently. I began with the sky...then the mountain...and finally the water. I was then able to carve through all of the background to create the pine branch. The other foreground foliage was painted on one stroke at a time with not much pressure and wiping the palette knife after every stroke. 

Last, but not least, was the quote inscribed into the wet paint with a #.09 mechanical pencil, wiping after every stroke. The exciting thing is that these techniques are not limited to landscapes, but are easily translated to very abstract work. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Close Harmony"

($40.00.....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Close harmony is always pleasing."  And it applies to so many things. Close harmony in music, in relationships, and in art is soothing to the soul.

This piece was inspired by a reference photo taken in North Carolina. We simply do not have too many of these type of brilliant yellow/green trees in Central Texas. I was drawn to it because of the close harmony and so, of course, it is an analogous color scheme (two to four colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel).

I've always loved yellow/green with a deep blue/green. And it is not as visible on your computer screen, but it is a stunning combination. My encouragement today is to make full use of your color wheel and increase in your knowledge of color. There is a lot of information packed onto that wheel which is extremely helpful in identifying the root color of any color you see, remembering that all colors originate from the twelve colors on the color wheel.

You will notice that I did not call the blue/green by its common name which would be turquoise. It is important to begin calling colors by the name that appears on the color wheel because it is a more accurate description of where to start mixing. It also gives you the basic color schemes and the tints and shades of all of the root colors.

There are slight variations in color from brand to brand so it is also useful to mix the colors from the brand you particularly like and use that as a reference for yourself. Nothing will help you more than creating a painting and mixing all of the colors you need from a limited palette. 

The first painting class I ever took, we were required to mix all of our colors from Cad. Yellow Light....Ultramarine Blue, Cad. Red. Medium....and White. There are artists who still work that way. It's a great discipline to get under your belt which is another reason you are seeing so many oil paintings on this blog. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


($40.00.....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Rustic is another name for nostalgia." Old and poetic looking places really do create a sense of nostalgia. The outbuildings in this painting are a part of the Arboretum at the Biltmore Estate. The holidays seem to bring out memories of rustic places we've been. This is one of my favorites.

Most of the time, texture in painting is simulated...meaning that it is implied by the values and shapes created by the way the paint was applied. Heavier applications of oil paint or acrylics can create both. So you will see texture created by the values and also the "real" texture of the paint itself. 

Texture is a grainy, fibrous, woven, or dimensional quality as opposed to a uniformly flat, smooth aspect; surface interest. (meaning from Design Language by Tim McCreight...available from John Neal Bookseller)

It is to the artist's advantage to exploit this particular design element  because it can be so irresistible to the viewer. Real texture can be incorporated with thick paint, acrylic mediums, collage elements, mosaics, and assemblages. Texture is precisely why most people would rather have an original piece of art rather than a print. No matter how good the print quality is, it can never replace the original artwork in a viewing experience. 

So I encourage anyone that creates artwork to think deeply about ways to incorporate real texture in your work. A sgraffito technique in wet paint is one of the simplest ways just as I did with the lettering in this piece. It's a great way to enter into the world of gestural mark making with a variety of different tools. You might just want to pick up a stick and make an erratic mark in wet paint (oil or acrylic) and feel how satisfying it is. It might become addictive! And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Eye Opener"

($40.00.....6" x 6"...Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"The view from behind is always an eye opener." It is always instructive to look behind to see where you've come from. I've noticed that students forget to calculate their progress because it can be painstakingly slow. The best thing to do is ask yourself..."Am I further along than I was a year ago?" The answer is invariably, yes!

Progress in any endeavor should be measured by looking back and reviewing how far you've come from when you first began. The pace of your progress is your choice and often depends on circumstances beyond your control. Big constraints, like a job and family, or walking the dog and cleaning house can get in the way. 

I do have some useful thoughts on this topic and the one that has served me best is the one I want to focus on. Well over a year ago, I realized I was not producing the volume of art that it takes to become accomplished. No amount of natural inclination or talent can take the place of figuring out a good time to create art. "Doing is the one condition of knowing." For me, it has been a daily blog. I also create other artwork, but the daily (2) or (3) hours I spend on creating a 6" x 6" piece happens no matter what.

In order to guard that sacred time and space, I opt to get up around 5:30 and simply do it no matter how I feel. You simply cannot work only when you feel like it. Some of my best work has happened when I felt like going back to bed. And the time you choose during your day is very important. Typically, I don't have places to go at 5:30 in the morning and no one is calling so it has proven to be a good time. I am generally through with the whole process by 8:30. Then it doesn't matter if I have unexpected interruptions. 

This is the way I do it, but if you are not up for a completed piece every day, I would encourage you to have a place where your work can stay out or be easily accessed so that you keep a continuous thread of design thought going on. Artists cannot make significant progress if they don't spend time with their art everyday.

Remember that your next piece begins where the last one left off. You cannot learn something completely just by reading or watching. You must actually do the work yourself. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


($40.00.....6" x 6".....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"It is quite amazing that all colors originate from red, yellow, and blue." When you consider the hundreds of color combinations that derive from these three primaries, we have yet another example of the amazing creative power of God.

This reference photo was taken last fall in Santa Fe, N.M. And yes, the sky really was that blue. It was an amazing October day with the aspens in all of their glory. 

The challenge in this painting was to paint several of the aspens behind the evergreens. No easy task, and my process is different from the oil painters who use brush. I laid down the sky color first followed by some of the evergreens and then I alternated back and forth between aspens and evergreens. It's an interesting effect with some of the evergreens in front and some of the aspens in front. 

I rely primarily on the pressure of the touch to set those colors in place on top of wet paint. One of the advantages of using a palette knife is being able to get cleaner colors. It's much harder to clean a brush when changing color than it is a palette knife and I think that's one of the other reasons I've switched to the knife.

The trees originally went to the bottom of the board, but in the interest of being able to inscribe my lettering, I took a palette knife and swiped off some of that color. I inscribed the quote with a mechanical pencil and wiped the pencil after every stroke. If you really want to know how to learn about color, try oil painting. It's quite the challenge. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Silver Lining"

($40.00.....6" x 6".....140lb HP mounted on a 1/8" depth clayboard panel)

"Grace is the silver lining behind every cloud." As you can see, I've taken liberties with a classic quote. The unmerited favor of God is certainly a silver lining whether there is a cloud or not.

This piece is a compilation of three sections of discarded sections of mono printed rice papers, old book pages, and silver leaf. The silver is hard to see on a computer screen, but it is clearly visible in the original.

I did need to add some more turquoise on the section at the bottom to tie it into the rest of the piece, but this is a great way to use up the "cropped off" areas from other works. It is amazing to see what elements actually go together that you would never have been able to plan in advance. So this is another spontaneous technique that can be exploited. 

Also notice that the gestural marks in the mono print contain a variety of thin and thick lines. This is much more interesting than just having one or the other so that is a good point to remember when doing these kinds of works. And of course, the thick and thin lines are precisely why hand lettering is so appealing. It provides a great contrast between the very straight and precise text in the collage. Another contrast is between the silver and the neutral colors. Pencil lettering also adds another weight and dimension to the mark making. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"A Bridge"


"A bridge is the way over murky waters." There is a way across the murky waters of life. It's the Word of God.   The visual image is just another way of connecting art to the deeper things of life.

This bridge is located on the premises of the Biltmore Estate in Ashville N.C. Just an interesting tidbit...the same landscape architect that designed the grounds on the beautiful estate also designed Central Park.  I found this bridge to be very interesting and the water was greenish blue and quite murky. 

When deciding on subjects to paint, I like to include architectural elements or structures as often as possible because they create such a contrast to the surrounding natural elements and seem to add a strong grounding to the piece. It would be great to be able to paint every beautiful scene on location, but often that is simply not possible. In this case the road close to the bridge has a steady stream of cars so there would be no place to park or get close enough on foot to set up an easel. 

The next best thing is a good camera and a good laptop. I personally like to bring the image up on my computer rather than painting from a printed photo. It seems that the back lighting on the screen gives a truer statement of the colors and image. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Incredible Shelter"


"A rock provides incredible shelter." The symbolism of a rock is replete throughout scripture and came to my mind as I painted these two huge boulders, one in front of the other. The small tree seems to be perfectly secure.

Painting this was scary! Rocks are a hugh challenge in values and angles. I was not pleased with it while it was in my hand, up close and personal, but when I sat it across the room, it came to life. It feels very abstract, but that's a quality I'm going for so I was altogether happy about that.

Just a few words about keeping your paints wet from one day to the next. I use a fairly good sized glass palette which, to me, is the absolute perfect surface for everything art related. To keep the paint from drying out, I went on the hunt for an oversized cake pan with a cover. The palette fits in there perfectly and I also place a wet sponge in there to keep the humidity high.

On the painting side of things, I know artists who try to get their colors to match the subject perfectly and can do a very good job, but my desire is to paint the image so that it looks like the reference, but then veer off into my "colorist" mode. My desire is to go even more abstract, but that is easier said than done. 

A good exercise is to see how few strokes can be used to paint a given thing. When I can paint anything with three strokes of the palette knife, I will be a happy camper. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


($40.00.....6" x 6"....Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"The amount of light changes everything." The longer I create art, the more stunned I am that the things that are true in art are also true in life. Such is the case with this quote.

It is amazing how a painting comes together simply by laying in the color blocks in the right place with the right shapes. This painting was a case in point. I was holding it in my hand as I painted and studied my reference photo very carefully and didn't feel like it was pulling together until I sat it on an easel across the room.

And even though I did take some liberties with some of the color, it still looked like my reference photo. So I guess the point occasionally step away from your work to see where you are in the process. It is also good to check your darkest darks and lightest lights to make sure they're on target. It is super easy to not get the darks dark enough and seems to be a continual problem with artists in all media. 

On another note, if you stand and paint in front of an easel, you might want to consider buying a long rubber mat so that your feet don't get tired and you will also have a runway to step back and forth on as you work. Bath and Body Works has a nice one for around $60.00. All of you young chicks may not need it, but those of us past 60 need all the help we can get. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Line and Color"

(unavailable.....6" x 6" collage created on 140 lb. HP)

"Let your eyes pass through line and color to give thanks." This quote is inspired by my obsession with transparency. It is also a metaphor for living a life of thanks and letting our eyes pass through the beauty of a thing to the Giver.

A strong graphic look is achieved here and in many of my other mixed media pieces by painting the background with black gesso first. The shapes are then determined by where the old book pages and rice paper are placed to create positive and negative shapes.

In some of my past postings, I did leave more black showing, but I think it looks more integrated and subtle to allow the slivers of black to create a strong division of space rather than a large or equal amount to the text pages. There is a larger black shape right beneath the pumpkin which I like very much and that actually helps the eye to go directly to the center of interest. 

Without deconstruction (adhering and then removing papers), this type of work becomes too static. It is a technique which truly helps with the back and forth that needs to take place between shapes or color color blocks. It marries the different areas together. It is also called breaking up surface tension.

If you want to include personal drawings as I did here, it is best to draw the image about twice as big as you actually need and then reducing it and printing the image on silk tissue paper. This gives the illusion that the drawing was actually done on the original piece. Again, this is all about a contrast of transparency and opacity to create depth. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Looking Beyond"


"Looking beyond reveals hidden treasure." The person who only plans for today and fails to plan for the future will miss life's treasures."

As I study all of the photos I took on our recent trip to North Carolina, I realized that I really do like a lot of foreground in my paintings. Even if there are distant things in the background, it's the foreground that seems to really give the piece some drama and depth. 

One of the most strategic things about creating a palette knife painting and using a "wet into wet" technique is deciding what colors get laid down first. Because branches can sometimes be hard to paint with a knife, I chose to lay a very dark brown over the entire gessobord first so that the limbs and the quote could be carved out.   Next came the background foliage followed by the water the then the leaves and foreground.

Besides making those decisions, it is then a matter of touch and practice to lay down one stroke at a time with just the right pressure so as not to disturb what is underneath. If you're the type that likes to "fuss" over things, this will get you over that in a heartbeat. One swipe is all you get before wiping the palette knife and doing it again. This is called the alla prima method of painting. The beauty of working in oils is that you can come back the next day and even the day after that to make additions...or subtractions.

And just as a recap, I first tried Gamblin Oils (one of the best on the market)...followed by Open Acrylics....regular acrylics with retarder added, but for working with a palette knife, I found water soluble oils to have the best texture for this application. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Air of Peace"

($40.00......Water Soluble Oils on Gessobord)

"Pastoral scenes invoke an air of peace." There is a reason why we like taking a drive out in the country where there are rolling hills, trees, and barns. It is peaceful and takes all of the chaos in our lives to a quieter place.

A reference photo from Tennessee inspired this piece, but I quickly diverged into an abstract delivery of the paint. This is a good time to repeat something which finally resonated with me. It's from Kevin MacPherson...a very successful plein air painter who has two of the best books on the subject. We all know that shapes are very important in art, but I am continually surprised at how quickly that thought leaves my head when I'm painting. 

All paintings are made up of shapes. To forget that is to have a painting fall apart. It is also one of the first things I look for in other artwork. Those shapes and the division of space are the foundation of the piece. They must be distinguishable and not "wishy-washy". One way to learn is to give it a try for yourself, but also to study other artist's work and notice how they've pulled it off.

The direction of the lines (or edges) is also a key factor since all straight lines can be quite boring. That's why trees are so pleasing. The trunks may be mostly straight, but then the branches and limbs give you all of the diagonals and the foliage typically has a nice rounded shape. I have concluded that most good design is on display for us just by going outside. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Unexpected Spontaneity"

(unavailable.....6" x 6" collage)

"Design is preplanned order with unexpected interruptions of spontaneity." Design is a wonderful thing, but even well ordered and preplanned things can look static.  So it is good to use techniques that also allow for spontaneity. And it is also common that whatever is true in art can also be true in life. Sometimes the most fun times are planned in advance, but the unexpected provides the dearest memory.
Today I went back to my old book pages and a line drawing I did of a Bromeliad to create a collage piece with the emphasis on transparency and opacity. Rice paper adhered over the text pages creates a lovely setting for a line drawing. Being able to see through the drawing is an important part of achieving depth. I did print the drawing on silk tissue paper to have the transparency carry right on through. It's simply not as effective to print images on the silk tissue paper that are solid. It doesn't integrate as well with the previous layer. 

The other technique I exploited "to the hilt" in this piece is deconstruction. (Adhering something to the surface and after a few minutes...ripping it off) This technique helps to have a back and forth conversation between the shapes. Look at the bottom left corner to see that I adhered some text to the red/orange color and then when it was ripped off, it lifted some of the color and left fragments of the text. This was also done on the ledger paper to integrate it with the other areas. 

If you look in the center of the bromeliad, I adhered some of the red/orange rice paper (which had been mono printed) with the color side down. When it is ripped off it creates bits of color and very random texture. There are several other areas where this same technique was used until I was satisfied that there was a conversation going on between all of the color blocks or shapes. 

Last, but not least, I did beef up some of the negative black areas with black ink. The brownish areas you see are splotches of walnut ink which really makes things look old and creates a very rich brown patina.   And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Bird's Eye View"

(unavailable.....water soluble oils)

"A bird's eye view is the best view." I've often wondered what a bird's eye view was. Does it mean the view that a bird has while it sits on a branch or does it mean the view it has while flying in the air?  In any case, the view today is from the branch of an aspen tree.

This piece began with a base coat of lemon yellow plus white. I then painted in the tree trunk followed by the dark blue/purple and then the branches and the leaves. The lettering was the final touch using a sgraffito technique which reveals the first layer of the lemon yellow. 

This was a difficult piece to do because I wasn't sure if I could capture the essence of the image. Generally speaking I am pleased, but I'm still not quite where I want to be yet.  Actually I would like more abstraction with the idea of capturing the image with as few strokes of the palette knife as possible.

The "sgraffito effect" is trendy in contemporary art right now. Many abstract artists are using it with acrylics and scratching through the top layer of paint to reveal the first layer. It does create a nice texture. When using acrylics for this techniques it is best to scratch through the top surface while the paint is semi soft. If it does set up too quickly, it can be softened by brushing on some rubbing alcohol and letting it sit for a minute and then use a very sharp point. When I work with acrylics, I typically use a metal dental pick or an x-acto knife which will achieve the same effect.

This same technique is also effective using Speedball Printing Ink and writing or scratching marks into the second layer following by drying and spraying with acrylic coating. You can then create another layer, leaving part of the previous layer exposed. Since Speedball Printing Ink is water soluble so you can write into it or make marks simply by dipping your pointed pen into water. The point I am making is that "sgraffito" is worth experimenting with and I encourage you to try it using different mediums. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"The Aspens"

($40.00.....6" x 6".....water soluble oils on gessobord)

"Give it up for the aspens." Many artists have depicted aspens and this is my version. They really are quite stunning when they light up the fall landscape. The reference photo I used was taken in Santa Fe, N.M.

Much can be learned about variety and alternation by studying the landscape. I chose this photo because I like the alternating effect of the aspens with the evergreens. I am continuing to push the depth by slightly changing each stroke. It takes a bit longer to do, but I believe it's worth the trouble. It would have been very boring to use one solid color for each tree. This is an important thing to remember whether moving towards realism or working in total abstraction. The repetitive and different strokes create variety. And by varying the direction of the strokes and using a fair amount of paint, the light reflects off of the surface in a beautiful way.

Notice also how the exposed tree trunks and branches create nice divisions of space and even an occasional diagonal. You might want to experiment by simply taking a palette knife and mixing up one color in its full intensity, then add a bit of the complement....followed by white, and then repeat this in different percentages and overlay the strokes and make each one going in a different direction. It's quite fun and gives practice in color mixing and how to dilute a particular color. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Soothing Blue"


"Some days require soothing blue." It seems to be true that some colors have more power to calm and heal than others. I think blue is one of those colors.

In this piece, I got much more intentional about the way I laid down the color and paid much closer attention to the shapes of color. However, to make it much more interesting, I tried to slightly change the color with each stroke. This actually helps to make a solid color image have more depth. It also helps to change the direction of the stroke. 

Division of space is much easier with a landscape. What does help is to select images that include trees with exposed branches. Those branches do help to further divide the space and break up the solid green and fall colors. That's why landscapes at this time of the year have a bit more contrast since some of the trees have already lost their leaves. So it is a very good time to go out and take some good photographs and even take some time to paint outside. 

Again, I want to emphasize the importance of painting with a limited palette. It creates color harmony and also saves you some money. If you are interested in a single primary palette, the three primaries that are basic are Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Med. and Cad. Yellow Light and a tube of Titanium White. I use these colors but also include Cad. Yellow Med. rather than Cad. Yellow Light and Lemon Yellow. I also like Phtalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson. This gives much more of a range, especially for landscape painting. The Phtalo Blue is extremely helpful in achieving dark greens. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Empty Vessel"

(unavailable....water soluble oils)

"An empty vessel is ready to be filled." I like to draw the comparison between an empty vessel and an empty mind. In order to stay focused on anything, it is quite necessary to empty your mind of all extraneous detail. This can also have deep spiritual meaning.

I went a bit more chaotic and abstract today which was my intention. Eventually, I will land on some very solid ground. This process could be compared to "staging" a room where you might keep moving things around, taking some items out and putting other items in until you feel satisfied that the room feels right. This piece could probably have used a bit more editing, but I also need to push the limits in one direction or another until all is well.

The beauty of blogging everyday is that I now have numerous pieces that I can study in retrospect. It helps me to see what changes need to be made. It is hard to figure out what the next step is to achieve a particular mood and integration without doing a lot of pieces. 

It is inevitable that practicing a particular technique will automatically "morph" if you create enough work. So my encouragement is to keep on keeping on and assess the body of your work along the way to get where you want to go. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"A Foundation"

($40.00....6" x 6"....water soluble oils on gessobord)

"A rock in art or in life provides a foundation." Rocks have long been symbolic of stability and strength. They have a spiritual significance and that is often symbolized in the visual arts.

The palette knife is one of the most expressive tools I've had in my hands. After completing approximately (3) weeks of these paintings, I now have my favorites. One palette knife is never enough since there are many sizes and configurations. In this piece, I felt a bit "looser" and freely threw in some gestural marks in various places. Actually, each swipe of the knife feels like a gestural stroke and that pleases me very much. 

Two of the major points in pulling these paintings off is to make sure the dards are dark enough and lights are light enough. The other point is to work with a limited palette. Identify the colors in the reference photo or in plein air by identifying the root color by one of the (12) colors on the color wheel. I still slip up from time to time and call yellow-green....."green gold" (A golden acrylic color). The reason this is important is because the components in some of those color hues rather than the pure color can give you some unexpected results when mixing them.

Simply avoid that by learning how to work with either one set of primaries plus white or set up a double palette which includes a warm and cool  of each primary plus white. You can then "gray down" a color much easier and the entire painting will be more harmonious. It is sometimes hard to realize that all colors come from yellow, blue, and red. It's the percentage of each and the intensity that makes the difference. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about. 

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Solitary Places"

($125.00....6" x 6".....oils on gessobord....floated on a linen mat in a custom frame)

"Peace resides in solitary places." The inspiration photo for this piece was taken near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The blue of the water was piercing through the trees and everything was very quiet. We can all recall a place we've been that seemed to be the very essence of peace.

In my other palette knife pieces, I have painted the trunk and branches of the trees with the edge of a palette knife. Now I am taking a different approach and using a technique called "sgraffito". It is a technique that involves scratching or marking the top surface of paint to reveal a previous layer. In this case, I decided to paint the top two thirds of the piece with the dark brown color of the tree trunk first. I then painted the sky, the mountain of trees, and the water.

The trees were then revealed by lifting the top color with the palette knife. This is a much easier and convincing way of painting tree limbs. And because it is a "wet into wet" technique, the edges blend together and create a much softer edge.

The bottom third of the painting was painted with a light brown color so that my lettering would show through. It is still a bit hard to read, but I like the way it is integrated into the painting and the texture it creates. It can look very contrived to paint or adhere lettering on top of a painting that has some degree of realism.

It is much easier to incorporate lettering in a totally abstract or mixed media piece. But I am one determined gal, so I will continue on my road to discovery trying to integrate lettering and oils. And there you have it...just one more thing to think about.

Please contact me personally to inquire about this piece.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Abbreviated World"

(unavailable....water soluble oils)

"We live in an abbreviated world." The arts often reflect contemporary culture. The most descriptive word for me is...abbreviated. We all expect others and ourselves to accomplish everything in a very short time period. Sometimes it works, but more often than not, the steps to become skilled cannot be abbreviated.

My mixed media has come back with full force. This piece began on a 9" x 12" piece of linen canvas using water soluble oils. So the very abstract background was done first, followed by a tree limb and some leaves. By placing a layer of cad.yellow light over the entire surface first, I was able to reveal that layer as I wrote and created gestural strokes in the wet paint. My goal was to be able to crop the piece to give myself more options. However, the canvas cannot be cut to size until the painting is dry so I actually did the cropping after bringing the image into iphoto.

It's an interesting way to work if you can follow my convoluted thought process. But it is worth the effort to have more options when beginning the work with total abstraction and not knowing where additional images will be placed. Even with all of this montage of color... shapes and division of space were still in my decision making. The tree limb goes edge to edge as well as the red-orange color. And by working with a limited palette, the colors are harmonious. 

There is also a lot of freedom involved by working in oils which stay wet for several days and even longer with thick paint. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Point of View"

(unavailable....water soluble oils)

"Point of view determines what you see." Not only is this true in art, but it is true in life. A particular point of view about anything will determine outcome.

My experimenting rages on...literally...and I am once again reminded that paintings are made of shapes. It is good to remember this when taking photos as well. Look for contrasts and shapes to get some photographs you can actually use as a reference. In this piece, I probably could have done a better job of visually showing that this barn and foreground tree are at the foot of a hill of green grass with no blue sky showing. So one of the things I learned is that I might want to include blue sky in the photo for a more convincing piece.

However, I am satisfied with the fact that all four corners are designed. And the lettering is inscribed vertically along the right hand side without interfering with the image. I did do an under painting of a "grayed down" orange with acrylic paint before beginning. Hopefully, you will soon see more abstracted landscapes with more lettering included in the background. I plan to have a departure from this to an even more abbreviated image with some of my mixed media techniques also included.

My plan is to do what I know will work over time. And what I know works is that anyone who has a very strong desire to learn something can definitely do it if there is a desire to stay in the game and learn how to be very observant. I am now convinced that the skill of keen observation is foundational to learning art. And there you have it...just a few more things to think about.