Thursday, December 31, 2009

Value Study

Self Portrait #3, 8 x 6

Here's the value study. Being able to focus just on lights and darks and putting them where they belong made a big difference. It was completed within the ninety-minute time frame, and the likeness is easily the most accurate of the three, though the brush strokes feel loose and free.

This process was really helpful for me. The best thing is, the series is done and I don't have to stare at myself for hours, anymore!

Another Self-Portrait Exercise

Self Portrait #2, 8 x 6

Here's another stab at the exercise I did for my last post. Considerably less than perfect, these two portrait studies have brought home to me a couple things. One, resist the urge to go to a smaller brush — even in most detail areas, like the eyes— than you would use for the rest of the painting. Two, getting an accurate value study in a portrait is more than enough to keep me occupied for ninety minutes. In fact, today's exercise actually took a little over two hours. The extra time was spent trying to fix problems I created with that little #2 brush(!).

So, because these last two studies both have areas where the values and/or placement are off, my next "ninety-minute" exercise will be done in one color only.

PLEASE, GOD, let ninety minutes be long enough!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Self Portrait

Self Portrait, 8 x 6

Hello, again. Wow, posting two days in a row! I have to say I'm glad Christmas is over, so I can get back to painting. Today's exercise was lots of fun for me. I had finished the architectural subject from yesterday's post and was noticing how clean and squared off everything looks. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I seem to tend toward the precise, especially when working on architectural subjects, in the studio.

So, today I decided to get a mirror and do a timed study of my very own (aging!) face. It was fun not worrying about flesh tones, much less photographic precision. I didn't even "draw" an underpainting, instead starting in with the main skin color and building "planes of color," which is something Cezanne was known for. I really want to start doing this at least a couple times a week, as I think I benefit greatly from letting down my guard, so to speak. If you have an opinion on this, either way, I'd love to hear it.

Happy painting.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Back Entrance, Revisited

Back Entrance, Revisited, 12 x 16
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Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope you are enjoying your families and friends, and are looking forward to much painting in 2010. Today's post is my first in three weeks, thanks to shopping, overeating, and all the other critical holiday activities. The image above may look familiar, as it is an enlarged attempt from one of my very first posts back at the beginning of June. I worked primarily on improving the brushstrokes and enhancing the values and colors of the background. I enjoyed this subject when we painted it en plein air last spring, and was glad to go back this week and explore it anew.

Best wishes in the new year!

Back Entrance, 8 x 10
plein air study

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers, 6 x 8
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The temperature was in the thirties this morning at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since I already chickened out of the previous two paintouts due to cold weather, I decided I had better show up this time, lest I take on the rep of being a thin-blooded milktoast.

Unfortunately, I was, indeed, enough of a milktoast not to confirm by yesterday whether I would show up this time. This fear of committing on record was due to a sub-freezing forecast for early this morning.

As it turned out, even this less severe strain of artistic cowardice came back to haunt me. I did make good on my internal promise to come out to paint today, but of course, I was the only one to show up.

Here I was thinking I would finally get to see some painting friends I hadn't seen in three weeks due to my past milktoastness, only to be disappointed. Alone in my exposure to the early morning elements, I called the president and priestess of Plein Air Austin, Laurel Daniel, to learn that the paintout had been canceled, altogether. It turned out no one else replied to the email invitation, either, and because of the apparent lack of interest, the cancellation.

If I only had the guts yesterday to commit to painting this morning, I would not have had to paint alone. Laurel, at the very least, would have been more than happy to come out and paint, as long as she knew anyone else wanted to. In the meantime, however, she had already started in working on a commission and was too involved to come out on such late notice.

So — I learned a very important lesson this morning. When painting en plein air, it's okay to be a milktoast, as long as you admit your milktoast status up front. If you think you might NOT be a milktoast, but aren't quite sure, just be firm in your commitment. And do so at least one day in advance. Moving on.

In the landscape above, the various plant life on either side of the trail struck me as almost human sentinels, with the power to allow or deny access to anyone venturing down the path.

Hmm, plants with distinct personalities. I must have been more than cold this morning. I must have been really, really lonely.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Front Gate

Front Gate, 8 x 10

I'm no botanist, but I thought this scene was evidence of Austin's somewhat unusual climate. The red flowers evoked a feeling of springtime to me, while the orange foliage in the background unmistakeably said fall. Either way, after an extremely hot summer here, this November has been SO welcome.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mountain Pasture

Mountain Pasture, 22 x 28

This is an enlargement of a study I posted about a month ago of a mountain pasture in southwestern Colorado. Getting the values and color intensity integrated between the various distance planes in a vista like this was very challenging. It took me longer than I anticipated to get it to a point I was happy with. Hopefully, all the exploration done here will not be lost on my next distant landscape.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Morning With Rocks

A Morning With Rocks, 9 x 12

Mount Bonnell was the site of our final plein air class this morning. With the temperature in the fifties when we started and a cloudless sky, it was a venue with innumerable interesting choices of subject. So, of course I chose. . . rocks.

In defense of my imagination, I truly did, and do, find the high contrast of the rocks sitting in the early morning light quite exciting to paint, or even just look at. I also felt that the high point of view across the lake toward West Lake Hills rendered them even more exciting.

So, I admit it. Rocks excite me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Secondary Neutrals

Frontier Cabin, 6 x 8
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Class met this morning at Shipe Park in central Austin. I camped in front of this log cabin to take up today's assignment, which fortunately for me, was carried over from last week's class. I missed last week due to work, but Laurel today gave everyone another go at creating a value study using only neutrals and semi-neutrals. Simplifying the process a little bit was the fact that we made these by mixing only the three secondary colors. Value adjustments were made adding either white to lighten, or mixing the naturally dark purple with other colors for the darkest values.

Though this sounds a bit complicated, it was helpful in getting us to focus once again on finding the correct values in a landscape, which is crucial in any painting. The use of only neutrals and semi-neutrals did, however, make for a pretty desaturated picture, at least in this case.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

As The Sun Sets, A Lake Rises

A Lake Rises, 8 x 10

Thursday evening, a few of us from the Plein Air Austin group painted the sunset at the beautiful home of Lynn Cohagan, which overlooks Lake Travis. (Next time, I want to paint her house. It's SO beautiful).
Thanks to more frequent rain in the last two months, the lake is finally starting to fill back up. It still has over thirty-five feet to go to reach its normal level, but we're glad it's heading in the right direction, for a change.

This is my first attempt at painting a sunset, but since Laurel was painting close by, I wasn't as intimidated by the task as I would have been, had such fool-proof help not been so readily available.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Waterloo Park

Waterloo Park, 8 x 6
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Today was the second weekly session of our plein air class. Laurel had us repeat the process of identifying the four primary planes in a landscape that we learned in the classrom last week. This time it was the real thing, though — painting en plein air. We were at Waterloo Park, two blocks from the capitol grounds in downtown Austin. Since many in the class were painting outside for the first time, Laurel wanted to simplify things a bit (that's my assumption, anyway) by having us paint a yellow and mixed-black duotone.

Meanwhile, I had brought only panels pre-painted with a semi-neutral rust color ground. Thus, my attempt became a slightly dull tri-tone. Still, it was fun, I did the intended exercise, and found a composition I'd like to revisit with a full pallet later on.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rear Window

Rear Window, 8 x 6

This is my entry for Karin Jurick's current Different Strokes from Different Folks challenge. I enjoyed participating in one a couple months ago, but have been preoccupied with other "challenges" since. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it more often in the future.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Saga Continues

Cedars Study, 6 x 8

Wednesday was the beginning of Laurel Daniel's latest plein air class. This first day, we worked in the classroom from photos, because of the weather. Laurel walked us through an extremely helpful, group step-by-step demo of blocking in the main values in a landscape (see Cedars Study, above), after explaining the theory of planes and atmospheric perspective. Boy, I thought I knew it, which I did in my head, but the demo showed me I've been ignoring certain elements of the process when actually painting. That is, primarily, that those relationships must hold true within each general distance range of the painting, (foreground, middle ground, and background), and in addition that each of those succeeding distance planes must correctly relate to one another. It's hard to put it all into words, which I guess explains why actually doing this exercise was so helpful and so important.

Mountain Pasture, 6 x 8

This second study was also from the first class, where we were to go through the above-mentioned process on our own, using a photo of our own. Mountain Pasture is from another photo taken while in Colorado.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Road Out

The Road Out, 8 x 10

Here is another piece from Colorado. It is a plein air study, which I didn't have time to clean up until today. I wanted to paint outside this afternoon, which was beautifully sunny and cool here in Austin. Unfortunately, I didn't have any new panels, so I finished this in order to get at least some practice for the start of Laurel's next plein air class, which starts Wednesday. Note to self: get panels tomorrow!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mountain Road Studies

Mountain Road, 9 x 12

Mountain Road, 8 x 10 (original plein air study)

Here are two studies from my September trip to Colorado. The bottom one is the raw plein air field study, the top one done in studio, using only the field study for reference. I decided to do this because I recently found myself getting overly detailed when working from a photo, when usually the need in landscape painting is to simplify the forms (especially as they recede into the distance). I think I'll try to do this more often on studio work when the critical details can be referenced either from the plein air study or from memory.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dog Heaven 2

Dog Heaven 2, 8 x 8

This is my Irish Terrier, Major Eamon. I recently brought him on the trip I took to Colorado with my college buddy, Bruce Powers and his dog, Gracy. We were there almost a week, nearly all of which the dogs were free of both leashes and fences. With the freedom to chase chipmunks, the scenery, and getting to split nearly half a t-bone steak with Gracy the night before we returned, life was about as good as it gets for a canine.

This is a one-hour study I did today for my daughter Natalie, who asked me to paint her favorite pooch when she saw the photo I later referenced it from.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Didn't Do It, I Swear.

I Didn't Do It, I Swear, 16 x 20

Still life class was today, most of which we spent working with a full pallet on a streatched canvas. Laurel brought in at least five different types of eggplant, which she got from our last plein air venue. Several looked more like squash to me than eggplant, but I trust our teacher knows whereof she speaks. These were about the most egg-planty looking ones on hand.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gracy's Place

Gracy's Place, 20 x 24

I painted this today from one of many photos I took while in southwestern Colorado a few weeks ago. I haven't painted this large in awhile, so I was happy to be able to complete it in one session, albeit one that lasted several hours. As you might guess, that's Gracy in the foreground. My dog, Major, is in on up the road, waiting on his friend.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thanks for coming

No images to post today, but thank you to everyone who made the trek to Round Rock this afternoon for Trish Siegel's and my opening at The Daily Grind. It was the first exclusive opening for each of us and it meant a lot to see so many friendly faces. It was a lot of fun and both of us made sales, which made it even sweeter. Now it will be nice to focus on just the painting part for awhile.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Value Studies, Part II

Our latest class assignment was to do more value studies, using one color and its range of values for each study. The top left was a set-up from class, while the other three were done from home this afternoon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Left Behind

Left Behind, 6 x 8
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The threat of rain kept the turnout low for this morning's scheduled paintout at Johnson's Backyard Garden, a small organic farm on the southeast edge of Austin. Three artists showed up, though just two of us stayed to paint. This was understandable, since there was a stong chance of rain. With almost no one else around and just a light, intermittent sprinkle, it turned out to be a wonderfully peaceful and enjoyable morning. I painted from my car for the first time ever, with the window down, and though it was a little cramped, I'm glad I stayed. I know I would have been grumpy if I had driven all the way out there and not gotten to paint. This little shack sits on land next to the farm, at the end of an old one-lane road. The quiet, along with the threatening sky seemed to add to the mystery of this old relic of a life long past.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Local Color, Value and Light

It's been a busy few weeks with work, travel and the start of a new art class, and thus my postings have been rare. Okay, they've been nonexistent. But that changes with tonight's post, which shows work from my first assignment in Laurel's "Color and Value in Still Life" class at Laguna Gloria.

After warming up by painting a simple value scale from white to black, the first phase of the main assignment was to paint only the local values in any one of several still-life setups Laurel had arranged around the studio. That is, render the inherent lightness or darkness of the objects in one of the still lifes without showing any of the cast light or shadows that we normally use to distinguish shape and texture.

Next, we were asked — ever so sweetly by our wonderful teacher, Ms. Daniel — to now do another study, showing how light and shadow affect the local values of the objects.

Finally, we were to try one more version, this time including the local color of the objects in the lighted scene.

In case you were wondering, the spherical object you see is what used to be called a smudge pot, for some indecipherable reason. They were used back in the day, more or less as heavy-duty lanterns by road crews to light detours or road construction boundaries. And yes, I'm old enough to remember them. But that was in deep East Texas, where I wouldn't be surprised to still find them in use today. So I'm not necessarily that old. Just for the record.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lakeside Breeze

Lakeside Breeze, 12 x 9

My apologies for another tardy post, but I have another excuse to go with it. I've spent considerable time of late getting ready for an exhibit of Patricia Siegel's and my work, which we hung today at The Daily Grind coffee house in Round Rock. It's the first featured exhibit for either of us, so it's nice to have taken that step. As far as the picture above, it depicts a view from our paint out site last Wednesday, at Cindy Ridge's lake house on Lake Austin. As you can no doubt can tell, I had a lot of trouble with the mountain in the background. I tried to solve its issues back home afterward, the effort of which was further hampered by the fact that I took no reference photos to work from. There were some other elements I felt were working in the piece, however, and since it has been well over a week since my last post, I decided to go ahead and put it up for all to see. Please be gentle.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lost Creek

Lost Creek, 10 x 8

This morning, the plein air group was at Lost Creek, in southwest Austin. The creek is way down, and while this kept some views from being worthwhile subjects for painting, it allowed us to reach other vantage points we couldn't have otherwise.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Sunshine, 24 x 24

Apologies for the sparse postings of late, but I've been helping my son get his new-used car ready to head out of state for his sophomore year of college; and also spent nearly two full days rounding up various documents from all over Austin for my daugher's learner's permit exam. Check and check. He's hopefully in Knoxville, TN by now, (please, God) and my daughter passed her test. Locals, beware of the latter.

I met this bright-eyed beauty on a horse farm in northwest Austin. There were several others I took pictures of, but this one — I'm calling her Sunshine — loved the camera. There are two other poses of her I hope to paint in the next week. This painting is my first attempt using only palette knives, which I really enjoyed and will continue to explore.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Neighborhood Bridge

Neighborhood Bridge, 11 x 14
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Our paintout this morning was on the grounds of the Elizabet Ney Museum in central Austin. This bridge spans Waller Creek, which continues south through the UT campus and downtown, before emptying into Town Lake.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Let's Do Lunch

Let's Do Lunch, 11 x 14

I was running too late for this week's plein air paintout, so I worked inside, on this still life.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dog Heaven

Dog Heaven, 8 x 10

I've started working on some larger studio pieces this week, so today, and periodically for awhile, I'll be posting some finished work that had yet to make it to the blog. This plein air piece was done on our first of two visits to Bull Creek Dog Park back in early June. Despite the lack of canine activity in the painting, this place was full of all kinds of dogs that day, every one of them seeming to have the time of their lives. This swimming hole is fed by the creek coming from the viewer's left, and it is this portion that the dogs seem to like the best because of its a smooth, rock bed which is shallow enough for the pooches not to have to swim. If they get too hot, they (the lab and retriever types, mostly) will jump into the pool you see here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Too Busy To Sit

Too Busy To Sit, 8 x 88

This afternoon, the Plein Air Austin paintout was at Martha Ruth's house, just a mile or so below Mansfield Dam, on Lake Austin. It's a beautiful spot and Martha and her husband, Gene, were terrifically hospitable to have us there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Well Deserved Rest

Well Deserved Rest, 14 x 11

This was my first submission to Karin Jurick's "Different Strokes From Different Folks" Challenge. If you're not already familiar with the Different Strokes blog, check it out at This bi-weekly challenge is a great service to artists interested in getting better. Also check out Karin's work at She is phenomenal.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Poolside Prep

Poolside Prep, 8 x 10

Even on 100º-plus days, some people need to baste for awhile before plunging into the cool waters of Deep Eddy swimming pool, adjacent to Town Lake (recently re-named Ladybird Lake in honor of the late former first lady and beloved Austinite, Mrs. LBJ).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lifeguard On Duty

Lifeguard On Duty, 10 x 8
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I waited all morning for the lifeguard to show up at this chair. Since he didn't make it until after noon, I painted most of the picture with the chair still empty. Finally, I asked one of the lifegaurds if one of them would be willing to sit in this chair so I could get a photograph. This is Ben, who was more than willing to help out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

Trickle Down, 36 x 48
acrylic on canvas

This is a piece done earlier this year for an abstract class I took, taught by Linda Montagnani, at Laguna Gloria. I love abstract art, but because there is so much to consider about any kind of art, I find it hard to work in two completely different genres at the same time. I would like to explore abstract art further, but am not sure when that will be.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Not All There

Not All There, 6 x 8
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More still life practice today. I really enjoyed it, but am looking forward to going back outside tomorrow.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm Driving. No, I'm Driving.

I'm Driving. No, I'm Driving, 6 x 8
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Another good day for painting inside. The gravy boat has been in our family since the 1800s.

Friday, July 3, 2009

More, Please

More, Please, 10 x 8

The paintout this Wednesday was at Lake Travis. We had to take cover early under a gazebo, but it was worthwhile just to watch the rain approach and sweep down the lake. The storm lingered long enough to bring the temperature down to 72º, for a couple hours, anyway.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Barton Springs

Barton Springs, 6 x 8

I'm a little shy about posting this attemp, because I had a hard time with it. Plein Air Austin had a paintout Saturday at Barton Springs, and I didn't see how I could paint Barton Springs without including people. Therein lay my dilemma, since I haven't done much painting of humans in landscapes, plein air or otherwise, and certainly not on such a small scale. So, I tried only for rough values and colors when we were out there, and finished it in studio, from photographic reference. I had a really hard time painting the human figures at this size, which is no doubt apparent. In addition, I had to depict the kick-boarder from memory. Finally, I had problems getting the paint opaque enough on the smaller details, most notably in the figures and the white rails of the lifeguard chairs. Painting wet into wet was one part of the problem, I think, and size, the other.

Oh, well. Hopefully the experience has taught me something, though at this point, I'm too worn out to think what that something might be.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

No Lifeguard On Duty

No Lifeguard On Duty, 6 x 8

I started this painting Tuesday morning outside one of the pools at the Riata apartments. While I liked where it was going, I wasn't ready to post it before spending some time this evening cleaning it up.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Please, Come In

Please, Come In, 6 x 8
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Today we were once again at Laguna Gloria. Our group likes it there now that the weather's hot, because there's a snack bar where we can get COLD drinks. It's supposed to be another hot one today, but it wasn't bad this morning in the shade. This is the front entrance to the main building, known as the Driscoll Villa.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Back Porch

Back Porch, 6 x 8

Today I spent a few hours across the street from one of the offices at the Riata apartments. Its design is reminiscent of farm and ranch houses built by German immigrants to central Texas in the late 1800s. It's kind of ironic, but they didn't make apartment offices like this when I was growing up. Nor did they care as much about preserving local foliage. Both wonderful trends, however late.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Burning Off

Burning Off, 6 x 8
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Typical to Austin for about nine months of the year, low level, early morning clouds are hurried overhead by southerly winds from the gulf. This time of year, the sun wastes little time evaporating the morning dew into such clouds, as it did today at Laguna Gloria, our paint-out rendezvous point this time around.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Coronation, 6 x 8

With the temperature reaching 100º F in Austin today, an indoor still-life seemed the way to go.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Four's a Crowd

Four's A Crowd, 6 x 8

This still life was begun near the end of Carol Marine's workshop last week, so I had to bring it home to complete. I had hoped the pea pods might have reconciled by now, but the rift appears to be permanent.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Low Cover

Low Cover, 8 x 10
A quiet and occasionally misty morning at West Lake Beach marina.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Emerald City

Emerald City, 8 x 6

Wednesday, our group painted at Zilker Botanical Garden. It was a beautiful morning, though spring is definitely over. (It's getting hot!) There were several summer camp groups of different-aged kids running around, and I have to mention that every one of them seemed to enjoy being there as much as we old people did. But then again, who in Austin doesn't know how to enjoy beauty?