June 2017

I realize this happens every year but it is always exciting to see spring.  The fresh warm air, the new birds in town, the longer days. Whats not to like?  So I needed to get out of the studio and I decided to do a palette knife painting on location in Shenandoah National Park.  The spot I chose was McCormick Gap Overlook, which is the first overlook heading north from Afton Mountain.  Palette knife painting will keep colors fresh as they do not blend paint like a brush. I used a wax medium to soften the surface and extend the paint.  I also like to use a hard surface, such as a luan door panel that I prepare with Gesso and oil priming.  This can take a beating better than canvas.  I have had the wind take a canvas off my easel in the mountains before and it was not pretty.  The palette knife effect is more color and texture and to some extent, more expression, unlike the realistic handling I do so often.  I work hard to fill up the panel and get my first coat of paint down.  Spring is an inspiring time but it moves quickly so I have to act fast.  I came back the next day and it had seemed the colors had changed on the trees.  I could see the color move up the ridges of the mountains.  The next week, leaves appeared that were once buds.  I look forward to seeing spring emerge this way.


October 2016

Painting in Maine comes easy.  Maine is such a beautiful state. I can see why N.C. Wyeth brought his family to this place.  Jill and I stayed in Tenants Harbor and I fanned out from there to paint.  I was especially inspired by the depths of the tides and what that looks like on the landscape.  In Virginia tides are not more than a few feet.  In Maine it can be 12 feet or more.  This tidal marsh must have been completely under water but low tide brought it down by at least seven feet.  The bank is feeling the effects of the rush and flow as it is constantly crumbling and changing shape.

I spotted other things to paint but there was not going to be time.   The masterpieces of Andrew Wyeth came about by the inspirations that must have visited his head every day during a long summer.  I was like a child at an amusement park with an hour in my pocket.   Something I learned through painting is that inspiration will present itself in time.  If you are prepared to act on that inspiration then you probably have something worth keeping. MarshlandsTurkey Cove

June 2016

I find myself  successful when what I produce engages the viewer emotionally and subconsciously, similar to seeing good abstraction.  Art, being a nonverbal communication, is a perfect vehicle for emotions.   I paint whats before me, but inside of that are emotions that are not being left out.        There is a  feeling I get standing at a scenic overlook in Shenandoah National Park.  That overlook is designed to have me go away feeling better,  like a movie with a happy ending.   The beauty and nature of the place  inspires me.   Inspiration is exciting.  It is the God particle.  It allows the artist to go beyond the subject and enter a realm that is spiritual.  When I paint at this overlook, it  makes sense that some of those feelings will be passed on to the viewer.

My interest in painting nature is about being a good steward.  For those connected to the land, there are deep feelings about preserving it.  It is my desire that in viewing these pictures, ones relationship with nature will be altered.  In this way, those who had not thought of it before may have ideas about protecting the treasure we have.  We also have a responsibility to our earth and it’s inhabitants (plants and animals included) to care for it for generations to come.Private Collection    We must all become environmentalists.

January 2016

The Creative Process

The mind will play a lot of tricks.  It makes a lot of noise.  It is forever thinking about the past and future.  There are many distractions we feel we need to think about.  Some are essential to our lives and the well-being of others.  Other things are not necessary to compete for our attention.  We have to decide what we want in our heads.

Today, we have more distractions than ever.  We cannot drive our cars without the cell phone going off.  Our phones control us, our media, our ability to go anywhere anytime.  We fly around not seeing what we are passing by.  It is sad how caught up and hectic our lives have become.  It is important to take the time to be quiet.  We could stand to slow down and have a cup of tea or appreciate the bird that appears at our window.

Creativity happens after the mind is quiet.  It is an ‘in the moment’ activity, a meditation.  In the moment we see the possibilities.  We may see things we want to depict.  An ordinary object becomes fascinating.  The shadow of a boat has a whole world inside it.  The personality of a dog shines for everyone to see.  Magic becomes possible.

As an artist, I have chores that need doing.  The life I created for myself is complex like most others.  It is even important for the creative process to stop doing art from time to time.  When I get back into it, there will be an energy that is most powerful.  The ‘not doing’ makes the ‘doing’ more important.  It is all important.

December 2015

Painting winter is only difficult because it is cold.  It is no less inspirational.  Think about it.  The trees are bare so that you appreciate their true shape.  The bark and lichens shine in the sun.  Shadows are longer and make for interesting compositions.  Cold air looks different than warm air as does winter sunlight.  There are so many new things to depict when the leaves fall.  Even water changes color.  When snow falls, it transforms the landscape instantly, which also changes interior spaces based on what comes through the windows.  People dressed in coats are a thing.

Winter is also a time to be quiet, meditate, read books, make soup.  It is a good time to practice a new technique, study, visit museums.  I like to do etching during the winter as it is an indoor activity.  Most of my etchings are winter scenes.  So as you struggle with the lack of light, remember that this time is important.  Give yourself permission to relax.  Enjoy the quiet and even be inspired by the changes that are taking place.Wintry Mix

On Oil Painting

photo for blog, Sept. 2015I am standing in the Rivanna River enjoying the scene.  There is no wind or sun on my canvas.  There is a fragrance in the air of sweet smelling white flowers that are attracting bees and butterflies.  I have dragged my easel and a small table down a steep embankment to get to this spot.  I had to look for a way into the river ahead of time, then make a small trail through the bottom land.  The woods here are a tangle of fox grapes, water leaf, wild ginger, box elder, green brier and a hundred other plants.  I am blessed to be here.  I have found a large rock in which to anchor my easel and now have all I need to get started.

Oil painting is an experience like no other.  As I layout my canvas, my hand encounters a smooth and sensual feeling as paint glides across the surface.  Oil paint has a fragrance that is almost sweet and enriches the experience.  Reading the subject requires me to calculate spatial relationships, color and brightness.  Intuition guides my eye and hand in determining what choices to react to.  Fixing on the subject, the decisions in paint become automatic.  My pace quickens and my hands are moving faster now addressing areas around the canvas that need attention.  It takes shape.  Standing back, I can see where improvements can be made and I begin corrections.  Details catch my eye and key places are sharpened.  Still, the whole scene is not apparent.  A hawk will see a rabbit and not see what is around it.  That is the nature of focus.  Working diligently, I move around to cover all spots in the canvas and the picture begins to look like something.  Painting is not unlike an orchestral piece, where the instruments are color, brushes, mediums, sensitivity to the surface and the mental focus of putting it all together for a good performance.  Success depends on how well you work with all your instruments.  A few kayakers float by and admire my work.  As the sun angles down, the light becomes more intense on the other side of the river.  I make some changes based on the new light.  I check the time.  It is late.  I shoot a few quick photos to capture some detail.

Back at the studio, after it has sat for a few days, I decide if it worth keeping or what can be done to improve it.  Making further corrections begins to pay off.  It’s as if I am seeing it for the first time.  It takes on a persona that was not expected.  Did I paint that?  It does not seem that I did.  It was a gift.

Spring of 2015

private collectionRecently, my friend Dianna asked me what she could do to dress up the front of her house, so I suggested she go down to the University of Virginia  Medical Center and see a round tree painting that I had on display.  She loved it and thought something of that nature would be a good motif.  I told her I had a tree in mind and said where she could find it.  She agreed that this tree would be very good and would love to see it on her house.

Trees are beautiful beings.  I am often awestruck in their presence.  I had been looking at this specific tree for a couple of years, so I was pleased that I should receive a commission to paint it.  I noticed while sketching this tree that it’s branches twisted from one direction to the next.  It had a beautiful shape and was a good model.  I thanked the tree for it’s service to me.

As this tree had it’s unique shape and design, so do we all.  Every leaf, twig, stem, ear, arm, hand on the planet is different.  We can paint an iconic pair of eyes, but I prefer to paint a specific pair of eyes.   I like to show the individual features, the uniqueness and diversity of the beings I portray.  By doing so, the viewer recognizes it as truthful.