Monday, December 29, 2008

The Coming Year

11 x 7

As the year comes to an end you can expect all the year in review shows complete with predictions for the coming year. No predictions here from me. You don't want to know what I think is coming, trust me on that. As for what's past, if you've been keeping up you've already seen most of it, so just flip back on your own. I had thought about going back several years to let you decide if I'd shown any improvement, but due to a technical problem I can't get to any old files stored on my zip disks. So you dodged that bullet too.

One of the few files I can get to right now is this little watercolor. It struck me as a relatively good image to end up the year on. Is she watching something / someone go, or waiting for something / someone to come? Maybe she's had a really bad year and is getting ready to jump. What you take from a piece depends a lot on what you bring to it, doesn't it?

To my reader(s) I hope you're not getting ready to jump. I wish you all a good new year and remember the trick is to keep your head when those around you are losing theirs.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Head Studies

A few months ago there was a discussion of the working methods of William Bouguereau at one of the forums I visit regularly. That struck me as pretty interesting. I'm personally not a huge fan of Bouguereau, but I have to admit that the man knew how to handle paint. As a result I thought it would be a good idea to try a study or two and see if I could come away with some added knowledge. There was one problem though, there didn't seem to be any agreement of how exactly he did it. I've never seen one in person so that made it even harder to decide for myself who was right or at least closest to right. After a few weeks of discussion and one side arguing for one way and another side offering arguments for a different approach I finally decided it didn't matter that much to me. But by then I'd already dug through my saved files and found a couple Bouguereauish poses courtesy of the lovely faestock from Deviant Art link . I had them drawn on the panels and was already to go. So I just decided to do them the way I normally would. Here are the results. Both are not much more than sketches and are unfinished. They could be polished quite a bit more, and brought to a higher degree of finish, but I don't know that that would really add much. Besides I'd done all I'd set out to do.

Oil on Panel
12 x 10

Oil on Panel
10 x 8

I think this is the better of the two. For all you paint freaks out there that like to get up close here's a couple details.

All in all I think I may go back to the original idea and see if I can do a convincing Bouguereau study. The man could push paint around.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Oil on Panel
8 x 12

Another of the little landscapes I'm playing with at the moment. A very simple little image hopefully expressing the peaceful, quite time just as the sun is going down. I don't really know what else to say about it. It will have to speak for itself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is there a there there?

Oil on Panel
5 x 12

This is a simple little painting, maybe not as simple as it first appears but still there's not a whole lot to it. Personally I like clean, uncluttered images, but I have it on good authority that I'm quite, what's the term, nuts. Anyway, I was going for a tranquil, twilight mood and for that I didn't need a lot of extraneous stuff. I'm thinking of doing quite a number of small paintings, predominately landscapes, like this that can be done fairly fast and sold at a reasonable (read cheap) price. If anybody out there has any thoughts about this or interest in the pieces let me know.

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I did a little gallery hopping a few weeks ago, mainly looking for new outlets for me and just to see what was out there in general. I didn't hit the entire gallery scene by any means, but I think what I saw was pretty representative. It was pretty disillusioning. I didn't find anyplace I thought I'd fit into, so I didn't even bother submitting anything to anyone. That led me to start thinking about they whys. What did the pieces being shown have that I don't. Excluding the abstract art and just looking at the realist pieces I came away thinking that the one big thing they had was flash. These things just jumped out and grabbed you with bright, downright garish color and strong contrasts. The problem was that once they grabbed you there was really nothing there to see. No subtlety of tone or color. Composition, nothing special. Drawing for the most part was adequate at best and I just came away feeling cold. There was no there there, just trash flash. Is that what people really want? Much of it was only slightly better than the Starving Artist shows they have at the hotels where you can but a sofa sized painting for just $40. Where can you even buy a frame that size for $40? But that's a whole other rant.

I'm not putting the painting in today's post as any great example of subtlety by any means. It's just something to see in case you don't want to read my ramblings. But I do try to do pieces that the viewer wants to spend some time with. Hopefully they have enough to grab your eye in the first place, but once you're looking I truly hope you will stay there awhile. It isn't always a matter of detail. The next time you look at a Vermeer for example look at the overall feel, the way light falls on a wall. It looks simple, but it is deceptively complex. That's what I'm after. If that doesn't fit in with today's art world I guess I'm just boofed. (That's a technical term. I think you can guess the meaning.)

Maybe it's just a society thing. Are people too busy to stop and contemplate these days? Or maybe I'm expecting too much. Painters view paintings differently from other people. There was one trip to the museum I remember where there was a guy that was apparently a big Matisse fan. When he finally found one he practically broke out into a little dance he was so happy. Total viewing time of the painting itself was something in the range of three seconds even though this just happened to be a very important piece. Painters actually look at a painting to see it. It's not exactly a passive activity. I've spent my share of time with my nose up to a painting, and I know most of you have too. I've seen other people wondering what I was looking at so closely. They probably just thought I had bad eyes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duck Season

Oil on Canvas
10 x 26

It's duck season again. Time to get up before the sun, go out in the cold autumn pre-dawn and sit in a duck blind with a wet dog while waiting for the ducks to come in. When I put it that way it doesn't sound like all that much fun. I really just went to watch the ducks and play with the dogs anyway. There's something about seeing hundreds of ducks and geese migrating down the river, and a good dog is, well, a good dog. What more can I say?

Anyway this is one of those paintings that won't go away. For anyone that's followed this blog from early on you may remember a wetlands series. This spot is to the right and over the levy from an earlier piece. There was a sign saying to keep off the levy, but being me I had to see why. When I peeked over and saw the blinds I figured out the why real fast. I've had this laying around for a while. I thought it was done, but wasn't entirely happy with it so I kept fiddling with it. I think I've just about got the mood I want so I'm calling it done. At least until I think of a way to make it better or somebody buys it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A New Day

Oil on canvas
20 x 15.5

I had a lot of trouble getting a decent picture of this. Between the glare and the value contrasts it was a minor nightmare. There's still a little glare, but I think you can get the basic idea.

I'm not entirely sure I like this painting. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it strikes me that it may be too much of a cliche. Well if it is, so be it. I'll leave it to you to decide. I also don't have much to say about it. So feel free to make up your own story. I will say that it reminds me of a Thoreau quote from Walden. It's toward the end, maybe the very last phrase. "There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star." It seems to apply.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lilies of the Valley

10.5 x 8.5
Oil on Panel

I don't do a lot of still life painting, but occasionally something catches my eye. Outside the window of my little painting space (I hesitate to call this cave a studio) there is a patch of Lilies of the Valley. In the spring it's really quite pretty. After the flowers die down it leaves a pretty dense patch of foliage, and that's the part the cat loves because it provides cover for a variety of critters for her to watch. She seems particularly fascinated by turtles.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Preliminary drawings

I thought I would drag out a few of these to show some coming attractions as it were. In reality this may be as far as any of them go. Odds are I will never get around to finishing them assuming they even get started. Perhaps you can tell I'm feeling a bit down. No matter, here are the drawings and some of the images that have been rolling around in my head.

pencil with white chalk on pinkish paper

This one has been started and screwed up beyond all recognition. I could probably continue on and save it, but somehow it just doesn't seem worth the trouble. Maybe that will change, and I'll go back to it some day, we'll see. This drawing doesn't seem too bad though so it wasn't a complete waste of time. If I would have done a couple more prelims maybe I wouldn't have messed up the painting or I would have realized I was going down the wrong path sooner. Jump right in, no guts, no glory is usually superceded by fail to plan, plan to fail. In honor of the election, I'll be speaking in bumper sticker from now on. I can be as annoying as any politician. Whoops, spiraling again, sorry.

charcoal with white chalk

Don't hold your breath on this one. I like the drawing. I like the image in general a lot too, but I don't see me really jumping on this one and doing it. First, it's figurative so the marketability is limited around here at least. Second it would be recognizable further limiting marketability. Most people don't want pictures of people they don't know on their walls regardless of how good the image is. Maybe that's just a local thing, but that's what I've got to deal with. All in all, this is a piece that I would be painting strictly for myself, and I've already seen it in my mind so why bother.

pencil with white chalk

This one was done so long ago I'd forgotten about it. Again I like the image in general and I think it would make a good painting, but I'm afraid I'd be doing it for a very small audience of one, me alone. I actually showed it to one of my galleries. They made some joke and blew it off as unmarketable. Not really encouraging.

So am I worrying too much about marketability?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Figure and Fabric

Silverpoint on prepared paper
10 x 8

I've been meaning to post this all week, but with the elections and all the problems on the stock market I've been really hacked off, and I was afraid it could quickly spiral off into a rant against the vast majority of the world. Well, I've taken a deep breath, and decided there are definitely enough political blogs spewing partisan crap that I need to stay away from it. Just in case you're wondering though I'm hoping for a scoreless tie in this presidential election. No winner, start over with a whole new bunch. They're both fools at best and possibly downright dangerous. Hold on, I'm spiraling. Back to art.

Okay, I'm better now and I'll try to remain focused on this drawing which combines some of my favorite things, a pretty woman, good lighting and white drapery. Can't go too far wrong with those elements. This is on the same off white ground as the flute player a couple posts back. I really like the color and value. It's just enough to knock off the bright white of the paper but still light enough that heightening with white isn't necessary. If a bit more light is needed though a touch of white will add some sparkle. It's warm enough that it combines with the silver really well, and as it oxidizes it should just get better. Compositionally this is obviously based on triangles, the most stable of shapes. But there's also an inverted triangle coming down from the top. Most definitely not stable. So to counter that throw in a couple vertical columns and a horizontal or two and everything nice and solid again.

You may notice I've added a couple new links where you can see more of my work. Everything there will be here. There will probably be more things here actually. But please free to take a look and tell me what you think. If you go to Brushspace click on the follow this artist button. Near as I can tell it doesn't do anything or maybe nobody that I'm following has added anything new. Anyway I've recently fallen out of the top 100 most followed, and that bothers me for some reason. There's some really good work there. If you want to take a look at the My St Louis Art site you'll see the world I find myself stuck in. Click on the photos button to see examples of the work from around here. And while I'm babbling on let me add a thank you to everyone that has dropped by, and a special thank you for the ones that have taken the time to comment. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated. Thanks

Friday, September 12, 2008

Monday Morning

Oil on Panel
24 x 11

This is a painting about light. If you've been paying attention and have a really good memory you may remember this window from a watercolor of an old church posted a year or so ago. That was a foggy winter day, this is a bright, sunny day making for a completely different feeling. Light changes everything, and light is really what painting is all about, at least the way I paint. There's a saying that light defines color and texture and shadow defines form. Look at the wood textures in this piece. In the light the textures are much more defined and important. In the shadows the texture is more limited to the flaking paint. The shadows define the clapboards and the shape of the window in general. And look at the difference in color. The shadows are a warm almost uniform gray while the light is a mixture of light ochres and siennas. The color of the light is of the utmost importance in feel. This is a relatively warm light which would indicate a late spring or summer day, probably in the mid to late morning. If it were warmer it would make you feel like it was earlier morning, not long after sunup. The angle and length of the shadows would be an important indicator too. If it were a cooler light, it would be more likely to feel like a winter day. So if you look really closely and pay attention, it is entirely possible to tell an entire story with nothing but light. At the very least you can use it to define a mood in whatever you're trying to do.

If this is interesting to you, might I suggest you look at Giovanni Bellini's St Francis in Ecstasy in the Frick collection. He was one of the earlier users of light to unify a painting. In that one he uses a greenish light which really enhances the feeling of something out the ordinary going on. There's some real interesting compositional things going on too. One of my favorite all time paintings. Maybe it deserves a post all its own.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flute Player

Silverpoint on prepared off white paper
12 x 9ish

You don't get many do overs in life, but that doesn't really apply to drawing. If it isn't right, throw it out and do it again until it is. This is a do over. I originally did it about a year ago when I was experimenting with copper instead of silver. I found out that it works, but I much prefer silver. Copper is harder and therefore leaves a lighter line so you really don't have much of a value range to work with. I couldn't tell that annealing helped in that area either. You might expect a different color line too, but that difference is so slight that you really have to look hard so that's not a factor. Plus there is the question of how it will oxidize. How would it look when used with silver? That's not something I can control, and I really won't know for several months if not years so that's a risk I'm not really willing to take. Anyway, what I wound up with was a rather faint image that was basically all right, but nothing to write home about. Since I liked the image and the model I thought it was worth taking another shot at it. This obviously, is the result.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Arches I and II

Oil on panel
22 x 11

Originally I thought this would make a really nice watercolor or gouache. Boy, was I wrong. Actually it probably would have if I hadn't screwed it up horribly. I once had a teacher that said watercolors were either really easy or absolutely impossible. Apparently this was one of the impossible ones, especially since I hadn't done one in a while. So rather than attempt the impossible I switched over to oil. I'm glad I didn't give up on the piece entirely. I really liked the pose. The arch of the back accentuated by the hair hanging down, and the arched doorway. And let's not forget the arched niche in the back wall. But once it was finished it looked a bit lonely. So it became one of a pair.

Oil on Panel
22 x 11

To do a set you want to have them be similar without being too similar. Same background, yes. Same, or at least similar dress, yes. Same model would have been nice, but she's moved on so I needed somebody else. Just as I was about to find a replacement model I stumbled across an older photo I had laying around waiting to be used. Could this work? I think so with a few alterations anyway. So what do you think, does it work as a companion piece? It's got some nice arches and arcs to it. The model is similar, although I think I could have made her just a bit taller. All in all, I rather like the way they came out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gallery Announcement

I am pleased to announce that I have been accepted into the Argonne Gallery. It's a brand new gallery here in the St Louis area, Kirkwood to be exact. The official public grand opening is August 9, but it's already open for business so if you're in the area please drop in.

Argonne Gallery
101A West Argonne Dr
Kirkwood, MO 63122
That's right across the street from the Kirkwood Train Station.

I've got three pieces there right now, two silverpoint drawings and a small oil.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

River Icing

Oil on Canvas
19 x 36

Summer is most definitely here. It's hot and humid and nothing like the day I took the photo references for this painting. That day was about 10 degrees with a gentle wind wafting down the river from the north at about 100 miles an hour. It was freaking cold. Therefore this was not done on site from life. I guess I'm just not that dedicated. I did leave a nice warm house to walk along a frozen river though so I should get some points.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



I meant to post this months ago, but never got around to it for some reason, laziness maybe. I'm not really sold on the "Longing" title so if anybody has a better idea I'm open to it. This has always struck me as more of a drapery study with an incidental figure than a true figure drawing. I used to hate drawing drapery like this, but somewhere along the line I got to like it. I suppose it has something to do with the more you do, the easier it gets. By the way, the full size image is about the actual size of the drawing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bottom Land

7.25 x 18
Oil on Canvas

There's a lot of good farm land around here, good bottom land in the river valleys. This particular spot is probably under water right now with all the rain we've been having. Hopefully it will dry out before the planting season is over. It's already late.
A few years back a rails to trails project created the Katy Trail, a hiking/biking trail that goes most of the way across the state. This painting is from there. For the most part, if not entirely, it follows the Missouri River. So as you go along you have the river on one side and some pretty impressive river bluffs on the other. You can't see the river in this, but it's just on the other side of the trees. You also go through some of the river towns, many of which have wineries where you can catch your breath.
This is a very simple painting, just a few horizontal bands in effect. Hopefully it gives you a feeling of peace and stability, that's where I was going this time. Personally I like to keep things simple and create a space where one can stop and get away from the daily problems for a moment. Farm land is good for that. Maybe it's the Antaeus factor at work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunflower Field

Oil on Canvas
15 x 36

As much as I love to draw let's break the string of drawings. This one was finished up not too long ago. It's a scene I wandered across last summer at a local wildlife reserve. I've been going to this place for as long as I can remember, at all times of the year, but I don't remember ever seeing fields of sunflowers like this. They always planted smallish fields of corn and other things that were mainly used as feed plots for the deer, geese and other assorted critters, but this was totally unexpected. Judging by the number of people that slowed down or stopped completely when they saw this field I wasn't the only one surprised.

Monday, April 28, 2008

White Lace Mask

silverpoint on bluish gray prepared paper heightened with gouache
8 x 6

A little while back I started an allegory of painting piece. ( I really need to get back into that seriously again.) Part of that allegory involves a masked woman, a subject that I found fascinating as it turns out. I'm not really sure why this is, but it seems to be a fairly widespread fascination. I suppose it has something to do with mystery, or hiding yourself and becoming someone else for a while. I'll leave you to ponder that yourself. This is one of the drawings from what is turning out to be a series of masked and veiled women. I liked the soft, lacy look of this mask. It made the perfect subject for silverpoint.

This mask in particular was made by the model who just happens to run . So if you are ever in need of a mask you might want to take a look at her site. She's got all kinds of masks for all kinds of occasions.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


silverpoint heightened with gouache on bluish gray prepared paper
9 x 6

Another little silverpoint drawing. So the question is does the world really need another picture of a woman looking out a window? I thought one more probably wouldn't hurt.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Behind the Veil - Pencil vs Silverpoint

People occasionally comment on how many different media I use, oil, watercolor, egg tempera, and a bunch of different drawing media. They'll ask how I decide which to use on a particular piece. Sometimes it's just a matter of what I feel like. Right now I'm thinking I haven't done a watercolor in a while so I'll probably dust them off and do some. But sometimes there actually is a good reason for using one medium over another.

Each medium has it's strong points and weaknesses. Let's look at some drawing media this time, specifically silverpoint as opposed to pencil. They are very similar in a number of ways, and I tend to use them in about the same manner with a couple exceptions. Silverpoint is difficult at best to erase so what you put down, be prepared to live with. No going back to pick out highlights with an eraser. Pencil is a quicker medium, good for sketching and exploring a form. It's really a more forgiving and versatile medium. Pictures are worth a thousand words and that's good because I'm much better with images than words, so on to the pictures.

Silverpoint on blue gray prepared paper

Silverpoint, to me, is best used for something like this, small and intimate. It holds details well although that isn't particularly important in this drawing. The down side is you can't produce a very dark tone. As a result they won't capture your attention from across the room. So don't try, play to its strengths. The pale gray lines produced by a silver wire will give a very sensitive treatment of the subject. As the silver tarnishes the drawing will become slightly warmer further adding to intimacy. It's a very subtle warming that you really won't notice happening. You'll feel it more than see it. I've talked a lot about silverpoint in earlier posts, no need repeating myself any more than I already have.

Pencil heightened with white chalk on gray laid paper

So here we have a similar subject. It's slightly bigger (the silverpoint is about actual size in the larger view) and the paper is darker, but still similar. The major difference is in the treatment. A pencil allows for much darker values letting me create an image where the figure emerges from the shadows. I couldn't have done this with silverpoint simply because silverpoint won't give me a dark that dark, but with pencil -- no problem. The choice for pencil here was an easy one.

Let's say I had done the second one in silverpoint, the darks would have been about as dark as the paper, maybe another step darker, but that's it. I might have made that work, but instead of a dark, mysterious piece it would have been much airier, more like a cloud than a shadow. It would have had a completely different feel and not what I was going for at all. Somebody is probably thinking that I could have done the first one in pencil. It wouldn't have looked that much different and probably would have been easier. That may well be true. So why silverpoint over the more versatile pencil? It's largely a matter of feel that doesn't translate well to photography much less the net. Besides I felt like it and I have a lot of silver wire to use up.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Reclining Nudes

5.5 x 13

5.5 x 13

I don't really have much to say about these, just a pair of reclining nudes. The two make a rather nice set though. Same size and medium, same basic subject, but different enough to make each interesting itself, I hope.

Since I have so little to say today, maybe it's a good time to thank everyone that has stopped by and especially those of you that have taken the time to comment. It's greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Transcendental Landscape

egg tempera
20 x 30

Most of my work is pretty approachable. The subject matter is right there and it really doesn't require a whole lot of thought. But maybe if you were to take the time to give the piece some consideration, maybe, just maybe there really is something more there. This painting is different. It's not a particularly pretty picture. It wasn't meant to be. It was meant to be looked at and thought about. Maybe there is something worth looking at.

I remember having this in a show once upon a time. Most people glanced at it and walked on. A few people said it reminded them that they still had to rake the leaves, but there was one woman who seemed to get it. She stood there for the longest time, just staring. I found that extremely satisfying. She has no idea how close I came to taking it off the wall and giving it to her.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hard Candy

Still no new camera so I'll have to dig back into the vaults. This is actually one of my favorites.

Egg Tempera
10 x 16

Back in high school I had a science teacher that painted a bit. When he found out that I also painted and sold he couldn't understand how I could stand to part with a piece. He said it would be like selling one of his kids. Assuming that to be true, it's probably a good thing I don't have any kids. Most of the time, once something is done, its done. Get it out of the way and move on to the next. Being a good capitalist, I consider sales a good thing. There are a few exceptions though. This one I would have trouble parting with for some reason.

Here's a detail.