Thursday, November 3, 2011

Something for the charcoal lovers

Charcoal and white chalk
14 x 26

According to the stats for this blog a lot of people come here via image search for charcoal drawings and portraits. Considering how few charcoal drawings i do that strikes me as a bit of a surprise. But I'm all about making people happy so here's one for the charcoal lovers out there. I'm still having trouble getting comfortable with the medium, but I like the look enough to keep trying. For bigger drawings it's much better than pencil and a silverpoint this size would take forever. That in itself makes it worth pursuing.

The stats also say there are even more people coming here for the silverpoint drawings. Not today, but there are more on the way. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Candlelight II

Silverpoint heightened with white gouache
10 x 14

A return to the candlelight theme here today. This is one of those things that practically drew itself, once it got started at least. It had a rather inauspicious beginning. I do all the hard drawing on regular paper with a plain old everyday pencil. Once I'm satisfied with the basic line drawing I'll transfer it to the prepared silverpoint paper. I wish I could tell you that I'm good enough to do it all right on the final grounded paper, but I can't. Deal with it, I have. You've got to remember that the grounds are pretty fragile and you can't erase a silverpoint line. Anyway, after I'd transferred the drawing I noticed a charcoal smudge right off the end of her nose. Being that it was charcoal I could just erase that, except as it turned out the eraser was a little on the dirty side, and it left and even worse smudge than I'd started with. I've tried to correct things like that in the past, and found out that the best way of dealing with it is to cut your losses and start over from scratch. So I had to trash this before I'd even started. Glad I started over.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


22 x 15

Today's offering is a watercolor. Watercolors can be tricky little things. To be really good you need to do a lot of them. That's pretty much true of everything. Can't be good without putting in the time to get there. It seems to be particularly true of watercolors though. There's so many little things you need to keep in mind. For certain effects the paper has to be at a certain degree of wetness. A little too wet it won't work, a little too dry it won't work, and the only way to know when it's at that correct point is experience. Unfortunately you have to keep at it or you lose a lot of what you've gained. Lots of little tricks too. Again though if you take some time away from the medium you forget the little tricks.

That being said, I need to do more watercolors or forget about it completely. Can't see me giving it up completely though. I like watercolor too much. I think I actually prefer it to oil.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Few Little Sketches

Looks like I wandered off for a while again. That's partly due to not doing much of anything, and I managed to screw up my shoulder playing lumberjack a few weeks ago. Well, at least I have plenty of firewood for the winter. I did get quite a bit of designing done. There's three good size paintings all designed and draw all ready to go with another two right behind. Nothing to it but to do it now. (Note to self, get those canvases stretched and grounded so they'll have some time to age.)

Since it's been so long I thought I should put something up even if they're not the greatest things I've ever done. So three little sketches today, not much more than background studies really.

Oil on Panel
6 x 12
Not much to say here. Moving on.

Oil on paper attached to panel
5 x 12

If you've never worked on paper it's a really nice surface for sketches. This is an old piece of Whatman's watercolor paper. As it turns out I absolutely hated the paper for watercolor, way too absorbent. But with a thin coat of acrylic matte medium it makes a nice surface for oils. Good for outside work too because as you may guess it weighs next to nothing. Just tack it to a thin board or even some foam core and off you go.

At one time I had considered using something like this as a background for a Lady in the Lake painting. I may have to come back to it. Still think it has some possibilities.

Oil on panel
6 x 12

I think this is easily the best of the three. There was a paint out up on one of the river towns a while back. Seemed like a good idea so off I went. The weather didn't cooperate at all so I turned around and came back home. I did take a few pictures along the way though. This is one of them so the day wasn't a complete wash out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What to say?

I saw this video over on the Gurney Journey and just had to pass it on. Strangely enough it kinda fits into what I have been thinking about the last few days. You see, I couldn't quite come up with what I wanted to say about today's offering. That's mainly because there's really nothing to say from my standpoint. So I could make something up that may well be marginally interesting or just punt. I've never been particularly good at creative writing so maybe the video will be a good lead-in. So here's artist's statement along with translation.

And here are today's drawings.

Both are silverpoint and 10 x 8

While these are both nice little drawings, more or less competent, let's face it, they're not exactly earth shattering. Don't get me wrong I like them both quite a bit, and I think they're worth looking at, but neither have any great message. And that's all right too. Everything doesn't have to be a metaphor for something else. Sometimes a drawing is just a drawing. I did them because I liked the poses and the overall feel. The second one is actually a rather sissy pose with no face and just the back of a hand without any fingers showing, but I like it anyway. Deal with it. How's that for an artist's statement?

That being said i'll bet that somewhere out there somebody is going to like these even without all the artistic gobbledygook. Maybe they'll even find a message of their own. So much the better. Maybe they'll even want them for their own. That can be arranged too.

Well, y'all take care out there and try to retain your sanity.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sugar Creek

Oil on Canvas
24 x 18

Have you all been paying attention? If you have this may look familiar. Back in late February there was a study for this. It's finally done, I think, and I've gotten around to posting it. I'm pretty happy with this. It may not be the bright, sunny autumn day you usually get, but that wasn't what I was after besides those are way too common. I was after something more moody. The day was misty at best. It looked like it was about to pour actually so the day of painting outdoors was put on hold. Instead I took a little stroll in the mud up this little stream fully expecting to get really wet. I escaped merely damp and the camera showed no ill effects. Anyway that's the story of what I was trying to do. Hopefully I did more than just give a weather report. Funny thing is that by the time I got home it was bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back Study

oil on panel
12 x 11

Another little figure study today. I don't think I've done a figure painting in a while so it seemed a good idea to do one before I forget how to do skin tones completely. Not that I knew all that much to start with, but I have picked a few things here and there. So today's effort was centered on skin tones both in strong light and deep shadow. Can I get that glow that comes from a strongly lit figure? I think it came out pretty good actually.

Unfortunately, this is not the best picture. Sorry but something this dark with a glazed background, strong contrasts, and some pretty thick paint in places created a lot of glare with little hot spots that are beyond my ability as a photographer. I think you can still get the idea though.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Figure Drawing

pencil and white chalk on Bugra paper
20 x 30ish

More in my continuing effort to improve or at least maintain my drawing skills. I really do like doing these larger, more finished drawings. They take some time, but that's all right. I think it's time well spent.

I still can't decide if I like this Bugra paper or not. It's awfully soft and rough for my taste. Still it holds up to erasing pretty well and it does take pencil nicely as long as it's a nice sharp pencil. And then there's the fact that I still have quite a bit of it left.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Silverpoint on blue gray prepared paper
5.75 x 12.75

It seemed like this thing took forever to do. I don't know if it really did or if it just felt that way. It shouldn't have. It's not bigger than usual or particularly complicated. The dark background did take quite a while to build up which is a pretty boring activity. And I did take a few elements out of that background. Speaking of the background, sorry about the glare. It's a much flatter tone. Photographing silverpoint is the only thing I don't like about the medium. That's probably why they tend to back up. I've got a bit of a backload to post in the coming weeks.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fog Shrouded

I had a little unintended break there. Time just gets away from me sometimes. During that break I realized that some of the things I thought were done -- well, not so much. So a little more work, some more photography and we'll get back to them. This one was and remains done.

Oil on Panel
12 x 9

Another trip to the wetlands on a foggy day, actually the same day as a couple earlier posts. That was a good day. I think I got some good spacial depth here, pretty happy with that. What I want to point out here are the grays though. I've been a proponent of the "grays make the picture' theory. The last two paintings really show that. They are both basically a collection of grays, but the addition of just a little bit of brighter color brings a great deal of interest. If you really look hard at those spots of color you'll see that they are also pretty low chroma too. So the moral is that you only have a limited variety of hue, value and chroma to work with so save your bullets for the places they are needed most. Don't overdo it or you'll have no room left for accents.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Good Friday Storms

No art today, more of a weather report and storm aftermath. You in the US may have heard this on the news, but since I happened to be in it I think it definitely deserves a mention here.

First let me say we're fine, no problems here. But just a mile or so away large trees were snapped along with huge hail. We got extremely lucky here.

Late last Friday afternoon (Good Friday) we had a storm front move through, actually two big storms that met up in St Louis. They really started picking up strength west of here in Warrenton, maybe even as far west as Hermann, and tore through well into eastern Illinois. I don't know exactly how far that is, but I would think it's a good 100 miles.

These weren't your normal everyday thunderstorms. They were big and it seemed they were just about everywhere. Rain, hail and tornadoes were all there, and not just the run of the mill version. Hail the size of soft balls (that's about 4 inches for the non sporting), inches of rain and a confirmed E4 tornado (the scale goes to 5) An E4 tornado is defined as having winds from 166 to 200 miles per hour, that's big and rare. E5s are practically unheard of. Just to get an idea of how rare these are E4 and E5 tornadoes make up less than 1% of all tornadoes. It wasn't entirely unexpected. Stormy weather had been predicted for several days. There were even storm chasers in town waiting for them. They were probably still here from Tuesday when another good size storm rolled through about the same time of day. Well, they got a good show. One of the bigger cells went right over the regional weather bureau which isn't very far from here.

If you've never been a big storm complete with tornadoes consider yourself lucky, but they are extremely fickle. By that I mean one place can be totally leveled while someplace else just a few hundred yards away can come through unscathed. That's what happened here. There was a lot of destruction in New Melle just a few miles away in a straight line from here. Just a mile or so there were 12 inch trees broken down and egg size hail. Here, some hail, mostly pea size with a few piece slightly bigger. One gust of wind maybe, but nothing out of the ordinary. Didn't even blow over the trash can. Like I said we were really lucky this time.

Pictures are worth a thousand words so here are some pictures just to give you some idea. I stole most of these from the local news stations. If you'd like to see more google fox 2 news or kmov.

This is what it looked like coming in. Storm sirens are already blaring.

I forgot to mention some rather spectacular lightning.

Here's one of the tornadoes. I don't think it's one of the big ones that did most of the damage, but it's big enough. Most of the tornadoes we get around here are rain wrapped making it hard to see them. Not your classic plains tornadoes here.

That's some big hail and it was pretty widespread.

Now look at some of the damage. While you're looking at this keep in mind that there were no deaths and not even any serious injuries as far as I know. Apparently the warning systems work pretty well and I think there was a fair amount of luck involved too.

The airport was hit really bad too. There are a lot of big reinforced glass panels there that were mostly blown out. Most of the roof on one section is gone. The windows in the control tower that are supposed to be able to withstand a wind of at least 100 miles an hour were blown out. And then there this picture of a shuttle van that was apparently picked up, and is now just dangling off the side of the building.

The area in general is quite a mess. Tornado damage, flooding from the storms and normal spring floods with more rain coming today, tomorrow maybe Tuesday and Wednesday too. We'll get through it though, always have before. Nobody died so it's not that bad. One last view.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wetlands in Fog

Oil on Panel
8 x 16

Another one of those moody, foggy wetlands paintings. Not much to say about this, hopefully it speaks for itself. I think there are a few more of these in me trying to get out. I'll try to mix in some other things so you won't get bored.

Spots of Interest

In my roaming around I've come across a few sites that may be of interest, at least I thought they were. Some are already linked here but I think these deserve some special attention.

First, if you've ever wanted to see the Sistine Chapel, but found yourself economically challenged or maybe you just don't want to go all the way to Italy here's your chance. Here is the Sistine Chapel in the round without the crowds. Moving around takes a bit of getting used to, but still pretty cool stuff. Really the best way to see the ceiling frescoes is to lay down on your back and just look up. You'll find that that's frowned upon, and you'd probably be trampled. Don't have to worry about that here.

Edit: The Vatican doesn't seem to want to cooperate. The link isn't taking you to where it's supposed to. Here's the actual address, maybe a little cut and paste will work.

Next is Scott's Sketchbook from Scott Waddell. The whole blog is good, but what deserves special notice is his series of webisodes dealing with drawing and painting. Lots of good, clearly presented information, and the webisodes are really well put together. He puts some time in on these rascals.

And lastly is this video of a lecture held at the Grand Central Academy on the Golden Ratio. You may find the first part a little heavy on the geometry, but it is needed to introduce the topic. Once he gets into the use of the ratio and underlying grid systems in general, well, I thought it was interesting.

The Golden Ratio from Benjamin Cave on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Angry Eyes

8 x 10

I did this one a while back when I was thinking about The Lady in the Lake that eventually turned into a watercolor. I wound up going a different direction, but at one time I had thought about using this or something like it as the lady. The expression would have worked nicely I think. She would have been in the lake with the water bubbling up around here gradually turning into her white gown. Still like that concept, may have to go back to it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Late Snow

We had a bit of a surprise here last Monday. I woke up, opened up the blinds and there was almost six inches of snow, wet, heavy snow. Not a word about snow in the forecast. Caught 'em napping. Strangely enough some of the weather forecasters seemed almost proud of being totally clueless. So this one's for you.

Egg Tempera on panel
7.25 x 13

It's not last week's snow. This is an older piece, haven't worked in tempera is quite a while now, but it seemed appropriate. Besides it's not a bad little painting. I just never got around to getting a good picture to post. I used to really like tempera. It allowed me to do things I couldn't do with oils. That's mostly because I didn't understand how to use oils, a problem i have since overcome. At least that what some people tell me. Personally I think the jury is still out on that one. Anyway, it's a nice draftsman's medium. It does have a really nice subtle quality that oils just don't have. Sometimes I miss it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reference Photo as a Point of Departure

So, today I thought I'd talk about using reference photos. Yes I often work from reference photos. I think most of us do, if not entirely at least from time to time. I look at photography as a mechanical sketchbook most of the time. I also work directly from nature quite a bit, more and more actually, but reference photos still are important to me. When using photos though you must be aware of certain limitations. The darks tend to be too dark or the lights are washed out or some combination of the two. Color is seldom if ever completely correct so don't follow it too closely. And then there is the problem of lens distortion. A lot of potential problems to keep in mind. That's why working directly from nature is a good thing and reference photos are really just a point of departure to augment what you already know.

Let's look at this fairly simple, nothing out of the ordinary, photo.

Not really a lot going on here other than that nice sweep of water. So let's focus on that.

That's better. But still it could be better with just the addition of a distant hill something like this.

A very minor addition, but it gives the picture a little more depth and it echoes the curve of the water. Repetition of form is always a good way to unify a composition. Here's a quick illustration of what I mean just in case my words aren't making much sense.

At this point I'm thinking this isn't too bad. The sky could use some more interest, but basically it's something I would like to paint. It should be pointed out that I really like the salt marsh paintings of Martin Johnson Heade and this is right down his alley. Back to the interest in the sky though, what could be more interesting than a sunset? A good storm, but I want to do a sunset today, and work with that glow that comes at the very end of the day. Besides a sunset is much more of a departure from the original photo and that is what I set out to talk about today. We'll save the storm for another day.

Light is usually the most important part of a landscape painting. That's why I start with the sky, that's where the light comes from. In this case the entire landscape should be infused with this golden sunset light. That's important to remember because all this color is made up. A lot of people these days don't particularly like the warm, cool designation, I don't either actually, but in this case it's kind of useful since everything should have a warm golden glow.

So, my intent in this painting was to capture that very end of the day glow when night is trying to take over from the day, but the daylight isn't quite ready to go yet. That plus can I do it without having the scene right before me either in the form of nature or a photo?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Study for Sugar Creek

oil on panel
12 x 9

I had originally planned to do this quite a bit bigger. However, after just a little bit of drawing I realized that there were some problems to be worked out first. Enter this little study. I think I've worked out most of the drawing and color problems. There are still a few little things that need some attention, but at least I know what they are and how to deal with them. So I think it's about time to start on the bigger, final version. I haven't done anything very big lately, could be interesting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Millstream Gardens

Oil on Panel
12 x 9

Missouri isn't exactly known for it's whitewater, but if you know where to look there are a couple good places. This is one of them, Millstream Gardens or Tiemann Shut-Ins. I've never figured out why it needs two names or what, if any, the difference is. What I do know is that is a very cool spot. Every spring they have whitewater races that attract a pretty big crowd of paddlers and spectators. Just imagine a nice, warm spring day after being stuck inside for a long, cold and snowy (this year) winter, and you're out on the rocks watching the races. Or if you're more the adventurous type maybe racing yourself. I had thought about inserting a video here, but couldn't decide on just one, so feel free to google Millstream Gardens and see what you come up with. If it looks good and you're close the races should be coming up in a few weeks, usually early March. Of course the shut-ins are always there and maybe you'd prefer to do without the crowds. Nothing wrong with that either. So much for the travel log. If the Missouri Department of Conservation wants more they'll have to send a little something my way. I've got to give them their due though, for a government agency they do a pretty good job.

And now for the painting, nothing much to say about it. I think it came out rather well.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Glades

22 x 30

This is an older piece that I never got around to putting up for some reason. I rather like it though. It's pretty much made up, no reference pictures, no actual place, but I think it is fairly representative of a glades landscape. That's glades in the sense of an open area in an otherwise wooded area. Around here glades have a quite thin layer of topsoil over rock. Usually not a real flashy landscape unless the wildflowers are in bloom. Hopefully that will be happening soon.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Early Autumn at the Wetlands

Oil on Panel
6 x 12

Here it is, a cold winter day with an ice storm just getting underway. i thought I'd get this out before the power lines go down and the electricity goes out. Maybe we'll get lucky and we'll just have snow, lots and lots of snow. This has turned out to be a rough winter. Never mind, I've got plenty of dry firewood.

As a contrast to what's going on outside here's beautiful, warm fall day. This may look familiar. If not, it soon will because there are quite a few pictures coming from this day at this place. I love the wetlands. No idea why, maybe it's because of all the little hidden things just waiting out there. There's also a quiet kind of beauty there that can change drastically with the time of year, time of day and lighting conditions. Or maybe it's just home. At any rate I think I could spend the next few years painting nothing but wetland scenes. There's plenty of other things I want to get done too though.

Monday, January 24, 2011

View from the Bluffs

OIl on Panel
9 1/4 x 16

This is one of my favorite places. It's out on the Lewis & Clark hiking trail, also one of my favorites. A couple hundred years ago Lewis & Clark were making their way up the Missouri River right past this spot. That's kind of a big deal if you're into American history. If not, well that's all I got so don't worry about an unwanted history lesson today.

A few years ago now I was out there on the bluffs just looking around and clearing my mind a bit. While I was there I noticed some clouds on the western horizon coming down the river. It was really pretty impressive. So I just sat there and watched it coming. After a while I realized it was coming right at me, but I realized that a little late. It was coming fast, and I was a good two miles away from the car. I got really wet that day.

One problem I have with painting favorite places is that since they are favorites I obviously like them. So the problem becomes, do I like the painting because it's a good piece of work or do I just like the subject matter? The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but personal feelings do tend to get in the way of critical thinking. So what do you think, is it a good painting or just a good place?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Green Cathedral

22 x 15

As a painter I often ask myself what exactly am I trying to do. I guess I could go into artspeak mode and talk about the need for intrinsic elements to come together in a chaotic society to form a whatever. Yada, yada, yada. I could play that game but honestly it bores me. My work has been called no nonsense and unpretentious. I suppose in some circles that could be taken as an insult. I'm not in those circles and actually consider it a compliment. At the very least I think it's the truth. What you see is what you get so I better give you something worth seeing.

At one time Camie Davis had a blog on narrative painting. She's since combined all her blogs into one. See the link if you're interested. One of her last posts on the narrative blog started with a quote from Anthony de Mello:

"You have to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story."

And that is basically what I'm trying to do with my art. I'm a story teller. I'm much better with images than with words so I paint and draw. Figurative painting lends itself best to story telling, but landscapes also can tell a story of a specific place at a specific time of year and a specific time of day under specific weather conditions. If a landscape is done correctly (by my standards) it will take you to that certain spot at that time.

So what's the story with this painting? Well, there is no literary text portrayed, but the story is still there. I'll leave you to come up with it this time. After all, what you take from a story often depends on what you bring to it.

One final word here. Do your preliminary drawings!!!!! I had a lot of trouble painting the bottom of the drapery. Strangely enough, when I did the study for the figure I didn't do the bottom of the robe, too anxious to get started with the painting.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

High Water

Sorry I left y'all hanging there. Small technical difficulty on this end. Well, I'm all upgraded and updated and ready to carry on. The really good news is I can now set up that online store I've been planning for a while. I hope somebody thinks that's a good idea. More on that later.

Now I've got to go back and see where I left off. I need to take some pictures too as soon as the sun comes out. I think this was the next one I was going to show.

Oil on panel
12 x 9

This started out as a plein aire piece. Unfortunately it wasn't particularly good. For an on site study I suppose it was alright, but still not really worth looking at twice. So like on an earlier post I thought it would just be used as a starting point for a bigger piece. Then it occurred to me that while it didn't work as a finished piece it was a pretty good full color block-in. So another layer of paint, and some further development of the forms and this is what resulted. Not too bad, captures the day fairly well I think.

Which reminds me about that day. I got out to the river petty early and was surprised at how high the water was. I'd planned on painting on a sandy shoreline looking the other direction, but considering that sandy shoreline was under a couple feet of water plan B seemed like a better option. You'll note that there is no shoreline in this painting. Just trees coming right down to the water line. While I was there three different guys came by to do some fishing. Each pronounced the water to be high and left. That's where the title comes from.