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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Quick Draw Painting - Hudson, Ohio dentist   8 x 8
is really a matter of individual preference.  But, despite the foresight and planning that is apparent, it is usually a good thing.  Toned canvasses provide a slicker surface, providing an ideal surface for the gliding of brushwork.  Untoned drags.  Think skating on ice versus trudging through snow.  For me, the surface dance is most important.

In addition, a particular color of toning can enliven a work from the get-go if pieces/parts of that preliminary color peek through.  Another fun thing to try is to tone with with the opposing color temperature of the anticipated temperature of the work.....i.e. cool underlying warm.  This is particularly effective in watercolor where the transparent layers are visible from beneath. (and, with watercolor, this preliminary toning can be done right on the spot when work is begun, rather than ahead of time)

Most often, however, my foresight is dim, and so I just use leftover paint from my palette all mixed together to tone random canvasses for future paintings.  One time I used the sludge from my turp jar to tone.....bad idea.....those canvasses took months to dry.

For plein-air work, toning is a real plus, as it provides color already there when speed is of the essence.  It is also terrific for vignetting.  Also for scratching through to a previous layer.

So, I guess, the answer for me is yes.  Think ahead.  Tone.  My small painting from the quick draw in Hudson of the dentist's office was toned well ahead of the event.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In retrospect....

Melon Sill   watercolor   6.75 x 12
things often appear differently.  Sometimes paintings that we adore don't seem so noteworthy.  And, just as often, the reverse is true...paintings that we feel ho-hum about take on a fresh look.  We may even say to ourselves, "hey, that isn't so bad after all".  It's true.  In viewing "Melon Sill", I feel that I really like this painting after all.  And I think I know why.  In most of my work, I strive for strong value contrasts....these provide drama and the ability to read a painting from a distance.  But what about those often understated and underused mid-values?  In the ever-present light of summer, aren't lighter values appropriate and appealing?  And....shouldn't we consider the use of value to be an important ingredient in the story we are telling?

Note to myself:  Always consider value to be support the visual story.  And, don't neglect the mid-tones....they are beautiful in a different way.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tis the season for plein air!

Breezeway   oil/canvas   14 x 11
where plein-air painters abound.  Lots of competitions and lots of outdoor painters.  I just received word that one of the artists in my watercolor class, Marian Steiner, took an honorable mention at The Cuyahoga Valley Art Center Plein-Air paint-out this past weekend.  Congratulations, Marian!

My own process for painting outdoors has become more solid over the years as I realize what will make for speedier and more productive work.

1) always, if possible, start with a toned canvas.  This allows the brushes to glide.  In addition, the entire canvas is already covered, which makes minimal painting in non-important areas more do-able

2) try to locate a scene that interests me personally, so that I will be invested in its success....perhaps an area of interest as far as gardening, or one that incorporates both organic and straight line.  I really like combining parts of buildings with the gardens.

3) hone in on a color temperature dominance...this will help determine the color of the frame, as well as keep me on track.  cool painting?  warm painting?  one or the other

4) determine a mother-color that will be dominant and help me to determine the colors on my limited palette......I like to tweak the palette in order to avoid the static that occurs by using an exclusively local palette

5) use my viewfinder to help compose the scene

6) paint!  Some outdoor painters seem to enjoy conversation with others.  Unfortunately, I am not one of them,  as I find the interruptions in my painting process to be confusing and disorienting.  I am still working on how to solve this problem.

7) one stroke says it all....I try to rely on the each stroke for power and try not to alter them, as this leads to a mushy painting that has to be resolved after drying in the studio.  In plein-air work, this simply isn't possible.  What I see is what I get.

All in all, painting outdoors is invigorating and provides opportunities for thinking outside the box, for changing habits that inhibit creativity.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Canned Beauty   watercolor/gouache   10 x 6.5
can come from anywhere, even the oft overlooked, especially the oft overlooked.  A recent glossy home decor magazine featured an article where an editor picked her 10 favorite things.  The one that caught my eye was a vase, I believe of mercury glass, that resembled an aluminum can.  And, of course, it was for that reason that it was deemed beautiful.  My brain wondered:  "And why not the aluminum can itself"?  Aluminum cans teach a variety of lessons:  the ever-difficult ellipse as well as reflective qualities that are not contiguous, but ridged.  Oh boy....what an assignment.  We had also been discussing the use of black.  Instead of using black from a tube, which is a dead dark that creates visual holes in paintings, we discussed the formula of red + green + blue = black.  Using the particular red, green and blue hues already determined for a particular work will produce a dark that harmonizes with the rest of the painting. of my favorites.....using one or two of those in dominance will produce a black with a particular cast...i.e. reddish-black, bluish-black, etc.  (this aspect is easily seen in black garments)

"Canned Beauty" was done that class period.  I slanted my dark hues to produce a purplish-black to, hopefully, play off of the vibrant yellow flowers.  Despite its darkness, I like it very much.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ready for the Sun...

Carl Yoke   watercolor   13.5 x 9.5
One of our recent class assignments was portrait painting.  We drew numbers and sat  in pairs across from each other to paint.  We were to be prepared with summertime regalia, including hats, sunglasses, etc.  I find that these additions often fool our "afraid to do portraits" mentality by covering the eyes and the hair....those parts that are often difficult to render.  Granted, the lighting in our downstairs classroom at the art center is not is fluorescent overhead lighting...which is not really advantageous for describing the beautiful form of the human head.  However, it is what we have and I believe that beautiful art can be made under any conditions.

Carl Yoke was my subject.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Jailhouse Rick   oil/canvas   10 x 30 x .5
is the Cherokee word for husband.  And, so, this day I pay tribute to my dear one with whom I have shared my life.  Everyone knows that being an artist is difficult.....the folks, like me,  who, for the most part, have chosen a life of "being" over a life of "having".  Being the partner of an artist is just as difficult.....and just as rewarding.  In a life full of crazy-makers, my partner is my calm and my best audience.  As we are both visually oriented, our language is often unspoken, but felt strongly.  He is also my most willing model.  We have been blessed with three wonderful sons who have loving partners, a magnificent garden, and loyal friends whose values mesh with our own. 

Gvgeyui, both a noun and a verb, is the Cherokee word for all that encompasses love.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Dean Hoover's Place   oil/canvas board   10 x 20
is welcome...especially after the 3-day plein air paint-out in Hudson!  The small paintings, done by about a dozen artists, are all hung in the gallery waiting for buyers.  The styles, energies and subject matters are varied and captivating.  It is really not that simple painting outdoors and my sun hat goes off to those who do this on a regular basis.  For a studio painter like me, the chances for little disasters are multiplied.

On day one my leg fell off....of the easel, that is.   Luckily my art cart was just the right height to make up the difference and my easel was easily repaired for the next session.

On day two, I hit a terrible rut in the parking lot while dragging my art cart trying to catch the spillover, the painting that was being held pizza-fashion landed in my hair.  No problem.  Washing my hair with hand-soap did the trick, as well as a trip to the hardware store to replenish the spilled turp.  And, really, most folks enjoyed the paint and liquid all over my business cards....they say it added character.

Wow....I thought I was home-free on day three and, I must say, feeling quite smug....until I got out of the car to find paint all over the cloth seat....also all over my legs.  Where did this come from?  No problem.....some turp and some soapy water did the trick.  Oh yeah....also a towel on the seat for a while to prevent unsightly spots on my clothes.

Soaking up the environment is one of the, nature and the talents of the many gardeners whose hard work was showcased.

Today....the studio...the calm...and, hopefully accident-free.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I agree with Leon...

 ardo da Vinci who said:
The painter must be solitary...For if you are alone you are completely yourself, but if you are accompanied by a single companion you are half yourself.

And, so, I must apologize for wanting to be completely me....for avoiding conversation during the process, and for avoiding eye contact with those who wish to converse, to make a connection.  I love the extreme focus, the tunnel vision that painting provides.  And when artists in class need to take a break, I completely understand, but hope that their meanderings do not disrupt the creative time of others.  Painting, for me, is sacred.

Michelangeo said:

Painters are not in any way unsociable through pride, but either because they find few pursuits equal to painting, or in order not to corrupt themselves with conversation and so debase the imaginings in which they are absorbed.
Again Olivia   watercolor/mixed on paper   20.5 x 13
"Again Olivia" was painted from a model in two separate sessions with my earphones on.  I do enjoy listening to my own brand of music, but also enjoy being absorbed in my own imaginings.

Friday, June 11, 2010


We Are So Fragile   watercolor/mixed   12.5 x 20
Tom is retired from his responsible job.  Now he paints.  And he goes at it with an unequivocal energy and work ethic.  He plays with different responses to each week's assignment and often comes up with more than one painting which he compares.  He is struggling to release the "Tom Within".  And, I might add, he hopes that this self-definition will happen soon.  This struggle for self-definition has continued for me throughout the years.  There is no formula.  No secret for success.  Just lots of work.  Tom was elated with his work "Luna Moth" and, for him, describes the way he wishes to paint....the Tom.  It has become the yardstick.  I can see why.  It is a beautiful  contrast of the seen and the unseen.  The solid and the ephemeral.  The organic and the straight. A beautiful play of color temperatures, shapes and values.  We all need a measure for success....the painting that magically comes together.  And if it happens once, it can happen again.  The emerging moth.  Eclosion.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We Are So Fragile...

We Are So Fragile   watercolor/mixed   12.5 x 20
My own response to the big bug assignment is a zebra butterfly seen in the Florida Everglades.  Dangerously, I had a preconceived notion as to the outcome of the work and could actually see it in my brain.  Vibrant silky blue.  And I followed suite, only to realize that from a distance, the work did not read at all.  I know so many butterflies....fragile people on whom the workings of the world are very very hard.  Sensitive feelings.  Thin skin.  And so I proceeded with this idea in mind, first by painting a "hole" in the wing and by printing a leafy band.  The artists in my class evaluated the work at that point and offered various suggestions.  Most liked the feel of the work but validated the readability problem.  My solution became the opacity of the printing medium done on top of the vibrant silky blue.  I like the way that this application implies foliage which was Marian's solution.  It added a bit of decoration on the right side to balance the leafy band which was Mo's solution.  Carl noticed the "face" on the top of the butterfly nature intended in order to ward off predators.  Push and pull.  Transparency and opacity once again.  Fragility.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Strawberry Jam.... little watercolor
provide me with the "petite madeleine" experience described by Marcel Proust in In Search of Lost Time....a cascading of involuntary memories.  In between my larger, more laborious, well-thought-out canvasses, I try to pepper my painting experience with smaller works of fruits and vegetables which define my kitchen work.  Tasting one of the large genetically-engineered berries sold in today's marketplace brings back memories of:  berry picking (the small ones)  with my family and the scratches and rashes that ensued; my first attempt at making jam when the paraffin caught on fire and my grandmother came to the rescue; my friend Leta's extraordinary freezer jam; young boys wolfing down berries with stickiness left on small fingers and chins;  and my mom's homemade shortcake.  These memories are small yet significant.  Who is to say that these small works relay a message of lesser importance.  To whom?  For what? 

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.                                                                                                                                  Henry Miller
(this quote brought to me by my friend Angie whose 3 young boys delight in berries)

Friday, June 4, 2010


Crux   watercolor   21.5 x 28
and the importance thereof........anyone who is seriously creative understands the true value of play.  Too often we approach our work as warriors.....with the express purpose of the conquering, the control.  Now that summer is here, just the feeling of cold splashing water recalls the years we spent at the shore with our friends the McGarveys.  We had 6 boys altogether.  Evenings after dinner were spent at the beach, of course, with each boy given a turn at playing in the surf in a kayak.  The response of the kayaker is a yin response....the ocean leads.  To stay afloat is like a dance...instantaneous decisions, not well thought out at all, are a matter of responding to a rhythm and a force outside of the rider's control.  YAHOO.  Sometimes the boat inverts.  Sometimes the rider is able to right it again using a move called the Eskimo Roll.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes the rider emerges from the ocean sopping wet with the boat in tow.  Play.  Out-or-control control.These are the moves that help one to respond to all kinds of kayaking scenarios when faced with white-water and rocks.  Staying on the edge.  Facing a crux.  Continually.  What a rush.  Like painting. YAHOO.

Crux in on display at Akron-Canton airport.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Unexpected Pleasures...

Olivia  walnut ink on paper   12 x 9
Life is full of them if we are aware enough to see and feel them.  Last evening our model was a lovely 20-year-old college student in finance named Olivia.  She is a well-seasoned model, having grown up with artists in the family.  I so do appreciate a great model who respects the clock and is able to settle in to a pose without the fidgets....something that I would have a difficult time doing myself.  The first time that I drew Olivia was in 2000.  She was 10.  The work is done in walnut ink.  Time marches on.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Rock Stah   oil/canvas   30 x 24 x .75
are part of the artist scenario.  Works are evaluated and commented upon by others with a like-minded and honed visual aesthetic.  Seeing is subjective.  And because it is so, we will never quite know if anyone else at all will see a work in exactly the same way in which the artist does.  And so, we put our creations up for other eyes to see and experience.  I always come home with some new ideas.....sometimes I utilize the suggestions.  Sometimes not.

First off, I really need to believe in the qualified "eye" of the beholder.  I need to feel that her critique is viable and honest.  Secondly, human nature being what it is, I need to feel that the critical offering is coming from a good honest place.  I need to trust the offering.  I need to trust the offerer.

I took "Rock Stah" to the last critique.  My work thrives on spontaneity and so I accept smaller indiscretions in order for stroke-making to remain supreme.  It is therefore very difficult to approach the work in a like manner at another session, which is true for many works created with larger brushes in a shorter timer period.  Among other suggestions that are not do-able, our able leader felt that the face needed more description.  Her work is extremely solid, extremely realistic.  I deliberately left the face under-described in my attempt to leave out the unnecessary.  She felt that as is, the face inhibited her enjoyment of the work.  I considered her opinion this past week and went into the face again for a bit more description.  I also took the advice of another respected artist and put some highlights on the guitar-playing fingers.  And, while I was at it, I decided that the flesh-like-pastel-orange background color just wouldn't do.  Most of the surface area was glazed with a transparent yellow, creating some wonderful greens on top of the blues, and making for a more electric feeling overall.

Critiques need to be considered in my opinion...follow up those suggestions that seem correct to you and let the others fall to the wayside.  No one else fully understands your intent.