Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Snow on the Lines"

16" x 40"
Oil on canvas
Offers Accepted

This painting is hanging in our bedroom and has been since mid-February, 2010. But, it goes to show that you never really know when a painting is "finished." I thought this painting was finished until last night when I was laying in bed staring at it and thinking that it needed a few spots of bright-white in the foreground...So, I added them just a few minutes ago.

There are differing schools of thought on adding to paintings once they are supposedly "finished." Some artists are very much against "retouching" and view it as a blasphemous act that takes away from the original, creative moment. Others, like myself apparently, think it's done when we say it's done. I respect both lines of thought.

I painted this during one of the many 2010 blizzards - I think this was during the first February blizzard. Either way, these are the woods near our house in Reston, VA. The open, white area in the distance is an underground power line that runs through the neighborhoods. It's nice that Reston chose to bury their power-lines. Keeping the area around the lines open has allowed the surrounding neighborhoods to get a lot more use out of the space. There are garden plots, sports fields and courts, and paths all along the lines throughout Reston. It looks pretty good too...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"The Golden Road"

8" x 10"
Oil on Canvas

This is a farm scene from Bumpass, VA. The only reason anyone would go to Bumpass, VA is because of the town's proximity to Lake Anna, an increasingly popular vacation destination that is about 85 miles southwest of Washington, DC, 50 miles north of Richmond, VA and 50 miles west of Charlottesville, VA. In other words, the middle of nowhere. Lake Anna's popularity and growing permanent population has attracted the attention of wireless telecommunications providers looking to fill the coverage gap in this remote area. Hence the reason I found myself in Bumpass, VA about a week ago.

I've been on the lookout for barns to paint for months now and I almost drove past these two without taking a picture. As I mentioned, I was in Bumpass on telecommunications business and I was on the verge of being late to a meeting. I drove half a mile beyond the barns before I determined that I could not live with myself if I didn't snap a photo. So, I turned around, snapped some photos out of the car window and made it to my meeting with a minute to spare.

As you can see, I rearranged things a bit. I switched the rooftop colors and added a dominant mass of cedars behind the barn on the left. There were some cows on the farm, but I added the imaginary pasture in the top right and the dairy cows eating hay. "The Golden Road" refers to the path of hay that the cows are munching on. All of this I did to create two points of focus: The red barn on the left and the cows out to pasture in the top right. The posts in the foreground are in the original photo, but I angled them a little to point your eye in the right directions. Sneaky, huh?

There are still plenty of farms like this one near Lake Anna and much of the area around the lake remains undeveloped. Still, I have visited this area only a few times in my life and each time I visit, the fingerprints of the cities that triangulate the region seem to grow more distinct. I guess one could view my purpose in visiting the area this week as part of the problem, or, depending on your mindset, part of the future. I'm just afraid that our country is becoming one giant Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Poppy's Long Walk"

20" x 24" Oil on canvas
Commissioned - Sold!

So...a friend asked me to paint a painting for him. He didn't tell me what to paint, he just told me what size and colors he wanted and he left it up to me to choose the subject. I'm still not sure what possessed me to paint a large portrait of this person with his dog, Poppy, but that's what I settled on. I hope he's telling the truth when he says he likes it.

This is my first attempt at portraiture and it was tougher than I thought it would be. When you're painting landscapes, if you need to rearrange something or you're having a tough time with a certain feature, you can just paint it another way. But, when you're painting someone's nose or mouth and you're having a tough time with it, you can't just give them another nose or mouth. You gotta get it right...I told my friend that I've spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at his face the last few nights.

My plan for this painting was to make it more impressionistic than it ended up. I know of artists who are great at suggesting facial features with color, shape and shadow and I tried to do that here, but I had a tough time making it work. I think I did a better job of suggesting the dog's features than the human's. I really like the way Poppy turned out.

I used two different tactics to create points of focus. The contrast of the bright red jacket against the cool blue of the background should draw your eye to the human and then the sharpness of the edges of the dog and the right side of the human verses the duller edges throughout the rest of the painting should also draw your eye. When I look at this painting, for better or worse, my eye is drawn to the crescent shape above Poppy's hind quarters and below the left arm. This area represents the greatest color contrast and the sharpest lines in the painting.

Oh, and I just realized that I forgot to sign the painting. Just imagine my EB in the lower left corner. I'll write my initials in sky blue to add some balance. Hope you like it. I'm glad to paint you and your dog too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


8" x 10" Oil on canvas
$150 includes shipping

This is Tangier Island in Accomack County, VA, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. The only way on or off of Tangier Island is by boat or plane. Despite its isolation, there are about 600 people who live there full time, mostly commercial crabbers. The residents of Tangier Island speak a dialect of early American English that is said to be unchanged since colonial times. Traveling there is literally like traveling back in time.

The colors here are a little different from my usual - kind of pastel I guess. Not a lot of bright colors aside from the yellow of the closest boat house. Tangier is a grimy, crab-centered, place and this painting reminds me of that. A storm has just passed - everything is wet and the sun is just now poking through. I can smell the menhaden.

Friday, March 19, 2010


8" x 10" Oil on Canvas
$100 Includes Shipping

Step back! Impressionism here...This painting is closer to what I'm trying to achieve with my painting than any before. Simple, bright colors and very little muddiness. Not a lot of intricate detail and it doesn't look like much until you take a few steps back. I took my time to draw out the arrangement of flowers so that they contrast with the darker blues and greens and I think it worked well to make the flowers the center of focus and to create a nice balance.

It helps that I have a great photo to work from that my aunt Diane took of the field beside our family's river house in Mathews, Va. I hope I've identified the flowers correctly as Coreopsis, a native wildflower that blooms most of the summer throughout the southeast. I believe Coreopsis is also known as "tickseed." If anyone is reading this, especially someone who knows anything about botany, let me know if this is correct. I think this painting is a step closer to where I want to be. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"In the Valley"

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas

I'm working on a new painting, but I haven't posted in a while so I thought I'd post an older painting. I Painted this one a view months back at the start of the Virginia blizzards.

This is kind of an imaginary landscape. The trees in the foreground are adapted from a photo I took of some trees in the Hone Quarry Recreation Area in the George Washington National Park in Virginia. The house and everything in the background is imaginary, but it looks like the type of place you might see in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I tried to make the house/barn the center of focus by using cool, dark colors in the foreground and warm, bright colors in the background. The reddish color of the house contrasted against the dark green of the pines in front of the mountain hopefully serve to force your eye to the house. Hope you like it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"The Chosen One"

8" x 10" Oil on canvas
$150 includes shipping

Good day for painting. I woke up at 7am and went right to it.

Although I consider myself primarily a landscape painter, I have come to enjoy painting still life. Still life is great practice for seeing color and employing many of the same techniques that I use for landscape painting. I talk about still life as though I am an expert, but really this is my third still life painting...Take it for what it's worth!

I've done some things here that I really like, but I've also fallen into some of the same old traps, mainly overworking color. I used my adjustable desk lamp to provide artificial light, which shines in from the right side of the painting. I attempted to use brighter, warmer colors and sharper lines to accentuate the point of focus, i.e., the "chosen one," or the apple on the right. Moving from right to left, the shadows are darker and the lines less distinct so that the viewer's attention is focused on the chosen one. The chosen one is set apart from the others to further emphasize its importance.

I am quite happy with the apples on the left and the use of shadows and blurred edges to de-emphasize. I also really like the reflections beneath the apples and the background color reflecting on what is actually a file cabinet in the foreground...Where I went a little wrong was my overworking of the colors on the right apple. Time lapse photos would reveal colors becoming less and less fresh and bright as I attempted to perfect them. I am trying to overcome the compulsion to work and rework colors until they are perfect because the effect is usually the opposite.

Too late to make changes now...I have eaten "The Chosen One."

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Piankatank Moon"

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas

I haven't finished any new paintings since "Virginia Wine" so I thought I'd upload another old one. I painted this one several years back when I was a Junior or so in College while spending the week by myself at my grandparent's river house on the Piankatank River in Mathews, VA. If you drive to Richmond, VA and head straight east until you can't drive any farther, you'll wind up somewhere close to Mathews, VA.

The piece of blue-green land in the distance is Gwynn's Island and beyond the island is the Chesapeake Bay. My family's house is basically a cinder block fishing shack amongst multi-million dollar mansions, but it's my favorite place on earth and I've stayed there multiple times per summer for close to 30 years now.

This particular trip was the first time I had stayed there by myself. It was late summer and I was trying to get my head right for going back to school in the fall. I lived off of fish and crabs that I caught myself and had as little interaction with civilization as possible.

This is the only painting I worked on that week and it actually took months to finish whereas it would probably take about two hours for me to complete such a painting today. Through reading and working with color, I've become more adept at recognizing the correct colors to use on the first try. I spent months trying to find the correct colors for the ripples in the water and I repainted it several times.

Still, I'm proud of this painting and it represents a special place in my life in both the location and a time when I was a lot wilder and quite uncertain as to where the river would take me. I gave this painting to my brother who, like me, is attached to the river.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Virginia Wine"

"Virginia Wine"
12" x 24" Oil on Canvas

After the ugliness of yesterday's "Beltway" painting, I thought I should do something bright and cheery. So here goes...

This scene is from King Family Vineyard in Crozet, VA, which is located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains just a few minutes from Charlottesville, VA. Some friends of ours had their wedding reception there, I want to say almost two years ago? My then girlfriend, now wife, Sarah, and I were lucky enough to attend.

The wedding took place at a church in Charlottesville and we drove to King Family Vineyard for the reception. The entire event was beautiful and it was a perfect summer day. The kind of day we're all aching for right now. After dinner, Sarah and I walked around the vineyard, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. I took a lot of photos as the sun was setting that I used to help with this painting.

I used a limited palette here, which I think keeps the painting clean and simple. I toned the canvas with terra rosa, which is the reddish brown color that I used for the dirt beneath the vines. By the way, to tone a canvas just means to dilute a certain color, usually an earth tone such as burnt umber or terra rosa with turpentine, or some sort of paint thinner, and apply it thinly to the entire canvas. Toning helps to unify the painting with a similar color throughout and painting on a toned canvas makes it easier to balance your colors as opposed to painting on a bright white canvas. You can see patches of terra rosa showing throughout and it comes through in the sky as well. The mountains are ultramarine and white, the bright green of the grass and tops of the vines are cadmium yellow mixed with viridian. Veridian is a bluish green. The shadows in the vines are ultramarine and the yellow/viridian mixture.

I wish I had taken pictures as I was painting this one, but I didn't mainly because I've found it a pain in the ass to upload more than one picture per blog post. I started with four, one dimensional shapes: The grass, the vines, the mountains and sky were just shapes. I created an outline of the barn, but waited until the end to finish it. Once I had my shapes down, I added shadows and highlights and topped off the barn with a bright stroke of yellow and I was done! All finished, the painting took about four hours to create.

Glorious springtime is coming. I hope you can feel it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"The Beltway"

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas
Available for purchase via PayPal
If you drive the beltway around Washington, DC often, you might recognize this section of road - It's just after I-270 merges with I-495 on the inner loop. I guess that would be Bethesda straight ahead. The traffic wasn't as thick as shown in the painting when the idea occurred to me and I wasn't able to pull out the camera for a photo. Luckily, I found some photos of the beltway on Google Images that helped me to put it together.

I know this isn't the most beautiful painting in the world, but it's not meant to be. Despite its ugliness, I'm fond of this one because it's impressionistic in every sense of the word. The cars and the trees and the faint buildings in the distance are nothing but shapes at close view, but step back and the image comes into focus.

The colors are ugly, just like the traffic. I used burnt umber, titanium white, cadmium yellow and cadmium orange to give an early morning rushhour feel, but I focussed on the browns because that's kind of how I feel when I'm sitting in traffic. With the sun just coming up over the trees in late winter and the smog from the cars, everything looks a little brown anyway. On the left side of the painting, you can see some white flashes poking through the trees - These white flashes are the brightest colors in the painting and hopefully, the point of focus. I wanted to give the impression of blinding sun just around the bend in the road.

I posted the thumbnail and underpainting so that you can see the process. After I drew the thumbnail on paper and figured out how I wanted things arranged, I toned the canvas with burnt umber (brown) and then used Q-tips dipped in turpentine to erase the highights and let the white canvas show through. At the same time, I sketched in some of the darker shades to help with the final layout. Finally, I warmed it up with a little cadmium orange and yellow and added some bright white for highlights and that was it.

As you can see, there is a PayPal icon on display beside this painting. PayPal is extremely easy and secure and you don't have to pay anything to use it. Just click and PayPal will guide you through the payment process. I will put a PayPal icon beside any new painting that is for sale.

Thanks to all of the new followers!

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Dark Future"

It's odd coming up with names for my paintings, especially for a painting that I painted over 12 years ago. "Dark Future" might be my first ever oil painting. I painted it in high school art class- I don't remember the objective of the assignment or what, if anything, the teacher wanted us to portray in our work, but the message seems obvious. My outlook on the future at this point was not bright. My family had just moved to Richmond, VA, I was a sophomor in high school, I had no friends, and my mom had just passed away. So as you can see, the road ahead is dark and the past as shown in the rear-view mirrors is bright. The top mirror is by brother swinging on a vine at my family's riverhouse and the side mirror is the mountains (my family had just moved from the mountains of Virginia). I'm not sure if you can make it out but the side mirror says, "objects in rearview mirror are closer than they appear." Pretty clever for a high schooler I guess...I'm not sure if I was making a statement with the cross-less steeple at the end of the road...I'll leave that up to the viewer.

An interesting facet of art and artists is that there can be an inverse relationship between the artist's perspective on life and the quality of his work. Sometimes, the darker the mental state, the more interesting the work. I don't want to dwell too much on the negative, but in this case it is apparent that my artwork was a an outlet for negative feelings. I sure as hell didn't talk to anyone about my feelings at the time and don't remember anyone talking to me about them even after this painting hung in the school cafeteria for months. I wonder how a painting like this would be percieved in high schools nowadays? Anyway, I'd like to think that the quality of my work has improved with my mental state, but that's for each individual to judge.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Art as Life - A Study in Perspective

"Ferns" 8" x 10" Oil on Canvas

I intended to include the writing below in the "description" section of the blog but realized that it allows for 1200 characters, not words. Either way, here is a little bit of what led me to start this blog:

I have read, and it occurs to me, that if one truly loves one’s work, then it does not feel like work. If this idea holds true, then one’s work is one’s life and one’s love. When asked what my ideal profession is, I respond that I would love to live as an artist – be that as a musician (I play a mediocre guitar), writer (see above and below), or painter (see blog). While this is my first response, I have never taken the idea, or myself, seriously.

However, recent tragedies in my life have magnified the importance of this idea and forced me to think about my passions. I have become fascinated by the idea that each person has a calling in life and while one’s calling does not have to be one’s profession, (playing guitar, writing and painting are each rewarding hobbies in their own right – they can bring joy to one’s life whether pursued as a career or not), the idea of pursuing art as a lifestyle, as a profession, is now impossible to ignore.

Art as life is more than just painting. It is living life in way that makes the world a better place, seeing and conveying the world from a unique perspective that brings joy to myself and to those who bear witness to it. I thought tragedy would give me this perspective, but the perspective that tragedy brings is short lived. While tragedy may have led me to discover my passion, I eventually realized that using tragedy as motivation only leads to sadness.

For me, painting, and striving to see the world through an artist’s eyes brings about the perspective that I mention above. It makes the world interesting when it may appear bland or ugly to others. When I am able to see the world in this way, I am happy. With that said, this perspective did not, has not, occurred over night. It is an ongoing process and one that takes practice and dedication.

My hope for this blog is that it will document my progression as an artist and hopefully, one day, as a professional artist. Currently, I have a full time job that is in no way related to art except that it lends a photo opportunity here and there. While I have not studied art in a formal setting, I do study art on my own time. Each new painting is a study in color and technique, trial and error. Every second is a study in perspective.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Washington Monument

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas
$100 includes shipping

I snapped the top image while sitting in traffic on the George Washington Parkway on my way to Georgetown Thursday morning. I guess the direction would be southeast, toward Rossyln, VA. I like the way the blue-atmospheric haze of the skyline blends in with the treeline and how you can just barely see the Washington Monument in the distance. What caught my attention was the light reflecting off of the Potomac and how bright it is in comparison to the muted blues and browns of the trees and skyline. I took a little license with the trees to give a better view and a little balance. I debated on whether or not to add the trees, but in the end I
decided that they make things more interesting. Normally, I despise traffic, but in this case it slowed me down enough to take notice of a good photo/painting opportunity. When you deal with DC traffic on a daily basis, you have to look for the bright spots...