Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dickie Brother's Orchard

Dickie Brother's Orchard
8" x 10" oil on board
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The photograph of the painting makes the shadows look a little darker than they actually are.  I intentionally tried to limit the range of values, particularly the darkest values, in an effort to create harmony.  In reality, the shadow on the end of the hay bales is much darker, and the shadows on the trees to the right are almost black.  From observation, I've noticed that many of my favorite painters use value restriction to add harmony to their paintings.  I'm still going with a thicker painting style and a limited palette;  ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, and transparent oxide red for this one.  My goal lately has been harmony and a painterly style, and I think this one achieves both.

The scene is the back of Dickie Brother's apple orchard down near Wintergreen Resort in Virginia. I don't think my wife and I were supposed to be back here, but it was too beautiful to pass up.

Nightstand

Nightstand
8" x 10" oil on board
$70 plus shipping.

Yep, that's my nightstand. That's my alarm clock, my scallop shell full of rocks from places I've traveled, my notebook, and books.   The star is the hurricane lamp that I inherited from my granddad when he passed away.  I love the warm light that it puts out, and I have wanted to paint it for a while.

I used another limited palette of ultramarine blue, a couple of reds, and cadmium yellow, and I slapped it on thick.  I like the colors in this one, but I also like the greys that I created for the shadows on the books and notebook.

I have sold thirteen paintings this month; my best month ever!  And one thing I've noticed is that people are attracted to unusual, ordinary, or sometimes ugly scenes such as my bathroom, which created a stir at the latest Marriott craft show, and, ugliest of all, the beltway around DC.  I don't consider this one ugly, but it fits in weird-wise.

Blue Teapot with Lemon

Blue Teapot with Lemon
5" x 7" oil on board
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I've been working with a limited palette of ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow light, and some sort of red; this was transparent oxide red.  I like the harmony that a limited palette creates.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Outside the Grand Bazaar at Night - Istanbul, Turkey


12" x 16"
Oil on Board
$200 plus shipping

Stepping into the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, the largest indoor market in the world, is like stepping into a smoky,  dimly lit roundabout, whirling and reverberating with the taunts of aggressive traders, the glint and clank of ancient brass, and steamed in black tea, tobacco and wood smoke.  There is no way to gauge how far you've ventured into it or where it will spit you out.  And if the bazaar itself is a maze, the blocks surrounding it are a labyrinth of ancillary markets, formed into districts such as rugs, scarves, men's clothing, wallets, guns, weapons, or wedding dresses, the district featured in this painting.

You don't really get the sense from the painting, but the bazaar and surrounding markets close promptly at 7pm.  At that time, the storefront lights turn off and the market empties of people.  You're walled in on all sides by buildings.  The streets are narrow, the sky is a blue slit above you, and there are no street signs.  How we found our way back to familiar streets is still a mystery to me.  I never felt unsafe in Istanbul during the day, but I have to admit that I was a little sketched out walking through the weapons district at closing time, stumbling across smaller and smaller markets, many operating in darkened parking lots, selling outdated, secondhand electronics like Walkmans and Blackberries.

I know the price is a little high on this one, but I feel like this painting is representative of the intense studying I have done lately;  my focus on value, color, and a thick, painterly style came together in this painting. Although I'm not where I want to be yet, this painting represents the best of my ability at the moment.

White's Ferry Landing

8" x 10"
Oil on canvas panel
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A few things I've noticed about the way my favorite painters paint:

1. Paint is applied thickly.  They don't draw or scratch; they paint, and the paint is thick, with visible brush strokes.
2. Value (the relationship of light to dark) is more important than anything else.  Shapes, forms, subject matter, color - all meaningless without correct value.
3. Small details are ignored.  Impressionist, or perceptual painting forces the viewer to fill in the details.
4.  After value, color is most important.  Shadows are not black.  They are warm or cool versions of local color that can still be beautiful.
5. Every painting has a color scheme and color harmony.  Maybe this goes along with number 4, but I've noticed that my favorite paintings have harmony.  And that's usually achieved by using a dominant color (one color is included in all color mixtures) or through a limited palette (using a small number of colors, usually three, to mix all values and tones).

I guess these ideas are obvious, but I have to repeat them to myself over and over as I paint.  For this painting, I took in interesting approach to help me focus on value.  I removed my contacts and wore my glasses while painting. When working on the values, I lowered my glasses so that I was essentially blind (I can't distinguish my own hand in front of my face without glasses or contacts).  All I could see were value relationships.  So I focussed on values, completely disregarded details, and did my best to mix beautiful colors while using a limited palette of violet, phthalo green, and yellow.   I think I did alright for a blind man.

Holiday Cactus

8" x 10"
Oil on Board
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Even though it was a cloudy day, I liked the way the light was barely able to penetrate the cactus paddles while the flowers just kind of exploded with light.  With the number of paddles and flowers and the changing light, this was a difficult subject.  However, I think it turned out well and, if nothing else, it has harmony.  To achieve harmony, I went with another limited palette; phthalo red rose, phthalo green, and ultramarine blue.  

Saint Francis Chapel - San Diego, CA

8" x 10"
Oil on board
$70 plus shipping

I've been painting a lot of "green" paintings lately.  To get away from green, I went with a limited palette of violet, cadmium orange, and ultramarine blue (I think).  Definitely a different color scheme, but, because of the limited palette and dominant color, violet, that I mixed into every value, I feel like it has unity.  This is Saint Francis Chapel in Balboa Park - San Diego, CA.


View of Mt. Desert from Somes Sound, ME

8" x 10"
Oil on Canvas Panel
$70 plus shipping


My wife and I toured the coast of Maine from Portland to Bar Harbor a few years back.  My favorite day of the trip was when we rented an old wooden Boston Whaler and explored the waters around Southwest Harbor, part of Great Desert Island; the island where Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are located.  We saw lots of seals and wildlife, and we docked at an island that is only accessible by boat.  We found a lady selling sea-glass mobiles, one of which we purchased.

Somes Sound cuts directly into the heart of Mount Desert Island along the western edge of Acadia. The day was crystal clear with occasional white, puffy clouds casting shadows on the water and mountains.  I tried to capture the peacefulness of the scene in this painting.

River Pine Grove



8" x 6"
Oil on board
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There's a pine grove in the southwest corner of the river house property.  I love all vantage points that the river has to offer, but I especially like the view from the pine grove.  You can see it all; the river, the house, the fields in back.  And because it's surrounded by low, grassy hills on three sides, it's kind of still and warm back there.  The pine needles on the ground add to the warmth.

However, I'm not sure I captured the warmth in my painting. I painted this on a Monday night, pretty quickly.  Sometimes I just get the urge. I think I'd like to turn this one into a larger painting and really try to warm it up, especially the grass to the left; it should be warmer.

National Harbor Fog

5" x 7"
Oil on board
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Sometimes when I have leftover paint, I like to do a quick palette knife painting and just try to slap it down as quickly as I can.  That was my approach to this painting.  It took about thirty minutes to complete.  Maybe that's apparent...I kind of like this one though.  It's interesting.

Colvin Run

8" x 10"
Oil on board
$50 plus shipping

One of the many dilemmas I face as a painter is whether or not to post paintings that I really don't like or that just turn out badly.  It happens - not often, but it happens.  However, I can only think of two or three of the hundreds of paintings that I've completed that I haven't posted.  They are hiding in the dark corners of my closets, along with many others that I've later regretted posting; misfit paintings.  Although I guess I shouldn't feel that way.  Painting is a process, and regardless of my mistakes, I feel like I'm working toward something.

I debated whether or not to post this one, and it was a little upsetting to me.  The painting is Colvin Run in Lake Fairfax Park, just upstream from where it empties into Lake Fairfax.  I painted it on-site, and the reason it's upsetting is because I always feel like painting outdoors, on-site, is the true test of a painter's skills.  When it doesn't turn out well, one questions his skills as a painter.

This day was a true test.  As I picked my location, set up my easel, and pre-mixed my colors and values, conditions were sunny, mild, and still.  However, sketching out my painting must have signaled the gods that it was time to start screwing with me.  The wind whipped up, the sun went away, and it became chilly as it tends to do in early November.  The beautifully backlit, yellow grasses became grey, muddy masses and the bright, violet tinted reflections of the clear sky on Colvin run were now indistinguishable from the dead trees criss-crossing the stream.  Alright; enough excuses.

Floating Frames

I've been looking for a way to cheaply frame some of my paintings.  What I've discovered; there is no such thing.  So, I decided to build some frames of my own.  The problem;  I've never built anything, and I'm not too mechanically inclined.  Yet somehow, despite a lack of the proper equipment (a table saw), space (a patio table), and Home Depot's compete ineptitude and lack of pride in their work, my frames turned out ok.

The frames are called floating frames.  I found a You Tube plan for making them online.  They are basically just pine strip molding nailed to a 3/4" composite panel and then varnished.  The dimensions of the panels are supposed to be 1/4" larger than the painting canvas on all sides so that there is an 1/8" gap between the painting and the frame.  The panel is painted black so that it looks like the painting is "floating" in the frame.

I bought a 2' x 4' sheet of panel at Home Depot and asked them to cut it into as many 6 and 1/4" x 8 and 1/4" panels as they could; board cutting is a service that Home Depot offers.  However, what they did not tell me up front is that they cannot make precision cuts.  Being the savvy customer that I am, I did not inspect the dimensions of the smaller panels before leaving Home Depot to make sure they were correct, nor did I notice the sign that said, "we cannot make precision cuts."

When I got home, I realized that most of the dimensions were way off, visibly so, which is not good if you want to make frames that are rectangular, a common shape for frames.  My angry return to Home Depot was to no avail; turns out there was a sign, which they were happy to point out.  And even when I pointed out the lack of pride that they take in their work, it was not enough to cajole them into making precise cuts for me. As a result, I was only able to salvage a total of four 6" x 8" frames and one 8" x 10" frame.

They are not perfect.  Using a miter saw and sandpaper, I did my best to get the correct dimensions, but there are still some gaps and unevenness.  However, my paintings aren't perfect either, and I don't think they have to be.  Somehow they work, and I think the varnish color and the gap between the paintings and the frame really makes them pop.  One day, when I have my own studio/workshop, I'll have a table saw, and I'll crank these out in perfect dimensions.

The paintings in the frames aren't actually attached.  I set them in the frame just to demonstrate the floater effect.  To attach the paintings to the panel, you would just add a little glue to the back of the painting and center it in the frame.  Then you would apply a little weight, maybe with a piece of foam underneath a plate weight and let it dry.

I'm thinking these will sell out quickly at the Marriott craft show coming up in December, so if you want one, let me know.  I'm thinking $30?  Still cheaper than any frame you'll find at Michael's, but enough to recoup my time and money.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Utah Highlands

Utah Highlands
8" x 6" oil on canvas panel
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I (think) the reference photo for this painting was taken somewhere along US Highway 12 between Capital Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.  It has been a few years since my wife and I toured all of the national parks in Colorado and Utah and some of the images run together.  All I know is that it was beautiful and highway 12 through Utah is one of the most spectacular drives I have ever taken.  I love this painting; the photo turned out ok, but I promise it looks better in person.  The highlights on the branches of the birch trees and the the warm shadows on the trunks are some of my best work.  I think I've made some breakthroughs lately.  When you focus on value and color, the details work themselves out. 

Virgin River, Utah

Virgin River, Utah
8" x 10" oil on canvas panel
$70 plus shipping

This is the Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah.  I mentioned this a few posts ago, but we camped here for three nights during our trip out west.  There were no bathrooms, so our only method of bathing was to hop in the river.  The average daytime temperature during our time in the park was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the water temperature was 55 degrees.  Refreshing to say the least.  Our little spot by the river was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

On another note - I've mentioned this before, but it is often more difficult for me to get a decent photo of my paintings than it is to paint them.  I spent two hours this morning trying to take post-worthy photos of my last six paintings.  It's useless to paint an awesome painting and then post a photo that doesn't do it justice.  All of these paintings look better in person than they do online. 

Pooh's Woods

























Pooh's Woods
8" x 6" Oil on Canvas Panel
No longer for sale

This is the sand road that runs through Pooh's Woods - so nicknamed by me or my brother because they are dark and deep like Pooh's Woods.  The road leads to Iron Point on the Piankatank River, just upstream from our river-house. 

Normally, I tone my canvases with a thinned out mixture of phthalo red rose and indian yellow.  But, I decided to leave it white this time, and I like the effect.  In some places, I didn't put any paint down at all and just let the white canvas show through. 

Orderville Junction

8" x 6" Oil on canvas panel
$50 plus shipping.

This is Orderville Junction.  Orderville Junction is the merging of the north fork of the Virgin River and Big Spring in Zion National Park, Utah; a section of The Narrows hike.  I added a little patch of blue sky in the top of the painting to allow for exit, but the canyon is actually 2000 feet deep at some points and so narrow in places that you can spread your arms and touch either side.  You're not allowed to attempt the hike if the water flow is above a certain threshold; Sarah and I had waited for three days for the river to come down to a safe level.  We didn't think we were going to get a chance to do the hike, so we went ahead and did a different, nine mile hike.  However, as we were loading onto the shuttle after our hike, we heard that the Narrows had opened.  So, after hiking nine miles up and down Zion Canyon, we decided to hike another 6 miles; three upstream and three back, mostly in waist/chest-deep water, over bowling ball sized basalt boulders.  Oh, and the water temperature was approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  That aside, the hike was amazing and definitely worth the effort.  I will never forget bathing in the Virgin River; air temperature105 degrees - water temperature 55 degrees.

Here's a photo of Sarah and I at the end of The Narrows hike.  Sorry for the gratuitous shirtlessness.


Orchards at Graves Mountain

8" x 6"oil on canvas panel
$50 plus shipping

Sarah and I try to get out to Graves Mountain every year for some apple picking/wine tasting; usually around the time of our wedding anniversary.  The B&B is booked for the weekend of October 17th - our five year anniversary!

Step back from your computer to view this one.

Harper's Ferry Wax Museum

 8" x 6" Oil on Canvas Panel
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This is the wax museum in Harper's Ferry, VA.  The real wax museum has "wax museum" written on the side of the wax museum (the pinkish building).  Wax is a weird word. I might paint wax museum on the side of the wax museum once the paint dries.  This might have been the most annoying paragraph I've ever written. 

I experimented by painting a practice painting alongside the actual painting, featured here.  The idea was to test out values and brush strokes prior to using them in the real painting.  I hypothesized that the practice painting would turn out better than the actual painting because there would be less pressure, resulting in a looser, more relaxed painting style (which is what I'm going for).  However, the experiment failed because the practice painting is identical to the actual painting, I was no more relaxed while painting the practice painting, and it became extremely tedious to paint two paintings side by side.  Who would've thought?  So, if you like this one, you're in luck because I have two. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Evening Light

Evening Light
8" x 6" oil on canvas panel
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I took the reference photo for this painting from the Daily Paintworks website: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/Challenges.  Carol Marine, one of my favorite artists, runs the site and posts monthly painting challenges to site members.  This was the German landscape challenge.  I wanted to finish this painting quickly while ignoring details ad focusing on getting the values right, which is pretty much always my goal.  I like how it turned out - interesting, and not muddy.  Here's the reference photo:



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Indian Summer

Indian Summer
8" x 10" oil on canvas panel
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I attempted this painting a few years back and failed miserably.  Usually, I will post paintings whether they are terrible or not, but this one was particularly bad.  On second shot, I think I've completed one of my best yet, and it looks better in person.  I like the grey of the fence and the back-lit highlights.  In person, it's a little warmer with a little less contrast between the green shadows and the yellows.  I tried to adjust it in i-Photo, but i-Photo sucks. 

The Judas



















The Judas
"8 x 10" oil on canvas panel
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I'm not in love with VW Beetles, but this one was just too good to pass up.  Sarah and I passed it on the way back to our hotel in Merida, Mexico and then I walked back an entire block to get a photo of it.  The real Judas has "The Judas" written in white cursive stickers across the top of the front windshield.  I don't know the significance of the name as it relates to the car, and I was so happy with the painting by the time I was nearly finished that I was afraid to attempt to paint the name.  Knowing when to quit is one of the greatest lessons to learn if you're serious about painting.  I adhere to that advice about 50% of the time. 

The Lobster Boat

The Lobster Boat
8" x 6" Oil on HD Canvas
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"The Lobster Boat" is hanging in a consignment shop in Maryland. I like the painting, but I'm not too fond of the name.  When I dropped it off, I hadn't thought of a name for it - I was at a loss, so the first thing that slid from my mouth was "Lobster Boat."  It is a lobster boat, but you can call it whatever you want.  The boat was parked at a dock in Portland, ME.  In reality, there were ugly cars parked on the dock and you couldn't see the water behind them.  The indistinguishable white thing across the water is, in reality, a fuel tank of some sort.  And there were a bunch of them, but that doesn't make for a very good painting.  So I got rid of the cars and gave the impression that the body of water continues upriver to the left.  I turned the fuel tanks into happy little white houses.  

Turtle Cove

Turtle Cove
8" x 6" oil on canvas panel
$50 plus shipping

Another image from our trip to Mexico this summer.  We dodged most of the thunderstorms during our time in Tulum, but we were shadowed from time to time as they mushroomed out of the Caribbean and floated off to the west.  Occasionally, shadows covered our beach while the sea a few yards out was still bathed in bright, warm sunshine.  I was interested in this phenomenon, and I kept thinking how inviting the ocean looked beyond the shadows of the passing storms.  In this painting, I tried to capture that feeling, and I think I did OK - maybe I could have enhanced it a bit by darkening the shadow on the water in the left-center. 

Sevier River, Utah

Sevier River, Utah
8" x 6" oil on canvas panel
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This is the view along the Sevier River from the intersection of route 12 and route 89 near Bryce Canyon, Utah.  Sort of.  I've been thinking about painting from this image for a long time, but it needed some adjusting to work, compositionally, as a painting.  The house in the top left quadrant is not really there, but I tried to make it the main focus by using the highest value white and putting the darker shadowed trees around it.  I Google Street viewed the scene again before I started to write this post, and it brought back some nice memories from our trip out west a few years back.  

Tulum Sunset



 Tulum Sunset
5" x 5" HD Canvas
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I threw this one together on a whim because I had a bunch of leftover paint that I didn't want to waste.  I was strapped for time, and I didn't want to wash brushes, so I slapped it down with the palette knives.  Another image from Mexico. I like it. 



Green Tea with Lemon

Green Tea with Lemon
8" x 10" oil on canvas panel
Not available for sale

*This painting no longer exists in this form.  I have painted over it in the name of progress*

My summer afternoon drink of choice.  I was determined to put down each individual brush stroke without blending or overworking, which is the number one reason I'm not satisfied with most of my paintings.  The values are good, but I'm not sure if I accomplished my goal. 

Casas de San Cristobal

Casas de San Cristobal
8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
No longer for Sale

This painting has been painted over. 

I did this painting from a photo taken during our trip to Mexico this summer.  The concrete buildings and tile roofs featured in the painting are typical of San Cristobal's colonial-style architecture, although I'm not sure if I did it justice.  San Cristobal de Las Casas is so beautiful, and I think I overworked this one a little. 

Harvey and Watson

Harvey and Watson
Oil on 8" x 10" HD Canvas
Commissioned - Sold

This is Harvey and Watson.  I painted them waaaay back in January, 2014.  I gambled with the abstracted background, and I love the way they turned out.  Maybe this winter break I'll have time to do some more dog commissions.