Friday, December 16, 2011

Little Tennessee River, oil, 11 x 14
I started this painting on location during a plein air weekend in North Carolina a couple of months ago and just finished it up in the studio.  Now to get going on Christmas shopping, cookie baking and gift wrapping...yikes, only one more week left!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Barn on the Hill, oil, 11 x 14
This was started on location and finished in the studio.  I played around some with the palette knife, which I don't typically do, but I wanted to try something different and experiment with creating texture.

Friday, December 9, 2011

November Afternoon, oil, 6 x 8
This is another plein air painting from a couple of weeks ago that I touched up in the studio today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Late Autumn Marsh, oil, 8 x 10
This morning in my studio I touched up one of my plein air paintings I did in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago.  Brightened the blue in the water and fine-tuned the trees and a few other areas.  This is the completed version.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Off in the Distance, pastel, 9 x 12
Early Morning Reflections, pastel, 20 x 30
I'm very excited to announce that I had these two paintings accepted into the IAPS 2011 Web Show.  The show will be posted within a couple of weeks at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unfrozen Creek, pastel, 11 x 14
 In my weekly classes at my studio, we just completed the last week of our winter landscape series.  Working from a reference photo that had very little definition in the snow, and a large mass of spindly stick trees, this was the most challenging week of our series.  This is my demo from Wednesday's class.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shadows on the Marsh, pastel, 20 x 30
This is a large pastel version of one of the paintings I did last week in Minnesota.  When I was working in oil at this location, I couldn't quite capture the brilliant blue that I saw reflected in the water, but I think this version better depicts the color vibration I was after.  Still might tweak the foreground grass a bit.  Need to stop looking at it for awhile.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Late Autumn Marsh, oil, 8 x 10
My third day painting in Minnesota. Had a beautiful, sunny day today for this one.  Although I seemed to struggle more with this one than the past two days of painting in colder, overcast conditions.  It was such a pretty view that I think I resorted to "copying" the scene rather than interpreting it.  I'm hoping to do all three of them larger in the studio at some point.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Silver Lake Shimmer, oil, 8 x 10
I headed back out today to paint in some more 30ish degree Minnesota temperatures.  This is the same general area as yesterday's post, but from different view.  Although most people think of the colder seasons in the north as bleak and dull, I actually find the colors much more interesting than the green foliage of the warmer seasons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

November Afternoon, oil, 6 x 8
This was done today on location in Princeton, Minnesota, where I visit family once or twice a year.  I've painted this area frequently from photos I've taken over the many years that I've been coming here.  I've even painted this particular view recently in pastel (shown in an earlier post) from one of my photos.  This is my first plein air effort up here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Winter Walk, pastel, 11 x 14
This was part two of a winter landscape series I'm doing in my Wednesday and Thursday classes.  In this week's scene we had more snow to work with, which had lots of sunlight and shadows.  Getting values correct in the snow was tricky.  I found that after Wednesday's demo, I had to lighten my shadows quite a bit and warm up parts of the sunlit snow.  Shown here is that "adjusted" demo from Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Standing Tall, pastel, 12 x 9
This was my demo from Monday's class this week, which ended the fall quarter for this particular class.  Since we're heading into the winter months, and I'm also in the midst of a series on the winter landscape in my other classes, I thought it was fitting to end this class with a snow scene.  In my demonstration, I focused on color temperature and values in the snow, and how to handle the barren, winter "stick" trees without rendering every branch.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winter Serenity, pastel, 12 x 16
In my Wednesday and Thursday classes we're starting a series on winter landscapes.  This first scene has just portions of the landscape covered in snow, so the challenge was to show the snow peeking through the grassy field.  In the next few classes, we'll have it "snow a little bit more" in each scene.  Winter Serenity is my demo from this morning's class.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blue Pitcher and Pear, pastel, 12 x 9
 Today was still life day in my Monday class.  We kept the setup to just a couple of basic objects and focused on simplifying and matching values rather than exact color.  This is my demo from this morning's class.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Last Bit of Light, pastel, 12 x 16
 This was a demo that I worked on in both my Wednesday and Thursday classes this week. With my reference photo having much of the image area in shadow, my objective was to increase the color vibrancy in the shadows to make those areas more exciting. Many artists typically like to pump up the color in the sundrenched highlight areas, but I find that there's also lots of opportunity to do this in the shadows.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trees at the Top of the Hill, oil, 8 x 10
Just got home from a fantastic weekend of plein air painting in Bryson City, NC with three other artists.  Although cold in the morning, we had great weather and gorgeous fall colors to work with.  Here's one of my paintings from the weekend.  I have three others that I hope to touch up in the studio.  Hopefully I won't kill them in the process and will post later.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sunlight Peeking Through, oil, 11 x 14
I had jury duty this week and needed to cancel all of my classes for the week in case I was selected as a juror.  Since I wasn't chosen, I'm using my available days this week to get outside to paint in this beautiful fall weather. Today's painting was done at a horse farm in the Suwanee, GA area.  I plan to go back tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two demos from this week's classes.

Autumn Reflections, pastel, 9 x 12

Autumn Ablaze, pastel, 14 x 11
Trying to get caught up and post all of my demos for the week before heading off tomorrow for a plein air paintout at Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw tomorrow and Friday.  So here are two of my demo paintings from my Monday and Wednesday classes.  On Monday we studied reflections in water, and on Wednesday I challenged us all to pull one tree out of a mass of busy tree foliage using color vibrancy and soft/hard edges.  Of course I couldn't resist using autumn scenes for both!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Little Old Barn, oil, 8 x 10
This morning I had the pleasure of painting in the beautiful little town of Adairsville, GA.  Lots of farms, barns, streams, pastures, and lots of other scenery I love to paint.  I'm fortunate to have a good friend, Jan Levin, also an artist, who lives there and invited me and another artist friend, Jill McGannon, up to her house last night so we could catch the early morning light and get several hours of painting in before Jill and I had to head home for our kids' "bus stop" time.  Little Old Barn is one of my paintings from this morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oct. 12 demo - Edges

Autumn Splendor, pastel, 11 x 14
In my Wednesday class today we focused on edges.  I wanted to create some drama in a painting by exagerating the difference between the soft and hard edges.  Although I'm not normally a finger blender, I did some softening "smudges" here and there to increase this effect.  In my demo shown here, I strayed quite a bit from my reference photo, forcing myself to focus on what would make a good painting rather than copying my photo.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oct. 5 demo

Amicalola View, pastel, 11 x 14
I did a version of this scene in two of my classes this week.  This was the demo from my Wednesday class.  For this painting, my goal was to highlight the drama of the vibrant blue of the mountains peaking through the trees and grassy foliage in the foreground.  This was done on a prepared panel with an alcohol underpainting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creating distance with color temperature.

A Sliver of Silver Lake, pastel, 9 x 12
This was my demo from this week's Monday class in which we focused on creating distance in the landscape using color temperature.  The large foreground area provided lots of opportunity to experiment with colors as well as subtle shapes to move the viewer's eye back into the distance.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Same scene, different weather conditions.

Autumn Color on a Cloudy Day, pastel, 11 x 14

Autumn Color in Sunlight, pastel, 11 x 14
In my Wed. and Thurs. classes we've been studying the effects of direct sunlight vs. cloudy conditions on the same scene. (See Sept. 15 post.) Our subject matter of a landscape with vivid autumn colors made a great study for this, allowing us to notice many differences between the two besides just brighter highlights, including differences in contrast, value range, and color temperature/saturation.  Autumn Color in Sunlight was shown in my Sept. 15 post; however, I've made some adjustments to it.  Autumn Color on a Cloudy Day was my demo from this past week.  After finishing the cloudy day version, I went back and forth between the two making minor tweaks to both. Although we usually hope for sunny conditions when painting outdoors or taking reference photos, cloudy conditions can often be dramatic and moody.  I think I actually like my cloudy day version better!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sept. 19 Demo

Off in the Distance, pastel, 12 x 9
In my Monday class we worked from a black and white photo in order to focus on matching values rather than colors.  Several students in this class are new to the medium and have a limited number of pastels, so this takes the pressure off of not having enough colors in their supply.  But it's also a great exercise for anyone wanting to develop a better eye for values, while also becoming more interpretive with color.  This is my demo painting from the class.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall is here.

Autumn Color in Sunlight, pastel, 11 x 14
Well, here in Georgia, fall colors and cooler weather aren't quite here yet, but I'm sure ready for it.  When I was looking through photos in preparation for this week's classes, I gravitated toward my collection of autumn scenes.  I came across a scene that I had photographed on a cloudy day, and then went back another day and photographed the same scene on a sunny day.  This is my sunny day demo from today's class.  Next week we'll tackle the cloudy day version and observe how different lighting conditions affect autumn colors.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sept. 12 Class Demo

Trees Aglow, pastel, 9 x 12
This past Monday I began teaching the first week of my fall session pastel class at Spruill Center for the Arts.  With several new pastel enthusiasts in the class, I wanted to start with a piece that would show how to simplify a basic landscape composition.  I chose an exercise similar to the one in my last post in which we begin the painting by simplifying the composition into 5 large shapes and then gradually break down the finer details from there.  Trees Aglow is my completed demo from the class.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Five Shape Landscape

Lakeside Tranquility, pastel, 11 x 14
This past week I had my classes focus on simplifying landscape subject matter into about five basic shapes in the thumbnail stage.  We used grey markers in 3-4 values to sketch out the thumbnails. This forces you to make decisions about what value to categorize each section of the painting right from the start.  For my demo above, once I had a value thumbnail (or notan) that I liked, I began my painting referencing my thumbnail, not the photo. I then further divided the shapes and adjusted the values within each shape, referencing the photo at that point as more details were added.  I find this to be a good way to begin a painting that contains lots of busy tree foliage. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Raiford Gallery

Red Tree Along the River, pastel, 12 x 14
This painting, along with three more of my pastel landscapes, will be showing in Raiford Gallery beginning next week.  Raiford Gallery is housed in a unique barn-type structure located in Historic Roswell along Canton Street.  Along with original paintings, they also feature an ecclectic assortment of glass art, ceramics, jewelry, and a variety of other handmade creations.  If you're local to the area, it's well worth the visit! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Finished version from 8/23 post.

Snowmobile Tracks at the Hoeft Farm, 16 x 20
This is the completed version of the painting that I showed in my earlier post.  I'm pretty happy with the finished version, and I think I succeeded in making it look like a cold, Minnesota winter day. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One more week of still life.

Red Watering Can and Flowers, 9 x 12
We did one more week of still life in my classes this week.  This time I wanted to bring in some plant life to the set up, since we tend to work from landscape photos a lot in my classes, and I wanted to get some form of greenery directly in front of us.  Above is my demo from my Thursday (today's) class.  The goal with this piece was to begin the greenery and yellow flowers by massing in large areas of similar values.  I purposely chose small flowers with small leaves for the set up to challenge the class to do these large value masses rather than rendering every small area seperately.  Next week we'll be back to landscapes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Workshop Report

Snowmobile Tracks at the Hoeft Farm, 16 x 20

Rounding the Birch Trees, 12 x 16
I spent this past Friday through Sunday at a wonderful, inspiring pastel workshop with Marc Hanson, one of my favorite artists.  Above are the paintings I completed during the workshop.  I still plan to make a few tweaks to the winter scene to incorporate a few more comments Marc made regarding how to make it truly look like a cold, snowy day in Minnesota, where the scene originated.  Hopefully my "tweaks" won't be fatal, since I'm hoping to give the painting to family members who own this property in Princeton, MN, where we visit each winter around the holidays. If my finishing touches are successul, I'll post the finished version.

Friday, August 19, 2011

White-on-White Still Life

Coffee Cups, 10 x 8
This past week in my classes, I thought it was time for still life.  When I'm not able to get out for plein air painting for a length of time, I find it helpful to get away from photos for a bit and work from life, even if it's still inside the studio.  Since we should (hopefully) have some cooler temps in the morning in a couple of weeks, and with my son back in school, plein air outings will soon be on my calendar.  Still life work can serve as a good warmup!

This painting was a paint-a-long I did for a private class.  It was a completely white-on-white set-up, so with color out of the picture, we could focus more on value (using any color) and "lost and found" edges.  I find this to be a great exercise to revisit every once in awhile. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Starting with big shapes.

Aspens in Sunlight, 10 x 8
This was my demonstration from today's class.  Painting busy tree foliage can be challenging, so we worked from a black and white photo to help simplify the subject matter.  This made it easier to combine similar values at the beginning stages and start with large shapes.  I first created a very simplified value thumbnail sketch to work out my composition and the large shapes for the tree foliage and sky holes.  The thumbnail primarily divided the scene into light and dark areas.  Working first from the thumbnail, I began the painting with just two values: dark for the tree foliage and grass, and light for the sky holes and tree trunks. I used an alcohol wash to flatten out these two values so I could more easily work on top of this base layer, adjusting values as I proceeded. I then softened the edges of the foliage using a middle value and further broke up the large areas of foliage, adding a few more small sky holes and adjusting values. Since I was working from black and white reference, I decided on a color scheme beforehand which used a nice balance of warms for the highlights and cools for the shadows.  This made it much easier to choose colors that made pleasing combinations rather than trying to "copy" the existing color that would've been in the color photo.

Hopefully cooler weather is around the corner to ditch the photos and get out for some plein air painting!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rocks in the landscape.

Rocks Along the River, 12 x 16
In class last week we continued with rocks, incorporating them into the landscape.  In this demonstration, my objective was to sharply define only a few of the rocks at the center of interest (or the area of interest, as I've heard it called, which is the case here). The other rocks were kept very loose with mostly soft edges and less contrast than the center-of-interest rocks.  Also, since this painting is mostly about the rocks, the other elements in the scene--the trees, water and sky--were kept simplified with little detail.  Otherwise the painting overall would be much too busy. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Playing with Color

Toward the Sunlight, oil, 8 x 10
This is another oil version of a previous pastel painting (To the Chattahoochee).  I actually started this painting many months ago and set it aside.  At the time, I knew my colors were all wrong but I wasn't sure what to do with them.  I went back to it recently and made some adjustments to some of the values and toned down the vibrancy in a few areas with some muted colors.  This made the vibrant colors still remaining really sing.

Also, I'm excited to announce that an oil painting I posted on this blog back in February (Trees on the Chattahoochee, also one of my pastel "do overs") was juried into the Atlanta Fine Arts League's 5th Annual Juried Exhibition "Georgia Only."  The opening reception is this Friday, Aug. 12 from 7-9 pm at the Roswell Visual Arts Center Gallery.  The exhibit will remain there until Sept. 30.  Details are on my website.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hard as rock.

Rocks Along the Creek, 10 x 8

Sunlit Rocks, 8 x 10
 In my classes this week, we discovered that rocks can be a tricky subject matter to paint. When painting rocks as the primary subject matter, without including much else in the landscape, the painting becomes like an abstract painting.  Our goal with this exercise was to use the reference photo only as a starting point, and reshape the overall composition and individual rocks to create a dominant rock shape and strong compositional movement throughout the painting. Simplifiying and combining shapes in the early stages are important steps.  I hope my students who attended this week persisted in completing this painting, since the later stages, when you can play with adding touches of color throughout, are a lot of fun!

The top painting, Rocks Along the Creek, was done as a paint-a-long for a private class.  For Sunlit Rocks, a demo for my group class, I decided to crop in even closer to really focus on just the rocks.  I also noticed that my first painting would've worked better cropping into just the bottom half.

Rock on!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Same scene, different medium

Meandering Stream, oil, 11 x 14
This is a another exercise of painting in oil from an existing pastel painting.  I used only the pastel painting (Quiet Stream at Sunrise, 12 x 14, scroll a few posts down to see) as my reference.  With a few adjustments to my composition, since the 11 x 14 proportions of my canvas didn't match my 12 x 14 reference painting, I was ready to go with my oil version of this same scene. I'm finding that my next challenge is to learn to photograph the shiny surface of oil paintings without the reflective glare.  As a pastel artist for many years, this is a new problem for me!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And then the fog rolled in...

Foggy Morning, 11 x 14
In my weekly classes at my home studio, we just finished up a series of "atmospheric" paintings.  We began with atmospheric perspective in general, and studied this topic pertaining to scenes on a clear day.  Then we moved on to studying the effects of morning mist, and finally how to work with fog. This painting was from this past week's demo.  We discovered that, without a strong, direct light source, contrast is kept low on the ground plain and in the distance, and is only apparent on upright objects, such as the trees in this scene (and somewhat on the upright edge of the land mass that meets the water).  To differentiate various areas of the ground plain and the distant trees, we used a combination of low contrast, muted warms and cools up against each other.  It's hard to believe that a painting as subdued as this would be a real workout on the eyes, but seeing the small nuances of low contrast values was indeed a challenge.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Paint-along Demonstration

Cows at the Barn, 11 x 14
For the past couple of months I've been working with a student by doing paint-along demonstrations, which I've really enjoyed.  With these private classes I've left the subject matter to her and, working side by side, explained each step of how I'd approach the painting.  For this painting, we were working from a photo taken during an overcast day, giving us little to go on regarding color and contrast, so we had to make up some of these artistic decisions.  By carefully considering color temperature and extending the fence into the foreground, we were able to create depth in the painting. We also used a more saturated splash of color and more detailed contrast to create our focal point in the lower left area of the painting.

I felt a bit intimidated when it came time to place in the cows...something I don't think I've ever painted before. My student, however, has painted many and does quite well at it. We decided our goal would be to loosely place in just enough information to have the two areas read as groups of black & white cows.

For our finishing touches, we looked for opportunites to harmonize the color throughout, and even working into the cows some of the same dark and light colors used in other areas of the painting.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Making "Haze" a Little Clearer

Quiet Stream at Sunrise, 12 x 14
This week I finished this painting in one of my classes, demonstrating how to depict hazy atmospheric conditions.  This particular scene captures early mornng haze.  I normally start my demos during the first hour of class, and often finish the painting later in the week to show to students at the next week's class.  For this painting, though, I thought it was important to do a two-part demonstration and show the completion as well.  Capturing hazy conditions in a painting relies heavily on getting those very subtle value differences dead-on accurate, and I find it important to make small adjustments all the way up until the end, comparing value to value in all areas of the painting.  Starting the painting with a monochromatic Turpenoid underpainting also helped to establish accurate values early on in the process.

I was very fortunate to have seen Elizabeth Mowry demonstrate recently one of her classic hazy atmospheric landscapes at the IAPS convention.  Quite a helpful demonstration to watch just prior to painting mine!

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Sunset Hike"

Sunset Hike, 14 x 11
I've been enjoying these southwestern desert scenes and I guess I'm in the midst of creating a series.  Abandoning the typical sunset colors I would normally use, I was drawn to these cooler colors that I liked in combination with the pale yellow greens. I stopped short of overworking the rocky area in the forground to make sure the viewer's focus would be pulled back a bit further along the path, skipping along the shadow patterns along the way. I'm hoping I can keep the momentum going on these southwestern paintings!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Still "workin' out west"

Uphill Climb, 14 x 11
At the IAPS Convention I bought Girault's "Southwestern" set of 25 pastels, since I now have lots of Southwestern reference photos from both Arizona and New Mexico.  For this painting, I went back to one of my Arizona photos to try out these new pastels.  I also used them on yesterday's painting.  Something else a bit different on both today's and yesterday's paintings is the surface.  For about a couple of years now I've been using my own prepared pastel boards, but since taking a workshop at IAPS using the UART paper, I decided to work on that some more for a change.  The Girault pastels work great on the UART paper (and would aso work well on Wallis and other similar sanded papers), but I'm not sure they work well on the more textured boards.  Need to experiment some more, though.  For both of these recent paintings, I started with a monchromatic Turpenoid underpainting.

Monday, June 13, 2011

First painting since the IAPS Convention.

Desert Colors, 11 x 14
It's been a whole week since I got back from the IAPS Convention in Albuquerque, but today was the first day I was able to spend painting in my studio.  With the creative juices flowing, newfound inspiration from the wonderful demos I witnessed from some of the top pastel artists alive today, and new reference photos from New Mexico, I couldn't wait to get going in my studio.  But with my son out of school for the summer, it's a little trickier getting in my studio time. This week he's attending a day camp, though, and he even spent a little time this afternoon painting with me in my studio!

Today's painting was from three different photos I took from the train that Nancy Nowak and I took to Santa Fe. I don't usually take photos from a moving vehicle, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture the unique desert scenery.  Snapping away almost nonstop through a not-so-clean window, the photos themselves weren't great, but provided enough information for interestingly shaped trees, mountain backgrounds, and other desert scenery, as well some adobe buildings to use in some future paintings. 

I even used some of my pastel purchases from the convention trade show on this painting!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trees, Trees, and More Trees

Towering Trees, 12 x 9
Since many of the artists in my Wednesday class do plein air painting, I thought we'd focus on tree shapes.  When painting outdoors and dealing with the changing light, it's important to work quickly.  But sometimes it's a good idea to slow down in the studio and really take the time to learn how to "sculpt" a tree.  Copying tree shapes exactly as we see them typically produces a boring tree.  As artists it's our job to improve upon what we see, whether from a photo or while painting on location, and this means learning how to create interesting shapes within a tree as well as the overall shape of a tree, or group of trees.  This painting was begun with massing in large dark shapes, focusing on the positive and negative shapes of the large group of trees, while also making sure the lower third of the composition worked with the overall shape of the large trees. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Desert Path

Desert Path, pastel, 16 x 20
This was a demo from my Monday class for which I used an alcohol wash underpainting.  I enjoy working on gatorboard panels that I prepare myself because they can really take a beating and withstand being reworked many times. I wiped it down and used an alcohol wash many times to redo several sections of this painting until I was happy with it.  I took the reference photo in Arizona, and I guess I'm not used to the southwestern colors, which differ drastically from what we see here in the southeast. It took me several attempts at this one, but I'm fairly happy with my final result. Can't wait to paint some more scenes from my Arizona visit!