Sunday, June 24, 2012


Hilltop Perch   18x14    oil on linen
I don't think I've ever done a painting that includes people, or a place for them to be, that hasn't given me some second thoughts about how successful it is.  There's just something odd about what it does to the viewing of the painting.  Besides becoming part of the painting's design, I'd like it to function as an invitation to come into my painting and look around.   I know some people like the human touch, they've told me so.  The feeling of this place had everything about it that usually makes me want to paint, and the chairs seemed right, so I jumped in.

I just can't make up my mind whether the chairs are an enhancement or a detraction.  I know I enjoyed painting all that rich, reflected afternoon light, and it was a worthwhile exercise.  I'll have a look at it, again, after I get some distance on having painted it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Wild Willow    14x18     oil on linen panel
When we find something out there in nature that we want to paint, it isn't necessarily the case that everything points to the focus.  The first step is to identify what we will make the focus of our painting, the visual destination, the pay-off for the viewer.  In any given view there is usually a number of things that could be worthy of being the star of the show.

Once we select our star, we need to arrange the supporting cast, and the stage set and the spot light.  The chosen scene will have this type of material waiting to be utilized, but we'll need to design the whole thing.  One of the most helpful things I overheard from one of my teachers was "Everything points to the focus".  He was just dropping a comment in the flow of a critique he was giving of another students work.  He said it as if we all know and understand this, and apply it in our paintings.  I thought I understood the importance of having a focus in my painting, but what clicked for me was how the entire painting could be organized by the focus.  The more I paint, the more it seems to be about design.  The rest is the box of tools we use to get to the point.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Cliffside Cactus     12x16  oil on panel
If you squint at this you'll see that the composition is predominantly made up of shadow shapes.  I think it usually works out best if either the light or the shadows dominate sixty percent or more of the canvas.  Then, usually ( I say, again, because it may not always be so…) the emphasis of color variety will fall within the dominant group of shapes, either the light or shadows.

In landscape painting there are three basic types of light to be aware of, and they will directly influence the fun of putting color into the composition.  Direct light is most often the sunlight falling on the surface of the various forms, and it's commonly warm in color range.  Skylight comes from the dome of atmosphere above us which generally casts its beautiful cool light onto the planes of the forms that face the sky.  This is most noticeable in the open shadow areas that are able to receive the light from the sky.  Then there's reflected light.  This type of light results from direct light bouncing off of forms to influence the appearance of other forms.  Reflected light is characteristically warm, deriving its temperature from the sun light, but it is influenced by the surface color of the objects it bounces off of.  So, within the shadow shapes we can often find the lovely interplay of skylight and reflected light.  The shadow areas will have an average value range as it relates to the whole picture, however there may be a fascinating variety of color within the same shadow.  You can see this in my painting, here, the shadows laying on top of the rocks are catching the cool blue of the sky, while the vertical sides of the rocks are catching a warm "bounced" light.  If the painting were in black and white you couldn't discern that fact. Rather, you'd see the value shapes as one value.  It's an effect that makes for beautiful harmonies, and a lot of painting fun!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Pedernales Still Water     11x14     oil on canvas panel
Sometimes I happen upon scenes that just scream, "Paint me!!"  This is one of those. What more could you want?  This has an interesting abstract arrangement, transparent water with reflections, and rocks with beautiful shadows full of reflected light.  Thank you, Lord, for your gorgeous creation!  It's good to be alive.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Big Bend Sundown     9x12     oil on canvas panel
Another one from my trip to Big Bend.  I usually don't paint sunsets as a motif.  Their lovely to see, but usually, for me, too gaudy for a painting. What caught me on this one was the look of the stark, Big Bend landscape aglow from a luminous sky filled with brilliant orange and gold clouds. The effect only lasts a short time.  The foreground glows with muted, warm-neutrals and the distance is a startling blue-violet because of the atmosphere and distance.  Really, indescribable.  I figured it was worth a shot, and I'm glad I took it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Smuggler's Crossing     9x12     oil on canvas pane.

This one didn't need a great deal of rearranging.  The main thing was reconfiguring the mountain cliffs, and the view into the distance, to more comfortably suit the design.  Then, of course, the color has been toyed with.  Things have been left out or added as I felt necessary to the painting I wanted to make.

Photos lie!  All of them.  Most notably they lie about value and color relationships , so you have to be careful not to believe everything they show you.  That's one of the important things about getting outside to paint.  You develop a sense of how things really look, which helps to avoid the trap of mechanically copying photographs.  Instead, by means of artifice, we represent something with ulterior motives.  It isn't my intent to relate the dry facts about a thing I've seen.

The painting itself is a lie, but it's MY lie.  After all, art and artifice share the same root.  Artifice is defined as "clever or cunning devices or  expedients used to trick or deceive others".  A painting is an artificial construct.  It is not the thing itself, and it is intentionally arranged so as to be appreciated for its beauty and emotional power.  In the best paintings, beauty and emotional power are not properties of the thing seen, but of the painting itself.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Cliffs On The Rio Grande     9x12     oil on canvas panel
This is a studio painting done from a field study and photo reference (below) from my trip to Big Bend in March.  In almost every case, when painting outdoors, there's just too much information to include in a painting, and certain things need to be left out and others brought into harmony with the vision for the painting.  

You may or may not agree with my changes, but I have to make the decisions on what to take, leave out and alter. As enamored as I was with the original scene, the painting required a number of adjustments to simplify and harmonize the design.  Check it over to see what I'm talking about.  Whether you're interested in making paintings or just appreciating them, hat's better than me pointing them out for you

I have a couple of others from the Big Bend trip that I've recently reworked in the studio.  I think I'll post them, too, along with with their reference photos as a point of interest.