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Paintings by Craig Pursley

Challenges for the 2016 Gallery Season

Starting our 12th year at tjhe American Hertiage Gallery of Art, we find oursleves in a unique postition. Each year before we have been part of a great little set of small businesses in Bath, NH. One was the Brick Store, Oldest General Store in America (1824) and the other, a terrific ice cream shop with tons of rock and toll memorabilia. The only other business (other than the gallery) is a little burger place just down the road. We have benefitted from the flocks of tourists and tour buses who have come each fall and the thousands of people they bring. This year we will go it alone on the common as the general store and ice cream shop have gone out of business. Hopefully, someone will step forward and but them and keep going as well as allow us to stay as renters. Needless to say, without that, we are at risjk of being the next domino to fall. We certainly want to stay in business, especially since ours has been growing steadily since 2008. And the town really needs these businesses. I'll keep you posted if things change.


It is hard to convey how much inspiration means to me as there seems to be nothing like it. But it infuses days with an energy like nothing else. It can come from the beauty all around (especially for me in NH). Different seasons here bring their own sources as do different atmospheric effects, like the one above, and times of day. It can come from the encouragement of winning an award or the kind words of patrons and friends. It can even come from a job well done on the painting the day before. So I have a wonderful job where I lay in bed anxiously visualizing what I intend to paint the next day and can't wait to get started in the morning. I am indeed a lucky man!

It can also come from an idea. For example, I was in California in May and visited the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino. While there I saw a B-17 Bomber called "Pickadilly Lilly" for which they are raising funds to make her fly again. Immediately, I thought of painting the nose art and making prints of it for them to sell as a fund-raiser. I knew who my model would be and roughly what kind of pose. I couldn't wait to get started. The model, Hannah, was fully onboard and excited about it too, even practicing the right kind of hair style and make up! I did this painting and submitted it to the museum director (with a Photoshopped version on the nose)  and am anxiously waiting to hear back. Part of the "deal" was that we would get no money for thus but would get a ride on that plane eventually.

Another great source of inspiration can come from the model and that is certainly the case with Hannah. As a former art and theater major at Dartmouth, she really "gets" the concepts and is eager to take part, often suggesting and collaborating in the process. In just over a month I have already painted her seven times and have at least four more ideas with her in mind. I have always appreciated the contributions of models and I'd have to say she is the best with whom I have ever worked. Check out the "What's New" section and you'll see more of her.

And finally this month, I have to tell you about Xetah who absolutely fell in love with "Portrait of Miss Emma Foley" and purchased it. I don't believe I have ever had anyone so taken by a painting before. With that in mind, I asked her to come back a couple days later to see it varnished and with a good light on it. She had no idea when she came in she would meet the real Emma Foley. She was speechless and nearly cried. She thanked us both over and over. I have to thank Emma for coming in and wearing the same outfit and posing the same way for the event. She really made Xetah's day!

Previous Posts

A Great Time in DC

The annual Portrait Society of America Conference was in Washington D.D. this year and as usual it was a fun and inspiring weekend meeting some of the best portrait and figural artists in the country. Their demos were informative and inspirational and all were so giving with their knowledge it continues to amaze me. I got to introduce myself to a couple I had never met. And they signed small portraits I had done of each of them.


With james Gurney, author and illustrator of the Donotopia books as well as one of the best books on painting ever written, "Light and Color"
With Daniel Gerhartz. Both this painting and the one above can be seen in the "What's New" category of the website.

New Portrait Book- Painting Faces

I made another portrait book this year to submit as a portfolio at the canference and was very happy and honored to be judged in the top 5 this year. Recently. the girl on the cover stopped by the studio where she was happy to see herself inside as well.

Maia spots herself in the book.
Just a few of the portraits that can be found in "Painting Faces"

While I initially planned to make only one boof for the conference, several people asked to purchase one so I ordered a few more. Unfortunately with such a limited edition they cost $100 which includes shipping. Please let me know if you would like one and I can send one of the few I have remaining or order more. And of course, I will be happy to sign it to you as well.

Another Attempt at Glazing

Here are a few of the stages of this painting as layers of glaze were applied over and extended time.

A few times last year I tried a method which I had virtually forgotten since the early 80s. This method is similar to how the Old Masters worked beginning with a black and white
underpainting" and then slowly applying very thin, transparent glazes over the top. The paint must be allowed to dry between each coat so what normally can be done in a day (a regualr direct 14x18 painting) may take two weeks or more. But the results can be dramatic since light will travel through all those layers to the underpainting and then bounce back through all to your eyes. This gices a depth and glow that direct painting cannot have. THe problem here is that photos of these paintings flatten out so they don't look so different than those I regularly paint. If you are in the area of Northern NH or Vermont I hope you'll swing by the gallery at 17 Lisbon Road and see the difference first hand.


"Girl in the Vollendam Hat" 18x14

Please check the "What's New" area of the site to see paintings done in April, 2016

Previous Posts

No Slowing Down in Feb. and March!

With another trip to Arizona and several commissions as well as regular painting, it has been a VERY busy couple of months. So much that I broke a rule I swore I never would again. I skipped a month updating this site. To those who check each month, I apologize. I'm excited about several things that are in the works and some wonderful future possiblities of which I cannot yet speak. 


One of which I can speak is a new series that I'm enjoying. These are kind of a throw back to the 1920s and 30s and inspired by the first trip to Arizona. I want to do a series of Cowgirls in poses and dress that reflect that era and the plan is to bring the time frame forward to at least the 50s before it is over. Here's an early one. Check waht's new for a couple of others.


Arizona Workshop

In March we had a landscape workshop in Scottsdale. I believe it was the most talented group I have ever taught and that helped make it especially fun. We are looking forward to doing another one next year. Best of all, my daughter, Laura, drove out from California to take the class. I loved having her there and both she and her friend, Anna (both art teachers) helped elevate the class on the whole.


Laura works on a nice piece while Anna does the same.
Van's growth during the course of the workshop was remarkable.
Julie (in front) and Catharine both were game for great challenges and did very well.

Please check the "What's New" Category          for details on some new peices

A Hectic January!

For the final three weeks of the month I was in Arizona so for much of that I had little time to paint. But what an inspirational trip it was! From seeing some of the great work in Scottsdale art galleries to the Celebration of Fine Art (in the same city) to the visit to a  collector's wonderful and art-packed home to a landscape workshop with Phil Starke- it was just tremendous and I returned to NH with lots of ideas and inspiration for more than two dozen paintings. I can't wait to get started!


Since I was gone for so much of the month, I have less than usual to show here. I did do several paintings in the workshop with Phil but all need some touching up before I post them here. Many of them should show up on next month's update after I have a chance to rework them.


Before I left NH, I did do a piece that I am pretty hapy with showing the mill in nearby Littleton.

Also, I did a few very quick head studies. The one shown here and a couple others which you can see in the "What's New" category of the site.

Making Progress in December

Painting is always a series of hills and valleys. One day you're riding high after a nice piece and the next you feel like you've forgotten everything you've ever learned and wonder if it will ever come back. I am happy to say that 1015 in general and specifically December were times when I gained. I felt like three of the best paintings I have ever done were done this year and two of them in December. It is a real shot in the arm to feel this encouragement.


I am really looking forward to 2016 with a trip to Scottsdae to hopefully meet with some gallery owners and take a workshop with Phil Starke, one of the landscape artists I admire most. I already have several commissions lined up and will be working on those very soon. I hope to have at least a couple workshops that I will be teaching as well and one is already scheduled for the forst weekend of November in Vermont. Let me know if you'd like more information on that.


Here are a few pieces from December and please check out the "What's New" section to see more.

November - A Busy Month

November was a very busy month though too much of it did not involve painting. Sometimes the business of life interferes. Very early in the month I taught a workshop in a beautiful part of Vermont at a wonderful 1810 country inn. The Landgrove Inn is a tremendous facility for workshops and they have them running constantly from spring through the fall. We had a great time and I was happy to be invited back next year.  Then my wife, Julie and I took a vacation to Costa Rica for a good part of the month. A terrific time in a beautiful spot which will result in some paintings I'm sure.

Much of the rest of the month was spent on a single painting of Emma Foley. This process is different than I usually paint beginning with a black and white grissaille (or underpainting). Then gradually over several days, a series of transpaent glazes are applied until full color is reached. This is similar to how the Old Masters painted. Rembrandt might use 30-40 layers of glaze whereas I used only seven. I like the effect but I usually like to see the results a little sooner so I don't always have the patience.

This painting was done in an odd size and shape so that it would fit into an antique mirror frame I have.



While in Costa Rica I took nearly a thousand photos most of which were taken with future paintings in mind. A few will be worth painting from. Below is one in which I eliminated the crocodiles that were sunbathing on the beach.

The Miracle Finish of Fall, 2015

It was a very strange end to our season at the gallery this year. After so many great months of business, things suddenly dried up just when it should have been gaining ground. I was resigned to the notion that we'd have the worst October since 2008. But then in the course of just two or three days (when normally business trails off dramatically) things exploded. Many paintings sold and layaways were paid off. So when it was all said and done we had our best October ever and the best year ever!


I want to say a big thank you to all who came in and purchased paintings, all those who encouraged me and all who just appreciated what they saw when they came in. It is always a shot in the arm.


We'll reopen the gallery next May but if anyone needs an appointment or has questions of any kind, please email me at craigpursley@roadrunner.com


Thank you!


Check out "What's New"

I update the website on the first Monday of each month and will always have the best of what I have recently done in the "What's New" area. Please check in to see and read about the process and inspiration of the newest projects.

Portrait Workshop Announced

On November 6, 7 and 8 I will be having a portrait workshop hosted by the Landgrove Inn in Landgrove, Vermont. It is a beautiful spot that regularly hosts artists workshops. I'm excited about the weekend and the venue. If you are interested in taking this please check with me and I can give you all the details. Contact me at craigpursley@roadrunner.com

August - One Busy Month

I can't remember having this much to do in the last 25 years. I like staying busy but I wouldn't mind if the world slowed down just a touch for a bit. It started when I was asked to be the MC for an event at our local hisotical society. I was certainly honored to sit between NH Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Also presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina came later in the day and I got to spend a little time with her.

Gov. Hassan speaks, Sen. Kelly Ayotte at right
With Carly Fiorina

Then came a call from an ad agency in souther NH who was looking for an "older" artist to do a self-portrait for a commercial for a hospital. It had to be done quickly and then taken to New York City to film the first part of it. We spent the morning filming just adding the catch light in the eye. I painted and rubbed off that white dot around 30 times before we were done. Then we went to Portsmouth, NH to the hospital for the filming of the second part where I am talking with the doctor. It was a great experience and lots of fun.

Self-Portrait (minus the highlight in the eye)

Next in the whirlwind of August came the Oct/Nov issue of International Artist Magazine. I had submitted a story on a chain of mentors going back to John Singer Sargent of which I am so fortunate to be a link. I have been mentored by Micahel Shane Neal who was and is mentored by Everett Raymond Kinstler who was taught by Gordon Stevenson who learned directly from Sargent. I was so pleased that they ran the story with lots of photos on six pages.

l to r- Kinstler, Neal, me and Nicole Vargas-Santiago who I am now mentoring) at this year's Portrait Society of America Conference.

Okay, this one wasn't actually in August but falls into the time since the last monthly update. I was given a one-man-show at Alumni Hall in Haverhill, NH which consisted of 30 portraits (mostly local people). The show was called "Every Painting Tells a Story" and at the reception I told those stories from a girl beating cancer to the loss of a loved one to dealing with the Great Depression and Dust Bowl and many more. The show will remain up until Oct. 16.

Telling the stories of each painting.

One of those stories was about a 14-year-old Alexa Boutin. While I was painting in the gallery and listening to some music, she came in and watched for a while. I could barely hear her singing along. I asked her to sing louder and when she did, I was amazed at what a beautiful voice she has.  I soon asked her mom if she could sing at the show. I photographed her one night and painted her the next day, less than a week before the show opened. As I told her story, I added that I wanted them to hear the song I did. The music started and behind them, Alexa began singing so sweetly that they were spellbound. One woman thought she was just listening to a recording until she realized everyone else was turned around. She did a wonderful job!

One Great Day!!

We seem to be gaining momentumas the year rolls along and that notion was best exemplified by one day recently. I was contacted by a major collector and at the end of the conversation we had made a deal for nine paintings! Later that day, I found out one had sold at the Vanessa Rothe Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA. In the evening two more sold online and the following morning, three paintings were taken. That's 15 in one 24 hour period! My previous best was 6. Needless to say, that felt pretty good.


A BIG thank you to all who have supported what I do and have invested in my work!!

Nine paintings getting ready to go to a collector in Arizona!

"Every Painting Tells a Story"

"Winged Victory" 15x30

Starting with a reception on September 5th, I will have a one-man-show at the Alumni Hall in Haverhill, NH. It will consist entirely of portraits and figural pieces; mostly of local people I have painted in the last couple years. "It will be called "Every Painting Tells a Story" and I'll be telling those stories at the reception. Some are about what inspired the pose, something about the subject and/or the technique of the painting itself. I think even if one doesn;t know the subject, these stories will prove of interest. For example, every detail in the pictures behind the couple below are there for a reason and commect to friends and family, past and present. Or why does the young lady above have wings and what is the significance of her tattoo? I hope you'll be able to make it if you're in the area. And hopefulyy, many (all?) of the models will be there too!

"Duane and Reta" 28x22

Please check the "What's New" section for more.

This 12x12 book is now available to order. It was my portfolio of portraits which was chosen among the top 5 at the Portrait Society's Annual Conference this year. It is $100 plus shipping.

The theme of this year's Portrait Society of America Conference was John Singer Sargent and I was happy to meet the keynote speaker, Richard Ormond who is recognized as THE world's authority on him. He is working on his ninth book on Sargent and also is a grand nephew to the master painter.

Meeting Richard Ormond

A couple years ago I began mentoring a young lady named Nicole Vargas-Santiago who attended her first conferece this year. She and I are shown below with Everett Raymond Kinstler and Michael Shane Neal. Shane has mentored me through his workshop and beyond and he was mentored by Mr. Kinstler. Mr. Kinstler learned from (among others) Gordon Stevenson who himself was taught by John Singer Sargent. So this photo represents four members out of five that are a direct chain of teachers/mentors back to my favorite all-time artist. I am very proud to be a part of that and I am sure Nicole will continue that on someday.

Ray Kinstler, Shane Neal, me and Nicole Vargas-Santiago at the PSoA conference.

Another Goal Met

Part of a four-page article in the June issue of American Art Collector

For more than a decade, I have set an anuual goal of being recognized with an article in a national art magazine. This month I recieved my copy of American Art Collector and saw that goal recognized. I was over the moon. Then a few days later, I was in International Artist Magazine as their Grand Prize Winner in the Seascapes, Rivers and Lakes contest they sponser. Honestly, I was shocked by this as usually they have over 2,000 entries from around the world!

International Artist Magazine's Seascapes, Rivers and Lakes winner.

Please check "What's New"

I will be updating my website on the first Monday of each month from now on and will be putting the most recent paintings in the "What's New" area. If you check that each month you'll see a note on each detailing what inspired the painting or something about the subject or technique. I hope you'll find this interesting.


"Circle of Inspiration" show in Pasadena

Last February I shared a two-man art show with composer, Mark McKenzie in the Tirage Gallery in Pasadena. There were 37 paintings all inspired by Mark's beautiful film scores. Though the show is now gone, interest remains so I thought I'd keep a reference to it here for a while. Mark was nice enough to make some short suites of his music that I could pair with images of my work for this show. To get a little of the flavor of this project you might enjoy clicking on these links










I feel like many of the paintings for this show are among the very best I have ever done and so I am very happy to show them and grateful to the Tirage Art Gallery for hosting this event. In the American Art Collector June Issue, they chose six of the seven images for the article to be paintings that happened to be done fo this show. And I am extremely proud to have it associated with the composer I consider to be the best ever at his trade. Thank you, Mark McKenzie!!





The Good Life

I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Who would have thought that even in the midst of a long, nasty winter there would be so much opportunity for inspiration?


Recently while snowshoeing with my wife Julie and some friends, we came upon a spot with almost a mystical beauty. Unfortunately, the ideal angle from which to shoot a reference photo was out standing on the ledge of a very short waterfall. But nothing else would do, so I scooted out and crouched down so the offending tree trunk would not be covering what might be the center of interest.

Finding just the right spot can be challenging sometimes but often it is worth it!

Though I teetered on the edge a bit, I was able to get what I needed and head back to the shore where I fell through the ice and went into the river (only up to mid-calf). But walking back the rest of the way with ice water in both boots was a bit chilly. Still getting this shot and the excitement over getting to paint it was well worth it. Thanks to Nancy Lusby for taking the first photo above.

Here's a link to the Mission Gallery


Continuing Education

"The Wounded Heart"

The more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. Certainly true in the case of portraits and I feel I have been learning about the subtleties of painting flesh. Such was the case with this one where blues, greens and violets play heavily in the mix while trying to set a melancholy mood. The photo from which I worked in this case came from someone whom I taught in middle school art about 35 years ago. She posted a photo of her daughter wearing a Christmas ornament as an earring. Her careful pose looked so subdued to me; as if she had just gotten in trouble.

It's Always Good Hearing from Customers

Gina and Rodney with "Ben and Jazz"

Often I will hear from a client after they get their painting home and sometimes they'll even send a photo of how it looks on their wall. I love seeing where my work ends up and even more, I love that these people took the time to send these. I really means a lot. Very recently I got a couple great notes from Gina who commissioned a portrait of two of her horses. It sure feels good making people happy doing what I love to do.




We are overwhelmed with what you have done.  With each phase we have watched as our boys have come to life.  All along my hope for this portrait has been to capture Ben and Jazz and not just be any two horses.


To be able to look into their eyes and see them looking back at me has filled my eyes with tears. 


This portrait shows their souls and having them together again means everything.

Rodney and I can’t put words to how much this portrait means. 


You have been very patient with us (me) through this process and are clearly a very gifted artist.  Jazz would have been 33 on February 14th and thanks to you we will be able to see a painting that truly captures his beauty and soul. 



As with every commission, I sent regular updates explaining what I was doing and why with accompanying photos of the process. I feel it helps the client to be involved and promotes a better understanding of the piece and hopefully, a greater appreciation of it.


 Thank you, Gina for that terrific note and for the opportunity to work with you. I really enjoyed it.

Continuing More Portrait and Figural Work

The End of a Quiet Winter

There is so much to learn with any form of painting but lately I have really enjoyed working on the subtleties of skin tones. There are so many colors within from greens to violets and blues. I don't think there is anything I've found more satfying than getting that right (or at least close). I hope to expand and grow in that regard druing the upcoming year.

A Portrait for the NH Statehouse

Three years ago I painted a portrait of Executive Councilor, Raymon Burton. Ray served his constituents for nearly 40 years and did so as the greatest example of a public servant I have ever known. Unfortunately, Ray passed away recently after battling cancer. Last week I found that he had willed this portrait to the state and after a legislative vote, it was confirmed that it would be displayed permanently in the Governor's Council Chambers in the State House right behind the chair he occupied for so long. I am very honored to have this displayed there and sincerely wish it could have been many more years before this would have happened. In a memorial service in mid-December at Plymouth State University it will be my pleasure to present this portrait Governor Maggie Hassan. It will be the second portrait I will have hanging in the Capitol Building, joining one of former Gov. Henry W. Keyes on the second floor.

In June 2010, I presented Ray's portrait to him at his annual gathering at his home in Bath, NH.

Portrait Demo at the Athenaeum

Between those who attended and the artists whose work surrounded me, I was in very good company.

On September 12th I was very honored to execute a portrait sketch in oil at the Saint Johnsbury Athenaeum. For a little over two hours I painted and talked to a nice crowd who came out to brave the rainstorm. All the while, behind my canvas loomed a giant painting by Albert Bierstadt (10x15 feet!!) and at the same time on my left, a small Bouguereau painting. I really enjoyed the evening and am thankful to those who attended as well as the Athenaeum staff for organizing it and hosting my one-man show which was on the second floor.

Here's how the final turned out.

A New Gallery in New Hampshire

I was recently been given representation in Art3 Gallery in Manchester, NH. They have been in business for 28 years and I am very happy to join them there. If you're in Manchester, I hope you'll look them up. They have a wide variety of styles and artists whom they represent there and are good people too!

In Other News

If you are interested in having a portrait done or commissioning a landscape, please don't hesitate to call or email me. It may surprise you how affordable it is. And with all commissions I send email updates with photos describing the entire process and usually include a CD with a time lapse movie of your painting. Past clients have been very happy with these and they will greatly increase your understanding and appreciation of the process. And they are free!


Here's what one client had to say about it.

"......and every time you correspond I learn something new.....Julie and I have talked quite a bit about the processes you used in painting our "Carney Barn" and we have come to the conclusion that there is so much more to painting that we had ever imagined......thanks for sharing what amounts to only a very small part of your knowledge... even though it is not much to you it is enormous to us....very very interesting and always send me anything about the process you want because I know it will be interesting and informative..." - Mike Carney

The Good Life in Bath, New Hampshire

For anyone who has not visited our little village of Bath, New Hampshire, I sure recommend it. It is quintessentially New England and yet very unique at the same time. Though it is so small it has a lot to offer someone looking to relax a while in a place that is a slice out of another time. In just the space of 100 yards you will find America's oldest general store, chock full of goodies (wonderful smoked meats and cheeses and the best home-made fudge you've ever tasted), a nearly 400-foot-long covered bridge built in 1832 and waterfall right beneath it, a church (1873) that was the location of the nation's first Sunday School, an ice cream shop (1844) that is also a virtual rock and roll museum, and our art gallery (1833) with more than 125 paintings displaying the beauty of our area. The painting above shows Bath from just upstream. I hope to see you here someday. If you like rural America, you will love it here. My wife and I found it on a fall foliage bus tour in 1993 and she said that day "I want to live here!" We are so fortunate to have made a home here since 2002. If you are able to visit, please keep in mind the gallery (and the ice cream shop) are only open from May to October each year.

And I feel so blessed to be able to sit in the gallery and paint for a living. I work in a very comfortable old buggy without wheels into which I built an easel. I recall my dad having to get up at 5:30 a.m. and go to a job he hated in order to provide for his family and it just doesn't seem fair. Then to put the icing on the cake, I have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who come through the shop and chat about art or Bath or New England or life in general.

Painting Update List

I have a list of people to whom I send out regular updates on new paintings. These are generally a couple of times a month and include descriptions and/or inspiration for doing it. These are not to pressure anyone into a sale but at the same time they are offered here before going to any other galleries so anyone interested may have first crack at them. If you would like to be included on this list, please let me know at craigpursley@roadrunner.com and I will add you right away. Your email address will not be given or sold to anyone else.

Thanks for visiting!

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