I am always happy to post good news as it happens from placing in competitions to workshops and other events. But I feel like I would not be honest if I also did not share some of the difficulties of being in this profession. Honestly, the last 12 months has been a tough one for me and while I am not trying to whine, I do want to ne open about it. I set a serious goal for myself 10 years ago to be among the finalists at the Portrait Society of America and worked very hard toward achieving that goal. Recently, I found out that I did not make the cut and thus did not reach that goal. However, along the way, I did make some good, and I think majur strides in being a better protrait painter. There were also several other events that were disappointing. Artists tend to be sensitive people and even a few mediocre paintings in a row can start to wear on one. But, slumps are what make the high points more appreciated and I know better things are coming. Believe me, I an VERY aware of how fortunate I am to do this for a living and I feel embaraased to seem to complain here about any part of it. I just would feel a little dishonest if I only made it seem like everything was always rosy. And now, back to improving!
Please check out the "What's New" section to see the most recent of my work.
I am very happy to announce and preview a project that I have been very passionate about recently. I have just finished writing a novella (too long for a short story, too short for a novel) called "Portrait of Emily Hutchins." Set before and during the Civil War, it involves a young artist who falls in love with the subject of a painting. It is written in the type of prose that was popular in that era and I think most would enjoy the sometimes tragic, occasionally humorous love story. Once the idea occurred to me, I knew I had to paint the portrait that was the focal point of the story. At about the same time, I saw this wonderul old short cape on eBay from the time period and was able to get it. It becomes a small part of the story as well. I arranged to photograph a model who fit the description of Emily and have nearly completed it. I still need to adjust the darks and lights on her face but this will give the idea. The second round of editting was just finished so it shouldn't be long before it is available to those who may be interested. Stay tuned!
With the gallery being closed for the winter and the annual shift back to my home studio, I thought I'd invite you all in to see the place. My wife, strongly encouraged the building of this space about 5 years ago and eventually (and thankfully, I gave in. I love this space as it has some nice north light with the big windows shown here, it is full of old and historic stuff that I love and I get to crack up the music as loud as I wish without bothering anyone else. Thank you to Meg Hamilton of Rodeo Photography for these great photos!
The beams overhead are handhewn and from 1778. The musket is also from the same date. The coat is a replica but was made in 1876 for the centennial celebration.
The sign came from the od covered bridge just 100 yards up the road and the view out the window is of the beautiful Ammonoosuc River Valley.
Army Air Corps hat from WWII, Helmet from WWI
The old, rough wood here used to be on America's oldest covered bridge (1827) which is here in Bath, NH (though not the one just down the road). The black fancy curl is an old piece of hardware called a shutter dog, which when turned would allow a shutter to open or close. This one is now being used as a drawer pull. The Corvair model is a coupe version of my '64 convertible which I found after 32 years and restored. The "M" is my dad's "letter" from his ca. 1945 letterman's sweater. And the locomotive is from the train set that he got for us in the early 60s.
I believe the success of a workshop can mainly be based on two things. 1. If the attendees wereable to grow in their abilities and 2. Had a good time while doing it. I'd say, based on waht I saw during the course of the weekend and the amount of laughter throughout, it was a very successful workshop! I've never had such a good time at one personally and that was due to the attitudes and great humor of those attending. Also, a big thank you to our models, Jessie, Kristine and Chris.
With the gallery being closed for the winter, I am now back in the home studio with lots of fresh inpsiration. I am so fortunate to have a job in which I can't wait to get to work! To see the latest from the month of November, including the one on the easel here, please click on the "What's New" button above.
Once again, we'll be painting from live models at the wonderful Landgrove Inn in Landgrove, VT from Nov. 7th through the 10th. Always a good time and hopefully a rewarding and inspirational time as well. I tell students to count on leaving a better painter and five pounds heavier as the dinners there are incredible! To check details, please visit www.landgroveinn.com
I am very pleased with the instructional DVD that has been produced on completing a portrait sketch in oil. It should be available any day now and may be preordered at a reduced rate of $60. It is over two hours of demonstration with some bonus fottage of my artistic path to portraits as well as a gallery of images of some of my best work over the past decade. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve one.
On a rain-soaked day last June, professional videographer, Pingping Xiao shot hours of a day's work to edit down to what you will see on the DVD of a painting done from start to finish of favorite model, Hannah. Some of you may recall Pingping's name as she has been a model in the past as well.
This very nice couple came in the gallery last month and picked out a painting they couldn't live without. As I took it to the front, I noticed the note on the back that mentioned it was inspired by the opening piece from Mark McKenzie's wonderful Film Score from "Saving Sarah Cain", They were not only familiar with Mark and his music but said they were listening to it on the way to the gallery that morning!!! To hear that piece please check out this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaoWIx2F1Pw
And for more of Mark's music-
Just a few days after this, a guy came into the gallery off of a tour bus. We thought we looked familiar to each other. As soon as I heard his voice, I knew him as a guy I had worked with for over 20 years at the Orange County Register in California! Hadn't seen him in about 20 years!
Nick recently picked up his commissioned painting of a property that has been in his family for four generations. The house and barn were built in 1780 and played host to his grandfather's friend, Norman Rockwell. This was a joy from start to finish; meeting Nick and his wife, Christen, seeing and photgraphing the spot at sunrise, hearing the history, painting it (and adding a couple personal nods to Nick and his great-grandad) and especially seeing his reaction when he came in to get it. I love it when clients are so pleased with their painting!
Once again the Landgrove Inn (Landgrove, VT) will be hosting a portrait workshop for me. This year, it runs from Nov. 6th through the 10th. It is a wonderful place to take a workshop with the terrific venue which includes a barn built just for such events. The innkeepers are terrific and the food is astounding!
We hope to have some terrific models from which to work who have served as inspiration for me for some time. One who has confirmed is the young and talented, Jessie (above) and I am arranging for a couple of others as well. Please check the website at www.landgroveinn.com for more details or contact me at email@example.com
Calendars for next year have been ordered and should be arriving any day. These always sell out and (even if I do say so myself) they get better every year. If you would like to order one, please send a check for $30 (which includes shipping) to Craig Pursley, PO Box 32, Bath, NH 03740.
If you like old barns you'll love this one!
I recently finished a commission for a painting of the property above which has such an interesting history. Both the home and barn were built during the American Revolution and was originally the poor farm for this area of Arlington, Vermont. The great-grandfather of the current owner took over the property during the Great Depression and he and his wife planted 22,000 trees here over several years. That man's son, when he owned it, was a friend of a local artist named Norman Rockwell, who came for dinner a few times. The young man who commissioned this really wanted that middle ridge of trees to somehow show a nod to the ones who planted all those trees there. So after much thought (and thanks to his short last name) I decided to roughly show the trunks and branches back there to spell out his name. Unless you look hard for it, you'll never notice but he loves that it is there. Then as a surprize to the commissioner, I used the little reflections in the pond at lower left to spell out his name in Morse Code, Read more on the execution of this painting in the "What's New" section of the website.
While I was in the Arlington area to photgraph that property, I was very taken by the beauty all around such as the farm above (one of three paintings I did this month from this trip. I wanted to return soon with Julie to show it all to her so I went online looking for motels in the vicinity. The first to pop up was Norman Rockwell's house which is now a B&B! So of course, that's is where we stayed. A neat old (1792) home in a rural area that just screams Rockwell everywhere. Straight out from his front door is an 1804 church and beyond is an 1852 covered bridge and gorgeous old farms all around. (future paintings await) While there I saw several photos of Rockwell in and around the house and in his studio out back. So I had Julie shoot some pictures of me in the same spots to Photoshop myself into the room with him.
It almost felt like I got to meet my first art hero!
And here is a painting of that 1852 covered bridge just up the road from his place. There will be several more paintings result from this trip to Arlington.
Then later in the same week, I got a commission to paint a gentleman's wife and son with an old pharmacist. He said he wanted it to look like a Rockwell painting. What are the odds that in the space of one month, I'd have three connections like this?!
I was very honored to be asked to do a portrait demo alongside John Traynor at Tilting at Windmills Gallery in Manchester Center, Vermont. John is my favorite living New England painter and it was a real pleasure getting to meet and paint with him. Also, I consider Tilting at Windmills to be the best gallery in Vermont. I couldn't believe how much he got done in four hours!
The model that I had scheduled to pose wasn't able to make it so I worked from an old photo I took years ago. I generally paint from photos so this was no problem.
I love it when the subjects of paintings come in to see themselves on canvas. I just met Amelia less than two months ago and have already painted her eight times. That red hair is so much fun to paint and when backlit, looks like fire!
Terrific artist and friend, TJ Cunningham stopped in the gallery for a while. I picked up a couple good tips from him and sure enjoyed the visit. If you are unaware of his work you should check it out.
Recently, I have been painting barns again and looking at them in a slightly different way. To read more, check out the "What's New" section of the website.
I don't often post photos of the process here so I thought I'd ive you a glimpse of what I do. It starts with a simple drawing done with a brush and is critical to get proportions right before moving on to the second step. Then I work in the darker medium tones, filling in gradually and ending with the lightest and darkest parts along with details in the eyes and mouth. I try to use as big a brush as I can (about three-fourths of an inch wide) for as long as I can, only switching to a small brush at the very end.
Please click on the "What's New" button above to see the best of July's work.
Every two years the Alumni Hall in Haverhill, NH hosts a show of portraits I've done recently. In June, this show opened to a good crowd (maybe the best ever) with several of the models/subjects on hand. I discussed many of the paintings in terms of the inspiration, meaning, technique and/or the models. Thank you to director, Keisha and my wife, Julie, for helping put it all together.
Earlier this year I was forunate enough to win the Fine Art Connoisseur Award at a competition at the Scottsdale Artists School. The prize for this was a full page ad in their magazine. I consider this magazine to be one of the absolute best in the business and was very happy about this. The ad is in the current issue.
As mentioned last month, I am still pushing the edges of my comfort zone. It is a work in progress, learning as I go what works and what doesn't. THis example is my favorite of the lot so far. See more in the "What's New" area of the website.
While at the Celebration of Fine Art in Arizona earlier this year, I slowly walked around the venue looking closely at the work of the 100 other artists there. When I returned to my booth, I realized how traditional my work was and frankly, it looked a little boring to me. That was part of the reason I knew it was time to expand a bit and try for a fresher, more colorful look. Since then, I have been working on a series of figurative pieces with a looser, more abstract backgrounds while using a lot more paint. I am excited about these and more that will follow and feel they have pushed me to a greater understanding of what makes a good painting. Specifically, in terms of color theory. Before I painted whatever was in the background of the photo from which I worked. But with these, I have to consider what will best work with the existing colors of the subject. Other things have changed too. I an experimenting with different surfaces on which to paint and applying the paint with anything from rags to ceramics tools to palette knives which I have almost never used before. I realize that some people who have followed my work may not like this new direction and honestly, I don't think I would have liked the difference even 10 years ago. Hopefully, this is another step in my maturation as an artist.
To see more of this new style, please check out the "What's New" area of the website.
I was shocked to hear of the passing of my great friend, Bill. He started out as a collector who really intimidated me at first. He was very opinionated and outspoken and so tough. Before long, I found that, other than they outspoken part, we were very much alike. We were the same age and had the same thoughts on politics, religion, ethics and especially art. He had THE best collection I have ever seen and was an admitted art addict. Over time, I began to see that the tough exterior was an act as he was just jelly on the inside. Eventually he told me he had to adopt this fascade or people would take advantage of his good nature. An example of that good nature- on seeing his collection, which must have been close to 1,000 pieces, I told him the one that stuck most in my head was a small, beautiful sculpture. I tried to get one from the artist but found they were just way out of my range to afford. When Bill found this out, he mailed me his with a note that only read, "Happy Birthday" (which was months away). I have really struggled with his passing and am sure I will for a long time.
When we opened the American Heritage Gallery of Art, we knew that most business fail in the first three years. So it was not without some nervousness that we started this business. It seemed like a perfect opportunity as it would only be open six months, rent was low and the spot was so terrific. Located next to the oldest general store in America and just around the corner from one of the oldest and longest covered bridges in the nation, it was a draw for tourists, especially in the fall. And fall foliage tour buses stopped by the hundreds! In fact, we were on one of them in 1993 when we discovered the town. That day, I looked at that little 1833 building and thought, "What a great spot for a gallery." And since it was so old, it had no heat or insulation which meant it would be closed for the winter when no tourist were coming. Also, the first couple years, we shared the space with an antique book seller, which meant I could also have time off for my other 30 hour a week job with the newspaper. Everything fell into place and business has gotten better virtually every year. I am very thankful for the amazing opportunity God dropped in our lap to live and work here! I'm also thankful to Julie for all she does to make this possible! The photo above was taken on our first day open.
This was the fifth conference I have attended and second only to the first (that one will never be beaten) in my opinion. It is always great to renew old acquaintences with other artists and make new friends while seeing some of the best portrait artists in the world demonstrate their gifts. See the "What's New" area of the website for more information and pictures on the conference.
As I was about to watch two of them do a two-hour demo, a staff member asked if I would model as the regular model was a no show. I had never done this before but was honored to gice it a try as these were two of my favorite living artists in the world! Suchitra Bhosle, above, had been a Facebook friend but I had never met her. She was one of the nicest people I had ever met, with or without a big name. As proof of this, she GAVE me her painting when finished!
Because there were a few hundred people watching this demo, cameras were set up and the canvases displayed on huge screens in the ballroom where this was being done. The point of this specific demo was getting the quick impression down of a face. They both would have preferred another hour to get it to a point where they were more happy with it. The painting on the right was done by Casey Childs, another of my favorite artists. We had met before and got to renew that acquaintence. He is a terrific guy as well as an amazing painter. To see more on him and some other photos from the conference, please visit the "What's New" area of the websire.
The Gibson House Bed and Breakfast will be hosting a plein air workshop for me June 25-27 where the participants will be painting the covered bridges in our area. We'll not only be painting them but also getting a little history on each we visit from a local historian (me). And one person will take home a small piece of that history. Please contact www.gibsonhousebb.com for more information. Hope to see some of you there!
We ended this year's event on a high note with 5 paintings sold in the last two days! New friends made and new clients too. I love the chance to rub shoulders with so many other artists (100 for the 3 months). And I learn from them also.
I love it when collectors become friends! And that is the case with this couple who bought three of my paintings recently, including "Strike One" behind them here. Carrie-Anne and Mike are terrific people who we got a chance to spend some time with away from the show. Also, she has taken up painting after a two-decade hiatus and is doing amazingly well. So well that I made a trade for her 4th oil painting and am proud to have it.
And this made my day. A year ago, Sienna (left) came in with her dad and talked with me about her love of art. So I gave her a little painting. This year they came back with her sister, Gianna, and brought a painting that she, Sienna, did for me. This really touched my heart that it meant so much to her and that she would take the time.
Great artist and my neighbor, Keith Bond asked to trade his work for mine and I was thrilled to do it. I got an incredible painting that will be proudly displayed in our home!
Last year at the Celebration of Fine Art, I met incredible 16-year-old artist, Livia. Since then we have become friends with her and her mom also and I have been mentoring this amazing young lady. She came in and painted with me at the show and in a few hours knocked out this wonderful painting of Ringo Starr. If you are interested in an orginal painting of a rock star, whe is taking commissions. She has a great future and I advise you to take advantage of her low prices while they exist!
At this year's Best & Brightest Show at the Scottsdale Artists School, my painting, "The Blue Kimono" was given the Fine Art Connoiseur Magazine's Award of Merit. The prize is a full page ad in their magazine which I consider to be one of the top two in the world. As a result, this is more valuable to me than had it won Best of Show!
When I joined the Portrait Society of America in 2010, I gavc myself 10 years to make it to the winners circle of their annual competition. Each year I enter with high hopes and each year get a letter of rejection. But I try, tray again and this year am hoping for better results with three entries including this one just done this month and finished the day of the deadline.
As much as I love New Hampshire, it is very nice to have a break from the cold and shoveling. I am at the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale; a terrific event showcasing 100 artists and their work. We are all here for three months painting, drawing, sculpting or doing whatever we do as the public comes through by the thousands. I am very fortunate to be a part of this and am back for my third year. I generally am able to get a lot done as I am working seven days a week for the whole time. So there is much to show from the first month of the show. That's my booth above.
A major project finished recently was a four foot square painting done on 64 individual panels and then assembled to create the work above. Some may recall a simialr piece being done of a draft horse last year. This one was done with the assistance of Livia Hamel, a 17-year-old, exceptionally talented girl who I met last year at the show. Since that first meeting, I have been mentoring her and we have become good friends with her family. She did half of the panels which creates some interesting variety from mine.
Livia is an old soul who LOVES rock music from the 60s - 80s and knows more trivia about TV westerns from my childhood than anyone I've ever met. Her favorite is "Rawhide" and that kind of became a nickname for her. So the title, "The Old Man and Rawhide" is about the two who did this painting rather than the rider and horse as I suspect people will assume.
In addition to the usual landscapes and portraits I often do, this year I'm working on a series of Native Americans. Three of the artists had a terrific photo shoot with a local model who came with all the authentic gear we could have hoped for. Above, is the first of several I'm planning.
Please see the "What's New" area of the website for more new work and details.
The month started out great with another terrific workshop at the Landgrove Inn of Landgrove, Vermont. We had twice as many attendees as usual and some wonderful painters who made my job easier and more fun. One of them has a weekly podcast called, "Artists Helping Artists" and she interviewed me a week later on her show. if you would like to hear that hour-long interview, just follow this link.
I strive to improve my painting so I am very happy when I can say "This is the best I've done." And in the case of "Deep in the Canyon", I feel this, out of hundreds, is the best California landscape I have ever done. Please see more details on this and other new work by clicking the "What's New" tab above.
Also last month- As a result of an effort to acquire the two paintings by Jeremy Lipking and Scott Burdick (see the note for October below) I offered many of my paintings to a broad group of Facebook friends and those who get the monthly updates through email. The result was the sale of more than 30 paintings, making it by far the best November ever!!
A big thank you goes out to all who helped make 2018 a very good year for the American Heritage Gallery of Art including our best October ever!. It is hard to ever figure what "normal" is as it always seems to change from one year to the other. This year, for example, was greatly aided by the number of commissions recieved. The gallery is now closed for the season and will reopen in May, 2019. Hope to see you there and then!
I have become aware recently that artists are now collecting the work of other artists that they admire. It has certainly become true with me over recent years. though my collection is small, it is wonderful as well as inspiring to be able to closely examine paintings that push me to become better. This month I was able to realize a dream that seemed unreasonable even a month earlier. And I have friend and gallery owner, Vanessa Rothe to thank for this. My favorite living artists for years have been Jeremy Lipking and Scott Burdick, both who have actually painted her! One of these she offered for sale recently and though it meant selling quite a few of my own paintings at greatly reduced rates (and in a hurry) I was able to do it! Her terms to me were incredibly reasonable; almost unbelievable! Thank you, Vanessa!
And my "quick sale" went so well that I was also able to get my favorite painting ever by Scott Burdick! I am thrilled to have these two beautiful works and can't wait to have them inour home to beautify and inspire!
I recently heard that my painting, "Letting Go" was selected to be among the paintings shown at the Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Show in Maryland. I was very excited to hear this and consider myself very fortunate to be in the select group who will be shown there. Coincidentally, this painting is from the same photo session that resulted in larger painting which was also recently selected in another competition last month. See below.
I was VERY happy to hear recently that "The Secret Life of Swans" was chosen as a winner in a Painting Competition.org contest. What made this so sweet was the other winners which were often people whose work I really admire and all were tremendous paintings!
In addition to this, I continue to feel like my work is improving over the last couple months and that really feels good too. Much of the time artists feel like they are stuck, if not on a rut, a plateau and rising above it is difficult. When it happens is just feels especially sweet and the process of painting is a greater pleasure than ever.
I've always liked atmospheric paintings but have rarely painted rainy day ones. So when we had a good day of rain after a long dry stretch, I took advantage and went out with a camera to see what I could record. I have so far been able to do several from those pictures including the one above which I consider one of the two or three best that I have ever done. To see the others, please check out the "What's New" area of the website.
I just found out that my painting "Canyon Oaks" was given an Award of Merit in the Oil Painters of America 2018 Salon Show in Traverse City. Other winners included several people whose work I have admired for years and I am VERY honored to me among that group!
And this couple called ahead and told me to mark "Circus Girl" as sold until they could come pick it up. Before they left, they took two more! They are very excited to hang them in their new home in Florida and I was very excited to help them do that. With this sale it made the best August we've ever had in the gallery after 13 years! A big thank to the Katzs'. AND it started some floodgates to be opened where ten paintings sold in a span of three days!
As a former art teacher, I have long seen the value of instructing others. Besides the improvement and edification of the student, it also has great benefits for the one doing the instruction as well. In order to not be embarassed as a teacher one must know what one is talking about and that requires much learning and thought. It helps focus on what you're doing rather than just continuing in a rut without consideration. It helps one consistently improve I believe. I ahve always enjoyed the interaction with students, some of whom remain friends 40 years later. I have certainly benefitted from the other side of this as well and continue to do so.
Here's a case in point. This photo taken two years ago at the Portrait Society of America Annual Conference shows l to r, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Michael Shane Neal, myself and Nicole Vargas Santiago. This is a significant chain of mentors of which I am very proud to be a link. While I have mentored Nicole, I was and am mentored by Shane, who was and is mentored by Ray Kinstler. Among Kinstler's teachers was Gordon Stevenson who was taught by John Singer Sargent! Sargent is the #1 hero for most people who paint portraits realistically so you can imagine how proud I am to be linked. And everyone I teach in my workshops become more links in that chain.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you right away. Your email address will not be given or sold to anyone else.
Thanks for visiting!