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Paintings by Craig Pursley

Opening Soon!

We are looking forward to reopening for our 16th season in the gallery. We just don't know right now what day that will be. I suspect by the end of May we'll have out doors open with lots of new work hanging. Once restrictions ease or cease, I hope you'll stop in and say hi and take a look. Until then, stay safe!

A Rare Breakthrough Painting

While I suspect that the subtle differences probably are not obvious, this painting represents what is called a "Breakthrough" painting for me. For years I have tried to make my shadows lighter, lights a bit darker and get an elusive softness in my protraits. I tried a fairly simple new (to me) technique and found that, without trying, all those things fell into place. I have explained this further in the "What's New" section and I hope you will check that out along with descriptions of other new work.

Things are Looking Up

Last month I whined a little about the occasional lows of being an artist. And forgive me, I should never do that after being given the chance to paint for a living as that is as good as it gets to me. But having done the whining, I feel a bit better about talking of the high of the profession. After changing my technique last month (see What's New section) I have had several paintings in a row that I consider as good as I cam capable right now and maybe better than I was capable before. And this feels REALLY good. During the three days I worked on this painting, it was a microcosym of the highs and lows. More on this in the "What's New" section.

A Whole New World

And a strange one at that! We drove across the country from California in late March and everything had changed since the drive there in January. We were turned away from a motel in New Mexico when told they had no rooms available when I was still 15 feet away from the desk. There were only six cars in their parking lot and of course hardly anyone was out on the road aside from truckers. My mistake may have been going in for a room wearing a mask. We think they thought I had the virus and did NOT want us staying there. We did not want to even stop for food anywhere in New York and found we could not stay overnight in Vermont. So the last day we drove from southern Ohio all the way home - nearly 16 hours in the car that day!

But we are home and safe and back at work. While we hope to be open for the season, it will likely be a tough one and this year we will not be open in May as we usually are.

 

I hope all who get this and your friends and families are okay. 

A Band of Artists Helping Others

I am currently trying to get a group of artists to join in a project that would be unique and beneficial to some in need. We would be each creating a separate piece of a large painting. These would all be sent back to me at which time I would assemble them and offer them for auction to a charity with 100% going to that cause. Below you'll see an example of a similar work that I did a year ago with young, gifted Livia Hamel. I'll keep you posted!

Highs and Lows of Being an Artist

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.

An Exciting New Project

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!

Welcome to my Home Studio

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.

Back in the Studio

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.

Portrait Sketch DVD Nearly Ready

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 craigpursley@roadrunner.com 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. 

It Never Ceases to Amaze Me

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-

www.markmckenzie.org

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!

I Love it when Clients are Happy!

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!

               My Strange August Connection                   to Norman Rockwell

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?!

Previously on the Website

Portrait Demo with John Traynor

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.

Please click on the "What's New" button above to see the best of July's work.

Face Off - A One-Man Show of Portraits

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.

A Very Nice Prize!

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.

Trying to Expand

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.

Moving in a New Direction

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.

Attending the Portrait Society of America Annual Conference in Atlanta

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.

A Very Nice Award

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!

Another Winner!

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.

A Winner!

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.

 

Terrific News from Michigan!

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!

         

The Value of Mentoring

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.

In Other News

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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