During the workshop in Vermont, I brought this red outfit from model Jessie to try on. It fit her perfectly and I couldn't wait to set up a photo shoot to get the reference from which to paint. There were many terrific pictures from which to work and this is only the first of several I expect to do. At only 14, she is already a very poised and excellent model. Detail shown below. The odd shape is because I cut a panel to fit into a beautiful old dresser mirror frame. I'll try to post that next month.
Sometimes what seems like a good reference photo needs a little something extra or needs something(s) removed. And here's a good example. The photo above has too much background and first, needed to be cropped to a better composition. I didn't like the piece of equipment just to the left of the barn and felt like a pathway leading to the barn would be a nice addition to help lead the eye into the picture. I also wanted to add a dark tree at the left to keep the eye from running off the canvas as well as some foliage on the empty trees in the distance. I also added a hill way in the background to add some depth and a little violet color. Once it was painted, it still needed a little something. Not too big, but just a little something to add some interest. And so the next day I added the pail which lent the idea for the title. Every time an artist changes anything to make a better painting, he/she has just renewed their artistic license.
I don't often post commissions but I thought this one had an interesting story to go with it. In the summer a man came into the gallery with an idea. Years ago he had invented something that was picked up by the pharmacutical industry. In an ad for it, his wife and son were used. He wanted this to be made into a painting with a Norman Rockwell feel to it. I suggested making it a Post cover, drew it up and we both had a piece we were excited about. The date of th issue is his son's birthday to add a personal touch to it. I felt the background was a bit busy and so I went to my local Rite-Aid to take some better reference photos. I was told in no uncertain terms that any and all photography was NOT allowed! So I adjusted what I had by making it a soft focus. The client is very happy with it and so am I.
I was asked to paint a demo portrait for the Lakes Region Arts Alliance in Tilton, NH in November. Having only 90 minutes to do it, I had to have a rough start by the time I got there. While it was finished in the allotted time, it did require some tweaking the next day. By the way, the model is wearing my wife's grandmother's 1932 wedding dress.
I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before! I have always LOVED the combination of Cobalt Blue and Gold (which is the title of this painting) but had never used them in such pure form as in this one. I have an almost palpable reaction to these colors and am very happy with the result, especially when it is in this gold frame. Notice the thin band of gold leaf going horizontally across the painting near the top.
Though I had painted a smaller version of this a few months ago, I decided to do it as a larger, more finished work with the addition of some fall colors. You may recall this bridge is just a couple hundred yards from Norman Rockwell's old house in Vermont.
With fall come around 100 foliage tour buses (one of them first brought us to Bath, NH in 1993) and with the thousands of people they bring into the gallery, I have less time to paint. Thus, I choose to do smaller, quick ones like this. They can fit in luggage and are very affordable....and they're a lot of fun!
I love painting red hair and I love painting satin so I got to combine both here in one a little larger than I usually work. You may recognize the model as I have painted her 10 times in the three months I have known her. That hair almost looks like it is on fire when I light is placed behind her and that makes an easy focal point.
Occasionally, it is a good idea to copy the work of someone you admire as I did here from a detail of a John Singer Sargent painting. In this case, it taught me to lighten my darks, darken my lights, look at color more closely (not making assumptions) and paint with softer edges. Sargent's on the left. He was an absolute master!
That trip to southern Vermont this summer is still providing inspiration for landscapes. I was standing in Norman Rockwell's yard before dawn to get the shot from which I worked here. It was so peaceful and quiet and the fog seemed to enhance this as I had the area all to myself this morning. The church was built in 1804 and just beyond it (and just out of view) was an 1854 covered bridge, which I in August (see below). This was exactly as Rockwell would have seen it and it is no wonder he chose to live here.
By lighting a subject from below, all the highlights and shadows are reversed from how we generally see them from ceiling lights. I find this exciting and fun to paint. Here the shadows created by the angle and direction of light nearly obscures her mouth and one eye leaving the other eye to clearly be the focal point.
I have found a readily available and cheap model in this guy so I paint him once a year or so. But I have to tell you, it is getting harder to be honest as jowls sag and hair gets greyer.
Again, I've chosen to paint with a low-angled light source. I wanted to title this one "Good Golly" and let the viewer fill in the rest. But I realized that only people my age and those who knew the model was named Molly would get the song reference ("Good Golly, Miss Molly" by Little Richard, 1958) And the meaning of the song certainly does not apply to this nice young lady. So to avoid misunderstandings on several fronts, I just titled it "Miss Molly."
Most views that result in paintings are not quite right as is, but require some tweaking in terms of composition or color. Having said that, the one below only required shifting the angle of the fenceline and making some more interesting clouds for it to look like I wanted. By the way, Tory Road was so named because Tories lived on this road during the Revolution and that is how it was designated from the start.
Just down the same road was to the property for this commissioned painting (see more information on it on the main page). Here's another rare example where nothing needed to be changed. This is fortunate because for a commissioned painting, it should be as the owner knows it. When I went there before dawn to get the best angle, I was excited to see this wonderful and natural composition. By waiting for the sun to rise on the home it would help insure that it would be the focal point. And as the sun got to that point, it sent a shaft of light down the incline at the bottom where the natural curve of the earth swept right toward the cabin. The only serious adjustment I made was to add the fog which helped separate the two ridges of trees.
And now for something completely different. As I have mentuoned in previous months, I am trying to push out of my comfort zone and have a more contemporary look while staying true to realism. As I discussed with someone I am mentoring about an idea for another painting where I intended to use rubber stamps to apply some paint, she thought I meant using postage stamps. I liked that notion and so I got well over 100 stamps from the 1950s and 60s, arranged them according to color to make smooth transition and then glued them down one at a time to create a very flat, yet textured look. I also painted the border with very think paint and applied it with a palette knife. This is so far out of my comfort zone that I'm not even sure if I like it. The colors are nothing like I normally do. I am happy with the response to it so far at least.
It is kind of fun to examine the individual stamps as so many are interesting. It makes me think perhaps I could collect stamps with a common theme and use them in another paintings. Like stamps honoring artists, musicians, poets, writers, etc, Or other countries, or states of historical events. We'll have to see.....
Of course, this does not mean I am going to abandon the old style, I want to keep improving it at the same time I push the envelope on others. I loved the dappled light at dawn on this bridge just a couple hundred yards from Norman Rockwell's home.
Something very new for me! The entire painting was done leaving her dress blank until all the other paint dried. At that time, I then added gold foil which completely flattens the dress area but together with the 3-D look of her face, arms and feet creates a unique look. I'll experiment some more with this!
Some of you will recognize Pingping from previous work. She is an amazing young woman who has become like a daughter to me. In fact, she calls me her American Dad. With her permission, I'll tell you a bit about her with the two paintings here. She was raised in China during the "One Child" policy. She was the second child in her family so they had to move to another village for her safety and that of her mother. They told everyone, including Pingping, that she was a niece they were rasing. She didn't know for years that the couple raisng her were actually her parents, believing that her real parents had abandoned her. Much of her story is too personal for me to be comfortable sharing here but suffice it to say, she had a very hard upbringing, though she seemed to rise above it. She came to this country to attend Arizona State without being able to speak English. She worked very hard and just graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She is one of the most endearing people I have ever met. I hope you know someone like her but they are few! This is called "The Gift" because she recently donated that beautiful hair for cancer victims.
A long story but worth the read. In the mid-19th Century a disillusioned rancher in South Africa had heard some were finding diamonds there. So he sold his ranch and went in search of riches, never finding them. A visitor came to the ranch's new owner and saw a stone on the mantel and asked, "Where did you find this?" "I picked it up in the creek outside. There are lots of them, I just thought that one was especially nice." Of course, it was a large diamond, only needing to be cut to reveal it's beauty. This ranch turned out to have the largest diamond mine in the country! The previous owner had abandoned acres of diamond to go looking for them. Without going into details, Pingping's boyfriend recently broke off their relationship in an unbecoming way. I told her the story above and that someday he would realize he gave up acres of diamonds that he had right in his grasp. This painting, when varnished, goes to her with that title to remind her of her great value always. By the way, while these stories are hard for her, she said that if sharing them can help someone else, she will be happy.
Every year I teach a painting workshop in Landgrove, Vermont in November. I finally was able to visit there in a month where all was green and it did not disappoint! I thought I'd show this in relation to the actual scene in order to make a better painting. Comparing it to the photo from which I worked, you can see that I added the path to help lead the viewer in, while eliminating the old tombstones. I kept some of the stone wall and added a few trees to the right to give some balance. Also added the mountain and changed the slop of the hill for the sake of composition.
Though the differences may be subtle, I'd like you to compare "Summer Storm" to the pair of barn paintings above. Those two were done just before artist, TJ Cunningham suggested working on edges. Before, I mostly painted the whole picture with pretty hard edges. In this one, though, only the upper right corner of the roof is a really hard edge. By softening the others, in various degrees, it integrates the subject better with the surroundings and gives a more interesting look. Hopefully, they aren't too small to see that here. Anyway, thanks, TJ!!
Driving through Texas a couple years ago, I came across this scene at just the right time as the sun was rising on that grain elevator. This transformed the white columns into gold and looked great with the cool landforms in the snow. Blues and golds always excite me! It is so named as a tribute to farmers and all their hard work.
I don't do many still life paintings'; maybe one a year but I enjoy them when I do. This was prompted by the purchase of this ceramic pitcher recently. By adding some brown eggs it kept the focus on the pitcher, while adding a subordinate element without alot of color.
I had this idea of putting redheaded Amelia in a local waterfall knowing that between the water, the rocks and her white dress, only her hair would have real color, making it the easily discernable focal point.
I've been finding it more difficult to adjust the new style to landscapes. The underpainting of this one looked different but by the time it was all done, it was virtually the same as the old style. In the case of the recent landscapes, however, I was happy with them. The title here refers to the first morning after my daughter's recent wedding, when the refernce photo for this was taken. She and her new husband were still asleep nearby and I thought of them and their new lives together both when photographing and painting this one.
For those who thought perhaps I only paint beautiful young women. I am a fan of beauty, but it goes beyond that. Probably 80% of females I ask to pose, agree. Maybe 10% of guys do. Over time, I find myself asking fewer males to pose, thinking they'll say no anyway.
I found a new model in June and LOVE painting her with that incredible red hair! When a light is set behind her, it is nearly a firelight. All the titles of the three done of her so far have to do with fire.
You could drive by this location and have no idea a barn ever existed there as it has been leveled since I took the photo from which I painted was taken. It always makes me sad to lose these old beauties but I'm very glad I had pictures to still be able to paint.
This was a first for me. As I photographed Molly and she assumed this pose, it immediately struck me that this would look great life size. And so I asked her heighth and worked accordingly. The panel itself is about six feet tall. Further below you'll see a photo of Molly at the show opening with this painting. Follow the gracefully curving line from the top of her forehead over her hair, down her shoulders and back to where the line fades into the dark background. Just beautiful and one of the reasons I wanted to paint from one!
I liked the simplicity of this scene and LOVED it when I realized that the green street sign in the middle of the picture read, 'Pleasant Drive" when the conditions looked anything but! On seeing that, I painted the smoke from the chimney going sideways to heighten the irony.
I mentioned that this new style is evolving as I figure out what I like and what I don't. At first I was uncertain about this one in terms of the background's brilliant orange. I like the color, but I now realize there is just too much of it. So, I think I'll cover some of that and probably darken the blue-grey too. The latter will make her hair seem brighter with the added contrast.
Here's something I RARELY do. Paint the same picture twice. For one, I don't want to cover the same ground and two, it is not fair to the buyer of the first one to have a copy. Therefore, when I do repaint a picture, I'll do it in a different format. So the first one of this was square, with all of the extra being a continuation of the road at bottom. This one, being twice as wide as tall, has a very different feeling.
Molly and her life size portrait. She was also the model for the one in the curio cabiner behind her.
Many of the models were on hand including Hannah who attended with her husband, Ben, whom I have also painted. Since meeting Hannah in 2016, I have painted her 58 times! She is a wonderful model and collaborator. That's her in the Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine ad on my mainpage this month.
Here are more of the paintings with a looser more abstract style. See the main page for a better description. In future work along these lines, I plan to simplify the clothing, perhaps down to one single color with no shading at all. The dress may be only defined by it's edges and where the model's arms, legs, neck and hair intersect it. One in the future from the model below may show the dress entirely in gold foil. This new direction has really energized me and I am enjoying painting more than I have in years. And I have ALWAYS loved painting!
I thought by simplifying backgrounds, it would make it easier. But in reality, it has made it much more challenging and time consuming. They are done in many layers from quick washes where paint is allowed to drip to slathering on thick paint and then going over that (or scraping it off) to find a more pleasing solution. The background above was altered four times.
As is so often the case, when looking at older paintings, I see that they were painted too dark. Sometimes they can be fixed in a short time and it almost always makes a huge improvement. That is the case with this one which was originally done last year.
At the Portrait Society Conference, the event starts with 15 artists all painting from 5 models, in this case other artists. Here Johanna Harmon is well into hers which was one of my favorites. It is just incredible to mill around and get to watch some of the best in the world as they work for three hours. Then each of the 15 paintings is auctioned off. I got this one and for WAY less than it was worth! It was also my opportunity to meet Johanna after admiring her work for some time. She , as seemingly all of the people at PSoA, couldn't have been nicer.
Here's the finished quick study by Casey Childs. I have to say, modeling is a LOT harder than I thought. Though I wasn't light-headed or dizzy, there were a couple times I wondered if I was blacking out! It's just not hatural to lock into one pose for a long period of time.
In addition to all the talks and demos there are often people set up and working all around the lobby and halls of the hotel. Here Ricky Mujica is working on a small head study of Andrea, a student of his. I sat beside him for a while and was just amazed at the luminous sking tones he got. I was very fortunate to acquire this little gem! Even sculptors set up and ply their craft! The model below is another terrific artist, Adrienne Stein whom I met at my first conference in 2010. It turns out about 3 years before we were both represented by the same gallery in California.
Some people who hadn't seen Rose Frantzen paint before laughed thinking she was kidding when she started with the sketch on the left below which she had down in 30 seconds. She works at a furious pace and attacks the canvas. She is creativity and energy personified and does it all with great humor. There is no one I'd rather watch paint than her! And yes, the image on the right is the finished piece done in three hours!
It strikes me as odd that I hate green and purple combinations in clothes and decor but love them in paintings. With the recent rains and resulting super bloom I was inspired to paint a burst of poppies into a landscape from an old photo that had none.
I cut a panel for this portrait of a young girl to fit a beautiful antique mirror frame I found. These rounded versions were called "Tombstone" mirrors and occasionally enjoy painting to fit them and they seem especially good for portraits.
The late afternoon light on this NH farm was really appealing but it seemed like it needed more. So I went through my file of old cloud photos and found this one that seemed a good match. I liked it that the farm seemed to be dwarfed by the sky and especially liked it that this painting sold before it was dry!
As I have mentioned before, I love painting atmospheric works as the colors are automatically harmonized in them. Unfortunately, they seem to only really appeal to other artists. They become nearly invisible to the general public once they are in the gallery.
Cows are so much fun to paint and when they have some dramatic side lighting, even more so. You may recognize the farm in back as I used it twice this month in different paintings.
I met this young lady, Lia Bomar, a year ago at the Scottsdale Artists School's Best and Brightest Show where she had won an award. This year I saw her at the same event where she ran away with it, winning 1st in drawing, a purchase award AND Best of Show! An amazing feat! I asked to paint her and we set up a photo shoot from which this Retro Cowgirl resulted.
This is an area in Laguna Beach, CA that I have often painted. I was happy how this one came toegther pretty smoothly and as I finished and scooted back to consider a title, my first thought was something to do with those paths coming together and how people might there too. And then how, just the other side of that mountain is the Pacific Ocean which is causing the fog, so that is where the land, sea and sky come meet. Then it struck me that at that very moment I was listening to the Beatles "Come Together". I don't know how much that led me to the thought of that title subconsciously but it then could not have any other name.
I gave myself an hour to do this small piece just so I wouldn't get caught up in unimportant details. I actaully spent about an hour and 15 minutes on it but still felt it was successful and it said what I wanted it to. When trying to loosen up it is often a good idea to set a time limit as it forces you to just put down what is most important.
After trying for a long time, I finally found a great Native American model. He is the real deal with authentic gear he mostly made himself. I wanted to paint him as an icon representing the entire Sioux nation, in this case standing like a stone column, proud and defiant. I intentionally put my tripod low as I shot these so the viewer will always be looking up at him. Also, I saw the blanket in his car during our shoot and asked him to wear it as he would. By doing this, it adds some nice color and breaks up the huge amount of detail that was his buckskin, fringed outfit.
A square format in a painting is helpful when you want to convey a feeling of power so that is why I chose an 8x8 canvas in this case and cropped the photo in tight. I had him raise his chin and look down for that nearly arrogant demeanor and I love the cool, violet light on the edge of his face.
Even though I'm in Arizona, my thoughts often return to home in NH. This month most of the thoughts deal with the joy of not having to shovel snow. But snow is fun to paint as are the bucolic summer scenes of New England farm life.
One of my favorite places to paint in California is the area called Big Bend in Laguna Canyon. Just over that distant hill is the Pacific Ocean and its mist often adds to the scene. One way to creat the illusion of depth is with atmospheric perspective. All that moisture in the air lightens shadows and pushes the hills further distant. There is very little difference between the highlights and the shadows on that hill and consequently, it looks far away. Sometimes, I will add this to a painting even when the photo reference does not show it just to add to the feeling of depth.
I wanted something a little different for an otherwise traditional portrait and so I had Jessie hold her necklace out to show it off. I like her attitude in this picture as well as the combination of antiquities. She is wearing a hundred-year-old sailor dress and sitting in a chair made in the 1770s. She is an excellent model and a young lady who conducts herself with class; something very unusual for someone 14.
I love big cumulous clouds and ecen more when the late day sun hits them and adds some color. And what could be better than a bolt of lightning blasting out of the darkness. And though that is the focal point, I want to direct your attention to the large tree in the lower left. I feel it is the best tree I have ever painted. Done with just a few strokes, it says all that I needed to say about that tree. Brevity of brushstrokes is something I have been trying to work on for years.
While in Tubac, AZ a few years ago, I saw the sun rise on some distant mountains and was amazed at the color and beauty. So I made it a point to be out there closer to those peaks the following dawn. Waiting in the desert cold for nearly a half an hour was very peaceful and entirely quiet. Finally, when the sun 's first rays hit the tops of the mountains, it became an almost holy experience! I felt like I had the this mountain all to myself and marveled in the variety and intensity of the color. I shot photos as fast as I could all while wearing a big smile. It was just breath-taking and I hope I caught a bit of that on the canvas.
In the photo from which I worked on this painting, it was a general gray overcast. I thought it might be better if there was a band of bright sunlight in the middleground. I also moved some elements to improve the composition and widened the creek as well.
Originally, I did this painting at 24x24 on canvas but was never really happy with the face. So I Photoshopped in a picture of my own face and enlarged the photo of that painting. Then I drew a grid on it and cut it into one inch squares. Each of these squares was then painted onto a 6x6 inch piece of masonite and later reassembled. I used to do this process with my middle school students years ago and also did a huge (8x8 foot) my myself that is now in the Reagan Presidential Library.
With Museum director, John Langolier when the Reagan mural was delivered.