I'm often asked how I come up with names for paintings. And to be honest after hundreds of them, it gets harder. It may be a feeling I had when I was there or something I listened to as I painted or an old song title that may have to do with the subject. In this case, it was the fact that there were so many changes I made from the actual photo reference.Here I altered the road from pavement to dirt, the barn from grey to red, added a cupola where there was none and threw in the cows too.
I love painting atmospheric works. Some think that painting fog is harder but it actually simplifies everything, making all into 2-dimentional shapes. They always have a mood that I like as well. This one was done at the request of Vanessa Rothe Gallery in California where it will be available.
I hated to have recently lost three of my best models. One retired and two moved to distant states. Fortunately, at the same time, Ilah appeared and has already proven to be terrific. You will not only see her again this month but in the future too. Here's the first of her where I wanted to showcase her wonderful profile; one of the three best I have ever seen.
Here's the second of Ilah. I'll point out another great feature she has. These are THE best eyebrows I have ever seen! It may seem an odd thing to comment on but the shape, taper and arch, combined with great blue eyes below them are just fantastic! When I told her this, I think she thought I was kidding but her mother immediately said, "I have told her that too!"
I'll make a confession here. Often times when I have high hopes for a painting, they end up being a disappointment and this is a case in point. When I imagined this combination of waterfall and flowing white dress, I was more excited to get started than I have been for any painting in a few years. But what I find happens is that they become too "important" as if this is my chance to make a masterpiece. Consequenty, I get too careful and the painting ends up being somewhat forced and without any of the spontaneous brushwork I had envisioned. I may be able to salvage this but right now it is just frustrating. I feel like I can be honest both when I am thrilled with paintings and disappointed.
I have been past these cliffs many times and always wished I could find a good spot from which to paint them but until recently, it always eluded me. Last month, however, during a light rainfall, I took a little path that lead to this lake and it all opened up for me.
On rare occasion I will paint another picture from the same reference photo if I think I can do it better or have something a bit different to say in paint. Though this one is only slightly different from the earlier version, I think it is significantly better. I added just a little warmth in the sky on the horizon that did not exist in the photo. This gave kept the painting from being entirely cool and thus, more interesting.
I really did meet this young lady at a pizza place nearby and wanted to paint her. I liked the hint of attitude both in her face and her stance. The title comes from a song from the 70s that almost no one else has ever heard.
I rarely paint "cute" but after seeing this little guy in front of our neighbor's house, I just had to. We are fortunate to have deer in our yard frequently and even one born in our backyard a few years ago. We always love seeing them and all the other wildlife here.
I enjoying bartering on occasion and this one was done in trade for the professional who will soon be editting me novella. This is from an old photo she sent me of her grandmother from decaeds ago. It is always a challenge to paint from a black and white photo but having a lot of practice at it when I worked for Upper Deck Baseball Card Co. for their Heroes of Baseball Commemorative Sheets, it did get easier.
The historic Minot farm here in Bath has provided a lot of inspiration over the years. The barn was built in 1803 and the house 4 years later. Descendants of the original owners still live and work their dairy cows there. Almost every cow I have painted the last 15 years has been on this land.
Many of you will recognize Hannah here and this one is kind of bittersweet. It was painted just about the time she and her husband moved to Oregon. She has been a wonderful friend, model and collaborator over the last 4 years. As a former art and drama major, she knows how to pose and how an artist sees and thinks. She often anticipated what I was thinking and would shift to the pose in my head without a word being said. No matter what look I was wanting; girl next door, femme fatalle, glamour girl or Retro Cowgirl- she nailed them all! This and her very pleasant, cheerful demeanor made her the best model I have ever worked with. This is the 68th time that I have painted her; more than any other. And thankfully, not the last. I still have lots of photos from previous photo shoots from which to work. You'll see her again.
As simple as it is, I really like this little scene. Maybe it reminds me of the walk Julie and I took through the quiet woods as a light snow fell. It is really easy to paint falling snow. Just load up a toothbrush with white paint and aim at the canvas as you run your thumb over the bristles and there you have it. It literally is done in seconds.
I'll bet many of you will also reconize Miranda whom I have been painting for almost half of her 29 years. She and her husband are stellar people and we consider them good friends even though they are closer to the ages of our grandkids. She now raises chickens and has become immursed in that along with a new business of growing and selling flowers. Busy young lady!
This tiny painting is actually my favorite of the month. It is a study done from my biggest art hero, John Singer Sargent. I replicate one of his works every couple years or so and always learn from them. I was surprised how much purple he used in the face and I applied that knowledge to the one of Miranda above.
This is what we wake up to every morning and we feel so fortunate to live here. We constantly marvel at how beautiful is our little spot of the world. Some time ago I saw a photo of the bridge taken in 1960; the only color picture I have ever seen where you can see that it was once painted red. So I took it back 66 years to what the view from our window would have been then.
Good reference photos are more likely to make for good paintings and the set of pictures I took of model, Allie at the waterfall (just under that same bridge) were amng the best I have ever taken. In fact, she is going to use a few of them as her senior picture. And as a side note, she is wearing a dress I found at an antique store which was worn at a graduation ceremony 120 years ago. She always has such a calm, serene look and I knew she would be good for this idea. I am very happy with this and consider it one of the best paintings I have ever done as it seems to have a "feeling" beyond just the image. I cannot really describe that but I don't recall this ever happening with a painting of mine though I have felt it in a very few paintings of others.
The distant views across the Connecticut River Valley are always great from Haverhill, NH. Just beyond that row of blue trees in the middle ground is the Connecticut River which separates us from Vermont.
And of course they are equally good from Vermont looking back into New Hampshire. This is virtually the same place looking across to where I was when the photo reference was taken for the previous painting. I added the cows in from other reference and added the path as well to help lead the viewer's eye into the picture. I also made the river visible, as it cannot actually be seen from here, and changed it course too for the sake of better composition.
I don't usually post drawings but I really like this one. In truth it was the photo that caught my attention. A friend posted the photo of her mother from many years ago. She is such a generous and supportive friend that I sent it to her as a gift.
Alden Minot was a pillar of the community here for decades. He was town treasurer for over 50 years and a great member of the church and historical society. Always cheerful, and quick with an amusing annecdote, you could often hear his beautiful whistling, almost like a bird song. His ancestors moved here in the late 1700s and built the home in which he and his wife lived in 1807. I have painted it many times. Then a couple years ago his wife passed and he followed her just 3 weeks later. They are greatly missed and when I go past the old homestead, where his son now lives, the dairy cows I see there. in my mond are still Alden's.
I got this kettle at the same place and the same day as I purchased the graduation dress seen above. I had to clean it up a bit to get it to look this good!
Artist friend, Ann Kraft Walker takes some beautiful photos out her front door in Texas and her Facebook friends get to enjoy them too. She gave me permission to paint from one and other than changing the position of the moon, I didn't change a thing.
Speaking of changing the position of heavenly bodies, I did the same here as the photo I took needed a little something. This sun did rise through the trees less than a mile from here but it you stood in this place and saw it as depicted here, it would be rising in the north. Artistic license is a good thing to use in almost every painting as all the elements are RARELY in place as you see them. This makes Ann's photo I used above all the more wondrous to me!
Occasionally, a commission is bittersweet. A schoolmate from nearly 50 years ago contacted me to paint his wife who passed away last year. He was very pleased with it as were their kids and I am very glad to have this memory of her on their wall.
I sometimes sit in this position and have for years, but it wasn't until I saw my reflection in a dark glass that I thought it might make an interesting self-portrait. I was surprised at the great response it got on Facebook, though I have to admit the image "frightened" my mom when she saw it.
This is a home from the Revolutionary war era in a town nearby. The woman who lives here has wanted me to paint it for some time and was saving for that. She mentioned it to her son recently and he contacted me to do it as a birthday surprise for her. She cried when she saw it and all were really happy with it. I love hearing that kind of reaction!
A few months back I mentioned that I was writing a novella set in the Civil War period about a young artist who falls in love with a subject of a portrait. I had already done one version of this but was not happy with it. The lighting was wrong and for the reference I had taken the head from a past photo shoot and Photoshopped it onto another model wearing this outfit. And it looked like that head was just pasted on. Then I saw a Facebook posting of a friend whose daughter I had painted when she was 12. She is now 19 and when I saw her image in that posting, I was floored. She looked exactly like the main character in my story (as I had described her). So we quickly set up a shoot and this painting is the result. It will be the cover of the book and I am very happy with it. Early in the writing of the story, I saw this capelet on Ebay from the right time period and got it. It became a part of the story itself. I hope to have it published by the fall.
Normally, I start by drawing a simple outline of the face to show where the placement of eyes, nose and mouth will be along with the shape of the face and an indication of the hair. Then I begin the actual painting. With this new technique however, I began by brushing in a quick range of fleshtones where the face would be. From there the process was pretty much the same as before. But what I found was that this process automatically brought about changes I have wanted for some time. And I hadn't anticipated that. I had wanted more softness and by painting details over the existing wet paint, that was acoomplished as it is difficult to get a hard edge when painting wet into wet. Also by doing this it decreased my range of values (darks and lights) for the same reason. If you paint something white over a flesh tone, that brushstroke with blend a bit with what is already underneath. And so it is with a darker brushstroke as well making the lights not as light and the darks not as dark. Something I have wanted for some time. And while I have tried in the past to simply not use as dark or light a palette, this seemed to make it easier.
I have only had perhaps four or five breakthrough paintings in my life so they are very significant to me. Therefore, even after two requests from clients to buy it, it will remain in my home.
This is our house in NH and that light on is in our bedroom window. I always rise before Julie and I know when she is awake because she calls out, "COFFEE!" Not in a demanding way but just to let me know she's up. I then take her a cup to clear the fog. This is something I learned years ago from my brother who does the same for his wife each morning, though I suspect without call.
On the mainpage I had mentioned the highs and lows of painting and this single piece can encapulate that. On the first day I painted the face, hands and a bit of the surrounding area and was very happy with it. On the second day I darkened the hair and the outfit and in so doing it ruined the face and hands for me. The added contrast made the fleshtones then appear as too pale so I went over them again. But in the process, the brushstrokes that I was so happy with all blended out and gave it an appearance of oversimplification. It nearly ruined it for me and actually cost me some sleep that night. But in the middle of the night, I resolved to rework it yet again and on the third day I was able to recover it fully and maybe even make it better than the original. Once it was finished, it became one of my favorite paintings I'd ever done.
And by the way, this painting was done because I have had a great old frame for years in the attic, always thinking that someday I would know what to put in it. Finally, it occurred to me and I already had the reference photo from an earlier shoot with a favorite model. It was an odd size so I hade to cut a piece of masonite to fit the frame, covered it with three coats of gesso (a kind of white paint-like subsurface) and couldn't wait to get started. Her it is in the frame.
Sometimes you get lucky! Much of being a good photographer (and thus having better photos from which to paint) is patience. Waiting at a specific place for the sun or clouds to be just right and it doesn't always work out. But this scene was as you see it as I first did, coming around a turn in the highway to have it appear perfectly in front of me. I pulled over, grabbed my camera and started shooting. This is in New Mexico and thus the title.
This again is Maia (also shown in "Growing Up" above) and many of you know she is like a granddaughter to me and I love to paint her. I was a bit surprised to hear from he mom, after seeing this one, that after all (20?) I have done of her "this is absolutely 100% her! It captures who she is entirely!" So this one will go on their wall.
Last year Julie and I took a trip to Arlington, Vermont where we stayed in Norman Rockwell's old home, now a B&B. The next morning I went out before dawn and shot photos as the sun rose and have painted several pictures from that series. This may be my favorite and would have been his next door neighbor. I loved the silos in the half light as well as the distnat fog burning off in the new sunlight. Sometimes paintings take me right back to the spot and I can almost feel the coolness and hear the birds and get a sense of the incredible glory of the moment. This is one of those.
In early March I had the pleasure of painting this demo for a group in Anthem, Arizona. I had started it beforehand and then finished it in two hours for a group of about 35. I always enjoy these as I get lots of good questions and I suppose it appeals to the show-off part of my nature.
I always love finding a new model and the one below, Lilah, is one of the best ever. She has done some professional modeling in the past and so she knows how to sit and stand. That may sound odd as everyone knows how to do those. But a good model knows how to do it with interesting angles and lines as well as how to hold their hands in a graceful way. Often a model may appear stiff or tense and it may go away after doing it for a while. But Lilah also has another characteristic of a good model. She is easy to work with, always responding to emails for scheduling and she is dependable. You might be surprised how often I cannot get one to respond or once we have a photo session set, they will just not show up and not even call. They may be as flakey a group as artists on the whole. So when I can find one like Lilah, it makes my job so much easier and pleasant.
And there has never been a better model than Hannah. I have painted her 67 times since meeting her four years ago. Not only is she a great model but also is an excellent collaborator, often coming up with great poses on her own and even anticipating what I am about to ask her to pose. She is a joy to work with, always having a cheerful attitude and an easy smile. I have said before and will say again that the importance of inspiration cannot be overstated. It is like pure energy and good subjects, whether a model or great light on a beautiful landscape is electric!
Great light on a landscape doesn't always have to be direct light. Hazy light can be terrific too and I got some of that on a trip into Santiago Canyon in Orange County, California. Also, a trip to see some wonderful paintings in the Irvine Museum provided some inspiration for these as well in terms of color especially.
I needed a model for a specific painting and saw a photo of Aeona in the local paper and thought she would be perfect. I contacted her parents and was able to set up a photo shoot from which this painting resulted. This is not the one I had in mind; that and others from that shoot will come in future months. I always love finding new models and am constantly amazed at how many people there are, even in rural NH that I want to paint. Watch for more of Aeona in the future. Also, I am very happy to say this one sold to a collector in Arizona almost immediately after posting it on Facebook/
And speaking of new models, here is Lilah. I actually met her at an art event in Arizona two years ago. I photographed her on the spot then but unfortunately, it was under terrible light conditions. But we stayed in contact and recently were able to do a proper photo session. And what a great professtional she turned out to be. It is VERY rare that someone combines the knowledge of how to pose with good communication skills (you might be surprised how many have trouble returning messages or even showing up for appointments) and promptness! I found that she was able to anticipate what I was looking for and shift into a pose even before I was done asking. This makes my job so much easier. And of course, her beauty certainly doesn't hurt either.
In one afternoon we worked on a variety of styles and poses and I am certain that there will be many paintings come of it. She nailed them all! So a big thank you to Lilah! In this one I returned to the Retro Cowgirl genre but added some of the more recent applications of heavy paint and blurred edges in some places giving it a more contemporary look. Hopefully, this will help me gain entry into some more Southwest galleries.
Even though I haven't lived in Southern California for 18 years, I still ove painting it, especially the canyon areas of Orange County. I sometimes try to take them back to how they looked before development as in this case. If you stood today at this spot you would be hearing the constant hum of traffic on Hwy, 133 and there would be some used cars for sale along the road in front of the foreground trees.
Many of you will recognize Pingping here in the 19th painting I have done of her in two years. She is one of the dearest people I have ever known and has become like a daughter to me. Recently, she asked if I would walk her down the aisle when she gets married someday and I consider this to be one of the greatest honors of my life. She calls me "Dad" and my mom, "Grandma." She came to join us at my brother's home in early Februaty wearing her Mother's beautiful dress from Shanghai. With that and her shorter hair, I immediately wanted to paint her again. We grabbed one of the tulips that my sis-in-law had picked up for the evening and went out in back of the house. I loved the simplicity, the light and this pose she struck which seems to show her innocense and it resulted in what I feel is the best of the paintings I have done of her.
Russell is my son-in-law and I am proud to call him that as he is a good and solid man. I have wanted to paint him for sometime as he has such strong features and the tone of his skin often reflects such wonderful blue-violets in the right light. We were all at the Autry Museum recently and as we walked out, some terrific late afternoon light fell across him as we left. I only had my cell phone with which to take some shots but they proved to be just fine.
Between driving across country and the timeconsuming project of writing and painting "Portrait of Emily Hutchins" my January was pretty used up. Consequently, I don't have as much to post as usual here. Above is a detail of that portrait in the mid stages. Please come back next month when I will have more to show you.
The last painting I did in 2019 turned out to be one of my favorites of the whole year. Having a great model, a cool dress, good lighting and a wonderful pose certainly helps things get started of right.
I liked the atmosphere in the photo below which I took out of a moving car. It was a little soft focus but had enough inspiration there to pursue. As you can see, I used a bit of artistic license and added some warmth to the sky and reflections. Otherwise, everything sould be just cool colors.
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!