I am doing a series on young ladies with a 1920-30s kind of feeling. Another may be a cowgirl and a third an aviatrix. I should be able to show those next month. The one above is largely thanks to Ebay from whom I got nearly this entire outfit. Picasso said, "Good artists borrow, great artists, steal." and while I'm not claiming to be a great artist, I will say I stole the idea of this pose from my friend Curt Mattson, a sculptor. He did the same thing in bronze; life size though his was a cowgirl. Thanks, Curt!
Occasionally, I will trade another artist his work for mine. For his nice figurative piece that I got, I painted his wife and new son, Leonardo. I love adding to my collection in this manner. Of the many photos we took for this painting, he and I both felt this pose seemed the best with the calm feeling that runs through it.
I don't often post commissioned work but this one was so special that I had to. Reid is a unique girl, so friendly, bubbly and intelligent. And such a cute face! I felt bad that the only opportunity to photograph her came on a day when she didn't feel well so while I don't feel like this captures her personality, it does get a bit of her beauty.
For years I have struggled with what direction to take my work. Do I want to paint very tight or do I want to be bolder and really loosen up? I have gone back and forth many times as I love both styles and frankly, the bolder approach is harder for me. But it is the more exciting from my point of view. So near the end of the month, I tried, in a series of very small pieces to really let go and not be so careful. I understand that many will not like these as much as the tighter ones they are used to seeing from me but I need to do this to grow. My apologies to those of you who may be disappointed.
This was the most successful of those attempts as well as the fastest and most fun. I gave myself an hour to do it and was finished in 40 minutes. The small size and so much of the area being nearly black helped speed that process. But if I did this painting four times larger, I should use brushes four times bigger too and so with that in mind, it should still only take 40 minutes.
A friend came into the gallery and took some photos of me at work. (Go to the home page to see one). He is a terrific photographer and got one of the few photos of me that I have ever liked. I loved the natural light coming in from the window at the gallery while I sat at the easel. So I did a quick little one from that. Thank you, Stephen Restelli! On a strange side note- I met Stephen a couple years ago at a car show. It turns out he found his first car after decades of missing it. I did too. We are both about the same age, heighth and very similar in appearance. We both love art and photography. We both used to live in Orange County, California. I worked at the OC Register Newspaper there. He delivered it as a kid!
Between the long drive home from Arizona, preparing our taxes, getting the new book ready for the printer and the annual "Get the Gallery Ready for Spring Opening" I hardly had any time to paint. I start to feel like a caged animal when I have to go so long without working at the easel. But I was able to sit down a few days and the work below reflects some of that.
John Singer Sargent painted Lady Agnew a century ago and it remains a favorite of representational artists around the world. And it serves as a great object of study. My attempt here was started in AZ in March and I couldn't wait to finish her once we got home.
This is the second painting of Chloe whom I met in Scottsdale. I felt like her look demanded a different type of painting, both here and in the future. In this particular pose, I could immediately see an image of her reclining in a landscape and so decided to combine her image with a couple paintings I had done before. And the timing could not have been better. Just a couple weeks later I decided to make a new book of paintings that would show examples of past portraits as well as landscapes and what could be better for the cover than one that combined both.
Years ago, when I worked for the Orange County Register Newspaper, I had a series called "Dreamscape" which combined an image, a title and a caption. These seemed to indicate a story but the story was up to our readers to write. And they did. For the nearly 40 chances we gave them over 20 years, they wrote and mailed in nearly 9,000 stories. We would print the five best the month after each first appeared. Here's one of my favorite examples.
These paintings usually combined several photos that I already had on hand. So for example, the two in front came form a photo I had of my kids during a picnic (though I added the blindfold). The diver is Greg Luganis from a picture I took when he competed in Irvine, CA (again with an addded blindfold). The distant mountains were from a picture I took from out backyard when we lived in Colorado. The three guys in back were playing a different game at that same picnic; I just added a hoop and the calves and feet of the diver who had just gone through and into the quicksand. I wanted airships in the sky for an ominous feeling so I bought a model of one, built it and photographed it for this purpose. I always loved the surreal in art and in the coming year I plan to return to some of this. Maybe a "Dreamscape" Book might be fun!
I have painted this scene in vairous sizes and formats for a few years and keep returning to it as it is such a great image with the atmosphere and feeling of quiet. That belies the fact that I had to slof through thigh-deep snow for 75 yards to get to this spot! But it was certainly worth it. I did alter it somewhat, making a squatty bush into the tree on the left and lighting the top of it. I also opened up the river so it would seem wider at the bottom for the sake of composition.
While in Arizona, I painted this scene from N. Haverhill, NH from a photo. The very next day, a couple came in who live right across the road from this place!! I am often hesitant to do this, but I turned on the lights in the distance as I thought it could use the focal point.
Another scene in Silverado Canyon, CA I return to periodically. For this one I tried to push the color to really establish that late afternoon feeling.
Yes, this is the same scene and I used the earlier one as reference for this. The color isn't as different as it appears here though the larger one does have more of a golden glow. This is the largest I have painted in many years. I often am not happy with larger paintings as I seem to feel they are too important and then I get too careful which ruins any spontaneity. I made some conscious changes and was happy with how it all went.
Without telling her whole story, Elizabeth Pursley Criger was one of the most amazing women I have ever known about. In the late 70s I did some geneaology work and found an 85-year-old woman named Eva, who was raised from birth by Elizabeth, who was her grandmother. Elizabeth is my great-great grandmother and I recently got a clear photo of her taken in the Civil War era. I made this painting from that photo. By the way, Eva wrote me more than 50 letters telling me all about Elizabeth and she gave me the brooch shown in this painting which Elizabeth bought with her first paycheck from her first job and then wore for that old photo.
John Singer Sargent is the pinnacle of portraiture to me and so I decided to make a copy of a self-portrait he did about 1910. His bold brushstrokes and use of color remain an inspiration for thousands if not millions of artists around the world today. I am also very proud to say that I am in a direct line of teachers and mentors going back to Sargent. One of his students was Gordon Steveson who taught Everett Raymond Kinstler who mentors Michael Shane Neal who mentors me. I am also very proud to add my students to this chain!
Another Sargent study.
A couple people cam into the Arizona show and said they had plenty of cowboys on their walls but needed some cowgirls. They bought one of my Retro Cowgirl series I had there and after I did this one, they returned for it too. I often use multiple photos to make a painting. In this case, the girl and her horse were at a rodeo in NH, the sky is over Texas, the mountains are Arizona and the sage brush is California. As long as the light is fitting for all it should work.
This young lady walked into the show and turned heads whereever she went. She was gracious enough to sit for a photo shoot a couple days later and the results were stunning. She had never modeled before but was a natural. You will see her again in months to come. The title came to me as I paited that black hair and it's blusih highlights. I don't understand it but I like how it sounds.
Several years ago I took some photos at a loval rodeo (yup, they have 'em in NH) including this one. I loved the strong side light and as I was shooting, suddenly the heads all turned and ears went up. When I saw the photo it looked like something sure had their attention. The title was automatic to me. In reality, they had all turned to see a horse that spooked and threw it's rider. For the painting, I substituted a central California landscape for the parking lot that was actually there.
And this is the horse and the guy they were looking at. he was probably near 70 and though stunned, got right back up in the saddle. The photo I took for this painting was taken about 20 minutes before the previous one. I wanted to title this painting vaguely so that the viewer could make the determination whether that last ride was the horse's or the rider's.
Though several people have asked if this is Kiefer Sutherland, it is actually my son, Ty. He recently sent me a photo of his new hat and I asked him to bring it when he came to visit us here in AZ. I knew I could trust him to come up with a good title as well and he came through.
Jessica is an abstract artist here at the Celebration of Fine Art. Her great smile made her a perfect candidate for one of the "Retro Cowgirl" series. After it was done, it seemed like the right side was too empty so I added a brand-like logo that I may use in others.
And the same goes for Leslie and her big smile. I saw this outfit on EBay and checked with her before getting it. One thing I have noticed about the paintings in this series- the vast majority of those commenting on them are women. I suspect guys aren't sure if it is the right thing to say about somethng that may look like a pin up picture. It is too bad if that is the case as these are pretty innocent.
Years ago I took the photo for the subject of this painting at an equestrian parade in San Juan Capistrano. I loved how the horse and rider seemed to be focused on the same area and too me something or someone is being tracked. During the drive out to AZ I saw the landscape with the rain and great atmosphere and felt it fit well with the guy's outfit so I paired them together. Another artist, Curt Mattson, mentioned the rider had the wrong bridle for the rest of the gear shown and walked me through what would be correct. As a nod to him I used his initials as a brand on the horse.
It may seem like a simple landscape but I felt like everything went right on this one. From the start, it all clicked and was over way to quickly. I think it is one of the best landscapes I have ever done and I'm not sure I want to sell it.
Several years ago I spent some time in Centrral California and loved the rolling hills and vegetation especially during the "Golden Hour". I have painted from many of the photos I took on that trip and some, like this, I have painted more than once. Occasionally, (maybe rarely) I will do this if I feel I can do it significantly better than before. Since I last painted this spot along Paradise Road in Santa Ynez, I have loosened up and use a bolder brushstroke. Also, this shows a greater influence of the early California Impressionists in terms of color as seen in the blue-violet shadows.
As I was driving through New Mexico, the cliffs along the highway were illuminated here and there by the sun while showers fell. There was no place to pull over and the scene was too great to miss so I rolled the window down (with rain coming in) and shot photos with my arm extended sideways as I continued to drive. Many of the pictures had crooked horizon lines but that was easily adjusted in Photoshop. I felt the whole thing could not have been lit more perfectly on a theater stage and thus the name. This is likely going to be a study for a larger painting in the future.
Curt Mattson is an incredible sculptor and a genuine cowboy and a genuinely good guy. I am fortunate to have a booth in the Celebration of Fine Art next to his. Not only for the quality of his work but in that it has given me a better chance to get to know him. I've only once seen him without this hat and it is fitting for the charactor he is. He says he is 6'4" but I think I am looking up at him when we speak (I am 6'5") but his legs must be 5 inches longer than mine giving him a very long stride. I hope you'll check out his work at http://curtmattson.com/
This is another scene I have painted before and have now repainted for the same reasons as stated earlier. This area is called the Grand Canyon of Orange County (CA). It provided plenty of inspiration in the late afternoon light.
Before a rodeo a few years ago, I was snapping photos as fast as I could of so many great charactors and horses. I loved the bend in the horses neck in this one and how that gesture seemed to give a sense of companionship with his master as this 70ish gentleman prepared his horse for calf roping. I can't look at this painting, however, without thinking of what happened just a few minutes later. Something spooked the horse and he threw his owner to the ground. The old guy was a but dazed but hopped right back on and seemed no worse for the wear.
Here's another painting showing the influence of the California Impressionists. This particular spot is in Eaton Canyon in Pasadena late in the day. As I worked on it, I felt it needed more depth so I added the distant purple hills which also added some extra color. I also made up the little walking trail and as I was painting it, someone said, "That makes me want to walk that path and just see where it goes." Others have said similar things about landscapes I've done that have a trail leading in and so I thought I might title it to give even more people the same idea. The trail is also a compositional element as it gives the eye an entry point into the painting to draw you into the whole scene.
I ordered this outfit on Ebay and was surprised when it arrived that it was for a child. I had originally intended it for one of the Retro Cowgirl series. And though I was at first disappointed, that changed when I thought it might fir my favorite little model (and honorary granddaughter) Maia. As always, she did a great job looking the part.
After not painting for the longest stretch I could ever remember (due to some family health issues and travel) I was very happy to get back into it when I arrived at the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ. So this painting of Blackstar Canyon in Southern California was done on my first day there. It also felt like the first day of a new phase of my life.
In 2008, we visited the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, WY where this guy was stuffed and on display in the lobby. Both of these are the same animal photographed from different sides. I changed the placement of the legs on the back one, lowered his head, changed his tail and flipped the image horizontally so it would look like two bulls about to square off. I also added some dust around their feet to show some movement. Then I referred a bit to some of the NM photos I took out the car window for a background and made up a cloud to finish it off. This also may be a larger painting some day.
I've been painting in preparation for the Celebration of Fine Art In Scottsdale, AZ which means more Southwest landscapes like this one and the one below. Both were influenced by the old California Impressionists who are among my favorite landscapists of all time. I love their amped-up color and brushwork. By the way, Eaton Canyon is in Pasadena.
I almost never paint something on speculation but I felt these might be worth the chance. Sen. Kelly Ayotte was defeated in Nov. in her reelection by NH Gov. Maggie Hassan. So both will be leaving their current jobs and hopefully needing official portraits. I have met them both on a few occasions, including one in which a portrait of another official was unveiled. These gifts were sent to them in the hope that I may be considered for future needs.
With Gov. Hassan (in blue) and Sen. Ayotte (right) in the summer of 2015. I was acting as master of ceremonies for the dedication of the Ray Burton Museum in Bath.
Later that day Sen. Ayotte came into the gallery to look around. Behind us is a portrait of Ray Burton which was given to him in 2010 for his service to the people of NH. After his death in 2012, the portrait was given to his constituents and now resides permanently behind his old desk at the State House in Corcord. Ray was an incredible public servant elected for over 35 years to the Governor's Council. He was a lifelong resident of Bath and crossed that covered bridge (behind him in the portrait) tens of thousands of times from boyhood on and for years was the organist at the church pictured in the painting's lower left. This is why I chose this scene as the setting for the piece.
Once a year or so I like to paint a moonlight picture. And usually there is no moon in the photo I work from as was the case here. I waited in the snow one evening for the light to be what I was wanting and then took a series of photos. So I pretty much painted what was there other than adding the moon and the lights in the home on the right and the distant lights. It gives a nice focal point and a few subordinate bits of the same color as well as indicating a homey touch, like a warm fire waiting for you on a cold night. If you can, imagine this painting without the moon and those house lights and you'll see how important they are.
For some time I have wanted to paint someone in the midst of snow falling but I was a bit scared to risk ruining a decent portrait. Finally, I thought growth depends on risk so just do it. Often people think I spend hours placing tiny white dots on a painting to make it look like snowfall but in truth it takes less than a minute. I mix the paint to the right consistency, test it on the side and then load a toothbrush, aim it at the canvas as it stands upright and spray it with my thunb a few times. The risk is that a big glob may come flying off or that, if mixed too thin, the paint will hit the canvas and then run down.
You may recognize Allie from some recent posts. She is a beautiful young lady of 13 with great hair, complexion and color. She is a joy to paint. Below is a photo from a recent modeling session where she is with three of the paintings done recently of her.
As I prepare for the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ, I'm doing more western and rural themed paintings like horses, cowboys and Southwest landscapes. Here are a few.
Probably 25 years ago I took a picture of a cowboy at Universal Studios in CA. I always liked the pose and the light and finally got around to painting from it. When I set up a photo shoot with a model I will often take between 200 and 500 photos and then choose from the best to work. I got very lucky this day as I took one photo. And it worked. Sometimes people like to see a bit of the process that goes into a painting so I thought on this one I would take a series of pictures along the way. This series (below) represents about three hours of work.
To me, the desert is never more beautiful than as the sun rises and sets. This particular morning, my brother, Scott, was good enough to take me to a spot in Scottsdale he thought would be good for a painting. And he was right. I enjoy painting landscapes with a strong influence of the California Impressionists in terms of color especially. And at dawn in Arizona those colors really come to the fore.
You might never guess that the reference for this painting was taken in northern New Hampshire but years ago at a rodeo at the county fair here I found lots of great subjects. This gentleman agreed to pose in the low light and made a striking figure leaning against his horse trailer..
Every once in a while I like to do a painting using a method going back to the Renaissance where the work is done entirely in black and white (plus one other color sometimes) and then transparent glazes are added one at a time over that underpaiting. Though much more time consuming, the results give more depth and can have great color. In this case, my young model's complexion was so perfect with so much color, it really demanded to be done in this method to best show her off. And I should say, in the photos I worked from she was wearing no make up at all; just natural beauty. Below is a detail of the face.
In contrast to the underpainting/glazing method, I more often enjoy painting quickly and directly, showing brushwork more. It also requires different, less transluscent oil paint and stiffer brushes. This one of Maia is a case in point. The title comes from the appearance of a lofty, somewhat royal attitude she seemed to have in one of the photos I took aso I decided to have some fun with it. Recently, someone who watches my work referred to Maia by name and it made me realize that to a very small degree some of the models are becoming known out there and that is kind of fun too.
I find I really like painting California landscapes because of the different light and colors there and I think because of the influence of some great early California Impressionists. Here are a couple examples from last month (above and below).
I was so happy to hear that Mona, who had modeled for me before was coming back to town. She was a German exchange student at the local high school and is just stunningly beautiful. A couple years ago, I asked a young male classmate about her, "Does every guy in school have a crush on her?" He answered, "I think we're all in love with her."
For some time, I have wanted to paint someone in front of an old poster of some kind. So when I heard that Hannah actually wants to run a circus for children someday, everything fell into place. I already had the top hat, satin vest and cape so it was just a matter of finding an old poster online and putting it all together.
Each year the Randy Higbee Gallery in Costa Mesa, CA has a huge show called Six Squared in which every painting is 6x6 inches. Some tremendous work on the walls every time and last year there were close to 800 paintings desplayed. Below are some that I will be entering this year. If you live or will be in Southern California in December you should not miss this show. Great work and great prices.
Please check back each month. I'll have new work posted by the first Monday every time