This painting completes a big circle. A few years ago a former middle school student of mine from Windsor, Colorado bought a still-life painting I had done of a violin. He did this because he now makes violins. Last year, his daughter graduated from Windsor High and he asked about a commissioned portrait of her. I offered to trade it for one of his violins, knowing I could use it someday in another painting. This is that painting.
Driving through Nebraska, I came across this wide open scene and felt with a flat land, the farm and the silo, it was the quintessential scene for my home state. I loved the big sky too and the intent is that this will someday be a very large painting.
I met sculptor, Craig Bergsgaard at the AZ Fine Art Expo and soon asked if he would like to trade a portrait of himself for some of his work. He agreed and as I was photographing him, I asked where he was from. I couldn't believe it when he told me Windsor, Colorado; the town where I began teaching in 1976 and have so many found memories and friends to this day.
During the show I was able to take one day off. We went to Sedona and I was astonished at the beauty all around. It quickly resulted in four paintings, three of which are shown here. The fourth sold.
Some of you may recognize Monique, whom I have been mentoring since last August. She is also a great subject to paint with her mysterious eyes.
I took the reference photo of the cows in NH several years ago and have used them in several paintings as it is my favorite of the hundreds of cow photos I have taken. And this is my favorite of all of those and other cow paintings I have done. Hence the title. In the original photo the sky was blown out white and so here I added a California background beyond those trees.
Arizona is inspirational just about every sunrise and sunset. This particular view is what my brother sees out his back yard every morning.
When Monique and her sister, Genevieve, came to my studio for another in their mentoring painting sessions, I knew I had to paint her in that white coat in the snow with those braids. She is standing on the deck of my home studio here just before coming in to work. I am so proud of these young ladies and how fast they are growing as painters. And they have been inspirational as subjects too. The whole family has too. See below.
These are their two youngest sisters and with them I have now painted all six kids in the family and the mother as well. Just waiting for the dad to grow a beard and I'll get him too. The inspiration for this painting was a favorite of mine from my art hero, John Singer Sargent. His painting had two girls looking into the Japanese lanterns they were lighting. I wanted to do something similar with a sky lantern. This was a tough one to set up and took at least two photo shoots the first of which ended in disaster. Monique and Genevieve were assisting in the shoot as you can see.
This was a commission for a former student of mine from the 1970s. Her nickname is Peach and so she wanted a still life along those lines. She also bought a landscape. By an amazing coincidence, another student from the same era called within the week and took four landscapes!
In the real setting for this work, a tree had fallen (but not completely) across the foreground, obscuring much of the middle and background. Also there were some oddly shaped rocks in the foreground which took away from the image. I eliminated those obstructions and also created a gap in the trees in the distance to open it up and give more depth. Lastly, I took a toothbrush and sprayed a fine covering of white dots across the canvas to make it snow. Right after I took the photo, I slipped and went into the cold river up to my knees. It was worth it.
Melinda has great eyes which is about all I could see when I met her since she, like everyone was wearing a mask each time I saw her at her work near our place in AZ. She consented to pose and I was happy to see the rest of her face was equally good. She came to the show and sat next to as I painted this and during the course of the day, I found out what an incrediblly strong young lady she is and how she has endured much through the strength of her faith. Among other things, she was in a horrble accident when she was hit by a drunk driver. She shouldn't be alive. She forgave that guy and is an inspiration in how to deal with life issues.
Another in the series of faux magazine covers featuring Hannah. Simple things like those hand gestures make her the best model I have ever used. And you can't beat her smile when you need to paint one.
This is a combination of a NH sunset and the Platte River near where I grew up in Nebraska. I changed the angle of the clouds so they, as well as the water would bring your eye to the focal point.
One of my mentors strongly encouraged me NOT to paint these backlit portraits and I am doing fewer of them. But I admit I love the contrast and the drama they create so for at least the time being, I will continue to some point.
Here's a challenging commission recently finished. The photo was sharp but black and white and that means I have to imagine coloration.
I was so honored to be asked to paint this historic old home in a town nearby. The first part of it was built in 1768 and the barn around 1820. Most of the original features are still in there and it has been very well cared for. At one point it was a stage coach stop and an inn for travelers. The coachmen slept on the rafters in the attic. Someone scratched their name in the plaster in 1838 and it is stll readable today. It has a beautiful and commanding view of the Connecticut Rivder Valley. Years ago a boy was hired to sit in the tiny room behind the middle window in front (2nd floor) just to watch for the stage or travelers coming across from Vermont on a crossing on the river.
I am continuing with the nostalgic, old magazine covers and having a great time with it. I guess I am still an illustrator at heart. The model for the one above is Genevieve who at 14, is an amazing painter herself. I am currently mentoring her and her sister. See main page for more on them. The model below many of you will recognize as Hannah, a favorite model for the past 4 years. This one is about the 70th time I have painted her. And by the way, her attitude is nothing like the woman in the painting. But she is capable, even excellent at becoming whatever look is asked of her. She has been a femme fatale, a cowgirl, and aviatrix, a pinup girl and a girl next door. She was perfect of all of them. She had never modeled before the first time she posed for me. She's a natural.
Isaac has the perfect look of a cocky airman from the Second World War. He is the brother of the girls I am mentoring and part of a wonderful family!
This will not be a popular painting and one that I doubt will ever sell. Overcast paintings rarely are or do. But it marks an improvemt in style for me. It is looser, done with a bigger brush (at least to start) and is a step in the right direction, especially in terms of edges (softer). I will try to carry these things over to future paintings that will be "prettier."
Hannah is also in the family mentioned earlier with the sisters whom I am mentoring. Four months ago she and most of her family came in the gallery and I wanted to paint all of them! And then I found how gifted two of them are. Hannah often naturally took this stance as she talked and I wanted to paint it in particular. She came with this striking black dress to a photo session and with the addition of a black vintage hat, made for an interesting painting.
While setting up a photo shoot for a future painting with her younger sisters, Monique (at 13, the younger of the two I am mentoring) came in this dress and together with her usual stance of arms crossed at the wrists, I thought it was worth a painting of its own. I found out a couple weeks later that it would be the dress she would wear to her Confirmation and so that became the title.
You may recall the painting recently with a smiling girl holding a Coke. I thought that would make a fun series with products as if they were old ads. So I bought a couple outfits on eBay with that in mind, including this great old majorette uniform. Then I heard that even without making prints, I could be sued by Coca-Cola or whatever product. So I shifted gears. I can still do these paintings as long as I use products that no longer exist or, as in this case, defunct magazines.
The sisters (above) that I have been mentoring have had an impact beyond the life they brought to the gallery and as models. They especially enjoy painting land and seascapes reminiscent of the old Luminist style, popular from 1850-75. And it has reawakened that interest in me as well. This is the best of the two that I did in October.
Sophie came into the gallery with her parents and before they left had agreed to model for this painting. I loved the look of the big glasses and bangs! You may see her again someday.
The portraits above and below are the two sisters whom I am currently mentoring. It has been wonderful helping them advance their skills as wll as getting to know their personalities. Genevieve, the older (by a year) is such a kind and gentle young lady and I have seen her be such a good sister to Monique. Gigi is very thoughtful and considers each brushstroke and is somewhat a perfectionist.
Monique, on the other hand, charges full steam ahead and is completely fearless. This is why the painting is called "The Young Kestral." A Kestral is a bird about the size of a pigeon but is actually a small falcon that is, pound for pound, the toughest bird alive. She will teasingly give her sister a hard time and has a kind of a sly smile that tells you you're in on the joke when she flashes it. Both are terrific young ladies and incredible painters; way ahead of their years. And they have only been painting for 18 months and have no training other than watching Bob Ross on TV. And in less than a month BOTH have sold paintings in the gallery!! This was a thrill for me as well as them. I'll post more of their work in the future. You should keep your eye on these two!
I very rarely paint the same scene twice but I did it twice this month. Here I changed the composition from rectangular to square and eliminated a house that was at the left. Also, AI added a bit of fog in the middle ground to help separate one area from another.
I have such mixed emotions with this painting. It came out exactly as I had wished and I intended to do a series of similar pieces. Then I was informed that laws have changed since I last dealt with protected images (in this case, the Coke logo). It is illegal for me to sell this piece and stupid to do more. So it will hang in my home and go toward my frustrating increase of education with such things. I am still planning on doing similar paintings but I will have to do them with companies or magazines that no longer exist and therefor, no one left to care to sue me. Anyway, a tip of the hat to Emily, who did a perfect job modeling for this!
This is the other painting reimagined from an earlier one. The first, was twice as wide as tall. For this, I moved the interesting trees that were at the far left in to where they could still be in the picture plane and provide some nice compositional elelments. Then the lower on third of the image I pulled down, mking the trees a bit taller and adding more snowy ground.
Julie and I took a drive to Sugar Hill, a beautiful village not far from us here in NH. The fall colors were turning early this year and when we got to a crossroad, this scene was presented to us. It was the perfect time. Five minutes earlier or later would not have been as good. I changed the paved raod for a dirt one to give a more rural feeling. Happily, this one sold in just two weeks!
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.
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.
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.