What's New for October

If you are a regular reader of these notes, you may recall that I enjoy doing paintings with a similar theme in a series. Last month, I did three such paintings and will likely do more. These will be works, mainly of overcast days in winter of rural scenes. With the old wood of barns and bridges, it makes the picture nearly nuetral (almost devoid of color). Then, by adding a small bit of color, one can help control where the eye goes. In this case, to the windows of the barn on the right. The title comes from boyhood memories at my grandparents' farm in Nebraska and winter mornings where I would wake to the muffled sounds of conversations, laughter and the smell of breakfast. Sometime after I got to the table, my uncle and grandad would come in from early chores, stomping the snow from their boots and sitting down with us. It may not sound like much, but these are cherished memories for me.

After I did a series of this model with various colors of hair last month (and especially after the blonde one) I thought it might be fun to do one where the hair was entirely gold leaf. Turns out it wasn't fun. The adhesive to apply the gold leaf gave me fits and I had to do it four times to get it to look even this good. But I learned from it and will likely use gold leaf again at some point. Some of you old-timers may recognize the title from a song by America in the 70s.

If it is possible to have a favorite group of trees, this would be mine. They are in nearby Haverhill, NH with Mt. Mousilauke in the distance. I have painted it many times from several angles and in each season. But it is especially beautiful to me in late afternoon when the low sun illuminates the tops of those trees and shows the warmth of the sun compared to the cools in the shadows.

Anoher in the near nuetral series, this one had no opportunity to put a light on unless it would have been from the headlights of a car and that would have taken the focal point away from where it should be.

Monique does have mysterious eyes and there is something in that mystery that really makes me want to capture it on canvas. You will likely see those eyes in my paintings for years to come. For this small one, I wanted to return to an earlier style where there are few brushstrokes visible.

Artists can control how a viewer sees a painting. This can be done with compostition, values (light and dark range), color and contrast. Each of those were used here. I changed the composition by adding the fence from the tree forward. It did not exist in the photo from which I worked. I also got rid of a fenceline that went from that tree straight across to the right. The former was done to help lead the eye into the picture plane and the latter, to prevent a visual barrier. Essentially, it blocked the viewer from entering in. Then I turned some lights on in the house, which added color and gave it a bit of watmth and maybe an invitation to come in out of the cold. Lastly, I added some black shutters on the house to provide more contrast to help lead your eye to those lighted windows. The use of the word, "wicked" in the title, is pure New England jargon, meaning "very". Here, one can even be "wicked nice.

Another favorite area for me to paint is the Connecticut River Valley, which forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont. There are many places that provide wondeful vistas each season and at different times of the day.

What's New for September

I have been somewhat jealous for years of artist friends who sell paintings right off the easel. Well, it finally happened to me! This little one was finished about 10 minutes when a couple guys came in and decided to take it. Once it is signed and dry, it goes to a new home in Washington State. 

Even though we lived in California for 20 years, we had never visited Yosemite. In September, we fixed that. I have never been so amazed by views of land and I am sure several paintings will result. Here is the first, which is actually outside the park. We were fortunate that while we were there, the skies were almost completely clear despite fires that were raging close by.

I'm sure that many of my art friends will think I unashamedly stole this idea from another artist. In truth, I had exactly the same idea a few years ago and photographed a model in this pose. But the pictures were not lit well and nothing ever came of it. Then recently, I saw the other guys work and decided to try again. Afterward, I looked online for "girl with a candle" paintings and found the same idea has gone back for a LONG time. So neither of us, had an original idea.

 By the way, I think some of you who are around my age might get the title, but I will explain. One of my favorite songs of the 70s was "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire. I originally thought I would name the painnting that and the song played in my mnd as I painted this. Then I thought why not make it a little more obscure? The phrase Ba-Dee-Ya is repeated many times in the song so for those who did not think they were singing "Party On" I hope you got the reference. We are so foruntate to be able to walk upstream a ways and see stuff like this. It is easy to see why we love it here. I may be a bit tougher on the same walk in late February.

I mentioned on the main page about going over the top with fall colors. Here's an example of going too far. These kinds of scenes are actually real around here and they are thrilling to see and great to photograph. But a successful painting should be a little more under control with some nuetral greys. They are what make the colors really pop. But it is hard not to get excited when you see an area on fire with color!

This one is more subdued with just a little color in the birch trees. Still, I am tempted to add some more brilloiant color. I just need to be judicious.

Last month, I had the idea of a series of small paintings with an exaggerated hair style and within that hair would be almost no definition or shading; just a nearly solid mass where the hair was. In reality, model, Hannah has never had this hair style so I had to make it up (easier without any nuance). Even as the series progressed, it shifted a bit with the use of lots more paint slathered on with a palette knife. I think I have taken this series about as far as it can go but I may do another with all the hair just being gold foil. I call this the "Wild Hair" series.

What's New for August

I actually did this painting years ago and came across it recently in storage. As so often happens, it struck me as too dark. So I spent a day reworking it; lightening and brightning. I felt it made about a 70% improvement and now have it again hanging in the gallery.

I like the idea of a model holding a book with a light directly overhead and have visited this theme before a couple times. The light hitting those pages in the open book reflect back up on the face and bathe it in a nice glow.

This painting was commissioned by an old college buddy who reminded me of a prank we pulled on another friend in the dorm in 1973. That guy loved a cheap print he bought for $3.49 called "Autumn Interlude" which showed a young girl riding a horse and a dog trailing aloing behind through a wooded scene. In his absence, I was asked to "fix it". With my paints, I carefully added a rhinocerous charging after the girl, horse and dog, thus changing the feeling of the whole thing. The owner loved the change and we call got a kick out of it. I only tell you that because for old times sake, I added a resting rhino into this painting of the Platte River near where both the commissioner and I grew up in Nebraska. I didn't tell him about this until it was done and was willing to paint it out if he wanted. He loved it too. The title is a phrase that has been used to descibe that river.

I rarely paint from someone else's photos and never without their permission. This one was from a photo taken by Facebook friend, Kevin Mizner and thus the title.

What's New for July

Somewhere along the line, while painting this, it took on a very spiritual element for me. She seemed to float between the  dark reality of earth and the uplifted hope of heaven. Consequently, this painting remains an extra special one to me, transcending the normal paint on canvas. It is one of my all time favorites and may be the best I have ever done. It is too early to say for sure. I also found a piece of music from the soundtrack of the film, "Heart of the Sea" that states musically exactly how I feel about it. I hope you will click on the link below and listen to that as you look at this piece. Just the first two minutes will do.



With this music, I can see her arms and legs slowly moving through the water as her hair floats gracefully about her head. One woman recently told me she got goosebumps when she saw this painting Facebook and felt the same kind of spiritual connection I did. That made my day as I rarely get to know if my work is percieved at all like I do.

In the seven years I have know Maia I have painted her at least a dozen times and hope to continue at a pace of once a year until she is 21 or more. In this one, she has grown to the threshold of adolescence and while I wish she would slow down, I love seeing the transformation she is taking. Below is one of the first I did of her when she was just five years old. I intentionally posed her in a similar position for the recent one just for the comparison.

I took some photos of the flower bed at my sister-in-law's home in San Clemente, CA a while back and finally got around to painting them. I wanted it to look somewhat like  the work of Jessie Arms Botke, and early California Impressionist with the use of blue outlines and smooth modeling of forms. I didn't quite do this as well as I had hoped but I am happy with it.

My oldest grandson just turned 22 and I decided to paint him on his birthday. These portraits often (as in this case) start out rough and need quite a bit of tweaking to get them into a likeness. I never know if they will or not until I get there. I was glad when this face finally came around.

One of the reasons I moved here was the easy availability of inspiration. This is my next door neighbor's place here in Bath at sunrise. The barn used to belong to the people who owned the home we now occupy. This view is from across the river near the end of the covered bridge. I quit counting the number of times I painted that bridge at 35 and that was years ago!

Undoubtedly, many of you will recognize Hannah both above and below. She moved  to the west coast two years ago but thankfully I have a great deal of reference photos of her to keep painting her for years to come. She was simply the best model I have ever used and remains a source of inspiration. She also became a friend and  often had ideas that made her a great collaborator too.

I had heard about Lake Willoughby for years before we went there. When we did, I understood all the talk. It is the most beautiful I have seen in all of New England (it is in Vermont). The day we were there, a little cloudburst came at us from the opposite side as the low sunlight bathed the community across the water. It seemed like it might be worth painting.

What's New for June

Those who regularly read these updates may recognize Genevieve here: one of the two sisters I have been mentoring for nearly a year. As often happens during a photo shoot, there is a completely random moment where the model is not posing as much as reacting to someone else in the room or something that was said. This is the case with "Laughing Cowgirl". So out of the hundreds of pictures taken one chosen to paint was from such a moment.

Both of these paintings were the result of the same shoot at the same place (in the gallery). but I felt the one above would look nice as if it were outdoors. So I took out the sheet behind here and painted in a Southwest landscape from a photo I had taken in Arizona a few years back. It adds a little depth as well as interest, I think.

Not only the two young ladies that I am mentoring, but their whole family has provided a wealth of inspiration since August of last year. The painting below, one of their younger sisters. I wanted to paint her and show off her elegant, long neck. She will likely be painted again in the future. To date, I have done a total of 24 paintings of members of this family and currently working on the 25th. They are a wonderful family and a great source of happiness, let alone inspiration for me!

The vast majority of the time I paint from my own photos, but on rare occasion, I see a friend post such a great photo that I ask to paint it. In this case, artist-friend, Ann Kraft Walker allowed me to paint this one taken out her back door in Texas. The title is from Psalms 19:1 - "The heavens declare the glory of God."

At the end of this month (July), I will be teaching a small, one-day workshop on painting flowers. 

This will be held at Chick in Boots Farm here in Bath, which is owned and run by good friend Miranda Bergeron. Many of you would recognize her from the many paintings I have done of her over the years. Here is the most recent one of her which I think was the 42nd time I have painted her since she was in high school and working at the ice cream shop next to the gallery.

What's New for May

These first three paintings were all done at the Jen Gennari Workshop in Landgrove, Vermont. The class really taught me to more closely examine the subtleies of color. I thought I wasn't bad at it but she saw colors that were beyond my capabilities. And I am still trying to loosen up as she does. (check out my mainpage to see her White Tiger.  She is certainly inspirational.

For me, a good painting depends so heavily on good lighting. In the painting below, notice the cool light coming in from the left and illuminating the edge of her face and hair. It is so cool that it has made her hair a light violet. The other light source was an incandescent bulb (very warm light) which was positioned below her and to our right. This not only helped provide a nice dominant warm light to the cool window light, it also meant that the shadows and highlights were all reversend. So, for example, the highlight on the nose is coming from below and the shadow of the nose goes up instead of down. This makes it, in my opinion, more interesting than the normal overhead light.

In the "Blue Kimono" the light source is a single, large window which faces north. Sunlight never comes in through a north window and thus makes it consistent in color and intensity. And since, in this case, it is directly to the model's right, that light falls across her back at a great angle which emphasises the contours. Also, in my reference photo for this painting, her legs were tucked out of sight below the furniture. This made her look too incomplete so I added a bit more robe in the lower right corner. Also, please note the diagonals- the angle of her spine, the edge of the robe across her back, her right forearm and lower leg. Diagonals are usually add more drama than simple verticals or horizontals. At the same time, her left arm being nearly vertical provides a counterpoint to all the diagonals. If that arm was the same angle as her body, it would feel like a visual arrow shooting through and out the painting..

One day, after finishing one painting early, I had some time left in the gallery, but not a lot of time. So I gave myself a time limit to do this little 5x7. It was done in little more than an hour and a good thing happened as a result. It forced me to focus on what was important and not get too bogged down in details. What ws left felt perhaps a little fresher than most of my work.

While in Arizona, I met a terrific young musician/artist named Veronica and have painted her 3-4 times already. I liked this pose because it felt a little different with so much of it being left of center. Still that back of the chair provided a bit of balance. It still needs a little something, even if it is just more textured paint, in the upper right. 

What's New for March

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.

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.

What's New for January and February

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.

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.

What's New for November, 2020

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. 

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!

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.

What's New for October, 2020

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.

What's New of September. 2020

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 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!

Print Print | Sitemap
© Craig Pursley, Artist