Sunday, April 20, 2014

Small Oil Studies

Always hoping for improvement and versatility, I keep working on areas of my art where I feel I'm less than proficient. Two of my biggest weaknesses are painting with oils and painting interesting, yet believable, skies. Yesterday I spent my time in the studio sorting through reference photos and doing small studies. As with all studies, some were more successful than others. I kept them under 2 hours, so I moved thought these rather quickly (at least "quick" for me). It was a good learning experience. Maybe I'll do another study or two today!

Time spent experimenting and learning is time well spent indeed! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"After the Storm"

It was with a fair amount of trepidation that I began work on this large (20x30) painting. My last attempt at a big one was a 6 week disaster that left me angry and frustrated. Still... I needed to push forward.
After drawing the composition (with white charcoal) on a neutral gray primed board, I started blocking in some of the darks with a thin mixture of warm browns and grays. Working quickly while the paint was still a little wet, I smacked in some of the lighter areas allowing the colors to overlap and blend. This isn't easy with acrylic, but it keeps me working very fast.
Going back over the blocked in areas after the paint was dry, I started to refine things and push the shapes closer to what they would be in the finished painting. This took a considerable amount of time and effort. I wasn't really sure how I wanted to handle the reflections of the trees on the water in the foreground and reworked this part of the painting several times.
After almost a month of steady work, the painting was nearing completion... but there were still a few things bothering me.
The reflection of the large group of trees wasn't doing anything for the painting and I needed to reconsider that entire area again. In fact, nearly all of the stream was going to need repainted. It was close, but not quite right.
That awful clump of snow in the lower right corner was going to need some attention as well. The shape was odd and I needed to think about making it flow into the painting a little better.
So... I put the painting away for almost 2 weeks and worked on another project. Once I got it back on the easel, the solutions became relatively clear and I was able to finish the piece in less than 2 days.
"After the Storm" 20x30 acrylic
Detail from "After the Storm"

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Day Off

I decided to take the day off yesterday and do a little fishing. The forecast called for a high in the upper 40s after a night in the teens. While the temperature may have reached the 45° mark in some places, it sure as hell never got that warm in the creek gorge!
Of course, that seems to be the theme so far this year... delusional weather prognosticators missing forecasts by 10° or more, the first of April is baring down on us, and the nights are still so cold the river eddies freeze over with more than just a little ice. Still, I can't help myself and sometimes I just have to get outside... and fishing seems to be the most agreeable excuse. After all, there are only so many nights I can spend tying flies by the fire without getting some of them wet.
I hiked more than a mile downstream from the road planning to fish my way back to the truck. Wood ducks and hooded mergansers flushed ahead of me as I picked my way through the giant icebergs that still line the banks of the stream. A great blue heron squawked in disgust having his hopes for a trout lunch thwarted by my approach. I was taking my time and being pretty careful. The last thing I needed was to twist or break an ankle!
My starting point was a spot lined with giant river carved rocks and old hemlocks on the far bank. The water was clear (and COLD!). It didn't take long for my feet to feel the affects of the icy water as I drifted my flies through the deepest sections of the run. I fished for what seemed like an hour or so without so much as a bump from a trout. I occasionally changed flies hoping one of the combinations of fur and feather would appeal to the trout. I realistically thought to myself that the extreme cold temperatures of the night before had probably pushed the fish into a state of near dormancy, not moving an inch to eat anything... no matter how enticing. But then it happened... my line hesitated during the drift and I lifted my rod. To my surprise, it was a nice brown trout!
I was happy. The fish fought hard and I marveled at its markings and color before letting it go. Five casts later, I had another.
And so it went for the rest of the afternoon. I caught the occasional fish... enough to keep me focused and happy. My feet got progressively more numb until I found myself stumbling along the trail unable to feel the ground beneath me. I even took time to get a few underwater shots of a nice healthy rainbow in an unusually clear stretch of stream.
 One thing about photographing fish in conditions like this... you work fast! It doesn't take long for all the heat to be sucked from your hands and turn them into useless clubs. For the next 15 minutes after taking the photo above, I might as well have been wearing boxing gloves. My fingers were not working at all!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When It Doesn't Work

Already this year I've had the discouraging experience of spending over 6 weeks on painting only to realize it just wasn't going to work. All the planning and design work sometimes goes swirling down and out of sight like a wad of dirty toilet paper. The frustration of realizing the painting wasn't going to ever be what I wanted was compounded by knowing I'd wasted so much time trying desperately to make it work. The more time I had invested in the piece, the more I felt I needed to make it work... and the problems seemed to multiply from there.
This is by no means the first time I've thrown a clunker. In most cases, I just put a painting away for a while and come back to it later to reassess and perhaps attempt to save the piece with fresh eyes. Other pieces seem to somehow be flawed from the moment I start putting down paint and are destined to be sanded down and re-gessoed for another try. Then there are the projects that are nothing more than a thorn in my side and the most therapeutic way to deal with them is a large fire in the back yard!
It's not easy to talk about these failures. Sure, we can say things like we learn more from our failures than successes... blah blah blah. I don't buy that. At least not with my paintings. The painting I spoke of at the beginning of this post was a 20x40 mule deer piece I intended to use as my marquee piece at an upcoming show. Failures like this leave me kicking chairs and throwing paint brushes. 6 weeks is a lot of time to spend slaving away with nothing to show for it. I don't seem to learn anything from that!

2 clunkers and 1 new panel, all back to "square one"
So today, while prepping a board for a painting I need to start for a looming deadline, I sanded and gessoed 2 of those damned clunkers that have been leaning against the studio wall. With a fresh new surface and endless possibilities, these failures have been given a chance at new life. It was a good day... and I didn't even have to start a fire.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Desert Hunter"

"Desert Hunter" 7x9 acrylic
This one will be headed to the NatureWorks exhibit in Tulsa, Oklahoma next week. This will be my first experience with this show and I'm pretty excited about it!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"New Day"

"New Day" 6x8 acrylic
This one (along with 20 others!) is headed to Charleston, SC for the Southeastern Wildlife Expo.