Thursday, December 31, 2009

Late Season in the Pennsylvania Woods

With the temperature outside hovering near freezing and snow pouring from the sky, it was time to take my bow and head to the timber. I love hunting with snow on the ground. The opportunity to read tracks and other evidence of wildlife activity fascinates me. Something about the wet falling snow makes the experience even more appealing.

Today, I crossed the track of a fairly large deer deep in a red brush thicket. The track was only an hour or two old and I knew it was a buck by the size of the track and the telltale dragging of his feet. I back-tracked to see what the deer had been up to earlier in the day (hint: to learn about undisturbed wildlife patterns, follow tracks backwards. It's unlikely you will see the animal, but you will get an uncensored version of the day's events without spooking the animal). After only about 50 yards of back-tracking, the trail took me to a bed in the snow where the deer had been since early that morning. It was snowing hard and the tracks leading into the bed were all but gone... so I turned around and began to carefully follow the track in the "right" direction.

I moved slowly... taking a few steps... then pausing to watch and listen. I found a bedding area I wasn't aware of, several giant buck rubs, and stopped to photograph a few of the rubs and tracks for my reference files. Of course, while I was screwing around with the camera and taking the shots you see here, I was a little preoccupied. I was just putting the lens cap back on the camera when I could see deer moving nearly 100 yards away. I tucked the camera away as quickly as I could, ducked into a small brush pile, and knocked an arrow. I could only see a glimpse of a deer from time to time moving out in front of me. They weren't getting any closer, so I got my grunt call out and gave a few soft grunts. I could see one of the deer clearly and it stopped to look. I knew they heard me, so I put the call away and waited.
It didn't take long. One by one, the three deer worked their way through the thick brush a filed past at less than 15 yards. First a big doe, then a nice 6-point, and finally a small spike. None were deer I wanted (or for that matter, could legally shoot), so I let the pass unmolested. Yet there is something indescribably satisfying about successfully calling in a deer... any deer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Teton Procession" 6x13 acrylic

With large groupings of animals, the biggest challenge always seems to be their arrangement in the space of the painting. For such a small piece, this ended up being fairly complicated and I could literally go on for pages (but I'll try to keep it short) on why I placed each of the elk where I did. Multiple subjects create several points of interest and the viewer's eye can be jostled about the painting... never settling on a singular major focal point. I was fortunate to photograph this herd early one September morning as they moved accross a platue in Grand Teton National Park. The low backlighting offered a unique opportunity to create that singular focal point by making use of the sunlit steam the herd generated. The easy and predictable solution would have been the bull and his massive antlers, but I've made him a secondary element in the painting. By looking back out of the painting to the right, he gives the impression of the herd being larger than what is seen in the frame of the painting, with more animals bringing up the rear. I wanted the major focal point to be the cow elk in the painting's center (something usually try to avoid, but in this case, because of the strong secondary presence of the bull... it works). So by using the steam to create the area of highest contrast around her head, the viewer's eye comfortably settles here.

This is truly one of my favorite small works. I may use the idea for a larger painting in the future.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Ruby and Lucifer" 8x10 acrylic

There hasn't been much happening here at the studio as of late. I've been too busy to paint, but not busy enough to feel like I'm getting anything accomplished. Finally... I was able to start this small painting a few days ago and work it through to completion. If you work much in acrylics, you know rendering large areas of red can be a chore. It looks sloppy and rough unless layer upon layer is applied.
I once heard it said that paintings that include something red are easier to sell. Hmmmm.... I guess this piece will test that theory.
It was also nice to work on something that reminds me of summer. It's been cold here for the last week or so!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Show Tomorrow!

Wow... I'm really late posting this. If you happen to be in the area, stop in for a mug of cider and say hi.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Mountain Meadow" 8x12 acrylic on masonite

I've always felt it necessary to pay very close attention to the habitat in my art. Of course some settings are more spectacular and paintable than others, so I choose carefully when constructing my compositions. The contrast between the blue-green sage and the multi-colored grasses both attracted and concerned me. The low light of early morning allowed me to mute the colors a bit and push most of them toward the cool side of the spectrum. Too much color would likely have resulted in and almost cartoon-like feeling. While striving for a reasonable amount of accuracy, the words of John Banovich kept coming back to me, " Don't paint every blade of grass, but paint the essence of the grass." Interestingly enough, when I attempt to painstakingly paint every blade, my grass looks stiff and very unnatural. Essence it is! Not only is this quicker, but my foliage ends up having much more depth and accuracy.

The muley doe feeding peacefully along the hillside is another one of those "can't miss" subjects. The well defined features and relatively light pigmentation of her face immediately draws the viewer's attention to the focal point... her eye. Her posture as she carefully nips a leaf from a prickly bush adds to the serenity of the scene.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Rocky Hideout" 30x20 acrylic on masonite

I've been working steadily on this piece for a little more than a month and it's finally finished. The patterns in the the lichens and granite are very intricate and took a considerable amount of time to render on such a large piece. This is much more of a "landscape" than my typical work, but the shadows in the rocks are such strong visual elements, I just had to paint them. I knew as I was shooting the reference photos... this would be a perfect setting for some mule deer. Did you spot the second buck before you read this far?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Love November

Yesterday was one of those glorious November days… you know the kind… where the before-dawn frost makes the leaves and grass crunch under your boots and the cold crisp air make you thankful for small disposable hand-warmers. Sitting still and silent twenty feet off the ground in a portable treestand is a strange, if not impossible way to spend a day for most folks. Of course my main objective was to put a little more venison in the freezer, but that’s a goal one can’t expect to achieve everyday. So I look for, and enjoy the little gifts of the day.

Being situated well before sunrise, the forest had a chance to adjust to my clumsy human entrance. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the ubiquitous squirrels had already started their frantic bustle. They (along with a good book) keep me company on these long sits. My experience in the woods has taught me the difference between the scurrying of squirrels and the footfalls of deer. And when the forest becomes unusually quiet… it’s time to pay attention as there is usually a good reason.

Something must have split up the resident flock of turkeys the night before. All morning they yelped and cackled from various locations finally reassembling in the cut corn field behind me.

This particular woodlot seems to be overrun with pileated woodpeckers. What a treat! Watching them go about the business of probing the trees for grubs is absolutely fascinating. As one would leave my sight, it seemed as thought another would simultaneously take its place… always with their rhythmic looping flight flashing large white wing-patches. The forest echoed with the immediately recognizable and raucous cackle.

On one occasion, I looked up from my book (a routine of reading a paragraph… then looking around to make sure I’m not missing anything… reading another paragraph…) to find a young red fox perched on a rock only 50 feet away. The handsome little devil slipped in silently (no miniscule task in these dry crunch leaves!) and was looking up in the tree at me with his head cocked to the side like my dog does when I ask him if he wants to go for a ride in the truck. When the fox decided it was time to leave and disappeared into the nearby ravine, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking looking at me so far up in a tree.

At the end of the day, the deer remained safely on the hoof… as they often do. So once again I hiked back to my truck in darkness… empty-handed, but with a rejuvenated spirit.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Buster & Sadie"

20x24 oil on canvas panel NFS
These are two of the BIGGEST and most gentle dogs I've ever worked with. I'm quite pleased with the results.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Good Start

From time to time I’m asked to paint a portrait of someone’s dog (or horse or… well… just about anything). Usually, I paint these portraits in acrylic, but since I’ve been making myself get used to my oil paints I decided to take a chance and work in oils. At this point, the painting is just beyond the “block-in” stage and I’m quite happy with it so far. Next, I will probably smack in the background with some large loose brushstrokes… probably using some neutral to warm hues. Then add some strategically located detail (not too much!). Finally, tweak the colors… usually bumping up the intensity a bit… and done!

Friday, October 30, 2009


Drawing is such a large part of being an artist… yet it is widely ignored by so many. I’m not sure why that is, but it always concerns me. Learning to draw is directly paralleled with learning to “see,” so I am constantly looking to improve my skills. Every so often I make a new friend and they teach me something wonderful. This fall, I was fortunate to have met Debby Kaspari. Debby is a wonderful artist from Oklahoma and one of the best I’ve ever seen at putting her thoughts onto paper with a pencil. She is a true creative spirit and was kind enough to share some of her insight with me during a short drawing session. Thanks Debby… it’s helped immensely.

This year during my forays into the field with my bow, I’ve been dragging along a small sketch pad and a pencil. It helps to pass the hours (sometimes days) on stand while waiting for deer to move. Wandering the woodlots of western Pennsylvania, there is never a shortage of interesting subjects to draw. As I’ve always said… time spent drawing is never time wasted.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Day in the Deer Woods

It was a great day to be outdoors. Squirrels and chipmunks… turkeys and deer… bluejays and geese… all with the amazing backdrop of October fall color. I don’t get to bow hunt as much as I used to, so I really cherish the days I get to spend in the deer woods. I’m continually amazed by the amount of wildlife I see just by being very still. The occasional coyote or red fox make appearances once or twice a season. Hawks and owls are regular visitors and always seem to be caught a little off guard when they land on a nearby branch… and see me sitting there 20’ off the ground! There will be a few days later in the season when I will literally sit in one of my treestands for the entire day… 12 hours or so! Something to read is essential to keep me occupied. I just have to remember to look around every page or so!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Process of "Focus Squares"

I’ve been asked to elaborate a bit on my “focus square” painting technique. This series of photos should clear things up a bit. I know there are folks out there who want to believe there is some sort of “magic” involved in the painting process (and a lot of artists who make a point to perpetuate that belief!), but there’s nothing magic about this method. It’s straight forward and almost mechanical in its execution. If you’ve got the patience, almost anyone can do this. There is some geometry involved with figuring out the initial square size on the reference photo and how it relates to the square on the painting. Just don’t ask me for the formulas. I can figure it out… I just can’t explain it!

Also, I must emphasize the need for the artist to not simply and blindly “duplicate” photographs. Once you understand how this works, it allows you to use your artistic discretion as to what will make the image “better.” In other words… what to move, tweak, remove, add, etc. Simply duplicating a photo is nothing more than an exercise in busy work!

The focus square on my reference photo is 2x2. That works out to 3.8x3.8 on my painting. I’ve made paper masks of the appropriates sizes and taped them down with drafting tape.

Since this pattern is fairly complex, I’ve drawn some guidelines with a white charcoal pencil.

I’ve quickly smacked in the darks, concentrating more on getting the values close without worrying too much about the exact hues. They can easily be tweaked later.

At this point, I’ve decided to break the focus squares down even more, dividing them into even quarters. Now I can concentrate on duplicating abstract shape without worrying about painting “rocks under water.”

I’m starting to refine the shapes and get the hues correct in this step.

A bit more refinement and tapping in the highlights in just the right spots. (note: In this situation, I’ve found that sunlit rocks below clear water are dominated by hues of yellow ochre and burnt sienna. There are also notes of cerulean blue that nicely balance out the other warm hues.)

Once all 4 of the smaller quarters are finished and the mask is removed, this is the result. Still, it looks pretty abstract. In the larger context of the entire painting… it appears nearly photographic!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Water and Rocks

Most of my recent works have been relatively small pieces. My mindset lately has kept me away from the easel and I’ve really been dragging my feet getting a new painting started. I’ve been filling page after page of my sketchbooks with pencil drawings, but have had no desire to paint. Wednesday, I made myself put some paint down. Now that I’ve got the ball rolling, I’m completely energized. This is a fairly large painting and will take a considerable amount of time to finish. I don’t think I’ll post “daily” progress on this one, but will attempt to do so periodically. The photo I’ve posted here is a small portion of the larger work.

To this point, I’ve washed the base colors on the primed board, roughed in the layout with a white charcoal pencil, and began the detail work over the base colors. This painting will be quite complicated and there are several challenges I’ve not tackled in the past, so it will be an adventure. My reference material is good, to that will be a big help.

Working in relatively small squares allows me to concentrate on each small detail without being distracted by the entirety of the painting. Hopefully, I’ve worked out all the compositional elements and how they relate to each other in my preliminary sketches. Of course, paintings sometimes take on a life of their own and don’t go according to plan. Those are the times when I feel my artistic metal is really being tested. Stay tuned…

Monday, September 28, 2009

Potential Cures for the "Slow Show Blahs"

Recently, I displayed my work at a small local nature art show. The woodland setting of the facility is perfect for this type of event. I’d done this show for several years (since it the very first one) and the attendance was usually moderate, if not at least enthusiastic. Typically I do a fair amount of business… at least enough to cover my framing costs. Then it happened… the bottom fell out of our world economy… collectors began to panic… and casual buyers dissolved into the woodwork. Everyone was cutting back… including artists and show promoters. Advertising dollars certainly don’t go as far as the once did. Postage and printing prices are still on the rise, so newsletters and fliers are often difficult to justify. The combination of all these factors have some small shows in a downward spiral from which they may not recover.

In the midst of all this turmoil, some artists (myself included) may have a weekend show go by without a single sale. When that happens, it’s hard not to question everything about a career in this chosen profession. We all have a need for validation and there’s no better way to quench it than the sale of a painting. There is also no more crushing a blow than an entire weekend show without a decent lead.

There are elements in this equation beyond our control (weather, economic climate, simultaneous events, lazy show promoters, etc.), so it makes no sense to worry about them. On the other hand, there are things very much within our control that often go ignored. EVERY ONE OF THEM need to be analyzed and addressed:
Subject matter – When we hear artists use the term “inspiration,” most often this is closely related to subject matter. As a painter, I love to paint subjects that move me. My art is a reflection of my personality… as it should be. Unfortunately, sometimes these subjects don’t overlap with what’s actually desirable in the marketplace. So there has to be some middle ground… or balance. It’s impossible to work for long without inspiration, yet there are bills to pay and food to put on the table (Otis the Wonder Dog would be very upset with me if I had to cut back on his beloved Beneful!). So we end up “prostituting” our talent at times just to promote a little cash flow… a necessary evil for all but the most successful artists.
Quality of art – This is a huge complicated can of worms and I could probably write an entire book on the subject. Briefly… with art being such a subjective market, actual “quality” is almost impossible to define. In the end, the artist can only put forth his/her best effort. And if that’s not good enough, it’s time to do the necessary work to get better. Attending workshops and getting better reference material are always a good place to start. Becoming a better artist may not show immediate financial results, but in the long run, it will energize your efforts and be evident in your finished product (at least that’s what I have to believe to push myself forward).
Gimmicks – Personally, I hate gimmicks. That being said… gimmicks sell. It’s a fact. If you’re comfortable “hiding treasures” in your paintings like a “Where’s Waldo” puzzle, fine. You’ll probably make a million dollars while I wallow in relative obscurity, but don’t expect me to acknowledge it as “fine art.” I just can’t do it. On the other hand, I’m always contemplating ways to set my work apart from the masses. There are literally hundreds of skilled painters out there and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to make your work stand out on artistic merit alone… especially with the majority of the buying public doesn’t give a hoot about artistic merit!
Pricing – In a stable market, it’s acceptable and even necessary to bump pricing structure up 5% or so annually. The problem with that is when the market tumbles and collector dollars become scarce, it’s very hard to go backward. Collectors having purchased your work in the past expect the value to increase. Reducing prices shows an inability of your work to hold/increase its value making it a less than desirable investment. Once that word gets out, it’s very hard to recover. So in a sense… you’re stuck.
Attitude – This is the biggest mistake I see artists make. You never have to ask how sales are at an art show. You only need to assess the demeanor of the artist… and a surly artist will almost NEVER sell a painting. In reality, the whole “tortured artist” thing is tiresome and will serve no other purpose than to drive people away from your work. The only thing the we can do is keep smiling and talking to people. Treat everyone that comes through the door as though they have the potential to be your most prolific collector. It’s not easy, but if people like you, they want to see you do well and are far more willing to part with hard-earned dollars.

It’s times like these when I (once again) realize just how important my collectors, fans, and supporters are. No matter what happens, I know this is my life calling and I’ll survive. Thank you all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

National Museum of Wildlife Art

While on my recent road trip, I visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson. My first impression as I browsed the galleries was “WOW!” The size of some of the Carl Rungius paintings was astounding… some at 10’ or more! I spent a great deal of time studying the works of Bob Kuhn and Ken Carlson. I had no idea the Kuhn worked mostly in acrylics. Simply amazing. Ken Carlson has always been a favorite and to examine his paintings up close was a real treat. I’ve always admired the economy of his brushwork… so much is conveyed with a single accurate stroke.

The Western Visions Art Show and Sale occupied much of the gallery space. I was happy to see works from many of my friends hanging on the walls. Is it possible I may soon join them? We’ll see.

It’s hard to imagine anything standing up to the grandeur of Grand Teton National Park, but the Museum is an absolute “must see” for anyone visiting the area. I know I’ll be back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Bugs in the Grill

Wyoming was magnificent. Entering Yellowstone through the Beartooth Mountains was about as breathtaking as a drive can get. I was in Yellowstone for less than 5 minutes when I spotted 4 mountain goats on a distant rock face. That was totally unexpected as mountain goats are fairly rare in the park. From that point on, I knew it was going to be a productive adventure.

It seemed as though each bend in the road revealed yet another treasure… mountain bluebirds… hundreds of bison… and so many antelope, I hate to venture a guess! One afternoon while exploring the Gros Ventre area of Grand Teton, I was treated to the site of a cow moose far across the river. By the time the encounter was over, she was less than 15 yards from me browsing on willows. Yes… that’s a little too close for something that big!

A morning photographing bugling bull elk in Grand Teton Park put the perfect end to a spectacular week.

Some 4400 miles and 1200 photos later, I’m finally back in the studio. During the drive, there were many stretches of highway where so many bugs were hitting the windshield, it sounded like a hard rain. Not good for highway vision!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More Birds in Art 2009

It’s hard to believe the Birds in Art weekend in Wausau is drawing to a close. We’ve crammed so many activities and met so many people in such a short time, it will take more than just a few minutes to sit down and sort it all out. It will make good food for thought on my long drive to Wyoming tomorrow. The Woodson Museum staff always manages to make things appear to run smooth, though similarly to the duck gliding on glassy water, underneath there must be frantic paddling.

Thank you to all my friends (both new and old) for helping expand my artistic knowledge. It seems my thirst for this type of thing has no limit as I look to hone my abilities and try new things.

Perhaps a few long moments on the side of a tall mountain are necessary to put it all in perspective. Life seems very good right now and bursting with possibilities.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"End of May"

So what is it about watercolor that people find so appealing? Is it the relative liberal use of color? Is it the loose and free style in which they are painted? Honestly, I don't know. I love good watercolor paintings and I really don't know why. Anyone out there have a thought on this?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Three Aspens"

I never seem to paint enough watercolors. They're popular with collectors and always look amazing at shows. I'm just a lot more comfortable working in acrylics... for that matter, oils too.

Aspens make great subjects for paintings. I always find the markings and contrast irresistible. I completed this small piece this morning and it was really a lot of fun. "Three Aspens" is 8 3/8 x 5 1/8.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It took me a little longer than expected to finish this one off, but I’m pleased with the overall results. The background is still a little busy for my liking, but I’m not going to paint it out and rework it at this stage. Softening the edges helped. A very thin wash of flesh pink also added to the elusion of depth.

Sharing the progress was a lot of fun… and a little stressful. I’ll have to give it another shot again soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

WIP Loon - Day 5

Finally, all of the shapes are in place. Now it’s time to assess what I’ve done and create a plan of attack for problem areas (anticipated or not). First, and most importantly, the extreme busy feel to the painting has to be changed. I hope to accomplish this by softening the edges in both the background and foreground. This will help lead the viewer’s eye to the middle ground plain and ultimately to the loon. This also is the stage where I begin to smooth out the areas that have a “brushy” look to them and do away with any remnants of my “focus frames.”

Second, some detail in the face of the loon needs to me added… especially to the eye. This can get tricky. Overdo it and the painting will take on a cartoon-like feel. Not enough and the head reads as simply a black blob. While I’m at it, I’m not happy with the shape of the loon’s head… specifically the forehead or crest area. That should be an easy fix.

Lastly, to this point I’ve used no black from the tube in this painting. All of the “black” areas are simply a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt umber with a touch of dioxazine purple. I may add some bits of ivory black to really make some areas pop.

I’ve uploaded this image in a larger format than usual to make these problem areas easier to see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

WIP Loon - Day 4

Yesterday was a good day at the easel. I've pushed the water to the point I think I'll be able to finish the rough shapes today (provided of course, nothing unplanned jumps up and bites me later!). Once that's done, then I can move on to the fun stuff... softening edges, strategic details, and maybe a few special affects. I'm really enjoying this one.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

WIP Loon - Day 3

There was a lot of progress yesterday. I find when I’m working on a piece like this, I need to hold back on some of the more interesting areas and bite them off a little at a time. The meticulous work of painting in the sky reflections on the water is enough to drive me batty! But if I work on that for most of the day and reward myself by painting some of the markings on the loon, everything balances.
Speaking of “balance,” at this stage, the painting is starting to have a very “busy” feel to it. I will need to draw the viewer’s attention away from the movement of the water and focus it on the loon. I had anticipated this distracting predicament and have a specific plan (part of my engineering background) to mitigate the problem. Stay tuned…

Friday, August 21, 2009

Process Revealed

As you can see, the image has become considerably “lighter” with the addition of reflected sky in the water. You can also see how I work… in small squares I like to call “focus frames.” These frames let me work on small areas, getting the drawing and values correct, without worrying about the painting as a whole… which comes later. I don’t always use this method, but it’s quite helpful to me when working on complex subjects. Good reference material is crucial as there is not a lot of room to fudge.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WIP Loon - Day 1

Let's try this again! The last (and first) time I posted the daily progress of one of my paintings, it was such a raging disaster, I finally gave up on it. Oh yes... I am a glutton for punishment. HA! I started this small loon piece yesterday morning and made good progress on my half-day of work. My intention is to pull the highlights from the water out of the darker base color. The finished product should be considerably lighter with a bit of sparkle............ we'll see.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Cold Night Ahead"

The weather has been so hot and sticky for the past week or so, I thought it would be refreshing to work on something with a "cool" feel. One evening this past February, I watched several mourning doves flying up to roost in a large leafless red oak. As they fluffed and ruffled their feathers for better insulation, I couldn't help but think how cold the following night was going to be.
I made a calculated decision to use a limited palette of cool colors and selected one lonely dove to paint. I dragged a bit of the background colors over some of the limbs to push them back into the scene.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Storm Chaser"

I've been spending a great deal of time working with my oils lately. My progress has been a bit slow, but there is progress none-the-less. I finished this piece this morning and thought I'd share. Storm Chaser is 15x30 oil on canvas panel and features a Northern harrier hawk.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I found out yesterday I'll be at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, SC in February. This will be my first time at this show should be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it. The paint will be flying between now and then! I'm hoping to take at least 30 pieces with me. We'll see...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hummingbirds and Lucifer

I spent a little time yesterday evening testing some camera gear. I got several great shots of this little ruby-throated hummingbird. Of course I was hoping to get some photos of males, but the aggressive females wouldn't let them anywhere near the big red blossoms. Go figure!

These will make great reference material for future paintings!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Small Oil Studies

I'm really enjoying these tiny experiments in oil. They move fairly fast and I feel like I'm learning.

This little fellow was perched on the fire pit behind the studio one morning. Once Otis the Wonder Dog alerted me to his presence, I grabbed the camera and got several good shots. "Juvenile Starling" is 7x5.

I've always liked wild iris. Someone once asked me why I painted so many wildflowers... well... they don't run or fly away like most of my subjects! "Iris" is 6x4.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I had to take a break from the duck stamp today and work on something else. This was a fun little piece (9x12) and I think it was just enough to recharge my batteries. Now maybe I can finish that damn duck this week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Under the Old Apple Tree

Fruit trees and bushes are teaming with life and the chance to shoot wonderful photos draws me and my camera throughout the year. Interesting compositions are everywhere in the tangle of branches and leaves. The trick is to simplify... easier said than done!

This sparrow seemed to enjoy the opportunity to torment Otis the Wonder Dog. It seemed to know Otis was no threat as it flitted and bounced from one low-hanging branch to the next. Otis was in serious "bird dog mode" making sure to point out the sparrow's location every time it moved.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Duck Stamp Tedium

I’ve spent the last few days working on an entry for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s 2010 Waterfowl Management Stamp Contest. It’s been a few years since I’ve done one of these paintings and questioning my sanity for doing it this time. Good grief!
I don’t like the restrictions of stamp art. I don’t like the unyielding direction judges always take… leaning toward over-painted cartoon-like detail and unrealistic color instead of solid composition and accuracy. Heaven forbid any artist that might set forth on a painting outside the established norms of “typical” stamp art. Often some judges are barely qualified to jury a coloring book contest… let alone something to be considered fine art! It’s enough to make me pull my hair out (if I had any).
The winners of these contests are usually much more in line with illustrations than art… and no… they are not the same thing.
So I struggle… trying to keep some balance between solid artistic integrity (whatever that means) and the tedious detail and saturated color that always seems to pop the judges’ cork. Hopefully it will be near completion by the end of the week. I will post the image when I feel comfortable with my effort.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Back in the Groove

Sometimes I just need to get the oils out and sketch. The last few days have not been easy and I've struggled to accomplish anything worthwhile. But late yesterday, I set up a small (10x8) canvas and started to work from a few photos I shot last winter. I worked quickly and the piece came together very well.

I really like this one.

Monday, June 22, 2009

VIP Event

This past Saturday, I held my annual “Summer Cookout and Art Sale.” In spite of the lousy weather, everything went quite well. The food was awesome thanks to my sister and Mom. Dad kept everyone entertained with his famous line of… um… stories. And I left sales for the evening in the capable hands of my good friend, Gay. Thank you to everyone that helped. I couldn’t have done it without you. And thanks especially to all my friends who participated in this growing event. I can’t wait to see you all again.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not Enough Hours in the Day!

The daily tasks of running a business really get to me sometimes. The mundane chores like paying bills, ordering supplies, and cleaning all take time away from what I want to be doing... painting! There are days when my only relief comes from a few minutes spent drawing. It seems the entire past week has been like that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I've been checking the cavity nest of a black-capped chickadee pair every few days for a couple of weeks now. I noticed the chickadees taking bits of wood out of a hole in an old rotting log while hunting mushrooms almost a month ago. When I went back to check again, the nest was full. Five tiny balls of fuzz lined the bottom of the opening. Now, the youngsters are so big, they barely fit in the nest and are difficult to distinguish from the adults. I'd love to get photos as they leave the nest, but my timing (and luck) would have to be perfect. Today I settled for some wonderful shots of the parents as they fed the hungry chicks.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Learning to paint with oils, for me, is like learning a new language... a new way to communicate. This style of painting is so far removed from my "normal" acrylic way of doing things, that each time begin a new piece, it feels like an adventure. It's all very new and exciting!
In Departure (11x14), I really wanted to capture the essence of sunlight filtering through an opening in the forest canopy. The blues in the shaded leaves are complimented by the flecks of orange light in brighter areas of the scene.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Unusual Visitor

The painting Unusual Visitor was inspired by a series of photos I shot last summer. While riding the back roads near my studio late one afternoon, I happened upon a Great Horned owl perched on a fence post just a few yards from the road. Looking somewhat annoyed at my intrusion, the owl sat there and let me photograph it for almost 10 minutes! Things almost never work out that way. I guess you could say this unusual visitor was unusually cooperative!

It's likely I will enter this piece in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Working Together for Wildlife competition. Each year one painting of a specified subject is chosen to be printed and distributed by the Game Commission. Of course, one never knows what may strike the fancy of those judging art. Whatever the outcome... I'm pleased with the image.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


The morel mushroom season is finally winding down in Western PA. It's been a generous year. Otis the Wonder Dog and I made this nice find within the boundaries of Goddard State Park. When pan-fried with butter, these little treasures are absolutely delightful. It's a wonderful excuse to get out of the studio and wander the local woodlots.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Birds in Art 2009

Downy Duo has been chosen for the 2009 Birds in Art exhibit! The Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI hosts this prestigious event in September. This marks the 3rd consecutive year one of my paintings has been chosen. I'm looking forward to visiting all my friends at the Woodson Museum during opening weekend festivities.