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…