Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review: That's a Wrap!

On this final day of 2010, it's time to once again bring up my yearly list of goals for a final tally... and it's been quite a year! I refer to this list often throughout the year to keep me focused and moving forward. Some of the goals are steep and would take a fair amount of good fortune to achieve. Others are more attainable and serve as way-points on my path of progress for the year. Some highlights:

  • Birds In Art exhibit in Wausau, WI
  • Winning the Working Together For Wildlife print with the Pennsylvania Game Commission

  • Publishing my first book "The Long Way Home"

  • Completing 40 painting (far above my previous benchmarks)

  • Successful initial participation in the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, SC

That's just a few points that come to mind as I look back... and I'm happy. I've also learned a lot. It's possible I've learned more in the past 12 months than during any other similar time frame of my life. My art is moving forward with improvements in my understanding of drawing, composition, and the actual application of paint. It's learning process I'm sure will continue until the day I set my final brush aside.

2011 promises to be every bit as amazing and my list of goals reflects some lofty expectations. Good luck to you all in the coming year and thank you for continuing the read this blog.

Print Signing for PAGC

From the time I was notified of my selection for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Working Together For Wildlife print, I've wondered how I'd hold up during the process of signing all those prints. Well, on Tuesday I found out. It may not sound like a big deal, but if you've never written your name 600 times in one sitting... well... it made me a little daffy. I was seated alone at a table in a room at the Game Commission Headquarters in Harrisburg, given a box of pencils, and pointed at a stack of boxed prints (100/box). I started just before noon and really had to hustle to finish by 4:30PM. Thankfully I had my MP3 player along, so there was at least a little music to keep me company. I found it funny that during the course of all that writing, my signature changed a bit from one hour to the next. Most looked like my typical signature, some even looked a little better, and a few seemed like they had been signed by an alien in a different language. None the less, I got the job done.

Artist proofs of "Middle of Nowhere" are now available by contacting me at The print is 22.5 x 15 on high quality heavy stock paper.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sometimes Less is More

Lately, the task at hand has been filling out my inventory for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston. The show isn't until mid-February, so I'm not quite in the frenzied panic of last minute painting, but there is definitely a singular focus here in the studio. Last week I spent a few days working on some smaller pieces and one in particular was giving me fits... especially as it neared completion.

I finally thought this little 7x5 was complete when I photographed the image on the left. But as I color corrected and re-sized it on my computer, I became increasingly annoyed with the presence of that damn heron. I was determined to have something in that archway created by the surrounding leaves, yet it just didn't look right. So I pushed the bird back with a couple of thin cool washes. Still, it was distracting. I even move it to the left a bit so it wouldn't appear so centered in the frame of foliage. No good. Finally, almost in a fit of frustration, I chased the heron from the scene and suddenly felt better about it. Just for good measure, I darkened the archway to bring the leaves on the right side of the painting forward. Much better! I've posted both images so you can judge for yourself.

"Little Sandy Creek" is a 7x5 acrylic.

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick note to all you blog readers out there wishing you a very Merry Christmas. We're definitely having a "white" Christmas here in western Pennsylvania. More art talk tomorrow!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Mistake of Printing Too Soon

In my travels to shows, galleries, and museums, I have the opportunity to speak with many artists... some established and successful (this is when I usually try keep my mouth shut and take careful mental notes)... and some just starting, but eager to learn. From those just getting into the business of being an artist and all that goes with it, I'm often quizzed on how to go about getting a print published. In reality, the more relevant question would be, "Should I get a print published?" And the answer (no one every wants to hear) is, "Probably not."
With the advances in digital technology, giclee printing is easier and more affordable than ever. This presents a tempting option for the budding artist to produce work affordable to everyone and potentially keep a few bucks coming in. I made this short-sighted mistake early in my career and it comes back to bite me every so often. Let me explain.
In the struggle to become "established" in the world of wildlife art, I was always looking at what other artists were doing (at least what the appeared to be doing) in an attempt to mimic their success. Seeing that others had several good selling prints on the market, it seemed a logical step to publish a print or two of my own. So, not understanding the all the necessary preparation and planning, I did... without ever thinking of the consequences years down the road.
I was fortunate enough (or so I thought) to sell a fair amount of these early prints, so there are quite a few of them out there. I still have some of those early collectors beaming proudly about having my early work and I'm happy that they are happy, but I always cringe a little when I talk about those prints. Back then, I had no idea how limited my skill level really was. With years of study and hard work, I've become a better all-around artist and the glaring problems (and there are a lot!) with those earlier works are like a sharp stick in my eye. One is so poorly rendered that the subject is often misidentified! Yikes! And there they are... out there for the whole world to see.
What I didn't understand at the time was just how much progress I would make as an artist in the years to follow. Of course, I hope to continue to grow as an artist and strive to make each painting better than the last. In that sense, there will always be a little twist in my gut when I look back on my past work knowing it's not of the quality of my current efforts. That's just part of the deal you have to live with when you continue to improve. Keep in mind that once a print is out there, you can't get it back. In a sense, your name will always be associated with that work. In the end, always put your very best effort into every piece and never knowingly let anything out of the studio you might regret later.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Scarlet Foothills" 9x12 acrylic

I knew when I shot the reference photos for this landscape it was going to be a challenge to paint. Reds and greens slapped together haphazardly tend to look like a cartoon or a really bad Christmas card, so the main obstacle was to keep the hues muted except for a few slashes of brilliant red. Now that I've completed it, I wish I'd have started on a larger support. None-the-less, I'm pleased with the result. Originally, I wasn't sure if there was going to be a grizzly or a small herd of elk in the painting... or maybe nothing at all. At the last minute, I opted for a bull moose. He looks at home.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Full Circle

When I was a youngster, I loved to browse the pages of Pennsylvania Game News. I had little if any interest in the stories or photos, but the art of Ned Smith always absolutely mesmerised me. At that time, Ned's paintings graced the cover of every issue. I'd spend hours studying the elegant ink drawings included in his monthly journal column "Gone for the Day," then, with varying degrees of success, try to copy them with a sharp pencil.
It was at that early age when I had my first thoughts of becoming a wildlife artist. Nearly 40 years have passed since those early dreams and finally, my painting "Middle of Nowhere" (winner of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's 2010 Working Together For Wildlife print) is on the cover of Game News. So as I sit here this morning finishing the last of my coffee, it occurs to me that I've achieve one of those childhood dreams most of us forget with the passage of so many years. It all seems to fit together quite nicely and I'm proud of the accomplishment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Graceful Exit" 5x7 acrylic

Just for a little change of pace, I decided to work on something with a little more spring/summer feel to it. I'm sure I'll be painting more snow soon!
I'm a bit torn between wanting to work on bigger, more "important" paintings and the production/affordability level of these smaller studies. One thing has become very clear while working on the small paintings - I'm learning so much more than I do while spending weeks on a larger piece. There is a conscious willingness to take chances and experiment with these minis. If I happen to screw one up and can't fix it, I've only got a day or two in the piece. I can easily set it aside and move on to the next. It's a painful experience indeed to spend several weeks on a large painting only to realize too late that it's a clumsy effort at best. So if I learn more working on the small paintings, are the larger ones really more "important?"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Winter Blue" 5x7 acrylic

After being socked in with snow for the last few days, it only seems appropriate to paint something like this. The branches from the old apple tree near our feeders make perfect perches for the birds in my winter paintings. The birds seem happy as long as the feeders are full. I, on the other hand, am happy as long as Otis the Wonder Dog keeps my feet warm sleeping on them while I work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Focusing on the Future (and SEWE)

With my Christmas Show fading in the rear view mirror, it's time to start working toward SEWE (Southeastern Wildlife Exposition). The success of the Christmas Show has put a dent in my painting inventory (a pleasant problem indeed!), so the next two months will be firmly dedicated to producing enough quality new work to make the February trek to South Carolina a worthwhile adventure. I will post my new works here as they are completed, so stay tuned. Now... it's time to get to work!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Art Show 2010

What a nice turnout for my Christmas Art Show... even with the snowy roads and cold weather! Quite a few folks picked up a copy of my new book, so it looks like I'll need to order more. The persistent snow showers provided the perfect backdrop and I had to refill the hot cider pot more than once. More snow today and a roaring fire in the big stone fireplace will make things feel even more like Christmas. I hope folks aren't afraid to venture out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Show 2010

There's only one week left before my 2010 Christmas Show. If you're in the area, please stop in and say hello.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I've been doing a lot of drawing the last few days. From time to time, I just need to go back to my sketch books and start filling some pages. I should draw every day, but in reality, I'm happy to get the 2B in action a couple of times a week. It's good practice and keeps me honest about interpreting the information my eyes are giving me. I'm never quite as happy as I am wearing down the point on a pencil.
This drawing was done from a series of photos I shot a couple of summers ago. The plan was to execute an oil portrait, but after browsing the images, decided they were not exactly what I was looking for. I may need to reconsider.
I really don't like the texture of the paper I used for this, so I need to find something with a finer tooth. Other than that, I'm pleased with this effort.

"Buffs on the Deck" 5x7 acrylic

The day I shot the reference photos for the background of this painting, the fall colors were so brilliant, they almost didn't look real. I knew right away there would be buffleheads in the painting. The high contrast of their beautiful black and white markings pop against the kaleidoscope of autumn foliage.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Autumn Sentinels" 10x12 acrylic

White-tailed deer and fall colors... does it get any better? Being a bow hunter, I get to see a lot of deer and study their habits and tendencies... sometimes at very close range. In the edge of a slash of late afternoon sunlight, two skittish does have spotted a likely intruder and are on verge of bolting. Back in the shadows, a buck is alerted by the does, but holds tight hoping not to be discovered. The does serve as a kind of alarm system and their nervous nature keeps them highly alert. The old buck hasn't lived this long by making dumb mistakes. This tactic has worked for him before. Like a rabbit in a brush pile, someone would practically have to step on him to make him run.
The buck represents an element of "secondary discovery." I like using this concept on occasion, but only if it's something that occurs naturally. As in the real world, our eyes are drawn immediately to the exposed does and their upward stretched necks. To the casual observer, the buck may go unnoticed... even though he's in plain site.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My New Book, "The Long Way Home"

It is with great pleasure that with my 100th post, I am announcing my first book. This has really been a long time coming. I've been threatening to publish a book for years and now it's done. With a forward written by my good friend, Debby Kaspari, this small edition features more than recent 40 paintings and drawings. To see a preview of several pages and to order, visit the Blurb link on the right of this page. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Wilds of Kentucky

My road trip this fall has taken me once again to the farm country of western Kentucky. The tremendous expanse of cultivated fields has pushed the woodland creatures into a relatively small patchwork of scattered woodlots. Yet the abundance and diversity of wildlife is astounding! Of course my purpose for the trip is bow hunting a large white-tail buck, but that doesn't mean I'm so single-minded as not to appreciate my surroundings. Each evening, coyotes serenade the sunset as they venture out for nighttime hunting of their own. Barred owls often join in the chorus for a gloriously eerie auditory treat. Northern harrier hawks scour the grasslands for a dinner of mourning dove (and there are plenty of those!). Clouds of red-winged blackbirds fill the skies over picked bean fields filling the air with an almost deafening racket. And a dozen or more great blue herons stand silently in the middle of a mile-wide stretch of cultivated Ohio River flood plain. I can only guess they are searching for crayfish, as their holes in the mud seem to be everywhere.
After taking a morning off, I'll be back in the deer stand later today. It's hard to imagine just what those countless hours have in store.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Jokers" 7x5 acrylic on board

I've noticed the popularity of ravens over the last couple of years. Quite a few collectors seem to snatch them up almost as soon as they are unveiled. I really like the way their "black" feathers reflect blues and purples. They also seem to have quite a bit of personality. These highly intelligent birds are graceful in flight and comical on the ground. They adapt and learn quickly... especially when food is involved.
This painting is a bit of a departure from my usual style. The background is laid in with relatively loose brush strokes. This seems to enhance the detail in the ravens themselves.

Friday, October 8, 2010

October Encounters

The forest was alive with the sounds of predawn bustle. Chipmunks and squirrels were getting an early start on a day full of collecting acorns. Heavy crunching footfalls of a single large deer moved down the trail closer and closer to my stand. Not quite pitch black, the forest interior was still too dark to make out the well camouflaged form of the deer, now only several yards from the base of my tree. The cool fall air moved very little, yet I felt the chill on the back of my neck as the air currents swirled. The deer stopped and stood still for several minutes while the darkness slowly began to recede to the west. Calmly, the deer turned and walked back up the trail leaving me with only a glimpse of its white rump in the still very dark woods.

I was a bit dejected at my misfortune, but swirling winds are a fact of life in this part of the world and I've long since learned not to get too upset about it. Besides, the deer would have passed by my location and through my shooting lanes long before it was light enough to take advantage of the opportunity. So I sat there as the sky slowly lightened above the treetops staring at the dark forest floor below.

Above the sporadic forest noise, a familiar call rose softly in the distance. Then again a bit closer. The high-pitched tremolo was unmistakable and it made me smile like a letter from an old friend. A pair of screech owls called back and forth to each other across the ravine to the east and as they moved closer, I hoped for a quick sighting of one of the shy night hunters. It was not to be, but my spirits remained high from the auditory encounter.

Finally, the darkness gave way to a cloudless sunrise and I could clearly see all the frantic activity below. A groundhog munched away on something, then gathered a mouthful of leaves and disappeared down one of its many holes. Chipmunks chased each other in wild bursts of energy and sent leaves flying in their wake. Squirrels "chalked" all around serving notice to others of their presence. One curious fox squirrel climbed a wild grapevine and stopped at my eye level less than 10 feet away. It took a few seconds to carefully look me over before letting out a couple of muffled barks around the hickory nut in its mouth. Seemingly satisfied, it descended back to the forest floor and scurried away to hide its prize.

I spent the next hour scanning the forest for unusual movement... the flick of a tail... the turn of a head... anything to give away the approach of a deer. In the thick tangle of grapevines to the west, I saw movement. Nothing I could define, but too large for a squirrel or something of that size. Slowly raising my binoculars, I trained them on the area and slowly scanned for anything out of place. It took a minute, but there she was, almost invisible behind the wall of foliage. A few minutes later the young doe worked her way to the trail that lead to my stand. With an "antlerless" tag in my pocket, the thought of some tender flavorful venison flashed into my consciousness and I took my bow from its hanger. As most trails do, this one offered the deer a choice... to take the direction that would lead under my stand and eventually to my freezer or the one that would take it harmlessly away to the relative safety of the deep forest.

I came home with a full quiver of arrows and no venison for the grille, but spirits high. It was a great morning in the field and I'll be back out there again soon.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Around the Bend" 4x6 acrylic

After a few days away from the easel, it felt good to get back to work. I really enjoy these tiny landscapes. In fact, the time is here to start adding a bit of fall color to some upcoming works!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Nuthatch and Crab Apple" selected for national tour!

I'm proud to announce that the Woodson Art Museum has selected this piece for the Birds In Art national tour. "Nuthatch and Crab Apple" will appear along with 59 other select works at the following venues next year:
  • Museum of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur, Texas (January 16 - March 13, 2011)
  • Newingtion Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York (April 4 - June 9, 2011)
  • Wendell Gilley Museum, Southwest Harbor, Maine (July 1 - October 9, 2011)
  • Michelson Art Museum, Marshall, Texas (October 29, 2011 - January 9, 2012)
This year marks the 35th Anniversary of Birds In Art. That's an amazing run! It's an honor to be a part of such an outstanding tradition. I couldn't be happier, so here's to another 35 years!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

McKeever's 8th Annual Nature Art Show

As the end of September approaches, it is time once again for the McKeever Nature Art Show. 10 area artists will display and sell their work, so there's bound to be something for everyone. Artists will be on hand all 3 days to answer questions and chat about... well... just about anything. Opening night is Friday, September 24 with hours from 6 to 9 PM. The show continues Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday from Noon to 4 PM.
I will have most of my new originals at this show and may have my easel along to give working demonstrations. If you're in the area, be sure to stop in and say hi. The address is:
McKeever Environmental Center
55 McKeever Lane
Sandy Lake, PA 16145
You can also call the Center for more information at 724-376-1000.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Birds In Art... a very special weekend

As I sit here with my coffee this cool September morning, Otis the Wonder Dog is happily snoozing with his head on my leg. He stays very close after I've been gone for a few days hoping not to get left behind again any time soon.

As for myself, I find my mind wandering as I try to process the happenings of the past 4 days. The Birds In Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin is the pinnacle of wildlife and nature art and being included in this event is both humbling and uplifting. There are always highlights and this year was no different. Carl Brenders and I shared a table at breakfast and talked about painting styles and some light art philosophy. I made some new friends and got to know some old friends a little better. And I finally got to meet Bob Bateman and discuss my painting with him... a life-long dream.

I also noticed a trend this year I had not been aware of before. A class of "young guns" is emerging. There have always been (at least in my experience) a group of established older artists, many of which have received the Master Artist Award, that are always the core of the exhibit... as it should be. But this year, more than any other, I noticed a quiet confident energy in the exhibit's underclassmen... and I'm happy to be a part of it.

One thing that never changes is the attention to detail by the museum staff and the warm-hearted generosity of Alice Smith and her family. As the foundation upon which this event is constructed, these are the people that make it so special... all the while making sure the spotlight is firmly focused on the artists. They treat us like beloved members of their family and it does not go unnoticed.

So as the last of my coffee grows cold and Otis continues to blissfully snore, my thoughts turn to next year's exhibit... and just how on earth will I managed to get back there again!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Work In Progress

I've taken a break from my mini series to work on a larger piece and this one is going quite well. During my stay in Wyoming last September, I spent a good deal of time alone in the bush. I experienced a sensation I've heard described as "bearanoia" and it stayed with me for a large portion of the trip. It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it, but there is a constant nagging feeling of being someplace you don't belong... and the consequences could be both gruesome and severe. I'm sure the folks that live in that part of the world and spend a good deal of time outdoors get used to it. That was not the case for this tenderfoot easterner. The sensation was so intense, found myself having trouble straying too far from my vehicle. Since that trip, I've been wanting to execute a painting that portrays that sensation of being alone in "bear country."
The image included here is about half of the entire composition. I'll post more as the painting nears completion.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thinking Fall... and Bow Hunting

The last few cool nights have really got me thinking about early fall archery season (like I need an excuse). Of course, today was the day I picked for a long walk in the deer woods... and it was nearly 90 degrees out. I spent about 2 hours out in the heat tromping the bush. I ended up tired and soaked with sweat. I even stumbled upon about 20 well-tended pot plants in a little clearing. That's a first!
I bought myself a new toy this year... a digital scouting camera. It's been kind of exciting thinking about locations to set up the camera for some pre-season deer surveillance. Since this is my first experience with a digital scouting camera, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Much to my delight, this sleek 8-point paused long enough for a pre-dawn photo.
I thought it was interesting that the deer was looking directly at the camera. I suppose in the darkness, the tiny red light that indicates the motion sensor had been activated is readily visible. It sure got this bucks attention, but he was comfortable enough to hang in front of the camera for more than a minute. In any case, it sure is a pretty buck!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Great News!

"Middle of Nowhere" has been selected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for their Working Together For Wildlife conservation print. After placing a disappointing second in this competition last year, the committee's 2010 selection makes it all worth while.
Artist proofs will hopefully be available for Christmas. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Antelope Flats" 6x4 acrylic on board

This is one of the most remarkable places I've ever been. With the Grand Tetons towering in the background, herds of pronghorn antelope browsed along this sage-covered plateau. They followed trails worn into the arid landscape by undoubtedly hundreds of years of use. It's the kind of place that can make a person feel very small and alone. The shear scale of the vistas can leave one wondering about their relative insignificance in the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Trouble at Gros Ventre" 5x7 acrylic on board

During a visit to Wyoming last September, I had one of those moments that never happen in the forests of western Pennsylvania. It started out innocent enough. The Gros Ventre River (pronounced "grow vont") was quite low and I was working my way through the river rocks and willows looking for moose sign and just about anything else that might make an interesting painting. About 100 yards away on the far side of the river, I spotted a cow moose feeding along and paying no attention to me. I was fairly well hidden in the willows, so I set my camera gear down and watched her for a bit with my binoculars. Actually, I was spending more time scanning the thicket behind her hoping to see the antlers of a large bull. No such luck. She was alone, so I snapped a few quick photos and settled in to watch her for a while.

It was at that point she spotted me hiding in the brush. I don't know how. I was dressed in camo, had a layer of thick willows in front of me, and stayed completely still... yet she looked right at me from 100 yards away... and headed right for me! She was only about 2 strides into the river when I realized I was in trouble. The willows all around me were too thick to run through, so I was stuck. The thought that kept going through my mind was about a statistic I'd heard on moose cows in Alaska killing more people every year than bears! And all I could do was stand there and take what fate had in store... all the while shooting photos.

I remember being impressed with how easily she plowed through that deep swift water and how her hooves sounded as they pounded across the river rocks. At less than 15 feet, she stopped, stared at me for a few seconds, then started to feed on the willows I was hiding in!

With my heart pounding in my throat, another thought slipped forward in my mind... my art would probably get into more galleries if I got trampled to death by an angry moose. HA!

Finally, she wandered away leaving me to ponder what had just happened. In the Rocky Mountain West, things can go from safe to serious in a hurry!
Now available on eBay. Click this button to place a bid.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"House Finch Study" 4x6 acrylic on board

It's fun to paint winter scenes during the summer months. For some reason, they provide me with a refreshing mental break from the heat and humidity of the long hot summers here in Pennsylvania. I much prefer temperatures in the 50s... or lower!
This painting is now available on eBay.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Broken Reflections" 7x5 acrylic on board

Lately, I've noticed my work taking yet another turn. For years, the focus of my work has been predominantly wildlife. Now I feel things shifting more toward a "landscape" genre... and I'm okay with that. There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing (or maybe more so... figuring out) how light and shadow relate to each other within the parameters of a painting. The feel of a piece becomes more about "time and place" than subject matter. I like it when people look at a painting and say, "I've been there," or "I can almost smell that water." Comments like that make my day!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Uninvited Guest" 7.5x9.5 acrylic on masonite

I've been wanting to paint this scene for quite a while and finally made the time to get it done.
When I was a kid, we used to sit on the edge of weed beds in an anchored boat plunking worms for bluegills. Some of the most vivid memories of those days are from incidents when bigger fish would chase and/or steal our fish once we had them hooked. I also remember marveling at the bloody slashes from huge sharp teeth on a lifeless bluegill after a musky tired of playing tug-of-war and spit out its prize.
"Uninvited Guest" has been submitted as cover art for Musky Hunter Magazine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Low Water" 4x6 acrylic on masonite

A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk along a local river with my dad. Rod and reels in hand, we were looking for catfish... just a couple for dinner and maybe a few more to catch and let go. It was a good morning and we caught plenty of fish. As usual, I spent more time stumbling over the rocks with my camera than fishing. The river was in all her glory and my thoughts were swept away with the current of the low clear water. I knew right then I'd be painting several scenes from this short outing... and this is the first.
"Low Water" is #8 in my current series of minis and is now in a private collection.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Dark Observer" 5x7 acrylic on masonite

When I started this series of miniatures, I wasn't sure how many I'd be able to complete before I got tired of them. As it turns out, I'm enjoying the hell of the work! It has allowed me to work on solutions to problems in composition and execution without the laborious undertaking of a large painting. I've been able to complete two on most weeks, which also gives me that boost from a sense of accomplishment I always feel when a painting is signed and ready for market.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Hook, Line, and Sinker" 6x4 acrylic on masonite

I like painting fish. I started drawing and painting trout when I was very young, but now paint many different species of freshwater fish. I've always been fascinated with aquatic life and the goings on below the water's surface.
This bluegill study is in preparation for a larger painting to appear on the cover of Musky Hunter Magazine in the near future.

Maybe pan-fried bluegills and home-fries for dinner tonight... hmmmmmm...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Grassland Whitetail" 5x7 acrylic on masonite

This is study #5 in my current series of miniature paintings. I love painting whitetails and this piece was no different.

To place a bid on this painting, click on the link below.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Trout Water" 26x17 acrylic on masonite

Wow... this one was a long time coming! Started as a demonstration piece for this blog (see posts from October 2009), I originally intended the painting to include mountain bluebirds. But once I painted the bluebirds in, the magical feel of clear cold moving water and polished granite completely disappeared... and I was lost. I repainted the birds 3 or 4 times with almost no improvement and finally banished the unruly painting to the "future consideration" heap in the corner of the studio.

Finally, this morning after months of "thinking about it," I removed the bluebirds and PRESTO! The feeling I loved so much about this piece in the beginning was back. Funny thing about years of painting... it gives the artist the confidence to take chances, knowing full well any misstep can be corrected. It's a liberating feeling. So, when the birds were gone (flown away so to speak), I tweaked the colors a bit and finished the structure of the rocks on the stream bottom. When I stepped back, I knew it was finished... without those damned bluebirds!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Toad and Moss" 6x4 acrylic on masonite

This is the 4th in my series of mini paintings. The eBay link will be posted here tomorrow evening.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Winter Lady" 6x4 acrylic on masonite

During this unbearably hot stretch of weather, I thought it might be nice to mentally escape to a cooler place. I've always liked the color of the lady cardinals, though getting the subtle hues correct can be a bit of a challenge. I'll give the eBay thing a try again this Sunday evening, so when this painting goes up for auction, I'll post the link here.

I think it's supposed to be cooler tomorrow. We can only hope.

7/21/10 update: This piece is now in a private collection.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Jack-In-The-Pulpit 5" 7x5 acrylic on masonite

This is study #2 in my miniature series. This piece is also slated to go on eBay Sunday eveing and I will post the link here.
Note: This painting was purchased before posting on eBay.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Challenge

Over the next couple of months, I've decided to work on my artistic growth. There seems to be no better way than pure mileage on my brushes. And no better way to push those miles than a dozen or so tiny studies. The focus of these studies will be to explore ways to achieve interesting light on my subjects, improve my use of color, and better my painting technique.

The first of these studies is titled "Edge of Summer" and is 4x6 acrylic on masonite. I'm sure many of these experiments will turn out to be flops, but I will post the successes here on my blog. These "mini" paintings will be for sale on eBay and the links will be posted here as they become available.

Note: This painting was sold before posting on eBay.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"A Rock and a Hard Place" 6x10 acrylic on masonite

The past week has been a real struggle, but seeing this piece materialize has helped. This spring, a pair of killdeers were trying to nest in the middle of the neighbors' driveway. It was certainly a less than ideal location for a nest site, but we marked it with several large rocks hoping to keep cars away. After a hawk picked off one of the parents in a puff of feathers, the other loyally stayed with the nest for more than a week... even while that pesky hawk dive-bombed and neighborhood cats conducted nighttime raids. Just days before the eggs (4 of them) were about to hatch, some buffoon (probably with a cellphone stuck to their head) ran over the nest with a car, crushing the eggs and ending any chance we'd have tiny killdeers scurrying around the property. This painting is a tribute to this killdeer's admirable, yet sadly futile determination.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Days Like This...

I suppose most people involved in this goofy world of art have days like this. Every time I set to work on a task, somehow I lose focus and find myself wandering around the studio trying to figure out just exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. Actually, most of the week has been this way... no direction... little incentive... and an uncontrollable wandering mind... not even the desire to go outside and goof off. Still, I made myself paint. I made good progress too... with another relatively small painting within a day or two of completion.

One of my goals (and an absolute necessity) for the year is to find a new gallery to carry my work. I knew it would be tough, but jeez... not this tough! I've contacted more than a dozen galleries in the last few weeks, and of the ones that bothered to respond, the "Thanks, but no thanks," rejection notes are really starting to wear on me. Seriously, are they even looking at the samples I'm sending?

I either need to start drinking more... or drinking less, because this isn't working.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Hide-Away Lake" 8x16 acrylic on masonite

Well, I did it. The water in this piece is everything I'd hoped for. I was having such fun working on this piece, I kept after it far longer today than I usually work. I love what I do!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Simple, Yet Effective

Capturing the rhythms of water and light are always a challenge. It takes a lot of time and effort to avoid that distracting "brushy" look... especially when using acrylics. That's one reason why it's always so rewarding when it works out. There is certainly a "mood" to this piece... even in these early stages. I'm hoping for a lonesome, yet hopeful piece (for some reason, ducks always seem "hopeful" to me). As you can see, the block in is complete and I've begun to add some detail and punch up the contrast. One key to getting a "glassy" look to water is taking great care to get the under-painting correct. Acrylics are far too transparent to hide a lot of sloppy prep work. Take your time and wash in thin layers with a relatively large brush... and try to keep the edges soft. They can always be hardened a bit later if necessary.

After two days of work, I feel like this piece is coming along nicely. It's good to be back in a groove again!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Middle of Nowhere"

It seems like this one has been on the easel forever! The image on the right is part of a much larger piece and is very near completion. In fact, I will set it aside for a week or so and assess my work with a fresh eye. I know these cubs need some work to soften them up a bit. They look a little "cartoony" for my liking, but the forms are accurate and the placement is good. I'm particularly pleased with the cobble along the stream bed. I was not looking forward to painting in all those rocks, but the result was well worth the effort (and it was easier than I thought!).

Now... on to something new...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Still in a Rut

Well, working with the oils didn't help. Actually, I think it made things worse. Taking the day off Friday to go fishing began to recharge my batteries, but Saturday was a bust. It's getting so bad, I couldn't sleep last night wondering when I would be able to push forward again. I've got Birds In Art papers to fill out and send in... yet they sit here staring at me unfinished. I've got framing to order... not done. The deadline for my black bear painting (a portion of which is seen here) is fast approaching, but it has been on the easel for weeks... with no progress.
This production drought is really grinding on me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Working Out of a Rut

It's been hard for me to work the past few days. I'm not sure what the problem is, but nothing was getting done. Finally, I got the oils out and started smacking some paint around. With fits of frenetic production punctuated by periods of near stagnation, my working life has more ups and downs than the stock market. Rather than accepting the "ruts" as a necessary part of the process (a much more sane and productive approach!) and being happy with the down time, I really let them get to me. My emotions will range from some sort of self-loathing depression to full blown panic. The sticky slow motion days have a feeling of permanency and creatively speaking... it's absolutely paralyzing. Just the other day, my sister was needling me a bit saying, "Noooooo... not my brother... obsessing over something!" Point well taken ;)

Sometimes I can get out a sketch journal and "draw my way out," and that's never a bad thing. Most of us artist types could use a little more drawing time. I can usually force myself out of doldrums after a few days... making myself paint rather than just staring at my projects wondering what to do next.

The last couple of days, I've been working on some oil portraits... slowly making progress.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reality Check

I was sitting here in front of the TV, watching the hockey game, and writing a new blog post about the joy of being accepted into Birds In Art... that's when I got the call. I feel like the artist community I'm a part of is pretty tight. We all watch out for each other... especially those in the Birds In Art "family." That's why I was so stunned to hear that my friend, Debby Kaspari (whose blog "Drawing the Motmot" is linked to this page) lost her beautiful house and studio to a tornado today in Oklahoma. She, her husband Mike, and their cat all made it to their storm shelter in the nick of time and are all currently holed up in a shelter. The details are a little sketchy and all my information is second-hand (from her sister and other artist friends). I'm waiting to hear.
So now I sit here a thousand miles away... feeling helpless... not knowing what to do... and thinking how lucky I am. I wish I could do more.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birds In Art 2010

It is with great pleasure and pride that I announce the selection of "Nuthatch and Crabapple" for inclusion in the 2010 Birds In Art exhibit in Wausau, Wisconsin. Birds In Art is perhaps the most prestigious wildlife art exhibit in the world and is organized and hosted by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. It is truly a remarkable event! This marks the 4th consecutive year I've been fortunate enough to impress the jurors with my work. Now that the anxiety of the jury process if over, the burden of living up to this prestigious honor begins anew.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Walk in the Woods

It was far too nice a day yesterday to stay couped up in the studio. Finally, I got everything that needed to be done out of the way... and bolted for the rest of the afternoon. My dad and I went to one of our "secret" mushroom spots and put a few miles on our boots. Of course, I spent more time poking around looking for frogs and wildflowers than mushrooms, but we found our share. I nearly always have my camera with me, so I shot plenty of photos. I think some wildflower paintings are in order!
It's funny how my mind wanders while I meander through the forest (and through life). I find myself drawn to splashes of color like a raven to shiny sliver of tin foil... composing paintings on the hoof... and completely losing focus of the task at hand. I'm quite confident I walked right by most of the morels before I realized I wasn't "looking."
Tonight I'm making dinner... morels stuffed with spinach and ricotta. I can hardly wait.