Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Re-Work

I just wasn't happy with Shannon's jacket and the lack of "life" in the background. So I dove back in this morning and started pushing paint around. With some solid advice from my good friend, Dustin Van Wechel (a wonderful painter in his own right) I was able to execute some fairly drastic changes that turned out nicely. I took some of the warm browns from the hair and incorporated them into the background along with some subtle blue-grays. I also painted out a good deal of the jacket. It felt clumsy to me, but I like it much better like this.
I'm happy. This one is done... for now :)

Monday, March 29, 2010


There are times when I'm drawn back to some of my older work... not because I'm relishing in my success, but because I know I can make it better. Such is the case with this latest piece. I went back and repainted the entire canvas, changing almost everything but the basic forms. "Shannon 2" is 14x10 oil on canvas panel.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Early Spring Outing

I was finally able to get my boat on the water for a few hours yesterday. The last remnants of lake ice had melted just last week and I knew it wouldn't be long before ducks and geese would show themselves... stopping by on their journey north. It was great to be out in the sun and the waterfowl seemed to agree. Noisy Canada geese were happy to be on "soft" water again... splashing in the shallows as if to command the attention of everything else within earshot. Mallards, wood ducks, and even a pair of black ducks paddled in and out of sight through the maze of last year's vegetation.
It's quite an advantage for an artist to have a boat. An on-the-water perspective is quite different from the views afforded to land-bound folks. I can't wait to get out there again!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fly Fishing is Good for the Soul

With the first day of spring right around the corner, I've been taking every available opportunity to get outside. Yesterday was no different. The morning was crisp and the dry air nipped at any exposed skin. It didn't feel like the weather girl's prediction of 65 degrees would come true. Still, a long walk from the truck to the river got my blood pumping and quickly warmed me... and the brilliant sun certainly didn't hurt that cause. My legs began to ache as a long winter of relative inactivity has left me badly out of shape, but spirits were high... especially when we began to spot fish.

There's almost always a little doubt in my mind as I make my first few casts. It increases with every drift and every change of flies that doesn't produce a take. One hour quickly becomes two and the next thing you know, I'm wandering up and down the stream bank unsure if I'll ever figure out what the fish want. I can see them... LOTS of them... big and dark against the stream bottom... some near 30 inches and over 10 pounds. Yet my offerings produce little more than the occasional bump from a rock on the bottom. It's incredibly frustrating. If it were easy, I suppose it wouldn't be near as much fun.

Then it happens. One of those "bumps" becomes hooked solid. The fly rod is bent double and nothing is moving... just for an instant, I wonder if I snagged that rock... but then a large fish rolls and races quickly down stream... leaving a boil on the surface of the swift river and quickly ripping into the backing on my reel. After gaining most of my line back and closing the distance considerably, I can see it's a large egg-laden hen... and at that instant, the hook pulls free and she swims slowly back into the main current and out of sight. It would be heart-breaking if it weren't so much fun... and I know there are plenty of fish.

The rest of the day produces many hooked fish... some landed and some lost. By sunset, I'm home, tired and happy. Today will be a work day energized by yesterday's fishing. It's all good!

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Canada Dawn" 8x10 acrylic on masonite

There are times in the field when I just know I'm onto something good. I shot the reference photos for this painting almost a year ago as the sun was coming up on a nearby lake. Geese were honking somewhere in the distance and this lone goose stood at attention watching the horizon... as if hoping for company... or maybe a returning mate.
The ice is quickly disappearing here in northwestern Pennsylvania... and soon I'll be back out there with my sketch books and camera gear looking for other inspiring scenes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thinking Spring

Now that the weather has taken a noticeable turn for the better, I've been thinking a lot about spring. A flurry of bird activity has been pulling me to the studio window to watch. Morel mushroom season is still 6 weeks away, along with most spring wildflowers... but there are signs of the coming color explosion. With that in mind, I went through my photo files and found some wildflowers to paint.
"Spring Cress and Violets" 7x5 oil on canvas panel

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Letting Go...

One of the most difficult things I've had to deal with as a painter is, on occasion, letting go of my tight "photo-realism" techniques and smacking paint down with broad strokes of a bigger brush. There is a great deal of freedom that comes with versatility. I like the idea of being able to choose my painting style as my subject (or my artistic vision) dictates. This painting style is quite challenging for me... and I think that's one of the reasons I find it so rewarding. I struggle with the liberal use of color... a boundary that once conquered, I think will translate nicely into my more detailed work.
"Coyote" is 10x8, oil on canvas panel.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Experiments in Color

I struggle sometimes with seemingly unenthusiastic use of color. Of course, nature tends to be seen in shades of gray with bursts of color sparingly intertwined. Yet I admire the painters who freely use vibrant hue in their work. I've been working with some small oil studies the last couple of weeks hoping to free up a bit of the uninhibited artist within.

As you can see in the detail view, the application of paint in small buttery dobs is quite a departure from my typical style. You can also see that I'm not exactly smacking in strokes of raw color. That means more glorious practice is ahead! These small studies are relatively quick and fun to paint... so there will be many more to come!