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.