Friday, April 27, 2012

"Baldpate" 5x7 acrylic

Here's a little study I just finished. I like the loose brushy water against the more refined form of the duck. I need to do more experiments like this.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


A pleasant surprise!
This has been such a goofy spring. The early warm weather has all sorts of things messed up. Until this year, I'd never found morel mushrooms near here in April. Two weeks ago the tiny early specimens started showing themselves in some of the usual places. Then came the cold again and the last two days... snow. Yesterday, after the snow melted, I found this dandy while scouting a new hunting area. I may have to go back in a few days to check for more :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Penns Creek Adventure

A spectacular wild brookie

There are times when the crush of life seems to push me to a reclusive extreme. Last week I found myself far back in my introverted shell and not really wanting to come out. Rather than gritting my teeth and facing the world, I usually retire to the safety of my studio and accomplish next to nothing. Fortunately for me, I had been invited to a fishing camp on the famed waters of Penns Creek for some downtime with friends. The timing of this outing couldn't have been better. The mere preparation of my gear for the trip kept my mind and hands busy with organization. It felt like I was at least moving forward... even if the steps were small.
Tiny jewel in a trickle of a stream
As my truck covered the miles eastbound, I could feel the burden of everyday life being lifted and the knot between my shoulder blades slowly worked itself away.

Somewhere in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, my brain shifted gears and began to work at a more pleasant and productive pace. Thoughts of wild brook trout threatened to put my final destination on hold. Finally, I gave in and drifted the truck to the side of a narrow dusty road and lashed up my little 3-weight rod.
I was not disappointed as my rod was soon bent with a spectacularly marked little trout. I laughed out loud knowing no one was there to hear me... but not really caring if anyone did.
The scene played itself over several times in the next two hours. The trout were there, but nearly impossible to get a fly to. Well-placed casts were rewarded with a confident take... though most of my casts were not "well-placed" and much of my time was spent picking my fly out of the hemlock branches. Such is life on a tiny tangled mountain stream and I walked back to the truck grinning like I'd won the lottery.

Al Budny with a typical Penns brown trout

When I finally arrived at the cabin on Penns Creek, fish were rising in the green water and would continue to do so for most of the next three days. The fishing would be spectacular by Penns Creek standards. Many wild browns were hooked and landed or lost and I still can't believe how hard they fight!

"Sweetie" napping on a pile of  waders

For a while at least, life slowed to a comfortable rhythm. Sitting on the cabin's porch in the afternoon, it was easy to spot fish rising to the abundant mayflies on the nearby river. Still, with a beer in hand, my butt firmly planted in a soft chair, and the pleasant company of a few well-mannered bird dogs, there was never much of a rush to gear up and fish. It happened in its own time. And if it didn't... that was okay too.

We ate and drank too much, smoked good cigars, told stories (some true and some not so much), and generally did the things men do when women aren't around to keep us in line. On the river, the inviting sound of hardy laughter carried above the hum of moving water. I slept soundly each night, tired, well-fed, and happy.
Joe and Al taking in the morning

We found ourselves awake early, drinking coffee and feeling better than we should have on only 6 hours of sleep. We watched the river and tied a few flies. Breakfast was a production of epic proportion. Sausage, bacon, eggs, home fries, Texas toast, pancakes... all cooked outside on a giant wood-fire-heated griddle called "The Monster." At no point was it necessary to think about lunch after ingesting the mega-calorie Monster breakfast. It was all I could do to bend over and lace up my wading shoes for the morning!

Finally, as if to tell us our Penns Creek experience was nearing the end, a steady rain set in. High winds and falling temperatures went almost unnoticed as we sat near the fireplace and celebrated the day. Still, we knew the fishing was done. As it turned out, an unusual April snow storm would pound the area a day later. Our departure was well-timed.

I hope to return to Penns in the near future. I also know it may never treat me this well again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Black Cloud

It’s funny how life sometimes throws speed bumps into a seemingly smooth ride. I’ll be cruising along feeling pretty good about the direction of my work… then something throws me into a tailspin. For some reason, it seems to take longer for me to recover than “normal” people. It’s like a storm cloud rumbling in the back of my mind. Some days the cloud sits on top of me like an anvil and I struggle to accomplish anything. Other days it’s more distant and less ominous. But that black cloud is always there threatening to unleash a storm that might wash me away.
It’s been almost impossible for me to paint the last few days. I’ll dob a few blobs of paint on one of my current projects, but find myself sitting there staring at the panel while the paint dries on my brush. So I busy myself doing mindless chores around the house (cutting the grass, vacuuming dog hair, washing the truck) trying to work my way out of this funk. An accomplishment of even the smallest task seems to help. Just doing the dishes makes me feel a little better.

I don’t buy into the whole “tortured artist” thing, though a gimmick like that would probably score some points with some of the bigger galleries (don’t get me started on that!). I don’t think you’ll see me dressed in rags and skulking around quoting ominous clich├ęs from some Goth handbook anytime soon. I know people who do weird stuff like that. They think it makes them interesting, but it just makes them weird! I know my mind doesn’t work like everyone else’s. And that’s okay. I also know this will pass.
The answer for me is usually somewhere in my work… either painting or drawing… or perhaps an extended road trip to shoot some reference material… or a phone call from an artist friend (sometimes writing about it helps too!). It’s out there and I just have to keep working toward it… one foot in front of the other.
So the black cloud will pass… hopefully sooner than later… and life will get back to normal. The cloud will come around again. It always does. But it never keeps me down forever… and Otis the Wonder Dog is always here to help me through the tough parts 

My best bud :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Downy Woodpecker Study

Downy Study 10x6 acrylic

I just finished this cute little guy, but haven't been able to come up with an adequate title. Anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Recharging the Creative Batteries

Brilliantly marked rainbow trout
There have been a lot of check marks added to my "to do" list the last few days, so I decided to treat myself to an afternoon on one of my favorite local trout streams. After all, the weather was beautiful and I'm not sure my focus would've been very good if I had to spend the day at the easel.
Caddis flies

As I sat on the bumper of the truck and pulled on my waders, I noticed there were tiny wildflowers carpeting nearby forest floor. I wandered over to check them out and that's when I noticed a swarm of large brown caddis flies hovering above the stream. There were thousands of them... on branches... on stones... in the air... EVERYWHERE! What seemed strange to me as I watched the bugs bouncing all over the water, not a single fish rose to the surface to eat one. Okay, fine. I tied on a tandem of small nymphs and began to probe the deeper current seems for fish feeding below. It didn't take long before I had a fat rainbow splashing around at my feet. I was happy.
Spring beauty

  I don't count fish anymore. Numbers don't impress me and I'm not sure they really impress many others. If you know any fisherman, you understand the relative accuracy of numbers of fish caught and their respective sizes. They're pretty much always taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

When I look back to my fishing experiences, I pretty much describe them as follows:
    Wild brown trout
  • Skunked
  • Got a few
  • It was a good day
  • I did so well I never stopped smiling the entire day
  • Don't even bother telling anyone, because nobody will believe you!
Today was one of those "never stopped smiling" days. I had to work for the fish, but if I put right fly in the right spot, I was usually rewarded. There were big fat holdover rainbows mixed in with the usual stockers and even a pair of pretty little wild browns. Nice.

As the sun was getting low, I worked my way back to the truck. I knew there were a couple of very large fish in the run just down from the parking area. I'm sure they've seen their share of flies (and even a few outlaw worms since I found an empty styrofoam container tossed in the streamside brush), but I decided to drift a few flies through before I called it a day. As if to end the day in appropriate fashion, I watched a large dark form shift slightly in the current as my flies passed. I lifted the rod smartly and the gin clear water erupted. The big fish shot straight in the air, slammed back to that water, and bolted downstream. My little 4-weight fly rod bucked and the reel howled.

I'm not sure how big that fish was, but when I had my hands on her, I knew I'd caught smaller steelhead! I unhooked her and slid her back in the water where she disappeared into the ever-darkening water. I clipped off my flies and walked to the truck.

Sitting once again on the bumper, I slid my boots off and breathed in the sweet evening air. Life is pretty good, I thought to myself. Pretty good indeed.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Snow on Willow Bay" 20x30 acrylic

Here's the piece I've been working on for the past month. It's been an all-consuming task, but the end is in sight. There are still some tweaks that need to be made before I can call it "finished!", but it's 99% there. Below is a detail crop from the painting. I think I'll let this one sit for a few days before I make the necessary adjustments. Besides, there are dozens of other projects that need some attention soon. The grass needs cut, studio cleaned, laundry, dishes...