Saturday, March 31, 2012

No April Fools Here

For all those that regularly check this blog, thank you! This is just a "heads up" for April Fools Day. If someone calls you tomorrow and tells you they want to give you part of the $640,000,000 they won in the lottery yesterday... well... you know the rest. Don't get duped by the knuckleheads out there trying to set you up for a laugh. Keep your head on a swivel and have a great day :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Here's another (almost finished) section of the 20x30 painting currently on the easel. It's coming along with only a few small snags to this point. Most of the hard stuff is done, so hopefully it will move quicker from here on out. Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Birds In Art

There are landmarks on my calendar every year that I spend a good deal of time and energy working toward. The event I give the most emphasis is usually the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s Birds In Art exhibit. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a painting included in this outstanding show for the past five years. Along with that good fortune comes a self-imposed burden of keeping that streak alive.

After getting the coveted “big envelop” for the first time, I challenged myself to prove it wasn’t just a fluke. Still not feeling 100% certain I “belonged” in that crowd after year number 2, the 3rd consecutive inclusion helped cement my place in the Birds In Art family. If I thought the stress level waiting to hear from the exhibits selection committee would back off a bit, I was completely wrong!

Since that 3rd year, I’ve gained many friends in the art world… many of whom expect a strong entry from me on a yearly basis. Those expectations from my peers carry with them a considerable amount of weight. The heaviest burden (the one that keeps me awake at night) is still, however, imposed by yours truly. I feel it’s vitally important to put my best foot forward for Birds In Art. It’s not just blowing smoke when you hear someone say, “Birds In Art is the most prestigious wildlife art exhibit in the world.” That very statement is always on my mind when I sit down at the easel.

That being said, I better get back to work. My entries still have a long way to go before the April 15 deadline!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is It Still March?

With the official start of spring still a couple of days away, I invited an old friend (BT) to spend the day fly fishing with me on one of the few local "catch and release" streams. As this unseasonable weather holds true to form, the sun melted the fog off early and the air temperature shot up above 70° well before noon. Mergansers and Canada geese paddled by in pairs and other wildlife bustled about as we fished. BT and I both marveled and grimaced at the May-like temperatures as we wondered out loud what it would mean for summer fishing. If we don't have a serious cold snap soon, the water will be too warm by June to support much life other than carp and bluegills. Still, we were happy to be out fishing on such a pleasant day.

The fish were being difficult, as is usually the case when you have the mindset that this is going to be "easy" fishing. Large black stoneflies began to hatch late in the morning, so we moved to the riffles where BT immediately began to catch fish on wet flies. We both enjoyed a the next 2 hours as fish continually pounded the flies as we worked them down and across the current. By the time we got back to the truck, it was almost 3:00. I was tired and happy. It was a good day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Signs of Life

On days like today, I just can't stand to be inside. It was 70° here today and for the second week of March, it seems like it might just be too warm. In any case, I grabbed a fishing rod and a camera and headed for the truck. With Otis the Wonder Dog along for the ride, we soon found ourselves at a small local farm pond. As we worked our way around the pond's north edge I could see swarms of bluegills seeking the slightly warmer water of the shallows. This pond had ice on it a week ago, so the water was still very cold. Several decent largemouth bass cruised by a bit deeper. A nervous pair of wood ducks paddled around a log on the far side. Red-winged blackbirds sang in the tree tops as though they believed the remnants of winter were behind them. Otis found frogs to chase. We were both happy.

The fish were active, but not much interested in my offerings. Still, I managed to catch a few bass and a handful of small bluegills. Not feeling like cleaning fish on this fine day, I let them go. Finally, I set the fishing rod aside and picked up the camera.

Bunches of snow drops were blooming in the brush near a yet to be plowed field, crocus sprang up in the edges of yards, and coltsfoot turned the roadside ditches yellow with bright blossoms. It was a good day to be poking around in the woodlots of western Pennsylvania.

As I write this, Otis is happily snoring on the couch beside me. I think I'll make it an early night as well :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Small Progress, Big Painting

As I move forward on this large 20x30 painting, I celebrate the little victories. Above, I've included an image of a 8x12 section of the painting I've been working on for the past couple of days. I'm happy to see the brush forming along the water's edge and the accompanying reflections. I'm also pleased with my handling of all those tiny little twigs and the way they read better as contiguous large forms of color rather than thousands of singular brush strokes. As larger paintings go, this one is coming together rather quickly... especially considering the complex forms involved. There's still much to be done, but for now... I am happy :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Evenings at the Bat Cave

As spring approaches and the days get longer, I find my evenings filled with fly tying. It's a ritual of sorts. I enjoy the care and precision of fly tying and the almost intoxicating giddiness I get each time I fool a trout with one of my creations. Now I'm no master at the tying vise. My flies aren't complicated or gaudy. They're more of the workman type... elegantly simple and deadly effective. I've got about a dozen patterns that get me through most situations here in western Pennsylvania. I tend to tweak the patterns a bit from year to year as I restock my fly box. Sometimes the tweaks work and sometimes they end up being too much and fall flat. The little devil in the photo is my own variation of a variation of the old standby prince nymph. I've caught hundreds of fish on prince nymphs, but I'm hopeful this fly in various color combinations will end up being a solid all around fish catcher. It will get some rigorous testing this spring.

Now I need some serious work on my miserable casting technique!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Last Steelhead

I'm saying this is the "last" steelhead of the season, though it is equally one of my first. I didn't get out more than a couple of times this year and struggled mightily to find fish. Today, we walked for nearly 2 miles before we found a handful of decent steelhead in the clear water of Elk Creek. I'm not sure if the unusually mild winter had the fish moving back to Lake Erie early, or if we just weren't looking in the right places. Still, we hooked several and landed a few. It was good to be outdoors and knock some of the rust off. The air temperature on this sunny March day was near 60°!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

REMF Banquet

A couple of months ago, a friend called and invited me to display my work at a banquet for the local chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. That evening was open for me, so I agreed. The banquet was held last night and I guess I wasn't prepared for such a productive and entertaining evening. With everything that goes on at these functions (raffles, auctions, socializing, etc.), I really didn't expect my paintings to get much attention from the members. As it turned out, there were quite a few art lovers in the crowd and I spent the entire evening chatting with folks about hunting, fishing, and yes... art! It was a wonderful evening and I wouldn't be surprised if it leads to a sale or two in the future. Thanks REMF!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Big Possibilities

With a large 20x30 gray board staring back at me from the easel, I thought it would be a good time to say a few words about my initial approach to bigger pieces. I don’t work in this large format very often, so when I do, it’s pretty exciting. Anything is possible at this point. The potential is both intimidating and exhilarating. For me, the process of producing a large painting is something that needs to be mapped out ahead of time. I have a vision of exactly how I’d like the finished work to look from earlier studies. Then I need a specific plan of attack on how to achieve that goal. It’s important to sniff out potential problems areas ahead of time and have a strategy on how to handle them. This keeps me from getting bogged down (as I often do with larger paintings). It also helps to have a couple of smaller pieces in various stages of completion. That way, I can periodically go back to those smaller works and move them forward. It’s a bit of a head game I work on to stay fresh. I know my mind well enough to realize I rarely work one of these larger paintings straight through to completion without at least a couple of “what the hell am I doing?” and “this will never get done” road blocks. Still, with all the planning and mental gymnastics, some paintings are just hard to get along with and need to be leaned in the corner facing the wall for a week or two! Stay tuned for progress (or lack of progress) reports J