Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Shady Characters"

"Shady Character" 10x10 acrylic
Not a bad piece to wrap up January 2014 :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January's Black Cloud

There are winters that seem to breeze by without much drama or strife and pretty much transition from fall to spring leaving me wondering where all the snow went. This in not one of those.
It's only January and already I've been skulking around here with a scowl befitting a monster villain on Scooby Doo. I haven't resorted to throwing things yet, but I can feel it coming. It's that black cloud again and I know when it gets here, it can be awfully difficult to shake. Otis the Wonder Dog has been staying pretty close and keeping an eye on me... frequently putting his feet up on my painting chair and giving me doggie kisses because he knows. He always tries to help, dropping his favorite ball on my foot and wagging his tail.
Keeping my mind busy with work here in the studio has kept me productive, but done nothing to improve my disposition. It was 22° outside and the forecast was calling for highs in the single digits most of the next 10 days. I really needed a break.
Knowing it would not be any warmer for the next week or so, I put my fishing bag in the truck and headed for a trout stream. At the very least, I would get some fresh air in my lungs and work some of the cobwebs out of my brain. Of course I was hoping for a trout or two, but that was almost too much to ask on a day like this. Still, I need to get out and go through the motions.
As it turned out, the fish were cooperative and I managed to catch a few. It seemed strange to hear myself laughing on the deserted stream, but the trout made me giggle. The sting of frigid air on my hands after releasing them was another story.
For 3 hours, I moved cautiously along with the wind and snow biting at my face. I'd make a few casts letting my flies cover the better areas of the pools, take a couple of small steps upstream, and make a few more casts. I knew the trout would be very near the bottom in this cold water and my flies were constantly hanging up on rocks, sticks, and leaves. But every once in a while, the line would pause and I'd lift my rod to feel the dull throbbing of a fish. Of course, under normal circumstances this would be nothing remarkable. Today, it was shear joy... if for no other reason than the contrast of my mood just hours before and the absurdity of fly fishing in such nasty weather.
I had planned to fish until dark, but could no longer feel my feet. It wasn't far back to the truck, but when I got there, my wading shoes were frozen solid. With my cold fingers operating at about 30% dexterity, I had a hell of a time getting my boots off. The wind was picking up and there came a sense of ergency to get this done. I really wanted to be in the cab of the truck getting warm!
By the time that was done, it was beginning to get dark. I carefully put my fly rod back in its case and stored the reel in my fishing bag. The truck had been running, so it was warm inside and I huddled inside letting the heat soak into my body. Again, I heard myself laughing. It's no wonder people think I'm freakin' nuts!

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Latent Velocity"... revised edition

"Latent Velocity" 12x9 acrylic
Another of my favorites from a couple of years ago got a makeover today. Sometimes when a painting doesn't sell, there are small tweaks that can be a tremendous addition to the overall appeal of the piece. Sometimes it's as simple as changing the frame. In this case, I've done both and the impact is about as good as I could have hoped for. I'm pretty happy with the results. 
Anyone want to buy some old frames? HA!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Irish Whiskey, a Good Cigar, and the Tailgate of the Truck

My fishing partner Ben stopped by last night to shoot the breeze and celebrate his recent retirement. It's important for us to get together occasionally during the winter months. It keeps us from going completely insane as we wait for decent fishing weather.
We sat at the kitchen table and had a couple of beers while we talked about everything we'd been doing the past few weeks. Ben is a grouse hunter and his dogs keep him busy wearing out boot leather chasing these handsome birds. It is something he takes very seriously and I like listening to him talk about it. The conversation drifted easily from one topic to the next... bow hunting... fly tying... wild mushrooms... the Rocky Mountains in Montana.
Eventually, we poured a couple of glasses of whiskey and headed out to the garage. I opened the garage door and dropped the tailgate of the truck. Otis the Wonder Dog sat happily between us as we fired up cigars and stared into the blackness of this January night.
We talked about how no one seems to be all that interested in the things we do anymore. At least not the way we do them. Being an outdoorsman for us has always been a very personal. It's hard to explain to most people, but there is a high level of satisfaction that comes along with doing something the right way... which is rarely the easy way. Time seems to have passed us by right along with our traditional interests, but as I sit here this morning thinking about this, that's okay. These simple things where we seem to find so much pleasure would not be so special if everyone did them. In fact, their relative obscurity only adds to the mystique. I don't think I'd want it any other way. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Binge Drawing

I'm never quite sure when this condition will hit me or how long it will last. The pages of my sketchbooks fill almost magically and drawings pop up in other places as well (invoices, book pages, table clothes, frosted car windows!). There are periods of complete tunnel vision when the only thing that seems to snap me out of it is the phone ringing or Otis whining at the door because he needs to go out and pee! Then I realize hours have passed. I am hungry, my throat is dry, and my hands are covered in graphite. I am tired but happy, my list of chores for the day have gone unfinished, and I want to take a nap.
Binge drawing is not always productive in terms of finished/saleable art, but it's NEVER a waste of time. I always learn from these mad sessions. It makes me think without trying to think. It makes me see things as they are rather than relying on preconceived (and usually inaccurate) notions.
This current binge is a good one! It's been a couple of weeks now and shows little sign of letting up. I sure hope Otis understands!



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

If It's Not Right... FIX IT!

I've had time the last couple of days to rethink a couple of paintings that just weren't working for me. I'd repainted the elements bothering me on each of these pieces at least twice before now. I just wasn't having much success.
Last night I dug the "Rock Star" painting out of 'naughty painting' corner of the studio and tried to breathe some life into it. Finally, I feel better about this one!
"Rock Star" 12x20 acrylic
 I was never happy with the placement or the rendering of the bird in the earlier versions. There was a magnolia warbler in this painting and later a white-throated sparrow. No matter what I tried, they seemed to be flat and lifeless. Maybe they just didn't want to be there! The chickadee on the other hand, seems content to hang on one of the small vines before flitting off in search of a bug.
 Satisfied I'd cleared a hurdle with the painting above, I decided to push my luck with "Rites of Spring". Again, I'm much happier with the painting now. Thanks to a suggestion from Terry Miller, it became obvious the placement of the turkeys was not quite right.
2nd or 3rd version still not working!

 I really wanted this painting to be more about the landscape than the turkeys. Unfortunately, that damned gobbler kept drawing all the attention!
By moving the turkeys into the dark area at the base of the tall trees, they seem much less intrusive... even though they're considerably larger than in previous versions. I think it works much better now.
"Rites of Spring" 12x20 acrylic

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Post #300! Let's Talk More About Drawing...

I suppose it's fitting that I start the new year with yet another post about drawing. There are few things in life I find more enjoyable and almost nothing as important to my career as an artist. On my list of goals for 2014, Goal #23 is "Fill three sketch books!" Even for someone who loves to draw as much as I do, this will be quite an accomplishment.

I also want to test out some new materials for my drawings and studies. Perhaps a water-soluble pen or some watercolor pencils? Still, the core of the exercise is always about the drawing. These new materials will present a bit of a challenge as I will have to give myself permission to fail more than once or twice before I figure out how to incorporate them into my work. That's a struggle for me. Allowing myself to fail from time to time offers up a chance to draw with more freedom, capturing gestures and not worrying about the "finished product." They are after all, just studies. They are for me and no one else needs to see them unless I choose. Still, it's easier said than done.

I also need to do more drawing (and painting) in the field. The challenges of field studies can be daunting... especially when trying to figure these things out on your own. I've been doing more outdoor drawing the past two years than ever before. I hope that trend continues. Again, I have to give myself permission to fail on occasion. It can be frustrating as hell dealing with all the elements over which we have no control, but the rewards are well worth the effort!

With the New Year ahead, many adventures seem to be just beyond the horizon. It's an exciting time to be an artist and I intend to push myself past a few very steep challenges of personal and artistic growth. The drawings are just a small part of this, but are also the foundation upon which all other aspects of my art are built. Yes... they are THAT IMPORTANT!

Happy New Year my friends! I hope it's a good one for us all!