Monday, December 31, 2012


Tonight at 7:30 pm PST, I'll be on stage in the Spokane Symphony Chorale with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra for the first downbeat of Beethoven's Ninth.
In past years, our New Year's Eve concert has had a sold out house of over 1600 and we look forward to a similar crowd tonight. Our conductor is Ekhart Preu who, growing up in Germany, makes sure our German pronounciation is correct and exciting.

Singing a great piece of music is a wonderful way to wrap up 2012 and begin a new year. As I head home from the concert with the thrilling music ringing in my ears, the fresh snow which we have been receiving daily will be coating the trees. It would be hard to look more wintery or more beautiful here.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Final Touches

Gold Rush
Original Oil
24" X 54"

I have made some small adjustments to finish the painting. The flipped over mane of the middle zebra just wasn't working so I made it more even. All the shadows are softened beneath the zebra to give the piece more action. Before it looked like the zebra were rooted to the ground.
While I wanted the trees to be soft and loose, the trees on the right needed a little more depth which also helps the lead zebra stand out. I've added some reddish-orangey browns to the trees. A color I like in this instance is burnt sienna and I used it as a base. I have tried Indian Red in other paintings and find it too cool for most reddish brown applications.

In the end, I ask myself if the painting says what I want it to say. It doesn't have to be a profound statement....just something or an emotion I want to share. It does.
The question is, and it is the question most artists ask, does the painting say something that resonates with anyone else?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Almost There

The lead zebra is done and I made it the darkest.

The foreground has been roughed in. Some of the shadows are bothering me. I need some softer edges and more oranges at transition points. The trees on the right should be darkened in the "centers," leaving the silhouetted edges soft and warm. I may have reached the most critical stage of the piece. The final touches can make the difference between a nice painting and one that is really special.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Stained glass window in Salisbury Cathedral, England
Photo by Linda
 On this stained glass window is a timely message -

Suffer little children to come unto me,
                for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven

As we celebrate Christmas and the Holidays, let us especially remember those families in Connecticut who are grieving.

Detail of Salisbury window, photo by Linda

Saturday, December 22, 2012


The sky has been painted, moving from a warm white on the left to a warm yellow on the right. Next I began painting the stripes of the middle zebra. These I wanted warmer and lighter than the left and right zebra. Once those were finished, I had a better gage on the stripe color for the darker two zebra.

Like the stripes, I filled in the body of the middle zebra first. Once its colors were established, I could move to cooler colors with more contrast on the left zebra.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The background

Normally I begin with the sky. On this piece I wanted to play with the trees first and then work in the sky to give a softer look to the vegetation. If the trees appear too detailed they will be "pulled forward" and I want them more as a suggestion in the background.
More vegetation in the same color palette and a hint of a distant hill begins to add some depth. I'll work on the sky and the soft edges of the trees next and then begin on the zebra stripes. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Starting a painting

From where do painting ideas come? For me the answer is almost as varied as the paintings. Many are from my travels (and adventures.) This time it was a memory jog. In the April issue of Western Art Collector I saw a painting by Tom Browning titled Gold Dust on the Trail. It grabbed my attention. Since it was not a subject matter which normally draws me (a cowboy on a horse), it had to be something else.

I studied the painting and remembered the paintings of N.C. Wyeth who often used a shadowed foreground and a light background to create drama. One example which I saw at the Brandywine River Museum a number of years ago is his painting Jim Hawkins Leaves Home.

I have wanted to do a large zebra piece for a while and now I had my concept, light background - shadowed foreground. Next, I searched through thousands of reference photos I took in Africa and found some backlit zebra which could work as a guide for my drawing.

Above is the drawing on my gessoed board. I have added a turpentine wash of raw sienna and burnt sienna. The areas which will be dark have more color in the turp wash.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


24" X 20"
Original Oil

I've done a lot since the last post. When I first painted the floor, it looked like it scooped up on the sides. While it is an old floor, it was not sinking in the center! A few straight horizontal lines helped the perspective illusion.

Time for the altar. My first decision was the color of the altar linens. In the Anglican Church (Episcopal Church in the US), the linen colors symbolize different seasons and events. For this painting I chose white, the color for Christmas, Easter, high holy days like All Saint's Day, Weddings, and other important events. Adding gold stripes on the altar front added some ornamentation fit for a cathedral yet kept it simple. I lit the candles on the altar.

Next came the stained glass windows. The blue ones are particularly intense at Salisbury Cathedral and quite striking. Ultramarine Blue was my go-to color, but there are quite a few other blues to give the punch the window needed. The upper stained glass windows were almost impossible to read from my reference photos. The light streaming through them made the design difficult. With the reds and oranges as well as the whites reflected on the arches, I didn't want to make this upper stained glass set too detailed but wanted to know what I was painting. Researching that set of windows, I found some details and painted just enough to identify them.

Last was to make the painting sing. Some of the floor needed to be warmed with brown tones. The ceiling needed to be darker. The side arches wanted some deeper yellow ochre.

As I was working on finishing the painting, I knew I needed a title. Sometimes the title can wait until the painting is finished. Here, I didn't want to attempt completing the piece without the title. I felt it would guide me the rest of the way. That may sound very "artsy", but for such a cerebral piece, a title could help me stay emotionally connected. A call to a fellow artist, some chatting and he came up with Sanctuary. Perfect. All the final touches to the painting were made with the title resonating through my brush.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The finish line is in sight

With the upper area finished, now I turn my attention to the floor. First I paint the marble coffin on the far right.
Though it may seem all the tough areas have been painted, now comes a critical stage. If the floor perspective is not believable, the whole piece will fail. From here, I have a couple coffins, the column bases, the all-important stone floor, the altar, and the most important part of the painting to finish. The stained glass windows.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where am I?

As I am working on these upper sections, I am finding it is easy to get lost.  I drew in some faint guide lines but they act as merely a rough outline.
Now, where did I put that arch???