Monday, September 10, 2018

The Foreground

With the foreground blocked in, I can start on the gemsbok.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

More tree

I have moved between the tree and its shadow, refining one, modifying the other, until they work together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The tree

This is one complicated tree. With my shadow painted, I am in essence backward engineering the tree.

Saturday, September 1, 2018


While the dead tree is cool and feels all desert-y, I wanted to include some of the living greenery which is found among these dunes. Each tree is an oasis of life, filled with chattering birds and offering shelter and green morsels for large herbivores.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


According to NASA Earth Observatory, the Namib Desert is thought to be the world's oldest desert. This age, and the accompanying iron oxidation of the sand, has created dunes which range from dull pink to brilliant orange. I found the color simply fascinating.

The dead-looking tree near the center of the painting was just what I wanted. Its shadows seem to dance on the orange dune.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

More Dunes

With these closer dunes I get to liven up the color relative to the most distant dune. At this size, it is difficult to see some of the color subtleties which are needed to have this block feel like sand. Some of the oil paints I used: quinacridone coral, cadmium red, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, naples yellow, and titanium white. I also worked in some of the lighter purple shadow color from the background dune.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Star dunes

What fascinated me about the the Namib Desert were the star dunes. This type of dune, which has three or more arms, is formed from an environment which consistently has wind from multiple directions. The dunes typically are quite tall, angular, and mostly stationary.
In Namibia, the color and accompanying shadows from the sharp edges are a painter's dream.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Namib Desert

After looking at thousands of photos and playing with composition, I finally came up with my Namib Desert painting idea.
Below is my drawing with a raw sienna turpentine wash for values. The painting will be 26" X 44."

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

25,000 photos

After a research/reference trip, I usually have lots of photo reference. With two cameras shooting in Africa, I came home with over 25,000 photos and videos.
How does one even start sorting through such a volume?

For years I have used Phase One Media Pro as my photo organizer. There are many on the market but I found this easy to use and the price reasonable. (and no, I do not work for them!)

My first step is to set up a catalog. For the Africa trip, I made a blank catalog with every bird, mammal,  and reptile that I saw listed under the catalog sets. I then import the photos which turn them into metafiles for quick and easy viewing. The original files are unchanged and from the catalog, it shows me the location of the original file.

Below is a screen shot of thumbnails.

Each thumbnail can be opened to the media size which fills the screen. From thumbnails and media viewing, I can see if I might want to include the image for reference when building a painting. At a later date, I'll start dragging images into the appropriate catalog set for quick and easy sorting of species and locations.
The 84.9 GB file of photos from one camera made a catalog of 1.8 GB
The 140 GB file of photos and videos from the other camera made a catalog of 1.4 GB.
The original images are untouched.
Even though the catalog images are much smaller, I can still see all the detail in the media size and have enough information to know if I want to look at the original photo.

That's all the technical stuff. How do I decide what to paint first?
I knew as soon as I saw them, they would be one of the first things I would paint. Namibia's Skeleton Coast star dunes.  Seeing them before and during sunrise was breathtaking. Mauves turned to pink to bright orange. I thought of sand dunes as boring flat yellow but the sharp edges of these dunes created brilliant purples and blues in the shadows. Wow. Add to that, probably my favorite antelope, gemsbok can call this place home. We saw them throughout this region.

Time to look at all the dune photos and every gemsbok photo. I'll also go back to my notebook filled with details. For good color reference, I might even have some sand still in my sneakers from climbing Dune 45!     ;)

Friday, August 10, 2018


Just returned from a 4-week trip to Africa. It was awesome and one of my favorite trips there. This time I returned to South Africa and Namibia.

I could fill up a couple of months' worth of blog posts with my experiences. From climbing Dune 45 in Namibia, to walking among thousands of Cape Fur seals at Cape Cross, to climbing 1000 feet to a remote cave to see 500 year-old Bushman grain pots, to watching three month-old lion triplets come with their mother to get a drink at a waterhole, it was a trip to remember.

How refreshing to have the time to let Africa seep into me again. Sitting quietly watching, listening, breathing in the air. There is no substitute. 

Linda descending Dune 45

Cape Fur seal colony

500+ year-old Bushman grain containers
Note the coat - it got below freezing in South Africa.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Breath of Fresh Air
20.75" X 13.75"
Original Oil

Saturday, July 21, 2018


I've often painted water reflections. Here with the subject below water, the reflections are above not below him.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Green Sea Turtle

Painting detail

This green sea turtle was such to see while snorkeling. There were only four of us in the area and we didn't see him until he swam right up past us to grab a breath. Not bothered by our presence, he took 5 or 6 leisurely breaths, and then gracefully descended to continue feeding on coral. 
As I watched, I was transfixed by his reflections on the water's surface. Wouldn't that be fun to paint someday! Stay tuned.

Monday, July 16, 2018


There are different directions I could go with the coral. Bright and colorful, muted, a combination, or leave it off all together. I liked the idea of having something there, but really wanted to minimize its impact. A painting with intricate and colorful coral would be beautiful but not for this piece.
Using a limited palette creates a more peaceful scene and the reflections will aid in the story.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


With all the colors and reflections, I find this type of underwater scene fascinating to paint. I get to mix some vibrant teals. For the bluer water below, there are three mixed blues. Once they are on the board, my very soft blending brush is used to soften all the edges. This can take numerous passes in different directions.


Someone recently asked me if I do underwater scenes. I do, but it has been awhile. Ideas started to roll around in my head of the colors and creatures I've seen on my last several snorkeling trips.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Introduction to Fine Art
15" X 13.75"
Original Oil 

Thanks for following along. This was quite the challenge for me and I believe I learned a lot. 

You may notice a color shift and a difference in contrast from my in-progress posts and this one. The previous photos were quick shots with my phone while the above is a scan of the painting before varnishing. The colors will be richer after varnishing but I generally scan first to avoid glare from the varnish.

Next up - wildlife. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Red hair

My niece Olivia is the model in this painting. We actually saw this painting together in Barcelona. While I love the look of her red hair, right now I am wishing it was jet black with no highlights! This is the most difficult human hair I have ever painted.
The soft oranges and the golden highlights which weave in an out are only the start. There are low lights with richer tones and coming up is a flip at the bottom. This beautiful (and completely natural) hair is something I want to get right.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The girl

One would think after completing the Renaissance painting, the rest would be a piece of cake. But until this point, I hadn't decided on the color of her shirt. Do I make it pretty blue or green, or would a soft pink make the overall painting more effective. She still stands out from the wall, but does not compete with the busyness of the master painting. However, her skirt gives a nod to the flowers of the Spanish painting's rug.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

16th century art

One commentator I read said that the Spanish painters of this era took the ideas of the Italian Renaissance and then threw the kitchen sink at them. With all the iconic references (lamb and banner, robe on the infant Saint John, various elements of Mary's life, angels in the heavens, holy book) and the local references (men on horseback, landscape, clothing), why is there a monkey in the painting?

Most of my paintings are of wildlife (did get to paint the monkey, bird, and lamb in this piece but hardly the same as a wildlife painting.) The delicate flesh tones of humans are not something with which I am very familiar. How do I even tackle this?
The first step was to grab my tube of flesh tone paint. (Not sure I have even used it before.) Hmm. The color is a bit pinkish and flat. Yellow ochre, naples yellow, cadmium red, burnt umber, and raw umber were some of the additional colors used. I do appreciate how Juan de Burgunya delicately portrayed the face of Mary. At each step (cheeks, chin, eyes, forehead) I referred back to his genius.

I have to admit that when I started, this type of painting was not my favorite. It seemed too contrived. But as I have explored (you might say every inch of this piece), my appreciation has grown tremendously. The composition, the placement of detail, the reds moving throughout the piece, the action of Jesus with a bird on his fingertip, the ribbon of water, and so much more contribute to a painting I now enjoy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Gown

The remainder of the landscape did not get any easier. Working on the columns on the left side took a very small brush so it is refreshing to have the larger expanses of color for the gown.
 I mixed three dark blues: the darkest dark, the slightly more gray/green dark blue, and the lighter dark blue for the wrinkles. The powder blue (cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, and titanium white) was mixed and carefully moved to a safer section on my palette to prevent contamination from the other colors.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The landscape

The intricate landscape is a challenge. Not only does the water change color, but there are buildings and people scattered throughout. My painting is 15" X 13.75" which is adding to the difficulty. In addition, I am constantly evaluating how much detail to include. Everything from the original Virgin and Child with Infant Saint John must be included but needs to feel painterly - Juan de Burgunya painterly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The carpet

In painting the painting, there are many parts I expect to be quite difficult and which will take all my skills. The carpet was not one of them. Not only did it bend around the platform but I am adding the shadow from the girl. May I just say, "Aaaaagggghhhhk." And whose bright idea was this?

On the other hand, I thought the book would be quite challenging. For the dark of the spine area I used burnt umber as the base and moved out to the edges with yellow ochre and naples yellow to create the gold look. Once the white of the open pages was painted, it was rather easy to paint the Latin script with just enough detail to look like writing.

Monday, June 11, 2018

New (and Old) painting

Mixing old and new - I have been crazy enough to paint two of these before. The first one is a group of paintings hanging in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the second one is from the Smithsonian's Museum National Gallery of Art.
Art Appreciation by Linda Besse

The Art Student by Linda Besse
I've been wanting to paint a more intimate piece. Below is the start. This painting hangs in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. It is by Juan de Burgunya (also referred to as Juan de Borgona, Joan de Burgunya and a host of other close spellings.) Painted between 1515 and 1525, the oil painting on wood is titled Virgin and Child with Infant Saint John (Mare de Déu amb el Nen i sant Joanet.)
I am not sure I could choose a more difficult piece - and I am painting it at an angle! Here goes.

 I have to admit I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out where to start on the masterpiece once the frame was painted. Finally settling on the straight line of the "platform," I began with the shadowed water.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


12" X 20"
Original Oil

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The wooden rowboat

I find this rowboat fascinating. Working on the gleaming wooden edge has been a challenge. To achieve "the look," I am using more vivid colors than first mixed. Once the rest of the boat is painted, I'll revisit this natural wood edge.

Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint what inspires me to paint a scene. Is it the water, the reflection, the different modes of transportation or a combination?
Often it is my first impression. What caught my eye immediately was the teal green of the boat and its reflection in the water. I've saved it for almost the end. Not only does painting it now make sense, but I often "save the best for last." While having ice cream at the beginning of the meal may alleviate my sugar craving, it is far more satisfying to dip my spoon in the frozen dessert at the conclusion of the meal.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

More Water

Last of the blue water before blending.

Blended. And now I can work on this beautiful wooden rowboat.

Thursday, May 3, 2018


If I could paint all my wildlife in water, I would. However, not all animals like to swim.

But, when it comes to pieces reflecting living on an island, incorporating water is easy. This will be another painting going to the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard.
The scene is from Vineyard Haven harbor. Three forms of transportation were in the setting: the wooden rowboat, sailboats, and the ferry which takes passengers and cars from Wood's Hole to Vineyard Haven. Some artistic license and I had a painting.

My niece texted me asking how I paint water so well. I joked, "water is wet, paint is wet. Easy."

Actually, I do have a few "tricks" which help me achieve the type of water I plan to paint.
1.) Analyze the different colors in the water
2.) Mix the various colors represented, a minimum of three in the same color group (3 blues, or 3 greens, etc.) Sometimes for a blue water painting I might have 5 or 6. If there are reflections, that number can be much higher. Having the colors pre-mixed gives me a chance to look them over ahead of time and see if they are good representations of the water I am trying to create.
3.) Keep in mind that all reflections are duller in the same color group as the water. For example, if the water is blue, the reflected color will be not as vibrant as the non-reflected color and it will be more blue like the water it is reflected into.

4.) Set aside enough time. I do not like to feel rushed when working on water. Having plenty of time for the critical blending stage will help the painting.
5.) Paint the blocks of color

6.) Blend the edges of the different colors, moving the blending brush in the general direction of the water lines, ripples, or waves. When it is mostly blended, a few gentle blending strokes at a 90-degree angle will add a natural feel to the water.
7.) Keep painting and blending until the water looks wet. Sometimes this means realizing a section needs to be much darker, bluer, greener, vibrant, etc. I might mix more colors to blend in. This is why I give myself plenty of time. Fortunately, oil paint does not dry right away.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Martha Vineyard paintings

With the Louisa Gould gallery opening four weeks away, I've been at the easel for long stretches.
My latest painting is of an old boat in the fishing village of Menemsha.

Old Salt
8.5" X 12"
Original Oil

The cages were an interesting challenge. To make them "see-through" not all the metal lines are painted.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Old Glory
15" X 16"
Original Oil

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ugly Stage

It seems there are some parts of a painting which have to go through an ugly stage. Here it is the background tree. Blobs of dark green are doing nothing for me and I'd like to race to the finish line. But, I warm up my green tea, walk around the studio, and then it is time to mix up a number of greens from emerald to lime-yellow to slowly piece together a tree.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Flag

Note that the stars are far from white. With the lighting and to create a stitched-on look, I painted them a cool gray.

Below is the first pass for the red stripes. Once this layer starts to dry, I'll be adding more detail and a cooler red to the stripe flap.

Friday, April 13, 2018


This section I was really looking forward to - the reflections in the windows. All of a sudden, the piece feels more "alive" to me.

Close-up of the finished deck

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Starting the sky

Now that the last roof is completed, I am starting on the sky. Usually I start with the sky and work my way down, but on this piece I took a more round-about approach. I'd love to tell you there was a brilliant reason why, but beyond the "it felt right," there isn't.