Saturday, November 16, 2019

Changing up the order

Almost always, I start my wildlife paintings with the background. Top to bottom, distant background to foreground. Next I'll work on the animal's eyes and then the rest of the head.

In this piece, I really wanted to work on the dust/elephant intersection on the left side of the painting. It is this area which tells a lot of the story - that moment when the elephant emerges from the brush.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A warmer clime

After spending time in the arctic in the last painting, I thought "moving" to a warmer area would be a nice change.

I am amazed how elephants can disappear in the brush.
One time near Victoria Falls I walked right past a large elephant - without seeing him. Someone watching down the road was surprised I showed no fear. Well, if I had seen him I might have at least walked on the other side of the road!
When a big bull makes his presence known, it is overwhelming.

Sunday, November 3, 2019


Ice Bear
22" X 36"
Original Oil

Thanks for following along. Next up, a warmer clime.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Main Attraction

Now that the stage is set, time for the main attraction.

I've found a curious thing about spending time in polar bear country. I'll spend hours in a small willow blind scanning the horizons for polar bears. Just when I know I've spotted one, a quick look through the binoculars will reveal a large shiny....... boulder. Twenty minutes later and the sun reflecting off another boulder looks just like a polar bear.
But, when a polar bear comes in to view it is so obvious. Their white hollow fur almost glows and there is nothing quite like it. Then I wonder how I could have ever mistaken a glacial erratic for this magnificent creature.

It is that glow which the background is designed to enhance.

My fully adjustable hand rest helps me work in the middle of the painting when the lower section is wet.

I mixed three main colors for the sunlit part of the bear. A base warm yellow-white, a bright white (titanium white and cadmium yellow deep), and a warm peach.

Some of the cool colors I mixed for the ice and snow are used for his rump and the back of his legs.

Almost done.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Frozen Salt Water

This next section I was most worried about. The top of it (starting in the lower third of the painting) needed to look further away than the very bottom of the painting.

Growing up in New England I had the chance to spend some time looking at (and occasionally walking on) frozen salt water. Adding to that some artist time in Iceland and Antarctica, could I translate those experiences into a believable chunky "bed" of frozen salt water?

There are three painting rules which could help me:
1.) distant landscapes have less contrast
2.) distance is generally less vibrant
3.) distance has softer edges

While the illusion of depth is not a great distance in this section, I kept the above rules in mind so the bottom did not look vertical.

Above I have the underlying connecting slush painted.

 Foreground ice completed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Cold Reflection

I find water reflections such fun to explore. They can be detailed mirror images, soft reflections, or quite abstract (as in my previous tiger painting, see post August 15.)
Here I am aiming for a soft reflection which I think adds to the feeling of cold stillness in the painting.

I start by blocking in the colors. The darkest colors of the block of ice will be lighter in the reflection and the lightest will be darker, all toned by the water color.

All the reflection colors are painted and you can see the start of the soft blending of them on the right side of the reflection.

Breaking up the reflection with frozen chunks (with their own reflections) completes this section.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Block of Ice

It was this block of ice which helped inspire the composition. Some of the more intense teal color in the shadowed area is with a mixture including Michael Harding's Phthalocyanine Blue Lake oil paint.

Generally my whites are a mixture of titanium white with a touch of cadmium yellow deep. Here, in the sunlit area of the block, I have a bit of gray in the mix. I want to save my warmest "white" for the bear.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Cold water

Much of the open water is one of the original colors mixed for the sky. (See post Not so Fast)

Thursday, October 3, 2019


I've mixed colors from a very light gray-blue (titanium white and paynes gray) to a darker rich gray-blue (with some ultramarine blue and other blues.) To warm up some areas a couple of the colors have a smidgen of raw umber. There are about 7 newly mixed colors on my palette. Using two small angle brushes and one larger angle brush, I am painting my way down.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Not so fast

Today I started painting a new piece. The composition will be a bit tricky with the ice but at least the sky was pretty straightforward.
Mixing just the right color I went to work brushing it on. Unlike most of my skies, the most effective way to represent this sky was with a single mixed color applied with differing thicknesses over the toned background.
After carefully blending the brushstrokes I stepped back. No, the color was too light.
Okay, I'll just mix a darker color and blend it in. All blended with a soft brush and I stepped back.
 No, the color was too blue.

At this point, the easiest thing to do was scrape off all the paint and remix a new color. Some of the old color would remain which in this case would be fine. New color mixed, applied, and blended with my soft brush (which was now pretty thick with paint so I also used another blending brush.)
 I stepped back. No, not right.

I scraped off the paint and took a lunch break.

With renewed focus I returned to my easel. I've known all along the color I wanted but my head was getting in the way. It is a color which on the palette does not look like it belongs in the sky. My artist eyes knew in this painting it did. A remix and it worked. The whole process was not as fast as I had thought it would be because I had to let go.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Almost Finished

28" X 20"
Original Oil

Since I took this photo of the painting I have made a few modifications. Some of the touches throughout included a greater distinction between the cat's nose/mouth/chin and the tree, and some darker areas in the foreground.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Next steps

Adding the middle ground seems to give the piece more weight, helping with depth. At this stage, I was finding the bottom a bit distracting but tried to ignore that as grasses will cover a lot of it.

The spruce grouse has been painted. I've lightened it so it does not appear as a big dark blob and disrupt the flow and focus of the painting. The grouse is still in the normal range of feather colors but does not instantly draw one's focus. You see the mountain lion's movement and then wonder what he is going after before you see the grouse.

When I first started painting the mountain lion its colors didn't seem rich enough. I wanted its warmth to contrast with the coolness of the vegetation.  Grabbing some richer yellows, reds, cadmium orange, and burnt sienna is helping with bringing out a more vibrant coat.

Monday, September 9, 2019

New painting - Mountain lion

I've had this idea for a while and since I have been in "big cat mode", now seemed the right time.
The concept was pretty straight forward - cat climbing tree after a bird. The execution contained some surprises which required alterations to my original design.

A soft background was painted to aid in the feeling of depth.  No sharp edges and muted colors. The slope of the hillside is the opposite direction of the cat's upward movement.

Here I have started with a tree bough. I find it easiest if I mix three separate greens as base colors. Other colors will be added depending on whether parts of the branch are in sun or shade. My plan is also to have another tree in the upper right which is closer to the foreground.

It was clear to me that when I was done with the tree the mountain lion is climbing that the tree in the upper right would just not work. With its trunk out of sight, it would only add confusion to which branch belonged to which tree. My original thought was to make its boughs warmer but I decided that would not make enough of a separation. Back to refreshing all the sky colors and painting them over where the other tree would have been.
This for me is the ugly stage. The tree is okay (maybe needs some more warmth on the trunk) and I like the sky but the painting feels flat. Time to press through that feeling and work on the small trees and brush in the middle ground.

Friday, August 30, 2019

To print or not to print...

That is the question.
Artists take different approaches to this question. I know one artist who makes prints of every painting. There are others who never make limited edition copies.
Most of us are somewhere in between. From my roughly 40 oil paintings a year I average making two into limited edition canvas giclee prints.

So, how do I choose?
Occasionally I have a client who would like a canvas giclee print of a painting I have done and I decide the image would fit into my print selections.
More often, I have one painting each year which I believe would have broad appeal.

The proofing process is a time-consuming project. With my professional printer we constantly tweak the canvas print until it looks like the painting when they are placed side by side. It is not uncommon for the printer to use more than 8 separated layers to achieve the desired result. A part of the water might be adjusted differently than a small section of the reflected head. A little more peach here, more contrast there, more saturation over here. Even with scanning directly from the original, tiny alterations are essential. If I painted it this way, why have the canvas print look differently?

Once all the adjustments are made, it is time to decide on sizes and how many. My largest giclee canvas editions are a total of 75 which can include three different sizes. I have some editions which are only 35 prints at one size.

Stealth - Amur Tiger (see post below) will have canvas giclee prints available. I've decided on three sizes: the original (24" X 34"), 17" X 24", and 12" X 17."  I haven't decided how many in each size, but the total will probably be 65 or less.

I'd like to share two more thoughts on prints.
First, some artists believe that to call a copy a print, it must be an original print, hand pulled. I treat the subject with the common public perception in mind. Many understand the word print as the old method of off-set lithographs. I do canvas giclee "prints" and make the details clear in my Certificate of Authenticity.
Secondly, some artists like to hand enhance their canvas giclees. I am not a fan of hand-enhancing. It can confuse the collector with a piece that is somewhere between a print and an original. If the artist is hand-enhancing to make the piece look more like the original, they might want to find a printer with the expertise to do that. And, if I want to put paint on something, it will be an original. Another consideration is that the longevity of the paint on top of archival inks and canvas is unknown.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Stealth - Amur tiger
24" X 34"
Original oil painting

The colors might seem a bit different than you have seen in the posts leading up to the finish. The above image is from a scan of the painting - a more accurate representation of the painting than the quick in-progress photos with my phone.

Thanks for following along! 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

More fur

Above, almost done with the non-white fur color. Just the tail remaining.

Below, the white fur (titanium white and cadmium yellow deep) on the tiger is painted. I've also repainted all or portions of the stripes. In painting the more orange fur, much of each stripe was covered. By painting the stripes first, then the orange fur, then the stripes again, I am able to blend the fur colors into each other creating a more natural looking coat.

Next up, sparkles in the water, revisiting the tiger reflection, and the leaves.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The tiger

The eyes are the first part of the animal I usually paint. They help give the rest of the painting life.

Even though most of the stripes will be repainted to blend into the golden orange coat, I like to paint them next.

 For passages like these, I like to use a small flat angle brush. Each stroke lays in a block of color in the direction of the cat's fur. The "white" of the coat will be last.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tiger reflection

When I started the reflection of the top of the tiger's head I realized that my color was not dark nor rich enough. So, I increased the intensity with burnt sienna and burnt umber to give the section that pop. Some of the deeper colors are also repeated throughout the reflection.

The sections of lightest white reflection have been added.
Note: I have kept the white in the reflection dull by painting it a light gray. This will help the reflection read like it is in the water.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Reflections continued

Setting the stage for an abstract reflection of the cat is the sky reflection. I used Rembrandt ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, titanium white, and a touch of Van Dyke brown, plus Michael Harding's Phthalocyanine Blue Lake.
Premixing four blues worked well. Once they were blocked in, I realized that I needed a deeper richer blue swath from the lower left.
(Note: My new selection of Michael Harding oil paints have been a wonderful addition to my palette. It seems I can create more exciting and a greater variety of colors.)

Continuation of the ripple line.

Start of the cat's reflection. This is going to be tricky, but fun.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


One of my favorite things to include in my wildlife paintings is water. There are so many color variations to explore. While painting a mirror image can be effective, I find abstract reflections more interesting.

This stage, when I block in the colors, I find the most distracting. It is time to grab some blending brushes.

The first stage of the blending is complete. Next up is the lower section of water and then the cat's reflection. As I work through the piece, all the sections of the water will be continually modified until they feel right.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Nova Scotia/ Bird Islands

Just back from Nova Scotia and what a trip. Lots of painting ideas! Quaint fishing villages, expansive scenery along the Cabot Trail, informative maritime and sailing museums, dramatic lighthouses in fog (and brilliant sunshine), and pastoral landscapes were part of the exceptional trip.

Cabot Trail

Cabot Trail

 The highlight was spending time at Bird Islands off the coast of Cape Breton Island. These islands are nesting areas for Atlantic puffins, razorbills, black guillemots, Great cormorants, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, and black-legged kittiwakes.

Bird Islands

Atlantic puffins

Thursday, April 25, 2019

And now for something completely different

Right now I am working on paintings for the Louisa Gould gallery on Martha's Vineyard. Not only do I paint different subject matter than my usual wildlife genre, often I am exploring more vibrant colors.

I've been wanting to paint beach umbrellas. So many fun colors. While I didn't want the beach to be devoid of people, I also didn't want it to look so crowded that the viewer didn't have a place to sit! Working out the composition (including removing a few umbrellas) took some careful planning.

Now we are talking colors! 

I thought the sand would be more difficult. I mixed three sand colors (a light, medium, and dark) and painted more light against dark the closer to the bottom left. I found the less careful I was in placing the color, the more natural the sand looked. A fourth darker cooler color was used for the shadow underneath underneath the umbrellas.

Summer Bouquet
10" X 15"
Original Oil