Saturday, June 6, 2020

Challenge #5 The Lions completed, sort of

I could say the lions are painted, but there is one remaining which will be particularly difficult - the one outside Rubens' painting.

In working on a piece like this, I think the artist gains a more detailed insight in to the choices made by a master artist like Rubens. You pay attention to placement, movement, and lighting more acutely.
You can appreciate the painting when seen in a museum. Painting it yourself and you see the nuances.

I have been "complaining" about the number of lions I had to paint, but in having that many Rubens  created interesting groupings and a greater variety of actions which two or three lions would have been unable to achieve. This large group might seem haphazard, but the circular placement draws one's eyes to the main subject, Daniel.

Can I have a favorite lion? I like Rubens' lion in profile in the upper farthest left position.
Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Challenge #5 Continued

Lions and more lions!
Really? Did Peter Paul Rubens really need nine lions to tell the Daniel in the Lions' Den story?
I could find no biblical reference which said there were nine. Maybe five, four, even three would have been enough for his painting?

At least that is what I am thinking as I work my way through all this felineness.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Challenge #5 - Lions

The lions Rubens used for his painting Daniel in the Lions' Den were Barbary or Asiatic lions. Some speculate that he observed them at a menagerie in Brussels. Rubens was also informed by ancient lion sculptures he saw in Italy.

I am more used to the look of sub-Saharan African lions, but that is not what he has in the painting. Rubens is known for the generous proportions of his subjects and that is no exception with his lions in this piece. The lions appear muscle-bound with that Rubenesque look.

To make my painting work, my lions need to be his lions at an angle and smaller. Rubens' Daniel in the Lions' Den measures 88.3" X 130.1". My entire painting is a bit smaller at 13.5" X 20".

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Biggest Challenge - Challenge #4

There are a lot of challenges in this piece, some of which I haven't quite figured out yet.
However, it is pretty obvious that the biggest challenge is painting the Peter Paul Rubens painting.

If it weren't enough hubris to even attempt to do this, I am also painting it at an angle! I've been staring at the empty space in the gold frame wondering where to start. As an expert in procrastination, I've made myself a cup of tea, wandered around the studio, checked on my music selection, rearranged the day's brushes, petted our two cats, and looked out the window at all the spring greenery.

Then sitting down in front of my easel, there was still the empty, taunting, unpainted space inside the gold painted frame. I had no idea how to start.

Okay. Let's pretend this painting is not hanging on a museum wall as one of the ultimate painted representations of Daniel in the Lions' Den. It is just a story and I like telling stories. If it were my painting, how would I start? Like most paintings, I would start with the background.

Usually I would continue painting background to foreground but I wanted the foundation of the base in before I started on the subjects.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Challenge #3

Challenge #3 - Frames
When one is painting a museum masterpiece, painting the frame accurately is just as important as the masterpiece. Not only does a well-painted frame increase the illusion of depth, but the type of frame on the museum piece is known. It would be so much easier to make up a gold-ish frame, but the authenticity of my painting would be diminished.

Much of the frame color is a mixture of radiant yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium lemon yellow, and titanium white. I chose to paint the small frame first and while I was there, finished that painting.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

How long does a painting take?

Well, this piece is going on 8 years. In 2012, I made another trip to the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. I've painted paintings of paintings before and thought it would be fun to do another.
One particular masterpiece caught my eye. Of course, it is particularly complicated! Since 2012, the idea of using this painting as a backdrop has been circling around in my head. Every now and then I would think of it. About 4 or 5 months ago, a compositional idea came to mind.
As I reviewed my reference a couple of weeks ago, one particular shot of two people looking at the painting seemed to fit in to my concept.

Challenge #1 - The Drawing
Days were spent deciding on the composition (I looked at thousands of my lion reference photos) and drawing the masterpiece's subjects on the gessoed board was difficult. My painting is not very large so drawing the detail to aid me with the painting took a lot of time. I changed out one of the heads of the couple looking at the painting. The next day I realized the idea I had to start with was better so I redrew the head closer to what I originally had.

Challenge #2 - The Wall
I have never painted a wood wall before. In my previous paintings of paintings which were hanging in a museum, the gallery walls were painted. After wondering why I was doing this, I mixed numerous color batches staying with warm wood tones. Yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw sienna, and burnt sienna were used as base colors and I started with the upper left of the painting.
The light cast above the painting on the wall was cooler and there I used some burnt sienna mixed with ultramarine blue, lightened with titanium white.

Once the upper part of the wall was finished, I painted the wall's trim and worked my way down to the floor.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Roseate Terns

From May to late August, some beaches on Martha's Vineyard are home to nesting terns. Common terns, least terns, roseate terns, and a few arctic terns return year after year to lay eggs and raise their chicks near the abundant ocean. Each year I enjoy my trips to see terns and other species nesting on the island.

While roseate terns are often mistaken for common terns, their more streamline body and long forked tail lend them a particularly graceful look while in flight. The summer grounds of roseate terns range from Long Island to Canada's northeast provinces with wintering grounds in northern South America. The European roseate tern spends its winters as far south as southern Africa. This tern species, like most, gets around.

As stay-at-home, safer-at-home, and limited openings remain in places throughout the world, a hopeful future seeped into my painting composition. I wanted to create joy in free-wheeling flight.

You Are Now Free To Move About The Planet
14" X 24"
Original Oil

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Nostalgia, Hopeful Future

In working on the compositions for a July show for the Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha's Vineyard, the roles of nostalgia and hopeful future have been in my mind.


Saturday, April 18, 2020


persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

I like this definition and it leads to a personal story.
When I first starting painting and had maybe 20 paintings under my belt, I went to a place with some artists to do a bit of plein aire painting. A spot by a river was chosen.
I was nicely set up with all my tools and dug in to capture the flow of the river.

Part way through my effort, an artist whose work I respected walked up, took a quick look at my painting and said, "Well, THAT doesn't look like water." With that, he walked away.

I was shocked by his callousness. I could have packed up my brushes and gone home deflated. I could have continued to struggle through the piece. Maybe my stubbornness kicked in but the first thought that came to me was, "Oh yeah, I'll show you I can paint water!" My next step has served me well. I put down my brushes and really looked at the water. I started to see how the water changed color at the break over submerged rocks, how the white spray was not really white, how the rocks appeared underneath the flowing water, and how the trees along the bank were reflected in the water differently depending on how fast the water was moving.
My next painting of water was not brilliant. Probably a subset of mediocre. But, I had a goal and didn't shy from the chance to include water in my paintings. I kept working with different depictions of water (quiet ponds, roiling streams, ocean-breaking waves) in different light (sunrise, sunset, midday, cool and warm) and with different reflections.
Water is now one of my favorite things to paint. 

Working on the birds

Razor's Edge
13" X 20"
Original Oil
Almost done. When the painting is fully dry, I plan to glaze some metallic gold oil paint over some of the yellow in the birds' wakes.

While I cannot say I appreciate the approach from that artist many years ago, I do hear myself commenting during the middle of some of my paintings, "Well, that doesn't look like _______." It is then time to take a step back and work through how I can achieve the desired finished piece.

Perseverance. Often difficult, often necessary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A rarity

My first glimpse of razorbills was in the West Fjords of Iceland where 60 - 70% of the world's population breed. This auk is the closest living relative of the great auk which became extinct in the mid-1800's.

That fate almost snared the razorbill but it was aided in 1918 when it became protected in the United States through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. With fewer than 1 million worldwide breeding pairs (which may seem like a lot) its habitat in the North Atlantic can be deeply effected by commercial overfishing, oil spills, and human encroachment.

When is something rare? For animals it could be a threatened breeding population or an animal seldom seen in the wild because of its remote location. More broadly for us, it could be something you see, hear, or feel not very often.

To accentuate the water in the foreground I used Michael Harding Phthalocyanine Blue Lake

May you find beautiful rarity in your day today.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Unexpected

June 2019
It had been raining on and off for several days. I had weeks ago booked a trip to the Bird Islands off the northeast coast of Nova Scotia, obviously with only hope that the skies would be clear and the wind not too strong to prevent the trip that day.

Luck was with us. The weather was ideal and the three of us joined another eight off to see the nesting ground of Atlantic puffins.
Our boat on the left

On the trip out to the rocky islands, we watched bald eagles diving for fish. However, the whole trip (and my main focus) was to see the puffins. I could envision lots of paintings which would come from this outing. The water, lighting, and overall atmosphere were perfect.

As we arrived at the Bird Islands, I strained for a glimpse of the puffins catching fish, carrying fish, and returning to their nests.
Nova Scotia's Bird Islands

And there they were. I was one of the first to see them and, in my enthusiasm, almost missed an unexpected sighting. While I knew razorbills also nested here, I was not prepared to see them moving through the water. Their reflections were patterned in to the shallow waves' ripples and the buff-colored island's reflections made unique patterns around them.

I had come to see the puffins but was transfixed by this scene. While I subsequently saw many puffins on this trip to the Birds Islands, I want to paint this unexpected scene first. 
I was caught off-guard and my appreciation was elevated.

The start of my razorbill painting

May you find joy in the unexpected today.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Park Bench

Few on this planet are uneffected by the coronavirus pandemic.
We know someone in quarantine. We are quarantined or under stay-at-home orders. We know someone who is sick, dying, or has died. We are sick.
The local, national, and world news is saturated with this very real disease.

There is plenty of information out there, some good, some bad.

I'd like to make the case for the park bench. A place to sit and take a deep breath. Rather than racing through the park, let's sit down.

Maybe this blog can be a figurative park bench for you. A moment to not forget about the world, but to greater appreciate it.
Close your eyes, take five deep breaths. Imagine feeling the bench wood on your fingertips.

Open your eyes and go about your day, hopefully momentarily refreshed. And maybe, you'll find those benches throughout your day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

American Academy of Equine Art

The 40th Annual Juried American Academy of Equine Art Show's Virtual Tour is available.

Virtual Tour for American Academy of Equine Art

What a beautiful show. I couldn't pull away from the video. The Aiken Center did a wonderful job highlighting each piece from the overall look to close-up details so I felt I was walking the show floor. Grab a glass of wine, a hearty beer, or a lemonade and spend time with this parade of excellent equine art by some very talented artists.

The show is at the Aiken Center for the Arts in Aiken, South Carolina March 25 - May 1, 2020. While the gallery is not open to the public, private viewings can be arranged.

I have two pieces in to the show.

               Range Runners              
Jean Bowman Award Winner and nominated for the Founder's Award
     (seen at the 15:50 minute mark on the video)

West Wind
(seen at the 3:10 minute mark on the video)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Upcoming Shows

You could say I have been working on my upcoming 2020 shows since early last year.
During, and at the end of each show, I start thinking of pieces I'd like to paint for the following year.

This fall and winter I have completed a number of paintings which I never got around to sharing with you.

Below are my in-progress photos and the completed scan of my new leopard painting.

and the scan
Light and Shadow
17" X 26"
Original Oil

Friday, January 17, 2020


Some days just take your breath away.

View from our deck

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Painting with my nieces

One of my great joys is the time I have at Christmas with my nieces.
Years ago we started the tradition of them painting an original oil piece at the table in my studio while I worked at my big easel. Watching them grow in confidence, choosing their subject, size, hand drawing their images, and mixing paints with little aid from me has been great fun.

This post will tell the 2019 Great Painting Adventure at Christmas.

Katie and Amanda arrived first with their parents, my sister and brother-in-law.
The first day they were here, they chose their subjects.
Amanda wanted to paint a piece to give to her horse-loving sister for her birthday. We looked through my digital reference and realized that to find what she really wanted, it was time to dig around in my printed photos. Fortunately all approximately 25,000 are cross-referenced so it was pretty easy to find the ones from my 2001 Iceland trip. Amanda chose an Icelandic mare with her foal.
Katie, after looking at my digital horse photos, was drawn to the Horse Guards for Her Majesty the Queen of England. She chose a particularly alert horse and knew she had a challenging subject on her hands.
After deciding how big they wanted their paintings, they went off to the studio to start their grids and draw their subjects.

Audrey and Olivia arrived 2 days later with their parents (my brother and sister-in-law) and their older brother, my nephew Jared.
Audrey knew she wanted more of a landscape feel with the animal part of the scenery rather than an animal portrait. A lot of paint shop pro moving of things and cropping and she had her African landscape with an elephant.
Olivia wasn't quite sure what she wanted to paint but it was obvious when we came across some wild bear cub photos I had. When we both said, "Awwwww," that was it.

Katie              Amanda   Audrey                     Olivia

Audrey starting with her sky and in the left foreground, Olivia working on her drawing.

 All hard at work. 
Sometimes it is hard to get them to stop and come over to the house for lunch or dinner!

Amanda working on the nuanced rust colors of her horses

 You can see Katie's Horse Guard subject is quite involved. She wonderfully mixed a lavender for some of the sheen on the horse.

 Katie's detail work requiring a steady hand


Audrey working on her landscape

I wish I had taken more in progress photos but while the girls were painting, so was I. We talked, listened to music together (yes, most of the time we enjoyed the same music), and painted.

Their paintings are now dry and I have scanned them. Once I varnish them, the colors will be intensified but you can get a feeling of them below.

Olivia's bear cub painting
Age 14 
7.75" X 9"

Olivia did a wonderful job on her second Christmas oil painting. The format, slightly off square, gives room for the seed parachutes from the spent dandelion somewhere to fly. Her fur detail feels "furry" and the way she painted the nose gives a depth to the bear cub. Olivia captured a sense of innocence in the painting which can be difficult for even seasoned painters.

Audrey's elephant landscape
Sophomore in college
6" X 13"

What a dynamic painting from Audrey. She added subtle details like a slight purple hue above the peach hills which enhances the hills' colors. Then, Audrey continued that color in to the rest of the landscape. (This was with no prompting from me.) Not only does her painting have a sense of movement, but it also feels expansive. Both are very difficult to pull off in such a small format.
Well done Audrey!

Amanda's Icelandic horse painting
Freshman in college
8" X 8"

First, how generous of Amanda to want to paint a piece for her sister Katie. It certainly was endearing when Katie would glance over at Amanda's progress and say "they are so cute and fuzzy!" These horses were photographed in Iceland in May and still had their winter coats.
Amanda's choice of a square format was wise. It emphasizes the bond between mother and child. Her strategically placed loose brushstrokes were just right to give the feeling of the soft winter coats and the horses' thick manes. This painting took a subtle hand and Amanda carried it off beautifully.

Katie's Horse Guard painting
Junior in college
10" X 8"

Katie did not finish her painting on this trip and I am so glad she didn't. This is going to be a particularly special painting and deserves to have all the care she put in to what she has completed so far to continue. Details in the tack like the metal chain, gold buckles, and silver chest piece all required not only a steady hand, but difficult techniques. Of course she could have rushed to finish or skipped some details, but next Christmas, she can take her time and complete a painting with which she will be extremely proud.
A very "well done" to you Katie!!!

What a privilege to spend time with such talented, engaging, generous, funny, and approachable nieces. I am quite fortunate to have them in my life. Thank you girls!