Thursday, August 6, 2020

Alla prima

I really like my alla prima painting technique for rendering water. There is something about working wet-on-wet which translates well into making something look wet.
I like to mix several colors on my palette in preparation. This enables me to easily grab the color when needed. Using my flat angled brushes, I'll lay in lines of color gently blending the edges.
Once a section looks wet, I'll move to the next section.

In painting water, I like to have a large block of time. Working with the paint while it is fresh and juicy helps with seamless blending.

For the bird's reflection, I painted some muted, some bright colors and gently blended them in to the surrounding water colors. Note: I paid particular attention to how the water was interacting with the reflection so I have a variety of soft edges.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


My favorite element to incorporate in my wildlife paintings is water. There are so many different moods one can paint and the colors run the gamut of the rainbow.
This piece is set on the eastern barrier beaches of Martha's Vineyard though it could be anywhere that Ruddy Turnstones frequent during the summer months.

I am trying something new (for me) with the treatment of the background wave. In creating a soft out-of-focus look, I hope to further draw attention to the bird.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Summer Reading

Summer Reading
20" X 16"
Original Oil

As I said at the beginning of this painting, I wanted to create a new story. This painting focuses more on what you do with beach umbrellas than just their colors and placement in sand.
I've always found reading during the summer engrossing. It is a time of year when we can grab a book and take it outside, and if one can read it on a beach with the soft sound of waves lapping the shore, perfect. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

More with umbrellas

Now that all the umbrellas' colors are in place, I feel good about my choices. The bright lime green in the foremost umbrella gives a nod to the background green umbrella. And like I was hoping, the yellow/orange umbrella brightens up the painting.

Below is the start of working with what is underneath the umbrellas.

Friday, July 24, 2020


One of the things I really like about painting beach umbrellas are their bright colors.

In this piece, which will have dominant blues and greens, I knew a fun yellow would be important. Seeing a different orangey/rose to deep red umbrella in one of my reference photos, I thought switching it to yellow and oranges would work. I placed this umbrella in the mid-distance to play off the two foreground ones and bring attention to the distant rainbow umbrella to its right.

The green umbrella to the yellow umbrella's left will tie in nicely to the foreground umbrellas. I spent some time mixing the greens because I wanted them bright but not so bright to distract from the two dominant umbrellas.

The blue/teal/stripe umbrella is definitely the most complicated beach umbrella I have painted so far.

My usual palette is a 12" X 16" disposable one. Once I had the sky, water, sand, and sand dune painted, the palette was mostly covered with mid-tone natural colors. I decided to grab one of my smaller disposable palettes, a 9" X 12 so I could build the bright umbrella colors. Surely this size would be plenty large enough for a few umbrellas. Well, take a look!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Same subject, new story

In these times with art shows going virtual, a gallery sale for many artists is to be treasured. Well, any sale can make an artist's day.
I've painted two beach umbrella pieces for a gallery on the east coast. Last year's piece sold on opening night of my group show. This year's piece just sold 2 weeks before the opening.
Obviously, the gallery would like another beach umbrella piece ... now. For a "new" painting, I could just change a couple of scenery elements and change the color of a few umbrellas and call it "good." But, I wouldn't be telling a new story.

I'd rather run the risk of not selling than "selling out." I want all my collectors to have a unique piece and I don't want to cheat myself. How will I grow as an artist if I essentially paint the same painting?

However, there is no reason why I can't paint the same subject with a new story. I don't know if the new story will resonate with any collector, but isn't that the chance we take with any painting?

Summer Bouquet, 2019

 Stripes and Solids, 2020

I've decided to make this new piece vertical.

Fortunately, I am really enjoying using these bright colors. My palette has been greatly expanded with Michael Harding's handmade oil paints. I have been able to achieve new, more vivid colors.
Some of them may continue to translate into interesting color explorations in my wildlife pieces.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Song

The Song
16" X 12"
Original Oil 

The colors look a bit different from my works in progress. Today the painting is dry enough to place on my flatbed scanner which gives more accurate colors than quick photos on my cell phone.
I couldn't think of a title until the very end. Yellow-headed blackbird...... cattails..... singing bird......
The Song. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Painting Continued

The whole painting was lightened by adding the "white" of the cottony heads of the seed pods.

This painting was all about the bird but I learned that indigenous peoples of North America, Europe and Asia used all parts of the cattails. The shoots and other sections were cooked and eaten, the leaves used for furniture and baskets, the cottony inside for insulation and bedding, and even the pollen was collected and used as flour.

And I was just thinking the cattails made a handy perch for a bird.

Starting on the yellow-headed blackbird

Monday, July 6, 2020

Close to Home

In early May, I drove to Williams Lake just outside Turnbull Wildlife Refuge. The drive is only a little over an hour from my home.
While Turnbull is pretty wild boasting moose, elk, porcupine, pelicans, numerous ducks, and nesting trumpeter swans, Williams Lake is prime fishing ground. Most COVID-19 recreational fishing restrictions had been lifted and the boat launch was a busy place. Just to the right of the boat launch is a large section of cattails.

Yellow-headed blackbirds were flitting in and among the cattails, singing. The inspiration for my next painting.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Best of Show

My painting Ice Bear has won Best of Show at the National Oil & Acrylic Painters' Society Spring Online International Exhibition!

The National Oil & Acrylic Painters' Society (NOAPS) posted a very nice blog about the win and my work.
Check it out here:

     It was an interesting day when I found out about the win. I checked my email first thing in the morning and received a quick note from an artist I did not know. He was congratulating me on a very nice piece. This being my first time entering anything in a NOAPS show, I guessed Ice Bear must have been accepted in to the show and he wanted to let me know he saw and liked it. Wow, my first attempt and I was accepted. Pretty neat!
     It was only later looking in more detail about the acceptance list on the NOAPS web site that I saw Ice Bear had won. I was blown away. What a wonderful surprise!

Friday, June 19, 2020

And... Finished

13.5" X 20"
Original Oil by Linda Besse

I usually have a working title in mind while I paint. Sometimes that title becomes the final title as it did here. There were many unexpected elements I was playing with. 

The story of Daniel in the Lions' Den is unexpected. He certainly should have perished, and rather quickly.
Rubens' choice of size and the number of lions is unexpected.
When one sees Rubens' painting hanging in the National Gallery of the Smithsonian, it feels unexpectedly large and impressive.

Okay, yes. There is a lion walking in the museum. THAT is unexpected.

Thanks for keeping me company and following along on this challenging painting. I believe my next piece might be a bit more simple. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Challenge #9 People

Having a person (or in this case, two) was essential to the painting.
The balding head (the first one I have painted) helps the viewer see he is looking up at the painting. The angle of his bald spot nicely works with the angled figure of Daniel.

The woman completes the story. My first goal was to have her blue coat stand out from the blue couch. I debated whether to have a different color, but this combination seemed to add a pop to the foreground without being too distracting.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Challenge #8 What's Next?

I debated whether to start on the walking lion or save him for last. After procrastinating for a while, I decided the couch would be next. The couch felt like an anchor and its color would help dictate the rest of the "real life" elements.

To make the fabric look like a microfiber, I used a blending brush to soften the multiple blues' edges.

For the floor, I mixed some light warm and cool colors and applied the paint with a small angle brush. I made strokes the length of each board.

As you can see, our cat Scratch was particularly excited about this section. A constant studio companion, here he seems more enamored of sleeping on a couch than watching me paint one!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Challenge #7 Daniel completed

The head of Daniel is at an odd angle looking up. With it measuring roughly one inch square, his head was the most difficult part of painting him. I'm not sure how long I spent on the eyes to capture that upward-looking fear.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Challenge #7 Daniel

I don't often paint people. Trying to paint a Rubens figure is quite an additional challenge.

I am trying to not think about what I am doing, painting Daniel in Daniel in the Lions' Den by Rubens. Instead, looking at shapes, color, and shadows and pretending this could be any subject is helping alleviate my trepidation.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Challenge #6 The red cloak

Up to this point, Rubens' painting has a limited palette.
I've been excited to move to the red cloak to add a pop of color but the challenge is to nail the red.
Four pools of colors were mixed; darkest with ultramarine blue, semi- dark with Michael Harding Crimson Lake, semi-light/bright also including Crimson Lake, and lightest.

Rubens was a genius in adding a red cloak. Any other color would not have been as effective. I'm sure there are dozens of art experts' articles on the cloak's placement, the significance of the red, and the completion of the circle around Daniel.
As an artist I just know I love the color!

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