Monday, October 31, 2016

Polar Bear

Since returning in September from my 7th (or 8th) trip to remote northern Manitoba, I have wanted to paint the polar bears I saw. Some prior painting commitments came first, but now I am ready.

For a change of pace, the composition of this piece incorporates simplicity. It is all about the bear and the unique northern light. I am using a Jack Richeson toned gesso hardboard (toned in umber) for my substrate. This light gesso ground will help bring a softness to the painting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Winter Solstice
32" X 22"
Original Oil

This title came to me after thinking about the tall surrounding trees. In some ways they remind me of the massive stone columns of Stonehenge. Those stones were arranged between 3000 A.D. and 2000 A.D. and mark the passing of the seasons (and there has been speculation on many other reasons for their purpose.) For the summer and winter solstices, tourists flock to this ancient sight to watch the sunrise aligned perfectly between the columns.

Winter Solstice 2016
Stonehenge, England,   December 21st, 10:44 am GST
U.S. East Coast, December 21st, 5:44 am EST

and for me: U.S. West Coast, December 21st, 2:44 am PST

Saturday, October 22, 2016


For the foreground snow I had a plan. This landscape scene is from my backyard right after last December's snow storm. With wonderful reference in hand, I worked on the right side shadow snow first, then added its highlights. So far, so good.
For the left hand snow, my reference photos had this really cool pattern and I painted it with some modifications.
 Hmm. It didn't work at all. That might be the way the snow was, but it was totally wrong for the painting. Also, the sunlit snow in the center needed some changes.

Here is where some creativity and knowledge can make a difference in a painting. I have already changed some details, positions, and colors in the trees. While the trees are main characters in the painting, if the snow did not "read" well, the painting would not be as successful.

Time to take a step back. First I position my chair 10 feet away and sit and look at the painting. After painting for many years I have an inkling of what can work in a painting. Searching my memories of walks in my woods in deep snow, I try and feel its depth, the cold, the sparkles on the snow's surface.
Numerous times I'll close my eyes, then look at the painting, then close my eyes.

This time it was about 10 minutes later and I was ready to grab the brushes and go for it (without looking at my reference photos.)

The result.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Now the fun part, the highlights. Rather than holding a magnifying glass, I have a mounted swing arm magnifier lamp. (Rarely do I use the light as it bounces off my wet oil paint.) Resting my hand on the hand rest and occasionally looking through the glass, I start on the highlights. The color is a mixture of titanium white and cadmium yellow deep, Rembrandt brand oil paint.

While working on the highlights I also added more pieces of sky visible through the tree.
I use a disposable palette and always keep the previously mixed colors from the painting visible on the palette while the painting is in progress. Having the sky color still on my palette made it easy to remix some fresh paint to match it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

More tree - the darks

When I first painted the darks they were too dark and too cool. Adding more sap green and then mixing sap green and naples yellow I've brushed in some lighter passages especially at the top where more sunlight is streaming through the tree.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The large tree

The snow on this tree is lighter than the trees on the right and left edges which will further help the tree maintain center stage. Once again I decided to paint the snow first. For most trees I would paint the trunk, then branches, then foliage. Here the structure is more dictated by the snow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


It has taken me a while to figure out how to approach this left side. Creating a 3-dimensional look on a two-dimensional surface doesn't happen by accident (at least not for me.)

After trying just the darks first, then painting lighter passages, I had a wonderful section of gobbly-gook. It didn't look like much of anything. Pausing, I started to tackle the area again - this time slowing building up the darks, mid-tones, and lights at the same time. I am now pleased with the direction this left side is heading.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Another Tree

The tree on the right is more in the foreground than the last tree (see previous post.) Therefore, I made the darks darker and greener. The added warmth of the green helps move the tree forward separating it from the background.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Anatomy of a Tree

I find it is easy to get lost in such a complicated landscape. At times, painting the trees seems overwhelming.
Taking a different approach than my usual dark to light method, for this tree I decided to work on the mid-tones first and establish the snow-laden boughs. Now the structure is more evident.

In this next step, I added the darks which have a hint of green but are still on the cool side. This keeps them in the background and won't draw the eye from the more foreground trees.

Final step, the highlights.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

My Backyard

There are times when I have to look no further than my own backyard for inspiration.
Late last December we had a wonderful snow storm. Our property became a winter wonderland and one morning the light was breathtaking. Though some treetops broke from the heavy weight of the snow, it was easy to forget that when surrounded by such beauty.

The painting is based on the view from my kitchen deck.