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)