Saturday, December 31, 2011

Portrait demo

This is an 11" X 14" portrait I did as a demonstration. I just used a picture from a magazine -- it wasn't from life. I did this in about an hour and fifteen minutes and I must say that doing these demos has helped me increase my ability to paint faster. If I was to do this as a commission I would take more time, yet what it has to say as a painting is just enough: not too much noodling around and I pushed the color a bit to make this my own. I've been doing these to build an art class, but the people just don't know what they are missing. So -- I do them for myself. This was done in acrylics -- which, frankly, I hate. But I figure, if you can do this in a medium you don't like it just shows that you can do the job. I've never wanted to be more than a portrait and landscape painter (in oils) so I was happy with the result. I had about a dozen people come up to me while I was doing this and tell me how much they liked it -- one even offered to buy it (I'm not sure how serious that was, but his price wasn't right). Happy New Year, you all!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Worst educational degrees......

Discouraging news, .......although most artists have known this for years. I saw among the "news stories" on the computer the "10 worst educational degrees". Of course "worst" always means worst paying -- money always being the deciding factor as to whether your life amounts to anything or not. So naturally it is up to you to form a philosophy of life. Consult your Bible, Deepak Chopra or the Dalai Lama for a way to look at life (just don't ask me!!!). But don't listen to the list makers who only consult the "bottom line". Sure, very few artists are able to "make a living" from their art, but those who enjoy what art gives them aren't turning in their degree as a lost cause. Art has opened my first job, teaching, giving demonstrations, gallery representation, the respect of some people. It's how I met my wife. No, I wouldn't stand out there and tell other people to go into art, they have to make that step. I'm still disappointed when paintings don't sell or people use me to get what they want (free paintings for their cause). However, without consideration of one's bank account, art is a way of satisfying the work of the hands, the mind and the soul of the human: the skill to produce a work of art, the thought process involved and the satisfaction gained. That might not add up to much in the bank, but it leaves most artists to a life's work among things they enjoy doing and people who respect and value them as people. That said, the little painting I have at the top of the page is a 6" X 6" oil of a winter scene -- totally from my head. I usually have my references to bounce things off of, so this is a little departure. The painting is one of two that I did for The Next Picture Show Gallery

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shows and more shows

This is not the Secret life of the Artist, this is the public life of the artist. The top picture is me at the "Architecture and More" show at The Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon, Illinois. My friend Linda Loew had three of her photos in this show as well. If you look closely you will see a red dot on the the paper label of the bottom painting -- it sold!!! I did not get a ribbon this time, but to me a sale is as good or better. The painting that sold is an oil and the one above is a pastel (which garnered a nice compliment from one of the other artists.)
The other picture is from the show I had in the Fine Arts building, downtown Chicago. My paintings art, from the left, the first, third and sixth. There were four painters in the group show. Nothing at this show sold, but the compliments were nice. Now, I don't have a show lined up for the next month, but I'm waiting on hearing on a show that I am trying to have in a nearby art center.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Secret life of the artist, Chapter 4

OK, so you've been reading this blog and you haven't seen "Secret life of the artist, Chapter 1, 2 or 3, so what's going on? I thought I'd give myself a little room for previous entries and start a little later. Besides 4 is a much funnier number than 1. So my thoughts today are about the influence of school, not art school, upon the young artist. I went to public school and while I don't particularly remember any art on the walls of grade school, there was quite a bit in high school. I remember a large oil, probably 30 X 36" under glass (to keep us grubby little kids from touching it. This was a landscape of woods, trees leaves on a cloudy day. I can see it now all these many years later there on the wall of the third floor hallway and how I used to stand by it while I waited for my next class. How often I looked at it and wondered what it would take to do something like that. I never saw anone else but me connecting with an artist and their work -- I don't know who did it, but it sure caught my attention. Another painting was a winter scene of snow piled inches thich on a bridge railing with the sun shining on it. That wa in the science classroom -- and how I looked at it while I should have been paying attention. Oh, I didn't have ADHD, I did my lessons well -- I just saw another life out there for me -- at least I hoped so. Then there was art class and all the disasters I committed there. Well, one couldn't expect a lot from the lame assignments we were given. Some were good, but most were not. It was my first life drawing experience -- and I found out that I could really do it. Then there was the "make a fish out of paper" assignment. What an embarassing mess I created and had to look at it among the others hung from the ceiling. You'll never know how I wanted to take a match to it and watch it burn. I went right into the garbage can when I got it back. Years later when I worked for a college, I was sent back to my old high school to evaluate the appropriateness of the learning environment (or some such nonsense as that). I got to go back and see the school as it is now. There on the third floor hallway, the painting I loved --- it was gone. No more art on the walls. What happened that a kid can't make a connection to the art world in an everyday place without paying some outrageous Museum fee. Maybe that's one reason I was a Waldorf teacher -- I did art for kids for eight years and eventually entered more deeply into the art world. So....enough musing..... the picture I have posted is of me in the background and my buddy Jack with the mustache painting in art school. I only have a couple photos of actual working at the school and i'ts fun to look back.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall into Winter

This is an oil, 12" X 16" that I painted last week. I had taken a trip to my favorite area in Wisconsin and found this along the road. This is somewhere near Cambridge, WI, if I remember correctly. Last week we traveled to Mineral Point, WI. Mineral Point was founded by miners from Cornwall along the southern coast of England. The original houses there are made of stone. We stayed in the "Miners Cabin" built 1835. The town is very arty, but not touristy -- no T-Shirts and junk. This area of Wisconsin was not touched by the glaciers thousands of years ago and there area many hills and the farmers have had to adapt their techniques to the local terrain. The town of Mineral Point has very hilly streets as well. One of my favorite books, which I used when I taught the Farming block in 3rd grade at the Waldorf School, is "The Land Remembers" by Ben Logan who grew up on a farm near this area during the 1930s and 1940s. They were still using horses and steam threshers then, quite different from now. It was a great time and I will have to return.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pencil drawing

If this winds up in a frame it will be "Graphite on Paper" rather than "pencil drawing", but that's a subject for another blog entry. I have done this particular subject two times: once is this drawing and I've done it in oil. When you get a good subject and it motivates you to work realize that everything cannot be said in one statement. The real trick in all of this is to retain the feeling of out of doors and not turn this into an architectural rendering. Keep the "painterly" quality. It's easy to overstate things and kill the work of art before you've even finished. This was photgraphed with just a mat thrown over it -- we will see whether it makes a frame. If I don't think it looks painterly it will just be put away.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Success and failure -- or is it the other way around?

This is a little (6" X 8" -- sorry I'm a little challenged on the Metric system) painting that I did this week near the beach at Lake Michigan near Wilmette, IL. Along with the subject of my title for this post, a painter often has as many successes as failures. I went painting with my 80 year old friend, Isaac. I did one painting and wiped it off the canvas with turps. Next I did a completely bad and boring job on a group of trees in the sand dune. I left that on the canvas but intend to paint over it. I am not going to post that or perhaps you will never visit my blog again. Now long ago in art school, Mr. C, also known as Thomas Cushing, told us (at least I'm going to attribute it to him) that the difference between an amateur and a professional is the amount of garbage in his garbage can. Look back a few postings to the one that shows my palette and you will see in the background a full if not overflowing garbage can. Mr. C., you taught me all I needed to know about art, life and garbage.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Plein air painting at the lagoon

This morning I went out painting with an old friend. He learned in Lithuania and Russia and has seen original Repins and Serovs and Levitans. We drove to Skokie Lagoon and painted on a windy fall day with the sun going in and out. I was attracted by the warm red, orange and yellow leaves to the right of the oldd tree at the water's edge. The background was done with a lot of layering of one color upon another. This is an 11" by 14" oil.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The not so secret life of the artist

This Friday, October 14th, 2011, I am in a show in the Fine Arts building, 410 South Michigan Avenue in Downtown Chicago. "Common Ground, the Landscape", work inspired by plein air painting has three other artists besides myself. This is my first show in such a large area. I will have 8 paintings on display. Also, I am in a show at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois just west of Chicago, with the art league that I belong to with two of my works. In addition, I am in the "Farms & Barns" show in Dixon, Illinois, about 100 miles west of Chicago (or 50 miles east of Iowa and the Mississippi River). I will also have two works done in pencil at the "Shades of Gray" show at The Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon at the end of this month. Sometimes you toil in obscurity and other times you are out there before the public.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Secret Life of the Artist, part 7 (a)

This is just a little addendum to my last posting. ( I am having trouble with my "Publish Post" function on the blog and don't know what to do about it and got cut off. ) The final thoughts were....that I tried to find my way after art school, first by challenges in art school and then later. Heck, if I'd followed my first path I think I would have wound up trying to do Western art -- that illustration type painting that still sells well, I guess, but just has a phony-looking illustration quality --- and been unsuccessful at it. Eventually my path has gone toward a regionalism -- I do a lot of pastoral scenes. I'm a city kid, but I have worked on a farm and I still do a lot of portraits which satisfies the inner need for that that I've enjoyed since art school. Develop an interest in a path of art to follow and hone your painterly skills.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Secret Life of the Artist, part 7

Along with the Rembrandt and Rubens paintings I had in the "Influences" show at The Next Picture Show Gallery, I had this painting which is my copy of Frank Tenney Johnson's (no relation) "Somewhere on the Range". I apologize if it's not totally in focus. This is 30" X 36", a large canvas which I did back around 1977 or so. Now, here comes the "Secret Life" connection: Why does one do this copying anyhow? While I was in art school I wanted to make up for years of not doing much art. When I was a kid I would draw, but didn't keep that up. As a result I felt like I was behind and needed to make up for years of neglect. How to learn a lot in a short time. As I said before, Mr. Eugene Hall, my oil painting teacher, told me to copy the masters. I took it to another level. Besides copying Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer and others, I wanted to learn additional techinques that you don't really see in a Vermeer (although you do in Rembrandt). So I started copying FT Johnson for his thick paint and scumbling. I think you can see in the lower right especially, the thick paint scumbled that opens up another dimension on the canvas, kind of a sculptural look. Art school began me on a plan: I worked with the portrait and figure at school. At home I worked on portraits, then figures, multiple figures, figures with animals and finally maany figures and many animals --- see Frederik Remington's "Cavalry Charge on the Southern Plains" which I also copied --- always trying to get more complication and challenge. So now all these many years later I have found my own place: a portrait and Midwest landscape painter, watercolorist, pastellist and pencil artist. My last show, Barns & Farms, at The Next Picture Show Gallery garnered me a 3rd place ribbon and some nice compliments from the judge -- "painting mastery".

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Secret Life of the Artist part 6

As I mentioned in the last posting, I have three paintings in the "Farms & Barns" show. If you, as a painter, enter a show, know who the judge is. Is your judge a painter or an "Art Major"? It takes a painter to understand what a painter is getting at in their work. Some art history people can paint, but painters have their own knowledge of art history -- and painting. Now, I appreciate art history and educators, but a painter is one who learns to "see" and create in a way that sitting at a desk behind a book doesn't. A painter learns to read, study and process painting by painting, artist by artist. What comes out on a canvas has a whole history of study behind it: looking at artists of every period asking how did they paint this, what colors did they use in this situation or that, what brushwork expressed their thought and seeing, what composition did they use? Anyhow ----- I did receive a ribbon and a check for my painting "Farm at Honey Creek". The judge/painter knew what I was getting at in my work. And, yes, I've been skunked several times when the judge was not a painter -- and I'm not the only one who thought that they had picked amateur work over better work. All that being said, this entry has a picture of my palette that I use at home as a way of saying that this is where it all begins: this is where the artist works with his colors and his brushwork to bring the thoughts and feelings out on the canvas after hours and hours of study and practice.

Monday, September 12, 2011

copies of Rubens and Rembrandt

The "Influences" show ended at The Next Picture Show Gallery last week. Before I loaded these and two others into my car I took this photo of my Rubens "Two Satyrs" and Rembrandt's "Saskia" as they were hung on the wall. My old oil painting instructor, Eugene Hall, encouraged me to do some copies of the Masters to learn. And learn I did. I've done a good number of copies, but stopped doing that about 25 years ago. Now I just do my own thing of course, but the lessons I learned doing these and learning to really look were all important. By the way....Eugene Hall is the person who tagged me with the nickname "Slim". It comes from a mutual interest in all things Cowboy. Unfortunately these did not sell, so they will go back into the studio, perhaps never to see the light of day again. On to the next show which is another Farms and Barns show at NPS Gallery for the month of September and part of October.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Old Train Station at Berkley Springs, WV

Train stations.....there are a lot of interesting old ones out there. (Not here...they tear down all the good old ones in the big city.) I remember a lot of really nice ones taking a train trip from Boston through Connecticut and New York on the way to Washington, DC. This particular station I found on a trip to Virginia. My wife and I stopped for the night after a particularly long drive. We used the GPS to find a motel. The GPS sent us back a few miles out of Maryland and into West Virginia to a small town, Berkley Springs. We looked at their antique stores and had dinner. Getting up the next morning and on the road, this was the scene I saw about 7 AM -- the light cutting across the scene at a low angle. I goofed up the picture I shot of the movie theater in the town "The Star" or I'd have drawn that too. This is graphite -- 6B pencil -- on paper. If I remember right, I did a watercolor of this scene but didn't like it. I've done several scenes in oil or watercolor, even pastel and done them again in another medium. Try it -- you'll like it. I will be trying to get this into a show called "Shades of Gray" coming up in November.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Down time

This is a pencil drawing (or am I supposed to say "graphite" to sound more professional) I did in a small art class I teach while the others are busy. It's done with a 6B, my favorite. Sometimes I like to go back and not have to deal with color and surface texture and just draw. This is a scene from along the road in Wisconsin on Highway 12 near Cambridge (east of Madison). I've done a large painting of this marsh and these are just a stand of trees near the road just a few feet from the water's edge.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gas Depot

This is a little watercolor study (that looks a lot better in person) that I did the day after the Superdawg picture. The gas station sits across the street from the woods at the edge of the city. I spent less than an hour on it and sat in the car as I worked.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This is a small plein air watercolor I did this morning. The place is Superdawg, and has been at Milwaukee Avenue and Devon for many years. The two hot dogs are the main feature, although they do have service that will bring your hot dogs to the car. There may be other places you prefer to get hot dogs, but this one has the edge in architecture. I spent about 30 minutes or less on this -- although I did not check the clock. The scene was lit from behind by the morning sun. On another tack....I have four paintings in the "Influences" show at The Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon, Illinois. There was (disappointingly) a small turnout. The four paintings I did in the late 1970s and literally had to blow the dust off of them. I've never had any of them in a show before and it was good to see them hanging on a wall -- gave the gallery a museum-like look of the old masters. I will try to remember to take pictures later -- I fogot to bring the camera to the show. I am getting ready for two upcoming shows -- so matting and framing and creating some new work too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Secret Life of the Artist part 5

This is the final version of Farm at Honey Creek. Honey Creek is along route 20 in Walworth county Wisconsin. The picture is maybe a little out of focus, but that's maybe OK -- I don't want my online art thief stalker having my artwork at their disposal. The secret has to do with the last two months. My wife and I have had to deal with difficult family things just like everybody else. It has meant dealing with things you don't want to, not getting enough sleep and not being able to work while all this is going on, but it has to get done. I did have four of my paintings accepted into a show at the Next Picture Show Gallery. The show is called "Influences" -- like which painters influenced your development as an artist. My paintings are my copies of work by Rubens, Rembrandt, Thomas Moran and Frenk Tenney Johnson. Here's the other part of the Secret Life of the choices reflect my growing interest in being able to do portraits, multiple figures in a painting, landscape and landscape with a figure and animal. As a painter you have to look ahead to what kind of things you can come up with to challenge yourself to go beyond your current level of skill. Those were huge challenges for me then as now. The Influences show opens tomorrow, August 5th, with the traditional wine and cheese reception. I will be making the two hour drive to meet people and answer questions. So....there's a little...or quite a lot about the secret life of the artist.

Monday, July 18, 2011

final version of Wyoming Sundown

This is my final version of a painting that has been in the works for over a year. There were quite a few changes since I did the last posting. Simpler was better. I redid the haystack in the foreground taking out all the little stringy brushstrokes I had put in. I also did a glaze of blue over the mountains on the right and through the middle to bring them down a bit without losing the color too much. there's something I learned from studying Rembrandt. Speaking of Rembrandt....I just had four of my paintings chosen for an upcoming show at The Next Picture Show gallery in Dixon, Illinois. The show is called "Influences" and will feature four of my copies (forgeries, if you will). Well I am giving full credit to Rembrandt, Rubens, Thomas Moran and Frank Tenney Johnson --- they are the real masters. Anyhow, I am having three frames made at quite an expense, so I am hoping to sell at least one of the paintings. When I was an art student my instructor, Eugene Hall, told me to go do some copies. He was right, it helped me learn color and develop skills. E. Hall was a really great guy and probably would have like Wyoming Sundown...he was a westerner.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A couple more watercolors

Once upon a time in art school, heavily under the influence of Southwest Art and magazines of that ilk, I thought I would become a Western painter. To some extent I did that for a while when I was in an Oklahoma gallery. Anyhow, I happened to come across a book of Edward Curtis' photographs of American Indians. The one painting is actually of Edward Curtis, the other is from one of his Indian photos. These were black and white photos which I painted and added the color. I guess I'm guilty, like Ted Turner of colorizing black and white photos and films.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recent watercolors

I usually start my watercolors with no drawing, preferring instead to evolve the painting by throwing down value washes. The giraffe was done this way. The portrait was done from a book I have on Russian artists. Painting can be like sculpture -- working with the paint and brushwork to shape the object you are working with.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wyoming Sundown -- in progress

This painting is up on the easel -- Wyoming Sundown, an oil on canvas. Should I say it's been up, down, up and down numerous times on the easel. It's only a partial shot of a larger painting and I shot the photo in terrible light. Anyhow I've been working on this intermittently confronting one problem after another. While working on it I've had to repaint several major areas, glaze over part of the mountain to get it to go back in space. I was really taken with this scene, but the painting has given me so many problems that I just can't tell whether or not I like it. The light rakes across the scene at a low angle only touching certain things. I really like what I did with the sky, mountain, foreground rocks along the road and the low grasses. It's the hay bales and ground that bother me. Maybe too much work on the closest hay bale -- it's overworked. This is why it's been set aside numerous times. This is from my excursion out west to Cody, Wyoming a couple years ago, an unforgettable trip made even more unfogettable by the difficulties of this painting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Plein air in Wildwood

This is an 8" X 10" oil done a couple weeks ago. The day was bright and sunny and maybe my background got a little too light. The interesting part of the story is that I painted near this spot over 30 years ago when I was still in art school. The assignment was to do a landscape outdoors. I had only done a few of them and didn't know that 18" X 24" was rather large for outdoor painting, at least for a beginner. (That's nothing if your name is Joachin Sorolla or Aldro T. Hibbard.) The painting turned out good, very brushy and I wound up selling it almost immediately at the gallery that represented me at that time, after I finished art school. This was in Bartlesville, Oklahoma at Talisman Gallery that used to sell Richard Schmid. In the mean time, Jody Kirberger, the owner of Talisman has now retired, but not before selling one of my pastels before shutting the doors. Now I am on the Xanadu Gallery list of Studio artists and an artist member of The Next Picture Show Gallery.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ambush portrait and other recent watercolors

These were done in the last two weeks. First is the ambush portrait of Michelle (dark hair), the others were done from photographs. They are all in the 7" X 10" range.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Questions artists get

Once in a while you get the question -- "What's the best painting you've ever done?" Usually from a non-painter, but once in a while from a beginner, you get this question. Always before I just never had an answer (or a dumb answer) except to say something like.. "The next one." Yeah, right -- how clever that retort is. You do a painting -- it's one among many -- and it's either successful or not; of better or lesser quality than other random paintings you've done. After I finished this painting I actually did feel it's the best one I've ever done. Really! I never had this much success painting water or for that matter getting the brushwork just the way I wanted. So, for now, this is the best painting I've ever done. I was really unhappy that the experience of doing it was over because I looked forward to working on it each day. Every once in a while you reach farther ahead in the context of your work. I remember being a first year student in art school and doing a painting far above the quality of the rest of my work -- a harbinger of things to come. So with this just finished, a 20" X 30" oil on canvas called "Farm at Honey Creek", this is the best work I've ever done up until now. There's always tomorrow.
By the way...... following up on my "Claim Jumpers and Carpetbaggers" story, this photo is only a detail of my painting. Sorry. I plan to enter it into some shows, especially the Barns & Farms show at the Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon, Illinois. So come out and give it a look.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Ambush Portrait

This is a portrait of April from a watercolor class I take. It's on Arches 140 pound cold press 7 X 10" paper. I did this while she was working on her own painting unaware that I was doing her portrait. The secret to this is to remain calm while your "model" is turning their head this way and that and never remaining still. Otherwise it's just the same as doing any model -- looking for shape, value and color. I did another of these last week however I gave it away and don't have a photo. I managed to take this one home to photograph before I gave it to April. Like my old painting teacher Eugene Hall used to say, "The best ones are the ones you give away."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Claim jumpers and carpetbaggers

I read a lot of history, but these are two terms I've known since I was about 8 years old. They both have to do with people who come in and try to take over what's yours. Since I have this blog I check to see where the traffic comes from. Looking recently at the "Stats" I found out that a certain search engine thinks it can just take over my -- and your -- pictures and post them. It leads over to my blog, but did they ever ask my permission? A couple times I have posted a detail of my paintings and I guess I will just have to do that in the future. I'm old fashioned and I just believe that what's mine is mine and doesn't belong to anyone else. You can read from my last post that I made nothing from a poster that's made thousands of dollars. I agreed to that, but I am a little unhappy about the rest. I just read an article about "exposure" and sales. "Exposure" doesn't put a dime in your pocket. Blogger beware.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Waldorf Curriculum poster revisited

Every once in a while it happens -- it may be two or three years, but eventually someone somehow finds me and asks where they can get copies of the Curriculum poster that I did many years ago. I posted this and some of my chalk drawings that I did for the students as their lesson several years ago on this blog. (See my older entries, May, 2007) When I was in teacher training for the Waldorf School we were given an assignment to express the Curriculum in an artistic way --- what kind of artistic way was up to us. My son's dear teacher Ron Richardson gave that assignment to us. I thought about it and decided to do something that would be fun. I chose to have it resemble a board game, like Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders or Sorry. Done on an illustration board about 18 X 24 inches, I spent a good long time on it, including archetypal images from the curriculum and a few inside jokes along the way. Ron saw it and wanted me to give it to the school and have posters made. About 1500 posters were made. I never made a dime from it and it hangs in Waldorf schools and homes across the nation. As far as I can recall, I think I did this in 1995 or before. Anyhow, 16 years later I still get inquiries about it. Someone called up my signature of "Steve Johnson Construction Co." on the front as a Google search. I had intended to use that as a name for a career in illustration that never took off. At one time the teacher training powers that be asked me about teaching a class on blackboard drawing but their classes got smaller and it wasn't feasible. I did this with colored pencil and did many, many chalk drawings for the students' lessons which led me on to do pastels ---- so I guess that is my reward.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

detail from "Farm at Honey Creek"

This is a detail that I took a few days ago, which has since been changed a bit. I liked this section -- about 5 X 7 inches as pictured here -- from a 20" X 30" oil painting which is now complete. Why? -- I liked the quality of the brushwork. I like doing layers of texture of grass upon grass or tree against the sky. I've had this up on the easel for several weeks, I think. I don't tend to remember dates and times exactly. But what I did have is something to look forward to, to contemplate while I was and when I was not working on it. Now that I have finished it I am rather bothered by that. Since I really liked working on it, it was something I looked forward to each day. I don't have my next idea waiting, so that's another reason I miss working on it. I'm sure everyone has some let down when a project is finished -- at least the ones they enjoyed. I've done plenty of things I wanted to run screaming out the door after they were done. This is another one of my Wisconsin farm paintings from a study along highway 20 in Honey Creek. Man, I love that area. This is waiting for the next Barns & Farms exhibition at a gallery near me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Farm near Rochester, Wisconsin

If this looks familiar, it should. I did a pastel of this same farm and posted it last year, June 2010. That was in a show called "Farms and Barns". I did this while teaching a small painting class. When I am not doing something for the class I have time to sit and work on something. Usually I don't like to repeat a painting I've already done, but I thought I'd like to do some pencil work. I intend to submit this to the next Farms and Barns show. Part of the motivation behind this comes from looking at the work of Clyde Aspevig, specifically his foregrounds. He seems to do a lot of detail work there and I thought I'd like to see what doing that would involve. Having done a lot of plein air painting I usually just finish off a foreground with a few thick brushstrokes and some indications of sticks or grasses. Here I went in and noodled out some of the plant life at the side of the road and spent a lot longer on it than I am used to. I liked the results --- thanks, Clyde. Next up is "Waterworks" a show of watercolor paintings, a group show with other people who take classes with Ed Hinkley. I am doing the show even though I am the oddball -- I paint quite realistically; portraits and landscapes. I don't do the show every year ---- reason, I just haven't sold well there, so I will just have to have my wine and cheese and see what happens. Show is at August House Gallery in Chicago on Roscoe 2 streets west of Damen, beginning May 1st, 1 to 5 pm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Secret Life of the Artist, part 4

Here is an image of my wood turning work. Part of my official/unofficial "Secret Life of the Artist" series, I know there are plenty of artists out there who do all kinds of things besides oil, watercolor and pastel and are quite good at them. Out of my training in the Navy and in art school, I felt that there just isn't anything out there that I can't do well or learn to do well. In the Navy I worked with tools setting up aircraft parts racks, shot a pistol quite well and did a lot of out of the ordinary non-art things. If you're an oil painter and you do that better than anything why should that ever be a limitation on doing anything else well? Anyhow, I was in Brasstown, North Carolina -- possum country -- last week with my wife, a quilter. I took a week long class on wood turning. The picture you see has two bowls turned from cherry wood and a tool with a handle turned from red oak. They were some of the projects I did over that week. I was never really trained much in the industrial arts --- apologies to Mr. Joe Polka who tried to teach us 7th and 8th graders at Garvy Elementary School how to do a few things with tools. Man, that poor guy -- never did I see a more nervous teacher than he was. Imagine trusting 12 and 13 year old boys with tools and grinding machines and saws. He was a chain smoker and a guy who never smiled. I can see why. Instead of doing art this year at the John C. Campbell Folk School, I thought I'd try something different. It was hard to do, but I gave wood turning a try and I did some nice work. That's the point of my little series: artists have the ability to handle quite a large range of skills, even in unexpected areas. We all have all kinds of things we do to make money or hobby type things we do and do well that are outside the focus of our main theme of art. Have faith in yourself and give it your best shot.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Portrait in watercolor

This is an 8" X 10" portrait on cold press Arches paper in watercolor. Done about a year ago I no longer remember where I found the reference. I will be doing the Waterworks show this year in Chicago at August House Gallery. I have two framed and 6 unframed watercolors in the show. When I work in oil, I am not particularly fussy about the surface. I often just work on a canvas panel for my plein air work, but in the studio I stretch my own canvas or linen and gesso the surface with some texture. However, when it comes to watercolor paper, hot press is too smooth for me and rough is nice, but cold press just right; kind of like the story of the three bears.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Familiar ground -- Fire's Creek

This is another view of the bridge at Fire's creek in North Carolina --- well, there's two that I know about. I did an oil from near this spot, this is a pastel, 7" X 11". Usually I don't do a painting over and over, but the area around there is so rich with material for a painting that I find new things all the time. I live in the city, but don't relish painting it. Maybe if I came here from Brasstown, NC, I would be fascinated at all the things there are to paint here. I suppose, like a painter friend of mine said, it's romanticising the nature aspect of the wilderness by hauling your painting gear up into the woods or mountains or an old farm site. That being the case....I was taken by the incoming sunlight and colors of the scene, the sparkle on the water and the trees at the right. And to answer your question.....the "white" areas are not snow, but mud. The low incoming light glanced off the wet mud and rocks and made it look white. I hope I threw in enough other warm and cool off-white colors (that's "colour" to all the UK readers) to define that a little better. I worked on this during down time teaching at my art class on Tuesday night.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Winter plein air

This is a little 8" X 10" sketch I did about a month ago while there was still snow on the ground. The air temperature was about 45 degrees and I did not feel the cold at all. I painted about one hour and simplified the huge number of trees. As you can see there was a cross country skiier that had gone through before me. I located this spot the previous day while walking my two dogs through here. In the meantime, I did a portrait painting for the Elk Grove Art League in an hour and a half. The painting went well (sorry, I did not take a picture) and I had plenty of time to talk about painting to the twenty five or so members.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bridge at Fire's Creek, NC

When you find a really nice spot to paint, often you can turn your easel 180 degrees and turn around and find another subject. This is just up the creek to the west of the waterfall at Fire's Creek that I painted two years ago. While I did that one en plein air, this one is a studio painting I did this winter while it was too cold to go out. I am old enough to say that it's too cold for me!!!! Anyhow the motivation for this one was to convey the textures of branch upon branch wave upon wave in a nice clean painterly style. I have three of my works now on exhibit at the Regional show in Dixon, Illinois at the Next Picture Show Gallery. In the meantime I am doing several art classes each week -- teaching them, that is. I will be headed out for North Carolina soon for more painting although I will be taking a wood turning class or possibly a wood carving class, whichever has space ----- (didn't know I did that, huh?).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Secret life of the artist, part 3

I did a pastel of this scene about two years ago from a picture I took in Walworth County, Wisconsin. If I remember right, it's along route 20 west of Waterford. The "secret life" thing has to do with the fact that I have been doing demonstrations for a store (which shall remain nameless) looking to open some painting classes. Since I am still struggling with the acrylics a bit, maybe this is a little amateurish. I decided to use my own source material. This is a 9'' X 12" canvas board that I did in a little less than two hours, excepting set-up, take down and time to chat with the customers. The other remarkable thing is that it's done with acrylics. It's challenging to paint with them since the palette of colors you get from the paint company isn't very good. For the most part, since I thought I would never work with acrylics again (and never do illustration again), I gave my acrylics away to a neighbor. Here I am these many years later using them again. Acrylics dry too fast and just don't have what I like about oils, workability -- is that a word? Keep painting you all --- and, lesson learned --- never say "never".

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bog Marsh, Rochester, Wisconsin

As promised, here is the completed (I hope) version of the painting that I did this fall. I posted two detailed parts of it a couple months ago. This is oil on canvas; 36 X 48 inches. The canvas was a free one, a gift from a friend. I've entered it in a show: don't know yet if it's been accepted. If it has I will have to get it framed. I had a hard time with the background trees: the red and sienna hues kept wanting to come forward, so they had to be tamed. The rest was a lot of grunt work. Since it's the largest I have ever worked, it just took a lot of time and paint to complete. I don't have anything else to post right now: it's been cold and snowy here, I've been busy with work that actually pays (unlike art) and when the economy is bad and nothing is selling I feel less motivation to paint. I like painting whether I sell or not, but things have been slow and making money at this does have its place.