Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Miss Magnolia" - SOLD

12x12" oil on masonite

I had to break out a tube of thalo red rose for this one. Alizarin just wasn't cuttin' it!

I love the look of blossoms against a clear blue sky. I've been seeing them everywhere for the past few weeks. It's actually starting to feel like spring which is strange since the last month felt like summer. Crazy weather here in the Bay Area.

The title for this painting was inspired by a song by Matt Costa, one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I usually listen to Pandora when I paint. "Matt Costa Radio" is perfect paintin' music.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Maine Backyards"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

Well I dropped off my cocktail paintings and a few other food related pieces at the Studio Gallery for the "Delicious" show. The reception is this Sunday from 2-6pm, so come on by if you're in SF!

I had a request from Nancy Standlee in response to yesterday's post. She'd like me to mention some of the newer artists I've been enjoying. The truth is, lately I've been spending most of my time looking at DPW artists. I've been making my way down the list, checking out everyone's blog. I find I'm constantly surprised and inspired by the work I'm seeing.

As for non-DPW artists, one of my faves is Tollef Runquist. I saw some of his work at the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Maine last summer. I love that he takes risks, he seems to operate outside of any sort of comfort zone.

When I first started painting I admired artists with great control. I find my taste is changing. I'm no longer as inspired by finesse. I'm drawn to artists committed to growth and discovery, artists who are responding honestly to the world around them in their own unique way. According to David Hockney there's a Chinese proverb that states that art cannot be made without the hand, the eyes and heart. 

I've recently been impressed by the work of some artists new to painting. Most beginning painters haven't yet developed a comfort zone. They're reaching, experimenting, struggling and often creating inspiring work in the process. So I guess the short answer to Nancy's question is, I'm currently enjoying the work of beginning painters and experienced risk takers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Red Truck Turning Left" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

Another from behind the wheel.

I've always been attracted to art that reflects a unique and personal view of the world. "The Complete Watercolors of Edward Hopper" was my introduction to this kind of work. I love visiting the pages of that collection, it's like a mini vacation. By staying true to himself and trusting his instinct he's created a unified body of work, one with the ability to transport.

Andrew Wyeth and Van Gogh have also created worlds I like to visit. I'd be curious to know whose work transports you. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Spooning Tea Cups"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

I've painted cups in the past but not with much luck. I'm mostly inspired to paint landscapes, people and hard liquor, but it's nice to mix it up a bit. I'm aware that I'm in Carol Marine territory here! My recent still lifes actually inspired an email asking if I'd taken one of her workshops. I haven't had the pleasure, I hear she's a wonderful teacher, but the question got me thinking about the way I learned to paint.

I'm primarily a self-taught painter. I started eight years ago at the age of 38 with no previous art experience at all. I'm a "do it yerself" kinda guy, so when I started yearning for real paintings on the walls instead of prints I dug in and did some research. 

My art education started at the library. I checked out piles of books on oil painting. Books by Charles Sovek, Emile Gruppe and Kevin MacPherson. Once I got started I realized painting was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Two things kept me going. First, I remained optimistic. Second, I was completely delusional. Work I then proclaimed "PIVOTAL" or "GROUNDBREAKING", now leaves me scratching my head.

In the next phase I shelved the instructional books and began looking carefully at as much art as possible. There have been many painters, some living, some now gone, that I feel I've learned from and will continue to learn from. Carol is certainly on that list. With so much great art online the list continues to grow. My hope is to take what I learn and somehow make it my own.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Wedges and Blue Bowl" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

More orange wedges! Another bowl!

I received an email yesterday requesting some info on the brushes I use. Deb asked: "Could you share with us what type of brush you use for a 6x6 or 8x8 to get these nice fresh looking strokes?" 

As for brushes, lately I've been using a Princeton 6300B size 8 for my 6x6" paintings. I've been attempting to use this size brush for the whole painting. It's pretty big for such small work but it holds a lot of paint and its inability to handle detail forces me to simplify. 

Another key to the fresh stroke look is to use medium to thin your paint.  I use a mixture of 1 part stand oil, 1 part linseed oil, 2 parts mineral spirits. The medium allows you to get good coverage in a single stroke. It's also helpful to paint on Gessobord or gessoed masonite, with the mentioned medium and the smooth surface of the Gessobord you can really lay down some creamy spontaneous looking brushwork.

When I paint on canvas my approach is a bit different. I don't use any medium at all and I tend to use inexpensive Utrecht brights and flats.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Strawberries and Jadeite Bowl" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

Thanks so much for all the comments and suggestions yesterday! Nice to know I'm not the only one struggling with the photography issue.

Well I had a few lovely days in the studio and now I'm back out pullin' wire. I work part-time as an electrician. It's dirty and difficult but I like the guys I work with. Sometimes when I'm crawling under a house, or making my way through blizzard of insulation in a hot attic, I can't help daydreaming of how nice it would be to just paint for a living. 

I suppose the reality is never as simple as we imagine though. Painting everyday certainly presents its own challenges. I'm not sure I'd want to depend on it as my sole means of support. I do my best to keep a good balance. I feel fortunate to have a flexible job that allows me a bit of time to pursue the things I love. Even if I have to stare down a black widow every once in a while.

I should be back to posting in a day or two.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Gang of Wedges" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

I've been driving myself a bit crazy lately in my attempts to post the most faithful digital representation of my work possible. I photograph my paintings on overcast days, or in the shade when it's sunny. I try not to do any post production at all, just leave them as they come out of the camera. The problem is, the paintings look slightly different depending on where they're viewed. If they're in the kitchen they look one way, from a distance they look another, in the dining room different still.... I think you see where I'm going here. Yes, going nuts. I often spend a half an hour making adjustments in iPhoto and then move the painting to a different room and find my adjustments look all wrong! My conclusion? I've decided to save my sanity, trust Canon technology and post them just as they come out of the camera. Any of you painters out there having similar fun? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Central Valley Barn"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

This barn was painted from a photograph taken on the road back from Yosemite. The bright orange roof really stood out against the deep blue sky. The Central Valley is full of inspiring scenes for landscape paintings, my kinda landscape paintings anyway. 

There's a rugged, rusted, barren type of beauty out there, with desolate little towns where you might stop for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie before heading over the mountains toward the Nevada desert. Why would you be heading to the Nevada desert? Hmm.... just lookin' for wide open space. Or maybe to go see the wild horses. 

Note: previous paragraph to be read with a gentle western drawl, in a voice not unlike Sam Elliott.

Big Messy Paintings

A friend and I went to the Oakland Museum this weekend to see the newly improved facility. I'd been there many years ago when I first started painting. I was excited about California Impressionism back then and I'd heard they had a large collection. It was a nice bit of luck to have Edgar Payne, E. Charlton Fortune and William Wendt paintings so close to home.

They've done a great job improving the place but there weren't as many paintings on display this time. They did however have a room dedicated to the Bay Area Figurative Movement. I was particularly impressed by the work of Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff. Their paintings were large, messy and full of life. The paint was thick and chaotic, yet beautiful.

It occurred to me that I wouldn't have appreciated these paintings a few years ago. I may have seen them as rough, sloppy and amateur. I was more attracted to paintings of beautiful things, beautifully painted. I now see things differently. I connected with these paintings because they feel more honest in a way. Life is unpredictable, messy and chaotic at times, and yet there's beauty all around us. These are courageous and powerful paintings because they're not afraid to challenge us to find the beauty within the chaos.

Monday, February 20, 2012


6x6" oil on Gessobord

It didn't occur to me until later that these peppers appear to have had a bit too much to drink. I just sorta tossed em' on the table, poured a shot of tequila and ran with it. I didn't drink the shot, though I enjoyed the aroma while painting. I think this is the final in my cocktail series.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Radishes" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

This is my submission to the "Color of the Year Challenge" on DPW. It's been a long time since I've eaten a radish. I was at the Mexicana Market this morning and these were too bright and beautiful to pass up!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


6x6" oil on Gessobord

I was surprised to learn that the martini was invented in the US. The origins are somewhat mysterious but according to wikipedia it was first created in San Francisco in the 1800's or in NYC in the early 1900's. I like martinis but haven't had one in a long time primarily due to the fact that I often find it hard to function after drinking one. It was a fun challenge to try and put my own spin on this iconic image.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Blue Hawaiian"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

How'd you like to be sittin' under a palm tree in the South Pacific sippin' on one of these bad boys?! That's what I thought! Me too. This is the first in my cocktail series for "Delicious", an upcoming show at the Studio Gallery in SF. I'll post more details in a week or so. Happy Friday everybody!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Marshall Point Sunset" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

I've been in the studio the past three days working on paintings for "Delicious", an upcoming show at the Studio Gallery. The theme is food and drink and I've decided to paint cocktails. I'll post a few in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"After a Swim"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

Thanks for the thoughtful comments and emails yesterday. It seems a lot of us have similar feelings on the issue. For a different perspective check out Kathleen Dunphy's blog. She has a well written post on why she feels plein air painting is essential in achieving the results she's after. 


I gave some thought as to why my plein air paintings rarely worked out and concluded it was primarily due to poor composition. In my rush to get to work I usually made a quick decision about composition and then dove in. Why was I in a hurry? Well, chances are I'd already spent a lot of time driving around "in search of" so when I finally found something to paint I was in a panic to set up and capture the scene before the light changed.

Looking back at my early work it's clear that I should have spent less time driving around and more time developing my compositional skills. My time would have been better spent shooting a ton of digital images, downloading them and then experimenting with the cropping tool in iPhoto. That's mostly what I do now.

My sense of composition is constantly evolving. I look at both paintings and photographs for ideas and inspiration. One thing I've discovered is, if an image is strong as a thumbnail it'll usually make a good painting. That's just an observation, not a rule. There are no rules!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Houses on a Hill"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

These houses are a few blocks from my house. I painted this with a single large brush. I was thinking of painting something Valentine's Day related but I just couldn't make it happen. Happy Valentine's Day anyway! On another note....

The Plein Air Question

When I first started painting I was told that you shouldn't paint from photographs. I read this in books mostly. I've continued to hear this over the years and I'm wondering how painters and collectors feel about it. 

I've painted countless paintings en plein air and I don't think they're any better than the ones I've done from digital images. In fact, they're usually not as good. Some plein air painters talk about capturing the smell of the salt air or the sound of the wind through the pines in their paintings. That hasn't happened for me.

Others will talk about there not being enough information in photographs. "The shadows are too dark" or the "lights are blown out". That may be true for prints but not on a computer. You can boost or reduce the exposure in seconds.

Another argument is that plein air painting forces you to paint looser and more spontaneously. I'm not so sure about that one either. I think looser paint handling comes with confidence and experience (and a desire to paint in that style of course). I think how one handles the paint has more to do with personal choice than the environment in which one paints.

The way I see it, plein air painting is a lovely way to spend some time outdoors (as long as there aren't any bugs and it's not too hot, cold or windy). It's especially nice to do with others. I don't think it makes a painting more valid. Digital photography is just another tool.  It allows us to capture and paint moments that we wouldn't otherwise have a chance to paint. I suppose some folks will disapprove just as some disapproved of paint in tubes. "You must grind your own pigments and mix your own colors or it isn't art!!" 

Ok, I'm thinking too much. I need to get out of the studio, maybe I'll go do a painting outdoors. But I'm not expecting it to be a keeper.  Oh yeah... and I'm bringing my camera!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Cottage Kitchen" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

I love walking into a summer cottage at the beginning of a vacation. This is the Rose Cottage in Port Clyde, Maine. My family has stayed in this cottage every summer for the past five years. It's a long haul from California but it's well worth the trip. This painting represents how it looks upon arrival, just before we load in the fifteen plus bags of groceries!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Monhegan Lobsterman"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

This is my 200th post. I posted almost every day for five or six months and then I slowed down a bit. All the things in my life that I'd been neglecting started to demand attention. Taking a break from daily painting was actually a healthy thing creatively as well. It was nice to slow down, re-energize, look around and contemplate where I wanted to go in the future.

I'm back to painting every day but with a different approach. One thing I'm focusing on is content. I think it's a natural progression to want to make your paintings more personal once you've achieved a certain level of comfort with the painting process. I'm now committed to painting anything that inspires me so my subject matter may be all over the map.

This painting was done from a photograph by Merci Gilbert. It was taken on trap day out on Monhegan Island. Trap day is when all the lobster boats are loaded with traps for the start of the new season.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Tricycle" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

My daughter is ten and into texting not trikes so... I took a picture of her old red tricycle so I could post it on Craigslist. Then I noticed the shadow. I had to paint it.

Friday, February 10, 2012


16x12" oil on canvas panel

This stuff can't be good for you but it sure looks cool. This was painted from an image shot at the Toy Boat Cafe in SF by my daughter Emma. I handed her the camera and she shot a bunch of pictures. When I downloaded the images later this one really stood out.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"White on White" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

This is my entry to the DPW "White on White" challenge. It was painted from a photo posted by Ann Feldman. The real challenge for me was painting the whole egg. I painted it no less than a dozen times! I love the look of white on white so I really enjoyed this challenge.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


6x6" oil on Gessobord - $100

I'm painting my way through a bunch of images that I've been avoiding. I've been avoiding them for various reasons but mostly because I haven't been sure how to handle them. Many haven't worked out, but I'm enjoying the process and feel I'm making some discoveries. "Agave" was a pleasant surprise.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Owl's Head Light" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord

This was a cold, windy day in October. Owl's Head light is located near the lovely town of Rockland, Maine. I left beautiful, warm weather in California and arrived to what felt like winter. I'd been to Maine in the summer but never the fall, I loved it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Cross Wires" - SOLD

6x6" oil on Gessobord - $100

I shot this mainly for the bird but when I viewed it on the computer I was immediately drawn to the geometry of all the wires. This was a good opportunity to walk the line between representation and abstraction.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Aqua Bel Air" - SOLD

8x10" oil on canvas panel

This scene catches my eye every time I drop my car off at my mechanic's garage. I had to have a brake job last week and this time I brought a camera.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Future Surfer"

6x6" oil on Gessobord

This little lad is my nephew Trevor. He's gazing out upon the aqua blue waters from Asilomar Beach wondering when he'll be able to paddle out with the big fellas. He'll need to save up for a wetsuit first! Even though this water looks tropical it's not, the temperature is usually in the fifties.