Thursday, December 27, 2007



'December 26th Afternoon' - oil on linen/board - 8x10



'December 26th Morning Flurries' - oil on linen/board - 8x10

We've had snow! And quite a bit of it. I was out most of the day painting yesterday and into the night. The nocturne won't be seen, it was a wiper. The light of the day was at best, filtered in the morning, and just plain overcast the rest of the day. I'm hoping for some sun and temps that are less than painful to make the next trip out.
Both of these are 8x10's and painted in about an hour or so each. The light in the morning was the entire reason for that one, and in the afternoon the little spots of color in the building and vehicles around it were about all that added to an otherwise grey setting.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


'The Point' - 8x10 - oil on linen - life study.

I finally made it outside to paint. It's been awhile with the studio work and then a nasty bug that's been making the rounds. This one was painted in about an hour and a half and that's about as cold as my toes would go.
In my continuing quest to find a linen that meets my needs I painted this one on a fine portrait grade linen that was commercially primed with an alkyd primer. I don't know if it was the smoothness of the fine linen or the alkyd primer itself. But this isn't going to be my choice of surface in the future. The paint ignored what I wanted it to do and slid around with out any absorption into the ground. As I did get paint on the surface I found it to work fine. But it took a very tender touch, a hard thing to do when you're shaking and numb, to gain control of the paint. Those kind of things cause headaches and a shortened temper. Good thing that when you're out there painting in the winter with all of this going on, there isn't anyone else around. I had the entire Interstate Park and the St.Croix River all to myself. I'm not trying to make those of you in more populated areas jealous, you can stay there...it's too cold here! But it's quite an experience to be able to basically be in the wilderness in about 5 minutes from my house at this time of year. Pretty cool! :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007


'Angel Frost' - oil - 16x20

So this is an exercise in restraint. How to keep all color, value and edge work very tightly knit together so that the painting almost becomes a dream state. Of course, John Twachtman comes to mind when doing any painting of this nature. I love that lyrical, poetic quality in some subjects.

For the painters out there, this was painted on a linen that I had re-primed with Gamblin's oil primer but found it to be very slick to paint on. Aha! For a painting that needed to be almost translucent, in my concept, I knew that the combination of Flake White and this surface might just give me exactly what I needed to pull it off. It did. WE all know about those times when materials, artist, concept and subject all work together to make what we do seem like we might almost have a grip on it. Of course we also know that is a lie! I know that the 'struggle' only hides itself to tease us once in awhile and that inevitably, it will rear it's beastly head again soon. Such is the life of a painter, or at least of mine.

'Angel Frost' is as the name implies, that time in winter when everything is covered in frost that is so delicate that it could only have been applied by angels. Well, it is the Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


'Prairie Fires' - 24x24 - oil on linen - 2007

I'm revisiting the subject of the little pastel 'Spring' in the seasonal pastel series. Painters of the past especially, and present, have made a practice of painting many versions of a chosen subject. Sometimes as preparatory studies for larger pieces, as an evolving examination of the subject to get to know it more intimately, and sometimes to try to 'get it right' for once! The latter is one of my motivations, the other is that I just found that day of painting to be full of lessons. The little field sketch is not much to look at, but here it has provided me with two other paintings so far. Both very different from each other, but both built from the information gained from that one little 9x12. That is why field study is SO important to painters. It is the information building activity for our mental reference library.

This time I was really interested in changing up the shape of the canvas from the long and narrow to square and to see if I could portray the same vast landscape that was relatively easy to accomplish in the pastel version. Easy, in that the wide horizontal format is a ready made wide angle view. A square tends to want to center things for you. To avoid that, I made a point of designing the lines to move towards the lower left where the intensity of the burn is in it's most concentrated state. The smoke plume emanates from that point, the fire is most intense at that point, and that is the point at which we can see that the wind is moving from left to right, the smoke making the wind visible. That's what provides the movement to the painting, another thing that you have to be careful not to stall out in a square format. At least, this is my thinking about it all.

Once again I'm using my favorite Studio Products Flake White and the Yarka 'fine' grade linen with an alkyd priming. I read an article about the painter/pastelist Wolf Kahn the other day. His large (5, 6, 7+ feet) paintings have a beautiful surface of layered, thin paint. He talked about his painting technique briefly in the article. He talked about painters of the past and how they knew how to layer a thin veil of color on a canvas, and to then layer additional veils of color over that, as a lost or at least disappearing aspect of current painting technique. A lot of the paintings we see now are composed of heavy layered opaque paint. Pounds of paint applied 'alla prima'. Don't get me wrong, I love a good juicy painting as much as anyone. But there's also a beauty in veils of scumbled on color, transparency against heavy paint. Think of Turner, Inness, Sickert, and many of the other deceased painters. The jewel like surface of their paintings is so wonderful to look at, like looking into the inside of a sea shell's opalescent surface.

In the painting I've posted, I've also gone for that sort of treatment in the sky, smoke and even in the foreground. The actual paint applied to the canvas is very thin, using the undertone (a warm sienna) to add the warmth to the blue of the sky, and the warmth in the lighter value of the smoke. The flake white is a great paint for this way of working as it thins and can be scumbled onto the fine weave of the linen I've used for it.

"Oil paint needs only to be thinned by the vigour of its application" Walter Sickert. This is what I'm talking about.

PS-Never mind that the most recent evidence in Pratricia Cornwell's work suggests that he was the 'Jack the Ripper'!