Thursday, July 11, 2013

It has been awhile!

I'm happy to say that I'll be moving to Virginia next week to begin medical school at the University of Virginia.  It has been a busy time preparing for this change so I have neglected this blog to concentrate on school, work, family and moving.  The good news is that once I was accepted I was able to make time to paint again.  I love it as much as ever and I really hope to make painting part of my medical school life as much as possible.  That being said, it might prove difficult to paint without neglected other responsibilities so here are the last few pieces I've completed, all of them commissions.

Pursuing Science
24"x 30"

This was painted for noble laureate Dr. Mario Capecchi at the request of my awesome pre-medical advisor.  Dr. Capecchi spoke at the 2012 National Conference on Undergraduate Research held at our university and my advisor was able to interview him for an article in the school magazine.  In that interview he compared art and science and spoke of concentric circles of complexity and how scientists need to look to the future of science, almost to science fiction, to progress.  My advisor wanted a visual abstraction of this concept so I incorporated abstract art and cell biology-inspired shapes to create this piece.  Now she is having it framed and will hopefully get it to Dr. Capecchi shortly after.

Puzzle For a Friend
12"x 12"

A family in our neighborhood, whom I consider great friends, love to do puzzles on a scale I had never before seen.  While their puzzles have tens of thousands of pieces, the painting I did for them only has five.  This was a very fun, quick, loose painting that I loved working on.  I wanted to show them how much I appreciate them.

Dragonflies on the Clematis
12"x 16" ?

This was a commission for a wonderful lady who loves gardening and dragonflies.  I was really excited to try an elongated format and had a wonderful time painting the dragonflies.  Paintings, in general, take more work, time and planning than I ever expected.  I mean hard, frustrating hours full of wiping off and painting over and disappointment.  I wouldn't think I could ever say a piece "painted itself" but then this one came along.  It might not have painted itself, but it came so easily and naturally that I really had a great time working on it.  It was a nice reminder of why I love painting so much and a welcome 12 hour break from stress.

Under Hickman Bridge
20"x 24"

It is a good thing that I had my easy commission before this one because had this been the first, I don't know if I could have accepted another!  As natural and easy and fun as the last one was, this was equally frustrating, difficult and discouraging.  I was working from a photograph as a rough source and I was really excited about the composition and idea.  Red rocks and southern Utah are a concept that I have explored and revisited since I began painting and I love the contrast of green and red as well as the dry desert light.  Yet this one was a battle every step of the way.  One of the contributing factors was my schedule, which didn't allow for many long sessions and, since I was struggling with mixing colors and establishing a style, it was hard to make progress when I only had an hour or so at a time.  

Finally, I was able to capture my desired 'feel' in the distant mountains and that helped get me started.  I moved a step into the foreground and began working on the mid-distance cliffs.  They resisted for awhile, but once I was able to spend some time working on them things came together there as well.  Now I had some painterly momentum and the overhead arch, foreground rocks, and the level desert ground were easier to capture.  Then came the huge, shadowed cliff face in the foreground.  It was, for lack of another term, a 'problem area' that I attacked with every color, style and level of detail I had.  Nothing worked.  A few came close and may have been at least neutral canvas to let the rest of the painting exist on its own, but I wasn't satisfied with that.  I kept coming back to what role I wanted this half of the painting to play in the finished product.  

I knew my focus was on the lighted areas to the right, but I still wanted this half to have warmth and depth.  Slowly, with many wipe downs and restarts, I found a balance of simplicity and perspective that I knew would work.  I wanted to incorporate more greenery, as that was something requested by the commissioner, and was originally planning on 'planting' more in the light-soaked desert ground to the right.  Yet once I got the ground settled I knew that it needed to stay empty and bright.  The original picture I was working from had some trees in the right foreground area, mostly dead like the one shown, so I began working on the idea of incorporating more trees in front of the blank cliff face.  I did some research and found pictures in Capitol Reef of trees near cliffs and felt like it would work.  The trees were, actually, my favorite part to paint and pulling everything together was very rewarding after such a struggle along the way.  I kept track of the time I spent on this piece and ended at 24 hours.  It took longer than it should have but I'm very happy with the result and I learned a lot from this one.  The commissioner and her husband were also very pleased with the finished product.  

*Note* the image I currently have is not the best quality so I'm working on acquiring a better one.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

First of 2012 (and last of 2011)

     After nearly a year hiatus from my easel, I can finally return.  The MCAT has been taken, the applications are in progress and all I have to do is work full time!  Seeing as medical school will likely leave little time for painting, I hope to make the most of this summer.  Below is this year's first, a small still life study of a pear.  Just a quick alla prima piece to warm up.  Also below is the final piece from last year.  I don't know if it's finished yet or not.  I stopped working on it because school started back up but I might just leave it as is.  It isn't signed yet so I'll leave it hanging on the wall until I decide.

     I have several more small 10"x10" canvases, a cool panoramic 10"x20" and, my largest to date, a 24"x30".  I haven't decided what the big one is for yet, most likely a landscape, but I'm excited!

Pear I
Oil on canvas

Sunset From the Highway20"x24"
Oil on canvas

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Landscape "Summer Afternoon"

"Summer Afternoon" (tentative title)
Oil on Canvas

This was officially the largest painting I've completed so far. It was painted from a photo taken one afternoon while going on a walk around the neighborhood with my wife and daughter. I saw the view and was glad we had our camera with us because I immediately wanted to paint it.

My focuses during this piece were:

1) To capture the lush green of the scene and complement that with the splash of red.
2) Convey the afternoon lighting by keeping the shadows relatively light while still dark enough to contrast with the sunlit areas.
3) To create a visual path to draw the viewer into the painting. My intended path starts at the upper left corner with the sunlit shingles, follows the brightly lit flowers over the arch, jumps to the slanted shadow on the opposite house, proceeds down to the lit bush in the bottom right and then on to the patch of sunlit grass before passing through the arch and finishing at the bright triangle on the fence.

I enjoyed painting this one immensely and am very pleased with how it turned out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Daily Paintworks Challenge - Paint what you paint with

'Ready to Paint'
Oil on Canvas board

This is my take on the current Daily Paintworks challenge to paint what you paint with, posted by Carol Marine. I approached this piece very differently from my usual style. The big differences were:

1) Use only one brush (the one pictured). I tend to get carried away noodling small details with a little brush so I forced myself to only use a larger brush the entire time.

2) Keep the strokes! I opted for a looser and more painterly style where I left the brush strokes unblended.

3) Alla Prima. I finished this one quickly, avoiding my occasional problem with losing my momentum when I come back to a painting.

It was very fun to explore a different style and I'm very happy with the result.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Red Velvet with White Frosting

The cupcake series is complete! I loved exploring so many variations on a theme and I'm very satisfied with the result. With this last piece I tried to capture the amazing red color of the Red Velvet cake. I almost wanted to paint the batter instead of the finished cake because it was so shockingly blood red.

'Red Velvet with White Frosting'
Oil on Canvas

Here are a few ideas of how the series would look hung together:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Cherry Chip with Cherry Frosting'
6x6" Oil on Canvas

Here's the third in the series. This one was also very fun to paint, especially the cherry chips. My wife said I need to paint vegetables next so there aren't so many treats around! I decided to add one more to the series and just need to bake the final batch... Red velvet with white frosting.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cupcake Triptych

I'll get a better picture of the newest one tomorrow when the lighting is better. I'm also thinking about doing one more...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hawaii... It only took a year!

Last week I pulled this canvas that I started last summer out of the closet and decided I felt up to finishing it.

I could never get the foreground right and eventually I grew frustrated and put it away for a later day. This is the biggest canvas size I've used at 18x24", but that wasn't the problem. The problem, besides inexperience, was that I was trying to paint thickly with my painting knife. I definitely underestimated how hard it is! Sure it is easy enough smearing delicious mixtures of paint around but the hard part is keeping it from turning to mud and making it actually look 'finished'. I did a bit of work on the background to ease me back into the subject before I tackled the fence post, leaves and flowers. The posts worked out well enough, probably because I used a brush and kept things thin. The rest however, went through many stages, including some scraping and starting over. My struggle was to get the leaves to stand out from the grass behind them. I went to my wife/critic for help and she helped me realize I needed a lot more contrast. So I scraped the grassy area and repainted it with thin, light paint. Then I kept the leaves very thick but darkened them. The result is a VERY textured and expressive surface which is different from my usual style and which I quite like. I think this could be a piece that I modify off and on for the rest of my life unless I formally declare it finished and sign it. So that's exactly what I did. After a year in the making it feels great to have this piece finished!

(The colors are brighter than they appear here, I had a hard time getting a good picture)

Oil on Canvas with Painting Knife

Cupcake series so far...

Here's an idea of how the Cupcake series would look hung together:

Cupcake #2

I'm really enjoying this cupcake series! This one was spread out over the last three days and probably took me a little longer than the last one. My employed the same techniques here as with the first but my emphasis was different. Instead of focusing on the paper liner I wanted the missing bite to be the star here. Because of that I left the paper largely undefined and tried to have my area of greatest contrast at the bite. The cupcake itself is also very different. Not only is it yellow cake instead of chocolate but it quite wide compared to the last one. The frosting was also spread on instead of being piped on in a swirl. I'm finding it a rewarding challenge to try to nail down the texture of frosting as well as that of cake. I'm planning on doing one more cupcake to finish the series so stay tuned!

Here I've roughly blocked in the areas

And here is the finished piece.

"Yellow Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting"
Oil on canvas

Again the canvas is painted on all sides

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cupcake 1

I love the daily painting movement and follow many artists who complete a small piece each day. Although I don't have the resources or time to be that prolific, I occasionally get to fit one in. I've been planning on painting this for a few weeks and finally got the chance. It took about two hours and was exceptionally fun to paint. I approached this piece armed with several ideas and goals. I forced myself to premix my main colors before I got a brush in my hand because I find that this way sets me up for a more accurate color mixture and saves me frustration later on. I also tried to limit my palette somewhat so the colors I mix are harmonious. For example, the background hue was made by mixing Cerulean Blue with some of the colors from the chocolate mixture. I really wanted to show the value change in the paper from dark on the bottom where the cupcake is flush against it, to the lighter top where the paper starts to peel away from the cake a bit. I'm quite satisfied with the result and plan on making this the first in a series.

First I sketched it in thin Burnt Umber, just
getting the placement and general shape established.

Then I block in the darks before finishing with the
highlights and background/foreground

After approximately 2 hours I have the finished product.

'Chocolate Cupcake'
Oil on canvas


The painting extends onto the four sides of the square canvas
so it can be hung without a frame if desired:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Delicate Arch Final

"Delicate Arch"
Oil on Gallery Wrapped Canvas

After a few more adjustments, mostly on the left foreground rock structure, I found myself changing and adding things just for fun so I took it off the easel and decided I was done. I've reopened my Etsy site (see link to the right) and I'll be putting this up for sale soon!

Delicate Arch

It's finished! I would have completed much earlier this week but I started a new job and that cut into my painting time significantly. I worried that the long breaks between painting sessions would cause problems because momentum really affects my painting. For instance, in the middle of this piece I read a book about landscape painting and I was dying to implement the things I learned but it wouldn't have fit with the rest of the painting. The first half or so of it went perfectly, without even the normal "I hate it" stage, but then I had to remix all of my colors and try to rediscover my rhythm for the last part. Thankfully, after only a brief struggle trying to pick up where I had left off, I decided to 'start over' instead. So I abandoned the wood palette covered in drying puddles of color and got a fresh glass palette (my preferred surface) to mix fresh colors. This way I could forget about trying to match my previous colors and focus instead on mixing the colors I needed. It may sound like a small distinction but it made a difference for me. Then things started working out again and I had a great time finishing it.

I learned so much from this piece its hard to even put it into words. Painting is interesting in that each piece can teach you so much along the way, yet at the end you can't even articulate what you've learned. One thing I read right before I started this piece, and subsequently tried to incorporate into my painting, was the fact that cool colors in shadow recede and warm colors in shadows advance. I also learned a lot about light, atmosphere and texture. Again I learned just as much from what didn't work as the things that did.

I started by sketching the scene using a grid. Then I toned the canvas a warm orange-red.

I began blocking in color

The real challenge was portraying distance. From the mountains in the distance to the arch and foreground and the three or four layers in between.

The smooth rock in the foreground was very hard to get right, and eventually I laid down the brushes and used my fingers to blend the paint.

The arch was one of the last things I painted and it started rough but once I remixed my colors and came back to it things went great.

Finally I finished things up and signed it. I'm very happy with how this one turned out.

'Delicate Arch'
Oil on Gallery Wrapped Canvas

Although it has been signed, I'm leaving it up on my easel to look at and evaluate for a while so I might make a few changes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm hard at work...

I'm very excited about the piece I'm working on right now. I splurged and bought a nice 16x20" professional grade gallery wrapped canvas and its a joy to paint on. Now that I have a few studies completed and I'm back in the painting mindset I wanted to execute a larger and more ambitious piece. Things have gone great so far and I'd say I'm approximately 75% through it. As for the subject matter... anyone remember this lino print?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I find myself being torn in two directions. These small paintings, studies really, are not meant to be refined works so I try to not overwork them. I learn from the successes and failures and instead of trying to fix the failures in the current piece I file the lessons learned away for further use. Yet sometimes its so tempting to modify or rework certain parts of 'completed' paintings! But what if I end up making things worse? This is the back and forth which constantly vie for my attention. That being said, I have succumbed to the temptation and have made a few alterations of two recent pieces.
My latest subject of internal battle has been that of contrast, or more specifically my paintings' lack of it. My wife/critic/consultant helped me see this so it was with the goal of adding contrast that I put these canvases back on the easel. As usual I feel like a was able to improve a few things but in the process I created additional new issues. Maybe this will help me withstand the temptation next time - yet that tractor needs some work...





Monday, May 30, 2011

My ever present foe

I have a problem. I have to finish a painting in one day, maybe two if I'm lucky, or else I lose the groove of the painting and it goes downhill. This painting is just one example. I snapped a picture of my farmer neighbor on his tractor as he passed and I was very excited to paint it. I also thought it'd be fun to show the progression of this one so on Saturday I started.

Below is the painting sketched roughly in Burnt Umber, so far so good.

Now I've blocked in the major colors and shapes, still going fairly smoothly.

Now its Monday, my painting has been sitting on my easel waiting for me to finish it. I begin to refine things, starting with the farmer who I want to be my focus. At this point I'm struggling to regain the momentum I had on Saturday and hoping I can enjoy what should be the most enjoyable part of the process. Yet my foe raises its ugly head in the form of dried paint on the palette, forcing me to re-mix my colors, which rarely ends in a satisfactory way.

I hit the "why am I even trying to save this hideous painting phase", struggle through it to a "hey maybe this will work out after all" phase, and then end somewhere in between at a "well I better quit before I get too far behind, I can live with this" phase.

'Backyard Farmer'
Oil on Canvas panel

Friday, May 27, 2011

2 more!

Now that I have the easel back out I'm putting it to good use! I had a blast today for about three hours straight listening to good blues and painting these two one after the other. The first is from a picture I took from our back porch not too long ago. The second is from a picture I took a couple of years ago at Bear Lake. Interesting note, I painted the same scene en plein air last summer, as shown below. This is my first time painting the same subject in a different season's costume and I quite enjoyed it. Neither are masterpieces but it feels great to be stretching the painting muscles again.

'Telephone Lines'
Oil on Canvas Panel

My inspiration for this one was Michael Naples, an artist who I greatly admire. He has done several similar wire paintings including his latest. His really put mine to shame though.

'Bear Lake in Winter'
Oil on Canvas Panel

Here is approximately the same view in the summer:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's this, a new painting?!

After nearly a year hiatus I'm back at the easel. A very busy school year and an adorable new daughter have kept me busier than ever before so unfortunately my painting had to be put on hold. I got my guitar back out to help fill the void but I've been dying to paint again. Its an odd thing, being an artist. After not painting for awhile I'm almost wary of starting again unless I know I'll be able to paint frequently. Thats why I can't paint during the semester because its too hard for me to start and stop randomly, with weeks going between sessions. The initial "withdrawal" is the worst, then it becomes a dull ache for time and finally builds back up again until I can't take it anymore. Finally I'm back in the mindset and have some time to paint again, though not as much as last summer.

I painted this today while little L took a nap :) It took me about 2 hours looking out the back window of our apartment for a wanna be 'plein air' piece. My approach was a quick and simple landscape with a limited palette. I ended up using more colors than I hoped but its a start. The sheep weren't very cooperative models so I had to hurriedly block them in at the start. I was really happy with it at that point and slightly less happy with the end result but oh well it was great just to push some paint around again and get the warm up out of the way. The lighting also complicated things because it started out overcast but the sun came out towards the end so the painting is a confusing in-between. Yet I'm still happy with the result and I've known I had to paint this since we moved in last August. I picked up more canvases today so look forward to much more soon ...if anyone still reads this blog!

'Backyard Sheep'
8x10" Oil on Canvas board
May 26, 2011

Oh and this reminded me a lot of this prior painting from three years ago...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Merry Christmas'
Original hand pulled Lino print
Dec 19, 2010
Approx 5" x 7"
White Sulphite paper
Edition of 10
Not for sale

The semester is over and I find myself with free time for a change. It's always a bit intimidating getting back into my artistic endeavors because it is so dang hard to stop afterward! I very much enjoyed creating this piece and will hopefully have something else to show before Spring 2011 semester starts. This print was created as a Christmas card on its way to a few lucky friends and family. The metallic silver calligraphy and accents on the tree are hard to see in this scan but it says Merry Christmas.

We're expecting our first (a little girl!) next spring so I'm working on some ideas for the nursery :) Merry Christmas to you all, thanks for all who visit and support even when my posting is sporadic at best. May we all remember who we celebrate at this time of the year, He lives!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Last works of the summer

Well school has started again and I'm spending my time at a desk instead of in front of an easel. I didn't let the summer end without completing a few more small pieces though, it has just taken me awhile to post them here.

Oil on canvas panel

This one was started on a day with an unusual amount of free time (I think I had work off or something) which meant that I left it half finished, waiting for another free day to finish it. Unfortunately that never really came so I ended up adding a few strokes of green and initialing it before we packed up and moved. So here it is in its unfinished/finished state. I'm alright with it :)

'Bear Lake triptych'
Three 8x10"
Oil on canvas panel

This was a very enjoyable and educating experiment in plein air painting. I haven't painted outside from nature very often and I discovered that THIS is what I need to do to improve my painting. Nature doesn't hold still- clouds move, water changes, animals and people meander about and shadows are constantly changing. It forces you to make quick decisions and stick to them, there isn't time to try a few things/colors out to see which you like better. Instead you're scrutinizing your view trying to figure out how to capture something as incomprehensible as the FEELING of your landscape. How do I paint the smell of the water and gasoline, the sound of seagulls or the breeze that takes the edge of the sun's burning? While working out this dilemma you have to mix colors and start blocking in your major shapes. This resulting in the equivalent of a casual jogger entering a half marathon. I just wasn't used to this demanding of a painting session, but I loved it. Sure it may have left me sore but it showed me possibilities that I hadn't understood before.
I painted each of these in one sitting on separate days. Finishing paintings that quickly and moving on to the next one added to the painting 'exercise' and I really enjoyed doing it. I gave these three to my Grandparents as it was their condo we stayed at. The first one I painted from a bench on an old marina, looking down at the waterline. I knew I wanted that sailboat to be my first subject as I have seen it in roughly the same place every summer for years. I woke up, walked down with my painting supplies and got right to work. It was a great way to start the day. The second was painted from a picnic table in the shade a ways down the beach. The mountains in the background are the same in all three paintings. The third was painted from a second story balcony a short walk away from the water. The sailboat's mast from the first painting is visible and since this was done in the afternoon the beach is full of vacationers. The outcome shows that I have a long way to go before I begin to get the hang of plein air painting, but nevertheless these were some of my favorite paintings ever. Also I think this is my first series or triptych, and I loved creating related pieces.