Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hollyhocks with sky - oil painting, 12x9

Hollyhocks Know No Bounds
12 x 9 inches
oil on board

Finally, a new painting to post after a much longer than expected absence from blogging and the studio.

Actually, I shouldn't say that I haven't been painting...I have, but not much and it's not been a noteworthy showing.  We moved last Friday, and I always underestimate how out of sorts I am after any relocation.  Unpacking and the general clutter and disorganization that accompany a move make it difficult for me to sit down and paint, even though I got my studio set up rather quickly.  

I did manage to do four more ACEO's of The Tree series earlier in the week.  However, I just couldn't get around to photographing or posting them.  Perhaps because of all the amazing work I'm seeing other bloggers post lately just made me take a pass on that.  I did finally take photos, and may post them at some point, simply because this blog also serves as a journal and documentation of my work - good and not so good.

And, I even attempted a plein air pastel painting of one of the tulips in the raised garden right across from our new place.  It went straight into the trash, and I learned that my Nupastel set isn't coming with me the next time on the next flower plein air trip.  It's been far too windy and cold recently to consider a dedicated trip outside to paint, but hopefully this dry cold front delivered to us by the pacific northwest will leave and give warmer temps and calm air very soon!

This painting is today's keeper after yesterday's "three strikes and you're out" studio effort to paint a group of tulips on an 11x14 panel.  If you have to wipe something three times because it isn't working, it's time to move on.   Unlike the smaller surrealist-edged florals I've done, this one is based on two photos.  The beautiful crimson hollyhocks just needed to be freed from their ho-hum garden existence and visit the sky.  

Does it work?  I hope so.  Maybe it's hard to tell with this photo, which is just awful.  The camera sensor just doesn't take kindly to these bright colors and has created a variety of unsavory optical effects, not helped at all by the glare of wet paint.  Just believe me that it really does look much better in person.  I also hope it is dry by Monday.  A new frame awaits.  

To push the drying on this (nothing like waiting until the last minute to get something done), I broke out my unopened jar of Liquin.  I got hooked on using Liquin back during my equine art days, but since I'm not painting in thin layers and glazes anymore, I haven't used it for landscape painting until today.   I don't think I'll make a habit of using it unless I do decide to try glazing techniques.  

I'm hoping my studio dry spell is over, because I have tons of ideas bouncing around to work on.


Some random photos taken recently:

My beautiful Easter cactus posing on our deck today.  I've thought of painting it, but it's so busy that I'm sure I'd just end up wiping the result

Nelson performs his daily sunbeam meditation on the guest bed

April 26 sunset from our new deck.  Perins Peak and Smelter Mtn. are no longer in the view, but Twin Butte is

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Comb Ridge, revisited - pastel painting

9x12 inches
pastel on Strathmore

Another quick piece, done this evening, based on a photo up on Comb Ridge itself taken along the hike to the Procession panel petroglyph.  I was drawn to the sweeping curves of the sandstone and the line of juniper leading up the wash.  The challenge was to try and capture the direction of the rock and avoid a flat appearance by use of pastel stroke and subtle variations of gray of the same value.

I had to rely on a flash for the photo, so the color nuances aren't as clear as they are on the actual piece.  However, I won't have access to the computer or the internet for most of the day tomorrow due to our move, so it was either now or another day or possibly two before anything was going to surface here.  

The green of the junipers becomes a key element in this painting by adding both an area of contrasting value as well as a non-linear visual path into the painting.  These are things I keep in mind when I'm composing the photo.

I'm into these green skies; they seem to harmonize better with the pale grays of the land, and of course the shrubs, than blue.

It has a more abstract feel to it than the painting from a few days ago, and is more of what I was aiming for.  

I hope to be back online tomorrow evening from our new condo!  


A few final deck photos from our current place...

Sunset, April 19 - stratocumulus

April 20 afternoon - altocumulus and Smelter Mtn. in the spotlight

April 20 sunset - bands of cumulus mediocris 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring comes to Durango - photo set

Some photos taken on a walk-about in downtown Durango yesterday - a placeholder until I have something new in my studio to share:

Detail of cherry blossom tree

Purple tulip with buds
Growing in a small retaining wall garden in the median right across from our new condo

Trees in bloom in downtown Durango

A trio of daffodils 

Flowering branch detail

Bi-color tulips 

Cherry tree at our current place


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comb Ridge & Butler Wash road - pastel painting

"Towards Comb Ridge"
9x12 inches
pastel on 90# w/c paper

This started out as a quick study a few days ago and I finally tinkered with it a bit more today to finish it.   It was one of those "spontaneous" choices for a subject:  the road, of course, and my attempt to render the monocline of Comb Ridge as simple, abstract shapes with contours of the sandstone defined by the lines of juniper scrub growing along them.  The neutral, earthy palette doesn't give much in the way of strong values or contrasts, which is why I didn't use this before.  It was more an excuse to paint a road and just try to depict those glorious uplifted slabs of sedimentary rock where the glorious remains of a culture long since passed are tucked away.

It originally started out as a loose (read:  crude) watercolor painting, which morphed into the underpainting for a pastel.  Prior to applying the pastel, I used a sanding pad to vigorously scrub the surface to remove more texture from the paper.


A few more photos from our trip to the Cedar Mesa area:

Road just west of the Comb, en route to Cedar Mesa
This will definitely end up as a painting one day, and hopefully, much better than this photo

Precarious position
A large balanced rock on the trail in South Mule Canyon on Cedar Mesa

House on Fire ruin - our destination
Mid-morning reflected light produces a beautiful orange-yellow glow on the distinctly eroded sandstone roof, giving these ruins their informal name.   It is absolutely stunning!

Roadside Kiva
A well-preserved ceremonial kiva and the crumbling ruins of the small pueblo-style dwelling behind it are located right off the highway through Cedar Mesa

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A pair of chicken portraits in oil

Yep, it's another challenge from DailyPaintworks:  The Chicken Challenge:

6x6 inches 
oil on 1/4 wood panel
[source photo courtesy of C. Marine]

7x5 inches
oil on canvas board
[source photo courtesy of C. Sheeter]

An unexpected break from the landscapes - I honestly didn't consider that chickens would be the subject matter for any paintings this week.  But, it sounded like so much fun that I just had to try it.  And, I enjoyed painting "Ethel" yesterday afternoon that I started on "Freddie" last night after the brownish madder I used to tone the canvas was dry.  I finished him up late this morning.

Of course, I have never painted a bird or chicken before.  I've been wanting to paint more animals ever since I did Observation Deck.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a single reference photo of a chicken, so I went with Carol's provided photo and one found in the Reference Image Library on WetCanvas for Freddie's.

I like chickens, actually. They are clearly unaware of their low order on the food chain, and you always hear stories about how mean roosters can be, especially when defending their hens.  The look in Freddie's eye tells you he is not to be trifled with.

This very short video never fails to make me laugh:

Ethel started out with a pencil sketch onto the board, but with Freddie, I jumped right in with the oils, making some corrections as I went.  The easiest parts of the paintings to do, beside the backgrounds?  The eyes.  Probably not what most people would say, but back when I was doing mixed media equine sculpture, I painted many tiny equine eyes.  And quite well, I might add.  They are the key of animal (or most human) portraits - if the eyes aren't right, the painting fails.

The hardest part was trying to get Freddie's feathers to look acceptable.  He is a Barred Rock rooster, and the black and white feather pattern is complex to say the least.  The extreme darks of the feathers in the photo didn't translate so well to a painting, so here it is just suggested; I ended up wiping it off twice before settling on this final version.

Palette used:  alizarin crimson, cadmium reds dark & medium, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue.

Can't ever be too far from the landscapes, but I'm really liking these chickens.  I have a few more reference photos, so who knows?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sunsets Across the Land - Quartet Miniseries in pastel

Sunset #1 - Acapulco
3x9 inches
pastel on reclaimed Colourfix

Sunset #2 - Across the Poquonock River, CT
Sunset #3 - Bluff, UT

Sunset #4 - West of Tucson

A return to these 1:3 ratio small pastels that I've enjoyed doing, with some landscape-format sunsets for this series.  Nothing like some bright, over-the-top reds and oranges or warm pinks and muted corals to help with a creative slump, right?

Four sunset moments from four very different locations.  There are plenty of art critics that believe sunset paintings are a cliche (did I mention this in the last post?  I believe I may have) and border on kitsch, especially those with the sun in a setting position.  

Sunset paintings are one of my guilty pleasures, kitsch or not.  


And, here are a few recent photos of sunsets taken from our deck:

April 11 - Altostratus

Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud - April 11
April 5 - Altocumulus
April 4 - Altostratus

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Tree x 4 - ACEO pastel landscape studies

Labels:  ACEO, original art, pastel painting, southwest landscape, tree, sunset

Tree #1 - Yellow Sky & Red Wildflowers
 I seem to be in a bit of an indecisive artistic lull lately.  Can't decide what to do as far as larger works go; the idea of doing something big just seems daunting for whatever reason.

But yet, I still want to paint something.

So, I find myself coming back again to these little mini-paintings.  Not much to dedicate in the way of time or materials, which seems about right for me, at least today.

Tree #2 - Stormy Skies
South of Durango, along Hwy 550, is Florida Mesa.

And, along the highway is some farm or ranch land upon which resides a lone ponderosa pine in an open field.  I really dig this tree, and have photographed it on different occasions.

So, I decided to paint it and vary the background in each version.  This would actually be a great subject for a "Multiple Variations" challenge, similar to what jump-started me back to pastel painting 1 1/2 years ago with this series.

Tree #3 - Overcast Sky Sunset
 I may do more of The Tree, or not.  But, for tonight, it was good.

Tree #1 has maybe a bit of Tonalism to it?  All warm colors.

Tree #2 is similar to this one, based on a summer monsoon storm.

Tree #3 sports one of those intense sunsets with high-chroma colors, of which we have plenty of here.

Tree #4 was what tonight's sky looked like, sunset-wise.  Semi-plein air, I guess.
I guess until I have further inspiration to do a larger piece, these minis will tide me over.

I decided to add the black border around them using GIMP.  Looks neat, I think.

And, on an unrelated note, Blogger's formatting continues to confound me.  The text in Preview mode looks nothing like the actual blog post - large gaps between photos that I can't seem to fix.  So, sorry about that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Travels Abroad - landscapes in oils, 6x6 - SOLD

original landscape painting, oils, roads, 6x6

Travels Abroad #1
oil on wood panel

Travels Abroad #2
oil on wood panel

Before embarking on larger paintings based on the Butler Wash/Cedar Mesa trip, I decided I had to do the Daily Paintworks German Landscape challenge for this week.  Host Carol Marine offered two photos, both taken during her trip to Germany.  And, even though I don't usually paint from reference photos that aren't my own, I couldn't resist these.  

Why?  Two reasons:  1) they have roads, which I have an irresistible urge to paint; 2) the snapshots themselves had inherently good design - simple, abstract shapes and good range of values.  As the basis for a painting, they were ideal.  

My personal challenge with these was to more or less abandon the local color (summer green...not my favorite color, and besides, everyone else is doing them in green) and go with some different palettes for each. And, to simplify-simplify-simplify.  

The palette I used was somewhat random:  alizarin crimson, cadmium orange, Indian yellow, burnt sienna, brown madder, cobalt blue hue.  Actually, the brown madder was the random addition to the palette.

They were fun little paintings, both done last night, save for some tweaking on #2 this morning.  Originally, I had long shadows going across the road in #2, even though they aren't in the reference photo.  I wasn't sure about them, so I showed Wayne, because despite the fact he says he isn't qualified to offer opinions on art, he's nothing but brutally honest:  "I don't like the shadows - it looks like sewage is running across the road."   After I stopped laughing, I went down and changed it.  Despite what he might think, I'm actually really grateful for his opinions.  Hopefully, it looks better now.

Some random photos from our Utah trip from the first day after our hikes:

Casa Del Eco Mesa, with the San Juan river cutting across the valley.  

San Juan river
Two rafts await a private river trip in the morning

Monument Valley to the southwest, as seen from Hwy 163 

Two buttes in Valley of the Gods catch late afternoon sun

Sunset in the town of Bluff, UT

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Butler Wash pastels - ACEO

I can't get the Utah trip out of my head, so I am running off with it in color...

The Wash
2.5 x 3.5"
pastel on Strathmore

Tank Mesa

Road to Bluff

Sun-Kissed Cliffs

All from photos taken during the Butler Wash-Cedar Mesa trip.   Not shown in sequential order, but in order of my favorites, and also in the reverse order painted.  I'm pretty sure I'll revisit these in larger sizes and probably part of another series based on this trip...

I have many photos taken of hikes along side canyons and washes; I could do an entire series of them, and I have painted them a few times before in my Four Corners Roadtrip series:  Turning Point, Along the Wash, and Pathways are some examples.   This is a tributary to Butler Wash that we crossed on our way to the Procession Panel petroglyph (see previous post for photos).    

Tank Mesa is to the east along the Butler Wash road.  The cliffs, slopes and basin are quintessential southern Utah canyon country elements.  

Hwy 163 leading to Bluff, UT follows the San Juan river; the line of cottonwoods is a give-away that water is nearby.  A mesa on the distal side of the river casts shadows, and the pale sandstone lifts of Comb Ridge are seen in the distance.  


Photos from Monarch Cave ruins, our second hike in Butler Wash on Friday.  I was glad I brought the tripod along for this 3 mile RT hike:

The ruins in the alcove.  Look at those amazing patterns the desert varnish forms!  One of my favorite photos of the entire trip.  

Approaching the entrance

From the other side of the canyon

Broken metate (corn grinding stone), pottery sherds and corncob...all 700-1000 years old.  You won't see these lying around at Mesa Verde.  

Some of the many examples of rock art at Monarch Cave; these were about the same size as my hand.

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