Sunday, December 29, 2013

Something a Little Different

An artist can't live on landscapes alone, right?  I decided to try something a little different and painted an old derelict truck, all by itself in a field.

art painting truck abandoned rusty Ford flatbed ranch

"Forlorn Ford"

 11" x 14", Acrylic on panel

My reference for this was a photo I took during the "Antique Power Show" at the Richard Erickson Foundation Antique Power Museum last June. I made a few changes from the reference.  For one thing there was an ugly orange gas can sitting on the fender, I left that off.  There was also some junk on the bed I left off and other assorted tractors and trucks barely in view that I left out and I minimized the landscape to really give it that  abandoned look.  This was fun, I may do more vehicle paintings in the future.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


While I don't strive to put lots of detail into my paintings I think it's worthwhile to spend some time on occasion to sketch something in detail from life.  The more you know about your subject the more effectively you can represent it in paint whether you intend to include all those details or not.  I think pen and watercolor is the ideal medium for this purpose. We had another day of winter sun with bearable temperatures so I ventured out to the Jordan River Parkway again, the same area I went to on Christmas Eve.  I decided to record some details on this trip.

art sketch pen watecolor plein air nature tree

I honestly don't know what kind of tree this is but I thought it was interesting how it had three trunks, one large and two small.  The handful of leaves that managed to hang on through fall added a bit of interest and color.

I fully intended to do two detail sketches but when I saw this scene I had  to sketch it.  Not only was it  a great subject but I was able to sketch it from a position I normally would not since most of the year it is under water;

art pen watercolor plein air jordan river parkway

That far bank looks like it may have been created buy a machine, which is possible because part of the river restoration efforts was to return the river to something closer to it's original path with lots of bends creating endless compositions.  I'm sure they didn't have artists in mind during the restoration but I appreciate it anyway.

I meant to share some of my photos in the last post but forgot so here are a couple from Christmas Eve.

This is the view you get of the river after crossing the bridge that goes over Little Cottonwood Creek.  This is near Arrowhead Park.

Here I am standing in the middle of a marsh, one of those locations you just can't get to except during winter.  I'm looking towards the back of the pond that borders the paved trail in back.  You can see one of the boardwalks that jut out into the pond at the top left.  They have three of these on this pond, great spots for bird watching.

Here are a couple photos from todays walk in the parkway.

This is near where I made my second sketch.  You can see the big (machine made?) bank on the left but this is looking straight west whereas for my sketch I was facing Southwest and from a lower perspective.

art photography winter nature sun dusk blue shadow

"Winter Walk"

Here I was getting back to the trail that would take me back to the car.  It was 4:00 pm, the sun was getting low and it was getting cold!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Sketching

I had the day off today and we finally had some sun and a reasonable temperature after a few days of overcast conditions and snow so I went out and did some sketching.  I went to the Jordan River Parkway again, this time the area near Arrowhead Park.  One of the good things about winter is the lack of foliage exposes scenes you just don't see during the other seasons.  I decided to sketch a bend in the river, this time I got the watercolors out too.

art sketch pen ink nature jordan river parkway

It was still a little cold for attempting an acrylic painting.  I can do a pen and watercolor sketch in 20-30 minutes versus a couple hours for a painting. Not only does acrylic paint not like such low temperatures I don't care for the cold either so sitting in one spot for twenty minutes is much more appealing than sitting there for two hours.  A watercolor sketch gives me enough info to help me recall what it was like being at the scene.  All those bare trees would make a studio painting a challenge though!

I wandered farther into the area up into the marsh.  This is an area that just isn't accessible during the other seasons, it's too wet.  A heavy blanket of snow helped keep me above the moisture for the most part.  I was able to access the back of the pond at the marsh, again something I could never do any other time of the year.  The ground was still quite soft under me so I decided sitting on the stool was not an option and instead did a quick pen sketch while standing;

art sketch pen ink nature jordan river parkway

It may not seem like much but doing a sketch, any kind of sketch helps embed the aspects of the scene in your mind that a camera just can't capture.  I scribbled in a couple ducks that were there.  I don't understand that, if I could fly south for the winter I definitely would! 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Painting Winter - The Jordan River Parkway

I've never been a fan of winter.  I don't tolerate sub freezing temperatures well at all and my favorite landscape element, the trees are all bare.  There is also a distinct lack of color......or is there?  Maybe it's about time I learned to love winter, or at least the artistic possibilities winter provides.

We've been in the deep freeze the last couple weeks here in northern Utah, some days with the high temperature being below 20*F.  That kind of weather isn't very conducive to going for a walk with the sketchbook let alone painting outdoors.  Finally this weekend the temperature broke the freezing mark and today we had sunlight so I decided it was about time I got off the recliner and got outside.  It was the middle of the afternoon before I got up the ambition and with the days so short I only had time for sketching.  I went out to the Jordan River Parkway searching for subjects to sketch and to photograph.  While I only took a pen and kept the sketches quick, (it was still pretty cold ya know.) I was still forced to really observe my subject, even without using color I believe this helps cement the subject in my mind.  I decided it would be helpful to make a quick painting while the day's observations were still fresh;

art painting landscape nature winter tree snow

"Winter Ditch"

8 x 10, acrylic on panel

This is a good example of the kind of subject that only exists during winter. During the summer this  ditch would be full of bushes almost hiding the fact that it's there at all.  The snow also makes the subject more appealing by simplifying it.  Even in the spring before it gets overgrown all the grass and other plants combine to make the subject confusing and complex.  For these and other reasons winter paintings are worth making, hopefully I'll make many more of them this year than I have in the past.

Here are the two pen sketches I made today;

art ink pen sketch nature tree jordan river parkway

art ink pen sketch nature tree jordan river parkway

Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Canyon Sentinels

It's been a while since I last posted, been lazy I guess.  Finally got back to the easel and made this small painting based on a photograph I took while on vacation in southern Utah last year.  Red Canyon is the area you drive through shortly before arriving at Bryce Canyon National Park when traveling from the west.  I'd spent the whole day in Bryce Canyon and on the way to Cedar City that evening stopped at Red Canyon to explore a little and take some photos as the sun was getting low.

art painting red rock canyon utah landscape nature

Red Canyon Sentinels
acrylic, 10" x 8"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sketching at Wheeler Farm

The weather today was about as nice as it gets in the Salt Lake Valley in mid-November.  I decided I needed to take advantage and took a short drive over to Wheeler Farm to do some sketching.  Wheeler Farm is an historic living farm owned by the county. I've been on a pen kick lately, I don't know why but that's why I made these sketches using a Copic Multiliner .03 pen in my 5x8 sketchbook.  All of these sketches are straight to pen with no preliminary layout work in pencil.  I do this as both a challenge to my drawing skills and because I prefer to have that little bit of extra sponteneity in my sketches from life.

First up is the "Milk House".  This is actually one end of a larger structure, the rest of which is used to store hay.  I rushed it a bit at the start and got the angles and width of the end of the building a bit off.

Trying to learn something from the previous sketch I went a little slower on this one, trying to make sure I got those angles right.  The sign was missing from this little house but if I remember right it they call it the "summer cottage" or something like that.

I did this last sketch quickly, the temperature had started dropping below the point of comfort.  This is a chicken coop built way back in the early 1900's and restored in the 1980's, so even the restoration is old now!

It was sure nice to get outside for a couple hours and sketch at one of my favorite places today.  These opportunities will soon become very rare until spring!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Golden Marsh - finished

I finished the WIP I showed you in the last post.  This was one of those paintings that practically paints itself, a rare thing. For one thing, nature gave me a near perfect composition and a great color harmony, I just had to translate it to pigment on paper.

"Golden Marsh"
16" X 12" pastel on sanded paper

I scanned this one instead of photographing it and while it did come out better than my photographs it still isn't quite right.  For one thing the real painting isn't nearly as grainy, something about the light passing through and bouncing back that does that.  That effect makes a pastel painting look luminous in person but it makes it real difficult to digitize!  I'll get a handle on this some day, I swear I will!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

WIP - Golden Marsh

I started a new pastel painting today.  It's been a while since I've done a pastel painting larger than 8x10, this one will be 16x12.  This painting is based on a photo I took last Friday in the same spot as the first photo in my last blog post. The composition is practically ready made by nature but there were a couple tweaks I wanted to try and so I did a thumbnail sketch to test them;

As you can see I just used a plain old HB pencil. I moved the horizon up higher and tried to connect the darks a little better.  I decided to move forward with the underpainting;

I decided to try using watercolor for the underpainting, something I've never done before.  Watching my Richard McKinley video the other day motivated me to get all "splishy splashy" with my underpainting.  Normally I just use an alcohol wash over a thin layer of hard pastel.  I enjoyed this process and I think it may have made for a more interesting setup for the painting than I normally get, so I'm sure I'll use this technique again if not often.  I only put out a few colors since I was going for a near complimentary color scheme.  I wanted to keep the colors focused on violets and oranges since that is what the final painting will be.  I've found when I get real adventurous with color in the underpainting I just end up covering it all.  As McKinley says, "the underpainting is the set up for what goes on top."  If the underpainting is so incongruent with your idea for the final painting you end up covering it all up, what was the point in doing an underpainting?  I did underpaint the sky with yellow ochre, for some reason I usually like to do that for skys on a sunny day even if it will be mostly covered in blue.  The support for this painting is Uart 400 sanded paper mounted to foam board.

It's early in the game but I'm feeling pretty good about this one, I beleive it will be a winner

Friday, May 17, 2013

Little Cottonwood Tributary

It's finally finished!  I've been working on this painting for over two months.

Little Cottonwood Tributary 40" X 20"
acrylic on board

This painting is based on a sketch I did along with photos I took last summer while on a hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.  I titled the painting "Little Cottonwood Tributary" but this creek is actually White Pine Fork, the creek that drains from White Pine lake into Little Cottonwood Creek.  For you ski buffs, this is near Snowbird Ski Resort.

Friday, April 26, 2013

WIP #7

It's been two weeks since I last posted.  Part of that is laziness, part of it is the fact that last week's update just wasn't that interesting.  I am making progress but this painting has a few sessions to go yet.  Here is the latest;

Here is a detail of the area I'm currently working on.

Hopefully I'll be less neglectful of this blog in the future.  I plan on posting photographs from my hikes and travels as well in the future.  I also plan on spending more time at the drawing board and easel, hopefully I have more than just this monster painting to post about soon. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

WIP #6

Another week another update to the big painting;

And a detail shot.

This is turning out to be quite a journey.  At first glance it doesn't look like I've done much.  I haven't gone hardly any further down the board but I've done a lot of refining of that areas I did last week.  Always experimenting and learning as I go!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

WIP #5

I had another session on the big painting this week. Two hours go by really fast when you're painting with a friendly group.   One of the things I love about acrylics is the ability to layer within a couple minutes vs a couple days as with oils, (or weeks).  I take advantage of this ability a lot with acrylics. You'll see in the the newly painted section of the painting that some areas are more finished than others.  Some only have the initial layer, scrubbed in transparently and other areas have two or three layers and are still looking unfinished. Finished areas often have ten or more layers.  Admittedly, some of this layering is by necessity with acrylics being less opaque than oils but I find it often a more fun way to paint than wet into wet, though I often use that technique as well.  Wet into wet takes a little bit of planning and working quickly with acrylics but it is possible.

Close up.

Friday, March 29, 2013

WIP #4

I have two in progress paintings to show today.  First up is the one you've seen the last several weeks.  I finally have a full session of color.  I started at the top and kept the colors on the cool and desaturated side and the shapes a little less distinct since the top of the painting is also the farthest distance back from the viewer.

Here's a detail of the area I worked on;

I think some of the evergreen tree shapes could use a little more work, some of them are a little too symmetrical and regular.  Prior to that night's painting session I printed out a copy of the photo of the monochromatic version to remind me of my value plan, it was very helpful.  It can be easy to get lost in color and forget about values.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WIP #3

Just a quick post today.  I just got back today from class in which I finished the monochromatic underpainting for the painting in the last post.  (I missed last week due to coming home from work with a raging headache.) 

Several people have commented that I should leave it monocrhomatic.  It is tempting but I'm so sure it will look even better in color that I spent the last few minutes I had in class and painted in the sky and some of the dark recesses in the trees.  So what do you think, does it stand alone as a monochromatic painting?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

WIP #2

I needed to start a new painting for my Wednesday night class with Susan Jarvis since I finished "Autumn on Beaver Creek".  Susan's classes are what I'd call "Open" meaning you paint what you want and she helps you as needed. I decided to finally try a painting I've had in mind ever since I made a sketch of a tributary creek in Little Cottonwood Canyon last year, you can read about that here.  My painting won't be quite the same as the sketch, but rather taller and more narrow and bringing in more of the scene. 

I decided to try painting this one on an Ikea table top.  That's right, a table top.  These table tops are very inexpensive, ($5.99 when I bought mine) and measure a little under 20" X 40" and are over 1 1/2" thick.  They are quite sturdy and can be hung similar to a gallery wrap canvas.....without framing.  I prepared my table top by first puttying over the screw holes in the back for the legs and then sanding the putty smooth. I then applied a sealer/primer over the back since it appears to be made similar to MDF fiber board and so like MDF could possibly absorb some moisture out of the air over time. Since the edges and the front were coated in a melamine type plastic I didn't see any need to seal those but I did sand them with a fine sand paper to provide tooth for the acrylic gesso that I  applied in three coats with a fine foam roller.  This is how I prep my MDF panels as well, it gives what I feel is the perfect texture for painting landscapes.  I actually didn't gesso the sides, I primed them with a spray primer and then spray painted the sides and back with a black satin enamel.  I don't plan on carrying the painting over onto the sides of the board so the black painted sides will become a separation of sorts between the painting and the wall when hung, similar to a frame.

This particular subject is quite complicated with many shapes involved so I decided I'd do a monochrome underpainting to make sure that it all works well as a composition before committing it to color.  The acrylic paint in my Sta-Wet palette was kind of a jumbled mess anyway so I mixed it all together and added some ultramarine blue to darken it and ended up with a color similar to burnt umber.

I sketched out the composition first using a round brush, just catching the significant edges of the major shapes.  As you can see I ended up redoing the top section of the creek a couple times trying to get a pleasing and realistic effect.  I'd already started to block in the shapes as well since I didn't get the idea to take WIP photos until this point,

More blocking in

Now I've blocked in the top part of the stream.  You'll also notice I went back into the upper right area and reworked it a bit.  I decided to bring out the tree trunks more and adjust the foliage some.

I struggled a bit with how to fill the area in the middle since I stretched that area a little to change the composition to have the creek end up higher in the painting.  This could prove to be even more of a problem during the color layers but all my sketching experience will help. And just like that class was over.  In two hours I only got to a little farther than the mid point of the underpainting.  The night just flew by.