Sunday, August 20, 2017

Slowly But Surely

I don't have a new painting to share, or a sketch, or a drawing or even a new photograph.  I'm just making this post so you know I have not abandoned the easel.  I've been spending a lot of time on other things including digital photo-based art but I still take a few minutes here and there to paint.  I know I should commit more time to painting but some progress is better than none at all.

art painting wip soft pastel landscape tree

As proof that I'm doing something I give you this photo of my easel as it stands right now.  Yes, that's pastels you see.  I got the travel box out to do a quick small tree portrait that's proving to not be so quick but only because I'm not putting in the time, don't worry it will be finished by next week.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mixed Methods of Paint Application

My latest painting was a bit of an experimentation on a couple fronts.  First, I was doing the same thing I've done with almost every painting lately, and that is pursuing the abstraction of the subject while maintaining representation.  In same ways I think this painting was a gentle nudge in that direction but in other ways possibly a bit of a pull back.

Click on image to enlarge

"Into Autumn"

12" X 9", Acrylic on panel

The other experimental part to this painting has to do with the title of this blog post.  As you can see this painting has the texture of a palette knife painting, except I didn't use just palette knives to paint this autumn landscape.  First I toned the panel using quinacridone burnt orange, a misting of water and a paper towel.  After outlining the basic composition with a brush I massed in the painting using brushes, but starting with paint mixed with glazing medium so it went on transparently.  After a few layers I started using more opaque paint until the painting was more or less blocked in, but at the same time it wasn't my intention to totally cover the surface, I like to see bits of that quinacridone poking through here and there also I didn't want the paint to get too finished before the next step.  Next I got out the palette knives, however I didn't put the brushes totally aside yet.  I kept one old medium size bristle brush out and used it to modify some of the palette knife strokes, in fact in some cases I applied a small pile of paint with the knife for the express purpose of hitting it with the bristle brush after.  I didn't want to go crazy with this effect so I only did it a few times and then finished the painting up completely using knives.  Here are a couple close up crops showing the texture, layers and the effects of using different application techniques.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge
I did have a reference photo for this painting, taken somewhere in Ogden Valley, Utah I believe and it was taken during autumn but it was early in the season so had more green than I wanted and I also took some artistic liberties with the composition and shapes.  I didn't want to focus on the photo too much anyway, hard to paint abstractly while looking at a photograph.  Notice I only hinted at the grass, in the photo the area to the right of the road had lots of tall grass and it's always tempting to put that in for me because I love the texture of grass, so minimizing that, only suggesting it I think helped to keep this landscape abstract.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

From Study to Studio

I've been busy with lots of other interests lately, including rebuilding my print website ( and uploading much more content to it as well as establishing a new twitter account ( listing original art on ebay as well as spending time on other interests so I have neglected my blog here.  I hope to remedy that for the future and post at least every week or two.

While I have been focusing on online activities, photography and digital art I haven't completely neglected the easel.  In fact I recently finished an experimental painting, experimental because it was painted with oil paints and completely with a palette knife.

Click on image to enlarge

"Parkway Spring"

16" X 12", oil on panel

My only reference for making this painting was a small pastel study done on location (plein air) in June at the Jordan River Parkway.  I know of I've mentioned the Jordan River Parkway a lot in the past but it just can't be helped, that stretch of conserved nature inspires me more than anything else in the Salt Lake Valley.  Here's that little pastel study;

Click on image to enlarge

"Parkway Spring Study"

7" X 5", pastel on paper mounted to foam board.

Here are a couple close up details of the oil painting showing off all that rich texture that painting with a palette knife creates.  I think the painting can be as much about that texture as it is about the subject.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

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Monday, May 29, 2017

From Abstract to Representational

Recently I participated in a challenge on an artist forum.  We were given several photos to choose from to use as references, the catch was the photos were all very blurry and just contained abstract shapes.  From these reference we were to come up with all the details.  This is the photo I chose to base my painting on;

art reference black white blurry challenge

Of course I picked this one because it immediately suggested a landscape to me.   I could see a tree and bushes bordering the right side and pine trees in the distance, but what else?  I started the painting by blocking in using a brush and only the abstract photo for a reference.  Doing that was kind of an exercise that jump started my creativity and the rest of the image came into focus in my mind.  This is the result;

art painting palette knife lake mountain wilderness nature
Click on image to enlarge

"Mountain Lake"

 8" X 10", Acrylic on 1/8" panel
Original - $100
Prints Available

As you can see I modified the composition a bit and switch to palette knives.  I moved the background tree shapes a but more to the left and extended them to the left edge.  I also added the distant mountain shapes and altered the foreground shapes a bit.  So, from a blurry photo of nothing emerges a mountain landscape with a lake and evergreen trees, who'da thunk it?  That's the advantage of having spent a lot of time painting and sketching from life, I've got thousands of images embedded in my brain for helping me come up with something to fill a space when the photo reference is lacking, and in this case the reference was lacking just about everything.

Here are a couple of detail close ups;

art painting closeup texture palette knife acrylic
Click on image to enlarge

art painting palette knife detail texture closeup
Click on image to enlarge

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Green and Out

Continuing my palette knife series, this time an abandoned 1957 Chevy heavy truck left to rot in a grassy field viewed from the front.

art painting truck palette knife Chevy vintage abandoned
Click on image to enlarge

"Green and Out"

12" X 12", Acrylic on 2" deep cradled panel
Original - $150
Prints Available

I again I pushed the abstraction on this one, almost as much as I did in "Red Abstract Tractor"  In some ways that's a bigger challenge on a truck, there are more details that need to remain recognizable, I still want someone to be able to recognize the make and year of the truck, using a palette knife to paint sure makes that a challenge.

I painted this one in a square format, not only is the square perfect for these head on vehicle views but I just happened to have a deep cradled panel on hand that was 12x12 and wanted to use it, I painted the sides black.  What I like about deep cradled panels is not only can they be hung without a frame but since the sides are perfectly flat unlike gallery wrapped canvases they can just be set down on a shelf or any other flat, horizontal surface.

Here are a couple close up of areas of the painting so you can see the texture and knife strokes.

art painting palette knife green Chevy truck abstract
Click on image to enlarge

art painting abstract detail palette knife stroke

Click on image to enlarge

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Thicker and More Abstract

Using a palette knife instead of a brush for painting presents the opportunity for thicker paint application and a more abstract painting style.  I decided to try pushing both of those qualities when painting this small landscape.

art painting palette knife abstract landscape rural country land
Click on image to enlarge

"Open Spaces"

12" X 9", Acrylic on 1/8" panel
Original -  SOLD
Prints Available

As you can see the wide open spaces of the countryside is my inspiration for this painting, it often is.  I kept the palette knife loaded heavily and the strokes free and overlapping to help push the abstraction while keeping the subject recognizable. There's a great deal of freedom in painting this way.

Here are a couple of zoomed in details of small areas of the painting.  Here you can really see how thick the paint is and how random the strokes appear to be but when you zoom out and see the whole image it becomes something familiar.

art abstract painting landscape detail zooomed in
Click on image to enlarge

art abstract painting landscape detail zooomed in
Click on image to enlarge

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Farm Memories

It seems like old farms in the rural areas of Utah and I'm sure other places are almost like outdoor museums displaying historic relics of times gone by.  You'll find everything from horse drawn plows to tractors from the 1960's, manure spreaders from the 1920's to grain trucks from the 70's and everything in between.  Sometimes you'll come across items that aren't even farm implements such as antique gas pumps or manual washing machines and more.  Of course my favorite "farm finds" are old trucks and tractors.

art painting palette knife truck Chevy antique abandoned

"Farm Memories"

16" X 20", Acrylic on panel

I found this old Chevy flatbed truck in this painting in the small Sanpete County town of Fountain Green.  It was actually part of a display that could be called an outdoor museum of sorts.  Not only were tractors displayed with it but an old wood barn was there covered in old signs, license plates and hubcaps.

fine art photograph old barn sign vintage Phillps 66

"Signage Barn"

Cool, huh?  This is just one of those special treats you just might find while wandering the back roads.

The painting was done entirely with a palette knife.  On the body I tried to keep the palette knife strokes simple, just lay them down and leave them alone, it created a bit of a patchwork effect yet the form of the body is still quite clear.  I just love these kinds of visual tricks that make an abstract application of paint look like something recognizable.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Hemi Hot Rod

I like my hot rods "old school", which means I like the traditional styling from the late 40's into the early 60's.  To me that era was the epitome of cool in the hot rod and custom car world.  It can be hard to find a car around here built strictly to that style, many come close but then install modern street radials which often kill the look.  I admire a car owner that keeps true to the old school aesthetic, it isn't exactly easy and you have to give up a bit of comfort and drivability, to me the look is worth it.

"Hemi Hot Rod"

12" X 16" Acrylic on panel

The hot rod depicted in this painting is one of those cars that gets it right.  The early hemi engine makes this ride even sweeter.  The Chrysler corporation hemispherical engines were in the thick of the early overhead valve engine displacement wars of the early 1950's and so were a prime candidate for an engine swap into a Model A Ford or '32 Ford hot rod like this one.  This is one of my favorite local cars, I love it.

I feel this is one of my most successful abstraction attempts to date, as abstract as the engine is I think anybody that's into vintage cars will recognize it as an early hot rodded with four single barrel carbs and lakester headers.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Abstract Red Tractor

By the late 1960's tractors were becoming more angular in design, more modern I guess but a little less visually appealing.  However most still didn't have cabs, fenders and fully enclosed engine bays yet so that can still make interesting art subjects.

art painting tractor farmall red abandoned abstract

"Red Abstract Tractor"

11" X 14", Acrylic on panel

The tractor that is the subject of this painting is an example of the direction the designs were going by the mid 60's, though it might be hard to tell since I painted it semi-abstract using a palette knife.  The tractor in my reference photo was actually missing the hood, but I'm fairly confident it was a Farmall by International Harvester. 

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Abstract Johnny

For some people all tractors are green, as in John Deere green.  Early John Deere tractors are often referred to as "Johnny's", or "Poppin' Johnny's" if they are running the two cylinder engine that kind of "pops" as the tractor lopes long.

"Abstract Johnny"

20" X 16", Acrylic on panel

Lately abstraction has been on my mind.  Not that I want to paint abstracts, but rather I want to paint representational images that are nearly abstract but still readily recognizable.  I figure the best way to achieve that is to paint using palette knives, or even better, "wedges".  What's a wedge?  It's what Princeton calls it's line of paint application tools that are basically a thin contoured wedge shape, some come with shaped edges for creating special textures.  On this painting I used the wedge they call "Contour C-83" for almost the whole painting.  I kept the background totally abstract and just applied blocks of various colors which is kind of what I did for the body of the tractor as well. 

When using alternative tools to paint with you often give up a degree of control, which is fine, it keeps you from getting too fussy.  I really like the effect and enjoy painting this way, as a bonus I don't have to rinse out and clean any brushes.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Late Afternoon Light

I think the lighting during late autumn is often the most dramatic.  In particular late afternoon just an hour or two before the sun hits the horizon, the light is low but bright, the trees are nearly bare yet the ground is not yet covered in snow.  I think this situation creates a stark contrast between light and shadow with ground foliage still showing to add interest.  I think taking a walk amongst nature alone at these times has a very special mood that's hard to describe in words, so I tried to describe it in a charcoal drawing.

"Late Afternoon Walk"

9.5" X 12", charcoal on paper

The  drawing is based on a photo I took in the South Jordan area of the Jordan River Parkway.  This was one of the few places on the parkway where there is a significant hill to climb or descend, it's fairly steep and not real short.  I think the perspective of looking uphill added to the effect.  I made some small composition changes, adding the distant bush at the upper right and the distant hill for balance.  I think I captured the mood pretty well, makes me want to go out for a late afternoon walk.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Moody Landscape

One of the things I enjoy about using charcoal is the sense of moodiness you can create with it.  Maybe it's just me though, but it seems with paint I tend towards bright, colorful and sunny whereas with charcoal I tend more towards dark and moody, the medium just lends itself to that.  Here's my latest example;

art drawing landscape charcoal rural nature open land

"Landscape Study I"

10" X 14" charcoal on paper
Original - $130
I did this charcoal drawing as a study for a painting, one that I've already started and guess what, it's turning out sunny and colorful, oh well, I gotta be me.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Rare Winter Drawing

Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a fan of winter.  Short days and inclement weather keep me indoors.  Not that I mind being indoors, just not this much, I need some outdoor time too and during the winter I get very little.  I'll admit, I have a very low tolerance for cold, freezing especially so it doesn't have to be dark or snowing or even windy to keep me indoors, just cold. It's probably for those reasons that winter makes a rare appearance in my art, this is one of those rare occurrences.

art drawing charcoal winter truck abandoned snow

"Snowbound GMC"

6" X 6", charcoal on paper
Original - $40

I discovered this little scene with the old snow covered GMC grain truck in the small, rural town of Eden, Utah a couple years ago.  The background was actually cluttered with modern vehicles in a parking lot, I changed it to a simple natural background.  The dimensions on this one are 6" X 6", a small a square, I might make a series of drawings in this format.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Enter the Forest

I've been a bit slack about the blog, a little slack in general really but at least I recently finished another charcoal drawing.

art drawing charcoal mountain forest evergreen tree nature

"Enter the Forest"

charcoal, 10" X 8"
Original - $80

This drawing is based on a photo taken during one of my many hikes up in the Wasatch Mountains.  This one in particular was taken up above Lake Mary at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I love how the density of the evergreen tree forest creates a sense of mystery about what one might find when following the path therein.  I tried to enhance the mood by making the drawing even darker than the photo, being black and white also enhances that effect.

I have a large drawing on the easel as well that I pick at every now and then.  Here is a work in progress photo of it.
art drawing charcoal WIP forest nature tree

As you can see it's going to be a mysterious forest drawing also.  I believe it will end up being in the neighborhood of 22" X 16".  Here is a close up of an area that is now mostly finished.

art drawing charcoal WIP detail forest nature tree

So you can see I'm still going strong on my charcoal kick.  I love the simplicity and kinds of mood that can be created with this basic yet challenging medium.  My charcoal fascination my never end.