Saturday, December 2, 2017

Dragging My Feet

...but at least I've done some sketching.  Yes, it's been about a month and a half since I've posted anything.  Truth is I haven't been making much art lately and what I had done has been mostly experimental, or I've abandoned it before finishing.  I have done some life sketching though.

pen ink drawing sketch shed barn rural

I did this pen sketch from inside my car out in the southwest quadrant of the valley a couple weeks ago.  Yes, even in the middle of the suburbs you can find the occasional rural subject. I had Franklin Booth's style in mind while sketching this, it's a poor imitation but was an interesting exercise.

tractor sketch life minneapolis moline farm wheeler

It's been a long time since I've been to Wheeler Farm, there have been some changes, however this vintage Minneapolis Moline tractor is still sitting in the exact same place. I've sketched this tractor before, but from an angle in pen and watercolor.  This time I kept it simple and just used a .9 mechanical pencil.
It looks like the winter weather is finally moving in starting tomorrow, I wish I could say I'll get back into the life sketching habit and go out every week but that's going to depend on the weather.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oily Palette Knife Fun

Every once in a while I just feel a need to get the oils out.  The result is usually somewhat less than happy but I do it anyway.  I guess my temperament is more suited to acrylics.  However once in a while it does work out, in fact my latest oil painting may be my best oil painting to date.

art painting oil landscape autumn marsh Ogden Valley Utah
Click on image to enlarge

"Ogden Valley Marsh"

8" X 10", oil on panel
I painted this one entirely with a palette knife which may be why it worked out, however it's hard to layer thick oil paint on top of thick oil paint, at least I don't have the touch for it.  The painting is based on one of the charcoal studies I shared in the last blog post which was based on a photo I took in Ogden Valley Utah late fall a few years ago.  The thin little stream of water meandering down the yellowish-orange marshy area made for a great composition, of course the trees and hills in the background helped in their secondary roles.  Ogden Valley is one of my favorite areas to visit any time, but especially during autumn.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Charcoal Studies

I've recently started making charcoal studies before making a painting.  Charcoal allows for a very quick exploration of composition and values with a little more detail than a thumbnail and they can become finished works in their own right.

charcoal drawing landscape art mountain hay field farm
Click on image to enlarge

"Rural Landscape Study"

9" X 12", Charcoal on paper
Original - $100
Prints Available

This study is based on a photo I took in rural Sanpete county in central Utah.  I think it's a good representation of the open agricultural land you find there.  I started a painting of this but it wasn't turning out, I might return to it some day and try again.  They can't all be winners.

art landscape nature marsh wetland drawing charcoal
Click on image to enlarge

"Ogden Valley Marsh Study"

8" X 10", Charcoal on Paper
Original - $80
Prints Available

Late in the summer season Pineview Reservoir in Ogden Valley, Utah drops low enough that some of the outlying areas become marshes.  I took the photo this charcoal sketch is based on during autumn one year and there was a small stream meandering down to the reservoir through a marshy field, I knew I'd do something with that some day, so here is the sketch.  I've also done a painting based on this sketch and will share it at a later date.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Sometimes You have to Switch Gears

Do you remember that post from several weeks back?  You know, the post where I showed a work in progress photo of my latest painting and it was in pastel?  Here it is in case you forgot.  If you look below you'll notice the image here looks very similar but it isn't pastel.  That's right, I started over in acrylic.  I can't really explain why I switched mediums for this piece, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

art landscape impressionism tree fence painting rural
Click on image to enlarge

"Fence Line Tree"

11" X 14, Acrylic on panel
Original - $160
Prints Available

I used both a sketch and a photo as reference for this painting.  The only thing in the photo that is also in the painting is the tree and even it's been altered a bit.  Even when I did the sketch on location on the Jordan River Parkway I added the fence and grasses, here's the sketch;

art plein air sketch watercolor tree fence
Click on image to enlarge

Funny thing, that bush at the base of the tree was actually there but I didn't include it in the painting. The sketch saved me while making this painting.  I started out with only the photo reference and was getting frustrated with the tree, something about it just wasn't right but I couldn't put my finger on it.  Then I remembered I had done the sketch and so I searched through my sketch books until I found it and turns out it had the answers I needed.  This is a perfect example of how there is often information missing in photos.  I remember while making the sketch I thought an old tractor would look good parked under that tree, obviously I decided against adding a tractor, maybe in a later version.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sketch and Wash

I've been really lax about sketching practice this year, especially life sketching.  It's just been real difficult finding motivation for quite some time.  I decided to try to turn that around today and spend some time this morning sketching out in nature.

art sketch life nature plein air graphite tree rock
Click on image to enlarge
I went to Sugarhouse Park and sketched along Parley's Creek.  Parley's Creek is named after an early LDS church leader, or rather the canyon that the creek flows down was named after him, it became the canyon most of the pioneers used to get down to the Salt Lake Valley, currently Interstate 80 uses it.

You get a lot of densely packed nature along a creek, plants do love water, it can be difficult to organize all those values, shapes and textures.  I decided to try a different tool for capturing all that value and texture quickly, General's "Sketch and Wash" water soluble graphite pencil. In combination with a water brush the Sketch and Wash pencil allowed me to draw, fill in tones and spread it all around very quickly.  Even a seemingly simple little nature sketch as above can have a lot going on in it.  The Sketch and Wash pencil allowed me to put in some relatively flat and smooth areas of tone along with smooth gradations, but since it's a pencil it can be used to put down line and texture very easily as well, just draw normally and don't add water, on do a dry brush only slightly modifying the pencil lines.  The possibilities for tone and texture are nearly endless.  I would compare the hardness of the Sketch and Wash to a 2B normal graphite pencil. 

Is there a downside to the Sketch and Wash?  Yes there is, you have to treat it more or less like watercolor, it can't really be erased once set with water.  Even before setting it with water the Sketch and Wash pencil does not erase as well as normal graphite.  However, like watercolor, if an area is too dark just wet it and then use a paper towel to dap it and remove the excess graphite, or sometimes just wiping your brush and then applying again to the area is enough, however it's impossible to get all the way back to the white of the paper, so preserve those highlights!

art sketch life graphite plein air tree trunk roots
Click on image to enlarge
This sketch was done just a little ways upstream of the previous. Again the Sketch and Wash pencil allowed me to quickly capture all the shapes and tones of those abstract shapes created by the tree roots.  One other thing about the Sketch and Wash pencil is you can't get truly black darks with it, not even as dark as normal graphite, I knew this going in and took a Generals Carbon Sketch pencil with me which makes about the blackest blacks marks I've ever seen to supplement the Sketch and Wash however I forgot to use it!  Oh well, maybe next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I think this has become one of my all time favorite sketching tools.

The other "tool" I used today is the sketchbook which is a Stillman and Birnes Beta Series.  The Beta Series have semi-heavy paper with moderate texture for use as a mixed media sketchbook.  The paper took the water used in making these sketches great, not warping or wrinkling at all, however if you did heavy overall wet washes I'm sure the paper would warp some from that so I'd suggest keeping water application on the conservative side.  Also, the texture is a little too heavy for a straight up graphite pencil sketch in my opinion, the texture just overwhelms the pencil marks however it works great with the Sketch and Wash since you can use water to cause the graphite to fill in the grain of the paper with tone

It was really good to get out in nature today, though since it was at a public park it was more noisy that I would have liked but well worth it...until the heat got turned up then it was time to head home.  It's kind of funny, it's late August and our temps are still in the 90's yet I am seeing some trees starting to turn to their fall colors, soon we'll be saying good bye to summer...sigh, I better make the most of it and get out more often with my sketchbook.

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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
Original - $120
Prints Available

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

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
Original - $200
Prints Available

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.
Original - $50
Prints Available

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

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

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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

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

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"

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.