Sunday, October 18, 2020

Trying Something New

 One of the things artists have to fight against during their careers is stagnation.  If an artist just keeps making the same kind of art with the same medium eventually they will lose enthusiasm and excitement and their art will become stale.  I'm still relatively early in my art career so I've tried a lot of different styles and mediums and am still in some ways still finding my way to my thing so I still experiment quite a bit, but still the possibility of stagnation is something to keep in mind.

So, is that why I decided to try linocut prints?  No, not really, it's just something that has interested me for some reason for quite some time and I finally decided to give it a try.

Here in this photo I've just started carving my first linoleum block. Turns out this particular material is somewhat difficult to carve, the only carving tool I have that would work on it was a medium size gouge. 

In this photo the carving is done.

In this photo you see my first two test prints, one came out dark and one too light.  Obviously practice is in order.

Here is my first printing run, most of them at least, I decided to keep this run small, just an edition of ten.  As you might be able to see in the photo each print is a little different.  I don't know how much of that is my beginner materials, my inexperience, or just the variability of the process itself, I suspect some of all three.  I'll be trying different materials for the next linocut print and we'll see if the consistency improves.

Here is #1 in the edition with a mat.  The image is 4" X 5" but I printed it on 8" X 10" paper so it will fall perfectly into an 8" X 10" frame with a 5" X 7" mat as shown.

linocut rural barn print black white
"County Barn"

Here is a close up scan of #1 in the edition, titled, signed and numbered.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Four Seasons, Painting Series

 I got the idea to make a new series of abstract landscape paintings.  I happened to have recently picked up a four pack of 4" X 6" gallery wrap (box style) canvas and was wondering what I should do with them.  I finally got the idea to do an abstract landscape series based on the concept of representing the colors of the four seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I searched through my photographs until I found a composition that was simple and would allow me to include a simple background with foliage and grass in the foreground.  I made an underpainting using brushes and then went over them with thick paint applied using palette knives to lend abstraction and texture, including covering the sides.  The results of this experiment are shown below.

spring art painting landscape abstract knife
"The Four Seasons - Spring" Acrylic 4" x 6" x 1.4"

art summer landscape knife abstract
"The Four Seasons - Summer" Acrylic 4" x 6" x 1.4"

art painting autumn fall abstract landscape knife
"The Four Seasons - Autumn" Acrylic 4" x 6" x 1.4"

art painting landscape abstract winter knife
"The Four Seasons - Autumn" Acrylic 4" x 6" x 1.4"

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Passing Time While Waiting

 Yesterday I took my car into the shop for new brakes.  I put it off for as long as I could, longer even.  I know, I'm a car guy, I should know better but I'll admit I'm very lazy and procrastinate when it comes to maintenance and repairs on my daily driver, good thing it's a car that's hard to kill.  

Fortunately I found a good shop not far from home and I can even set an appointment and have a brake job done while I wait. However, I was looking at a two hour wait.  I could have walked home, about 1/2 hour there and 1/2 hour back, kind of silly when the wait is two hours.  Luckily the Jordan River Parkway is just around the corner from the shop, so while my brake pads and rotors where being replaced I went for a walk with sketchbook and pens in hand.

pen sketch nature bush jordan river parkway

The first sketch was a very detailed study of a bush.  Why?  I don't really know, I could see it from the bench I was sitting on and it had an interesting shape and I needed to pass some time.  I don't paint realistically but I still think there is value in doing a little study like this.

river nature sketch jordan parkway

The second sketch was from the bank of the Jordan River and obviously not nearly as detailed, I was just trying to quickly get an overall impression of the scene, maybe to use as reference for a future painting.

I also took a few photos of course, here are two of them.

jordan river nature wetland parkway

This photo isn't the river but rather a pond at the Kennecot Nature Center near Arrowhead Park.

Jordan River Utah nature wetland Parkway

This is the river at the Little Cottonwood Creek confluence. Notice a gaggle of geese are taking advantage of the little island in the middle. Unfortunately our skies are very hazy and gray right now because of smoke from all the wildfires in the west.

Well, it was a well spent two hours.  My car not stops without making odd noises and I got to spend a couple hours enjoying nature and spending quality time in my sketchbook.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Reworking Failures

 Sometimes paintings just don't work, even after several attempts.  But then one day you give it just one more try, possibly years after you had given up and suddenly you get a good result.  Is that a case of just keep trying and trying until you succeed?  Or is it a case of your skills improving to the point where you are finally up to the challenge of that composition you are trying get down in paint?  I suspect some of both.  I experienced this with two paintings recently, one that was on and off my easel for over two years, and one that I thought I finished three or four years ago but never really liked. 

art painting rural farm hay field barn
"Old Fashioned Farm" Acrylic 20" X 16"

"Old Fashioned Farm" was that first painting that was on and off my easel for a couple years.  I even cropped it to a 12" X 16" at one point trying to make the composition work.  I'd had given up for some time, just left the painting sitting on the floor on the side of the easel along with some others.  Finally I picked it up recently and just went over the whole thing with thick paint and knives and finally produced a result I'm reasonably satisfied with.

art painting landscape rural open land countryside
"Country Morning" Acrylic 11" X 14"

This was a painting I made years ago but was never happy with.  However, I listed it for sale anyway and it actually sold, but for some reason the buyer returned it, I guess it didn't fit their decor.  I set it aside and forgot about it.  Then the other day I was in the mood to try reworking an old painting and picked this one.  One of the great things about acrylic paint is you can paint over it at any time with no worries of adhesion or cracking issues down the line.  I didn't hardly change the composition, not even the colors and values either, at least not by much.  The colors are probably a little richer, but I think it's just the texture and simplification that painting with knives creates that took this painting to the next level.

Being an artist is an interesting journey.  The life of an artist is full of ups and downs, not just of the type all of us go through but the ups and downs with the progression of our skills and inspiration.  Some days it feels like you can do nothing right or that just nothing excites you, and other days you feel like a master creating wonderful art and life is so amazing you can hardly believe it, unfortunately it seems to be more often the former, but those days of "brilliance" make the challenges worth it.

Monday, August 10, 2020

A New Mini Abstract Landscape Series

 I've been very lax about blogging, it's been over a month.  I won't make any promises but I'll try to do better.

I decided to do a new series of small abstract landscape paintings, similar to the other series I did that was based on a rural landscape.  This time I'm using a mountain marsh as my inspiration for three paintings that use the same composition but different color schemes.

Last week I went for a walk around Silver Lake which is in Brighton, Utah at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Silver Lake feeds Big Cottonwood Creek and is a calm lake with marshy wetland areas along about half of it's shore.  Of course I took my camera and took plenty of photographs.  I cropped a small portion of one photograph to use as my reference for this series of paintings but still deviated from that composition by putting some "sky" in it.

painting marsh landscape green abstract knife
"Green Marsh" Acrylic 6" X 6"

For the first painting "Green Marsh" I used naturalistic colors.  I also painted using palette knives with thick painting which adds a lot of interesting texture.

painting art landscape knife yellow marsh abstract
"Yellow Marsh" Acrylic 6" X 6"

The second painting is primarily yellow with orangish medium tones and violet shadows.

painting art landscape marsh knife marsh abstract
"Blue Marsh" Acrylic 6" X 6"

The 3rd and final painting is a blue color scheme...very blue.

All three paintings were painted on 1.3" deep gallery wrap canvas' and I painted the sides, but kept the paint on the bottom thin so the you can have the option of hanging them on a wall or setting them on a shelf or table as shown in the photo below.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

First Plein Air Painting of the Year

The weather here has been quite variable this June.  We had high temps drop all the way down into the 50's for a couple days accompanied by crazy wind and thunderstorms so dark it felt like late evening.  Then it got warm for a few days., then if got real cool again. This week has been on the cool side but not uncomfortably so and most importantly it's been at least partly sunny.

I took advantage of the finer weather to get out and paint outdoors (plein air) for the first time this season.  I've sketched outdoors a few times but this is the first time I took the whole painting set up out. I decided to take out the pastels because acrylics can be difficult in our dry climate but I might give the acrylics a try later this week.

landscape painting pastel nature art

I set up at a trailhead on the Jordan River Parkway near where I live in Taylorsville, Utah.  The parkway runs through the whole valley and is full of scenes ripe for the "canvas".  I took a couple short live videos on my Facebook page.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Catching Up

Well, I've been a bit derelict in my blogging duties, I have a few new paintings to catch up on here.

art painting landscape acrylic rural impressionist
The Road
This one is a small "6x8" paint over of an older painting.  The old one was a bit overworked, too detailed and dull for me now but I liked the composition so I painted over it in a looser, more vibrant style, much improved I think.  The reference is a photograph I took in the small rural town of Willard, Utah.

art painting abandoned tractor farmall rural farm machinery antique
Abandoned Farmall Tractor
Painting number two is also an impressionist brush painting rather than my usual more abstract knife paintings.  The subject is an antique "unstyled" early Farmall tractor rusting away in a field.  The painting is based on a photograph I took at the Erickson Ranch in Wallsburg, Utah.

art painting landscape spring nature mountains
Cardiff Spring
Another paint over, this time with the knives though and a little more abstract.  The painting was originally painted on location a few years ago in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah at the opening of Cardiff Fork.  It was spring and the wildflowers were abundant. Again, the result of the paint-over was a more lively, vibrant image.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Leaning towards Abstraction

I'm sure many artists can relate. Sometimes you get an idea in your head and just can't shake it, and finally it doesn't matter what's currently on the easel, you have to set it aside and get that thing out of your head and in paint.
I experienced a bit of that this week.  The poor tractor painting has been on and off my easel for over two weeks, it came off again a couple days ago. I kept having in my head the idea of pushing abstraction even further while staying representational and using knives.  It's no grand idea, but it seemed like it might be a new development for me, so I couldn't wait.  I took the tractor painting off the easel and took a small painting I did years ago but was in an older impressionist style I don't really do anymore and painted the same thing over it but with knives and thick paint while keeping in mind to make it as abstract as I could but still recognizable.

art painting landscape autumn nature aspen tree fall
Dreaming of Autumn
Like I said, this one is small, just 8" X 6".  I kept the same name "Dreaming of Autumn".  When I painted the original version it was August and it had been an especially hot and dry summer.  While I love summer I was feeling a need for a break and so I took a break mentally by painting an early autumn scene featuring a colorful field and aspen trees in the background.  The reference photo I used was taken at a rest area on the Monte Cristo road (state highway 30) in Rich County Utah.

I think I like where this is taking me, I'm sure there will be more experiments to come, maybe even a larger version of this painting eventually.

Oh, what about that tractor painting?  Here's a work in progress photo.  As you can see I'm using brushes, not knives and keeping it more impressionistic than abstract.

tractor art abandoned painting work in progress
Tractor painting WIP

Monday, June 1, 2020

Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020 - Day 31

It's finally the last day of my daily sketch challenge. What better way to top it off than to head up Big Cottonwood Canyon and do some sketching in the mountains. I picked kind of an unusual subject for a mountain sketch but I couldn't resist it when I saw it. Mountain homes have always intrigued me, they usually have a very distinct design and usually an interesting interaction with the natural shapes around them. I never noticed this house before, I suspect before long the foliage will be full enough that you can't even see it from the parking lot of Brighton Ski Resort which is where I was when I sketched it.

pen watercolor sketch mountain house aspen tree
Day 31 - Mountain Home - Daily Sketch Challenge Day 31
When I was young I seriously considered pursuing a career in architectural rendering, I'm glad I didn't for several reasons, the primary being that computers took over and took all the fun out of it.

As I mentioned before I said I would share my larger sketch kit that requires a backpack to carry around.

sketch kit pencil graphite eraser pen water brush
Pencil Case
The first photo is my pencil case full of not only graphite pencils but pens, erasers, a water brush and a sharpening pad. 

watercolor palette paint medium cup painting
Watercolor Palette
In the second photo is my watercolor palette. I don't know who the manufacturer is, it's a clamshell type and has a rubber seal but doesn't really seal all that well. I screwed a piece of aluminum to it that I can clip medium cups to. The paints are all Holbein.

watercolor block easel board tripod painting
Easel and Tripod
In the third photo you can see my watercolor sketch block resting on a board that I installed a 1/4-20 nutsert on to allow it to be attached to the mini tripod below.

sketch kit watercolor brushes Jack Richeson
The last photo is my brushes, a Jack Richeson portable brush set. 

I also sometimes use a 6X8 mixed media sketch book (spiral bound) and set it on the lid of the watercolor palette and just hold it to the palette with my hand doing away with the board and tripod and use a water brush instead of the medium cups and brushes for a more simplified setup.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020 - Day 29-30

Two more days of my daily sketch challenge in the books and only one more to go.

ink watercolor autumn rural landscape barn sketch
Day 29 - Rural Landscape - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
This one was experimental.  I saw a video on YouTube by Dave Cusher where he used a stick sharpened to a point to put down some lines with ink, and then also scumbled ink with the side of a brush to create textures.  This technique intrigued me so I sharpened a piece of balsa wood I had and had a go at it.  I think I really needed to use a worn brush for the scumble technique.  My reference was a photo I took somewhere in Cache County, Utah late autumn a few years ago.  The barn wasn't in the photo but the top of a house was sticking up in that area which gave me the idea to add a barn there from my imagination.  Here's a photo of my stick and ink pot;

The penultimate sketch of the challenge was not a very happy one.

charcoal pencil sketch abandoned truck Mack
Day 30 - Abandoned Mack Truck - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
Maybe the less said about this one the better, I'm really only sharing it out of an interest in transparency since I'm not happy with it at all.  This was a mixed media sketch using watercolor, charcoal and pastel pencils and the subject is an abandoned antique Mack truck.  We'll leave it at that.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020 - Day 26-28

A good variety of sketch styles in this post, from graphite pencil, to charcoal pencil to pen and watercolor.

pencil sketch graphite classic car junkyard wrecking yard
Day 26 - Stripped Junkyard Car - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
I kept this one simple, just a quickie using graphite pencils and mostly hatching strokes. The reference photo was taken In Mcbride's Auto Wrecking in Grantsville, Utah.  This wrecking yard was full of classic cars, mostly from the 1950's however they were mostly stripped of useful parts, in this case stripped almost bare, I believe that's a 1956 Mercury Montclair hardtop . Mcbride's is gone now, another victim to dirty politics to push the little guy out in favor of lucrative development. I was fortunate to be able to spend a couple hours there several years ago taking photos, little did I know it would be gone in just a year.  That's a warning for any artist I suppose, don't put off that painting trip or that sketch or photograph that old barn or truck or whatever else you find interesting, it might not be there when you go back if you put it off too long.

charcoal sketch spring city utah barn rural
Day 27 - Spring City Barn - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
Sketching with charcoal is simple enough, but I went larger on this one and with a more involved subject, this one took a while.  My reference was a photograph I took in Spring City, a small rural town in Sanpete County, Utah.  I liked all the angles provided by the barn shapes and that it was surrounded by the abstract shapes of foliage.  I toned the paper with sepia watercolor first, for some reason I really enjoy that warm undertone on charcoal drawings.

pen watercolor line wash sketch antique toy truck life
Day 28 - Antique Toy Truck - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
For day 28 I decided to grab one of the antique toy trucks from my collection and set it on the kitchen table for a life sketch in pen and watercolor.  Every toy truck in my collection is older than me, one by about 30 years.  Why have collected these toy trucks?  I really don't know, I just think they're cool, back when toys were made to last, out of pressed steel, not junk plastic.

watercolor sketch kit water brush pen Sakura
Mini Portable Watercolor Sketching Kit
Here's a photo of the mini portable kit I sometimes use for life sketching on location.  Included are; a mechanical pencil, two pens (.1 and .05) two Arteza water brushes, Strathmore 5 X 8 sketchbook, a Sakura 24 color watercolor kit and a paper towel.  The colors in the Sakura kit are a bit weak but this is a very convenient kit as it fits in a regular fanny pack so it can be taken anywhere.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Daily Sketch Challenge - Wheeler Farm - Day 25

You might have noticed that I skipped day 24, that would be because I didn't make a sketch on day 24.  I had a couple things come up that took up too much time and didn't get around to sketch, but never fear, I made up for it on day 25.

sketch pen tractor john deere wheeler farm
Daily Sketch - John Deere Tractor - Day 25
I took advantage of a beautiful Memorial Day morning and went to historic Wheeler Farm, a park owned by Salt Lake County that just reopened after being closed for nearly two months due to the pandemic. My first choice to sketch was an early "styled" John Deere tractor, I'm guessing it's from the early 1950's going by the disk wheels with rubber tires.

pen sketch shed tree rural wheeler farm
Daily Sketch - Shed and Box Elder Tree - Day 25
Next I sat on the ground leaning against a tree next to Little Cottonwood Creek and sketched one of the sheds at Wheeler Farm that had an old box elder tree next to it.  The shed isn't old, but the tree sure is, it was probably there when the farm was active many years ago. I used a fiber pen and brush pens for both sketches to keep it simple.

I wasn't the only artist at Wheeler Farm that day.  There was a plein air oil painter working on a very nice little painting of one of the many historic structures on the property.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020 - Day 22-23

Two intricate pen and watercolor sketches in a row for Day 22 and Day 23

pen watercolor sketch autumn rural shed chevy truck
Day 22 - Old Chevy Truck and Shed - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
This rural scene is based on a photo I took somewhere in the rural part of southern Utah County, probably near Spanish Fork.  However, the original photo was taken in summer, I decided to change it to fall.  I also added the old Chevy truck from another photo, it was red, I changed it to blue.

pen watercolor sketch dodge dart junkyard abandoned
Day 22 - Junkyard Dodge Dart - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020

This one is a rarity for me, a sketch not based on one of my photos or from life.  I saw the reference posted on twitter by someone I follow and who follows me.  As soon as I saw it I knew I had to sketch it, and I also knew that the woman that posted it had taken the photo herself so she could give me permission and did.  If you are into old cars, especially Mopar you might want to give her account a follow: The photograph was very well composed, the only change I made was to simplify the background. The other thing that drew me to it was that grill, even a perfectly preserved 1960 Dodge Dart grill is pretty wild looking, but this was all bent up and took it to another level.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020 - Day 19-21

Again, three more days, three more sketches.  I think this is the longest I've ever stuck to a challenge like this.  It hasn't been easy and it has eaten into my painting time but I think it's been worth.

pen sketch art abandoned dodge farm truck
Day 19 - Abandoned Dodge Truck - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
I decided to stick with a fine pen for this one, a Copic Multiliner .05 except for the darkest parts where I used a .1.  This means all shading was done with hatching.  I found this old abandoned Dodge farm truck in the rural central Utah town of Loa.

pen watercolor sketch art country store abandoned gas pump
Day 20 - Abandoned Country Store - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020
I stuck with the fine pen for this one but then colored it with watercolor washes. The old country store actually exists, at least it did the last time I visited Boulder City, Utah. The vintage tow truck out back was taken from another reference photo.

pen sketch art rural winter barn abandoned snow fence
Day 21 - Winter Barn and Fence - Daily Sketch Challenge May 2020

Time was short this morning so I had to keep today's sketch simple, so I went with a winter scene, the fact that most of the ground is covered in snow helped keep it minimalist.  The composition as it sat in the refence photo was almost perfect, everything leading to the focal point, the abandoned barn.  I especially liked that wrecked fence gate in the foreground, it pointed right up the snow ridge and to the barn, I did add a little tuft of grass in the lower left to point to the fence.  I found this scene in the small rural farming community of Eden, Utah in Ogden Valley.