Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I'm a terrible procrastinator. I was supposed to paint mini-paintings all spring and summer, and update my blog as I scanned in new paintings. I did the painting part, but very little of the scanning and uploading. For now I'm going to upload just a single photo with a few snippets from the last few months. These paintings range in size from 3x4 to 8x10. All of them were painted from life. (Click to enlarge so you can view individual paintings.) If you're curious about a painting, or just can't make out what it is, just post a question for me.

Figure Art, and a contest

As promised, I will post highlights from this past year's figure art. (Click on an image for a large view.) I'll start with one of my favorites. This 24x18 vine charcoal drawing creates, at least for me, the effect of intense reverie.

I intended to enter the above drawing in a contest for "people and figures" in International Artist magazine. However, I couldn't get a print that looked right in the short amount of time I had before leaving on vacation, so I didn't enter it.

I did enter three others in the contest, however. Here is another vine charcoal drawing, at 18x24 inches.

I also entered these two paintings:

The pregnant model is about 1 week away from delivery in that painting. The focal point is her tightly distended belly...I decided not to detail her face, which adds more emphasis to her fertile appearance. The other model's pose creates a unique perspective, considering that she is six feet tall and dramatically foreshortened.

Although I'm happy with the mood, contrast, and colors of these pieces, I hope my figure art eventually will show a more accurate understanding of anatomy and a stronger feeling of structure. I'm not quite sure how to achieve this...I'll update when I "figure" something out!

Cowboy Museum

I thought I had better do some catching up in my blog before my viewers think I have disappeared forever into some Tennessee "holler." I'm visiting my family in Kansas, and I'm about to leave in the morning for Colorado. I plan to do much plein air painting.

As part of my visit, we went to the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. We spent about four hours looking at mostly paintings, and barely got out before closing time. I saw my first original Bettina Steinke, and I tried to learn as much as I could from the large, luscious strokes that defined the glowing skin and sparkling eyes of her subject. I also had my first viewings of many original landscape artists: Scott Christiansen, Matt Smith (be jealous, Kevin!), Aspervig, and Bill Anton. Scott Christiansen's waterway scenes glowed in a soft, natural light at a distance, and up close the "offhand," blocky brushstrokes were amazing in their accuracy. I loved Kuhn's scratchy-textured, well-structured paintings of cougars; I had never seen acrylics look that way before. I was mesmerized by "Shoofly's" incredible pencil drawings. He uses swaths of pencil scribbles as single brush strokes, often with no apparent layering or touch-up, and always nailing the value. By the end of my visit, I was completely exhausted, with a headache and sore neck. My mom and I are in this picture, and even the cowboy looks tired.

For the most part, we weren't allowed to photograph paintings, but here is an exception...a "huge" exception! My dad and I are the two little heads in the lower left. These particular paintings are part of a permanent collection at the museum, and I will edit this post when I remember the artist's name. They really are stunning to see in person.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Winter 2008-09 Still Life

There are two still life paintings from this period. Below is a painting from December 2008. I had a murky, multi-textured, detailed David Leffel-inpsired scene in mind before I started. I picked out all the inorganic items from an antique store, except for the backdrop, which is just an old bedsheet. I just happened to have oranges and tangerines on hand, which to my surprise looked decent against the brassy tinted background. The arrangement occurred accidentally, almost as soon as I had placed everything on the table. As for lighting, I wanted the moodiness of a dark background with a single, directional light. To get that effect, I had to paint only at night, with the overhead light off, and with a lamp positioned next to the table. I painted in the hallway, looking in through the door. The canvas is 16x20, as my intent was a finished painting, rather than a study.

After four one-hour sittings with the painting, I was still at a rough stage, but I decided to stop. I felt that I had learned enough from the rough study I had completed, and I didn't want to belabor the freshness of the strokes with details that–given my tendencies–would probably throw off the balance of light and dark. 

The light-dark balance had been an ongoing struggle. Below is the original monochromatic underpainting. I had used this image as a reference for keeping my values correct after adding color.

I painted another still life early this, probably in February. Nearly everything about the painting is accidental; I was actually painting the adjacent couch, when my eye was suddenly caught by the beauty of sunlight pouring through the window and onto the coffee table. I wiped off the canvas and began painting that scene instead. I removed one or two bits of clutter from the foreground, but other than that, the arrangement is purely "candid." 

This painting is on 8x10 canvas and took about three one or two-hour sittings. I hope to do more still life paintings that capture spilling light this way. The reflections, refraction, translucence, backlighting, and undulating colors all make this painting interesting for me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Plein Air Paintings from May 2008 - April 2009

Before I start posting the "mini series" I am working on, I'm going to recap the last year, dating back to late May 2008. Here is one painting from that month. This is my boyfriend Ronnie posing next to a river at a park in Ashland City, Tennessee.

In June of that year, I visited Colorado with my family for a couple of weeks. I painted about 10 plein air paintings, and a few of them are posted below. For more details on these paintings, you can visit this link and click the individual thumbnails.

I didn't do any plein air paintings I was happy with until the following spring 2009. After painting in Colorado, Tennessee seemed nearly impossible. I felt that I could "cheat" in Colorado, since there were obvious color differences to deal with, such as the white of  snow peaks and aspen trunks, the soft pastels of extreme distance, vivid blue lakes, and stark bare rock. In Tennessee, I struggled with the subtleties of a green spectrum that was beautiful before my eyes, but muddy and caked up with effort on my canvas. Even the water was green with algae and reflected foliage. I couldn't easily get the vantage points that gave me the soft palette of extreme distance. I relied on sunset lighting to get some rust-colored relief to the sea of green, but even then I seemed to only get harsh, glaring images. When spring came around again, I had my chance to "cheat" again. In mid-March, the pastel flowers and faint, forgiving greens rescued me from my monochrome miasma. 

Here are two of those early spring plein air paintings. They captured the hazy feel of afternoon rays glowing through the spring growth. I painted both of them in my front yard. They're both 8x10 canvases that were painted in about 2 hours.

The colors of early spring are fleeting. Once the season passed, I could have reverted back to my struggle with green overload–but in late April I had the opportunity to study with Jason Saunders. That point in time marks a break with my previous landscape efforts, so I will now end my recap of 2008-2009 plein air. If I'm brave, or in need of some public scorn, I might post some of the more grim-looking paintings from that time period. But for now I will move on with the recap of the last year's highlights.

My next post will be still life from 2008-2009, and after that one of my favorite subjects, figure and portrait. Following the people pictures will be another landscape series: plein air studies from the April workshop. Then I will move on to the process that got me started on this blog: my near-daily series of mini paintings (aka the mini-series). 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Introduction, and thanks to those that helped me

The purpose of this blog is to document my growth as a traditional artist. (I say "traditional" because I am an artist with a facet that is more modern and illustrative–but from hereon I will just use the term artist.) I work to achieve several goals with my traditional art, including: harmonious composition, accurate draftsmanship, a sense of light and atmosphere, and the ethereal expressiveness of the subject. This last goal, expressiveness, is a peculiar quality because it is not tackled individually, but rather it seems to emerge on its own when all the prior goals are met. All airy ambitions aside, the "meat" of the matter is that paint must be applied to canvas. That brings me back to the reason for the blog: so that I can see a concrete progression of my work out in public space, which will give me a sense of accountability to myself, and to others if anyone takes an interest in my work. This sense of accountability will provide extra motivation to continue producing paintings and drawings. 

My work from the last few years can be seen at As you can see, I have many paintings and drawings under my belt, but I need to take my skills further. For about four years I painted by almost pure intuition, and initially I got results that were pleasing to me. For example, the painting at the top of this post was my sixth oil painting ever, on 24x30 canvas. That painting, from winter 2002, was one of a series of three figure paintings that seem to be just a ghost of the past. I have learned much more since then, but I have not been able to paint any figure with the completeness and glowing palette of that series again. I am in a new stage of the painting journey; we'll see what emerges as I lose an old style and gain a new one, hopefully more grounded in structure, value, and temperature.

My specific plan with this blog is to post paintings from a process I started in May: painting 5-7 paintings a week on mini canvases. I was initially inspired toward this goal by Jason Saunders' advice given during his April 2009 workshop. He made it clear that skill is heavily dependent on the sheer number of paintings created. I had always been told this, but for some reason the idea finally took hold during this workshop. I was also inspired by Elin Pendleton's video podcast of her daily paintings (available through iTunes). 

I may start with earlier paintings than my recent near-daily painting efforts. I'll probably go as far back as my first serious attempts at painting plein air in June 2008...if I'm brave I'll also post a few monsters that I painted between 2006 and present. But don't count on it! Once I get the pre-workshop plein airs posted, then I'll get started with the "mini series." I will also include my portrait, still life, and figurative work.

Before I end this post, I want to thank Kevin Menck for giving me the idea of starting a painting blog. I also want to thank him for taking me with him painting yesterday, and providing encouragement and advice. I also owe thanks to other Nashville artists that have provided support: Mitchell Chamberlain, Paul Proctor, Michael Shane Neal, and Alan Lequire. I can't leave out Samuel Lester, who hosted figure art sessions in his home, complete with excellent models, music, food, and camaraderie. Finally, I need to acknowledge my dad, a retired engineer and newly self-educated painter, for providing belief as well as financial help with the often expensive requirements of an art career. 

As I can see from my growing list of people to thank, art is not the lone pursuit it may seem to be at first glance. Many minds come together to create a single artist. The other part of the equation is the raw, manual effort of the individual, one painting at a time. That is what the focus of this blog will be.