Leaves, Landscape, and a nude

Its been a random week painting-wise.

I did a rainy landscape city view – unfortunately the light was fading and the strongest part of the painting is the top facade of the supermarket.

untitled: Oil on panel. 8"x20" 2015

untitled: Oil on panel. 8″x20″ 2015

I did two obligatory fall leaves paintings which are probably the strongest of the group:

untitled (leaf study 1) : Oil on board. 6"x9" 2015

untitled (leaf study 1) : Oil on board. 6″x9″ 2015

untitled (leaf study 2) : Oil on board. 6"x9" 2015

untitled (leaf study 2) : Oil on board. 6″x9″ 2015

And I did a very quick nude dude sitting on a couch.  Like you do.

untitled : Oil on board. 6"x9" 2015

untitled : Oil on board. 6″x9″ 2015

Color Studies 2

Two weeks ago I made a series of small (5″x7″ paintings) using a limited palette of red, blue, yellow, brown, and white.   This week I made another set of paintings using the same limited palette, but adding a warm and cool version of each color, and removing (mostly) the brown.

In some instances it made a much clearer painting.  See how much more pink the teddy bear is when I can use Alizarin Crimson instead of Cad Red Light.  In other areas it added some frustration since I had to both focus on color mixing, as well as color temperature.  Also – I’m learning that a concrete floor is not the best surface to work on.  I see some rubber pads from Home Depot in the near future.

The strongest paintings are Teddy and Cowboy.  The weakest is the evening Embankment.  The evening light was fading fast and I was rushing.

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

Another wave

Another wave.  Learning more about ways to frame and compose the images to get the best possible impact.  I think I am going to need another trip to the beach to get some more source photos and do more studies.

On this painting, instead of mixing greens I used viridian, which is correct in terms of color, but the transparency of the paint makes it really frustrating to use.

untitled (wave study) : Oil on linen. 8" x 18". 2015

untitled (wave study) : Oil on linen. 8″ x 18″. 2015


I’ve been interested in waves and the ocean as part of the larger landscape series.  It feels like a good fit with some of the emotional content behind the work.  A few weeks back I took a trip to the beach that was sunless and windy – but provided some great reference shots!

I’ve started working up some ideas for sketches – the first is below.  Despite the day being cool and grey the painting still came out a little sunny… I’ll need to work on that in the future.

untitled (wave study) : Oil on linen. 18" x 12". 2015

untitled (wave study) : Oil on linen. 18″ x 12″. 2015

Color Mixing Studies

Color mixing is, perhaps, one of the hardest elements of painting for me.  I can see (most) color accurately and know exactly what color I need for the painting… but how to get that color?  That’s a little trickier.

Many painters advocate using a limited palette.  That is, giving yourself only a few colors and mixing all else from there.  In the beginning of an experiment/practice program I started this week using only four colors: Cad Red Light, Cad Yellow Light, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber (brown) and Titanium White.

It is at once liberating and maddening.  As you can see in the paintings below I’m able to get reasonably close to certain colors.  Some – the pink in the teddy bear – were virtually unmixable given the 4 colors were all fairly warm colors.

Next week I will add 3 more colors – giving myself a warm and cool version of each color.  As the colors above are mostly warm I will add Alizarin Crimson (cool red), Hansa Yellow Light (cool yellow), and Cerulean (warmer blue).

As for the subject matter… I looked out the window and around the studio for random things to paint.  I’m still working on a lighting solution for the new studio.  The overhead lights are halogen and very yellow – making it virtually impossible to see what a color will look like when it goes from palette to canvas.

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5"x7" 2015

untitled sketch : Oil on canvasboard. 5″x7″ 2015

Painting in the wilds of Maine

Its August, which means another trip up to one of my favorite places: Acadia National Park.  If you’ve never been Acadia is this weird mixture of almost primeval landscapes, early 20th century industry, and New England charm.

We stayed on the quiet side of the island, and I did 5 paintings in 6 days.  The weather was a bit uncooperative but that’s how it goes with painting in the wild.

First Day : Blah.

untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12"  2015

untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2015

One of the biggest pressures I find is choosing a spot to paint.  I’m so seduced by the beautiful views that I want to paint them all, but that risks being repetitive.  I stopped at a dozen places before settling on this one.  The day was muggy and hot with a blazing sun, no shade, and no sunscreen.  I was rushing and things fell apart pretty quickly. I’m happy with the blues and browns in the water, and the olive green rocks to the edge.  Everything else is a mess. Unless I was emulating Marsden Hartley, in which case it’s great.

Second Day : Blah-er.

untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12"  2015

untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2015

The fog in Acadia is almost a living entity.  On Wednesday it rolled in and didn’t leave until Saturday.  This was off a little hike and while there are some areas that I really like – the almost impressionistic trees – the foreground is really bland.  I had meant to leave room to add in some dark pine boughs to frame the piece, which may help.

Third Day : More Fog.

untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12"  2015

untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2015

I dragged Lance along on another short hike out to the coast.  He set up a chair and read a book, I painted the only thing I could see through the fog – this stark dead tree.  I started thinking in terms of color temperature and I think it helped, although not much could save those poor plastic rocks in the bottom.

Fourth Day: More Tree

untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12"  2015

untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2015

After I paint I often find myself staring at the painting or a photo of it and wondering what I could have done better.  In the case of the tree I was really unsatisfied with the rocks, and I felt the branches in the earlier painting didn’t convey the shadows properly.  I also thought the tree to the right side had gotten muddled and lost.

So I went back again and set up in the same spot.  I trimmed the composition a little closer and tried to be as careful and deliberate as I could.  It’s a much better attempt, but those goddam rocks still feel plasticy and amorphous.

Fifth Day : More cliffs.

untitled : Oil on board. 9"x24"  2015

untitled : Oil on board. 9″x24″ 2015

This is from the same area I hiked all week.  I was tempted to go back and do more dead trees, but honestly it was getting a little depressing.  This was an ambitious piece – two panels side by side, and completed in the time it normally takes me to do one.

I’m very happy with the interplay of colors on the cliffs. I struggle a lot with the rock colors becoming too chalky or too orangey (see above).  I think these are one of the best representations I’ve done so far.  The tree line is a little too swoopy and the water got away from me.
I was on an exposed part of the trail, which meant I had a lot of audience for much of the painting, which can be a little distracting. There was also a potential thunderstorm on the way which urged me along.  I finished painting just as the first drops of rain fell.

And we’re back!

As some folks know Lance and I moved at the beginning of July, and both the build up to it and the aftermath have been quite intensive.  Suffice to say there hasn’t been much time for artwork.

However, after a month in the new apartment I have my studio set up and I have finally finished some painting!

The past two weeks have been devoted to the Echoes series, something I’ve strayed away from last year.  I stumbled onto Russian artist Isaac Levitan who’s work is truly inspiring for landscape painters.  His work provided an emotional touchstone and inspired me to rethink where I want Echoes to go.

I pulled out some reference material and returned to a field that I’ve painted in some smaller pieces.  This time I went larger, colder, and tried to balance the mix of impression and realism.  I’m quite happy with the result.  What do you think?

untitled (winter field) : Oil on linen. 24"x36" 2015

untitled (winter field) : Oil on linen. 24″x36″ 2015


What an incredible weekend!  I am fortunate to live in a community that appreciates and engages the arts as much as Somerville does.

A huge thank you to the dozens of people who came through my space to view, buy, and best of all – talk about art!

Talking to people about my work is the most valuable part of Open Studios because it opens me up to many new ideas.  It is a profound experience to create something that – to me- can only mean one thing, and then observe ten people engage and relate to the same painting from ten unique perspectives.

Another big thank you to the patrons who like my work enough to buy it.  I’m sad to see these paintings go – but I know they are all going to good homes!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Bitter Sweet

As I was poking around on Sunday trying to find something to paint I stumbled onto a drawer filled with cellophane wrapped candies.  They were pieces that had been given to me and that I had picked up from exhibitions of Felix Gonzales Torres, one of my all time favorite artists.

Felix was diagnosed with HIV in the early nineties and both he and his partner died from complications related to the virus.  His artworks are poignant and simple and beautiful. They evoke the temporal nature of life, and the tragic loss associated with being gay in the 80s, and 90s when so many lives were lost due to fear and inaction surrounding HIV.

His candy pieces are simple: a pile of candies weighing as much as one of his friends is placed in a gallery.  Visitors are allowed to take pieces for themselves, resulting in a steady decrease of the original weight until there is nothing left.  It is a powerful metaphor that I contemplated as I worked.  Was my piece the one that tipped the scales?  Did it matter?  Now several years old, the original artwork was certainly gone – all that remains is a memory.

Vanitas (Felix I) : Oil on linen.  8

Vanitas (Felix I) : Oil on linen. 8″x11″ 2015

A “quick” study

This was intended as a quick study, but ended up taking about an hour for the drawing and about 2.5 hours for the painting.

I need to go back in and add some details once the main painting dries.

untitled : Oil on linen. 9"x12" 2015

untitled : Oil on linen. 9″x12″ 2015

And here it is with the final details added: trees, street light, lettering, some extra windows, and some power lines.  Adds a little more depth and texture.

untitled : Oil on linen. 9"x12" 2015

untitled : Oil on linen. 9″x12″ 2015

Warm and Cool

I promised that my next painting wouldn’t have any snow in it!  The references for this painting were pulled from a day in the middle of last summer as I was on my way to the beach. Can’t get much better than that for warm inspiration.

One of the reasons I returned to this image was the contrast between the blazing warm sun in the background, and the cool, subdued colors in the foreground.  I think it gives the composition a dramatic contrast and was very fun to paint.

untitled (overpass) : Oil on board.  18"x24".  2015

untitled (overpass) : Oil on board. 18″x24″. 2015


One of the (few) benefits of the recent barrage of snow storms is that I’m stuck inside being productive.  I’ve spend several weeks now working on another one of the larger landscapes.  This one is about 3’x2′ and was fun and challenging to work on.  The larger challenges are still controlling the color temperatures and working more loosely.  All in all they are fun and stimulating!

The next piece I work on will have much more sunlight and warmth – I need it after all this snow!

untitled (woods II) :  Oil on canvas.  44"x30" 2015

untitled (woods II) : Oil on canvas. 44″x30″ 2015

Please note: I’m a lousy photographer and these larger paintings are exceptionally difficult to shoot properly! I’m sorry for the lousy image quality – but it will have to suffice until I get these professionally shot.


The larger landscape that I worked on yesterday needed time to dry so I embarked on what I thought would be a quick sketch.  Four hours later this is what I ended up with.

untitled (candy bar wrapper)  : Oil on panel. 8"x11" 2015

untitled (candy bar wrapper) : Oil on panel. 8″x11″ 2015

First work of the new year!

Technically most of the work was done in 2014, but I spent several days of the past week finishing up details on this painting.  I’m not sure what to call them, or where they are going, but I’m definitely enjoying working on the larger scale landscapes.

Untitled (woods) :  Oil on canvas.  48"x30" 2015

Untitled (woods) : Oil on canvas. 48″x30″ 2015

They are challenging because of the amount of (or lack of) detail I want (am able) to put in.  Keeping color temps balanced across the whole composition is also tricky.  This painting – more than the large marsh painting – felt like a learning experience.  I’ve already got another large canvas primed and ready to go, so we’ll see how much of the learning stuck!

The studio also got a clean up and re-org.  Over the past 6 years plenty of stuff has accumulated and it felt great to purge things that were just gathering dust.  I picked up two new lamps and two daylight bulbs, and figured out a more secure mounting for them.

Yay! Clean work space!

Yay! Clean work space!