Summer Painting

Since Somerville Open Studios back in May I’ve been lax about painting…anything.  In August I finally got motivated and packed up my plein air kit and went out to work.  The results were generally meh.  Once again I’ve struggled with greens, with values, and with drawing.  It took about a month to recognize the problems and work to correct.

I’ve been pushing myself towards accurate drawing and slowing down as I paint.  The results have been slow coming, but things have been steadily strengthening.

This strongest paintings were the ones where I was slow and deliberate, and based on an accurate drawing and careful color mixing.

The weakest paintings were the ones where the greens/value/drawing got away from me.

And then there were a bunch in the middle.

Winter Break

My winter vacation was a great time to get things done.  For about 9 days I had free rein to paint, organize, cook, clean, think, read, and learn, and play a lot of Boggle with Tim.  There were also trips to Harvard Art Museums, perusing Instagram and Youtube for knowledge/inspiration.  And pie.

Here’s a run-down of the art stuff:

Untitled (Surface Study) : Oil on wood. 8″x10″ 2016

1) Revisited the gold candy with the dark background.  The candy paintings have been on a white background, giving them a bright, almost clinical appearance.  I wondered if using a black background might change the feel.  It did, and I don’t immediately love with the look.  After looking at the painting for a couple weeks I pushed the background darker.  I also lightened up and solidified some of the highlights and added a glaze of Indian Yellow over the transparent foil ends.  All steps in the right direction. (sorry for the truly shitty photographs – a new camera needs to be in the future)


Untitled (Dreams Study) : Oil on wood. 8″x10″ 2016

2) Painted a can on a black background.  Again testing the idea of darker backgrounds for the solo objects.  I like this one better than the candy.  I also went back in after it was dry and glazed some of the reds to make them pop more.  This is using a direct studio lamp to light the model instead of daylight as on the past cans.


Echoes : Back field : Oil on board.  9″x12″  2016

3) Painted a path.  This was one of the reference shots I gathered at my father’s house over Christmas.  It seemed a bit too precious to build into a full size painting, but it made a nice exercise in color temperature in the snow.  I also worked on simplifying/massing the backgrounds of the trees, rather than paint each individual branch.


Untitled (Substance Study) : Oil on wood. 8″x10″ 2016

4) Bake pie, paint pie, eat pie.  Prodding the idea behind the Substance series I expanded from donuts into pie.  Mostly because I had pie in the fridge. Surprisingly challenging to paint the simple surfaces without seeming boring. Not quite as colorful, but I think Wayne Theibauld would enjoy.

5) Freeze my f**king ass off. At the Harvard Art Museums I came across a Monet painting of a snowy road with the quote: “We glimpsed a little heater, then an easel, then a gentleman swathed in three overcoats, with gloved hands, his face half-frozen. It was M. Monet, studying some aspect of the snow.”

It was inspiring and on my return home I bundled up and attempted to capture ‘some aspect of the overpass.’  It was actually a lot of fun.  The cold definitely takes a toll on your cognitive process – about halfway through I forgot how to use color temperature.  Then the snow started. I really like the left side – I may cut it down to a 6×9″

6) Work on a sunny landscape/beach scene.  Which, for reasons I cannot discuss I cannot yet post.


untitled (Dreams Study) : Oil on wood. 8″x10″ 2017

7) Painted a can on the white background with direct light.  The direct light on the model significantly changes shadows and highlights.  It may be what I use for the larger scale paintings.

8) Annual New Year Studio Cleanup!  Lastly, I spent January 2 cleaning up and streamlining my studio space. Fresh start to a new year!


A new set up

For several years now, my plein air set up has consisted of a lightweight aluminum easel, an art-bin with my paints in it, a modified picture frame for carrying wet panels, and various accessories – all stuffed into an old backpack.  It was heavy and cumbersome, and while it worked for some time, I decided it was time for an upgrade.

Old Set up

After some research I settled on Guerilla Painter‘s 9×12 Laptop box.  Guerilla offers a wide range of products and has an extensive number of add-on accessories, all consistently getting solid reviews.

There are plenty of junky mass-produced boxes, and a few high-end paint-box makers out there, notably Alla-Prima Pochade, which are gorgeous, but a little outside my price range for the limited amount of plein air painting that I do.  Guerilla fell right in the middle.

Guerilla accidentally sent me the 9×12″ Pochade box first, then sent my correct order.  I had time with both boxes to compare, and I’m convinced I made the right choice in the Laptop.  My review of both is below.

1) Size.  Plein air painting is about being portable. The Pochade is almost 6″ deep including the feet. Both are meant to hold 9″x12″ panels and possibly smaller/larger with add-ons and modifications.  When open the Pochade has an awkward lip jutting up 2″ from the palette. This was one of the biggest turn-offs for me as I can imagine it getting in the way of my knife and brushes.

The Laptop is considerably shorter, clocking in at 3″, which means less storage, but also less weight and less bulk. The palette is almost flush with the edges and there is a much shorter lip on the front.

2) Construction.  Both boxes are solid, but have way too many screws.  I’m not sure why, as gluing the panels together would give sufficient strength. They probably won’t add much weight, but they clutter an otherwise streamlined look.   The Pochade has a beefy aluminum armature to control tilt.  The Laptop armature is smaller and doesn’t have as many washers, which makes me wonder if it will slip with repeated use. Time will tell.

3) Tripod mount. Both boxes come with a built in tripod mount.  The Pochade has a deeper rubber foot, keeping the tripod mount from touching a table surface.  It also has a leather handle.  The Laptop has shallower feet, which means you need to either remove the tripod plate each time you use the Laptop on a table, or add deeper feet. I’m planning on that, plus adding my own handle.

On the Pochade the mount is centered, but on the laptop it is set on the back edge. (see below about tripods)

4) Internal storage. With the additional depth the Pochade offers almost double the storage. This might be good if you want a whole studio-in-a-box, but my kit has always been as lean as possible. Even without modification, the Laptop can easily hold 10 tubes of paint, several brushes, palette knife, medium, turps, brush cleaner, palette cups etc, and still allow the palette to slide into place. Once my brush handles are trimmed down and a divider put in I will have room for another 8-10 tubes of paint.

Guerilla Painter claims the Laptop can fit 4 wet panels.  I’m not sure how this is possible.  It appears you can get one backed against the lid, two back to back in the clips – but that is only 3 paintings, and I struggled to get a panel cleanly against the lid. It seems the clip is set too far back, causing it to scrape against the edge of the panel.  The lack of storage won’t bother me – it’s rare that I do even two paintings in a day.  But still, Guerilla should either clarify or update.

The Pochade has much larger clips that allow for multiple panels, or even a thin stretched canvas. It also has grooves in the storage box for additional dividers and what appears to be a shelf.  The Laptop has a single groove, but I plan on adding my own divider later.

Both boxes are set up to paint 9×12 in a landscape format.  I’m sure a little modification could easily fix that.  Stay tuned.

5) Tripods.  The trend in pochade boxes is to include an integrated tripod mount. This allows you to screw in a quick-release plate that comes with most camera tripods.  But a pochade box is not a camera.  It is bigger, and usually heavier, and has physical stress being applied (pushing brushes against your palette and your panel).  I purchased a $19 Amazon basics tripod that would work just fine with a standard camera.  However, the quick-release plate was plastic, and the receiving port was also plastic, which meant a LOT of flex and bounce on the Laptop, and almost complete instability on the heavier Pochade box.

I did more research and purchased a $100 Neewer carbon fiber tripod. Everything is sturdier than the cheaper tripod – the legs had less flex, the clips tightened securely, and the quick release mounting plate and port were both cast aluminum: no flex at all when mounted to the box. Neewer also makes some aluminum versions in the $60-$80 range.  They all appear to come with metal-on-metal quick release plates for a rock solid mount. Do yourself a favor and splurge on a good tripod with a metal on metal mounting plate.

Cabot Lodge

The new set up in action at Mt Auburn Cemetery.




A study and some exercise.

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post – not because I wasn’t painting, but because the painting wasn’t done. I’m planning another larger scale landscape painting and I spent a week working on a smaller study. It was helpful in assessing the areas that will be challenging on the larger scale: keeping the ground transparent and textured, being aware of temperature relationships, and figuring out how to paint a goddam tree without leaves on it.

I’ve also been ramping up my landscape painting in general because I go on vacation NEXT WEEK!  We’ll be back up in Acadia park and I will be scrambling over hill and dale trying to find a place to paint.  Every year past has followed a similar routine: the first day out painting is like learning to ride a bike all over again -usually resulting in a wasted day/painting.

This week I did a one-half-plein-air painting of the billboard next to my house through an open window.  And yesterday I put on my go pack and biked out to the Charles River to complete a mediocre painting.  Just as predicted above it was a bit of starting from scratch.  Hopefully that will all be gone by the time I get to Maine.

Tree. House.

This weekend was a bit weird and emotional losing Rocket.  However, there were some bright spots:  On Friday evening I sold the large of waves paintings to a gentleman who saw my work at Open Studios.  I also handed off An Old House to it’s new owner.

And I wrapped up a new painting on Saturday, and did a little sketch on Sunday. The red house painting is finished – I think.  I wonder if it needs more detail.  I’ll have to revisit it in a week or two to see if I feel the same then.

Landscape, Nude, Still Life

Did three more small paintings over the weekend.  The nude was the most difficult again.  If you ignore the weird face and the misshapen hand on the right I’m happy with it.

The landscape was fine, just an exercise to jump start me painting.

The still life was done fast and poorly and was so offensively uninteresting that I wiped it off as soon as it was done.

Making Waves

Fresh into the new year and I have completed – I think- another painting.  This one was difficult, sitting on the easel for about 2 months before getting to this point.  Of course things like Christmas and New Years got in the way, but this was also one of the first times I’ve really wanted to just abandon a piece and start over.

But I plowed through it and am somewhat satisfied with the results.

A part of the large landscapes series, this piece is sort of about a sense of inevitability. I tried to capture the aspects of the wave building, cresting, and crashing back down.  I also painted the sky moody to keep the piece from looking like a vacation photo.


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


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

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

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.

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!

See my paintings!

Im very fortunate to have some of the Echoes series showing/up for sale at Simon’s Too in Cambridge. It’s a cozy little coffee shop just outside of Harvard Square.

Simon’s Too : 983 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA.

I hope you’ll stop by and take a look.  And definitely try the coffee!


Two (almost) finished paintings!

Two paintings to start the week.  First is a little 8×10″ sketch that is almost finished… you may notice that there are shadows of electrical wires… but no actual wires above.  Once the sky dries I’ll paint in the rest.

Second is a larger scale piece I’ve been working on for a few weeks. It was a long process getting here, but I’ll detail that a little bit more on Tuesday’s post.


Untitled Study : Oil on board, 8"x10". 2014

Untitled Study : Oil on board, 8″x10″. 2014

Untitled (cliffs) : Oil on board. 16"x20". 2014

Untitled (cliffs) : Oil on board. 16″x20″. 2014

Big Painting / Little Painting

I had done this horrid little sketch while up in Maine. While none of the paintings I did there were spectacularly successful this particular one stood out as particularly bad, for many many reasons.

Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

After staring at it for a few days and making notes of all the disastrous errors I decided to try again; I would consciously and carefully rework the idea.

I photographed the process and the results are interesting (at least to me).  Stepping back from the immediacy of the situation allowed me to understand what went wrong the first time, and to actively correct it (for the most part) this time.

First was the drawing.  I had rushed the drawing on the sketch, and my brain pulled one of those classic tricks: it said “wow those hills are dramatic” and instructed my hand to make them very dramatic. The result is a cartoonish exaggeration of what my eyes actually saw. Yes, the hills had a sharp rise, but that was visually tempered by distance and atmospheric perspective.

Step One: Drawing and blocking in.  I spent almost as much time on this step alone as I had on the entire sketch above. I focused on the subtleties of the shapes of the hills, noting that they weren't just symmetrical bell curves rising from the rocks.

Step One: Drawing and blocking in. I spent almost as much time on this step alone as I had on the entire sketch above. I focused on the subtleties of the shapes of the hills, noting that they weren’t just symmetrical bell curves rising from the rocks.

Step 2. I solidified the hills and pushed them backwards with cooler blues & greens.  I also "fixed" the sky... which was my biggest regret.

Step 2. I solidified the hills and pushed them backwards with cooler blues & greens. I also “fixed” the sky… which was my biggest regret.

Step 3.  More work on the hills and a great amount of focus on solidifying the rocks in the foreground.  I also continued to fuck up the sky...

Step 3. More work on the hills and a great amount of focus on solidifying the rocks in the foreground. I also continued to fuck up the sky…

Step 4. I reworked the water, which had been a little flat and a little too blue.  I added some texture and depth to the shore as it receded.

Step 4. I reworked the water, which had been a little flat and a little too blue. I added some texture and depth to the shore as it receded.

Step 5. I finally got the sky somewhere manageable - although not nearly as beautiful and soft as the initial blocking...I also brought in the highlights on the rocks in the foreground.

Step 5. I finally got the sky somewhere manageable – although not nearly as beautiful and soft as the initial blocking…I also brought in the highlights on the rocks in the foreground.

Final.  The last steps were to painting the greenery and trees.  I'm about 85% happy with it.  I still think the sky got mangled and some of the greenery is a bit amateurish.

Final. The last steps were to painting the greenery and trees. I’m about 85% happy with it. I still think the sky got mangled and some of the greenery is a bit amateurish. The photograph doesn’t capture the subtle blues in the foreground shadows.

Six Mediocre Paintings in 4 Days

Last week was another vacation in Acadia national park up in Maine.  As usual I brought along my painting supplies because there are a million gorgeous and inspiring views. Last year I’d completed a few paintings that were nice little studies.  This year the results were mostly mediocre and I’m trying to ascertain why.


Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

1. Seawall. (Tuesday morning) I was drawn to the scene by the interplay of the back lit rocks with the sparkling of the ocean.  I also wanted to capture a sense of depth with the soft coloration of the peninsula in the background.

Good: First time painting out of the studio since 2013.

Bad: Well…everything.

  • The coloration of the background has too much contrast to give a sense of depth
  • the drawing is also a little off – the peninsula should be about 30% smaller and narrower
  • the rocks could have used a steadier hand and better color temp. to really emphasize the crisp lighting
  • …but by and large the worst bit for me is the ocean – it screams “amateur!”  It’s too blue, too wavy, too muddy… I didn’t capture any of the crisp bands of color that I actually saw
  • Lastly: I set this painting on the porch to dry and within an hour it was covered in little black bugs.  I commandeered the closet shelves for the rest of the paintings to dry.


Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

2. The Point.  (Wednesday morning) The next day I decided to visit the ocean cliffs which had provided some good paintings last year.  By and large I think this is the best painting of the trip.


  • The drawing was concise;
  • I spent time planning the color scheme and temperature
  • the island in the background is the correct softness to emphasize depth;
  • the ocean is banded in to color better.


  • The trees feel a little wonky and chunky along the top.  I was using Viridian, which is quite transparent and so the whole mass of trees feels a bit unfinished, like an under-painting.  I may touch these up once its dry in a few days.


Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

3. The Sound. (Wednesday evening) After the success of the last painting I was eager to go out again…but I wasn’t really sure where. I drove to a couple spots I thought might work, but each one was problematic – too public, the wrong lighting etc.   The sun was on it’s way down and I was getting frustrated when I spotted a pull-off near a private beach.


  • Quick! This painting was done in less than an hour, including set up and take-down.
  • I carefully planned the progression of blue-greens to emphasize the depth of the mountains – they are still a bit too dark – but better than the cliff painting below.
  • The color temperature is mostly correct


  • Composition.  The piece feels kinda like a thrift-shop painting, with the two points of land jutting in from each side, and the dramatic hills in the back.  I think adding one or two of the yachts that litter the sound would help bring a sense of scale and perspective
  • The values are a bit off – especially in the trees nearest the foreground.  They could be brightened up a little to emphasize the setting sun
  • I’m like kinda maybe pretty sure I was trespassing


Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

4. Trees. (Thursday morning) Lance suggested I take a break from the ocean painting to try something new. We spent an hour hiking the interior of the island looking for a spot to paint.  I finally settled on this view with a pair of large rocks and a tree sitting just off the path.


  • A new subject matter!
  • Much of the light and shade values feel correct
  • I saw a mink dart across the path while I was painting


  • I was set up in the bright sun looking into darker woods.  The glare from the white palette screwed up my eyes.  I should have picked a shadier spot
  • The color temperature is wrong because of the sun – I couldn’t get an accurate gauge on how saturated the brown was, so the background doesn’t feel correct
  • Ditto for some of the foreground rocks
  • Changing light – this matters a LOT when the scene is dependent on sun dappling.  In 30 minutes the light spots moved about 2 feet!


Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

5. Cliffs. (Friday morning) I dragged Lance back to the ocean side on Friday to work on some more cliffs. I found an incredibly steep path that gave me a gorgeous view of the dramatic cliffs rising up from the ocean, with a backdrop of the Beehive and Gorham Mtns.


  • An amazing view!
  • I really enjoy painting cliffs


  • The drawing is wrong – from the scale of the background cliffs, to the shape and scale of the mountain, to the beach cliffs in the background
  • Composition is wrong.  I wanted to emphasize the vertical thrust of the cliffs… but I also wanted to have the dramatic mountains in the background.  I should have focused on the former and turned the panel 90 degrees
  • The cartoonish character of the mountains again conjures up thrift shop paintings. I realized that even though the mountains are dramatic I was over-scaling them.
  • Again, using Viridian which left the mountains feeling unfinished and messy
  • The sky was moody and half cloudy, half clear.  I was running over time so I didn’t have a chance to work this out as carefully as I should have
  • Color temp is way off and the whole thing is muddy.  I was running low on turpentine and wasn’t as careful cleaning my brushes between areas.  It shows


Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

6. Little Long Pond. (Friday evening)  I left Lance at the hotel Friday night and set out to find one last spot to paint.  I stopped at one pond, but wasn’t moved, and so dashed over to Little Long Pond to catch the sunset on the meadow and Penobscot Mtn.  The cloud cover killed any dramatic lighting and I was left with a peaceful, cool scene that (thankfully) stayed the same for an hour.


  • I focused on the drawing and scale of the mountains.  I’d realized that my brain wants to draw them much larger than they actually appear, which leads to that cartoonish quality.
  • Better handling of color temperature…mostly
  • Attention to composition – the focus for me was the dramatic rise of the mountain over the sweeping meadow
  • Less focus on details, more on massing – which I think is what give the painting a better sense of depth


  • Mosquitoes – lots and lots of mosquitoes…Its difficult to focus and paint when you’re flailing your arms all over the place
  • Greens.. are hard. Especially when you want to capture a yellowy green but in a cool light, so it doesn’t appear to sunny.  Still working on this part.  The large band of trees could have used a better contrast between the greens
  • The large trees in the front right were one of the last bits to be painted.  I was tired, and being eaten so I rushed through them.  Better handling would have given a better sense of depth


Overall it was a great trip, and I think I’ve figured out much of what went wrong.  The rest is just practice, practice, practice!!

Camping Trip

We took a little camping trip this weekend and I brought along my watercolor pad again.  The first piece isn’t really good. The whole thing is kinda muddy and indistinct which is frustrating.  I think part of the problem was sitting in direct sun, which made the colors seem much brighter and vibrant than they are in normal home light.  Also, the greens in the background were tricky – warmer on the sunny side of the mountains, cooler on the shade, but both sides blued out because of the atmosphere.  Something to work on.

The second piece was a quick sketch of the rocks where I was sitting.  It was half the time and miles better than the original piece – even if the composition is a little un-interesting.

Untitled (mountains) : Watercolor on paper. 9"x12"

Untitled (mountains) : Watercolor on paper. 9″x12″

Untitled (rock sketch) : Watercolor on paper. 2014

Untitled (rock sketch) : Watercolor on paper. 2014

So much time, so little to do!

Wait a minute…strike that; reverse it.

This summer has been incredibly busy and I haven’t had much time to get into the studio.  I was able to get away to the beach for a day and brought along my watercolor pad.

This is a quick little study of the rocks off the beach.  I like the quality of the paint, but I need to work on the composition – it feels a little stage set.

Singing Beach.  Watercolor. 9x12ish. 2014

Singing Beach. Watercolor. 9x12ish. 2014

Weekend Fun

This past weekend I did a little cloud study from a photo and some notes that I took when we visited Salem, MA a couple weeks ago.  I timed myself at an hour and the results were good, but feel kind of… eh.. to me.

Cloud Study (Salem) : Oil on board. 8"x10" 2014

Cloud Study (Salem) : Oil on board. 8″x10″ 2014

So I picked up a few of my books on color theory and began reading through some of the key points again,and I think what really sticks out as good advice is to consciously make a decision about what the colors in your paintings are going to be.   Yeah – sounds obvious and an artist has to do that anyway right?  Kind of.  If I’m painting a sky initially I’m going to respond to the color I see before me, and the colors that are in the photo reference.  Except I don’t have to.  With some forethought and decision making I could make the same sky purple, yellow, or red and still have the potential to have good results.

So as an exercise I painted out a Munsell color wheel and value chart to keep around the studio.  Munsell forwent the traditional color wheel of Red, Yellow, Blue (primaries) and Green, Orange, Purple (secondaries).    His color wheel has five primaries and five secondaries, allowing a greater nuance of complimentary coloring.   The tints in the middle of mine are a bit dark, but it is a useful tool to keep about.

Munsell Color Wheel.  Oil on plywood. 8"x10" 2014

Munsell Color Wheel. Oil on plywood. 8″x10″ 2014


I was admiring the looseness of John Singer Sargent paintings, when Lance suggested that I try loosening up my own work to paint like him.

So I tried to let go and just sort of paint patches of color rather than paint things.

Still needs some work to finish up.


Work in Progress

A peek at something I’ve been working on a for a while.  This is the next in the Echoes series. It’s a little different than a straight landscape, but I like it a lot.  Once this layer dries I’ll be able to go in and tweak a few details here and there, and clean up some areas, but overall I like the direction this is heading.

work in progress : Oil on board. 16"x20"

work in progress : Oil on board. 16″x20″

More fluffy clouds

In a very quick study on Sunday morning I tried doing some more cloud studies.   Meh… they look okay, but I think I went a little heavy on the darker shadows in the clouds themselves.  Also, the water is a little more green and not that steely Maine blue that I like.

Still – a decent end to an incredibly productive weekend!

Cloud Study #3 : Oil on board. 8"x10" 2014

Cloud Study #3 : Oil on board. 8″x10″ 2014

Fluffy Clouds!

In advance of spring’s arrival – or maybe out of simple winter escapism – I worked on a couple of light fluffy cloud studies this past week.

Number 1 is from the ocean walk in Ogunquit, ME.  It was maybe an hour and a half – two hours.  It feels stiff by comparison to the second one, but I like both.  They were helpful in understanding some of the structure and coloration of the clouds.

Number 2 is from the top of Cadillac Mountain in ME.
I’ve also been busy practicing perspective drawing again – perhaps I’ll post some of those this week too!

Cloud Study #2 : Oil on canvas board. 8"x10" 2014

Cloud Study #2 : Oil on canvas board. 8″x10″ 2014

Cloud Study #1 : Oil on board. 8"x10"  2014

Cloud Study #1 : Oil on board. 8″x10″ 2014

Quick New Sketch, and found an old painting

Last night I stepped into the studio for a quick landscape sketch.  I’ve been thinking a lot about Andrew Wyeth (having just finished his biography)  His father NC Wyeth used to tell him “paint the massive forms”.  It seems odd, given Andrew Wyeth’s propensity for detail and texture, but it’s good advice nonetheless.

The sketch was done in an hour, from drawing to finish.  It’s obviously rough around some edges, but I’m quite happy with the overall feel.  Definitely more painterly than my usual work.

Also, in rearranging my space I stumbled across this painting from a last year.  I’d posted a preview of it, but it never appeared in finished form. It’s a little heavy on the saturated greens, but I still think it’s a nice little painting.

Winter Field Sketch : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Winter Field Sketch : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

Access Road : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2013

Access Road : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2013

An Old House

I started this painting a week or two ago. I’ve jumped up to a larger size: 16″x20″ and I like the flexibility it allows in painting greater detail if I want.  It also takes more time – I think I’ve spent 3-4 sessions of 3-5 hours each on this painting.

The source material is from my last NH trip, and I was really trying to capture that oppressive summer day.  There may be a few details that need tweaking as I move forward but I think it is 99% finished.

An Old House : Oil on board, 16"x 20"  2013

An Old House : Oil on board, 16″x 20″ 2013

Acadia Painting 5/5

On the last day of vacation Lance and I once again went to the loop road and climbed out on the rocks.  It was the perfect, beautiful, sunny way to end a long relaxing, exciting, art-filled week.

Otter Cliffs : Oil on Board. 9"x12"  2013. painted on site.

Otter Cliffs : Oil on Board. 9″x12″ 2013. painted on site.

Best of all, I got a great painting out of it and I learned that, when standing in direct sunlight, your colors are probably darker than you imagine 🙂

Also, there were a few other sketches that I did from around the island.

The Rocks at Seawall : Pencil. 5"x7" 2013

The Rocks at Seawall : Pencil. 5″x7″ 2013

Upper Hadlock Pond : Pencil. 5"x7" 2013

Upper Hadlock Pond : Pencil. 5″x7″ 2013

Some Notes on Waves : Pencil. 5"x7" 2013

Some Notes on Waves : Pencil. 5″x7″ 2013

View of Little Long Pond : Pencil. 5"x7" 2013

View of Little Long Pond : Pencil. 5″x7″ 2013

View From Beech Mountain : Pencil. 5"x7" 2013

View From Beech Mountain : Pencil. 5″x7″ 2013

Acadia 4/5

Almost done with all my Acadia stuff.  The last couple of days there I convinced Lance to come to the rocky side of the island with me and he hung out and read while I painted.

It was rather beautiful to be standing on the edge of the rocks gazing into the ocean.  Until the ocean started getting closer as the tide came in.  Lance nabbed this photo.

Adam painting.

Adam painting.

The painting was done on half of a 9×12″ board.  It came out decent.  One of the things I caught myself doing was compressing some of the elements to make them fit onto the board.  The small hash marks on the top corners are from small bull-dog clips that I use to stack wet paintings without them touching one another.

Ocean Rocks : Oil on Board. 9"x5.5"  2013. painted on site.

Ocean Rocks : Oil on Board. 9″x5.5″ 2013. painted on site.

Acadia Painting 3/5

If you’ve ever been to Mt. Desert you know that Maine fog is a mysterious and frustrating thing!  On Wednesday I dropped Lance off in Bar Harbor, where the afternoon sun was dappling the lawn of the common. I made my way towards the ocean and upon reaching the rocks was immediately engulfed in fog.

The thin line in the back of the painting is the same beach we’d been to the day before.  Suffice to say I’m glad we made it to the beach when it was sunny.

Sand Beach In Fog : Oil on Board. 9"x12"  2013. painted on site.

Sand Beach In Fog : Oil on Board. 9″x12″ 2013. painted on site.

Acadia Painting 2/5

So before August of last year I hadn’t done much oil painting since I graduated college in 2002.  As Lance and I were packing for Acadia in 2012 I decided, on a whim, to bring along my old box of oil paints and some masonite panels.   The first full day of vacation Lance and I hiked along the edge of Somes Sound – the fjord that cuts up the center of Mount Desert Island.

After a few hours of hiking we cut down to the water level and I decided that if I was going to paint, that was the time.  It was awkward and windy, and the first result was clumsy, but it started me down the path to where I am today. (click photos to enlarge)

Somes Sound : Oil on masonite.  9"x12" (NFS) Painted on site.

Somes Sound : Oil on masonite. 9″x12″ (NFS) Painted on site.

Last week I revisited the spot to repaint it on the one year anniversary.

The Flying Mountain trail winds along the edge of a steep embankment a few hundred feet above the water.  The trail is literally cut into the rock face in parts, and offers dramatic views up the Sound and across to Nuremberg and Parkman Mountains.

Setting up my easel on the edge of Flying Mountain. 2013.

Setting up my easel on the edge of Flying Mountain. 2013.

I was able to get a glimpse of my original painting site (the nearer of the two points on the right), which was under water due to the tide, so I decided to stop where I was, perched on the edge of a giant granite boulder tumble, and set up my easel.

I spent about 2 peaceful hours there.  Almost no sounds except the occasional boat motoring up the fjord. I spotted an osprey hunting below me, and was visited by a remarkably curious/fearless red squirrel.  The resulting painting perfectly captures the late afternoon feeling.  It’s a little sweet, and the water on the right side got muddied with some stray orange, but overall I’m happy with it.

Somes Sound Overlook : Oil on board. 9"x12"  2013. painted on site.

Somes Sound Overlook : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2013. painted on site.

Earlier Tuesday morning Lance and I had gone to Sand Beach, on the eastern-most part of Mount Desert Island.  The beach is a tiny channel with steep cliffs rising on either side, and a stunning view of the Beehive Mountain directly behind it. I spent a good amount of time sketching the cliffs.

Looking out from Sand Beach : Graphite 5"x7" 2013

Looking out from Sand Beach : Graphite 5″x7″ 2013

Looking North from Sand Beach : Graphite 5"x7" 2013

Looking North from Sand Beach : Graphite 5″x7″ 2013

Looking out from Sand Beach : Graphite 5"x7" 2013

Looking out from Sand Beach : Graphite 5″x7″ 2013

Acadia Painting 1/5

August is incredibly busy at my job, and the month ended with a much needed, and much enjoyed vacation to Acadia park in Maine. For those who are unfamiliar Acadia is on Mt. Desert Island – a weird and beautiful place, complete with dramatic mountains, rugged cliffs jutting into the ocean, gorgeous boreal forests, a fjord, and truly breathtaking views.

It is a landscape that inspired artists such as Edward Hopper, Frederick Church, and Fitz Hugh Lane. And me. I brought along my painting kit and my sketchbook again this year and spent 5 of the seven days making art.

First up is Seawall, painted on Monday morning.   Seawall is a cobble beach on the lower east side of the island, staring off into the Atlantic ocean and the outlier islands. Across the road are tall, eerie pine forests and quiet marshes.

Painting the ocean is challenging.  It’s always moving.  It was foggy one moment, and sunny the next.  By the time I finished drawing, mixing colors, and started painting the rocks in the bottom of the painting had half vanished under the tide.  An hour later they were completely submerged. And, of course, the composition is a little bland, with the horizon cutting just about halfway through the painting.   But still, it was the start of a very productive week!

Seawall : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2013. Painted on site.

Seawall : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2013. Painted on site.

A panorama of the marsh behind Seawall beach.

A panorama of the marsh behind Seawall beach.

Graphite studies of the rocks, waves, and vistas of Seawall beach.  5"x7" 2013

Graphite studies of the rocks, waves, and vistas of Seawall beach. 5″x7″ 2013

Sketchbook drawings

A pair of small drawings from my sketchbook.  I usually do a value/composition drawing before I start a painting.  First is the house across the street in the glow of a streetlamp.  Second is a prep drawing for my last painting.

House in Streetlight : Pencil 3"x4" 2013

House in Streetlight : Pencil 3″x4″ 2013

















Farm Drawing : Pencil.  3"x4" 2013

Farm Drawing : Pencil. 3″x4″ 2013



I haven’t been able to beat the heatwave we’ve been in for the past couple of weeks.  Its tough painting when it’s 95 degrees.  I paint in rubber gloves, and after about twenty minutes the sweat is trickling from the gloves down my arms.  Nice, huh?

Despite the oppressive temperatures I did eek out this painting.  I spent a lot of time mixing the base colors for the greens, the greys, and the blues ahead of time. I think that definitely clarified a lot of the forms.

It’s one of the small size paintings at 9″x12″ but it feels much more finished than a sketch.  I may come back and revisit this idea on a larger scale.  Hopefully the heat will have broken by Friday when I get some free time again.

Road and Farm : 9"x12" Oil on board.  2013

Road and Farm : 9″x12″ Oil on board. 2013

Summer Fields

A couple weeks ago I went back to NH to get some reference photos for new paintings.  It was a helpful trip – the one downside being that I was photographing at mid-day under a blazing summer sun with virtually no clouds.  That translates into a lot of flatness because shadows are dropped directly below things.

This is a small sketch and I’m not particularly thrilled.  Something is definitely off with the mountains in the background and I can’t figure out what.  The foreground is a little muddy in the use of greens, as are the 3-4 big trees in the front. Probably doesn’t help that I’m red/green color blind.  Also – the camera is turning the greens orange again.

Road and Mountains : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2013

Road and Mountains : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2013

Weekend Work

It’s been all quiet on the artistic front for a few weeks.  One reason is that I’ve been reading and practicing some color theory techniques – more on that in a few days.  But mostly I’ve been away from painting because I was out of source material.

On Friday I went back to my childhood home and spent several hours biking around the fields and farms where I grew up taking tons of photos to work from.  It was an interesting experience that tugged at a few memories, which is exactly the reason why I’m painting this subject matter to start with.

Below is one sketch from the weekend – a mirror to Field in Winter (same location) and also the finished photo of A Path from earlier this year. It’s been finished for a while, I just hadn’t got around to photographing it.

Field in Summer : Oil on board, 9"x12"  2013

Field in Summer : Oil on board, 9″x12″ 2013

A Path : Oil on Board, 14"x18"  2013

A Path : Oil on Board, 14″x18″ 2013

Open Studios Take Away

Just finished up Somerville Open Studios and an outstanding weekend!  I had about 200 people come through my space. I sold five pieces: two “When These Are Gone” watercolors, one of the “Echoes” oil paintings, and two figure drawings!  I gave away dozens of my postcards and business cards.  It was a significantly better event than last year.

Probably most important thing I took away from the weekend: incredible perspective on my work.  Repeatedly trying to explain my process or ideas in 30 seconds or less really helps crystallize them for me.  It’s also interesting to see what types of work people respond to.  I put one idea into a piece and that is what makes it interesting for me, but viewers bring their own attachments and responses and will get something completely different from it.

I’ve got a lot of notes to make while the weekend is still fresh in my mind, and then a lot of work to make in the coming months.

When I am Gone (number 17)

When I am Gone (number 17)

Pownal & Powerlines

Two medium scale (18″x14″) paintings brought much closer to completion this weekend.  I grew up playing around the powerlines near my father’s house.

The Pownal landscape was done from a few photos taken on Easter at my brother’s house. I was very excited when I started it.  I have grown considerably less excited as it progressed.  Painting trees with no leaves on them is hard.

I need to let some elements dry before going back in and adding some details, like the actual power lines.


Pownal : Oil on board, 14″x18″ 2013

Power Lines

Power Lines : Oil on Board : 14″x18″ 2013

10 Landscape Sketches

These are little thumbnails I do as warmups before actual painting.  I usually work from photos on my phone and the corresponding sketch is about the same size – usually in the 3-4″ range.

Kinda, sorta finished & a new experiment

I’m still using my dad’s barn as inspiration for some paintings, but I’ve moved outside this time.  I took some photos when I was visiting before Christmas. The low winter sun caught the barn just as we were returning from a walk.   I keep thinking it’s finished, but I still want to go into the painting and fix things. The left side of the painting feels a little empty, but I didn’t want to paint in the teal Subaru thats parked there in real life.  (and yes, the barn actually is red on two sides, raw barnboard on the others)


Untitled 18″x14″ Oil on board. 2013.


Also, this weekend I did a little experiment with drawing/painting.  I used another photo from New Hampshire for reference.  The medium is oil thinned out with a ton of turpentine so as to give it a real washy, watercolory feel.  Good lord you need some real ventilation when working with that stuff!   I’m overall happy with the result, but completely not sure what its about or where it’s going.  It feels a little like the ink drawings I did in Fables, so maybe it will lead back in that direction soon enough.

Stream Painting

Stream Painting : Oil on gessoed paper. 18″x24″ 2013



Some random old sketches.

Every now and then I flip through my past sketchbooks and discover things I like that I had forgotten about.

Box Drawings

Box Drawings. Colored pencil on colored paper. 6″x9″ each page. 2005 ish.

Fisher Skull Drawing

Fisher Skull Drawing. Colored pencil on colored paper. 6″x9″ 2005

Stairs and Snow

Stairs and Snow. Silverpoint on colored paper washed with gouache. 6″x9″ 2005 ish.

Finished, Fixed (maybe?), and New

Worked on three paintings today. The first was finishing up the telephone pole in the painting of the road on Swan’s Island. The second was tweaking the tree and the roots painting.  I’m still not thrilled with it, but I think it’s gone beyond the point of being fixable and should just be a lesson learned.  And finally I did actually make new work – this is from a photo a couple years back when I hiked the Precipice trail on Mt. Pimetic, and ended up with an awesome view of Cadillac Mt.

Out biking

So I’ve been training for a 125 mile bike ride in September. Training eats up a lot of spare time: basically an entire weekend day, plus 4-6 hours during the week. I haven’t had much time to work on art, but I have seen some inspirational things on the rides. This one was too beautiful to pass- I had to stop and take a picture.