Some weekend work

I haven’t posted in a couple weeks because I have been plodding through a larger piece. It’s coming along, slowly and with effort.  I’m at the point now where I wish it finished for the sake of it being finished;  I know if I set it aside and work on something else I will likely never return to it.

Also, in advance of open studios I have been ramping up my painting on days that I don’t work my full time job.  Normally, on a day off, I will putz around the house, and paint for 2-3 hours in the afternoon.  In the past two weeks, however, I have spent a total of 5 days off, painting for a 2-3 hour stretch in the morning, and another 2-3 hour stretch in the afternoon.  That’s a lot of standing in front of the easel!

But it pays off!  This week, in addition to the work on the larger painting, I completed two smaller works.  Thanks to the urging of friends, what started out as exercises have developed into small series.

Green and Orange and Green

Still playing with surface, reflections, throw-away-culture, and a limited palette.  These have moved somewhere past the exercise of the candy and beer cans and slightly into an idea.


Red, white, and light blue

Two paintings from the weekend exploring reflective surfaces again.  The PBR can was a lot of fun – the amount of detail work made it challenging in the best way.  The blue candy was for my friend Zachary, a photographer from NYC who is pushing me to keep going with the cans/candy.

The candy was done with 3 colors: Ult. Blue, Burnt Umber, and Cad Yellow (plus white). The can was done with the same, plus Cad Red Lt. I love working with a limited palette!


Another shiny beer can.  I think I’m going to attempt a different sort of back drop next time.  For the past several paintings I have spent an hour or two on the main subject, then mixed a greyish white with a bunch of medium to quickly paint in the background.  It leaves the objects hovering in some weird non-space.  I like that at some points, but I think it may also feel a bit formulaic.

Cons: the shadows on the white can were hard to get the color temp just right.

Pros: It was surprisingly fun to paint the calligraphy upside down.

Cherries, take two.

Tried again with Alizarin and once again it was challenging.  I was also cranky and tired from a long walk in the sun, which resulted in the first attempt at this painting being wiped away.  I went back at it after a little nap and felt much better about the painting.

I used natural light this time, which gives much softer shadows than the bright overheads.


Once again I’m reminded that Alizarin Crimson is a cruel lover when painting directly.  I was able to overcome the transparency of the pigment, but the lower reflected lights came out a little hot-pink and a little to bright in value. Welp… I have half a bag of cherries left so we’ll see what happens next time.

Plastic Cup

This is something new.  Partially inspired by the cans and candy paintings, but also more of an idea forming in the background.  This particular study was extremely challenging, and is not exactly what I was going for, but is headed in the right direction.  Perhaps there will be more.

Plastic Cup 1

untitled (plastic cup) : Oil on Board. 14″x18″  2016

All of the donuts!

Still continuing the sweets theme this week.  A couple more donuts added to the collection.  I’m happier about the surface of these two: the jelly had to be wiped off and repainted at one point to better understand the sugary texture on top.

However, both suffer a bit in the shadow area in the bite.  I’m not sure exactly what to mix to convey shadows that are both cool, deep, and yellow… every time I mixed up the colors I came out with something of a grey green approximation.  Maybe the next study will be a focus on just that part.


Time to Paint the Donuts…

The flexibility of painting small allows for a variety of subject matter without a huge investment of time.  Last week someone at work brought donuts… this weekend I decided to paint some.

The first painting I did was the chocolate glazed, and it clearly is the best.  I was distracted and running late while painting the pink donut, so it had to be partially wiped off and re-painted later.  And the plain glazed was painted under a rapidly changing light, which was also distracting.

These were a fun group. For each one painted I bought an additional 2-3 ‘models’ which Lance and I promptly ate… I might be done with donuts for a while.

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.


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

To be finished or not to be finished

Eh…in many ways this was a fun painting to work on.  I really liked being able to use some brighter colors, and of course I love the light and architecture of Somerville triple decker houses.

But I also love it when windows are all the correct size, placement, and relatively vertical.  Im not sure why but I had a really difficult time getting the windows to sit properly on the faces of the houses without feeling cartoonish.

I may go back and re-work this… or I may just add it to the growing pile of panels that will some day be repurposed… time will tell.

Houses : Oil on panel.  12"x16"  2015

Houses : Oil on panel. 12″x16″ 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!

Traveler #5 finished!

As promised, here is Traveler #5.  Again, photographing this painting was extremely frustrating.  Whenever there wasn’t any glare the softer details – like the texture of the coat on the woman to the right – get lost.  In the end I settled a little bit, but I still need to have the whole series so far professionally photographed.

Travelers #5 : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Travelers #5 : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

Another “Traveler” finished

It’s taken a while (I first started this piece back in May) but I’ve finished two more paintings in the Travelers series.  I love doing these pieces, but boy do they take a lot of time!

They are also very dark, and very glossy, which makes them damn near impossible to photograph well.  Apologies for the glare.

Travelers 4

Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

Weekend Update

This weekend I worked a little bit on the Travelers series.  The layering and underpainting take a really long time – then they need to dry thoroughly before the next layer of painting can go on.  I usually work a few paintings at a time.  I’m working one from early May, and below is the start of #5.

I also did a short study of some oak leaves as an exercise.  The drawing needs some work, and the highlights of the leaves came out wrong, but most everything else I like.

I start on a pinkish background with a careful drawing.  And then slowly build the underpainting up from there.

I start on a pinkish background with a careful drawing. And then slowly build the underpainting up from there.

untitled : Oil on board. 8"x10" 2014

untitled : Oil on board. 8″x10″ 2014

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!!

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


After a very successful Somerville Open Studios I kind of dropped off the artmaking map.

But finally – after a full month of not painting – I have finished another painting.

The goal of this piece was to capture a bit of the anonymous beauty of living in Somerville.  I’m quite taken with the way the light rakes across the buildings at sunset, and the simple repetitive geometry of the triple decker houses.

Another House. Oil on board. 11"x14" 2014.

Another House. Oil on board. 11″x14″ 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

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

A New Series.

Every now and then I’ll see someone on the subway who is interesting, and I will surreptitiously snap a photo.  Not humorous or mocking or lecherous. Just…interesting.

As I have gathered these photos I began thinking about what an odd experience riding the subway (or any public transit) is: you are voluntarily putting yourself in a confined space with a bunch of strangers, all of whom – like you – are doing their best to avoid any sort of personal contact.  It is public, yet private.  Tedious, yet necessary.

At the same time I began to wonder what would happen if I applied a very traditional and personal medium – indirect oil portraiture – to a situation steeped in cold, impersonal observation such as surveillance cameras.

The first painting was published last year, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to explore.  This week I published a new gallery on my website called Travelers.

I hope you enjoy! (click the link above for the rest of the series so far)

Travelers #3 : Oil on board, 9"x12" 2014

Travelers #3 : Oil on board, 9″x12″ 2014

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 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 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


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

Zorn Palette Experiment

This painting is a 1 hour sketch of my little suede teddy bear using the Zorn palette.

Anders Zorn was a Swedish landscape and portrait painter – a contemporary and competitor of John Singer Sargent and Joaquin Sarolla y Bastida.  Zorn often (but not always) limited his palette to just four colors: ivory black, flake white, yellow ochre, and vermillion red (I swapped in Cad Red Med.)

Limiting a palette is always an interesting challenge because you are forced to work less on perceived colors and more from value, form, and color temperature.  The Zorn palette actually gives you a great range of tones, both warm and cool.

I painted teddy after doing the color chart.  My palette was full of all of the mixtures and I think I probably should have limited them even further.  Also – canvas paper sucks.  Literally.  I would put down a brushstroke and it would get sucked into the tooth of the canvas almost immediately. For the next experiments I have added extra gesso to the paper to help seal it up.

Zorn Palette Teddy : Oil on unmounted canvas. 2013

Zorn Palette Teddy : Oil on unmounted canvas. 2013

Zorn Palette.  Colors are mixed 3/1 approx.

Zorn Palette. Colors are mixed 3/1 approx.


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

New easel

Just got a new easel set up in my studio! Much sturdier than the aluminum travel easel I was using.

And I’ve almost finished a new painting! Part of the Echoes series. Mostly happy with the result, but as always I can see areas where I’d improve it.




Feeling energized from Open Studios, I spent this whole weekend painting. And a little bit of it working on a chair. But mostly painting.

I finished “A road #2”, and made a lot of headway on two new paintings. I’m very happy with the one below, other than that its a little happy and sunny and I think it needs a wee bit more melancholy to it.


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

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



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.