First Painting of 2018

Winter vacation wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped.  The blast of cold weather and a lingering head/chest cold had me focused more on Netflix and the couch rather than painting.

But with a new year in place I tried to shake off the cobwebs and get back to work.

Twinkie Painting

“untitled” : Oil on wood panel. 6″x8″ 2018

Incidentally, this is also the first time I’ve ever tasted a twinkie.

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.


Painted for a friend who is going through a difficult time.  Fresh flowers are beautiful, but I wanted her to have something bright and sunny to look at for a much longer period of time.


ps. the secondary study was done a bit rushed.  It’s meh..  I will definitely be giving her the first painting.

Surface #1

I’ve been steadily plugging along at the large scale paintings.  Somerville Open Studios is about a month away and I want to have a cohesive body of work showing.

The first of the big candy paintings is done.  I’m happy with the piece and learned a lot in the process.  Just like the cans, everything gets a little more challenging when it is scaled up.  I’ve been using more glazing techniques and multiple layers to get the reflective and color qualities that I want.


Dreams #2

A few more weeks of work and I have finished Dreams #2, the second of the large scale can paintings.  Damn they are challenging!  In smaller paintings there is the ability for much more gestural and abstraction, but on a larger scale all that needs to be refined much more. Particularly of issue on this painting was the fine print near the recycle logo. I chose to move towards abstraction rather than pushing in the direction of photo-realism.  It is very important to me that these remain paintings, not a slavish photographic representation.

Dreams #1

After a couple dozen studies of soda and beer cans I launched into a large scale painting.  It took several weeks to finish.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, scaling up paintings exponentially increases the working time.

The idea for the series has slowly come together. At first the cans were an exercise in color mixing and painting reflective surfaces, but as I worked on them I saw a deeper meaning.


Dreams No.1 : Oil on wood panel. 18″x 24″  2017

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!


Brickbottom Open Studios 2016

Brickbottom Open Studios are always interesting and fun!  Over 1000 people came through the building, according to our counters.  And, with over 100 artists between the Brickbottom complex and nearby Joy Street Studios there was a lot for those visitors to see.

A good chunk of those folks came through my studio – engaging in conversation, enjoying my work, and buying some too!  I sold over a dozen paintings overall.

I can’t express enough gratitude to everyone who came out to talk, look, and buy.  The investment in my passion gives me a boost (mentally and monetarily) to keep painting.  The conversations I have during these events also provides insight and fresh perspectives about my work.

Among those sold:

And special thanks to Lance, who puts up with 3 days of furniture moving, curtain hanging, labelling, and a steady flow of strangers marching through the house.



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!

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.


Another week, another beer can study.  I returned to small brushes and returned to my normal style after last week’s experiment.  Next week I may take the experiment in the opposite direction and do a layered/glazed painting of a can.  The printed aluminum is an ideal candidate for glazing and getting really deep, rich colors.

Big brush

I challenged myself to do this painting using a 3/4″ filbert brush instead of the 1/2″ and 1/4″ flats I normally use.  The flat brushes let me paint crisp edges and thin lines.  The filbert was an exercise in letting go and loosening up.  I also added a couple extra cans to push me for speed.


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.

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.

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

Feeling blue…


A set of studies from this past week/weekend.  I find myself drawn to the reflective and hyper-saturated colors of manmade objects more and more. They are a completely different challenge than landscapes: hard vs soft, defined edges vs atmosphere, saturated colors vs a millions shades of neutral.


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.

So sweet it makes my mouth water.

I started this series as an exercise using a couple of pieces of candy from works by Felix Gonzales-Torres.  They are oil on 6×8″ wood panels.   My friend Zachary urged me to push the idea a little further, so I perused the candy aisle of the grocery store, bought a few models, painted the ones I liked, and ate those I didn’t.

The allure/challenge with these pieces was reflections and transparencies, and the rich colors.  Reflective surfaces are difficult to map out and depend a great deal on subtleties of value.  However, when done correctly, I find them rewarding.

I also enjoyed that I didn’t have to think much about the idea.  I had a pile of candies to choose from, and a pile of painting surfaces ready to go.  But the danger I see in pushing this series much further is falling it a groove of formulaic repetition.

The sweet-hearts was a one-off done on Valentine’s day.


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

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

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

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

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!

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!


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!!

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

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.

Salon 21 at the Nave Gallery

I’ve been tied up with a few other projects so haven’t done much painting in a couple weeks.

However, I did have two works -including “Night Light” accepted into Salon 21, a juried show at the Nave Gallery in Somerville!!

Come by Thursday, May 1 for the reception. The show runs from May 1-11th and will span Open Studios weekend. Very exciting!!!



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

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

Some more figure painting (contains painted nudity)

Trying to do one or two figure studies a week to get the knack of flesh tones and color temperature and all that.

The pale one is from 2 weeks ago and is fairly successful.  Last week’s attempts were abject disasters and so won’t be appearing.  And this week’s piece started out strong, and then I continued painting and it got real muddy, real fast.  *sigh*…. will try again next week.

TorsoPainting009 TorsoPainting008



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

Landscape sketch

A quick oil sketch of a marsh near my dad’s farm. Im working on a larger piece that’s taking a bit more time to complete. This was done with some of the leftover paints on my palette to keep them from going to waste. I did it unless the hour and I’m quite pleased with the results.


More Nudes.

So I’m still working on painting skin tones in preparation for a series of paintings I’m working on.  These are all done alla prima style.  I’m getting a little bit better hang of recognizing that the skin tones on the palette are going to be 100X too vibrant on the canvas, so thats been helpful.

untitled : Oil on board. 5.5" x 9"  2013

untitled : Oil on board. 5.5″ x 9″ 2013

untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2013

untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2013

Nudie Paintings beware!

This weekend I spent a bunch of time tackling skin tones.  I painted four figure studies and what I have come away with is : Skin tones are HARD!

Almost every single time I mixed a color on my palette to what I thought was an appropriate, pale, neutral skin tone that same color looked like garish clown makeup on the actual painting.

Overall, though, the process moved from clumsy, to awkward, to frustrating, and finally landed on “…meh.”  On the last attempt I switched from Ti White which had been making things a big chalky mess over to Flemish and Flake whites.  This helped enormously in brightening the colors without flattening them. It’s a shame that a tiny tube of Flemish white costs 3X the giant tube of Ti.

Last attempt and the best of you ignore the face.  Oil on board 8"x10"

Last attempt and the best of you ignore the face. Oil on board 8″x10″

First attempt.  Somehow in focusing on the colors I forgot how anatomy works.  Oil on board 8"x10"

First attempt. Somehow in focusing on the colors I forgot how anatomy works. Oil on board 8″x10″

Third attempt.  Starting to understand that colors are good. Oil on board 8"x10"

Third attempt. Starting to understand that colors are good. Oil on board 8″x10″

Second attempt.  Better with the anatomy, colors are a chalky mess.  Oil on board. 8"x10"

Second attempt. Better with the anatomy, colors are a chalky mess. Oil on board. 8″x10″

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


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.


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

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



Another quick study

Worked on another barn painting today, and whipped this out after to use up the leftover paint. Not bad. Kinda random. I might go back once everything has dried.  This was all gobbed on there so it might be a few weeks.  Sorry for the glare bouncing off the paint – its tricky to find good photo light in the studio.

Skull and Teddy

Skull and Teddy. Oil on masonite. 9″x12″


The Old Barn

The old barn at my dad’s house – where I grew up – has always been a place of mystery and exploration for me.  There is something very evocative of the geometry of the beams, the varying levels of height, the walls perforated by shafts of sunlight, which bounce around and illuminate.

I’ve been working on this imagery for a little while, and while I’m not sure if these paintings are exactly what I’m looking for I plan on spending more time with the subject matter.

Nod to Vincent

I spent all day working on one of my barn paintings.  After I had reached a stopping point I still had a bunch of paint left on my palette and I had been wanting to do this painting for a while.

I have an anatomical skull on my credenza and put my leftover cash in the mouth after work. Its a little nod to Van Gogh’s Skeleton With a Cigarette.

I tried to work quickly and loosely with a limited palette and larger brushes. I’m fairly happy with the results, although my colors are a bit muddy.

Geld shedel

Geld shedel – Oil on canvas 9″x12″

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.