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Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Snow Day

We are getting our first snow of the year, today. It looks great and doesn’t look like it will be too heavy or last too long. It is just the right kind of snow to enjoy while sipping a cup of coffee while watching it fall.

I've been working on the Old Stone House the past couple of days. Not long working days, just an hour or two per session. I'm painting the trees right now. There are quite a few and they require a slow delicate approach to do the branches and stems. Changes to the painting are not very dramatic right now. So, I'll show you a couple of photos of this morning's snow instead.

A Short walk to the studio.

The view out front from the Cottage porch.

With so many plans being made for the holidays Barbara and I are also keeping busy getting the cottage winterized and making our lists for Santa Clause. We're planning to spend Christmas with all the children and grandchildren in Orlando, FL.



Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Very Thankful Day

It was a warm and wonderful day ...inside. The weather outside, on the other hand, went from sunny and cool to cloudy and very cold, ending up with 45 mph winds and flurries last night. I did get some work done in the studio, but kept running into the cottage to get a whiff of the delicious aromas cooking on the stove. Yum!

The aromas of Thanksgiving are some of the best. It was very hard to concentrate on painting with all those goodies cooking away in the kitchen!

It is a cold and windy today on Black Friday! (I hate that name). Barbara and I are having a late breakfast and desperately trying to keep warm, but definitely not huddled outside some store waiting to snatch up an “I-got-to-have” thing-a-ma-jig.

I hope all those die hard shoppers got what they wanted this morning. Some folks were out there at four a.m. this morning after waiting 12 hours for the stores to open. Now that is really NUTS if you don't mind me saying!

Though turkey took front row on Thursday, but I did get a little work done on the Old Stone House. Here is a peek:

I'm beginning to color in the trees.

The house is starting to take shape but still needs more work!



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Grass Is Always Greener

I spend a few hours this morning working some more on The Old Stone House. For starters I spent time working on the hills and local buildings to the left along the hill side. I toned down the buildings to blend them into the background, leaving only ghost images to indicate they are out there. I will continue to work on these as I see the need to soften them more.

I painted in the rectangular field that sits horizontally to the rear and left of the house. Then I painted in the low shrubs that bordered the field just to the rear of the road. As promised I filled in the road with hard-packed dirt to depict the "country" road as it might have looked a few hundred years ago.

I toned down the front lawn of the house and added a few details in the rough area beyond the lawn to the right.

I began adding grass in the foreground by adding layers of darker colors. I used Indian red, raw umber and a mixture of sap green and yellow ochre. I used some olive green to define a grassy border along the country road.

You are probably wondering what the "leopard-like" anomaly is supposed to be in the right lower corner of the painting. Actually, that object has been there since I first laid in the foreground. It is a clump of yellow flowered weeds. Now however I've added a little texture in anticipation of further developing the weeds later. It will take shape as I work that area later.

The painting is not too wet just damp in some areas. At this point I will take a break for a few days to allow the entire painting to "cure" a little in front of the studio windows. I may need a few extra days because as of today, heavy rains have started. Remnants of hurricane Ida will be with us for a while. I don't expect much sunshine while she passes through.



Sunday, November 8, 2009

Love Those Hills

I am back working at the Stone House again. Yesterday afternoon I worked on the hills that rise above and behind the Old Stone House. The situation of the house is really a beautiful spot. I've tried to bring some of the color out in the hills. I'm working from a photo taken last February, which is definitely not as colorful as I have made them in the painting. Keep in mind that I will be doing an antiquing technique on the painting as my final stage. So, the hills and surrounding countryside will become darker and "older" with an application of Sepia glazing. All the colors will settle down then. I have mixed a little mortar like color into the surface of the exterior walls of the house. I will add a few stones to this surface to represent that unique look of stone. The stone on the house gives it a stunning beauty, which I hope to capture even at this distance.

I have also defined some of the lawn and brush behind the house. The patch of lawn is too flat at this point but will have more texture as I work on it. I have also defined several of the neighboring buildings in the upper left of the hills. These too will be toned down as I push them back into the hills.

Although the road has a macadam surface I will probably treat the road as it would have been in an earlier view with a more typical hard-packed mud surface.



Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Old Stone House in Stages

Once I actually got started painting the Old Stone House I have kept pretty busy adding bits and pieces to the canvas. For some of you taking a look at the progress of this painting it may seem like I’ve been hung up on some details along the way. I admit that I have been sidetracked of late. Although I’m only a few feet away from my studio, you can’t imagine how often I have had to postpone the trip over there! Something seems to always come up. First of all we had a weeklong vacation to Lake Lure, NC, which we both needed desperately! Then we had visitors stay with us for another week. It was fun but it kept us busy. Just before they left I had a short bout with the flu (not sure which kind it was) but I was happy to say it wasn’t a long illness. Barbara, on the other hand, had a pretty nasty time of it. She caught it a week after me and we are pretty sure she got the H1N1. However, by the time she was strong enough to leave the house to see a doctor, he pronounced her cured! However, she has continued to have a bad night or two since. If any of you have either suffered with the flu or had to care for someone with the flu you know that your lives are basically on “hold” until the stuff is over with.

All of these little segues don’t necessarily get you where you want to be, but eventually life gets back on track. This brings us up to date, so to speak.

After transferring the initial drawing to the canvas I began applying acrylic in complimentary colors as an undercoating. I chose to use an undercoating of colors similar to the various shades of the finished sky. I used a combination of yellow ochre and burnt sienna as an undercoating for the field in the foreground. I used broad brush strokes for most of the undercoating. This is not the prettiest stage but a good starting point when finishing up with Water soluble oils (WSO). I kept the undercoating light to start with so that I could preserve the pencil lines as guides for easier placement of objects, for example tree branches and limbs.

During my next visit to the studio I used a new technique to darken the tree limbs and branches. I found an excellent product by Fiber Castell called, Pitt Artist Brush Pen Sets. The set I used is called “Terra” for the earth colored pens it includes. The Pitt Artist Pens come in a variety of nips. The Terra set had all “brush” Nibs. The pens contain a fine quality of pigmented India ink that is both acid-free and archival (pH neutral) that are ideal for watercoloring over your lines. I was quickly able to refine my pencil drawings and better define the lines as I add heavier acrylics and WSO.

I also added more underpainting along the road that horizontally dissects the painting. I also added additional acrylic to the rear area of the house and added another heavier layer of yellow ochre to the field in the foreground.

Yesterday afternoon I began working on the sky. I used a combination of cerulean blue hue, Titanium white and a mixture of French Ultramarine, Indian red and cadmium red hue. I brushed in the sky with ever increasing layers of WSO. As you can see the Pitt Artist Pens are still visible through the light colors. I will do more refinement of the sky as it dries while I work on other areas later in the week.

You probably noticed the yellow rectangle behind the house. I learned from my sister that this area is actually a field and not a pond as I had initially thought. There are definitely disadvantages to working from a photograph, especially when I was not able to actually do a demo at the house. My sister has been a big help pointing out objects via e-mail. It is truly a cooperative effort.



Friday, October 23, 2009

Moving Ahead

I have begun working on the actual painting of the Old Stone House for my sister. All the studies, canvas building, glazing tests and trials are finally over. It is time to go to work.

Last evening I transferred my study to the pre-gessoed canvas. This initial graphic drawing is very light and not too visible at this stage; sorry! However, this drawing is very important to the finished painting. Getting it right will save me a lot of touch up time as I move further along in the painting stages.

This is an exciting time in any painting, when the painting takes shape. I have always believed that a basic understanding of drawing techniques is critical to any painting regardless of whether it is a painting of a figure, landscape or even an abstract. Being able to visualize with a pencil or piece of charcoal is a skill that every artist should constantly work at becoming as good as they can.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Castle Above Valduz Glazing

I'm pleased with the final study's results -- The Castle Above Vaduz. Of all three studies I believe this one worked the best.

It seems to have the most interesting effect of antiquing. What do you think?

Here is a comparison before and after the sepia glazing:

With these final glazing studies as my guide I am ready to move ahead on my sister's painting of "The Old Stone House." This has been a long process but I am glad to have had the experience of trying the sepia technique and to have been able to learn how to antique an oil painting.


Monday, September 28, 2009

The City of Canals Glaze Stage

Antiquing the “The City of Canals” had a few unique challenges. I thinned down the sepia glaze quite a bit to allow more color to come through on this finished painting. I actually had to add a second glaze on this painting to give it a more even application of age. By now you probably realize that this mysterious “antique” quality I have been trying to achieve mostly consists of a brown tint that occasionally looks a lot like mud. Yep! That is what I’ve been looking for all this time. So, I believe that the glaze has achieved the right look. What do you think?

In the following comparison it is easy to see how the glaze has added “time” to the painting. Although the original painting was of a modern city, you can see how rendering a painting that included old cars, horse drawn carriages and the like would have magically turned the clock back many years.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fire Starter Glazing

As with previous stages of this painting I'm including the last Fire Starter painting along with the very latest version complete with a glazing of sepia (water soluble oil paint). For the most part I am happy with the results. For one thing, the sepia did accomplish what I set out to do -- to give the painting an antique look. By that I mean the visual impression that the painting may have been done several years ago, perhaps as long as a hundred or so years. I don't think that the glaze does much to improve the painting but that was not my intention. Some may even say this process has perhaps hurt the final product. I actually think the technique adds something positive to the Fire Starter, but that is my opinion. What do you think?
Now here are the before and after images:

The actual glazing process provided some challenges and surprises. I was actually learning how to do it by trying different consistencies of paint and drying times. Here are some things I learned:

1) I started by laying a thin coat of the sepia on the painting, waiting a minute of two and then wiping most of the paint off. I did not want the glaze too dark, especially the Fire Starter.

2) I not only added water to the paint but also I added a mixture of drying medium and blending medium, which tended to make the glaze very wet when applied. It was very easy to add too much water when I was trying to thin the glaze down. If the glaze got too thin (watery) I had to sometimes redo a second coat after the first one dried a couple of minutes.

3) Using a heavier consistency of paint worked fine with the Fire Starter but not as well with the other two studies, “The City of Canals” and “The Castle Above Vaduz,” both of which are much lighter and more colorful than the Fire Starter. I used a much thinner (more watery) glaze on these two studies. I think the thinner glaze worked better.

4) The thinner glaze was harder to control as I tried to apply even layers of sepia. The wet brush tended to puddle at the edges of my strokes. I addressed the problem by gently dabbing the excess paint with a paper towel.

I will share the other two glazed studies in separate blogs.



Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fire Starter Almost Done

I haven't done much on this study since my last post, but then again I really didn't have much more to say with it. I did I wanted to add a little smoke from the fire trailing off toward the moon.

Here is a last peek before I add the layer of sepia glaze:

When the sepia dries I'll know if the antiquing technique actually worked.



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Liechtenstein Revisited

After a couple of final weeks of baking in the sun, like oil paintings, water-soluble paintings “cure” best. I have them parked in front of my studio windows facing west for afternoon sunlight. Although, our latest run of daily rain showers have provided very little sunlight of late we have had enough to dry the paintings fairly well.

My study I called, “Liechtenstein,” is fairly well along now. In its final stages I’ve decided to change the name to, “The Castle above Vaduz”. Here is a recent photo of the study:

Although I have a few more touches to make, you may have recognized where the scene in my painting comes from.

At the far Eastern end of Switzerland along the Austrian border is the tiny independent nation of Liechtenstein. There's not a whole lot to see of this country but there is the novelty factor – a beautiful castle. Liechtenstein is ruled by a Prince (Hans Adam II). The painting shows the royal residence.

It is no longer open to the public because the Prince lives there. The castle is perched on a cliff above the capital city of Vaduz.

The next step for the painting is to apply the sepia glaze for an antiquing affect.



Saturday, August 1, 2009

New Amsterdam Study

While the Fire Starter painting is thoroughly drying I wanted to work up another painting for a second study of a landscape near modern Amsterdam. Actually, the Fire Starter is drying fairly fast, but I definitely want it completely dry before finishing it with the sepia glaze.

I drew the Amsterdam landscape from a photo I found in a travel brochure. However, any resemblance between my drawing and the actual location in Amsterdam is coincidental.

For this study, I selected a Fredrix(c) Archival Watercolor Canvas Board for the finished painting. The size of the board is 11" X 14". As with my previous study, I transferred my drawing to the board and then prepared it by applying an acrylic under painting of both warm and cool colors. This under painting included not only large areas, such as the sky and water, but also objects, such as buildings, boats, automobiles, etc.

Once this stage dried I began working immediately using Winsor & Newton water mixable oil paint, called Artisan. Most of the work you see in the attached photo was completed in a couple of days (allowing for some drying in between applications). As with my earlier study, I also added a mixture of Artisan fast drying medium with a little Artisan
painting medium to the paint before applying it to the painting to provide a smoother brush strokes and faster drying time.

My plan is to also start a third study for the same purpose of testing the antiquing process that calls for adding a final glaze of water-soluble oil sepia to darken the finished study. Once I have completed these three studies I will then complete a painting of the Old Stone House using water soluble oil and a similar Antiquing technique.

For background about this project, see my earlier Blog Post "The Old Stone House," dated June 7, 2009.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fire Starter Progress

I changed the painting by removing the hat and going with a more island native look for the fire starter. I’ve also began to fill in the sky and toned down the fires reflection that surrounds the native.

I have been working as frequently as I can but still allowing the paint to dry between layers. I have used a Winsor & Newton water mixable paint called Artisan exclusively for the study. I have also added a mixture of Artisan fast drying medium with a little Artisan painting medium to the paint before applying it to the painting. The two mediums provide a smoother brush stroke and faster drying. One thins the consistency of the colors which aids in detail painting, while the other speeds up the drying time.

I may have made this study a bit too dark. I will have to see if I have got it too dark after I add the sepia glaze in a few more days.

The finished painting will need to dry completely before I can apply a glaze of sepia as my finishing touch.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Fire Starter - Next Step

As I mentioned in my last post, I am doing some preparatory studies to test the affect of using sepia paint when I actually work on the final painting of The Old Stone House. I am interested in finding the right combination of color and glazes to give the Stone House an antiqued look. The client (my sister) wants the painting to show her 1798 house as it may have looked 200+ years ago.

I began this series of tests with a painting of a native building a fire by the light of the moon in a dark jungle scene. While far from the setting of the Stone House, the "Fire Starter" will give me a good set of elements to test my "Antiquing" colors.

After preparing a line drawing of the Fire Starter and then transferring the drawing to a small (11 1/2" X 9") gessoed canvas, I then used both cool and warm Acrylic paint as an undercoating.
This post shows the progress of applying Water Soluble Oils as I develop the study to a point where I can actually apply a sepia glaze to test my theory that sepia will give me the “Antique” look I am hoping for.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fire Starter

Before I transfer the study image of The Old Stone House I want to do a few experimental paintings in Water Soluble Oil paints to test the use of sepia as an “aging” formula before I actually do use sepia on The Old Stone House painting. I’ll start with a painting that I have actually been thinking about doing for some time. After I put the effort into a painting I hope to be able to show the work later, too.

This first study is entitled “Fire Starter”. The scene will be in the dark jungle with light areas provided by a full moon and a small warming fire. I intend to use the sepia as a final glaze to provide the look of both intense darkness and also a feeling of antiquity to the painting. Although entirely different from the Old Stone House, I hope to get the same effect in both the study and the Stone House.

I first created a line drawing of the study, and then transferred the drawing to a small gessoed canvas.

Next, I used both cool and warm Acrylic paint as an undercoating. This provides an excellent base for the water soluble oils.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Stone House Study

I put together a study for my sister’s painting. The study provided a good layout for the painting, although it is a bit too bright. I hope to tone the final painting down to give the final painting a more “antique” look using a wash of sepia. I got some good ideas from my sister-in-law, Lynn. She is a very accomplished painter who does beautiful work. I made the study slightly smaller than the final canvas but in exactly the same scale. This ensures that the study will represent the same proportions of the finished painting in every detail.

The study also allows the intended owners (my Sister and her husband) a peek at the painting before I actually start applying paint to the final canvas. It gives them an opportunity to “approve” of the project and offer any comments or suggestions before we begin. In this case I got some excellent feedback on colors and a more precise idea of how they want the subject to be presented in the final painting.
Next, I will transfer the study image to my prepared canvas. The canvas was built using the exact measurements of my sister's antique frame. This step is a very critical one because the fit had to be exact. The painting must fit into a frame my sister already owns and wishes to use. This framed painting will hang above the fireplace in the old stone house. Also during this time,

I’ll also do a few small test paintings to show the effects of sepia and to make sure I get the right look I want for before actually starting the oil painting. I will share these with my sister as well.



Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Old Stone House

My latest project is a painting for my sister. She lives in Virginia and owns a beautiful stone house that was built in 1778. There have been a lot of renovations done to the house but most of the house has been historically preserved as it was back in the 1800's. It is an amazing house.

I accepted her offer to paint the house without reservation. It is a stunning combination of old world architecture against a modern yet well preserved landscape.

Although the project will be exciting for me, it will also challenge my skills as a painter in several ways: First, since we live 300+ miles apart, I'll be working from photos of the place without a readily available physical reference to work from. Secondly, the family wants to use an elegant antique frame to house the new painting. The frame once hung over the fireplace in the house. Although that doesn't seem too difficult to do, the logistics need to be considered when the painting is done here in the Western Appalachian Mountains and then hung in a frame in Virginia. Lastly, I will be painting the house using water soluble oil paints, which I have only recently become trained to use.

The original landscape surrounding the house has gone through many years’ worth of change, but remains rural for the most part. Only a very few buildings are present in the neighborhood, that weren't probably there when the house was first occupied. By using my "artist license" some of those objects can fade naturally into the background or disappeared entirely.

With a handful of photographs my sister and brother-in-law choose the scene they wanted. It is a winter photo they took of the house, which we all agree will yield a typical style of painting that might have been rendered years ago; a painting that will show off the home and surrounding estate. The winter scene is somewhat stark so they have asked that I paint the house in somewhat "
muted" colors.

The first step in the process will be to prepare a color study of the painting. This will give my sister and husband a rough idea of the painting and provide me with some color and layout options. I can't wait to get started.



Saturday, March 21, 2009

You Call This Spring!

To a scientist (i.e., meteorologist) spring comes down to the position of the Sun in relationship to the earth, alignment of heavenly bodies and the length of a day. It’s about celestial coordinates, the affect of classical orbital elements, some inclination of orbital stuff and when we switch from one equinox to another. My head hurts thinking about it!

When I was a youngster knowing when it was spring was pretty much a physical thing. If I wore shorts and my knees didn’t turn blue, it must be spring. If the front yard was green instead of brown, it must be spring. If the class got to go outside without a coat, gloves and a hat, it must be spring. Speaking of coats, when it was spring we all shed our coats and other winter gear and suddenly you could tell the boys from the girls! When spring actually arrives really depends on where you live. I rarely looked at the thermometer when I was a kid. I knew without looking that if was a warm and sunny day, it must be spring. However, when you live in the Appalachian Mountains you learn not to believe anything anyone tells you about the weather, the seasons or how to dress before you leave the house for work or school. Up our way springs arrives when she arrives and not a day sooner.

You would think I would be used to it by now, but a shivering crisp 28 degrees just has no relationship to spring whatsoever. I’m ready to paint flowers, budding trees, blue skies and lots of spring colors. However, all I see around me is pale green stubs of grass and gray brown twigs. It is hardly conducive to getting into the “spring” mood.

I’m ready for spring. I’m ready to till the soil. I’m ready to step out into the warmth of spring. After all, isn’t the Spring Equinox, March 20th this year? You know because astronomically the sun is supposed to be directly above the Equator and the Earth has begun to tilt pointing the northern hemisphere towards the sun. Well maybe somewhere, but this morning the old thermometer says it is 28 degrees and I’m staying pretty close to the fireplace for a while longer. You know, until spring really comes to the High Country sometime in early May or maybe by June.

I hope it is warm and sunny wherever you are.



Friday, March 13, 2009

Fall into Spring

About a month before we left on our Winter Vacation I painted what turns out to be my last watercolor of 2008.

I finished it at the end of S
eptember just before we embarked on our travels in October (see “Our Winter Trip” in my archive dated, February 21, 2009 thru March 4, 2009. I call the painting, “It Rained Some Tuesday a Week.” It is about a typical spring rainy day that puts an end to all outdoor work and play because of the torrents that have a will of their own. But, although I normally witness most of these gully washers from my window, this painting takes place from the perspective of the painter standing next to a soggy cornfield near the barn yard. The title offers up some dialogue one might overhear at the Mast Store from a hand full of farmers gathered around the old pot belly stove playing checkers.

Although done mostly in watercolor, this was a unique painting for me. When trying to decide how to depict the feel and sight of the downpour, I opted to use colored pencils. It was important that the rain fall straight down, creating a screen-like filter over the barnyard scene. My skill with a brush just wasn’t up to that kind of even, thin, straight line work. Here is a detail of the painting that shows the pencil over watercolor technique I used.

So, the end product was really a mixed media painting that combined both watercolor and mostly white and blue waxed pencil. I felt that the painting conveyed my intentions and actually came out well.

Unfortunately, the judge did not share my opinion. The painting was not selected for this year’s show.

So far my rain-soaked barnyard is also the last painting that I have finished, framed and shown in 5 months! Not much productivity for a professional artist; actually pathetic if you ask me. I could blame it on my illness and long convalescence, but that wouldn’t explain why I haven’t found my way back into the studio since I have actually become well again. So, there must be something else at work here, or should I say not at work here.

It just may be a case of losing my way temporarily or perhaps a clogged inspiration pore. I’ve been turned down by other judges and survived, so it isn’t that. I think that I’m just in a funk after being ill and experiencing a very cold few weeks of winter that doesn’t seem to want to let go its grip! All of which should go away as we get closer to the Vernal Equinox next week. Check back on March 20 and I should be back in the saddle again, I hope!



Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Best Laid Plans Go Awry

It had continued to drizzle right up until we packed the car and headed further north on Saturday, January 31st. Our next stay would be at Fairview resorts in New Bern, NC. They put us up at in the Sandcastle village, but the place had way too many staircases for our comfort. So, at our request they put us up in a unit where we had stayed before – The Windjammer (#8203). I might add that we had some fantastic weather in New Bern. It was pretty cold, but the sun was out nearly the whole week.

February rolled in the next day but my cold hung on. Although my heart wasn’t in it, we went to some of our restaurant favorites. We became pretty much a couple of shut-ins the rest of the week. Like Punxsutawney Phil we stayed hunkered in when we saw our shadow! My cold wasn’t actually worse; it just wasn’t much better.

We grabbed lunch on Thursday, February 5th, and then popped into the local New Bern Medical Clinic for yet another opinion. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic and lots of liquids, etc., etc. On our way back to the Windjammer we decided that enough was enough. It was time to chuck the rest of our travels and head home to the mountains.

That meant canceling our next week in Williamsburg, VA and our last week up in Northern Virginia.

On Saturday, February 7th, we packed up and headed up I-70, then west on I-40 to Kernersville, NC for one more night on the road before heading home to Blowing Rock. We were both happy to be home; although it was beastly cold and snowy. I was especially glade to check-in with my doctors the following week. However, it was not until February 25th that I really started feeling myself again. The weather took a few more days. It was in the 70’s today! Yahoo 8-)

Thanks to all my friends and family on Facebook for your encouragement and prayers.