Wednesday, October 17, 2012

work in progress this week...

I am focusing on two pictures this week. My portrait of Maryann is finally dry and ready for the next layer of glaze. I have learned more about Harley Davidson motorcycles than I ever thought I would know. These days when I pass one on the street I look carefully at it's engine, handle bars and any accessories it may have on it. They are all unique. Harley riders like to express themselves by outfitting their bike and clothing with awesome bling.
This week also marks the start of my series tentatively titled Equestrian Expressionism.  Maybe that name is a bit too kitschy, but so far it is the first one to stick with me.
Equestrian Expressionism is a 24 picture series I've been contemplating for the last year or so. Half of the paintings will interpret my admiration for horses and their varied relationship with humans. The other half of the series deals how horses are depicted in art and pop culture through the generations. These will be still lifes. All of the pictures are painted in oil on panels. Here's hoping I can get all of this done in a timely fashion.
Here are a few pix of the pictures thus far...

Portrait of Maryann in progress.
The orange behind her is an underpainting. The actual background will be a summer sky in Syracuse, New York.

Imperial Horse, in progress.
 I wish there wasn't such a glare on this shot. The colors are richer in person.

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Woman Doctor...

Here's the cover for a biography about Elizabeth Blackwell, America's first woman doctor. I illustrated this school book for second graders in May. I love the historical work. Tracking down the costumes and researching the hairstyles and doctor's tools was a lot of fun.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Summer's final hold outs.

I love the colors this time of year. The warm tones that appear as green gives way to rust and gold, and eventually to brown and grey. This was a difficult, dry summer for the plants. I don't think the corn is going to yield much of a crop. The drought was so bad in some areas that the corn was a total loss. Perhaps the low supply will boost the prices, we'll have to see.
I thought the berries would have been done by August. They had a resurgence in the last three weeks, as if to tell the harsh summer that it didn't win, that they were still alive.
A few of the blueberry bushes and grape vines weren't so lucky. They will have to be replaced in the spring. Some of the blackberries I planted this spring are meant to be grown on a trellis, like grape vines. Unfortunately, I can't remember which ones they were! I suppose after a while they will make themselves known to me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Back to school, back to blogging...

It has been a busy summer and a time of transition here.  My oldest daughter went away to college at the end of August. My middle daughter went to Spain on a foreign exchange trip with Rotary a few weeks later. The house seems oddly quiet with two of them away, but I am enjoying the extra space I've gained since they left. I guess I shouldn't get too used to it, they'll be back in a few months.
I am beginning a series of traditional paintings that explores the beauty and power of horses and peoples relationship with them. A sub group of these pictures will be still lifes depicting horse figurines of different kinds, ranging from vintage cast iron statues to Beanie Babies.
Below are a few of the first photos of this project.

Photographed with my cell phone, the shot is a little darker than reality. It feels great to work from life. I plan on alternating between the paintings from photos and paintings from life.

Cool cowboy from the shooting contest. This one is almost ready for varnish.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Portrait progress...

I was hoping to get this picture mostly done today. Unfortunately, today was one of those days where I got sidetracked by minutia over and over again. It was difficult to stay on task but today was mostly productive.
Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Painting Plein Air...

This little set of paints was so perfect that it was hard to open it up and use it.

 A few of my friends have been painting landscapes from life recently. I've always admired those who can do that well, but painting flora and fauna while amidst flora and fauna has always been a challenge for me. 
I painted this one this morning. I had to stop when the sun rose too  high and changed the shadows.

Another good friend whom I will refer to as my BFF gave me a brand new set of Thomas Kinkade oil paints. The set contains a couple of dozen little tubes, all named differently than the paints I am used to. Will this make me a "Painter of Light" like the late great Mr. Kinkade? I am not sure but I did love the colorful set. One noteable color that was missing was a cadium red. The set contained cool and soft reds. Even the orange was a bit  cool. 
It was fun to work with his colors, but after a while, I broke down and threw a few of my colors onto the palette.
A crooked barn. Painting crooked buildings is a challenge,  you want the viewer to know you meant the structure to be crooked, otherwise they'll think you've had too many wine coolers.

Painting plein air is harder than some of my talented friends make it look. I am happy with my efforts on my first day, but plan on learning more about this before I have another go later in July.
Tomorrow I will return to my watercolor portrait, hopefully getting it farther along. I won't need sunscreen to work on it, and I won't have a pissed off mocking bird yelling at me the entire time.

A few patrons of the arts.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Emily and Madeline...

These lovely girls are sisters. I am painting their portrait on hot press paper in transparent watercolor.
After months of working digitally and in oils, it is refreshing to get back to water-based media.

I hope to get this done in one attempt, although watercolor can be very unforgiving. Some of my previous watercolors took two or three tries. I am approaching this picture differently than I used to. When I begin a painting, I work out the values first. I used to do that with layers of paynes grey and raw umber. This time I am working out the main values in pencil before I put down any paint. It is tempting to rush this stage of the painting because it can be pretty tedious. The next step is to lay in the lightest washes of skin tone and background colors.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Going to the fair...

"thirteen," oil on linen, 12" x 14" 2012
One of my portraits got selected for exhibition in this year's  Ohio State Fair. I packed it up and shipped it off today. This is a first for me. I've never exhibited in a fair before, county or state. The competition is pretty stiff, but maybe I'll get a cool ribbon :-)
We are really busy this summer, but I hope I get a chance to stop by and see the painting on display. Sending it off was a little stressful, kind of like the first day of kindergarten.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Portrait in red...

This one is on the easel right now. Hopefully it will be finished soon. I have a lot of little details to work out. I've learned so much about motorcycles.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wrapping up ongoing pictures once and for all.

"thirteen" Oil on linen, 11"w x 14"h
I've been working on a few oil paintings all winter long. I am determined to finish them up and move forward this week (or maybe next week).
I've painted this pose of J a couple of times. This one uses an atelier method I found in a book. It is the first time I've painted on linen. This picture also represents the first time I've experimented with glazing techniques. It has been a learning experience, one I've enjoyed quite a bit. It is difficult to know when to stop. It got a bit over worked.
Conveying the look of boredom and incredulousness of a thirteen-year-old has been a struggle. If I try painting this again, I will try another pose.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Progress?... hopefully.

Our farmhouse sometime around 1910. The girls are the four Hoover daughters.

We had a tree cut down this spring. It was leaning over the house and in danger of falling. The tall old maple had stood through years of wind, sun, snow and rain. It was scarred from a lightening strike and was fighting a disease that caused some of it's limbs to rot. Despite being warned by friends and neighbors of the danger of this giant tree falling, the farm's former owner, Edward refused to cut it down. He was very fond of the old tree and the memories it must have conveyed. There is another maple that is about the same age on the front side of the house. It too bears the wear and tear of facing decades of Ohio weather. The other tree appears to have been split by winds or perhaps lightening. Upon close inspection, one can see that an iron cable was wrapped around the main trunk of the tree a long time ago. The purpose was to splint it  into place after it was somehow broken. Both trees are probably about a century old. I have a few photos from the turn of the century where they appear as saplings in front of the farmhouse. Maybe their impressive history is why Edward never had them cut down, even though one was dangerously close to damaging the house.
Fast forward to 2012. We are trying to preserve as much of the history of the farm as possible, while being sensible about the risks involved in letting an old tree stand over the house. We made the decision to cut it down in March. We also had the stump ground. The tree people contracted to remove all of the small limbs, stump, and branches, leaving behind the parts that could be used for firewood.
 What I didn't anticipate was how massive the tree was. Using a chainsaw, the tree surgeon cut the trunk and limbs into three-foot long sections.  Ralph tried chopping them a little at a time with an axe (think President Reagan circa 1985). The old tree was so massive and strong that it would have taken him years. Although he said it was a great workout, I don't think he would have ever been able to split up the sections of trunk. They were incredibly difficult to cut, the axe hardly made a dent on the surface.
The next idea was to rent a log splitter. I had never seen one before. A log splitter consists of a little trailer frame with a small gas engine on it. Welded to the other side of the frame is a sharp metal wedge.  When the engine is running an arm pushes a log along the frame and into the wedge. The motor has a transmission that allows the arm to push forward and backward. It was a two-person job, one would operate the arm and one (Ralph) would feed the logs into the splitter, making sure they would hit the wedge at a good spot. Some of the logs exploded and sent sap flying. 
The toughest part was getting the cross sections of trunk onto the log splitter. Ralph had a genius idea to dig a small trench in the ground place the back end of the splitter in it. This allowed the cutting area of the splitter to be almost level with the ground. The effort it took to dig the trench was worth being able to roll the pieces onto the the cutting area. Even so, it was still difficult to roll the chunks of tree around. We had to take our time and be careful not to hurt our backs. The other big risks seem to be the possibility of crushing our hand between the wood and the splitter or dropping a heavy log on our feet. I was really glad when the tree was all brought down to manageable pieces.

Slicing logs goes so much faster with a splitter.

Having a little fun after stacking the firewood. The side yard looks very bare without the old tree. We need get a  landscaper to help us design a plan for the entire yard.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Zoe's Horse so far...

Here are a few shots of Zoe's horse portrait. I am putting it away for a few days to work on other stuff. This mare is a great subject. She has such a pretty face that painting her picture is easy so far. I've never thought about it much before but I guess there is such a thing as equine supermodels.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Larger than life cowboy boots...

This is what I am working on today. I am not used to painting this big, but enjoy the fact that painting this way does not require glasses. I am also working on a portrait I am hoping to submit to competitions this year. More on that soon.

BTW, we paid off one of my student loans today. One left to go. The relief I am feeling is surprising. It was a financial burden. We'll be in great shape as long as nothing breaks down for a few months.

Monday, March 5, 2012

500 years?... really?

It's been a while... I have been doing some postworthy stuff so far this year. I don't know why it is hard to start posting after taking a break from it for a few weeks. Anyway, I am going to start with simple short posts and try to get back into the habit of regular posts again.
I am working on a portrait commission this month. It is my first in oils. More on this to follow soon.
I bought a linen canvas for this project. It arrived today with a label that guarantees it for 500 years...
Hmmm. Really? I guess I had better keep my receipt. I wonder what the return policy will be when the cyborgs rule the earth.