Category Archives: art

My New Dog Bites / pastel / after Roaring Dog / with photos


It’s a Chinese lantern in the Lanterns Asia exhibit at Norfolk Botanical Garden. This was fun to sketch at the garden between rain showers and fun to finish in bright colors on a rainy day at home. It’s good practice for your plein air artist to draw subjects other than landscapes sometimes. And it rains a lot around here.

That black sanded Mi-Teintes  paper is great because it holds so many layers of pastel. And the black adds drama to your subject. If you want to convey a mood, black paper could instantly make your subject scary or sad or elegant. I like to blend my 1st layer in with a blending stump and then put 2 more thick layers of pastel on top of that. IMG_2004

This is Roaring Dog lit up at night.

Here’s what the plaque says, “The Roaring Dog is a Chinese legend of the Erlang god which specialized in assisting the Erlang hunting and beheading a mythical demon. It fought against Sin Wukong in the journey to the Westlands assisted the Erlang god many times in fighting against other gods in the legend of Deification.”

When I was sketching it the tram went past and I heard the tour guide tell the passengers that the Chinese like dogs to look like lions. I thought how much fun it would be to make paper mache armor for a little dog and take it to the dog park and scare the big dogs! hahahahaimages (7)

This is the size dog I have in mind for custom made armor. He’s showing off his new leonine hair cut and learning to drive. wait, no, scratch the driving part.


Pine Tree on Sand Dune / charcoal and chalk


Life isn’t easy if you’re a pine tree on a sand dune. If a sensitive person saw this tree from far away, they might think it was dying, it looks so sad. It doesn’t have a lot of needles and the ones on top are an orange brown.

But when you get closer, you see how it’s filling in the leeward dip in the dunes with greener branches. It looks like the branches came back down to the dune and rerooted, which I heard some trees can do on sand. I didn’t test it for roots because I didn’t want to mess with it.

Then you notice it’s kind of graceful in the way it leans and twists. Is that how it is in the life of a human too? Can a hard life give a soul some kind of stark graceful beauty not seen in the lives of those that had it easy?

That’s my zen question for today. The beach makes me feel all zen. Can you feel the refreshingly cool breeze coming off the bay in my sketch?

Chinese Beastie / pastel / and photos of the real thing


It’s called a Kylin. It’s part of a large display in Lanterns Asia at Norfolk Botanical Garden. Doesn’t the black paper make it look dramatic?

I went to the botanical garden to draw this during the day and wondered what it looked like lit up at night. When I went back at night I didn’t take my pastels because I thought it would look totally different than my pastel drawing, so instead I took my camera. It was a difference like night and day. IMG_2001

This is called “Kylin in Delight”. This is what the plaque says, “Kylin is a traditional beast with a calm temperament in ancient Chinese tales. The legend of the Han people said that the beast has a life span of 2000 years. Ancient people believed where there is Kylin there is favorable omen. Sometimes talented people are compared to Kylin.”IMG_2002

Here’s a photo of the head of the Kylin at night. IMG_2003

This photo of the rump of the Kylin shows how it’s body was made of little glass bottles filled with colored water. Pretty neat idea for a lantern, huh?

Hell Hound / charcoal


It’s real name is Roaring Dog. It’s in the Asia Lanterns show at Norfolk Botanical Garden. This thing is big enough to ride into battle. I did this sketch in daylight but I bet it’s real scary at night. I’m going to transfer this sketch to black pastel paper and go back at night when the lanterns are lit and add color.  I’ll post more info on it when I get my pastel finished.

Does this make you want to armor your little hell hound?

studies of wave anatomy / charcoal and chalk


I’m still getting the hang of drawing waves. That’s my excuse for hanging around on the beach when it’s cloudy and a little windy in the mid 40s. I stood between 2 sand dunes and didn’t feel cold. The tide was high when I was there yesterday and today with bigger breakers and some curl in the waves. A beautiful mist was blowing off the top of the waves.

I spend a few minutes observing the waves. How many are breaking, building up or going back out. Can I remember the shapes they take in those steps? Then I start scribbling. I took a little break from sketching and observed again before I could continue and I thought, I’m studying wave anatomy. I have to be there. I’ll never understand it from a photo.


These studies are for the big plan I have to paint fog on the beach. My canvas is 19×38, too big to take out on the beach, so I’ll have to paint it at home. Especially since I’m planning on taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand back from the canvas like Matisse did. The size of the canvas, the wind on the beach, the yard sticks, make it seem like it might get messed up on the sand. I have my color rough from the beach in plein air, so my colors and values will be close to life if I mix them again at home. I’m almost finished with a full size sketch for my painting. If I can do another wave study or two, maybe I can combine the best parts of all my wave sketches into one scene. I really need to have my plan worked out in advance because this is a difficult challenge for me.

Do you remember the story about how Turner lashed himself to a mast on a boat in a storm and painted? Sketching on the beach in this weather is tame compared to Turner. He must have been a real thrill seeker. But if an artist is really there on the scene painting I get the feeling of the atmosphere or spirit or something intangible from it, like Turner had in his paintings. do you know what I mean? That’s what I want. It might take the rest of my life to achieve it.

Orchid / charcoal and chalk


Good news. friends! I got in a plein air group! Another artist forwarded the meet up email to me from The Artists’ Gallery in Virginia Beach to meet at McDonalds Garden Center this morning. They’re organizing the plein air group and it will be called PAL (plein air league). I was so happy to join!

McDonalds Garden Center was great to draw in. I took my charcoal and chalk to draw white orchids. I knew they have some nice ones. In fact, the whole place is like Spring, so very cheerful and sweet smelling.

Then some of the artists went to an Italian restaurant for lunch. I enjoyed talking to the artists and getting to know a few people who I’ll see again next month.

It was good for your plein air artist ( with limited social skills) to find acceptance! YEA on VA Beach!

Seaweed / charcoal and chalk


I found this sad and slightly gross thing on the beach. I went there hoping to sketch waves but the tide was out and the waves were very small so I gave up on that idea for today.

The seaweed caught my eye and it seemed appropriate for a gray day like today. I arranged it on the sand and sat on the side of a sand dune with less wind to sketch it.

I just wanted to be on the beach a little while.IMG_1988

This is a sketch I did yesterday. The waves were small then too, but today it’s practically calm. I need to sketch waves again before I start the painting I’m planning of the beach in fog. If it’s foggy the waves will be small, especially if the tide’s going out. I can give up on painting large breaking waves with sunlight showing through the curl here. I get the feeling this spot never gets waves like that. If it’s stormy the waves could be bigger but the sun wouldn’t shine through. I’ll find large waves another time.

I’m excited about my plan for this painting because I want to tape my paintbrushes onto yard sticks and stand back from my canvas to paint, like Matisse. And also, it will be a challenge because I want to try to represent fog. With less waves and less contrast, it’ll be mostly gray. I want to use warm and cool glazes close to the same value to make my grays brighter, and I also hope I can get a foggy atmosphere into the painting. It could take a few tries. The better I work out my plan before I start, the better my chances the painting will work.

Ocean Waves / charcoal and chalk


I’ve been hanging around on the beach sketching. Here’s the plan for my next big project. I’m going to use a technique of Matisse. I’ve always loved his work and recently read an article that reminded me of a fun project I tried in high school.

A few days ago when I went to the beach it was so foggy I could hardly see the waves 50 ft. away. Looking in this direction I could see the fence all blurry in the fog. Looking the other direction down the beach nothing was visible except gray mist. It was eerie. It was soft and muted. That atmosphere was inspiring. So now I want to try to represent fog. I want to make a real smooth painting using glazes. That last painting I finished of the Port Authority was fun working on a larger canvas and trying to get a panoramic view. So, I’m going to try to do the beach in the fog next, and do it big. It will be mostly gray, but I enjoy mixing my grays. I think they look pearly.

The thing about Matisse is that he sometimes put his paint brushes on a long stick so he could stand way back from his canvas. I did that long ago and it was fun. Also it’s good to stand back from your canvas so you can see it better. Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a smooth painting if I tape my paintbrushes to yardsticks but I’ll try. It will eliminate the detail from the painting, so it will look more Impressionistic, but I’ll still use my glazes since getting the values right will help get the illusion of fog. I know I won’t get it right on the first try. Impressionists don’t use glazes, so I don’t know how they would represent fog. My painting won’t look anything like a Matisse either.

I can’t start a project like this without a solid plan for the waves, even though they will be covered with fog. I still need more practice drawing waves. I can’t go by a photo because of a teacher I had in art school. ( I’ll update my about page soon and tell that story since it had a big influence on me. ) That means, I’ll be going to the beach a few more times to sketch. And I’ll need to do a smaller paint rough before I start on a big canvas. This could take months because I’ll have to wait for foggy weather. We should have more fog soon, but not all the time, so I’ll also start on another painting and have two in progress, the fog and the swamp.IMG_1985


Cherry Tree on Sand Dune / charcoal and chalk


When I was on the beach today a couple people stopped to talk to me. They saw me sketching this yesterday. I asked them if they knew what type of plant it is and they said it’s a cherry. It’s branches go back down to the sand and reroot farther away from the main trunk of the plant. I’ll go back and find a Live Oak to sketch another time. I think the Live Oaks must be the trees with the layers of lichens along the path, and smaller ones on the dunes. The plants on the dunes have a bleak look.

The sun came out in my neighborhood and I wanted to go out and sketch so I went to the beach hoping to draw some waves. I want to practice drawing and painting moving water. I could hear the waves but not see them until I was down on the wet sand because it was so foggy. I stood in the fog for a while and looked down the beach. It was definitely spooky. The waves were small. The sky and sea blended together. So soft, I thought. I wondered if I could paint fog and it looks like fog. I might go back and try to paint real real smooth glazes till I get it. That might be my minimalist painting, a foggy beach. But it might not qualify as minimalist if it takes me a few layers of paint to do it. I’m not sure, since I’m not really up on defining different styles of painting. The fog was just an inspiration.

Norfolk Port Authority / oil / feat oysters


Does this look convincing to you? I can’t tell. I’ve looked at it too long, and I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to paint this.  I was never there when it looked like this. I winged it on the sky, by observing bright sunsets from my balcony and mixing colors. I went over my sky again and again until I thought it was ok. Then I had no idea how to paint the water. I can’t even remember how many layers of paint I totally wiped off because later I thought,” meh. that’s not good.” I sometimes waited for my paint to dry and started over. In all, I figure this took me about 2 months to paint, so considering how much paint and time is in it, if it doesn’t look good, it’s an epic failure. (no halfass failures for me)  But if it worked out, I finally did 2 things I’ve wanted to do for years, a panoramic view and a bright winter sky.

This painting is going to the window of Jerry’s Artarama when it dries. I love Jerry’s for giving the free space to me and other artists, and not taking a commission if there’s a sale. Thanks for supporting artists, Jerry.IMG_1976

When I mixed my colors I sat on this bulkhead at the Hermitage, where you can see this beautiful view of the Port Authority. All along it are tons of oysters. My daughter, Sarah told me the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gives baby oysters to people who live next to the water. They come on a clump in a mesh bag. You drop it in the water and they grow up. They are natures little water filters. Sarah doubted they would be good to eat, but she told me the water is much less polluted than it was 20 years ago, so maybe. But, I’ll buy my oysters at the store, because they look real sharp. If I wanted to climb down there and get some, it wouldn’t be easy, and probably verboten anyway.