Category Archives: oil painting

Norfolk Port Authority / oil / feat oysters

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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.

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Pleasure House Point in Dec. / oil

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The story of the insane SHRIEKING bird.

One day I was over there painting. I was all alone on the path. It was peaceful until this loud screeching shriek came from right behind me. I stopped and looked around but couldn’t see the bird.

Another day, I heard it far away. I also saw the likely culprit walk into the sedge a couple times. The second time I heard the bird, people walked down the path with binoculars and I thought they were probably bird watchers, so I asked them if they heard that loud screeching bird, and they did hear it. They said it was a sandpiper, and showed me a photo on a phone. I said, yes that’s it. Mystery solved.images

I also heard a loud chattering bird noise and now I wonder if sandpipers make that sound too.

A problem happened because of the cold weather.

Finally the sun came out after days and days of cloudy rainy weather and I was anxious to work on my painting, even if it was freezing. I bundled up and went out. As soon as I opened the lid on my palette, the glass broke! It was 32. Fortunately, I always put gray duct tape on the back of my palette glass, so little pieces of broken glass didn’t fall out. Breakage does happen sometimes with glass, but the main reason I put duct tape on the bottom of my glass is because it’s easier to see colors and values on gray than it is on a white palette. And some of the broken pieces were big enough to mix paint on, so I made some progress on the painting that day despite the broken palette. Weird, huh? I guess it was the sudden cold on the glass that caused it to break.

Well, that’s two nature stories for you.

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies / oil

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When I think I’m finished, I see something that needs touching up. Good thing I didn’t clean my brushes. hahahahahha

The Water Lilies are fading fast. They’re showing brown on the edges. I kind of like the brown, but I should try to paint them when they’re blooming next year. I’m not sure what month that is.

I hope this shows up ok on the computer, because I think I can see some depth showing as I look at it here in real life.. I built up a lot of layers of glazes. It took me 2 weeks of working on it almost every day for 2 or 3 hours at a time. It rained twice and I didn’t go out to work on it those days. Yesterday was kind of chilly, but I wore layers, so it wasn’t too bad.

I’m priming a canvas for another scene at Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  I think I have time to do one more painting before the leaves are down, since we haven’t had a frost yet. It’s another beautiful scene over water.

A Good View at Agecroft Hall / oil

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It’s the most zen place in town.  I’m not a follower of an Eastern religion, but it’s easy to pick up the vibe. That’s one of the benefits of painting in plein air. I have a reason to hang around under a tree like Buddha! hahahahahah

I started on this painting a month or so ago and finished it last week. The trees changed faster than I could paint them. I could keep going and going making corrections but decided not to because I’m starting on the next painting  now.

The banana trees were taken out of the garden before I finished painting them, but I had enough of a start that I could finish them at home. I liked them in the composition. They wouldn’t have lived through the frost. Now they’re in a greenhouse.img_1813

This is what the scene looked like to my camera when I got started. I drew it before I took the photo. The photo looks a lot different than what I drew, so I’m not sure if my perspective is right or if the camera’s perspective is better. I decided my painting doesn’t need the  hedge and close up fence that show in the photo. It might be too much darkness on the bottom of the canvas for a good composition.

The James River isn’t showing in the photo, but if you step 15 feet to the right you can see  it and I wanted to show it in my painting. I hoped after the frost I’d be able to see more of the river when leaves came down, so I mixed my colors for the river and painted it in, knowing I was going to cover it with trees and have small peaks of water showing. I used my artistic license there. If I copied the photo the river wouldn’t be in this painting.

That’s Willow Oaks Country Club golf course on Southside.img_1814

This is my underpainting in gray.

You can see where I stood my easel under a Magnolia tree and sat on the ground on an old beach towel to mix my colors. Cones were falling off the tree all around me but didn’t hit me or my painting. I kept my hat on just in case I got hit because those cones might hurt my head. It’s not as scary sitting under a Magnolia as it is being under a Walnut tree. I avoid the Walnuts trees! hahahahah  Trees dropping cones are a part of the life of your plein air artist. Is that a zen thing?

 

 

A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran

At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.
At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.

It’s a great show of American Impressionists titled “The Artist’s Garden”. I drove to Norfolk yesterday to see it. The show ends in the beginning of Sept.

It’s exciting to see old Impressionism. There’s a lot of variations in the different artist’s styles. These artists had academic training. You can see it in the beautifully drawn female figures. An artist doesn’t get this kind of results by tracing a photo. This took years of figure drawing practice.

I wanted to see if the old Impressionists used glazes, and yes, I see layers of glazes in a lot of the paintings. Modern Impressionists don’t use glazes. This painting shows a lot of variation in the way the paint was applied. Some is glazes and some parts are painted thick.

The old Impressionists didn’t have a formula. I doubt this was finished in one day. They had inspiration. They were daring and groundbreaking. Modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish paintings because they think it makes them look “prolific”. They have a good level of successful paintings that are marketable because they have a formula, which they might call “streamlining” a painting, or “simplifying” or something like that. That’s why all modern Impressionists work looks the same. Modern Impressionists are on some kind of art treadmill. I want to paint like this guy, Curran.

Soy Beans With Crepe Myrtles / oil

building texture with a palette knife
building texture with a palette knife

At York Academy of Art, (long ago) our teachers told us to vary the textures in our paintings. This helps make the viewer’s eye move around the canvas. Heavy texture is fun to paint and to look at, but you need a smoother texture to contrast with the heavy palette knife texture, and to give the eye a place to rest.

I painted in the couch, the way they taught us to paint at YAA, which means you put a layer of Maroger Medium on the dry canvas in the area you want to paint that day. Then paint on top of the medium with color. The paint slides so nicely on the Maroger Medium, which is what the old masters used. I have a tube of Alvi’s  Maroger Medium. It’s great to work with. Sometimes when I get home and sit back and look at my painting, I see things I want to correct. With this medium, you can just wipe the paint off without destroying the dry layers of paint underneath. Also you can thin your paint and make glazes, or go thick impasto on top of the medium.

You can use the palette knife in different ways. Use the flat side of it to spread your paint like butter, to cover a larger area. Or you can dab in thick chunks of paint with the tip of the palette knife. But the technique I use most often with the palette knife is to blob in some glazes of paint with a brush on top of the medium and scratch through the paint with the palette knife to make lines and textures.

The James River From The VA. War Memorial / oil

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I was sitting on top of the hill there at the War Memorial to work on this painting. It’s more comfortable to stand up at an easel, but I was in plain sight of 1000s of commuters on 2 busy roads. Also, people working in tall buildings could see me there in the sun on the hill. Sitting down makes me feel less obtrusive in the scene.

When I did my 1st charcoal sketch for this painting, I drew a pile of logs in the river, then later decided to eliminate them from the painting. But, in reality, the logs are there in the river providing a habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

You can see the Southside floodwall and the pilings from the old bridges that got destroyed. Plus the Manchester Bridge and railroad bridge.

Poe’s Enchanted Garden ’15

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Do you like that wisteria? I made that up. hahahahhaha    They have a small vine on the other side of the wall. It’s not blooming yet.

The entries for this show, “Poe’s Enchanted Garden” are due this week, so I have to stop working on this painting and let it dry. I still want to make changes because I can see a lot of mistakes in my linear perspective that I could fix. Sometimes I just have to say, I’ll try again next year, and I hope no one will notice my mistakes. Opening night is April 23, 6:30 PM. They’re having “Unhappy Hour”.

Too many people talk about fear of failure. Maybe it was the way their parents raised them to think they can’t make mistakes. I don’t get it. But when I look at this painting, I can’t tell if it’s a success or a failure. A lot of times my paintings get rejected. They’ll probably hang this one, I guess. As an artist, you have to get over fear of failure and just don’t care too much. Apathy helps you in the art world, even though it’s a bad attitude.

.IMG_1412This is my underpainting in grisaille.

Poe’s Enchanted Garden ’14

This is my entry from last year. The new one is almost finished.
This is my entry from last year. The new one is almost finished.

I liked this view in the garden but only a few little pansies were blooming when I did the painting. So I looked at the Blue Bells in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and faked in the Blue Bells on this painting. This year I’m faking in a huge Wisteria on the other side of the wall.

It seems like it’s taking a long time for me to finish the new painting of Poe’s garden, but as a plein air painter, I wait for the sun to come out and go there to work on it. That only gives me one or two days a week. Then I only stay for a couple hours at a time because the light changes and my concentration fades.

Now I’m waiting for them to turn on the water in the fountain that I’m painting this year. Water is always a challenge for me to paint. I  hope it works out. The paintings are due on April 18th for the show opening in the end of April. They’ll have “Unhappy Hour” that night.