Category Archives: Uncategorized

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?

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.

Chinese Paperbush / charcoal and chalk


A few days ago I was out on my balcony looking down at the arboretum and I thought I saw a bush with white flowers. I said, “Holy cow! something’s blooming down there in the beginning of Feb.!” Then I couldn’t spot it the next day because it was raining. This morning I saw it again, so I took my sketchbook down there and found the bush. I saw the plaque saying it’s a Chinese Paperbush and remembered seeing one once before at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. When I went back to Lewis Ginter the next time looking for the bush I couldn’t find it. Now I’m so happy that they have one right downstairs! I don’t even have to drive anywhere if I paint it.

It’s so pretty, when the sun shines on it the bark is gold in the light, and the flowers are bright white with dark green evergreens behind it. I have a lot of plans for paintings and one almost finished, so should I start another?

omg! There is so much inspiration when you move to the beach! I can’t keep up with it!

Celtic Knot / masking fluid on oil paint tips


All it requires to use masking fluid on oil paint is time and patience. Here’s how.

Prep the canvas. The stretched canvases in the stores have a coat of gesso, but they’re a little rough. I sand my canvas, coat it with gesso, sand it again, another coat of gesso and a final sanding. Mix a little water in with the gesso so your paint is smooth as possible. I usually spread this canvas prep part out over a couple days. The smooth surface helps when painting lines.

Tint the canvas with thin oil paint. I used alizarin crimson. Add drops of turp slowly mixing them into the paint till you have thin paint. It doesn’t have to be too too thin, or the color might rub off later, but thinning the paint with turp spreads out the oil and the masking fluid will adhere to it nicely. If you have medium mixed in with the paint that might make the surface more oily and then the masking fluid wouldn’t flow off the brush well. So only use turp.

Give it a week to dry before painting the masking fluid on the tinted canvas. I put some soap on my brush before dipping it in the masking fluid. It helps with keeping the masking fluid flowing off the brush and not gumming it up.

Basically it’s the same as using masking fluid with water base paint, so I don’t know why they say it doesn’t work with oils. You paint right on top of it and peel it off after the paint dries.  The hardest part is waiting for your paint to dry so you can take off the masking fluid and reveal your creation! hahahah Sometimes it’s easier to take the masking fluid off. It just peels right up in a long strip. Sometimes it’s a little messier. That’s probably because my paint wasn’t dry enough.

If you don’t have the patience for slow drying oil paint, acrylic might work. I like oil, so, I had to give it a try.IMG_1969

I love Celtic knots. This book shows you how to draw them. You could put the book on a copier and blow it up to the size you need, but I like to follow the patterns and work it out like a puzzle. I drew my pattern with charcoal on brown wrap to the size I wanted. It’s an easy design to copy. Then went over it with magic marker to make my lines thicker before transferring it to my canvas.

I really appreciate this guy, George Bain for figuring out the patterns and publishing them, because I’ve used these designs so many times over the years.  And the original Celts, who came up with this type of design were genius!

Norfolk Port Authority / unfinished masking fluid on oil paint experiment


This would be easy if I knew what I was doing.  But it’s driving me insane!! The weather isn’t cooperating either, so it’s taking weeks just to make a little progress.

I thought about how to paint a big bright winter sky. Winter skies have the brightest colors of the year, I think, with the orange sunlight coming through the atmosphere on a long slant.  From this view, the sun would set close to the center of my painting, which isn’t good. When I was in art school one of our teachers said, “Never paint a blazing sunset.”  I’m not sure if he said that because a bright red sun is what they called “the red circle trick” at the Academy. It’s bad for a composition because the eye goes to the red circle and stops there. It makes  a static composition. The eye doesn’t go around the painting to any other focal points.  That’s how the stores get you to go to the sale items, by placing a red circle over them. Or maybe his objection to painting a blazing sunset was that it’s impossible to duplicate the beauty of the colors. Or maybe he thought it was a cliché, because I remember he said never paint a barn. He said barns are a cliche and it’s true. A lot of jurors will reject a barn painting no matter how beautiful the painting is, just because they’re tired of barns. I’ve painted barns anyway.

So, an afternoon sky is what I’m shooting for here, and I glazed over it on 3 or 4 different days, trying to make a good blend from orange to blue. Then if I see the kind of clouds I like, I’ll have a background of sky ready.

Meanwhile, one day when I had a glaze down on my sky, I sketched in the Port Authority with gray paint. It’s just a skinny strip of land going way out there with rigs far away and some closer. My paint lines weren’t straight or even enough since I did them freehand outside, but I planned to use masking fluid on this painting. When my gray paint was dry I went over the rigs with the masking fluid and sharpened up my lines. Then continued to do sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs. IMG_1964

This close up shows my layers of sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs and strip of land. I’d really like to take the masking fluid off it today because it’s raining and snowing here again. The paint is dry and I’m tired of waiting for nice clouds to add. After I take the masking fluid off, I’ll go over the rigs again. This masking fluid step, if it does work out, was to sharpen up my drawing a little, since it seems easier to paint a straight skinny line with masking fluid than with oil paint. I hope you can see what I’m trying to get with this experiment.

And I have another experiment started, which will be dry in a few days. I could call this sky finished. Forget about winter clouds. It would be great to finally finish it after looking at it unfinished for weeks and waiting for good weather, or for my paint to dry.

If you think you have the patience to try this technique, I’ll post instructions for masking fluid on oil paint soon. I’d like to see what another artist would do with it. But, waiting for oil paint to dry does take patience sometimes.

the mouth of the Chesapeake / charcoal and chalk


It was so beautiful over there today, sunny, around 45 and not too windy. I thought it was very refreshing. And I had this overlook all to myself.

The Army helicopters were a distraction, as they’re loud, and I kept stopping to watch them fly over. I was reminded that this is a strategic spot, with military bases on the side of the Bay. Well, I think we’re pretty safe from invasion through this place, so, I’m not complaining about the helicopters.