Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Cyrano de Bergerac - mixed media, 10" x 13"

With a New Year comes new possibilities and new goals. I think the tired old tradition of making resolutions, of which most will be broken or forgotten by Valentine's Day should be tossed aside. Someone I admire greatly once said "just do the best you can". With that in mind, I think I will simply choose to work hard at doing better. I'll be better at recognizing my blessings, work out harder, love my spouse more, spend better quality time with my family,  reach deeper to make my paintings better, explain concepts to my students in a more meaningful way, and be more satisfied with where I am in my journey. I figure working to simply be "better" than the year before will keep me on the right path to happiness. I wish you all much joy and prosperity in the coming year and may we all be a little bit better.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cold Day

Detail from work in progress

Morning broke here with five inches of new snow and frigid temperatures. As the east coast of the US digs out from a weekend pummeling, we feel your pain here. Our discomfort is lessened by experienced road crews that are and fully prepared to dig us out so no real delays transpired. Given the weather, I thought I'd post a detail of a piece I am just finishing up. Photoshop continues to feel more and more natural as I get more experience. I am approaching these new pieces very much like I would a real painting and I think the results are looking a lot like my painted works.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Santa Brought Art Books!

One of the best things about Christmas for me is the promise of new art books under the tree. This year was no exception and I received some beauties. Listed below in no particular order are my new treasures. I look forward to delving deeply into each of them, but for now, I will just give you an overview.

1- Color and Light- by James Gurney:
This is Gurney's follow-up book to last year's very insightful Imaginative Realism. Both books are based heavily on concepts that James profiles on his popular blog Gurney Journey. This volume examines various techniques and principles that any artist can use to better capture a realistic sense of light and color into their work.The principles are laid out in a concise yet thorough manner which allows the reader to digest each principle with a minimum of cerebral overload. This is the type of book I would have loved to have had available when I was struggling with nebulous theories of color as they were vaguely presented during my undergrad days. I wonder how many failed color schemes could have been avoided in my work if I had had a resource like this to draw upon.Even now after nearly twenty years in the business, I found myself having light bulb moments while reading through this book. I will be recommending both Gurney books to my students as must have resources.

2- The Legend of Steel Bashaw- by Petar Meseldzija
I admit I wanted this one purely for Petar's amazing paintings. It recounts a Serbian legend that Meseldzija recalls from his youth of a Young king's quest to rescue his sister and then his own love from the ruthless dragon Steel Bashaw. The sumptuous oil paintings are meticulously designed and painted with an alla prima flair that is admirable. I found myself looking closely at the details of each painting and wishing the reproductions were even larger than the 9" x 12" format. Luckily, there is a section at the back of the US edition that includes various drawings  and details of the finished paintings as well as a step by step description of Meseldzija's working methods. This one will be giving inspiration for a long time to come.

3- The Art of Maynard Dixon- By Donald Haggerty
I admit I am a sucker for Maynard Dixon books. He is one of my all time favorite western painters, a master of design and color, he breathed incredible life into his vistas of sagebrush and stone. I own several and couldn't resist asking my wife to make sure this one was under the tree as well. This volume expands upon Haggerty's previous volume on Dixon in a slightly larger format with a number of paintings that I had not seen before. I admit I have not read the text yet but based on the previous work I have read from Haggerty, I expect this to be well written and insightful as well. The best part though are the full color reproductions the are plentiful throughout the book. Already a big fan of Dixon's work, I expect this will fuel me even more to reach for expression in my landscape work that I have not yet achieved.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Grand Canyon Christmas

Canyon Romance- by Greg Newbold
Oil on board, 5.25" x 5.25"

I had the opportunity this past summer to vacation on the North Rim of Grand Canyon with my wife. We had a great time together hiking and painting (at least I painted) and I gathered tons of photo reference including a bunch of shots capturing sunset lighting in the canyon. Well I took a day last week and made a little picture as a Christmas present to my sweetie to commemorate our trip. It was a pleasant and total surprise for her that she loved. The painting is rather small, but I had a randomly sized, bonus Gold River Gallery frame laying around from a previous order, so I decided to fill it. I am pleased how it turned out and I think I will also use it as a study for a larger painting.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Winter Sledding

Sledding - Acrylic on board 9" x 18"

Merry Christmas everybody! Hope this season brings you close to those you love. At the end of my picture book Winter Lullaby, two children pull the sled home to a cozy bedtime story with Dad by the fire. Each of my kids have a different perception of this painting with one thinking they are walking home with dad and another thinking  they are out with a sibling (another came later and he thinks he's with me also). It doesn't matter either way and I won't correct them. The point is that in their mind, they are coming home from the best sledding day ever to snuggle by the crackling fire sipping hot cocoa. Hope you all have time for something like that this Holiday Season and all the best for 2011!

Buy your copy of Winter Lullaby

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Christmas Shovel- oil on board 10" x 13"

So, all the shopping is done, or at least we have stopped. Presents wrapped, cards sent and cookies baked. I suppose I am finally ready for Christmas. Only one thing missing. A nice thick blanket of the white stuff. We had a nice storm over the weekend, but little by little temperatures have inched up this week and most of the snow has melted away. My youngest is hoping that forecasters are wrong and that Santa brings a fresh winter coat to hide away all the brown. I hope so too, but just in case that doesn't happen here (or that it never happens wherever you may be), here's wishing you a wonderful White Christmas!  This painting was done for a story that ran in last winter's edition of Park City Magazine. Thanks to all of you who follow and comment, It has been your present to me this year to feel like this blog is worth the time and effort. Now if I could just top 100 followers before New Years....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Finishing Plein Air in Studio

South Lake - Oil on panel, 10" x 8"

This painting was started during my recent painting trip to California. I still consider myself a real plein air novice and consequently some of my studies really weren't up to my finished standards. A lot of plein air painting purists would cringe at the thought of reworking an on location painting in the studio, but for me the experience of beginning outdoors only heightened the process once inside.

South Lake - as painted on location
The first impression that I captured outdoors held a lot of good things to me, including the overall color sense and the overall composition, but I was not satisfied with the either the brushwork, nor the texture of certain areas. I felt like the trees in particular did not really feel like the trees I observed. I wanted to also add more depth to the shadow planes and better define some of the shapes I found in the landscape. I lightly "oiled" the entire painting and began a process of evaluating and added paint strokes in almost every area of the piece.

Brushwork detail

Some passages received just a few brushstrokes while others were nearly completely painted over. I focused on more pleasing brushstrokes, more interesting color as well as shifts in color temperature. Overall I spent somewhere around three hours reworking this piece and I am much more satisfied with the result. A collector friend of mine is buying it for a Christmas present, so I have popped it in a frame for him.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brad Teare Alla Prima Landscape

My friend and fellow painter Brad Teare has a great blog where he posts a lot of interesting information as well as instructional videos relating to alla prima style painting called Thick Paint. In this video he shows a time lapse of an entire landscape painting. Pretty cool- check it out. Double click to see full screen.

Brad Teare's Blog
Brad Teare website

Friday, December 17, 2010

Letter to Santa

Pip's Letter to Santa - Acrylic on wooden snowflake, 6" x 6"

The flickering glow of the lantern gives off just enough light for Pip to dash off an urgent letter to Santa. The barnyard is in CHAOS! Can Santa please send some peace for Christmas. That's how my book "The Barnyard Night Before Christmas " begins. This week's Illustration Friday theme is "mail". A couple of years ago I was asked to participate in a charity auction to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. It was called Robert's Snow and was named after illustrator Grace Lin's husband Robert Mercer. At the time of it's inception, Robert was in the midst of his battle against cancer, which sadly, he lost. Each artist was given a wooden snowflake to paint in any way they chose. I based mine on the opening spread for my book where lead character Pip the mouse writes his Christmas wish to Santa. The snowflakes were approximately 6" across. They were all auctioned off online and the proceeds went for cancer research, which was close to my heart, having lost my own father to cancer during the creation of "Barnyard".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Canyon Trail Reworked

Canyon Trail - Acrylic 11" x 14"

A couple of years ago I did a quickie job for a Christian magazine called Discipleship Journal. The article dealt with the concept of embracing adventure in your life and putting your path to that adventure in the hands of God. I initially wanted to just do a scenic trail, but the A.D. insisted that I include a hiker. Though I could see her point in the context of the article and it was the right thing for her needs, I still always felt the hiker looked like an afterthought and that it would have been a better picture without the figure.

Canyon Trail as it was printed in the magazine

Last week a collector friend of mine wanted me to dig out some pictures I might consider selling. I gave him the choice of a couple dozen and he chose this one- but only if I painted out the figure. Remembering how I had always disliked the figure anyway, I readily agreed. I spent a few hours reworking the bottom right hand quarter of the composition as well as finishing and repainting other areas that I had left because of time constraints. You'll notice many subtle changes throughout the picture such as brighter highlights and reflected lights, more subtle temperature transitions, etc as a result of this over painting.  Also, I applied added knowledge I have gained about landscape painting and I think the piece is a much stronger painting as a result. My collector was thrilled to get the reworked piece and I admit I ended up being a bit sad to see it go. That's just one of the many things I will have to deal with as I move more into gallery type sales- letting go of the original.

This topic previously on Life Needs Art

Monday, December 13, 2010

Will Terry Demo

My computer is in the shop (AACCKK!) so I'm limiting my posts this week until I get it back. Here is a video of my friend Will Terry doing his thing with Photoshop (double click to view full screen- I don't know why it's cutting off). Will painted in acrylics for years and then switched to Photoshop just in the last year or so. On Will's blog he mentions the importance of knowing your craft and having a "process" that you follow so that you are not fumbling in the dark each time you start a new piece. I completely agree that the more you know and the better you are with your traditional hand skills, the easier it is to create convincing work digitally. Too many people use the computer as a crutch or think it is some sort of magic bullet for creating great art. It is an incredible tool and has great potential and flexibility, but the real magic in great art happens because the hands and mind running the computer know how to create something special. Check out Will's blog.

Will Terry's website

Friday, December 10, 2010

I.F - Phenomenon

Sailing to Brittany - Acrylic 10" x 10"

This painting was done for a health and medical magazine to illustrate an essay about dying. The phenomenon of passing from this world to the next is inevitable, yet still unknown. I think that is why it conjures such deep feelings among people.  In the story the author described the passing of a loved one and how she imagined a peaceful sail into the sunset toward a favorite place. I wanted to convey that sense of peace as well as add a bit of a fantasy or surreal touch to it. Looking back, I still think it is a successful piece.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Midstream Mid-Process

A day's progress on the project I posted yesterday. Going well so far. I adjusted the figure on the left to make him lean more in toward the flow of water. I like it better this way. Now working on getting the value pattern working and the warm/cool color scheme going. I expect I can probably finish this one tomorrow if it doesn't take too long to do things outside before more snow flies (Christmas lights, getting the rest of the leaves up that didn't get raked before the last storm).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Midstream- preliminary pencil drawing with digital tone

Another drawing for the Boys' Life project I am working on. This scene depicts the point in the story when the two boys put aside their differences and use teamwork to cross the rushing river safely. Now on to the final rendering.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand

Christ in Gethsemane- by Carl Heinrich Bloch

The Museum of art at Brigham Young University is currently showcasing a once in a lifetime exhibition of paintings by Danish artist Carl Heinrich Bloch. The 19th century dutch master is best known for his religious depictions of the life of Christ.

Bloch Self Portrait

The exhibit showcases four large alterpiece paintings, of which are on loan from their respective Danish Lutheran churches as well as nearly 30 smaller works. A fifth alterpiece painting, the monumental "Christ at the Pool of Bethesda" was acquired by the museum in 2001 and has quickly become the centerpiece of the BYU collection.
Christ at the Pool of Bethesda- Carl Heinrich Bloch

The paintings are shown their own settings meant to mimic their original church surroundings and include chairs for viewers to sit and contemplate each work. I have not yet seen the exhibit but plan to attend during the Christmas break.

Having viewed the Bethesda painting on numerous occasions, I can hardly wait to soak up the details of these large works. It is always a thrill to see original paintings like these as it is so much different than seeing works reproduced in books, no matter the printing quality. The exhibit is free but tickets are being distributed in order to control crowds. The Museum has extended hours during the run of the show. If you are within reasonable driving distance of Provo, Utah, you should consider a road trip.The rest of us locals have no excuse not to see the show which runs until May 7, 2011.

Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand exhibit website
Reserve free tickets here
More about Carl Bloch here

Friday, December 3, 2010


If you look at the work I have done over the years, you'll notice how many times I have had the chance to create this type of stylized landscape. I have a lot of fun making these pictures and the stylization seems to lend a bit of a surreal feel to the scenes without removing the sense of reality that the attention to detail gives it. This painting was done for Mountain Sun Natural Juices as a wraparound background label for their tropical juice line. I also did a number of tropical fruit details that were inset into the center of the label.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Final drawing submitted for approval.

I'm working on another fiction feature for Boys' Life magazine. The story follows a young man working for a trail clearing operation in the Alaskan wilderness around 1900. The protagonist is nicknamed No-See-Um because of his slight build.

My initial thumbnail which was submitted for concept approval

I am creating three images for the story. This one shows a moment in the story when an older boy sets up a trip line to sabotage our hero while returning from the river with clean dishes. I'll post progress of this project as I go along.