Saturday, March 28, 2015


Over a year ago, we were on our way back from a swim meet in Southern Utah with our teenage son when I saw the most intriguing subject off the side of the freeway. Now, to most people, what I saw would seem unremarkable, even mundane. To me, the scene beckoned me. Not in a whisper that can easily be brushed aside, but rather, it screamed to be painted. What I saw was not merely a weathered tumbledown stack of hay bales, but a symbol of a man's labor, a hope for the future and an attitude of preparedness. On the flip side, I saw the ravages of time and weather, the power of gravity but amid all the decay, I saw the purity of a sheltered heart.

I decided that this painting would equal the largest that I had ever done (60" x 36" of last year's Autumn Dusting)) and I eagerly started into the process. Schedules became complicated and the picture sat unfinished for many months. I started to waver. The painting didn't begin as fantastically as I had hoped and I set it aside amid doubts and second guessing. I had done a couple of things wrong. The first bad decision was following my better judgement and skipping the study phase. I figured I knew what I was doing and that the subject was simple. Well, next time I attempt a painting of that size, I will surely paint a small study to work out color and value. The other mistake was to stop halfway through the blocking in process. That left the picture suspended in the inevitable ugly phase where there is not a clear picture of the intended target. All this hand wringing also could have been avoided if I had done a study...duh. So there it sat, forlorn and homely propped against the side of my flat file. Eventually, I grew so tired of it mocking me, that I relegated it to the studio storage area while I worked on other projects.

There is nothing like a deadline, or the fact that I had already shelled out several hundred dollars on a beautiful custom frame to spur on completion of a project.  With the Spring Salon rapidly approaching, I dug it back out and plowed onward toward the finish. I spent the better part of a Saturday blocking in the rest of the canvas. I was pleased with how things were looking and began to revisit the sky as I waited for the large expanses of snow on the lower half to dry. Well, after nearly a week, the white areas were hardly any closer to being dry than the day I laid them down. I had no explanation for this other than that the white I was using was different from my normal brand and must have had a richer mix of linseed oil than I was used to. Also, I had not used any drying mediums. I was faced with a choice. Gamble and figure that the paint would eventually dry in time for me to finish things up and frame it in time for the 91st Annual Springville Spring Salon, or scrape off all the wet white areas and repaint them. I opted to scrape. It was nerve wracking not knowing what would be left after the wet paint was off. Luckily it was not that bad and rather than waste all the paint, I mixed in a little medium to speed the drying intending to reuse most of it. With that, I prepared new batches of paint and I dug back in.

Things dried at a normal rate this time and I was able to finish the painting. I am happy with how it turned out and feel that it is one of my best paintings. Whether you love hay bales or not, I think the scale of the work speaks and commands attention. I will find out later next week if the painting makes it into the exhibition. Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Plein Air Painting- Oakley, UT

Last Saturday, I went out painting with friend and fellow painter Richard Hull. We ventured up to Oakley Utah to see if we could find a worthy subject or two for the day's efforts. My first painting subject was chosen based largely on the contract between the muted yellows and greens of the pasture and the black Angus cattle grazing in it. We were dealing with a distinct lack of color as the winter browns and grays have not yet given way to the vibrant greens and yellows of spring, so we looked for subjects that provided value contrasts more than color. Attempting to paint anything like a herd of cows from life is a failure waiting to happen and I knew that if the cows shifted too much, I would get nothing more than a quick indication of placement. As it turns out, about 45 minutes into the piece and just as I was getting ready to place a few cows, the ranchers came and herded all the cows away into parts unknown. I guess the cows will now be painted in studio.

We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch with another painter friend Don Weller, whose fantastic watercolor work I profiled here in an earlier post. He and his wife Cha Cha joined us at the Road Island Diner for some seriously good chow. I had the Turkey club which was delicious and featured the juiciest roasted turkey and thick cut bacon I have had on a club ever. The shoestring onion rings were wickedly crispy and delicious as well.

The Afternoon session was a bit of a challenge. For the first time all day, the wind kicked up and a steady strong breeze hampered our painting. The same wind resulted in shifting skies and light that went from sunny to overcast every few minutes. I didn't realize how tiring it can be to try and make steady brush strokes while chasing a moving target both literally and figuratively. Not only did the lighting shift at inopportune moments, but my easel and arm felt the brunt of wind gusts as well. Al in all, I think it was a productive day.

Richard would disagree as he wiped off both of his attempts. I told him he was being a bit hard on himself and probably should have held off until he could evaluate the effort in the studio, but he insisted that "crap was crap" and was okay with obliterating his efforts. I usually wait until later to sand off my failures, but that's how it goes sometimes. My wipe offs came early in the process when I realized my drawing was way off. The barn was especially challenging in the wind and I never did get it right. It's a little too tall and I only had room for five posts under the shed roof, but that's fine. I still like the effort and I will once again look forward to fixing a few things in the studio to finish these up. And add some cows.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Baby Groundhogs

Here are selections for another easy reader book I just finished. The story follows a family of groundhogs as the babies venture out of their den for the first time.

They enjoy munching on the green grass for a time before escaping back to the den when a fox appears. I tried to give the little guys some personality despite the need to portray them as realistically and not stylize too much.

I would rather have made them more animated and characterized, but the art direction dictated they be "real" groundhogs. I think I struck the right balance between real and cute.

Once again, I made all the preliminary drawings traditionally and then scanned and painted them in Photoshop.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator is the gorgeous new book from Manuel Auad of Auad Publishing. This volume follows up the similarly beautiful treatment given to Albert Dorne and Robert Fawcett. I have been wanting to give this book a proper overview since it arrived in the mail and now is the time.

Those unfamiliar with the career and work of Al Parker will be pleased and surprised at the breadth and depth of Parker's work. I knew that he was a consummate experimenter, but this volume truly shows his reach and the incredible range he was able to exhibit in a career spanning five decades. Parker was a chameleon. Always searching for the latest look that would fuel his own aesthetic hunger and yet be something fresh and appealing to the public audiences he served.

Al Parker (1906-1985), is perhaps the most influential illustrator of the twentieth century which is no small claim given the incredible breadth of talent that has plied the trade since Howard Pyle began teaching N.C Wyeth and others in the Brandywine valley of Pennsylvania in the early 1900's. Parker's early career was spent filling the glamour and women's magazines of the 1930's with idealized pictures of beautiful women. His work was often featured in the most popular publications of the day such as Ladie's' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and McCall's He is often credited with establishing the modern glamour aesthetic.

In the 1939 he began a string of covers for Ladies Home Journal that featured a mother and daughter pair engaging in various activities such as skating, sledding, raking or even changing a car tire. This series became so popular that it continued until 1952. As demand for his work increased, Parker became one of the most respected and famous illustrators in the country.

That fan following even extended to the most famous illustrator of the day, Norman Rockwell, who sent a letter to the younger Parker which read in part:
"It is simply extraordinary, your amazing creativeness, taste and versatility. While the rest of us are working knee-deep in a groove, you are forever changing and improving. You have brought more freshness, charm and vitality to illustration than any living illustrator"

Despite his success and popularity, Parker was never one to sit on his laurels. Regarding his own penchant for trying new things, he once remarked:
"I think one of the things I like most about illustration is the fact that things are always changing. It's always tomorrow."

Parker even once illustrated an entire issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, choosing a fake name and a different style for each piece of artwork he created for each story.

As evidenced by the following series of pictures, it is clear that Parker never shied away from trying new things.

Another aspect of the book I really enjoyed were the sections that included reference photos used by Parker with the accompanying finished illustrations, an interview with Parker reproduced from 22 Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work, and a short essay of remembrances by Parker's niece Margaret Matchin.

Although I was familiar with Al Parker from my studies of illustration history and an exhibit of his work at the Norman Rockwell museum, this volume brings into sharp focus the true depth of Parker's work as well as his impact on illustration and the public aesthetic. I highly recommend this volume to any fan of illustration, art or pop culture. It is well worth the cover price.

You can buy the book at Auad Publishing's site

Monday, March 2, 2015

November Pastures

November Pastures- 10" x 11"- Oil by Greg Newbold.

This is one of two pieces that will be part of the upcoming 300 Plates show at Art Access. The Show and auction will take place on May 14, 2015, but I needed to finish one of my two plates early in order to be included in the promotional materials. I did the 300 Plates show for the first time last year and it was a blast.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it is the main fundraiser for Art Access whose mission is to provide inclusive arts experiences for disabled individuals. Each 10" x 11" plate has two holes at the top, mimicking the registration holes of original metal printing plates that were used when the show was first envisioned. Since the metal plates are no longer available, today's plates are cut from masonite and drilled to match. The auction is laid out in rows with prices starting at $85 and increasing by $1 increments up to $365.  About twenty pieces of exceptional quality are set aside for the silent auction and those go for well above the regular prices. Attendees buy a wristband to the gala, which includes a catered dinner, and wristband colors are drawn out by groups to see who gets first opportunity to buy. It's not really a bidding war for the most part (aside from the silent auction pieces) but more a first come first served sale. The luck of the draw aspect is what makes it fun. You don't know what you will have the chance to buy and the best pieces go quickly.

Last year, my piece sold in the silent auction for well above the regular auction rates. I am hoping to have one of my two pieces selected for this honor again. Proceeds of the sales go to fund the Art Access programs for the coming year.