Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pepper shaker

pepper shaker
12/21. Pepper shaker, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

Thought I'd go back to something other than produce. This was incredibly hard, and I was surprised it turned out ok.

We're off on Sunday to see family (the East Coast gang) and it seems I'll probably be without Internet access for a while. I'm bringing my paints though, and might actually produce something but who knows. I'll add more to this post perhaps when I get back.

I wish everyone and their families a very happy Christmas - yes, not a happy holiday or winter break or season's something or other. It is, after all, the Christ-mass that the holiday marks and for which most people have scrambled to get gifts and cards in the mail in time, even if they don't personally agree with any of it. I wish plenty of nuts and a tasty orange or two in the toe end of everyone's stocking! See you soon....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Clementine and orange

clementine and orange
12/19. Clementine and orange, oil on linen panel, 7x5 in.

A quick post to get caught up, then back to drawing. (Aren't my titles descriptive?)


I’ve been double tagged! (Does it mean I have to do this twice?) Thanks to Alvin Richard and Jason Waskey for allowing me to reveal some odd facts about myself - some of it previously secret! But first, the rules as I've lifted them: 1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. 2) Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. 3) Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. All right, then:

1) I secretly hate to draw. I have never filled a sketchbook in my life. Which means I seriously need to do it more, like maybe at least as often as I’m painting, especially because I wish I were a fraction as good as my ultimate artistic hero (though I don’t mention him much), Edgar Degas.

2) I used to have this fantasy that I’d one day discover Degas was really my great-great-grandfather/-uncle or something.

3) It will be a long time before I can say that I’ve read most of the books I own. Partly because I read horribly slow and partly because, as I always like to be in the process of reading any book, I used to pick up several others while still in the middle of one, only to get stuck in all of them and giving up on the one I’d set out to read in the first place. I still try to have a book going at all times, except nowadays I can get through it before taking on another, and the number of books read is beginning to grow. Not long ago my wife asked me where I’d been finding the time to read, and the answer is: in the bathroom, a few pages at a time. TMI?? (The comedian Jeff Foxworthy said recently about his newest Redneck Dictionary that it would be less likely to sit on a coffee table than on the back of a toilet. Well, in our home it could easily share the porcelain with something by Kafka, Camus, or Chris Hitchens. Sorry, Chris.)

4) I have a desire, perhaps not secret, to learn to play bagpipes - Scottish first, then maybe the Irish – perhaps as a step towards fulfilling the dream of someday, somehow, starting a pseudo-Renaissance-age/pseudo-Celtic/rock band that incorporates period pipes and a shawm and gittern and flute (and maybe a Japanese shakuhachi) and some violas da gamba and such things. Ok, forget that. Band aside, I know I would have to spend years tooting on a practice chanter before even picking up a full set of pipes and, well, it only makes me have more respect for anyone who even tries - I may be wrong but it seems it would be harder to sort of just "get by" on bagpipes than on other instruments.

5) I’m always secretly on the lookout for multiple shadows in movies - I mean, when it’s obvious that an outdoor scene is really a set. A person in sunlight normally would cast a single shadow, yet once in a while you’ll see maybe four or more faint ones. This is common in TV shows, but I began to notice it a while back in a lot of movies too - older ones, especially Westerns (never mind the absence of bullet holes or blood) - and now I can’t stop looking for them. Check it out for yourself!

Now here are some people I’d like to tag:

Paul Schmid
Connie Kleinjans
Paul Keysar
Allison Sommers
Vince Nguyen


12/17. Orange, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

I gave myself the problem of what to do with an orange that is almost perfectly symmetric in shape and lit from above, within a gold on gold theme. And I wanted that reflected light at the bottom to not just glow, but burn.

Red pear

red pear
12/16. Red pear, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

I've been working on sketches for an assignment which have been a struggle for some reason (see also #1 in the upcoming "tag" post), so I'm still behind in posting. I skipped painting the other night but managed to do one last night as a break from drawing. But about this piece: I thought the shift to green in this section of the otherwise red pear was interesting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Clementine #2

clementine #2
12/15. Clementine #2, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

I've been using Indian yellow to punch up the yellows and oranges a little. I suppose using cad. red light or cad. orange might get similar results, but the subtler transparence of Indian yellow is much nicer than the overly intense blaze you get from an opaque cadmium. And although you can make a decent orange by combining cads. yellow and red together, they are never intense enough - the reason being that opaque colors only call attention to the amount of paint that's there, while transparency keeps the focus on the hue and the light, at least giving the effect of more intensity (if not actually increasing it). So I've found that by throwing some Indian yellow in the mix I can reduce the use of cadmiums quite a bit, and get a clean color that isn't too hot.

Clementines #2

clementines #2
12/14. Clementines #2, oil on linen panel, 5x5 in.

Sorry for my absence. Our computer got "sick" with pop-ups last week and was moving at a snail's pace, so I didn't go online much except to attempt some last minute shopping (maybe all my personal info being stolen multiple times in the process). But I've been painting, and now that I hope things are normal again I may be able to catch up here.

Friday, December 14, 2007


12/12. Clementine, oil on linen panel, 4x6 in.

clementine start

It seems as though everyone has painted a peeled clementine at one time or another so I thought I'd try as well. Again I photographed the very beginning stage and it shows how unpredictably I start to work sometimes - I was a little sad that I had to get much thicker with the paint.

I took a break last night from painting and instead wrote some of the thoughts I'd been having lately (after which I meant to post this piece but I didn't get that far). To the previous post I feel I should add that those "other" ideal qualities to strive for in painting were only the ones that came to mind the most easily to me. Also, in having the opinion that I do I might only keep myself from attaining the level of discipline needed to begin mastering those other qualities. Yet, I believe all of those things will just manifest themselves more and more with time, simply as a result of being productive and acting on inspiration, being viscerally receptive to paint's little accidents.

I must surely come off as offensive any time I suggest simply that some painters are a dead master's wannabes (I think they would easily outpaint me, as true wannabes have incredible discipline). Now couldn't someone say the same about me, based on everything I've said about Bonington? Yeah, maybe I'd give a body part or two to paint as well as he did, but if I suddenly could I still wouldn't reproduce his way of "seeing" and be attracted to the same things he was, composing pictures the way he did. Especially as I have my own quirks, as do most painters. And of course most aren't wannabes (and, like me, have wide ranging influences), yet there are so many who try real hard to turn into the next Sargent, say, and just become indistinguishable from all the rest. Well at least they employ a consistent "style," so who am I to say anything?...

Onion #4

onion #4
12/11. Onion #4, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

I attempted to paint roughly, scumbling and scratching a lot, to match the skin of this onion. It was dry and dirty in places and unappealing, but it seemed to radiate all these clean colors which I don't normally see in onions. The first bold mark I made was the transparent crimson edge at top, and once I put some green and purple around it it felt alive like a slippery koi in a pond.

This isn't the best painting nor the most instructive experiment, but in it are some interesting things. I've been thinking a lot lately about why I paint (and why I'm so glad to be painting again after so long) and what it is that's so interesting about doing little studies which don't deviate much in composition. Maybe this goes for most other oil painters who aren't concerned with the avant-garde (there's no such thing anymore), but for me it's simply got to be the nature of paint and the experience of color on the eyes, the almost musical play of pigment floating luminously next to, around, and beneath airy veils and dense tapestries of color. I wish I could describe it more eloquently. Although I wasn't yet ready for the journey at the time, perhaps I had decided years ago as Markowsky was encouraging us to exploit it in painting class - but especially when I first saw paintings by Bonington in a book - that my goal should be to find the balance between transparent and opaque. That's all.

By this I mean: not to dance around that point, emulating Velasquez, where at a certain viewing distance the image comes together and is no longer a chaos of disparate strokes. Nor strive for Rembrandt's light, or some "secret" process or medium of his - he had none, just skill and patience. Nor, as I've started to realize more and more, attempt to "transcribe" nature the way Liszt condensed Beethoven's giant symphonies to be played on a piano - though that's not a feat to laugh at. Sure, all of these things together are ideal, but I just want to be there when the little mysteries in the paint reveal themselves. Like when oil mimics watercolor and changes back again. Bonington made paint sing - his sketchy pieces still kill me after all these years (and I'll have to scan some pictures from a book next time to justify my obsession, since you can't find any good examples anywhere else). Sargent did it too - but I believe what I'm talking about isn't what his wannabes today are emulating (flashy brushstrokes that sculpt a face or a hand or the lapel of a jacket with as few notes as possible). Well ok, add that to the list of ideal things, as Bonington was a master of economy too.

But those things are all human things, the craft side of painting, like the way a chef puts the food in little stacks on a rectangular plate and drizzles the sauce over it in graceful zigzags. Or like the way a carpenter shapes the wood. Bad comparisons perhaps? Before constructing the joints or "plating" the food, there are the different woods, the ingredients of a dish, and their wondrous qualities. So, although I have a lot to learn about the craft of painting, what's always more interesting is what the paint does to me and not what I can do to it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bunch of parsley

parsley start

bunch of parsley
12/10. Bunch of parsley, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in.

I took the first photo when I realized I was working in a new way, that is I used a cool color to rough out the form (very rough) and stain the canvas - I don't know if it was simply because the dominant color here is green or if it was a subconscious experiment - but the surface seemed to have infinite potential once that amorphous shadow was sketched in. In some recent pieces I had thrown in some bluish-white at this early stage to get some of the "air" along the edges, though not here because the parsley isn't a solid form with a turning edge. In this case the blue went into the bulk of the parsley, more as an effect of the light than atmosphere. But I found as I went along that it was good to have the initial rough stage as a foundation, something to play off of for subtle space around the parsley. Normally I had used a brown all over for blocking in shadows etc., even in the broccoli piece, because I was so used to it.

(One of these days I might try something else novel, that is go to bed early so that I can think and write in the morning and am not like a zombie with a blog.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Persimmon #2

persimmon #2
12/9. Persimmon #2, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in.

The leafy junk on top frustrates me, as I can't always tell what's going on with the forms and the colors are unusual. Overall this piece isn't as airy as yesterday's, but the persimmon color seems a little truer - I say seems because there is more of a dirty yellow in actuality, but I think I've made my color convincing.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


12/8. Persimmon, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in. SOLD

Why have I been repeating the title under each piece when it's already titled at the top? Who knows.... I think I've only ever tasted a persimmon when I was a kid. This one is of the Israeli "Sharon" variety, classified under the most common species (Diospyros kaki) that includes the widely grown Japanese "hachiya" and other types. A related persimmon variety is the Diospyros lotus, or "date-plum," which to the ancient Greeks was called the fruit of the gods, according to Wikipedia - Dios pyros, lit. "the wheat of Zeus" - and (this is one of several theories) it is the fruit mentioned in that brief scene of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus and his men

landed in the country of the Lotus-Eaters, who live on a flowering food, and there we set foot on the mainland ... then I sent some of my companions ahead, telling them to find out what men, eaters of bread, might live here in this country.... My men went on and presently met the Lotus-Eaters ... But any of them who ate the honey-sweet fruit of lotus was unwilling to take any message back, or to go away, but they wanted to stay there with the lotus-eating people, feeding on lotus, and forget the way home. [Translated by Richmond Lattimore.]

Odysseus "took these men back weeping, by force," to the ship and tied them up under the rowing benches before getting the heck out of there. (Then came the mess with the Cyclopes.) So my persimmon isn't this "lotus" type, but I found it all very interesting.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Golden Hubbard squash #2

golden Hubbard squash #2
12/7: Golden Hubbard squash #2, oil on linen panel, 6x4.5 in.

This was a compositional challenge as I was stuck with a panel of the wrong format. I think it works though, tight as it is. I had some fun with the colors - I don't use crimson much, especially in large areas, and it's refreshing to kind of bathe in it like this. This is sketchier and not as solid as yesterday's, but the thing that really bothers me is that I gave too much contrast to the little hole in the stem.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Golden Hubbard squash

golden Hubbard squash
12/6: Golden Hubbard squash, oil on linen panel, 6x5 in.

My wife and I both doubted the sticker on this which said it was a Hubbard, thinking instead it had to be an ambercup or some other pumpkin-like variety. But there is a variety of Hubbard squash that is smallish and gold and not blue or green, though most pictures online show the skin being very warty; and of course the people who'd put the sticker on this thing in the first place would know what they had. Whatever it is, it's great - and I felt I struck a coup this time (at least in the beginning) when I reached a magic balance of opacity and transparency, and the edge transitions began to really define the space. Some of this ideal quality I lost, as invariably happens, but some I found again and pushed further, so in the end I'm quite pleased with it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bartlett pear #3

Bartlett pear #3
12/5: Bartlett pear #3, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in. SOLD

I've been letting down the two or three people who care, by not mentioning how long some of these pieces have taken. This one was about 45 minutes. (I think the one before was more like an hour and a half.) The yellows and greens of these pears are annoyingly much more vivid than I can paint, but I hope I've been getting some sense of them. To me this one is a little better, as I think I'm getting back some of my own vividness and clarity of color which had been a little more tepid lately.

Old English word of the day:

pere [pĕr'-ə]: pear.
(perewós: perry, a cider-like drink made from pears; literally "pear moisture/juice.")

From a history of pears and perry in the UK, by Gillian Grafton:

Tacitus implies in some of his writings that pears were cultivated in Britain at the time of the Roman occupation. Charlemagne (circa 800) issued a list of plants to be cultivated which included pears. In Britain however, definite records are not available until after the Norman Conquest. The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions old pear trees several times as boundary markers, implying their cultivation before this period.

Court accounts in the reign of Henry III (1207-72) show that pears were imported from France and for many years French varieties dominated English orchards. Pears were imported from the La Rochelle area of France which was famed for its pears.

Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, developed extensive orchards and there is a record in 1262 of the court gardener planting six Cailhou (Cailloel) pear trees. Eleanor of Castille, wife of Edward I, was a keen gardener. In the court accounts for 1276-92 the following pear types were noted: Kaylewell (Calswel); Rewel (de Regula); and Pesse-Pucelle. Kaylewell was a synonym for the Caillou and was seen as a pear fit only for baking but was very popular with the royal family at the time. Other pear varieties noted at this time were: Martins; Dreyes; Sorells; Gold-Knopes; Regul; and Chyrfall.

Sometime before 1388 the first important English pear variety, the Wardon, was introduced by Cistercian Monks at Wardon in Bedfordshire. It was widely used for pies, which became known
as Wardon pies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bartlett pear #2

Bartlett pear #2
12/4: Bartlett pear #2, oil on linen panel, 4x6 in.

My painting of the light has been different lately even after I went back to painting on the easel, and I'm not sure why. Sort of blotchy and all over the place like Renoir, but without the greasy stringiness. I think he's the one I was thinking of. I never liked Renoir - but if someone else would say this has kind of a Renoir feel I'll take it as a compliment.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bartlett pear

Bartlett pear
12/4: Bartlett pear, oil on linen panel, 7x5 in.

I'm still here. I was going to post something about the Paint Out but was too tired after the reception, and on Sunday night had some kind of stomach bug that still had me feeling weak yesterday. (Maybe it was just real bad indigestion, made worse by my ignoring my wife's advice to lay off dairy and other stuff for a while.) Anyway, I haven't been at the computer much and haven't responded to anyone, but thanks to those who wished me luck the other day. I struggled at the Paint Out, as I will write about later, but I'm proud of myself for taking part and it only made me want to do more plein air work. Nevertheless I'm really glad to be back at my chunky easel, and for now there will be more small fruit.

Lately I started making my panels using
Yarka extra fine grain linen glued to hardboard with a liquid hide glue, spread with a brush or roller. There are a few more irregularities in the linen than the Old Holland brand I was using at first, and the priming is stiffer. But I love its funky sizing smell, and the feel and look of it being made by hand, like they just sliced a length of it off in their cold Russian workshop and mailed it to you. I don't know how this brand compares to a roll of Claessens, but I read that it was a great value and it really is. So far I haven't had much trouble with the linen being slick - maybe I am working better and am more in tune with the surface.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cut lemon

cut lemon
11/28: Cut lemon, oil on linen panel, 3x4.5 in.

Working out of my paint box really makes a difference. Without the heaviness and solidity of my easel I'm still not completely comfortable. I braced the inside of the box better and fixed the wobbliness, but I still have to get used to this vulnerable, skinny-legged contraption. I remember another time I had painted en plein air: a few guys and I were at our teacher Anthony Palliser's house, somewhere in the marshes around Savannah. We were sitting on a little pier behind the house, there were some attempts at fishing, and my friend Gus landed a hook into my pants leg (or was it me who got his leg?). Only other thing I remember now was that I settled on painting a boring cluster of trees across the water. Maybe there were other times, but I just can't recall.... Well, now I'm trying it again, and it seems like tomorrow will be partly sunny (or partly cloudy), so it could end up being a great day! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Delicata squash #2

delicata squash 2
11/27: Delicata squash #2, oil on linen panel, 4x8 in.

In preparation for the Paint Out I worked out of my paint box to get more used to it. A few months ago I came across a simple way of turning it into a pochade, and discovered last night when I put it into action for the first time that it was too wobbly on the tripod. I started the painting pretty flustered and holding the box steady with one hand most of the time, expecting only to get a basic sketch. Eventually I relaxed enough to let it go and had a better time. I didn't have my lights on my work as usual so I ended up using too much chalky white throughout, but it could have gone worse. Now I'm trying to fix whatever was wrong with the box, hoping it won't take something MacGyverish.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Delicata squash

delicata squash
11/26: Delicata squash, oil on linen panel, 4.5x6.75 in.

Also called a potato/sweet potato/Bohemian squash, the delicata is an heirloom variety, and supposedly one of the tastier squashes. We had the ambercup last night and it was quite tasty too! I like that I stayed fairly loose in this piece, tightening up only gradually from the beginning stages. (I hope I can keep things loose on Friday, whatever it is I end up painting.) Overall I'm happy with this, though I don't think I captured the tautness of the actual squash.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ambercup squash

ambercup squash
11/25: Ambercup squash, oil on linen panel, 5x4.5 in. SOLD

The ambercup is a relative of the buttercup. When my wife came back from the store with this I knew I had to paint it. Talk about some hard to pin down reds/pinks/oranges - a carrot is nothing compared to this thing. There's so much going on, it should be painted in more than one session to really capture it.

* * *

I'm going to be taking part in "Out & About Norfolk," a plein air event this Friday and Saturday (thanks again to Jen K. for passing along the info), and I've been getting nervous. I haven't worked en plein air since maybe freshman year of art school when our class went to the park. It'll be great to meet some other local painters and see everyone's work on display Saturday evening. I just hope it doesn't rain.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gold potatoes

gold potatoes
11/24: Gold potatoes, oil on linen panel, 6x5 in.

I like that these are looser and fresher though they seem very stony, more so than yesterday's potato. Looking for reasons to use Indian yellow (other than as a possible glaze), I hit the top left edge of the left potato with some, which was toned down a bit later, perhaps defeating the purpose. If I were someone who had more painting pyrotechnics up my sleeve I could have done some of the glowing, feathered-edge type of effect that makes everyone drool. Anyway, that's not me. But I look at this and think someday I might come close to getting the highlighting and transparency and general roundness of form in good balance the way old (actually, young) Bonington did. Someday.... If he'd have chosen to paint a potato I think he could have done it faster than I could get a knife out of the drawer to peel one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gold potato

gold potato
11/23: Gold potato, oil on linen panel, 5x4 in. SOLD

I'm back from my first somewhat extended blog break. Sorry for leaving abruptly. I hope all my U.S. friends had a great Thanksgiving and were able to get stuffed full of turkey or ham, mashed potato etc., and possibly a syrup-laden cranberry jelly (my wife makes the real thing but we like the canned stuff also). I had had the task of clearing off the mountain range of clutter from the table in the dining room - my "studio" - and I don't know when I would have got it done if the holiday hadn't rolled around. Now I can get started making a fresh mound of clutter.... Yesterday I got up super early and braved the crowd for the first time to hunt down a new vacuum cleaner among other things - I only went to one store so it wasn't too bad, but I wouldn't want to do it again any time soon as I was all messed up the rest of the day.

I also got some Indian yellow yesterday to try for the first time, after seeing too many other painters use it in their standard palettes. Only a tiny bit if any made it into this painting, which maybe shows that I don't really need it, but I've begun to see how having a transparent yellow might be useful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


11/20: McIntosh, oil on linen panel, 5x3.5 in.

Sometimes I don't know where the work is going to take me, this time it felt almost like shaping a bas-relief on the right side. And I sort of like the sloppiness of the green in that part.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Onion #3

onion #3
11/19: Onion #3, oil on linen panel, 5x3.5 in. SOLD

I didn't realize how coppery I'd made everything until this morning when I saw how far off the colors in the photo were (too much yellow, but I think I managed to fix it). Most times the camera gets the color close and other times I have to play around a while in Photoshop.

Monday, November 19, 2007


11/18: McIntoshes, oil on linen panel, 5x6 in.

About McIntosh apples here's what Wikipedia has: "Every McIntosh apple has a direct lineage to a single tree discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh on his farm in Dundela, a hamlet located in Dundas County in the Canadian province of Ontario, near Morrisburg." And: "Jef Raskin, a computer scientist, is credited with naming the Apple Macintosh, a computer system, after the fruit, adopting a very common misspelling often seen in grocery stores. It is possible that this spelling was used to avoid confusion with the high end audio manufacturer McIntosh. Due to the persisting popularity of the Macintosh computer line, the misspelling of the cultivar has only been perpetuated."

"Anno Domini" goes before the date, people! Not really a non sequitur, because it was while reading more about apple history (and getting sidetracked) that I found yet more places where people are putting A.D. after the date as in the case of B.C. For example,

79 A.D. - Pliny the Elder in his Natural History ...
A.D. was invented in 525 A.D. by Dionysius Exiguus.
... Latin for “in the year of the Lord,” it means that the number that goes with it is the number of years since the birth of Jesus Christ. For example, it is now 2006 A.D.
Those last two are particularly good as the blog post they come from tries to put on an air of intelligence (though I'm sure I do that), even pointing out the literal translation only to show that the writer doesn't really understand it. Now, I don't mind people getting it wrong in conversation, but I really hate seeing it in print, especially in anything dealing with history - like at the beginning of a "historical" movie (in Monty Python and the Holy Grail I forgive them because they're silly) - this is similar to my thing against Irish pipes in Scottish movies, but anyway....

I ain't no grammarian, but I suppose when people wrote in Latin this happened a lot, and I would say it was because Latin word order was loose and one could go around saying things backward and still be correct: "on the first of the Lord of October in the year 2007 my homework ate my dog." It's maybe better to use B.C.E. ("before the common era") and C.E. ("of the common era") if you don't care about the order and want things simple, but I'm not pushing that - I just wish people remember what abbreviations stand for when they write them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kiwi #2

kiwi #2
11/17: Kiwi #2, oil on canvas panel, 4x4 in.

As I was going to shoot this I saw there was a lot of light bouncing back from some dull spots in the darkest shadow (this isn't the smooth linen so it was more pronounced). I don't normally do it but I sprayed a little Damar varnish to smooth it out some. I figure this doesn't hurt if the paint layer is still wet, as the Damar would mix in with it and not just sit on top trapping the paint and drying at a different rate. It took care of that dullness but I must have done one spritz too many because it began to liquefy and fan out some of the topmost strokes, like the purplish bits. But oh well, it probably turned out better.

Here's my "standard" palette, which lately hasn't changed much, a sign that I am getting more comfortable - I scraped a lot of the mess away from last night but left the mixed blobs, which I drew out a bit more to show the colors better:
my palette 11/17
1. titanium white
2. cad. yellow med.
3. yellow ochre
4. cad. red med.
5. alizarin
6. transp. oxide (or earth) red
7. ultramarine
8. Prussian blue
9. ivory black

Alizarin is usually used just for purples and reds, and black practically never (except lately I use it with ochre and maybe a little cad. red if I want a greenish-brown underpainting) - so probably 8 of the 9 colors are actually in the final picture. The one most used is transp. oxide red/red earth, which I learned about from
Terry Miura's website - it's like a transparent Venetian red as Gamblin describes, and I've been making my two most important mixes with it: (a) with ultramarine for a transparent dark blue-brown; and (b) with Prussian blue for a semitransparent dark blue-green. (b1) and (b2) are simply (b) mixed with ochre and white, respectively.

These were useful for the kiwis and aren't standard but could be: (c) is yellow ochre added to (a), maybe with more of the red earth. I haven't been mixing it much before last night, but I found it works well for the kiwi skin and would probably be of good use every day. (d) is ochre and red earth. (e) is red earth and cad. yellow.

Sorry if this was confusing. For mediums I'm using Galkyd Lite and/or linseed oil, sometimes Venetian turpentine (tiny glob to the left of the palette cups). I keep telling myself I should go back to using cups with lids, but it may be better to let any remaining bit of Galkyd dry out completely and pour a fresh little amount the next day, than let it dry slowly under cover, creating a gummy mess inside; the linseed oil doesn't really get a chance to dry out.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sketch of Breagha

sketch of Breagha
11/16: Sketch of Breagha, oil on linen panel, 5x3 in.

I took my palette into the poorly lit (even in the afternoon) living room and hoped for something at least halfway, while my daughter was sitting still and eating her lunch. A spur of the moment thing, and I was using mainly color blobs still on the palette from the previous night. This was probably about 20 minutes and, though I did some cleaning up later, I left most things alone like the light on her head that I know is off - the light, that is, not her head. I think I got the "feel" of the profile with her bulbous forehead (though it could even be bigger than this). She has quite a resemblance to the Curious George cartoon, actually, also she's very much like a tiny cub of some sort. She turned 19 months the other day.

Friday, November 16, 2007


11/15: Carrots, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in. SOLD

I didn't want to use a cad. red or orange to expand my palette, so the color wasn't exactly right. But painting isn't about matching it perfectly, and within the range of my everyday palette it's close enough. (Here the camera flattened a couple shots of red at the carrot tops.) The real hard thing though was just trying to get the local color shifts and light on the forms. I don't blame the small size, as even in a quarter-inch space or less one should be able to get a full range of values and hues.

Old English word of the day:

wealhmore [wĕəl(KH)'-môr-ə]: carrot? Literally, a foreign (Welsh?) root.
From more, "an (edible) root, carrot, parsnip." The word "carrot" didn't appear in English until the 16th century and it's generally agreed that before then a carrot (in Anglo-Saxon England) was something wilder, smaller, and white, yellow, or purplish red; the orange color would be developed in Europe. On the question of the name, here I am gratefully summarizing part of a summary of info on this very topic once posted kindly by another gentleman (it's hard to find answers to these sorts of things sometimes!). The Old English word apparently could have been applied to any root vegetable, and the term wealh- or Wylisc [wül'-ĭsh] more might have been used for "carrot" while an Englisc more was a parsnip. The site Regia Anglorum also mentions this, though reversing the Welsh/English bit. Very confusing!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Broccoli sketch

broccoli sketch
11/14: Broccoli sketch, oil on linen panel, 4x4 in. SOLD

This turned out fairly good I think. I probably went to 45 minutes or more, due to a good deal of redundant work in the crown area trying to get back the light that I lost, some of it finally just scratched in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Garlic #2

garlic #2
11/13: Garlic #2, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in. SOLD

I thought the cloves were pretty with the reddish color. This began fairly quick and light but in the end got almost too wet and slippery in some parts. This linen is great but when the paint gets too juicy it's like working on a smooth panel, not so great. Though doesn't juicy paint cause the same problems no matter what you paint on? This is why I can't do what the good alla prima painters do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


11/12: Kiwi, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in.

I really love this green, really a blue-green before adding ochre. I can't get over its mystery, for lack of a better word. It truly still feels like alchemy: add a little white to it and it is like water, with yellow it is like a forest, somewhere in the middle it is the mist between land and sea. Some time I'd like to do longer pieces in which I can examine these effects more, not around a kiwi fruit.

Monday, November 12, 2007


11/11: Kiwis, oil on linen panel, 3x5 in.

I've been working "softer" the last couple of nights, almost layering like pastels or chalk (there should be less chalkiness after some varnish). And I worked a little slower here, ending up painting much longer than I meant to. Not sure if this muted coloring is really my thing but it's different, and I think these kiwis aren't too bad. Tender, sort of....

* * *

Yesterday being Veterans Day, let me say we shouldn't forget that we as artists (or musicians, novelists, etc.) couldn't practice our art without the people who voluntarily fight for us. We generally have the privilege of working in peace and safety, unlike those Dark Age English monks hunched day and night over their tiny illuminations, always with the fear of seeing Viking maurauders come one day from across the sea. Except one day in 2001 we saw how easily we could be attacked by a tiny band of modern-day pirates (or pilots), who did it not for plunder but for the joy of causing so many deaths. Whatever one's view of war, it is a fact that we now have to defend against a "culture" that seeks to destroy culture itself and take all civilization back to the Dark Ages, but Dark Ages without even a glimmer of individual expression.

I've grown to support the Iraq war more, recently, despite thinking it was badly planned, despite the tons of negative news coverage (which is aggressive and biased), and being sickened by the rising death toll. We're all sick of it, but let us keep open our eyes and ears to the good news that quietly makes its way back to us - it's not shown nearly enough. I never feel more hopeful about our world than when I see American soldiers being greeted with smiles, wherever they happen to be.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lemon #3

lemon #3
11/10: Lemon #3, oil on linen panel, 3x5 in. SOLD

This was probably about 45 minutes if I remember correctly, more "finished" than I intended but some of the looseness is still there.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Banana #3

banana #3
11/9: Banana #3, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in. SOLD

I feel I'm reaching a better balance (for me) between looseness and tightness. Many painters will say there's nothing "sketchy" here and what the heck am I talking about, but it's evidence of progress to me.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Red skin potato #3

red skin potato #3
11/8: Red skin potato #3, oil on linen panel, 5x5 in.

I don't know what's been going on with Feedburner's email delivery - I changed it to later in the day because I haven't been posting in time recently, but now it isn't sending the updates and probably has several backed up for several some reason.

The background got sort of muddled in this one, but some of the transparency in the potato feels right. These potatoes can get weird, and trying to keep that transparency "alive" can feel like juggling. Plus this one is a little oddly shaped (though I didn't quite capture it).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Red skin potatoes #2

red skin potatoes #2
11/7: Red skin potatoes #2, oil on canvas panel, 5x5 in.

I used just bristle brushes again, and painted thicker and drier than usual. A little different, but maybe a little too sticky. I like this linen; I ordered some Yarka extra fine linen the other day hoping it's similar to this stuff, so I can economically make more of these panels.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lemon #2

lemon #2
11/6: Lemon #2, oil on linen panel, 5x5 in.

I tried to do better with the light transitions along the edges, and was reminded of the days I watched Markowsky paint, and how once upon a time maybe I actually "got it" - what's happened since? Oh yeah, I'd practically given up painting.... Painters and their damn "transitions," it's all they talk about.

I went to another craft store last night and found some #6 Arttec/Loew-Cornell bristle brushes for a dollar(!), so I got a few different shapes. Here I used some of those and a couple smaller ones like a cheap #3 round that I like, whose bristles are a great length for me (but which loses about 20 hairs and a brush size every time I use it so I'll soon have to find a replacement in a decent brand). Not bad for using only bristle brushes and some that I consider fat. Curses to whatever it is that makes me want to use tiny brushes!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sketch of Hubbard squash

sketch of Hubbard squash
11/5: Sketch of Hubbard squash, oil on linen panel, 5x6 in. SOLD

This went beyond thirty minutes, but I probably managed to stop the major work around thirty and then add on the little shadows and such. I found some cheapo Loew-Cornell blunt-ended "scholastic"(!) bristle rounds on clearance at Michael's for between 50¢ and $1 each, and didn't use anything here except those and another cheap bristle round that can almost make a fat point.


Hubbard squash is another cultivar of [the buttercup squash, Cucurbita maxima] that is usually a "tear-drop" shape. They are often used as a replacement for pumpkins. According to one source, the name comes from Bela Hubbard, settler of Randolph Township, Ohio, in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Many other sources list an alternate history. These sources state that the Hubbard squash (at the time nameless) came to Marblehead, Massachusetts, through Captain Knott Martin. A woman named Elizabeth Hubbard brought the fruit to the attention of her neighbor, a seed trader named J.J.H. Gregory. Mr. Gregory subsequently introduced it to the market using Mrs. Hubbard's name as the eponym. Gregory later bred and released the Blue Hubbard.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Granny Smith #3

Granny Smith #3
11/4: Granny Smith #3, oil on linen panel, 6x5 in.

So I've been trying some linen by Old Holland that comes in sheets in a pad, which I've stuck onto a panel. I don't know anything about the different grains of linen, but this one says "Extra Fine" ("Excellent for Portraiture" etc.) so I guess it's like the smooth "type 13" that people swear by. I liked it the first couple of times I used it but this time it seemed too slick, like I had one too many wet layers on it or something, and I was fighting to keep the paint from lifting off entirely. Probably something I'm doing, because despite that it's pretty good stuff. If anyone has experience with the types "13" or "66" linen please send me your thoughts, it would be very much appreciated!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Small log #5

small log #5
11/3: Small log #5, oil on linen panel, 5x3 in.

I guess I felt a bit more inspired this time - inspired to STOP before wrecking the parts I like. Man, I'm tired of coming up with some nice effects (accidental or not) then obliterating them totally because in some way it's more comfortable repeating crap brushtrokes that aren't working. So I left it this way, before filling it up with more brushwork of that type.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Small log #4

small log #4
11/2: Small log #4, oil on linen panel, 4x5 in.

This is my first time on a linen panel and it's real nice. I lost the great smoky, tonal light I started with and ended up more and more "juicy," unfortunately.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Small log #3

small log #3
11/1: Small log #3, oil on canvas panel, 3.5x7 in.

I could paint this thing a hundred times from different views, but I won't. Here it feels almost like a small dog (some proportions were altered). At last I'm beginning to have a better understanding of my neutrals and can probably begin to push the grey-brown range more in the future, without compromising the strength of the other colors - which has been less than intuitive for me for some reason. This ended up going beyond two hours.

I thought I'd share here the mountain of paint blobs that has been accumulating at my easel. Made of palette scrapings, runaway brush hairs and the occasional flying insect that's fatally attracted to my paintings, it grows with every swipe of my glass scraper. Perhaps growing slower nowadays as I try to let less paint go to waste (it's good when the scrapings are mostly thin and wet and not big dried globs). It started with an old sock used for soaking up turps or oil, but thoroughly dry - i.e., not a combustion hazard, as everything dries flat before ever being folded up in this way. Watch the folds!! Don't let an oily cloth sit crumpled in a way that its heat gets trapped. I've seen, a long long time ago, one of my rags smoking as it sat in a bag of trash, maybe not remembering what I'd heard Marshall Arisman tell of the fire that wiped out his studio when he was younger (but he used/uses really oily rags). So make sure wet rags are lying flat before leaving the room for any length of time - it won't take long for a fire.

But, anyway, this is a thing my wife will point to saying, "That's nasty":
paint blobs

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Small log #2

small log #2
10/31: Small log #2, oil on canvas panel, 7x3.5 in.

Different view of same log (and I took more than a few liberties with the shape, as I did yesterday too). I like it but I probably could have pushed some of the dark purple more in the bark, towards the middle, and done more dry brushwork throughout. This ended up being about two hours.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Small log / a Middle English poem

small log
10/30: Small log, oil on canvas panel, 3.5x7 in.

I found this perfect little log and had to do something with it. There was a lot of dragging of paint in the beginning because I started when the underpainting was still a bit sticky, but I liked that. It was about an hour and a half, and overall it feels good to me.

Old English word of the day:

wudu [wŭd'-ŭ]: wood.
I wish some of my previous pieces were this loose, and I like the colors a lot. I'm starting to really like the blue-green that comes from lightening the weird Prussian blue/oxide red mix, as it has a watery and almost mystical feel to it. This makes me think of a fish in water, which brought to mind this Middle English poem I'd read:

Foweles in þe frith,
   þe fisses in þe flod,
   and I mon waxe wod.
Mulch sorw I walke with
   for beste of bon and blod.

Birds in the forest,
   fishes in the sea,
   and I must grow mad.
Much sorrow I walk with
   for best of bone and blood.

This is an ambiguous but incredible little poem, very personal no matter what genre you believe it belongs to. I don't know anything really about Middle English so I'm unable to elaborate on the large amount of material already written about it. Leaving aside the expert discussions I've found on rhyme, rhythm etc., and how it all comes together to create such emotional impact in a few lines, here is what I've digested.

The shift from a picture of harmony in the world to something personally troubling comes on the word wod - which if it means "wood" could continue the pattern of the first two lines, but which in this context apparently means "mad." I assume that these two meanings of wod were pronounced differently (either with a short or long vowel, none of which are ever indicated), so if there is a play on words it is a subtler one. But the real ambiguity of the poem lies in what was originally meant by beste, and therefore the source of the sorrow:

(1) To be a "beast" of bone and blood means to experience sorrow like the aforementioned animals of the sea and sky, as creatures of flesh; or perhaps the sorrow comes from simply being alive after original sin (everything being written in a Christian context).
(2) Or, being human, the "best" of bone and blood, means ironically to be the creature capable of actually knowing sorrow (and becoming mad), separate from the rest of nature. There would be no sorrow if he were a fish in the sea.
(3) It has also been suggested that this is just one of a large number of religious poems, the "best" signifying Christ - because Christ suffered, the poet sorrows; and in addition to carrying the weight of original sin, the poet knows what is expected of him in this life. Furthermore, this could be an echo of a verse in Matthew and Luke: "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
(4) Perhaps the most widely held belief is that this poem is of the courtly love tradition and that the "best of bone and blood" is simply the woman for whom the poet yearns.

It's for every reader to decide, but I prefer (2) or perhaps (3).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hubbard squash

Hubbard squash
10/29: Hubbard squash, oil on canvas panel. approx. 12x9 in.

I began using Venice turpentine for the first time the other day on this piece. The honey-like thickness is like some of the stickier stand oil mediums I've made, but unlike anything with oil it dries quickly and I found myself better able to layer and blend when I wanted. It smells wonderful too. And it's relaxing to me having something of this thickness along with Galkyd Lite and plain oil there in front of me to choose from (sometimes I dip into all three), and somehow I've been using turpentine less.

Idiot that I am, I felt I'd read enough about it in the books and went immediately to grab what's generally agreed to be the "finest" brand (and in the larger, costlier size), only then to find all sorts of blog/forum posts online (here's one) about getting the same stuff for ridiculously cheap in a can at an equestrian shop. It's used on horses' hooves or something....

Monday, October 29, 2007

Work in progress

in progress...

I painted for only an hour, after dozing off in front of the TV for a good while. One might ask, why bother if only an hour, when one has to stop and start again at a later time? But a short amount of time is better than nothing. In an hour a lot can be done to build on the work of the previous night, and it's not enough time to ruin a painting.