Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishes for a wonderful New Year.

January Moonlight, 36 x 48 inches, oil on linen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


ar⋅ti⋅fact - a handmade object, as a tool, or the remains of one, as a shard of pottery, characteristic of an earlier time or cultural stage, esp. such an object found at an archaeological excavation.

Molly's footprint. She's our 70 lb. lab/hound princess.

I don't know when I first made a cast- maybe a project in Cub Scouts, maybe in school. But the process always fascinated me, and I've made a few over the years.

A wolf track, the cast made along the Ivishak river several years ago.

A lot of people have the impression that wolves are like big dogs, like 100 lb. German Shepherd. I did, til my son and I saw them in Yellowstone a few summers back. They are like shepherds, just way bigger. Like a shepherd and a half. The track is almost 4 inches wide. Measure your hand. Wilderness makes you feel small. Vulnerable. I like to think it puts me in my place.

While I was in Alaska, I saw several grizzly tracks, and each time, my hair was on end, a queasy stomach. Lots of tracks, but none sharp enough to cast. Yes, I did have enough plaster, despite the weight limit on the bush plane. Not so many clean clothes, but I had the plaster. Just no sharp, well defined tracks.

The Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. Between here and the Hayden Valley, tough to say which is my favorite place in the park. Last year I fished the Lamar River too late into the evening. Til dark. The Lamar Valley, home to wolves, black bear and grizzlies.

I tried to be very quiet back to the van. A walk on wobbly legs, a sinking feeling in my stomach. Turned out fine.

But when I opened a package the other day, in the warm, safe confines of my studio, the sinking feeling was there instantly. I didn't make the cast, but I guess as a post-modernist, I'll appropriate it.

What's with the casts?

It's taken me a while to get here, I don't want to spill it all in one post.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Walking this morning, with Darby and the girls. Things were frozen when we left the house, thawing by the time we got home. Slow start to the winter.

Monday, December 21, 2009

If you can't do it well......

LinkWyoming Barn, 5 x 7 inches, oil on panel, currently available for bid by clicking here.

I love small paintings. I love looking at the smaller work of other artists, and I love doing work in a small format. There is a gem-like quality to to small paintings, whether seen across the expanse of a museum hall, or tucked in a nook of a home. As you approach a small piece, it is almost as if the frame becomes a window into another reality.

I don't care much for photo-realism- at some point it seems to me to become more about rendering than anything else. I want that window to reveal the simplification and abbreviation of form that I find compelling, the way a painter interprets and transforms reality into a 2 dimensional plane.

I started posting on this blog months ago, in hopes of helping me process through some changes I felt were coming in my work. Well, I'm a slow processor, but I think I'm there- at the beginning of a new stage in the evolution of my work.

Learning, for me, comes from failure. Mistakes. Near misses, blunders, close-calls. Building a body of intuitive knowledge on which to make the infinite number of decisions required over the development of a painting. I have done hundreds of paintings over the years, slowly building the skill set to do.........what?

It's been months of stewing, but things are coming together, and it has come down to the same two questions I continually face.

1- Why?

Second things first. Once I realized the why (I'll get to that in the next few posts), I knew I needed to work on the how. The way I work has evolved over the years. As a student, I wanted to be the next incarnation of Winslow Homer, of John Singer Sargent. The masters of painterly realism, of the spectacular brush-stroke. After may years as a student, trying to work in a style emulating one, then the other, my work evolved off in different direction. When I started working as an illustrator, I reinvented myself every time I turned around. Restlessness. Boredom. I said so at the time, but it was more a matter of trying to find the medium that matched me. I am not the painter of the perfect brush-stroke.

Squirting (kayaking) on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Yes, an older picture. I've been painting too much, not paddling enough. Sound like I need to make a New Year's resolution.

It took me a long time to realize, that I am most successful when I approach my work that way I approach life. A give and take, A conversation. And maybe, a sport. I have long joked that painting is centerfield for a guy who blew his knee in high school. But the truth is I would give up every baseball game I ever played to have started paddling whitewater sooner. No river is ever the same one day to the next. Water levels change, weather changes, stream banks and stream beds move and shift the current, and you have to react to each and every change. Rain, snowmelt, drought. Act and react. The same way I've come to paint. The only consistency is the inconsistency.

Small formats allow a painter to get work done more quickly- there just isn't as much work to do, as much surface to cover. And because more work is getting done, more mistakes are made, and more can be learned. But at some point, for whatever reason, you want to work bigger. And the techniques you've learned painting small can help you paint in a larger format, to a degree. But larger formats present their own problems.

Red Roof, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches.

It is easy to see an increase in scale as an opportunity to include more detail, but for me, that dodges the real challenge of painting larger, which is to maintain the simplicity found in the smaller format. To enlarge the textures that make up the surface, while maintaining the integrity of the representational image. So, back to what I am after in a painting. Simplification and abbreviation of form. Color. Value. Surface quality. Up to a point this is relatively straight forward. Early on I would make the mistake of picking the wrong tool for the job, a too small brush making too small marks, resulting in a fussy, overworked surface. When you stop is as important as where you start. And you need the right tools to get there.

Detail of Red Roof.

I think of the process of painting as laying veils of color over the canvas. Each veil is of different hue and value, broken-surfaced, revealing the layers beneath, eventually arriving at the final image. Paint is put down, and just as often removed. The surface texture is not something I try to describe verbally, or preconceive, but intuitively arrive at, hopefully at the same moment the image is finished.

But the other part of this is the why- not the why I paint this way, but the why I paint at all. And that lead me to want to work bigger yet. Previously I only occasionally went beyond 36 x 48 inches. This summer that started seeming restrictive. But so was my technique.

There is a reason houses are painted with brushes- a brush can make a nice, smooth surface. But that's not what I want. I'm after that broken veil. I tried a variety of brushes, of different sizes, and kept ending up with that fussy overworked surface. Painting knives were even worse.


And then in June, scrambling to finish a couple pieces to take with me to Cherry Creek, something happened. The tools evolved. And not the way I expected. Years ago, I started as a watercolorist- the easiest way in the world to become a brush junkie. I love good brushes, sables and hog bristles, mostly filberts for my oil painting work. Until in frustration I folded up a rag, and made a very crude brush of sorts, and found the surface I was after.

Yeah, so big deal. A wadded up rag. But the surfaces I am getting with the rag-brushes is the broken veil I am after, in a much larger format.

And the quote that started this off- If you can't do it well, do it big. The often repeated cynical critique

I'd like to do both. Big, real big. Real well. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Website update

Bright Morning Sun, 7 x 9 inches, oil on panel.

White Barn, Evening Sun, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel

Red Roof, Bright Morning, 8 x 10 inches, oil on panel.

Showing Her Age, 10 x 15 inches, oil on panel.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Settling in.

This is always the toughest stretch of my working life. Getting back to the habit and structure of working, of labor. Oh sure, art is about inspiration, muses, fun.... all the stereotypical things that art is about. But it's mostly about work. Showing up, every day. After the disruption of the show season, just settling back into regular habits is tough enough, but this year I have the added distraction of an upcoming show at SUNY Geneseo. I plan to try and get my landscape work to unify in a new direction. Well, not so much new, as a fuller manifestation of the ideas that have been drumming around in my head, slowly evolving towards what I hope is a bigger, more unified idea, expressing the relationship we have, or maybe had, with the land. The land we live in, on, around. Home.

That may not sound like much, but it's making my head hurt. Most all the things I have been interested in over my life to date seem to be coming together. Now I want to see if I can make something more from them. And I'm feeling the pressure of that desire.

So what to do? I went fishing yesterday. Skunked, but a great day spey casting, getting to know a river that I am not too familiar with. Cold drizzle most of the day. Perfect

Just to cool out. Now back to work.

To get me focused, a little glimpse into a diary of sorts. Yellowstone sketchbooks from the summer.

Hell Roaring Overlook

Lamar Valley in Morning Haze

Lamar Valley Eratics

Slough Creek Eratic

View from Mt. Washburn

Monday, October 26, 2009

Last show of the season.

My friend David Oleski stopped by my booth at the Bethesda Row Art Festival weekend before last. He was having fun with a tiny HD video camera, about the size of an iPod, and I thought it would be fun share what he got.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gison's Barn

Gibson's Barn, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, 25 x 21 inches framed.

I saw my buddy Lexi at the Genesee Valley Hunt Races last weekend. She was giving me some well-deserved grief for not having posted in --well, ages. Her beau Sam was more low key, but confirmed that, yes, I'd been dropping the ball.

I'm going to post again- other than this one- soon. Lots to share and say, but I've hit the end of the season burnout. Last show of the year is in Bethesda this weekend, then a little time to re-charge, and back on the horse.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Some of the larger highlights from Yellowstone this year.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Cathedral, 36 x 36 inches, oil on canvas.

Wow. Been six weeks since I posted. OK, don't go thinking I've been laying around, just watching television. I drove to Denver for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, then flew home for 10 days, then flew back for a show in Jackson, eight days in Yellowstone, then drove to Crested Butte, Colorado for a show, then to Portland, Oregon to fly home again. So any sittin' I was doing was behind the wheel of the Jug.

There was some great fishing, hiking, and visiting with friends and family. And somehow in the middle of that there were some advances in my painting I am really excited about, changes that will enable me to move in a new direction.

So it won't be six weeks before the next post. A couple/week til I'm back on the road for Labor Day. Catching up on my gowin's on.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hay Barn, Winter

Hay Barn in Winter, 44 x 58 inches, oil on canvas.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bright Evening Sky

Bright Evening Sky, 9 x 6 inches, oil on panel.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Adding and Subtracting

Some color added, some removed.

So there I am sitting at a show, and I get to visiting with a friend of mine- we'll call him Dr. D. He's a good friend of my friend and one-of-these-days fishing buddy Dr. Z. Anyway, we're talking about who knows what, and all of a sudden this guy says, HeyMan......areyoufamiliarwithMondrian???Nothisgridstuffbuthisearlywork ........beforehecameupwiththegrids .....youknowwhatImean? No.Youshouldlookhimup'scoolit'scool. Hedidabunchofarchitecturalstuff...strongcolors...Ithinkyou'dlikeit ..mmmmmmm...........How'boutTurner?Hiswork,youknowit?

I said, Yes, I love Turner's work.


And I said, Yes, that is one thing I think I have in common with Turner's work. I think it was Turner that worked with meglip medium. He would often put a blob of medium on the canvas and float colors into it, and mix them in that fluid surface. I often work that way, but then I'll go in and take paint off the surface. I think what you remove is just as important as what you ad.

We were all quiet for a minute, and then the guy said, Cool.......loveyourworkmanthecolorrocks. And he was gone.

Dr.D and I were quiet for a minute and then he said, So who was that?

I have no idea.


Yeah, no idea.

And D. says, You said something I thought was interesting. That what you remove is just as important as what you ad. Do you know how a hand is formed, a baby's hand? (Keep in mind this is me paraphrasing/relaying what the Doc said, and my version should in no way be mistaken as a verbatim take on what he said, on your med-school neonatalogy final, or rephrased into a question for your final Jeopardy answer.) From the body of the infant a bud emerges and extends to form an arm, and then a small paddle or fin like appendage on the end. And then the cells between the the fingers die away, and the fingers are left. A bud forms on the front of the head, and the cells that fill the nostril cavities die away, and the nose is left.

What is removed is just as important as what is added.

Damn. Why didn't I have Dr. D. for biology class. I might have ended up as Dr. R?

Of course, I'm pretty happy as R the artist.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring in the north

Just home from a few days in the Adirondacks. I'll get back to work, then fill in a bit more on my trip over the next week or so.

It was just what I needed to reconnect with myself, after being set adrift by the demands of April 15th.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

River in Evening Drizzle, 4 x 6 inches, oil on panel.

To stick your hands into the river is to feel the cords that bind the earth together in one piece.

- Barry Lopez

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring, maybe.

So I headed to Florida figuring winter was about through with us. When I got home I was lulled into complacency with a few warm days, one of which I went fishing. And then winter came back again. We had a few cold snowy days, much to Molly and Finn's delight, but I am really ready for the season to change.

Hendricksons should be hatching in a week or so. And the trout season really gets started.

Evening in Spring, 16 x 20 inches, oil on linen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Evening Glow

Evening Glow, 10 x 15 inches, oil on panel. Private collection.

Another from the ongoing river series.

I've had to drop back to three paintings per week with the Small Work project. Getting ready for the first show of the season, the Winter Park Side Walk Art Festival, has me buried under a couple dozen partially finished pieces. I'm hoping to finish most of them, but running short of time, trying to figure out how to best spend my time.

Managing work flow. Not really the sort of thing a person thinks about when they think of a working artist, but an important part of the job. I can't finish all of them before the show, so which will help present the strongest body of work?

And I'll finish the rest as soon as I'm home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Evolution of a bear.

I am not a wildlife artist. So I've been saying for 25 years. And I'm not, unless I am. A somewhat atypical piece for me, a point along my own evolutionary path.

It is the memory of things I see and experience that I am most interested in. I have had an idea floating around in my head for a while now, about how this might be applied to animal imagery. Black Bear is not exactly what I have in mind, but it is a step along the path that I am happy with. Drawing something is one of the most effective ways for me to learn about it, to embed the memory. It is departing from the drawing and making something more than a rendering- that is the struggle.

Evolution is a slowly ongoing process, even on a personal level.

Black Bear, 44 x 40 inches, oil on canvas. Private collection.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dusk on a Northern River

Dusk on a Northern River (Missinaibi), 8 x 12 inches, oil on panel.

My nephew Christopher emailed last night, wanting to know if I had any information on the Missinaibi River. He is thinking about about a summer canoe trip, and thought he remembered that I had paddled it. Wasn't that the mosquito pants trip?, he asked.

Most startling to me was that I had just that day finished painting it.

I spent some time over the last couple weeks rearranging the studio. In my previous studio, a neighbor who spent weeks turning her studio into a lovely clubhouse, said to me, It looks like you walked in the door, dropped the stuff in your hands and started working. I did. And I did the same thing again when I moved out to Kim and Jerry's farm. And even after I rearranged, I'm not sure you could tell, but hopefully the light and layout will be a little better for both painting and printmaking, and tripping over the dogs will be a bit less frequent.

And when I'm rearranging, in addition to blowing all kinds of time reading magazines that I hadn't finished (hey, mostly art magazines- ok, ok, some were fly fishing and paddling, oh and a book or two), I come across unfinished projects. The painting above was one of them. Started quite awhile ago- a couple years- finished yesterday, only a few hours before Christopher emailed.

And yes, it was the mosquito pants trip.