Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Tracks. The creek bed runs along the fields out behind the house. Frozen in the winter, it gives up some of what happens when we aren't out there. I step out on the culvert nearly every day while walking the dogs. Watching the creek flow by three seasons of the year, seeing the ever changing tracks of unseen neighbors during winter.

I am finally settling into a productive working rhythm between the Small Work and my larger pieces. I just finished the bear project, and I am trying to do a little more with it before I show it here next week.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

- Martin Luther King

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Veil of Light

Red Barn, Golden Light, 16 x 20 inches, oil on linen.

As we drove home from my folks place last fall, we went past this barn in the beautiful light of a fall evening. I loved the light peaking through the partially opened door on the backside, and the overall peaceful feeling of the place. A one minute sketch and we were gone.

The next week at the studio, I roughed out what I remembered, and started painting. Layer over layer over the next several days. But I had several pieces going, trying to get finished up for an upcoming show, and I lost focus. At some point I set the piece aside, not quite finished. Over the next couple months, I pulled the painting out several times, set it on the easel to work on it.............. and left it alone. Something wasn't quite where I wanted it, but I kept mining my memories, trying to remember what it was I had seen. It wasn't holding together. Finally, I set it aside, halfway to the burn pile.

How many times do we have to learn the same lesson? A painting is a painting, not the "thing," the subject of the painting. Color, form, value, design, surface, line - the elements of the image relate amongst themselves first and foremost. That they combine to represent the subject is secondary, or possibly irrelevant. I think the scene may have been too strong in my mind, tied to the last visit of the year with my folks, Darby and the kids. The memory may have been too loaded.

Or, I am one of the worlds truly sloooooooow studies. Anyway, I was working on several of the Small Works pieces this week, and as I scumbled a glaze of gold over a small piece, the barn painting popped into my head. I think I've been subconsciously puzzling over the piece all along. And there was my answer. Years ago, while apprenticing to Richard Beale, he had taught me the importance of what he referred to as a Mother Wash, a single wash of color, layered over the entire painting, tying things together with a unifying tone. Robert Genn frequently employs a similar idea in many of his pieces, and refers to it often in his weekly newsletter.

The painting needed a unifying tone, and I pulled out the painting and laid a semi-transparent, sorta scumbled, gradation of gold over much of the image. Essentially a golden veil settled over the landscape, tying all the separate elements of the piece together in a wash of warm light.

And I had another reason to be grateful to Richard Beale, for passing on many lessons I may not have been ready to hear at the time, but somehow absorbed. He was instrumental in helping to set me on the path to what I do today, and I still use much of what I learned from him. At least the stuff that I remember.

And he was patient with my slow study.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sunset, moonrise.

4:35 on the muck, sun nearly down.

A meeting and running errands today. One of those days that you accomplish a lot, and feel like you've gotten nothing done. I finally got home and thought about diving into work.

Tracking Finn. At nearly 14, Molly doesn't like the deep snow anymore, and Finn is less than bold without her big sister.

But I can always work. After a day of freezing rain, we got a good snow last night. I went skiing with Finn.

5:15 and the moon is already high above in the eastern sky. Days are noticeably longer.

Friday, January 2, 2009

On again, off again. It's winter now.

Finn in the woods, out for a ski with Darby and me.

The holidays are winding down, a new year beginning. I'm not making any big resolutions this year, but I am really excited about the way things are going. The Small Works have really gotten off to a good start, and I have already found an unexpected benefit. I have struggled for years to paint the season I am in, normally running weeks to months behind, painting summer in winter, fall in spring. Not getting a chance to paint the things I see every day.

But the small paintings move along, not taking weeks or months to finish. I have several small pieces, that will finish in the next few days or so, of the weather we have enjoyed during our two bursts of winter. And as Darby and I went to the Yard Of Ale this evening to celebrate the new year, we drove through a stunningly beautiful scene of softly falling snow in the last light of day. Not an image meant to be a small painting. And with all the small winter scenes I am working on, my mind is there already. I'm stretching a canvas next week. A big one.