Wednesday, December 23, 2009

eventually's a myth, just do It

my newest mantra, "eventually's a myth, just do It." Thanks Ellie, you got me out of my procrastination mode/fear of ??? and back into the studio,... although now the laundry is piling up again.

untitled so far
20"x10" oil

Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

work in-progress Oil 30"x40"

Today is once again in the negative wind-chill so I'm not plein air painting. Last year I decided it had to be at least 20 degrees for me to plein air paint. Actually, I'm having so much fun in my studio and at the Palette and Chisel Fine Art, painting in Chicago winter isn't as tempting as it has been in the past few years. Although I do love a cold gray day were the air is so chilled it looks almost silver. Now that's a good winter plein air day for me.
This painting is something I'm almost finished with in my studio. My source is part of a plein air study I did this fall and lots of imagination on my part. I think I'm too old to try to climb trees but this would have been a perfect one if I was ten.
Yesterday someone said to me that there are so few really great and inspiring artists. I have to emphatically disagree. I think we live in a time where there are so many wonderful and extremely talented living (and past)artists. The following is just some of my favorites -
David Leffel
Henri Fantin-Latour
Scott Tallman Powers
Clayton Beck
Karen Phipps
John Singer Sargent
Jeff Legg
I like these artists because they just are not excellent with the mechanics of paint but their paintings move me and show much more than a copy of life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's minus 20 degrees windchill so why am I posting a summer lighthouse scene??? It's because I love being holed up in my studio with the sounds of the winter wind and sleet hitting my window. It's so nice and cozy in my studio. As soon as I can, I hope to be back outside painting the silvery winter air but for now, I'm posting something I tried to repaint from a smaller plein air study.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Brave Heart" 40"x30" oil

My daughter's passion is her love of horses and writing (visit her blog, So this painting is for her. She loves this horse called Brave Heart. I think he's quite awful as he has thrown her quite fiercely a few time, once destroying her helmet. But she loves him so what's a mother to do, ...besides move her to a different riding school which yes, I confess I did.

Friday, December 04, 2009

"Hero's at Zero's" 14"x11" oil

Trying to capture a teenage in paint, from life, is like trying to paint a toddler. They are never still even while watching t.v. But just like sketching with charcoal I find it really rewarding to sketch in oils, although it's hit or miss if the sketch becomes worth saving. Here's another in my blop series.
December 5 from 2-7. If you're near Chicago, come to the Beverly Arts Center for a one day art sale/fundraiser. Karen Phipps and I will be their with paintings as well as painting plein air near or inside the center.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Transmitted Light 12"x12" oil on linen

Now that Thanksgiving is over and thanks to my sweet mother-in-law, I've an extra 5 lbs to shed due to her amazing six homemade pies,... it is time to get back into the studio. I'm painting for a three person show which opens 2010 so my postings will be limited until I can finish a few large-scale paintings. But here is what I originally set up as a fabric study but once again realized that it's really all about value. This piece was extra tricky for me as the light flowed through the fabric in many areas as well as picked up various subtle tones from the back and foreground. I used a palette knife for most of the time but grabbed a sable brush in the end to calm down some strokes in the shadow. I think I could have used several more hours to answer more questions but I decided to stop with this one and be happy with what I learned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Karen!!!!

Happy Birthday to you,...
Karen, Hope you had a great day and an even better year!
I was intrigue to try to paint the thing we don't bother to see and pull out the interesting. I think I should have added cars in the background to complete the statement but I was having fun with the weeds and track. I forgot about the cars until I looked at this the next day.
Palette knife with oils on linen mounted on museum board. 8x10.
The Palette and Chisel Art Academy and Gallery will host it's annual studio clean out sale tomorrow (Saturday Nov. 21 11am-4pm). All art is $300. and less. Karen Phipps and I both have some paintings in this one day show. It's a fun salon style exhibition and a nice fundraiser for one of America's oldest non-profit art organizations.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

9"x12" oil on linen mounted on hardboard

I set up this still life with the opposite intent of the previous posting. I used dramatic lighting with definite shadow and lit areas and placed most of my objects in the light except for one apple. Also, after painting several still lifes with minimal color and in the lighter end of the gray scale, I was after a louder and more dramatic idea. Besides using the contrast of shadow and light to create my "loud-er" still life, I thought if I placed color notes which sit close together on the color wheel I'd get more zing, a "hey look at me," which is why I used my favorite piece of copper with the red delicious apples. Placing the green grapes (so hard to paint) behind was my neutral and transition into the background space.
Still looking at David Leffel, Jeff Legg, Henri Fantin-Latour, and my new addition this week - Morandi. Teaching gets me back into still life painting because it's a great way to study all those juicy art issues in the comfort of my studio. But I am missing the great outdoors particularly since we're now blanketed in heavy gray skies. Once I finish painting for my January show I'll be back to plein air painting.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

16"x20" oil

Playing around with atypical lighting for me. This still life was mostly in light using lighter fabric. I'm not sure if I'm finished because I'm wondering if I compressed the values particularly in the background and tabletop drop, would it make a stronger statement??? I've been re-reading David Leffel and Gregg Kreutz books as well as looking at Henri Fantin-Latour still lifes. From them, I'm guessing the answer is "yes."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

"Blaze" 48"x36" Oil on Linen

"Blaze" is the latest in this on-going series inspired by my neighbors Sugar Maples. I'm playing with abstraction and expressionism and realism and color and edges, all the usual stuff on my list of important art issues. But this series is large scale (large for me anyways) and the work is all palette knife. I can't quite get that intense redorangeyellowish hue found on this amazing tree. I like the physical exertion necessary when working large. It's a nice change from my 6x8s.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Peonys in Buds

"Peonys in Buds"
oil on linen

Over the weekend I was finishing several different still lifes and also repairing this painting which I liked but not quite, know what I mean? I really wanted the peonys to pop and didn't feel they were as strong in the original painting as they could be. So what I decided to do was compress the value in the background as well as go a bit darker and cooler. Also I was more decisive with the lighting on the surface which the vase sits. Now I'm happy with it. Which version do you prefer?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

"Colors From the Sideboard" 11"x14"

I have several paintings halfway completed and I'm trying not to start anything new. But looking at so much wonderful art creates more ideas which I throw quickly down on canvas in hopes to complete later. Now I'm trying to slow down and smell the roses and enjoy the journey of discovery with paint. For the first time ever, I'm investigating higher keyed still life arrangements. I'm defining high-key as a narrow range of values in the higher end of the value scale.

After starting this still life I realized it really didn't fully stay with my objective which is why I set up another and another to push to high-key paintings. I'll hopefully soon finish those and post them as well. The value variation in my background is very minimal and subtle. This is also new to me but I thought worked well to pop the foreground objects.

A very challenging element was textures. I had to scrape away the porcelain many times because I wanted a distinctly different feel of smooth compared to the other objects as well as I wanted the highlights on the porcelain to cause the most attention. This is an issue I'll have to address again and hope for better success in another painting. I've taken this piece as far as I'm able.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"The Soloist" 24"x24" oil on linen

Back in September 21 I posted some of the things I think about while painting. Actually, I wrote that around my studio I have these yellow post-ums with reminders. Since then some of you have shared yours with me which has been so great and hope more of you will do so as well. So here are a few more of mine little notes. Many are not original ideas but taken from art books and artists.
*SIMPLIFY (I tend to noodle and dabble)
*create simple flat masses
*shadows first, they hold down the lights
*background, is used to create the halftones
*a brush stroke has a beginning and an end

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Jazz Note in the Limelight"

About two years ago I started a series of expressively free flowing figure paintings. Posted today is from my series called "Jazz Note." This series is both plein air and studio paintings. They began because of my interest in the effect of artificial and colored lights.
This painting was created in my studio from one of my favorite models. She has a vivacious personality and a willow thin pixie like figure. She loves to bring a variety of costumes and "interesting" music for posing. I let her have free-rein once I turn on the spotlight(s). Her body language language reminds me of musical notes on a page.
"Jazz Note in the Limelight" oil on linen $995.(framed) will be shown at City Art Gallery, NC.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Tea with Lemon"

Lately I've retreated into my studio more than plein air painting because I've been thinking about, in paint as well as in my head, about some of my notes posted around my studio. One thing milling about is what makes art good. There are so many many different ideas on this subject I would love to hear your thoughts.

I find still life's a great opportunity to pursue some of these qualities which define art for me in undisturbed solitude. For this set up, I was really trying to push creating form from shadow and light but also some of the impressionists ideas of color patches. (6"x12" oil on linen)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Pub Stop" 8"x6" oil painting

This is one of my favorite pub corners in Bucktown because it looks more like an old fashion corner shop. Maybe it was at one point in time. Can you believe I forgot to put in the type on the front sign?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

oil sketch

12"x9" Oil on linen mounted on hardboard
This is an oil sketch I did for my class to demonstrate a way to begin using a more alla prima method. I didn't intend on finishing it but now that I see it posted I think I will. I'd like to play up the contrast between the onion skin and the smooth metal surface.
Today is the opening for the Palos Plein Air exhibition at the McCord Gallery in Palos Heights, IL. So if you're in the area, hope you can stop by - They will be showing three of my plein air paintings painted in different Palos forest preserves.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Thing Finding"

So maybe I can't blame it on the canvas totally. I think in the end besides fighting the cotton duck (see post Oct. 10. 09) my design a.k.a concept, a.k.a composition wasn't strong enough. No problem, back to the drawing board or rather, easel.
16"x20" oil on horrible to paint on acrylic primed cotton duck

"Adornments 2009" exhibition and sale

20"x16" oil on gallery-wrapped linen
10"x20" oil on gallery-wrapped linen
8"x8" oil on gallery-wrapped linen

"Adornments 2009" is an exhibition of diverse original arts. The opening is this Friday night in downtown Hinsdale. If you're in the neighborhood I hope you can pop by. These are three paintings which I have hanging for the show at a reduced rate since the proceeds support the Hinsdale Art Center.
I have recently started teaching at this art center and am absolutely loving my time there. The staff is supportive, knowledgeable, and so friendly.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Andersonville Arts

Friday night the Plein Air Painters of Chicago had an opening with over 35 paintings of Andersonville, a Chicago neighborhood. The Edgewater Historical Society asked our plein air group to show our paintings. This unique neighborhood was originally mostly Swedish. I have participated in this exhibition for the past few years and yet continually make paintings at this particular intersection. I find each corner so unique in nature and story so that it's been a constant source of information. To date, I've made six paintings of this area and have discovered I'm not yet finished. Today I'm showing just a few of my thoughts and impressions of my corner. Each painting is 12"x9" Oil on Linen and is for sale. Proceeds go to support the Edgewater Historical Society.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

blame it on the canvas

I've been working on four larger still lifes (16x20) and a large studio landscape (60x50.) It would probably have been more prudent had I finished one thought before beginning another but after seeing Michael Van Zeyl demonstrate several different block-in methods I just had to try them all, at once it seems. Today I'm showing two in progress. The first is almost finished. The one with the horse should be done but I'm faulting the canvas. Normally I paint on Claussens #13 double oil primed linen which I love. The paint flows off the brush with a nice light touch and lays where and how you want it too. The piece with the red horse is on cotton duck. YUCK, YUCK, YUCK!!! I felt like I was painting on blacktop. Like a stubborn child I fought with it all day. I think with the effort I spent trying to make this canvas respond the way I expect from Claussens, I could have nearly finished the painting.

on another topic,
The ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, MI was a wonderful and fun experience. Apparently 17,000 artists entered with 1100 acceptances. The art and styles and how art is defined varied greatly from tradition figure paintings, landscapes, photography, sculpture etc to very funky - bike converted into a port -0-potty. All attendees can vote on their favorite piece. The openings were very well attended. I stood near my painting for five hours constantly meeting and greeting people. I would definitely like to be part of this exhibition again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Black Plums"

I have post-ums all over my studio with scribbled reminders. Thought I'd share a few of my favorites. Most are from various art teachers and art friends from the past ten years.
*Paint the light and shadow
*See it, mix it, put it down
*Color temperature is relative to other colors
*A painting always has movement, find it
*Open edges continue, hard edges stop
*Simplify everything into shapes and value
*step back and observe
*fewer values=greater impact
There's so much to think about when your painting. It's nice getting lost in all that.
8"x8" oil on gallery-wrapped linen

Sunday, September 20, 2009

another animal painting

If the heading doesn't make sense to you, "another animal painting," please read yesterday's blog.

Last night I jumped outside to tackle The Beast, cityscape's once again. Wow, what a totally different feel you get painting in the dark. The dark rather insulates you from the craziness and tones down the city clatter. I wish I had more time to resolve more issues in this piece but mostly I just wanted to blop in some temperature notes. Now I can't wait to get back outside and do more night paintings. (used a book lite to illuminate my canvas and palette.) 12"x9" oil on linen

"Filtered Lights"
Oil on Linen
Here's my shameless plug for the art competition which opens on Wed. It's quite unique in that it is a peoples choice award only art competition. So please, go to the website (under search type my name or title of my painting) or openings and look for my painting. I'll be in Grand Rapids, MI this coming weekend to do the meet and greet thing.
This painting was created in my studio and is the direct result from numerous plein air paintings of my neighborhood's sugar maples. I used a bakers spatula and palette knife.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A different kind of animal

This morning was my second attempt to paint in a section of Bucktown called six corners. This is the loudest place I've ever tried to paint. I can not express strongly enough just how loud painting at this intersection. I spent half the time with my fingers in my ears because the sirens combined with motor vehicles, subway and general hustle of a day sounds hurt my head. After a second attempt, I realize this animal had me and I didn't care. Time to pack up and find another location to paint. Someday I'll be back but not until I'm better equip to mentally and artistically handle "the animal."

p.s. I called it "the animal" because Karen Phipps best put her finger on the situation. We were discussing what went wrong and what went right and why it was a tough experience. Wisely she said, "Cityscapes are a different animal."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

8"x8" untitled oil painting

After watching Michael Van Zeyl demonstrate four different still life block-in ideas I was excited to make a new still life painting myself. Michael is an amazing artist and a wonderful teacher. I recommend that you check out his art.
Painting in my studio is such a different experience from plein air painting. There are no distracting city sounds or people stopping to admire or harass you as you paint. But I work from life and today used natural light so I still had that pressure of a limited amount of time to paint. My focus was on the shadow and light, so hard and so challenging.
I think this will be one for the "Adornments Show", a fundraiser for the Hinsdale Art Center in Illinois.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Pond Gazing" (Caldwell Lily Pond, Chicago)

Caldwell Lily Pond is another favorite retreats of mine, not just for painting but for day dreaming too. The textures in this smaller city lily garden always change and the sounds of the city itself is greatly muffled by the thick grasses, shrubs and trees. So this morning I headed here to paint and also, to embarrass myself. I'd been painting about an hour totally focused on my work and enjoying the secluded little nuck I had planted my easel when I heard a group of people approaching, loudly. It was so out of place because people always are so quiet when wandering through these paths. Of course they parked themselves as close to me as possible all the while talking excitedly. Before I knew or even thought about it I "shhhhed" them all in this awful snake-like sound. I was immediately ashamed and apologetic but one can't take back a shhhh. It's just out there. Fortunately after a quiet moment they started to laugh and apologise back and so, all ended well. But I'm still really embarrassed that I did that. They were just so happy and excited to be there together in this beautiful place.
As for the painting, the lily pads are almost all gone. Some remain in almost a skeleton form floating on the surface. But I felt the colors were more varied than in the summer when the lily pads are dark greens and cover the water almost totally. This one is larger, 8"x10." Also painted on oil primed linen mounted on board and created with a palette knife.
Anyone else willing to share an embarrassing plein air moment???

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Tranquillity" (Savanna Oaks Forest Preserve)

Yesterday morning I had planned on returning to the city to finish a street scene but I woke to a beautiful misty fog. So I switched gears mentally and ran to a neighboring forest preserve. I was anxious the fog would burn away before I had a chance to paint. Well, the whole experience was soothing to the soul. I didn't see anyone or hear any traffic and even though the fog was quickly disappearing, within the woods it lay heavy enough for me to paint.
So I like this painting but maybe because I so enjoyed the whole process. I like it because I feel I captured a tranquil mystery that is present with mist as well as a sense of depth to draw you into the painting. 6"x8" oil on linen mounted on board. Once again painted with my favorite palette knife. ($145.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Riverside Ramblings"

Today I returned with a friend and fellow plein air artist to one of my favorite paint sites. I've been painting this same area for a couple of years through it's various seasons and changes and many moods. Everytime I come here, it's different and new. It's been interesting to look at paintings from a few years ago and compare them to my present works. I see a drastic change in how I'm explaining/painting the scene. I feel I'm doing less copying what's in front of me and more personal interpretation. Also, I'm really curious about painting something that looks almost like a "nothing" but hopefully the painting will tell the story.
6"x8" oil on linen mounted on archival museum board. ($145. framed)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

oil sketch (8"x10")

I love teaching and today was the first day of classes. I'm teaching at a new place with mostly new faces, so fun. We made a huge mess, took lots of chances, and made mistakes which resulted in the creation of some really excellent pieces. By the time for my second class I was out of canvases for their demo. So I took a canvas which I intended to plein air paint on tomorrow. I love plein air painting on top of an old palette knife painting because the paint sticks so well. The surface is really texturally which I think at times is quite fun for a palette knife landscape. I never used such a "textural" surface for a still life but since as artists we're visual learners I like to do mini demos as I teach. Here is the result. Maybe the edges are to hard???

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

sketching and playing with oil paints

I started painting three fishing buddies on a dock because their reflections were beautiful. Unfortunately shortly after I started they packed up and left for the day. I took this as a sign to focus on just sketching some ideas and not worry about going for a full finish. My premise was to focus on the abstract and simple shapes. But of course I couldn't resist getting fussy at the end. I really loved painting today despite the heat and humidity. I know I'm blessed to have such a supportive and encouraging family.

Friday, September 04, 2009

"Meadow in the Morning"

I'd like to recommend everyone to check out I won't say more you'll know why once you go there.

For some reason I wasn't able to finish this piece. I think it's because I didn't have a good start. But I really love this area in the woods, so much to paint. I plan on returning soon to try try again. I could kick myself for goof up my start. I firmly believe if the start; design/compostition, establishing the values, etc, is poor, the finish will never be very strong. So after struggling on it I just decided to scrap it away and try again later.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Quebec, Canada

We had a wonderful family trip exploring Quebec and the surrounding area. I most enjoyed exploring their beautiful countryside. The people were probably the warmest I've met on a trip. So much so I now want to learn French. One very new and different painting experience I had in Quebec city was when I decided to join one of their plein air events. I set up with several others in the old part of the city but saw that everyone was painting from a photo or copying a painting they had already painted. Since I don't speak a word of French I had no idea why this was happening. I was the only one painting the street scene. Anyone out there able to shed some light on this???
The above oil paintings are a sampling of some of the plein air pieces I painted and saved. They are 8x6 oil on linen mounted on 8ply museum archival board.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I'm going on another trip back east so this will be my last post until I return home.

Lottie's is a neighborhood bar in Bucktown. Cityscapes create so many questions. It seems to me the longer I study painting the more questions I discover.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Quilt Garden Paint-Out" and McCord Gallery Plein Air Exhibition

"Palos Woodlands" 6"x8" oil on Classens Belgium linen mounted on archival museum board

McCord Gallery is hosting a juried plein air exhibition of anything in the Palos Hills, Palos Park, Palos Heights area. They are surrounded by gorgeous forest preserves so that's where this one was painted. I was very much intrigued by how the warm humid air affected the quality of light and shadow.
I'm going to say it in ink, I'm happy with the balance between representationalism and the abstractness of paint application in this one.

Karen painting at the Quilt Garden Plein Air Paint-Out this past weekend.
The wind was very strong every day we painted and knocked us over a few times. We had all kinds of wild weather except for snow so it was a doubly fun experience. Sycamore Fine Art Gallery did an excellent job of organizing this event and I highly recommend all you plein air painters in the neighborhood to join next summer.

Friday, August 07, 2009

once again,...

I worked on a number of landscapes this week and thought these two sums up my efforts. I realized that I am now using a palette knife almost exclusively and I'm not sure why. And why do I keep carrying all those brushes that aren't getting used???

Karen and I are off again on another plein air competition/show, this time in Indiana. wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"Off The Vine" (Fruit of the Vine series)

I've been so busy enjoying plein air painting that I haven't worked in my studio in over a month. But here is my first still life of the summer. I love these elongated horizontal formates and red grapes are one of my favorite challenges. Just as with the plein air pieces, I'm trying to find the right balance (for me) between abstract expressionism and classical realism. Hopefully I didn't make the grapes which are in the light too sparkly.
This palette knife oil painting is 10"x20" on gallery-wrapped oil prime linen, $995.

P.S. One of my large oil paintings was selected for the show called "ArtPrize." This international exhibition will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Several different venues will be hosting art work from around the world. The jurors are you, the public. Voting done mostly through Facebook, Twitter, etc with the grand prize of $250,000., wow! Stay tune for more info or go check out their website The show opens mid September 2009.