Thursday, March 26, 2015

Art Studio Tour!

Every year there's a studio tour event in town, where people come over and visit artist's workspaces on a brochure map.  Since my studio is a bit off the beaten path, I've decided to make a video, instead. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

An Artist's Resolutions for 2015

 First painting of the year. Brrr! Photo courtesy of Marilynn. :)

Happy 2015, dear friends! I hope it's going well for you so far.

Although I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, I'm one of those people who find it useful to make New Year's resolutions. The secret to keeping them, I've found, is to resolve to do things that are both manageable and specific.  Here's the ones I've made relating to my art:

  • Get out of my comfort zone by exploring at least two new mediums.

  • Improve my observational skills in the field.

  • Become more adept at avian anatomy.

  • Embrace my colorblindness as an asset, not a limitation.

  • Less complaining!

  • Make better use of my studio time by improving workflow and eliminating distractions.

  • Further optimize my outdoor painting gear.

  • Maintain a more regular online presence.

  • Make time to look at art, not just create it. Visit at least three museums.

  • Read ten books related to my subject matter; take notes and make sketches about what I learn.

  • Pass along vital knowledge to other artists, especially those who are young and/or starting out.

  • Engage with artists who are more experienced than myself.

  • Encourage those who are struggling.

  • Be gentle on myself when a painting fails.
      (and lastly...)

  • Review this list at least once a month.

Whew! That's a LOT of resolving.  I'll let you know how it went this time next year.  

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The 2014 "Chasing Light" Art Exhibition

If you've been following my frenzied activity on Facebook and Twitter, you know that the second annual “Chasing Light” exhibition is finally up and running! The opening reception will be this Friday, on December 5th, from 6—9pm, and the art will continue to be on display until Saturday, the 13th.

The show consists of the work of twelve Northern Colorado painters: Jenifer Cline, Larry DeGraff, Ann Dezell, Andrea Gabel, Ken Knox, Victoria Lisi, Margueritte Meier, Scott Ruthven, Will Spear, Linda Temple, Christine M. Torrez, and myself. Amid our varying styles and mediums, our common bond is that we all attempt go on plein air “paint-outs” together at least once a week – wind, rain, or shine:

What sets this show apart is that it's extremely local, in both its artists AND subject matter. Want an original painting of the Armstrong Hotel, the Holiday Twin drive-in theater, Lake Estes, the Poudre River, or the Devil's Backbone? What about irises from a secret garden, or a fox named “Dwight”? It's all there, and more.

In addition to our show, the work of the Rocky Mountain Woodturners will be on display; if you're into finely crafted workmanship, this is also a must-see. 

If you don't make it to the big opening reception on First Friday (6 to 9pm), no worries -- the gallery will remain open on Saturday, December 6th from 12-6pm, and then again on Wednesday the 10th through Saturday the 13th, 12-6pm. (Please note: on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays, the gallery is NOT open.)

I plan to be there on both sets of Saturdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, doing demos and discussing all things artistic.

Can't wait to see you there!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tales of the Tottot

John A. Ruthven and me at SKB

Hi all! Sorry about my extended online hiatus; I was at the Susan K. Black workshop in Wyoming for a week, then on my return was inspired to paint like a madwoman for a week...and then (perhaps due to lack of sleep and the cold, wet weather) I came down with the flu and was down for the count. I think it was my body's way of saying, "HEY! SLOW DOWN!"...and so I did just that.  But now I've got so much to catch up on, in both in the studio and the house, that it's kinda daunting.

The workshop was outstanding; the expertise was top-notch, of course, (John A. Ruthven! James Gurney! Morten E. Solberg! John Seerey-Lester!) but the support and camaraderie is what really made it special.  Just as there are many sub-species of writers i.e., poets, journalists, novelists, screenwriters, etc., there are many sub-species of visual artists, as well; and while one can find a writer or artist in just about every town, it can be difficult to find someone who fits within your "tribe", as it were.  My work doesn't find much of a niche in the Modern/Conceptual/Urban art ecosystem, so it was a joy to be amongst those who get my penchant for researching Victorian watercolors or sketching stuffed birds in museums.

Speaking of birds, here's a few photos of how I put my latest oil painting together.  It's a Ptilinopus roseicapilla or Mariana fruit dove, also known as the tottot.  They used to live all over the island of Guam in the Pacific, but are now quite rare and only found in the Northern Mariana Islands. We happen to have one at the Denver Zoo.  He's so very lovely with his bright eyes and exotic colors. 

The underpainting, done in burnt umber on gessoed hardboard panel.

Eye detail. I can't continue on until I get this right.

Defining the beak and starting the body. 

 Making adjustments to the bird before starting on the background.

I use a bathroom mirror to check lopsidedness and sometimes use the bright lighting for photographing my work.

Sometimes it helps to put a frame on your work to see how it's turning out. 

The final painting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Susan K. Black Foundation and Other Shows

"Tarnished Gold" 4.5 x 4.5 inches, framed watercolor on 140lb cold press paper.

One thing about painting outside all year is that you really notice when the earth is tilting away from the sun. Even before the leaves begin to turn, the light seems more angled, the sky a different depth of blue.  A cool weather front has brought rain to the Front Range, so I'm inside the studio, trying to bring order out of creative chaos.

I've got my work in two shows this month, and a two more coming up.  "Dreams of Crane" and "Morning's Glory" are over at the Lincoln Gallery in Loveland, Colorado, and "Code Blue" and "Tarnished Gold" are in the Artist's Association of Northern Colorado's gallery on Oak St. in Old Town, Fort Collins.

My latest is a piece I recently did for the Susan K. Black Foundation workshop and miniature show up in Dubois (pronounced "DOO-boys") Wyoming.   It's a real honor to be included alongside some of the most talented nature and wildlife artists in the country.  Hopefully some of their knowledge will rub off! I've included the schedule below, for those who might be in the Yellowstone area next week:

Susan Kathleen Black Foundation
                                                   Headwaters Arts & Conference Center
                                                          20 Stalnaker, Dubois, WY

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Instructor Quick Draw 9:30 a.m., Ballroom

Featuring James Gurney, John A. Ruthven, Mort Solberg, Matthew Hillier, Greg Beecham, Jeanne Mackenzie, Mark Kelso, Guy Combes, Christine Knapp, John & Suzie Seerey-Lester,  Lee Cable, Andrew Denman, Nancy Foureman, Janene Grende, Heiner Hertling, John Hulsey, Wanda Mumm, John Phelps, David Rankin & Connie Spurgeon

Silent Auction 5-8pm
Quick Draws, Original Artwork, Africa photo safaris and much more open for bidding.

Miniature Art Show open to the public Sep 15-19, 2014
Vote for People’s Choice – win a prize!

"One-hundred seventy-five career artists and art industry professionals will attend from around the country.  The SKB Foundation has assembled some of the nation's top nature artists.  (landscape/scenic, floral, western, figurative, still-life, domestic and wild animals) whose work you may bid on.

The silent auction representing work and other donations by the artists and instructors will be available to bid on Thursday, September 18, 5-8 p.m.  100% of the auction proceeds go to benefit the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation’s art education programs.  Join us for this important cultural event."

More info can be found on their website at

And here's a sneak peek at the painting that'll be in the miniature show amongst all that amazing art.  It's a pair of young rufous hummingbirds waiting for their momma, painted life-sized against a 9 x 12 background to give a sense of how little and vulnerable they are.  I've decided to call it, "Sibling Reverie".

"Sibling Reverie"
(zoomed-in detail)

I don't know what got into me when I set out to make this piece.  I somehow reckoned I'd paint it using only transparent watercolors, on rough cold press paper with a teensy-weensy No. 0 synthetic brush. Madness, I know. Blame insomnia, or the supermoon.  But I really wanted to see if I could do it.  Now I know that it's possible...but it took roughly 26 hours and my neck and back are yelling at me for it. As someone once said, "Artists must suffer for their art. That's why it's called painting."

Masking tape and paper to keep the working surface from getting dirty

A tape measure for a sense of scale. (About 4.5 cm for my metric-loving friends)


From now on I think I'll stick to painting cassowaries, albatrosses, or ostriches....

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Making Progress

Red Barn, 2012-2014

For the last three years, my friend Christine and I have painted the old red barn on Highway 287.  It's been very instructive to compare our newest paintings to the older ones, to see how we're coming along in terms of making progress.

The first couple of times I painted this scene, in 2012 and 2013, I used oils and a smaller format. In the latest rendition (on the right), I've switched to watercolors.  A bit of a difference, yes? Even though I saw much better compositional opportunities, I had to go with the same view for comparison's sake; adding in the surrounding foliage to make it a little less static. So there's some improvement there. I like to think I paid more attention to my values and perspective. It's also interesting to note the 2014 version was done under trickier weather circumstances that the previous versions: partly cloudy, where the sun alternates from light to dim, bright to shade, over and over like someone's playing with a switch.

But no matter; it was a fun time.  We even had several more friends show up. I think there were ten of us in all! Here's a little movie of us doing our thing on YouTube:

There's been some talk going around that the barn might be dismantled or removed, but I hope it's just a rumor.  It'd be great fun to keep painting it, year after year, honing our skills until we get it just right.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Plein Air Gear (Watercolor Edition)

Some painters are known for their minimalist, light-weight gear. I am not one of those painters. Nope. Like a Victorian explorer on an expedition, I drag into the field pretty much everything I like to use, which happens to be a LOT.  And unlike a Victorian explorer, I don't relegate it to a porter but carry it all myself; I really don't mind the added weight.  If I did, I'm sure I'd find a way to pare it down.  Yes, there are days I only use one brush, but I like having five more options available, should I feel that's what the scene needs.

Here's a comprehensive list of what I've been lugging around lately:
Plein Air Pro duffel bag
Plein Air Pro "Advanced Series" watercolor easel with shelf
Sunpack 6601 UT tripod
Jansport backback (Used it for over 15 years. Does that make it vintage?)
Recycled water bottles (3)
Alvin Heritage Paint Palette
Extra paint tubes
Martin/F.Weber Co. Just Stow-it brush holder containing...
-- Winsor Newton 7/8 Mop brush
-- Master's Touch No 10 round
-- Master's Touch No 3 round
-- Robert Simmons Sapphire No 14 round (My workhorse brush)
-- Robert Simmons Sapphire No 6 round
-- Robert Simmons Sapphire No 10 flat
-- Robert Simmons Sapphire Liner
-- Creative Mark No 6 scrubber
-- Creative Mark No 2 scrubber
-- Creative Mark T-26 palette knife
-- Old toothbrush
-- Clear wax crayon
-- Piece of sponge
Global Art pencil case containing...
-- 4B Derwent sketching pencils (3)
-- Bic .7mm Matic grip mechanical pencil
-- Blending stump
-- General's kneaded eraser
-- Aluminum pencil sharpener
5 x 7 Moleskine sketch journal
Business cards
Annual pass to Rocky Mountain National Park
Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper blocks (usually carry at least two in varying sizes)
Recycled carryout container with lid  (for holding water)
Spray bottle
Paper towels and/or travel tissue packets
Masking tape
*Flexible sports field cones
D5200 Nikon camera
Extra camera battery and lens cloth
Cell phone
First aid kit
Lip balm
Fox40 whistle and button compass on lanyard
Black Diamond Headlamp and backup flashlight
Bug spray
Hand sanitizer
Small bag and laundry pins for trash
Ziploc bags
*Cooler with ice packs

*Usually left in the car

I have a slightly different configuration for cold weather, and for prolonged hikes, but overall this is what I normally use.  If you're just starting out, I hope this list might give you a place to start. If you've been at it awhile, feel free to add a comment below about what YOU choose to take (or not take) whilst painting in the great outdoors.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

When I was out shopping today, there were a ton of parents and children gearing up for the upcoming school year.  Instead of September, classes now start mid-August.  It just doesn't seem right, that kids should have to try to concentrate on the three "R"s when the weather is so warm and glorious.

As for me: I've been super busy, working on a couple of illustration projects and going out plein air painting with friends as often as possible.  We've traipsed all over the Boulder area for the PAAC Plein Air Marathon, and are continuing our adventures for the Colorado Plein Air Competition that's taking place all over the entire state.

Here are a few photos.  Some I've already posted to Twitter or Facebook, but there are a few new ones, as well.  I'll try to add even more as time allows.

 Me and my painting buddy, Skeeter.

It was sunny when I started...

Traffic cones are useful to have if you're in an area near vehicles or lots of people.

Why Skeeter stays in his travel cage while I am painting.

Sunset paint-out at the Holiday Twin drive-in movie theater.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

New at the Gallery

New Drawing: "A Dee Dee Dee". Charcoal and chalk on gray-toned paper.

There are six new pieces available for purchase at the Lincoln Gallery this month, including the first four in the "Bird to Be" egg series and framed drawings of a grackle and black-capped chickadee.  I'm sad to report that my chickadee model has not been sighted for several months now; I hope he just moved on to better territory instead of becoming a convenient cat snack.

Number 3: A bald eagle egg. I haven't seen as many bald eagles as I have in years past.  Several pairs make their home just up the road from us, but what with all the recent urban development (Three large fields are being bulldozed even as I type) I wouldn't blame them for moving elsewhere. These majestic birds were on my mind as I painted this piece.  Did you know that, although bald eagle eggs are generally plain white overall, they can sometimes take on a stained, mottled appearance from damp pine needles? No one knows why eagles use pine needles to line their nests, but some theorize that it might serve as camoflage, or as an anti-bacterial, or to help keep pests away.  It's interesting to note that the largest recorded nest in the world was built in Florida by bald eagles over several decades: 9'6" (2.9 m) wide and 20 ft (6m) deep. When it was entered into the Guinness book of world records in 1963 it was estimated to weigh a staggering 4,409 lbs (2 tonnes)!

Number 4: An osprey egg. There used to be a pair of ospreys that would sometimes hang out over by the wetland crossing on Timberline Road.  I haven't seen them for a while, either. They might've been from the 1990's Colorado Department of Wildlife "Operation Osprey" Program to re-introduce them to our area. Several clutches of nearly-fledges chicks were transferred from Idaho, and reportedly a few survived to breed.  Osprey eggs are beautiful: a light buffy-peach color, with warm brown speckles. I've never seen one in the wild, but there are several "nest-cam" websites where you can watch osprey parents raise their chicks in real time.  Here's one that's operational right now:

Speaking of nests, I have to clean mine up sometime today.  After fighting off a cold and then a pulled shoulder, the studio has gotten to be quite the mess! Maybe a few pine needles might help...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hatching a Plan for a Spring Series

Tulips in my garden

Even though mountain winds are sandblasting northern Colorado this week, spring is slowly making an inroad. Grass is coming up. Crocuses, tulips, daffodils and dandelions are venturing to bloom, and certain bird species are building nests. One thing I like to do to help them is put out a bag of unprocessed cotton fluff so they can peck some out and use it as a soft liner. If it's been especially dry out, I'll also place a pan of pre-mixed mud for the robins. They seem to appreciate it.

 (Technically, goldfinches don't build their nests until late summer. But sometimes they forage for a stray cotton seed.)

Mrs. Robin, picking up some mud in her beak. She gets it all over her tummy, as well.

After nests are built, egg-laying will begin. Eggs are amazing objects, when you really stop and think about them. Unlike mammals, which have to carry their young to term, a mother bird can drop off her eggs as soon as they're fertilized. Everything that a chick needs is in that little self-sufficient compartment -- aside from some warmth and a gentle turning every now and then. So while I've been at work on a few larger paintings these last few weeks, I've also been inspired to create a series of watercolor egg paintings, done in a sort of homage to the ornithological book plates of the Victorian era. They're all done to scale, using books and museum specimens as reference. 

Number One in the series is a house sparrow's egg. I did this one first as it's the most common and widely spread bird on the planet, and perhaps the least appreciated. House sparrows will typically lay 4 to 6 eggs in a clutch, and raise around 2 to 3 broods a year. Their speckled eggs can vary in color, from nearly white to robin's egg blue.

Number Two depicts something familiar, with a twist. Chickens are (perhaps not surprisingly) the most numerous bird in existence, now outnumbering us humans at least 3 to 1. That said, they don't all lay the typical white grade "A" eggs that you might come across in the supermarket. Some, like the Araucana, lay small greenish-blue eggs, while others lay buff, speckled or even a rich chocolate brown. As far as I can make out, these varieties can also taste better overall, as they're specialty breeds coming fresh off a small farm or neighbor's backyard.

Adventures in live chicken painting.

I have a few more ideas about this series.  Come back next Tuesday to find out what they are... :)