Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Bridal Commission

A few months ago I was commissioned to paint a local home that would be a surprise gift from a lovely, soon-to-be bride to her soon-to-be husband.  The subject was their future home which sits on a quaint, tree-lined street in an old Waxahachie neighborhood.

I was honored to do it but I had underestimated some of the pressure I would begin to feel about getting it right. I really wanted her to be thrilled with it since this was a pretty special gift. With a somewhat tight deadline (through no fault of her own) I started to wonder what I would do if she hated it. The pressure would have increased tremendously to come up with another piece. And I don't do well with that sort of pressure when it comes to creating fine art.

Fortunately, at the moment of truth when she came to pick it up (only days before the deadline), she seemed to be genuinely pleased with it, and I was genuinely relieved. It's very satisfying to think that this painting will probably have a special place in their home for many years to come.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

1889 Masonic Temple

12"x16" Watercolor on 300# Arches Cold Press
I finally got around to painting probably my second favorite building in Waxahachie. The old Masonic Temple - built in 1889, which currently houses the Ellis County Museum. This beautiful building stands adjacent to the Ellis County Courthouse and compliments it well. I set up my easel on the courthouse lawn under the shade of a pecan tree in late afternoon. 

There is so much architectural beauty on the Square in Waxahachie that it amazes me that I'm always the only one around. I could paint every day for a year and and barely scratch the surface of opportunities for subject matter. But the only time I see other artists in action is during "Paint Historic Waxahachie" each May. During that week-long event, dozens can be found around town. But after that they are as rare as a painted bunting (for you Audoboners out there). 

So, here's my plug for getting out there and painting something on location. Fresh air, exercise, brain activity - it's bound to be good for you. Give it a try. I could use the company. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rock Island and Katy Depots

Another in a series of depot paintings in Waxahachie. I set up shop in the shady breezeway of the old Rock Island Depot looking south towards the Katy. My first plein air in several weeks. 

The trains still roll between these two architectural gems. They just don't stop anymore. How I wish they did. And I would gladly trade the Hell-a-shish horn of the freight train for the quaint sound of a steam locomotive. I don't blame them for using them, what with i-pods and car speakers keeping people from hearing them. But they are beyond belief loud. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Greeting card sized watercolor for my Step-Father, J.D. Littlejohn. Painted  from memory - the restored Katy Depot in Waxahachie. I've painted it so many times that photo references are not necessary.

This only took a few minutes... which is less time than it would take to go to Target and find one. Hallmark, Schmallmark!

Happy Father's Day to all you Dads!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

House Across the Street

I set up my easel on the front porch to paint my neighbors house during the Paint Out last week. Built in 1910, their home was one of five on tour for the annual Gingerbread Trail.

Another artist friend of mine, Ted Clemens, set up while I was painting and I decided to include him in my composition, though he appears to be about 40 pounds heavier here. His painting from this outing sold to the mother of the homeowners and I'm sure it will grace the walls of their home for many years. Ted is an excellent oil painter that I have enjoyed spending time with over the last three years. He won First Place during this year's competition.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Signing Your Masterpiece

For as long as I can remember I've been obsessed with trying to find the perfect way to sign my art. It may sound like an insignificant task. I mean, how hard could it be, right? Well, I have several paintings that I like well enough, but I can't stop thinking to myself when I look at them that I could have done a better job on the name.  I know for a fact that there are artists out there that are intimated by the whole process. Worried that they might mar an otherwise beautiful artwork with a distracting eyesore in the corner that just won't go away. Signatures should never be the focal point of your painting, good or bad unless your name is Oprah.

Most artists tend to have signatures that evolve over the years. This is a good thing. As our talents evolve, so should our brand. And they can often give you a good idea of a timeline for when it was created. Over the years I've gone from strange looking stylized letters of impossible legibility, to simply signing my everyday signature in pencil. Within the last year, I think I've settled upon a style that I will keep for a while. It's a style that I can replicate with ease using a rigger brush and you can actually read it without much effort. The timing for the change is probably good because I feel like I'm evolving my style lately. The only problem is that now I have to change my heading logo above and get some new business cards.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Best in Show - 2011 Paint Historic Waxahachie

Tonight was the Awards presentation for the week-long Paint Historic Waxahachie Plein Air competition. I'm happy to post that my watercolor Tin Roof Monday won Best in Show.

This whole event was a lot of fun. Not only winning an award, but getting to talk with fellow artists about our experiences throughout the week and enjoying some great bar-b-que in a wonderful setting inside the historic Chautauqua building in Getzendaner park.

Previous awards for this show:
2010 Honorable mention (Rogers Street Bridge)
2009 Honorable mention (Main Street House)


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paint Historic Waxahachie Plein Air Event - Painting #1

This was my first painting of the 2011 Paint Historic Waxahachie plein air competition. I took a day of vacation and on Friday afternoon I set up across the street from this old freight depot near downtown. I call this "Non-stop Destination". 12" x 16" watercolor on 140# Arches cold press.

It was very windy, as it was for the entire  4 days I painted for this year's event. But my new easel held up great against 40 mph gusts. I felt like this turned out pretty well so I was encouraged to trek on. The next morning was the "Quick Draw" event on the square with several other participants. After 90 minutes of painting we were required to stop and place them up for bid during a silent auction within the confines of the local Farmers Market. A truly silent auction, as in very few people around to bid because of the extremely windy conditions. Pottery blowing over and shattering, canopies flying away. Quite a scene. My quick draw wasn't finished and I wasn't thrilled with it but someone did bid on it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"You found my wallet?!"

Yesterday was the first weekend of the season for our local Farmers Market so I headed downtown for a few hours of pencil sketching. An opportunity to warm up the drawing skills for the upcoming Paint Historic Waxahachie event that starts this Friday. 

This is one sample page from my sketchbook showing a few images from the day. 

The most interesting thing to happen was about 4 hours later when my wife got a phone call from a friend telling her that he found my wallet. It turns out that it fell out of my shorts while I was sitting on a bench and sat there until my friend had a seat on the same bench and found it. Who knows how long it was there and what are the odds that someone who knows me would be the one to find it amongst the dozens upon dozens of shoppers. Fortunately I didn't even know it was missing until the call. It would have driven me crazy looking for it had I known that I needed to be looking for it. Thanks Jack. You saved my day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Medina River Dam - Castroville, Texas

Watercolor on 15"x22" Winsor Newton CP. A studio piece from an old photo I took while staying at the historic Landmark Inn along the Medina River in Castroville, Texas. This dam was built in the 19th century to divert water to power a gristmill that still stands nearby on the grounds of this State-owned park. I specifically remember this trip’s time frame because it was right after 911. Probably a good place to visit at that time considering how quiet and serene it was. They didn’t even have televisions in the rooms (even today). I remember doing a pencil sketch in the guest book of our little room of thick stone walls which was above an old washhouse from the 1800s.

The Painting- the thing I try to strive for the most in my paintings is to have contrasts. Darks and lights, warms and cools, hard edges and soft edges and in this case, man-made against nature. This dam, along with the overpass in the upper right corner are perfect for playing these two opposites against each other. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Port Aransas, Texas

Painted from an old photo. This is a small (7"x10") watercolor on Arches 140 CP. A typical gulf scene of a hot Texas summer beach.

This was an exercise in painting random people in various poses without any detail to speak of. The little person in red on the left was just a white accidental shape that looked like a child bent over in the sand. Another example of letting the painting have a hand in the piece. It's a lot like looking at clouds as a child an finding all sorts of things. It is amazing how many opportunities you can find within to enhance a painting. And they tend to have more expression and life than if you had planned them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Plumber's Pipes Always Leak


I have sketched and painted dozens of homes over the years but like the plumber's pipes I never seem to get around to my own - until now. 

The painting - 18"x12" watercolor on 140# cold press. A quick and sloppy plein air of our house as seen from the neighbor's front yard. This was an exercise in painting as fast as I can and with an almost vertical easel. I usually paint on a slight angle so this made for an even sloppier watercolor than normal.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Langford General Store - Big Bend National Park

The Painting - Revisiting an older work from around 1997. This watercolor (14"x18" on 300# Waterford) was created in-studio - the Langford General Store ruins in Big Bend Texas, built circa 1927. This former store/post office is literally in the middle of nowhere, but was a stopping point for visitors seeking the healing waters from local hot springs. Springs That still exist today. A non-native palm tree shades the structure and was probably planted there in the 30s judging from old photos. I've got to figure that this palm must be living off of some underground spring since it's not exactly tropical in this part of Texas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Paint Gap Hills in Big Bend National Park

The Painting - From 2003 a quick (and tiny) memory sketch (watercolor - 6"x4") of the Paint Gap Hills in Big Bend National Park. This was the view from our primitive camp site in the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas. An awesome place to experience nature with no other humans for miles - and stars beyond description. A place so dark at night that car headlights can be seen 15 miles away.


Tip - explore your memory bank for en plein air paintings of the mind. What is french for "in the open mind?"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Waxahachie M-K-T Depot


The Painting - Another en plein aire of the newly restored Waxahachie M-K-T Depot. The majority of this painting was done last Sunday. I took my son and his bike out there yesterday to finish it. He cheerfully rode around the brick-paved depot while I fought the wind. I'm not really sure what I think about this one. I'm still struggling with too many unimportant details. 

Tip - Don't struggle with unimportant details! Especially distant objects. Squint your eyes and paint what you see, but forget about the other stuff.

People I met - The family photo sessions were out in full force once again. I can't blame them. The weather was perfect.

Finished Painting
Before Reworking Sky
A post note on this. I wasn't happy with the sky (see right image) so I took a chance and reworked it which goes against my Cardinal Rule of leaving the sky alone. But fortunately I used a particular blue that is less staining than others so I was able to wet the paper and remove a lot of the paint. Some of you may think the first sky looks better, but personally I'm glad I reworked it. I also added a few shadows and suggested bricks on the ground.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Hidden Masterpiece

I stumbled across a photo of my son's nursery from 2003. I had painted this landscape with acrylics before he was born. I started out with no idea what I was going to do so I began with the tree in the corner and went on from there. Somehow this image wound up on the front page of the Waxahachie Daily Light that same year, along with an article about my art.  

We sold the house a year later and I've been told that someone painted over it since we moved. Okay, it has been 7 years, but little did they know what a famous artist I would become someday. I'm not sure exactly when that will be but they will rue the day!  

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Former Rock Island Passenger Depot

The Painting - This wonderful structure was built circa 1905 and still stands today just south of downtown Waxahachie. It was formerly the T&VB depot, later becoming the Rock Island Passenger Depot. Today it is owned by the Nay Company. I started this en plein aire watercolor towards dusk last Sunday. While I'm not totally happy with it, I learned a few things along the way and I hope to try this same location again during the annual "Paint Waxahachie" event in late May/early June.

Tip - using black for shadowy areas is not nearly as interesting as cool blues and purples.

People I met - nice families dressed white shirts, khaki shorts and posing for photographers were all over the place. And one guy dressed in a Sonic the Hedgehog outfit running down these same tracks while another guy filmed him. No idea... don't even ask. This part of town is very popular for photographers with two old bridges and two restored depots for backdrops. 


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Painting on the Square

The Painting - I finished this one in about 2 hours en plein aire on the Square last Saturday afternoon in Waxahachie. I'm finally figuring out how to say more by painting less. The windows here are mostly just wild strokes of a fat brush rather than my usual struggle to make them look perfect. I like the sky on this. I always start with the sky.

Tip - speaking of sky - it's difficult, if not impossible, to rework a sky in watercolor and is best left to the unprofessionals. I put in a light yellow wet in wet wash - let it dry - and threw on the blue.

People I met - a man pulled up in his car and asked me if I do paintings. He told me his brother had recently died and he wanted a giant portrait done from a photo for his mom. I always feel kind of bad saying no but there's just too much pressure involved in commissioned pieces. Especially if they are for surviving loved ones.