Thursday, December 26, 2013

#137 December Morning Light on Juniper

This is a studio piece from one of my recent photos of our friend's ranch near Buffalo, Texas. I was drawn to this little juniper with its fullness of evergreen foliage in contrast to a small deciduous tree growing right next to it with no leaves. Adding to the contrast was the stark white trunk and branches. There's just a hint of remaining Fall color in the distant trees. The air was cool and crisp and the ground had a touch of frost. You can see a hint of the small lake to the right.

11x14 oil on canvas panel

Monday, December 9, 2013

Plein Crazy - outdoor painting in sub-freezing weather

An icy Mustang Creek
This week's weather brought freezing rain, temps in the 20s, power outages, and the sound of large tree limbs snapping and falling all over town. Plein air anyone? Crazy I know but I was eager to get out and paint even with the thermometer reading 21ºF.

Saturday was your typical winter day, with nothing but drab gray skies and very little color in the landscape since everything was covered in ice. My location of choice was the same creek at the end of our street that I have painted many times before. But this time I wanted to set up near some falls that I had recently stumbled upon. Funny that I had no idea that this beautiful setting was just a few yards up the creek from where I usually hang out, obscured by evergreen trees around the bend. 

Appropriately dressed in insulated hiking boots and a heavy coat, I walked about 100 yards from where I parked through crunchy prairie grass to the falls, carefully stepping on surfaces that had ice-free patches on them and working my way down the bank. I admit that I nearly fell several times, but thank you God, I didn't. At this point I still felt warm from head to toe, encouraged that I could really do this. I had everything set up and ready to go until I realized that I had left my paints at home. Here's where I remind you to always go over a checklist before you leave. I always seem to forget something. Anyway, I took a chance that no human with half his mind would be out here in this weather so I left everything set up, as-is, and drove back home to get my oils... hoping that my gear would still be there when I returned... and thinking to myself how odd this abandoned easel might look to someone if they did just happen to come along. Ten minutes later I was back and ready to go, none worse for the wear.

The one good thing about plein air painting with overcast winter skies is that you don't have to worry about light and shadow changes, for the most part. This can be a bad thing if you don't force yourself to work as quickly as you would normally work. But trust me, the cold weather is more than enough incentive to work fast. About halfway through the session you realize that you are really, really cold and begin to go into a hurry-up offense mode, slapping paint on the canvas like an ape at the zoo.

The worst part about these conditions, other than nearly slipping on the ice-covered limestone, is keeping your hands warm without hindering your style. At first I went with the tried-and-true blue disposable gloves - hoping that I could complete something before it became too unbearable. I realized that they wouldn't be ideal, but figured I could fight through it. I eventually ended up putting on my thick thermal gloves which now match every other bit of paint-dabbed clothing I own. Not easy to manipulate, especially if using a palette knife, but I managed.

#134 Icy Creek - 14x11 oil on canvas panel
In spite of the sunless conditions I had lots of high and low value to work with since there was a large limestone boulder jutting out from the bank casting dark shadows on the water below. And the falls themselves had some bright whites to contrast with the rock behind them. 

All-in-all, this was a great experience and I recommend that every outdoor artist should try it at least once. This is the type of outing that makes plein air so much more interesting than studio work. Each painting has a story behind it that can only be conceived organically - in the elements themselves.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#133 Three Trees

12"x16" oil on canvas panel
This scene appealed to me for its simplicity. A quiet rural setting just outside of Waxahachie which is so typical of our Texas Blackland Prairie.

This was painted in studio but I think it will make for a great plein air so I plan to return here soon with my painting gear.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Exploring Rural Ellis County

#129 Ellis County Farm at Sunset - 9x12 oil on panel.

 This time of year, colors abound in spectacular Texas sunsets and the leaves are just beginning to turn in Ellis County. Lately I've been bringing my camera along with me on my short commute home from Ennis to Waxahachie, hoping to find a few photo references at sunset along the way. I was looking for rural settings with winding dirt roads, trees casting long shadows, barns and wide-open views with lots of atmosphere. Since the sun sets around 5:30 I had to work (and drive) fast to capture the light before it vanished.

I stumbled across an old farm near Parks School House Road just southeast of Waxahachie, complete with two barns and some nervous cows that didn't know if I was there to feed them or harm them. It was a great setting near a hay field that must have been good hunting grounds for two local birds of prey I flushed (a red-tailed hawk and an owl) sitting near each other and waiting for an evening meal along the fence line. Trudging along before my light was gone I got some great photos for future paintings. I'm looking forward to using them and possibly going back for some plein air work.

My first painting utilized two references because I didn't want the center of interest, the larger barn, to be straight on.

As this painting progressed I became more nervous because I was liking where it was going. At this point there is a far greater chance of ruining it than making it better... fighting the urge to work in too much detail.

Monday, October 28, 2013

#126 - Somewhere in Utah

12"x16" oil on canvas panel - studio piece
Photo reference provided by James Swanson.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

#124 Old City Park Fountain

11x14 oil on panel. Studio piece of the Dallas Heritage Village. Late morning sunlight creating some interesting shadows, and I liked the way this fountain's mist was back-lit.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Brush With History" People's Choice Award

This past Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening reception for "Brush With History: Following Frank Reaugh", a juried plein air show at Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park. Paintings from 15 participating artists were on display in Browder Springs Hall.

I was surprised to find out yesterday that one of my entries had won the People's Choice Award which had been voted on by patrons attending the show.

This may be a bit of humble bragging, but there were dozens of excellent plein air works in the show so winning this award really meant a lot to me. This has been a really good year. God has blessed me beyond my expectations.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

#123 View From Emory Peak

Previously I have posted several paintings from slides I made while hiking in the Chisos Mountains many years ago in Big Bend National Park. This latest work is from high above the basin where it's easy to see how this was, at one time, a volcano. The Chisos are the southern-most tip of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. I believe that the small tree growing out of the rocks is juniper that is common in the higher altitudes of the Rockies, but not so much in the surrounding Chihuahua Desert.

12"x9" oil on panel.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Glen Rose Plein Air

#122 Glen Rose Feed Store - 10"x8 oil on panel.
Last weekend I crashed the Outdoor Painters Society get-together in Glen Rose, Texas. After lunch a few of us set up at this old feed store. While I painted, my wife and son ventured over to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center a few miles south of town. It was a great day all around.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Progressive Coastal Painting

#118 Tazmanian Coastline - 9x12 oil on panel
I referenced this scene from a photo provided by Ro Lovelock of Melbourne, Australia via Below are a few progressives photos.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two from Mustang Creek

Revisiting some photo references from Mustang Creek near our home in Waxahachie. The limestone, or caliche, is amazingly white. So white that it looks like snow in a painting unless you include a few clues to tell the brain that it's Summer. Like bright green grass growing along the top of the ravine, an easy solution.

On a historical side note, this area of town was once home to a zoo and a horse racing track in the late 1800s. Today, there is no evidence that either existed, but exploring the creek, I can see how this would be a great location for locals to visit.

#117 Mustang Creek - 16x12 oil on panel

#116 Mustang Creek - 8x10 oil on canvas

Friday, August 30, 2013

#115 El Vaquero

This painting has all of the elements I like to work with. A southwestern theme, horses, texture, value ranges from dark to light, man-made and natural. This might be one of those paintings that I don't want to part with so don't be shocked at the sticker price.

#115 El Vaquero 12x16 oil on panel

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#113 Coffee and Homegrowns

A still life of my favorite coffee mug, homegrown eggplant and peppers. This painting is available for bidding on at Sometimes it seems that I'm only growing fruit and vegetables so that I can paint them.

8x10 Oil on canvas

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fat Little Birds

European Robin - 7"x5" arcrylic on canvas panel
Red Winged Blackbird - 8"x8" oil on canvas

Thursday, August 22, 2013

#109 White Boat

#109 White Boat - oil on gessobord

My photo reference was provided by Ruth Archer of Cambridgeshire, England. This painting is available: Bid Here

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

#107 Clydesdale Portrait

While I really enjoy a good chicken painting, horses are, without a doubt, my favorite subject to capture in oil (I write after completing only my second ever). Seriously, I think I could paint nothing but horses if I had to. For some reason after finishing this one, I felt like I would like to meet this magnificent creature. Nothing against chickens but I don't quite feel the same way about them.

16"x12" oil on canvas

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"That's nice... don't break my jadite"

My latest still life features one of my wife's prized jadite pepper shakers. The title of this post needs no explanation. The jalapenos and okra are from my garden.

No. 106 - Pepper and Okra - 12"x9" oil on panel.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Going Green: Two Paintings in One

Considering how expensive the finer canvas panels can be, it's always a good idea to keep failed paintings around for future use. Not only can you paint right over them but sometimes the previous strokes can give you a little added interest and texture.

#105 Cockerel - 7"x5" oil on canvas panel by Kent Brewer
For example, this painting was previously a plein air of the Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie, which I wasn't real happy with. I was able to utilize some of the building in the background. It's very subtle but the strokes are there, and some of the ledge of the building is evident. I thought about just leaving the hotel in the background as-is, but the colors would have been too competitive and sharp which would take away from my center of interest.

And even though some of the strokes go right through the cock's comb, I think it adds a little interest. 

This painting will be available by auction on Friday at with a starting bid of $65. To bid, just click on the link shown in the side bar.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No. 104 - Orpington Chicken


10x8 oil on canvas panel
Number four in my chicken series. This painting is available at my DailyPaintWorks auction, with a starting bid of $125. Click to bid

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Taste For Chicken Art (see what I did there?)

I've decided to take this chicken thing to a higher level. I've launched a website devoted to those chicken lovers out there that might like to have a custom portrait of their favorite hen or rooster. Two sizes are available: 8x8 and 8x10. And all are painted in oil on fiberboard panels that are ready to hang, or they can be framed.

Poultry art is a new thing for me but as it turns out, I really like to paint them. They each have so much character. Maybe I was destined to paint fowl because it's in my genes (my mother's maiden name is Fowler). Somewhere down the line one of my ancestors must have really been into chickens. In the twenties and thirties my grandfather, "PawPaw" Fowler, raised chickens. Of course in those days just about everyone did, if you lived in Texas anyway.

As a young girl my mother loved a banty rooster, Biddy Bess, to death... literally. Apparently she squeezed the life out of it with too much affection. Yep, chickens are in my blood. The only reason I don't have any of my own is because my maniac dog would probably give them all a collective chicken cardiac arrest. A farm dog, he isn't. I suppose it's possible that he would get along fine with them but I guess I'll never know. One of these days I will hopefully have some of my own. Maybe when Gus "the wonder dog" is too old to care about them.

So, if you have chickens that you don't plan on eating then you probably consider them an extension of your family. Most of my chicken-raising friends feel this way. Why not have a painting of them? These custom oils are priced far below what I normally ask for original art because they don't require too much time to complete-usually about two hours or less. I also plan to have a selection of note cards for sale in the near future, as well as offering each customer the opportunity to purchase note cards of just their artwork.

For an example of how your painting will look, here are a couple of recent chicken portraits that I painted in the two sizes mentioned above:

No. 0102 - White Chicken - 8x8 oil
No. 0103 - Two White Chickens - 10x8 oil

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bantam Rooster (and some chicken talk)

Bantam Rooster - 10x8 oil on panel
Several of my friends have insisted that I could be successful painting chickens and roosters. This probably has something to do with the recent popularity of urban farming. Unlike my sainted Grandmother, Mama Tennie, these chicken aficiodados wouldn't dream of walking out in the yard, grabbing one by the neck, slinging it around until dead, plucking and frying it for dinner.

So, with this upswing in chicken farming, and the affection for the chickens themselves, it would certainly make sense that chicken paintings should be more popular than ever. All I needed to get started was a good photo, which I found at a website called This is a site where artists are encouraged to use photographer's images for creating art without copyright infringements. Their slogan is "Where artists and photographers meet." The photo reference for this oil was provided by PMP member Li Newton.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My 100th (and how painting is a lot like fishing)

This marks my unofficial 100th painting going back about 30 years. I say "unofficial" because I don't usually count the completely failed ones. Let's just say this is my 100th painting that I wouldn't be ashamed to post on a blog like this one. While that's not an amazing number by any stretch, it does represent a milestone for me because about 75% of those were done in the last three years.

I was thinking the other day that painting, particularly plein air, is a lot like fishing. For both endeavors you pack some necessary gear (maybe some lunch), you look for the perfect spot, and hopefully you nail a good one by the end of the day. And even if you don't, it's still been a good day. If you do happen to come up with a good one, the feelings are very similar in that you really want someone else to see your accomplishment. I do, anyway. Maybe that's why I blog about my art... this explains a lot.

Yesterday, while not having access to the Internet because of AT&T issues, I decided to postpone my job-searching for awhile and see how quickly I could paint an oil of either a chicken or some other domestic animal. I researched some of my photo references and found one of this horse that was standing in the dappled shade of a tree along the Waxahachie Hike and Bike Trail. I really enjoyed painting this and plan to do more like it soon.

Shady Horse - 9x12 oil on panel

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Two From Galveston Island

This past week was our annual trip to Galveston. We're creatures of habit, no doubt, but there's something to be said for knowing exactly where to go and more importantly, where not to go. Shrimp-n-stuff is always on the agenda. If everything on their menu wasn't fried we would probably eat there every day. But I digress...

I usually manage to work in a couple of paintings while on the island and this vacation was no different. The first painting focuses on some palm trees which I have somehow avoided until now. They're extremely fun to paint and they're everywhere you look so it's about time I included them. We stayed at the Hotel Galvez, a 1911 gem of a structure that has withstood several storms - including a massive one in 1915, and more recently, hurricane Ike. That's the hotel in the background.

Palm Trees at Hotel Galvez - 12x9 oil on canvas panel

My other plein air was from underneath Murdoch's Pier across Seawall Boulevard from the Galvez. That's the Pleasure Pier in the distance. While I was painting this, a small boy was standing behind me observing what I was doing while his mother was frantically apologizing for his intrusion. I  guess I must have looked like a homeless person living under the pier, painting to make ends meet.
Two Yellow Chairs - 12x9 oil on canvas panel

Monday, July 15, 2013

Progressive Plein Air from the Dallas Heritage Village

This past Saturday I made my third trip in the last four weekends to the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park. This was in preparation for the upcoming plein air show, Following Frank Reaugh: a celebration of plein air painting

My subject this time around was the old Pilot Grove Methodist Church. It was built around 1895 in the small community of Pilot Grove, Texas, southeast of Sherman. I decided to take progressive photos along the way if you care to follow along.

#97 Pilot Grove Methodist Church - 14x11 oil on panel

In the upper left corner you will notice a subtle hint of downtown Dallas peeking above the roof line. It was important, in my mind, to find a scene that included some "old and new" elements. I'm always looking for contrasting subject matter. It's so subtle that it probably won't be noticed right away, but that's what I like about it. Paintings should never tell the whole story in one quick glance. 

My location. This building would make a really cool house. It was hot outside, but I hardly noticed because I had lots of shade and a nearby fountain providing sounds of cascading water.

I started my outline with a round sable brush and a little cad orange and burnt sienna. I find that this color combo can come in handy later in the painting if I need a few glowing accents here and there.

I begin placing a few of my darkest values. This is like working on a clay sculpture as I define and carve away the negative shapes.

More dark values, and just a hint of the building peeking over the roof line in the distant skyline. I also throw in the outlines of two people standing in front of the entry. I usually try to add some size perspective and people work well for this. And, they are easier to paint than the banister behind them.

Here I freeze the moving shadows like a camera freezes the moment. From here on I have to try to ignore the changing light and go with this time of day. This blue looks strange here, but once I add the sunlit areas of the wood it will hopefully begin to look natural.

I begin blocking in some local color and some of my lightest values. Notice how the same blue as above now looks less blue and more natural. Some of that might be my camera's doing, but you can see how the added color has changed the way your mind perceives it.

After four hours I'm near the finish line. My goal is always to work faster than that, but the majority of the painting was done in three hours. A few touches here and there and I'll sign it. This is where I can get into trouble if I start reworking areas that don't need it. I've ruined many paintings that way. You can see here and there, that I've left some of the original orange outlines for some subtle highlights in the trees and nooks of the building.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Following Frank Reaugh: A Celebration of Plein Air Painting

I must admit that the name Frank Reaugh did not register with me. But upon learning that his 19th century roots go all the way from Dallas to Wichita Falls I almost feel shame for not having the slightest idea about whom this man was. Growing up in an area of north Texas where he became well known as an accomplished plein air artist, you would think that I might have some clue about the man since his life touches upon several of my personal interests-namely plein air painting and Texas history. But sadly, and gladly, I'm just now learning a little about him.

Frank Reaugh was born in 1860 and came to Texas in 1876, settling in Terrell. He spent much of his time interpreting north Texas ranching life in plein air paintings along the Wichita River near my hometown of Wichita Falls. I'm glad to know that his legacy is being carried on by the folks at the Dallas Heritage Village of Old City Park with an annual event called "Following Frank Reaugh: A Celebration of Plein Air Painting". Artists are encouraged to visit the grounds of Old City Park and paint away at any number of interesting subjects. Those works, along with other plein air paintings not related to the DHV, can then be entered in their October juried show.

I'm very impressed with the hospitality of the organizers. They provided several of us with a gate access code to enter the park before normal operating hours so that we could set up beforehand and take advantage of early light. Not to mention that we were allowed free entry. For those not familiar with the Dallas Heritage Village, please visit their website. They are located just south of downtown Dallas and it's a great place to kill an afternoon.

8x10 oil on panel - School House

9x12 oil on canvas panel - The Dugout

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No Place Like Home

Igloo Planter - plein air 12x9 oil on panel
Sometimes the best place to paint en plein air is to just walk out the back door, something I don't do nearly enough. The Brewer Gardens have ample subject matter but for some reason I find myself painting other people's gardens more than my own.

My awesome Mother-in-law is constantly giving me cool things to fill with plants, like the two featured in this 12" x 9" oil on panel. Since the inside liner of her vintage Igloo water cooler had rotted out, it was given new life as a planter for an agave. Along with the Mexican floral pot, with wrought-iron stand, she had given me the perfect objects to paint on a sunny patio.

I love to paint contrasting subjects like this... natural vs manufactured metal objects. When your subject matter opposes each other you're already on your way to a good composition before you've even set up your easel.

I tried to work as quickly and loosely as possible, with a self-imposed time limit of 2 hours or less. I think it took about 90 minutes to finish it. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

So You Think You Can't Paint? (you probably can't but...)

#93 - Katy Depot Caboose plein air - 9x12 oil on gessobord
I've probably heard this said a thousand times over the years: "I can't paint (or draw) a straight line." Well, odds are that you probably can't... statistically speaking. But just as most people can't sing well, or play an instrument, painting is not for everyone. Trust me, I've struggled with this myself many times. My wife has to constantly remind me that, yes, I can actually paint. And while she's somewhat biased, she's also brutally honest. Though I'm not totally convinced of my abilities, I do realize that there are a lot of people out there that truly can't paint worth a lick. Some are even paint-deaf (or is that paint-blind) with absolutely no clue of their shortcomings. But that's going on the assumption that I know anything about what makes for a good painting. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I do admire anyone that will stick to something like singing or painting, no matter what anyone thinks about the results... at least to a point. It might be painful to see or hear, but it's admirable. And many of those artists that I just don't get have made a living selling their works as soon as they leave the easel, so what do I know? But I'm thinking that if there was an American Idol for artists, these would be the ones that are completely shocked and in tears when they are told to exit stage left because their painting sucks.

A little over a year ago I decided to take the plunge and buy a set of oils and brushes. After 30 years of mostly watercolor, I wanted to try something I've always been curious about. Would this be a step in a new direction, or a complete failure? I really had no idea how this would go. So one of my first attempts with oils was a plein air of the Katy Depot caboose in Waxahachie. In the Spring of 2012, several local plein air artists were invited to paint during a miniature-train exhibit that was held inside the depot. In spite of the fact that I had no clue about technique or how to begin, I jumped in with both feet. I was hoping that since I had a lot of experience with watercolor that I could adjust and learn on-the-fly. How much different could it be?

Probably the biggest thing I learned from that day was that most oil painters put down their darks first as a rule. Good to know. But unfortunately something I picked up after the fact. There was also this little detail about thin shadows and thick highlights... just a couple of things that watercolorists don't normally deal with. Needless to say it wasn't an encouraging experience. The possibility that I had wasted $100 on new supplies was crossing my mind with each brush stroke. Even though I knew that you have to go through a lot of canvas to even approach a decent painting (for most artists anyway), I was embarrassed for anyone walking by to see the atrocities that were happening on my canvas. "I'm new at this whole oil thing" and "I usually paint with watercolor" were my constant apologetic disclaimers for the day. Oh well, I would rather have my first attempts be my worst attempts than the other way around.

Fast forwarding some 15 months (and 47 paintings later) I thought it would make for a good blog to show how I have progressed during this time, if at all. #93 - Katy Depot Caboose is a plein air of the same subject, but from a different angle with the Katy Depot in the background (top of post). I painted from across the street with my easel set up on the historic Rogers Street Bridge. 

To be fair (to myself) the weather on the first attempt (right) was dreary and overcast, with occasional rain and mist - as opposed to the bright late-afternoon sun I had last weekend. But looking at these two side-by-side I feel a sense of encouragement in that I can see definite improvement. And hopefully, I will be able to paint this same caboose in the future for further comparisons. With that said, there is the distinct possibility that I'm one of those paint-blind artists and an intervention might be in order. If so, please be gentle. 

Now back to my initial rhetorical question of whether you think you can't paint or not... maybe you can't, but maybe you can. Just don't give up after one try. I will add that if you don't see any improvement over the next 47 paintings, as my Dad would have said, "try about 10 more and then give it up completely."