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