Saturday, March 13, 2010

Almost Done!

March 13, 2010

There's only about an hour's worth of painting left on You Are Here. I worked on a few spots that needed work today, and realized there's not that much more to do. Well, unless I decide to take it to a whole new level and go all-out on the natural realism. But that would probably take another year.

Snow and Snowdrops

March 12, 2010

The giant snowpile down at the end of the driveway is almost gone. We've had some steady rain overnight, and the world is changed this morning, though it still looks grey and grim. Snowdrops are blooming and the back yard is full of the spikes of wild crocuses, unopened because of the hidden sun, but ready to pop.

Spent all of yesterday gallery sitting, and then had a surprise phone call from my sweetie, who suggested we have dinner out. We did, and it was fabulous. But: no painting got done yesterday.

Today: work on the doggie painting is not going well and I'm beginning to have doubts about whether or not it will come together in time. The skin tones just looked too dull, so warmed them up today but it looks like I overshot. The male dog is beginning to have some structure, so that's, at least, encouraging. I must say that acrylic is not my friend.

The question continues about the right name for the painting of the young woman taking a picture of the Villers.
Point of View
brings the viewer into it in a subtle way: the young woman is viewing the Villers; it looks like the girl in the Villers is observing her; and the there's the unseen spectator--- the viewer. So, I like that goofiness. But Echoes intimates that something mysterious is reverberating across time. I welcome input on this issue.

A Concentrated Effort

March 10, 2010

I'm going to finish You Are Here very soon. And not soon enough. I have to have it printed up as a postcard, delivered, and sent out to everybody on the mailing list for the upcoming show, which is about 1300 people. Meanwhile, Point of View, which I might rename Echoes, has to be done in time to send it off to be printed up for the Galleries Magazine cover. Why am I writing? I should be painting!

At right, a detail from You Are Here; this is the area I worked on this morning.

Killer Pillars

March 8, 2010

I took up the brush on Conversation again, a couple of days ago... The pillars are just as I remembered them, and probably the reason why I haven't wanted to work on the piece for the last few months. Painting the straight vertical lines is bad enough, but trying to get the color/values/gradients right at the same time is practically insane. The light's bouncing around all over the place because of all of the (beveled!) mirrors, so the planes of the pillars are lighter in some spots, greyer or greener in others, etc. What a nightmare. And I'm still having trouble with the female figure, despite the fact that S.M. did such a great job of posing for me.

Meanwhile, I continue to make progress on a few other paintings. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on You Are Here, and Hats is moving along quickly. I love Hats--- it makes me smile every time I look at it.

Faces in the Crowd

March 4, 2010

Working solely on You Are Here this afternoon in an effort to get it completed in time to use it for advertising. A lot of it is done--- I'm working on the faces of the people in the background and the light fixtures, mostly. The faces are so tiny that I have to use a very small or well-pointed brush to get the details right. A little slip can really mess things up when you're painting the edge of a nose that's 4mm long.

Looking forward to getting back to Conversation tomorrow. Most of the vignettes are too wet to work on today.


March 2, 2010

My new monitor is saturation-happy; it displays colors in a harsh and truly lurid fashion, making me wince every time I upload a new photo of a painting and see it on screen. As a result, I've taken to desaturating some images, but now I worry that they'll look washed out on other people's monitors. Not sure what else I can do.

I finally figured out what was bothering me about Downtown Crossing--- it was the dark foreground. I've changed it and broadened the lighter area, also changed the color of the impatiens (flowers) on the left side. The fuchsia was clashing with the natural reds of the fruits and vegetables in the background. There's still a fuchsia undertone, but it doesn't compete with the reds anymore.

And So It's March

March 1, 2010

The sun is shining brightly today, and you can see patches of ground under the melting snow. Started painting early this morning; added a cast shadow on Day Job, not sure it's working as far as content goes, but the placement is correct--- just what that corner of the painting needed.


February 28, 2010

Worked with a lot of green paint today. The wall on the right side of You Are Here needed to be resolved, and it took a while to get the various shades of green mixed correctly. The wall itself has some surface irregularities, and it's hard to show those without making it look like bad painting. The color gets a little more yellow up at the top, and a little bluer on the lower flat part where it picks up the light from the window.

From there I went to the new painting. I don't need to be starting a new painting right now, in light of how much I've got to finish for the May show, but this is a pro bono effort I'd promised to a neighbor for a charity event. I just found out that the deadline is April 1...

Anyway, the new piece is called "Meet Cute," and I'm doing it in acrylic (otherwise it might not be done until December!) but the colors seem really artificial to me when I mix them. It's like they're made of plastic. The kind of plastic that cheap toys are made of. The greens---which I painted into most of the background---are particularly unnatural. Have to see it through, though.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Finished for the Day

February 26, 2010

Whew. Time to clean the paint out of the brushes and call it a day. I've really been struggling with forcing myself to work on the vignettes lately, but got through four of them today, and I did work on a couple of others yesterday... The painting itself is going very well, I'm just bored.

So much of what I did today involved straight lines! When I have a brush that actually comes to a point, I like to make the best of it until the ends start to fray. But things are starting to snap into focus, especially on The Blind Date and Clock, W. 44th Street. And I finally figured out how to get the reflections of the rear lights of the cabs to work on the street. Happy enough. Feel like I dug myself out of a hole this week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Not Much to Report

February 24, 2010

Feeling a bit under the weather lately.

Also, so sick and tired of working on the paintings for the show, I could scream.

A Little Light Work

February 18, 2010

Painting the hanging lights in You Are Here is harder than I would have thought. The light bulbs themselves are a brilliant white, but that's not the problem. The glass pendulum lamps graduate from a dusky Naples Yellow to a lighter color, and they have a distinctive shape. The shape and size has to be consistent--- the lamps hang in a straight line across the width of the store--- but because they're being seen from different angles, you can see more of the inside on some.

Meanwhile, I worked on the portrait of Robert. The likeness is pretty good, but I haven't caught his bemused expression. I get the feeling his general approach to life is open and curious, but that doesn't come through yet in the painting. Oh, also, I drew the nose too long originally ( a tendency I have with all portraits); and am trying to readjust it. The modeling's working pretty well, I think.

Back to the Portraits

February 17, 2010

Well, it seems that the portraits have got a hold on me. I really wanted to work on the two faces today, and see if I could bring them a little farther along. So despite the fact that I don't need them anytime soon, I got back to them this afternoon. The one of Tamara looks just like her now, so I'm happy. There's still lots to do on the hair and figure, but the face and expression are just about right.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sanity Returns!

February 16, 2010

The past 11 days have been full of distractions, but today I'm back on track. I did a lot of painting on the green wall area on You Are Here on the 14th, and need to let it dry for another day or two, but got to work on the floor today. If you look, you'll see a grid pattern on the circular area on the lower left side, plus the start of the legs of a chair or table (I'm not sure which) and some cast shadows.

I notice that on the internet, the green wall looks amazingly, glaringly bright... at least on my monitor... You really have to see these things in person to get the right impact. Anyway, I've tried to tone the .jpeg down through Photoshop, but it's still not representative.

Another Reprieve!

February 15, 2010

While adding the Artomatic bookmark to my new laptop tonight, I noticed a statement on the website that said the 2010 event will be held later in the year....! This means I can use the big paintings from the May show for AOM, and... I don't need to do the b&w large-scale acrylic portraits AT ALL! Hmmm. So now there is a question as to whether or not to finish them.

I think I will, and maybe tweak them a bit. Maybe I'll play with the backgrounds. But at any rate, this takes the pressure off getting the paintings done for the May show, as I don't have to work on the portraits until after it's hung.

The server's been out for most of the day, but I worked on four paintings and a silverpoint. Details are on the Works in Progress page.


February 15, 2010

Back at work. At right, the latest on the portrait of Robert.

Taking Stock

February 14, 2010

So, it's time I took a look at what I did last year, professionally.


Participated in the "4 x 4 New Members' Show" at Gallery West.

Began meeting with M.L. for the spring semester as mentor for her master's degree in painting with the AAUSF.

Applied for Strauss Fellowship at ACFC.

Taught a workshop in Photoshop techniques.


Visited the Lorton Workhouse with S.T.


Visited NYC for photos, gallery visits


Applied to MPA for solo show

Delivered 6 paintings to Antreasian Gallery, Baltimore, MD


Delivered 2 paintings to Applegate Gallery, Vienna, VA

Installed five paintings at Artomatic, D.C. Got some terrific press; made several top ten lists.

Finished my teaching sessions with M.L. and the AAUSF. Enjoyed them tremendously.


Visited Arlington Arts Center show with S.M.


Applied to City of Gaithersburg for solo show


Solo show at Applegate

Solo show at Barnes and Noble, Reston VA


Placed first in "Timeless" show, Bethesda, MD; awarded a spot in a group show in 2010


Notification of show award from City of Gaithersburg

Visited NYC for more photos


Accepted into 13th National Show

Participated in the Small Works Show at the Oerth Gallery

In between all that activity was, of course, a great deal of painting. I worked up from 3 hours a day to a set schedule from 10am - 5pm, five days a week. In terms of moving my career forward, it was a pretty good year: I had three solo shows, participated in two external group shows, and now have my work in three different galleries. But this year is really going to be busy, with at least four shows on tap already, and that doesn't count the regular monthly exhibits at Gallery West.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Little Better

February 12, 2010

After a tough start, things slowly improved. I ended up working on four paintings today, and really put a lot of effort into the two portraits. Learning to use acrylic paint over large areas is tricky. So is the blending required on facial planes. But I made some progress, and feel a little less anguished.

Wet Paint

February 12, 2010

Back to work on You Are Here after a long hiatus, and it ain't easy. Wow. I had priorities in mind for this painting before the two big snowstorms hit, but couldn't recall what they were today. I guess the most important thing is to get enough finished in the lower right hand quadrant that I can use it to create the postcard and PR stuff for the show. The rest can be finished later. But it's slow--- I'm mostly putting in tiny details now, and don't feel like I'm getting much accomplished.

A Good Day for Painting

February 11, 2010

We've got spectacular sunlight this morning, and the house is warm. I'm going to work on those two portraits I started yesterday and try to nail the resemblance on the faces.

Back with more later on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oil vs. Acrylic

February 10, 2010

After getting a few tasks done around here things settled down and I started working on two large portraits. In ACRYLIC. It's been years since I did anything in acrylic, and even then it was just small pieces. These two are 36" wide by 48" high.

Well, I started by using straight black paint on the areas that are going to be the darkest darks. The streaking was unbelievable...there was no way to control the paint, and it was drying very quickly. I got the feeling that if I went in to rework places that were still a little wet, something really bad was going to happen, like the paint would just peel off. Disaster, I thought. I remembered freshman year, when we were introduced to different mediums, like casein, then acrylic, then oils. There was such a difference with oil paint--- it felt natural, whereas acrylic felt like liquid plastic. Oil paint was sensuous, flexible, compliant. It worked with me and the brush, flowing smoothly, expressing whatever I needed it to say.

So I ended up using oil paint almost exclusively, except for illustrations, which really needed to be done in jig time. Illustrations are usually pretty small, anyway, and manageable. But the big, big areas on the two portraits today had me freaking out. What to do?

Eventually I walked away and then came back later, and that's when I remembered two things: the second coat of acrylic paint (think wall paint) is always smoother than the first; and mixing a tiny amount of white into anything, even black, makes it more opaque. The streaking and lap marks were gone!

Now I'm beginning to see potential in the paint. There's a seductive quality to the way it memorizes a brush stroke, and I realize why folks who are more expressive than I am are drawn to that. The brushiness can add some interest, or it can be controlled. You can see some streaking on the image, but that's just the first layer. I'm very optimistic at this point.

(Note to Tam and Robert: these paintings have a long way to go--- don't worry if they don't look like you yet!)

Still Here

February 10, 2010

It seems like it's been snowing for weeks. Of course we lost electricity during the first storm, last Saturday morning... the power didn't return for 55 hours, most of which were spent in my basement. So--- not a lot of painting is getting done. We're in the midst of a near-whiteout again now, with the second storm depositing on top of the bird feeding area I've marked out faster than I can replenish the seed. I hope to post some photos in a little while, providing the power doesn't go out again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy and SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder! I call it the January Doldrums. Overslept by AN HOUR this morning, and then fell asleep at 5p.m. Yawn! It seems like it's been very dark this month... we've had a few sunny days here and there but mostly it's been dark grey. I do need more light.

But--- things are happening, and I worked up as much of the left side of You Are Here today as I could without smearing the paint all over with the ham of my hand. It looks pretty good! I am jazzed to see it starting to come together--- there are still a couple of left side edges that are shabby looking, but once I get them sharpened up the painting's going to look like it's done. It won't be, of course; there's plenty of detail in the background to finesse; but standing in front of it right now it sure is lookin' good.

Put in some more time on Hats and Checking In, as well.

I really need to do a couple of: small watercolors; drawings; silverpoints.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tiny Faces

Just couldn't bring myself to work on the two paintings I mentioned yesterday. They're so grey. I think, when I do get back to them, I'll change the color of the shirts on the guys in Walking the Walk. They blend into the background too much. The main problem is the fact that the entire foreground is in shadow.

So, I ended up doing a lot to the faces in the crowd and in the background of You Are Here. Also added a little building detail, and began to paint in the trees in the Square. The faces are tiny, so it's hard to get the planes of the faces and the expressions right. I know it's hard to see any change from one day to the next; will try to get a decent close-up of the day's work for the next entry.

It's quite dismal here, with a wintry mix of rain, sleet, and snow. But the birds in the yard make it colorful.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cruising, Though at Low Altitude

Settled down to work early, and put in some time on five of the vignettes and You Are Here. I don't feel like I got a lot accomplished, but did make progress on details. At least it was a full day's work.

At this point, everything for the show is too wet to work on except for Walking the Walk, the clock painting, and Point of View. I guess that'll be tomorrow's menu.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just Not That Into It Today

Had to run a bunch of errands this morning. Got back and couldn't quite figure out where to start; finally decided to work on some background detail in Day Job. Also tried to decipher the confusing elements in the left side of You Are Here. But tomorrow, as Scarlett O'Hara has put it, is another day.

Getting My Head Straight

January 19, 2010

Have done no painting at all since Saturday, as it was a holiday weekend; those always throw my entire schedule into chaos. I must be one of the few people on the planet who actually looks forward to a full week of unobstructed work.

The last month has been like a whirlwind, and now I just need to sit down with a cup of coffee, think things through, and try to figure out how to adjust my schedule to accommodate all the changes. The month of May has me showing two different bodies of work in two different places. I have a long-standing project in mind that needs to get started. Two new commercial jobs have come in the door, and they have deadlines! And I've got a painting to do for a pro bono, volunteer effort.

There's also committee work and the monthly shows at Gallery West, plus the need to provide Antreasian with some new stuff.


What else? Well, G.S. and I went over to the Apple store a week ago and convinced ourselves that we really did need those MacBook Pros. We came back here and did the initial set-up, but now I'm trying to get accustomed to a brand-new operating system, an updated browser, and updated graphics/word processing software. This sort of thing can suck up all of your free time (if there's any to start with).

I've also been ruminating on some points of visual inspiration lately. My recent trip south provided me with a lot of photos for paintings. And the work of Alphonse Mucha I've already mentioned. But---yesterday I saw Avatar in 3-D and was blown away by the gorgeousness of the Pandorean biology. How can I bring something as wonderful as that, and a sense of how important it is to preserve our own planet's natural beauty into my own work? There are plenty of artists whose landscapes put mine to shame, and I don't think that simply painting more of them is the solution I'm looking for.

Anyway, it's a crazy time, and one for reflection and sorting out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Holding My Breath

...Is what I do when working on critical details, usually on faces. There was a lot of breath-holding today.

Worked on four paintings, with varying degrees of success. Here's a detail from You Are Here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Branches and Vines

The trees in the background of Branches and Vines have been bothering me, so I sat down in front of the window and sketched the trees in the back yard onto a piece of tracing paper that I'd overlaid on the blue panel. I've made some changes for the better. The trees look a little more natural now. The two images at right are: the background panel on its own, and above it, the two panels temporarily conjoined.

As previously mentioned, this is an oldie but a goodie. I haven't given up on it though I probably started it in 1996...!

Baby Steps

The really fine detail in paintings aggravates me. I wish I had Sargent's intuition, the ability to add dabs of perfectly mixed color and value to the canvas quickly, and in just the right spot to create a sense of light and form. But my head works in a more analytical process, so it takes me a while to study where a tree branch bends, what the shape of a cluster of leaves is, etc.

Worked on Hats, one of my current favorites. I'm trying something a little different with Coffee Guy; in the reference photo, he's slightly blurry, as he was moving along when I took the picture. I'd like to bring a sense of that movement into the painting, as a remark about how busy life is these days. This involves elongating his nose and mouth a bit, and blending the areas on his face and at the back of his head. Not sure that it's working yet. Above, a close-up of what I've done on it today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Yesterday was loaded with distractions, and I never got near a brush. Today I'm starting late, but am having a little bit of success: the big pink building outside the window of You Are Here has been a struggle for me thus far (too pink? too red? too light? not light enough?) but today I'm finally getting it right. Usually the texture of the canvas presents problems for me, but now I'm using a fairly dry brush and am whisking the color (a combination of Cad Red Deep, Manganese Blue and Permalba White) over the surface of the building. Just the tops of the canvas weave are picking it up, allowing the previous color to show through, and the end effect is that of sunlight shimmering off the brickwork. It has dimension and atmosphere now, instead of being flat.

Am working the windows at the same time. There are lots of them...

The picture above has some distortion from the camera lens.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year, New Blog

Let's see how this thing works.

I already have my own blog at, but I think it might be easier to generate dialog with readers using this format.

Stay tuned as I try to figure it all out.