Friday, June 30, 2017


I've had a lifelong affair with Cobalt Blue; it was one of the colors in the stained glass windows of the church I went to as a child that caught my eye and kept me mesmerized. Over the years I've bought cobalt glass items just to have the color displayed in the house.

In my effort to replicate the color of the paint on the exterior of the Evening Star Café, I found that a combination of Cobalt Blue and Cobalt Turquoise seems to work best. Curiously, in the reference photo the lower part of the building— below the windows— appears to be more of a green color. I think I'll have to work a bit of blue into it to create unity.

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

Multiple Projects

Well, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for: I wanted to paint more colorful clothing, and I got my wish with Caitlyn's beautiful paisley print dress. But, wow— the detail is tricky!

Caitlyn, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

I went just a little further on this one:

Atlantic Ocean Series #11, Dawn Phase, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

And then there are two paintings that I just had to rework. I had mixed some painting medium in with the last layer of raw sienna on this panel, and it seemed stickier than I was comfortable with. I'm always worried about archival quality, and am certain there would have been problems with surface cracking sometime down the road, so I soaked a rag in mineral spirits and wiped the last layer off. Here is the latest version, with a new layer of just plain yellow ochre:

The Chair, © 2017, work in progress

And lastly, the size of the figure just looked too small and lost on this one, so I scaled it up.

Mehri, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Birthday Celebration

A dear friend of ours had a birthday yesterday. We'd invited friend and spouse to have dinner with us and spend the night since we have a guest room (albeit small) so they could relax and not have to worry about the drive home. But this meant a day and a half of house and yard cleaning, since we do live like two free spirits here regarding our attitude toward the home environment. Plus, there was a great deal of cooking to be done. Anyway, a good time was had by all, and today we are taking it easy. Back to painting tomorrow. Sometimes you have to take a day to just enjoy life.

Strawberry Trifle

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

America: Daniel

Yesterday afternoon I did the final modeling of the face on this one, and also worked on the arms:

Daniel, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

 And I spent some time on the door on this one:

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

The door (in the reference photo, at least) appears to me to be pinkish, and it was fun learning to find the right mix for it. That turned out to be a combination of Cad Orange and Perm Blue, believe it or not, with some titanium white. It's a pretty color, and it's a nice complement to the darker blues and greens around it, which all show up in the shadow details of the door trim. The painting looks a mess right now but I'm still making adjustments to the color and the values. Soon it'll start to have a real presence.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Returning to Equilibrium

This one is tricky, but using a pouncing method seems to work well over the initial smeary layers. The Contact paper frisket is still in place, because I want to get the background finished before moving on to the figures.

Equilibrium, work in progress, © 2017

Also attempted to figure out— yet again— how clouds actually look; I think they're a bit dark but I'm happier with the structure of them now.

Narmada Winery, Virginia Vineyards Series, work in progress, © 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Of Fingerprints, Dust and Cat Hair

So I sat down to work on this, antiipating a fine time. But only a minute into the application of some Raw Sienna with a nice big soft brush, I realized there was a problem with dust and hair that had settled into the initial layer.

Also, when I went to check on whether or not the first paint layer was dry a few days ago, I stupidly touched the background paint instead of the paint on the frisket. That left two fingerprints that are now visible on the upper left side.

The Chair, © 2017, work in progress

Then I tried to remove a tiny piece of hardened paint, which left a whitish spot. And there are bits of cat hair that are impossible to remove once they've dried into a layer of paint.

I think the next time I get back to this I'll use a more opaque color, like a yellow ochre. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

More Blue

It seemed like a good idea to use the blue pigments I'd squeezed onto the palette this morning on something else— in this case, the Winsor and Permanent blues that I used on Stockton Street— for the shirt on Veronica:

Veronica, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

The Chair is no longer tacky, so I hope to get another layer of Raw Sienna onto the background tomorrow.

Black and Blue

I had every intention of working on the background of The Chair this morning, but it was still ever so slightly tacky, so I had to abandon that idea. Went back to Stockton Street instead, mainly working on areas that were either blue or black. The blue banner above the crowd has a ribbed-reinforced type of texture to it, so at first I carefully painted that in, starting from the left side, but it wasn't serving the overall picture very well, so I took it out. There's enough going on there as it is.

Stockton Street, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Painted some of the crowd details, too; I'm looking forward to doing the bunches of hanging bananas.

Last night I kept working on Evening Star.

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

Thursday, June 22, 2017


I don't have to leave the house at all today, which is a big factor in my current mood, and this painting was dry enough to work on, so I just settled in and painted the inside of the front door. It looks exactly the way I want it to! Now, on to the right side rear wall which in the reference photo are a lovely, warm, welcoming color.

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Old Work and New

The Atlantic Ocean series is a group of paintings I've been working on over the last several years. The paintings are all in a 10" square format on panel, with a 2" cradle that makes them a pain in the neck to work on but which looks great hanging on a wall. The first set of four, the Dark Blue Phase, and the second set, the Turquoise Phase, are all out at The Green Phoenix 2 in Annapolis, except for the couple of them that have sold. I started the Dawn Phase set a while ago but got sidetracked after finishing the second one, so this morning I decided to start the third in the set.

Atlantic Ocean Series #11, Dawn Phase, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

It would be fun to see all 16 (my plan is to do one more set of 4 after Dawn 11 and 12 are done) hanging on a wall, but I guess that can't happen now.

I did get back to this one today, too:

Stockton Street, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

I'm trying not to rush it, just take my time and paint those tiny faces as carefully and correctly as possible. I adjusted the color of the smock on the woman on the left carrying a baby; it's been too warm a pink when the actual color is more of a fuchsia. Those hanging banners at top look like they'll be fun to get back to. Next time.

Field Trip

Yesterday I took a break and drove to the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. If you've never heard of it, it's more or less the crown jewel of the town of Alexandria: an old World War II factory that once was used for making torpedoes was taken over years ago and transformed by the art community. Artists and craftspeople have studios there where they display their works— paintings, sculpture, metal, jewelry, fiber arts, ceramics, photography, etc. It's a fantastic place and it would be easy to drop a thousand dollars or two in a half-hour spree. The work is beautiful, and wonderfully displayed.

Anyway, my friends Gail and Dennis both have studios there, at least temporarily, and we all decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get together for lunch, as Gail and Dennis were both at the Factory yesterday. So we strolled off to find a place to eat and ended up at a sidewalk table at O'Connell's, where we had a nice time chatting about art and life. I almost never eat at an outside venue, but the day was perfect, and Old Town has so much charm it was hard to resist.

Street Scene, Alexandria

At home I worked only on two small pieces:

Caitlyn, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Le Diplomate, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

The weather is spectacularly gorgeous again today (and I think it's the Solstice?) but  it's back to the basement for me, at least for a while. Too much to catch up on as far as painting goes.

Monday, June 19, 2017


The rain storm came up rather quickly, though the weather predictions told us to expect it. The sky got very dark, but I was able to get an early dinner onto the table before we lost power (so far, so good; no power outage). This was all after a morning of painting, an hour at the gym, and a quick trip to the library.

Regarding painting, I did get to paint in that darker side on this one:

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

Now I'll be able to play off the contrast between the warm colors of the interior against the dark cool tones outside.

I also darkened the left side of Equilibrium. The pounce method, using the side of a big soft nylon brush seems to work best. But those hanging tools on the left side wall, which I painstakingly measured and painted in place, thinking they'd still be visible through the paint layer, have disappeared.

Equilibrium, work in progress, © 2017

And as an aside, my current mood is pretty dark as well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Oh, And Then There's This

I forgot— or maybe I suppressed— the memory of working on this one this morning. You can't imagine how many times I went over it with the tiny paint roller (which is NOT working out), a big soft brush, and a little balled up paper towel, just to get it to the unhappy place where it is now. I know eventually the paint layers will even out to a nice soft glow. But. Really.

The Chair, © 2017, work in progress

Lazy Sunday

As far as art pursuits go, I've spent today restretching a large canvas that had a few wobbles around the edges, and working on this—

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

I still feel like I'm just throwing paint at the panel. That right side is going to get very dark, very soon, though. Then I'll be able to start finessing some parts of the piece.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Puttering and Painting

I've taken care of a few of the household tasks that needed attention, and also spent several hours painting upstairs in the last day or two. The light is very good up here and the view from the window is full of leafy greens and a lot of active, colorful birds. But here's what I'm working on now:

Le Diplomate, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

This one didn't make it into the show, but because of its small size I'm able to work on it at night, holding it in my lap. Then there's this little one, just started:

Caitlyn, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Evening Star Café, © 2017, work in progress

As usual, I'm bothered by the way the first coat of paint goes on so sloppily, but I know it'll work out soon.

And last but not least: a new one. Maybe the last of the new ones for a while until I finish a few things. This is called "The Chair," and I've got the frisket cut and ready to roll on the background color, I think a luscious Raw Sienna.

The Chair, © 2017, work in progress

Friday, June 16, 2017

Disappointment and Satisfaction

Well, the problem I've been having all along with the clouds in Narmada continued yesterday, so I gave up in disgust and started vacuuming and cleaning up the kitchen. I don't know why I can't get clouds to look the way I want them to. It's been a lifelong problem. I've seen people who can knock them out with a few well-placed brushstrokes. I end up laboring over them and they never look real to me.

Narmada Winery, work in progress, © 2017

After a couple of hours I went back to the America series, mostly because the recent work on those little paintings has been successful. I decided to redo the Mehri panel; she just looks lost in that space, so I'll start afresh on a new panel and paint over the old one with an oil ground. Otherwise, it's just going to bug me every single time I look at it. Better to bite the bullet now than to agonize over it forever.

Meanwhile, I focused on getting the face right on Veronica— she had been looking a bit too much like The Joker in the Batman movies, but the more I put into it, the better it looked:

Veronica, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

And after that I was encouraged enough to do the line work for Caitlyn, who is wearing a colorful dress (in contrast to so many of the greys and somber colors of some of the others) and will be a pleasure to work on:

 Caitlyn, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More America Series

I'm going to try to work on two of the vineyard paintings today; one of them, Narmada, needs only some brushwork on the clouds. But here are two more from the America series. I need to start a new one tonight and then let the whole set dry for a few days while I catch up on other work.

Cole, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Mehri, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

This one bothers me because I'm not sure the size of the figure in the space is correct, and if I decide to re-draw and re-paint it, it's going to mess up the surface of the panel.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Two More

From last night:

Daniel, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)
Susana, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


More work on the America series this afternoon.

George, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Back To Dion

As excited as I am about the new pieces, I have to get back to some of the unfinished ones.

Dion, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

What's left on Dion is a little more detail on the jeans and the watch, and then I have to finish his eyes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

That First Coat

Someone once remarked that people assume that a painting is completed with only a single coat of paint, "When actually," he said, "an artist covers the canvas two or three times." This is so true. Right now I'm doing what's called the underpainting; that first layer that establishes the different areas of the scene. As I work I'm aware that the color I'm laying down is not quite right: too yellow, too green, not dark enough, not subdued enough; adjustments will have to be made with the next layer. But it's a start.

Evening Star Café, work in progress, © 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A String Of Hot Days

We're expecting the next few days to be in the 90s. Thankfully, the Dungeon Studio, down in the basement, is a fairly consistent 71 degrees year round, so when it gets hot I don't mind working there. But today is Sunday, and there was some yard work to catch up on, so this is all I have to show for today's work:

In Case Of Emergency, work in progress, © 2017

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fun With Color, and Something New

What attracted me to the Evening Star was the color, and I'm having a good time trying to create a sense of unity throughout the painting. The color scheme is predominantly the basic primary triadic: yellow, blue and red. Careful observation shows that some of the "white" trim on the building actually incorporates some of those colors.

Evening Star Café, work in progress, © 2017

This is one I just started. There's a story to it, but "I'll have to tell you about that sometime in the near future."

 In Case Of Emergency, work in progress, © 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

I may have been overly optimistic about using sponge brushes to get a consistent paint application. Or maybe the tiny amount of mineral spirits that I used to thin the paint was the problem. In any case, the paint went on fairly evenly but showed the tip of the sponge in every stroke; I cut the end off but then that threw off the point of pressure. Changed over to a kitten-soft Winsor & Newton brush that apparently I had never used; that spread the paint around wonderfully well until it started shedding hairs everywhere.

Winsor & Newton is pretty much my go-to brand for brushes, and it could be that the shedding will stop after a while... but it was disappointing, and not easy to get all those little hairs off the panel. The tamping method and then the scrubbing method worked well. The subtle texture of the board was an aid in getting the kind of slightly grainy effect I wanted to match the photo, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to apply a few more coats, and that might lead to more frustration.

On the plus side, the Contact paper frisket (mask) is working unbelievably well. It has just the right amount of tack, and it was easy to cut with an X-acto knife.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Early Evening Star

Just started the paint application on his one. I'm trying to match the colors of the building and sign as they appear in the photo— the teal color should lean a little cooler.

Evening Star Café, work in progress, © 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Old Work And New

Months ago, I thought the two little Contra Costa works on paper would only take "a couple of weeks," haha. Then the need arose to concentrate on the pieces for the show, so they got put on the back burner. I went back to one of them today, after having spent the last two months staring at it across the room and trying to figure out what was wrong with it. Here's the new iteration:

Contra Costa Marshland, #2, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

Here's what it used to look like:

I changed a lot. The sky, first of all; also I closed up that very horizontal canal, which has always bothered me. Added a few trees and modified a couple of existing ones. Will continue to tinker with it.

I got back to the America series! Though this really doesn't look like Veronica (yet)—

Veronica, © 2017, (America series) work in progress (click on image for larger view)

And on this one, I figured that the best way to prepare it for the background painting would be to define the edges that need to be cut around to accommodate the mask. Sorry for the bluish cast, I made the photo at the end of the day under an open sky.

Equilibrium, © 2017, work in progress (click on image for larger view)

AND I penciled in the outside lines on In Case Of Emergency.... Can't wait to get a little further on this one so I can show you what it looks like! All in all, it was a very productive day.