Barns, Boats, Birds and ……. Books

I'm having my first art opening this month. On Friday, April 10 at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro. The event begins at 6:00. I'll have more than 20 paintings hung throughout the bookstore.

If you've never been to Scuppernong Books, it's a wonderful place to visit. It has coffee, wine, beer, food and a terrific selection of books, new and used. There are events going on there every day. Greensboro is lucky to have it.

And for the month of April, it will be home to many of my paintings.

I'll be on hand for the opening to talk about my paintings and answer any questions you've been dying to ask.

I hope you can make it down.


Just finished this one. Gearing up for upcoming shows. I call it "Silos." Given all the recent snow, try not to think of it as a winter landscape. Think of it as fog. Really thick, white fog.

Someday, I'll take good photos of my paintings.

This painting has sold.

Even Better Than the Real Thing? The Prickliness of Influences

First, this painting is now finished. I enjoyed documenting it from start to finish. It's called "Grain Elevator and Blue Sky." It is 12"X12".

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned my intent on writing about my influences as a painter. I am a fan of many, many artists -- some well-known (Edward Hopper), some less well-known (Jean Jack). If you ever see me and my paintings in person, I am often quick to point out my influences and how much I adore their work. In fact, I get so excited about the works of my favorite artists that I will, when possible, contact them via email and tell them how much I enjoy their work. I'll even send them a picture of a painting I have done that illustrates their influence on my artwork.

It is a tremendous thrill to get a response. Kristiana Parn (, whose work influences my bird paintings, gushed her appreciation at my email. Jean Jack, whose breath-taking landscapes I am heavily influenced by, twice responded with 'thanks,' and also told me where I could see one of her original paintings in Cary, NC. William Steiger, whose work directed me to a more minimalist technique, has never responded.

I used to link to Jean Jack's website of her artwork. I frequently visited her site for inspiration, and to see what new works she had completed. She is a very productive painter. I might visit her site every two weeks and find one or two new paintings each time.

I used to. I can't anymore. Whereas some artists are thrilled to be influential and to have inspired, some are not. Although she twice responded to my emails of praise, she obviously paid no attention to the picture I sent of a painting I did that was based on her style. Somewhere along the line, though, she saw one.

"Stay off my website and stop stealing my work," read the Google+ comment from Jean Jack.

I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. I've done nothing but praise her work and style in my blog. I have gone on and on about how her paintings make me feel. It was surreal to get this email, but it was also a little annoying. Who is she to say who is 'stealing' a style. She lists Edward Hopper as one of her influences, and the similarities are obvious. Why is that not stealing?

I responded to her, "All good artists borrow. All great artists steal." (Picasso) I also said that I link to her website from my blog because I want people to see just how amazing her paintings are. I added that my work doesn't even compare with her wonderful paintings.

She was not won over by this. "All good and great artists are inspired from within themselves. You are nothing more than a stalker. Stalker's go to jail."

I didn't like where this was going and I wasn't interested in getting into a flamewar with an artist whose work I admired. I responded to her one more time:

"I most certainly am not a 'stalker.' If you have an issue with someone regularly visiting your website, then maybe you don't fully understand how the Internet works. However, I will refrain from ever returning to your site and have removed the link to your site from my blog."

She responded with a simple "Thank you."

There are many ways she could have handled this, but she chose a somewhat heavy-handed approach, I think. Maybe she has more fans than she knows what to do with. Her paintings run $4,000 to $9,000 (and they sell). Mine run $45 to $500. I don't think I'm much of a threat.

One thing's for certain: she did see my paintings.

How the Sausage is Made, Part II

Now, with the image sketched, I can decide on colors. I tend to use brighter, sometimes bold, colors. My preference is to use the colors right out of the tube. Mixing colors can be tricky for me. I don't like to waste paint (oils are expensive) by mixing too much. But then, if I don't mix enough, I might not get the same shade. I like to keep my colors modern and bright. I'm not afraid of gray, but I don't use many earth tones.

From there, it's just painting. Level and weight of brush strokes depends on my mood. Sometimes I show lots of brush strokes. It's a good tool for indicating wind. Sometimes, I pull the brush straight across the canvas to imply flatness and stillness.

You should pick brushes according to your style and preference. I like short-handled brushes with very straight and angled tips. Again, it's part of my obsession with trying to achieve straight lines.

As the photo indicates, I'm a very messy painter. And, I don't bother with a painter's palette. I use paper plates. (I know, I know. It's wasteful. I try to offset my waste by not buying Starbuck's coffee.)

I used to be very cautious about the colors I choose to use. Just a general fear of using the wrong color and ruining the entire painting. But I have since grown more comfortable with painting, making mistakes and then just painting over my mistakes.

When I feel like I've finished a painting, I let it sit for a couple of days. Part of this is drying time, but I also like to look at my work in different lighting and at different distances. My favorite way to see my paintings is to walk by them. I know if I can't look away, I've hit on something. Also, I might see something that needs touching up or painting over.

After that, it's a matter of waiting for the oils to dry. This can take weeks, so be careful moving around that 'finished' painting.

One of the last things I do is sign the painting. I could devote an entire post to the signature. I've screwed up my signature so many times, I've started simply using a Sharpie marker to sign my name. I just use my first name because I don't want the signature to take away from the painting.

I'll add the title of the painting and the year I completed it on the back. Sometimes I'll go ahead and wire it for hanging.

I hope this insight into my painting method inspires you to try painting. Just find a method that you're comfortable with and give it a shot.

Thanks for reading and I'm sorry about the length.

50 Shades of Gray

I wanted to update an earlier post of this painting that I call "Gray Ladies." It is all but finished. I may add another window, but I'm not positive. I had planned on doing a posting about my influences. I still want to do this, but I thought I would go ahead and mention the inspiration for the style of this particular painting.
If you Google 'precisionism,' you'll be treated to a slew of paintings by the likes of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. Both of these artists, and others associated with the movement, are precise (obviously) and even use mathematics in the creation of their artwork.
I don't go that far. In fact, I'm far from it. My lines are not precise -- not as precise as I would like -- and I do not use math of any sort. Still, I like the work of these particular artists and tried to emulate their style.
That is, after all, what artists do.

I hope you enjoy this. I enjoyed painting it.

Part II of "How Sausage is Made" will be coming in the next few days. Also, I'll post about my influences and a story about one of those influences who it seems has more adoring fans than she needs.

How Sausage is Made (Or, How Sausage is Painted)

Long, long before the Internet and social media, how an artist created artwork was something of a mystery. Except for the 30-minute-masterpiece makers (think Bob Ross), a painter would just present a finished piece -- as if he or she produced it from thin air. "Ta da! Here is my latest work of art."

"How did you do that?" some might ask. "You are truly a gifted artist to take this empty canvas, these brushes and tubes of paint, and -- presto -- a beautiful picture."

I know many artists enjoy, even protect, that sense of mystery. "If I show you how I did it, then it loses its artistic value.

I'll even admit to taking that same attitude for a short time. I then realized that, 1) I'm not good enough to have an attitude; 2) most people are not going to go out and do what I do; 3) many people will actually gain more of an appreciation for my art through my process; and 4) so what if someone "steals" my technique. I steal from other artists all the time. Only I call it being influenced by other artists.

So, for your enjoyment, here is my process.

I don't paint from memory or my mind. I do lots of Google Images searches for grain elevators, abandoned barns, old farm houses, windmills, birds on a wire, boats, etc. I corral these images and pick which ones I'll consider painting.

I don't just find photos of, say, a barn in a great, big open field. Sometimes the barn is surrounded by other buildings or trees. This is where I start to use my brain. I filter out the extra stuff. Sometimes, I'll use Photoshop to take out the extra objects. Then I print that out.

Once I have the image in mind that I'm going to paint, I choose the canvas size and shape. Most of the time I can pick the canvas size just by holding up the printed out photo next to a canvas. Because I like so much sky and ground, the printed image is often dwarfed by the canvas. However, if I don't have large canvases available, I'll work with whatever I have.

Since I returned to painting a few years ago, I've become obsessed with clean, straight lines. I don't always succeed, but not for lack of trying. I sometimes draw a image on shelf paper, then cut it out with an x-acto knife and paste it on the canvas. I paint the areas around the object and then peel up the shelf paper to leave a clean negative space to paint. I do this method a lot with my bird paintings.

Sometimes, I'll lightly sketch the image directly on the canvas. Then, using a ruler, I'll straighten up the lines. Depending on how much coffee I've had, I might use painter's tape along the edges to keep the painted lines straight (like I said, I'm obsessed).

One thing in the photo I should point out is the black canvas. I sometimes use black canvases because I like the way the colors look when painted on them. I think it gives the colors a richer feel. If all I have are white canvases, I'll paint them with a layer of burnt umber, which dries quickly. Once dry, I'll sketch on that. (If I'm doing a painting with lots of white, I don't usually under paint a dark color.)

Check back soon for part 2.

Gray's Anatomy

I just started working on this little painting. The working title is "Gray Ladies." It's a little different from previous work in that it's a little more industrial. I like the shape and how the shadows give the building depth. It's almost monochromatic.

I'll update this once it's completed.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I look at a lot of pictures of grain elevators. I have found that Google searches of "grain elevator" brings the most results, with "country elevator" coming in a distant second. "Canada grain elevator" pulls in some of the most beautiful offerings, and "Montana grain elevator" is also a good choice. I can switch out Montana for Iowa or Indiana and still have a worthy selection.

All of these searches have opened up to me a parts of histories that would have otherwise been overlooked -- by me, anyway. I've learned a bit about the importance of the grain elevators, the uses for these prairie giants, and the continued need for them. Even the many of them that are no longer in use fill a void. Like misplaced lighthouses, they continue to be a beacon of existence in otherwise empty fields.

I have just finished this small painting. It is one of my favorites. I like that these stoic buildings seem to be mingling with each other. It's called "Cluster."


I have my own shop on Etsy (tatestreet is the name of my shop). I have recently discovered a photographer who has her own shop and her work is stunning. For those of us who lust over photos of abandoned utilitarian buildings, her work is like romance.

Here is the link to her shop. Check it out:

This painting has sold!

Seeing is Believing

As I finished this painting, one of my kids said "I really wish it would snow." I found her comment odd because, up until then, this painting, in my mind, was of a sun-bleached grain elevator. It was not of a snow-covered field, but of a an arid, parched land. Not a chill in the air, but a white-hot stillness that surrendered little relief, even in the shade.

I call this one 'Grain Elevator 8.' No particular reason, except that I've done so many grain elevators, I'm losing track. It is the latest in my experimentation with suggested architecture, where edges become part of the background and foreground.

I'd like to do an entire collection in this style. Hope you like it.