The Evolution of Ability

I've had a few days off over the holidays. The time off has afforded me the chance to finish a couple of paintings and start a couple more. I don't have any shows right now, so the paintings I finish are basically taking up space. There are six or seven of my paintings hanging up around my house, but I started to wonder if I need to rotate in new works.

Part of this thought is because it might be nice to see something different hanging up, but more of it has to do with realizing my painting ability has come a long way in the years since I originally hung up some of those older paintings.

I'm willing to take more risks with my paintings and I'm less concerned when I make a mistake. I feel more confident in my ability to correct issues.

This is a good thing, I believe. I love my paintings, and I'm honored that people have loved my older paintings enough to want them in their homes. But I would be troubled and might even give up painting if I felt I'd reached the limits of my ability. Or that I was so satisfied with my work that I didn't feel the desire to push myself further.

Here's my latest two paintings. The top one is large. I call it "Telephone Lines." The second one is called "Sunny Side," and is in the running for my favorite painting I've done.

The top painting has sold.

"Boxcars of Dead Trains"

This the fourth and final painting I'm submitting for the Winter Show at the GreenHill Gallery. I will be turning the paintings over to the folks at GreenHill later this week. I'm very excited about this show.

I was pleasantly surprised to find my Green Giants painting was a Curator Pick for the push email promoting the show. It's an honor to be recognized by these fine people.

Glad to have these paintings finished. I have some great big canvases waiting to come to life.

This painting has sold!

The Train has Left the Station

This might be my favorite painting I have done. I pulled it from a photo of a train station. I don't think I could have chosen a better color for the roof. The red is so vibrant against the blue/gray sky. There's a storm coming, but that roof couldn't care less.

I hope you enjoy it. This is the third painting I'll be submitting for the Winter Show at the Green Hill Center.

This painting has sold.

The Power of the Tower

There are several structures I find really attractive: Barns, mills, grain elevators. And now the water tower has made its way onto this list. I painted this from a photo. On the whole, I like this painting. I actually painted the body of the water tower about three different ways. I settled on this showing of the progression of highlights to shadows.

Hope you like it!

This painting has sold!

The Shadow Knows

Here is another painting of another grain elevator. If you've seen one, you've seen them all. What's different about this one?

I like for each of my paintings to give at least a small indication that I am improving as a painter. Whether it's a better combination of colors, better use of brush strokes, or a more accurate telling of perspective, I just want each painting to show growth.

For this painting, which I have titled "Grain Elevator No. 10" (still need improvement in the naming department), I employed the use of shadows to help indicate depth and time of day. I go back and forth as to whether I should use shadows. And once I did on this one, I immediately regretted it. But I gave it a day, walked by it a few times. I looked at the painting from different angles. My feelings for the shadows changed and I embrace them now.

Doubt is a tremendous part of my art. Sure, there's joy, relaxation and satisfaction. But with every stroke of my paintbrush a fair amount of doubt is mixed in with the oils. Should I have used that color? Why did I use such a thin brush? Is it too late to start over? Should I just paint pictures of cats? Is it going to look like a five-year-old did this? 

Why do I keep doing this? I guess because I know when I get it right. The feeling of satisfaction is huge and weightless. That feeling is closely followed by the desire to start a new painting.

Bird Watching

My brother-in-law recently asked if I would do a painting for him to give to my sister as a wedding anniversary gift. "She loves to watch the cats watching the birds," he said. He wanted me to do a painting that would include a cat watching birds.

I said I'd be happy to.

I'll try to paint pretty much anything (except portraits). I was a little concerned with how I would paint a cat in the style of the birds I paint. Or should I just change the way I paint birds altogether and make this painting different from any other bird painting I've done. How would I simplify the cat?

It took me about two weeks to come up with a design that I was willing to try. I found a photo of a cat looking up. The shape was simple enough that -- if I stripped away all the detail -- it still looked like a cat. I re-drew the cat without the texture of the fur. Should I include whiskers? Should I include an eye? A tail? The mouth? How could I paint this cat with just enough detail to convey a curious cat, without too much detail that would make it look out of place with the painted birds?

After a few sketches, I was pleased with a rough draft. I chose a canvas that was very vertical. The space between the cat and the birds was nearly as important as the birds and the cat. The space between the cat and birds represents tension and safety. The only way I could have that space was with a canvas that was this vertical.

I placed the birds. I wanted one bird to be watching the cat. There's a clear bit of communication going on between this bird and the cat. Curiosity at both ends. It's a good relationship.

The last detail I added was the mouth to the cat. I went back and forth on whether I should add it. Eventually, I drew the mouth on a white piece of paper and taped it onto the cat (which was dry). I asked Kimberly which she liked better.

Ultimately, we both decided the mouth was just enough detail. I'm so pleased with how this painting turned out. I admit dreading it a bit, but I really couldn't be happier with it. And I'm so glad it's going to my sister.

The Little Engine that Might as Well

I think I've done all that I'm going to do with this painting of a train boxcar. I started it several months ago, at a show. As we were leaving that show, the painting blew over and landed paint-side-down in the parking lot. I had to wait for it to dry so I could brush away all of the sand, dirt and small pebbles that had stuck to it.

My interest in this particular painting has ebbed and flowed, but I'm now ready to call it finished and set it aside once and for all.

I have several paintings I'm gearing up for, including three for an upcoming show. I'm very excited and honored to have been invited to participate in the Green Hill Center's annual Winter Show. It will open the first week in December. 120 artists with ties to North Carolina take part in what I believe is the largest show of its kind in the state. The Green Hill Center's director saw my paintings at Scuppernong's Books and sought me out to invite me. I'll have four paintings in the exhibit. I'll post my paintings as I get them finished.

This painting has sold!

"Boxcars Are Turning -- A Carnival of Sorts"

Tried something a little different with this painting. It's mostly finished. Maybe it's a little lonely looking -- an unremarkable line of boxcars being pulled along on a snow-covered gray day. But I find it relaxing. I can almost hear the slow, hypnotic, heartbeat-like clacking of the wheels on the track. No distractions.

As I have mentioned before in another post, I paint from photos I find and print from the internet. When I find something I like, my first step is to figure out if there is a way for me to simplify the image to basic shapes and colors. The original photo of this line of trains is much more complex -- a lot more detail in the train cars. 

One technique I use for this is to put the photo across the room. I'll look at it from different angles. I walk by it a few times. I saw the basic rectangular shapes and the flatness of the colors. Bingo, I have a start.

I don't know why the text here is reversed.

This painting has sold!

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Grain Elevator Painting

I took a brief break from painting fruit. Partly because the weather has been so nice, but also because I've been looking through the photo collection of an artist who lives in Montana. Her photos are awe-inspiring. Seeing the photos of towns around Bozeman and other cities in Montana have instilled a desire to see the place in person.

Here's the link to her Facebook page. Go through the photos. You'll be glad you did.

This painting has sold!

Two and a Half Pairs of Pears

Sometimes I like to paint fruit. This might be my favorite painting I've done of fruit. I really like the arrangement of these five pears. This painting didn't take long to do -- probably about a week. It's nice to start and finish a painting in such a short amount of time.

I posted this painting on Facebook and it sold the next day. So, I'll be painting more fruit.

This painting has sold!

You Got Yer Cherry Bomb

We were snowed/sleeted in this past weekend. It was just the opportunity I needed to get a few paintings rolling. I finished this small painting of three cherries. I have sketched out four or five more, including these three. Not shown are sketches of a lighthouse in Maine and a group of apples.

I cannot wait to get these going. Check back soon. There will be more to come. Until then, though, enjoy the cherries.

Coming Out of Hiding

It has been a long, long time since I've posted anything here. It has been equally long since I've even painted. The last nine months have been busy for many of the wrong reasons. But much of that is behind me.

So, now I can paint. This one will be finished soon. I have several others underway. And I have ideas for more. I'm hoping this will be a very productive winter/spring.

It's good to be back. Stay tuned....