Currently on my easel…

May 30, 2010

oil on Gessobord, 30x40 in., work-in-progress

detail of figures in foreground

This is what I am currently working on, it is an urban landscape of Broadway at 10th Street, across from Grace Church. I did a small study of this about a month ago, and decided it was worthy of a full scale painting. I would like to finish it before I start a commission I need to complete by the end of June. I hope to have it shown in the annual open exhibition of the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club in the fall. The Club holds all of its board meetings in the church and has done so since its inception in the 1890’s. Hence, I think it would be an appropriate subject for the exhibit.


A few more studies of metal

May 22, 2010

pastel on LaCarte paper, 5x8 in.

pastel on Pastelmat, 9x7 in.

A couple of studies of metal in pastel. It is always fun using a dry, scratchy medium to depict a smooth shiny surface. There is something about the contrast in textures that makes the end result a bit intriguing.

Once again, the range of values is what makes surface texture believable. Regardless of the medium you work in, if you start out with a good value study as your underpainting, you will get the effect you want.

Things You Can Learn from Painting Metal

May 17, 2010


oil on canvas, painted alla prima directly from life, 16x20 in.

Painting metal is a great practice exercise for:

  • Learning to see values – the complex reflections are only believable if you have a full range of values, try and get at least 4 if not more value changes in the underpainting. A successful underpainting is key to any painting, but particularly when depicting complex surfaces such as this.
  • Accuracy in form and proportion – try to get your drawing correct in the under painting. Don’t move on to color until you are happy with proportion, shape and relationships of one object to another.
  • Learning to see shapes – forget you are drawing/painting metal, look for the shapes and map them in using the correct values, the form and reflections will come together to make the metal look like metal.
  • Learning to see color – what color is metal? there is no single answer to that question, the color of metal is dependent on: the type of metal and its local color, the color of the objects surrounding it that are reflected in its surface, and the temperature of the lighting that creates highlights. Really study the surface and look for a variety of warm and cool colors in the shadows, midtones and highlights.

This is a great practice exercise, set up a few cans, pots and pans or other reflective objects. Using the medium of your choice, create a study focusing on the above concepts. Studies such as this go a long way when you are working on a more formal type of painting, regardless of the subjects you typically paint, this type of practice will help you to better see form, value and color.

Fast Fashion Sketching

May 14, 2010

acrylic and pastel on pastel mat, 7x9 in.

In preparation for a session we are having with a live model next week, I draped some mannequins and had my students do some studies of the “dresses”.  Fashion illustrations have always intrigued me, the way an artist can capture the essence of the design with a few bold strokes. Many times, a simple “scribble” can describe a whole dress with amazing clarity. That is what I strive for in my own work, economy of brush strokes so that each one counts in describing the essence of the subject.

Here, I’ve used acrylics to do an underpainting of the dark and medium values. I then used soft and hard pastels to define the brightest areas and to add a bit of color variation in the shadow areas. My aim was to capture the feeling of the fabric as it draped on the mannequin, carving out the form underneath with light and shadow, while implying the texture of the satiny fabric.

Shoe Sketches

May 14, 2010


shoe study, acrylic on paper, 9x12 in.

shoe study, pastel 9x12 in.

As an art student, one of my favorite assignments was to draw a pile of shoes. We were all asked to contribute a shoe to the pile and then we had to draw them in charcoal.  I’ve also always admired Andy Warhol’s shoe illustrations, there is something about the form of shoes that is intriguing.

I’ve used a variation of that art school project with my own students and often bring in pairs of my own shoes for them to sketch. In this case, I used some red silk stillettos (and yes, I do wear them on occasion). Drawing a shoe is challenging if you draw it the way you “think” it looks. But like anything else, if you draw the shapes you see after carefully studying the form, you will get a more accurate representation of what the object actually looks like.

I always try to capture the gesture of the objects I draw and paint. In these quick studies, I’ve used pastel or acrylic to produce quick (under 1/2 hour) demo sketches with minimal strokes making each one count. Try not to fuss with brushwork, put the strokes in the right place confidently and leave them there, you will get a much stronger sketch if you do.

“Parc” – acrylic on board, final version

May 9, 2010

Parc, acrylic on board, 30x40 in.

“Parc” is available via JAG Fine Art, Philadelphia, 215-840-8591 or email

Today’s progress…

May 4, 2010

Stage 4 - figures developed, beginning to add in archictectural details

close up of figures

This is finally moving into it’s finishing stages. I still have to finish up the details on the architecture (that brick texture is a killer) and a bit more work on the figures and foreground sidewalk, etc.  I need to live with it for a day or so, and then finish it up in one final session. Overall, I’m happy with where it is going.

This is the first time I’ve painted such a large acrylic on Gessobord. The other large acrylics I did recently were on canvas. I like acrylic on Gessobord, but the smoothness seems to beg for more details, hence this is taking me a little longer than normal. Still using wide flat brushes though, no triple zeros! The paints I’ve used on this are Chroma Atelier Interactives ( which dry very slowly and come with some great mediums that extend the drying time even further. Gessobord is an Ampersand product, great surface for both oil or acrylic.