The Salmagundi Spring Auctions are ONLINE!

February 27, 2011

“Waiting for Spring”, oil on canvas, 6×12 in., is now available for online bidding the first of the Salmagundi Spring Auctions


This year, for the first time ever, the Salmagundi Spring Auctions will be open for LIVE online bidding! The first auction takes place on March 4 at 8 pm at the Club’s headquarters at 47 Fifth Avenue in NYC. But, the auction catalog is now online and bids may be placed from now through the time that each painting is on the block (real time online bidding for each piece will occur at the same time as bidding at the Club).

This enables bidders from anywhere in the world to bid on their favorite pieces! The piece I have in the first auction is “Waiting for Spring”, an oil on canvas, 6×12 in. in size. For valuation info on this piece and information on how to bid, click here: I will post the other paintings I have in later auctions as soon as the online catalogs are posted by Live Auctioneers, the company managing the online sales for Salmagundi.

Proceeds from the auction sales go towards the restoration of the Club’s historic brownstone on 5th Avenune. For more information, call the Club at 212-255-7740 or email


Working with Greens

February 23, 2011

Still life study, 9×12 in., oil alla prima painted from life
Work in progress, still life study, 9×12 in. oil alla prima on canvas

The two studies above were part of my demonstrations on working with greens. I set up a still life comprised mainly of green objects. The key to working with greens is variation–the greens in the set up range from cool blues to warm yellow greens, there is a high degree of variation in the shadows and highlights and the tablecloth provides a neutral color that can be pushed in a direction that promotes additional color variation.

I begin with an under painting in either burnt umber or burnt sienna. The one on top was done with umber, the one on the bottom you can still see the burnt sienna underpainting in some areas. Burnt sienna is a nice choice for  paintings dominant in greens because it has a lot of red in it, red is the complement of green and therefore an excellent choice for neutralization and shadow variation. The under painting is done using no medium with a dry brush technique, this allows me to immediately work on top of it when I go to color without risk of blending between layers. Another alternative is to do the under painting in acrylic, or to do it as a wash drawing with turpenoid and let it dry over night before beginning the color layer. I prefer the dry brush method in oil and immediate progression to color.

Once the under painting is complete, I begin laying in my darkest darks. These darks are typically neutral in tone, they are not saturated with local color. We know the bottles are green, but if we really look at the darkest darks on them, they are almost black. I find ultramarine combined with burnt umber and a small amount of alizarin makes a beautiful darkest dark. Place this color in the darkest shadows of the painting first.

Next, I begin working with the middle value greens. I do not use tube greens (or purples or oranges, I mix all of my secondary colors). Since this painting is heavy on the greens, I have 3 blues and 4 yellows on my palette: ultramarine, cobalt and king’s blue; yellow ochre, cadmium barium yellow pale, naples yellow and naples yellow light. In addition to the blues and yellows I also have: alizarin, burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw umber and titanium white.

I begin with the more muted greens in the shadows, using ultramarine and yellow ochre. From there I progress through the brighter middle value greens, keeping some cool (cobalt or king’s blue and cadmium barium yellow) and some warm (ultramarine and cadmium barium yellow).  I use the naples yellow to lighten some of the lightest greens on the apples, this is preferable to white because it does not dull the color as much and make it chalky. Whenever possible,  I use a color to lighten rather than a white.

I look for interesting variations in color on apples-red, terra cotta, yellow ochre and sienna can all be found on green apples. I place these variations liberally to create interest and reduce the monochrome look of all the green objects.

Another place to create variety in color is in the table cloth. Since it is a grey neutral, I can push that grey in whatever direction I want. I chose a light purplish grey for the shadows and warm, soft yellows for the areas in light. By mixing the grey and using naples yellow for the light, I was able to get a grey that was far more interesting than just a tube grey or a black mixed with white.

On the highlights, I always look for warm and cool tones. Never use just plain white, tone it with yellows for the warm highlights and blues/purples for the cool ones.

Color variation is important in any painting, it is crucial when you are painting something that has a strong, predominance of a single color. It keeps the painting from becoming monochromatic and increases depth and interest.

Pastel Study for Future Painting

February 22, 2011

Pastel study, 6×8 in. pastel on Pastel Mat

I plan on painting this fairly large, not sure if I will use acrylics or oils. Really want to capture that feeling of light pouring through the scaffolding. I’ve done a few others in large format acrylic that have been very effective, however, I’m still tempted to go to oils on this for the luminosity of the colors. Having the pastel study will be of tremendous help, I’ve really come to rely on studies like these so much more than reference photos. A photo is a place to start, a sketch like this begins interpreting the things I find exciting about the subject. By having this available while working on the painting, I can use it to further capture the things I found compelling enough to paint in the first place.

Lunch Hour, acrylic on canvas, progression video

February 20, 2011

A quick animation of this painting from start to finish!

Pick 3 colors…

February 18, 2011

pastel study using 3 colors: one dark value color, one mid-value and one light

This landscape study is an example of using different colors purely as values to prove that it is value, not color, that creates dimensionality in a painting. Pastel is a great medium for this experiment, start by picking one dark value color, one middle value color and one light. They should not be the same color, in other words, don’t pick 3 values of blue to create a monochromatic drawing, instead, vary the colors, but be sure to pick 3 distinct values.

In this example, I’ve used a dark blue-green, a middle value rust and a light salmon pink. Begin by mapping in the dark values with the darkest color. Add in the mid tones with a lighter touch, still using the dark color. Then switch over to the middle value color and go over the areas you have mapped out as mid tones. Last of all, add in your brightest brights with the lightest of the 3 colors. Regardless of your color choices, you should get a realistic, 3 dimensional result as long as the values you selected represented a dark, middle and light tone. Try it, it’s an interesting experiment that will convince anyone who is not sure about the relationship of value and color that value is the determining factor in making an image appear 3D. It will also force you to focus on moving around your composition if you block in one value at a time, rather than finishing one area before moving on to the next.

Pot of Onions, oil alla prima on canvas

February 13, 2011

Pot of Onions, oil alla prima on canvas, 9×12 in.

This is another in my series of small still life paintings. I started this one as a demo in one of my oils classes and ended up really getting into it. I love the colors in the onion skins and the copper pot. I chose the rusty red-orange, blue and gold cloths to create a strong primary color harmony with an earth-toned flavor. The props are just things from the Center for Contemporary Art’s closet. It’s fun to see what a little imagination can do with some everyday objects. A still life set up allows you to have the most control over your subject versus any other subject you choose to paint. You control the lighting, the colors, the shapes and the mood of your departure point. Painting from life forces you to see so many colors, you have to really concentrate and that improves your observation skills so much. Am I repeating myself? Probably. There are certain concepts that go a long way in improving any artist’s skills, painting still lifes from life is an exercise that will serve you well no matter what your level of experience or preferred medium or subject.

Still Life Studies

February 6, 2011

Tea Time, oil on linen, 9×12 in.
Tea & Fruit, oil on linen, 12×9 in.

Painting from life is important, it forces your concentration and helps you to improve your seeing skills. Painting is all about observation, there are so many hidden colors in the objects we look at everyday. Live set ups also improve an artist’s ability to capture perspective, proportion and form and value more accurately. It’s more difficult to paint from life than from photographs, but that is why it is so important to do it as often as possible–your skills won’t improve if you don’t challenge yourself.

I do just about all of my classroom demos from live set ups. My urban landscape paintings are generally done from sketches and photos I’ve taken on location, but my work on these types of still life studies greatly helps me when I am working on urban landscapes. I don’t feel compelled to mirror the colors as I see them in a photograph, instead, I use color expressively.  In order to do that though, you have to have a good understanding of how color works in the real world. By studying objects that are in front of you, instead of relying on the color in photos, you become more aware of the subtleties and nuances in all kinds of surfaces. This allows you to be freer and more creative when you are using a photo for reference. We should always remember that a photo is not something to copy, rather, it is a departure point, a visual notation that reminds us of what it is that we find interesting about a place and time.