What’s Your Mission?

April 28, 2011

"Moment", acrylic on canvas, 10x8 in.

Artists each have their own mission in terms of what is important to them in the way their work comes across.  My mission is to inject as much life and spontaneity into each painting as I can. The work should never look stiff, overworked or like “it took a really long time to do”, freshness is key for me. To achieve this, my mission is to always touch the canvas as few times as possible to achieve the desired effect, in other words, to make every stroke count and to reduce details to single brush strokes. I don’t touch the canvas until I am absolutely sure of the placement, color and type of stroke that will do the job right–the first time.

At first glance, that might appear easier than getting out the triple zero brushes and magnifying glass, but try it sometime. In order to make less is more work properly, there first has to be a solid structure underneath. In other words a good, solid, correct drawing done as an under painting. You know, the brown layer that you may have resisted doing or skip over in order to “save time”.  Skipping this stage usually doesn’t save time at all, instead it can set you up for frustration down the road. Think about it, you’ll be making corrections to your drawing if it isn’t right, mixing colors repeatedly if you don’t have a value map (from the under painting), and having to make those corrections in multiple colors as opposed to just one. So in the end, skipping the under painting is actually a time waster, not a time saver.

Once your under painting is on the canvas, you can then make solid decisions and be much more expressive with color and brush work. If you have the drawing, the composition and the values down, you are free to focus on color and brush strokes. When applying the color layers, think before you touch the canvas. Is the color the way you want it? Don’t put it on the canvas if it doesn’t look right, it won’t look any better there than it did on the palette. Color mixing is a skill that will develop over time, if you need a couple tries at getting the color right, that’s ok, just wait til it’s right before you put it on the painting. Just because you’ve mixed a color, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

As far as brush strokes are concerned, don’t be a wimp! Paint like you mean it! Put the color down with a confident stroke that defines the shape (form) you are painting. Don’t “dab” at the painting, or do little random back and forth strokes, that’s not painting! Load up the brush and put the paint down. 🙂

Confidence goes a long way in paint application. Paintings that are done with tentative strokes can be spotted a mile away. It’s just a piece of canvas (or paper), don’t be afraid of it!


Distant Empire featured on the cover of City Journal magazine

April 20, 2011

“Distant Empire” is on the cover of the Spring issue of City Journal magazine! Thank you City Journal and thank you to the Michael Ingbar Gallery for making this possible. I can’t wait to see it in print.

Solo Show at Gallery Egan – May 1 – 31

April 16, 2011

I hope you will be able to join me on May 6 from 7-9 pm for the opening reception of my solo show at Gallery Egan. 🙂


April 15, 2011

Fiesta, oil on canvas, 9x12

This little demo painting turned into a bold and lively still life. I don’t think I’ve included bananas or mangoes in any of my previous paintings, they are not fruits you see very often in still life paintings. They are sort of whimsical and happy, maybe they are not “serious” enough for the traditional still life artist. Maybe that’s why I like them…

Little Brown Jug

April 13, 2011

Little Brown Jug - demo in oil, about 4x6 in.

My demo from today, sometimes simple is best. This little jug was painted with just 5 colors: burnt sienna, ultramarine, alizarin, yellow ochre and titanium white. Underpainting is done in burnt sienna. Working from dark to light, I used burnt umber and ultramarine for the darkest shadows. Burnt sienna and alizarin combine for the brown on the ceramic at the top of the jug, the lighter part of the jug is made up of alizarin and ultramarine, plus a bit of yellow ochre and white for the shadow area, plus yellow ochre and white for the brightest part of the body of the jug. The highlights are done with white and a bit of yellow ochre. All of this is alla prima, entire demo took about 25 minutes.  When you simplify your shapes and colors, you reduce your subject to its most basic elements, enough to describe the object in a way that is not fussy, and that can be elegant in its simplicity.

Brush vs. Palette Knife

April 8, 2011

alla prima pepper - painted with a brush

alla prima pepper - painted with a palette knife

I’ve begun experimenting with a palette knife. After years of being intrigued by paintings done in a heavy impasto style, I finally decided to give it a try. I used a palette knife on the sky of one of my large cityscapes and really liked the textured effect it added to the painting. Yesterday, I used a palette knife to paint the green pepper above. Painting an object with defined shapes vs.  something more fluid like a sky or water with a knife is challenging, but I can see where it can push the abstract element of a piece even further than a large brush.

The red pepper was done with a 1/2″ angled flat brush, using bold, efficient strokes. It is similar in feeling to the knife painting, but has a little bit more control. I could see using both brush and palette knife in a single painting, combining the effects seems like a great way to make the most of both tools. Once I am done with the paintings for my upcoming exhibits, I think I will try a few knife/brush combination paintings on a variety of subjects. It might be the jump to the next level I feel like I’ve been close to with much of my recent work.

Shadfest! Lambertville, April 29 – May 1

April 2, 2011

My poster for Lambertville's Shadfest 2011

Every year, the town of Lambertville hosts a silent auction of Shadfest posters. The posters are original artworks created by local artists. This is the first year I am participating. My painting is of some of the tourist boats at Coryell’s Ferry Landing. It is acrylic painted directly on the poster board.

Proceeds from the auctions go to a scholarship fund for promising young artists (high school students and undergraduates) from the Lambertville area. The festival features local foods, crafts and river activities. For more information on the poster auction visit the Lambertville Shadfest blog at http://www.2011shadfestposters.blogspot.com/.