2014 in review and plans for the year ahead

Thank you all for following me this year. I’ve enjoyed the support, and I hope I kept you all reasonable entertained.

If you’re interested in the year in review stats from WordPress, see below.

With this year at an end it’s time to plan for next, which should be more deliberate than the past two. Here are three things I want to do:

1. Set up a store

2. Paint more frequently, and with more thought and theme behind the work

3. More fiction and criticism (starting soon)

Happy New Year!

Year in review:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Light on a turkey neck


My dad suggested I watch Renoir, a beautifully lit and shot film about the painter at the end his his career and the start of the relationship between his son Jean (the filmmaker) and Andree, the new model. In the movie Renoir has a couple lines about the light on the flesh of the model, how that is everything. I was thinking about that idea as I worked on the turkey neck this morning, which is really fascinating in terms of light and shadow and warm and cool colors. I imagine this turkey is pretty proud of his neck. The key part is the warm glow under the chin. Still more to go on this, but I think I am on the right track. I need to let it dry so I don’t ruin in. There’s a lot of line work to do go get all the little wrinkles in the neck. I need to sort out how to convey that without going over the top in keeping with how it works on the head.

Thanks for reading.

Turkey, Marianne Moore, Roland Barthes

To A Prize Bird
by Marianne Moore

You suit me well, for you can make me laugh,
nor are you blinded by the chaff
that every wind sends spinning from the rick.

You know to think, and what you think you speak
with much of Samson’s pride and bleak
finality, and none dare bid you stop.

Pride sits you well, so strut, colossal bird.
No Barnyard makes you look absurd;
your brazen claws are staunch against defeat.

Last night after a very nice Christmas day with my parents and my in-laws over, my daughters having fun with their dolls and new games (Don’t Break the Ice and Let’s Go Fishin’ are just as awesome now as when we were kids), I spent some time in the studio reading some new books (shown) and returning to work on the turkey. The above poem by Marianne Moore seemed fitting for this bird, his pride starting to come through with each brush stroke.

I read some analysis of Marianne Moore’s poems–it might have been Calvino’s essay “The Bestiary of Marianne Moore” that talked about the difficulty in understanding some of her work. In another essay I read recently–I think it was by Barthes, but now I can’t find it–there was a point about not as much attention being paid to the act of reading and to the reader as there is to the act of writing and the writer, that the reader is as important as the writer. With this in mind, creating is a form of reading, and juxtaposition might be a further way of interpreting work. Thank you Marianne Moore for adding something to this in-process turkey. I’ll be thinking about this painting a little differently now. And thanks Mom and Dad for the new books.

Here’s a close up of progress so far:


The Metropolis of Tomorrow, Yesterday

I am working on a few posters that will have watercolor paintings as the central image. For this one of the imploded and famous Hudson’s department store building in Detroit I found an image online, then simplified the structure, and elongated the tower to make it seem more ascendent and monumental, inspired by Hugh Ferris’ renderings in “The Metropolis of Tomorrow,” which I have admired since I encountered them in college.

The reference photo came from here.

With this one out of the way, I can turn back to the turkey. And with all this cold weather I have been thinking a lot about coffee. A coffee series seems in order.

Thanks for reading.


Studio cleanup

I took the day off from work today and spent a little time cleaning up my studio space, touching up some old paintings, and laying in the background of a new painting. The light coming in the window just now was compelling and seemed worth sharing.


Business cards

Preparing for next year, I thought it was time for some original artwork business cards.

First I did a few concept sketches before settling to the final design (you can see the winner on the sketchook Page in the picture below. Then I got some watercolor paper and splattered three paints on-cobalt teal (pg50), quinacridone magenta, and lemon yellow (py175). Then I splattered water on top. Whatever happened happened. Here was the post painting stage:

Finally I cut them out of the larger sheets to business card size and wrote my name on them. Contact info will be on the back. I hope you like them. They were fun to make.

Thanks for reading.

Some more turkey

I started laying in the first washes. I’ve decided to go with opaque white on the feathers, so I am really just giving myself some directional guides with these shadow colors on the chest. I want this turkey’s fancy coat and collar to pop out, so some impasto wi be pretty cool for that. I probably won’t return to this one tonight, so I am posting my progress now. With a lot of time off coming up, I will be working on a few paintings simultaneously for a while.

Thanks for reading.

Tough Turkey

Earlier this fall I took this photo of a ridiculously proud turkey. I think it deserves a giant watercolor portrait. For now, I’ve started an 8×10 sketch to figure out my approach. Will I try to be delicate and transparent, or should I be more aggressive about it and layer on opaque white later? Not sure yet, but I am leaning towards the latter.


Learning from Turner: The Scarlet Sunset



I’ve been wanting to try a Turner copy for some time, and I’ve been interested in whether or not blue paper was something for me. As a guide I used the book the Tate put out “How to a paint Like Turner.” Interesting exercises. I didn’t follow along too closely other than for the color mixing tips. Anyway, here’s how I did it.

First I tinted a 5×7 sheet of Fabriano Artistico a cool blue (a mix of Prussian and French ultramarine. This worked out pretty well. I might do this again when I want to work on tinted paper of whatever color, though I can’t imagine that will be common.

Once it dried, I laid in the sky with the red and yellow, using a mix of quinacridone burnt orange and ultramarine for the brown clouds. The bridge was cobalt and ivory black, and the distant buildings were cobalt and cad red, though other colors got in there too. A bit rough, as I’ve never worked with these mixes before. In fact, I never use ivory black, and the other colors I rarely use and if I do it’s not for their mixing properties (except for quin burnt orange and ultramarine, the two of which make an incredible range of glowing browns). The barely distinguishable cart and people were a mix of things, burnt orange being the main one.

A few things I learned:

The trick of the dab of sun and then the calligraphic swipe for reflection is an effective (Monet used it too) but strange shorthand. Does a setting sun ever look like that? For a sketch I suppose it’s fine, but it doesn’t get at the diffusion of light that Turner did nicely with the rest of the work.

Ivory Black is useful. With Cobalt Blue it makes a nice deep blue. Cad Red and cobalt blue make a nice purple grey. I see how I could use all of these in a decent “old style” palette. I am rethinking my decision to use quin red just because the one I have (Maimeri Blue) seems pretty weak. I will put the cad back, especially now that I see how nicely it works with cobalt blue. Will Ivory Black creep in, perhaps as a replacement for Burnt Sienna?

Turner’s painting has a lot of atmosphere, no doubt in part because he knew what he was doing. I laid things on too thick, and couldn’t really lift them out. In other places I was too weak. For a first time with the blue paper, I got a lot out of it, though seeing them side by said after the fact reveals how off I was. Then again, this wasn’t about exactitude, just experimentation.

Colors used:
Isoindolinone Yellow
Cad Red Light
Cobalt Blue
Ivory Black
Quinacridone Burnt Orange
Titanate Yellow (with a touch of titanium white)

Thanks for reading.