Hazy Potomac River work in progress

The other day I got out for a lunchtime hike along the Potomac. It was a bit eerie being the only out with a hazy river. I liked the warm colors in the distance and the very cold appearance of the foreground. Still a lot more to go on the the web of trees and branches and the rocks on the ground. This one is all ultramarine blue, burnt umber, and yellow ochre.


Rural town church

 A couple weeks ago we were driving through rural PA on the way to take the kids snow tubing. I took a picture of this church in one of the towns we passed through. While I am not showing the surrounding buildings, which were in some disrepair, I am trying to use the sky to express that mood, with some hope and potential to be found through sunlight on the side of the church that I haven’t yet painted. We’ll see if it works.

Awaiting finishing touches and a signature


I was excited to get the top of the weathervane on this morning. It’s on the top of a building in Leesburg called the Carriage House, which I think is a very cool private residence. There’s something compelling about weathervanes, maybe that they make concrete and visible something as vague as wind.

Just letting it dry and I will put a signature on it and scrape out a few highlights.

Working on a weathervane

When I was in downtown Leesburg this weekend I came across this cool roof and weathervane and was reminded of a Wyeth painting I can’t seem to find. I took a quick picture more for the structure than the scene–in real life the sky was a flat blue and some trees were creeping up behind the roof. Very pleasant for a morning out, but not so exciting for a painting. I tried to draw on memory to make some clouds dissipating to reveal a patch of blue sky, and I lit the cupola(?) as if the sun were shining from outside of the frame.

The cool part of the weathervane is still to come, but I have to let the sky dry and the paper flatten again.
I am using a block of Fabriano Artistico traditional white cold press paper. I like the paper, though it is softer than Arches, but the block isn’t so good. I left it in the sunlight one day and the glue separated in a bunch of places, so it doesn’t quite keep the paper as flat as it should. Still, I like the paper for paintings like this or for still life studies, though I think it’s not as good for details as Arches. The Fabriano 5×7 blocks are great for small sketches and are a pretty good price online.

I am getting back into reading fiction after a hiatus for what feels like a binge of history/urban studies reading between several books and a whole lot of articles. Winesburg, Ohio will be my first book. I started it years ago, but it did t line up with what I was interested in writing at the time–I found it hard to enjoy reading while I was writing–, but I hope it will prove more rewarding this time around. I’ve been thinking about building more implied story into my paintings, at least for some of them, and Winesburg, Ohio might fit well with that. This painting is a first step. 
Thanks for reading.


Still in progress–finding the right target.

I am nearing the end of this coffee shop watercolor study, which I think I will call The Red Necklace, as that is really the most compelling part. I have done corrective work on the shape of the face since the picture I am posting here, as the angle isn’t quite right and the eye and cheek on the far side are too far out, and the chin is too extended. I know I won’t get it in the end–too much working of the paper to be able to truly salvage this–but it has been a great learning experience. I have never painted a person’s face before. It’s not as forgiving a task as painting a turkey or a dog.  

I think where I was successful with the turkeys was being able to work a lot of abstract marks into the structure of the face, and could leave parts of it abstract without as much burden of accuracy. Sargent was excellent at capturing faces in watercolor without overworking them, and I should study his efforts closely.

Between Homer, Wyeth, and Sargent, I am not exactly sure what my target should be. I won’t hit it on my first try, but at least I am aiming in the right direction. Anyway, this was supposed to be a compositional study for a larger work. I probably got a little more detailed than I should have. It’s hard to do details on such a small face (about 1 square inch). As I write this I am realizing that if I just get the proper turn of the head captured, that will likely do the trick in getting the attitude right, even if some of the details are off. Something for later tonight or tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.


Experimenting with a big sky

I have some 22×30 arches watercolor boards that I have been anxious to try out, but I haven’t been quite sure what to do on them at a large scale.

I am experimenting on 11×14 sheets with some big sky paintings to see of maybe that would do. I like Loriann Signori’s vertical pastels and oils, so I thought I’d try something in that format.

I didn’t quite get what I wanted here–the water came out green because I brought the orange down, and the sunlight isn’t popping out like I hoped–but I think I see what to do for next time. And there’s still more I can do here once it dries–some bright reflections on the water, etc. This might also be a chance to really mess around with it like Winslow Homer did.

Here it is in an early stage before I built up the top of the sky.


And here it is with the light in the sky better emphasized.


I think I will refine this over the weekend. For now, thanks for reading.