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.


Back at the coffee shop watercolor

It’s been a while since I’ve worked on this one, in large part because I’ve been afraid of painting the figure. I still am, which is why I have shied away from painting the face. So far the body is coming along well though. The real punch will be when I paint the cadmium red necklace.


Turkey feathers and travel brushes

I made more progress on the turkey beak and chin and a lot of work on the colors of the feathers. When that dries I will put in a few strokes to indicate the feathers more, but I want them to stay pretty abstract to keep the focus on the head. I am leaving for now, but I can see the end of this one.

For those who are into this sort of thing– some notes on travel brushes:

I recently added a couple brushes to my collection to round out my travel supplies now that the weather is turning. The first was a Da Vinci Maestro #3 (the small size makes it feel like a pen which I like for a detailing brush) and the second was a Connoisseur Kolinsky Travel Round. I’ve never heard of this before. It only comes in size 7 but it’s a pretty big size 7. It’s about the same as an Escoda size 10 or a Da Vinci Maestra travel size 8 but a lot cheaper ($35 on amazon) for Kolinsky. The construction isn’t as nice as Escoda—acrylic instead of wood, and the end pops off without a little tape inside the connection point–but the brush itself is very good. A little soft maybe, but I like it. Great point, can be very expressive.

There is something appealing about fixing up a brush. My Isabey pocket round #6 had problems too (I had to re-glue the wood to the little end cap and put tape at the connection because it was loose), but those little fixes make it more personal. I’d recommend all three. I use the Isabey more than anything else for smaller works, but it’s good to have all three as a pretty versatile set. I can’t wait to get out to sketch though even at home I find I prefer the feeling of the travel brushes to conventional brushes. At least for these three.

Thanks for reading.

Sunset study just for fun

IMG_3506On my drive home yesterday I saw another interesting sunset while at a light. Needing a break from the close studies I’ve been working on, I thought I’d give this a try as a small sketch. The dogs had me up long before my alarm, so I laid in the first washes before work. Another day I will come back over with some broken clouds up the left side, and then fill in all the trees obscuring the sky. It’s good to loosen up and enjoy playing with paint.

Daydreaming In Place


…If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the daydreamer, the house allows one to dream in place. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values belonging to daydreaming mark humanity to its depths. Daydreaming even has a privilege of autovalorization. It derives direct pleasure from its own being. Therefore the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time.

Now my aim is clear. I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, and dreams of mankind…

From The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

I am slowly reading Gaston Bachelard’s work “The Poetics of Space,” a philosophical exploration of home. The role that our spaces play in our lives has been an interest of mine for a long time, perhaps as far back as the first paper I ever remember writing (I think it was in 7th grade) on Frank Lloyd Wright, and I am trying to more deliberately bring this interest (and all my other interests) into sharper focus. The quote above so perfectly captures the importance of home, of the role it plays in humanity, that I couldn’t help but giving a silent Kerouac style “Yes!” while reading it.

One can find this safe place for dreaming in place elsewhere. What can be said about one’s home can extend to the places one frequents (though the home might be the strongest place), to one’s community, to one’s hometown. The coffee shop has become one of those places.

The challenge in painting any space for daydreaming is conveying it as such, giving it life, giving it a little mystery, the opportunity for meaning, or at least implication.

I’ve made some more progress in that direction with my painting this morning. I focused on the window, more or less finishing it off, and emphasizing the blown-out lighting. This helps convey the daydreaming feeling I think. I’ll bring that out further once I get to the facial expression. I’m really just experimenting with what I can do in painting. There are all sorts of tricks to borrow from cinema and photography, and I’ll try to get smarter about that over time. I also am trying this year to do paintings that feel more finished (not polished, though), have more texture and effect to them. I think the three I’ve finished so far, and the two I’m working on now, fit that profile.

Thanks for reading.