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.

Millennials and Coffee Shops

IMG_3488.JPGThe prevailing narrative on the millennials’ housing preferences has been that they can’t get enough of big city living (they’re part of the drive for denser development), and they just don’t want to live out in the suburbs. Being on the fence between millennial and gen x, but not an example of the “delayed adulthood” set (we have two kids and a house in the burbs), I’ve been a little suspicious of the main narrative, at least for the simplistic reason that I don’t fit, and if I don’t fit, who else doesn’t? Of course, looking at a whole generation as some group-thinking block has its problems, though it makes for an easier headline, but it might still be useful as a discussion point because even a few percentage points shift in the balance between city preference versus suburban preference can be meaningful. On the whole the effect of millennials living in denser spaces may be there, but I’ve wondered if that’s a result of desire or something else? There seemed to me to be some nuance not making the headlines. This is some of that nuance. In this recent Atlantic article, there are a few studies cited indicating that millennials aren’t looking for long-term life in the city, they just can’t afford to move out because of when they entered the job market (obviously, it’s awful to enter work during a recession) and the high cost of living in the city near their jobs.

The surveys cited suggest that millennials want features of city life–easy access to cool places to hang out, easy access to work–but that doesn’t mean they want to live in a city. This makes sense to me. I’ve never been a true city person, though I loved my time in Providence, RI, but I do like having a few good local places (not in a strip mall) with character that I can go to regularly . That’s part of feeling like part of a community. Independent artsy coffee shops serve that purpose pretty well, and Leesburg, VA, where I live now, has a bunch.

The painting I’ve started above is at one of these coffee shops (Trinity House) in a very old house with what feel like secret rooms. Instead of the normal layout ofone or two big room around the counter, Trinity House uses the whole house as dining space. There’s even a playroom for the kids.

There seems to be a bit of Wyeth potential in this scene, so I’m seeing what I can do with an 8×10 study. I am preparing myself for some larger works, but I am just not ready for the commitment yet. More on that later. For now, thanks for reading.

Slowly adding color

This turkey is really fascinating and I am slowly trying to work out what strokes and colors to lay on top of each other. This feels like an ideal subject for watercolor over any other medium. This will remain a slow project. I want to get a few more paintings going, some of which should be faster. I enjoy the detailed work, but can only focus on it for so long at a time.

Thanks for reading.

Starting another turkey, some thoughts on paints

After a short break, I got back to painting yesterday with a new turkey. I am also trying out a few new paints: W&N Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR 206), Sennelier Red (PR254), and Sennelier Yellow Sophie (PY93). I like the Sennelier paints a lot for their vibrancy, consistency, how easily they activate, and for the 21ml tubes, which are a great value. They won’t make up my whole palette–they don’t have some of my preferred pigments–but I have found myself checking their list first when searching for paints unless there’s a special color I need, such as W&N cerulean blue, which seems to be everyone’s favorite cerulean.

I am looking forward to working more on this turkey. There are some really fascinating oddities on the beak and forehead, with some nice lighting or the face and under the chin.

Thanks for reading

Is the turkey done?

My wife and I got some time to paint side by side for once, and I pushed this turkey a little further, darkening the neck, painting the odd bumps on the side, and modifying the shades feathers behind the neck. Is it done? This is the most detailed watercolor I’ve done, so it’s hard to say. If this were a landscape I’d leave it as is. Time to start something else and let this one sit for a while.


Revisiting the Monument, working with Dad

I return to work tomorrow after a nice holiday break, so I am trying to build up an inventory on in-progress works so I can tinker with them during the weeks ahead.

I liked that Washington Monument painting I did a month or so ago for my Dad, and wanted to give it a try again in a different composition. The clouds and the mist were really interesting. Above is the beginning of the new one.

I want to keep a lot of paintings going on at the same time so I, and you my readers, don’t get bored with any of them and so I keep some momentum going. This one is taking on a pretty old style feel, but once the bent pines come in, it will get a little more interesting.

With the last few works I am shifting my approach to get a little more patient, to build the works up more. My drawing skills are improving, as are my abilities and confidence with the paint. Last year I was trying to work more aggressively, and I will retain that, but I think I worked a little too fast, was too free, and so might have missed some opportunities. A little more deliberation this year will be important.

Today I was working side by side with my Dad, who is getting back into fine art. He’s going to be working this up into a conte crayon drawing, but here’s his underdrawing.


Thanks for reading.

Moving Along with Pavese and My Wife’s New Blog

What is the real reason we want to be big, creative geniuses? For posterity? No. To be pointed out when we stroll in crowded places? No. To carry on with our daily toil under the conviction that whatever we do is worth the trouble, is something unique. For the day, not for eternity.

Cesare Pavese, Diaries, 7.1.1947

I’m coming to the end of this small Pavese watercolor sketch. I need to let it dry so I can sort out the final shadows and details on the mug. I’m also thinking about what color the table should be. Something with a greenish tint to make the red stand out more, or is there a better color than that? I need to think on that. I also need to scratch out the age of the book. It’s good to save something for tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m excited to say that my wife started a blog today, and it promises to be pretty great (of course, I have a strong bias in her favor). She does pretty much everything–woodworking, fine art, design, fiber arts, food, gardening, running (a couple marathons, a Tuff Mudder, and counting), and she’ll cover all of that. Check it out here.

Thanks for reading.