Sunday, December 4, 2011

Conte portrait #4

red and white conte on toned paper
two sittings (about 7 hours work)

Thursday, November 24, 2011


oil on board
50 hours
This painting needs to be varnished and then rephotographed. I imagine the shadows will deepen and it will look a bit better. But until then here she is...

after day two, 10 - 12 hours work

after day one, about 6 hours work

one hour grisialle block-in

10 minute block-in

view of set up in my studio

I consider this one a failed painting. The original #5. I spent one days work on it, woke up the next morning an wiped it out. I just wasn't feeling it. Then I proceeded to start the painting that ended up being #5. The yellow doll character was too 'sunny' for me. I felt I wanted to do something a bit 'darker' and realized that I was more drawn to the old raggedy Anne doll. I guess we just have to follow our instincts.

20 minute block-in

5 minute block-in

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Conte portrait #3

From our weekly portrait sessions on Thursdays at Studio Incamminati conducted by Peter Kelsey. This was done over two Thursday sessions, so about 5 - 6 hours work. The play of dry scumbled blocky shapes to crisp line work is sure fun. Working with the conte has me thinking about Nicholai Fechin lately. Putting my work up next to this true master is humbling, but something to aspire to.

Nicholai Fechin

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Back of a woman's neck
oil on canvas

Obviously this painting was not done in one day. I actually completed this painting last spring, but haven't really shown anyone.... so, wala!
This painting was done from life over many sittings and the model is my good friend Dianna Mckee. I have been a little reluctant to show it because as I was working on it I realized how much it resembled a painting by my teacher (Nelson Shanks). I didn't set out to do that, it just sorta happened... I recognize now that I was thinking of his painting while I was composing this one. Despite any resemblance, I feel I made it my own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two recent conte drawings

nude figure
red and white conte on paper
12 hours

Last summer I took a three day 3 color chalk workshop with Rob Liberace at Studio Incamminati. In the workshop the three colors were black, red and white; in the tradition of the old masters such as Rubens, etc.. We practiced the technique with three different mediums which are pastel pencil, conte pencil and verithin pencils. I liked all three for different reasons but felt most gravitated towards the conte because they are less precise and mechanical than the verithin, and stickier or less powdery than the pastel so the drawing grabs faster (I suppose that is why pastel artists use the sandpaper surface to work on). For whatever reason I feel inclined to the conte. I also now use the conte sticks rather than the pencils because I like it being a bit clumsy and I can also use the side for large shape blocking-in or large simplified gradations. For these two conte drawings I am not using black, only red (or sanguine)and white plus a stump (a little bit for the shadow mass although you are not supposed to) and a kneeded erasure.

Red and white conte on paper
3 hours

I am also learning what the medium can and cannot do. The red reaches its darkest dark very quickly so you have to have a light touch and slowly ease into your darker tones. Also the less you use the erasure the better. It would be ideal if the drawing slowly got darker as you became more certain of where things are and did not use the erasure at all. However in the earlier stages when the conte is still light, the erasure can be helpful to move the shapes or lines around a bit before committing. Once you go past a certain level of darkness, there is no going back. This is partly why I like the conte, it encourages more of a sketch mentality where you embrace the imperfections. Another lesson is that the white in the lights is to be used sparingly, mostly just the top-ish planes and highlights. I went overboard with my whites in the figure drawing, which is more apparent in real life than in this photograph. The method I have been using is sort of a hybrid between massing in tone and caligraphic lines. I am sensing now that Jon DeMartin was right when he said the red is for the shadows and dark lights, then the white is only for the lightest lights, the rest of the light mass is left open (or paper) and most of the descriptive power is in the line. So I may gravitate more towards constructing linearly and the tones secondary in future drawing, or I may continue to try to do them both equally. The old masters used certain methods because they worked, but part of the fun is also to find out what works for you.

Peter Paul Rubens - black, red and white color chalk

Tiepolo - red and white chalk

Jon DeMartin - red and white chalk

Robert Liberace - black, red and white chalk

This is a black and white conte drawing I did during a Jon DeMartin workshop a few years back at Studio Incamminati. I didn't overuse the white in this one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


oil on canvas
12 x 12 circle
5 hours

45 minutes
(my cat Bo-ski to the left)

5 minutes

This is the view from the roof above the kitchen, located at the back of the house, looking south. I have been wanting to paint this view for awhile. I hope to do more of these!

Friday, October 21, 2011


18 hours
oil on board

Ok, so I am already beginning to deviate from the one a day format. Oops! I started this painting thinking I would do it in one day and it ended up taking two and a half days. So I may need to rethink the title of this blog and/or project. Going forward I plan to attempt (notice I said 'attempt') to stick to the one a day format, but I can already see that is going to be a challenge. The good thing about this project is that I feel looser and everything is flowing more, which is why I wanted to do it in the first place. Something else I have noticed is that I often do better when I plan less, when I stumble upon a subject that inspires me and I can set up and begin working immediately, feeling energized because I feel inspired, rather than the opposite which is how I was feeling about my set ups before I started this one. If I don't feel inspired I tend to just sit there feeling bored. Note to self.


1 1/2 hour block-in

This shows how I am adjusting my method due this project. I used to do a more fully developed block in, let that dry for a day and then paint additional layers on top. The benefit of that approach is that I can relate to the overall block in when I paint the smaller areas. Here, I am moving faster, so I find that step unnecessary. As long as I can establish my darkest dark, lightest light, some basic color relationships and basic proportions, then I can 'wing it'. After all, it doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to work well.

This is the back room of the house. We are slowly fixing it up. We recently pulled up all the linoleum down to the sub floor. There is a cardboard type layer still stuck to the wood floor, which you can see here. I didn't need to arrange the set up, instead I created a composition from the room as I found it. The only item I 'arranged' is the yellow drill in the back left. I added that later because I just liked it in the picture and felt it contributed the color arrangement of my composition.

Ok. I felt I should include this because it was the original #3. I consider it a failed painting. This is about three hours work, then the light changed rather dramatically and I didn't really like the composition anyways. So I abandoned it and considered that day a wash.

Friday, October 14, 2011

# 2

# 2
16 x 18
oil on board
7 hours
Lesson Learned: Overcast lighting is the bomb.

1 and half hours -block in

start - 5 minutes

Picture of start with subject in background.
This is my tiny back backyard in the city, I planted roses earlier in the spring and this is my first time painting them. It is also my first time painting in this type of light which may now be my favorite lighting situation. I plan later to pop a few edges in the flower more and glaze the leaf directly behind it with some pthalo turquiose, but otherwise it is 99% done. This one was so much fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Painting a Day #1

Painting a Day #1
16 x 18
oil on masonite
6 hours

Lesson learned: Go, go, go! No time to get hung up in one area for too long. Also, lay down large areas of paint in the beginning, this will create a bed of paint to work into in order to get the paint flowing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

First post - mission statement

This blog is set up to catalog the results of a new venture I am embarking on. One painting a day for 50 days. This is not a new idea, other painters have already famously pioneered this way of working. I would like to borrow the concept because it may be a way for me to loosen up and get my creative juices flowing, create a larger body of work, and to work and think in the moment which is where I believe I do much of my best work. I have a bit of a tendency to over think things when I have unlimited time and this can often (but not always) cause a painting to get stuck in the middle stages of trying to create "art". I think this venture will be a lot of fun as well as much work and commitment. The subjects of this series can be anything and everything. I will probably start out with still life arrangements and then begin expanding organically to other genres such as interiors, landscapes, cityscapes and then anything else that might catch my interest. I am hoping it will evolve into tackling subjects I have never painted before and could be ideas for more involved paintings later! The sizes of the paintings will vary also, 12 x 12 being about he smallest and as large as 24 x 24 and possibly even larger? In my mind, larger canvases simply means larger brushes and more paint. The goal of course is to complete each oil painting in one session also known as alla prima. It will also be interesting to see how the paintings evolve over time. The two examples I provide below do not count toward the 100, so as of now I am at zero. Also since my schedule varies throughout the week with teaching or other projects the 50 days will not be consecutive. If I were to do three a week it will take me approximately 4 months, then I will try to feel where it should go from there. Wish me luck...!

This is a one day still life painting from a few years back done at Studio Incamminati.

16 x 20

This is a landscape painting I completed yesterday in about 2 hours for the Plein Air for Camphill event.

14 x12

More of my work can be seen at