Thanks for stopping to look, I hope you enjoy my artwork. Follow the links to my website, FB page and my Daily Paintworks store for even more! Thanks!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Labradors and Turtle Doves

Tis the season for Peace, Love and Labradors... <3 :) Since Labs conveniently come in 3 main colors, it was an easy decision to make a triptych, or more accurately, a series of 3 of Labs and Turtle doves.. A yellow lab, black lab and a chocolate lab. Equally easy is painting these fellas as they are so happy and cute, it makes every brush stroke pure joy to paint. :)

Yellow Lab & Turtle Dove, on hold

Black Lab & Turtle Dove, on hold

Chocolate Lab coming soon!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Berks Art Alliance Demonstration

I am doing a demonstration at the Berks Art Alliance tonight where I will demonstrate my alla prima techinque and talk about my materials and process that I have developed over the past few years. I wanted to post a video that shows one of my paintings being painted from start to finish as a supplement to my talk, and for people to reference later if they wish.  Below is a time lapse video of a painting I did yesterday which is very similar to the one I will be demonstrating tonight. 

* Please scroll all the way down to see the finished painting with a link to purchase.

Materials used:

Medium: 2 parts linseed oil, 1 part stand oil, 1 part gamsol

Paint: Titanium white, buff titanium white, cad red pale, cad red medium, cad yellow pale, ultramarine blue, burnt umber

Brushes: Blick Master stroke bristle brushes - Flats sizes 3,4,6,8,10, filbert size 4; 
Silver Bristlon - long filbert 6, regular filbert 4
Generic fan brush - smallish

Assorted Palette knives

Panel - Tempered hardboard panel coated with 2 coats of GAC 100 and 2 coats of white gesso

Finished Painting

House Sparrow on Red Chuck, oil on panel, 9"x12"
to purchase, please click here

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Designing of Left Red Chuck with Goldfinch

 I have been asked to give a demo at the Berks Art Alliance this coming Tuesday.  Being that I have had many people ask me about my alla prima technique, I wanted to design a painting that I could do that showcases the techniques I have developed over the past 4 years, and uses imagery that I like and have painted before.   Below I outline the basic process I used to design the reference image I will use during the demo.

1.Choosing a subject, gathering reference images

Image taken by me of my red chucks

Chuck Taylors/Converse all stars, whatever you call them, have been a long time favorite of mine... I've painted them a bunch, both as stand alones and in my Ducks in Chucks series. :) I like chucks mainly because of their iconography, but also because of their myriad colors and great lines and shapes that you find in their design. This is a picture I took of my red chucks.  I opted to use the left one for this painting.

Image courtesy of

 I also enjoy painting birds and I've painted a lot of them...again, many that are straightforward paintings of birds, and others where birds are found in unlikely places. As I am no bird photographer, I searched a royalty-free website called Morguefile for reference images.  After trying out a few other birds, I settled on this guy.  

2. Composing the design (or is it designing the composition?)

Why not put these 2 subjects together?  
Couldn't think of a good reason not to, so, I did!

The placing of the bird...

3. The making of a background
After cutting, pasting and arranging in Photoshop, I decided I wanted to throw a background in to just get an idea of what might work. I often just want some abstracted pattern and colors in the backgrounds of these types of compositions,.  Rugs and wall paper are a great source for both and can be found in abundance all over the internet.  They provide a relatively easy way to get an idea of how different colors and patterns will work.  The final background in the completed painting is often a little different than what I initially design in photoshop but it is a nice way for me to quickly solve some compositional problems... For this design, I wanted some vertical energy and muted colors.

Image of a blue and white rug
After putting just the stripes in behind the Chuck and Goldfinch, I layered a few more things on top of the stripes, messed with the opacity, brightness, contrast and saturation levels to lessen the strength of these stripes a bit...

image of a 'neutral' rug

Texture I added using a natural brush in Photoshop

4. Remembering compositional 'rules' and tools

Composition designed in Photoshop
During this whole process, I also pay attention to compositional 'rules' like the rule of thirds, using diagonals to lead the eye, using focal points that occur at major intersections and the like.  The above image shows how I worked out some of these design details.  As a disclaimer, rules like these are flexible, and don't have to be used at all.  I find they help more often than not, though.

5. Checking the Values  

 I almost always will check out the image in grayscale to make sure my values are where I want them. If they aren't good in grayscale, they are not going to be good in the colored version either.  They weren't quite right so I did have to go back into the colored version and adjust some levels.

6. Finished Reference

Left Red Chuck with Goldfinch

This is the final image that I will use for reference during the demo.  As you can see, there is quite a process involved in this stage of the game, but I find that the more problems you have resolved before you even pick up a brush, the better the painting is and the easier it is to paint too!  
I don't know if that is really what I will title this painting... I haven't even painted it yet so the title will probably change, but for now, "Left Red Chuck with Goldfinch" is the title of this design. 


Below are outtakes...2 other designs I tried initially, but nixed.  I first thought I would use a sparrow as I like the subtle, understated nature of these birds.  Decided they were a little too understated.  This red chuck needed more of a statement bird.  As it turns out, the goldfinch works nicely when I added the muted blue background as now I have a primary color scheme going on, which I think adds an element of fun to the image. :)

Although... there is something about the simplicity of this one that I like .. might paint this one some day.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Making a Studio Painting

My Studio Process – From composition to painting

Below are the basic steps I take when creating a studio painting.  I also do plein air painting, which is a different animal altogether, and I don't describe here.

    Subject: Decide on subject matter and acquire reference images.  Here, I had the awful task (ha ha) of visiting some puppies in a pet store, having my daughter hold them for me while I took some reference photos.

Compose/design : This is the most crucial stage of the whole thing.  It includes cutting and pasting (the digital way) cropping, combining images, adjusting values/colors, and moving things around on the ‘picture frame’ to achieve a harmonious, dynamic design.  I will often section off the picture plane into thirds, as well as use diagonal lines and the concepts of ‘sacred geometry’ to help with composing.

Original Image of a Jack Russell Puppy I met in a pet store with a cupcake that I Photoshopped on her head.

Gridded Panel with sketch of design
·         Grid: I usually digitally overlay a 5x5 grid on my final image then transfer the design to my gridded panel.
·         Transfer design : I use Prismacolor colored pencils to sketch the design onto my panel. They write nicely on gesso and erase pretty well too. My favorite colors to use are white, light gray, burnt sienna and indigo.  Without fail, an excellent composition and drawing will always make for an easier painting to paint. 
·         Mix colors:  I almost always premix all of my colors before laying a brush to my panel.  I will carefully study my design on my tablet, to accurately mix and match the colors.  I sometimes “posterize” my image with one of my editing apps,  This simplifies the colors in my image so I can better see what is going on.
·         Coat panel with medium:  I mix my own medium and use a big brush to apply it to the entire panel, if I will be painting the whole thing in one day.  I then lightly wipe with a paper towel so it’s not drippy.

Panel has been coated with medium and I am painting!  Adding darks first.

·         Paint!:  Finally, I get to paint.  I have always said that the actual painting of a studio painting is about 35% of the process and it generally holds true.
·         Alla Prima:  If I am painting a painting that is 11”x14” or smaller, I will strive to get it done in one sitting.  I prefer to paint Alla Prima, or wet into wet, as I like the spontaneity and brushwork I can achieve with this method.  Anything much bigger than this usually requires more painting time.  If I know this is the case, I will only coat the segment of the image with my medium that I know I will be able to finish at that time and leave the rest untouched until I am ready to paint on it.
Still painting wet into wet - Alla Prima

·         Dry: Once I am done, my paintings take about 2 weeks until they are dry enough to frame and be moving around safely.

Finished Painting!  After all of the colors are added I do some blending with my fan brush

·         To varnish or not to varnish:  I prefer to not varnish my paintings as my method of painting usually has an even sheen, so I don’t need to do it for that reason.  Also, varnishing should be done only after the painting has had at least 4-6 months to dry. I include info on the back of my painting as to whether or not it is varnished, so the person who purchases it knows. I will gladly varnish any painting someone has purchased from me, later down the road, should they desire.

·         Frame:  I make all of my own frames from wood I purchase or from reclaimed barn wood and other reclaimed wood.  This is a process and art form in and of itself, which is too detailed to go into here.

Relatively Essential Oil Painting Supplies

Here's my list of the top 12 or so things I currently wouldn't want to do without in my studio.  Most of the things are pretty standard fare, but for the uninitiated and beginning oil painter, all of the supplies out there can seem daunting.  I have tried to keep my supplies at a minimum and the following list gives what I consider the essentials for painting successful paintings in comfort and ease.

"The Sentry", Oil, click here to purchase

Paint:  I prefer Gamblin artist grade oil color (but have other brands in my box too) and typically use a limited palette of 5 colors:  Alizarin Crimson, Cad. Red Med., Cad. Yellow lt and Ultra Marine Blue.  In addition, I use Titanium White.  With these 5 colors and white, you can mix almost any color you can think of, including chromatic Black,

Medium:  I make my own medium from 2 parts Linseed oil, 1 part Gamsol (an odorless solvent) and 1 part stand oil

Substrate:  I paint mostly on wooden panels that I purchase ‘raw’.  They require sealing, which I do with several coats of a sealant called GAC 100 (put out by Golden) and several more coats of white gesso. Sometimes I stain my panels a color before I sketch on them.

Brushes:  My favorite brush is the Blick Masterstroke Interlocking Bristle Brush. I prefer flats, sizes 3, 4, 6, and 8, but also use filberts from time to time.  I also really like Silver Bristlon Flats & filberts and find a small fan brush to be indespensible.

Assorted palette knives for mixing and painting, scrapers, a kemper clay shaping tool that I sign most of my paintings with plus ample paper towels or rags.

Easle:  I have acquired quite a few easels in my time as an artist. They all serve different purposes and needs and I can’t say I have a favorite. 

Palette:  I prefer a glass palette that has been painted a neutral gray on the back. I have made all of my glass palettes inexpensively from spare glass I had.

Poster Putty:  also known as museum putty or picture mounting putty.  I can’t tell you how many uses I have found for this stuff but I use it daily for something in my studio!

Tablet:  Sounds funny, but I use my Ipad and my Samsun S10 all the time for designing compositions and to display my reference photo as I am painting.

Apps: Any photo editing app that has basic editing capabilities such as cropping, color adjustments, brightness/contrast are very important to quickly adjust your reference photos. Some of my favorites are PicShop Pro, Photopad, and pic collage. I also use Photoshop on my laptop for more complex compositions.

Good lighting:  I have an overhead light, and two clip lights that illuminate my panels from behind me.  They all have LED bulbs that have a CCT of 5500 K. I am also fortunate to have a studio space with a large North facing picture window.

Apron:  This is also going to sound funny, but maybe some of you can relate.  I must put on my artist apron before I begin to paint.  It somehow puts me in the right frame of mind, perhaps because then I don’t have to spend any time thinking or worrying about getting paint on my clothes.  I remind myself of Mr. Rogers and how he had to change his shoes and sweater at the beginning of every episode!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Comrade: Binding the Oath

One of my latest paintings is hanging in the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Reading.  It is a beautiful hotel and I feel pretty honored to be able to hang my work there.  I have had a few people ask me what the painting is all about, and someone (thank you Susan Scofield!) asked if I could write a blog post about it.  Here goes....  

In case you haven't seen the finished painting, here it is.  Below I explain how I got here.

First, let me explain that the Native American guy pictured in my painting is someone you too can visit if you happen to be in Berks County...I came across him while tooling around one afternoon looking for some good plein air painting spots and checking out the Conrad Weiser homestead in Wolmelsdorf.  I was admiring the historical buildings when I peeked into a clearing and there he stood. The light was so good that day, creating these heavy contrasts and showing off his planes and form quite nicely. I took a bunch of photos knowing I would paint him... According to what I could find, this statue is a rendition of Iroquois cheif Shikellamy whom Weiser befriended. If you are interested in reading more about that history, check it out here.    

Putting aside the statue for the time being, I must confess that I am a lifelong student of mystic philosophies and spirituality in general.  It is not something I share readily as I have learned it is better to keep my mouth shut in matters such as this.  But, in the happy spirit of explanation, I will admit this...  I recently have been studying sacred geometry and how it has been employed for centuries by artisans, architects and even computer programmers in designing amazing and masterful works of art and more..  It is a fascinating subject and too much for me to delve into here.  Just know, that if you google Sacred Geometry, you likely will be up the rest of the night following threads all over the place, to all parts of this amazing world we live in and maybe beyond.
A pretty well known explanation of sacred geometry is the Fibonacci Sequence: A series of numbers: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 and so on.  This series and subsequent ratio is found everywhere in nature.

The Universe... Sacred geometry of course...



Getting back to Weiser's Native friend.  As I began designing my image I saw that the Indian was going to require some type of sacred imagery to speak to his obvious posture of peace and strength. What is he doing anyway? He is holding a peace pipe and it appears he is paying homage to the sky... standing strong in the face of adversity?... Calling for peace?  Standing up for what he believes in?... (Btw, I was now calling Weiser's native friend Comrade as he indeed seemed friendly enough to do so..) Coming across the image pictured above, of rectangles designed in a perfect spiral, I overlayed it on a flipped image of Comrade, I was happily amazed to find that things were lining up...  (I flipped Comrade purely as a design choice...  wanting to emphasize the baroque diagonal vs the sinister.. if you care about this, you can read more about it here...)

Now what?  Something else was needed...  I know...Graffiti!  I have created a number of paintings that have included some kind of graffiti.  Another side passion of mine is admiring graffiti for what it is, other than the illegal defacement of private property - that is, abstract text which is often beautifully executed.  It is this combination of the abstract with that quality of 'you almost can read what it says, but not quite' that I love about graffiti. It is the same reason I often listen to music that has lyrics that are sung in a different language.  The words become abstracted and form sound, rhythm, shape and color, without the cumbersome meaning inevitably attached to the words.  I liked the idea of including graffiti for this reason, because really, Comrade didn't yet have a true meaning to me.  In other words, his image speaks of something I can almost grasp, but not quite... 

Jumping ahead, I will say this, I often work this way when designing a more complex painting.  I pick and choose imagery that feels right together, whether it is because of it's underlying design, inherent meaning or some other je ne sais quoi.. Below, you see I also chose to put the edited image through a sepia filter to negate any color... I was interested in a less descriptive background.. one that also spoke of something possibly spiritual, possibly further giving an indication of what our friend was doing...

The graffiti I settled on was chosen for it's acceptable abstracted quality as well as the fact that it worked well with the design.  I also opted for some birds radiating away from the apex which of course carry all kinds of symbolism... freedom, death (if they are crows...), flights of fancy, the spirit materialized, etc, etc...

So, there it was... the design I pretty much intended to paint... Another thing I should mention is that I often will paint on a black ground.  It's just something I have grown to like for the ability to see some pretty stark contrasts very quickly...

So this is how I started Comrade.  And after I blocked in the initial shapes and lines, I decided I liked the darkness afforded by the black background.  I began adding color to emphasize the spirals and radiating lines but decided to leave the bottom largely dark.  The design and patterns of light and color could also be seen as having meaning.. but I will let that up to you.

Of course now my painting needed a frame.  Yay!  Another passion of mine happens to be wood working, particularly frame making.  I knew he needed something that made a statement... something special.. Cutting to the chase, I have had the recent good fortune of both acquiring some barnwood with a lot of character (translate: very dirty, splintery and extremely cool once cleaned and sanded) and being gifted some fine framing materials by an artist friend of mine, Harry Bentz.  I decided to meld the two together... blending old with new, binding two very different materials from two very different time periods.  More layers of meaning, but exactly what it means, again, I leave this up to the viewer...

I don't spend as much time talking about my frame making, but I will say that it is an important and integral part of my art making.  I love pairing a painting with a frame that I can make custom for it. I enjoy taking raw and often difficult wood and sanding, sawing and nailing it to bend to my wishes, to create something both useful and beautiful...

And he ended up hanging here, in the DoubleTree hotel in Reading, right outside of the grand ballroom!  I love that he will be greeting all manner of folk as they make their way to a most likely splendid event.  If he gives just one person pause, to consider what the sacred symbolism, the waving Native American, the lines, the colors and even the frame.. what it all means... then I guess at the very least, we can call this Art.

Thank you for reading this. Hopefully it was an enjoyable glimpse into my process and hopefully it inspires some to visit the actual statue on the Conrad Weiser Homestead, and maybe even visit my painting in the hotel! :)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Yayoi Kusama

Awhile back I painted a portrait of an artist named Yayoi Kusama after looking at contemporary female artists and coming across her.  She is a fascinating woman with an equally fascinating history, and she is still alive, creating artwork at 88 years old! I blogged about her a little bit and posted my painting of her ...

"Yayoi Kusama", oil on panel, 6"x6"
purchase info here
If you would like to find out more about Yayoi Kusama, I recommend checking out this link - It takes you to a page recently created on Artsy, a great website who's mission is "To make all the world's art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection."  (Love this!)  One their editors contacted me after he came across my blog post and asked if I would like to link to their page. They are showcasing Yayoi right now to coincide with The National Art Center in Tokyo's current exhibit "Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul".

The Artsy page has Yayoi's bio, over 250 of her works, articles and much more! Check it out..:)

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