Saturday, November 22, 2014

PWS Exhibition

"Ivy League"

Sorry for the long, long absence. In the wake of the 30-day challenge, I lost my groove, and turned all my attention to work and family for a while. With the holiday season looming, I now have to get back into painting because I have several projects that I need to finish before Christmas.

Since my last post, I delivered "Ivy League" to Harrisburg, Pa., for the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society's 35th annual International Juried Exhibition. PWS hosts a very, very nice show, and I am very gratified to be included.

The exhibit will hang at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg until Feb. 8, 2015.

Here is a link to the PWS website, which includes information about the show, and includes a gallery of the award winners.

Also, the show is listed on the Changing Exhibits page of the State Museum at and on that page is a photo of the entrance of the show. And my painting can be seen in that photo!

Here is the image from the State Museum page, and at right is a little inset where I've circled my painting. It looks so tiny compared to the paintings on either side!

Monday, October 6, 2014

30-day review

Well, my efforts in the 30-day challenge really waned at the end. Life got in the way.

Here's a little collage of some of the floral sketches I did as part of the challenge. Most of the time during the month I worked on two larger paintings. So this partial collage of "finished" pieces will have to do. Thanks for reading about my efforts in the challenge, and it's soon time to work on a much, much larger piece. I finished the drawing for that today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 29

Day 29
Well, I let down the side over the weekend in the 30-day challenge. Too many things going on. There was the opening at of the Robert Singleton show at the new Grasshopper Gallery right here in town, then a meeting of the state watercolor society on the opposite side of the state (left at 6:30 a.m. and returned after 8 p.m.) and then a trip to Harrisburg, Pa., to deliver Ivy League for inclusion in the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society's Juried Exhibition, and then another stop to pick up a painting from the West Virginia Watercolor Society Signature Show. What a mouthful, and what a long weekend.

At any rate, I pronounce this painting to be finished. I put together a little animation to show some of the stages you've been watching over the last couple of weeks:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Day 25

Day 25
Sorry, missed another day (my third) in the 30-day challenge. My job is kicking my butt at the moment.

Got a little bit done this evening, mostly trying to feel my way around some of tree issues. I suspect you are tired of seeing this image. I'm getting there myself!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day 23

Day 23
Now we've reached the stage where it seems that nothing is happening...but believe me, I've been at this for more than 30 minutes this evening (remember, my goal is at least 15 minutes for the 30-day challenge)...Now it's a matter of trying to enhance all the little things as I carefully nudge values in tiny, tiny little areas. Time to visit the eye doctor....or get bifocals.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 22

Day 22
So I messed around with the foreground and added more contrast. In doing so, I also lost some of the impetuous shapes and blooms that I liked in that area. Sigh. I wish I could manage to get color temperature and values right in the first application, but I always end up painting areas in multiple glazes to get things set, and I overwork a lot of delicious elements in the process.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Day 21

Day 21
Had to take a break from the 30-day challenge picnics and such. So back to the landscape I think I need more blue to balance out the heavy yellows.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day 19

Day 19
This is more of a paper experiment than anything else....This is a scrap of Fabriano Artistico cold press paper and I thought I would try it. I have friends who swear by it, while I've always used Arches.

So this is a small section of one of my recent Wardensville paintings used as a little test (as you can see, little is correct!). I'm not sure that I like it, but I know that's mostly because it's different than what I'm used to. I have some other little scraps...I'll just keep playing with them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day 18

Day 18
Attended a nice 75th anniversary celebration at our county library this evening, so I did not do anything on the a quick little illustration instead for the 30-day challenge.

Day 17

Day 17
Didn't manage to make much progress today, and I'm a bit late in posting this for the 30-day challenge!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day 16

Day 16
Still don't know where I'm going, but at least I put one foot in front of the other as part of the 30-day challenge.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day 15?

Day 15
Really, it should be Day 14, not 15. I ended up taking a break from the 30-day challenge on Sunday. I still don't have a set direction on the landscape I've tried to start, and I didn't know what to do. A day later, and I'm still fumbling for guidance.

But let me talk about this little floral sketch because I really like it! Unlike the others that I've done so far, this one was completely free-form with just the brush. Before this, I had been doing a quick pencil sketch.

So, since I had nothing to go by on the paper, I really simplified the flowers, etc. into larger color masses. Simple really is better!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day 13

Day 13 this my unlucky number? Hope not. Like the Energizer Bunny®, I'm still going in the 30-Day Challenge!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 12

Day 12
I have to ponder where I'm going with the new landscape, so I'm back to the little florals for the 30-day challenge until I get a solid action plan formulated (i.e. do a value study)...Sorry, I ran off the edge of the page on this floral. Oops!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 11

Day 11
So now it's on to something completely different...I'm starting a new landscape project and will post progress shots as part of the 30-day challenge. Remember, my little goal is simply to get my brush on paper for 15 minutes a day. And sometimes that has been a real challenge. But I'm still chugging along.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 10

Day 10
One-third of the way through the 30-day challenge! I've got to get another painting started....

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 9

Day 9
As I suggested last evening...a floral sketch! With some ink for structure. Painted from life. The flowers are beginning to droop, but I might be able to get a few more little sketches from this bouquet.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 8

Day 8
I've managed the bare minimum of time painting today for the 30-day challenge so I'm sure progress seems minor.

I may have to set this aside for a while to ponder it more deliberately. I see a floral sketch in my future....

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day 7

Day 7
Better....but now I think the tree has taken over the composition, which was not the intent of the design So I have to think about this new development and ponder how to balance it.

I suppose this is the appeal of this exercise for those who are watching.  I go through a lot of back and forth discussions as each of my paintings progress. With this 30-day challenge, you get to "see" my internal debate as it plays out.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Day 6

Day 6
Hmmmm...I think the jury is still out on whether this is going to work, If it weren't for the 30-day challenge, I would not be showing this to anyone. But a promise is a promise....I'm supposed to paint and post.

That said, my challenge is small compared to the many artists who are actually completing a painting a day as part of the challenge (instead of my paltry minimum 15-minute per day commitment). So hats off to them! And I'll keep working on this tomorrow.....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Day 5

Day 5
Day 5 of the 30-day challenge......Ummmmm........I'm not sure if I'm still on the right track or if I've ruined it. Until I punch the dark areas into the window and door, I won't know. But the suspense is going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 4

Day 4
Day 4 in the 30-day challenge!

So I'm back to the 8"x8" painting today. Heeding Bill Vrscak's sage advice, I am still applying washes with large flats, and trying to vary the colors in the areas so they don't come off as boring and flat. And a little wet-in-wet around the base of the tree helps to connect the tree to the ground. Gotta work on that chunk of wood in front....

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Day 3

Day 3
Well - Already it's a struggle to manage this 30-day challenge. I've got to do a better job of time management (and not spending 11 hours at work would be a big help, too).

I decided I was not in the right frame of mind to tackle anything on the WIP painting, so I instead did another one of the little bouquet sketches. Loose, with wet-in-wet sections, and fun!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 2

Day 2
So I'm now working on one of my Extraordinary/Everyday series pieces (see my website to view the series), and I'll post where I'm at each day on this 8"x8" painting as part of Leslie Saeta's 30-day challenge.

I have to say, I really don't like posting images at this point....paintings always look so rough and unplanned at this stage. I hope this one will improve speedily!

Monday, September 1, 2014

30-day painting challenge - Day 1

I've signed up for the 30-day painting challenge hosted by California-based artist Leslie Saeta. The stated goal is to complete 30 paintings in 30 days.


I won't be managing that. But, Leslie says there are no "rules" with the challenge, other than having fun, and the idea is to establish some habits that will carry on beyond the 30 days that will help us be more productive as artists.

So, my personal challenge is simply to get my brush on paper for at least 15 minutes per day during the month-long challenge. That means that most of the time, the images that I will post each day will simply record my progress on some larger paintings that I am starting this month. And, if I don't happen to work on the larger paintings, I will do little tiny sketches, like today's entry for the challenge.

Day 1

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Top of the Morning

"Top of the Morning" 8"x8"
Another one down in my ongoing effort to capture Wardensville at its unexpected best.

This is the third time that I've painted this particular house, which to me is Polly Peer's house. Polly was the lady who lived there when I first came to town, and her family had been in this house for decades.

The other two paintings were made years ago...the first being of the hanging flower baskets Polly had on the porch, and the second being part of scene that focused on the old See's Motel sign.

Per my usual tendencies, it's the cast shadow that drew me to this particular composition.

This painting will be included in the exhibit that will be opening at the Guesthouse Lost River on August. 31, and will remain there through Nov. 30, 2014.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lights, hanging, opening!

Is it straight?
The artist (left) hangs a painting for "Extraordinary/Everyday" at Clementine Cafe in Harrisonburg, Va., assisted by her friend Eleanor. The show opens July 4, 2014.

So it's been a long time since I've posted (I think it was the end of April?), but there has been plenty of activity in my life, worry not.

There have been a host of work-related issues (computer upgrades, software upgrades, etc.) that have taken up a great deal of energy and time. AND, I've been working to complete everything, included some last-minute paintings, for the opening of my first solo art show.

I'm pleased to say that I'm almost there....the last pieces were framed last weekend, they were hung in the space on Sunday, and the opening reception is Friday!


The first person to see the paintings in the space!

I'll pass along a report once the reception is over. Boy am I tired...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ivy League

"Ivy League"  - 20"x14"
 The masking fluid mess turned out to be a successful painting, so the extra effort was worth it this time.

I'm beginning to find that I like the combination of hard edges, consistent with a classic poster art appearance, and the soft willy-nilly look of painting watercolors wet-into-wet.

In the case of this painting, I see that juxtaposition most in the areas of the vine where the reds, yellows and greens literally run through an area of leaves. The outlines created by the leaf shapes against a darker background make those leaves individual, but the variable flow of color within the joined silhouettes make them a unit.

If you'd like to see some images of the painting while in progress (and with all that icky masking fluid all over the leaves), here they are!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tangled up in green

I may have gone off the deep end with this one. I'm trying to break down a tangle of vines without getting overwhelmed by the mass of potential details.

So I've resorted to masking fluid (didn't I recently write that I didn't like using it?) to assist me in my task.

I've painted lighter areas of leaves, masked out shapes within those areas, and returned (when dry) to add darker values. Mask again, wait, and repeat with a darker wash. And repeat again.

At this point, the painting reeks of latex and ammonia, and I'm wondering what things actually look like under all that gooey masking fluid.

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 28, 2014


As I mentioned in a post a while back, I was able to see the Van Gogh exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. called "Repetitions," which examined several series of Van Gogh paintings where he completed the same composition multiple times.

It was enlightening to see multiple versions of the same composition and to note the changes that he made in subsequent versions. In general, I found that I preferred the earliest versions of his "Repetitions" because they seemed fresher and more energetic.

My friends Roger and Clare took me the Van Gogh exhibition, and at one point while we were looking at a piece Clare asked if I had ever done multiple versions of the same composition. I replied that I had, but usually it was because I felt that the first attempt was a failure, and that I wanted to try again and improve upon it.

Well -  little did I know that I would have a chance to emulate the great Van Gogh -- and not because I thought my first painting was a failure.


The painting I did before Christmas, "Winter Whites," was done in a single day (amazing) and I really liked how subtle, yet colorful, the painting was. My winter scenes are often very neutral or cool (all that ultramarine blue and burnt sienna!). This painting had wonderful touches of piney greens and hazy purples....I really enjoyed looking at it. I liked it so much that I used it on my Christmas cards.

"Winter Whites" - 12x12
On Christmas Eve, I returned from work to find a message on my answering machine from my friend Mary. She had received one of my cards, and she wanted to buy the painting.

This welcome news had a downside, however. I am working on paintings for my solo show this summer, and this was to be one of the pieces for the exhibit. But I also did not want to disappoint Mary, so I decided that I would do a second painting of the scene, at a different size, so she could have the first version, and I would still have a painting for my show.

Thus was born "Snowfall," which turned out to be a very different painting, and that divide intrigues me.

"Snowfall" - 15x15
Overall, I think this painting is much more lightly valued and cooler in tone. There is also a higher degree of finish in parts of the foreground, particularly in the foliage around the house.

I made a point of not looking at the first painting while working on the second. I wanted it to stand on its own merits, but the act of having painted the scene once before certainly affected me.

As was the case in the Van Gogh exhibit, I like the first version better. I think it's fresher and takes advantage of the impetuous and unexpected characteristics of the watercolor medium. The second feels more measured and quiet. I like it as well, but in style and atmosphere and mood it bears little resemblance to the first.

I would be interested to know what others think in comparing the two. And does anyone else engage in "Repetitions"?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tamarack website

I am a member of the Dickirson Gallery at Tamarack in Beckley, and the Tamarack Artisan Foundation has recently unveiled its new website,

An important feature of the new website is an interactive artisan directory that includes a search mechanism to find artists by name, geographic location, medium, open studio policy, county, town, etc.

Visit the website at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pink Sugar

"Pink Sugar" - 5"x5"
So here is the finished version of my annual commission for my friend. I did a lot of work to develop the details of the butterfly, and, even though I loved the hard contrasts in the Zinnia's petals, I decided that I had to knock it back a bit so it wouldn't compete with the butterfly too much. So I think the brightly lit area at the top of the wings is the point of entry now, with lots of places to explore within the composition.

The other significant change was the pink blob toward the bottom. It kept getting in the way, I decided. To fulfill one of the "rules" listed in my previous post (little to no detail beyond the subject) it had to go. So the area was scrubbed and dark greens dropped in. I think that change helped things immensely.

And I'm happy to report that my friend was pleased with her painting!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Butterfly commission

Each January I have a "commission" from a friend and co-worker. I put the word commission in quotation marks because she allows me to choose the subject of the painting, so I have freedom in this project that most commissions would not normally afford.

I keep her paintings within the parameters of floral subjects, with a couple of still life compositions thrown in. We counted up this year, and she now has six of my pieces, five of them being original paintings (one is a print because the original that she wanted had already sold by the time she saw it. Since then, I paint works just for her each January to ensure that she gets the original).


I must give credit to my mother for the inspiration of this project. She grows many, many flowers around her house, through all seasons. She now has a nice camera that she's been using to capture the fleeting glory of her blooms.

In this case, a large Tiger Swallowtail had taken up residence among a group of pink Zinnias, and the butterfly had no intentions of leaving his post while mom snapped photographs. So she has several closeups of blooms with the butterfly hard at work extracting sweet gifts. I saw the images, and immediately thought of my commission project.

That said, I still had some lessons to learn from this project. I initially started out with another idea -- with an image that had multiple blooms and I liked the idea of using the blooms to lead the eye around the piece. However, this is a small painting (only 5x5), and once I got into it, I realized that there was more in the composition that the space could easily accommodate. So that painting was halted mid-stream, and I went back to the drawing board, literally.

I thought about the paintings that I see other accomplished floral painters create, and I decided there were essential elements to making these compositions work, particularly when the painting is quite small.

  1. Tight focus on a primary subject
  2. Little to no detail beyond the subject
  3. Extreme value contrasts
  4. Dramatic lighting

With these "rules" in mind, I settled on a new image, mostly because I liked the little shadows some petals cast on the petals below. I thought that, plus the glow of light through the butterfly's wing, added the "dramatic" element, as well as helped with the value contrasts. I then cropped tightly on the subject and ignored all the background elements.

At this point, the painting is close to finished, but I have work yet to do with the butterfly. Stay tuned for the final product!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Turn of Fortune

"Turn of Fortune" - 15"x15"

I finally finished my painting in progress, so with two completed works, I set up the umbrella lights to photograph "Turn of Fortune." I'm so glad to finally share this one since I am still pleased with how it came out.

The subject, as you might be able to tell now, is part of the impressive mechanism that makes up a massive bank vault door. This vault was installed decades ago, when it was still important to visually impress the banking public. Vault doors in more modern bank buildings are downright boring in I'm glad to see this shiny monster in action.

As I explained in an earlier blog post, the hard work with this painting was in the early going....huge wet washes running all over the place and every time I would try to adjust something I'd end up with blooms and backruns intruding in areas that I thought were finished. Stressful indeed.

I understand why there is so much movement toward the "pouring" concept in watercolor -- huge areas can be evenly covered with pigment with little worry about blooms and backruns because large sections are methodically protected by sections and layers of masking fluid. To see the final results of the pouring method, check out a section of Leslie Redhead's blog that features her poured watercolor works:

As you can see from Leslie's work, the results can be stunning, with deep contrasts and luminous passages. I considered that method as a way of attacking this subject, in fact. But I really don't like using masking fluid - mostly because I'm lazy and I don't like the mess. So after much thought,  I only used masking for the bright little highlights in this painting, and took my rubs as I fought to keep my washes in check with large flat brushes.

In this case, I think the fight was worth it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Our Wheel of Fortune

Since this painting is too large for me to easily scan and assemble on my little flatbed scanner (scan area of 8.5x11), I have to photograph it, which requires setting up umbrella light stands, etc. And that requires moving most of the furniture in my small room. So the final image for this painting will have to wait for a while....hopefully when I have another painting or so finished, so I can make the most of the elaborate lighting setup.

So, I snapped some really awful photos with my cell phone camera, and tried to do a rough color adjustment on them...but the tones are really off and are washed out. So I'll have to content myself with posting these little snippets of the final painting for now. Let's say that I am pleased with the final product.