Friday, September 18, 2015

Working on block printing

I'm making a serious attempt at a linocut for the first time in years (actually decades, to be truthful).

It's based on a watercolor I did earlier this year. I really liked the stark value contrasts in the watercolor, and thought it might work as a block print, especially when I saw the painting converted into grayscale.

However, I ran into problems trying to plan the linocut (I could not make my mind work negatively using "positive" tools - black ink on white paper). So I found black sketch paper and a white charcoal pencil, and did my planning with that (at left in the image above).

So now I've started cutting the block. I hope this works out, but I'm prepared to try another one. I know I'm really, really rusty at this. After all, it was 1990 when I last was doing lino and wood cuts(!)

Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Art at VMRC 2015

"Glow" is currently on display in Harrisonburg, Va., at the juried multi-media exhibition hosted by VMRC through June 30.

The annual show at VMRC is a fine mix of 2D and 3D art, representing many media and styles. It's well worth the trip and it's an honor to be included in the show. Plus, work at this exhibition often sells, and I learned today that "Glow" will be on its way to a new home after the show closes.

While visiting the show today for the awards ceremony, I was approached by a lady who had purchased "The Red Shed" in 2013. She told me how much she and her husband loved the painting and that they had it hanging in the perfect spot in their home. It's a special feeling to know that something you have created has had an emotional impact on someone else, and that they love it as much as you do.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Art heals...

6-year-old Z's painting from summer 2009
Today I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Mary. She's in her 70s, and recovering from some serious health problems. But she reports she is feeling stronger by the day and is counting her blessings.

Mary is one of the angels in my art journey. She alternately chides and cheers, always with the best intentions. She regularly sends me clippings from magazines, postcards, exhibit catalogs, books and more, usually with little messages scribbled in the margins and on scraps of paper tucked inside.

This week she sent me a book, "Watercolor by Design," by Marianne K. Brown. It was the right book at the right time. It affirmed the ideas I've been exploring in my paintings, gave me the language to explain my choices, and motivated me to keep going.

At a time when my friend Mary needs love and support, she loves and supports others in a thousand little ways.

Here are a few details about my friend Mary: She cherishes the paintings of John L. Wellington, she delights in birds, she adores the color red, and she dearly wishes she could work in her flower garden right now. It's spring, and she wants to feel the warm earth in her hands and coax colorful blooms into life.

But doctor's orders - she can't work in her garden. So she's turned her nurturing instincts to other outlets, scattering seeds of artistic inspiration everywhere she turns.

As the days pass and Mary grows stronger, she told me she feels her desire to paint is returning. After all, if she can't plant the tulips, she might as well paint some. And they'll be red tulips, of course.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Try, try again...

I had finally ginned up the nerve to start on a large watercolor that I've been planning since last fall...... and it's turned into a muddy mess already.

I think I'm going back to the start, transferring a fresh drawing to a fresh sheet of watercolor paper, and starting over.

My biggest mistakes were looking too closely at a color photo reference (leading to no color harmony in the painting) and getting too dark too quickly in the largest shadow masses.

I've made the same mistakes before.

I had managed to avoid these pitfalls for most of last year, but here they are again. I remind myself that I've heard several interviews with respected watercolor artists where they acknowledge throwing away lots of bad paintings. "So it's not just me," (I tell myself).

And I start again....

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


"Sunstruck" - 5"x8"
I took a detour and spent time on this sunflower for a few weeks. Given how cold it's been, I think it warms me up by simply looking at it.

I developed this composition and its feeling of bright sunshine by following some of the "rules" I listed last year for doing small floral paintings (see the original post here).

  • Tight focus on a primary subject
  • Little to no detail beyond the subject
  • Extreme value contrasts
  • Dramatic lighting

I think the leaves and stem fall under the "little to no detail beyond the subject" rule. The point is the flower (and maybe the bee), but not the plant. So merely suggesting the greens is sufficient. There's no need to get fussy over them.

Now, about that my original drawing, the bee was the focal point. But in the painting, the extreme value contrasts on the lower petals really hog the scene. I had already blocked the bee shape in when I realized that I might have a problem. I thought about scrubbing the bee out, but I decided to leave it. I'm hoping it encourages the viewer's gaze to move around all the petals, rather than focusing on just the brightest ones.

I used six pigments: Lemon Yellow, Cad Yellow and Quin Gold, as well as Permanent Rose, Pthalo Blue (GS) and Quin Burnt Orange.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


"Glow" 8in x 8in
I did this painting back in September as part of 30-day painting challenge, and then I let it sit for weeks and weeks because I wasn't sure how I felt about it.

The September challenge also completely burned me out for a long time. I have barely picked up a brush since then.

However, the recent posting challenge from fellow WVWS Signature member Andrea Burke was good for me. It helped motivate me, and I finally finished another painting that I had half-heartedly started before Christmas. Can't show that one at the moment; it needs to sit so I can think about it.

As part of my fresh start, I took a good hard look at this September challenge painting, and made some subtle changes. I now pronounce it finished, and it feels good to move on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Painting-Posting Challenge 5


"Silent Night" (Private Collection)

"Chill" (Private Collection)
Last day for the posting challenge. Thanks again to Andrea Veseth Burke for asking me to do this.
Even though the storm whiffed on us today (thank goodness) it seems appropriate to finish up with some snow scenes. Two are of Wardensville locales and one is based on a barn at Antietam National Battlefield. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Painting-Posting Challenge 4

"One Moment" (Private Collection)

"Wisdom Watching" (Private Collection)
"Green Eyes" (Artist's Collection)

Day 4...and today's theme is "Faces." The faces include those of family members, and also a stone-faced visage of Pallas Athena that is part of the ornamentation of the West Virginia State Capitol.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Painting-Posting Challenge 3

"Pink Sugar" (Private Collection)

"Yellow Wings" (Available)

"Sweet Life" (Available)
So on to Day 3 in the painting-posting challenge. Thanks to Andrea Veseth Burke for putting me up to this!

Butterflies are the theme of today's paintings. Butterflies have special meaning in our family, so I'm happy to share these with all of you.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Painting-Posting Challenge 2

"Top of the Morning" - 2014

"See's Motel Sign" -  2004

"Polly's Porch" -  2000
So here's another theme....this one being a particular house on Main Street in Wardensville, W.Va.

I first painted the porch of the house years ago when Polly Peer still lived there. She always had wonderful flowers on the porch and the bright colors and the ornate wood trim were a visual delight.

I next included the house in a painting of Main Street Wardensville with the old See's Motel sign as the focal point, but in truth it's the house that's the star of the show.

Finally, as part of my current Wardensville painting series, I did just the side gable of the house, cropped tightly, so I could focus this part of the structure's wonderful wood trim. Polly passed away in 2007 at age 98, but even now, I still think of this ornate landmark as Polly Peer's house.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Painting-Posting Challenge

"School Days" - 8inx8in

"Old Glory" (Private Collection)

"Warriors Win" (Private Collection)

There's a challenge moving around Facebook where artists are asking one another to post three painting for five days and find other artists to do the same.

I've been nominated by Andrea Veseth Burke ( to do the challenge. Andrea is a fellow signature member of the West Virginia Watercolor Society who has moved to sunnier climes a bit further south.

I plan to post based on for the first day, these are three paintings of the old Wardensville school building.