“Fortune Follows The Brave”: Texian Army Reenactment Scene Painting

"Fortune Follows the Brave" 11x14" Acrylic. A scene from the Folk Fest in Columbus, TX in the Texian Army campground.
“Fortune Follows the Brave” 11×14″ Acrylic. A scene from the Folk Fest in Columbus, TX in the Texian Army campground.

In the Columbus Folk Fest, there’s a reenactment campground of Texian Soldiers (Sam Houston’s army) and Mexican Soldiers (Santa Anna’s army).  I’m no history buff, but sitting there painting in the campground, I got a sense of what it must of been like with everyone dressed in period uniforms and talking as if the Texas Revolution was happening at the moment.  This scene was in the morning when an actor was brewing up something (coffee?) in the fire, obliged to pose for a bit.  Later, the owners of the wagon passed by and bought it! (Thanks Mrs. Brown and Ernesto!)  It so happens the slogan on the wagon sign is an important family saying for them. They own a lodge in LaGrange, (Texana Trails & Lodge) and invited me up for a free night to paint around the lodge area sometime in November of December.  Can’t wait.  It has views of the famous Monument Hill bluff area that’s a historic park, also known by the Kreiche Brewery.  Great day!

Appalachian Trail Series #5: “Passing Max Patch Summit” (Studio)

"Passing Max Patch Summit" 14x11" acrylic on canvas.
“Passing Max Patch Summit” 14×11″ acrylic on canvas.

This is one of the most beautiful areas Littlefoot, Berg and I passed in North Carolina.  Max Patch Summit is a “bald”, an area on top of a mountain that inexplicably doesn’t grow trees.  The scene in this painting is on the side of the summit.  I remember stopping and thinking, “This doesn’t even seem real it’s so beautiful.”.   There is easy access to this point from a road if you Google “Max Patch Summit parking lot”.  Don’t miss this! Here’s the blog post I did of the day on the AT with a 360 video clip of the summit: Click Here.  (Oh, and Russell, note the buffalo gnats. There everywhere!).

Here’s a note attached to every post of the Appalachian Trail Painting Series:

The Appalachian Trial Painting Series:

I recently went on a trip to the Appalachian Trail section hiking from the Georgia/North Carolina border up to Hot Springs, NC and shared the adventure in my other blog: The Appalachian Trail, In the Footsteps of an Artist.  I wanted to share what it’s like to be on the trail for 200+ miles, many times with out any contact, deep in nature.   Each day, I jotted down notes in the spare moments and even on the trail as it happened. You’ll read about thoughts (often discoveries), pain, joy, solitude and companionship. You’ll see short video clips, pictures, color sketches and read about all the unexpected events.  Out there, life happens to you so much it’s enough just to adapt and hang on. Mostly, words captured the moments of the day, but in those moment when there are no words, I sought to capture those with painting.  So, please enjoy the adventure of the Appalachian Trail blog first and you’ll feel a much richer sense of the joy behind the moment these painting are about.  Thanks!

Appalachian Trail Series Painting #4: Mollie’s Ridge Shelter (plein air & studio)

"After the Storm" 11x14" Acrylic on masonite panel.
“After the Storm” 11×14″ Acrylic on masonite panel.

This was a scene at Mollie’s Ridge Shelter just after a huge storm with sideways rain and downed trees.  The clouds rolled in a produced a fog so thick it was hard to see 50 yards down the trail.  This fog is pretty common on the trail and I really wanted to capture it.  Despite all the storms, wet clothes, cold wind and rancid sock smells, in the shelter, it was nothing but good times as everyone shared their stories and laughed.  This is the spirit of the trail. You can read about it in the 6/13 date section of the Appalachian Trail journal.  Just before heading to bed, I got in this color sketch:

Here's a color sketch I did in the shelter.  It was so wet, it didn't dry until morning, when it's normally dry seconds after the painting is done.
Here’s a color sketch I did in the shelter. It was so wet, it didn’t dry until morning, when it’s normally dry seconds after the painting is done.

I improvised from the sketch to the studio painting adding Littlefoot (left) and Berg (right) and I’m getting food down off the bear cables in the background (far left).  In doing this painting, I decided to go for a more painterly, emotional style to show the thick wet conditions with very light tones of gray in the background.  Like an illustration in a book, it “leaves a lot more for the imagination to fill in” (right Eric?).

 

Here’s a note attach to every post of the Appalachian Trail Painting Series:

The Appalachian Trial Painting Series:

I recently went on a trip to the Appalachian Trail section hiking from the Georgia/North Carolina border up to Hot Springs, NC and shared the adventure in my other blog: The Appalachian Trail, In the Footsteps of an Artist.  I wanted to share what it’s like to be on the trail for 200+ miles, many times with out any contact, deep in nature.   Each day, I jotted down notes in the spare moments and even on the trail as it happened. You’ll read about thoughts (often discoveries), pain, joy, solitude and companionship. You’ll see short video clips, pictures, color sketches and read about all the unexpected events.  Out there, life happens to you so much it’s enough just to adapt and hang on. Mostly, words captured the moments of the day, but in those moment when there are no words, I sought to capture those with painting.  So, please enjoy the adventure of the Appalachian Trail blog first and you’ll feel a much richer sense of the joy behind the moment these painting are about.  Thanks!

 

 

Figure Commission: Josh giving “Thanks”

"Thanks" 30x40" Acrylic. Josh praying before heading out into the surf.
“Thanks” 30×40″ Acrylic on 1.5″ thick frameless canvas. Josh praying before heading out into the surf. The camera likes to saturate red, but the actual skin tones on the painting are much more like the photo below. (Click on the painting image above to see it more clearly).

A few weeks ago, I had a request for another commission from Cheri of her son praying before heading out into the California surf. Her timing of the request could not have been better. I’m stalled in my Appalachian Trail series for the moment until I learn to paint figures better. For those who paint figures, you know it’s one thing to paint a small study of a figure, and quite another thing to paint one large scale. In small scale, a single brush stroke could be an entire forearm; in large scale muscles, skin tone variations, facial details, painting in layers… it all comes into play. What a great challenge!! I studied Vladimir Volegov paintings for weeks. What an awesome painter! You should watch his YouTube speed painting videos.

Cheri sent this iPhone pic and we chose not to crop the photo and keep it pretty much just as it is.

photo reference
photo reference

I wanted to focus on Josh praying and make all other aspects of the painting revolve around that concept. Here were a few consideration I made: I chose to mute the colors of the background trees and beach and not make the palm trees as tall and distracting. I also chose not the add the people in the background for the same reason. The photo grayed out the color of the water a bit, so I punched up the saturation to add some vibrancy that you’d notice from across a room. It’s a fun beach painting after all. I did bring Josh forward a bit as if he was next to the seaweed in the foreground to emphasize him more. The real challenge was keeping from getting too detailed, especially in the background. It’s a catch-22. If I try and get too detailed blending everything with small brushstrokes, it’s looks like I painstakingly did each part, but if I use a very, very carefully added single bold stroke, it expresses better the enjoyment I had in doing this. It really makes a difference in how Josh will enjoy it too!

When trying to critique myself, there’s a point to just let go and enjoy it. There is no “perfect” painting and never will be. When I ask myself, “Does this capture the anticipation to get out there and surf with his favorite board, but give thanks in prayer before going?”, yes it does. “Did I enjoy it and learn a lot about figure painting?”, absolutely. Does Josh like it? He responded, its “awesome” and he aptly named the painting “Thanks”.

I paint it, he enjoys it: Win-Win.

Thank you, Cheri for giving me this commission!!

Figure Study: Parisa and Suri

"Parisa and Suri" 8x10" Acrylic
“Parisa and Suri” 8×10″ Acrylic

Time to get back to figure studies!  I saw a Facebook photo of my aunt’s niece’s daughters at a marina near India.  I “illegally” borrowed it.   As you can see below, I changed up the line of boats to overlap with the girls heads and greened up the grass a bit.  It’s tough to squeeze all the subject into a little 8×10 and still keep it simple and focused, but this seemed to work.  Hope my aunt’s niece likes it!

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Grace Ranch Longhorn

A couple of weekend ago I was down helping Uncle Kenny at the ranch and taking photos of the longhorns as a reference for future paintings.  Seems like either they have their heads down, turn right as you take a photo or the lighting is off somehow.  Just as we were leaving, I spotted this longhorn in the oak grove with green winter rye and light coming sideways in the late afternoon.

Shot of the longhorn just as we were leaving
Shot of the longhorn just as we were leaving

I did this study of the longhorn which will go into helping produce a much larger painting from this photo reference.

10x8" Acrylic on canvas panel (www.theartbooth.com)
10×8″ Acrylic on canvas panel (www.theartbooth.com)

When this bull was young it was easy to pet, but now it just big enough to make you take a second look to make sure it’s approachable. The loose style of the background with slightly cool colors are meant to add emotion to the setting and a mysterious questioning feeling to his pose.

Weimar, TX Ranch Scenes

Making a painting is like a mini adventure in itself as you’ll see here. While visiting Weimar, TX, I headed down Sedan St (“Say-don”) and onto the Weimar-Dubina Rd looking for possible painting scenes while taking a jog.  I’ve passed this ranch many times before and figured it was time to have a go at it.

Here’s the reference pic from my iPhone

The colors are a bit off as my iPhone tried desperately to make sense of what came though that ultra small camera lens in fading light.  Changing the composition around a bit by curving the fence and adding a big Live Oak to feel more inviting, I came up with this 8×10 acrylic sketch.  The shadows from the fence (hard to see in the original photo) were really cool.

8×10 Acrylic sketch

A bit farther down the street I had seen a horse ranch with a new colt and it’s mom.  I’m a guy, but it’s hard not to be at least a little sentimental when you see a gangly-legged colt and the Mom right there to protect it.  Nature is awesome.

Mom and colt seen while jogging.

I thought it’d be neat to add horses into the painting and try my new oils (Thank you Spunky!).   I drew up the design, watched a quick Richard Robinson video lesson and started spreading some pigment.  I found some good reference pics to add a couple horses and a rider to give the painting a story of someone returning home. I had planned on adding the white fence and having the rider’s horse nosing a colt over the fence, but it didn’t fit the composition.  So now I have a horse and rider looking left with nothing to see. Hmm. Flowers? Maybe? Hey, I have these awesome, vibrant paints, what the heck.  Instantly, it was Springtime. Weimar needs rain so badly I figured I’d add a rain cloud.  I also added some buzzards because, well, Texas has lots of buzzards…. and there it is.  Maybe I should call it “Fall, no Spring with Horses looking at flowers or Buzzards”.  Perhaps a shorter name would be better.

“Painted Fields” 11×14 Oils

This is taken with my iPhone inside, but the colors are close enough to give you the idea of what it looks like.   Onto new adventures.

Just found out I used gobs of two of the slowest drying colors available, so it’ll be quite some time before its available for sale.  Oh well, it’s worth it and I’ll keep on using those brilliant colors!!

“A Quick Pause” – Chickadee #2

Why am I painting this? At Daily Paintworks, my recent cardinal painting was bid on and has two followers.  I looked at the other bird paintings, and there’s not much or they are really $$$. Also, gotta paint my favorite NC bird! Might give it to Kay since she donate a ton of art supplies! We’ll see how it turns out.

Notes on painting:

Found pics from Flickr “Commons” that can be used for painting without copyright infringement if I do sell it. Go to Flickr Commons (Attribution License) and type in chickadee. 

Quick sketch on 8×10″ panel and watered it down around the chickadee.  

Background: Painted on the background colors letting it spread like watercolor on a soaked sheet. Used coarse bristle brush to darken in background color. 

The Bird: Painted in the blacks and started painting the whites.  Thought it’d be cool to have a texture, so gesso’ed the white area in feathered look. (hind site: don’t let rim form on the outside line of bird). Used 1/8″ flat head brush to add in feathers — add darks to make it look round and with undercolors, then feather it in with a progression toward the whites. 

The branch: Gesso’d in branch, then added color. For the shadow, watered down black; lights, watered down white. Cool texture!! Will do this a lot from now on!

Image

Turned out pretty good!  Hope Kay likes it!

“The Chickadee for Muz”

9x12 Acrylic on Mix Media Paper

I’m reading “Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting” and it’s an extraordinary book.  I’m only about a third of the way through and I’ve discovered that it’s often most important to paint the focal point at step one, even through it’s in the foreground.  Then, relax and fill in the rest.  In this quick painting (~4hrs), the focus was on the eye. This was the steps to the painting:

1. Rough sketch of bird and grass blade, and sketch the eye (focal point) to make sure I see every detail.

2. Paint the eye until pleased with it

3. Quickly paint an “out of focus” background that will let the subject stand out

4. Fill in the bird until I’m happy with it

5. Paint the foreground grass blade, keeping the sharp focus on the bird

Overall, this was a LOT of fun!  Another point I wanted to focus on in the painting was lighting, which is the subject of Richard Robinson’s most recent workshop (visit http://thecompleteartist.ning.com/). Now that I’m finished with the painting, as I stand back from it, my eye is immediately drawn to the eye.  I’ll apply this to all my paintings from now on, especially the animals.

I used to paint the background, then fill in the subject (bird) on top later.  The problem with that was I was unfocused.  I’d spend too much time on the background giving it more detail than needed. Then, I’d try to paint the whites of the subject over the background and find the colors of the background would dull it out. Sometime it can’t be helped, like leaves on a tree in a landscape, you have to do the background first. But doing the main focal point first, I relaxed because from then on, I knew the painting would work.

As an ending comment: this painting was done in memory of my grandmother, “Muz” as we called her.  She introduced to nature in the mountains of NC and to the Chickadee.  Thank you, Muz, for the growing inspiration which is the foundation for why I paint, and thus this blog as well.