Carlton, TX ranch views

Here’s a commission work I’m working through (work doesn’t sound right…”playing with”…better). It’s going to be a fun one for sure!  I asked my great aunt Helen, “What do you love about this ranch?”. Her single response “The view.  I love to look out my window and see the view.”.   I noted things about the view that gives the ranch it’s personality and headed off to do a quick color reference sketch.

Left side of the main view from the window
Right side view from window


This is the 8×10″ study in the field (literally) to get accurate colors the photos can’t seem to catch. Detail’s were left out and can be reference from the pics.


Here’s the first stage in going from the 8×10″ to a 24×36″ panorama. Next, I’ll sketch in the base colors to get the colors/values right.

Blocking in the background.

Done blocking in. Now to go back over it.

Added in the details over the base colors.

24″ x 36″ Acrylic on canvas panel

So, after about a month of painting, leaving it alone.. then painting again, it’s finished.  She loves it!


Ranch Glow for Nolen


This is a painting I did for my nephew Nolen (age 7) that is like two painting is one.  It is a landscape and a starscape.  I saw that other painters used phosphorescent paint a “glow art” and had to try it!  This is a 8×10″, but it’s time to scale up to 30×40″!  It’ll be expensive to add enough for a glow, but it’ll look impressive on the wall.

Richard Robinson’s Workshop 10 Study

Here’s some pics from the steps I’ve taken in Workshop 10 and some thoughts on each:

In a book “Bold Strokes”, it teaches to make each stroke count by limiting the number of strokes. I’m trying to paint this challenge in 50 strokes. We’ll see how it goes.

Find a concept for the painting and make notan sketches to fit that concept with good composition.


Cropped original photo to match notan:

Simple value study:


Use a “Gamut Mask” page for a simple color harmony:


The resulting sketch:


The first attempt (8×10 canvas panel)


Self Critique:

Good: The result is dramatic and holds the the original concept. My brushstroke were amazingly loose!! I was forced to load my brush and carefully apply bold strokes! It made the preparations of sketches really helpful!

To work on: At first shot, the values of the midground shadows were too dark and I had to repaint them to be lightened (which put me over 50 strokes – oh well). The foreground needs some interest (too plain and blocky). I may go for 75 strokes instead. This will still force me to stay bold, yet allow for foreground rocks and interest.

On to try two!

Concept: invite viewer into background

What would happen if I change the values and drawing slightly to make the mid-ground appear closer? Would it seem more inviting to the viewer to go to the background?
Foreground: 25-75% value range except near base with highlight near 10%
Mid ground: 10-50% value range with more detail around opening
Background: 10-25% ish value range.
Sky: around 10% or less.

The Rusty Blue Well Pump

In doing Richard Robinson’s color studies, I chose a gray well pump box to evaluate values and then fill it in with the details. It was overcast, so the picture doesn’t show the sun-lit values of the painting, but you can get an idea.
I added a bit more blue to the pump and added grass/flowers around the box for interest.


Plein Air: Grace Ranch Horses

I set out to paint either longhorns or horses at Grace Ranch today. Lucky for me, the horses cooperated.

After finishing most of the scene, I took some reference pics with the iPhone and used them to finish the painting back at home.


The longhorns were a bit too curious. Gotta respect the bull.


Plein Air: Faulkner Park (Tyler, TX)

I got out to the little pond on the South side of Faulkner Park about 100 yards into the trail.
The site:


Laying in the basic values and focusing on getting the right colors.


I have enough now to finish later at home and post progress.

Sedona Painting Progression

Step one: sketching in the darks


Step 2: blocking in foreground colors

Next few steps: background colors



Added sky and clouds so I can create spotlight effects around the canyon floor.


I’ve been out of town and will continue on this week.

Added some depth to the foreground rock shadows and added a lot of color to the rock. I forgot the white, so I’ll lighten up the rock and add highlights later.

Still trying to find that right color of the rock!


Moo Plein Air

Why am I painting this?: Another learning experience to accompany the last posting for plein air notes.


Same procedure as before, but for the cows I found sticking to two colors was enough to make them appear like cows. Not sure I should have added so much highlight. I’ll try less next time.

I had to go back and further gray out the background to give depth and add white to take out some of the distant field’s “glow”.  The sky color is the really the “atmosphere” color, so I suppose mixing that in with any color would seem to push it back into the distance as long as it decreases the overall contrast.

Dog keep trying to drink from the brush-water jar. “Stop it”.

Plein Air, Plein Air!!

Why am I painting this? Plein air, or painting outside on location is something I strive to do so I can eventually paint while backpacking.  In these first two attempts, I take notes to learn from.  It’s very different outdoors!

Day 1 Notes:


Easel: cheap Walmart portable easel that works great!! This is a link to a similar easel, but mine is $20.  I guess it’s not available online. The wind was really blowing (15-20mph). Use the Velcro strap to anchor it down! Works great.  Also, shift around the canvas panel while tightening it down so the wind doesn’t loosen it and blow it on the ground. It’s not fun picking grass out of your paint.

Bag: I use a disc golf bag to stow my paints, stay-wet pallet, water jar, acrylics and a few brushes. This is similar to the bag I use. It does a good job of keeping stuff organized and the strap helps when needing an anchor for the easel. Also, a travel sized spray bottle fits nicely in the water bottle spot.

Stay Wet Pallet: This is a great video on making a stay-wet pallet similar to what I use. It works great!! 

Fold-up Camping chair: I like to paint standing up so I can step back from the painting a lot, but the easel is kinda short.  Plus, after an hour or two it is nice to have the option to sit!

Preparation: I gessoed two 8×10″ canvas panels the night before and added some retarder fluid to water in the spray bottle.

Setting Up: It’s stinkin’ bright out in the sun! Set up so that your canvas is shaded. Take a pic of your view from your painting spot for accurate reference (if needed). Sitting down, keep the stay wet pallet in you lap. Water wash-can on you right side (if you’re right handed) for easy access. Paint bag at your feet anchoring the easel. 

Starting: MAKE A VIEWFINDER! Can’t tell you how helpful this is! There is so much scenery and this “flattens” the scene to see a good composition. Make initial quick sketch, spray the canvas down, and lay in the big colors quickly (sky grass).  Leave details out (background trees, foreground details).  It’s your “underpaint”. 

Highlight to painting: Work from background to foreground (sky, background trees, foreground grass/tree, fence posts). Squint a lot to see values relative to each other. The point now is to get the true colors down. The camera doesn’t always get a good representation of these. DO NOT SPRAY THE CANVAS AFTER THE UNDERPAINTING IS DONE! I tried and streaked my painting dissolving with the water spots. Wet the brush to apply a thin coat if needed. Leave the small details for back home. Wind and quick drying paint makes it hard to do outdoors.

Things to do next time: SUNBURN.  Ouch. Full brim hat, sunscreen, and if possible sit in a shaded spot.  I look like a lobster. 

Day 2 Notes:


Much better today!  I used the same routine as before, found shade and a full brim hat. I had limited time.  I did an underpaint, sky, background trees, grass, foreground tree, foreground limb and field bluebonnets (about 80% done). Added details like cows detailed flowers at home.

Reading Paul Strisik’s book really helped! I recommend it for anyone as a “must read”.

Now get outside and just do it.  There’s no better way to learn!

The Apple Challenge, and an Answer

Why am I painting this?: The DPW challege was to paint an apple with as few colors as needed and still give a 3-D illusion. (I highly recommend doing these challenges along with Richard Robinson’s challenges!) In doing this I hoped to learn from other artist also completing the challenge and maybe sell it for a little spending money. I never expected an answer to my initial question!


Another artist commented on my painting:

“As a recipient of many apples over the years (I am a retired teacher) I got a warm fuzzy feeling from this one. One day a Kindergarten Kid did not know why kids would leave apples on my desk, so she “stole” a can of fruit from her mom’s kitchen and left it on my desk. That is the one I remember the most. I am tempted to buy yours as representative to my good life as a teacher.”

I replied, “I’m sending it right away, no charge!”. She responded, “I will frame it nicely and pay the good deed forward.”.


I learned an important lesson through this. Artist don’t make much money, the competition is stifling, and after pouring your heart into a painting the last thing you want to do is give it away! However, this reminded me why I paint. I paint in hopes that someone else may find value in it and be inspired. The value in her comment and especially in stating she would pay it forward renewed my sense of purpose. In gifting, I received a priceless return, an answer.

If you ever find you are losing inspiration to paint, put your heart into a painting for someone else. Then, give it to them without expecting anything in return. I promise, this act will give you a sense of freedom from the inside out.

Update: She sent an email with it framed and said it now hangs in her kitchen.