Sunrise at Tyler State Park

I went camping at Tyler State Park after a fun couple of days in Tyler with friends. It was about 40° and probably less by the lake, but the sunrise woke me up, shining on my tent screen. I jumped to it, grabbed my gear, coat and threw on my cowboy boots to catch the light. The far bank was lit up in an orange hue while the foreground trees were still mostly in shadow from the tall pines behind me. The camera failed to really catch the glow, so I flung that paint fast to get down the actual blues and orange colors that vibrate dramatically. After finishing the sketch, I used that to repaint it on a larger 12×16″ canvas. Sweet memory I’m blessed to have!

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Studio Work: Fall Colors on the Lower Swift River

This is a piece I’ve been working on for a while. I visited my brother and his family for about two and half months in Marblehead, and was lucky enough to find a break in the rains in later October to travel to the southeast White Mountains. The Lower Swift River flows near Conway, NH and at peak fall color has crowds lined up along the highway to go down to the river. Spectacular. I found a park where I could head down and explore the area. Up river about a quarter mile, where to people quit and turn around, I found a bend in the river perfect for a sketch to get careful notes of the area. I took those notes and a photo to paint this 18×24″ view. I wanted to get a good contrast between the light boulders and dark waters to invite the viewer into the scene. The main tree was actually some bare birches, so I look the liberty to “enhance” it with a vibrant maple also seen along the river. The sky was actually much more brilliant hues of blue, but it needed to be muted to showcase the main tree. After about a week, I couldn’t see anything else I could do, so I called it done.

Loved the journey! Onto the next.

Next Generation Disc Golfer

Image of kids watching dad throw a disc
“Next Generation Disc Golfer”, 8×10”, acrylic

While Dad and I were playing disc golf with friends, one of them brought his brother’s family with two kids. Both the wife and husband were pretty good disc golfers and their kids watched intently, the oldest eager to give it a try. As they watched the Dad, the sunlight caught their blond hair and I saw a painting I really wanted to try. Covertly, I snapped a pic with the iPhone. Later at home I painted the two kids omitting the Dad in the background. Might have made for a neat story to have him back there, but I thought the disc in the toddler’s hand told the story sufficiently.

Hopefully, the young couple will enjoy their painting as much as I enjoyed painting it!

October in Marblehead

The leaves are changing and pumpkins are out along the front yard walls in Marblehead. I saw this riding my bike around town and it seemed like it’d make for a cool fall-style painting. It’s one of those you can put up temporarily for the month as a fall celebration. I think I’ll add a few maple leaves to finish it off in the studio.

Video TimeLapse for Painting

I started wanting to share the experience of what it like painting en plein air more and figured I’d try my hand at making videos that wrap up the journey in about a minute. My equipment is really extravagant. It’s a phone with an app called “TimeLapse” and a $20 Amazon tripod. My other equipment is my highly modified Walmart easel and canvas panels from Hobby Lobby. My video taking skills are even more extravagant! Ha. It’s all part of the fun. My brother is a marketing/design genius and helps me know what format videos to post where. Right now, it’s about 1min. per TimeLapse. Later, I made a YouTube channel that will have more scenes of the area I’m painting to bring a closer experience of being there. We’ll see how that goes. The more people I can inspire to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature, the better! Whenever it is my time to leave this Earth, that’s what I want to leave behind. I love a quote I just recently read in scripture where Jesus said to God,”Glorify your Son so I can glorify you.”. That makes so much sense. We have a purpose. If we were given a gift (music, art, acting, caregiving, …) and we love this unimaginably awesome experience called “life” (which I think of as at least part of the mystery of God), we get to be ourselves, expressing our thanks for being a part of it. How cool is that?

Here’s a link to the last video I made: https://youtu.be/cSo9PsGDF6Y. You can also click the picture above as a link.

Studio: “Into Reality” Mt. LeConte, NC

“Into Reality” acrylic 11×14″

My cousin Andy and his wife backpack to a lodge in Mt. Le Conte n the Appalachian Mountains. It has a special meaning to them as their getaway hike and he took a snapshot of his wife walking into view of the mountains. This painting will be a good “happy unbirthday” surprise. He’s been wanting this painting for some time and I finally felt ready to paint it. 

I’ve been learning about Impressionism and manipulating color, value, edge… all the aspect the affect the mood of the scene. When backpacking through the woods its been called the “long green tunnel”. After a few miles, it’s meditative as you listen your rhythmic footsteps, the sounds of the forest, your breathe and you fall into introspection of life. Then, BAM, bright light hits you and an overwhelming view of the mountains appears. It’s a sudden jolt internally to go from introspection to such awareness of life outside of you. Humbling. Everything thought about for miles snaps into proportion, so teeny-tiny in comparison. Appreciation. It’s no question that this life is a gift, and being a part of it, however infinitely small, is incredibly comforting. These are the words and feelings behind the painting that guided my decisions. Hope they like it! 

Plein Air: Chalk Ridge Falls

This is an area along the river in Chalk Ridge Falls in Belton, TX,  a local hot spot for me where I can explore and consistently find something to study. Rivers, creeks, grasslands, rocks, caves… it has it all.  Plus, it felt great to paint over a previous painting that flopped big time. 

What initially struck me about the scene was the deep curelean blue sky against all of the greens of the land and the shadow of the main bush cast over the sandy ledge. It’s always a challenge to get the right value (darkness) and color of the shadows to coordinate with the sun-lit areas. When it’s right, it’s seamless and the eye just accepts it. The temps are rising as summer approaches and soon enough that green grass will tan. You can bet I’ll be huddled under a tree somewhere out there, thankful for the shade and living in the moment.  

Studio Painting: “Countryside Bluebonnets”

This will be a quick post, but wanted to share the most recent work done in the studio. If it looks slightly familiar, it’s because it is from a couple of past plein air studies and a bit of inspiration from a Clyde Aspevig painting all smacked together. Nice when that works out! I added some thick paint in areas of the foreground bluebonnets and let the detail fade away as it went to the background. Hopefully this will feel inviting, like stepping into the scene. I had an email from someone asking to buy artwork in the range this would sell at. Crossing my fingers!

I’m at a paintout near Ennis, TX with the Outdoor Painter Society,  texting this in my tent. Hope to meet some great artists tomorrow!

Plein Air: Chalk Ridge Falls lots of Sketching

Some days are made for hiking and sketching outdoors and Chalk Ridge Falls in Belton, TX was the perfect place to go. Shallow spring fed creeks, hidden caves and waterfalls and enough places to roam that you can escape any hiking traffic.

I’m doing “abstractions of nature” as a series, which are patterns that you’d know immediately in context of a place, but when taken out of the setting, it’s beauty is set apart. I hope this will help others to take a closer look at nature in parts and as a whole. 

First sketch: “Submerged” (acrylic/paper, 4×4″)

In noticing the aquatic plants that have grown in a previously dry area, it was rich with warm and cool tones of every color there is. It has subtle shifts from the deep blues and purples into the greens and yellows and even reds as the plants emerge from the deep. Soothing. 

After that almost meditative warm up, I headed up the back alley, where limestone has been warm down by years of spring water eroding it into something resembling a quarter mile bob-sled track. I knew a tucked away place in an off-shoot of the alley where a tributary spring feeds into the main alley. This spot has a hidden rock wall with water always dripping down it and ferns bursting out of it at every crevice. Along one shaded wall, sun lit up one area and with a big branch hanging over the edge it appeared like I was in a cave. So I went after that impression for the second sketch, also somewhat abstract. 

Second sketch: “Entrance” (acrylic/paper, 4×4″ish)

On the way back to the main limstone alley, sun had fallen just enough to shade the offshoot part I had gone on, but the main alley was fully sun-lit. The contrast of gray-purples to the bright yellow white was amazing. It even had a small stream of water leading into the scene. 

Third sketch of the tributary and lit main alley. (a/p, 5×7″)

This is a picture of the alley.

It was time to head home to feed the grumbling stomach and I almost made it until I drove over the Stillhouse Lake Dam near the entrance to the park and saw the setting sun over the water. One u-turn later, my painting kit was out again. 

Fourth sketch: View of Stillhouse Lake at Sunset

Ahh, that hit the spot. What a great way to end a very full day. 

Plein Air: San Gabriel Park with Plein Air Austin group

First sketch (acrylic/paper, ~8×8)
The scene painted from

It was debateable if driving 40 minutes to join a painting group at sunrise in a fog was worth it. I arrived about an hour late and went to find the others. Nobody showed. Dang! So I set up my easel determined to make something of the day searching for scenes along the river. Around 9am, two painters show up and join in. At 10, another. At 11ish, an artist showed up and said a group of others had set up in the wrong area.  This is definitely a group of creatives. A 7am start time means 8am through 10am-ish in the park area-ish. Ha.  Although it seemed half-organized, they are dedicated and has been the starting point for several internationally renowned painters that have gone on to their fame and fortune. 

Around 8am when setting up my easel, almost as if it was planned, a few geese swam out into the scene I was checking out. I was wondering how to paint a scene with almost no contrast in this fog, and then, BAM, there they were. Out came the camera phone and I had the geese for reference to add to the scene at the very end. Nice when that happens! I set the background dark in value, careful to not let anything bright highlight in the plants shout out too loud. It played out nicely when the pure white laid played in with the geese. Done.

After about hour and a half, normally I’d finish, pack up and scout out another scene, but the other painters were all around. I really enjoyed talking art with them as we painted, so I just turned 180° and painted a small section of a scene that appears almost abstract at first glance until your mind find a way to reason what it is. It’s a fun twist. 

Second sketch of the day
The scene (the geese showed up!)
This scene turned out to be harder than I expected with all of the shifts in value between the shoreline and the water. In the foreground the bank is lighter than the water; further back, the water is lighter than the bank. Luckily, this is where acrylics excel in allowing layers of paint to go on until it’s right. I really like the flow of the leaves in the reeds bending down to the bank. When I see these patterns, it’s as if I could see music rather than hear it. Every leaf has a small, but important part of some bigger design, and it’s beautiful. Nature is eloquent. 

Great day!