(in the video window, click on the settings icon, a little gear wheel on the lower right, and view in 1080p).
I went out to my stomping grounds, Dana Peak Park in Harker Heights, TX, to kick off 2019. Hoping to find some prickly pear on rocks to help with a painting I was working on, I saw this scene on the way. This is overlooking the lakeside (lake is to the left) as the setting sun casts warm light over everything. I never finished the painting, but had a lot of fun laying in the foundation for it, catching the mood and accurate color and figured it’s worth sharing. I hope your 2019 is full of adventure and surprises along the way!
Artist Chat: Usually I lay in a burnt sienna under-painting to establish a basic plan on where things are and the values needed, but the light was moving fast! I did a quick line drawing with a pencil and plunged right in, top to bottom. The distant views were so brightly lit, I was using straight white with a touch of the warm color, which really contrasted well with the foreground cedars to establish the sense of distance. It was so cold my acrylics were acting like oil paint, staying wet the entire time. This really helped to soften the edges of the distant hills and trees.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
The Austin Plein Air group painted at McKinney Falls State Park and four people showed despite clouds that looked as if they might dump at any minute. I’m glad I risked it! McKinney Falls is in South Austin and a treasure trove of scenes to paint. Onion Creek runs through the park and has carved out the limestone bedrock along the way. Not only is the creek scenic, but the hike and bike paths (about 9 miles) are too.
This scene above is the “Lower Falls” and, as you can see, it’s a popular getaway for Austinites. When I was about 80% done, a Girl Scout troop was checking out the Falls and huddled behind me to quietly watch the painting progress. When I came to a finishing point and said, “I think it’s about finished!”, one of the girls said, “Not yet, you need a tree here (pointing to the spot on the painting), some green algae on the rocks here, here and here and a darker shadow behind this waterfall.”. She wasn’t being rude in her tone of voice, but more like asking me to look again. I looked and she was right! The indication of a tree to the left side was great for the design, the green algae gave excellent highlights to the focal point and the darker shadow really emphasized what the painting was about. She couldn’t put it into words why she knew, but she did. I gave her compliments and a high five. A couple of them added dots for the heads and feet of the people. We had a great time! It’s a great reminder that all the books, videos, lectures and demos might help me to understand design, but before all of that massive amount of information, just simply looking at the Falls and seeing “beauty” is a gift we’re born with. So humbling and inspiring!
I recently heard an interview with a famous artist that part of what makes a professional artist, professional, is consistency. I need to choose a style and subject to run with and produce enough that a gallery can count on me to continue this. That way collectors can become acquainted with my work and know what to expect. Maybe creeks, rivers and paths in the state parks can be my “theme”. Something both collectors and I can connect with together. Just some thoughts…
Tyler, an East Texas city about 2 hours west of Dallas, is brilliant in spring. It has deep, rich, red sandy soil with grass that’s always green and trees that reach 50 to 70 feet all over the city. Rose Redmond park is it’s central park with paved paths for joggers, bikers, and tons of dog walkers. It’s always in use. The paths cut through a forest with trees so high, the path is almost always in shade. As I was jogging, I’d come to sections where I’m in the shade and a bright sunlit portion would be ahead. I could feel the warmth just from looking at it. At a few points I simply stopped and spent a minute to mentally try and paint the scene in my mind. I constantly say to myself, “If this was created by God, what brush did he have and what kind of strokes did he use?”. I’ve noticed lately from the Nathan Fowkes class in Schoolism, he says “What is the simple statement? What are the main colors and how do they compare: lighter, darker, warmer, cooler?”. When I begin this conversation (not out loud), all the color combinations pop out and a game plan forms as if I was setting up the easel for the hundredth time. The simple statement of this scene was about the bright warm glow of the sunlit tress and it’s connection to the people walking through it. That’s it. It’s not about the individual trees, not the grass or even the path, just the light and the people. As long as the proportions are mostly correct, the abstract patterns make sense. This is definitely the impression (feel) of the memory I had, which is just as real as the scene itself. Fun!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ahh, that hit the spot. What a great way to end a very full day.