Studio Work: Afternoon Grazing

14×18″ acrylic on stretched canvas, “Afternoon Grazing”

While driving to and from work at an artist’s studio in Columbus, TX, I pass by many fields with cows. One field in particular is on the west side of the road and the cows hang close to the fence, back-lit by the sun. When I saw this young cow with the fuzzy hair on the ears lit up like they were glowing, I hit my brakes, rolled down the window and caught this pose just in time.  A couple days later, I needed a painting to start on my Friday “artist-in-studio” sessions at the local Live Oak Center. I propped up my laptop on a table, and got started. That was a few weeks ago, and since then, this painting has hung around the kitchen at home. It seems if I see it around in passing, my mind works on it and when I see it again, I think “this needs a cactus”, or “I need to change the background cow’s color. The last time I passed it, it just seemed like it was done. I had the goal in the starting point to add color into the shadows on the main cow to draw interest and past that, I really didn’t care. It was a simple goal and if the rest of the surrounding parts support that cow as the main character, it’s a success. I was going to name it “Moo”, but I think a gallery would prefer “Afternoon Grazing”.  Fun times.


Plein Air: Old Ranch House in Weimar, TX

Ol’ Ranch House at Sunset, acrylic, 8×10″ (Sold! Thanks, Sharon and Glynn!!)
I went out to paint close to sunset at an old ranch house surrounded by Live Oaks just down the road from me. In fact, it’s the same ranch with the barn I did a study on in an earlier post a week or two ago. What drew me to it was the bright white of the house lit up by the sun shining almost directly against it, in contrast to the dark live oaks. I had just enough time to slap down the color notes before the sun set and then took it home to finish it. I softened the edges of the trees and sky to give it a sense of mystery but maintain the peace you feel when viewing it. 

I was curious what else is down this street since I now have about ten paintings just from the first three miles, so tied on the jogging shoes and did the full loop (7+ miles). I saw at least three more paintings and have seriously sore calves. Worth it! 

Plein Air: Weimar, TX at sunset


Sunset study at Weimar, TX (8×10″, acrylic)

I’ve been wanting to do this Plein air study for some time and tonight was just the right weather to get out there. There are amazing rolling hills just outside of Weimar heading towards LaGrange, TX off hwy 155. I set up, painted in the scene quickly, then waited until just the right moment when the sky was about 15 min before sunset and then it was off to the races. Paint flying everywhere. I had to be fast because I was hardly off the road with hillbilly trucks passing me at 65mph. They don’t slow down. About 1hr after set up, I was headed out back to the house to get the colors right before I forgot. I knew they’d look different in the lighting indoors than at sunset as you can see from the pic out there(bottom) and the one indoors (top).  A few touch ups, and I have the color notes for a huge painting to come! Excited.

Studio Painting: “Hi Lobo’s Expression” (Weird name, cool cow)

This is "Hi Lobo's Expression"... that's the name. No, really. 16x20" acrylic on canvas
This is “Hi Lobo’s Expression”… that’s the name. No, really. 16×20” acrylic on canvas

This is a painting I’ll display at the Art Walk in a week.   This one will be for sale AFTER the Art Walk in a top-secret, extra covert fashion.  (You can contact me or visit my website). I’m supposed to have a sole proprietor business license to sell artwork, else the Texas Tax people will sent their goons to knock on my door with open hands for money and pink citations for my villainous underworld activity.  However, once they find out I made less in a year than a true sole business person makes in a day, they might do the math and discover it’d cost more for the postage stamp than what they’d collect from me.  🙂

Back to the painting: this is another longhorn from my uncle’s ranch (see ref pic)

This is the reference photo.

The story goes, the dad was “Little Ace Lobo” and the mom was “Supreme Expression”. By naming the kid after both the parents, it keep the lineage straightforward. … in theory.  Thus, “Hi Lobo’s Expression” was born.  One aspect of this cow is, it really is a “low – bo” with short legs. Kinda the weaner dog of cowdom. I thought about giving him leg extensions with my artistic license, but art is about loving our differences. Sorry HiLoBo Ex, no stadium shoes for you this time.

Here’s some progression pics with captions:

fairly detailed under-painting.
fairly detailed under-painting.
Layered in a background to cover all the canvas and worked the details a bit more on the fence and face.
Layered in a background to cover all the canvas and worked the details a bit more on the fence and face.

In the final photo (at the top of this article), I invented a post to the right, put in the grass and weeds, added some oaks in the background to balance out the invented post and further developed the details, especially around the face.  Oh, I almost missed giving poor HiLobo a tail! In the reference picture, it’s tucked behind his legs.  If I tried to paint it there, it would look like it’s peeing or doing something else, so I swung the tail to the side and only gave it a slight highlight to keep it unnoticed.

This was fun to keep this painting loose and abstract in the background and grass, but give just enough in detailed objects to make the rest seem real.  At first it feels like cheating, but if you go outdoors and view a scene in nature, that’s really what you see.

Thanks for letting me share this with ya!

Artists Chat:

Palette (ridiculously extended): Titanium white, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, hooker’s green (warm green), pthalo green (cooler green), raw sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow hue, burnt umber (make a great dark grey with the cobalt blue), cadmium orange and ultramarine blue.   I really only needed half of this, but it’s fun to experiment and see the benefits of each. For example, the raw sienna was a great saturated color to really give some punch against all those greens for the lit side of the cow. The saturation couldn’t be matched with mixing.  The shadow side is really key to making the cow look real. If you can see in the white hair of the cow in the shadow side, it’s full of reflections (sky, grass, and a warm grey in between).  I’ve heard it called “opalescence”. Check out Daniel Gerhartz’s latest blog post to read about it from a world renowned pro. If you haven’t tried this, please do! You’ll love it! It’s subtle changes, but so important!


Studio Painting: “Country Sunrise”

"Country Sunrise" 11x14" Acrylic. This is a scene near Muldoon, TX in the morning.
“Country Sunrise” 11×14″ Acrylic. This is a scene near Muldoon, TX in the morning.

This is another painting for the Fulshear Art Walk on April 26th. A few weekend ago, I went down the do some ranch work with my uncle.  As I drove out there in the morning, a scene of a huge oak in the background and the cattle in the foreground came into view.  I knew it was a good scene for a painting and slammed on the brakes before I lost the right angle or the cows moved.  I backed up a bit (it was a little like when adjusting a painting on a wall “no, no… a little to the left. Now to the right. Shmidgen back…”. Eventually the cows had just the right back-lighting and I got the shot. Phew.  And this is why artists are really bad drivers on country roads.

Here’s the reference pic:

Reference pic
Reference pic

As you can see, I did quite a bit of alteration changing angles of the land to get rid of too many horizontals and added oaks to the background to give some balance and depth. There is typically Broomweed out there, which is bright, yellow-ochre in the morning light and it just felt right for this painting, so I added it in.  Ranchers hate it, so if a guy with leathery skin, boots and a cowboy hat asks if that’s broomweed at the Art Walk…”What? Broomweed? Why I’d never…”.

Well, it now Friday, sunny and I’m getting out of here for some plein air! Hopefully I’ll see some bluebonnets, big oaks and red blankets for some studies.  That’s pure Texas.

IOU Ranch

"I O U Ranch" 6x8" Oil
“I O U Ranch” 6×8″ Oil

On the way to go paint the previous painting of Nolen Creek, there’s a “ranch” with old rusted farm equipment adorned like decoration for the surrounded brick homes with green lawns and sprinkler systems. It stands out. I guess it could be called “junk”, but it’s really cool, artsy junk. Their mailbox seem to summarize the personality of the place. It’s rusted, welded, pink pipe tube welded to cut out sheet metal and ship anchor chain link and a car tire hub. When you wait a while, you realize the cut out letters paste a sign in the shadow. Neat idea. How could you not like that? Here’s the actual pink mailbox below. I don’t do pink, sorry. I changed the “ranch” name for fun.

reference photo
reference photo