Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Progression of Birds and some Style Changes

The Boy on the Boat. Oil paint and ink on panel, maybe 1990. Private collection.

Electronic filing day.  Unearthing some of these old paintings is an odd experience.

Back in the day, I was heavily influenced by the work of Brian Froud and James Christensen. I did a lot of detailed pen and ink work, with color layers on top.  This was a favorite--the color is thin layers of transparent oil.  In love with detail and monsters and goofy birds, I regretted letting this one go, and I only have a small file to show for it.

Humpty Dumpty. Watercolor, maybe 1992. Private collection.

Influenced by the illustrations of L. Leslie Brooke and Arthur Rackham, I did a lot of watercolor over pen and ink. I miss working with watercolor, and keep vowing to myself to indulge in it again.

 Pretty straightforward washes over ink.

Bird sketch.  Micron pen, 2011. 

Pink Quail, Pleased (detail). Acrylic on wood, 201, private collection.

Whatever has happened in the past three years has resulted in much more abstracted birds (and everything else) in my art. It's been an interesting journey, if only to me.
What hasn't changed--besides my love of birds--is my love of black line.
I wonder a bit what's up with my brain, but am definitely enjoying the process.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Serenade at the Gate; Part 2 (finished)

Serenade at the Gate. Acrylic on canvas, 12" x 30", private collection.  The Pinocchio-inspired piece from a previous post; finally completed.  One of my biggest difficulties when working with acrylics seems to be value.  Because I work under very bright light, the paintings always seems to have a lot of contrast in the studio.  Another look at them hanging on a wall proves that wrong most times.

This  pic--compared to the earlier version--shows a lot of changes, most of them in value.

Also, my wife proves a great help.  Luckily, she's not so impressed with my work that she loves everything I do without reservation. I rely on her eye often. She looked at the first version and said drily:  "Change the stomach--it looks like a rear-end--or worse." That was embarrassingly true--and something I had not seen.  So I changed it.

This is a detail of the unfinished painting.  The little concertina player could barely be seen against the gate, and I disliked his face, figure, and clothing.

A much brighter and more interesting little guy.  I fixed the drawing problems with his head, and the long coat gives the fellow a bit more mystery.
 The main musician also needed a bit of work, mostly because he was too cool.

Some warmth helped, and also more contrast.

At work on another, and some new stuffed goblins, too. 
As always, thanks for checking this out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sketches: Another Little Guy and Another Eggman

 The musician painting in the previous post still isn't complete, but to stay with my habit of posting twice weekly, these little guy sketches are filling in. 
Television mostly--and advertising always--makes me crabby and restless, but I do want to be with my family in the evenings, even when they are watching the tube.  If I have my sketchbook with me I don't complain so much about the artificial crap that infuses most programs and ads.

These little sketches came out of me during some spurious Food Network show.  I like the fact that, even though I'm feeling venomous toward the television, my sketches don't often reflect that for some reason; they are not at all tanned, phosphorescent-toothed, big boobed, or blandly beautiful.

And my family appreciates my silent concentration on my sketchbook instead of having to hear my rancorous commentary about all the predictable and affected phonies on the screen.

  I'll be quiet now, post this, and go finish my painting.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Serenade at the Gate; Part I

 Serenade at the Gate (detail). Acrylic on canvas, 12" x 30", private collection.
Would I like to be able to play an instrument, sing, or both?  Yes.

 A new music-subject painting. It's not done, but I need to let it rest for awhile and then return to it. I get a kick out of all those weird prints of musicians that were ubiquitous in houses during the 60's.  They usually featured kids with creepily large eyes--kitschy, but well painted nonetheless. This is my version. It is not a scene from Pinocchio either, but the figure is definitely a variation of that little puppet shown at the end of this post.

 The preliminary sketch.

The inspiration.

This antique Pinocchio was given to me by a friend who knows how much I love the little guy.
I liked the Disney film version as a kid.  It was up there among my favorite animated movies, mostly for the atmospheric background paintings and the soundtrack.

But the real deal is the original book by Collodi. It is perfect for kids too--dark, violent, and multi-layered--like true children's lit should be.  If you haven't read it, you'll be doing yourself a favor if it's next on your list. I'd be glad to know what you think.

And, as always, thanks for checking this out.
I'll post the complete, finished painting--assuming it is done--next time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guillermo Stuns the Crowd

 Been working on a bunch of music-related paintings.  Like most artists I know, music is a constant in my studio, car, house. There's not much music I don't like, from ancient to modern, and am awestruck by the variations that continue to evolve.

 Guillermo Stuns the Crowd. Acrylic on canvas, 4" x 12".  Years ago attended a concert given by a very talented (both in art and music) student. What vividly sticks in my mind is the guitar solo he performed at the end. This eighteen year old kid--alone on the stage--delivered a stunning explosion of music that blew everyone away, slammed the last chord, and finished with his arm raised.

The painting is not a portrait of that kid :)  but rather a piece inspired by his concert finale, and by these sketches of creatures I was recently playing around with--variations of the soft sculpture in a previous post.

Next post--another music painting

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Terrarium with Stone Hut Completed

 Finished! Something I've been working on for a week, and something that's been stirring around in my head for the past fourteen years. A peculiarly creative student from way back built a small diorama using a hut built of stones. That was actually the inspiration, and I never forgot it.

 This is the view from the top.

And this is a detail of the little stone hut inside--the flat rocks courtesy of the river trail (see previous post).  Wish I was a better photographer--but am very pleased with the actual terrarium.  It's an anniversary present for my wife. She likes it too.

Got lots of advice, ideas, and plants from Ironwood.  If you are in Denver, check out that great store! Their Facebook page is

A Winter Break

Putting together a terrarium, and it needs a little stone house within, so the search took me to the river trail. I needed some small flat stones for the tiny structure.

I'm just a point-and-shooter, but glad the camera was with me.  Don't know if any of this will inspire artwork, but my brain got relaxed for certain.

Found a lot of surprises there:
First, it was unseasonably warm, and therefore incredibly sloppy for mid-winter.

Maybe that's why I was the sole human around.  It was silent except for the sound of the river, and the spittery noise of sand flying off my shoes into the dry Cottonwood leaves ahead of me.

Second, the colors were stunning.  Didn't expect grey, but also did not expect such a vivid variety.  And was also taken by the pungent, wonderful smell of wet Cottonwood--which is the best odor--but which suffused the air more strongly than I've ever experienced. A smell from childhood; of jaunts down the Highline Canal.

Inscape/Instress--today it was thick!

Third, there was still plenty of snow, and pretty much just rocks that were round.  I did find some flat ones--but only five.

The photo at left shows part of the waterless riverbed.

Fourth, another unexpected sight--Cottonwood buds.  These were on the ground.  Guess the twigs fell off the tree for some reason.  The bits of sienna-edged, yellow green were a welcome sight amid the brown leaves.
Cottonwood trees rank at the top of my favorites. They smell great, they have bark like an elephant's skin, and they make thick, leathery leaves that clatter like wooden bells. Whether they are green and windblown or yellow and getting kicked around, the sound is most satisfying.

And a dead one created the fifth surprise of the day: the sculptural Cottonwood at left--which was at least fifteen feet in height! The dead ones also turn white when the bark falls away and look amazing and ghostly in the moonlight, scattered across the landscape like giant bleached bones.

Home now, gluing the stone house together.  If the terrarium turns out, I'll post a pic of it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A new stuffed goblin/little guy

 Armless and legless for now, he's gonna have to be patient until I'm sure of the design.

This time I skipped the gesso-coat step, and liked the result and the way the paint flowed onto the muslin. Very happy with this iteration of the process.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

An Optimistic Toast to the New Year

Another Round. Acrylic on oak wood.

This little guy fits my mood this day. 
May uninhibited creativity and joy in life be yours in 2012 and beyond!
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