Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Change in the Weather

Saint Francis and the Freshening Breeze. Acrylic on deep canvas, 6" x 12" x 1". Private collection.
Saint Francis of Assisi continues to nudge me. One night last week, the sound of rising wind awakened me from a deep sleep. It escalated into a pounding force against the house, and blew all night long. In the morning, I began this work, translating that mighty wind into a peaceful and pleasant breeze. Nonetheless, it heralds a weather change.

I like the rough and scruffy look of the paint, and am especially happy with the scroungy-baroque-acanthus border. Acanthus leaves remain a favorite motif.

 Preliminary sketch for Saint Francis and the Freshening Breeze. Pencil on paper, approx. 3" x 8".

In the previous post, I talked about enjoying the discovery and the play inherent in the process of putting paint on the surface. Every artist is different, but I'm not big on planning things out too much. I do sketch often, and sometimes roughly draw out an idea before committing it to canvas.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Chase, Play and Discovery

This detail (a yet-to-be-titled Saint Francis piece) is a work-in-progress on canvas. It is maybe 50% complete. I've a few ideas about what's next, but I'm open to both experiments and curve-balls. Those are just the things to keep me at it. 
Will I love it when it's done? Hope so--but I don't need to know that now.

The appeal of an artwork to any individual is of course, an individual thing. Why can one person be infatuated with a work that makes another turn away in disgust, and makes still another fellow yawn with boredom?

I love the blog, Muddy Colors, because 13 different artists contribute, and their posts are almost always fascinating to me. A recent post by Donato Giancola ( ) is particularly thought-provoking. It speaks to the process of painting, and is helping me to understand why certain works trip my trigger, while some are dreadfully uninteresting to me.

The canvas above is on the painting table right now.  I'm poking and scrubbing away at it, and having a great time.  It is at the stage where anything might happen, and the enjoyment is coming from the fact that there are still unexpected discoveries waiting to bushwhack me.

Lonely Little Ghost Owl (detail). Acrylic on wood.

Lonely Little Ghost Owl is a finished work, one that evolved in much the same manner as the Saint Francis above. It threw me badly--because of the wood surface, but I messed about with it, was blind-sided by it, and eventually finished it. I like it very much, probably because it was never a planned-out artwork, it isn't perfect, and the process of painting it was a gratifying play/work combination.

Thanks for checking in!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Bit Battered, but Lively

Jack O'Lantern. Acrylic on old book cover, 5" x 7". Private collection.

Sort of a prize-fighter pumpkin, this guy's face has some character.
The piece got misplaced for a few years.  After searching and giving up, I came across it at the bottom of the Halloween-decoration box in the store room.

 A total experiment with light, this was painted on a canvas-y, and very grimy cover of a book that fell apart. Playing around often yields the best result--in this case the piece was painted direct, without a prelim sketch or a pencil drawing.  When the surface doesn't cost much, this artist feels more free to just jump in. 

(I was reading a book about the draft riots in New York at the time, so maybe the personality came from that.)

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Concrete Deal

If you're like me, and you love viewing tangible artwork in welcoming settings, please visit the two amazing Colorado galleries that represent my work:

Creator Mundi
Founded in 1987, Creator Mundi is a peaceful and friendly place offering quality, culturally authentic, sacred art of great variety!

Address:  2910 East Third Avenue (between Fillmore and Milwaukee)
                Denver, CO 80206 Free parking behind the gallery.
Gallery phone:  303-322-1901
Gallery e-mail:

 San Pascual. Tom Sarmo. Acrylic on canvas.

Founded in 2004, Willow is a friendly, relaxed place bringing fun, funky, and original art to historic downtown Littleton!

Address:   2400 West Main Street (SW corner of Prince and Main Streets)
                  Littleton, Colorado  80120
Gallery phone:  303-730-8521
Gallery email:

Another Round. Tom Sarmo. Acrylic on oak wood.

Thanks for supporting handmade arts, small business, and artists everywhere!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Peaceful Cross

 Peace in the Night Time. Mixed media on wood, approx 9" x 15". Private collection.

Nearly every year I get to create a theme-based artwork representing my friend Fr. John, a Capuchin Friar. It is among the artworks auctioned at a fundraiser for the Capuchin Province of Mid-America. 
Check out the gala site at

The loose theme this year was a "mission cross". I really love doing this sort of work as it is always fun to see how different artists approach the same theme, and it's a learning opportunity for me to think up a unique concept.

My challenge this time was to "invent" a technique I'd never tried before. I found a pre-made, birch ply cross and applied a variety of media--including ink, graphite, and acrylic paint. I wanted a quiet yet cheerful artwork that had a true hand-made quality about it.

The foremost mission of the Capuchin Franciscans is carrying on the work of Saint Francis of Assisi; to serve the poor and downtrodden. In doing this, they provide a great service, example, and challenge for all of us. They are the most peaceful, joy-filled people I know.

Crux Gemmata, illuminated manuscript (8th century).
The primary inspiration for my version.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Witch and a Mummy

 Playing around a bit this past week, trying different techniques and making some new Halloween decorations at the same time. The great thing about taking time off from serious production is that I always learn something for use down the road. I generally can't get that by hacking away at consequential work.

 Only one of the great benefits of my few years of teaching elementary school was that I got a lot of practice making bulletin boards. So butcher paper paintings like these became the standard for my classroom.

And now it's great relaxation to grab cheap paper and just draw and paint without thinking about sales or who out there might like them or not. And I'm usually happy with the results of a calm day of painting this way.

Both are acrylic paint on brown paper, approximately 25" x 25" or so. They're up in my front window, and I'm thinking on a third for the last windowpane.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Art Sequence: Los Muertos Traviesos

 Los Muertos Traviesos (detail). Mixed media on wood.
The upcoming show, HoliDay of the Dead, got me excited to make a brand new piece, instead of sending an existing work.  When the art was complete, I began examining my process; especially after reading about several other artist's "creation sequences". Below, I offer mine; for this piece; for what it's worth:

 For me, it's almost all about daydreaming, night dreaming, and sketches (not necessarily prelims). I just float along and try not to force anything at first.  I sketch whenever there's down time, and they are mostly stream-of-consciousness doodles.  Those above are an example of that--the fellow on the lower right must be a favorite, because from him has sprung many artworks.

 Here he is on the left, in a different iteration (
So a guy with stripes became a guy sort of wrapped.
Wide Awake and Fast Asleep. Mixed media on wood. (
I loved his fellow--he made me want to do the new artwork in a similar fashion, so my motif and my media choices were made!
Sketches specific to the project came next.

I've been obsessed with the Danse Macabre, by Saint-Saens, since I was eight,
when (the beautiful) Miss West played it for us in music class. Recently, I've been listening to it over and over, and reading lots of Victorian ghost stories as well (I tend to get locked into things like this often).
Therefore, when I was invited to do a piece for the show, ghosts and graveyards were already dancing in my head.  Above is the first sketch, done on a tiny sticky-note pad at the kitchen table.

 Then I stumbled across a wooden plate-type disc at the Goodwill store. The round format, along with my love for pattern made me re-think the composition. There were many boring prelim sketches--this is but one.
Impatience hits along with confidence, and I jump right into the final. Sometimes that's a mistake, but luckily, not this time. I developed the composition right on the wood, and repeated elements from the center pic for the pattern. 
(I lightly penciled in a very rough placement for the figures, then inked them in. I keep the pencil rough so that I have a lot of flexibility--tweaking as I ink is one of the greatest joys within the process.)

Establishing the darks helps me know where to go with the rest.

 This is right before the color and lighter value application.
Los Muertos Traviesos. Mixed media on wood, approx 12" in diameter.

Here I've painted out the streak-like elements, as my wife pointed out that they looked too much like stalactites. She is almost always right!  Making the sky solid and then adding stars instead was a happy choice. I added a touch of color using acrylic paint for the highlights, and it's ready to be shipped!

And what a great dinnerware pattern, don't you think?

These works and more are now available for purchase. Prices are at my site:
Thanks, as always, for the visit.
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