Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Acrylic on Canvas     48x36

Sometimes when it's too expensive to hire a model yet I want to paint from life, the studio is a perfect place to find inspiration. In addition to finding great verticals and horizontals for composition, every square inch is full of possibility: interesting supplies, hanging/stacked paintings, various artist accessories, musical instruments and even some stuffed birds from my early days as an exhibits designer/muralist/taxidermist at our Natural History Museum. These are some examples (all painted from life 1-4 weeks).

Acrylic /Palette Knife   24x18


Acrylic on Canvas     40x30

Acrylic on Canvas    36x24

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Final Stage   Watercolor on paper   22x30"

Every Sunday morning I attend an uninstructed  three hour, two session figure painting workshop.

As all artists who paint the figure longer than 20 minutes know, taped-off poses vary slightly after each break, especially hands; and that's OK... after all, its "Life" Drawing. But in this particular pose both hands were always oddly foreshortened and very difficult to do. I'm now sort of OK with the model's left hand, but was never satisfied with her right hand. There was always something wrong with it and my artist wife Stephanie finally fingered the problem (no pun :-)) - it was the thumb. I've corrected it now and the rest of this post shows how.


I give credit for the following correction techniques to my friend Sue Tregay. Her book MASTER DISASTER is a definitive volume for rescuing problematic watercolors. I highly recommend it to all aspiring watercolorists. Materials: Postal tape, bristle brush, rag and pastel pencils.

1. The thumb was placed too high and was too small.

2. I lightly redraw with white pastel pencil and place the tape over it.

3. Carefully cut the tape (exacto blade) and scrub away the paint with wet bristle brush 

4. After I pulled the tape I felt the thumb was still too short.

5. After blow-drying, I re-draw a longer thumb and re-tape over it again.

6. Again, following the new pastel outline, gently cut the tape.

7. After scrubbing, pull the tape and blow-dry.

8. Now I repaint the thumb.

Sargent said "a portrait is a painting where there is a little something wrong with the mouth". I expect I'll never be completely satisfied either but at least the thumb isn't a focal point.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


After reading Carol Feldman's fine post - FIGURE ON YUPO (February 5, 2009) I decided to add one more element to the discussion: The use of charcoal pencil on Yupo. I had already tried watercolor and pencil on it but did not realize how nicely it took charcoal pencil until I was asked to do this commission from a friend's photo.
I used a General 2b and 4b pencil, a plastic eraser and a kneaded eraser. What I especially liked about charcoal on this surface is that it can hold middle tones and darks, be erased right back to the white surface, crosshatched with both the pencil and eraser and blended with a stump

Charcoal on Yupo       12x9

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Temecula Overpass    Oil on Canvas    36x36

Artists look for beauty everywhere and freeways are as good a place as anywhere to find it. I am told that this massive Lilac St. bridge was constructed before the earth in the area it now spans (I-15 in Temecula, San Diego), was even removed. Its grand arch was poured as the earth underneath was slowly cut away. 
I can't even begin to fathom how something this large was engineered, but I'm sure glad it was; whether heading North or South, it is one of the most regal, eye captivating bridge spans I've ever seen. My aim in painting it was to contrast an etherial cloudscape against solid earth as bridged by beautiful, functional manmade design. Obviously I photographed it while driving. 


I-5 Corridor    Oil on Canvas Panel    12x16

To paint this image I set up in a driveway off of La Jolla Scenic Rd. above I-5 S. I was attracted to this scene by the distant curving freeways, various rhythmic overpasses, interconnecting onramps, off ramps and railroad tracks. I couldn't make up a more artistic balance of horizontals, diagonals, verticals and contrasting straights vs. curves if I tried ... all important elements of design.


My normal sequence is to paint on location first, finish accents indoors and then make a larger painting from my plein air studies. I'm not sure if I like this enlarged version as well as the plein air, but I do think it has a little more of the atmosphere I actually saw that day.

Oil on Canvas   30x40