I’ve been into my sketchbooks lately. Simple tools and always nearby if not in my hand. For a while I was trying to use my tiny watercolor set and add color, but for now a brush pen, a regular drawing pen and a little water-brush pen is all that is needed. I also cut a few pieces of different papers to slide in there for a bit of variety.

Sketches inspired by the great poster illustrators of the past.
A few small pieces of hot-press and cold-press Arches paper add variety.

I needed some new charcoal for my next paintings. Thought I’d try a few types of our local wood.

Carving sticks for charcoal

The cut pieces were put in small metal boxes and into the deep ashes after a bonfire. I left them for an hour to see how it worked.

They work great. The pine is a bit harder with a nice gray color and the willow is awesome, very black and smooth. Overall a success.

Sam sitting by a painting taking notes in a notebook
Note to myself

I have pages and pages of ideas and notes. While working, a technique will become clear as to why it works. If I don’t leave myself a note right then, it may just disappear. These notes are basically for myself, it’s one of the ways I continue to learn. All the great art books I read have wonderful information, techniques from the long history of painting, but If I don’t actually do the technique and discover why it works myself, I won’t be able to pull it up when I need it most.

I’ve been working out this idea for a while and finally got the under painting pretty close. Then it started peeling off between the gesso and primer. I had to just take the whole thing off.

Peeling off between gesso and primer!

Redid the whole thing in about 2-3 days. Now to let it dry and start the next layers.

The redo of the underpaint


Karen, at Gard Vintners called me up the other day and said I could set up anytime. We hadn’t talked for 6 months at least and had never set a date for a show at their nice wine and music place in Ellensburg. I had two days to pull it together and hang a show of about 25 pieces. Looking through my older work, some enamel paintings and oil pastel drawings from the 1980s seemed to fit with some of the newer acrylics. They all had to be taken apart, cleaned up and reassembled. The glass and surfaces were really dirty, but with some cleaning the colors popped and I could see what I was going after almost 40 years ago. There is a continuity to these two eras, something that ties my work together that is only knowable after this many years.

Preparing for show


“Chelsea” 16 x 20 oil on panel 2019

I’ve been working on fine tuning my technique for figures and portraits. In this painting of my friend Chelsea, I used something similar to the Venetian Technique with a complete tonal underpainting in an earth red. In this case Terre Rosa and Venetian Red but with no white,

just the white ground showing through the scumbled drawing. In this way I had the time to really work on the drawing  without the complexity of the color. After that was completed and dry I could work over it keeping the shirt a looser more painterly style with solid strokes of opaque paint while tightening up on the face. This technique seems to suit my temperament right now, it can be as tight or loose as I want to go while getting the placement and tonal structure correct first to create the illusion that I’m after.

This spring has been a color feast for the eyes. The early sun hits the top edges of the Manastash Ridge and glows with pinks and purples, defining the rolling shapes of the hills. I’ve been making my morning coffee and doing a few watercolors looking out our kitchen window. Now the snow is gone and the glowing emerald is just beginning to cover the hills.

Manastash Ridge – watercolor 9″ x 11″

After sitting with this painting for a couple of weeks and getting some respected outside opinions, I’ve sanded out this guy on the left. I just couldn’t get the shadows right. Luckily, Neal, was over at Tito’s and I got some shots of him with better lighting. I did a tonal sketch at full size and here I’m whiting out the lights to lay a bed for the new painting.

Reworking- white out the lights

After getting back from my trip to Maui I started the first in a series of scenes with musicians and friends. The “space” in the painting is important, I want to feel like you can be in there, in that room with those people. This one is a memory of a gig in Seattle with Tito, Robert and Neal. The brick wall works, the side room with Tito tuning his 12 string works, but I just can’t get Neal’s face right and he is the largest, most up-front part of the painting. Is it the shadows or did I just not draw it right from the beginning. Now it’s hard to see and fix?
Many times it comes down to some element in a painting that is just weak and I may need to let it sit, come back to it in a few weeks and hope I’ll be able to see what’s wrong from a fresh perspective. At this point my questioning mind comes in and says “why am I doing this?” Just keep going.

Posted in Art.