Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Getting ready to talk

When I get a photo of a house from a potential customer, I like to sketch it in pencil and paint before getting together to talk about the home portrait.

This one is close enough to visit in person, so I can take my camera with me when I visit. But when I looked at the address, I realized why I was having so much fun sketching this home ... I wanted to buy one right up the street from it that was very similar a few years ago and was unable to get it.  As most things do, this disappointment ended up working out for the best but I can still picture myself living on this street; isn't it a darling place?

Some of the questions I'll have for the residents:

  • Close up like I drew and painted it or farther away like the photo?
  • Colors?
  • What should be in or highlighted and what should be out? (fence, swing, landscaping, etc.)
  • Oils, acrylics, or watercolor? How big a painting? Framed?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Painting at the April Mt. Adams Art Walk

Yes, this week is Final Friday and one of the great things about having a studio at the Pendleton Art Center is that it's easy to set up and all indoors. No having to figure out how to place my display walls, haul them around in the car, tear down after exhibiting, etc.
I don't do outdoor shows anymore because they're "rain or shine." Thunderstorms at Wyoming and Lebanon and one cold wet day at the Hyde Park Art Show a few years ago put me off them for good.  But the Mt. Adams Art Walk used my work for this year's poster, so I wanted to participate. Had it been a rainy day like the one when I went to scout out my venue, I'd have set up indoors.  This is Sprout, where I was assigned for April's Art Walk, on the corner of St. Gregory and Pavilion Streets. I'd never been inside and it was charming, with lots of good natural light. I tried to figure out how I'd set up outdoors if Saturday was a nice day and noticed how steep the hill sloped down on the St. Gregory side; you can see that in this photo I took. I guess what's why it's called "Mount" Adams! Clearly I'd need to set up on the Pavilion Street side and I starting thinking about how many display walls I'd need, where I'd put them, etc. I figured I could set up my easel and paint right on the corner by the door and steps.
Saturday April 11 dawned bright and clear and I was up early because I had to load the car at home and then stop by the Pendleton to get more things for my display before heading up to Sprout to set up for the Art Walk. I owe my sister-in-law a debt of gratitude for showing me how much can fit in a Toyota Prius! I thought I'd have to get a van or SUV to transport my paintings and display equipment but this car holds a lot, as you can see. And it's great for fuel efficiency. I was packed so full there was no room for anyone but the driver, but that was okay: I'd planned a pretty simple exhibit that I could put up and tear down myself. The weather was beautiful and I was psyched: on to Mt. Adams.
I took this photo near the good parking spot I got right across the street from Sprout. You can see my two display walls set up with paintings in it. Started setting up about 10:30 am for the event, which was scheduled from 1-6 pm.
Set up my easel by the door, as planned when I'd scouted out Sprout in the rain a few days earlier.
Each of the dozen or more bars / eateries on "the hill" hosts several artists and at least one musician. I have to thank Preston, the wonderful violinist who played at Sprout, for helping me sell a painting, as well as for his beautiful playing. I'd gone in to get a cup of coffee and might have missed the gentleman who liked my "Autumn at the Cincinnati Art Museum" painting if not for him coming in to get me. Part of the fun of doing the Art Walk is meeting new artists and musicians.

Shows like this are like "pop ups," that always throw you unexpected curve balls. My easel and paints blew down a couple of times in the wind before I got them positioned securely. Then I found out I failed to bring acrylic paints, my preferred medium for the big canvas I'd already covered in red. Fortunately, I didn't have no paint, just no acrylics. As I've gotten older, I've realized something like this could be a blessing rather than a curse. So, instead of getting too frustrated about my thwarted plans, I decided this is a good chance to try painting with my new water-based oil paints, the only ones I'd brought with me. I hadn't painting a large canvas like this for more than a year and with a new medium, it would be an even bigger adventure. Fortunately, oils go over the top of acrylics, since that's what I'd painted as the red base of this canvas.
I'm having a milestone birthday this October and all I want is one tube of paint from anyone who would like to give me something for it. An artist I admire, Frank Satogata, planted this "bucket list" idea for me when he did it; he told me he got enough paint to last the rest of his life and many different brands and colors he liked but might never have purchased himself. Anyone wishing to give me a tube of paint has lots of flexibility -- as a home portrait artist, I regularly paint in watercolors, acrylics and oils (and now, water-based oils). Tubes come in many sizes and if you don't already know how much I love color, you can probably see that in the start of this painting. And, of course, no artist ever has enough white paint. (I use that the most)
Painting with water-based oils was more of an adventure than I'd anticipated. They don't dry fast, like acrylics, but I started enjoying how they mixed on the canvas instead of laying layers of paint over dried surface to build color like with watercolors or acrylics. Picking colors for the values I needed to draw my composition from Shannon Godby's beautiful bridge / river photo was similar to working in acrylics but if I changed my mind, I couldn't fix it as easily without muddying the colors. And I ran out of paint really quickly and had to reload my palette more often.
I find I paint better standing up and faster with other people around than when I'm by myself. I got a lot of good energy from the crowd painting this and lost myself what I was doing so much that I didn't realize the shade I'd been in at 11 am had turned to bright sunshine and I got a pretty good sunburn on my face. Wouldn't have even realized some of my friends had come to the Art Walk until they came up and talked. And I was glad for the breaks, as well as to visit with them.

Not feeling very much in control, I tried to draw by laying in the lights and darks of the overall composition. When I started getting more comfortable with the water-based oils, I lost myself in what I was doing and the painting progressed pretty rapidly. People who'd been at the Art Walk for awhile actually saw it go from the blank red canvas to this. When some of them started asking me if it was finished, I stepped back and asked myself that same question.
Here's the point at which I signed it and stopped painting for the day. Six hours straight is a long time for me to paint in one session and I didn't realize how tired I was until I stopped. Painting takes a lot out of me: I can work twice as long doing other things than I can creating artwork. I suspect it comes from such a soulful place, it drains energy faster. Thank goodness a good friend came to the Art Walk near its end and volunteered to help me tear down and pack up. (Thank you!!)

I'll bring this down and hang it in my studio on Final Friday. It looks different now that the paint has fully dried but I still think it's finished. If I change my mind, I can always keep painting on it, either in water-based or regular oils. Once you've painted a canvas like this in oil paint, you can't use acrylics over top of it.
This is the acrylic sketch I did for the big painting over a year ago; I'll have it framed and hanging in my studio this Final Friday too. Thanks, Mt. Adams Art Walk for several things:
  • Sales and new prospects for my work
  • Time to experiment painting in a new medium: water-based oils
  • A finished painting, the largest one I've painted in a while
  • A beautiful sunny day in a place I've loved for many years, listening to good music, visiting with friends and meeting new people
  • Delicious ham and cheese sandwich from a new restaurant: Sprout
  • Familiarity with lots of new place in Mt. Adams
I won't be able to do the May 9 Art Walk but will post here and on my web site if I'm participating in September and / or October.

See all this work in my studio on the fifth floor of the Pendleton Art Center Friday April 24 or at this summer's Final Fridays (last Friday of every month).

Monday, April 06, 2015


 This is unusual subject matter for me; not architectural nor brightly colored. But I'm enjoying trying to paint this and it reminds me of a poetry workshop I recently attended, which focused on how one art form can inspire another. I think poetry is more about feeling than writing the way painting is more about looking than brushstroking.

I'm definitely inspired by listening to music and, as I continue to work on this painting for a friend, here's an attempt at a poem inspired by people in the Ohio Poetry Association who recently read theirs after a visit to our studios in the Pendleton Art Center. 


How infinitely the divine spark ignites
to cast lanterns that light our journeys
in a turn of phrase or well-chosen word,
chords that expand the lungs
even when we don't sing them,
ancient steps and columns,
the golden mean,
ingenious construction,
elegant equations,
a perfectly-tuned engine,
juicy colors,
listening eyes,
elegant code,
the stillness of a pose,
grace in motion,
a welcoming smile,
the familiar viewed in a new way.

Life is short but art is long
and more vast than we imagine.
Seek and ye shall find
darkness or light
warmth and ice.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Finished this one today

When I paint this size in acrylics, the customer may choose to frame it matted, under glass, in an 11 x 14" frame like a watercolor. In this case, my client chose to frame her home portrait in an 8 x 10" frame, without glass, like an oil painting.
I get excited about a painting when the home starts to feel like it's jumping off the canvas. This one's starting to come alive.

Here's the photo I started with. Did some pencil drawings and then colored one in a little bit with watercolors.

Sharing this sketch with the homeowner helped her direct me to remove the autumn wreath. And she sent me a different photo to use for the shrubbery and decorative grass to the right of the steps. 

She liked the flag and we decided to plant the black pot to the left of the steps with red geraniums. 

Can you see it start to come alive in the photo below from where it was in the 2 photos above?

More work begins today, trying to incorporate the plaque with the street address and correcting some things before picking out frames to show it to the homeowner later this week...

Friday, November 28, 2014

2nd of 2011 -- Queen City Tower at Night

Unlike the subject of my first one in 2011, this building was not an iconic part of Cincinnati's skyline for as long as I could remember: it was new!

On the 75th anniversary of Union Terminal, I realized it was built and completed during the worst of the great Depression in 1933. I thought about that a lot as I saw this building rising in the midst of the worst economic times I experienced in my life. When jobs for construction workers were hard to come by, people worked every day on the new Queen City (Tiara) Tower.

I've done a lot of sketches of it and my favorite ones are at night. But rather than painting a vertical of just this building, it is going to appear in some large horizontals I plan to paint of the "new" Cincinnati skyline. This is now its most prominent focal point. That will remind me of philanthropy. And how a Cincinnati man had it built during tough economic times, perhaps as bad as the Great Depression, giving people hope and jobs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Secret ArtWorks 2014 Results ... and more back to 2010

The last Secret ArtWorks is over and we done good. 

  • More than 300 local, national and international artists contributed 750 works of art 
  • Over 800 attended Secret ArtWorks and celebrated our local artist community 
  • Over $100,000 was raised to support the ArtWorks mission to employ local youth and talent to create art and community impact. 

I'll keep blogging about the ones I've created until revealing the last three from this year. Two of them went while I was at the event. The other one looks nothing like my typical work.

Here's the first one I painted for 2010, a year where I was trying to paint more vertical format. So my Secret ArtWorks were sketches of skyscrapers downtown. Stay tuned for the next one.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Secret ArtWork #7 from 2009 -- Give it a Title!

One of the many things I learned as a result of participating in Secret ArtWorks is the importance of a painting's Title. For example, this year (2014) I wouldn't have liked the following pieces nearly as much were it not for their titles:

V0675 The Pants: not only is this a fabulous portrait of the woman, I assumed the title meant she "wore the pants in the family" as its matriarch. So much better a title than her name, or "Portrait of a Woman" or even of a mother.

V0759 City Rat: I wouldn't have looked at this portrait of a pigeon the same way without its great title, which made me think about pigeons and how apt a description this is. Poetry engages our minds this way, I think. A very "poetic" title was this.

So, I'm asking you what I should have titled this Secret Artwork from 2009. I can't remember what title I gave it, but I'm sure it wasn't as good as it could, and should, have been. If you own it, remind us what I titled it, please.

Does it help to know this is of Eden Plantation on the Gulf Coast near Fort Walton Beach Florida (between Destin and Seaside)? My parents wintered in Destin for many years and when I went there, I used to love to visit this historic home and estate, one of the last remnants of old Florida. It used to be a lumber plantation and the azalea gardens were still beautiful, as were the live oaks. The house was used in the feature film "Frogs" and the last time I was there it was the site of a weekend Civil War encampment.

Here are some titles I can think of today...

"A tree older than me"
"Where are all the frogs?"
"If Scarlett had lived in Florida"

How about you?