Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Framing Away

Well, having survived two winter storms, one with a lot of snow and then there was a lot of ice. My daughter and I spent a lot of time outdoors playing in the snow for days. But the ice storm was other worldly - put our county in a state of emergency because of falling trees and power outages and the like. I hope you all had a great holiday. We did, but was in the dark for a while! Anyway, I've been in the studio framing as opposed to painting (and reading a lot), as I have a show of watercolors going up on Monday (our local Arts Council gallery here in Boone). It gives me the chance to put together a show of new works so I'm psyched. There's always something about seeing the work in frames and up on a wall in a gallery setting that is rewarding in its own right. I've got plenty of ideas for new paintings but they are somewhat on hold - having too much fun otherwise!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ken Painting

Ken Painting
12x16" watercolor on 300 lb. Arches Aquarelle coldpress.

This is the second Thanksgiving holiday portrait I wanted to do, this being of our friend Ken. As I mentioned below on my wife's portrait, Ken has been our friend for many years and has become my watercolor buddy. Pictured here is what we have been doing over Thanksgiving break for a while now, sitting around the table painting pictures (outside of the usual activities such as parade watching, cooking and hunting down this year's Christmas tree). Actually we've been doing this three times a year, as he meets us on the beach a couple of trips and the routine is much the same. You know you are blessed when you have such a friend - he has been like an uncle to our daughter.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pte. 73, Mexico City

Pte. 73, Mexico City
12z16" watercolor on 300 lb. Arches coldpress

Ahh, finally finished with this month's Virtual Paintout challenge, Mexico City. This city is so vast that I took a very long time searching. I came up with about six compositions once I decided that my painting would be about color. Mexico City seems to be a lot about color - and people. So many people that that became a secondary decision - trying to find people doing interesting things or in interesting poses on the street. This is just one of several images that I really liked - I think here because of the two dogs that are just interacting with one another. The young person seemed to fit into the overall composition, but I liked the buckets that she was carrying.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Woman Sketching

A Woman Sketching
12x16 Watercolor on 300 lb. Arches Aquarelle block.

OK, so I took a couple of photos of my wife and a dear friend sketching and painting during the Thanksgiving holiday - for the purpose of doing a painting of each of them painting. Ken is a friend who comes to spend every Thanksgiving with us (a tradition that started in New York many many years ago). I met him when my wife and I got together back in the ole school days (so I married into him). He is a senior interior designer for a major architectural firm in Washington, DC. Besides his day job he is an excellent photographer and thru the years has become my watercolor buddy.

Of the two paintings I wanted to start with doing a portrait of my wife (naturally). At the same time I was looking (lurking) at the challenge blog, Following the Masters (AutumnLeaves participates in that challenge and has a link so it's easy for me to lurk often). Well I decided to try the FTM challenge at the same time (finally). We had this old oriental rug rolled up down in the basement, and I had this coastal South Carolina map up in my studio, so the only real invention was the tile floor in the kitchen (we have oak floors). The biggest challenge to me as I saw it was creating the strong directional light that is associated with much of Vermeer's work. Vermeer has always always been one of my favorite artists. There are not too many of his pieces that exist in this world - that gives them even more a gem-like quality.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blue Heron, Edisto Island

Blue Heron, Edisto Island
12x16" watercolor on 140 lb. Kilamanjaro block.

This image is based on a photo I took in October down in Edisto. My daughter and I went exploring down the side street our rental was on, knowing that there was a lake before we got to the expansive marshes behind Edisto Beach area. As we walked up to the lake we must have spooked a Great Blue Heron that was hiding in the reeds - so we got to see this majestic bird fly off right in front of us. As many times as I have seen this it always takes my breath. This was a first for my daughter so I was especially exuberant. On the opposite side of the road there was a heavily overgrown feeder canal and in there we immediately saw a second heron - I was able to snap off a shot with the camera.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

The Lighthouse at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
12x16" watercolor on 300 lb. Arches Aquarelle

Well, I'm just not a photographer, although this seems about the best I can do. I usually hire a professional if my work actually appears in something like in print.

Bill Guffey's Virtual Paintout took a number of us participants to Nova Scotia in November and I screen-shot a bunch of pictures from Google's Street View function. I figured that this lighthouse would be a popular image and I had to do it too (I think watercolorists are required to do lighthouses - it's somewhere in the rule book). Anyway - I've got a slow collection going of lighthouses I've been doing primarily because we frequent North Carolina's coast whenever we get the chance. Because I still haven't visited Maine (I'm a Winslow Homer freek) this on-going participation in VPO gave me an excuse to do this one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sammy on Holiday

Sammy on Holiday
12x16" watercolor on 300 lb. Arches Aquarelle

Just another quick watercolor whilst I do my research on Elizabeth Cotten. Last month we celebrated my daughter's birthday by going down to Edisto Island, South Carolina. Ann and I have always loved that place (Jasper Johns used to own a house down there). My daughter has come to love the place too - so we've been staying there a couple of times a year for a little while now. I had to do this wc of Sammy our Springer. Both dogs love any holiday - where we take three or four walks on the beach per day - big difference from the work-a-day life we have here in the mountains.

Edisto Beach, SC. October 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brownie McGhee

Brownie McGhee
22x30" watercolor on 300 lb. Arches coldpress.

Okay, I'm calling this one finished. I may still try to get a better photo of this one - anybody know how to avoid the "fisheye" effect from a digital camera?

Brownie McGhee is perhaps best known for the 45 years he worked along side of Sonny Terry, a harp player who had worked with Blind Boy Fuller up until Fuller's death. McGhee grew up in Kingsport Tennesee - again, not too far from here - played throughout the southeast and in Durham, NC before recording in Chicago then moving to New York. McGhee and Terry exemplefied the Piedmont Blues sound to many. Like other blues artists they became famous through the folk revival movement in the 50's and 60's. McGhee even had cameo parts in several films (like Steve Martin's "The Jerk") and on Broadway. He passed away in California in 1996.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash
12x16" watercolor

A quick watercolor of the acorn squash that Ann so carefully selected from the vegetable area in our supermarket. I had to wait a few days for the sun to come out in order to take a picture of this (12x16 doesn't fit on Ann's scanner). The remnants of T.S. Ida turned into a classic Nor'easter and whacked my sister in Kill Devil Hills and Dad in Va. Beach. So I finally ordered 2 light fixtures and photofloods for picture taking as I should have long ago - the wooly worm says it's going to be a snowy winter!

Ann bought three squash, we ate two and we both did sketches and painting of this third. In this painting I was thinking of color and composition. (That white square thingy in the back ground is a poster my daughter is working on, filling in rivers and other major geographic information as she studies world geography.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Near Halifax, Nova Scotia

Water Street, Chester, Nova Scotia
12x16" watercolor on 300 lb. Aquarelle Arches block.

This is my November installment for Bill Guffey's Virtual Paintout challenge blog. This month the city chosen was Halifax Nova Scotia and and its surrounds. I think all painters I knew back in the day had applied or certainly knew about going to school in Nova Scotia. There's an excellent video documentary,"Rivers and Tides" on Andy Goldsworthy that features work he did there. So - I felt some familiarity with this area even though I have never been there. I did the usual Google street map searching and I really wanted to do this lighthouse and rocky shore, but finally chose this view southwest of Halifax in a town named Chester. I had never seen a boat like this - it looks like it came to a sudden stop rather than floating restfully at dock. The view of the bay with its ferryboat reminded me a lot of Hatteras Island here in NC.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Etta Baker

Etta Baker
22x30"watercolor on 300 lb. Arches

I'm not convinced that this one is really complete - but I have the urge to move on with this series. October was a tough month to keep the studio flowing, with travel and visitors and birthdays - you know the story. So I am posting this as it is now, but may prove to be a WIP after a while, don't know...

Etta Baker was this beautiful woman who played the Piedmont blues as long as a person could possibly have. She was learning the guitar from her father at an age when she couldn't even hold the guitar properly. Etta had a life apart from music, working a factory job and raising a family. It wasn't really until her later years that she started performing for larger audiences and the resulting acclaim that followed. She proved to be influential to younger artists such as Dylan and Taj Mahal. Etta lived not too far from here in Morganton, NC, but I never had a chance to see her play. But somehow I have gained a special attachment to this woman, as I'm sure many have.

Edisto Kitchen

Edisto Kitchen
12x16" watercolor

I started this watercolor while at Edisto Beach, SC in a cottage called Foster's Ocean View that we were renting for my daughter's birthday. We only had to cross the street to be at the ocean front. On one of those days it was a dark, windy and wet - and I tried to capture the dark interior of the place which made the outside light seem to glow (without interior lights on), emphasized by the fake stained glass thngy in the window. I had to finish it at home after we got back as usual, because we spent most of out time on the beach. I really do need being at the ocean to recharge, always been that way.

Foster's Ocean View - Edisto Beach, SC.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Virtual Paintout - Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland - Shankill Road
15x20 watercolor

This is my October effort for the Virtual Paintout. This month was Belfast. I did a lot of web searching about, to find where in Belfast you could get a view of the world famous mural/wall paintings. So I did my Google street viewing and found many murals on many streets but loved this view on Shankill Road with what appears to be some kind of horse and buggy race that was rounding the corner. I was well into painting this when I discovered that someone else had found this very view and posted it on the Virtual Paintout site. I wasn't sure what to do at that point - and being that we were going out of town, (etc., etc.) I chose to go ahead and finish this and post it anyway. I was thinking that I could choose another view and do it before the end of this month - but I'm running out of October and have not even started my next blues musician.


October (or Gary's Wheelbarrow)
12x16" watercolor

I felt the need to put something up. We've been celebrating my daughter's birthday, which meant getting ready to travel then spent most of last week at Edisto Island in South Carolina. Now we are getting ready for a birthday party and guests (which means some serious house and yard work). I was able to paint this last week before we left. We left Boone and it was a glorious autumn. We came back to winter - see what can happen when you leave town!

This piece was real hard to photo - I guess because it is dark with some contrasting lights. So here it is, sorta. I had too much fun, which I think is evident here, with the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and an eraser guard. On the one hand I like that you can tell what I used, but on the other I've always felt that technique should be hidden - so I guess you can say I'm undecided. I've been trying to finish my effort for this months Virtual Paintout - I think I can post that one tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Reverend Gary Davis

The Reverend Gary Davis
22x30" Watercolor 300 lb. Arches cold press.

This is the first in a series of paintings I want to do of old blues musicians. The idea came from my discovering You-Tube videos, as I was generally astounded with what I found to be available with music. Artists such as Gary Davis are there to study and listen to without having to seek out specialized music collections or spend anything to purchase the music. Even though Gary Davis is rather famous, and his music is now readily available, I chose to start with him for a number of reasons. First - he was one of the world's greatest guitar players. He was unselfish and taught guitar to many young folks back in the day - the quintessential bluesman. His influence is unquestioned. Finally, along with Blind Boy Fuller and Brownie McGhee, he was considered to be a practitioner of what is known as the Piedmont style of blues and guitar playing - originating in the Carolinas and in south central Virginia.

I'm thinking that the first one in a series like this can take the longest to do. This one took me a good little while - not so much in the actual painting, but in the research (so to speak). My first thought was to do imagery deriving solely from on-line video captures. The real good old ones are over-contrasty, black and white and often out of sharp focus. So I found myself taking screen shots of hands and so on. I found myself researching the kind of guitar Gary Davis played (Gibson SJ-200) and down loaded many guitar reference shots, etc., etc.

So now I'm looking at Blind Boy Fuller - but haven't found any actual video images of him - yet. I do not intend to copy a single photograph (someone elses composition and copyright) - but to create a composite representation in a way that somehow expresses my impression of the artist after reading bios and recording histories and, most importantly, listening to the music itself. I've got lists laying around everywhere of possible blues artists to do - I'm thinking the more obscure the better.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

EDM #242

EDM #242 - Draw your tzatchke.
12x16 '' Watercolor. 140 lb. Kilamanjaro block.

EDM challenge #242 was to draw your tzatchke (Yiddish for kitch, knick-knacks). These two objects are owned by my daughter, as she is becoming quite a collector of things. I've looked at these things on several occasions when considering still life objects from around the house but never actually drew or painted them. This challenge gave me that opportunity. The rooster seems to be from Portugal and is a really neat little piece of folk art. The glass piece (cast glass?) we've been calling the bluebird of happiness. Together they are part of countless objects that are scattered throughout our home. My daughter takes after her parents I'm afraid - none of us likes to get rid of anything.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

EDM #241

EDM Challenge #241 - Draw the view from your kitchen window.
12x16 watercolor

For the last 8 or 9 days it was dark. It was gloomy. And it rained. I think that because this view required me to stand and sorta lean over the counter while drawing and painting it literally took me days to do this one (actually I think it was because I had to do the dishes before I could work there). I chose this angle - I was thinking curves and counter curves in terms of composition: the sweeping curve of the driveway, that fake stained glass round thingy in the window then finally the shell. There are at least three more shells on the sill at home - but I ended up with one - man, I must be getting lazy in my old age!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Apple Challenge

High Country Apples
12x16 watercolor

This watercolor is in response to Jeanette Jobson's challenge on her blog Illustrated Life. I've tried painting apples with watercolors on several occasions in the past but was never really satisfied with them. I don't know what it was exactly, maybe something to do with the opacity of the reds and yellows that I was using. This time I determined to come up with an image that I felt better about - using more transparent yellows and reds. I do like this version better.

The sun finally came out after 8 or 9 cloudy rainy gloomy days in a row. I went outside and was able to take a few pictures of work that I completed this past week. It's nice to see some of this work finally see the light of day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

EDM #240

EDM #240 - Draw a Pencil.
12x16 Mixed media; collage, dyes, gesso, interesting paper, graphite.

Here is my drawing for this weeks EDM's challenge. The image consists primarily of a rubbing of about 14 pencils on a tracing kinda paper that gave me the transparency over dyes and gesso as a general background. The actual drawing of the pencil is on rice paper - which is also semi-transparent.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Virtual Paintout - Lisbon, Portugal

Virtual Paint Out - September - Lisbon, Portugal
Pantaeo Nacional from Travessa do Paradaiso.
12x16 watercolor on 140 lb Kilimanjaro block.

This is my second attempt at the monthly painting challenge where you choose as your source images obtained from Google's Map Street View (for more info see my blog list). I found Lisbon to be very close - meaning that it was hard for me to find any long range views of this beautiful city's monuments. The whole place is stunning. I chose this view because of the Pantheon in the background. In my attempt to find views that showed both the monument and something that suggested interesting compositional possibilities I came to this scene. There were no cars to fake out of the image - and whatever vehicle the Google folks use for the photography must have just startled several pigeons - here are two taking flight, providing an interesting focus.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Different Strokes Week 46 - 48

Mixed media, 12x16 300 lb. Kilimanjaro block

This is my first attempt at the Different Strokes from Different Folks blog biweekly challenge. The photograph everyone interpreted has to do with its one year anniversary. This is another challenge blog that my wife brought to my attention. Check it out because of the quality of images and varied interpretations that you see here.

In this painting I used RIT dye, watercolor, rice paper, acrylic, gesso and graphite. It was fun to do because it's been a while since I worked in this mixed media mode. I'm still adding older images to my Flickr photostream when I get the chance - maybe you will begin to catch some glimpses of my mixed media work (click on slideshow thingy on right then click on my photostream).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

EDM #239

EDM challenge #239 - Draw something that has scared you.
12x16 Kilamanjaro 140 lb. wc paper; watercolor, india ink, gesso, graphite

When I think back to all of the things that have scared me I thought of a few particular things. The one that stood out that was perhaps not too uncomfortably revealing was the film Wizard of Oz. I think that it is amazing that this film is still being shown on TV every year, and speaks to how it has become canon in the American cultural vernacular. How many of us have the shared experience of watching this film as a child hidden behind couch pillows, or peering from around the living room furniture, or even leaving the room at certain points - yet maintaining to friends the next day at school that you sat through the whole thing unafraid. Having two older brothers also put this weird sorta pressure on me to endure something that given the "choice" I would rather had not. Then you get the opportunity to see your own child react the same way to the same film, which somehow reinforces everything that you remember about your own childhood.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blue Ridge Sketchers #2

Carriage House at Moses Cone Manor
12x16 Kilamanjaro 140 lb. block

We had a very nice outing last Sunday - the weather was absolutely stunning - one of those perfect early early autumn days. The trees look like they know what's to come. The sugar maples have started turning as usual. We've had a lot of rain this summer, and depending on what source you read that could mean an excellent autumn leaf season (or not). I've always loved this carriage house and knew that I would paint it at some time, but never before had taken the time to do it.

The painting got off to a good enough start, sitting in the shade under a very old and majestic maple tree. As usual I did not finish it in the 2 hours that we plan for these outings. It took me half the time to struggle with the drawing. Sitting below on a hillside, I was looking up at the house. (I struggle with teaching perspective because it isn't one of my favorite things to teach). Well, getting it home I killed it. There are parts of it I like, but, ya win some and ya lose some I guess - but, here it is anyway. I'll be back as we say...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Janet's Piece

12x16" watercolor on Kilamanjaro 300 lb. block

This is a piece that I did for a very good friend who showed me an unexpected kindness. My friend goes down to Florida to give a presentation on the Summer Reading program that we have at our school. She buys a book, the youth reader version of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, and has Mr. Mortenson sign the copy for my daughter. I didn't know he was to be there. What a thoughtful gift. So I wanted to reciprocate. I asked my friend to give me one of her favorite photo's and didn't tell her why (although I'm sure she had guessed knowing me so well), just that it had to be one or her favorites. This is the image that she gave me and the result.

I wanted to do this painting because I knew she would be touched by it no matter what I did or what it looked like. I didn't worry even a little that she might be disappointed. Maybe because it was my idea in the first place. But I like to think that it involves something bigger - you know, the nature of friendship or something. Peace.

P.S. I get to meet Greg Mortenson when he comes to our school to speak in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Virtual Paintout - London, England

Westminster Abbey, view from Google Map Street View
12x16" watercolor on Kilamanjaro 140 lb. block.

This is my first submission the the Virtual Paintout blog. My wife told me about this a few days ago because I began doing the EDM challenges and said that I might like this too. She was on the money as usual. I absolutely love the concept the VPO team has come up with. I was already a huge fan of Google Street View - I've spent hours (really) strolling down my old neighborhood street, remembering who lived in that house, etc. It's a great way to spark memories that you wouldn't have come up with otherwise. I've searched for the cathedral my Grandfather was baptised in (Holic) Slovakia, etc. I plan a series of work based on screen shots of old blues and jazz musicians -images I will collect from You Tube and other video sources (altered enough to avoid copyright issues). So this month the Virtual Paintout subject (I'm squeaking this in) was London. This was a lot of fun to do and I would recommend this kind of activity to anyone: http://virtualpaintout.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 28, 2009

EDM 238

EDM 238 - Draw something you'd find in a first-aid kit.
- Graphite and some white acrylic in an 11x14 Aquabee sketchbook.

So far I've done just a few of these Every Day Matters weekly challenges. Each time it's been in this rendering sorta style with graphite. I want to return to a mixed media approach for the next ones, as lately in my painting I have concentrated on a traditional watercolor technique in an attempt to get somewhere with that medium. I think that I'm ready to return to my first love, mixed media - and I can see how these EDM challenges will give me that opportunity.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Edisto Fisherman

12x16" wc on Kilamanjaro 300lb. block.

This is my latest wc of a guy working for Edisto Seafood. He and his buddy were cleaning clams - right off the boat. That's what I like about this particular seafood place - it is always so fresh. One time I'm asking them about fish and the guy who runs it says, Oh! we just got in some Wahoo. I also made the mistake one time and asked him if the tuna was fresh (it looked like it could have been prepackaged and once frozen like so many seafood places even on the coast - I was looking for something fresher than that). He looked at me like I was an idiot, saying it's always fresh! When I got home I saw that it was packaged in baggies - they had portioned it themselves. I'll never make that mistake again.

Oh yeah, you can click on these images to see a larger version - how cool is that!?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


22x30" Arches 300lb. hot press.

This is Pink of the famous George and Pink's vegetable stand on Edisto Island, SC. You drive down a non-paved sandy road which is a tunnel of overhanging live oak draped with Spanish moss. You are awakened from this marvelous dream by their wooden sign on the corner of their lot. It is a humble enough establishment with their house next door with a couple of very large lumbering non-distinguishable dogs hanging about. When you go inside you see photos, newspaper articles and plaques indicating that they have been recognized by Southern Living magazine and have been visited by state politicians and the like. I bought a baseball cap with their logo on it. As I was about to take this reference photo I asked Pink what her favorite saying was. After saying she did not have one she perked up immediately and said, I know...Have a blessed day. As she said it I took this shot.

I couldn't wait to make this painting and was disappointed to learn that I have issues with hot press smooth paper - I simply don't know how to paint on it. It doesn't have the same sizing as cold press or something, the paint absorbs immediately and doesn't do that stuff that I like so much that watercolor does so well (blending, bleeding, flowing, etc.) The paint seems to suck right into the paper like marker or something. So, daunted, I immediately did another painting - 22x30 on another piece of hot press of another scene I couldn't wait to do - an Edisto Island fishing trawler behind Edisto Seafood. I'm not improving...Have a blessed day yall.

Blue Ridge Sketchers first Outing

This is a watercolor done on a 12x16 Kilimanjaro wc block. I use the 140 lb. block as my sketchbook now and is quite suited for the purpose. I seldom finish a piece on location, as I add any finishing touches at home. Not a bad way to work, as I can really look the piece over and make a few decisions concerning its final appearance. This was a bit unexpected view just off the Bass Lake trail - what you don't see are my wife and child also painting, along with our other friends/members.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So Here's what I'm doing...

Ok, so here's what I'm doing. I'm adding right now a lot of older and some newer things to my Flickr account (new too). I will post new stuff here as I do it and go from there. If you are interested in seeing existing stuff from the past, then click on that slide show thingy on the right and then click on my photostream. If you want to make any comments you can do it here or on the images in Flickr.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


A Coastal Carolina Still Life

I am just learning how to operate this blog by doing - so bare with me. I will probably use this blog to post new watercolors as they happen, maybe the first few will be what I consider to be current work in order to get this all going. This piece is transparent watercolor on 300 lb. Kilamanjaro cold press block (Cheap Joe's).