Friday, March 30, 2012


6x8", oil on canvas board

I use a glass sheet to I put out my paints on. It's next to my easel, on the drawing table. Along the back of the table is a row of smaller display easels, and I've put various little canvases there. There are little canvas boards, and also some bits of unrolled canvas wrapped around a piece of plexiglas. Some might be unfinished paintings I started a few years ago that never worked for me and have been collecting dust. Others are just bits of canvas that aren't fit for stretching, so I might as well paint on them. Maybe I can put them in a frame or something.

Why did I put them there? For two reasons. The first is that I wanted something to experiment on. Like, what happens if I add some marble dust to my paint? Or what happens if I put down some thick paint for texture, let it mostly dry, then scrape it? Which brand of water soluble pencil works best on wet paint? Or how about if I scribble with an oil pen and then paint over that? What if it's RED oil pen?

But I mentioned two things. The other thing is that I'm kind of cheap, and I hate seeing paint go to waste. Sometimes I have a pile of paint and it won't work on my current painting. So I smear and scrape it onto one of the little canvases. The biggest benefit (besides the cheap thing) is that I'm not risking much, so I can cut loose. It's pretty hard to loosen up when you're working on a 36x36" canvas. I mean, you CAN, but it's not the same. I guess there's another benefit, which is that paintings that weren't going anywhere are now becoming useful. It's fun to paint over an existing image and see what happens.

So, this was one of those small canvases. And I like it. I'm not sure why. Maybe I should try more neutrals. I did spritz it, and you can see the drippies at the bottom. Love those. I'll admit that there's one part of it that seems a little wacky, but I'm going to see if anyone else picks it out. 

Anyway, that was a long story, but I put it out there in case anyone else wants to set up small canvases to play on.

This one is now framed and hanging in my house. I don't do that for a lot of my paintints, for some reason. So, cool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Work from class: Still lifes

Last year I took a still life class from Jim Smyth through the Palo Alto Art Center. Below are three of the better pieces that came out of the class. There were more, and I might post them; not sure. You can tell by looking at them what the challenge in them was. For the second and third, it was about reflections. For the first, I think it was about the fruit and getting its transparency, as well as the shape of the platter under it.

It's satisfying to see that I have some ability to render these (although I could point out flaws in any of them). But I'd like to put that ability into something with more, oh, passion or gut. Jim teaches some figure classes. Hmm.

Chinese Vase, 12x16", oil on canvas board  

Brass Cup12x16", oil on canvas board

Red Vase12x16", oil on canvas board

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"No Warning"

18x36x1.5", oil on canvas

This is another like the one I posted a couple of days ago: Warm neutral colors with a large area that lacks detail but actually has a lot of texture. I also did this one with a lot of marble dust. At the top I put in some dynamic elements because it just looked too static otherwise. To me, at least. 

That "To me, at least" is a funny question. I'm wrestling with how to gauge my paintings. The easy answer is to use my own judgment or follow my heart, etc., etc. The trouble is, I have a couple of paintings that really don't do much for me, but other people seem to like them. Are they being honest, or gently kind and supportive, or is my perception out of whack? And if they're right, do I go public with the paintings? Keep them in my stack and wait? Similarly, I have a couple of paintings that seem like they're executed just fine, but the content doesn't do anything for me. I haven't gone public with any of these paintings because they seem to lack something. Maybe I should paint over them.

Don't know. I think I'll take one or two back to my painting group and talk about it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


24x30x1.5", oil on canvas

This doesn't look like something I'd do, but I really like it! (And I'm not sure what to make of that.) Normally I paint in saturated colors, and it's literally hard for me to tone that down. This one is mostly cool and warm neutrals, with a little black and red. And white. It took courage to scribble in the black. It's very exposed -- right on the white canvas -- and I just hauled off and scribbled and didn't know how it would come out. You have to do that without reservation, because if you try to be careful, it will look like it. There are also some cool drips going down. I put a lot of marble dust in the paint, and it was almost like clay. Then, since it's water soluble oils, I sprayed it with water, and the heavy drips crawled down the surface. I like it when my work uses naturally occurring events. Things feel more organic that way.

I'm getting up the courage to paint bigger. More later.