08 December 2008

three heart circle

Acrylic on gessoed canvas, 14" x 18".

this started as an anatomical heart in a yellow flamelike circle, with the surrounding black mixed by overlapping yellow, red orange, magenta, blue violet, blue and green paints.

the two diagrammatic hearts were added as i drew it, but i may take them out and redo the painting.

i worked mostly with paste acrylics, so i let brush textures come out in every part. it would be fun to repeat this by pouring the colors, but the canvas was preframed and somewhat slack, so liquids would have puddled on it.

i liked the effect of the "chromatic black" and i am thinking of playing around with it using a more geometrical or process control of the mixtures. still i like the cartoonish effect of this painting.

05 December 2008


Watercolor & charcoal on Arches CP 300gsm, 14" x 10".

this is the first time i've tried an object tracing as the basis for a drawing.

i laid the glasses on the paper and traced the outside contour with carbon pencil, then added the interior contour. then the whole face was drawn using the glasses as proportional references.

background is cobalt turquoise and cadmium yellow; shirt is ultramarine blue; flesh is manganese violet and raw sienna, darkened with burnt sienna, hair is ultramarine and burnt sienna. glass frames are burnt umber and cadmium red.

28 November 2008


Watercolor on Saunders Waterford 350gsm 40" x 26".

this pose is from our session last spring. i asked for a simple standing pose.

the background started blue but turned into yellow green, struck through with magenta streaks marked with backruns. that was striped with a transparent yellow, producing a kind of vibration around the figure.

the figure is entirely in red, yellow and green, mostly siennas and browns, quinacridone gold and chromium oxide green. blue is the cutout (background) color and yellow is the color of the palest skin.

the extended rectangle behind the figure indicates how much her legs were stretched in photoshop to produce canonical figure proportions. this renders the figure idealization as a spatial dislocation.

i may do this one again with different pigments.

27 November 2008

april's hands

Watercolor on Arches CP 300gsm, 10" x 14".

i've started work on the series of april images, which she posed with her son.

april did several hand poses, and this is the first i have painted.

one of the poses has her hands overlapped, fingers interlaced and radiating. i tried to draw the image several times and failed, and i tried painting it on a very large format and failed. the image has a kind of intensity that is hard for me to realize.

25 November 2008


watercolor on Arches CP 300gsm, 14" x 10".

another siena pose from the sessions earlier this year; she is crouching on the studio bed and looking into winter sunlight.

the main color problem was rendering her pale skin in shadow.

everything here is several layers, the painting has a "worked" quality and pigment granularity somewhat like nolde.

the aim was not to render her back with anatomical accuracy but to give it a kind of dark shimmer or translucency.

16 October 2008


watercolor on Arches R 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

this was one of those paintings that happen because an interesting object lands near a blank piece of paper. i got into the color mimicry of the fruit and skin, and making the background a dull color exactly between gray, brown and purple. it has a more velvety visual texture than the photo demonstrates.

14 October 2008


watercolor on Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

this is the last of the four paola paintings. the pose was taken in late afternoon light, the model lounging in the studio's leather and bent wood rocker.

i worked on this one in small stages and slowly, letting the piece sit for a while in between. it was the most interesting to work on, mostly because of the detail in the rug, limbs, and the interwoven leather strips.

i realized after completing the series that each painting is keyed by one of the four painter's primary colors -- green, red, blue, and yellow (this one).

30 September 2008

weekly figure group

charcoal on Strathmore drawing, 14" x 10".

another figure drawing group, another model ... i've worked with this model before but forgot to ask her name. she was a great subject -- lots of variety, good musculature and proportion across her form, and energetic interesting poses. she did not do a single lying down pose, which most models use as their free nap. amazing!

the group has been in a slump lately. don, one of the stalwarts, has been sick a lot, and the group organizer has frequently used a particular model, jo, who is both unpleasant to look at and a loud personality. she has worked at the group six times in the past three months. i ran into two artists on my way into the group who were complaining about her; one had just walked out when he found out who the model was.

i called don at home to check in on him, and he asked who was the model at the group that night. "jo," i said. "gee," he replied, "three times in four weeks." and then he laughed.

25 September 2008


watercolor on Lanaquarelle HP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

third in the paola series. this was shot in very dim light so the modeling contrast is subdued.

in contrast to the previous paintings, this is done in a rough, skritchy manner, with iridescent color contrasts and unresolved brushmarks, somewhat in the style of bonnard.

this painting was the model's choice as compensation for modeling. many thanks, paola!

24 September 2008


watercolor on Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

second in the paola series. we were working outside and she stretched out on one of my sun loungers, making for a great image.

i bumped up the chroma in most of the colors and mixed her "hot" skin tones primarily of quinacridone gold and quinacridone magenta, muted with a little phthalocyanine green YS and perylene maroon or burnt sienna.

her face, which was in complete shadow and rather dark in the reference photo, required a lot of fine tuning to harmonize with the lighted parts of the figure and appear darkened but chromatically balanced -- not too yellow, red or blue. (a green bias ended up looking yellow.)

the previous painting was done in a very "liquid" style in which all the areas (with the exception of the hair) were rendered with juicy washes tilted and blotted to create very smooth diffusion modeling. in this painting i relied more on the brush to model the figure, but still tried to keep the edge transitions soft.

18 September 2008


watercolor on arches R, 300gsm. 10" x 14".

despite the distractions of stock markets and home improvement projects, have been slowly finishing a handful of pieces on paola, a model i worked with last march.

this is a simple image, less revealing than most of my nudes (i think the term is "implicit nude") and designed around simple shapes. i like it because it highlights most of her flattering features, especially her large eyes, slender arms and elegant hands.

blue or purple is distributed throughout the background but not in the figure, which is entirely earth pigments plus pyrrole orange, perylene maroon and phthalo green YS.

04 September 2008

weekly figure drawing group

charcoal on strathmore drawing, 12" x 9".

i have missed several sessions in august ... our dog died; i spent a couple of weeks completely refinishing and repairing my wife's redwood greenhouse; and we have been making preparations for a fundraiser we will be hosting this weekend for the endangered species coalition.

anna marie was the model tonight. i have not especially enjoyed working with her in the past but last night was a very congenial session. she was much more relaxed and focused than has been usual, and she had put on some very flattering weight -- by eating, she said, "butter and eggs". scott, a local english professor, was drawing by me and we had some interesting exchanges on campus politics and classical rhetoric.

although her figure is lovely and great interest to draw, i focused mostly on her face, making several drawings and a couple of paintings. these two drawings are both 10 minute poses.

for some reason my glasses were not giving me the clarity i needed and i had only a fuzzy perception of her real features.

03 September 2008

coast cypresses

watercolor on arches CP, 600 gsm, 42" x 29".

i began this painting in 2002 and finished it this week. for five years i have kept the porcelain dishes of dried out paints used in the painting, and carefully transferred the painting from one hanging and one storage to another. today i framed the painting and hung it in our great room and i have finally cleaned out those dishes. my thanks to nick simmons for insisting i get back to it.

i'm an admirer of the late 18th century style of tinted watercolor, for example as perfected in the works of francis towne and john cotman. i kept to the drawing as closely as feasible, and in several places accented or cleaned up the drawing with charcoal pencil. there is very little modeling of form, and complex textures are mostly confined to the grassy bank.

my original interest was in the interlacing branches, a remarkable image of tree community, even though i eliminated about half the branches that appear in the original photo document. i also eliminated all the shadows. i did not want a crisp light concept and the bewildering tesselation of shadows and branches that a strong light rendering would create; instead i wanted the trees to stand as distinct but intertwined figures. i played a violet scale across the tree trunks to define the spatial contrasts between foreground and background trees, and darkened the sky to suggest early morning.

i have never persisted with an unfinished painting for this long. the only reason i did so was because of the enormous work i had already put into it -- the underdrawing alone took two or three hours. it's not my favorite painting, but it is very gratifying to see it finally finished.

20 August 2008


charcoal on ingres drawing, 22" x 16".

i started this over a week ago and then ignored it because it turned flat and insipid. this week i went over it with a heavier charcoal, twice on two days, mostly just scribbling or making shadow contours. i like that it looks like a cross between a lifetime of scars and the tattoos of my tribe.

i dislike the whole routine of shading forms in the classical style. i don't mind it if i can play with color but when restricted to charcoal or pencil i just want to draw.


watercolor on arches CP 14" x 10".

picking up a painting of charlotte started last february and left with the background finished and the sweater, face and hair blocked in. the hair was the task that tired me out. i got a lot of pleasure from filling in her face using only warm hues and greens, and sculpting her hair from various red, yellow and green pigments; there are even a few red-yellow-green spectra in there. blue is only in the background and in eyes, bound in purple. i enjoy disciplining blue.

charlotte and i were just settling into the last posing position, with her seated on the couch, when i asked her "so you don't believe in that baby jesus stuff, do you?" and she gave this raucous, surprised eclat.

19 August 2008

margaret's hands

Charcoal on Strathmore drawing, 10" x 14".

the hand drawing at the start of our session. i was drawn into a lot of detail. the original was an outline drawing; later i went over the drawing emphasizing some lines and shadows.

17 August 2008


Charcoal on Strathmore drawing, 30" x 22".

margaret came over today to inaugurate my return to the studio ... i did her hands twice, two figure drawings, and about 10 minutes of photography. it was good to see her again.

this drawing was work but it came off pretty well in the proportions and gesture.

29 July 2008

social whirl

some worried emails from friends prompt me to this update.

it's been a busy summer season out here in west county. had friends from wyoming staying for several days, then a trip up to visit my family in eureka; our first environmental refugees, a friend from the internet days and his family out here to escape the smoke from north california fires; my wife's best buddy from texas; visits from my sister; my wife's family reunion of 50+ people ...

all the while my studio serving as a guest/party house. as it was built to do, here and there, but we've been busy enough to really disrupt my work rhythm.

keeping up with the figure drawing, playing quite a lot of xbox, and working on the web site in the meantime. but next week my wife is off to a couple of conferences and i'll have plenty of time on my hands.

02 June 2008


watercolor on Arches HP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

a portrait study of april, primarily to explore the projection of her nose in relation to the rest of her face, and the overall shape of her hair.

i used a very simple color and light scheme in imitation of 15th century continental portraits.

no blue in the painting.

01 June 2008


wolff's carbon on Strathmore drawing 180 gsm, 12" x 17.5".

a portrait of lula with extended legs. i used a diagonal eighths grid to copy the figure freehand from a photo.

the main problems were the foot and the foreshortening of the flexed leg and the face.

i built the figure outline gradually and only hinted at the figure environment.

29 May 2008


watercolor & carbon pencil on Arches R 300gsm, 14" x 10".

a portrait image of lula. she had sprawled her arms more but i asked her to tuck her hands toward her body. the hair is a golden yellow base (quinacridone gold) tinted with phthalo green, perylene black, cadmium scarlet, sepia. it barely hangs together but was fun to try.

the warm colors are not tinted with blue, which gives more brightness to the blue accents (eyes, wall) and the single green accent, the foliage through the blinds. the blouse pattern was painted without an underdrawing, to make it delicate.

i have felt an unexpected positive interest toward this young woman, a "wish you well" feeling about her life.


wolff's carbon pencil on strathmore drawing, 14" x 10".

have been getting more into the problem of human figure proportions, the ideal schemes throughout history; writing a web page on figure painting; working with bridgeman's "constructive anatomy" to understand the anatomical fitting together.

kimberly always had a talent for amazing poses, and a feral head of magenta hair. i extended her legs as an experiment in proportions. it doesn't change the sexual dynamics of the pose, but makes them more exotic in caricature.


watercolor on Arches HP 300gsm, 14" x 10".

i wanted to use up a hot pressed block i don't like, started a painting of lula to try painting with more backruns and watermarks.

the paper turned out to be backrun resistant, and i got involved in the color problems of the image and frustrated that it wasn't turning out as i expected it would. so i kept working it.

the skin tones are reds and greens over a base yellow (raw sienna), faint tint of indanthrone blue for the shadow, in the actual painting the figure has a warm, honey tone. the couch slathered up and is iron oxide, perylene black and indanthrone blue. the pigment buildup contributes to the texture.

this is the kind of pose that comes straight out of the model; i forget if i asked her to adjust it in any way. her look is cool and bemused, the hands and whole figure are graceful, and the legs add a nice touch of modesty.

22 May 2008


watercolor on arches CP 600gsm, 41" x 21".
a slow couple of weeks; cleaning up files and docs from this spring's figure drawing campaign, landscaping around the studio, entertaining guests, and interviewing financial advisors. sorted through some pictures of april with her year old son and worked on a method of analyzing figures and portraits into harmonic intervals defined by a grid. so far the results have been promising.

spent several mornings editing and writing pages for handprint.com, in particular a page on color harmonies and another on figure painting. this led me back to the topic of a figure canon and the various proportional schemes that have been worked out since ancient times.

in this image of siena i subtly adjusted her figure proportions to correspond to a specific canon, not the classical one. i used a coarse charcoal to outline the figure and kept the light modeling very basic. i especially like how the flesh tones turned out; siena has a very pale but not sickly complexion, close to a warm granite.

08 May 2008

figure drawing group

male model this week; i didn't learn his name, the group had already started when i arrived at 7pm. was undisciplined in my drawing, not really trying for accuracy; then did some charcoal and watercolor on fabriano artistico rough, 12" x 18" blocks. i have maybe a dozen of these blocks and will use them up this way. (the middle drawing went to a private collection.)

06 May 2008


siena was back today after a long break. the day before i did another red dress watercolor to get in the mood for her. there is always something in the air with siena. got some good portrait and figure shots with her, including a series in the darkened bedroom with a vertical shaft of sunlight across her face and torso. did her hands and profile from life. "you drew me like i feel angry." "i sometimes feel you are angry."

05 May 2008


a new model this week, a painter recently arrived to sonoma county from portland. a gracious, relaxed young woman who wanted to model to experience the process from the other side. quirky, expressive demeanor, slim physique, elegant hands. got a lively series of portrait images and some serene and graceful figure poses with her. many good paintings in there. a thoughtful person and a pleasure to spend time with.

19 April 2008


two watercolors of coho salmon, the parr and spawning stages, done for fundraising invites for the endangered species coalition.

10 April 2008

easy hand

watercolor and carbon pencil on Fabriano Artistico R 300gsm, 18" x 12".

we had the master & guest bedrooms, two offices, the master bathroom and the hallway painted and this induced a spurt of bottom up spring cleaning -- books, clothes, computers, dvds, financial documents, tools, furniture, storage boxes, the works.

a few weeks' relaxation, a thorough cleaning of the studio, a sort & reshelving of all my studio art books, and days just staring out the window. how blissful.

when i picked up again at the weekly figure group, i was surprised to find that drawings came more easily and took a more relaxed style.

these pieces, of aaron, were done from 15 or 20 minute poses, including both the drawing and painting. i worked as quickly as i could but didn't focus on accuracy or finish. i enjoyed myself.

i've gotten a couple of commissions and also sold a large (40" x 30") figure nude at a very good price. so it's been a good month.

14 March 2008

241 days, and not counting

a talented painter and friend of mine wondered, when he launched his own blog several weeks ago, why a painter would ever want to maintain a "painting a day" output.

but he also expressed admiration that i kept up the pace for so long, especially as i made up the days missed to sickness, travel or other responsibilities.

well, after 241 days of continuous postings, today is the day that i stand down and change the subtitle of this blog. but as i do, i want to answer my friend's question for those painters who might consider a similar commitment.

THE GOOD POINTS. why attempt "a painting a day"? because it fundamentally sharpens and strengthens your painting abilities. among the benefits:

• deadline discipline - i do not paint for bread and board, and i don't take commissions i am not interested in, so i otherwise would not feel the external discipline to start new work and keep it moving.

• mood doesn't matter - you get over the idea that you should only paint on the cheerful frisky days; there is work to be done, and you show up to do it.

• becoming a closer - one of the first luxuries you relinquish is the idea that a painting can linger on forever; you learn to keep a painting on track and guide it toward its ending; the work doesn't dawdle or drift.

• streamlining work - work habits get polished down to the most efficient and most productive; fussing, perfectionism and daydreaming get pushed aside; clutter gets sorted out and put away; painting technique sharpens.

• painting in series - you start to appreciate the value of working on several similar paintings at the same time, utilizing the same palette, paint mixtures and working procedures; rather than work on three different paintings that you finish each in a day, you work for three days on three similar paintings; you look for a cluster of sibling paintings (images) that you can develop at the same time.

• backlog clearance - in the crunch, a half finished painting is much more attractive than a blank sheet of paper; to keep up the pace, you eventually dig out every half completed work and either discard it or finish it.

• productivity - obviously, productivity goes way up. you have, after 100 days, 100 paintings (if not more!) to show for it.

• play and improvisation - i found the pace of the work forced me out of the routine in ways that encouraged experimentation with new techniques; and the need to keep motivation going led me to choose paintings that were fun or exciting to do, rather than familiar. cruising is not as much fun as flying.

• stamina - perhaps the most important benefit is that all the mental and physical painting muscles get a good workout, every day, or (as with any exercise) on makeup days, so your stamina greatly improves. last fall i carefully traced from photographs a series of six matching, 14" x 10" paintings, the stefanie figure paintings, but quit after completing only the first one: the effort required to do all six was just too much for me. well, after six months of "a painting a day," i dug out those five outlined papers, spread them out on my work table (right), knocked out finished paintings in four days, and didn't break a sweat. it was like sprinting up stairs that used to leave me winded.

THE BAD POINTS. not everything about the "painting a day" process is positive, however. among the drawbacks:

• quality ceiling - paintings often ask you to slow down or take a break, and there is a tendency to push against the work, sometimes too hard for the sake of quality; the best paintings may require more time than you have to spend.

• format shrinkage - if you really are doing a painting a day, without recycling paintings you posted months ago, then you have to work smaller; i ended up gravitating to the 10" x 14" format, but many "painting a day" artists (for example, the talented molly brose) work in smaller formats than that.

• filler works - inevitably, the work stream gets cluttered with inconsequential or knockdown "filler works" that find their way onto the blog because, well, something has to go up today!

• make up strain - unfortunately, i did not adopt the humane policy of excusing myself for vacations and holidays, and since starting this blog my rolling stone of a wife has carried me off on about 6 weeks worth of holiday or recreational travel ... and that meant 6 weeks where i had to produce at least *two* paintings a day just to catch up ... which inevitably made the work a burden.

• reactance - add all that up, and reactance -- the contrarian human tendency to do what is forbidden, and to avoid doing what is required -- sets in, the painting becomes just a chronic labor, the fun goes out of it, and fear and loathing set in. of all the drawbacks, that is the most disheartening and unacceptable.

THE UGLY POINT. on balance, this has been a fabulous ride, and i would gladly repeat it all again knowing what i know now. but the final reason to break off my daily postings has been the palpable and aggravating deterioration in the blogger service -- for example:

Safari can’t open the page “http://www.blogger.com/whatever.g” because the server unexpectedly dropped the connection, which sometimes occurs when the server is busy. You might be able to open the page later.

maybe blogger can't be bothered to handle threads spawned through a dialup connect; maybe blogger has decided safari and firefox aren't worth dealing with; maybe blogger management wants to handle rising user demand by raising the time-to-execute "price" (cost) of its service. whatever: i've had enough of hoping today is my lucky day.

p.s. nick ... the cypress painting is back in the queue.

13 March 2008


Charcoal pencil & watercolor on Whatman CP 600 gsm, 22" x 15".

with the wife gone and some other things in the background, including a bottle of lucid absinthe, i got myself into an unravel and passed a hard night and morning.

i slept until noon and then in the evening dragged myself down to the studio for an audit.

i copied the features from my life mask, in a scribbly uneven hand, then flooded the image with wet color. the whatman paper holds the paint on the surface -- the finish has a subtle frizzy texture that won't let the water down into the pulp -- so that paint blots up easily. the charcoal blurred and flowed along with the paint, subduing the drawing.

i left the painting and went to bed; the next morning i added more paint to the background, and shifted some colors around with magenta or purple, but basically left it as it was.

12 March 2008

weekly figure group

Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing 180gsm, 12' x 16".

the model this week was jeffrey, familiar to me from previous sessions and a hardworking poser. these are some drawings from the 3 or 5 minute poses early in the session.

unfortunately i left shortly after this because i felt sick in body and in spirit. i drove home and went to bed.

11 March 2008


Carbon pencil on Strathmore recycled drawing, 16" x 13".

kortney was back today; we did portrait poses and ended a little early so that she could get on to a late afternoon shoot with another artist.

i finished the session with a portrait drawing, about 20 minutes, in the same pose that she took in her previous visit (feb. 12). "putting truth and untruth together, a shot may be made at what this hybrid actually was like to look at" (finnegans wake).

10 March 2008


Watercolor and carbon pencil on Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

i had a hankering to do a botanical, a break from the portrait and figure work and the recent pile up of new models. i wanted to do a "whole plant" drawing in the style of renaissance floral prints, the kind that shows the roots and one or two insects on the leaves. before she left for mexico, my wife offered me one of her tulips, which she did not want where it lived and was not going to transplant. so out it came.

i decided to do a dark background rather than white, but i forget what all it is mixed from. viridian and cadmium red, i think, but there is also some manganese violet in there too. gives the ground a rich granular texture, like emery paper. the brush strokes show, but don't intrude.

the petals are done with mixtures of cadmium red and scarlet, with perylene maroon -- what a versatile pigment! -- water blotched to give them a feathery texture.

09 March 2008

writing exercise

Charcoal and watercolor pencil on Utrecht bristol 180 gsm, 12" x 16", on black background.

while browsing a book on maurits escher, mostly for recreation, i came across this quote:

A person who is lucidly aware of miracles that surround him, who has learned to bear up under loneliness, has made quite a bit of progress on the road to wisdom.

i copied this in the format of my first handwriting exercises in elementary school. i double ruled five lines of bristol and wrote with compressed charcoal, and was surprised to see my handwriting revert to the childlike form. the "erasures" are smudged out mistakes. i shadowboxed the card with black paper and posted it on the wall, where it looks just like the slogans, famous sayings, pithy wisdom that used to stand over my earnest classroom head.

what a long road we take in life, and how far away now my beginnings seem to be.

08 March 2008


Watercolor & carbon pencil on Whatman CP 600 gsm, 16" x 12".

april pleased and inspired me so much that i used our last half hour or so to knock out this freehand portrait drawing, with the hair completed from a photo and the whole filled in with watercolor the next day.

her hair forms tendrils part way down, then dissolves into a kind of threaded mist, very delicate and profuse. i opted for suggesting the rhythms through wavy bands and alternating areas of light and dark within each lock, a pleasing effect to me but not really faithful to the model. so, i am toying with the idea of preparing a portrait head before her next visit, so i can freehand draw in the hair, every last strand.

most of her portrait photos capture her delightful smile; here she took a sober expression for the twenty minute sit. there is a classical or austere quality to her features that i really like.

07 March 2008


Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing 180gsm, 14" x 10".

next up is april, a local woman and proud mother, who had a positive experience modeling for a friend and wanted to do more.

for some reason i had a lot of difficulty drawing her hands, which appears in the drawing as the stray preliminary outlines. these kept shifting around on me. perhaps her presence distracted me.

i always ask models to arrive with their hair up, if they wear it both up and down, so they don't have to arrange it in the studio. april comes out of germanic stock and has an impressive nose with many facets. the portrait is not quite good but captures the serenity and positive center of her spirit.

05 March 2008

weekly figure group

Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing 180gsm, 14" x10".

another model no show ... this time because the model got lost trying to find sebastopol. ongoing cell phone dialog trying to bring the guy down. "no no, turn RIGHT!"

meanwhile don leivas sat for drawing, this is my 15 minute portrait. he seemed to like it.

the model finally arrived, trim built guy, got some good drawings off him. here is his first lying pose ... i think he was tuckered out from all that driving around in the dark.

anyway, i had to leave early because my wife was departing next morning for a week vacation in mexico. our last night together for a while.

03 March 2008


Carbon pencil on Strathmore drawing 180gsm, 14" x 10".

next up is tabitha, a young sonoma immigrant from seattle, here to take the herbal medicine course in forestville. very sweet lady, cheerful and lively.

her hands were set on well defined wrist bones, fun to draw. the portrait is a good likeness i thought. we spent two hours doing portrait and figure photography. she is a natural model ... "i love to get naked."