Monday, June 12, 2017

"Paracosm with an Injured Bird" showing at The University Club, Phoenix

"Paracosm With an Injured Bird"
Oil, 15" x 24"

I'm happy to say that this painting (which I have already written about on this blog) recently was awarded Second Place at the Portrait Artists of Arizona 7th Annual Members' Juried Portrait Exhibition and Sale. The show is at the University Club in Phoenix, Arizona until August 30th, 2017. Congratulations to all the artists who entered the show!

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Introduction to Drawing and Painting the Dog" - workshop, July 18th and 19th, 2017

"Tierra Dulce", oil (detail)

I've drawn and painted animals for years and have been putting them in my paintings more and more frequently. I'm delighted to have been asked to teach a two day workshop on drawing and painting dogs this summer.

I'm told we have a dog model who is very good at "stay" and "lie down so we can draw and paint you". This would not be my own dog, though (see painting above). We'll also be studying dog anatomy and talking about taking and using photography.

The workshop is on Monday, July 18th and Tuesday, July 19th. It's open for registration at Scottsdale Artists School and you can enroll and find out more about it at this link.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

National Weather Service Biennale 2017 - "Dust Devil" Drawing

"Dust Devil in a Pick-Your-Own-Field"
40" x 32"
Charcoal and Carbon Pencil on Canson Board

I just shipped off my big drawing to the upcoming National Weather Service Biennale in Norman, Oklahoma.  I'm excited to be in this show for a lot of reasons. I've been experimenting with large drawings for several months and it's exciting to see one get accepted into a national show. Plus, it's a big departure from my usual subject matter (figurative oil paintings).

I had to write an Artist's Statement about this drawing for the show. This is what I wrote:

  • I was in a pick-your-own pumpkin field in Arizona with my three young children on a late October day. We were startled by a sudden narrow spiral of dirt that began to whirl in the rows of withered stalks, climbing higher and growing stronger as we watched it float and churn toward us. There was nowhere to go and it happened very fast. We huddled together and covered our faces as it passed through us, blowing dirt through our hair and blasting our skin and clothes with little stones and leaves. Our visitor left as quickly as it came, leaving us energized, as if we had tobogganed down a snowy hill together, breathless and grateful for a safe landing.

It's a little embarrassing to be sending a drawing of a small dust devil and writing about my experience with it to an exhibition in one of the world's capitals of tornados. People from Oklahoma really, really know the horror of tornados. I think tornados are some of the scariest things on the planet, although tsunamis are right up there as well. I strongly suspect that the brave people from Oklahoma would scorn a little dust devil.

A dust devil seems mercurial,  unexpectedly sudden and random, no long scary music buildup, no watching the heavy sky darken and churn while you beat on the storm cellar door hoping Auntie Em will let you and your little dog, too, inside. It just zips cheerfully through the bright sky, throws some dust and debris around and then dissipates, a little message sent via air mail that anything can happen to shake you up, even in the middle of a warm, boring day.

The show opens on April 23, 2017 at the National Weather Service at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. For more information click here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Sight Unseen", Abend Gallery show, opens Feb. 24th, 2017

I'm excited to be in a new group show at Abend Gallery in Denver that promises to be an exciting event. "Sight Unseen" is a collaboration between noted artist and curator Alia El Bermani and Poets and Artists Magazine, an online creative exploration of contemporary art and artists hosted by artist, writer and curator Didi Menendez.

My painting "Here and Now" will be featured in the show, which opens February 24th.

"Here and Now", 20" x 16", oil

Around 80 of the country's most notable figurative artists will be showing work as part of the show. The common thread is an attempt to look beyond the surface of things to find hidden meanings and explore new concepts.

Personally, I've been experimenting more and more with a looser paint application and layering. For me, it is a much more tactile and meditative process which has frequent surprises.  

There's a beautiful catalog of the show available from the Poets and Artists website:  

You can order a copy of the show catalog at this link.

For more information about the show or to purchase my painting please email Abend at

Saturday, November 12, 2016

26th Annual Holiday Miniatures Show, Abend Gallery, Denver CO

"Lucy is Thinking" 
Oil, 5" x 5"


"Small but Still Life"
Oil, 8"x 10"

I'll have two small paintings for sale at the upcoming Annual Holiday Miniatures Show at Abend Gallery in Denver. The show opens December 2, 2016 and runs until the end of the year. 

Abend has distinguished itself by developing an energetic stable of imaginative, gifted artists, both nationally and internationally renowned, at various stages of their careers. This would be a terrific opportunity to take a look at what's going on there and take home a small work (or two). 

Lucy is one of our dogs, a young and very graceful pointer. I'm not sure she is actually "thinking" but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, as she has tons of other skills that far surpass mine.

The baby rabbit is one that I rescued from Lucy. Rabbits are shockingly vulnerable creatures. This one kept its eyes squeezed shut so it would be invisible and I would go away. I put some fencing around the rabbit nest to keep it away from the dogs. This rabbit eventually managed to grow up to live under the barbecue, which gave me an excuse not to have to use the barbecue all summer, a win-win situation because I don't like to barbecue. 

Although I'm doing a lot of figurative work these days, I really enjoy painting animals as well as putting them in my paintings.  Somehow, seeing an image of an animal on the wall lifts my spirits in a way that's hard for me to describe. Maybe it's their beauty, or maybe it's the reminder that we are not alone on this planet. Thanks for looking at these.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fall 2016 Charcoal Portrait Class at Scottsdale Artists' School

From the school's new local program catalog

I'll be teaching portrait drawing again this fall at Scottsdale Artists' School, this time in a two-full day format.

We'll be working from live models and discussing various approaches to drawing.

When: September 28 and October 5, 2016 (two consecutive Wednesdays)
            9:00 am- 4:00pm

Click here for more information and to register.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Need for Speed: Oil Portrait Sketches, Part Two

"Hasan" oil on panel, 9.5" x 9.5"

A few months ago I wrote Part One about alla prima oil portrait sketches. I'd just like to repeat: this isn't necessarily my favorite way to paint somebody. In an ideal world, I'd have lots of time, time to get to know a sitter, time to go slowly and get the likeness exactly accurate. I also really like painting a subject over the course of many days but I don't get to do this as often as I would like to. This is the real reason so many artists paint self portraits. ... they've run out of money for model fees, their family has grown resentful and their friends are sick of them. 

Thus, an artist may find herself in front of a model for a limited time period. I painted the portrait above at an open studio, seated in the front row and looking up at the model, which changes the facial proportions a little bit from what you'd see at a distance while standing. I've grown to like this angle because it tends to lengthen the neck and add some drama. But I don't always choose this angle. I like to mix it up and keep myself on my toes.

I suppose that's my first point I'm trying to make in this mini-series about alla prima portrait sketches. You can do a decent job from pretty much anywhere you place yourself, as long as you're not directly in front of a light pole, say, or directly behind another artist. You should challenge yourself if you're "just practicing". I've seen artists set up at spots where they're essentially painting the back of the model's head and they still manage to paint amazing paintings. 

One key consideration is getting enough light on your easel and your palette so that you can see what you're doing as you work. This is often a huge problem that only becomes apparent when you're in, say, near-total darkness and guessing at what the puddles are on your palette. (If this happens, try to clamp your palette so that it's parallel to your work so it's all in the same light. Or go over to David Kassan's website (see the links on the side of this blog) and get yourself a Parallel Palette!)

On the other hand, if you're painting in front of a group of people, demonstrating, or painting a portrait you'll sell to the sitter, you're going to hope to be in the best possible set of conditions that will ensure that the painting will be a success.

1. Make sure your equipment is to your liking and make a list to make sure you don't forget anything if you're traveling. This includes having your paints set out in the order you're used to so that when you're under time pressure, you know exactly where that yellow ochre should be. I'm guilty of violating this advice since I'm a compulsive experimenter and tinkerer, adding and subtracting new colors and moving them around, so it never really becomes automatic for more than a couple of years at a time. But I'm working on it.

2. If you get a chance to select a model in advance you might consider doing that. The best case scenario is where you've painted the person before and you've had a success with him/her. Not only do you get an idea what the person looks like and what face tones will be there, you'll know whether he or she can sit still and - this is important - whether the sitter can get back into the same place after a break.

Some of the best work I've done is where I've happened upon an exceptionally calm sitter who sits for an hour or so without actually taking a break.

By the way, the ability to know where you are in space is called proprioception. Dancers and many athletes have this ability to place themselves and remember exactly where they were when they get back to the pose after a break. If you ask them to tilt a quarter of an inch to the left they can actually do that. (But I don't think you should unduly stress out a model, I think some flexibility and going with the flow is a good thing.) I like dancers as models because they also don't mind being looked at, it's their job, as a matter of fact, and they can"give" you a lot, a certain attitude or feel that you can pick up on if you're sensitive.

Worst case scenario - for a fast sketch under time pressure - is probably a person who is fidgety, awkward and self-conscious about being looked at. If you add "sullen and reluctant" to the list that probably will describe most of the teens or young adult relatives of yours. Good luck with that. Lots of people just don't react well to holding still, so it's also a good idea to get used to people moving around. The artist James Gurney is one of the best people out there in terms of painting people who aren't holding still (see the link to his site on the right to find his videos and tips on doing this).

3. Many artists seem to work under the same lighting setup over and over again. I think this is a really good idea if you can manage it.  Personally, I don't do this - I always think it's a better idea to keep yourself on your toes by practicing a lot of different ways and putting people in different lighting conditions.

I think this is my personality type, too, to keep experimenting, change things up, try things out. I'm not sure this is always a terrific characteristic.

4. Finally, keep in mind that children have different head proportions than do adults and if you haven't worked with children much, a child model will be markedly different, plus they tend to move around much more than adults.