Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Borrego Desert Palm #1

OK, if you live somewhere cold - please don't hate me! Yes, it's December 30 and I came home with a sunburn. I drove out to the Anza Borrego desert today for a little painting. Needless to say, it was beautiful! Clear and mid 70's. Southern California can be a crazy-busy place to live but it does have it's perks.

Anyway, I wanted to take a crack at painting some of the desert palms that are so symbolic of the area.


8x10 oil on linen panel

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Deep in the Canyon

Here's an 11x14 oil from a photo I took in Zion National Park over the Thanksgiving weekend. This was the ONLY day without rain on the entire trip!

This scene is way back in the Grotto Trail canyon. It was late in the day and the sun was long gone from the canyon. Even in darker shade the reflections from the red sandstone cliffs scatters a surprisingly warm glow.

11x14  oil on linen panel

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Highland Valley Ranch #3

Spent another Saturday morning painting with San Diego artist Patrick Korch and a great group of fellow plein air'ers. The weather was perfect and the light was very warm for a December day. Nice!

8 x 10  oil on linen panel

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pyracanthas - Salt Lake City

We drove out to Salt Lake City for Thanksgiving this year. No snow but cold enough for a California boy that I opted to set up on the deck where a pyracanthas was showing off it's winter berries. Very striking against the bare trees and dead grass.

8x10 oil on linen panel

Thursday, November 13, 2008

End of the day - Au Sable River

This is from a photo that I took from a drift boat after a long day of fishing on the Au Sable river in Michigan. Right after I snapped this, I caught a nice Brown Trout about 10 yards downstream from this spot.

Since most of this was in shade I tried to stay mostly in the cool colors until I got to the light filtering through the trees. This was also done with a limited palette of 6 colors (plus white).

12x18  oil on linen panel

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lake Huron Wind Socks

I tried to watch a little football tonight. Jeeeze, one more beer commercial and I was going to scream! So, at halftime I decided to change venues and I took a stab at this photo of a stormy afternoon on Lake Huron.

I took the original photo last July. Just 30 minutes earlier the sky was mostly clear and the wind was calm. Ah! You gotta love Michigan weather!

6x8  oil on linen panel

If you're wondering why there are poles with windsocks standing out in the water, these are used to tie off small boats and jet skies when they're not being used. Each pole flies a distinctive flag or windsock so you can find it when you return to shore.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Workshop Study

Here's a quick little study I did over the weekend at a workshop given by San Diego artist Patrick Korch. This was from a photo that he supplied so I don't know where this is. Somewhere in California, I'm pretty sure.

8x10  oil on linen panel

Round Valley #2

Here's another painting of Round Valley. This one was done with pastels on Wallis Sanded paper

I was captivated by the light on the afternoon that I was there so I took tons of photos. I guess that means that I'll probably be posting more paintings from this area soon....

8x10  pastels on sanded paper

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Round Valley

I've been playing with pastels for a while and was feeling like I just might forget how to mix my own colors so I blew the dust off of the oil paints on a recent trip to the Sierras.

_MG_0074 - Version 2

This was done one evening just north of Bishop, Ca. in an area called Round Valley. I'm already a sucker for trees and green fields but when you put the Sierras behind them... I'm hooked!

Since I remembered to take a few photos while I was doing this, I decided to present this in a demo format:

1) After the initial drawing I filled in the major objects with transparent washes of Red Oxide, Ultramarine Blue and Viridian Green. This helped to establish the overall values.


2) Next I painted in the darks and filled in the major shapes with a representation of the local color.


3) Here I've filled in some more color, added a few edges and filled out the shape of the main tree.


4) Now I'm starting to refine some edges and details.


5) Final version. I've worked on the shapes, tweaked some colors and, finally, dropped in some of the four legged critters that were sharing the valley with me.

 _MG_0074 - Version 2
12 x16 oil on linen panel

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery

I took a fishing trip, recently, to the Eastern Sierras with my son before he headed off to college. Just fishing, no painting. But I did get some photos to paint from later.

This is from one of those pictures I took when we visited the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, south of Bishop, CA. It's a unique place with an old stone building and a large pond in front where they keep a number of huge breeder trout.

Beautifully landscaped, I got a lot of photos and you should be seeing several more paintings of this spot in the near future.

12 x 12  pastel on sanded paper

Detail Close up

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Big Rock - Valley of Fire, NV.

Here's another pastel as I figure out this new medium. I'm trying out a lot of different techniques and methods so each one is a new adventure!

This view is from a path that runs along the rim of the Valley of Fire state park, north of Las Vegas. The colors really are this bright and saturated. Maybe more!

I took this photo late in the day. The foreground was in shadow but there was still light on the hill across the valley.

_MG_0053 - Version 2
8 x 10 Pastel on Colorfix paper

Original first sketch

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oaks on the Hill

I'm still playing around with pastels. This is my second study in this difficult medium.

This time I thought I would change things around a bit by including a couple of my preliminary sketches. I should document each step but sometimes I get swept into the little rectangle of paper or canvas and forget about most everything else.

This is from a photo of some middle-aged oak trees on the low hills surrounding Lake Dixon here in Escondido. I took this picture last spring during that too-short time when things are very green here in Southern California.

9 x 12 pastel on Wallis paper

First rough sketches

Pencil sketch washed with alcohol

First underpainting wash

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Virgin River - Zion N.P.

After spending a couple of weeks playing around with the new Golden Open acrylics I was feeling a little rusty with the oils. So, I took a stab at a photo I took in Zion N.P. a few years ago.

This was taken in the valley floor on an afternoon that was starting to cloud up quickly. The photo was a little faded so I had to fake it a little with the colors.

9x12  oil on linen panel

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spring Snow in Flagstaff

This is my second painting using the new Golden Open Acrylics. I'm still figuring these out but will write up some impressions after I have some more time with these paints.

I painted this from a photo I took in Flagstaff AZ many years ago following a late season snow storm. This was almost all gone by the next day. Definitely a fleeting moment...

8x10  Acrylics on canvas panel

Monday, July 28, 2008

Golden Open Acrylics - First Impressions

OK, I just received a bag of these new Golden Open Acrylic paints and I had to try them out.

First, the disclaimer - I have limited experience with acrylics so my insights may be different from a dyed-in-the-wool acrylic painter.

Anyway, here are a few impressions:

1) These are noticeably thinner in consistency than oils or even my regular heavy body acrylics. I'm not sure that's a problem but it may be a little difficult to pile it on real thick - as I'm inclined to do from time to time.

2) These REALLY do stay wet on the palette a lot longer. In fact, they maintained the same consistency as I squeezed them from the tubes for the entire time I had them out - about 3 hours! I never had to spray them with water.

3) The puddles of mixed paint (much thinner) did get a little tacky after about 10 minutes but, unlike the regular acrylics, a little water restored them completely. No film.

4) These do take much longer to set up on the canvas. Good for re-working and blending like oils - maybe bad if you like to layer thin applications in a hurry.

5) The consistency is still more like standard acrylics than oils. They don't have that "buttery" feel.

6) I have a feeling that these will really shine as plein air paints. Regular acrylics can be a challenge to keep from drying out - especially when it's hot and/or dry outside. I'm going to try these outdoors. I'll update this entry after I give this a try.

That's about all I could pull out of one session. These may be a god-send for working outdoors. I'm not sure, though, if they would serve as a "closer to oils" experience fro me. We'll see....

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Au Sable River #2

I don't paint with acrylics much. I've gotten really used to the slow drying time and blending ability of oil paints. Never the less, acrylics have their advantages. Especially when painting outdoors. So, I decided to give it another try.

This is from a recent photo I took while fishing on the Au Sable River in Michigan.The day was a little overcast but the colors were extremely intense.

 _MG_0072 - Version 2
8x10 Golden Open Acrylics on canvas panel

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Old Cabin in the Woods

Here's another  study from my recent trip to northeastern Michigan.

I found this old abandoned cabin in a clearing by a little pond. (Smart place for me to be with all the bugs... Duh!) I liked the slant to the roof line and the bright flowers growing right by the door.

9x12  oil on linen panel 

I love this area but next time I'm going to lobby for a fall trip - when the flying beasties are fewer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Afternoon Walk

Just got back from a week in Northeastern Michigan. I didn't get to paint outside as much as I would have liked because I forgot an important piece of painting equipment - a dinner bell! The mosquitos and deer flies are having a banner year. Ouch!

Anyway, here's one of a few - a pathway along the Au Sable river in late afternoon. The sun was out but there was a thin overcast so the sky was a little cooler in temperature than I would have expected this late in the day.

6x8  oil on linen panel

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Last Light of the Day

Here's a study from a photo I took many years ago while driving up around Flagstaff, AZ. The overall scene and photo were quite dark so I'm not sure that I was able to capture the original light. I have some other photos taken from this same spot. I may refer back to some of those and see if I need to make some adjustments.


8x10  Oil on Linen Panel

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trail to the Summit

On a recent trip to the Eastern Sierras, I found this view from the bottom of the final rise of a trail that ended on the crest of a ridge. I think what caught my eye was the contrast between the bright, sunlit areas and the deep, dark shadows.


6x8  oil on linen

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First Light on Upper Twin Lake

Here's a study of a popular lake near Mammoths Lakes, CA. I guess I was in another green mood today.

9x12  oil on linen panel

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Here's a little study of a couple of trees on a hillside close to my home. I liked the way that both trees were so similar, complete with matching bushes in front. I decided to keep everything in the center of the frame of view. It's fun to break the rules now and then!

 _MG_0110 - Version 2
6x8  oil on linen panel

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oak Creek White Water

One of my favorite places to be is anywhere in the Southwest red rock country. I've been sorting through some old 35mm slides from Flagstaff and Sedona in Arizona. I found this image taken from a big rock right in the middle of Oak Creek and I had to try it!

 9x12 oil on linen

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Foothill Storm

We had a little late season rain last week. I was getting cabin fever so in between rain impulses I dashed out to the foothills close to my home and charged through this quick little study. I got back to the car just as it started to rain again.

6x8 oil on linen panel

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mill Creek #2

Another crummy day. Overcast, light rain and kinda windy. I was going to go out to the desert to paint but the winds were gusting to 30 mph. Hmmm...not!

So... I pulled out the photos again and tried this view of one of my favorite fly fishing creeks in Paradise Valley, Montana. It really is this green there! I almost used my whole tube of Cad Yellow!

12x16 oil on linen panel

Lake Cabin

I have several photos of my wife's family cabin on Lake Huron. It's very special to her and her siblings. I've made several attempts to capture the mood of this get-away.


_MG_0092 - Version 2
9x12 oil on linen panel

Photography and Painting - Part 1

So, what good is it?

When I made that fateful decision to start painting I did so under some delusions that my years as a photographer would flatten out the learning curve. Hello?!! Yeah, right. Having learned and taught photography I can now say that learning to paint is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I’ve got so much yet to learn!

When I was just starting to paint, everything was such a struggle. Well, everything is still a struggle. But the first things I began to feel comfortable with were the concepts of composition and framing. These are definitely skills that are common to both disciplines. Selecting a subject and eliminating the clutter is always an important requirement. Developing an “eye” for photography is one of those important yet difficult skills that often makes the difference between a good photo and a great photo. I’ve been working on it since I was 12 and it’s still elusive. What I have learned about composition as a photographer has been a priceless aid in learning to paint. Photographer or painter, here’s a skill that will improve all of your efforts.

Sadly, that’s about all that my photographic skills had to contribute to the “painting madness”. Don’t get me wrong, My cameras play an enormous role in painting. But not as you may think. More on that later. But otherwise, This has been like learning a new skill from the ground up.

Now, here’s the fun part! What I have managed to learn about painting has had an incredible, positive effect on my photo skills. How? Well, learning to create a focal point and simplify in a painting has spilled over to the way I approach my photo subjects. I’m finding it easier to frame my compositions and my photos are becoming less complicated and a little more to the point. If I don’t want to paint all of that detail, maybe it doesn’t need to clutter up my photos either? Go figure.....

Flower - Anza Borrego State Park

Also see:


Photography and Painting


I’ve been an avid photographer since I was 12. That means I’ve been at it for over @! years (Whoa, frightening! I’ll let you do the math). I've been painting for a fraction of that time. I often stop to think about the relationship between the two and how one can benefit the other.

I was recently asked a seemingly simple question on the WetCanvas forums about if and how I apply any of my approach to photographing a subject to the way I paint. I started to peck out what I thought would be an equally simple answer until I realized that it was turning into a small thesis. I figured that there was probably a size limit to the forum messages so I decided to move my answer over to this blog. It quickly started to grow even further out of control so I am going to split this up into a few different entries. What will follow are some thoughts about photography and painting.

Here are a few points that I will attempt to tackle:

    1.    Has it helped me learn to paint?
    2.    Has it effected the way I paint? Has painting effected   the way I photograph?
    3.    Painting from nature vs. painting from photographs
    4.    Photo equipment - what works best?
    5.    Photo processing - getting the best colors, values and details from your image.
    6.    Using a computer to paint by.

This is definitely a work in progress and will unfold over time. Please check back occasionally for new additions....


DS-ZN-0010 Zion National Park                                                  Nikon D200

Also see:

Part 1

Sunday, May 18, 2008

After the Storm

This was done in Zion NP in November. It rained all night and through the morning. During a break in the rain I ran out and found the valley cliffs covered with low clouds and mist.

12x18 oil on linen

Ke'e Beach, Kauai

Boy, I wish I had just done this Plein Air but, alas, it's from a photo that I took there several years ago.


8x10 oil on board

If I remember right, It rained like crazy about 10 minutes after I took this photo.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Along the Sunrise Highway

Took a drive up to the local mountains. Wow, everything is still green and the wildflowers! There was way too much to paint in one day so after I tried this scene I took lots of photos for later.

This view was right off the road that runs up to Laguna Mountain.

 _MG_0086 - Version 2
6x12  oil on board

I had an odd sized panel so I tried this as a wide format. Fun, actually. I want to try some more....

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vernal Pond | Daley Ranch

I keep forgetting just how much rain we had in Southern California this past winter. No, not a lot my other people's standards but for us... a lot.

This point was driven home last Sunday when I took my gear with me for a hike through Daley Ranch, a regional park here in northern San Diego County.

As I descended the trail into a small valley I saw something I've never seen in that location in the 10 years I've been hiking this trail. A pond complete with fresh cattails and a new resident population of frogs. Since I knew that it would probably be gone in a few weeks, it was an easy decision to stop ad paint it.


8x10  oil on linen

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Capistrano Spring

I took a short trip up the coast to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. The good news? Everything is in bloom. Bad news? May gray! Lots of fog and dull light. Oh well. I took a shot at it anyway.


11x14 oil on linen board


Here's some detail:


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Casper Park #3

Here's another study from this regional park in Orange County.

We had a good deal of rain this year in Southern California and it really shows in the abundance of new greens and wildflowers!

I'm collecting several of these studies in preparation for something on a larger scale.


9x12 oil on board

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Au Sable River, MI

Almost every summer I get to spend some time at my wife's family cabin on Lake Huron. As beautiful as it is there, within a few miles is the Au Sable river. In the past I always spent most of my time fishing. Now that I'm painting more I can't wait to get back there with my kit.

In the mean time, this is from a photo that I took a few years ago while I was on the river.


8x10 oil on linen

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mission at Capistrano #1

This is from the Mission in San Juan Capistrano. Boy, I haven't been there in like 10 years. It was a bit cool but everything was blooming and the light was soft and warm.

There's so much to paint here that it took me 15 minutes to decide what to set up. It was getting a little crowded so I hid in a corner and worked on a sort of telescopic view of the opposite side of the court yard. In photography I like to call these "intimate landscapes".


8x10 oil on linen

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Virgin River Dawn

More fun with palette knives. On this one I didn't even pick up a brush. These things are fun!

I'm enjoying the thick paint and clean colors that you get from this technique.


9x12  oil on linen

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yucca at 6 am

From an early morning trip to Joshua Tree NP. Good thing, too because by 10 am it was already 90 deg.

9x12  oil on linen

I had very little room to set up so I did this much like a wide angle lens photo. I'm used to seeing this kind of a view in my photos but it was a bit strange trying to translate the near-far distortion to a painting.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Making Time...

The more I paint, the more I want to paint. This appears to be one of the basic symptoms of the "Painting Disease". And apparently, I have it!

One thing I'm learning is that the only way to really learn how to paint is to paint, paint and paint more. Reading books is good. Watching videos is fun. But in the end, only brush time teaches me anything that sticks.

Problem is, I already have a full time job. 50 or more hours a week of concentrated, mind boggling software engineering that often leaves me light headed and spent by the end of the day. Family time doesn't count because that's happily built into the foundation of everything.

As serene as it may look to an observer, Painting is a creative endeavor and requires a lot of energy. After a long day at the "salt mines", energy can be a scarce commodity.

Oh, and did I mention the fact that it takes a really long time to learn to paint well?

So... how do you feed a desire to paint when you only have a few hours a week to devote to it? I haven't figured that out yet. In fact, I have no constructive insights to offer others - yet. I'm mostly just thinking out loud. OK, maybe venting a little bit too.

I've been scouring the Net looking for some sort of time extending plug-in for my computer. Maybe a 36 hour day or something like that. No luck so far.

I guess I'll just have to find some other way to treat the disease and pay the bills at the same time. If I figure it out I'll let your know!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Evening Oak

Found this one, old lonely oak tree all by itself up on a hill. I was heading back to the car and the sun was setting so I debated with myself (and won this time!) about stopping to do a quick study. I've been fascinated (OK, a little obsessed) with oak trees lately but still don’t feel like I have an understanding of what they’re all about. Sounds like a good excuse to get out and paint more of them!

 _MG_0083 - Version 2
8x10 oil on board

One thing that I’m still learning (one of so many!) is that skies are not always blue. In fact, sometimes you can leave the blue paint alone. Fun!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sierra Sunset

While attending Elin Pendleton’s color workshop I completed a little study based of her method of expressing a colorful sunset. At the time I was pleased enough with it but I was also awash in Elin’s theories so I didn’t give this much additional thought.

12x16  oil on board

After I returned home my wife decided that it was her favorite from the workshop but since it was only a 6x8 it was kinda small. So..... I decided to try scaling It up to a larger version.

The original was on a small (6x8) canvas panel. The larger version is on a 12x16 cradled board.

Original 6x8