Friday, April 28, 2017

Cactus Flower

oil on board 6.5"x 6.5"

I like elucidating structure, whether it's that of buildings or vegetables, faces or flowers. This amazingly odd cactus flower gave me all the structure that I could possibly want, although it did take a while to put it all together!

World of Apples: Painting Lesson Plan #4- speed studies

In this lesson, my students took a painting surface measuring 8"x 12", and divided it into six 4"x4" squares. They painted a red delicious apples six times, only being allowed ten minutes per apple. 

They could spend some time mixing their colors before the first timer was set, using their View Catchers to judge where the most saturated reds were, and what other colors were actually there- not what they assumed they'd find. I implored them to use red's compliment (green) to de-saturate the reds. 

The top photo is of all the apples painted by all the students, while the second image is of just one student's six timed studies.

Next, everyone had to paint one apple behind another. The idea was to create a sense of distance by under-reporting the darks in the distant apple, and placing their most saturated reds on the closer one. They also slightly blurred the edges of the one in the rear.

I think they did very well with this exercise, and they seemed to find it intriguing.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Oil Painting Lesson Plans 2 & 3

For our second lesson, everyone painted white objects that had colored papers reflected on their shadow sides. The main point of the lesson was that white is almost never pure white, but is easily (and often beautifully) influenced by its surroundings.

My students sometimes have trouble with tinting white and keeping its value light, so this was a good exercise for using restraint when mixing in other hues.

Here is one student example with sensitively observed whites:

The third lesson was focused on painting glass. Each set up included two glass objects, one with nothing but white paper behind it and the other with colored paper and a mango. Everyone had to paint the simpler one first, then tackle the one with the mango.

The idea is that when you paint glass, you aren't really painting the glass. Instead you are painting what you see behind it. If a glass has nothing behind it, it likely is just ever-so-slightly darker in value than the background. You begin by simply filling in the entire shape with this color/value. Some under-reported edges (just the ones you see when you squint) and a couple of selective highlights can complete the feeling of glass.

For the other glass object, the lowered intensity of the colors of the mango and colored paper as well as the distortions as seen through the glass give the vase its transparency.

A student example:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mango on Box

oil on board 5"x7"

A very simple two day painting. Simple can be hard- there isn't a lot to hold on to. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Three Small Landscapes

Peaks Island Road 
oil on paper mounted on board   5 5/8" x 7"

 Carbon County Tree Farm 
oil on paper mounted on board  6" x 6 5/8"

Perkasie View
oil on paper mounted on board 5" 1/2 x 7"

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Oil Painting Lesson Plan #1

Today was the first day of my spring oil painting class for people who have some painting experience. I find teaching to be lots of work (of course!), but very stimulating and fulfilling. 

I've decided to create a post for each of the eight sessions, in hope that some people might find useful information for their own teaching, or for their own use.  

This first lesson involved working with only five values. Orange and blue were mixed to create a neutral and dark color, then this color was mixed with white to make three more values. White was the fifth value. A value for a specific area was chosen by peering through a pinhole, and the value was laid down with no blending- as though it were part of a mosaic. At the very end of the class just a little blending was allowed, but only after viewing the painting from a distance and choosing just a an area or two where it could be helpful.

The goal was to see the big shadow shapes, and to be forced to make continuous comparisons of values across the whole composition. When you only have five piles of paint to work with, you are forced to think in very broad terms. You are forced to simplify. It's a good way to begin a painting, no matter how much detail you might want to add later. 

Here is my example of this approach, followed by some great work by my students:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tousled Tulips

watercolor and pencil 8"x10"

I've been staring so hard at these four tulips and their swirling surroundings that I'm not able to tell if my painting works or not. I sure did a lot of scrubbing out and repainting, making me wonder why I wasn't using oil paints! Aren't watercolors supposed to be a more spontaneous medium? I'm glad the thick paper took the scrubbing. Perhaps the close up of three tulips is more successful than the whole painting? Will I continue with watercolors or turn back to oils? Questions, questions! 

I do know that I tend to work in cycles; I don't like jumping from one medium to another. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Oil Painting Lesson Idea

I want to share a lesson I taught my beginning oil painting students last month, as they seemed to find it especially helpful as well as intriguing and fun. 

Their job was to take a color photograph and turn it into a monochromatic painting. Only a pair of compliments and white were allowed on the palette. Everyone had to premix the compliments to make one big pile, which was fairly dark. Then they made two more piles from this big pile by adding white in larger and smaller amounts. They ended up with just four piles of paint to work with- a dark color, two in-between values and white. The complex photograph with dozens of perceived values then had to be interpreted as having only four. Lots of decision making, less imitation. 

Here is the photo my students worked from, along with four results. 

Below is a beautiful photo of Switzerland taken by my niece Sarah. I felt inspired to try the four value technique, but I went overboard and ended up cheating. I used way more than four values! But I did begin with just four, which helped me get a strong initial statement.

Bethlehem, PA

watercolor and pencil 9"x15"

I haven't been painting, as I've been way too busy lately. For one thing, I moved a month ago to a gorgeous loft-style apartment in a wooded area. I've been teaching drawing and painting classes, plus working two other part time jobs- but now I'm starting to feel settled and eager to get back to it. 

While organizing my new studio situation, I came across this watercolor of Bethlehem, PA that I'd thought was not good enough to post, but now I think it's okay. Funny how stepping back can make an improvement in outlook!

Thursday, December 22, 2016


After all these years, I've finally had one of my paintings successfully scanned and made into
giclĂ©e prints. This seemed to work well with the medium of watercolor, and the prints truly do look and feel just like the original.

Here are two images of my last watercolor painting, the first being the one professionally scanned and the second my own photo.  Anyone care to share their thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think. 

Here is a watercolor I've been working on for a while, but I've become frustrated with it. It just doesn't seem to have a big enough idea for me. I'm posting it but not putting it up for sale, because it's not all bad (just not all good!)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Street Scene from the South Side, Bethlehem, PA

watercolor, pencil and ink 12"x12"

Lately I'm thoroughly enjoying painting urban scenes in watercolor. The fine tip of a watercolor brush, or a sharp pencil or pen nib make for adding details of shape and line that I find much harder to achieve with oils. And I mustn't forget the wonders of masking fluid!

This is a revisit of a favorite scene in Bethlehem, PA. Here is a looser, smaller version from three years ago:

oil on board 6"x6"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Drive-By View, L.A.

pencil, watercolor and ink 11"x 12.5"

I like the randomness of this scene, with criss-crossing wires helping your eye go this way and that. I also like the sense of great distance as well as the greenery- a sort of constant in much of L.A. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Overgrown Overlook, Manayunk

watercolor 10.5"x 14.5"

I'm finding it so refreshing to work with the light touch of watercolor instead of oils, and will continue for a while.

This tight patchwork of rooftops in the Philly neighborhood of Manayunk is perhaps my favorite view found there so far. Such a terrifically satisfying composition of interlocking shapes!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Morning Light on Manayunk Rooftops

watercolor 11.5"x 6 5/8"

Over the last few years I've enjoyed working with sepia wash, and have become used to working with masking fluid, so I thought maybe I could give watercolor a try again. It's been years and years! Watercolor intimidates me, sorry to say. I'm kind of pleased with this, but would like to work on beefing up my colors next time. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Study of Andrew

charcoal 10"x9"

I've become a new and enthusiastic convert to charcoal drawing. I never liked it until I figured out I can sharpen vine sticks to precise points (duh). 

Here is my brother Andrew, wearing one of his pleasantly inscrutable expressions. It's another study for the larger figure painting I want to start soon. 

Monday, September 5, 2016


charcoal 12" x 9"

This is a study for a large painting. It's my mom. I'm afraid she might find it unflattering, but I don't. I find her expression complex and revealing. She's in her eighties, and I think she is still beautiful.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lost in Thought

oil on board 8"x6"

A certain brother of mine once told me that he is bothered by the way I often paint people looking away from me. He'd rather see a portrait of someone looking right back at me/the viewer. Well, I'm a sucker for the contemplative, introspective moment, and I always will be. 

This is a portrait of my niece Raven, who is normally lively and extroverted- and a gymnast. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Whites

oil on linen mounted on board 10" x 10"

These little white guys are afraid of the universe, and so they band together to make a tiny fortress.

I've always loved painting things that are white or light grey, but never realized just how subtle color variations can be found in such objects- that is, until I spent forever on this painting. The white gang sits on a sheet of fish-patterned paper that I found at The Paper Source. That store is a wonderful place for artists to find inspiration, and one sheet of beautiful paper can be very cheap. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Drawing and Painting Classes

I'm almost finished with a painting, I promise. In the meantime, here is my schedule of classes for the upcoming year.

Fall/Winter/Spring 2016-2017

I'll be teaching two drawing and two painting classes at Perkasie's Chimayo Gallery. If you are interested in signing up, please contact them.

Chimayo Gallery
21 N. 7th Street, Perkasie PA
Phone: 267 733-5012

open hours:
Monday: 10 am - 6 pm
Tuesday: 10 am - 8 pm
Wednesday - Saturday: 10 am - 6pm

Here are the classes I'll be teaching:

Sundays 2-4
Sept. 11, 18, 25 Oct. 2, 9, 16 (six weeks; Oct. 23 is a makeup date)

Class fee: $120
Materials fee: $25 (covers all supplies needed)

Have you always wanted to learn to draw? You don't need special
talent; you just need patience and perseverance. These six
lessons are beneficial for those who have never drawn
before as well as for those who desire a way to get back to the
fundamentals of drawing what you see.

Sundays 2-4
Oct. 30 Nov. 6, 13, 20 Dec. 4, 11 (six weeks; Dec. 18 is a makeup date)

Class fee: $120
Materials fee: $25 (covers all supplies needed)

Learning to draw is a matter of learning to see your subject and then coordinating your eyes and hands to convey it on a two dimensional surface. In these six lessons you will build on your basic drawing skills by continuing to work with line and value while focusing on composition and rendering skills. Drawings will be completed in pencil, graphite stick and vine charcoal.

This class is the follow up to Fundamentals of Drawing I or for those with some drawing ability/experience. 

Sundays 2- 4:30
Jan. 8, 15, 22, 29 Feb. 5, 12, 19, 26 (eight weeks; March 5 is a makeup date)
Class fee: $200

Materials fee: $20 (covers cost of all prepared painting surfaces, hue finders, shared use of odorless Turpenoid, oil painting medium, paper towels, still life materials, lighting, etc.)

Students are responsible for supplying their own paints, brushes and palettes or can have the teacher order basic painting sets for them, which they will then reimburse me for. A supply list will be provided.

If you have basic drawing skills but are ready to learn to work in color with oil paint, this is the workshop for you. You will learn how to see color, how to use it, and how to mix and combine hues without losing sight of the primary importance of value. The importance of color balancing and harmony will be covered, with some discussion of the psychological aspects of color. This class will consist of demonstrations, discussion of basic color theory, and several exercises that range from simple to challenging.

Sundays 2-4:30
March 26 April 2, 9, 23, 30 May 7, 14, 21 (eight weeks; May 28 is a makeup date)
Class fee: $200

Materials fee: $20 (covers cost of all prepared painting surfaces, hue finders, shared use of odorless Turpenoid, paper towels, rags, still life materials, lighting, etc.)

Students are responsible for supplying their own paints, brushes and palettes or can have the teacher order basic painting sets for them, which they will pay for. A supply list will be provided.

This class is the follow up to Fundamentals Painting I, or for those with some painting ability/experience.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


oil on linen mounted on board 10"x10"'