Sunday, December 5, 2010

Westlake Beach

Westlake Beach   5x10
Yesterday in Austin was one of those amazing late fall days with near perfect conditions for painting outdoors. The "made to order" day was also, appropriately, the end of year party for Plein Air Austin painters group. The turnout was great and it was really something to see the lakeside park and marina covered with fall color and dozens of artists all out painting ! What a fun group. I have really enjoyed being a part of this diverse and talented group of artists since joining at the beginning of the year. As is typical  on these plein air paintouts, it all went by too fast. Before I knew it, I had spent over an hour taking reference photographs, so I finally set  up to paint and focused on a fairly simple composition in the late afternoon sun. The watercolor study above is of a poplar tree near a wood trellis on the banks of the marina that  took about 45 minutes to complete.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fall Leaves 11.30.10

Fall Leaves 11.30.10 One-Four   5x5
purchase here
This series of four miniature paintings are similar to ones I have painted before. I did many small paintings like this several years ago, only they were painted in gouache on paper with a gessoed surface. Here I wanted to try  it again in watercolor as an exercise in creating these textures. The gouache method tends to have more contrast within each color when applied, as it is more opaque than watercolor, so I needed to build up several layers of colors to establish a similar appearance. These leaves were collected yesterday with my daughter on our walk home from school. She especially liked several we found near a bradford pear tree.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still Life 11.23.10

Still Life 11.23.10   5x10
This piece is similar to the small still life paintings I was doing about ten years ago. It is really from an illustration technique of lifting pigment from a non absorbent surface. I first learned to do this using gouache on paper prepared with gesso. The brushed gesso left a texture to the paper surface that is visible through the pigment. This painting however is on Strathmore  140 lb cold press paper, which seems to have a slight coating to the surface that allows the lifting of the color similar to what I described. It lends a mottling to the washes that are, not flat areas of color, but have a variation when applying the pigment with the color defining the edges. It works well for creating these reflections.

Still Life 11.22.10

Still Life 11.22.10   5x10
One of the subject matters that has been missing to date are still life compositions. I  have wanted to start working again with this subject for a while. We have a collection of small  colored glass bottles & here I have place these two with one of our recently cleaned and varnished copper mugs.  This small painting is on a piece 90 lb. watercolor paper. It is a blend of wet on wet painting with flat washes of color. This particular paper does not allow for lifting the pigment, rather it is absorbent and holds the color by staining of the pigment into the paper.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Upper McKinney Falls Study

Upper McKinney Falls Study  5x10"
This watercolor study is based upon one of the photographs taken recently at McKinney Falls State Park. I sketched out the composition from viewing the photo on a large monitor in the studio. It had been several days later after drawing the initial composition  before I was able to start painting  on this piece. Instead of working from the photographs for color reference, I painted from memory. I recalled a basic palette and kept this study relatively simple by starting with four colors; Payne's gray, hookers green medium, burnt sienna, and  quinacridone gold. Some shadows have violet t hues, as well as areas of the limestone rocks.Ultramarine and cerulean blue were used in the foreground water.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deep Pool Shadow Study I & II

Deep Pool Shadow Study I & II  5 x 5
At McKinney Falls State Park near the Lower Falls where Williamson Creek and Onion Creek converge, is an area of interesting rock formations. Just below the bluffline of terraced limestone, you can peer into a labyrinth of stone pools that are deep and mysteriously dark. The entire formation is currently only a few feet from the surface, but the bright sunlight, when at low angles, casts these intensely dark shadows into the clear water. When we first saw them, our daughter of course wanted to know "what's in there?", "how deep is it?" and "how far does it go?" All good questions that could only be answered by fully exploring with scuba diving gear. As for the image above, I was inspired by the contrast of shade and shadow but also to the formations that were worn smooth yet created sharp hard edges that are anthropomorphic with a resemblance to animal bones. I did these studio watercolor studies to work with an abstract quality of the compositions and variation of hues in the colors.

Lower McKinney Falls

Lower McKinney Falls   5x10
With the fall color starting to develop to the extent  it does this time of year in Austin, it was high time to get back outdoors. We spent a late afternoon recently at McKinney Falls State Park on the edge of Austin. It was a warm and cloudless early November day perfect for taking lots of reference photographs of this beautiful state park. This painting depicts a setting with views of the Lower Falls from the Beach Area where Onion Creek has carved out a wonderful spot for swimming although there were only day hikers at the time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waterlily ten five ten

Waterlily ten five ten  5x10
Using the date as name seems like a quick way to get the point. Painted on 10.05.10 I had sketched this studio work on one of the five by  ten inch sheets of watercolor paper which I had prepared for this series. Several are mounted on cardboard ready to go. This one had been in the studio for a few days now, so long in fact, that after several deadlines that I am not sure if the composition was from the Taniguchi Garden or from Mayfield Park. I painted this in a more controlled manner than I intended and it seems to have a quality that reminds me of some Japanese woodcut prints I have seen. It also has a feel similar to prints by Arthur Dow. I like this technique as a way to continue with a specific approach  to watercolor painting almost as a meditation in layers of colored washes. It is similar to the approach for the architectural renderings. The next one should be far more loose if for nothing else than for the fun of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On The Blanco

On The Blanco  5x10
Sunday was truly a picture perfect day, ideal for taking a day trip with the family to go just west of Blanco, Texas and see the large Dinosaur tracks in the banks of the Blanco river. As awesome as these are, I think playing in the crystal clear water of one of the natural spillways was a favorite for all the kids. I had never been to this spot where these amazing tracks are embedded into the limestone just above the waterline. It is a beautiful part of the Texas hill country. This small studio work is a watercolor on paper painted today  from a photograph looking east back towards the low water crossing near the footprints. The cloudless sky is reflected in the river with deep shadows defining the banks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taniguchi Garden Study

Taniguchi Garden Study   5 x 10
Picking up where I had left off, this is a watercolor study from the same paintout session at the Zilker Botanical Garden last month. It is the first plein air watercolor I have done since back in the spring. The intent now is to begin each of the sessions with a loose watercolor sketch then move to the more formal acrylic or oil painting. This is the first effort using those steps. The acrylic painting Yukimi Lantern was produced after this one later that same morning. I think Stephanie seems to like this one best and wants to have it in her office.The Yukimi Lantern and Zedler Mill paintings have been selected to be included in a upcoming group exhibition by Plein Air Austin at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin. I am very pleased to be able to participate with such excellent artists and I am looking forward to seeing how well the rest of the group's work is received.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yukimi Lantern

Yukimi Lantern   6 x 12
The Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden in Zilker Park is undoubtedly one of the true jewels of Austin, Texas. This incredible place is a masterpiece and is essentially the result of one man's labor of love. His life story is equally amazing.
On Thursday, the paintout session for Plein Air Austin met here and in truth, the group would be hard pressed to find a better place to paint than at the Zilker Botanical Garden. The Japanese Garden is especially beautiful this time of year as the lotus blooms thrive in the August heat & humidity. The sun cooperated by hiding behind the clouds for the entire morning, which allowed the colors to stand out nicely without having strong shadows or bright sunlight. The day was indeed similar to the quality of light one experiences in Japan.
This piece is the second one I worked on, the first being a watercolor study, but this work is entirely in acrylic, painted completely on site. What began as an under painting for an opaque oil painting, just evolved into a completed work on its own. I treated the acrylic like watercolor on canvas with thin washes in most areas and opaque layers in other areas where stronger hues were needed. The painting is a good marker for where I am currently as a plein air painter. I like the fact that what may be an under painting for a work in oil, may also be a finished piece at an earlier stage. Something which fellow Austin artist Qiang Huang inspired me to think about, by his striving to have a "finished" piece at each stage of painting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer Field

Summer Field   8 x 8
This painting is based upon the some of the farmland photographs I recently took, but is not of a specific place. I just wanted to capture the sense of  openness in the rural Central Texas landscape with the quality of light  and colors from a hot summer day. The painting has initial layers of acrylic on a canvas board with oil paint for the blended tones and final touches. This entire area of Texas is currently setting records for triple-digit temperatures and the clouds painted here are really just wishful thinking on my part; just hoping for some much needed rain.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Near Kingsbury

Near Kingsbury   6 x 12
After spending all morning at Zedler Mill last Saturday, I drove west on I-10 toward Seguin, Texas. Turning off onto FM 1104, I took the opportunity to photograph some of the vistas along the road. This farmland view is one I found of interest for the sunlight was hitting a patch of ground about a half-mile away and the foreground was entirely in shade from the clouds. I have been wanting to paint scenes with this kind of  light quality, so here the first attempt. This is not a plein air piece, but was painted back in the Studio, or in what my sister and her fellow artist friends call, "plain air-conditioning"! It was a fun painting to do and not too tight although, it does use the inset technique in a slightly more formal manner. I worked completely opaque with acrylic paint in complementary colors to start with and then finished it with oils. I'm not sure exactly how long this one took to paint as I was working on this and three other small pieces at the same time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Zedler Mill

Zedler Mill   6x12
South of Austin approximately  forty miles on Hwy. 183 in Caldwell County lies Luling, Texas. Once a cattle & railroad town along the southern Chisholm Trail, it is now mostly known for the oil fields discovered in the 1920's but also for the annual "watermelon thump" held every June. The town has preserved a wonderful complex of structures along the banks of the San Marcos river where the historic Zedler Mill is located. The Mill was built not long after the original dam was constructed in 1874.
The Plein Air Austin painting group met there Saturday morning & spent the better part of the day  painting views of the historic buildings & grounds. It wasn't long after noon when it became another scorching hot summer day. But before I could take a swim in the river, I was determined to paint a view that I liked. For more than an hour I took photographs of the Cotton Gin, the Corn Crib, the Mule Barn & Scale House, until I settled on this view of the Feed Mill  & Engine Room building. 
Recently, all the old roofs were replaced by new galvanized corrugated metal that where reflecting a blazing white in areas, and  they also had an almost cobalt blue color to the shade & shadows. While I did miss not having the old rusted roofs to paint, I also liked the challenge of what the new material offered. The bright new metal & flashing gave the roofs an intense high contrast to the dark shadows & deep rust coloration of the walls. There is a crisp edge  to the quality of all the recent work done on these structures, so they have this mix of old rusted facades under the new roof materials. This is exactly the type of vernacular architecture that has inspired many architects in central Texas, of note the work of Lake/Flato in San Antonio & Mell Lawrence in Austin, to name just two. It is easy to see why. The metal buildings are sited to catch breezes and they have an understated elegance that belies the industrial  uses. These are pragmatic expressions of  construction each containing a character  all their own. It is a mini architectural  heritage tour to walk among the compound of all these buildings.
I had intentionally simplified the composition for this painting. As much as I enjoy rendering architecture, the challenge of the plein air sessions demands keeping it simple, especially  when the heat on. With this painting I  am wanting to convey the large scale of the structure without  using a  long horizontal view to show  all the complex roof lines. The sky is featured almost as much as the subject to suggest that while it is a beautiful day, it is also an intensely hot one in which shade is at a premium,  just as much as any breeze. And believe me, even under the shade of the pecan trees near the river, a gentle breeze is always welcomed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blushing Lily

Blushing Lily   6x6
This is the third of the initial 6 x 6 inch paintings of  waterlilies and it may be my favorite one yet. The colors are full on and as intense as the hot Texas sun. We've been hitting over one hundred degrees here for several days and the pink color seem to match the intensity of the heat. I think these tight little compositions would translate well on larger canvases. For now, I'm good with focusing on these single blooms as I can then start to loosen up and attempt similar arrangements with perhaps more impressionistic brushwork.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Newborn   6 x 6
This little painting really signals a new day on many levels. For the first time in lord knows how long, I was able to paint for most of the day. Actually around five hours on two paintings and even started a third one last night. I am excited and finally starting to paint in a completely opaque manner. These images are what I think will be a successful series from Mayfiled Park. It is a wonderful park close by and a place we love to go and see the ponds in bloom, collect peacock feathers and walk the trials to the creek that feeds into Lake Austin.

Full Bloom

Full Bloom   6 x 6
These two paintings are the first ones painted completely opaque. I began from photographs I took a few weeks ago at Mayfield Park. The first layer was sketched out with a large flat brush in cadmium red. Then successive layers of dark greens and blues until the final lighter colors of thalo yellow green, cerulean blue, and titanium white. The shadows on the pedals are a thin glaze of a dioxazine purple. These are the first ones to work entirely dark to light and it really was great to see them come together. I actually had them side by side to allow the acrylic to dry on one and work on the other. I had thought that the arcylic layers would be the under painting for adding the oils, but just kept going instead. Hey, this could become a habit if I don't mess it up !

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tree Rope

Tree Rope  6 x 12
This painting, for me, brings to mind many of the things I love about summertime in  central Texas. A beautiful natural spot to paint outdoors, a cool swimming hole created by clear spring water, and the majestic scale of the large cypress trees along the water's edge. Fortunately, there are several such places near Austin. When you are lucky enough to live nearby & find the time to go and explore such a place, once you do, you know it is something special. And what swimming hole would be complete without a tree rope to jump in on ?
When I started the 5 x 10 series, I knew it was an easy size to create on watercolor paper. For the opaque paintings on canvas though, it is another matter. My research of the mainstream art suppliers concludes that there is no such animal. However, this 6 x 12 inch canvas board is a size I like and I simply created an inset to define the 5 x 10 area. I have worked this way with sketches and watercolors. It is a way of matting the image and lends itself to an informal work by having the edges of the painting show the loose initial painting and the inside area be the finished work. I think it works well with this size for the Plein Air paintings. For an exact 5 x 10 inch painting, I may need to cut masonite boards to size. These however, may be nice options.

Cypress Creek Morning

Cypress Creek Morning   6 x 12
The paintout session yesterday took place at one of the real gems in the Texas Hill Country. Krause Springs in Spicewood. Located just before the creek flows into Lake Travis, the spring fed swimming pool above the creek is a favorite for kids of all ages. This view is below the springs along the tree lined banks of the creek  looking back upstream to the rock ledge with the rope swing. It was a great day to be there. There is nothing like diving into cold spring water after painting all morning. This is my first attempt at working with an arcylic underpainting and then using the water mixable oils to complete the piece. I worked on it about an hour and a half. & then started another painting. Some final touches were added last night back in the studio with breaks to check out the meteor shower.

Monday, August 9, 2010


"Let's begin" ...
This is the way, I've read, in which a certain famous film director starts when shooting a take. He doesn't say "action", which is what is considered to be typical, but rather he says "Let's begin." It makes me wonder what God might have said in the beginning. You know, at the "Big Bang", the ultimate one take action scene. Might he have said ...(quiet on the set,)  ..."ACTION !" 
Hmmm,...perhaps HE might have said, simply, ..."Let's begin". 

Well, this is not a movie and it certainly is not an act of God, but is it an act of faith, and after months of research and evaluation of whether or not and how to and what if's, I have started this project; a blog. More precisely a blog about my artwork and the process by which it is made. It is an entirely new direction for me, but I am inspired by what I believe to be the most direct way to engage my work with the widest possible audience. My goal is to make the best art possible on a intimate scale and to create and present the content in a way that is worthy of your attention. So, with that,....let's begin.

This watercolor is one that I produced just after my fiftieth birthday in April. It is an imaginary scene depicting what was at the time, perhaps the most colorful springtime I have ever seen in central Texas since moving here some fifteen years ago. It has no title other than the date; 04.21.10 and it measures just under 5 inches wide by approx. 10 inches high. It is a 2 to 1 ratio totaling 50 square inches. It is a prototype for this project. To me that is perfect for this point in my life at 50 years old. A new beginning.
Five by Ten or 5 x 10. It was the theme of a small gathering for my fiftieth birthday and it seems perfect to use as a project painting size. I am going to produce as many of these five by ten paintings as possible until the 18th of April, 2011. I will post these new paintings here where you may see them and comment on them and also contact me to purchase them should you wish. The final details will be worked out, but the importance for me is to begin producing the work. I have plenty of subject matter and materials to use. Not all of the paintings will be in watercolor. But, I often find scraps of watercolor paper remaining from the architectural renderings I produce for Studio B. I find them and simply start to paint for the sake of painting and many times it is of the sky with clouds. A scene for the day, if you will. A visual diary of the days weather perhaps, or even just a sky with minimum landscape. I have dozens of these paintings I have produced over the past four or five years. I am drawn to how watercolor can capture and depict the sky & clouds with the simplest of means using pigment and water. It is the most appropriate medium for creating the cloud vapors against a clear blue sky using water as the common element between the two. It is something that is simple and yet magical while never being quite the same way twice.
There it is then. That may well be the mission statement here; To create something magical and never be exactly the same way twice.