Friday, November 22, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cedar Arch II

1.108 Cedar Arch II

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

White House Ruins VIII

1.107 White House Ruins VIII. I've been trying for years to simplify this scene without losing the sense of scale between the houses and the cliff face. I've used extreme detail that distracted from the sense that the houses a fitted to the cliff face and I've painted a blocky trichrome abstraction that flattened the scene and made for a confused perspective. Here I think I've come the closest of all of my eight attempts to capturing what it is that draws me to this subject. The deep gouge in the cliff that swallows up the houses in shadow and then extends upward narrowing to a crack between two sandstone faces that seem to be pressed together to shelter the anasazi that lived in these now ruined houses. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Arch Rock

1.106 Arch Rock. Each year after I've finished with the planning and preparations and packaging and the actual festival of Artsplosure I find it difficult to settle back into painting regularly. One reason may be that I'm always rethinking my style after Artsplosure. Most times my favorite paintings seem to be ignored by my visitors and others that I hadn't thought so highly of really connect with a lot of people. So I struggle with painting something I like versus something that is popular. The result it usually months without painting until I finally come up with a different style. 
This year my style finally connected the way that I hoped it would. My favorite paintings were noticed and not just by people who appreciated the desert landscape but by people who appreciated them as art too. This was encouraging and I was determined to start painting again right away so that I could continue to develop this style.
I started this painting a few weeks ago but have been stuck for a long time over what to do with the shadows. I felt like the white space at the bottom of the painting was too vast. So I tried over and over in my head to add some kind of accent to that space. In the end I realized that just as I like to have large featureless dark areas in my paintings so should I allow large white areas. I'll have to revisit this over the coming weeks to see if I still feel the same way...

Monday, April 15, 2013


1.105 Self. A good friend of mine asked if I had ever painted a self portrait while we were out at dinner over the weekend. I replied that I hadn't and that if I did I would have to paint myself as a crumbling piece of sandstone. Immediately after I finished my last painting I was sitting, disgusted with myself, and decided to give self portraiture a try. I couldn't do any worse than I just had! 
The sun was setting and my north facing window was giving a trickle of pale light and the tungsten lamp that I use to illuminate my canvas while I paint was reddening the left side of my already sun burnt face. So I decided to paint each part with the exact color that I saw when I looked in the mirror. This resulted in a strange palette as my poor color mixing skills combined with the changing light as I painted.
Facial proportions suffered as I smeared layer upon layer trying to approximate what I saw of myself in the mirror on the floor propped against the wall. Overall, I'm a bit terrified of the painting and have placed it face down against the wall in my bedroom, but I had a great amount of fun working on it!

Coyote Gulch II

1.104 Coyote Gulch II. Usually when a painting is going this badly I will leave it unfinished, but I really believed that something good was going to materialize up until the very end. When I painted the shaded shrubs in the foreground and they just showed up flat on the canvas I realized that it was really beyond help. I'd guess that one of the reasons for this failure is the color palette. The colors can be used to suggest the depth of each feature in the field of the painting, but the purple features look so much farther forward than the grey shadows of the background. Also, once again, and I'm still cringing from last time (teardrop arch), I invented shadows where there were none in an attempt to create interest in the top of the painting. This gives the whole thing a frame-like look which is painfully cheesy. I thought that the shape of the sky seen through the arch would be interesting enough to make a great painting, but I made it too symmetrical and boring. I think that this is an interesting subject. I just need to be more confident in the strength of the open spaces and not clutter them up with contrived details. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013


1.103 Goosenecks.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Double Arch IV

1.102 Double Arch IV

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Monument Valley V

1.101 Monument Valley V

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Surprise Arch III

1.98 Surprise Arch III

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Death Valley

1.97 Death Valley. 

Maze V

1.96 The Maze V. I really struggled trying to create depth in this painting. I left the dark of the central arch for last and had been pleased with the progress until I finished that last section and stepped back to look at the painting. Instead of a pocket dug into the sandstone with an oculus high over the rim in the shadow of the alcove, it looked like a wall, flat to the viewer, that had been painted brown. I realized that I had let shapes and colors from different planes mingle together as I had layered them. This pulled the background up and stuffed the foreground down into one flatish plane. 
I went back to try to segregate the planes again. The orange-y highlights had all been the same shade because I had imagined them to all be part of one continuous wall that wrapped around from behind the arch. I decided instead to use different shades with defined borders to emphasize the distance and position of the features. I thickened the rim of the alcove and blended a few shades of brown into the ceiling in an attempt to suggest the form of the arch. 
I've always been intrigued by the idea of suggesting a form only using the shadows that it casts. Here the shadows below the alcove suggest that it reaches out over the rim of the wall it is dug into. I thought about including a highlight where the sun would be shining through the oculus from behind the alcove but worried that it would look unnatural as it had when I had done it in a previous painting. I'm still not satisfied with the result of these efforts but I think that I will need to start over again fresh rather than continue to muddle this painting. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ibex Dunes

1.94 Ibex Dunes. The sand in this painting required a lot more subtle color differences and blending than I typically use. This meant that I had to paint all of the color exactly as I wanted it to be before I could lay on the shadows. If I discovered that a bluish area needed to move over slightly, it would be too late to correct it after I had added the shadows which would preclude the use of the big brush I needed to do the blending. I typically try to paint with this in mind but usually find myself making corrections for reasons of composition at the end. What I discovered here though was that all the blending allowed me to move elements of the scene around while the paint was still wet and I made a lot of adjustments before I let that layer of paint dry. I'm going to have to come back to this one over the next couple of days to decide if it is interesting or not.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Park Avenue III

1.93 Park Avenue III. I wonder if I use too much color in these night scenes. I always set out thinking that I'm going to create a monochromatic blue painting when I start a night scene. In the end, I can't resist mixing in dull sunset colors on the stone. This is how I remember these scenes for some reason. I remember sitting, watching the sun set and the stars appear; remembering the colors of the sunset while the rising full moon relieves the shadows that the scene disappeared into as the sun set. I guess this is the reason I paint pictures instead of just recording them with a camera; I can show what I remember when a photograph doesn't.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shiprock II

1.92 Shiprock II. This is the sight that started my fascination with the southwest when I was a kid. This massive jagged stone pushed up through the center of an otherwise flat, featureless field with sawtoothed walls of stone running up to it. The walls look too tall and thin to be formed by natural weathering, almost like a massive volcano began to erupt through cracks in the the earth before the magma was frozen mid air. This turns out to be partially true, as the formation is the neck of an ancient volcano that has been unearthed by erosion over 20 million years. Shiprock was like nothing I had ever seen, and that photograph captured my imagination.

Many years later I finally found my way to that field in New Mexico. Along the way I had met a Navajo man in Page, Arizona who had told me a story about a giant bird that nested atop the rock. A young Navajo man had bravely climbed to the top and taken a feather from the bird which he used to make the first fletching, which allowed him to turn the tide in a war. This was a sacred site, and there were many different stories about it.

Hearing all of these stories had transmitted a sense of reverence to me and I was hesitant to approach the central rock. The wind blew so hard across the field that it was difficult to walk. I climbed the hill to the stone wall leading to the rock. Out of breath from fighting the wind as I climbed I opened my mouth to take a breath but my lungs were filled by the wind without my having to inhale. I gasped and choked as I leaned with my hand resting on the wall. I had touched the place that I had dreamed about for so long and it had touched me. I couldn't bring myself to go any further so I left, and shiprock is still in the distance for me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Monument Valley IV

1.91 Monument Valley IV. This was an extremely quick painting. I wanted to focus on emphasizing the distance as the buttes receded on the horizon. As usual, I did this by adding increasing amounts of grey to the colors that I mixed for highlights and shadows. In this instance, I think that the difference between each level in the painting was too much and that the buttes appear to be of different colors rather than farther away. The ground is all the same shade because it was supposed to be a hill in the foreground. Perhaps this is not obvious and that is what makes the colors in the distance seem so false.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Monitor and Merrimack

1.89 Monitor and Merrimack. After finishing the painting of Antelope Canyon on a huge canvas, I decided to do one more on a tiny 12x16 canvas. I used the same wet on wet style here that I used previously, but tried to learn how to control it a little better and create the contrast the I want to convey in my paintings. 

I'm trying to be less careful with my paintings; to work quickly and see what results rather than carefully planning each step, practicing each stroke with my brush hovering over the canvas. I've treated every painting as an important work; thinking about how it fits in with my previous work and how it will look when I post it on this blog. I decided a long time ago that I would post any painting that I finished even if I hated it because I felt that it might be helpful to other aspiring painters who happened upon this blog to see the up and down process that one goes through in creating art. The problem is that I always play it safe when working on a painting; I don't want to create something so horrible that I'll be ashamed to see it on my website. Going forward I'm going to try to ignore my instinct to cling to the familiar, safe choices and paint exactly as I feel.

Antelope Canyon

1.88 Antelope Canyon. I'm usually very stingy with my paint. I always wait for a previous layer of paint to dry before I apply the next layer so that I can use the least amount of paint to render the color difference. One consequence of this approach is that I rarely finish a painting in one day, let alone one sitting. I've often wondered if this has an effect on my style of painting and whether or not finishing a painting in one continuous sitting would result in a different type of work.

I've wanted to paint antelope canyon since I visited it years ago, but I never have because of perceived limitations in my style of painting. First, the shadows on the smooth, curving canyon wall slowly blend into the light which is the antithesis of the stark shadows that I usually like to paint. Second, a painting of antelope canyon would require so many layers of paint and waiting for said paint to dry that I never thought I'd have the patience. 

Today I decided that I'd paint all the layers at once, while the paint was wet. Starting from the most distant layer I laid on thick sheets of paint, adding more and more to overwhelm the colors from the layers below as I went from highlight to shadow. One of the major challenges that I discovered with this style of painting was attempting to disguise my brushstrokes. With colors from underneath blending with the paint on my brush as I dragged it across the canvas, it was impossible to hide the beginning and end of each stroke. I had to make each stroke begin and end at the edge of the canvas or else blend the colors from the layers below. This was difficult for me as I like to create sharp contrast between the elements of a scene in my paintings.

The benefit of this style of painting is the frequent encounters with the unexpected. Colors that were buried deep below would appear seredipitously to create interesting effects that I had not planned. I tried to train myself to look for these elements as they came into existence because it was all too easy to wipe them away with the next stroke of the brush and never even notice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Smith Fork Canyon

1.87 Smith Fork Canyon. I'm trying to plan a cross country trip to live in the Utah desert for 6 months. In order to carry enough supplies for 6 months of painting in my jeep I'll have to live without my 1" deep canvases. I bought this gessoboard to try out as an alternative, and got some interesting results. The smooth surface and lack of absorbency allowed me to smear on multiple layers of color and to determine the blend of these colors by varying the pressure on my brush as I scrubbed it up and down the board. I even got out the palette knife that I haven't used in years to tidy up the little blotches that are so visible when a brush is lifted from such a smooth, saturated surface at the end of a stroke. 
I didn't set out to create a painting so different in style than what I usually create; the style was driven by the properties of the surface.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Paul Bunyan Arch II

1.86 Paul Bunyan Arch II. The first painting that I did of this arch is one of my favorites. The noon lighting and sharp edged shapes lend themselves to the kind of depiction I was striving for. It was one of the first times where I was consciously trying to treat the shadows as an arrangement of shapes and altering my depiction to create shapes that I thought were pleasing.
I wanted to revisit this arch to try a different approach. The original painting used a lot of blending to hint at what was foreground and background and to depict the glow of reflected light on the underside of the arch. Here, I'm trying to create that same depth using only blocks of solid color. Looking back at the original, I think I've fallen short in this regard. However, I think that the colors in this version are more pleasant. The challenge is to approach as nearly as possible the understanding of the scene that one would receive from standing in front of the actual arch. I think that depth is crucial to this and I will have to continue to work to find a way to depict depth in this style.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bowtie Arch II

1.85 Bowtie Arch II. This is actually a painting of a painting. It is a crop of the first painting I did of Bowtie Arch back in 2010. I repeated the method of successive sketches that I used for my last painting. This time I also included the relative tone of each section in my sketching.