Friday, September 30, 2016

Point To Point

Today is Day 30 of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. It has been a challenge this time around but I posted something everyday, even if it was just a quick sketch. The point of the challenge is to keep me thinking and pushing myself to be in the studio everyday. I may not physically be in the studio but at least my head is there. Some of my sketches were done in a moving car as we drove up highway 81, some were done from a trip to the Smoky Mountains, others from photos I have taken, even worked on ideas for cider labels and a few were done just because I wanted to.

It is kind of nice that the 30-30 ended on a Friday. I now have the weekend to celebrate. Plus, as a bonus tonight will be a dark moon. If the rain clouds move out I might even see it!

Here is the last post for the 30-30. As I finish up some that were not totally done, like the squirrel, I will update the 30-30 album on FaceBook. The "Pin Oak Leaves" are done in a stipple (dot-point) technique. It is a slow process, I worked from a photo and dried leaves. The sketch was started in graphite, moved to pen & ink. I will do a step by step on this soon. Yes, it did take more than a day.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Making Changes

Closing in on the last two days of the 30-30 challenge. I truly do not know what I will do for the last day. I generally have something to finish up, something sketched out or at the very least an idea. Well, I really do have several ideas, just not sure which one will come to the surface. I have a couple oil paintings that are mid-way in process, stacked along with pictures, papers and even a wood board I picked up to draw or paint on that is still waiting to be developed. I think there will be an owl or two on that board, just have not gotten to it yet. The bobcat is still waiting to be more than just a graphite sketch, he may get started but would not be very far along for tomorrow's post. Once I walk into my studio it will all come together.

Yesterday, I was going through works that may go into shows and came across a fall scene. It had been done on sanded paper. Which anyone that knows me or takes my workshops knows I am not a fan of sanded paper. The colors seemed dull, as if they had faded. I picked up some of my softer bright pastels and went to work. I pushed my comfort level in color, making it vibrant. I generally don't do vibrant colors. Once the colors looked good, I needed to bump up the contrast, going back into the dark's and finishing with the light hitting the bark of the trees. I pretty much re-did this little pastel painting. I look at the first layer as the under-painting.

The image "Autumn Lights" is of trees that were in my backyard when I lived in Maryland. I have done a similar painting or two of these trees. The picture I took was developed in film, not digital and it was one of those fall days when the light was clear and intense. It is a good memory. Changes come and changes go, this pastel painting changed from soft and mellow to something that is bright with light.

Day 29 "Autumn Lights" pastel on sanded paper

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Endings and Beginnings

September is almost over, it has been a very busy month. It was very hard to keep the postings going for the 30-30. The last couple of days are not going to be any easier. Today is Day 28 and I did not get the piece I was working on done, it is close but need one more day. It is from a photo I took of a squirrel having his breakfast. I have another photo of him looking down at me which might be a follow up piece. This is done on coffee stained paper with pastels. The squirrel is mostly done, needs a few highlights. The branch he was sitting on was covered with moss, that will take a few layers and lots of nerve type work, little touches here and there.

Once the 30-30 is over, I will be getting ready for art shows in October. The Historic Burwell-Morgan, Art at the Mill show is up and ready. The show opens October 1st and runs through October 16th, with an Artists Reception October 9th from 5:00-7:00. I will be at the reception this year. For more information check the web site

October 7th, First Friday Art Walk in Blacksburg, VA I will be the featured artist for the Matrix Gallery, 115 N. Main St., Blacksburg, VA. The show is titled: Tree Songs, it will have pastels, mixed medium and oil paintings. There will of course be lots of trees, along with birds and if he gets finished maybe a squirrel. The opening reception on the 7th is from 5:00-7:00 which includes a Scavenger Hunt in the city.

October 21st, Friday afternoon from 3:00-6:00 I will be at Matrix Gallery for a special demonstration and reception. If you can't make it to the opening come on by for the 2nd reception.

There are other things in the works and once they are confirmed I will let you know. Until then here is today's post, the works at the Mill show and something to be found at the Matrix show.

Art at the Mill
Day 28 "Breakfast Time" pastel on coffee stained paper

"Southern Roots" Matrix Gallery

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Drawing Leaves

Day 27 of the 30-30 challenge, this little pin oak leaf is one I started in MD. I have another grouping of the pin oaks in process. The single leaf was drawn directly from the leaf in graphite on paper. The grouping will be done from photographs and dried leaves. Plus, I use photoshop to create a simple outline to eliminate the details.

Starting the drawing, I do a very loose sketch using a cross between contour and gesture drawing. This helps me get my propositions correct. I generally will start with an HB pencil, then moved to B, 2B and 4B for the final dark's.

I think drawing with graphite is still my all time favorite.

Day 27 "pin oak" graphite on paper

Monday, September 26, 2016


Crossing lines, going back and forth, changing directions. These words could apply to many things but for this blog Crisscross is a techniques were lines can go in many directions. It is also known as cross hatching. Hatching would be single lines not crossing each other, cross hatching as it sounds crossing over making little X shapes to create the image. Like stippling, little dots, it is not a fast process but it is interesting and effective.

Today's post is of Rutgers (Beccy's cat) it too was started in AZ. I am making progress getting through some of the half finished pieces but the graphite sketches are still waiting to move forward. Hoping to get that Bobcat going soon!

Day 26 "Rutgers" pen & ink

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Going Into The Unknown

Day 25 - 30-30 Challenge, for the moment this piece is titled "Pear" it is a Black and White ink on paper work. I was challenging myself with this piece, trying to see if I could make the textures on the pear work in this technique. Experimenting with the background, using the poor mans airbrush, a toothbrush. The technique is called fly speckling, creating soft little dots, adding more to make it darker in areas. It was not working as well as I had hoped, Taking a paint brush in hand making new marks and patterns, it started to come together. The addition of white gel markers back into the pear to bring out more texture and light.

For now the pear stands alone, there will always be more experimenting.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Aspen Songs

Day 24 - 30-30 Challenge "Aspen Songs" another of the long format mixed medium pieces. The background for this piece was done last year. One of those that had a background and new not what it was going to become. I ask friends what they saw within the frame - Aspens - was the answer. I thought on it for awhile, I new it would need 3 long trees, this one without the roots. A few autumn leaves and touches of colors here and there using my softest pastels. They tend to work better on top of the watercolor crayons I use for the under painting.

This piece will be included in a show in October at The Matrix Gallery, Blacksburg, VA. More on this later.

Fly Away

Day 23 - 30-30 challenge "Light As..." I reworked the feather from earlier, adding the dark tones, bringing up the light/whites and working with the shadows. I worked from a real feather that I found on a hike somewhere.

Keeping feathers in the same place is not always easy. You would think they would just stay in one place. Something as simple as the A/C unit kicking on can be enough to blow the feather off the drawing table. This also tends to change how the individual parts of the feather comes together. The down side to be light as a feather.

Day 23 "Light As..." charcoal and pastel

Here Come The Elephants

It is Elephant Appreciation Day! So, in honor of the elephants I did a quick sketch of a baby elephant learning to use it's truck for Day 22 of the 30-30 challenge. Did you know that elephants have 40,000 muscles and tendons in their truck? It takes a baby elephant about a year to figure out how to use all of those muscles. They often trip over their own truck as it gets in the way.

Elephants are not only the largest land mammal but they can move at a pretty amazing speed, up to 35 mph. The head of a herd of elephants is the oldest female. Elephants really do have an amazing memory, the oldest female will know the best locations to find water, food or to hide. Elephants are social and highly intelligent, being self-aware. They are protective of their young and each other.

Elephants in Botswana
Here are a few elephant sketches, paintings and photographs. Happy Elephant Appreciation Day!!!

Day 22 - Appreciating Elephants

"Never Forget" oil on canvas, 12X36"

"Leaving" hand pulled lithograph limited edition

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Now You See Me

Today's post is another, re-worked pastel, one that just needed a few extra touches. The Tyto Alba - barn owl, one of the most common owls that can be seen across the  U.S.A and into Mexico.

With fall upon us thought it a good selection for today. The barn owl has a soft white face, that is referred to as ghostly. Along with that comes stories of wise old owls. They nest, hide, in barns, old buildings, and of course tree tops.

Even though they are well established across the country, it is rare to see them. They generally hunt at night and have such keen hearing they need little light to see their prey. On a dark evening if you hear what sounds like a scream it may be a barn owl.

Day 20 of the 30-30 challenge. "Tyto Alba - barn owl" pastel on paper

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rainy Monday

The weekend was very busy, lots of friends in town, football games and a lovely dinner with friends Sunday night. It is now Monday, plus it is raining, seems to me to be a good day to stay inside and work in the studio.

Today's post - day 19 of 30-30 is a work in progress. Not only do I enjoy painting birds but the individual feather is always a favorite. One of those single items that can have so much detail and for me be very meditative. My work in progress is a feather. I may have another work on the easel today too but more on that later this month.

Day 19 - "light as..." charcoal, reductive technique

Sunday, September 18, 2016


To take a look at something again, to rewind. I started a American Kestrel as a demonstration piece in July at the NOMA gallery. As I looked at it I was not happy with the way the tree branch went up along the side of the page, it felt off balance. I wanted to add more detail to the body of the bird, brighten the whites and make the blacks darker.

This is my rewind, going back into a piece and making adjustments. There are times when those adjustments may not have been the improvement you had in mind but I think I like this this version better.

Day 18 of the 30-30 Challenge - "American Kestrel" pastel 10x11" image
Day 18 "American Kestrel" rewind version
Demo at gallery - work in progress

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sketching Memories

Day 17 of the 30-30 Challenge, it is more of a sketch a day then a painting a day. I am okay with that, fall is always busy so if I can get one little sketch in a day, I am happy.

Today's memory - Africa - the Baobab Tree, it is large around and tall. It has been said that it grows upside down, as the top often looks like a root system. I have had an idea in mind for several years. In fact it is really two ideas for paintings. One just the tree, the other trees with elephants. They may not get done this month, this fall or even this year but  they are on the top of the list for 2017!

Until then, a quick memory sketch of a Baobab Tree.


Quick Sketch

The weekend is here - and it will be a very busy one. Lots of friends in town for our traditional group football game at VA Tech.

Even with all the activities going on this weekend I will have my sketchbook and pencil by my side. Quick sketches will be done, of what, not sure but it is more about the observation and practice.  

This type of sketching is not meant to be finished or fine art. It helps hand, eye and mind coordination. It also documents moments in time. Brings back memories of places and people. Sometimes inspires a piece that will become a painting. 

Today's 30-30 post for Day 16 is simply titled "Bob" it brings back a memorial of Tucson, AZ where I took the reference photo of a bob cat and got the beginnings of a quick sketch. With a little luck and time, 'Bob" will turn up on the easel soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Half Way Point

Day 15 of the 30-30 Challenge, half way through and things are going to start getting interesting. As the full moon is approaching, along with officially being autumn and football season, life gets a little busier than normal.

Today's post is another mixed medium trees creation. This time it is a long horizontal format. Titled: "Forest For Trees", thinking about the 30-30 I realized that this discipline is for me to be able to keep art the focus but try not to worry about the details. I am trying to keep the bigger picture for the month: create, be in the studio, do art every day even if it is a simple sketch.

The end result will be ideas for future works and finishing works that have been waiting to be done. As this month moves forward, there will be a few days, especially weekends that may just have a quick gesture drawing. Even possible I may miss a day but I will catch up, if I miss a day or two I will just move it into October, I will commit to 30 pieces of art, just not necessarily within 30 days. But, I am okay with that and hope you are too. I will be working, creating, some days I may be framing, hanging a show or be at a football game!

Day 15 - "Forest For Trees" mixed Medium framed/matted 12X22

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hawk Eye

Day 14 of the 30-30, another bird, another hawk, quick sketch done in graphite. Still debating over doing a single hawk image or one with multiple hawks on one page. Thinking I am leaning towards the multiples using the watercolor crayons as under painting, then ink, some pastel and white charcoal.

On the east coast and pretty much the whole of N. America you will see Red Tailed Hawks. Even though they are known for having a red tail, it varies in color. The underside can be very pale and on some species it can be more brown toned. The most common Red Tailed Hawk has a light under-body with brown, rust color feathers to the upper body. Juveniles generally have more light colored feathers.

Harris Hawks are seen in the lower southern part of N. America and in parts of S. America. They have darker bodies with reddish feathers upper and lower body. Juveniles have a mix of lighter chest feathers. The tail feathers are darker brown with light feathers mixed in creating a bar pattern.

These are just two of many hawks and within these two there are varieties. Most hawks have a rounded wing span. They are seen high up on trees, telephone poles as they hunt or look to catch an air current. Harris Hawks work in cooperation in hunting and caring for their young.

Today's hawk is a Harris Hawk that I saw in AZ.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Follow Me Down

Day 13 of the 30-30 challenge is "Follow Me Down" one of the tree/roots mixed medium pieces. I have been taking pictures of trees, leaves and roots for, well, lots of years. I have a very large collection of them. I try to keep track of what part of the country, world, the trees can be found. Sometimes what starts as one tree changes and becomes another. This is true of this image.

Follow Me Down, started in AZ as a small 5X7 piece, a tree truck with some roots. It felt like it needed to be bigger. I had a 11X14 piece of coffee stained watercolor paper. I adhered the small piece to the larger paper. Pulled out more photo references. This time the tree had one reference, The Almighty Colbert Oak. This tree is part of Stadium Woods, 11.5 acres of old-growth urban forest. Providing a balanced ecosystem structure that is thought rare for urban forests. Cooper's Hawks return each year during migration. The forest provides protection for many birds and wildlife. Many of the trees are over 300 years old. It is indeed rare to find this place in nature rooted on the campus of Virginia Tech.

This piece along with "Fire Water" and others will be on exhibit at The Matrix Gallery in October. Opening Artist Reception First Friday Art Walk October 7th 5:00 - 7:00. Later in the month Friday October 21st from 3:00 - 6:00 there will be a after the Thursday night game reception. Weather permitting I may be outside doing a little street painting...not sure if that will be literal on the street or just plein air with my easel. You may just need to come by to see! Until then here is "Follow Me Down".

Monday, September 12, 2016


Monday - a new week - a new start - a new feeling of hope. This weekend I was running the roads. Work is dropped off for the Burwell-Morgan Fall Art at the Mill show. It opens October 1st runs through October 16th with an Artist Reception on October 9th from 5-7. Located in Millwood, VA. Here is the web site for additional information:

Stopped in NOMA gallery in downtown Frederick, MD. Had lunch with friends, dinner with friends and even got a breakfast in before hitting the road back to Virginia. In-between, worked on the how-to's of using an airbrush with Marilu. Review design ideas for cider labels and took some photos of pear leaves and pear blossoms. I thought how hopeful this tree was that it was producing flowers again in hopes of making more fruit before the fall/winter weather arrives.

Hope - it is good to have hope. Merriam-Wedster, states that hope is a verb, it's simple definition is:
"to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true" The pear tree was being hopeful, even though it will not make it through the cycle of growth to bear new fruit, it did provide me with a lovely image to remind me to be hopeful and give it a try.

Pear Blossom - Hope

Art at the Mill 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Brush With Air

Saturday Marilu and I got together to experiment with her new toy - an airbrush. It has been too many years to remember since I last used an airbrush. This one was small and compact with limited instructions. 

After literally taking it apart and reassembling it, ta-da, it was working. Marilu will use it for scratchboard. I have some thoughts on backgrounds for pastels and ink illustrations.

I did not think to take pictures while we were working. I did get a nice morning shot at the farm in Middletown, MD when there was no air moving and before it reached 99 degrees.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Flip - Flop

Working on a series of leaf - leaves images for Willow Oaks craft cider & wine labels. One of the single leaf images is from one of the pear trees on their organic farm in Maryland. As I was thinking about the graphic design of a single leaf, I did the original on black in white ink. Playing around in photoshop I first flip the direction and then flop it from black background to white.

Today's 30-30 is a two-fer, the leaf in black on white paper and black paper with white leaf. Do you have a favorite?

As The Crow Flies

The shortest distance between two places or is it more like you can't get there from here??? But, never the less, being it's all the same, I am on the road again. Heading into MD via Millwood, VA. The fall Art at the Mill show is coming up soon. Opening October 1st goes through the October 16th with Artists Reception, Sunday October 9th from 5:00 - 7:00 P.M. 15 Tannery Lane, Millwood, VA.

If you have not had the opportunity to get to this event, this would be the time to put it on your calendar. It is a juried show held in the Historic Burwell-Morgan Mill. The drive, the area, worth a day trip and the leaves should be pretty nice by than. Pack a lunch or find someplace near by, bring your camera, your sketchbook or just come and enjoy the art, the surroundings and the history. Here is the link for more information.

In honor of a day on the road, Day 9 30-30 post is a graphite sketch from along Hwy 81.

One of the works that will be in the Art at the Mill show.
Day 9 graphite sketch from Highway 81


I try to be organized in my work. Although looking at my office/framing/staging room it is hard to believe. When I am working on projects, like the 30-30 challenge or a themed show I pull lots of similar images together. This leads to me working in a series.

When I have an idea that needs to be fined tuned, I do graphite sketches. Some of these are quick studies to work on proportions. Other drawings are done focusing on details, the pattern in the feathers or bark of a tree, the shape of the eye, leaves, even pods. Some ask why do these sketches why not just start painting? The more I look at an image live or in photographs the better I connect to the general shape and smallest of details. There have been times I like the sketch better than the finished painting.

Today's post for 30-30 is a Red-Tailed Hawk. I posted a previous hawk, that I believe is a Harris Hawk. They are similar and in a graphite sketch of mainly the head not as easy to tell apart. I need to work on my research for a later post on the different patterns and colors of hawks. Till then here are my studies.

Day 8 Red Tailed Hawk graphite study

Day 3 Harris Hawk graphite study

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fire Water

Day 7 - one week into the 30-30 challenge. Today's post is titled "Fire Water", it is one of the mixed medium pieces. It starts out with the watercolor crayons. I had lots of photographs of trees in the fall as beginning reference. So, on this background I did know that I wanted orange and blue combination. After it was sprayed with water and denatured alcohol, it was left to dry.

It had a long time to dry. I had put it away in the stack of works to be done at a later date...and had thought it made the journey to AZ over the winter but alas it did not. It was not alone, there were 3 other long format watercolor backgrounds that had been started and waiting to be finished. Like I have said in the past that doing these 30-30 challenges is a way of helping me not only stay in the studio but finish up pieces that have been put aside.

I started narrowing down the image by the effects that occurred from the abstracted background. I knew the Duck Pond on the campus of VA Tech had groupings of trees reflecting in the water. I went back through my reference photos and found just the right one to finish the composition. This piece did require another adjustment to the background, it only took a day for it to dry. Then onto the drawing table to add, pastel and ink.

While I was working on this piece, I thought of the title. At one point it looked like it was on fire and the reflecting into the water - out came "Fire Water".

Many people ask, how long did it take you to do that? Well, I guess it took a year. The 30-30 is geared to doing a painting a day. I do not work that fast. In-between the larger, detailed pieces, I work on smaller images and sketches. I will try to post something everyday but for me it will not always be a finished painting.

"Fire Water" mixed medium 5x14" image 8x18" matted 10x20" with frame

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sit - See - Sketch

Sometimes when you are just sitting and waiting you catch a glimmer of light or the cast of a shadow. If you happen to have a pen or pencil and your little sketchbook in your bag - take advantage of those small moments and let it be a moment of meditation.

Day 6 - sketch by the road - graphite

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Matter Of Balance

Trying to keep balance in my life seems to be a reoccurring theme. Last week I wrote about the rock structures in the Smoky Mountains. Sunday evening, Rick and I went over to Hahn Garden to see the outside art exhibits. These are interactive works of art throughout the gardens. 

One of the hands on pieces was Cairns. These man-made stacks of rocks. So, when in Rome...we each built our own little trail marker. Taking a few moments to work with rocks and find a moment of balance. 

Today's 30-30 is "Balance & Breathe" a graphite and ink study for what may be a charcoal piece later down the road.

30-30 "Balance and Breathe"
My Cairn
Rick building a Cairn
A door in the garden, a play on shadows

Sunday, September 4, 2016

What's On The Floor

When you need a nice flat surface to work on, there's always the floor. The mixed medium pieces require a flat place to drip and dry. I started a few pieces last year, yes I said last year. This week I worked on them and have 2 of the 3 done.

The mixed medium pieces often start as a non-objective work. Using watercolor crayons to create the backgrounds. I love the unexpected results that occur when they are sprayed with water and denatured alcohol. This is the part that requires the floor. I place the pieces on newsprint and spray them from above, sometimes they bend and cause drips. Other times I pick them up and see what happens naturally. 

Once they dry I let them tell me what comes next. These pieces were conceived not so much my accident but my demonstration. I was teaching a workshop showing how the watercolor crayons can be used as under-painting. As the piece was drying it created, its own kind of landscape. 

The light bulb came on, this could be my own way of creating landscape type pieces. Since, I do not enjoy painting the whole landscape. These smaller works capture a snippet of a view, usually involving a tree.

Today's 30-30 is titled "turn around".

What's on the floor...

Day 4 "turn around" mixed medium

Saturday, September 3, 2016

For The Birds

This weekend I am moving on to birds and trees. Currently on the easel is a great blue heron in a tree overlooking the Duck Pond at VA Tech. I enjoy doing the tree pieces in the long format and yes there will be some of those coming soon, I would like to incorporate birds into these trees. The current tree pieces are smaller works focusing on the whole tree including the root system. Moving forward with the trees they may be more about the detail of the bark, leaves and the limbs with birds upon the branches.

I was checking to see what bird events might be coming up, there are a lot. As the fall approaches the migration patterns of birds are the focus of festival in North America. There is the Birding and Wildlife Festival on the eastern shore. Wings Over Water in N.C. and so much more...I discovered that there was a mural project out of N.Y. some years ago and it appears that it is still in process. It is sponsored by The Audubon Society and I saw some images dated May - June 2016. I love discovering new ways to keep the arts alive, giving them to the public, employing young/young at heart artists and giving old buildings new life.

Will see if I can get to any of the festival as they often have rehabitation birds to take photos of and learn about the species. I do not lack for images of birds to work from and if I feel I need a close up different angle or detail I can always go over to the Duck Pond or maybe Pandapas Pond. Until then I will work from what I have in the studio.

Today's 30-30 post graphite sketch of a hawk.
Hawk Day 3 graphite working sketch

Friday, September 2, 2016

Back To The Mountains

Today's image for the 30-30 challenge takes me back to The Great Smoky Mountains. While driving the Fork Loop Nature Trail, we pulled off to check out small waterfalls that caught our eye. I managed to balance myself on a couple rocks in the middle of the stream to start a little plein air piece. Took some reference photos just before it started raining. At first I thought it was just a splash from the water flow but this little work on paper was not meant to be finished on site. 

Ink on toned paper 6X8" title: Follow Through

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Here We Go Again 30-30

Last year I did the 30-30 Challenge for September. In January of this year I was a little late getting things going so I did a 21 Jump Start. How quickly the year has gone and we are back to September. Yes, I am doing the 30-30 Challenge for September. I will not be doing the January challenge in 2017 so thought I should give myself a little push and do this almost fall challenge.

As usual I will be wrapping up some pieces that were started and put aside for later. I will post some working sketches for projects I want to do working out if they will be oil, pastel or a mixed medium. I have lots of trees I need to work on for a show in October. Plus, need to work on some leaves and maybe pears/apples for labels for cider from Willow Oaks craft cider and wine.

I have lots of ides, lots of projects and several shows coming up to keep me busy. I hope to post something every day for the next 30 days but there will be some travel days in there so we shall see. Wish me luck!!!

Here is a Mountain Lion in pastel that I am still working on, started him in June and will be finished in September. These are a few step by step images so you can see how I work.

Toned Rives BFK paper with soft pastels, sketch in white charcoal

Add darks

Block in colors and start details

Additive colors and details with pastel pencils - Almost done...

What's That Sound???

You know you are in Wyoming when you wake to the sound of horses. With limited wi-fi service it has been a lot harder to get blogs written a...