Saturday, April 6, 2019

SKETCH Staunton

Here's a LOCAL update for you Virginia peeps . . .

For several years, I've wanted to start up a local Staunton, Virginia urban sketching-style group--something good for Staunton and good for local artists and sketchers. Staunton is ideal for such a sketching group with its civil war history, architecture, historic gardens, and colorful year-round events. We are arguably the cultural HOT SPOT of Virginia. Wow! it's a mystery to me why nobody's engineered the sketching phenomena in Staunton until now. So, "Step aside. I'll do it!"

To start with you can JOIN our new FACEBOOK group [search SKETCH Staunton] - We are a group of dedicated local artists/sketchers capturing the beauty and history of Staunton, VA. What's posted on the group page, stays in the group, like images, conversations, tips, techniques, locations, meetup alerts, etc. We're a "closed" group.

I've started an Instagram page for SKETCH Staunton and (with permissions) sketchers work is posted there for you to see, enjoy, LOVE, and comment on. Take a look at us so far at
SKETCH Staunton on Instagram

If you are not a Facebook user and have an interest in joining us, you can reach us by email at

Please note: WE ARE NOT a member of the international group known as Urban Sketchers

For now, we're meeting once a week on Thursdays, but we've got BIG plans, including a once a month meetup on Sundays, and periodic "sketch crawls" at big events like our annual Harry Potter event, Queen City Mischief and Magic festival that takes place over three days in Staunton.

Here's one of my recent sketches . . .

SKETCH Staunton -  Paris Cake Company, Staunton, Va

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Long shadows

I've noticed in these aerial sketches I'm doing, that long shadows help to distort and abstract what I'm seeing--in a good way. And there's just something about the simple spots of undefined colors and distorted reality that I find interesting. The architecture in these pieces is not meant to be accurate and neither is the perspective--call them "wonky". I'm not playing by the rules. If an artist isn't put on this planet to explore, discover, and experiment, who is?

Here's my latest . . .

Downtown Staunton #3
9.5" x 9.5" ink and watercolor

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Downward Dog

This post is a follow on from my last post . . .

Ta-da! #2 painting in ORANGE RED and DARK OLIVE GREEN - and a little bit of fun
with titles.

Sadly, I've had no new technicolor dreams.

Downward Dog
24" x 24" acrylic on birch board

(click on image for a larger view)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

There's a lot of barking going on

As odd as it may seem, this last week I have received two very clear night dreams about color palettes. I'm not nuts,--honest! Both times these color swatches popped up--two-colors side-by-side like those paint chips you pick up at Lowe's Hardware Store in their paint department, and then they disappeared--just like that. The first night I dreamt GOLD and BLOOD RED. The second night it was DARK OLIVE GREEN and ORANGE RED. Amazing, right?

So, who am I to turn down free color choices delivered in bed?

The gold and red painting I finished this morning. Can you guess what comes next?

I'm on it!

Barks and Bones
36" x 36" acrylic on birch board

(click on image for larger view)

Friday, March 22, 2019

A new look at old ideas

Two ideas have tugged at my attention over the past few years--urban sketching, for one.  I like the look and feel of ink on paper with bits of color here and there. There can be a spacious atmospheric quality to this kind of work when the paint is limited and ink and white space become a medium in itself.

The other idea that keeps calling me is aerial painting. The view from above as in a bird's eye view of land or sea or city is an impersonal looking and quite abstract. There's a kind of knowing what's being seen, and at the same time not quite identifying what's being seen--abstract.

I did a painting in 2017 for an exhibition project offered by Shenandoah Valley Art Center. The challenge was to paint a landmark location in the city of Waynesboro, VA--a town near my home. I chose to paint an aerial view "Bower St. and Hermitage Rd." which I liked. It was well received, and quickly sold to a gentleman geologist. You can see the painting here in my July 2017 post . . .

Waynesboro Challenge - Landmark: Bower St. & Hermitage Rd.)

So, long story short, I've begun both--weekly urban sketching around town and a series of aerial sketches. Below are images of my first two aerial sketches.

It's never too late to follow up on some of those old ideas you've had and maybe even combine them. Cheers!

Downtown Staunton Sketch #1
9.5" x 9.5" Ink and Watercolor 

Downtown Staunton Sketch #2
9.5" x 9.5" Ink and Watercolor

(click on images for a larger view)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Introducing Nicholas Wilton

Good morning,

I want to make sure artists like me have a chance to meet and absorb the enlightened wisdom of NICHOLAS WILTON, a successful abstract artist, and teacher. Nicholas publishes short instructive and inspiring videos nearly every day. He has an active, fun Facebook presence, and he also offers high-end online workshops.

Here's a video worth watching . . . (link below) . . .

Art2Life VIDEO learn-this-to-start-your-art

Sunday, March 3, 2019

An image without a name . . .

I want to explore IDEOGRAPHY today.

Color field artist Barnett Newman wrapped his post-WWII expressionist work around this idea of ideography.

In 1947 Newman was pointing to the development of an American "modern counterpart to the primitive art impulse." It was summed up in the concept of the ideograph, which he described - quoting a dictionary - as a "character, symbol or figure which suggests the idea of an object without expressing its name" Newman was searching for an abstract art form that might do away with all figurative or quasi-figurative motifs. Clyfford Stills and Mark Rothko were simultaneously and independently on similar paths with similar beliefs. They were all considered color field painters.
Barnett Newman 1947
       Clyfford Stills 1947
        Mark Rothko 1947

I like this painting path I'm currently on, and I'm feeling a little kinship these days to Newman's notion of objects without a name in a color field. In my case, I'm left with a sense of a story with abstract characters, or caricatures. 

To get more of a feel for ideography; what it is, and how it's used, we can look to Native American Indian culture, where symbols are still a big part of their artistic expression. These are also considered ideographs.

Here are two new paintings I'd like to share with you . . .

"It's the Journey"  36" x 36" acrylic on birch board

"Reservation" 12" x 12" acrylic on birch board

(click on images for a larger view)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Embrace the unknown . . .

As it sometimes happens, just the other day a man insulted my abstract paintings on the gallery wall, suggesting I was, to be brief, delusional.

Here it is--a stranger recoils and dismisses your work--feeling the revulsion so strongly he or she simply has to spit out a cruel commentary. What is that?

We, humans, fear what we do not know or understand. And what is fear but a threat? It can feel like an assault. The potential assault here is on one's beliefs--the belief that only paintings of "real" things have value or demonstrate skill. The artist, me, was effectively threatening this man at his core--ergo his preemptive assault.

What we believe is simply indisputable, sacrosanct. Isn't that right? Think about your own beliefs. Now, consider, if everybody's belief that the-world-is-flat continued to this day as indisputable? We might live in a curious world today. Beliefs vary widely on every imaginable topic. Can both sides be right? Really? What if both sides are wrong? What if there is no right and wrong--and only just what is--both.

Before I drift too far off topic . . .

I paint landscapes, and I paint still lifes, and I paint abstract stories with abstract characters. I believe there is room in the world for all of it--all of mine and all of yours.

Don't let anyone convince you that what you are creating somehow lacks value. The fact that you even try takes immense courage. And by the way, I'm pretty sure the world is not flat.

Here's my latest BIG painting . . .

"There's a hare in my eye."
36" x 36" acrylic on birch board

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Have a great day in the jungle!

I want to talk a little bit about something that fascinates me--looking or seeing.

As it applies to abstract painting . . . Why do you see a cat when I don't? Why do I see a bird when you don't? If you subscribe to the notion that there is only one thing being looked at, why don't you and I see the exact same thing?

How about this -- a Rorschach test. . . What do you see?

I see birds, winged lions with centipedes under their bellies, and maybe even a drone . . . Oh, wait! I see Jesus there too.

Or how about this one,

First, I see a duck, and then I see a bunny, and a duck, then a bunny again--How about you? What we can't see is both at the same without naming either. We don't say, "I see a black and white detailed form having no name." This is very curious. That inability to see just what is there without naming is uniquely human. See if you can do it. Try it. Try it again and again.

Also, I have this thing called "Pareidolia". You have it too--we all do. In a nutshell, we see faces and other creature features in non-creature images. 

Here's a favorite . . .

I have A LOT of this Pareidolia, and you might identify a few of these abstract creatures in my latest series of paintings. I used to avoid allowing them in my work, but now? Finally, I'm letting my goony creatures fly, as it were. They say Pareidolia is in our DNA, and because I have an extra dose of this trait, I'm the one you want to follow through the jungle. I will spot the characteristics of a predator long before others will. This ability is not quite as valuable in the 21st Century on, let's say, a city street, although maybe we shouldn't discount it as a potential benefit. 

Enough said about "seeing" for now. Have a great day in the jungle!

And while I've got your attention, here are two new art pieces hot off the easel. What can you see in them? Here's a clue . . . read the titles.

10" x 10" acrylic on w/c paper

Super Sunday
10" x 10" acrylic on w/c paper

Friday, February 1, 2019

Happy New Year 2019

Progress made in field-painting development . . .

(1) Abstracted iconography developing nicely
(2) Color-field process improving
(3) High marks in the confidence department


Congregation 12"x12"
acrylic on birch board

Flying 12'x12"
acrylic on birch board

Running Goat 12"x12"
acrylic on birch board

The Egg Story 12"x12"
acrylic on birch board

Persona 12"x12"
acrylic on birch board

Tether 24"x24"
acrylic on birch board

Holiday Minis

Every year at Co-Art Gallery in Staunton we tempt our customers with smaller, less expensive canvases. They make wonderful gifts for friends and family, and everyone loves to look at them.

I went full-speed-ahead this year with a "fantasy floral" theme.

Fantasy Florals
8" x 8" and 5" x 5" panels

Detail of a few 5" x 5" 
mixed media on dimensional canvases 

"Whimsy Blue" 8" x 8" 
mixed media on Yupo paper mounted to board SOLD 

Detail of a few 5" x 5" 
mixed media on dimensional canvases 

Bigger is BIGGER

It's not that I have never painted large formats before--back in California, I painted a few 5' square canvases-- circa 1995. When you paint big, you come face to face with two truths--you use much more paint and BIG takes up a lot of storage space.

While I learned some valuable "process" lessons, all that color, using an unlimited palette, was, well, a little scary. And,

(1)  I wasn't yet brave enough to let my freaky character icons fly (as it were),
(2)  I didn't yet know how to paint the "field" I wanted them to live in, and
(3)  I wasn't ready to just let go.

So, the remainder of 2018 consisted of smaller learning studies, with a plan to eventually go big with confidence. Add to the mix, a December holiday project which I'll show you in another post.

14"x12" water media on w/c paper

Space and Time
10"x11" mixed media on w/c paper

12"x12" acrylic on birch board

20"x22" acrylic on w/c paper

Bigger is better

Mid-year 2018

The advice I got and still get from teachers and colleagues as I move more into color field painting with personal iconography is, "This kind of work is best suited to a large, or rather, a very large format." In other words, make it BIG!  So, I gave it a go. Uncomfortable limiting my color palette, I decided to include every color--woohoo!

Blackberry  36"x36"
acrylic on birch board 

Living Color #1 36" x 36"
acrylic on birch board

Living Color #2
acrylic on birch board

Back to the future - 2018

Life did continue for this artist during the entire year--just not on this blog. I painted, printed, went to art openings, entered juried exhibitions, won awards, went on plein air paint outs, visited museums and art galleries, and generally lived a life full of what other lives are full of--everything and not much of anything significant. But, I'm back for updates and sharing. With much gratitude and humility, I can say "Life is still good."

JUNE 2018

At the 2018 Annual Artists' Weekend in Monterey, VA two small acrylics were exhibited in the Wet Paint Sale--June 24, 2018.

 Wimer Road--Bluegrass, VA 
Small acrylic on w/c paper

Heading West--Hightown, VA
small acrylic on w/c paper