Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sunday Fisherman

11 X 14 inches Acrylic
This is one of my favorite paintings. I like its feeling of isolation. Lone man standing in  front of a wall with his hand line trying to get a fish for dinner. (In this part of Mexico, it is more common for local  residents to use a hand line rather than a fishing rod.)  But, it contains something I often use in my work and that is an abstract painting within the painting.  The water viewed by itself is quite abstract yet the painting is figurative.

Sometimes I like the acrylic sketches more than or as well as the finished paintings.  At times, I stop at the sketch stage, sometimes I push onward to what seems a finish. This is a closeup sketch of the fisherman. It shows how I begin to paint in shapes. Yes, at this stage the shapes and their relationships are much more important than the object or figure.  When working from a photograph, I will often paint parts of the painting upside down to further divorce myself from the object and see only the shapes. Accurate depiction of shapes will naturally make the image real once turned right-side-up.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Merry Christmas Mr. Claus

8 x 10 acrylic sketch
Even Santa deserves a little extra joy.  I will probably do a little more on it this but, I really like it's unfinished nature.  I won't do too much, would hate to loose the immediacy and spontaneity of the brush work.
This is a gift for a very good friend, who I  know will really appreciate its innocence.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Chat With Santa.... Finished

Ah, what  one can see with fresh eyes!!  Put in another four hours and  I think it is done. I am fascinated with the American illustrators of the late 19th, early 20th century. Their skill in drawing astounds me. They paint things I can only dream of.  And since it is the Holiday Season take a look at the Santa's painted by Haddon Sundblom, Norman Rockwell and Joseph Christian Leyendecker.  I based this painting on a fragment of a Leyendecker illustration.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Work in Progress: A Chat With Santa

8 X 10 inches
Acrylic on stretched canvas.  This is what I have at the end of the day.  I wish I could see it with your eyes, as mine can no longer see objectively.  I absolutely love Santa, his innocence and magic. Tomorrow, I will continue with fresh eyes, hopefully I will be able to sort out the painting's problems. But if not, I have enjoyed spending this day with Santa Claus. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Negative/Positive Drawing Exercise: Charlie Chaplin Look-A-Like

8 1/2  x 11 inches
 The photo was a Weekend Drawing Event Photo on Wet Canvas. I chose it  in order to to do an exercise in negative/positive space drawing. How much more perfect is a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like, of course dressed in black and white. I chose the diagonal stroke for the negative areas because I wanted them to function as a uniform dark. Any variation of the stroke in the dark areas would have only complicated and confused the dark areas.
     I also chose this photo because of the angles in Charlies pose which provide movement, energy and character.  THE CHALLENGE AND THE ADVENTURE OF DRAWING ADDS MYSTERY TO LIFE, A BLANK PIECE OF PAPER IS SCULPTED BY OUR PENCIL STROKES. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Photo: Dia de los Muertos

This is the first time I have posted something to do with traditions in Mexico. This is my favorite holiday. We celebrate the lives of those who have died by inviting them back for one night. Altars are made using objects like the ones you see in the picture. It is a happy celebration....Mexican people make fun of death, they go to the cemetery and play beloved music, eat the favorite foods of those they are visiting  and clean and decorate the graves passing the entire night with those they LOVE. What a wonderful way to celebrate life!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Part III Orchid Triptych: Oncidium

This one is moving along without many problems.  I think because I work on it when I am at my best, freshest, just waking up with my cup of coffee.  My mind at this stage is still calm and at peace.  It is dark outside, the roosters are crowing, little geckos (lizards) are still making their loud smacking sounds and life hasn't quite begun.  I tend to be very patient, my strokes even and unhurried.  I don't have to remind myself to slow down and concentrate more, like I do when I am tired.  There is definitely something to be said for working when you are the freshest.  Keeping this freshness all day would be lovely.  An elixir?  A daily trip to the Fountain of Youth?   Magic?   NO, I had better stick to working the hour or two after I awake.  To much of a good thing may not be a good thing!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


                                                                 15 x 20 cm Acrylic
This was a done for a drawing event.  Time is limited to two hours.  I went over by 45 minutes.  Exercises like this make you think about getting the image down as quickly as possible. There really isn't much time to dawdle over details and over work the painting.  I never tire of these exercises.  Yes, I could always do more.  But, would that really make a better painting?  Maybe yes....Maybe no.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Part II Orchid Triptych: Cymbidium Finished

This is a tentative finish as the central picture is not done.  Once it is done, I can readjust all three paintings to work together.  The cymbidium has petals that are thick and waxy, with a light edge.  The light edge made it more difficult to integrate the flower into it's blue, green background.  The idea is to work the background colors into the flower.  I used sky blue light and a touch of indigo to do this, blurring the edge in places between flower and background. This of course helps to decrease the pasted on look. persist in a task despite obstacles.  This was a lesson in perseverance.  I really didn't like the initial drawing and that feeling persisted throughout the painting.  Do I like It ?   I think that question will be answered in a year or two when I can separate myself from the work.  Was I glad I completed it?  Definitely YES.  If I hadn't finished... it would have been an empty experience, but it was instead filled with challenges, risen to and solved. This speaks of the journey, not always easy, but always interesting.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

About Balance Freedom and Control: The Rooster

Painting time:  two hours and ten minutes    15 X 20 cm Acrylic on Stretched Canvas

I have not painted with my acrylic since the heat began.  I have missed it.  Colored pencil is a medium that gives you complete control of the details.  I love this. What happens though, is that after a time I long to feel the brush stroke, to put down large areas of color rapidly and to get back to the spontaneity that is innate to the brush.  This process is freeing.  I love it...I loose myself in it.  But, I know that soon I will be called back to the magic of the pencil.  Ah the control!  Two extremes....both amazing.  I find that I need them both to keep my  balance.  One helps me with the other.  Just like in life, it would be easy to loose your balance.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Part II Orchid Triptych: Cymbidium

In the triptych, the Phalaenopsis is the first painting, the Oncidium( not yet painted, is the middle one) and this one the Cymbidium is the third.  This morning I worked on the backgrounds in order prepare for the middle painting.  I think the flow of light, between the three will be good. This one has been a struggle since the initial drawing. But, at this point I am finally starting to be more comfortable with it.  As I said, some paintings seem to paint themselves and others make us ...problem solve.  This is how we learn.  We learn not from the easy ones, but from the ones that we are tempted to throw away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Part I Orchid Triptych: Phalaenopsis Finished

There are paintings that seem to paint themselves and others that I fight my way through.  Smile, this one basically painted itself.  I know that it was on the drawing board for a long time, but that was more the result of life's interruptions than technical problems.  I enjoyed this one.  I know there will be some adjustments to the background when I finish the next two paintings.  But just for this moment, all is well. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


A challenge is a great way to learn, to stay fresh, and most importantly to play.  This painting was done for an on line challenge to paint with anything other than your favorite brush.  I choose to make my own brush. Twig, tape and hair from my very hairy canine companion, "Amistad". But, there is a second challenge involved in this process and that is direct painting.  That means no pencil and NO eraser. Dip brush in paint and simply paint.  I find the best way to accomplish this is to paint the negative shapes while being aware of their distance and relationship to one another.  In other words, forget that this is a face, but think of it as a series of interrelated shapes. Finally, go back and readjust adjust the values. While I am painting, I am always thinking about the lightness and darkness of things, but I usually need to go back and darken some areas.  The source of the brush hair is pictured below.  He was happy to make the donation in order to get his picture in my blog.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pencil Portrait of a Young Man

I have been learning to draw my entire life.  From my very first formal class at the Philadelphia Museum of Art at age13, I have been involved in this wonderful, magic adventure.  There is so much to be said about LINE.
There is its movement, its energy, its intensity, its beginnings and its endings, its lightness and its darkness, and even its absence.  John Sloan said "Line is the most powerful device of drawing."  Paul Klee said "A Line is a dot that went for a walk."  And what a walk it can take in our drawings.  It can convey sensitivity and boldness, tranquility and energy, trepidation and confidence.  When we practice drawing we are trying to make the line have life and thus, the drawing have life as well. The adventure can be unending....pick up your pencil and give it a try!

This small sketch was done in about 1 1/2 hour for a Weekend Drawing Event.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Part I Orchid Triptych: Phalaenopsis

I am thinking a lot about the background.  Often this is the part of the painting put off to the end and then there is a crisis moment when you say "what do I do with the background?"  I have learned the hard way that the background is just as important as the rest of the painting.  I try to work foreground and background at the same time, pulling colors from the background into the foreground.  This next statement is to me,extremely
important in my paintings.  There needs to be both lost, soft and hard edges in your painting.  If this does not happen the effect is that appear objects pasted on and this definitely gives a non-painterly look to your work.
Because pencil has such a fine tip, it is easy to get caught up in trying to make everything perfectly clear.  To me this takes away from the realism instead of adding to it.  It is true sometimes less is really more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Orchid Triptych



These are the drawings for my next colored pencil paintings. These are designed to hang together to form an orchid triptych, however, hopefully they will function as individual units as well.  To get the proportions right I used a grid method...drawing a grid on the photos and then on my drawing paper as well to aid in my drawing.  In this way you only have to deal with one square at a time.  Sometimes this gives an awkward feel to a drawing, so it is advisable to go back in and erase the grid and redraw areas that lack fluidity or appear visually incorrect.

I took the photos for these at the Conservatory of  Flowers in Golden Gate Park, two weeks ago, while on vacation in San Francisco. The building is a greenhouse made of wood and glass and painted white.  It appears unreal from a distance. This Victorian structure was completed in 1878.  It is filled with rare and exotic plants.  It is absolutely enchanting!!

I have seen orchids here in La Paz....I actually owned one that I promptly killed.  But, we are too hot and dry for these mist and moisture lovers to survive.  

Oh, and yes I did bring back a large bag of pencils.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oueen of the Night is Finished

This painting has reached the point that I call finished.  I will now put it away for a while and let it rest.
In a couple of weeks, I will look at it again and make the adjustments that can only be properly  made with fresh eyes.  Below is my value check. 

Values look pretty good, so the adjustments will probably be minor; things that only I will notice.  This has taken me quite a long time, definitely longer than I usually like to spend.  I am now off for a much needed vacation.  I will return with a bag full of pencils (can't buy open stock Prismacolors here), and hopefully renewed energy and inspiration.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baja Dog "Chico"

 8 X 10 1/2 inches Prismacolors on white Stonehenge

This is Chico, one of my two boys.  Chico is a typical Mexican street dog.   He came to us ten years ago and he is absolute love.  He is allowing me to use his portrait to fill in a gap in my postings.  The past two weeks have been spent painting the studio/bedroom, instead of painting on paper. However, today I am putting everything back in place.  Hopefully, I will get back to the drawing board soon.  Thank all of you who have continued to visit despite my lapse in postings.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pelican In Paradise

 11 1/2  X  8 3/4 inches

This appears to be another subject I come back to.  This is done mainly with prismacolors.  I also used a few Coloursoft pencils and some white pastel in the background.  It is done on Colourfix paper, a greyish color called "elephant".  The photo was taken on Isla Ispiritu Santo, an island just off  the coast from the city.  He was easy to photograph because he liked being around our camp. He often rested quite near us.

Pelican Two Hour Watercolor

This is a watercolor sketch done for the Wet Canvas Weekend Drawing Event.  Pelicans are very common in Baja California Sur.  We have the Brown Pelicans all year round and the American White Pelican in winter.  Watching them fish is amazing.  They dive with complete abandon into the water to catch fish.

Monday, June 13, 2011

UPDATE: Queen of the Night

The stamens are just about in.  They still need some value adjustment.  Before I started them, they seemed quite daunting.....but working very slowly, they gradually emerged. It really is all about lights and darks....negative and positive. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Queen of the Night

 9 X 12 Inches

Selenicereus grandiflorus is a night blooming cactus.  Each bloom appears for one night each year.
It blooms at night because the plant must wait until the temperatures reach a certain level for the pollinators to come out. One of the main pollinators is the Spinx Moth.  If the flower is successfully pollinated, the plant will produce a bright scarlet fruit. From what I have read, this fruit is edible. The reference photo was taken in my garden. This plant only produced one bud  this year, and it was unfortunately not pollinated.  I had really wanted to see and taste the fruit.

This is done on rose gray Colourfix Paper. I am using thinner.  I have found that it helps to give the white petals the waxy look they have in  life and smooth the background where I want  no texture. The stamens are quite challenging as there are so many.  This was my main concern before starting.  So far so good.  As I get further down the stamens increase in number and then they will need to be grouped and drawing the negative space will be the secret.  I will keep you posted.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Favorite Form THE SPHERE

5 x 8 inches
This is a theme I come back to over and over again.  I love the sphere. Marbles or (Canicas in Spanish) are the perfect sphere.  They never fail to amaze me with their reflections, shadows and transparency.  This is done on black Stonehenge paper with Prismacolors.  The secret of working on black paper is to lay a base of white wherever you are going to use lighter colors.  I applied the white layers slowly and evenly, not using too much pressure, as many more layers were to come.  After layering some color on the marbles, I used citrus thinner to mix and smooth the color. Then, I continued to put on more layers of color. The background is done without the use of thinner.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beyond Her Years

Marouscha made me think about painting children, so I thought of this painting which was done a while ago.
I really like painting children.  Their faces are challenging in their simplicity.  When drawing or painting them less is always more.  Many young faces also speak volumes about their lives. This child sold gum to help support her family.  There is definitely both wisdom and sadness in this little face as well as pride.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wet Canvas Weekend Drawing Event SKETCH OF MAROUSCHA

 The weekend drawing event on Wet Canvas is a challenge in which you select a picture from those posted and then have a two hour time limit to complete your work.  For, me it is a great way to improve my speed and accuracy in drawing and painting. You can't overwork..there is no time.
This is Marouscha. This sketch took about 1 1/2 hours. In this I tried to not only capture her likeness but also to use economy of line.  Too many lines on a child's face will age the child and make her look old.  We have all seen portraits of children where this is the case.  Also, in drawing children proportion is very important as it is not the same as in an adult.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Floating is Finished

 I probably could continue to work on the water forever, but I think it is time to put this one to rest. The areas of disturbed water and bubbles were the most challenging part.  I learned a lot.  First, I indented with a stylus making dots.  Then I worked over these with small circular strokes to give the impression of foam and bubbles.  I left small areas of white paper showing in addition to the indented dots and placed lines to indicate the movement of the water.
 I did smooth the water with thinner and then work on top with color again. I also burnished with light blues and white.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

On a Dark Desert Highway: HOTEL CALIFORNIA

These are prints made from my watercolors, that I sell at the Hotel California in Todos Santos.  Yes, it is supposedly the hotel where the Eagles wrote their famous song. True or not, this adds magic to the experience of visiting this little pueblo.  I happily spent the day restocking my shelf and then visiting wonderful tropical viveros (nurseries).  Although only about 3/4 hours away, the climate is more tropical than where I live in La Paz. La Paz is a low desert.

3rd Update Floating

The painting is at the point where all of the white paper is covered with color.  Now, the plan is to smooth out the water by using thinner to blend and remove the graininess. Also, the values need that the eye is drawn to the center of interest.   To achieve this, I need a few more darks in the water and lower body and to reduce the very light area to a smaller portion of the pictures.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2nd Update Floating

It is finally beginning to be more than a sketch.  I continue to pull up and put down color on the water.

But, the biggest change came with using thinner on the ball and it's reflection. I have also started to use a stiff brush on the water to blend the color. Both of these things help to make the entire picture look less grainy.
This is quite important when painting water.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Evening Update .....Floating

About the water.........I am at the stage where I have put down three layers on the water above the figure and now I am removing some of those layers with tacky paper to give a slight ripple effect to the water.  Then,  I have gone back in again with cloud blue over almost all  the background water and peacock blue on the darker waves. I have still not worked below the darker wave line above the figure so that area is still very flat.

It is very slowly starting to come together. Patience on this one is very helpful.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


9 x11 inches Prismacolors on White Stonehenge

 I took the reference photo for this painting last summer at Playa Coromuel.  This is the beach closest to the city where many families spend Saturday and Sunday in summer.  A women was just floating, eyes closed, holding this hot pink beach ball unaware of the rest of the world.  It was a good photo.

So far,  I have only painted in the head since if that didn't work, the painting wouldn't. Then I began on the background and ball.  I always have doubts at this point in a CP painting.   But, posting both successes and failures is good, since everyone has them.  I will keep you updated.

Sorry, I am having difficulty getting a good photo.  It appears too pink.  I believe that it will be better once all the water is in. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011


5x7 inches Prismacolors on White Stonehenge

The drink of Mexico. I took the reference photo for this painting  late one Sunday afternoon while sitting under the palapa ( this is a open roofed structure covered with palm leaves ).  The sun shown through the bottle creating  wonderful abstract patterns.  I like to do paintings that have areas of reality combined with areas of abstraction.  I  find this intriguing.
I used the play of complimentary colors orange/blue to create the hot/cool mood in this painting.
I used thinner on the background and glass of the bottle midway through the layering process.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Here is the painting in black and white.  I often look at my paintings this way to check the values.  I find it  a helpful way to find  areas that may need lightening or darkening.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For the Love of Chiles

As you will see, sometimes I just like to have fun with a painting.  So here I placed these beautiful, organic chiles on this very silly plate.  It was interesting making the chiles pop from the surface of the paper.
First of all I used citrus oil thinner about mid way through the layering process, so that the real chiles are highly saturated.  Secondly, I tried to remain very conscience of  the values.  Values are always important, but when working on an overhead view correct values really help to add depth to the painting.