Susquehanna Winter

I think this one is finally done. The plein air sketch for this was done in February 2015. We haven’t had ice like that since. So far this winter it hasn’t been very cold here, but my fingers are crossed that a deep freeze will be coming.

acrylic on canvas, 24×48″ 

This is the plein air sketch from 2015. acrylic, 10×20″

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Happy New Year

My New Year’s resolution this year is to reduce the amount of time I spend doing plein air paintings and instead focus more on producing finished studio works. I feel like I need more direction and structure in my work.

Also I want to drastically reduce my social media and online exposure. I post nearly everything I do. I love seeing other artists’ sketches and like sharing mine too because they are my favorite part of what I do, but I’m considering maybe I should do what other artists do and only show my successes. That helps create the mystique that this is easy (for me) because I’m so awesome and never have failures and never struggle. Maybe I’m also giving away too much. I’m doing a lot of work and sharing my trial-and-errors and experiments with everyone. Those should be closely guarded trade secrets or something. Most people don’t seem very “social” online anyway. I’m evaluating how much I really get out of participating and flirt with closing my accounts.

I also considered ending my blog at the end of last year. I don’t get much traffic anymore and the only comments are from spambots. I like it as an online diary though and use it to reference works as I haven’t found a useful (and free) app for artists to keep inventory records.

Until I can decide what I want to do here are a couple of watercolor sketches and a small plein air done this week. .


plein air, oils, 8×10″ 

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To The Shore And Back

We spent a few days at the beach. I got to do a little painting. These are all 8×10″ oils. Painting the moving surf is always fun. 12-28-16-shore

It rained one morning. I sought refuge under a bridge. Not much of a view from under there. I’ll probably scrape this one off.


I tried in vain to paint a sunrise. They always fail for me. I wiped it off and painted some more surf. I’ll finish the top of the sky later. That’s just left over from the failed sunrise.


These were all painted with my pochade box. That makes it a little easier than a french easel for me when traveling. But I always feel like I’m painting through a window or hole or something and the edges of the box get in my way when I’m trying to paint to the edges. These are also mainly painted with a knife because there’s no place to rest brushes on a pochade and I’m limited by my mittens for how many things I can hold.

Home again. A familiar view this morning.


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Another Costume

Two more watercolor sketches today done from a model in costume. Not my best work but fun to play.

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A rare Sunday opportunity for me to paint from a model. She wore a ballerina outfit. I decided to do multiple sketches today instead of one long painting. Here they are in the order that I did them. The last one I cut short and left a little early.

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And this is another attempt at my Loch Ness Monster idea. Working like this is really outside my comfort zone. I prefer painting from observation.

Nessie II 


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I’m still wrestling with watercolors below freezing. I’m curious if it can be done well. It was cold and windy so I knelt on the ground again to try to stay out of the wind. The first one I painted I used just warm water. I had success with that last time but today it was freezing into colored slush on my palette and I noticed it was making ice on my paper. The second one I used a 50/50 mixture of vodka. It worked better for avoiding icing but also created interesting effects with the pigment on the paper.

The chilly weather forced me to paint different and to let go of trying to control it. After the first painting I thought I’d switch to oils or acrylics for the winter, but after the second painting I want to keep playing. Both 9×12″

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Newport, RI

I got to spend a few short days in Newport, RI over the weekend. It’s such a beautiful place, and I didn’t have nearly enough time to paint. The rocky coast is amazing. It’s so different than the Jersey shore.

Our First Evening, Brenton Point, oils, 8×10″ 


The Next Morning, Second Beach, oils, 8×10″ 


The sun was out when I started and I was disappointed when it clouded over.


I spotted this guy sitting on a car while I was crossing the parking lot of our hotel. He didn’t seem to mind me much.


Our Last Morning, watercolor, 9×12″ 


It was raining before breakfast so I tried to hide under a pavilion at our hotel.


One Last Try, Easton’s Beach, watercolor, 9×12″ 


It was still raining after breakfast and I thought I’d be clever and sit in the back of our car to paint. Unfortunately I parked on a busy street and every truck that passed blew rain in on my painting making spatters. It was fun to try anyway. The worst part was trying to paint on my lap.


Before we went up to Newport I had located a few spots where William Trost Richards had painted. On our first evening one of the spots was fenced off and inaccessible so I found a different beach further down the road. The painting below is his Mackerel Cove in Jamestown. I wanted to paint there but didn’t have time. We drove past it as we were leaving to head home. Obviously he was further up the hill than where the road is. In his painting I was in the bottom right corner near where that fisherman is heading towards the center of the painting.


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Our model today was sleepy and kept dozing off so I started her head three times in the three positions she kept ending up in. Eventually she spent enough time in one general spot for me to get one face relatively finished.


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This morning was my first morning of the season painting below freezing. I took watercolors to see what would happen. Obviously water freezes. I brought some vodka along in case I had trouble with ice as others had recommended. I also brought a thermos filled with warm water. I only needed the warm water. Maybe when it’s colder I’ll need the vodka so I’ll keep it in my bag. I also brought my oils just in case nothing worked with watercolors. I expected the biggest struggle to be with my brush freezing. It was actually trying to hold a little watercolor brush with mittens on. Oil brushes have longer handles. 10×15″


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Hard Lesson

It’s not unusual for me to paint over old paintings. A little bit of sanding and an old painting is ready. I actually prefer it with oils because I use them opaquely. The paint handles nicely on the surface and I like the colors underneath peeking through here and there. Painting on a new white canvas is a completely different experience.

The painting I painted last weekend was painted on an old panel from art school. I didn’t notice before painting on it that I had used a Sharpie marker to draw some abstract lines (art school is a time for exploration). Within an hour or two of finishing the painting the lines began bleeding through the oil paint. They show through nearly 100% like they were drawn on top of the paint.

Lesson learned. I repainted the painting in my basement partly as punishment for my mistake but also to try to bridge the gap between field sketches and studio paintings. The plein air took about an hour but the repaint took several hours. The plein air has a spontaneity to it, as they typically do, that was smoothed out in the more careful approach with the studio version. In hindsight I wish I had painted the studio version larger.

11-20-16-oops1 11-20-16-oops2

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