Sunday, March 23, 2008


The earth rotates and the seasons change until finally the frigid winter abates...or not. It is actually snowing lightly this morning in central Iowa, although the flakes evanesce as they touch the warmed ground. There is no cure for winter-weariness except Spring.

Nevertheless, studio work continues. Lately I've been interested in seeing subjects clearly--trying very hard to see nuance and the various differences among values, edges, chroma and temperatures in the object or scene--then translating what I see into paint. These two came out of that. The top image is of a really big red onion that I've had around the studio for a couple of weeks. As you can see, it sprouted vigorous spears of green foliage that contrast nicely with its purple skin. This one is 6x8, done alla prima.

This painting is an experiment in landscape. I tried to paint the Chicago light with as much economy as possible. The medium-value grays visible here are actually acrylic primer on gessoed hardboard. Many painters work on toned supports and I'm no exception; what I did here was to work in a fairly narrow value range using the fewest strokes I could manage. This one is bigger at 16x20. I need to add a few tiny details on the lighthouse itself and the sky needs a second coat of paint. Beyond that, it's pretty much finished.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Influences

Here is the final version of my portrait of Frederik Remington, the well-known illustrator of the Old West who lived about a century ago. His pictures of western subjects, particularly cowboys and the life of the plains tribes, have always been an inspiration to me. Growing up in Oklahoma I had many opportunities to visit the Thomas Gilcrease Museum there. They hold a large group of Remington's paintings and sculptures that I came to know as a boy. In particular, they have a number of his late works devoted to painting night scenes or "nocturnes" as he called them. A collection of his nocturnes made up a travelling exhibition called The Color of Night a few years ago. If you'd like a sample of the Gilcrease collections, you can check them out at
Although some would disparage illustrators like Remington, many contemporary realists recognize that without the work of people like him as well as other 20th century illustrators such as J.C. Leyendecker, Howard Pyle, and N.C. Wyeth to name only three, it seems clear that much of the expertise in representational painting that was hard-won in the preceding two or three centuries would have been lost. Illustrators soldiered on during the age of abstraction despite the art world's fascination with any number of "isms."

As mentioned below, this painting was done as a grisaille made using warm grays--umber and white--and then glazed minimally on the face and necktie.