Monday, August 31, 2015


In the last several years I've become increasingly fascinated by the metalpoint medium. It's an old way of making marks, dating back as far as the Romans and probably farther. At first it seems that people used small rods of lead to make marks on wood, parchment, and other surfaces. Metallic lead is quite soft and rubs off easily, but isn't always satisfactory for use. Gradually rods and styli of silver and other metals replaced lead. By the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, many artists began a painting with a detailed drawing in silverpoint. Silverpoint has the advantage of being quite permanent and difficult to rub out. That same advantage is something of a disadvantage as well--mistakes may be difficult to correct.

Silverpoint drawings by Renaissance masters like Durer and da Vinci have been part of my inspiration. Those artists and others had to have amazing drawing skill, since once a mark is put down with silverpoint it's not going to change. You simply must draw well.

Here is a copy I made of a da Vinci silverpoint from the 15th century. The support I used is a small hardboard panel primed with traditional gesso measuring 6 by 8 inches. With this one I simply picked up the panel and stylus and made the drawing. It took perhaps four hours. The photograph is a bit dark; the gessoed panel is white.

Head of a Warrior in a fantastic helmet, after da Vinci
In my copy my interest was more on getting that fantastic helmet just right than on traditional metalpoint technique. The masters used cross-hatching and line weight with great facility, but I was more interested in seeing how the medium works. Hence the sometimes choppy and uncertain lines. The original drawing is a chest-high image of a warrior. That drawing and a number of others are on view now at the British Museum. It's a show I long to see. The catalog is gorgeous, and the show contains work not only by masters of the 15th and 16th centuries, but also works by more contemporary artists like Otto Dix, Jasper Johns, and Joseph Stella.

As to my silverpoint works, besides the Leonardo copy here are several, all done on small gessoed, toned panels. The faint toning of the panels was done with transparent watercolor, applied and wiped to avoid too much soaking into the porous gesso. Although it's often been said that silverpoint suffers from an inability to achieve a wide range of values, that hasn't been my experience. Instead, the ability to differentiate value depends on the quality of the metal (softer and finer), the abrasiveness of the surface, and the pressure applied by the artist. Further, you can darken and widen your line to assist in development of depth. Overall, it's a wonderful medium for drawing, if indeed unforgiving.
Head of a hound, after a 15th century Durer original

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer Arts Festivals

Out here in flyover land, a sure sign of summer is street festivals. As soon as the weather warms  people are outdoors and going to farmers' markets, street concerts and parties, and of course arts festivals. A lot of summer arts and crafts fests feature not only artists' booths but other attractions, often including bands, food, beer and wine, street performers, children's activities, and so on. Inevitably some festivals that began as art shows have become more party than art exhibition.

In Iowa, the Des Moines Art Festival is a giant downtown street fest with a healthy dose of art on the side. A second show during the same weekend, billed "The Other Art Show," carries on as an indoor, art-oriented exhibition that attracts people with an interest in art but without loud bands, beer, or half-interested passersby.As an exhibitor, I prize an indoor venue in summer, for a lot of reasons. The Des Moines Art Festival happens in June, when the weather can be a problem--heat, thunderstorms, rain, you name it. Bad weather can ruin an outdoor show for everyone. And of course there are the potential security issues and all the other distractions I mentioned as well. Nevertheless, outdoor art shows are one of the best ways to meet the public to show and discuss one's work.

Here are a few images of shows we did in Omaha, Minneapolis, and Des Moines. The first two are from the Uptown show in Minneapolis. We were fortunate to be just across from a food truck that served some truly awesome food--especially freshly-made donuts. I spent some time doing a watercolor of the truck. The sketchbook is 3x10 when folded open.


Another over the shouldeer shot of me, sketching food trucks. Sometimes, if time drags during a show, food seems to be on my mind. Below that, the resultant water and ink sketch and then a quick look at the crowd.

The Uptown show got a bit damp on Sunday afternoon, with a light, steady rain for about three hours, or just long enough to discourage people from coming outdoors. One of the down sides of outdoor shows, and never predictable. Still those who came were serious about looking at the art. And in spite of the rain, it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Below is a small watercolor I did in June of the crowd at the Other Art Show. I was most interested in rendering a bit of the ductwork overhead and capturing the indoor feel. 
A slice of the crowd at The Other Art Show (watercolor, 3x5)

And finally, here a three from the Omaha Summer Arts Festival. We were in the same exact spot as last year, just across from Leahy Mall, which is actually a park with a beautiful lagoon, trees, etc. just next to downtown Omaha. These show some of the park as well as the exhibition. The Omaha show is great fun, the exhibitors and the visitors are "Midwest nice."Sales are usually pretty good too.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Upcoming Arts Festival

I will be showing new work at the Artsarben Art Fair September 26 and 27 in Omaha at Aksarben Village, 67th and Center Streets. The Artsarben festival has been in existence a scant 4 years, but has been a consistently interesting and enjoyable show. This will be my last art festival this year, so if you're in the Iowa-Nebraska area, stop and say hello. Here's one of the new works I'll be showing. It's a view of mid-town Manhattan, looking north. If you could turn around, you'd find yourself standing in the entrance of the famous Flatiron Building. Just to the right you can see a sliver of Madison Square Park.  Artsarben is on the internet at


After half a decade, this blog is being revitalized. There are millions of blogs out there and many of them lie abandoned, as this one has been, even though they're sometimes still accessed and read. The owners lose interest, or turn to other pursuits, but the ancient entries live on, mummified in cyberspace. Generally, these old sites are a dead end.

The Studio Journal has been like that, in suspended animation, since early 2010, when I began using a different website as an online portfolio. But that site was never intended as more than a place to post examples of my work rather than uploading any writing about art. During the intervening years, my online postings have mostly been confined to discussions with friends in private on various art forums, for all kinds of reasons, but mostly limited time. Nevertheless, with this entry The Studio Journal lives again. I'm going to do my best to post something here at least twice a week--more than that, I hope--particularly images of new work, progress photos, ideas about art and artistic expression, and perhaps other new material. At some point this blog (or the portfolio web pages) will link to online auctions. I've also added links to favorite artists' sites plus several art materials sites. And now you can access my own portfolios and web gallery by clicking here: Heartland Studio.

In the coming weeks, I'll be revamping and adding to that site as well.

Another interest of mine is art history and museums. I blogged a few articles on museum visits on another site, Museum Musings, a few years ago, but then either lost interest and simply haven't taken time to revive it. There are a couple of articles there about the Museum of Modern Art and The Frick that I'm not ashamed of.

During the past 5 years my main work has continued to evolve and my explorations of the various media of artistic expression has widened considerably. New works in ink, graphite, metalpoint, gouache, and watercolor have been the result, though I haven't shown these much. I've been interested in metalpoint for many years, especially silverpoint, but hadn't taken time to pursue the medium with any seriousness. But in the last year I've begun some tentative steps into silverpoint and goldpoint drawings, mostly quite small. The delicacy of value shifts and the fine detail fascinate me. And the unforgiving nature of the medium frustrates me as it has many others. I'll be posting some of those drawings here as well.

One decidedly fascinating direction of my work over the past several years has been in digital formats and various digital art programs. I've had the opportunity to test and use Photoshop, ArtRage, Sketchbook Pro, Art Studio, Brushes, and others for about 2 years now. I'll begin posting a few examples of those works as well.

So The Studio Journal is risen and lives again!

Here are a couple of digital artworks from the last year or so. The first is a digital drawing of Teddy Roosevelt that I did last October using a well-known photo as a reference. The second is a digital painting of a New York subway station at Astor Place. It was done using Sketchbook Pro as a study for a possible oil painting.