Perseverance Pays

April 11, I began to paint this image that I first posted to Instagram, after taking several shots that morning. As I was biking past this spot, where I had already taken a photo of the Paramount sign reflected in a puddle, there was some construction in the street.

A large steel plate covered a hole in the ground. It wasn’t raining, but fortuitously there was a maintenance man spraying the sidewalk clean, and there was water all over the street and sidewalk. I had to wait for him to stop so I could take the photos. When I crouched down, I could see the lights from the street signs reflected in the water on the steel plate. It was beautiful in person, and really the photo only begins to capture it.

I painted regularly from April until late July, when I needed to take a break. I started another painting, and ended up painting three in two months. It was a struggle to get back into this one. I was intimidated by the amount of work that needed to be done. As I work, the paintbrush I use gets smaller and smaller, as the details get more focused. Once I got over this, I was able to push through and get it done. I’m so happy I did!

18x24, oil on canvas

18x24, oil on canvas

Full Steam Ahead!

I am currently working on a piece inspired by a photo I recently took at Downtown Crossing in Boston. I became interested in puddle photography a couple of days earlier when I spotted the reflection of the theater district neon lights on the street in the rain. When I took this shot, it wasn't raining, but a guy was spraying the sidewalk to clean it. 

I put my iPhone as close to the ground as possible, upside down so the lens was about an inch off the ground. In the street was a large metal plate, covering some road work. It's covered with rust, and reflects the light in a beautiful and unusual way. It reminds me of the water in the foreground of the Cosi Cosi paintings. 

I'm loving the way this is going. I didn't bother with a sketch. I've finally embraced my style and approach. Just paint. Fix the problems as they come. Forge ahead. Full Steam!


Time Management

I don't know about you, but I have trouble finding the time to paint while holding a full-time job. To solve this problem, I make time to paint every morning. I get up early, take care of all my chores, and reserve the last half hour for painting. If I can squeeze in just 20-30 minutes a day, that's nearly 2.5 hours of work per week, not counting weekends. You can accomplish a lot in 2.5 hours. You can accomplish a lot in just 20 minutes. Then, I also try to paint in the evening, adding another hour or so. My first pass on this one was 40 minutes last night, and I spent another 20 this morning. So here is one hour of work:

First 40 minutes, left. Next 20, right.

First 40 minutes, left. Next 20, right.


I've seen a lot of videos where the artist shows their palette. Artists seem interested in how others organize their colors, how they mix them, and the tools they use. In class we learn the importance of keeping things neat and organized and clean. A palette can be expensive, and require love and care to keep it in good shape. 

Me? I've completely given up on the idea of keeping my palettes nice. I've spent plenty of time scraping my fine wooden palettes, or chiseling clumps off my glass palettes. Finally, I've come to accept that fact that I will paint until bedtime and leave my paints to get crusty. I don't bother trying to mix up enough of a color so I'll have it to use later. In fact, I've given up on palettes altogether. Now I buy disposable sheets of wax paper and just toss them when they're old. I make them last a month or so, which doesn't seem too wasteful. 

This morning I ran out of room, and had trouble knowing where my new color was mixed, so I scraped off what paint was still usable, folded it up and grabbed a new one!

For those interested in my color choices, I use a simple combination of yellows, reds, blues, and whites, with the occasional use of black, burnt umber, or ochre, depending on the need. I say the colors in plurals, because for yellow I use either cadmium yellow or lemon yellow, cadmium red or alizarin crimson, titanium or cremnitz white- really anything close that I have available. But, with blue, I use an interplay between cerulean and cobalt blues, because I find they are much less interchangeable, rather existing sometimes in tandem and sometimes in contrast.


Fits and Starts

I finished the "Bar at Cafe Heaven," and immediately put paper on the easel for a drawing of more boys at Boy Beach. After some work, I wasn't in love with the composition, so I shelved it for further consideration. But, drawing the figures made me want to continue working on figures. Looking around, I noticed I had an unopened 11x14 canvas and a photo I had edited with a father and two girls. I had taken several photos of them, but none was perfect, so I Photoshopped the father and one girl from one photo, and replaced them in another photo to get them in the poses I wanted.

Usually, with figures, I would make a detailed drawing, then transfer to the canvas. This time I didn't bother with the paper drawing and transfer. I'm not convinced it saves me time, and I always make mistakes in the drawing that need to be fixed later anyway. It's funny how this frustrating process is what drove me to take art classes, and what I learned is that this *is* the process. However, after years of classes, it's a lot easier when you know how to draw! 

I'm really enjoying this one already. 


Moving right along...

I've been rather impatient about finishing this one. After completing five paintings in record time, (and selling four of them!), I wasn't fully prepared for the accuracy and time required for the architectural lines. Now that it's done, I get to pick my next project! 

I've decided to continue working on the Boy Beach series. I did one, and plan to do at least two more. The second image below is a selection of photos I took of some unsuspectingly photogenic guys frolicking at Herring Cove. I'm thinking of combining some aspects of several of the photos into one image. None of them seems to come together that well on their own. 


I haven't posted in a while, because progress has been slow on this one. There are so many details, and much like anatomy, each line depends on the others to define forms. Though the original drawing was better than many I've done, the angles of some of the lines needed adjusting at the later stages. Partly this was a result of my trying to do lens correction, and partly because I didn't notice sooner. The angle of the "muntins," which apparently is the name of the wooden slats between the window panes, was hard to get right. Also the lines of the stoop.

Overall, I'm happy with how it's coming out. I love the effect of the light on the architectural woodwork, and some of the reflections in the windows. There are several areas that still need work, including the light fixtures, the yellow chair to the left, and the stoop. That damn stoop. Then it's on to the next one!

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"Breathing the life into it"

This is the best and hardest stage of any painting for me. Once the drawing is set and the colors and shapes are blocked in, it becomes time to finalize the darks and lights and to refine all the lines between the shapes. I call it "breathing the life into it," because this is when I start to see what the final product will look like.  Each new little detail adds a spark that grows and eventually the whole painting comes together. This one has a way to go still. 

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My painting process developed with several influences, primary of which was economy. I couldn't afford supplies, and wouldn't know what to buy anyway, but I had mentioned to a friend on a trip to an art store that I felt like I should be a painter. Soon thereafter, she lost a friend who painted, and I received a generous bounty of paints, brushes and canvasses. With no previous experience in art, and no art classes, I immediately set up a still-life of a silver coffee pot to use all my new supplies. No, it didn't go well, and I gave up for a couple years, but that's another post.

When I did attempt painting again, it became quickly apparent that I would go through a lot of paint just experimenting. Because of this, I decided to thin the paint and make it stretch. Also, I was impatient and lazy, not realizing that thick paint can be very useful. But, so can thin layers.

Another thing I did due to my laziness, was to find a dominant color in the image so I could work several areas of the canvas at once, then add other areas of general color until a rough image starts to take shape. Little did I know, this is the process called dead-coloring, or first painting. It gives the opportunity to fix the drawing.

Going to classes at the Academy of Realist Art in Boston taught me further refinement of this technique, using a toned wash on the canvas as a starting point, and getting an accurate sketch on the canvas before painting. Oh, and drawing. That's what they taught me the most and that is the key to it all.

Here is my newest piece, the bar next to Cafe Heaven in Provincetown. I think it's a new storefront now. I like the anonymity. 

The Casualties

I've learned a couple of things about materials and techniques, like, you don't have to pay a lot for brushes, or canvases, but you should for paints. Also, taking good care of your brushes and palettes can lengthen their usefulness. I'm not so good about that last one. I never clean my materials after each use, but try at least to do so between paintings. Naturally, I lose a few good brushes in the process, and my palette is a mess. But... New painting!


Working Large

Normally, a large canvas can be more forgiving than a smaller one. It doesn't take as much detail because the viewer tends to be further away, whereas a small painting is more intimate. However, when working from photographs, I find the opposite can be true.

What is small in a photo is easy to recreate one-to-one, but when the canvas is three or four times larger, those small details become much more noticeable. A house in the distance that can be fudged with a smear of paint and a flick of the brush on an 8x10 canvas suddenly needs to be fully rendered when it's four inches square on the canvas. 

I already painted an 8x10 version of this one, but now that it's 18x22, there's a lot more to see.


First Post, New Site!

Thank you for taking an interest in my art and my journey of learning. I plan to use this blog to post regular updates about what I'm working on, so you can follow each piece as I complete it.

I am currently working on a series about a boat named "Cosi." I spent a morning on Provincetown Harbor and took several photos at low tide, with the late season light reflecting the colors of the grounded boats. This little yellow boat made for a beautiful model. This is my second version of this view. The first was 8x10, and this one is 18x22, still in progress.