Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Recent Commissions

Garden Chair, 2019, Oil on Panel, 10"x8"

Northern Cardinal, 2019, Oil on Panel, 5"x5"
Female Cardinal, 2019, Oil on Panel, 5"x5"

White Hydrangeas, 2019,  46"x60", Oil on Canvas

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Boston Private Bank #4

Crow #12, Oil on Board, 12"x12"
I began the 4th painting for the Boston Private Bank show.  This crow, and friends, were sitting in the very top of a juniper feeding on berries when I photographed them last summer.  This bird had just dropped a berry from his mouth, which will be added to the painting.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Boston Private Bank Exhibit

Crow #11, Oil on Board, 12"x12"

The Big Heist, Oil on Board, 12" x 24"

A Capella, Oil on Board, 12"x24"
I am busily trying to finish 4 paintings for hanging at Boston Private Bank in the Prudential Center, Boston,  The invite comes from the Copley Society of Art of which I recently became an associate member.  I will add one more 12"x12" crow to this collection.  Drying time is an issue as the work is required Jan 3, 2020.  With that factor I've worked most on the Orioles because the reds require more drying time than other colors.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Midas touch

Oil on Panel, 12" x  24"

A new painting begins.  I've been months on a commission that proved more time consuming and difficult than I anticipated.  It was 46" x 60" on canvas.  I'm so happy to be back to oil on panel.  

White Hydrangeas with Blue Vase, 26"x60" Oil on Canvas

Monday, October 21, 2019

Imperial Beach, Revisited

January 26, 2018, Oil on Board, 3"x12", 2019, 2019, 2019

January 27, 2018, Oil on Board, 7"x12", 2019

January 28, 2018, Oil on Board, 7"x12", 2019

January 25, 2018,  Oil on Board, 7"x12", 2019

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Imperial Beach Revisited

January 29, Oil on Board, 12" x 6.5"
January 26,  Oil on Board 3" x 12"

January 25, Oil on Board, 7" x 12"

I am processing these paintings differently than the birds and flowers I paint.  They are a little looser and perhaps more expressive.  The painter's hand will show.  Landscapes in general are more forgiving with representative painting.  It's slow going because many of the colors are complementary.  When trying to layer or blend I will get a color that I don't want.  The glow of the sun would probably have worked better if I glazed some oranges and yellow over a white ground.  

Monday, September 30, 2019

Imperial Beach Revisited

I've been to Imperial Beach, CA twice.  The condo I rented sits on the edge of the Pacific facing directly west.  It is a place of spectacular sunsets. I photographed them every evening.  I choose these 4 for seascape paintings  to submit to the Marion Art Center's small works show in December.  I'm working on all 4 at once, usually finding time for 2 a day.  They are all within the 12" requirement.  

January 26,  Oil on Board 3" x 12"

January 29, Oil on Board, 12" x 6.5"

January 25, Oil on Board, 7" x 12"

February 1, Oil on Board, 7"x 12"

Chickadees, 2019

Chickadees, 2019, Oil on Board, 10" x 10"
Black-Capped Chickadees are active, acrobatic, curious, social birds.  They perch in all sorts of positions and will even feed upside down.  They are hardly still long enough to photograph.  This painting is a compilation of photos intended to demonstrate their social behavior as well as their amusing antics.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Baltimore Oriole, Work in Progress

Baltimore Oriole, 2019, Oil on Board, 10"x10"
When composing these paintings, I'm combining 2 photographs, one of the oriole and one of the orange.  That presents problems such as light and shadows.  But mostly, it presents the problem of how the Oriole would perch on the orange.  I really need a simulator.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Baltimore Orioles Redux

Klatch, 2019, Oil on Board, 10"x10"
I finished this painting a few weeks ago and then began the one shown below, which is still a work in progress, as an accompanying piece.  These pieces are a compilation of different bird photos and the orange.  I'm photographing the orange on my mantle to take advantage of the light on the form.  It is reasonable that a half peeled orange would be inside on a surface.  But, unreasonable that two Orioles would be there having a conversation.  Maybe next I'll have a tea cup in a tree.  
Baltimore Oriole in Progress, Oil on Board, 10"x10"

Saturday, July 20, 2019

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch, 2019, Oil on Board, 10"x8"
The goldfinch have such interesting body shapes and positions.  Unlike the other birds I photograph, the way they proudly expand the chest or cock the head speaks so much to narration.  The males are in full glory now.


Hydrangeas, 2019, Oil on Board, 10"x10"
I used a variety of photographs to work out this composition.  As such, I'm uncertain that all areas work.  For example, does the leaf in the upper left right sit in front of the leaf below it?  Or do you see the lower leaf as in front and somehow cut off.  I may go back and remove the entire upper leaf because it just seems to distract from the focal point.  

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hydrangeas In Progress

Hydrangeas In Progress, Oil on Board, 10" x 10"
I worry about becoming illustrative.  Does this belong in a garden magazine?  Pushing the realism toward the surrealism or photorealism might solve that (if it is a problem).  Mixing the colors each day brings different results, which works because of the variety of color in the petals.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hydrangeas In Progress

Hydrangeas, Oil on Board, 10"x10"
We have planted 4 hydrangeas this spring where the rosa rugosa were.  They are heavy with blooms.  And, the rosa seems happier in its new home.  This is the third painting session with Hydrangeas.  It has quite a bit of green compared to other hydrangeas I've painted.  The upper right will need some variety and contrast.  

Pink Rhododendrons

Pink Rhododendrons, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
Even though I continue to tweak this painting, I can call it finished.  My goal toward the end was to distinguish between the flowers so the eye could breakdown the painting.  Just looking now, I consider making the unopened stamen in the center of the painting more intense so that they may become a focal point.  

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rhododendron In Progress

Rhododendron, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
The complexity of the color and intricacy of the shapes makes this a challenging yet fulfilling process.  It's very slow going as I await the time in which I can go in and push the contrast enough to bring out the separate blossom forms.  


Osprey, 2019, Oil on Board, 16"x20"
We have 2 pair of Osprey nesting on our marsh. It appears the female is still incubating as she never leaves the nest.  This male is approaching the nest with wings raised and calling.  Early in March, he is building the next in anticipation of the female's arrival. Ospreys require nest sites in open surroundings for easy approach, with a wide, sturdy base and safety from ground predators (such as raccoons). Nests are usually built on snags, treetops, or crotches between large branches and trunks; Our nests are 1) on a man-made platform and 2) atop a telephone pole. Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with bark, sod, grasses, vines, algae, flotsam, jetsam, and just about anything the bird can grab and bring to lay.  At a program on Osprey we were shown a barbie doll and golf putter retrieved from a nest. The nest on our man-made platform is susceptible to high winter winds and never reaches the breadth and depth of long standing nests which can reach 10-13 feet deep and 3-6 feet in diameter.  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Works in Progress: Update

 Osprey, Oil on board, 16"x20"                                                     Rhododendron, Oil on Board, 8"x8"         
I'm currently working on three pieces, the Blue Jay posting from yesterday and the above two. One advantage to working on pieces simultaneously is to allow time for drying.  I really need to rest my hand upon the board for steadiness.  This works much better if the oils are dry. Also my layers are fairly transparent and need complete dryness to apply the next layer.  Two days ago I worked the left wing area of the Osprey.  Yesterday I worked the right side of the rhododendron.  The approach also helps with the tedium of working so tightly by switching subjects and the palette.  

Blue Jay Work in Progress

Blue Jay, Oil on Board, 10"x8"
I began throwing peanuts out a few years ago to attract the crows.  Eventually the Jays showed up and the crows disappeared.  I scatter the unshelled peanuts in an area adjacent to the marsh and below our decks.  As I walk to the area the Jays are waiting in the trees and begin to call "peanuts!  peanuts!".  They are a beautiful but aggressive bird.  This view will not show the variety of blue in the back and tail feathers.  But, I likes the pose and expression.  

Monday, May 13, 2019

Rhododendrons In Progress

Rhododendron, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
The Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, MA offers over 100 acres of gardens, the largest public garden in Southern New England.  I try to visit each spring during the rhododendron show to photograph. Charles Dexter was the original owner of the acreage.  He collected rhododendrons from around the world and combined them into new cultivars. The plant here is one of his cultivars known as Scintillation.  The flower clusters are 8-10" across. It has a subtle pink color with shades of yellow.  The shadows created by the strong light give the color a cooler violet appearance.  

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Osprey in Progress

Osprey, Oil on Board, 16"x20"

We can see two pairs of nesting Osprey from our house.  The  males return every year around St Patrick's day from their South American winter home. They begin to build the nest in preparation for the females arrival some two weeks later.  They have made a miraculous recovery from near extinction about 60 years ago due to pesticide poisons.  Led by Gil Fernandez, local naturalists helped save and bring back the Osprey by building platforms for nesting and cultivating the science that helped ban the worst pesticides.  I can stand directly below one of the nests and watch as the bird sores away in the thermals to distract me from the nest.  There was great drama this year when a bald eagle came into the area to fish.  Our four Osprey and 2 from a neighboring nest aggressively attack and drove off the eagle who certainly would have gone for the chicks. 

Monday, May 6, 2019


Hydrangea, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
Hydrangea: from Greek hydro - 'water' + angeion 'vessel' (from the cup shape of its seed capsule).  There are 5 main types of hydrangea in North America.  This type is commonly known as Mophead or French and is native to Japan.  The flower in this painting was not fully developed into the 'mop'.  I was more interested in the variation of bloom color at this early stage.  The almost white young petals had a green tint that was fun to mix.  Interestingly, this showy part of the flower is sterile.  

Balancing Baltimore Orioles

Balancing Act Baltimore Orioles, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
In an earlier post I mentioned that I might not oil in the ground.  In the end I did oil it.  There were areas that had been worked later and showed a difference in the surface that needed rectifying.  The Oriole on the left has a cheeky attitude that adds more interest to the narrative than the bird on the right.  It's important to not only find a position that shows the feathers but that creates a feeling of life and movement.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Baltimore Orioles Balancing Act

Baltimore Orioles Balancing Act, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
I have laid a transparent coating of Prussian blue over the ground.  The value is consistently dark across both grounds.  The surface is very flat and I am considering leaving it and only oiling out the birds and oranges.  

We still await the arrival of the Orioles.  The feeder is out and filled in anticipation of the arrival.  I know they are here by the sound of their call rather than the visual display of their plumage.  Follow this link to hear the distinct sound.  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/sounds

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Baltimore Orioles Balancing Act

Baltimore Orioles, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
The act of indirect painting as indicated by the name, slows my progress.  But, the reveal of one color choice over another is a learning experience.  I've yet to learn how to use the technique throughout the entire painting beyond the ground.  The use of values to compose both the light source and the forms cheats with the indirect method.  Later that method will be ignored as I begin to directly paint into the oranges and Orioles.  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Prickly Situation

                              Goldfinch with Thistle,  Oil on Board, 10"x8"

As part of the series that places the bird with its food source, I placed this American Goldfinch with a thistle.  Initially, the composition as seen on the left had a single thistle hanging as to be dried.  My in-house critic found this unintelligible.  Questions arose: does the space need to be identifiable?, should the depth of the space be clear?, is this surrealism? realism?  My decision was to add more thistle.  The image on the right shows the beginnings of this approach.  

Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants with sharp prickles all over the plant.  The prickles are an adaptation that protects the plants from herbivores. The varieties are vast, some considered beneficial for pollinators. The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland, land of my maternal heritage. According to a legend, an invading Norse Army was attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scottish army's encampment. During the attempt one barefoot N0rseman stepped upon a thistle, cried out in pain, thus alerting the Scots. The spear thistle, presented here with the Goldfinch, is considered the likely thistle the Norseman stepped on.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Fertility, Pomegranate

Pomegranate, 2019, Oil on Board, 10"x10"
The uncertainty in this piece lies in the scale of the pomegranate.  They are in fact larger than life size.  This alone would not seem problematic except for the small scale of the overall piece.  As such, the pomegranate seems out of scale or too large for its environment.  Also, the left half wants to float rather than sit.  
"There is no must in art because art is free." Wassily Kandinsky

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Synchronized Swimming Carolina Wren, 2019

Synchronized Swimming Carolina Wren, 2019, Oil on Board, 12"x24"
Toward the end the challenge here was to have reflections that did not compete with the line of wrens above the water yet offered a balance and realism to the idea. This was the first time I worked with indigo blue, now my new favorite go to color. Indigofera tinctorial, also called true indigo, is the plant from which indigo dye comes.  It is the dye used in denim for blue jeans.  The dye is not light fast, which is one of the plusses of use in jeans.  The Winsor paint however is a synthetic pigment and will not fade. In 1997 when the Shakespeare Globe theatre was reconstructed in London, Indigo was used to paint the heavens of the theatre. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Fertility a Work in Progress

Pomegranate, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x10"
I've reconsidered the leathery skin color of the pomegranate halves.  There is still at least one more session on the skins.  Reds can be difficult to work with. When tinting they can become opaque and pink rather than a bright light red.  

Hera, 2014, Oil on Board, 24"x18"
Hera, the Greek Goddess and wife of Zeus, shares the pomegranate symbol with Persephone. Ancient images of Hera sometimes depict her with the pomegranate.  The ample and deep red seeds associate the pomegranate with fertility and blood.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fertility a Work in Progress

Pomegranate, 2019, Oil on Board, 8"x10"
Initially I considered the pomegranate as a prop for a bird in much the same way I used the orange and Baltimore Orioles together.  Since, I wanted a natural relationship, my research found only parrots or the Arizona Verdin.  Neither appealed to me.  So, as it stands now I will give the pomegranate a solo performance.  

Throughout history pomegranates have been a symbol of prosperity and abundance.  Most notably in Greek mythology it symbolizes Persephone's time in hades. Images of Persephone show her holding 7 pomegranate seeds symbolizing her 7 months in hades and the northern hemisphere's 7 months of winter.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Synchronized Swimming, A Work in Progress

Synchronized Swimming, 2019, Oil on Board, 12"x24"
Upon returning to direct application of paint, I lightened the blue and eliminated the orange band behind the birds as I didn't feel there was adequate contrast.  

Cornell University's ornithology lab is a great resource of information about birds.  They say the following of the Carolina Wren. 
  • Unlike other wren species in its genus, only the male Carolina Wren sings the loud song. In other species, such as the Stripe-breasted Wren of Central America, both members of a pair sing together. The male and female sing different parts, and usually interweave their songs such that they sound like a single bird singing.
  • One captive male Carolina Wren sang nearly 3,000 times in a single day.
  • A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round, and forage and move around the territory together.
  • The oldest recorded Carolina Wren was at least 7 years, 8 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Florida in 2004. It had been banded in the same state in 1997.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Synchronized Swimming

Drawing Preps for Carolina Wren
As our winters have warmed, the Carolina Wren has been a frequent visitor to our Massachusetts backyard for several years.  I've had to discourage it from nesting in our kitchen window box.  It seemed happy enough to relocate to our shed.  But, because of the very harsh winters the past two years, they have not been around.  As the name indicates, they are a southern bird which are sensitive to cold weather. I'm hoping to see a return this spring.  The long, upward-cocked tail, the white eyebrow strip and the burnt sienna and ochre color rewards the eye.  Only the male sings, and with such glee and voracity. My planned composition is to position 10 of them across the bottom of the board where they will be reflected in a band of water. 
Oil on Board, 12"x24"
The board has begun with an application of blues and ochres.  I intend to apply transparent white over this base in another attempt at indirect painting.  The value should be lightened to a great degree.  Thankfully oils are very forgiving.  If all fails, direct painting it will be.