Category Archives: In the Studio

Backlit Bluffs (California Coast)

I painted this from an image in my library. I believe it was taken in San Luis Obispo, during one of their plein air events.  I’m really enjoying a focus on large shapes where I can focus on color, value and design.  I’m also getting looser with my brushwork, which is another skill I’m honing.


Backlit Bluffs (California Coast), Oil on Linen, 10×8″

Back to the figure

I am enjoying a renewed interest in the figure after meeting David Germard at his recent Mission district open studio. David has a nice selection of male model’s, which is difficult to find as most groups focus on the female figure. Today’s model works annonymously, so I will call him “M”.

“M” (Back) – Oil on Linen – 12×10″

I really like the model’s expression in this one. I wasn’t able to finish, but at least got a good start on the head.

“M” Portrait (unfinished) – Oil on Linen – 16×12

More coastal ice plant

Like the previous painting (Sunset, Buena Vista Park), I started this coastal painting by laying in the most intense colors first, and working out. I followed this approach in a previous coastal ice plant painting a few weeks ago. I think this is similar to how I’ve seen some painters–particularly figuaritve–start with the center of interest and work outward. It’s just another technique to try.

I think the shadows may be too dark in value…I may try editing it in photoshop to see what it would look like lighter. A large contrast in value is not always needed to indicate strong, direct sunlight.

Coastal Ice Plant – Oil on Linen – 11×14″

Sunset, Buena Vista Park

I remember the day I took the reference photo for this shot, while walking Gracie through Buena Vista park. The light and shadow was just at the right spot on the path.

To get these colors to “sing”, after my initial wash block-in (of Alizarin Crimson + Sap Green), I started by laying down the most intense color first, such as Fire Red directly out of the tube. Then I related all other colors to those initial spots.


Sunset, Buena Vista Park – Oil on Linen – 9×12″

Napa Glow

I remember this day so well! Mike and I went to Napa Valley for last Valentine’s day holiday for a long weekend. After visiting Copia (where we learned how to make hot chocolate and home-made marshmallows in a cooking class), we played fetch with Gracie in a field behind Copia beside what I guess is the Napa river. My reference photo for this painting was taken a bit later, so the light even warmer.

I think this represents where I’m going. Continuing to losen up, being more expressive. What do you think?

Napa Glow, Oil on Linen, 8×10″

Mike and Gracie on that day…me, behind the camera as usual 🙂

Playing with abstraction

One of my top few observations from being a painter is the importance of abstraction. Although I’m primarily a representational painter, a painting ultimately succeeds or fails based on abstract qualities, especially design.

I painted this study in a loose abstract manner, without my eye glasses. This helps me accurately record color and value, as our mind has a way of convincing me of things that aren’t always true (eg, that grass is green, the sky is blue). Towards the end of the painting, I pull it back in to a representational state bty adding a details/lines that “pull it together”. I didn’t do that here. I paused at this point, and thought, why not, it works as it is now: a pleasing combination of color and shapes.

Hmmm….I may fast becoming an abstract painter. Oh well, it’s what’s selling 🙂

Beach Canyon Abstract – Oil on Linen – 8×10


This is a small painting of the north shore of Kauai, from my recent trip there (here’s a sunset painting from the same trip). I love the Hawaiian sky!

Kauai – Oil on Linen – 8×10″

From a technique perspective, here are some things I can note:

  1. I’ve kept this simple, just a few (<7) large shapes (see my post on abstraction);
  2. There is an uneven distribution of values–one value should always dominate (in this case, the lighter sky), with others in unequal supporting roles;
  3. The green foilage in the painting are very dark, as the sun is behind, yet I wanted them to read as green, and of course keep them loose. To accomplish that, I shifted the sky color less green and more towards violet (especially the low clouds) to set up a complementary color relationship (see my post on color separation)
  4. I kept the paint loose, and achieved accurate values by painting with my glasses down for the first 90%. Those of you not near-signed, can squint, which has a similar effect, although impacts your perception of light, so not ideal. Near-sighted artists rule!
  5. This was a very quick study, which also helped me be free with it. I try not to get “precious”, in fact, this painting was done over another older study. In order to learn, it’s important that I think of every painting as an exercise, to be wiped off right after. Sometimes (like this), the exercise works out and you have something worth keeping (and selling…buy now! 🙂

Venice Laundry, with YouTube Demo

Another study, based on my photos of Venice. I enjoyed painting this one a lot. I enjoy mixing the subtle earthy tones of old buildings or nature with man-made shocking colors, like the clothes hanging to dry here.

The photos aren’t great (taken with my camera phone), so when this finishes drying (in the Wedgewood Stove, as always), I’ll take a digital scan. I strung together four photos of the work in progress, imported into iMovie, and made a short video now on my YouTube channel.

Venice Laundry – Oil on Linen – 10×8


One area I really focused on, to make the light “read” well, was the difference between light and shade across subtle color shifts. To see what I mean, look at the shadow cast by the open green window shutter. See the difference in the building’s color and texture, from a yellow at the bottom, then a white crack patch (not yet painted), then an older ochre color to the top. It was critical that I got the shade/light relationships working across that plane. I think I did it, but let me know what you think. I’m less sure about that darn green shutter in full light. It’s just not sitting right. Perhaps it’s too cool? What do you think?

Click on this image to get to the YouTube video. Enjoy!

click to view

“Golden Hour” Venice

Hung out at home today, so went through my digital library to find images to paint. I’ve always loved this late afternoon shot of Venice, in the “Golden Hour”. This is a small study, but I may work on a studio version as well. The light really was this orange, and hitting the red brick buildings, made it just sing “fire”. Don’t know if it’s too much. I wonder too if the shadows striking the buildings on the right is reading well. They’re cast shadows from the buildings on the left.

It was fun adding pure bits of color here and there to represent people in the background, and on the boats. Man-made colors against the calm of nature makes for nice variation.

Venice Canal – Oil on Linen – 10×8″


Is it done?

My big Achilles Heel is painting large, studio works. I have a short attention span, so the thought of working a long time on a single painting doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve worked as large as 3’x5′, but this work is 20×22″. It’s based on “Dry Stream Bed“, which I posted last month. I continue to requests for larger works, so I’ve got to figure this out.
I’m trying to keep the feelings of spontaneity and freshness found in the original. What do you think? Is it done?

Coachella Valley Running Dry – Oil on Linen – 20×22