Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sioux Woman

12" x 9" Charcoal on Paper
Here's a sketch made at the weekly drawing session just a few weeks ago. My sketch was made using charcoal and "charcoal white" pencils in a Strathmore sketchbook. Before beginning the drawing, the paper was toned by rubbing a stick of charcoal over the entire sheet. Then the charcoal coating was lightly rubbed and smoothed with a paper towel that came from a paper towel dispenser in the restroom. The darks were laid down with a soft charcoal pencil. Light tones were created using a kneaded eraser to lift out the charcoal. "Charcoal white" was used very sparingly (in this case) for highlights. 

The model, a Sioux woman,  was dressed in a modern professional-looking outfit. Of course she would have looked good in a hand-sewn fringed buckskin dress adorned with dyed porcupine quills, elk hooves and cowrie shells, but she also looked good as she was and was an excellent model, so that's how we drew her. 

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

8" x 10" Oil on Panel
This is the first, and so far the only snow painting I've done this season, so it gets to be my Christmas post. It was painted a week and a half ago in the Four Corners area of Utah. Walking along through the snow on this high desert plateau, I found an old dirt road which meandered through the sagebrush toward some pinion pine and juniper trees. Beyond the trees rise the Abajo Mountains. The only wildlife I remember seeing that day were a couple desert cottontails that scampered through the brush as I approached, and the occasional passing raven. The temperatures were only a little below freezing on this sunny and pleasant day, which was a relief after a week or two of very cold weather.

Hope you have Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

5" x 7" Oil on Panel
A day or two after a fine turkey dinner I went painting outdoors. The scene above is one I've painted before, but I had to try it with the little 5" x 7" pochade box. The low winter sun rakes across the faceted angles of Maple Mountain, creating fascinating patterns of dark and light. This is one of my favorite mountains to paint. I'm sure to do it again, and from other locations in the valley. The snow line has moved all the way down the slopes now, blanketing everything in the valley. I'm looking forward to snow painting.

5" x 7" Oil on Panel
The next little painting in this post also came out of the 5" x 7" pochade box that weekend. It was painted from the bench trail along the base of the mountains just east of town. The contrast of the lone pine on a slope of golden autumn grasses caught my attention. I might go paint it again now that snow has covered the grass.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Some Lingering Fall Color

5" x 7" Oil on Panel
This was painted down by the lake one afternoon in November. It wasn't easy finding one last Autumn painting to do since most of the leaves were down by then, but I found this splash of color just a stone's throw from the edge of the lake. The air was calm, and balmy by November's standards. The lake's surface was smooth, mirroring some clouds that began moving in later that afternoon. As the sun neared the horizon a slight breeze picked up. Small waves began to gently lap the shore near my feet. It was a perfect day to be out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Little Pioneer Girl

12" x 9" Pastel on Colorfix Paper
Utah reveres it's pioneers. Seems like most here have an ancestor or two who rode across the plains in a covered wagon - or walked, pulling a handcart. Mine didn't. My ancestors stayed in Pennsylvania. Instead, I traveled west on a Greyhound Bus.

Still, I benefit from the pioneer attitude and culture here. That attitude and culture continues to be vibrant and becomes even more diverse as time moves on. Now, new kinds of pioneers set out to explore new and different kinds of frontiers with optimism, enthusiasm, and faith. These kinds of pioneers are found not only among descendants of the early white settlers, but also among people of all races and nationalities who have come to this place, and among those whose ancestors were originally here.

The pastel sketch shown above was made a couple years or so ago at the weekly drawing session. The girl in this sketch is the same young woman who modeled for us recently, and was the subject of another post in this blog.

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Young Man in a Chapeau

12" x 9" Charcoal and Charcoal Pencil on Paper
Here's another recent sketch from the weekly drawing session. The model is the brother of the young woman in this sketch.

The commercially available sketchbooks with toned paper don't quite do it for me. An ordinary sketchbook with white paper toned by hand as needed works better. Before each sketch, the side of a stick of charcoal is rubbed all over the paper and then blended to a certain degree with a dry paper towel (obtained from the men's room at the drawing class). That way I can control how dark the tone will be. From the resulting mid-tone darks are built up with charcoal pencil, and lights are made by lifting charcoal off the paper with a kneaded eraser. "White charcoal" might then be used for the brightest highlights.

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Group Show Opening in Salt Lake City Tomorrow

A new group show opens tomorrow night (Friday, Nov. 15) at Evergreen Gallery in Salt Lake City. The exhibit includes eight of my most recent paintings, which were all done "en plein air" and feature local rural and alpine landscapes. I'm excited to be a part of this show! There will be quite a variety of wonderful artwork for sale from four painters and one potter. It's free to visit, so come enjoy the show, and maybe pick up a gift or two for the holidays or just for yourself! Evergreen Gallery is located at 3295 South, 2000 East in Salt Lake City, Utah. For more information, click on the flyer shown above, or on any of the links in the text, including this one.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cottonwood and Willow Gold

11" x 14"  Oil on Panel
Seasons slide one into another, and time has carried us into another autumn. The fall season  is so brief; there isn't time enough for diving into and limning all the brilliant displays of scarlet and gold. All I can do is go about here and there sampling autumn's brilliance. The rows of willows along ranch roads in Heber Valley provide the first sample shown in this post. These trees have been the subjects for paintings made in summer, fall and winter.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The second image is of a cottonwood against a backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains. The leaves have turned, and the mountains are dusted with an early autumn snow. These cottonwoods have also been the subjects of several sketches and paintings made in all seasons. I hope they'll continue to be.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Yesterday's Sketch - Navajo Girl

14" x 11" Charcoal on Toned Paper
Yesterday evening's model for the weekly drawing session was a Navajo girl who's parents are from New Mexico. She wore a traditionally styled black and red dress, leather moccasins and leggings, and some turquoise and silver jewelry. She was an excellent model.

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Great Things Small Packages 2013

Friday, November the first, a new show is opening at the Terra Nova Gallery in Provo, Utah. It's their annual "Great Things Small Packages" show. The show is free and always has a variety of wonderful small works for sale by local artists. I'm happy to once again have a couple pieces in the show - two of the very first paintings out of my new little 5" x 7" pochade box! The day before the opening, I visited Terra Nova and got a sneak preview of the show as the owners worked to get it ready for the monthly "Gallery Stroll." That's where I got these photos of my two paintings, hung and almost ready for the show's opening on Friday.

"Great Things Small Packages 2013" opens November 1st at 6:00 PM and runs through November and December. Terra Nova Gallery is located at 41 West, 300 North in Provo, Utah. Be sure to check with the gallery for their hours, and to find out about upcoming events! For more information, click on their logo below:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Sketch for Halloween

12" x 9" Charcoal on Paper
Since the usual Thursday evening drawing session is the same day as Halloween this week, there's no class tomorrow. I guess everyone wants to go trick-or-treating or something. Because of that, we had our Halloween model pose for us last week. The model wore a gold-trimmed violet gown with a lace-up bodice, and matching choker with large pointed "wings." Very halloweeny. It was my idea to change from the traditional lighting to a low angled light, illuminating the model from below. I thought that might look a little more "spooky." 

Happy Halloween!

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn Road

16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel
Switching from the little 5" x 7" pochade box used in the last post, I got out the easel and made this 16" x 20" plein air painting with the big paintbox. It was painted just a few days ago on a beautiful Autumn day in Heber Valley. A slight October nip was in the air and sunlight slanted out of a blue sky. That combination of air, sun, and the variety of autumn colors makes this one of my favorite seasons. Occasionally a local rancher or people just out enjoying the Fall colors would stop for a brief visit as I painted. 

The only out-of-the-ordinary concern was when a big black bull came into view around the bend in the road shown in the painting. The burly beast had gotten through a fence and kept wandering back and forth, in and out of view, along the dirt road. I was painting beside my car, which would have been my means of escape if necessary but the bull never came too close, so I kept painting.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another Trip To the Wasatch Bench

5" x 7" Oil on Panel
Last Saturday was at least the fourth time I've painted this spot this year. I can't seem to get enough of it, and each time is different. This time the chamisa is in full bloom. Honey bees and a few bumble bees worked the bright yellow chamisa blossoms as I set up the little 5" x 7" pochade box for another run. The beautiful autumn day began with blue skies, but later I found myself working from memory as cloud cover moved in and dimmed the sunlight.

As is usual, people occasionally stopped for brief visits as they came up the trail and found a plein air painter at work. I usually enjoy these visits. One man was even nice enough to snap a few photos of me painting.

Here's the painting "still in the box":

Saturday, October 12, 2013

T Nuts for Pochade Boxes

A reader asked how I attached my home made pochade boxes to a tripod. I think that might be a good subject for a new post, so here it is. The little piece of hardware I use for that is called a T nut (or tee nut). Pictured below are a couple of 1/4-20 x 5/16 T nuts (US standard). 1/4" is the bolt size, 20 is the thread size (20 per inch), and 5/16" is the length. Whether the T nut has three or four prongs doesn't matter.

If you have any question about whether the T nut will fit your tripod, take it along with you to the hardware store for a test fit.

Warning: Before using any hand or power tools be sure you read and understand all directions pertaining to their safe use and maintenance. Also be sure to properly use all recommended safety equipment. Don't anybody get hurt!

To attach the T nut to your pochade box, first determine where you want the box to sit on the tripod. That point is usually halfway between the left and right sides of the box, and two or three inches or so from the back of the box. How far from the back is determined by the pochade box's balance point when the lid (which holds the painting panel) is open. On my little pochade boxes, how far from the back of the box isn't as important as it might be with larger boxes, so I stuck it right in the middle.

After marking the point for the T nut, drill a hole in the bottom of the box just big enough for the shaft of the T nut. A 5/16" bit will probably do. Hammer the T nut into the hole with the flange on the inside of the box. Some people countersink the flange, but I don't bother.

Here's a close-up:

The length of the T nut's shaft should be the same as, or slightly less than the thickness of the wood. If the shaft is too long, you can take a little off with a file or grinder. The image below is a close-up the underside of the little pochade box. You can see (I hope) the end of the T nut just shy of the surface.

There are other ways of attaching your pochade box to a tripod which probably work just as well, but I think the T nut method is the most common. There are different ways of attaching a T nut. This post shows how I do it, but here's a link to a plein air painting forum thread that shows a different method:

I hope this post is useful for you. Have fun building your pochade box and even more fun painting with it!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Two New Plein Air Shows Opening

Early Autumn Rain 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel
Two plein air shows are opening tonight (October 4, 2013) in Provo. I have paintings in both of them.

The painting shown above was painted yesterday and is my entry in "Plein Air Provo 2013" at Terra Nova Gallery. The Show opens this evening at 6:00 PM and runs through he 25th of October. Terra Nova is located at 41 West 300 North in Provo, Utah. For more information you can visit their website:

The Window Box Gallery has two new paintings of mine in their plein air exhibit, which also opens tonight and runs through the month of October. The Window Box Gallery is located at 62 W Center St. in Provo, Utah. You can find more information by visiting their website:

Both shows highlight local painters and are sure to be great! The Window Box Gallery and Terra Nova Gallery are located relatively close to each other and are on this evening's "Downtown Provo Gallery Stroll". You can visit both gallery's show openings, and while you're out you can visit other local galleries and enjoy an early autumn evening out on the town!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Young Woman with Braid

Charcoal Pencil and "Charcoal White" on Toned Paper
This is a recent sketch from one of this month's weekly drawing sessions in Springville. Using "charcoal white" on "toned tan" drawing paper gives the drawing a more cold appearance than I like, but I'm generally happy with how the sketch turned out. Once the toned tan paper is used up I'll probably switch to a darker paper more suited to this kind of lighting. I love drawing from the shadow side of the model!

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A New 5 x 7 Pochade Box

The combination of being an outdoor painter and a woodworker has resulted in me making a lot of my own painting equipment out of wood. There are five easels, five paint boxes, a couple pastel boxes, a bunch of panel holders, and I-don't-know-how-many boxes of various sizes for pencils, brushes, and other art supplies which I made and use. The problem this causes is that once I make something, I think of modifications or improvements, and then I have to make another one. And then another.

So.... Add two more pochade boxes to the list! Pictured above is one of the little 5" x 7" pochade boxes I've recently made and put to use. This pochade box is small, light and so easy to carry. The 6" x 8" and 8" x 10" pochade boxes I have are portable and often go with me on painting excursions, but they are possibly a little overbuilt and bulky. They also require their own bag for carrying. The 5" x 7" box can fit in my day pack. That will allow me to take my oils on longer hikes with ease, or take better advantage of small windows of time for painting. I'll certainly continue to make larger paintings, but little paintings can have a certain charm; an almost gem-like quality to them. That, and I had some pieces of Pennsylvania butternut wood that were asking to be made into something!

The image immediately below shows the little 5" x 7" pochade box open. The lid holds two panels. The palette slides out enabling access to paints, brushes, and other things in the bottom compartment. There is a T-nut in the bottom, attached from the inside, so the box can be mounted onto a tripod.

The brace that holds the lid open for painting is simply a sturdy piece of heavy gauge wire bent and fit into holes drilled most of the way into the side of the box and lid. For travel the brace is removed and stored inside the box. The holes for the brace may eventually wear out but for now they work great, and will be easy enough to replace if needed.

The box's versatility allows paintings to be made horizontally or vertically.

And there was just enough butternut wood to make two! That way if one of them gets dropped in a flash flood or blown over a cliff by a dust devil I have a backup. Butternut is a little on the soft side - about like pine - so it'll ding relatively easy, but it looks good, it's what I had, and it works just fine.

I took one of the little 5" x 7" pochade boxes out for a spin last Saturday. It was a day I really didn't feel like painting, and the weather was bad, but I thought I should get out and paint anyway. Besides, I had a new box to try out! It rained on me as I walked up the trail to find someplace to paint. However, the rain stopped as I set up and began to paint. The new little pochade box worked great! Here it is in action:

This is the painting I made on that rainy day:

5" x 7" Oil on Panel
On my walk back to the trail head there was an unusual sight. About fifty nighthawks were flying, swirling around above a rancher's field. I've never seen so many nighthawks in one place before. They must have been catching insects and getting ready for their seasonal migration.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Pastel Portrait, and Some Bluesy Southern Slide

14" x 11" Pastel on Gray Paper
This is another pastel portrait sketch done a few years ago at the weekly drawing sessions. Drawing on a toned surface allows you to build up darks and lights without having to build up everything from white. Gray toned paper can be a time saver that way, but more importantly it provides a foil for colors to stand out against, and helps highlights "pop" better. 

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

And now, on a completely unrelated note (no pun intended), here's some uncommon acoustic music by Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks! Enjoy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gallery Show Tonight, plus Some In-Process Photos of a Painting

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Tonight the Terra Nova Gallery is opening their 10th anniversary exhibit. The show features several of the gallery's "inaugural" artists who have been with the gallery since it started, and I'm one of them! Two of my recent plein air paintings are in the show, one of which is shown above. I've gotten a sneak peek of the exhibit, and it promises to be a very good show! The show opens tonight for "First Friday Gallery Stroll" and runs through this month (September 2013). The Terra Nova Gallery is located at 41 West and 300 North in Provo, Utah.  For gallery hours and more information visit Terra Nova's website.

It's been a long time since I've shown any step-by-step demonstrations of my plein air painting technique, so I thought I'd show how the painting pictured above was done. It was painted a few weeks ago in west Springville, not far from the lake. My apologies for the quality of some of the in-process photos, which are kind of blurry, but I hope they get the ideas across.

First the painting panel is toned with a mix of ultramarine blue and permanent alizarin crimson, plus a touch of cadmium yellow. Then the image is sketched in with the same color:

The colors that are then blocked in are a starting point, establishing value and color relationships. At this point I usually work from foreground to background, or dark to light:

The painting is then developed from the background to the foreground. Here the clouds and mountains are beginning to be worked up:

The mountains and middle ground are worked some more, and foliage is added to the trees:

The foreground is next, but I'm continually adjusting all parts of the painting as needed:

Final adjustments are made, and the painting is finished:

This was my set up for that day:

Hope you found this useful! As always, the painting looks better in real life so if you can go to the Terra Nova Gallery for the opening tonight - or anytime throughout the month (contact Terra Nova for gallery hours) - you can see it and all of the other wonderful artworks by some of the best painters and sculptors in the state (and maybe some from out of state, too)!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spring City 2013.2

6" x 8" Oil on Panel
This is part two of Spring City's 2013 plein air event. Part one can be found here

Friday I didn't feel like painting but went anyway. Once again the weather was unsettled, with sunshine taking turns with wind and rain. I settled on a simple subject and made a small painting. That painting is shown at the top of this post. Friday evening I attended the artist's reception where I visited with other painters and enjoyed the exhibit. The last three days had been rather tiring, so I stayed only an hour or so before heading up into the mountains to find a place to camp - and sleep. Someone was already in my earlier campsite so I headed up higher, up through a long series of switchbacks, and found an open meadow surrounded by aspen and evergreen. I had this spot all to myself! Arriving at the campsite after dark, I enjoyed a display of lightning in storms off to the north and a show of stars and the Milky Way overhead before thickening clouds ended the star show. A gentle rain passed by during the night.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
When I awoke in the morning there was only an hour to get ready and get down to the "quick paint" event. Once again I didn't feel like painting but went anyway. The morning was overcast with occasional light drizzle. For some reason, instead of choosing to paint one of my usual subjects, I went all architectural and painted an old church. Not the best subject for me in a "quick paint", but I went for it anyway. That painting is shown in the second image in this post. After painting the church, I realized the composition was reminiscent of the only other plein air painting I've ever made of a church. 

Later in the day I walked into the exhibit and saw that a painting of mine had sold. That made me feel good enough to go down to a local German cafe and buy a couple bratwursts with sauerkraut and hot mustard - my only indulgence the whole trip.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spring City 2013

11" x 14" Oil on Panel
I'm right in the middle of Spring City's plein air competition - one of the biggest and best in Utah! The image shown above is of the painting I did today. This morning began with clear blue skies. Clouds are building but the weather didn't impact painting today. In fact, I'm looking forward to seeing how other painters might have incorporated the building clouds into their landscapes! Yesterday the weather was more unsettled, with scattered rain, thunder, and variable light. The image below is of the painting I made yesterday.

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
There are some pale grey bluffs southwest of Spring City, covered with juniper and pinyon pine trees. After doing some off-roading, exploring the bluffs, I thought it might be a good place to camp. I found a nice spot and settled in for the night. Passing rain showers and occasional sunshine created a complete rainbow. A good sign, thought I!

That was, until the shooting started! Driving into the bluffs, there was nothing to indicate that an hour or two after my arrival a bunch of people would come into the trees nearby and begin target shooting. I couldn't see them, but they were close enough that I could hear them talking. They had various calibers, all of which were used with enthusiasm. Numerous ricochets zinged overhead. I quickly packed everything back into my car and got out of there. There was a pause in the shooting as I started the car and drove away. The shooters might not have known I was there until they heard the car. A minute down the dirt track I heard the shooting start up again.

Crossing the valley and driving a few miles up into the mountains in the dark, I found another campsite. Left alone this time, I got a good night's sleep.

There's one more day of painting left, plus a "quick paint" on Saturday. The big art show and sale is this Saturday. There's also a lot of other events going on for the Spring City Arts Festival, so check out their website for more onfo! I'm planning on completing one or two more paintings, eating a bratwurst or two, and staying far away from any impromptu shooting ranges!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Portrait Sketch in Charcoal

12" x 9" Charcoal Pencil on Paper
I went with the dramatic lighting in this charcoal sketch, which was done at the weekly drawing session two Thursdays ago. There's more that could be done to refine the drawing, but I'll leave it as it was at the end of the session. Sometimes I'll work more on a sketch after getting back from a drawing session but more often I'll leave it be. There's a lot to learn from looking at a sketch later and seeing what I did while the model was still in front of me.

There's no drawing class this Thursday (August 29th) because some of us will be at the plein air painting competition in Spring City instead. Sessions will resume the following Thursday (Sept. 5).

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."