Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yellow, Red, Black and White

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
A few more from the weekly portrait sessions. As mentioned in the posts title, these were painted with a limited palette. When painting plein air landscapes, I usually use some kind of split primary plus green. For studying portraits at the weekly sessions, I limit colors to a modified "Zorn" palette;  usually yellow ochre (or cadmium yellow), cadmium red, ivory black, and titanium white. I probably won't always use that palette for painting people, but it serves it's purpose for now.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The first two portraits shown here are the most recent ones. They were painted with only yellow ochre, cadmium red, ivory black, and titanium white. The last portrait was painted a month or so ago, and I don't remember the exact paints used.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The last portrait is of Micah Christensen. Micah is an art historian and lecturer who's work takes him to places all over the country and around the globe. He was good enough to sit for us one Thursday evening at Casey Child's studio. This portrait could have been better, but rather than hold still, Micah talked for the whole three hours. I was OK with that because of what he had to say about artists of the past, the art world of yesteryear and today, and what the future could hold for the visual arts. I was happy for the opportunity to listen to him while I painted. For more information about Micah Christensen, click here. While you're at it, be sure to check out his lectures, articles and other presentations about 18th and 19th century visual arts at The Bearded Roman.

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


There was so much to do last Saturday, but not enough Saturday to do it in. I thought hiking was one of the important things, though, so that afternoon I headed to a canyon in the mountains not far from town.

It was a very hot day. The temperature rose to 102°F in the afternoon. It would have been much less hot up in the high country, but summer storms had already laid claim to the mountain peaks. Dark blue-grey clouds brooded over the peaks and ridges and the sound of thunder could be heard all the way down the canyon. The lower canyon, where I was, was in full summer sun. A few lizards seemed to like that. I, however, hiked from tree shadow to tree shadow, pausing to rest at every shade along the trail. 

When hiking, one should pay attention not only to what is immediately ahead and under foot, but also to where the trail leads and what might be up ahead. Early in this hike I forgot about the second part of that. Distracted by the hot sun on my back and loose rock beneath my hiking shoes, I trudged up one of the steeper sections of trail. Upon reaching the top of that stretch, I finally looked up. There, twelve or fifteen feet in front of me, was a bighorn ram - who was looking back at me! Close by was another bighorn. I was surprised! I also felt uncomfortable about being so close to two large wild animals.

The closest bighorn appeared tough and powerful. Its thick horns were not quite full curl, but looked imposing nonetheless. The other bighorn had horns not much larger than a bighorn ewe's, but I think it was a younger ram. The two bighorns stood and looked at me, then milled around a little before stopping to look again. I backed off a few steps, swung off my day pack, and fished a camera out of the pack. The heat, exertion and excitement of the encounter made my hands unsteady, so the first few pictures I took were as blurry as photos of Bigfoot or UFOs. Then I was able to brace the camera against my hiking staff and got the more acceptable photo shown at the top of this post. 

There's usually a spring running where the two bighorns were. I've seen bighorn sheep at this spring before, but now it had dried to a wet spot, of interest to wasps and hornets but of little use to the parched tongues of much larger beasts. Both of the bighorn sheep were panting. So was I, but I could do something about it. I had brought my own water.

I considered what to do next. I thought my presence would cause the rams to move off and allow me to continue hiking up the trail. Deer would have quickly left. The rams, however, showed no signs of yielding right of way. After a short impasse, the larger ram tilted his head and tapped one of his horns against the flank of the smaller ram. I don't know what that gesture meant, but I figured that if he was thinking of his horns, maybe I should think of changing my plans. I decided to use a nearby wash to swing wide around the two rams.

Both bighorns watched as I hiked down to the wash. I went up the wash and then through some brush to get back onto the trail farther above where I had met the two rams. I discovered that as I tried to circle around the bighorns, they had actually moved farther up the trail. I met them again after rounding a bend in the trail. This time, they were down in the wash and I was up on the trail, ten or twelve feet higher than them. The two bighorns had stopped in the wash to investigate another place where water had flowed in an earlier, wetter season, but all that was there now was a damp tease in the bank. This time, upon seeing me above them, the two rams bolted down the wash, kicking up dust as their hooves clattered over cobbles and boulders. After watching them go, I continued hiking up the trail.

I wonder if, in nature, both predators and prey recognize the high ground as the angle of attack. When I was level with or slightly below the level of the bighorns, they stood their ground, if a little nervously. When I appeared above them they spooked.

A couple miles up the canyon I discovered the wild red raspberry bushes were beginning to bear fruit. I plucked a few of the bright red berry clusters and ate them before continuing up canyon. The storm clouds which earlier in the day darkened the higher elevations had moved on. Now blue sky brightened the mountain peaks. Other storms, however, had been forming and gathering to the west, and were beginning to move my way. The growing cloud cover cooled the air a little, but the heat of the day had already drained me a bit. That, and occasional lightning visible among scattered, tattered curtains of rain to the west convinced me to return back down canyon.

Other wildlife seen on the hike includes a racer (snake), hawk, hummingbird, and cottontail rabbit. I'm happy for any encounters with wildlife, great or small, that goes well. I'm especially glad I came across the bighorn rams. There are things to think about and learn from all such encounters.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Green Blouse

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
Here's an oil sketch from last week's Thursday night portrait session. As always, I painted until time was called. I never get finished with these, but what a valuable exercise they are! There was a little change to the colors on my palette for this painting. Like always, titanium white, ivory black, and cadmium red were used for this portrait, but then I used two yellows; yellow ochre and cadmium yellow. Ultramarine blue was also introduced into the mix.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Late Afternoon in June

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Tomorrow is the First day of summer. It's a great time of the year to paint in spite of the heat. Of course, if the weather becomes too hot, the Wasatch Mountains are close by to provide a cooler place to go. Paradoxically though, the high mountain altitudes can provide relief from the heat, but not necessarily from the sun.

This was painted on a pleasantly warm afternoon, a few days before June started really cranking up the heat. I've driven past these stands of cottonwood trees west of town many times, thinking I would stop and paint them some day. That day came late last week as I was on my way to paint somewhere else. The air was full of fluffy cottonwood seeds, but I decided to risk getting cottonwood fluff stuck all over my painting anyway. Turned out that, in spite of flurries of fluffy seeds, few seeds stuck to my palette and none to the painting. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Three Women

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
Here are some more portrait sketches from the weekly portrait sessions. All three were made using oil paint and were painted from live models.

The first one shown is the most recent, and was painted last Wednesday. It was made using my most Zorn-ish color palette: yellow ochre, cadmium red (instead of vermillion), ivory black, and titanium white (instead of flake white).

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
The next two were painted with a few changes or additions to that palette. Having been two or three weeks since they were painted, however, I'm not sure I can remember everything I did differently. For the second painting shown here, more Naples yellow and less white was used. It was an experiment to see what would happen if a pale yellow was largely substituted for white.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The third painting is of a substitute model. She filled in on the spur of the moment when the originally scheduled model failed to show. This was painted on an entirely untoned panel to see what effect that would have on the portrait.

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Along the way to the Marina

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Here's a painting made last week. It was a warm summer day and lots of people had headed to the lake. So many in fact, that parking in the state park had filled up and spilled out onto surrounding roads. I was lucky enough to find a good spot to park, and hiked a short ways to an area just north of the marina and campground. The park was crowded, and there were watercraft galore out on the lake, but there was no one else where I went to paint. Cottonwood trees were shedding flurries of fluffy seeds, which could be a problem because they stick to wet paintings. Thick swarms of midges were near the lake shore. They also stick to wet paintings. The open area between the cottonwoods and the marshy lake shore was mostly free of both problems. Besides, it had the visual angle on the trees I wanted to paint. So that's where I set up for the day.

The marshes, trees, and fields near the lake are some of my favorite places to paint, or even just go for walks. Wildlife is one of the attractions there. On the day of the painting, six big white pelicans circled in a thermal not far behind me. The pelican's long black-tipped wings lent grace to their otherwise ungainly bodies and huge orange-yellow beaks. Four seagulls circled with the pelicans. I had to stop painting and watch the show. Three more seagulls joined the pelicans, then two more gulls joined in the dance. I wondered why the seagulls seemed to want to be with the pelicans. It soon became apparent, however, that the seagulls were not there for the pelicans. The gulls were there for the thermal, which the six big white showy pelicans had inadvertently advertised to them. The seagulls gained altitude faster and much higher than the pelicans, then slid off the top of the column in twos and threes heading north. The pelicans labored to gain altitude, rising maybe a hundred feet above the ground. They circled for a few minutes before heading off together southward. The show was over. I returned to painting.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mount Olympus in May

11" x 14" Oil on Panel
Late last week I went to Olympus Hills Park in Salt Lake City for another visit with Mount Olympus. This painting was made just outside the outfield fence of the south softball diamond. I had plans to paint from right field again, but some kids were already batting a ball around on the diamond when I got there, so they had first dibs. Just outside the chain link fence worked just fine for me. I was a little worried about the weather clouding completely over, but the wonderful partly cloudy skies held out all day. It was a great day to be outside.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Portrait Model with Red Hair

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
This week's post shows the painting I made at last Thursday's portrait session. I arrived late, but so did the model so I didn't really lose any time. There was even a good spot for me to set up my paintbox and easel. 

Colors used were slightly different this time. I mistook a tube of naples yellow for a different yellow and accidentally squeezed some onto my palette before realizing the mistake. Then I thought "Why not try it?" and found it to be a very good color to use in light skin tones. Other colors used were cadmium yellow lemon, cadmium red purple, and ivory black.

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Colored Pencil on Paper
Not just a throwback, but a throw way back. This goes back to the time when I drew with colored pencils. It goes back to when I would roam forest and fields with a Pentax 35mm SLR film camera photographing wildflowers and wild fauna. Then I would send the negatives somewhere to get developed and prints made, and have to wait to see how the pictures turned out. Sometimes I would sit in the grass and sketch using colored pencils. Back then sketching was faster than photography.

Late in the Summer monarch butterflies would migrate through the region of Pennsylvania where I lived, refueling in fields full of goldenrod and joe-pie weed. Butterflies don't sit for sketches very well, so for the drawing shown above I used various photos of monarch butterflies, goldenrod, etc., that I had taken with the old SLR on a few of my wild wanderings.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Couple Portraits From Early May

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
It's been a little while since I've done any portrait sketches from life. The first image in this post shows the portrait I did last Thursday at Casey Childs studio. Colors used were yellow ochre, cadmium red purple, ivory black, and titanium white. That is, all except for the necklace pendant. There was no way I could get the color of that pendant with a Zorn(ish) palette. After trying once or twice to change it into something else, I gave in and squeezed a dab of Holbein's "permanent green" (a hue which contains phthalo green) onto my palette, using that color for the necklace pendant only.

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
The second image shows the portrait I painted the day before at Howard Lyon's studio. That day I was in the mood to paint the shadow side of the subject with only a little rim lighting visible. Colors used were yellow ochre, cadmium red, ivory black, and titanium white.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Earth Day 2017

12" x 16" Oil on Panel
Earth Day is one of those days which should, by all means, be spent outside, in nature, where you can see your own part of this planet. I chose to celebrate Earth Day plein air painting. 

Part of my set-up for the day.
The post before this one showed a painting of Mount Timpanogos viewed from Utah Valley. On Earth Day I drove to some ranches near the town of Midway in Heber Valley. From there I could see the opposite side of Timpanogos, the Wasatch Back view, and made that the subject of the painting shown at the top of this post.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Timpanogos in Mid April

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Trees are still mostly bare of leaves, but I go painting anyways. There's a lot of snow on Mount Timpanogos. The painting at the top of this post shows the highest peaks of the mountain framed by a latticework of early Spring tree branches. 

This was painted last week on a very windy day. I had to set up the paintbox on the downwind side of my little SUV for some shelter from the wind. The day was sunny and clear when I began the painting, but a couple hours or so later clouds moved in and dust kicked up turning the air grey. The sky and mountain in the painting were mostly completed before blowing dust made it almost impossible to even see the mountain.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Early April in the Valley

8" x 10" Oil on Panel
It's still "stick season", that time of year when grass is greening and wildflowers are appearing, but the trees are still just budding out. It's also a season when one's reaction to fickle Spring weather can go from euphoric Spring fever one day, to wondering the next, "Where the heck did Spring go?!" Either way, it's a good time to go explore and enjoy the valley near and around the lake. The painting shown above was painted last week on one of the nicer Spring days.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Late March along a Country Road

8" x 10" Oil on Panel
Warmer weather is drawing more colors onto my palette. 

It was such a nice day last Wednesday when I visited the marshes by the lake. Scouting out places to paint, I walked down a road that had a view through tamarisks and cottonwoods of the mountains at the south end of the valley. Walking down the road I thought of how not only the warm, sunny weather felt nice, but the simple activity of walking down a dirt road in the country felt so good! 

The songs of western chorus frogs and meadowlarks sounded across the marsh as I set up and began to paint. Occasionally, a mallard duck or two would land in or take off from a small canal that ran beside the road. Not far away, a couple sandhill cranes trumpeted from time to time. As the day moved from afternoon into early evening, several red-wing blackbirds came into the area, singing their tumbling, raspy trill in competition with one another.

On a day like this, who on Earth would want to work in a studio?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My New Blog

Here It Is
As you can see from the photo above, I have a log. And now it's on the World Wide Web. It's a World Wide Web log, or "blog" for short.

Another View
How do I log on? Well, as you can see above, I can log on the floor or log on the ground, log on end or log on side. Maybe put a log on the fire, and maybe even log-a-rithm. Hope you like it! Be sure to like, share, and comment! And by the way...


Monday, March 13, 2017

Stick Season

8" x 10" Oil on Panel
This is the season between white and green. Snow in the valley has melted, and trees are a couple months or so from fully leafing out. This season can be kind of brown and grey. Trees look like giant conglomerations of sticks great and small. This is stick season.

It's also the season of warming temperatures and rising birdsong. Grass begins to green and tiny wildflowers make their appearance. The welcoming rays of the sun begin to draw Spring into the valley.

Painting during this season can be challenging, but there are still paintings to be made from this time of transition. Late last week I ventured out to gather some of pre-Springs's colors of blue, gold and bronze onto a gessoed panel. The picture shown above is the little bit of the season I brought home with me.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Oil Sketch of a Bearded Man

8" x 10" Oil on Panel
Here is another portrait sketch in oil from the ongoing weekly visits to the portrait sessions. This one is from last week. These sessions not only allow me to exercise sketching and painting skills, but also to meet and exchange ideas with other painters and hear about art happenings near and far. There's so much to learn from seeing how the other session attendees draw and paint!

Colors used for this portrait were cadmium yellow, cadmium red, ivory black, and titanium white.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Cowboy and a Woman

6" x 6" Oil on Canvas Panel
Here's a couple of portrait studies from last week. The cowboy painting was made with cadmium yellow, cadmium red purple, ivory black, and titanium white.

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
The woman's portrait study was painted with yellow ochre, cadmium red purple, ivory black and titanium white. It's so good to have places to go every week to practice slingin' paint around with other painters!

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Another Recent Portrait Study

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
A week into February and I've still not had any success yet this year getting out to paint plein air landscapes. However, I'm still going to the portrait sessions every week, so this weeks blog post will be about the portrait sketch from last Wednesday's session. Colors used were, as usual, yellow ochre, cadmium red purple, and ivory black, plus titanium white.

Landscapes are coming.

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Portrait Sketches from January

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
It's challenging to get back into the swing of things after so much time away from painting during the holidays. The first two oil sketches are from the Wednesday night portrait sessions at Howard Lyon's studio.

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
The second model was the 13 year old daughter of one of the painters who attends the sessions.

The colors for these three portrait sketches was the usual limited palette I've been working with lately: yellow ochre, cadmium red purple, ivory black, and titanium white.

10" x 8" Oil on Panel
The third sketch is from the Thursday evening portrait session at Casey Childs studio. It was a short session because the sitter also had to be somewhere else later that evening. I wasn't aware of that until Casey announced the last sitting for the session. It ended a half hour early, but that's OK. I'm posting my sketch here anyway. I'm happy to have so many opportunities to work from life and see what other painters are doing.

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Model and a New Paint Color

8" x 6" Oil on Panel
It's been either too cold (5° F) or way too wet to paint outdoors. Haven't been to any portrait sessions for a few weeks and I'm eager to start painting from life again. The picture shown above is of my painting from last Wednesdays session.

This little portrait was painted with a three color palette, plus white. Colors used were: titanium white, ivory black, yellow ochre, and a new color - cadmium red purple.

"Cadmium red purple? Was ist das cadmium red purple?" you might ask. Well, let me explain. For plein air paintings I generally use a split primary palette, with one or two additional colors. Every once in a while I'll search for new colors to substitute for others in the split primary palette. In my search for a cool red alternative to alizarin crimson, I came across cadmium red purple. It sounded like it should work, but it didn't. Alizarin crimson is dark and "transparent" - qualities I need in that part of my plein air palette. Cadmium red purple is neither. So cad red purple became one of those unused tubes of paint that just took up space in my paintbox. That is, until last Wednesday. On that day the lighting, setting and model all had cool tones, so instead of using regular cadmium red, I saw the previously unappreciated cad red purple in my box and thought to try it. I think it worked.

I'm not saying cadmium red purple should be a permanent part of my palette. I probably could have gotten another red to work just as well at last Wednesday's session. But painters should step outside the box they're used to working in and try new things. When something new doesn't work as intended, you might later find it works just right for something unexpected.

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