Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

At the end of the year I tend to think about the year ahead, and set challenges for myself within in my art career; but I also enjoy looking back over the year at the body of work I have created, and evaluating different paintings. Here's a short little list of some of my own personal favorites!

Hydrangea with circular fruit
36 X36                  Acrylic on canvas
...And the award goes too...Gosh how does one pick a favorite amongst 'my children'! I produced less still life paintings, because of a broadening of subject matters (i.e. I painted a lot more landscapes this year). Despite this there still seemed to be a stunning selection and as ever a difficult choice. In the end I think this is my favorite, the circular motion of that table, combined with the fruits and the palette; well it just wins me over!

This year I painted most still life paintings of tulips! It always surprises me that each year it seems to be something different. Perhaps it's a subconscious decision, that helps me not have too many paintings of any one flower type?

Goats on Green
36X24        Acrylic on board 
In the summer I painted a few goat paintings, and broke free from my usual style to have some fun with form and color. This painting was the first of those, and I felt compelled to include it here since I love this technique and approach to color and subject.

Red Pinnacle Crags (above Bear Gluch Resevoir)
size: 8X10   Acrylic on board
I do very few small paintings, enjoying the more physical and visceral challenges of a large canvas. But in the hands of an expert a small painting can be pure 'miniature perfection'. I'm not quite in that league, but I really enjoyed this little one from Pinnacles National Park, capturing some of those spiky weathered volcanic rock formations, amongst the chaparral.

Sunshine on Big Sur (California)
Size:  24X36     Acrylic on board

Well these are personal choices; and so I picked a recent one because in this painting I can see ideas and methods I wish to explore in future paintings. The inclusion of the near follage, portrayed with a drawing technique is something I wanted to dabble further with. Perhaps also incorporating the stronger line work that has become the signature of my Still life paintings? I guess that means tune in to 2012 and see what comes next....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

latest tree painting

Sticks in the stream (Big Basin SP, CA)
Acrylic on wood

Not much to say about this one, except the usual excuse about botching the exposure when photographing it. Somehow the foreground seems a little too washed out and the trees are slightly too dark. The original is not quite like this..... Sometimes I feel that I've never mastered the latest camera.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recent commission looking back into the past

Over the last month or so I've completed two separate commissions that were notable for a couple of factors. First they both involved looking back to past works to base new paintings from. Additionally they were also faithful recreations of the original paintings.  (More commonly my commissions feature brand new subjects or reinterpretations of a subject). Indeed, I often try to steer a collector away from this 'copying' of an earlier work; however in this instance I ended up working on two paintings with very different styles and subjects, but with very similar MO's.

The original

West Lothian and firth 
10.5X21.5              Acrylic on board.

The first of these commissions was completed for a collector who has gathered a number of my still life paintings around her home, but had fallen in love with a painting of Scotland that I did about 6 years ago. The painting features a view of the West Lothians, which is just a little west of Edinburgh (for those who like to get the geography right). The original hangs in my home and my wife and I are very attached to it, so we agreed to reinterpret the painting in a larger size.
 The commissioned painting

West Lothian & firth No2
19X48             Acrylic on wood.


It was a good challenge to paint with some techniques needing to be remembered or rediscovered. For example, the original sky had used a dark rich under painting color with strong opaque colors placed over the top. This was a technique I hadn't employed in a long time so it was fun to re-remember this and to exploit it. Also since the new painting was considerably bigger than the original, I had to reinterpret how much information to place in the painting, while still keeping the loose/ abstract feel. More detail and accuracy was applied to the hills and and stronger sense of color was given to the middle ground, since the painting was to be hung up high in the home and I wanted the color to bring the painting forward in the room.

The original

Carnations under Californian sun
21.5X30               Acrylic on wood.

The second commission was completed for a couple who had fallen in love with a painting they'd seen in New Masters Gallery in Carmel. They loved everything about this painting, except for it's choice of flowers. So we talked about many ideas and alterations, but in the end the collector decided they wanted a very faithful interpretation of the original painting, with only that single minor change.

 The commissioned painting

  in progress - early days (mostly under painting)

Tulips under a Californian sun
22X30              Acrylic on wood.

  detail of finished painting (shows the nice under painting, poking through)

Not sure if I really needed too, but I spent great care in getting everything in the 'right place' including replicating poor AKA 'artistic' perspective where I saw it. My reinterpretation gave me the opportunity to place a little more contrast across the back drop cloth and a richer table cloth, but otherwise was extremely close.

Monday, November 21, 2011

sluggish to post

Sorry I've been really slow to post these last few weeks.   Here's a couple of landscapes of trees I've completed recently.

'The birch glade'  
16X20         Acrylic on wood

'the forest floor'  
24X26         Acrylic on board

I feel the urge to tweak this one a little. I'd like to connect the central tree canopy a little more and on the central trunk bring a little more blue across into the center of the base. But these are fairly small changes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

now tweeting....tweet tweet

Finally been pursuaded to tweet. I plan on posting boring little details about what I'm getting up to as an artist. Who knows how sporadic, the tweets will be?  I plan to also post up more images of semi finished work there too, so if any of thats of interest - follow me there.


just finished

Tulips and lemons beneath summers glow
36X24       Acrylic on wood

Friday, October 14, 2011

Circles and squares

This painting was finished up at the begining of this week. I don't paint these big'sih square ones often, but I really enjoy myself when I do. That is assuming I can make the composition work, and I think this one does.

The contrasts between circles and squares is very effective to me, the square painting and squares from the rug pattern, contrasting nicely the circle of the table with the circular composition and even the circle designs in the table cloth.  Makes me happy to paint it!

Hydrangea with circular fruit
36 X36                  Acrylic on canvas


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Workshop & show in Warm Springs

I traveled over to Bath County in Virginia for my show at Warm Springs Gallery. The show was actually half way through, but this was a date that worked best for myself and the gallery. We had a great turn out and also ran a nice little mini-workshop (13 people) at the beginning.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Warm Springs Gallery, VA

Just opened in Warm Springs, Virginia at Warm Springs Gallery a solo show of some of my recent work, catchily titled 'Recent works'!  

Here's a few of the paintings in the show, -

 Daffodils on flower patterned tablecloth
 Acrylic on board

 Poppies, vegetable and bread on pink cloth
Acrylic on board

iris with fruit on red
Acrylic on board

Peonies and limes on painted box
Oil on board

Papaya, pears and lemons with jug
Acrylic on board

 Helianthus on orange
Acrylic on board

 Sunflowers and lilies on long table
30X24 (tryptech)
Acrylic on board

...And many more, please contact the gallery for more information at  or tel (540) 839-2985.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reclining Irises

Reclining Irises on orange 
18X36          Acrylic on wood panel
This is last weeks painting, basically done, may tweak the odd bit, or I might not.    I based it off some palette choices and a couple of design elements from a painting a number of years ago (the warm arrangement, see below). The other day I posted the old painting on facebook and thought, yes I liked that painting. So I decided to work from it and adapt some newer subject matter into an old painting, or perhaps adapt some old ideas into some new subject matter... well you get the idea. Artistic license was taken with the background and tablecloth to incorporate the old painting elements in the new subject.
the warm arrangement 
Size 23X19


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!

This post is consumed by goats (well not literally but you know what I mean). A number of months ago I did this little plein air study of a pair of goats.

 A curious encounter, Goats, California
 14X18     Acrylic on board

To be honest, I found it a little unremarkable. But some weeks later in my studio I decided to try something a lot more contemporary and freer with it's application of  both color and it's representation of a goat scene.
Goats on Green
36X24        Acrylic on board

I painted the first 80% of it and enjoyed myself so much I thought I'd start another bigger one... I soon took this painting to about the same level 80% finished. I then found I had stopped, so I went off and painted other paintings, and from time to time I came back and fiddled, and changed things but never got either of them closer to completion.

The goat herd, California
30X48        Acrylic on board

What I enjoyed most about the process was the liberating expression,  I could stand at the canvas and add a little different color here or there, or wherever I chose, it was put simply a wonderful creative freedom. However, this act was also it's Achilles heel; because there was always a little more 'playing' to be had. Settling on a finished painting was difficult. In the end I refined small details and sat them aside, labeling them as done... But the urge to pick up a brush and play with more color is a strong one.

Painting these goats has been an interesting process for me, these urges to fiddle with color, and work with little clear plan is unusual for me. I'm unclear at the moment, whether working in such unfamiliar territory with no time constraints, was a healthy growing process for me or not, perhaps time will tell?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tulips and Pears on green

Here's my latest still life painting.

Tulips and Pears on green 
Acrylic on board

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Watching every move
Acrylic on wood         Size 32X24

Recently I've been enjoying myself painting different subjects. This is a great example of one - a Jack Russell terrier!  Painting a dog is a great departure from my usual subject matter and I found it great fun to to paint. You see to me clearly there's a lot of similarities to painting traditional portraiture, and one thing I always strive for with my 'people' portraits is not only a likeness, but also an importance of paint and the painting itself. In other words it's not enough to simply capture the person, but the painting should have a creative power or perhaps style of it's own.

When working on a 'person' portrait I find this balance between painting and likeness to be a  dangerous and challengeing line to walk. However when approaching this dog portrait I found the battle easier, I was able to push colors and composition with greater ease, creating an effective and dramatic painting. (Perhaps the reason for this was a more obedient 'sitter')

A very early inspiration for me was to keep the color fairly monochromatic, with strong reds and a tonally contrasting dog - with very dark head tones.

 (in progress detail of rug)

As you'll see here, I originally planned to paint the rug with greater complexity in it's patterning. I tried at great length to make this work, with numerous iterations of detail and colors; until I ultimately realized to make the whole painting work I needed to step away from the design aspects and focus on the compositional and tonal impact. I did however keep the circular shapes from table to rug that leads 'the eye' through the top of the painting, down to the dog focal point.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Latest Still Life paintings

It's been nice to get back to painting.

Easter Lilly with creative curves 
Acrylic on board              24X36
This was an interesting painting to paint. Originally the flower had straight stems and I painted it that way with the flowers stretching straight up, but I realized I wanted a better 'lead in' or 'flow'  to the rest of the picture and this shape of flower wasn't working with the 'landscape' aspect. So I took some creative license and bended the stems around.
Bringing the outside, Inside 
30X48               Acrylic on board
I liked the color scheme of this painting, I took particular attention to getting the color or the background and the curtain on the left the exact hues I wanted. The painting has a nice presence when viewed in the flesh.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The final post from my travels to Britain.  

At the end of our vacation we stole a few days and nights away from visiting our family to show the kids the sights, sounds and history of London. Though the weather was a little mixed we still had a great time and ticked of many a sight. From the Tower of London to Buckingham palace, we also spent considerable amounts of time in the British Museum and the Natural History museum. But perhaps most noteworthy for my 'art' blog was that once again I was able to escape for a few hours to visit a gallery or two.


While, the family watched 'the changing of the guard' at Buckingham palace (yawn); I sidled away to my first stop, the Courtauld Gallery. For those who haven't been, it's only a small collection in part of a lovely building - Summerset house. Though small it does however have some wonderful art, covering the impressionist and particularly the post impressionist paintings with some nice Van Gogh, Cezannes, Gogan, Vlaminck, and more. Even better, they had a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition, focusing on his 'painting' relationship with the dancer Jane Avril.

As some of you may recall from previous posts, I go nuts over Lautrec's paintings and they had a handful of really nice ones, plus a number of his sketches & lithographs, (which I tend to gloss over I confess).  I'd arrived right on opening time, so I had the paintings pretty much to myself, I spent an obscene amount of time studying the painting 'At the Moulin Rouge' which is just fantastic.

(the contrast levels seem wrong - the original seems much darker and richer than it appears here)

So many of his painting have fantastic palette choices, and I love the green colors that work through the background and shadow areas of this painting. There's so much richness and interest in all the warm darks and browns, something which rarely comes across in reprints or photographs. For me the painting both in color and composition is so daring and yet completely and utterly captivating.


In all my years I'd never had the opportunity to visit the Royal Academy's Summer exhibition, so I traveled there to soak in the eclectic spectacle. For those not in the know, arguably it's 'THE' British contemporary artist exhibition of the year, for both professional and the hobbyist artist. Thousands enter in the hope of hanging on the walls and though the walls are primarily hung salon style, (from wall to ceiling), many great art fails to make an appearance, and of course (arguably), much mediocre art gets in too. 

One of the things about the RA show is it's mandate is so vast and all encompassing. On it's walls you'll find everything from the most traditional of paintings, to print and photographic work, to the most modern and 'edgy' sculpture or installation; there's even a section for notable architecture. As is to be expect from such a broad brief there's something for everyone, and also a lot than can be glossed over.  

Most of all I enjoyed looking through the painted works, marveling at the great and marveling (for different reasons) at the not so good. I also enjoyed studying the spread of red dots (sales), particularly in the small works room, (which had a fantastic sales to hung ratio).

In hind sight I wish I'd visited the galleries in reverse order; my woeful short-term memory would have benefited from seeing some of my favorite paintings in the Courtauld last, rather than the RA; but oh well, there's always next time!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kendal, UK

Another post from my travels in Britain. While visiting my parents in Kendal I went with my mother to the local art museum. Considering it's location, (i.e. Kendal is a small northern town) it really gets some great exhibitions; I remember a Lucian Freud and a Walter Sickert exhibition as examples.

The museum this month hosted the work of Sheila Fell (1931-79). She spent most of her life painting the local landscapes and I imagine was aided greatly in her success by her friendship with the artist LS Lowry (famous for his little stick figure 'naive' style art). I was unfamiliar with Sheila Fells work, and it was a great discovery.
Skiddaw 1964

She painted the local 'Lake district' countryside which can be stunning with it's rolling hills and patch-work of dry stone walls, small cottages and plentiful lakes and rivers. It does rain a lot in this area, and that I felt could be witnessed in her work, since many were quite brooding and dark with an emphasis on tonal painting.  She seemed to me to have two strong techniques or styles. One with heavy impasto painting and another a lighter thinner brush with more careful considered placement.  Both styles where extremely competent and she deserved all her success.

Her work also offered me a realization that there are a wealth of post-war British painters who's styles and techniques of work I am immediately drawn too. This realization has been quite an epiphany for me, because though I would always have listed one or two artists from this period as influences, I don't think I'd ever been aware of just how many artists within this era created work that inspires me. 

Large Wave, Allonby

A final little comment - The exhibition rather ominously stated that she died from 'an accident in her home'. I confess this kind of statement really sparks my curiosity, perhaps I have a bit of Agatha Christie in me? You see I can't help but ponder a variety of ridiculous and unlikely artist accidents that could occur in the home; -  'falling of the roof while trying to paint the view' or perhaps 'tripping over with a brush and impaling a vital organ'. Agreeably these are unlikely accidents to have occurred, and I suppose a google search would sate my curiosity; but too lazy to do so, for the moment I'll be left with my ruminations.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Visiting the' Watchie'

As some of you will know, I've been enjoying a few weeks vacation back in Britain. Primarily a family holiday we've been on a frantic schedule of traveling up and down the country visiting friends and family. I debated at great length whether or not to take my painting materials with such an aggressive schedule but in the end opted to simply pack a sketch book and my camera.

Catterline Harbor (or Harbour, when in the UK)

Despite this lack of art creation it's an impossibility for me not too sneak in a little art viewing here or there.  As luck would have it my brother now lives in Catterline a small village just below Stonehaven, (south of Aberdeen).  Catterline is an important location for the history of Scottish post war art scene, chiefly because my favorite Scottish artist Joan Eardley spent much of her life living and painting there.
Beehives at Catterline
J Eardley

Children & Chalked Wall
J Eardley 

Eardley,  painted in the area for roughly 20 years and produced a great array of paintings, known in equal measure for her depiction of Glasgow children and the rugged seascapes and landscapes of the Catterline area. While in the village, my sister-in-law (Kathryn) was fantastically thoughtful, and arranged for me to visit a home of a collector who had two Eardley works, an oil and a lovely pastel. Later we dined in the lcoal pub, which houses the communities Eardley painting. But best of all was the village to 'the Watchie'.

An artist painting the Watchie

The Watchie is a beautiful, little cottage with very basic amenities stuck out above the harbor on a rocky bluff. The building is called the Watchie because it was originally used by the coastguard to keep watch for Smugglers. Eardley spent much of her time painting from there and the surrounding area. Since her death in 1963 a number of other artists have worked in the Watchie, and in recent times it has had a number of artist residencies. For the last 5 years the Scottish artist Stuart Buchanan has worked there, he also lives in a near by cottage that Eardley at one time also owned.  Kathryn had again come to the rescue and arranged for me to visit Stuart and the Watchie.

Stuart was fantastic and a great guy, he gave me hours of his time and we enjoyed talking about the history of the place and our own painting lives. Stuart was a graduate from Glasgow's school of art and he produces very thoughtful work often from his imagination, painting solitary or grouped figures  in sparse environments, that convey a sense of atmosphere and solitude.

 Stuart in front of his easels in the Watchie

The other view of the room.

One thing you are struck with at the Watchie is that there are no distractions. There's power for lights and a wood burning stove for heat and that's about it. From the windows you can see the wild garden and the ocean and ever changing light on the cliffs and ocean. It must be a fantastic place to live and work and impossible not to change and be affected by such an atmospheric environment.  It's a far cry from my kind of studio and views from my window!

Stuart and I talked for hours and I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I was probably getting annoying!   Stuart has a forthcoming solo show in Berkshire during October at the “Modern Artists Gallery” ( ), so if anyone is in the area his work is well worth a look or purchase?

Stuart Buchanan
oil on board
17 x 24 ins.