Friday, December 14, 2012


 Something a little different here, last year I painted some goats I rather liked, (posted one of them at the bottom here). I wanted to do a painting in a similar style, so I worked up these chickens, well mostly roosters.

I think it's quite a succesfful painting though quite a departure stylisticyally from what I usually do. I played with a few ideas on the background but settled on this lighter abstract effect, that balances well with the foreground.

36X24           Acrylic on Board

Goats on green

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It may be gray outside....

It may be cold and wintry outside, but here's a little spring/summer warmth to lighten the mood.

At the edge of the glade
24X36 Acrylic on board

Consciously more muted and tonal colors than most of my landscapes... hey well it makes a nice change.  Love this spot, painted from reference, we're unlikely to see flowers and foliage like this at this time of year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

following the path

 Following the path 
18X24           Oil on panel

This is a little section of wood in a local park near where I live, I love that transition from maintained grass to forest. I always respond to the shape of this path as it stretches between the towering trees on either side. It gives these great swaths of shadow across the grass and under the trees. 

This is the first oil in a while, quite a shock to the system after so many Acrylic paintings where you can be so lazy about drying times and thickness of paint. Made me feel like I should do some more, to get the feel back again.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I usually paint in quite a high key range, but sometimes it's great to wallow in some darker hues. I love this rich purple maroon tablecloth and the color bounce of the warm lemons and oranges...Last few still lifes, have all featured some form of fractured or broken chairs in the background. Perhaps it's time I got out the nails and glue and stuck some of them back together! ;-)

It's a difficult painting to photograph this, cameras dont cope well with strong reds next to green hues, and the tonal range is big too. A lot gets lost in those darks, that the eye can enjoy but the camera misses.

'Harmony across the darks'

Acrylic on board

Sunday, November 4, 2012


The latest Still life, and a recent favorite of mine. This is a standard size for me 36X24, and quite a regular or normal size. But sometimes I enjoy creating the illusion of length, by stretching the composition within the frame. Squashing and pulling the table forms and adding length in the vase. The stems of the flowers if anything are shortened to allow the flowers to arrive in the right space on the canvas. But the illusion is still complete  - narrow and tall, one of elegant length.

The color choices are similar to many I used fairly regularly a number of years ago, it was fun to return to them, the yellow oranges, really sit well over the somber greens and cerulean blues.

The title 'Still life with sections of a chair' was also important to me, it allows the viewer to think about the split chair in the background. It's an object that at first glance is only there to frame the table and vase, strengthening the composition. However including 'it' in the title draws some thought and an extra depth to appreciating the object within the work.

Still life with sections of a chair
36X24    Acrylic on board

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Paley collection at the De young

Yesterday I dropped of some new pieces of mine at Chloe fine Art in SF and then went on to look around the De Young Museum, primarily to see the exhibition of 'The William S. Paley Collection'. Paley was a broadcast pioneer, CBS being principally his baby. He funneled a small amount of his fat pockets into picking up paintings to decorate his home that at the time weren't desperately in vogue. (I think most people were off buying 'newer' moderism, abstraction and expressionism, around this era).  In time this became the collection we know today, which has some fantastic paintings from the post-impressionist era and the birth of moderism.

The  Collection includes paintings, sculpture and drawings that range in date from the late 19th century through the early 1970s. The collection includes multiple works by  artists like Cezanne,  Matisse,  Picasso, Degas, Gauguin and more.

As some of you may remember I'm huge, huge fan of Toulouses paintings and the exhibition had a couple of nice ones. I also like much of the Nabis movement; Bonnard seems to be usually very good and two of Gauguins were also great. (I find I like Gauguin more and more as I get older.)  There were of course a share of things that I didn't care for, but I wont bore you by listing them too.

Unusually they allowed photography in the exhibition. I took a few pictures rather quickly and some what guiltily, consequently they're not the best. Most viewers enjoyed their art with their smart phones close at hand photographing each and every piece at point blank range. A strange and interesting sight, and a sign of our times.

One nice feature is the exhibition had a little adjoining corridor between spaces that featured large photographs of the featured paintings actually in Paleys home. This was nice to see, to give you a feel for how he chose to present his home and the paintings. Personally I feel they're better now is a plain elegant museum, but of course I wouldn't mind having one, on one of my own walls! (in case anyone's offering?)

Saturday, October 13, 2012


This painting went into my kids school auction today as part of their annual pledge drive. The schools principal was the happy winning bidder!

Vegetables with lilies
20’ X 27.5’
Acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Catching up

I've been slow to post these last few weeks, so here's a few paintings to catch up with the work/posts...

Beyond the fence line (study Nr San Teresa CP - CA)
18X24   Acrylic on board

A local plein air painting. I often come back to this field and this horizon but more commonly paint the field from the right hand edge. This has a good light feel to it, so I was pleased with the results.

 Canada Geese
18X24              Acrylic on board

I don't often do this type of subject, but I enjoy painting groups of animals, people or in this case birds. Often it's how the objects (in this case birds) overlap that interests me most. In this respect it holds very similarly to my still life work.

Clematis with fruit over orange & blue
30X48                   Acrylic on wood

This is loosely based of a previous Clematis painting, it's size gives it a good sense of drama and power, I like the counter change of the warm backgrounds with the compliment foliage color.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I'm in the process of adding another page onto my web site, quite a daunting task since the site was built and designed by a we expert. I'm now going in with my blunt hammer and trying to fit in another page... check it out!

Noon view

Another painting from one of my favorite National Parks, well in this case National monument - Pinnacles NM. This isn't a classic view of the fantastic rock formations, but perhaps a good example of hot Californian scrub vegetation?

I finished this one twice, the first time it sat around looking complete. It was only after photographing it and shrinking the image down, did I see a way to improve the composition. Primarily one of the bushes was too regular in pattern, so I fixed that, and now it's much improved...

Noon view (Pinnacles NM, CA)
18X36   Acrylic on wood

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paintings from the id!

I thought it had been a while since I'd photographed a painting as it progressed, so here's such an example. I also included lots of close up detail images, just for kicks and info.


Usually when working on a Still Life painting I work from original photographs of the subject matter. Sometimes, instead I like to look at an old painting of mine and re-imagine it; perhaps in a different color scheme with the 'dissecting lines' in new locations. Occasionally I will also change an element within the scene, just to give me a little extra freshness and variety.

I find working from an old painting rather than a photograph gives me an extra layer of extrapolation. Its like having a really nice sketch to work from, and much of the thinking and form decisions have already been worked out. The end result means you can relax a little more and I tend to think this gives the paintings that have been painted in this method a subtly different look from my usual paintings. Both are good, but different.

Last week I decided to take this all one step further, I decided to build and entire painting from my mind. I started with a loose sketch of the type of composition I wanted. I then propagated the scene with various elements, generated from a mixture of memory and experience, others I looked at an old painting for reference. This exercise overall proved quite a challenge, especially early on when placing objects, within the composition. Originally I nested the tall dark vase with white flowers just to the right of the blue Delphiniums. I wanted everything to cascade from the center, but as I painted it, I realize everything was too busy around the the central florals. So I moved it over to the right and generate a circular path for the eye to flow (from the tall vase, though the flowers, down to the central jug and along the fruit ). *Your eye should also slow up and drift a little along the table, but ultimately gets drawn back to the tall vase, to begin it's path again.

The strong line work of my composition has been committed to, and the colors plan finalized (in my head anyway); allowing me to place in a first wash of color. These 'underpainting' colors will later be allowed to play with the final colors that are placed on top. They will either compliment or react against the colors dependent on my choices and the desired effect needed.

Moving around the painting,  - blocking in the color on the table and a 1st pass on the delphiniums with a little color in the vase on the left and the yucca trunk. (These early stages of the painting really taxed my brain, keeping the composition thoughts and full color plan in my head was a struggle!)

Bringing in the reds and oranges to give the painting it's warmth. Also finding an initial cool tone for the floor, later I adjust this slightly.

Blocked in a lot here, but getting the tones right on the table cloth was important. Also started to punch in the dark color on the tall thin vase. I have decided at this point that my strongest contrast in the painting will be this form, which will pull the eye to this object. 

This section saw subtle refining of colors, for example the table top was lightened, some elements were cleaned up and the yucca purples were added.

The painting complete

Blues falling onto Orange
30X48    Acrylic on wood

The devils in the details....
Less important areas of the painting are presented loosely and simply. The yellow ochre color around the edge of the trunk of this yucca plant, helps lead the eye over  and past the tall vertical. This is also a good example of an area, where the paint is presented relatively flat in tone and form, further allowing the eye to move to a more interesting area of the work.

Just enough information is given in the delphinium. The way I wished to lead the eye through the painting, the flowers are an important part of the route, but not the focus. They need to be rendered, but not over emphasized.

This detail shows a Chinese vase that I paint on occasion. I really needed some reference for this so borrowed from another earlier painting for the vases color and form. 

I love painting peeled fruit, there's something about the contrast of shapes/forms and tones. This is familiar ground for me, since I paint a fair amount of this subject, so I could just sit back and enjoy the moment.

This final detail I included here just to show up close how you can see the flecks of the 'under painting' shining though. I use this technique a lot allowing complimentary and secondary colors to shine though the final paint, creating impact and depth within a painting.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I love to paint Cyclamen, I don't often tackle them but I think I've enjoyed almost every painting I've ever completed of them. I guess it's partly the simple clean shapes of both leaves and petals, and the random twists of the flowers and petals that create just enough interest. Additionally the plant tends to be small and condensed, this allows the subject matter to be simply rendered and compact in composition.

In this one I pushed the colors to bring it into a range that I always enjoy, (well as long as I accomplish the right tones of greens). I suppose sometimes the green can get a little muddy for my liking, but here I kept them light, which allows them to sit nicely alongside the yellows and those ice blue/ aqua shades.

The table cloth patterning is a good test here, I wanted it cleanly painted but not too over powering. There's a risk that it can come off as poorly rendered, if the tones aren't strong enough but I think it works pretty well here.

Cyclamen on green with lemons
18X24  Acrylic on board

Friday, August 17, 2012

knowing when to stop....

I've probably posted about this before, but oh well.... The question an artist faces of 'knowing when to stop' is a common one.  As a young artist I always felt that in time it would become easier, and that as I matured as an artist I would always know the the right time to set a painting aside. But in truth, I have found it's a question and a problem that never goes away and always remains.

With this painting the urge to put in one more brush stroke, to add one more flower, or to remove/ rework a section of flower bed has been (it seems unending). Even now (though finished) the urge is strong, and I know in myself the painting had all the elements in place sometime ago, and yet I've continued to tweak and continued to play. It's been fun, but the actual improvement within each revision has been perhaps minimal.


 I think however, the biggest difference in 'knowing when to stop', is that as you become more experienced, gradually over time you get better at hiding the 'extra fiddling'.  This painting (I hope) continues to look fresh and strong, and the reworked elements are hidden sufficiently to allow the painting to continue to look fresh and alive.  So here perhaps is a saving grace of a few more years under the belt.


As an aside I really enjoyed tackling this subject, drawn by the beauty and complexity of the garden and the wonderful architecture the mission church provided. These buildings of age and beauty sometimes seem to far a field on the west coast of America, it was fun to put one too paint!

San Carlos Borromeo Mission garden
34 X46     Acrylic on wood

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


It's been a while since I painted Still lifes this small, and I'm having fun doing a few of them at this size. It allows for a reduction in complexity, of the subject -  a boiling down to what's important. This in turn encourages a more alla prima (in the moment) approach.

Rhododendrons are fantastically complex blooms, I think the trick is to try to paint them with a less is more approach and somehow it seems to work. These flower buds were fun to paint.

Rhododendron with fruit on red
18X24    Acrylic on board

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Masters Gallery - last week

When I was down in Carmel last week Plein Air painting, I popped into New Masters Gallery and took a couple of snaps of some of my paintings hanging there.  They're a great gallery, well worth a look if your ever in the Carmel area and of course they have great artists too!  ;-)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Across the bay (Monterey CA)

 My original inspiration within this subject was this great spiky plant in the foreground. I painted it almost to completion while slowly working in the other colors and the rest of the painting around it. I think the end result is effective; but I'm always smitten with this aspect ratio.

I'm not sure what the plant is called, but it's certainly a very curious thing and possibly makes for an unusually subject matter.

After finishing, I realized there was a lot of sympathy in palette to an artist friend of mine Henry Isaacs. Must have been unknowingly channeling his colors. Henry is an east coast artist and we hang together in a gallery in Virginia.

Across the bay (Monterey CA)
24X36    Acrylic on cradled panel

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adding interest with texture

I've probably posted about this before, but from time to time I like to paint on a 'textured ground'. This is a process of applying texture to the base paint. In this case I painted on wood a support, I then sand and prime the wood with 'a ground', which is the painterly term for the surface that will be painted on. I tend to prime my painting surfaces with an Acrylic gesso paint. When adding texture, I use very thick gesso paint and leave strong brush marks, I also add some light sand to this surface while it's still wet. Finally I paint an extra coat or two to make sure the sand and texture is locked in there. By the time the final layers of paint from the actual painting have gone on, nothings going anywhere for a long, long time!

As you paint the painting on this type of uneven surface, you have to work hard in places to give consistent color, and that change of process creates a different look and feel. Additionally in places it breaks up the layers of color, as the brush moves over the surface - again adding color variations along with the textural interest. The end result is very distinctive.

This painting is a house along the coast in Santa Cruz, CA. It's a lovely old house, but I tend to think it's dangerously near the edge of the cliff. The framing of the tree and the fence line in the foreground drew me to this subject. I created some unusual divisions in the work space, this gives the work a very modern feel and I had to pay careful attention to structure and tone to make those divisions work.

Right on the edge (Santa Cruz, CA)
38X30              Acrylic on wood

detail (showing the texture)

Irises splitting the warm & the cool

Here's a still life from a few weeks ago. I posted it on fb, but forgot to put it here too. I loved painting this great size of panel and a fantastic subject. I particularly like painting these type of irises I just love the rich saturated hues of blue and purple and then the flecks of warm yellow and white that appear within the bloom really key of those blues - fabulous!  The tablecloth is also a favorite of mine and always fun to paint.

Irises splitting the warm & the cool
48X30                Acrylic on wood


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A bigger message

I've just finished reading a book my mother bought for me called 'A Bigger Message- Conversations with David Hockney' by Martin Gayford. I don't usually find these books type of books very stimulating; in part because I don't want to fill my head with 'work' related thoughts on my 'off hours' and also, if I'm honest I prefer a good bit of fiction with a ripping yarn... Shallow I know but there it is.

So I thought I'd write a little about the book here, not a review as such, just a few of my rambling thoughts about 'the read' and it's content.

This book however enticed me and I found I got a huge amount out of it. I'd wanted to read it largely becasue Hockneys recent landscapes have really interested me from a stylistic approach, and for their ambitious size.  The book I found to be very approachable, well written and as the title suggests it's presented in a conversational mode. And David Hockney does always seems to, (in mind,) have interesting things to say. For even if I don't always entirely see eye to eye with every view, I always find him intelligent and interesting to listen too, or in this case read.

The books is based over a number of years and he talks about many aspects of his life and career, but the focus of the book is his recent preoccupation with the landscape. The book also tied into a major exhibition of his work at the RA. For those who don't know, in recent years Hockney has returned to live in the town of his birth in the North of England. Despite being in his 80's his work has taken a prolific burst of life and energy as he becomes consumed with nature and the land around his home. He has painted a number of massive multi-canvas (where each canvas is hung next to the other) paintings of the landscape.  Much of his early work I was always only vaguely interested in, but these new landscapes really excite me.

A large portion of the book talks around the aspect of 'artists' being acutely aware of their surroundings, and become trained or learning to 'really' look at things. Obviously this is a sentiment all artists can agree with and relate too. Additionally he talked about the Chinese philosophy of believing it takes three things to create good art. The hand, the eye and the heart; two wont do. You can for example have a good eye and heart, but without the hand the painting will be no good. This too I felt very interesting and true philosophy to my mind.

He also spends a while discussing his love of the ipad and various digital methods of image creation. With a past in CG this is something I can relate too, however I feel Hockney is only scratching the surface here and it's not his best work - quick sketches roughly rendered on iphones or ipads. Many an artist is able to make digital mediums sing, personally I think Hockney is better with paint.

Finally the book discussed Hockneys love and interest in space, the volume of our surroundings. He talked at length about this issue and how it was spaces and volume of a landscape that captured him, the three dimensional aspect, the ability to move within a landscape and view it from differing viewpoints, always sensing it's depth. He argued that it was this aspect that interested him most in landscape painting and I realized on reading this that that's also what preoccupies me in much of my work. The perfect example is my Still life paintings. With their dissecting lines breaking and analyzing the space within the arrangement, presenting different views within the single painting. Hockney is critical of the camera for this, for it can only present one view point from one given moment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Creating depth

A couple of weeks ago I created this still life.

lillies with Pomegranate and chair
48X39.5          Acrylic on wood


Before beginning the painting I prepared 'the ground'. ('A ground', is the term for the surface preparation beneath the painting. It allows for a stable ph surface that will accept the later painting stages, and not allow too much paint to soak into the surface).

 Usually I paint three thick coats of Acrylic gesso primer, building up interesting textural brush strokes, but here I chose to paint two and half thinned coats of gesso. The end result of this was the wood surface was waterproof and ready for paint, however the ground was thin enough that the actual grain from the wood could still be seen. This gave the painting a wonderful dimensional quality, from straight on the thicker final painting looks (for lack of a better term) 'normal'.  However from certain light, when viewed at an angle, the grain begins to present itself ghosting through from beneath. This gives the final painting a wonderful depth and extra dimension of interest.  Not sure if my photo here does it justice, it really needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.

showing the wood grain 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


The rocky break (looking back towards Santa Cruz, CA)
24X36              Acrylic on board

Pushing colors of the coast (Marin coast CA)
24X36                 Acrylic on board

 Window to the Ocean (Pescedaro beach, CA)
18X36           Acrylic on cradled panel 

I dont think I ever blogged these finished paintings. So here they are, now hanging in Chloe fine Art, SF, CA tel  415-7491000  for more info.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A quick Doggie

 Reclining grey
18X36       Acrylic on wood

Sometimes it's nice to break a bit from the usual pattern. Here's a loose portrait of a 'grey' greyhound. I really wanted to get a fresh loose feel for it, and intentionally left areas rough (I mean 'ruff', sorry couldn't resist), and other parts unfinished. I always like paintings with parts that appear unfinished and decided to do that here, with the lamp stand and ambiguous bowl/basket.

I responded to the dark rug, underneath the dog by pushing her gray coat into more of a ghostly white. Strong liberties where also taken with the ground around the rug, but hey if your messing with other elements you may as well go the whole way!

Detail (good for showing the loose brush work and the intentional under painting shining through, seen here in the legs and hindquarters)

Greyhounds and other big skinny dogs are so magnificent when running at full speed, and they're really designed for such things. But when they come to sit or in this case lie, there's a wonderful dis-coordination in their bodies with a tangle of ungainly long limbs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A very distant artist

I've just returned from a weeks trip to England. Visiting my elderly parents, who sadly are both battling various forms of cancer; and achieving this with huge fortitude.  While there I took the opportunity of visiting their local art gallery/museum in Kendal (Abbot Hall art Gallery). Considering the size of the town I'm always impressed by the exhibition the gallery manages to secure, and I have seen some wonderful instillation over the years. (They have one coming this summer called 'Francis Bacon to Paula Rego' which looks really good, it's a pity I'll be in the US)

Anyway, the current exhibition was works from their permanent collection, celebrated the galleries 50 years. Featuring works from many 'big' names in British art from the last century. The art  was a  varied medley, both in content, style, period and quality. At times I fear the fame of the artists had  eclipsed the quality of that particular piece, for example I felt their was an unremarkable sketch by Henry Moore, and I'd seen better paintings by Stanley Spencer. But this was balanced by fantastic works by Lucian Freud, Ben Nicholson, Paula Rego, to mention just a few; and of course a personal favorite Joan Eardley.

The last room in the exhibition had a surprise for me and really nice mountain painting by Howard Somervell. It turns out he was a second cousin of my grandfather (on my fathers side). So admittedly that's a pretty distant relation, but still interesting... Sommervell was actually a historical figure of some note -  a medical missionary in India, he was also an avid painter and climber. He was even part of the climbing party of Mallory and Irvines fatal attempt on Everest in 1924. It's believed Sommervell was the last person to see M&I alive, before their attempted final accent. 

H Somervill - 2nd from the left, seated on the bottom row

Of course I'm getting of subject. I tried googling for the painting that was in the Abbot Hall, but I couldn't find it.  I did however find another couple of his paintings, so these will have to suffice. Still it's nice to think there's other artists in my family tree, and I haven't even mentioned my talented Aunty!.... (But that's a story for another time)