Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wall Sculpture Completed

You are seeing the completed “In God’s Paint Box” wall sculpture that I started with a watercolor sketch in a canyon out west. (see post 2) With the newly reworked pieces, it produces the experience I was hoping for. This version is 3 feet by 2 feet, solidly built, lovely, and saleable.

One of you wrote that you were a bit confused by my “Chaos or Order” post. To be clearer, my work is about capturing and reproducing the full experience of a particular location. Not an overwhelmed first response to what seems chaotic, but a response fully connected with the place, its movement, color, and shapes. There is an order underlying the chaos we see in the world, and sometimes through just waiting, experiencing, viewing deeply, prayer, and pondering we get the joy of understanding.

Will there be other versions of this sculpture? I want to construct another where the largest piece on the bottom would be about 7 feet across. The viewer would look forward when approaching the bottom piece of the sculpture and then up the wall as I did in the canyon. I’d also like to construct a version of it in a material and size that can be used outdoors. Perhaps a new version will be commissioned in the future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wall Sculpture Coming Together

I cut out the intricate, large, and flexible support piece for the wall sculpture. What a relief that it can be made at my studio. With patience, Aquabord cut with a scroll saw makes a beautiful edge

The greatest metal fasteners exist to attach the pieces, but there’s too much play in them. I want the composition fixed. Every little movement between each piece would change the hard won composition. Wood cut to exactly the length needed will create the desired depths for the individual pieces. Oh, yeah, you may have guessed by now… this baby isn’t flat.

Enjoy the holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wall Sculpture- Chaos or Order?

While rereading my on-site notes in preparation for painting the individual pieces of my wall sculpture, the words “every rock inconceivably different” stuck in my mind. I remembered being overwhelmed to the point of laughter at the site and busily made each piece as amazing as I could. Assembled together, that same overwhelmed feeling hit me. Having reproduced the effect of overwhelming stimulation, I remembered the satisfaction in creating a pleasing order and composition in watercolor. Time to rework those pieces. Chaos was not my quest.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wall Sculpture- Osprey Nest II

Perhaps you’ve never seen one of my wall sculptures. This rough mock up of the wall sculpture, “Osprey Nest II”, hangs in my home. The plan is to construct it in powder coated steel. I love the varying depths of the pieces. It was inspired by a view at Acadia National Park, in Maine, another one of my favorite places.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wall Sculpture & Scroll Saw

I’m moving forward with the Aquabord experiment and decided to invest in a new scroll saw to get cleaner, more intricate cuts. Of course, following the

directions written by a non-native English speaker made the supposedly 20 minute setup time take an hour and a half. It was worth it. The scroll saw makes a beautiful edge when cutting with patience and I love it. My dog, Emma, thought it wasn't as much fun as being outside.

There’s a couple pieces I have been concerned about being able to cut with my scroll saw because it has a stationary arm that can get in the way, and large pieces of board can become flexible arms dangling about while cutting and moving in all different directions. With practice, my technique is improving even though it is very challenging to maneuver and stay true to the design. I cut out one of the two trickiest pieces: the intricate, large, bottom piece of the 12 piece design. Still to be cut is the large backing piece and it is very long with many cuts requiring a lot of rotating. I really don't want to go with a rectangle, frame-like, board behind the pieces for this sculpture. I hope I can get it to work.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Watercolor Luminosity

It is easy to underestimate the power of luminosity. Part of the unique beauty and power of watercolor is the ability of the paint to allow light to pass through it and reflect light back from the paper. It’s why a watercolor can still be exciting to view in low light when other paintings can't be seen. The various colors have differing abilities to do this and that presents some interesting opportunities.

This painting, "Head on Up", was painted on location at Enchanted Rock in Texas. I love the strong shapes and the directional movement at this park and return often. It's a physically challenging location to get to with painting gear, dog, and extra water, but this view from Turkey Peak Pass is one of my favorites.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wall Sculpture Ampersand Bord

One of the materials I've been experimenting with for my wall sculpture isAmpersand Aquabord, and I’m really impressed. It is a thoroughly archival masonite board with a clay coat that accepts watercolor.

There are many attractions to use Aquabord for this particular wall sculpture. With an acrylic spray varnish over the watercolor, it is safe to be hung without glass, it can be cut into shapes, and most importantly, I think I will be able to transfer the feel of the original concept with it.

I thought it would be fun to offer these three unframed paintings on Aquabord for sale, priced for a little holiday cheer. They are all 3" x 5" and require no glass or frame. The two "Night Time Burn" paintings are inspired by a series I'm working on for the Hill Country Conservancy. Paintings are $50, plus tax and shipping. Email me at and I will send an invoice with paypal button. Top painting, "Night Burn II", middle painting, "Along the Stream", bottom painting, "Night Burn I".

For artists: If you paint watercolor wet in wet, you’ll love this product. It’s extremely responsive to the brush and far more forgiving than any watercolor paper. The possibility of repainting a board actually exists with some labor. Tips on their website are a must- read and the company responds to questions.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Michaelis Ranch Breakfast

I did this painting on location at Michaelis Ranch SW of Austin. It's a lovely "century" ranch that has been in their family since the late 1800's. Many of the buildings are extremely old, and they raise some fantastic Charolais cattle. I love painting there. This particular plein air watercolor took two visits to finish. The cows were amazingly hungry and did stay to eat a long time, but they move around and the sun changes it's angle making the white cows loose their backlit blue shadows as the day progresses. Also, the drying on the watercolor had gone too far by the time I wanted to place the final shadows on the cows to make them look more 3D. I returned a second day to cows milling around, and the haystack well eaten, but with patience I was able to catch what I was looking for. This 15 x 20" watercolor is titled, "Breakfast!"

I have been asked how I know the shapes and relationships in a painting are right. I can only say that I had extensive training on composition from my professor Morton Grossman, who was trained at the Art Students League in NYC. Most of the principals I learned are in Edgar Paynes book, “Payne On Composition” which you can get a copy of through DeRues in Laguna Beach, CA. It’s not an easy read, but you learn a lot if you work through it. Once you have it in your blood, you will just know it when you see it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wall Sculpture Scale Up

I’m really excited about this piece I’m working on. It’s been a while since I constructed a wall sculpture and I want to try out some new materials. I’m experimenting, talking with manufacturers of boards, metal, fasteners, and paint, trying to find the match between my original idea and the materials.

Digitalized enlarging from the original outlines of the watercolor sketch creates some fuzzy and haphazard edges. The idea is to translate the impact of the original and enhance the whole for the intended response. Each piece individually as well as it’s placement next to the other 11 pieces has to work.

I cut out all the 12 pieces in blue paper to arrange on the wall. The top 7 pieces are working, but I’ll have to work on the three pieces in the middle. I haven't even gotten to the bottom piece yet in this picture. With everything blue, there is no conflict to the eye from variations of color, value, or surface. It’s all about composition and patiently slogging through to what Goldilocks described as, “It’s juussst right.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Plein Air Wildflowers

Someone asked about the wildflower paintings I did on location when I was overwhelmed by the beauty. We all hear about Texas wildflowers, especially bluebonnets, and honestly, I thought the hype was overblown until I was standing in a huge pasture on a ranch in the midst of acres and acres of bluebonnets and indian paintbrush. The heady smell, the incredible colors, the breezes causing movements while the heat of the day was rising.... with extreme discipline, I focused on the movement and shape within the landscape that day and feel that I really caught the essence of what was there. There's inspiration for a wall sculpture here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

wall sculptures animated

I’ve been working on a new wall sculpture based on the watercolor sketch done out in Arizona. Clients visiting my studio saw my sketch variations for the composition and likened the set to an animation. They caught the movement and weight changes as I reworked the composition over and over, wrestling with providing the experience intended for the viewer.

When asked why I don’t use the computer to change my sculpture compositions, my answer has to do with thought processes. The speed of my thinking is directly connected from what I see to the work of my hand. It’s like breathing with pen or brush. For me, by hand is more natural and allows for unintentional surprises. Whether artists do the work by computer or by hand, it is always a laborious process and a grand challenge.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maynard Dixon

I love going to a new part of the country to paint, because it recharges my creativity. This painting, "Western Mesa", was done in Mt. Carmel, UT, near where I was staying at Maynard Dixon’s historic studio/home in very early spring. I was allowed to stay on the property for several days, absorbing the work and landscapes that inspired Dixon, Milford Zornes, Ansel Adams, Emil Kosa, and Dorothea Lang and be in the studio they worked in. It was a fantastic experience. I returned there this summer during their annual Maynard Dixon Country show… more about that later.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Plein Air To Abstraction

I was driving through the Painted Desert out west with my artist travel buddy, Denise Mahlke, when a springtime dust storm came up. The gusty wind was so strong, we couldn’t see the cars ahead of us. Separate colors passed in front of our windshield changing like the horse of a different color in “Wizard of Oz” First peach, then green , then purple, then yellow….

When we came out of the desert into a canyon, the wind had stopped. There were all the rocks that were the colors that blew in front of our windshield. Late afternoon lighting created an awe-inspiring scene before us. Only one other time (in a huge field of bluebonnets) had I become speechless and unable to paint. I was reduced to one stroke of watercolor for each rock following the canyon wall vertically. At one point, the audacity of God’s work caused me to laugh out loud.

I left the canyon with written notes, rock samples, photographs, and one small sheet of color notations. A few weeks later, with trip paintings and reference materials scattered about my studio, I noticed the brush stroke color notations and it struck me. Time to build another wall sculpture! I’m titling it “In God’s Paint Box”.

Follow future posts about constructing this sculpture and as well as other paintings. The sculpture was a process that took 18 months from the original on-location sketch to completion.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Why watercolor? I have been asked that many times. The answer? Transparency. Not just optically, but transparent to the artist’s mind, soul, intention, and abilities. It represents freedom to me. Freedom to be myself. Freedom to show my response fully to what I’m experiencing. Freedom to show my creative process.

There is little that you can hide on a watercolor painting that is done freely. The mood, thought process, level of confidence, and technical ability all lay there plainly to the viewer. One slip in concentration, an unintended movement of the hand, forgetting your color or compositional theory, or losing control over water and humidity and the potential artwork becomes scrap. Transparency means your “mistakes” show for all to see and “fixing” them is seldom successful. Fearless or timid, subtle or loud, joyful or joyless, inhibited or free, it is all there for the viewer to behold. The moment is seized and my response to the world at that moment is fixed in time. It rings with authenticity, blowing its horn beyond craft to a connection with the viewer, soul to soul. Transparent. Free.