Month: January 2016

Well, hello Anders!

Using the Zorn Palette
ochre, mars black, cadmium red, titanium white

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not, and I repeat, NOT, a figurative painter. I went down this path when my beginning painting class had an assignment to paint self-portraits. The search was on for a color palette that would use a straight forward, limited number of colors. It was down that path that I met the man of my dreams. Well, hello Anders, new in town?

Anders was Anders Zorn, a Swedish born painter (1860-1920) and contemporary of John Singer Sargent. He was a highly successful (read wealthy) artist, well-known for his portrait  of society swells and full-figured nudes (though to the best of my knowledge, not nudes of society patrons!) and self-portraits. But that’s not what sent my heart all pitter-patter. It was his limited palette:


  • Titanium White
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Red
  • Ivory Black

This four-color palette produces skin tones that can be supplemented with umber, sienna and cool reds, extending the range even further. The simplicity of this system means the painter is not overwhelmed with choices, and the mastery of mixing these colors feels attainable.

detail of self portrait Mondrian

Self portrait with Mondrian

This week I was finally able to return to working on two self portraits (using the Zorn palette) and here’s a peek of where they are at now. I’ve added alizarin crimson and Mars black, and of course cobalt blue for the eye color. I am jokingly referring to these works in progress as my mug shots–

PS. I have a certain reluctance to share them at this stage of painting because they are so unfinished. Yep, the face is too wide, the ear too high, the hair needs to be added to better frame the face, and let’s not even talk about what has to happen to the hat! Putting works-in-progress out for public viewing is like taking and posting a selfie when first getting out of bed, before teeth brushing and shower. I’m sure some folks look divine; I’m not one of them.



Hitting the Hi-Whirl Button

“Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day & trying.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

graphite on paper

Every 15 weeks my routine goes awry in a big way. That’s when a new semester begins and, with the craziness that is life, it sometimes feels as though everything is being dumped into a blender and we’ve hit the hi-whirl button. The part-time teaching gig, with regular hours and scheduled days, serves as an anchor for the full-time job of studio artist. Hours that form the “professional” work are fluid in duration and focus, requiring a self-motivation to attend to tasks that the teaching, with its static parameters, doesn’t need.

Trust me, there are days when going to “The Office”, feels like work. It’s pulling on boots, packing the lunchbox, greeting the wintry chill inside the studio, confronting a painting in the not-going-great stage, and knowing that the Mountain of Need-to’s is waiting at home to be conquered. Without a sense of routine (“Tuesday, teach until 12, work at The Office until 6”), it’s über easy to make excuses for not dealing with the real work.

One resource I’ve found for guidance in these situations is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. I read this slender volume every semester as a reminder of what it means to be a professional artist and to treat my time and commitment to my studio practice in such a manner. I recommend this book to every creative; and if you haven’t read it yet, I hope you do. I would love to know what you think of it.

Virgo Rising-detail
oil on board, metal leaf

Now back to this week in the studio. The winter routine is slowly getting established. I was able to clean up edges on the metal leaf on “Virgo Rising” (seen here and on Instagram.)  However, by midweek I found the sides of the self-portraits were still too wet to handle and I was at a holding point with “Virgo”.  That day I was determined to stay at the studio until I got something done. Grabbing pencil and drawing paper, I sketched a raven, part of an idea for my next best painting. After posting it on Facebook, my stats indicate that the “get something done today” drawing is a hit! I think I’m on to something that would never have happened if quit work early in the day. Stay tuned to see where this may lead!





Among the Stars

"Virgo Rising" in progressHaving spent a good deal of time on metal leafing Virgo Rising (efforts shared in last week’s All That Sometimes Glitters), I decided to take a bling break. Maybe it was all the Ziggy Stardust chatter with the passing of David Bowie, or just the realization that my depiction of the universe needed more heavenly bodies, but I got out the paint and got to it. Click image for a more complete reveal.

Me and Mondrian (self portrait)While the paint was on the palette, it seemed efficient to add another layer to my two self portraits, “Me and Mondrian”.  I was confident that the first layer had dried and I could continue to build the painting. Alas, wintery conditions in my north facing studio means a nightly drop in temperatures to a bracing 57 degree, and the underpainting was still wet in spots and tacky in other areas. Fortunately by Thursday the oil paint had reasonably set and I was happy to make some small progress on the background, which if you are a fan of Mondrian you might recognize as Composition in Red, Yellow and Blue. (Or is it Composition in Blue, Red and Yellow? Hmm, better research that!)

At this point, it looks like the promise of a few extra studio hours will be available next week, and with it, the expectation of further progress. Check back to see if that happens, and follow on Facebook and Instagram to see more studio news. And finally, you can add your comments below or send an email with your insights.






All That Sometimes Glitters

These past couple of weeks in the studio have found me attempting to finish a painting begun early November 2014. My misguided (as always!) belief was that I would have the work finished by the opening of a late November exhibit at the River’s Edge Gallery. The work is a combination of two paintings: a circle painting of a crow, wings lifted, surrounded by a larger galaxy painting. Separating these two works is a metal leafed circlet. It was the visual representation of the show’s title: “Virgo Rising.” (photo below left).

Virgo Rising, v. 1
Virgo Rising, v. 1

Well, Virgo is still rising and awaiting lift off. And if you have seen the posts on Facebook or Instagram you’ll realize that the current circlet looks nothing like version 1 because at some point, all that original metal leaf was scraped back and wood scrollwork added and new layers of metal leaf added for “Virgo Rising”, v. 2.1.

Virgo Rising, v. 2.1
Virgo Rising, v. 2.1

I know, I know. Why bother? Because that’s  what has to happen when it isn’t as envisioned. Revisit, revise and re-do, make it over, add to or subtract from, get it to the place where you finally say this is the best I can do at this time. It will get done, oh it will.

Until then enjoy the posts on social media as I make slow and steady progress. And finally, with all this metal leafing floating around the studio, I just glad I’m not using 14K gold. I even found some metal leaf glued into my hair. Talk about gold among the silver!IMG_2541

By the way, the image to the left shows much I’ve managed to get done to this point.



New Beginnings


Betwixt and between describes things in the studio these days–taking some time to explore new ideas and waiting to see how the established bodies of works want to evolve. I wrapped up a solo show at the end of late summer that left me feeling a bit played out–two years+ of no stop work will do that to an artist.

Accepted an invitation for a two-person gallery exhibit in November 2017 at the River’s Edge Gallery. I have been doing what I often do to gain perspective and equilibrium: physical work.  I’ve organized the studio,  rearranged the paintings on the walls (how did I get so many?—oh right, I made those, all of them), and made an inventory of studio supplies both needed and wanted  ( I can always use another paintbrush).

Ideas are slowly formulating–too early to share yet–too unformed and tender. We’ll just have to see how things unfold in the next few months!