the math

on the easel; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
180 coats - that's how many coats of Venetian Red casein I put on my new Claybords.  There are 30 panels and 6 coats on each so - 180 altogether.  It got to be a wax-on-wax-off-zen thing - holding each panel up to the glancing light as I carefully applied the thinned paint with my new hake brush (no, I never did find my old one.)  They're all done now - and are stacked neatly in a box that is labeled with "use after January 1, 2018."  That will give them at least two weeks to cure.  Less than that would risk the Venetian Red lifting off too much with each stroke of paint.

The painting on the easel above will be 99 of my 100-painting Reboot.  It's not quite ready for prime time - a bit more effort on the marbles, spindles and petals perhaps.  Or maybe I'll sleep on it and come up with a different analysis.  Tomorrow will tell.


from 2005

s a l e . p e n d i n g - January at the Marsh; oil on panel; 10" x 16"; 2005

This is an older piece of mine - a plein air done in oils.  I've done a lot of painting outside in the winter and have gone through a lot of those little packets that warm up when you unwrap them and that fit in your boots and/or mittens.  It's cold business winter-plein-air painting - but oh so rewarding.  Unfortunately, with casein paint, you can't paint out when it's below freezing.  Casein is a water medium and will freeze - unlike oil paint which may get a little more viscous but will still be pliable enough to paint with in extreme conditions. 

Now that there's snow outside, I'm hoping to get out and take some photo references to make winter-casein paintings back in the warmth of the studio.  In the meantime, I thought I'd put this one up for you all to see - and to remind myself of how amazing and varied are the colors of snow.


pitcher picture

The Picture on the Wall; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
The carnations are in the compost heap, the sauna should be up and running this weekend and the bananas are ready to eat.  I may let these go a bit past the peel-and-eat stage though.  When they're over ripe, they're perfect for making nice cream.  Peel and then freeze them on a cookie sheet - then toss them in Droste Cocoa until fully coated.  Store them in a big zip-loc in the freezer until you're ready to push them through a Yonana Frozen Treat Maker - sprinkle with pecan chips - enjoy!

Painting number 98 of my 100-painting Reboot - 2 more to go.

maggie's restaurant

on the easel; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
Downtown Wayzata is a lovely place to meet an old friend.  Maggie's Restaurant makes it even better.  We had breakfast for lunch - old standards - nothing fancy.  The conversation was down-to-earth too - sharing our news and memories.  This time of year it's so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of the season.  It was sweet to slow down for a couple of hours and connect.


fading blooms

The Blank Page; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"

These carnations have modeled for their last painting.  It's time now to put them to rest in the compost pile.  Like the sunflowers before them, I try to keep painting with a bunch of flowers until their last day.  They're not that expensive but it still seems wasteful not to keep painting with them while they're still fresh.  And by constraining my subject matter, I'm forced to come up with new ways to present them.  I like that challenge.

The painting above was going to be a still life on top of an odd-little-black-metal-side table.  There were sliced kiwis, a red pear and a glass vase of pink carnations arranged sweetly on the round top.  But as I was framing the scene in my view finder, the stuff at the base of the table caught my eye.  The blank page, the jumble of marbles and another vase of carnations (there were five vases total from this bunch) were calling to me.  It was definitely a challenge for me.  But I'm satisfied now - I'm glad the carnations held out long enough to adorn The Blank Page.

Number 97 of my 100-painting Reboot - only three more to go.


balancing act

The Little Tin Jug; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"

A perfect balance of finish vs. freshness - that's the holy grail.  There's always the danger of overworking and making your paintings seem tense and uncomfortable.  And on the other end of the spectrum you want to tell enough of the story to be comprehensible - at least I do.  Rough sketches are amazing though and I often wonder why I can't/don't stop at some more abstracted stage.  Someday - maybe - but for now I need to be true to myself - and the story.


finding myself

white tin jug in progress
Three or four times a year I find myself in IKEA.  I'm rereading that sentence and am wondering if I actually DO find myself - in IKEA?  No - I'm pretty sure I meant that I somehow end up there without being willfully involved in the process.  It's more of an accidental-shopping-kind-of-thing. 

While I'm "accidentally shopping" I realize I'm actually following a very tightly orchestrated maze that's jam-packed with visual stimulation.  There's nothing accidental about any of this.  It was all meticulously planned - just not by me.

But it's all good.  Back at the studio I find myself - arranging a still life set up with a new little white tin jug.  I find myself painting it holding pink carnations - surrounded by Granny Smith apples - on a square linen cloth - on a round table.  I find myself sharing its progress with all of you - and then dreaming of its finish tomorrow. 


losing it

30 new Claybord panels
I looked everywhere.  Hanging on my taboret, in the garage, in all of my brush cups - my 2" hake brush was no where to be found.  That was last night.  "I'll sleep on it," I thought, "then it will come to me."  But this morning - nothing.  I love that brush - but use it rarely.  Maybe that's why it's never garnered its own special place - a place where I'll know I'll always find it. 

So there they lay.  30 new Claybord panels on the dining room table are now waiting for a replacement 2" hake brush to arrive by post.  When it comes, I'll coat them all with 6 layers of Venetian Red casein - perfectly applied with the velvety softness that can only come from a fine hake brush.  When it comes, I'll also surely find the lost one.  Life is like that.

P.S. "Hake" is pronounced "hockey."


driving snow

Carnations in a Round Glass Bowl; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
The snow stuck to windows and storm doors it was blowing so hard last night.  It's the sticky kind too - that adheres itself to branches and weighs them down.  For Minnesota, it was actually a pretty mild affair.  But the first one is always significant and is worthy of pause.  I was able to get out this afternoon - after the plows had done their work.  Happily, when I was off doing my errands, I mailed Christmas cards to some of you.  Thank you for responding!  And if you're new here, please scroll down to learn about my offer.

Number 95 of my 100-painting Reboot

round about

on the easel -eight stages of a painting; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
The round table, marbles, vase and blooms juxtaposed with the textures, colors and gradations of this scene have been a challenging but exhilarating way to spend the evening.  It will feel good to rest now and contemplate next steps.  Some changes are clear - I'd like the background to retain its lovely gradation but with less saturation.  It will also be important to strike a balance between finish and freshness.  I don't want to lose all of the initial brushstrokes in an attempt to create more "accuracy."  Stepping back - both literally and figuratively - is the best approach right now.  Time to clean the brushes and palette - and hit the hay.  There's a nasty winter storm going on tonight.  And my Hudson Bay blanket just came back from the cleaners.  Time to wrap things up.


merry christmas

Merry Christmas 2017; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"
Shoot me an email if you'd like to get on my Christmas card list.  A small reprint of the above painting will be made and affixed to your card.  I'll use old-fashioned photo corners - so the print can be easily taken off the card without damaging it - my gift to you!

Painting number 94 of my 100-painting Reboot.

holiday cards

Christmas Card Painting in Progress; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"
It was wonderful to place a painting with its new owner today!  The Avocado Pit was delivered this morning and is now in its new home.  The experience inspired me to use the same avocado plant for my Christmas card.  After hunting down just the right ornaments and ribbon, I set up the scene above on my mantel - complete with a reddish background.  I'm enjoying so many things about this painting: the transparent/translucent ribbon, the Charlie Brown nature of the "tree", the shiny metallic hanging ornament and the satin ones beside the pot - not to mention the shadows, terra cotta pot and glass bowl.  It will be a lot of fun making little prints of this painting to affix to my Christmas cards.  If you'd like a card sent to you, send me an email with your name and address - I'll put you on the list.


marble madness

Study in Pink and Apple Green; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"
Marbles have become a "thing" in contemporary still lifes.  Duane Keiser is the first artist I've seen who's used them extensively and with great sensitivity.  There may have been others who started this ball rolling (sorry - couldn't resist.)  But now there are many other modern day still life painters who have joined in on the fun. 

Above is MY very first marble painting.  I didn't set out to paint them.  The carnations were the plan.  Somehow, the vase of flowers kept attracting more objects - first the apples and then the marbles.  Everything ended up fitting quite nicely with the round shapes, glass, apple greens, pinks, sparkles - all in a lovely circular pattern.  The dark background and the angled lines keep it all from becoming too sweet - lending a bit of mystery and intrigue.  The cropped apple is important too.  I'm not sure why - it just is.


pencil aroma

sketching the idea
zeroing in (but not there yet)

The sauna is lined in red cedar.  Every cut I make to fit the paneling and the trim reminds me of sharpening pencils in grade school.  Glendale Elementary had those lovely-cranky-spiralizing types of pencil sharpeners.  I'm sure all schools in the 60's had the same.  They say that smell, more than any other sense, has the ability to transport us back to select memories.  I'm not sure I have a distinct-pencil-sharpening memory.  In general, it's the sensation of being physically engaged with making fresh a drawing and writing tool that was at once ubiquitous and personal.  Mine were personalized with my teeth marks - but were Ticonderoga No. 2's just like everyone else's.


new dawn

The Drawn Shade; casein tempera on board; 7" x 9"

The kitchen sink bathed in filtered-morning light made for a perfect test for this new support.  It performed beautifully - I'm sold.

Thank you again, Len!


boston goodbyes

Monday night - painting in progress; casein on gessoed board; 7" x 9"
It's good to be back home - although the trip was absolutely magical.  My new granddaughter has 2 older brothers - 2 and 4 years old.  So it was a gloriously hectic time!

Before I left for Boston I attended the opening at beautiful Red Wing Arts.  I was not alone - it was a fantastically packed affair and I had the chance to see old friends and make some new ones.  Luckily for me, one of the new ones was Len Guggenberger, a fellow casein painter and multiple award winner at the National Society of Casein and Acrylic Painter's annual exhibitions.  He very kindly shared with me his experiences with different supports and generously gave me a sample of the kind he uses.

The sample Len gave me is in the photo above.  What you see are the beginnings of an interior painting of my kitchen bathed in morning light - yet obscured a bit by a pulled window shade.  I loved the effect of the plants behind the shade and how you can see the plants flattened in silhouette.  I've yet to paint the silhouettes - so don't worry if you can't make those out.

So far, this support is a dream to paint on.  I'll post the final painting - hopefully - tomorrow.


november day

Door Stop; casein tempera on aluminum; 10" x 8"
It's one of those very November days here - drizzly, cold, dim and leafless.  It was a good day to stay inside and paint sunflowers drenched in sunlight.  I paint both from life and from my reference photos.  This one was done from a shot I took a few months ago - of sun flowers in a vase placed as a door stop by my open front door.

Tonight is the opening of Small Paintings in Red Wing.  I'm really looking forward to meeting a lot of fellow artists and appreciators of the arts - yet another way to brighten up a rather dismal day. 

#SmallPaintings #RedWingArts