new year

SOLD; Morning Moon; oil on linen; 9.75" x 6"; 2003
Happy New Year - wishing you all peace and prosperity in 2018!

The studio is still quiet here.  The palette needs to be cleaned (from busy grandsons making pictures) and the furniture needs to be rearranged (with the inflatable bed soon to be deflated.)  But most of all, I need to get some rest.  Today I mostly slept - putting my PJs back on at 5am (after returning from the airport.)  My voice is gone and my cold is doing quite well but I'm determined to paint tomorrow.  I'm also determined to get out to take some winter reference photos.  The high is supposed to be 3 degrees F tomorrow but the next day it will be 15 degrees F.  So tomorrow: paint inside - and Tuesday: tromp through the snow bundled as well as I can.  If you're on Facebook you can see what that looks like.  My avatar there shows me clad in a parka, mittens and boots in a snowy scene. 

P.S. The painting above was done outside - with my easel set up in a church parking lot - with snow plows working all around me.  The plows came after I had set up and had gotten a good start.  Otherwise, I don't think the scene would have looked so tranquil.


studio stillness

first notes
second notes
final painting

Progress images fascinate me and I'm hoping they're of interest to others too.  One of my take aways from looking at the aftermath, is the significance of when and why I find the time to stop to create these images of my painting progress. 

I remember it was hard to stop and scan the drawing stage this time. There was a revision as to where I wanted to place the vase and the drawing seemed 'messier' somehow.  I had to remind myself of how important the drawing stage is and how it's okay to show how I changed my mind.  The stages of the first and second notes presented a logical place to stop and weren't hard to pause after.  And of course, the finished painting makes for a nice reference when viewing these steps.  That stage is always easy to include.

I do wish, however, that I had made scans of what happened between the second notes and the finish.  That's when the true colors come out - and the lovely details emerge that solidify and embellish the story.  I would love to see the roots take shape, the seam on the bag emerge and the diffraction through the water explored.  Maybe that's why artists make videos - so that the camera can record the progress in its entirety.  Something to think about - if only for my own curiousity.


taking root

The Sprout; casein tempera on panel; 10" x 8"
This little onion is one of the last things remaining from my garden.  So lovely that it's taking root this time of year.  So nice also to get away from pinks and greens.  It felt good to luxuriate in cerulean blue for a change.


unexpected milestones

progress images of "The Postcard"
Milestones are an interesting idea.  There seem to be two types: the ones preordained - like turning 30 or having your first child - and the ones that you look back on and realize a major shift happened without your being aware of it at the time. 

The little painting in the painting above was done outside at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  I used a Fabriano notecard and taped off the edges to preserve the white of the card.  It was my first time painting outside with casein - and it was before I thought of myself as a casein painter.  I was just playing around. 

It turns out, I love that little painting.  It represents a shift that was barely perceptible at the time.  A shift to a freer, cleaner more expressive way of painting.  It's a milestone unexpected whereas the painting of that little painting represents a milestone preordained - the last of my 100 challenge paintings.

Step by step, milestone by milestone - wishing you all the gift of the present - wherein no steps are required - and milestones are realized only after the fact.


ta da

The Postcard; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"

Here you have the one-hundredth painting - done on December 20th, 2017 - in time for the holidays.  I like that it has one of my very early plein air caseins represented as the "postcard."  It seems quite fitting that it should be there so prominently.

The next week or two I'll be busy with family - as I'm sure you will all be.  I'm not sure, however, if I'll have time to think about next steps.  Thankfully, my subconscious doesn't need for me to set aside time - it has a way of working on things even as I'm crazy busy.  Come January, I'm confident it will have sorted things all out.  I'll keep you all posted.

Thank you all for following along with this reboot. 


from 2006

Poinsettia; oil on panel; 6" x 9.5" 2006
During this busy holiday time, I thought I'd post another past oil painting for you all.  I remember loving how these gorgeous leaves stretched out and filled the entire picture frame.  There's a slight asymmetry to the composition - which pleases me still.  And that iridescent film they use to wrap the pots - and the gradient in the background - well - I could go on and on.

As I'm sure you all are - I've been juggling many tasks here this week.  Among them is a bunch of peonies that I bought at Whole Foods.  $12 for five tight little buds - but I'm very hopeful that they'll open up properly and delight us all.  They've definitely swelled in the last couple of days and are currently set up with a conch shell on a round teal mat.  I've got two pieces of tape on the floor where the tips of my toes will go (a ritual of mine) and a spot light poised just so.  I'm excited to get started on this - hopefully tomorrow evening.

Tonight there's still studio tidying to be done, preparation for a lesson and some writing I need to catch up on. 

On the easel - but not yet started: painting number 100 - the last of the Reboot - and the beginning of the next chapter here.  I'm pretty sure it will have peonies and a conch shell in it - we'll soon see.


notes notes

The Painted Chair with Carnations; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
Lois Griffel wrote Painting the Impressionist Landscape wherein she explains a method of painting (as passed down from Charles Hawthorne) using color notes.  The first notes, or patches of paint applied to the panel, are as bright and as pure as possible - expressing lightness and darkness more than local color.  They are an exaggeration of the large simple shapes that make up the picture plane.  The second notes are different from the first.  They aim to bring us closer to the local color and therefore must maintain the same values as the first notes upon which they rest.  The third and final notes provide the finish necessary to tell the story - to tell the truth of what we see.  Local color will be suggested with the final notes rather than overtly stated.  The end result, if done well, is a perfect balance between finish and freshness - an impressionistic dance of color bits that delight and fascinate.

Number 99 of my 100-painting Reboot

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.