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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lemon on Blue Stripes

I have come back from L.A. with a sack full of meaty weirdly shaped lemons with big leaves attached! If I don't paint them, the leaves will soon fall off and I'll be full of regrets, so I might stick at these for a bit and have a rest from the mugshots, with which I am still obsessed. I am also reading the book Man With A Blue Scarf, On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford, and there is the most discussion about Freud's process of painting I have ever seen in print. He didn't give interviews much and didn't do art talk. Gayford' s book, however, has lots of their casual conversation. I was very surprised to find that LF doesn't tone the canvas at all, leaves the naked blaring white of the canvas there and then proceeds to work very slowly from the top down, as if he were doing a paint by the numbers picture. And it is very slowly, as long as a year or more on a single painting. When asked by Gayford why he left the canvas white, he said, because it seems more difficult to get the values with the white and this made him work harder at it. (I always try for the easiest way.) So on this one I left the white ground to see what difference it made. I wanted to be certain to get a deep enough value on the white stripes in shadow, so I really paid attention to this as I was mixing. I can't yet see if this is a meaningful improvement, probably too small an exercise.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mugshot 38, Putin

I found this photo in the New Yorker magazine along with a big article about Putin. It said he has had lots and lots of botox in his face. It is VERY smooth....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Double Portrait, Purifying Mask

These are two of my possible family members roped into the mask project.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dog in a Boat

This dog really was in a boat. It can be a conceptual piece as well as realistic.
I am finishing up Christmas paintings this week and can't post everything without ruining surprises, so I feel like a blog slacker with so few postings. My nose is pointy from the grindstone though.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Baby Lucas

This is a commissioned painting for the Dallas family who rescues sick dogs and gives them the most luxurious life imaginable. I should be one of their dogs. Lucas is a parti Pomeranian and is the newest addition to the family of, I think, 8 dogs.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mugshot 35, The Acupuncturist

Ok, back at it. This is another stab at the shadow vs. light issue. Actually the painting is much redder - more red? can't remember how that is written, but maybe because we finally finally have rain here and there is little daylight, it didn't photograph correctly. Small price to pay for rain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

J. and L.

This is the final painting, done on a 6x8 2inch cradled panel, (for non painters, it's like a shallow box, 6x8x2 inches, open on the back). I loved the scale element here - a human sized subject made small and intimate, so that you have to get right up on it to see. The other challenge was the fact that the faces were in deep shadow. I used a Balkan trick of working with a black and white photo as well as color to help me see the values, my bete noir. In some passages there were very dark values next to each other that only differed in temperature (warm/cool) and the b&w photo helped me to see them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

L. and J. Practice Painting

I have been painting back lit subjects for a while as practice for the one above. This is the first shot and it went pretty easily. Also it is only 6x8 inches, which is the smallest I have done a portrait, and requires little brushes. Working really small was not as difficult as I anticipated, but there is added pressure to get that drawing right because there's no room to expand anything.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pig's Feet on Black and White

I don't know why they saw the feet in half...I tried matching up halves of the feet to make a whole foot, but the cuts occurred at different angles, so it was hopeless to try and make a standing one. I will have to explore other markets, maybe the Asian market, to try and find paintable animal parts.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pig's Feet

Another small one because I don't have a block of time today for a mug shot. These are pig's feet, which I remember my father eating when I was a child. Fascinating and grisley.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Three Shrimp

I am taking a tiny break from the mugshots to do a fun painting, slightly more restful...
I did a quick practice on one shrimp yesterday and you can see how the lights cooked it, it is the pink one. I think it had row in it -- the coral color on that shrimp had to be eggs, right? I see I am uncertain about shrimp reproduction. I tried to use thick paint here which doesn't show much, also I used my very small bristle brushes as opposed to my larger flats and brights. I am learning my way around the brushes at last! In addition, I purposely used a larger panel, thinking to have the empty space around the forms have more importance. Or the colored space give the forms more importance. Whichever.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mugshot 34: Possible Family Member

This person might really be a musician even though he looks like a serial killer in this painting.
I have discovered how to use a small bristle brush for getting in all those little places, like between brow furrows, etc..

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mugshot 33: Possible Family Member

I am practicing painting flesh in deep shadow, those elusive values. Tormenting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mugshot 32: Possible Family Member

This possible family member has always been enraptured with color, so I tried to use as much of it as I could. It is more colorful than this in real life. I think it made a difference that I started with a decision on the palette color (blue/orange) and tied everything to it, not by thinking so much, just by drawing from a blue/orange mix a base for all the grays, so there's more coherence. I remember getting into trouble really fast by just trying to use a lot of color. This is another idea I learned in Jennifer Balkan's class: decide on a color palette and stay with it. Also, this is a pretty good ear, so I'm content. And a second also: these are getting easier and quicker.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mugshot 31:Possible Family Member

This painting does not capture the person at all and the color is not exciting as her color was in real life, however, it is the best ear I have ever done, almost a Lucien Freud ear, so I am not wiping it. I will try her again soon, and maybe having this to look at will help me remember what I wanted and did not want to paint.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blackberry Season

This is a commissioned painting to be part of a banner for the New York Times best selling author, Susan Mallery. It will be part of her website advertising her new book, BAREFOOT SEASON, coming in April 2012. The romance novel is available now through pre order at The painting will also be posted at

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mugshot Twenty Eight, Possible Family memeber

This one was really hard. I tried it twice, this is the better of the two. The majority of the face was in shadow, but the skin was all pink and green, and the pinks were green and the greens were pink! I did the underpainting as I learned but it was more difficult to get the values down simply. I was seduced by those shimmering half tones.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mugshot 27: Possible Family Member

OK, back in the saddle. Returned from frolicking and resettled into the routine. While I was away I terrorized my family members, pleading for photos. Most relented but said they never want to see the paintings. (!!!!!!) Thank you everyone for your forbearance, and I won't identify anybody.
Last night was the final episode of Jennifer Balkan's second figure painting class. In this second part I learned the importance of doing a loose underpainting for the values. What a difference it makes - ain't no words! This single thing allows you to keep your values in a family, which helps the image to have weight and coherence. This is the piece of information I have been looking for but I didn't know how to ask for it or even what it was. It was a very exciting class, only 4 of us , so lots of one on one help. Jennifer is funny and generous and pounded everything into our heads, reinforced with demos and our own hands on experience. A great class, great people...I should have tried to get their photos as I will shortly run out of possible family members soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reclining Nude Study

Still more wiping...full moon I hear.
This is the last of 4- 30 minute paintings from the painting group, first 3 really unspeakably bad and I could feel myself sliding into the abyss, and then I got one! I am quite proud of myself when I do an acceptable one because working with this time limit and all the discomfort of bad light, French easel, forgot the necessary color (cad yellow), etc., requires such absolute concentration that I lose all self consciousness. Then I am exhausted and have to have a beer.
I will be in North Carolina for a few days helping my father celebrate his 90th birthday. Maybe when I take up the brush again the wiping phase will be done.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I have had a whole week of wiping paintings! Not too upsetting though -- I am trying to do something new, a new way of using color, so this just has to be worked through. This painting is a quick study I did with cad red light and black. I got a good likeness without much suffering, which is always encouraging.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nude Study/Back

I have been working hard on another project this week and there's nothing much to post.... but here is a study from my painting session with a model. This was a 30 minute study and a huge improvement over the last back I painted a couple of weeks ago. At the beginning of the first back I mumbled some remark(out loud even, such hubris) about how easy a back was going to be after doing a complicated and difficult front (limbs, stomach, breasts, facial features, hair, all!) and then produced a painting of a flat porcine slab.... frightening. But this one is much better because I am improving in my understanding of value and temperature. Backs can be hard! I love this model though.... something about her wants to be painted.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mugshot 26: Sylvester S.

I am now in the second half of Jennifer Balkan's class and we are doing color mixing, then doing a painting with the mix. So far we have done two red/greens: Viridian and cad red light and sap and Winsor red. Since I had already taken Sylvester's picture and was ready to go, I used purple/yellow (which we haven't discussed yet) because he seemed to require it. Having a decision about which color range you are going to use greatly simplifies the process, you just line up the colors and get going. I was slinging stuff around on this one not quite knowing how to get what was necessary out of a purple/yellow combo. In any case, he is a handsome devil and reminds me of Zapata.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mugshot 25: Jill W.

This is an honorary daughter who came for a visit and succumbed to the purifying mask.
Also, I want to thank all of you for your generous comments on these paintings. It's so exciting to open up the blog and see response. It helps to keep the fires lit.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tom P.

This is a mugshot of a good friend. I am thinking I have to shift out of the criminal element because their photos are so terrible, bad light, bad color, pixillated when shouldn't be that hard. I am thinking I will take my own mug shots of the people in my life with my new fancy pants camera and have more CONTROL over some of these issues.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mug Shot 23

Ah, testosterone. You can see it at work.
I admit I was in a rapture working on this nose, It was so --- there, such a fleshy anchor for this boy's face. Also, since I have been getting in bad trouble with backgrounds that I add after the figure is painted, I laid in an acid yellow wash first thing to give me some color to relate to as I painted the head, and it was a much more comfortable way to go. I had to soften it tremendously later, but at least I was in the family of yellow at the end.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Purifying Mask, Spa

This is the big one I have been working on, it is 40 inches square and was commissioned for a spa in Kansas City. I was initially planning to use a more youthful model but they asked for this particular one....which I thought either barking mad or enlightened. I will go with the latter.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nude by Andy Pankhurst

Another day in the barrel, so here is yet another painting by a painter I like very much.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Outdoor Portrait by Mieke Teirlinck

Still working on the big painting. In the meantime, here is another painter's work I greatly admire: Mieke Tierlinck, Dutch. She paints everything from life and does it quickly, in one shot. She also paints everything, landscapes, interiors, still lives, people. Is there enough time in one life to master all these?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Self Portrait by Lucian Freud

I am working on a large painting and so have nothing completed to post, but here is a painting by one of my favorite painters, Lucian Freud. He died last month, in his mid 80's, and he painted right to the end, which is how it should be done.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Red Peppers on Pink

Down to the last two peppers. Another wave of family came through and we went to the ACL festival in Austin, so now I am recuperating and gearing up for a big painting that is already in the works. This one is also a painting for the Texas Moleskine Roundup group.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peppers and Sprouts?Green

On this one I tried some color things.... mostly green, a bit of red. On the next one I did mostly red, bit of green. This is along the lines of three (everything should occur in this relationship: most, some, a bit). Except that it is along the lines of two. I have been told also that it should be in the same relationship as a martini, which would be mostly gin, some vermouth and a bit of olive. But then the olives you get these days are huge and you often get two, and sometimes very little vermouth. Treacherous.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Peppers and Sprouts

This is all that is left in the fridge after a wild family weekend. Also, it is a practice painting for the 2 Moleskin journals which I have not done and mailed on, and no one has emailed and nagged me about it, such a nice group, so I have to get at it. As usual, when I am away from the studio for a few days and get back to painting, I am all thumbs. This won't do if you are working in someone's journal.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Campari Tomatoes

I had just a bit of time in the studio today because I have family about to visit and I had to stuff everything under the bed and clean the rest of it. These little tomatoes are sitting on a piece of silk taffeta I have carted around for years.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nude Study 3

In last night's painting session, I had 2 wipers, 2 keepers, each a 30 minute pose. We had a great model which makes it more fun. I ran out of steam in the last half, whipped from a long day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mugshot Twenty Two

This is a great whopping 12 inches square -- intimidating to have all that room, but also really great, exciting. I feel like I have known this guy forever, he is life size and I have been in his nostrils and ears all day. Also need more stamina to get it done in one go.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nude Study Two

Another meeting of the painting group last night and I painted hard and fast and didn't get home till 10:30. No juice to paint today, so I am posting the best of the studies. These are 30 minutes long and I am using Jennifer Balkan's formula: 3 generous batches of paint, a warm dark, a cool mid tone, and warm light; with burnt umber quickly lay in only a gestural form of the body and then the darks, followed by mid tone and light, finishing with restrained use of highlights if any. I got 3 ok studies and 1 wiper, not too bad for the end of a long day. It's so amazing and riveting to paint or draw from life -- total concentration and no thinking, you just have to keep your energy up and your concentration skewered to the model.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mugshot Twenty One

I'm thinking of bumping up to 10 inches square. This guy had a swan's neck...but I had to abbreviate it because I wanted to get that black net top in there. My painting self wants to work bigger and my thinking self wants to learn how to get it all in no matter what the size.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mugshot Twenty

This guy was so pink.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mugshot Eighteen

I painted this six times, the first 3 I didn't post. She had these red rimmed thyroidal eyes that I just couldn't get down and this pale yellowish translucent skin. These mugshot people aren't healthy for the most part. And I want to say only once without defensiveness, that it is hard to get it all when is repeated every inch across the faces, because often the type will cover a tricky shadow at the corner of the mouth or eye and it can't be seen clearly. Not that I'm whining. But the more I couldn't get it, the more determined I was to keep at it. The top one is good enough for now, I can't stand to look at it any more. As they say, the line is oh so thin between the heroic and the pitiful.
Thank you everyone for such nice comments on the last study.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nude Study

I painted a mugshot today but it turned on me in the end and I had to wipe it. Will try tomorrow. Today I am posting a study I did Monday night in a painting group. We have a model and do 4 30 minute poses. At the end of the session we did a quick 15 minute pose (this one) and I was able to get it down in broad strokes with the parts in the right place and the values pretty much ok. I feel encouraged because I see that I am learning to condense visual info faster and establish the form without too much thinking. I just want the image to go from my eye to my hand without cerebral detour.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mug 17

This boy was completely magnificent. His skin! There was every color in it and they were all practically the same value. Very interesting painting experience.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I don't know the reason for this, but the women in the mugshot sites routinely have the thinnest eyebrows I have ever seen. It would be interesting to hear what a sociologist has to say about that, what conclusion could be drawn. I have a feeling it is heartbreaking.