Danube – larger scale

Took another shot at the Danube river village. Originally did a small piece on canvass last year, which was challenging but fun. Took another go at it, but this time on a larger scale, going up to 24” x 12”, which for me is a considerable size leap. It worked out well, albeit slow going. The finished piece is ok, but I clearly leaned too heavily on the warm, red end of things, instead of capturing the fading cool light at the end of the day, which was the setting on this piece. That said, it came out pretty well and I learned a lot about details and the need to consider atmospheric perspective.



“Squirrel!” Finished

What I learned is painting a black dog, especially one near and dear, is very difficult. I never got Crash's face proportions just right in the preliminary sketches, of which there were many, and I couldn't get it figured out on the canvass. But it was better and a lot was learned about painting the black coat without using pure black. I'll tackle this again and get it right, but need to take a breather with a new project first.

Technical details:
Oil on panel, 6"x8"
Brush and knife
Ivory black, titanium white, ultramarine blue – most of her fur

1 Hour Challenge – Lough Corrib, Ireland

Another 1 hr sketch challenge. This is from a recent trip to Ireland on the grounds of Ashford Castle. John Wayne fans will remember The Quiet Man filmed here, in and around the village of Cork.

The boat on the right is the focal point. This is a good example of forcing yourself to sketch fast can hone the proportional calculation part of the brain – I made that up but it felt accurate when I did this sketch. If I had been drawing at a leisurely pace, I would have over thought the dimensions and shape of the boats.

This could be a good painting, especially with the red colors of the focal point boat.


Starting a new painting based on one of the hour  challenge sketches from last week. This is Crash looking at squirrels in the tree when she was a year old – long time ago.

Using a small wood panel and painting knife, maybe a little brushwork to finish. Not sure if I can get the right level of detail with the knife but I'll give it a go.

Pic below is first 30 minutes of block in using a burnt sienna wash, using both brush and paper towel. Wanted to make sure I got the values and proportions right. Having sketched this a few times in the past I know how easy it is to get the face dimensions out of whack.


1 Hour Challenge – Run Sandpiper, Run

Moving these updates to the blog to motivate myself to do them more frequently. The goal is to hone my drawing skills by doing sketches in 1 hour.

This session is from a reference photo taken by my brother. Very challenging given the need to incorporate movement of the bird and the advancing waves. Oh, and drawing ocean foam is hard as hell. I think the key is to not draw it. 

Strolling with Boomer

This was supposed to be a quick study session, but it turned into a full fledged effort. I couldn’t help but get sucked into it. It was an exciting time to be in San Francisco, especially living in the Castro – summer of 2013 – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up.

Castro w Boom
Strolling with Boom – 8×10 oil on canvas board

This is my wife walking Boom around the neighborhood. Walks with him were always so easy – he was the perfect companion. They’re both looking to the right, as something has caught their attention, but it hasn’t affected the casual, enjoyable mood of their walk. Everything else in the painting is directed to the right, with the notable exception of a single white car coming down the steep road from the right. I don’t want to actively direct viewers out of the painting, but I’m trying to generate interest and perhaps discussion about what could be just out of the frame. I’m probably violating a central design tenet with this approach, but rules schmoolz.

The painting is on a canvas board with very thick texture. Made some of the detail work difficult, but it forced me to use some larger brushes and paint with more authority, which is good for me.

Getting the hang of painting cars, but had never tried painting a person or dog walking. I had to do a few sketching sessions separately, which helped, but it’s going to take a lot of practice over the coming months to get a better feel for the technique.

Artistic license taken on a few items. Most notably removed the leash from the composition. Also added cars as it suited as opposed to exactly as they appeared in the photo.




San Francisco Cityscape


UPDATE Feb 20, 2017: Done! While it took a long time to finish, it was a very rewarding project. Tackled a number of new challenges, but took my time and exercised a wealth of patience to not rush to the finish line. The hardest part turned out to be the alignment of the near foreground building facades and their maddening rows of windows.

UPDATE Jan 21, 2017: Worked on practicing drawing cars before getting back to the canvas. Took a number of tries, but once my brain “saw” the fix, it got much easier with each subsequent sketch. Duh! Now I’ve returned to this urban landscape to add the cars in the foreground. So far so good.

UPDATE Dec 18, 2016: Been working on this off and on for the past couple months. It’s been very slow moving, but I’m learning a lot about breaking down complexity, pushing and pulling with values, and most recently, the challenge of painting vehicles. Added a few of the latest progressions to the photo collage; note the zoom-in view of the cars in the final picture. Fingers crossed that I can make the time to finish this piece before the end of 2016.


Danube River Village

New project today from a photo along the Danube. My wife and I were visiting the Christmas Markets this past year, mostly in Austria and Germany. They were fantastic! Along the river these idyllic scenes were commonplace. We had ridden bikes along the river the day before and visited this church.


Smaller canvas this time around. Working on loose and colorful, with very strong contrast in values where the late day light is hitting the tops of the buildings. This post is about 3 hrs of work. Moved a little slow at the start to get the sketch right. Usually I draw the subject before trying to paint it, but opted to jump right in this time.

Updated progress: Couple of hours working on the detailed village. Getting the proportions and values in the shaded areas took patience, but very rewarding. One more session focused on the water reflections should get us most of the way there.


Forgot to add the finished painting from a few months ago. I like how this turned out but need to practice with more river landscapes.


El Capitan update

Finished this piece a couple months ago, but forgot to post the last update. Originally this was going to be a practice piece to study the composition in preparation for doing a much lager painting. However, it was so interesting, I ended up with a more complete piece than planned. I’ll still do the larger piece, but I’m not going to jump right into it just yet.

In the end, I opted to stick with the knife only for the mountain itself, but the rest of the landscape was done with various brushes. This created a nice textural contrast, which may not be readily apparent in the picture below.