Special Occasion Libation

WEE DRAM | 8 x 6” | Oil on Board

As you well know about my artwork, I like to bounce around with subject matter and styles. This week’s work is a return to still life that I can relate to, namely a dram of whisky, in this case The GlenAllachie from the Speyside area of Scotland.

The artwork style is influenced by the work of Neil Carroll, the whisky by Billy Walker (more on him later). What I like about his work is the realistic look of the glass as it’s affected by the drink, be it beer, whisky or a pile of strawberries. He’s masterful with reflections, glass sweat (don’t know if that’s a real thing, but sounds good to me), and other elements that give a sense of realism while maintaining a painterly look.

WEE DRAM is a nod to the best Scotch whisky I’ve ever tasted, The GlenAllachie distillery in Speyside just outside the town of Aberlour. My wife and I visited this fantastic distillery on a recent trip to Scotland and loved everything about their operation – the people, the idyllic location, and of course the whisky. They have something really special going on at this Speyside gem, with Master Distiller, Billy Walker. We came home with one of their finest offerings, a 2006 Single Cask limited edition for The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2022, which serves as our new “special occasion” libation. While the 2006 Single Cask is no longer available, it looks like they’ve done it again with a 2007 Oloroso Puncheon. Fantastic!

The challenges with this piece were largely in the balance of orange, red, and yellow that seem to shift and shine in the glass. One of those situations where the actual whisky looks a little fake when you really think about it – I mean where does that bright yellow sparkle come from?! I’ll have to try this again with a lighter background, allowing the whisky hues to be the star of the composition. I might need to go get another bottle from the GlenAllachie collection!

Hopefully you have a special occasion libation in your home. If not, go to The GlenAllachie have a dram of their magical elixir and bring home a bottle.

Cheers!

Soup for You!

The Soup Peddler (study) | 12 x 9” | Oil on Canvas Paper

I’m learning a lot more lately en plein air, painting outside essentially. In 2023 I intend to get in at least 30 days outside – I’ll keep track and post updates against that goal… more to hold myself accountable, but perhaps it will entertain all of you as well. 


There is a great artist group in Austin called Plein Air Austin (www.pleinairaustin.org), which organizes multiple outings monthly for members – non members are encouraged to come join us to see what it’s all about, too. This particular outing was what we call “Urban”, where we get together in an area of town that has great architecture and buildings, as opposed to nature-based landscapes, and try to capture the scene. This particular outing was on South 1st near Mary Street, which has plenty to work with in terms of urban scenes. I tagged along with one of the other artists who had scoped out these great blue green umbrellas at a restaurant called The Soup Peddler. 


The weather was ideal, a little chill in the air, but the clouds cleared out around 10 and gave us plenty of sunlight. It was tricky to simplify this scene, an ongoing challenge for me with plein air compositions, so I tried focusing on the umbrellas first and building the painting outward. Having just painted umbrellas in a recent studio piece, I was able to quickly get the bones of this piece on the canvas before the lighting changed. Luckily the lighting was steadily improving all morning, so I never panicked due to major shifts in value. 


In terms of compositional challenges, I got most of it worked out in the field because I was happy with the umbrellas themselves. I also got very lucky in getting the structure of the building, sign, and patio details on the first try. Sometimes those architectural details trick me and I have to make a few attempts to get it right, or at least avoid having it tank the painting before it even begins. The updates I made in the studio were pretty straight forward, building on what I had already started, but I did leverage some artistic license. Most notably I opted to exclude the cactus coming out of the metal planter, in large part because it was nearly the same color as the umbrellas, and even a deviation from the coloring would have been a distraction. And while I don’t love the final look of the metal planter it serves as a good balance for the composition. Maybe I’ll add some other plants in the future, but for now I’m calling it done. 


Thanks for reading! 

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #bernabplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #atxlife #bullcreekaustin #pleinairaustin #souppeddler #souppeddleraustin

“ABUNDANCE” Group Show at Art for the People Gallery

Art for the People Gallery in Austin Tx, is a showcase for 100 local artists.

Art for the People Gallery in Austin has included 3 of my compositions in their Summer group show “ABUNDANCE”, which runs July 2nd through August 26th, 2022. I’m thrilled to be a part of this talented group of artists! If you’re interested in original artwork by Austin artists, check out AFTPG either in person in Austin or browse their online store. 


The following paintings are part of the show (links lead to previous blog posts about these compositions):

Sniffer | 16 x 20″ | Oil on Canvas Board

Dog Tired | 16 x 12″ | Oil on Canvas Board

  Shaken | 8 x 10″ | Oil on Board

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #atxlife #sedona #pleinairaustin #artforthepeoplegallery #aftpg #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses #blacklabs #labradorretrievers #martinigin #monkey47 #martinipainting

Fighting the Heat at Bull Creek

Bull Creek | 8 x 10” | Oil on Canvas Board

I might have chosen the wrong year to ramp up my en plein air experience, case in point the month of May in Austin is already registering 100 degree days. Ugh! Regardless, the mornings are bearable and I had to break in a new pochade box called u.go. by New Wave Art… more on that later.

This session was at Bull Creek Park with a few other painters from Plein Air Austin. For those of you familiar with Austin, this is the northern stretch of Bull Creek near the Spicewood and 360 intersection. For the uninitiated, it’s ideal for painting outside because there’s usually some good water options along the creek and lots of shade. 

The focal point of this composition was the rocks in both the foreground where the shade and light merge, and secondarily the larger rock bathed in sunlight. I was very happy with how this turned out even before I got back into the studio for refinements. I went into this plein air session committed to focusing on values, starting by driving the darks into darkness-of-a-bat-loving-cave kinda dark, then finding high contrast opportunities for the lightest lights. I took some artistic license in this area, fabricating some water movement that wasn’t there, but it made for a more compelling viewing experience in my opinion. 

Additionally I muted the trees on the banks, especially the left side, so as to ensure they didn’t distract from the main focal points in the water. I had initially used much lighter, saturated yellow/greens on the trees, but that muted all the lighter values in the composition, which absolutely killed the scene. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ve done in past plein air sessions that has confounded me. I’ll keep my fingers crossed this will carry over into the next outing. 

The use of olive green variations on the shadow parts of the distant water were also a change in approach. One of my fellow painters made this suggestion and it proved to work really well. 
Painting outside is fantastic! This particular outing was of note because I got to share ideas and chat with the other painters. We even treated it like a workshop and did a mini critique of our works at the end of the morning. This was particularly interesting because of the 4 painters, there were 3 different mediums represented – oil, water color, and gouache. 

Lastly, my new u.go proved to be a great upgrade to my plein air armaments. Thank you to my awesome wife for giving me the perfect artist gift! The best part about the u.go is the portability. The length and width dimensions are almost identical to my EasyL pochade box, but it’s very thin, so it fits much easier in my pack. Very sturdy and compact design make it a must have piece of equipment for me.

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #bernabplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #atxlife #bullcreekaustin #pleinairaustin #saveourspringsaustin #sosalliance

Flat as a Cat’s Tail in a Room of Rockers

3 Pots | 9 x 12” | Oil on Paper

A composition comes around sometimes and slaps you in the face, a hard reminder that you don’t know jack squat about painting. In this case, 3 Pots told me I need to work harder on my plein air compositions, starting with the basics. There’s something addictive about plein air painting, even on the bad days that seem like you can’t get anything right.

This plein air session was at a workshop in Austin with Laurel Daniel, an exceptional artist and talented instructor. We were at Jennifer’s Gardens in central Austin and during the afternoon session I focused on 3 pots that were sitting on some terra cotta steps. They were in the shade, error #1. The green plant was in a green pot and the blue plant was in a blue pot, error #2. I decided to paint them anyway, error #3. 

Despite the challenges in the field, one thing I did get right and was pretty excited about, was the initial block in. I was able to quickly get all 3 pots laid in properly and to scale without issue, something a few years ago I would have needed a few sessions to get right. Then everything went flat. 

Chronic Muted / Flat Plein Air Work

For the life of me I couldn’t get enough value contrast going, as if I was actually ignoring that basic design tenet. I really noticed in when I returned to the studio a few days later and was frankly amazed at the mono-value of the entire composition. There was also no getting around the design error of green pot on green plant and blue pot on blue plant. 

I considered throwing it in the bin, but opted to spend a dedicated 2 hours, and not a minute more, to see how I could fix the core elements. The first step was to really push the darks throughout, which I would find later was the crux of the issue. I need to really recognize what “dark” looks like in outdoor lighting – more practice should remedy this issue. The next step of the fix was to blast the contrast in values next to the darkest darks with the brightest, most saturated hues. While I ended up painting over some of these areas later, the establishment of what the value range should entail was very helpful. Remember, error #1 was shitty composition selection, everything shaded and no lighting contrasts. 

The remainder of the rework was trying to establish nuanced color differences between the artificial color of the pots and the “same” natural colors of the plants. This part was surprisingly interesting, something I’d never done before, but it proved a valuable learning experience that I know will come in handy with urban landscapes in the future. 

I have another “flat” plein air piece to fix, but likely won’t have the patience to tackle it for a few weeks, but I will do a side by side comparison with 3 Pots when it’s done so we can see if I learned anything… or if I’m just a hopeless idiot sometimes. 

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #atxlife #jennifersgardens #laureldaniel #pleinairaustin 

The Nose Knows

Dog nose painting
Sniffer | 16 x 20″ | Oil on Canvas Board

Those of you with nosy dogs might want to call this “hey, whatcha eatin’?” Either way, the nose of a dog is without question one of the most amazing features of any creature on the planet. I’ve read a couple of books that extol the power of the almighty wet nose, which has been helpful in understanding how my furballs perceive and investigate the world around them. It also led my wife and I to play games with our pups that essentially exercise their noses, which turns out is very effective in wearing them out.

Dog nose reference photo

The perspective for this composition is from an unusual angle, namely underneath the head, but somehow looking up at the nose. It was a bit of self-inflicted mental torment because I kept pausing the work to make sure this is what a dog’s nose looks like when they go poking it up in the air. Every time I was sure the reference photo was somehow wrong, I would go check out my dog’s nose and sure enough, that’s what it looked like.

As a larger piece, I had some key decisions to make regarding how to render the fur and random hair structure under the mouth. I opted for size 4 and 6 brushes, mostly rounds and flats, to balance the realism of hair while not committing to individual strands throughout. The key with this kind of structure is to ensure disciplined layers that start dark and eventually work light. I also found it useful to do a fair amount of wet-on-wet to get a homogenous look / texture to the hair.

Studio view of dog nose painting

There was a lot of stepping back from this piece to get proper perspective. My plan (always have a plan!) was to view this painting from at least 10 feet, which would allow the observer to really get a sense of the whole snout and see the nose as the focal point. I know this will sound silly, but I kept likening it to an ice cream sundae with a bourbon cherry on top. To draw people to the nose, the texture was critical. This was largely accomplished through a variation of dark mixes, mind you no pure blacks, but warm blues, cool dark reds, and warm yellows to mute the saturation.

Lastly, from a technique perspective, I used a couple of really beat to shit brushes to create that classic dog nose texture. I did some scumbling I suppose, but most of what I was doing didn’t have a painting term – I was basically just smashing and tapping these old brushes loaded with paint all over the nose, creating various transitions in planes and values until it looked right.

I really enjoyed doing this piece and I’m ecstatic that my wife loves it, too. This particular piece is going on our walls once it’s dry, but it will not be the last time I paint a beloved dog sniffer.

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses

Lyra – Spotty Dog Portrait

This one was a challenge for a few reasons. First, this adorable pup is a newly rescued dog one of my good friends adopted recently, so there’s the pressure of getting it right for a multitude of reasons. Secondly, Lyra’s stare is very intense in this portrait, so the need to capture that “what are you looking at?” essence is a new challenge for me. And lastly, Lyra has LOTS OF SPOTS!

Looking through the progression shots in the gallery below, it’s clear that there were a few challenges with the length of her snout. There’s nothing more frustrating than nailing a dog’s nose only to realize that it needs to be erased because you gave the pup a Pinocchio nose. Glad I did opt to erase, though, because it made all the difference in getting her likeness right. In fact, this composition reminded me that I frequently err on the side of Pinocchio noses, so I need to remind myself every time I start a portrait to keep it short!

Back to my friends who adopted Lyra…. she’s a lucky girl to have found such a great home! My friends live in a part of the country that lends itself to great outdoor adventures and plenty of room to run. While there were some lose leash walking and other training challenges early on, Lyra eventually figured out what was expected of her and what seemed like insurmountable issues became distant memories. It never ceases to amaze me how adaptable dogs are to the world, so willing to forgive and live in the now while embracing those who show them love and compassion.

Adopt, don’t buy!

Ball! Ball! Ball!

Oil on canvass panel, 6″x4″
My dogs are a big part of my life, which means I live to serve their needs, in large part because I love them and, well, they don’t have thumbs. My oldest dog, Zip, is a 7 year old Aussie Catahoula rescue mutt from Austin Pets Alive!. Her world revolves around two things – food and “ball”. To that end, I serve as her chef and throwing machine.
The lifespan of a Zip tennis ball is a couple weeks. She chews on them while bringing the ball back for another throw, as if they’ve offended her and need to be destroyed. It’s the epitome of a love hate relationship.
This piece is a tennis ball after 1 throwing session. The fuzz and color have been adequately altered, making what had been a boring, new green smooth tennis ball into something with depth and intrigue. Thank you Zip!
I like to do these small dog toy pieces on a canvass board to help with texture. In this piece, it was very helpful with the need to pull out strands of tennis ball fuzz because the rough surface helped scatter the stringy look in a random pattern, thus making it look more natural. The hardest part was getting the dirt just right, which took some experimentation with Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, and various puddles of orange.
Finally, I was pleasantly surprised how effective the white line of the tennis ball added realism. It was also important to put a small hint of shadow along the edge of the white line to give just enough depth on the surface of all that green fuzz.
Tennis Ball - Oil Panel 2

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. 

Lamar Bridge into Austin

Getting close to finishing this Austin urban landscape piece. The view is from the south across the river towards downtown. The city has grown a lot since this photo was taken, so those familiar with the area might wonder why I excluded some buildings; not the case, they just weren’t there a few years ago.

Oil on gesso board, mostly brush work, done in studio with photo reference (included below). The bridge was tricky, despite having done a couple of practice drawings. It’s been an exercise in patience, having to redo various parts, but it’s been a great “learner” piece, specifically with the sky and water. I’ve started taking some formal art lessons every other week, and my teacher gave some great guidance with the sky and the water reflections. Confidence with these elements is 10x what it was a month ago. Not sure if it comes through in the photos, but the colors are rich, probably a tad too saturated, but the values and reflections are solid enough to carry the composition.

The bridge needs some tweaks to the facade so it’s not so flat, the addition of cars on the road, and a few street lights. At that point I’ll call it done. One more short session should do the trick. I’ll post the final product this coming weekend.