New Show – ART SPREE at Art for the People Gallery!

The very fun, energetic and popular Austin art gallery, Art for the People Gallery, will include 3 of my pieces in the new show called ART SPREE! The show runs from January 29th – April 9th, 2022.

It’s always an honor to work with Lynnie, Hallie and of course, Charm Charm Sparkles and Tassel PomPom. Unfortunately the in-person opening reception for February had to be cancelled – damn you COVID! – but the gallery is open regular hours and the staff is as warm and welcoming as ever, so swing by if you’re in Austin and check out the art.

I’ve written blog posts about all of these pieces, but as a grouping they do a pretty good job representing me and my world. Airstream is clear nod to my love of travel (no, I don’t own an Airstream, but I know some very cool people who do); anyone who knows me can attest to my love of beer, especially a tasty porter as represented in Last Sip; and lastly, Puppy Butts! for my adoration of dogs and all they can bring to the world.

If you’re interested in any of these pieces, or anything in the ART SPREE show, you can also browse and shop using their online store. From the Art for the People Gallery store go to Shop > ART GALLERY – All Original Artwork > ART SPREE – Exhibition. I can attest that Lynnie and the AFTPG staff will do an excellent job fielding questions and making any purchasing seamless and fun.

Thanks for reading!

#berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #artforthepeoplegallery #aftpg #Airstream #LastSip #PuppyButts #austintx #Austintexas #atxlife #atxart #atx #austin360 #austinart #atxart #rescuedogs #bernabplanalp

A Stuffed Kong and Its Dog

I recently saw a question on Quora asking “when does drawing end and painting begin?”, which was a timely inquiry given a new approach I’ve been taking with some recent paintings. It’s always a bit tricky and, frankly, pretty intimidating to take on a new type of composition. For me, that tends to be something that involves shapes and/or subject matter that’s new or unfamiliar. In one of my current projects, A Stuffed Kong and Its Dog, I came to realize that while the subject of a dog toy was not a new compositional challenge, the complexity of a dog chewing and pawing something was really friggin’ hard!

My normal process, and what’s been reinforced at workshops by artists far more experienced and talented than myself, is to do a study of the subject to help get a feel for the composition (see Dances With Squirrels blog post for more on studies). I prefer sketching as opposed to small paintings, largely because I like to sketch, it’s more expedient than painting, and it’s more flexible, i.e. erasing graphite is infinitely easier than wiping out paint. Lately, however, I’ve been refining this process whereby I still do an initial sketch before starting the painting, but as I work through the project and run into challenges, I go back to the sketch and either do another or simply refine the one I was working on earlier.

In hindsight it’s frankly a brilliant idea, of which I don’t have many, because the pause from the painting a) makes me breathe as I gather my thoughts to overcome the problem, and b) let’s me return to an existing sketch and figure out how to navigate a solution based on a similar composition. What I’ve found thus far is that I often find the same problem in the original sketch, kicking myself for not having seen the problem in the first place, but I can quickly figure out how to make changes and move forward.

In A Stuffed Kong and Its Dog, you can see the original sketch being reworked (I forgot to take a picture of the original state of the sketch) when I ran into 2 problems. First, there was something fundamentally wrong with the Kong dog toy shape, which became clear when I returned to the sketch and saw that the bottom planes of the humps were misaligned. Secondly, I thought the size of the Black Lab’s right paw was too big once I painted it, but when I returned to the sketch and redrew it, I found that the size was actually fine and the issue was the related to the size of the black fur shadow gaps between the toes. Clear as mud, right?

The final painting will need a few minor refinements, but I want to let it dry before I make those updates. I’ll update this post when it’s really done. The intrigue with this piece is to make the viewer wonder what in the world is in that stuffed dog toy Kong! It was very hard to translate the focus and excitement of the dog as it diligently worked to get to the yummy treats out of this toy. While the focal point is the Kong, the supporting cast is the nose and that huge right paw, which in combination should convey the canine treat obsession.

Lastly, I’m not pleased with the sketch or the painting. The sketch is not supposed to be a finished work, and is muddled with various experiments to see what was going to work, so I’m. not flustered it. However, the finished painting, while not intended to be a refined piece of exceptional artwork, is ultimately a composition that doesn’t work well. The angle of the nose looks wrong relative to the muzzle, but it’s actually accurate as most dogs are able to bend that nose around in weird ways. That said, it doesn’t convey well in the painting. The large paw also creates visual confusion and seems out of place even though it’s proportionally accurate.

This exercise has taught me that all compositions aren’t destined for a “real painting”, but that’s why we do studies and small pieces to see how it plays out. I’ve also learned that my dog portrait skills need a lot of work, something I knew already, but this work has highlighted the gap and is proving to be quite motivating to start sketching my dogs’ faces!


Meteors and Squirrels

It’s been a couple months since I worked multiple pieces simultaneously. I like having the ability to bounce between works in progress for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that alternating allows me to shift gears and keep my focus fresh on the piece in front of me, rather than getting burnt out banging away on the same composition for multiple days. Thus far in 2020 I’ve been working on small pieces that don’t take a long time to finish, so I’ve not had the opportunity to work in parallel. Well, that changes this week​, means blog updates will have more progress updates along the way and not necessarily include the finished product in a singular post.  
Last week I started 2 new pieces. I’m still waiting for inspirational names, but for now we’ll call them Meteor Spray and Squirrel Dancing Meteor Spray is an actual Mars meteor impact crater, which will be a mix of realism and abstraction. Compositionally I’m already excited, in large part because the splatter inspired block-in stage turned out to be damn near good enough to stand on it’s own as a monochromatic painting. The colors in the reference photo are wild, but might be tricky to replicate. The plan will also incorporate knife work and impasto to build up the texture of the Mars surface. This is a larger piece, oil on canvass board, 24″x30″. 

Back on planet Earth, Squirrel Dancing is a study more than a formal composition, at least for now. I want to improve my skills in painting dogs in motion, so the study will focus heavily on the body language of the dog in an effort to capture an element of motion that gives the piece intrigue. In the case of Squirrel Dancing, the focus is the dog ready to spring into action when the squirrel makes a move. I’ve included a couple of sketches that helped me get a handle on the composition structure. Based on these sketches, I opted for the zoomed out approach that captures the height and separation between the taunter and the taunted. The painting study is 6″x8″ oil on paper. Before painting Wolfy into the study I did a small practice version before committing it to the composition – see the picture with these side by side. 

I’ll keep working on these 2 pieces over the coming week. Stay tuned! 

“Framecro” – Fast Framing on the Cheap!

Framing artwork used to be a dreaded task, but over the years I’ve come to really enjoy it. This is especially true as we start 2020 because I recently had 4 dog related pieces accepted to an Austin art show at Art for the People gallery called Celebrities – Pet & People Portraits. Future posts this week will provide more details about the show and the inspiration behind the pieces, but I wanted to share some creative custom framing ideas I used with 2 of the pieces in the show.
One of the troubling issues with framing is the commitment, secondarily the cost and complexity. The process of “properly” framing a painting often involves sealing it inside a frame in a way that makes getting it out an ordeal. When I hang finished art in my home, I can easily get bored of the frame after a year, or simply want to change the art that’s in the frame. To solve this problem, I came up with a Velcro based solution that works great with small pieces in floater frames, whereby you affix the piece with Velcro instead of glue or some other fixative, which allows you to swap out pieces in the same frame. This is handy for your personal art at home, gallery shows or events.
The steps to frame using Velcro, a process I’ve trademarked as “framecro“, are very simple, fast, and inexpensive. Let me know if you opt to framecro any of your paintings; improvements to the process are always welcome.
  1. Most Velcro types will work, but the Command line of snap-type from 3M is what I prefer. They market it as a picture hanging velcro because it snaps together very tightly, but you can still pull it apart easily.
  2. Cut 4 twin sets of velcro rectangles, which means you have 8 total rectangles of Velcro. These should be relatively small and easily fit into the 4 corners of the frame.
  3. Affix the velcro to the corners of the frame and the corners of the back of the artwork.
  4. Align the artwork and press it onto the frame.

You’re done! If you want to swap out a piece, just pop out the existing piece of art and press in a new one that has Velcro in it’s corners.

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



“Rescued” is done and hung on the wall downstairs in our powder room! This was my first “commissioned” piece, done for my wife who wanted something with a lot of saturated color and big! The design is entirely from her and the passion and love she has for rescuing dogs, of which we’ve had the pleasure of fostering 114… and counting. When my wife says “rescue”, she means literally rescued from the kill list at the Austin pound, not “rescue” from a pet store (don’t do it… just adds to the breeding problem), and these dogs are often in really bad shape – parasites, detached intestinal walls, starvation, neglect, flea infestations, ticks, kennel cough, Parvo and more.  But she nurses them back to health, even waking at all hours of the night to feed them meds every couple of hours, and finds each one of them loving homes. She is amazing!

She also had the primary design in mind, of which you see in the picture – a large heart with the paw prints of our 3 dogs (yes, rescues all of them) on it. We had a lot of fun collaborating on the details, although she would say there was some stress involved in figuring out the right colors for each dog’s prints, which ended up as follows:

  • Pink – Crash, female, age 13
  • Green – Boom, male, age 12
  • Yellow – Zip, female, age 3

The process for getting the dog’s paw prints on the painting is worthy of a separate post, so I’ll pause here today and give an update on that entertaining adventure in my next update.

Tech details of the painting for those interested:

  • Canvass, 24″x36″
  • Colors were almost straight out of the tube, but had to make some small tweaks:
    • Blue background – Titanium White + a small amount of Pthalo Blue + tiny bit of Orange.
    • Red heart – Cad red medium
    • Green paws – Permanent Green Light + Titanium White
    • Yellow paws – Lemon Yellow + Titanium White
    • Pink paws – Titanium White + small amount of Alzarin Crimson
  • I added the Titanium White in heavier doses with the yellow and pink paws because it helps add opacity to those more transparent colors. Sitting atop the red heart it was helpful to cut back on the bleed through.

For the dog rescue lovers out there, the group we work with, Austin Pets Alive, is fantastic and is by far the most influential and impactful rescue group in Austin, perhaps all of central Texas. If you want to learn more, check them out.