Saturday, June 30, 2012


"Buffalo Crossing"  8" x 10"  oil/linen

I have plans to add animals and people to my paintings. I say plans because adding animals and people to a painting throws in a whole new design element I have not had to deal with to this point. In order to be effective they have to be properly placed and painted so they look like they belong and with animals, in particular, you have to know enough about the anatomy and behavior to know you have placed the right animal in the right landscape. It sounds easier than it is.  

I've had the extreme pleasure of over the last five years to be represented by Collectors Covey which is well known for the quality of sporting art they sell and the artists they represent. Along with that has come the opportunity to share notes with Ken Carlson and Brian Grimm and the collectors who purchase their paintings. Along the way I've learned the reason these guys are so popular is they are very fine painters and they know their stuff. Their research is impeccable.
That's a very long introduction for my decision to add these new elements to my work. I have a painting in my head I want to do of the Tetons and I'd like to include some buffalo in the lower portion of the painting. Hence the need to paint a buffalo study.

The study is done from a photo I took about ten years ago in Lawton, Oklahoma and the buffalo in my photo is walking across a dirt road not water, but he is kicking up some dust which I have decided to make into water. Using thinned down burnt sienna I make a quick gesture sketch. Satisfied I have the proportions correct, I move on to the next step.

In early spring buffalo begin to shed their heavy winter coats so I have decided to depict that time of year. I block in the head and winter coat quickly. I like the fresh and sketchy look to the paint so I decide to do the entire painting in this style. Could be onto something new here! I'm going to paint the entire buffalo then add an appropriate landscape around him.

Things are getting a little trickly. I want to keep the sketchy look to the paint, but I have to slow down enough that I paint the musculature and gesture correctly. I want to paint the cool reflected light that would be bouncing up from the water onto the buffalo's belly and I want the paint stroke to look like it is put down with no thought at all. This is when I typically start to tighten up and I lose the sketchiness.

Satisfied with the buffalo I begin to paint the surrounding landscape. I don't have a particular landscape in mind so I just randomly start putting down the blue water which I think is a nice contrasting color to the warm color of the buffalo's fur. I add a small foreground element in the bottom left which is a design element to keep the viewer's attention higher up in the painting.

I add the landscape of the river going behind the buffalo. I begin to paint the splashing water at the feet of the buffalo and realize I know absolutely nothing about painting splashing water. Put on the breaks...time to go to the internet! I take about an hour to look at some of Bill Anton's paintings of cattle crossing rivers. I look at a few of Jason Rich's paintings and Dan Mieduch's paintings of Indians doing battle on horseback in rivers and then some of Steve Atkinson's recent work of horses running in water. I also recall a series of Marlboro ads with horses running in water. I love the internet!

My first mistake was sitting down to do my research. It's midnight and I'm pooped, but I force myself back in front of the easel and fresh with the new knowledge about splashing water, I take a palette knife, scoop some purplish color and some yellow ochre and some white and with a single swoosh (okay maybe two or three swooshes) of my knife I add the splashing water at the feet of my buffalo.

And there you have very first buffalo painting.

Friday, June 22, 2012


"Half Dome in Winter"  12" x 16"  oil/linen

This week I am preparing for the Lake Tahoe Summer Fest that takes place in August. I will be showing work at a gallery on North Shore and teaching a three day plein air workshop. Albert Handel and Gene Constanza are also teaching workshops. I've never been to Lake Tahoe in summer so I am really looking forward to the trip.

Problem is all of the artwork is do NOW because a catalog is being put together to promote the show. I completed this painting of Half Dome in Yosemite this morning and I think I'm painting one of the missions in Carmel this afternoon. We'll see where the spirits and paint brushes take me, but at least I have a plan.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


"Hidden Falls Wyoming"   18" x 24"  oil/linen

I have always been enamored by waterfalls. Waterfalls rank second to mountains as geological formations that catch my fancy. Those familiar with Grand Teton National Park and Jenny Lake in particular, know to reach these falls requires either a short boat ride across the lake or a nice five mile hike. It is a popular attaction so the bridge from where I shot my photo was quite crowded, but I hung around most of the day and took photos in different kinds of light. 

I've been wanting to do this painting for over ten years, but because I'm in Texas and most of my work is from around here, it took the Lake Tahoe Art Festival coming in August to motivate me to finally paint it. Which answers the question I am asked more than any other and the answer is yes I take photos and I do paint from them. As much as I love plein air painting, when a boy from Texas travels to Teton National Park with limited time to get it all in, photography helps document the essential information that can later be put into use for paintings. Its a lot like fishing for bass. You can either worm fish (yawn) or throw spinner baits. The result is the same, you catch fish but you can cover a lot more water with a spinner bait.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Joe Paquet has been one of my favorite artists to follow for quite some time. A link to his website is found on the right hand side of my blog and I strongly suggest if you do not know his work that you click on the link and spend some looking at some amazing art. You could do the same thing with any of the artists on that list, but for today we'll concentrate on Joe.

Just like everybody else I have engaged in conversations pertaining to the current state of art and, in particular, making a living at it. I sell my work through galleries, from my website, on Ebay and Dailypaintworks. I also do private commissions and teach workshops to generate additional revenue. There has been plenty of talk about the economy and how it is wrecking the industry with galleries closing their doors and how difficult it is to generate consistent sales. 

 Joe has pinned the most thoughtful article on the subject on his website and I have reproduced it here. It is something we all should think about before putting another paint stroke down on a canvas. I'll get back to art tomorrow, but for now just read on.


Open Letter for All Artists

Almost every artist I speak to these days has a profound tale of woe to spin. The common complaint: bad economy = lack of sales = "Whaa happened?" For those of us who make our living and put food on our family table, it doesn't really matter what happened so much as what we can do to adjust. In our moments of panic, rash and destructive choices are made to turn a buck... we diminish ourselves and often do untold damage to careers which have taken a long time to build.
For so very long galleries were the way: the omniscient ones, and for a very long time most of them did a fine job with it. But in the end they are only merchants. No one knows better than you when you are on the right path. Rainer Maria Rilke says, "A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity." The need to say something is a far cry from the need to be heard. There is art and there is product and they are rarely the same thing.
Walking out of the final Harry Potter movie last week I was struck by something much larger than the film. It was the fact that Ms. Rowling built this thing, this idea from thin air, moved words around in a personal way, created a world, which had not existed and turned it into a very real thing.
That is what we get to do everyday — create. We can construct what has never existed, bring something to the world and shape it with our own hearts and hands. It's a gift we have which is easy to lose sight of.

What to do about it?
Innovation, Resilience, Perseverance and Faith.

• Change your plan; create your own opportunities to teach or sell your own work.
• A good website which represents you elegantly and truthfully with new content on a monthly basis.
• More is not better; better is better. Make an effort to improve on both vision and your craft.
• If you want to be remarked about — be remarkable.
• Quality is a habit.

If you haven't already, learn to take a hit and get back up. Nothing works like it used to, and when it does change, it will be different from before. Get used to the idea and turn to yourself. It's your life, make better choices — don't be a victim.

Take charge.

Like Karma, the artist's life has it's own organic path if you let it unfold naturally. Work ethic, love of the job, proximity and opportunity all play a role in developing a life in art. Be clear about these and adjust your life to maximize your gifts.

Now for the most important and, ironically, counter-intuitive part of it all: Belief in yourself. Read your art history — every artist has wrestled with this one. I have always believed that humility and hubris must walk hand-in-hand; you must have humility to receive the world, yet have the ego to face a blank canvas and believe that you can add something to it.

Make a conscious choice to surround yourself with authentic words, music and art to remind you of what is possible. Above all surround yourself with those who love and believe in you and are willing to hold up a mirror. In every weak moment my wife Natalie has been there to hand my words back to me.
Growth is always on the edge of uncomfortably.

Be grateful, be humble, be open and create without fear,
— Joe Paquet

Friday, June 8, 2012


   " The Sentinel"   18" x 24"   oil/linen

Today I officially begin getting ready for my trip to
Lake Tahoe in August. I will be participating in the Lake Tahoe Summer Art Festival. For two nights I will be exhibiting work at a gallery and then I will be teaching a three day workshop. For now I have been asked to supply 5 paintings by the middle of June that will be used in promotion and hang in the gallery. So I am busily painting trying to meet the deadline by next weekend.

Today I finished "The Sentinel" which is in Yosemite National Park. Sitting halfway between El Capitan and Half Dome Sentinel Rock stands guard over Yosemite Valley and Leideg Meadow. Off in the distance I have included Sentinel Falls. Tracy, David and I made a trip to Yosemite several years ago and this is painting is from photo reference shot during the trip.

Next up I am painting "Hidden Falls" found in the Teton National Park. I've been painting Hill Country stuff for about six months so painting mountains and waterfalls is a nice break.

Friday, June 1, 2012


This weekend is the opening for the "En Plein Air" show at R S Hanna Gallery in Fredericksburg. I will be in the gallery on Saturday afternoon painting a demo and visiting. The show includes works by Marc Hanson, Frank Gardner, Bob Rohm, John Hanna, Gene Constanza and others.

"Along the Blanco"  12" x 16"  oil/linen

"Farm Pond and Bluebonnets"  9" x 12"  oil/linen

"Santa Elena Canyon"  12" x 16"  oil/linen

These are three of the six new paintings I've sent to the gallery for the show.