Blog - On the Easel

A collection of updates, recent information and things that inspire me.

Produce... Re-Produced

produce2 I know, another corny title, but what am I supposed to do. In the back of my mind I make these posts with relative certainty that no one could possibly find them interesting but myself so I am jazzing things up a bit, woo hoo. Here is another painting in my ongoing series of revisiting recent works and changing them dramatically. Produce 20"x 22" oil on panel. Gone is the minimalists background and in with the maximalist.


Here is the old version of produce with the simple background. In retrospect I think I was trying to bridge the gap conceptually between all of the work I was doing by keeping these paintings as strictly still lifes. Everything in the painting was in the still life set up in my studio so of course it was linked to the other still lifes I was doing. Now I sort of don't care, I am going to follow my inspiration where it takes me.

IMG_5660Here is the still life in my studio to give an idea of how I was/am setting up paintings. Strangely, I now think the photos work really well and might someday be an avenue I explore. But for now this is where I am.


Nocturne... re-done

Here is another painting that I have decided to go back into and change, hopefully for the better. This painting is "Nocturne" 38"x 40" oil on panel. My experience with "Rocket Pops" convinced me that I needed to think about revisiting several paintings and I am really happy with the results.

This is the new version with the orange sky and lots of trees.

And this is the old version with a less detailed background.

Rocket Pops 2.0

Rocket Pops new version.

This is one of a series of paintings that uses landscapes as a way to inject a narrative into a still life. The landscapes were paintings that would hang on the back of the studio wall behind the still life and create a tableau. I did a number of paintings with a fairly minimal background  but recently I have begun to wonder if this is the best way to go with these paintings, so, I pulled the varnish off of this one and started painting. I used a few images from the Hudson River School and took bits and pieces in order to construct the painting you see here. As you can see it is quite a difference from the last version. I pulled much of the chroma from the sky and there is nothing minimal about the new background. I am quite happy with the result, enough that I think I might re-visit some other paintings.

Rocket Pops old version.

The content of the painting has changed from being a study in phoniness to an more allegorical painting but I have little doubt that it works better this way. The foreground and background are more together, thanks to the overlapping shapes, and the viewers eye makes its way around better when looking at the composition than before the changes. Let me know if you agree that this is an improvement or disagree.

Light Bulb

"Light Bulb" oil on aluminum panel 12"x 10". Another clear object, for some reason I have been doing a bunch transparent still lifes recently. I love that this painting is almost monochromatic, but looks can be deceiving. When I do gray I always have on hand: Ivory Black, Titanium White, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Lemon Yellow and a blue either Ultramarine or Cobalt. Black and white are really cool when mixed so a bit of Raw Umber warms things up and then I add bits of the rest to get things right. I only mix tiny bits at a time so there is some variation throughout the painting to keep things interesting.  

Ship in a Bottle


"Ship in a Bottle" oil on panel 11" x 14". One of the best things about having a studio on the Wilmington Art Loop, is that people have a bunch of questions. What is interesting about the questions for me is that I get  insight into how people think about my work. One question I have gotten a lot recently is how do you paint something clear. Probably since my studio is brimming with paintings of glass or plastic. It isn't a question that has occurred to me in years because I am so used to painting transparent objects that it seems so obvious. But when I think back to how I felt when seeing something transparent in a painting as a kid it seemed like magic. The truth is, it is still really fun for me to paint glass because it is such a stunning illusion when done right.

The first bit of advice came from a teacher I had in high school. I was stuck trying to paint hair and was looking for some magical technique that would make it easier and my teacher said," just paint what you see". At first it seemed like horrible advice but he was absolutely right. You don't need a bag of tricks that you apply when the right situation appears, just paint what you see. If it seems too difficult it is because you are over-thinking it. When you are stuck just look at a tiny spot on your subject, re-produce it and move on. Ok, now that I've said that it is time to open the bag of tricks!

A clear object is see-thru, so naturally you should paint it the color of the background. Where it gets interesting, is where the glass is turning away from you at the edge of the object and distorting the image behind it. The thicker the glass the greater the distortion, so at the sides of a bottle you are looking through more glass and the image behind is being pinched giving the impression of a slight darkening of the background. towards the edge there can also be reflections, so I am always looking for these two effects in my subject and trying to reproduce the effect in my painting. On the inside edge there can be a wavy distortion that can be nice to slightly exaggerate . Another key to describing something clear and shiny is a crisp highlight, but I always try to bring down the edge slightly so the highlight doesn't look like  it has been pasted on.