Thursday, December 01, 2016

Custom Artwork

It's been a topsy turvy fall here with bouts of very mild weather juxtaposed with some chilly days and a few snowflakes. When the weather cools down and the allure of working outdoors on my painting or in my garden lessens, I find it easier to focus on big projects in my studio. Right now, I'm working on custom commissioned pieces for several clients and I thought I'd share with you a peek at one of the projects.

I was asked by a Penn State College of Engineering alum to create a series of works highlighting the beautiful campus in State College, Pennsylvania during the fall. Since moving to this area back in 2004, I've been dazzled by the gorgeous autumn foliage of both the town and the surrounding state parks, so this idea appealed to me.

We began working together earlier this year to identify subjects and compositions that were meaningful to him. I like to give people some options when they approach me with an idea, so in this instance I created a series of black and white sketches first. From there, we identified the best compositions and I created initial color studies. Following some minor adjustments based on client feedback, these color studies will become the basis for the larger, final paintings that I'll complete in the coming winter months.

Shown here are the initial black and white sketches for a couple of the compositions we selected: the Nittany Lion Statue on the Penn State University campus and the Old Main administrative building on campus. If you'd like to commission a custom painting, you can contact me through my web site. Happy Holidays!

Initial black and white study featuring a composition of the Penn State Nittany Lion statue.

Second black and white study featuring a composition of the Penn State Nittany Lion statue.

Color Study 12 x 18 oil on canvas of the selected composition that will serve as the basis for the larger final painting.

Initial black and white study featuring a composition of Old Main on the Penn State University campus.

Second black and white study featuring a composition of Old Main on the Penn State University campus.

Color Study 12 x 16 oil on canvas of the selected composition that will serve as the basis for the larger final painting.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What I'm Working On Now

This weekend will be my last outdoor art show for the 2016 season, the Bethesda Row Fine Art Show in Maryland. While I finish final preparations for this event, I'm already looking forward to a mini vacation to tour the Civil War national battlefield of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Maryland with a Park Service certified guide later next week. I'm an American history enthusiast and I love seeing history firsthand, which is one of the biggest benefits to living in Pennsylvania and the East Coast in general. But when I get back to my studio, it's shaping up to be a busy fall season even though my outdoor shows will be finished for this year.

In case you're wondering why you haven't seen many new additions to my portfolio of available works online, it's because I'm currently working on many different custom pieces of artwork for different clients. Some of these pieces are based on ideas close to home, such as a series inspired by the beautiful Penn State campus for a university alum. In addition, the local hospital, Mount Nittany Medical Center, asked me to help them with a landscape painting for their president. I'm also working on my largest painting ever, a cityscape, for a client in Philadelphia.

This particular piece weighs in at 3' x 6', and it's much larger than anything I could do in pastel due to the size limitations of paper and (im)practical issues associated with framing a pastel that large. This was one of the main reasons why I decided to add oil painting to my body of artwork beginning a couple of years ago: I wanted to work larger!

To tackle this painting, I bought some house painting brushes at the hardware store to help with the initial block-in of this large piece. And I'm having a blast working on it! I love working in this larger scale and I'm enjoying the rich colors of oil paint.

Study, Little Italy 8 x 12 oil on panel.

The subject of this 3' x 6' painting is the view along Mulberry Street in Lower Manhattan's Little Italy neighborhood. The idea for this painting originated out of a colorful study that I completed earlier this year, called Study, Little Italy (shown above). It's fun to take the original motif in that piece and stretch the idea larger across a vast canvas with some minor changes to tailor the artwork for my client.

This painting will take me many more weeks to complete. Following below are a few snapshots that show you the initial start. Enjoy!

The first compositional lines, painted in yellow ochre.

Large area block in of the main colors in the subject.

Initial refinements of the yellow cab and details in the heart of the composition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Plein Air Painting in Vermont

Earlier this month, I traveled to the Green Mountains of Vermont to take a painting workshop with oil painter Mark Boedges and to spend time painting the gorgeous landscape with another artist and dear friend of mine, Lisa Mitchell. A change of scenery plus new painting insights make for a great way to finish out the summer.

Painting workshops with other artists are my form of continuing education. I earned my art degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In general, every class that I took there was excellent. I enjoyed the diversity of offerings at a major public university and I took advantage of as much as I could with classes ranging from botany to political science, economics, computer science, physics, and much more. But the studio training in art left me cold. Each class was a disappointment, epitomizing the negative stereotype of tenured professors too lazy to teach. (I write this as someone who's married to a tenured professor, so you know I mean the criticism sincerely.)

Just how bad was it, you ask? Well, my painting professor in college only showed us how to stretch our canvases. That was it! No training on how to mix colors or how to apply them. His excuse? He didn't want to "inhibit our creativity."

I was able to overcome this deficit of training by finding some excellent mentors in computer animation and in pastel painting, as well as by joining some professional arts organizations when I lived in Maryland. Through these avenues, I met full time artists and began to learn the real stock and trade of being an artist, developing skills that include photographing my work, updating my web site, framing my artwork and, oh yeah, painting! Fast forward a decade or so, and I now travel once every year or two to a painting workshop when offered by other professional artists whose work is of interest to me. I'm at a point in my career where I have enough experience in composition, color mixing, and subject selection that there are no great epiphanies. Yet I pick up a little bit here and there from each individual. Each artist has a focus and emphasis that I can take and incorporate into my own studio and painting practice.

The scenery in Vermont was fantastic, despite a drought that had the Mad River Basin at about 25% of its usual capacity for this time of year. The interesting thing about the drought was that we were able to clamber out into the middle of the waterway, climb on huge boulders, and get some unique vantage points that would have been impossible to access during a year with greater rainfall.

Above, a Postcard from the Easel: Painting along the Mad River during a beautiful summer afternoon. Click the image to enlarge.

Shown here are a couple of "Postcards from the Easel" of my plein air painting during a beautiful and enjoyable week. You may see a few of these on my web site in the Landscapes section within the next few weeks after I polish them up in my studio.

Above, a Postcard from the Easel: A plein air landscape in progress. I set up my easel on a huge boulder to capture this view of a ravine along the Mad River. Click the image to enlarge. You can also check out the finished piece, Mad River Ravine, on my portfolio site.