Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hell for Leather

Hell for Leather, 40X30, oil/linen

Hey there everybody,
since I've been unable to stand in front of my easel as of late, I decided to post a painting I did earlier this year, but never posted. I know there are lots of you who visit my blogspot, but have not made the jump over to visit my website. What??? Why the heck not? I don't post everything I do on my blog. Hey, I have to give you some reason to visit my website.

So, here's a larger studio painting I did of a wrangler I met in Colorado. We had come back from a trail ride and I asked if he would mind me taking some reference photos for a painting I had an idea for. Most of the paintings I had been doing were pretty static and I wanted to do something that showed a lot of action. So I had him make several passes at me with me shooting pictures just as fast as my camera would go This is where investing in a good digital camera really pays off. It only takes one rider photo, but it has to be the right photo for it to work. I did get a photo that worked for the horse and most of the rider. But there were some things that I had to change. First, he was wearing a short sleeve shirt ( and it was a washed out flesh type color). OK, yeah, technically I guess they do wear short sleeves.... but as a friend of mine says, 'no one wants to buy a painting of swayback horses or bow legged women. You can paint it that way, but that don't make it right'. So I took some extra photos of myself with my arms and hands in the position that looked best. When you do this, you've got to replicate the position of the sun. I'm gonna repeat that cause it's soooo important. Look at the location of the sun in the original photo you're looking to modify. Orient the sun to the same position as in the photo. You can take the best reference in the world to change something in an original photo, but if you don't make the lighting the same, it won't look right. And it doesn't matter how well you paint it. The eye knows. Damn the evil eye....

The second thing I didn't like about the original photo was the face of the wrangler. Oh, he was a good looking fella, but he had a habit of scrunching up his mouth, you know, curling it in. It just looked funny and I knew it would be a problem. So I went outside and set up my remote wireless shutter button and snapped pics of myself till I got the one that I felt would work (yes, that ugly mug is mine). Then I just put them all together. Simple, see?

I guess my whole point is that no matter how good your reference is, it can almost always be improved upon. I never paint something the way it is just because it's that way in my reference photos. If you do, you might as well just sign the photo. I'm always asking myself if I can improve on the scene. Is there something that's not right, how do I fix it. I take things an move them around. Edit. Add. Whatever I can do to tell the story I want to tell. If you care enough to do these things, it shows in your final work.

The whole point of this painting, beyond the action part of it, was to make him as large and in your face as I could. I played with the idea of actually cropping off part of his head, just to push the idea of meyhem and speed. But luckily, cooler heads prevailed. But I did exaggerate the tilt a bit. Not enough to look like he was going to fall off, but enough to help the composition. For the setting, I kept it pretty simple with minimal distractions. I put the rider on a dirt path going away from a small bunk house in the distance. I added the branches to help push him of the painting and give the impression of motion. You can see I also blurred the edges of the sunlit areas to really light him up as well as the horses legs and hooves. The flying dust was the finishing touch to make this rider go, "Hell for Leather".

Thanks for looking, Steve

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mexican Silver

Mexican Silver, 12X16, oil on linen panel

Hi Everyone,
Well, Ann and I spent the last three days traveling cross country in a car that was stuffed to the gills (including two cats!... who were great, btw). We arrived safe and sound in Arizona and have started the moving process. I'll be back in Minnesota next week to finish getting the house ready to put on the market. Then I'll be in Arizona permanently. The amount of time I can spend in front of the easel lately has been almost none, but I did manage to paint this still life. I almost never paint still lifes because I can't get into the traditional subject matter. Flowers, fruit and vases ain't something I can get into. It's just how I'm wired. But a pair of spurs with mexican silver, well, now your talkin'. I originally set these up to do a quick painting of them, you know, the "painting a day" kind that are so very popular now. But what I discovered was that, even though I could lay it all in quickly enough, I wasn't going to be happy with the spur rowels (the pointy wheels that are used to get the attention of the horse) when I painted them fast. They just looked sloppy. So I slowed down and took my time with them. I put a single light source on the scene and added some silver coins and wooden beads. The edges are loose in the areas where I want the eye to pass over. Since I wanted the spur wheel on the right to be the focal point, I made it the area of greatest contrast, as well as the hardest edges.
Thanks for looking, Steve

Friday, October 16, 2009

Canyon de Chelly paintout post #2

Sunset at Spider Rock, 9X12, oil/panel

Hi Everybody,
I'm in the middle of moving a house packed full of stuff from the basement to the top floor, from Minnesota to Arizona. Now I remember why I never wanted to have to move again....Hmmmm. But, it's all worth it to be moving toward something as great as living in the West. I won't have to jump on an airplane in order to paint the mountains anymore. Now I can slip out my back door and I'm there. Within a couple of hours to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Phoenix and Flagstaff. Within driving distance to....Canyon de Chelly! Not to mention my Gallery. Several lifetimes worth of painting material right in my back yard. I'm feeling so blessed right now....I just have to get through the MOVE!!

But I have a spare moment, so I wanted to post the rest of my Canyon de Chelly paintings. The painting above is of Spider Rock or Tsi na ash jeii, probably the most well known and easily recognizable of the rock formations at the Canyon. This rock spire is 800 feet tall, so you can see that the vantage point is above the spire and is probably over 1000 feet. According to Navajo legend, atop Spider Rock lives Spider Woman, a deity who taught Navajo women to weave. She's also believed, by the Navajo, to carry naughty children to the top of Spider Rock.

The way to do a painting with quick moving light, such as this, is to lock in the shadows quickly (no details), and leave them. Do not try to follow the light. If you get your values down quickly, the whole time checking them against one another, you will have enough information to add the details later if you need to. Even if you have to do it in the studio later, you can, as long as your values are accurate. For this painting, I had plenty of time to do it all on site. Partly because the arc of the sun is relatively low across the sky in Northern Arizona, so when it gets close to setting, it does it more slowly than I'm used to. Which is a blessing.

My friend Rusty Jones and I, sat down to paint this on a rather windy evening. Rusty is an incredibly talented plein air painter and all around good guy. I truly believe that in the two hours we took to paint at this site, the temps dropped twenty degrees. I've painted in a lot of cold weather since I live here in Minnesota, but I have to say that I have never been colder than I was when I painted this one. I wasn't dressed for it in just a t-shirt. Luckily I had a wind breaker in my back pack, cause if I hadn't I don't think I'd have been able to finish it.


Tsegi Overlook, 11X14, oil/Canvas Panel

Painted on location at Canyon de Chelly, Sept 21, 2009 approx 2pm on a very very windy day. In fact, this painting has a great deal of sand embedded into the paint. It was impossible to turn my paint box to keep the sand out of my paints or off my painting. This painting was painted in wind gusts I have to guess were 30 to 40 mph. So I painted it with one hand holding the paint box and panel and the other holding my brush. This painting truly holds a special place in my heart. My wife calls it my "Sand Painting". That's about right.


Canyon Passage, 9X12, oil/canvas panel

There are still Navajo families living and working on the floor of Canyon de Chelly. They farm and raise livestock and the fences you pass by while in the Canyon are put up to keep curious tourists out and their livestock in. I've learned that there is an incredible amount of water just a couple of feet under the surface and cause the cottonwoods to be this incredible neon green. If you painted them that way, no one would believe they were that color. So I dial down the saturation in the tree on the right side. The trees in the middle ground are a greyish blue green. I don't know what kind they are, but I thought they were a nice variation of all the cottonwoods.


Ancient Waters, 9X12, oil/canvas panel

I love the depth of the cliffs in this painting. I didn't have to change too much in this composition. I stayed pretty true to what was actually there. The only change I made was adding water rivulets. Originally the tracks were made by the jeeps that drive through the canyon. All I had to do was fill them with water.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Canyon de Chelly plein air post #1

Navajo Fortress, Canyon de Chelly, 10X20 oil/canvas board

Hi All!
I wanted to talk today about my recent experience of painting at Canyon de Chelly and how you can approach painting such a daunting subject. OK, so you've traveled a long way to this place, you've already painted it in your head a hundred times. You know how to do it, I mean, it seemed so easy when you did it in your head. No problem. But now that you're here with the panoramic vistas and the wind, and your humble place in the Universe are staring you in the face. Time for a deep breath. Painting the cliffs here can be overwhelming if you stand there thinking you have to get it all in. I mean, how do you paint the Grand Canyon, or even the humblest mountain? The key, of course, is the same key as you need to use to paint anything. This isn't any different at all. Just remember this. Simplify. There is no way to keep up with all the visual information you will be faced with. Not to mention all the other stimulation you will be given. As I painted on the rim the last evening I was there, I was dive bombed by a crow (or a raven, I can never tell the difference between the two). It would come at me from behind, and I could here the wind through the beating of his wings as he got close. It also was very windy that evening. So as you stand there trying to paint and tune out all that's happening around you, you need to boil down the scene to it's essence. What's your focal point? Is it in the shadows or the light? If it's the light, you need to keep your detail in the shadow areas to a minimum. At my first plein air workshop, Joe Paquet used to try to pound this into my thick skull. As an illustrator, it didn't make sense to me. How could the detail in the shadows be any less important than the details in the light? I mean, i could see the detail in both when I looked, so how come I had to weed those out? The answer is: you don't paint everything in because, our eyes don't see everything like that. Think about it for a moment.........I'll wait.........yep, when we focus on something, the other things we see are in our periphery. We only see a blurred representation of what surrounds our focal point. So what I'm trying to do as a painter, is a visual representation of what I truly see. Don't stare into the shadows, and you'll get a good idea of what you need to leave out. All that detail of the cracks and crags is wiped away and you're left with only the big shapes. I make sure that the detail I do put into the shadows is minimal and the values are kept pretty close to one another. This gives me a more cohesive painting and a much more pleasing work of art. Thanks Joe for teaching me what to see.

Sandstone and Shadows, 9X12, oil/canvas panel

The second thing that you can do to not be overwhelmed by an overwhelming subject is to play a mind game. Tell yourself that what you are seeing is a big puzzle, with pieces that are unequal in size and shape. Don't think in your head, 'Holy Moly, That is one big canyon down there. No way can I get that down in a couple of hours'. Think of it as putting together a puzzle, and at the end of your time, you'll have a painting. I have to get everything blocked in to judge anything. Now, lord knows I'm not the fastest painter you'll ever come across. It's one of the reasons i usually decline the offer to do a demo. I take my time and work and rework a painting till I feel it's right. I call myself a 'grinder". But I do try to block things in simply and quickly. I can't judge accurately the value of a cliff I've put down until I have the surrounding trees and ground plane and sky in that surround it. Save the details for later. Cracks in the cliffs, tree trunks, variations in warms and cools of the grasses. All of it can, and should be saved for the time that the big shapes are sitting on their proper planes. John F. Carlson's book, "Carlson's guide to Landscape painting", should be in the library of every landscape painter. And every landscape painter should be painting en plein air. No excuses unless you're bed ridden. Then you get a pass....I guess. Carlson's book gives you a great explanation of how atmospheric perspective works and the values of the planes of what you're seeing. I don't want to get into too much detail here, since i don't want to put you to sleep, or give away the surprise ending of the book (the butler didn't do it). But it's a thin book with a lot of gems in it. I don't reread books usually, but I do come back to this one, and every time I do I find more gems. Things I wasn't ready to soak in on my previous reads, I guess. Anyways, you can find it on Amazon used, but even new I think it's only ten bucks or so. Dover also sells it on their website since they're the publishers.

The first painting is called "Navajo Fortress, Canyon de Chelly". The cliff in the center of this painting is famous as being the place where the last of the Navajo held out against Kit Carson, who was sent into Canyon de Chelly in 1864. The army decided that it was time for the Diné to surrender once and for all. This rock fortress was the place the last Navajo holdouts chose to make their stand. According to the story told, the holdouts reached the top of this rock face by using notched tree trunk ladders, which they pulled up behind them. Unfortunately for the natives, Carson simply waited them out until, starving, the final Navajo simply gave up. In the spring of 1864, when the ordeal for the Diné should have been over, another was about to begin. The Long Walk, as it's known to the Navajo, took all the captives from Canyon de Chelly to their new place of exile in Fort Sumner in New Mexico. It was known as the Long Walk because only the sick, the very oldest and youngest of the captives rode. Once at Fort Sumner, the conditions were beyond horrible. The Navajo were one of the few tribes to negotiate with the government to get at least some of their native lands back and eventually were able to return, where they have lived to this day.

The second painting is "Sandstone and Shadows". This was painted within the Canyon, which requires a Navajo guide to accompany you. Kaye Franklin of the Outdoor Painters Society, arranged our guide and four of us split the cost. Traveling in the canyon gives you a point of view that is completely different from painting on the rim. Whatever the time of day, you can find interesting compositions to paint. When I painted this one, I came away feeling that something was missing from it. I put it away for about a week and when I came back to it I knew that it needed another cliff behind the central cliff. So I painted in the far off cliff. I could do it because (thanks to Carlson's book) I understood atmospheric perspective, and the colors of the distant cliffs were still fresh in my mind. I knew what they looked like, so all I needed to do was to put in an interesting shape. I also added some wispy clouds for direction and interest. There weren't any clouds just about the whole time we painted there. Well there was one tiny one that looked like a bean, which we quickly named, but it didn't help much.

I'll post more paintings from the trip later in the week and talk about what I learned, which hopefully can help you too!

Thanks for looking, Steve

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Prescott Arizona plein airs

Hi Everyone,
It's been too long since I posted some new paintings here. But I do have an excuse. For me it's the best kind of one, I've been traveling for the past few weeks. Painting on location is something I enjoy doing more than almost anything else in the world. The studies I'm posting here are from my trip to Prescott, Arizona. Recently, Ann and I have purchased a home in Prescott and will eventually be making our home there. We're pretty excited about living out west. Ann is a native Arizonan, while not. Hmmm. I've got lots to get used to there. I've always lived in a place where I'm at the top of the food chain. So, even though I'll be getting used to coexisting with the rattlesnakes, scorpions, coyotes, tarantulas and other assorted creepy crawly things that bite, scratch, or stick you, I'll be doing it amongst some of the most beautiful western landscape you can find anywhere. I am happy to tell you that I killed my first black widow spider and lived to tell the tale. Relax, she had moved into the garage and had laid lots of eggs. She broke the cardinal rule in my house, They can live there..... as long as I don't see them. If I do, they're fair game. All rules go out the window.

The week we recently spent there was full of pulling the most evil weed in the world. Of course I'm talking about the dreaded tumbleweed. The scourge of the desert. We've discovered there is no easy way to remove this weed from your property. Ya just gotta pull 'em, and keep pulling 'em. And then pull some more. But, I did get out and paint almost every day. One of the things I need to remember to do is spray BOTH arms with sunblock. I sprayed my right arm, but forgot to spray my left painting arm. I will never make this mistake again. Oops. Here's what that looked like

here are some of the studies I produced that week

Williamson Valley, 10X20, oil on canvas panel

This is the view that overlooks the Williamson Valley and is the location of our new home.
Until very recently, the Williamson Valley, located in the shadow of Granite Mountain, was prime cattle grazing country. It's true that there are still plenty of cattle grazing in the area, though, admittedly, these days there are more homes and less live stock. You can still see lots of wildlife here though. Pronghorn antelope are abundant. Coyote can be heard yipping their lonely songs at night, and warily skulking across the roads by day. Horses are corralled in the valley alongside burrows and cattle. It's a wonderful place to visit and experience the wide open spaces of the West.


Granite Outcrop, 9X12, oil/canvas panel

The paintings I did this week were to get me used to painting rock formations. The kind of formations I don't see much in Minnesota. I was going to be painting in Canyon de Chelly the following week with a group of incredibly talented painters, so I didn't want to show up and suck. This is how I prepared for the paintout. It was my homework. And I think it paid off when I went to the paintout at the Canyon.


Desert Scrub, 12X12, oil/canvas panel

The desert has a completely different palette than I usually paint on location. Everything has a dusty, subtle color to it. The greens aren't quite as green. It's why, those of us who are crazy enough to paint on location, do it. Those differences just don't show up on film in quite the same way. You simply need to be there to see the difference.

The Granite Dells is a world unto itself. The granite rock formations there have a kind of melted ice cream look to them. There isn't a hard edge to be found on the stone formations. I've been told that Tom Mix used the Dells in many of his movies. I will be doing many paintings here.


Corriente Creek Wash, 12X9, oil/canvas panel

This is a wash that is around the corner from the house. There was no water in the wash at this time, but I added a trickle to help with the composition and to have something that leads your eye into the scene.

Tomorrow I'll begin posting the paintings I produced at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument in the heart of the Navajo Reservation. Along with some of the photos of the paintout.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spending some quality time in the field

Lanternman Falls, field study, 9X12, O/C

Mill Creek Morning, field study , 9X12, O/C

Six AM is too Early to Paint, field study, 9X12, O/C

Heavy Rain, field study, 9X12, O/C

Breaker Point, field study, 9X12, O/C


I've been getting outside and exercising my plein air muscle. I'm not sure where that muscle is, exactly, but I know I have one, 'cause it gets flabby if I don't use it. So when I went for my annual trip to Ohio to visit family, I got out in the mornings and painted one painting each day. Unfortunately, it was cloudy or rained just about every day. Well, that's not exactly true. The sun did peek out occasionally. The paintings I'm posting here are from that trip, all except for the last one. That one I did a couple of weeks ago on location in Minnesota. The light effect on the "Lanternman Falls" painting was only there for about 10-15 minutes, so I painted that part on site quickly. When I got back home I spent about an 45 minutes refining it. I don't have a problem with doing that to the field studies if it makes them better. The values and colors are still fresh in my mind when I get back, and I'm able to make corrections quickly. Most of these have had some touch up in the studio. Not alot of touch up, but some. Things sometimes don't read exactly right and until I get home and get it under studio lighting, I can't always see it on site. The only one that I didn't touch up was "Mill Creek Morning", field study. That was the first painting I did that week, and worked on site. The painting "Six AM is too Early to Paint", originally had a telephone pole on the right side. I removed it because I felt it was too important and distracting for this painting. I've never painted this early on location before. In fact, when I got set up and was ready to start, I realized that it was too dark to see my colors. I had to wait long enough for the light to be bright enough to mix my colors. Next time, I'll bring a head lamp. The study, Heavy Rain, was started on location and taken to about 90% completion. But I packed it in when the thunder and lightning started. I was chuckling to myself when I was painting in that thunderstorm, remembering Bill Murray in Caddie Shack, telling the priest who was playing in the lightning storm, that the hard stuff wasn't going to start for a while yet. So I finally gave in and packed up and left. Thanks for looking and I hope you like them. I'll be out of town for the labor day weekend, so I won't have access to your emails till then. Have a great holiday!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Canyon Morning Light

Canyon Morning Light, 12X9, o/c

Detail 1

Detail 2

Hi All,
I've only been to Zion National Park once in my life. One week that made an impression on me more than just about any place I've ever been. There were so many incredibly beautiful spots there, as evidenced by the fact that there were photographers everywhere (and I do mean EVERYWHERE). If you are wanting to visit Zion, I would suggest you go off peak in November. Prices are reduced at the hotels, temps are warm in the daytime, cool at night (bordering on cold). The cottonwood trees are turning their autumn colors, the crowds are diminished, and you can bring your camera for some stunning photography. I did see some painters there, painting on site. I'll be back this fall with my paintbox again so I can be one of those painters.

This piece was so much fun to do. I composed it so that everything leads your eye into the sunlit trees and around the corner into the light. I added the detail 1 photo to give a better view of the sunlit area. I kept the edges soft to enhance the impression of glowing light. Detail 2 shows that there are actually a lot of colors making up the rocks in the shadowed areas. I find that things are much more believable if I add both warms and cools to objects. It's what nature does, but we're so used to thinking in our minds, "oh, thats a grey rock or a green tree, that we no longer register all the colors that go into making up that grey or green. If you keep the values of the warms and cools the same, or very close, you'll end up with a much more pleasing painting.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Buckskinner portrait

Buckskinner, 16X14, oil/canvas panel



Hi All,
I got back last week from my one man show at the Bosque Arts Center. Needless to say, it was a wonderful time. I got to meet a bunch of new people, reconnect with some old friends, and sell some work. One of the most memorable parts of the trip for me was getting to meet Rusty Jones, who is a wonderful painter and now a good friend. Rusty, bless his heart, drove several hours to come to the show from his home near Dallas. It touched me deeply that he would do this and I want you to know how much that meant to me Rusty. Be sure to check out his blog, which is linked here from my page. Unfortunately, I didn't think to run around with my camera and take lots of pictures of the reception. Something I'm sure I'll regret.

I also was fortunate enough to be invited to George Hallmark's 60th birthday bash the next night. It was a party of George and Lisa (his beautiful wife.....ya done good George), and 200 of his closest friends. George and Lisa are two of the most generous, giving people I've ever met. People came from as far away as England to celebrate with the master painter. One of the evening's highlights was getting to meet Martin Greele and have my picture taken with him and George. These are two of my painting heros, and I'm blessed to have gotten to know them a bit. In addition to being two of the best painters working today, they are just nice regular guys.

My latest painting is of a buckskinner named Frank. When I first saw Frank, he was being painted by artists participating in the Quick Draw for the Phippen Museum's Art Show on the grounds of the courthouse in Prescott, Arizona. Frank is a great character and makes the perfect model to paint. He's part Native American and can tell a story with the best of them. And he has lots of stories to tell. So many of the people who get involved in reenactments are like that. He offered to take me around the area, next time I'm in town, to show me the scenic sites. and to model for me. I always appreciate it when people go out of their way to make my job easier. Thanks Frank!

I loved the reflected light on his face in the shadows. With the sun hitting his grey beard and deerskin tunic, it was bouncing up into the shadows of his face. On portraits like these, I like to keep the edges soft. It keeps him from looking cut out on the background. Speaking of the background. I put him in front of one of my favorite backgrounds for these kinds of subjects. A textured plaster wall. I can use the colors that compliment what the subject is wearing, while still giving a bit of interest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wildflower Hill, plein aire

Wildflower Hill, 9X12, oil on linen panel

Hi again,
I painted this one on Monday, July 20, 2009. I had participated in a paintout with the Outdoor Painters of Minnesota on the previous Saturday. The location was beautiful and I stood on a hillside covered with wildflowers. Two problems. First, I chose to use a pochade box that was new and when I started setting up, I realized that I hadn't put the quick release mounting plate on the pochade box. So I wasn't able to mount my paintbox onto the tripod. Ugh!! So I spent the day painting with one hand while I held the box on top of the tripod with my other. I would paint till I needed to clean my brush, set the box on the ground, clean my brushes, balance my box onto my tripod and repeat the process. Absolute rookie mistake and one I don't plan on repeating. Second problem was the heavily cloudy day, and the wildflowers on the hills just looked so dreary. When I had finished painting for the day, I decided to return on Monday, if it was sunny, and paint the wildflowers. I'm really glad that I did. It was a beautiful day to paint, and other than a strong wind that threatened to blow my box over (normal stuff for plein air painting), I had a ball. Rapids Lake, which is part of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, is located along the Minnesota River. Along with all the wonderful wildflowers and trees, I was treated to small aircraft flying over head performing aerial stunts. Loop the loops, barrel rolls, stalls and other stunts that were nice to watch when I took a break.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Painting, "King of the Hill Country"

King of the Hill Country, 30X40, oil on linen

Close-Up of brush work

There is no better fitting symbol for Texas, in my mind than the longhorn. An imposing animal and fiercely independent, the longhorn seems perfectly at home here today. Probably because the longhorn and Texas have such a proud history together. You could even say they've grown up together. Naturally, I placed this small herd in my favorite part of Texas, smack dab in the middle in Texas Hill Country.

Many thanks to Wally Penberthy, for taking me on a tour of his ranch in his jeep (all the bumps and bruises were worth it). The landscape is based on a hill on his place which we climbed one beautiful morning. The longhorns are owned by a nearby rancher which we drove out to see. They were happy to pose for me, at least till the truck came along and dripped off the new salt blocks in a distant field. I never knew they could runs so fast! And that was the end of the photo shoot.

"King of the Hill Country" is an idealized painting, complete with fields of blue bonnets and live oaks. At 30X40 inches it's one of the largest paintings I've done to date, but because it is an idealized view, it benefits from it's bigger size. I've included more detail in the foreground and reduced the amount of detail as it gives way to the middle ground then to the background. Just as the eye sees things.

This painting will be included in my upcoming one man show at the Bosque Arts Center, in Clifton Texas. Show opens on July 21 and runs through August 8th. I will be there for an artist's reception on Friday, July 24th, from 6-8 PM. It will be hot, but we'll have wine I'm told.....and dancing girls.....and cirque de soleil....annnd. Alright, maybe not, but we will have wine. And lots and lots of paintings and drawings. Thirty or so in all with prices to fit just about any budget. Limited time offer while supplies last.

Lunch Line, 24X40, oil on linen

I've also reworked "Lunch Line" a bit and will also be at the show. I've settled down the sky and distant mountain a bit, knocked down the intensity of the colors, and added dust with floating bits of hay, lit up by the sun. All in all a much better painting.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Simple be featured in Southwest Art's Art View, Feb 2010

Simple Beauty, 12x9, oil on linen panel

Hi All.

OK, so I've been told my those in "the know", that I should never paint those things that are obviously beautiful. That it's like throwing an underhand softball pitch to Hank Aaron (I'm definitely not Hank Aaron in this analogy). It's waaay too easy. To which, I respectfully say....Fooey! Why not paint beautiful subjects? These kinds of picturesque scenes are the very essence of what makes the west, and, the landscape, so alluring. That argument is like saying, don't listen to beautiful music, because it's too easy, there's no challenge in the listening. It all comes down to why you listen to the music, or why you look at art. For me, it's always been about the way it makes me feel....the enjoyment. Personally, I would much rather look at a painting of fall aspens than a city alley. And I believe most people would too.

I've just learned that "Simple Beauty" is to be included in the February 2010 issue of Southwest Art's column "Art Views".

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cowboys and Miniatures are like peas and carrots...

Saddlin' Up, 11X14, oil on linen panel

Hi Everybody,
This painting is of a Texas Cowboy. After lunch he's ready to get back out to finish the day's work. It's a simple scene, with a simple story. But those are the one's I seem to gravitate to. Nothing preachy or profound or political. Just regular people going about their business. Of course, when I try to saddle up, my horse jigs and dances all over the place. Cow horses have a lot more training than the one's I get to ride. Or maybe it's just user error (more likely).

In this sun drenched painting, there is light bouncing all over the place. It really does hurt your eyes when you are actually on site. So it's important to paint reflected light, but not to paint it so brightly that it competes with the sunlit areas. I used to paint the reflected light too bright and wondered why things were out of whack. After all, if a little is good, then a lot must be better, right? Always control and compare your values and you won't have to regret (or repaint) it later.

I'm going through this stage where I'm finding that I enjoy painting the miniatures more than I enjoy doing the larger paintings. Although, I really like how the larger paintings look when they're done and hanging on a wall. There is much more enjoyment for me to paint something quickly and see it come together. It must be AADD, Artist Attention Deficit Disorder.

I'll be visiting Alaska to see family, and will be bringing my paintbox to finally get out of the studio and get some location work done! I expect to do a lot of scraping. I'll post anything that makes it past my palette knife.

Thanks for lookin', Steve

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New painting for upcoming one man show

Into The Light
oil/linen, 16X20

Close-up view of brushwork

Closeup view of brushwork

Hi Everyone,
As I've mentioned in passing in some of my other blogs, I'm getting ready for my first one person show, coming up at the Bosque Art Center, July 21-August 8, 2009. I'm thrilled to be given this opportunity to have my first solo show at the venue that essentially launched my professional career. I'm sure you can imagine that I've been painting furiously to have the number of paintings I'll need to fill the space. In fact, I've probably more than enough now, but I'm always trying to do better and larger pieces, so that it's not a show of 6X8, 8X10, or 9X12 paintings. I'm just about done with the "King of the Hill Country" 30X40 painting which is to be the centerpiece of my show. You may remember the King of the Hill, study, that I posted a while back. That's the study that I did before I tackled the more ambitious piece. I'll post the large one when I'm done, which will be soon....I hope.

This painting is all about light. It really doesn't matter where this country road is. It could be anywhere. It just happens to be in Clifton, Texas, the site of my upcoming summer show. I'm pretty sure, even the folks there would have a hard time identifying it's location. But like all backlit scenes, I love the play of warms and cools, lights and darks. Everything has to be in correct proportion to everything else for these lighting effects to read properly. There isn't much room to fudge. It's one of the reasons I like painting them so much. It's like painting people. You can't fool the eye with incorrect values or color temps. They have to be right. It keeps my eye sharp. The focal point of where the road bends behind the shadowed trees is the area of greatest contrast and interest. Everything else had to be painted to be subordinate to that. I separated the shadowed tree from the trees behind it by cooling the background and lightening the value.

Thanks for visiting, Steve

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last One Back

Last One Back, 30X24, oil on linen

Hi bloggers,
It's been a month since my last post (sounds kind of like a confession, don't you think?....forgive me father, it's been a month since my last blog...). I have been painting furiously and not goofing off, uh....really. I'm working on several larger paintings at the same time, so it feels like forever till one is finished. I wanted this painting to have a dramatic feel to it. Nocturnes are one of my favorite things to paint. This cowboy is coming back to camp after dark. The long day is now over and it's time for chow and a chance to rest. The campfire is waiting and will help to get the chill out of his bones. Out here you don't get paid by the hour. You work till the job's done. And you sleep really good at night.

This is a painting with lots of angles to it.The clouds, the rider, even the ground is sloped. Everything has the feeling of dynamic movement. Nothing is standing still. Just the way real life is for these guys.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Landscape

Philosopher's Rock, Tanque Verde, 9X12 oil on linen panel, ©2009

Hi Everyone,
This painting is of an area near Tucson Arizona known as Tanque Verde Falls. I live in Minnesota and though I'm looking to eventually make the move to Arizona, I don't know where the scenic areas are. Luckily, my wife grew up in Tucson and she knows where these areas are. During our last trip home for us to visit family, she wasn't able to take me out sightseeing as we usually do. Ann's dad offered to take me to one of his favorite spots, the Tanque Verde Waterfall. When we got there, and I stood high above the area looking down to a river far below, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. When we climbed down to the river itself, I was surprised at how much water was flowing here in the desert. It was like an oasis in the middle of the desert. There were a number of people splashing in the pools, swimming, playing with their dogs and just having a ball. Obviously, this scene isn't of the waterfall. But I was struck by the fact that this tree had sprung up out of the water in front of this huge boulder. Then I realized that the water was unusually high and this tree was normally along the bank for most of the year, not growing out of the water.

I love to paint backlit scenes. I love to look at other artist's paintings of backlit scenes. The way the branches are lit up and fairly glow is such a fun effect to try to reproduce. Strictly speaking this tree is side lit, but the effect is the same. The way I've found to paint this effect is to make sure that the area behind the subject dark and cool. That way the transparency of the tree and the light hitting it will be highlighted (no pun intended). This pool of water was deep and the rust color was deep and saturated. It was a spot loaded with paintings waiting to happen.

Thanks for checking in, Steve

Friday, April 3, 2009

Native American Dancer's portrait

Native Dancer, 16X20, oil/linen

Eyes Closeup

Feather Closeup

Hi Everyone,
Here is a painting I did of a Native American dancer I came across at a pow wow last year. He was always smiling and seemed to know everyone there. As I was taking photos, I was lucky enough to get some serious expressions. I had a very clear idea in my head of what I wanted this painting to look like. That's not always the case. His face paint and porky roach was an important part of this one, but like so many portraits, the eyes tell the tale. So I made the background simple and neutral. The area around his eyes are the sharpest and most clearly defined. I enjoyed doing this one, getting lost in the painting of the different edges and textures. Feathers, beads, skin. They all have their own unique edges, and therefore their own unique brushwork. I always start with the face and usually can tell if a painting is going to work for me pretty early on. Though, sometimes you can't tell which areas of a painting will give you trouble. I swear, I wish I had a nickle for every time I thought a difficult passage was going to trip me up, only to the tough part paint itself and have the simple parts derail. Well, that keeps me on my toes anyways.


Thanks for looking, Steve

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Front Row Seat

Front Row Seat, 24X30, oil on linen

This painting came from my desire to paint the translucency of water. The rhythm of the foam and the challenge of painting the foreground rock as it disappears into the sea. When I finished this painting, and had the wave breaking behind the middle ground rock, I felt that the focus of the painting was missing. That's when I put in the sea gull on the rock, right in front of where that wave is breaking. In a moment, he's going to be wearing that wave.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Earnin' Your Keep

Earnin' Your Keep, 12X16, oil on linen panel

This study was done as a donation for an upcoming benefit at the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton Texas. This was a scene I came across at the Tucson Rodeo. These were the horses that were to be ridden by the pickup men, the riders that help the roughstock riders dismount from their bucking broncs or bulls. All saddled and ready to ride, they walked toward the arena with calm purpose.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cowboys and Indians magazine highlights Steve's Art

Before the Day's Heat, 12X16, oil/linen panel

The April edition of Cowboys and Indians Magazine has a full page feature on my artistic philosophy and bio in their Open Gallery section. I happen to be a subscriber to Cowboys and Indians mag, since I noticed that lots of my western art collectors were subscribers as well. In it they feature lots of celebrities who either act in westerns or are horse owners/ western ranch owners themselves. As well as articles on the western lifestyle and property. Also they feature some of the most beautiful western art and jewelry being produced today. I am very humbled to have been contacted and written up by Managing Editor Ann Orsinger, who wrote a very accurate account of who I am as an artist and what I strive to do. I've had other write ups, and I know how horribly wrong they can go, even with the best of intentions. Thank you Ann for getting it right. Just a note for all the artists out there who aren't sure if the trouble or expense of having a professional website is worth it, I can tell you that it absolutely is. It's how many of my collectors have found me, and now, how this magazine has discovered me. In addition, I can't disclose the magazine yet, but one of my paintings will be featured on the cover soon. They also found me through my website. I'll tell you more when I can...

This painting is set in the early morning in a canyon in Zion National Park. I love the bond that develops between the rider and his horse. This horse is about to get his fill of cold mountain water. Run off of some distant mountain. Of course, the cowboy makes sure they're upstream from the herd.

This painting will be included in the Texas Art Gallery's Fixed Price Draw on May 8,2009.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Late Day Light Display

Late Day Light Display, 9X12, oil/panel

Hi Everybody, while at a plein air workshop in Wyoming some years ago, I painted at this scene. The painting I did on site was of a different view and was more of a quick study. But I stopped long enough to snap a picture of this scene to paint at a later date. When I finally got round to painting it this past week, I decided to add this late day light effect as the focal point.

Monday, February 16, 2009

study for future painting "King of the Hill"

King of the Hill, study, oil/panel, 12X12

This is a study I did for a painting I'm beginning work on called "King of the Hill". The larger more ambitious painting is being done for a fall auction and won't be available until then. So, why do this painting? Artists who do studies have lots of reasons for why they do them. I did this small 12X12 painting for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to work out the general sunlight value for this work. I wanted to make sure I had gotten the illusion of sunlight right before starting on the bigger work. Also, this longhorn was very mottled and confusing in places in the original photo I took. This gave me the opportunity to simplify the effect and get it right before tackling the much larger version. I've struggled in the past with painting a dog that was mottled, and I wasn't looking forward to a repeat of that, yikes! Another reason to do this version was to workout the line of rocks and path leading your eye to the focal point. My goal was to put something in that wasn't too obvious or overwhelming. I think I ended up with a nice balance. And finally, I wanted to have something for the Texas Art Gallery Fixed Price Draw coming up in May. These paintings are generally smaller, so this painting will work well for that. Besides, Texas loves their longhorns. So do I. You know what I mean if you've ever had the opportunity to see a herd of them in the wild. They are impressive. This study is just a small portion of what the larger version will be. That one will have a small herd tucked in the grass lower on the hillside, and of course much more landscape. The setting is the rolling hills of central Texas, otherwise known as the Texas Hill Country. For me, it's one of the most beautiful places in the United States.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Big Dreams

Big Dreams, 24X18,oil on linen, ©2009

Close-Up Detail

Close-Up Detail

The idea for this painting came to me when I attended a junior rodeo last year. I was amazed at the kids, who were competing in most of the same events as any regular rodeo, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing and of course mutton busting. The other thing I noticed was that everyone was laughing and having the time of their lives. That is until it was time to take their turn. Then they became as serious and steely eyed as any seasoned hand. I mean, they were serious as a heart attack. The boy in my painting wasn't any one competitor from that day, but rather an idealized young man with his hand on his rope and his eye to the future.

Big Dreams will be at Trailside Gallery's Western Classics show, March 16th-28th, 2009 at the Scottsdale gallery location.

One piece of news I've been meaning to share with you is last December, the Oil Painters of America awarded me Signature Status. It was a goal I had set for myself in 2005 when I attended my first OPA National show. I was only a visitor to the show and was blown away by the talent and quality of the art on display. Then and there I decided to work as hard as I could to get into the next Nationals, and to attain the designation of signature member no matter how long it took. To gain this designation, a member must be juried into three national shows. These shows happen only one time a year, so it takes members at least three years to accomplish this. Once you've reached this goal, you still need to apply to the membership committee by submitting eight to ten of your paintings along with a bio, show history and any other info you think might sway them in your favor. They then vote on your application, and if all goes well, you get the thumbs up. I'm truly honored to be in such good company. Thanks guys!!

Whew!!! I finally was able to get a new blog posted. It was forever since the last one. Believe it or not, I've been spending all of my time chained to my easel trying to finish several paintings for some up coming shows. Painting is as close as I'll ever get to giving birth. It's not an easy process usually, though some definitely go easier than others. But hopefully, when you're done you have something that brings you joy. Not to mention, you hope it has all it's fingers and toes, and can stand on its own! Thanks for your patience. I'll be posting more new work very soon.