van Gogh – the original blogger

You know how people always talk about going full circle? Well, this is one of those instances. How it happened is a mystery but I recently rediscovered Van Gogh’s letters online. Yes, I’d seen them online before, noted it, and moved on. This time, however, I’ve become obsessed with them – again. The first obsession was a very long time ago, hate to even admit how long ago, (so I won’t) when I read them straight through like a novel. It occurred to me this time that Vincent was the first blogger – writing about his thoughts, inspiration and moods while adding drawings to illustrate his point in his letters to Theo. Now that I’m much older and maybe a little wiser, I’m understanding more and relating better to what he had to say.

Here is the link to the van Gogh letters:

Although it’s fun to click on various topics, you can go to the Calendar of all letters and just start from the beginning.

van Gogh drawing
van Gogh drawing – Lane with Trees and One Figure

“Mauve takes it amiss that I said, `I am an artist,’ which I  won’t take back, because it’s self-evident that what that word implies is looking for something all the time without ever   finding it in full. It is the very opposite of saying, `I know all about it, I’ve already found it.’ As far as I am concerned, the word means, `I am looking, I am hunting for it, I am deeply    involved.'” Vincent van Gogh from a letter to his brother Theo

to be continued…

John Pierce Barnes

There was an interesting article in the June issue of “Pastel Journal”  titled “History Reclaimed” about John Pierce Barnes (1893-1954), an impressionist artist, who was discovered recently.  The pastel paintings that they show on the Pastel Journal website are stunning.  In order to avoid any problems I haven’t included any pictures of his paintings here.

This link is to the Pastel Journal Blog:

You can read the story in the following link,  about how the curator of his paintings, Katherine Stanko, learned that the paintings existed and had been in storage since the artists death or maybe longer.

“THE RESURRECTION OF ARTIST JOHN PIERCE BARNES, RCA Worker and Impressionist Painter” By Hoag Levins is here:

What inspires me the most is how wonderful his color choices were and his bold strokes.  Many pastelists blend the heck out of their work and it thrills me to see unblended work from the 1920’s.  It is also pretty easy to put together his very simple plein air palette from his work, which, of course, I had to do.  It seems to be very limited, which is great for going out on location.  Possibly, he had a small landscape set – I don’t know what was available in the ’20’s.  I managed to fit all the colors into a small 5″x4″ box – it doesn’t get better than that!

Since I don’t keep the names of my colors, and now realize I have way too many colors, yet, not enough of these colors, I’ve made a color chart of what his palette probably was.

John Pierce Barnes Palette
John Pierce Barnes Palette – it looks a little dark here but see below for actual pastel sticks
pastels for plein air
pastels for plein air – in a little cigar box

If it would stop raining I’d take them for a test ride.:)



Why Paint?

Hobe Sound Rose Hobe Sound Rose – Pastel on paper – no camera involved (except to photograph the painting, that is) – a rose that I grew and a pot that I made.

The inspiration to paint can come from so many places……….. and yet there are some days you say to yourself, why paint?  Sometimes my inspiration is to just improve myself.  Most of the time I’m overwhelmed with ideas and objects that inspire me and then the thought runs through my head that I might be insane.  But that’s a whole nuther topic.

“Drawing as a means of expression is the justification of art over photography.” Andrew Loomis, Creative Illustration, 1947

How cool is that?  We’re still discussing this today in 2012, yet some people have never even been made aware of it.  It bothers me that there are so many people that judge good art by how close to a photograph the painting it is.  Not to mention the hyperrealist or photorealist painters that have the goal of painstakingly reproducing a photograph.  As if the photograph were the standard that paintings had to live up to.

Don’t misunderstand and think that I’m not in favor of photography because I love photography! It seems that over time artistic goals have sometimes become distorted.

Mr. Loomis was directing this to the art student (in the 1940’s!!!) and comparing  original illustration to photography which he said couldn’t provide the expressiveness that the artist could. He doesn’t throw photography out the window but at that time guides the artist to understand they aren’t being replaced by a camera.  Even though we now have the means to be more expressive with digital applications, the camera still can’t produce the surface and line quality nor the atmosphere and character that original art can.

So that is why you paint – to go beyond the photograph with your personal expression of the poetic landscape (or what ever your thing is).  One good reason,  anyway.

Sometimes it seems that things and/or thoughts are presented to you by some unseen spirit and you can’t help but think it must be meaningful.  Kismet.  Destiny.  Some amazing global consciousness!  Why else would all of these things come together at the same time?

Yes, I’m looking for answers and finding the ones that suit me but so are many other people which is validation enough for me.  Because after all, I do need to justify my obsession and insanity.

This Way to the Beach

This Way to the Beach

This Way to the Beach – 6×8 oil on panel

Using very visible brush marks and staying away from detail – Done!

Yesterday I was very non-communicative, keeping everything inside as usual.  My apologies – especially to myself! Here’s what I meant to say:

This path to the beach is on Jupiter Island, FL and really does have the perfect “S” shaped path that is a must component for a perfect composition.

(Read Edgar Paynes book: “Composition of Outdoor Painting” for other great compositional tips.)

The “S” shape leads you into the painting and makes your eye wander around.  In this case it wasn’t something I made up – I found it there while driving down the road to the beach on the north end of the island.  It’s private property so I couldn’t just pull over and paint.  But, I usually just snap a picture so that I can paint it later when presented with a situation like that.  Actually I also will take many pictures for later reference even if I’m on location painting.

Painting from photographs is a challenge because the camera doesn’t duplicate what we see with our eyes.  However, there are two things that are good about photographs – one you can take your time with the painting because the light won’t be changing and second you can view the picture on your computer screen and it’s a fairly good replication of outdoor light.  The one thing I modified immediately was to not include the “for sale” sign in front of the bushes.  Next I decided that in order to compensate for the unruly shadows produced by the camera I would paint in a lighter range, something I’m working on in general.

Chorus Line

Chorus Line
Chorus Line, 8x10 Oil on Panel

The practice of setting up a small still life and limiting the time you spend on it has been around for a long time and it’s a practice that I enjoy.  Some of the most inspiring subjects are in the produce department and I find myself there testing the bartlet pears quite often.  Most people might be looking for softness, ripeness, but my tests are: can the pear can stand on it’s own, is it a shapely pear, and of course, how good is the color?

Once they’re home with me, I set them up with dramatic lighting, as if they are on stage!  With this painting my goals were to improve my brush work and to keep the colors light and appealing.

Using a bristle flat brush is greatly improving my brush work since it holds more paint and the marks are showing how luscious the paint is.  The pears were juicy and luscious, so they should be depicted that way.  My palette is a simple rainbow palette that I’ve been using for years but I’ve lightened things up now, reminding myself to stay in the higher value range.

The Soloist - 5x7 oil on panel

This guy needed his portrait painted and didn’t have anything to do with that other group.

Thanks to the sale a Jay Mar, I’m stocked up on canvas now and will be painting more still lifes in the near future.

My collection of thrift store finds will be a future series of paintings and great composition practice.

Feel free to give me feedback or ask any questions in the comments section and thanks for looking!



Hiatus in Hobe Sound

Since I’ve been in the process of regrouping and trying to get back to normal, what ever that is, I’ve taken the opportunity, as I usually do, to study and improve my technique. This usually applies to my brushwork and color mixing in oils. Not that I don’t work on my pastel technique also, but there seems to be less need for improvement and I usually approach pastels with a more adventurous attitude and will experiment more, possibly using new products. With oil I’ve gotten in the habit of using the painting knife too much and sort of lost touch with my brush work. Therefor I’ve been restricting the use of the knife to color mixing only!

The best way to study, for me anyway, is to do small still lifes and small landscape studies. My plan is to begin posting these and try not to get too hung up on how finished they look.

Since I haven’t photographed any of these paintings yet, but will soon, I’ll just put up something here that inspires me.

White City Water Lilies
White City Water Lilies

This was painted on location in White City, FL.

A bit of news that I can share is that I’ve been juried in to the Women Painters of the Southeast recently and look forward to participating in that group in the future. Go check them out, I’m in great company.