Our whitetail bucks have chased the does relentlessly. We have a very confident non-typical buck that is a great looking up and comer. He will give the big guy a run for top status next year.
Neighborhood foxes are emblazoned in their finest coats, and all of our wildlife, coyotes to bobcats seem to be enjoying the cooler weather. It is my favorite time of the year.
With such seasonal abundance, I decided to paint a Rio Grande turkey. I admit a fondness for these birds. I think I have mentioned this before, but what characters! Their mannerisms range from fierce to comical and they always prove to be great subjects.
Hope this finds you as excited about the season as I am. Although I want to be gathering reference, today, the easel is calling and I have some things I want to accomplish. The larger painting I am working on is flowing nicely and I look forward to sharing. Stay tuned!
"Western Winds" 24" x 36"
Just doing their thing. That is strength. That is the feeling I had when watching these bison. Blustery weather arises. Grit can blow and wind can sweep, yet they carry on. I aimed to capture their genuine strength.
The internet and social media are hurdles. I'm only on Linkedin not because I'm not social; I don't do my best work when I see too much of the same content. I have also found a need to limit technology in the studio. I have internet, I stream music, but I limit browsing. I've heard it argued that artists from the past would have used the tools of modern technology if available. Maybe so, but would their art be better for it? Probably not.
Others have differing viewpoints, but this is what works for me. I'm not a technophobe, I just believe it can homogenize and sterilize, like synthesizers in music. The quirks of the human hand bring warmth and soul.
I really don't like talking much about it. The art should say it. Proof should be in the painting.
Looking forward! Gearing up for some Texas whitetail! Our bucks are the best yet. Almost all have rubbed off their velvet and are beginning to bulk up. Can't wait for the show!
"Afternoon Social" 18" x 24" InSight Gallery
I had this bobwhite quail painting in the works for some time. I toyed with the design, changed their positions, gestures, lighting, etc. until my vision was set. I thumbed through my reference to back up what I had in mind and found I lacked the exact "look" for the hens. Several restless nights were spent thinking about this painting.
I did not want to render. Their patterns are intricate yet I wanted the impression, the air, the light, the mood. Each bird needed their own gesture and personality. I wanted to be sure of hand. I had to do right by this painting. Time to put on the boots and get the proper reference!
Next morning at breakfast I noticed a cardinal landing in the backyard. In its flight path a small object moved. I thought perhaps a squirrel, but recognized a quail hen. Perfect!
I also finished this Rio Grande Turkey painting. I had a blast with this painting. The two toms came out as hoped. That is especially true in their personalities. One is completely full of himself, the other seems more pensive. I picture some cocky, lanky dude belting out "What's up girls?". The sometimes humorous ritual of guys approaching ladies seemed to stick with me. The title, "Rio Grande Casanovas" said it all.
Summer months are usually busy in preparation for fall shows. This is especially true this year. Time to get to it. Back to the easel!
The two toms are attempting to entice the hens. The one tom is almost in full strut and is anchored along with the other tom by the yucca in the background.
My goal was to paint a strutting tom without the "Thanksgiving" look. I really wanted to have the tall yucca but not have it overpower the birds. I went through a myriad of designs. By trial and error, I found that anchoring the strutting tom with the yucca negated each from becoming too much a focal point. The tom with his head high demands attention, creating a natural eye flow. That's the idea. It will head to InSight Gallery in Fredericksburg on completion.
Sharing my attention is a grizzly painting for Legacy Gallery, Jackson Hole. It's cooking so to speak. It's coming along as hoped and planned. I've made a real effort to get back to creating natural and honest paintings. You go out and learn all the tricks only to strip it back down and go acoustic. I think this is true in most of life. Plan to post it soon. Stay tuned!
I'm back in the studio and at it. I've lived with a sketch I just have to paint!
I'll post some pics soon, but I have several upcoming reference trips. I can never have enough reference. Back in 1990's when I began my art career in earnest, I used a 35mm film camera. I couldn't afford a long telephoto lens, but I made do. I mark those print photos among my most treasured possessions!
Texas Masters Show at InSight Gallery, March 2, 2018
"La Gran Sombra" (The Big Shadow) 22" x 28" oil/board InSight Gallery - Texas Masters Show
This painting is of a South Texas whitetail from a friend's ranch near Cotulla, TX. Two items set this painting into motion, the whitetail buck and the large acacia tree, (Huisache) he is emerging from behind.
The largest of these bucks instinctively hug the shadows of very early morning or late day, when the shadows become great. The thick expanse of brush south of San Antonio offer ample cover.
I really enjoy the raw beauty of the Brush Country. There is a peace that comes over me sitting in the stand and yet when an animal emerges my heart races with excitement. The camera captures the details and my paint records in sketch, the energy and emotion of the moment.
I can't tell you how many times I revised the drawing for this buck. I took it to different easels, different rooms, in the frame and without. After a break, I'd go back to wipe him clean and begin again. I was determined not to begin painting until I was fully satisfied.
One slight shift of the leg and he was too tense. After much tweaking, I was ready to paint!
"Ridgetop Morning" 9" x 12 oil/board
Just crated these for Settlers West American Miniatures Show. The Mule deer is from a recent research trip. Light is an important factor in my paintings. On this one, my aim was the morning light. I had followed this buck and sensed he was getting impatient with his quest for the does. It made sense he was going to crest this hill. The lighting was great, my model was superb and I was in position. The does meandered down the hill and out of view, but their addition to the scene was crucial to the painting.
"Jumping Jack" 9" x 12" oil/board
I am a fan of these fierce little rascals. They are able to thrive in the most inhospitable of areas of the American Southwest. Although correct to my reference, (I measured multiple times!) I decided this hare's ears were not long enough to convey the iconic jackrabbit look so I lengthened them.
I have several larger paintings in progress, so I set this up in a corner of the studio. I am simply working nuances at this point and picking at things that later would irritate only me.
As it turned out, there is a subtlety that I get a kick out of. I left it. There was an energy in my paint stroke when I laid in the paint between the rabbit's ears. I'm not one to get overly analytical but these light "squiggles" that happened by pure chance, delight me. The spontaneous energy, like an old tv's rabbit ear antennae seemed absolutely appropriate for the painting. I thank God when these happy gifts happen.
I'm keeping several paintings under wrap. I'm doing this more lately...living with them. Getting to the point without forcing. Letting the painting slowly develop with careful editing. It's an easier thing to do now at forty-nine.
"Gillespie Gold" was such a painting.
"Gillespie Gold" 22" x 35"
Another example that I held on to before releasing was "Timber's Edge".
"Timbers Edge" 24"x36"
I currently have three paintings I have been toggling. Not ready to show; they're months in the making. I rack myself making certain I won't later regret them leaving my hands. This is more than income. Art represents beauty, order, nature and all that is good. I deeply regret when I don't hold up my end in some small way. Comment and critique are for others to decide merit. I have to hold to the standards I set. To pull from a previous post, "run the good race".
Inspiration comes from the strangest of places! Recently I found Valisa watching harness horse racing on one of those upper cable channels. It was unusual enough to stop me. In 14 years, I have never seen her do this. Valisa grew up in Florida and her dad liked visiting the racetracks and jai alai. She was caught in a nostalgic moment.
These horses are incredible athletes with graceful long strides reaching speeds of 30mph. The race went the first lap without a break-away. The jockeys (called drivers) were obviously holding back. One name stuck out, Major Masterpiece. Very cool name! By the second lap, I found myself rooting for this horse on name alone.
That is what we artist yearn for, Major Masterpiece! If we paint it all the better, but someone, step up! Paint, make it count!
Lost in the moment I thought, "GO!"...Major Masterpiece was well behind but in a flash bolted to the lead. He was flying. The announcer was hyped with excitement as Major Masterpiece crossed to win. With the quintessential snap of a 1940's radio announcer, he proclaimed, "Major Masterpiece has fled the scene!"
It all resonated so well! Such a springboard of inspiration from such an unlikely source. I remind myself, good things are worth waiting for. With fresh eyes and renewed spirit, I go back to the studio.
In the studio and attempting to not get distracted by the whitetail fending off deer flies outside the window and the marvelous hot day we are experiencing. I like the heat, but this day I'm going through ideas based on cooler climates.
Now back to the work at hand, I flip through rough sketches I did at that time and instantly sparks fly. Ideas that were doodled out form much clearer. Direction is a powerful tool. Proof is always in the painting. Legendary wildlife art dealer, Bubba Wood stressed to me, "You're only as good as your last painting." I guess you could take that as a compliment or an insult, but I always took that as a challenge.
Time to let go without letting go and let the art fly.
On occasion I remember to keep it simple. I have an old paint box that I use for plein air studies. Back when I began in earnest around 2000 I crafted it to fit my needs. It is simple, nothing fancy. It connects to a tripod, is lightweight, sturdy and frankly not the best looking.
I could get a new one, not retrofitted, more adjustable maybe with more options for convenience. My wife wants to get me a new one each Christmas. But I can't part with this "old box". This companion has traveled many miles with me. We have memories, a history together creating many souvenirs of experiences in nature. But more importantly it is an important reminder that it really is about the art, the paint and the artist's vision. My vision.
Western artist and fellow resident Texan, Roy Anderson once said, there are no art police. Not an exact quote, but the fact stuck with me. The easel is not going to make your idea any worse or better. It won't improve the quality of the painting. My trusty old box reminds me of these truths. Although I do a lot of studio work these days, I always look forward to weekly dates with my old friend.
It all went well. I was satisfied where these pronghorn were leading me. At the design stage, I was toying with the idea of placing this solidly in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. I decided to save that for another painting. The mood fixed itself straight away. No sense cluttering the message.
Behind the bison, perhaps no animal quite represents the lore of the West like the pronghorn. A true American original, this amazing creature became a favorite subject matter of mine early on. This painting will be @ InSight Gallery for their Fall Show, September 1st.
This is day two but reflects days of reference gathering, pléin air painting, research, and designing. The sketch may appear fairly vague. I'm working out some of the finer details on the board.
I resisted from going too far on this sketch. This can be a tricky decision, at least for me it can be. If I'm too eager, I could miss a crucial aspect, revealing a flaw in the end, wasting days if not the painting entirely. But, if I go too in depth, churning endlessly on a design, the painting can have a calculated and non-atmospheric edge. This is just as unsuccessful.
Here's the sketch...
I've taken thousands of pronghorn photographs in the field and have great reference. The numbers you see indicate my photo files. I tweaked gestures, eliminating some and checking those I'll use. I have a thorough understanding of the mood I want the painting to convey, atmosphere, palette. I am leaving room for happy discoveries, nuances that happen when you quit thinking. I use a similar process in each painting. I tend to continue to sketch and design until I fully grasp in my head what the painting will look like. I'll update once completed. Thanks, for reading!
Can't believe how fast time is passing. After focusing spring on paintings for Legacy Gallery in Jackson Hole, I am back in Texas getting inspired for the next painting, a whitetail piece for Insight Gallery. Like many of my paintings, I've tinkered with this design in my mind for a while.
I have a faint grid drawing, have the general design sketched in charcoal and refined it. After the initial drawing, I decided I didn't like the buck's back legs stretched quite so far out and moved them in slightly. Also, initially the closest doe was in a different position. At this point, I have my color wash down but found a couple of things I wanted to tweak. I left it overnight to come back with fresh eyes this morning. (note: coffee cup on easel.) Overall satisfied, I wanted to take a look at it in a frame I was considering. I will review it after finished and decide if a new frame is in order. Behind me are small plein air studies and my sketch that will work as a guide throughout painting.