Thursday, April 8, 2021

Studio Work

 Here are a couple of pieces I have in progress:

48"x60" unstretched canvas. This is where it is today. Below are a couple of previous stages.

Several layers in, but establishing the stripes

More layers in, establishing the bottom section of stripes

Another work in progress, on stretched canvas, 40"x54". This is where it is today. My next task is to vary the values on the bottom row of stripes.

An early stage of the above piece

A few more layers later. It is starting to look like a pinstriped suit to me, so that is why I started obscuring the top area of stripes.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Free Live Demo with Q&A

 I am offering a FREE DEMO at Winslow Art Center on Tuesday, March 23. This is part of a series of freebees Winslow is offering next week, in their "Spring Fling".

Slack Tide #6, 11"x14" acrylic on paper

I filmed the process of painting this image, which I will narrate live on Zoom, sharing my thoughts on composition, as well as tools and tips. I will take questions as well. Hope to see you there.

Even though it is free, you do have to sign up for this session. See details and sign up here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Practicing Composing

 Composition - the arrangement and qualities of elements in your painting - is a topic that seems to mystify people the most about art making. This is my impression from teaching thousands of students over hundreds of workshops over the course of ten years. Here are a few beliefs that some of you might hold. The 'you' is hypothetical.

  • You want composition to be a set of rules or guidelines.
  • You think composition is something you can learn and then apply.
  • You want there to be, or think there is, a set of rules that guarantee 'good' composition.
  • You approach abstract painting differently from representational painting from a compositional standpoint.
  • You may thing of format as the bulk of composition: the cruciform, the abstract landscape, the grid, for example.
  • You think there has to be a focal point
  • You believe in a rule of thirds
  • You think of 'spontaneous' painting as different from a composition, a composed painting.
  • You think a composed painting, a composition, is planned.

Any of this sound familiar? None of it is true. Where do these beliefs and assumptions come from? I've probably contributed to some of these beliefs myself, in earlier workshops. But believing any of the above does serve as a starting point.You can begin to un-learn. You can become aware of assumptions. This is where real composition begins.

In an attempt to address these issues directly I am offering two new workshops this year:

Abstract Composition Bootcamp

Fridays on Zoom, beginning April 9.


Paint Solo #9, 22x30" acrylic on paper

In order to become fluent in visual language, you need to become aware of what you do by habit and what you can do by choice. The more fluent you are, the more spontaneity and freedom you can bring to your art practice. See workshop details here.

 100 Paintings

Online with a blog, no zoom. 10 weekly lessons beginning September 8.

Pink Shape, 9x12", acrylic, collage, drawing on paper

 Join me for one or both of the above for a deeper look at what it means to compose.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

A New Take on Stripes

 These layered and textured stripes came out of a fallow period, just after an intense six weeks of teaching. I wanted to loosen up, lighten up, and just get some paint on surfaces with no particular ideas. The first couple of days of this practice - just go into the studio and put paint on paper/canvas/panel - felt pretty unproductive, like just spinning my wheels. And it IS just spinning my wheels. But persistence paid off in the form of a new exploration in stripes.

I will be demonstrating these techniques on May 21 on Zoom.

See details of my Technique Takeaway at Winslow Art Center here.


Stacked Stripes #1, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #2, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #3, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #4, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #5, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #6, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #7, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #8, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #9, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

Stacked Stripes #1, 11"x14", acrylic on bristol

All of these are available as prints and on products on FineArtAmerica/Pixels. 

The Bristol I am using can be found here.

I use a squeegee to apply paint in many of these. See them here.

Other supplies include Golden paints, Blick Matte Acrylic White, and Utrecht Matte Medium.

Although the pieces do not particularly feature it, some have Golden's new So Flat Matte paint in them. These are just gorgeous, lush paints, with a beautiful consistency and opaque coverage. It just became available at art retailers last month. Here it is at Blick

I am excited to experiment more with layers and textures in this new stripe format, and this confirms my hopeful idea that When In Doubt, or when I feel out of steam or out of ideas, just putting paint on surfaces - keeping my hand in it - can lead to a path forward.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

More of the New Stripes

 These ones are made from the stripes in the last post, plus some paint, collaged on bristol.

They are available as prints and products at Pixels/FineArtAmerica.

These are all 11"x14" except the square one, which is 13"x13".

Thursday, February 11, 2021

New Stripes

 I have been playing around with colors and lines on cheap paper. Looks like I'm still gravitating towards stripes, though that was not the intention. I love this paper - I use it for lifting paint, making collage papers, covering my work table (and then save those pieces for collage), and more. 

Here are some examples of the stripes:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Leaning into Subtlety

 Do you ever feel that your art is "too busy"? You know you have too much going on, but you are not sure what to do about it? Afraid of wrecking it, or 'losing' some of the parts you like best, you get a bit creatively paralyzed over it. 

Join me for Leaning into Subtlety, Friday, February 12, 2021, at 5:00 pm EASTERN time. This is a quick (hour and a half) demonstration hosted by Winslow Art Center via Zoom.

I will demonstrate a few go-to techniques I use that keep me loose and unafraid of painting over. These techniques are about building subtlety as part of the process, but also toning down high drama, or 'editing' to bring your piece into focus. 

Here are a few examples:

This one includes tone-on-tone collage in the yellow area, plus a little spatter of yellow ochre. 11"x14" on bristol.

Tone-on-tone mark making, collage, and spatter bring a little depth to this piece. 11"x14" on bristol.

Fog, lower right, is the main technique I demonstrate on this piece. 11"x14" on bristol.

This piece has a lot of texture, but I've toned down some if it using a dry brush technique. 11"x14" on bristol.

This is another example of toning down texture. This is the "after", so the texture is considerable more subtle in parts than the "before". 9"x12" on bristol.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Practice with "Quickies"

 Many people bristle at the term "New Year's Resolution", and yet the new year does seem to offer an opportunity to RE-new, invite something new into your life, reassess and reset priorities. I think of goals more as guiding principles than endpoints that I must reach. The goals are not there to be 'achieved', but to guide, as reference points. They are also fluid - just like the painting process, they are open to revision based on changing environment, new input or ideas, or shifts in my mental landscape.

Read my interview with the Learning to Paint Podcast, "The Brilliance of Bite-Size", about learning and goal setting. 

Quickie, a quick study, 9"x6"

 In 2021, I would like to incorporate the practice of doing quickies - quick studies on paper. You can read here about the oil and cold wax class I took, in which we did four quick, small, studies each day before diving into the work. I won't do it every day, but I'll try to do a set of quickies a few times a week.

Here is a video of my first approach to quickies. I've given myself just a few tools and a few colors to work with.


To count as quickies, you are not allowed to agonize over them. Think of them as your warm-up exercises, or your sketchbook, not as pieces you'd show to someone else. They are your private playground, for your benefit as an artist. 

This is a group of 'Quickies', each 9"x6", with plenty of space around the edges to play with in cropping them. Each has the squeegee and palette knife applications, collage, a little spattering, and some have added line work.

2020 was a tough year by any measure, so let's be easy on ourselves in 2021. I'm going to try to invite opportunities and see what happens, rather than set rigid benchmark goals. How about you? What are your plans for 2021? Comment on this or e-mail me. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Mark Making in January

 My online course, Mark-Making, begins January 6. Here is some student work from a 2019 class. See details and sign up here.

We get to fling paint, scribble, spatter, drip, and more. Make your own tools, layer patterns over scribbles over spills.... All fun and lots of learning. See details here.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Oil and Cold Wax Medium

 I have been taking an online class with Jerry McLaughlin, in oil and cold wax medium, at the Winslow Art Center in Bainbridge Island, WA. Who cares where the class is; it's online. I try to take one intensive workshop each year, to learn something new, deepen my art practice, and also to remind myself what it is like to be a student. Working with an unfamiliar material, feeling ham handed and out of my depth, helps me understand some of the issues my students face. The class is AWESOME! Jerry is a very experienced and sympathetic teacher, very clear and knowledgeable. The format includes live zoom meetings and an online forum for posting work.

So I thought I'd share with you some of my early attempts to getting a handle on cold wax medium. It is an intriguing material, offering beautiful depth and textural possibilities. 

Jerry has us do four "quickies" each day on Arches Oil Paper.

12"x12", this one makes use of carving and pressing texture, wax paper transfer, and more.

Four more Quickies

I used a graphite-dipped waxed linen thread to make the wandering line.

Here I tried coating the thread in solvent-diluted green paint; the technique needs work.

All of the above are experimental and in process. I am working on 12x12 cheap wood panels from Amazon. They are a bit flimsy, but completely adequate to this use. Jerry McLaughlin and Rebecca Crowell host Cold Wax Academy, which is an amazing resource for anyone using cold wax medium. The site offers free videos and information, and membership entitles you to more interaction with Jerry and Rebecca. If you are interested in cold wax, check it out!