Sally Mae Dog Portrait

I've just completed a new dog portrait, of "Sally Mae". It's a surprise Christmas gift for her dad from her mom, so don't tell if you know them! Take a look at the reference photos I took of Sally, using some of the tips I shared previously on photographing your pet. You can see which photo became my main reference, and how I simplified the background. Sally Mae is part of the same family as "Tom" who I painted two years ago, so I tried to make the format of the painting coordinate, to make a nice pair.

New Painting: When She Was Three

Just finished my newest painting, the first since last spring (gardening, making a living, and other stuff make for interruptions!) It is called "When She Was 3" and I was inspired by photos I took last June of a friend's little girl playing at the edge of a river. It's a bit reminiscent of two other little girl paintings I've done which you can see in my internet gallery, "Molly By The Sea," which I painted in watercolor a few years ago of my niece on Hampton Beach, NH, and gave to my parents as their 50th anniversary gift (Molly is their youngest grandchild and they live in Hampton), and "In Her Own World," which I did from photos I took of a little girl on St. Augustine Beach who I didn't know. The anonymity of the little girl prompted many who saw the painting to be reminded of little girls in their lives.

On my Facebook fan page, I have created a photo album of this new painting in progress. Click on the Facebook icon in the right column of my blog to see it.

I Designed a State License Plate!

I recently designed a new specialty license plate for the State of Tennessee, and it will go into production soon. It commemorates the Cherohala Skyway, a scenic byway through the mountains connecting Tennessee and North Carolina (traversing the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest, thus the name). Proceeds from the license plate sales will benefit local causes. My design is shown here without the numbers (which will go to the right of the deer) and corner stickers, which I had to allow space for, so you can get a good glimpse.

Spring Wildflowers 4

As spring officially comes to a close, I present my final Spring Wildflower slide show for 2009. I discovered the chiggers were out the day I photographed the Horse Nettle, so I don't walk unprotected into the woods and field these days. "Queen Anne's Lace", aka Chigger Weed, is flowering now, but I haven't seen it growing on my property so it didn't make the show. The final photo is Dandelion, a wildflower which has been with us all spring, often unappreciated for its great values. (Background music is a live recording of me on banjo playing Blackberry Blossom.)

Spring Wildflowers III

I seem to be making more wildflower discoveries every day, pouring through my books to identify them. Just imagine, these are only the ones I am finding on my property... I pass by so many others in my travels through this area. We are truly blessed to live in an area so rich.

When is a wildflower a weed? In the case of "Cranes Bill", shown in this slide show, I must confess calling it a weed. It has taken over this year, introducing itself into all of my "cultivated" gardens. I have planted showy evening primrose, echinacea, and other wild flowers into my gardens, so that absolves me from insulting Mother Nature I hope!

Too busy gardening to paint much these days, but it's all part of the inspiration process.

Spring Wildflowers II

My woods continue their amazing show of spring wildflowers, and these are the most recent in my continuing show of Mother Nature's beauty. There are many others which I haven't gotten to photograph, if you can believe it!

Please let me know how the quality of this wildflower slide show compares to the one I posted previously, since I saved it at a higher resolution. The earlier one doesn't seem to do justice to the flowers, so I'll redo it based on your responses. Thanks.

Tips for Photographing Your Pet

When I do pet portraits I work from photographs, often taken by the pet owner. For my own dog's portraits, I've gone through the struggles of getting good photos. To get the best possible references, I've created hints for photographing pets, and many of my pet-loving friends use these tips to get good photos of their dogs and cats, not necessarily for me to paint from, but for their own enjoyment. So here are my tips:
- Take photos of pets outdoors without a flash to avoid the big "red eye" effect; an overcast day is better than bright sunshine or dark shadows.
- If indoors is necessary, try to position the pet near a window of bright light and take the shots without a flash.
- Watch out for too much lighting contrast, which can "blow out" the whites and make all the darks very black. When I paint an all-white dog or an all black dog, it's the subtle highlights and subtle shading which make the difference.
- It is also best to get at eye-level with the dog, not standing above looking down at his/her face... makes for a much more personal view. You might have to lie belly-down on the ground, but it will be worth it!
- Take loads of photos, since pets don't always give their full attention! You can try several angles, too: side, 3/4 view, head-on, tilted head.
Hope this helps! Shown are my portraits of a white-faced dog "Tom" and a black dog "Davis" (I titled this painting "Single Malt" after his Scottish ancestry). It was a surprise to me how many pale pastel colors I had to use to paint Tom's face and make it look 3-dimensional and realistic.

My Wildflower Paradise

It's mid April and the spring wildflowers in my woods are magnificent. On my woodland walks I take loads of photos, often of new discoveries so I can compare and identify them with my wildflower books. I've created a little slide show of what has flowered so far since February, in chronological order, with some of my favorite photos, and labeled each shot with the common name of the flower. Along with the plants which grow on the forest floor, I couldn't resist including the wild flowering dogwoods, which seem especially pretty this year. Perhaps you'll see why I have been inspired to paint many of these gorgeous flowers. Enjoy the show!

My High School Sweetheart!

Judy and I have been best friends for almost 40 years. We dated during high school and college for 6 years, and were married 33 years ago. We are together 24/7!

We decided to learn to play banjos just over 3 years ago. Recently, I wrote a personal song to express my feelings for Judy. You can download "Walking with you Judy" on our website.

A unique painting surface

I was inspired by the texture of some 12" tiles my friend Kathy got as samples from a stone supplier. They told her it was "brushed granite" and the process created relief in the surface, so the harder stone of the veins and other elements was raised slightly from the background stone. The texture immediately reminded me of trees and branches, just waiting for some color to be added. Springtime in East Tennessee is very colorful, and I only needed to look out my window to see how to enhance the two tiles.

Hummingbirds are back!

Our first hummingbird of the season arrived at our feeder yesterday. I anticipate their arrival at the beginning of April, so I have two feeders out waiting. This was a few days later than in past years, but they always coordinate with the flowering of our wild dogwood trees. They don't actually get nectar from the dogwoods, but there are loads of other flowering plants and trees awaiting them here now. It's a beautiful time of year!

Welcome to my BLOG!

Spring is in the air and it's time to grow and expand, so I've added this new blog to my online art gallery and gift shop. I am excited about being able to post news, happenings, and thoughts about my art, and I invite feedback from you. I'll keep you posted on new paintings, print releases, art shows I'm in, art gift ideas, and new inspirations. This is going to be fun! Thanks for joining me, and be sure to visit my online gallery.