Another Christmas Surprise

Now that Jim has received the surprise painting from his wife Pam, I can share my latest artwork. This house portrait was a fun commission, since I've visited there many times, and the home symbolizes the warmth and kindness of my good friends.

I photographed the work in progress, to share my basic steps in painting a landscape on canvas. See if you can determine how Step 6 differs from the finished painting, shown above (I reveal the answer at the end of this post). With most browsers, you can enlarge the collage by clicking on it.

When Pam saw the painting as it appears in "Step 6", she was very pleased. She said she liked it just as it was, and I could sign it and apply the finishing sealer coats. I didn't want her to hurry with this decision, so I gave her a day to look it over, then asked again if there was anything she would like me to change. The one thing she mentioned was the dark shadow of the house. I figured if it was bothersome enough for her to mention it, then it was a problem. I looked at the painting again, trying to be objective and view it with fresh eyes, and I could see that the shadow was too dark and was contrasting too much with the rest of the grassy foreground. It was dominating the main subject, the house. I had bathed the front of the house with light, more than it would have in reality if it was in full shade - as the dark shadow indicated. In doing so, I had made such a dark shadow look false. Fortunately, this was not difficult to correct. I always do my commissioned paintings in acrylic on canvas, for this reason. So I took a deep breath, and repainted the entire foreground grassy area! Also, even though Pam and Jim's dog Jeb appears as a very small part of the painting, I was dissatisfied with how he looked. I had previously done a portrait of him, so I had a good idea of how he SHOULD look. So while I was fixing the grass, I also repainted Jeb, and felt better with the results.

I was delighted to hear yesterday that Jim is very pleased with his gift.

So there you have it!

Day at the Museum

I can finally say that my artwork has hung in a museum! Last week I got to visit the Tennessee Watercolor Society Traveling Show, at its last stop in The Knoxville (TN) Museum of Art. The exhibit of 30 juried paintings was quite nice, and I am proud to be included. The show continues there until January 6, 2013. Once I get my painting Jerry Van, Music Man back, I will have it on display at a special reception at one of the local galleries which shows my work. Many of my other originals and prints are already on display there. If you live near me in East Tennessee, mark your calendar for January 13th, from 2-4pm, and join me at the Tellico Art Center in Tellico Plains TN!

It's Here!

The Traveling Show of the Tennessee Watercolor Society Exhibition is now hanging at the Knoxville (TN) Museum of Art. My award-winning painting - Jerry Van, Music Man - is one of 30 chosen from the original exhibition last June in Memphis. This show runs through January 6, 2013.

I hope many will get to see this painting and my fellow fine artists' watercolors. Here is the info:
Knoxville Museum of Art
Community Gallery
1050 Worlds Fair Park Drive
Knoxville, TN 37916
(865) 525-6101

Museum Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: 1-5pm

Introducing ME!

A wonderful article and photos of my art has just been released. I am very proud, humbled, and grateful, for the 2-page feature in the Fall issue of Monroe County Life magazine, a beautiful glossy color publication focused on the area where I live in Tennessee.

Copies of the magazine are distributed local to Monroe County, TN, and I've attached the story here. My name is even on the magazine cover! Many thanks to Lisa Bingham, Publisher, of The Bingham Group.

New Museum Show Opens

The Traveling Show of the bienniel Tennessee Watercolor Exhibition continues touring around the state of Tennessee. Today the show opens at Customs House Museum, in Clarksville TN. My award winning watercolor painting "Jerry Van, Music Man" is in this show. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays. The exhibit will remain there through September 20, 2012.

Here is the plaque I received from TnWS this year, denoting that I have earned Signature Member status in the organization, having been accepted into three of their biennial exhibitions. It's so shiny, it reflected me taking the photo!

Traveling Art

The West Tennessee Regional Art Center, located between Memphis and Nashville, is the first stop of the Traveling Show of the 2012 Tennessee Watercolor Society Exhibition. My painting Jerry Van, Music Man, is one of 30 paintings chosen for the Traveling Show, from the original exhibition of 70 juried paintings. The show will be on exhibit in this location from July 19 through August 15. The Art Center is located at 1200 Main Street, Humboldt, TN 38343, and is open Monday - Friday from 9am - 4:30pm and on weekends for arranged group tours.

I Made the Show!

I am so excited that my two new watercolor paintings - "Jerry Van, Music Man" and "Jesus Saves" - are accepted into the Tennessee Watercolor Society's 33rd Exhibition. This show, as is typical of watercolor exhibitions, is juried by one person, in this case by internationally acclaimed artist Gerald Brommer. The exhibit includes 70 paintings chosen from 212 submitted as digital images by member artists from all over Tennessee. The juror will wait to view the paintings in person to determine the award winners, and these will be announced during a ceremony on May 19th. The Exhibition runs from May 19 through June 20 at Gallery Ten Ninety One, in Cordova, Tennessee, just outside Memphis. Details about the show are below.

Not only has "Jerry Van, Music Man" been accepted, it will also be included in the Traveling Show of about 30 paintings from the Exhibition! The Traveling Show will allow those in four other locations around Tennessee to see these works of art. Its final stop will be at the Knoxville Museum of Art, from November 2, 2012 - January 6, 2013, so it will be really close-up for me and all you who live near me to see. The dates and locations of other venues for the Traveling Show are listed below.

Although I most often work in acrylics, I did both of these paintings in watercolor. They are actually done in transparent watercolor, meaning that no white or opaque pigments are used. Any white areas in the paintings are actually unpainted sections, allowing the white of the paper to show through, like in the texture of the white beard in "Jerry Van, Music Man" or the tiny fluffy dandelions in "Jesus Saves". You can read more about my inspiration and see photos illustrating my techniques in my previous blog posts about these two paintings.

This acceptance into a third Exhibition of TnSW also earns me the status of a Signature Member. I am also a signature member of the Florida Watercolor Society and of the Jacksonville Florida Watercolor Society.



Tennessee Watercolor Society's 33rd Biennial Exhibition will be held in Memphis from May 19 - June 20, 2012. This juried show will take place at Gallery Ten Ninety One, part of WKNO Public Broadcasting, in Cordova, Tennessee.

Seventy paintings from several hundred digital entries were selected for the show by internationally renowned artist Gerald F. Brommer. The juror will wait to view the paintings in person to determine the award winners, and these will be announced during a ceremony on May 19th at the Gallery, with over $13,000 in cash and merchandise for the winning artists.

The Tennessee Watercolor Society's mission is to promote an appreciation of watercolor and water media. The organization strives to present exciting shows, with versatility and innovation in both traditional and cutting-edge water media paintings. TnWS is a statewide organization, with five geographical/metropolitan regions: Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Tri-Cities. These exhibitions feature exceptional original artwork, from extraordinarily talented artists, working in both representational and abstract styles. The Society's website features the paintings from the 2010 Exhibition. (NOTE: I had two paintings is the 2010 Exhibition, "Decadence", an award winner, and "Nature Paints a Picture". My painting "Out to Pasture" was part of the 2008 Exhibition.)

In order for the Exhibition to be enjoyed by those in other parts of Tennessee, a Traveling Exhibition brings award winning paintings and others selected by the juror to four additional gallery and museum locations around the state. The Traveling Exhibition Schedule for this show is:

West Tennessee Regional Art Center, Humboldt, July 19 - August 15
Customs House Museum, Clarksville, August 20 - September 20
Art a La Carte, Cookeville, September 25 - October 25
Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, November 2, 2012 - January 6, 2013

I hope you'll get to see the show!

Jerry Van, Music Man

My new watercolor painting, of local musician and friend Jerry, is one I painted in my brain long before it landed on paper! I took reference photos nearly 2 years ago, when Rick and I happened upon Jerry and his friend Mike, playing music on a sunny afternoon in front of his wife Dona's pottery studio and shop, The Castle. Once I viewed my photos, I was inspired to capture what I saw in a painting - visually, capturing Jerry's fuzzy beard against a dark background, and, emotionally, depicting the character of a very special person, so much admired for his kind and gentle nature,  compassion, extensive musical talents, and dry humor. I apologized to Mike for eliminating him from my scene (artistic license)! You can view the video which Rick shot that day, embedded below.

From a technical point of view, this "character study" was somewhat like my painting When She Was Three. I have learned, even in my paintings of animals with light fur, that hair is not one solid color. Light hair is full of pastel hues which play against the very whitest strands to make it look realistic in a painting. But this time I was throwing one other twist into my challenge to paint Jerry: painting in watercolor vs. acrylics. In the painting of the little girl, I used acrylics, so I could paint on the fine platinum strands of her hair with a fine brush and white paint. In traditional watercolor, no white paint is used; the whites are unpainted areas of the watercolor paper. For a painting such as the one I was embarking upon, being representational, this meant I'd have to pre-plan where my "whites" would be. Since the painting was already done in my head, this wasn't a problem.
Masking fluid protecting the lightest beard areas

Of course, artists have tools, as with any other profession. One way to preserve the white paper is by masking the unpainted paper a liquid latex, which solidifies with exposure to air. Once the artist has painted over the protected areas, the latex can be pulled off the watercolor paper… it comes off like an elastic band, revealing fresh, white, untouched paper. These areas can be left pure white, as I do in places, or they can be "glazed" over with paint, keeping them as luminous lighter shades, as you can see on the mandolin strings in this painting.

To use the masking fluid, as it is called, I pour a small amount into a cup from the airtight container (don't work out of the jar or it will become gummy as it gets exposed to air). I coat my brush with liquid soap, which protects it from being ruined by the latex. I use other tools to apply the latex, like a little plastic bottle with a needle-nose, to flow the masking liquid in a very fine line. This was my primary tool for masking the beard, making random, short, swirling lines. I also masked the mandolin strings, the wide trim around the mandolin body, and the parts of  Jerry's "do- rag" which were white or yellow. I had actually contemplated making the fabric a solid color rather than tackle the plaid. Once Jerry saw the painting, he said this is his favorite do-rag, so I am glad I stayed with the pattern - it adds interest too.

To contrast with my main subject, Jerry, I balanced the painting with a relatively solid background of rich dark tones. Another fun watercolor "trick" I used is in the dark blue area of the top right. Here I lightly sprinkled salt (using Kosher salt because it's big chunks) on the painted area before it had completely dried. The crystals absorb the pigment from around them as the paint dries, creating an unpredictable starry effect. I did this to create some texture and interest in that corner, without being too distracting.

As with my earlier watercolor, Jesus Saves, I decided to use a limited palette to do this painting - just blue, red, and yellow. I choose 3 different primary hues than with that previous painting, and I found it a bit more difficult to mix reds, rich dark colors and shades of grey with these three colors. Always good to stretch yourself as an artist, huh? If you really study Jerry's painted beard, you will see lots of purple, rose, blue, and other colors among the flesh tones.

I have just submitted this painting, along with Jesus Saves, into a watercolor exhibition. I'll hear
later this month whether either has been juried into the show, which will be held in Memphis. I'll let you know!

Jesus Saves

My newest painting "Jesus Saves" is in watercolor, depicting a barn I have often photographed on a nearby rural backroad. It has so many fabulous textures - the old barnyards, rusted metal panels as siding, rusty hinges, an overturned water tub, a field of wildflowers. I could hardly wait to get started.

The first step was designing my painting. Even though my art largely duplicates the scene, I keep basic design principles in focus right from the start - balancing darks and lights, creating a wide range of values from white to black, incorporating interesting angles, leading the eye to a focal point. As my reference photos show, I had different views to choose from. I chose the straight-on view, and cropped the image to what I thought would be most interesting.
A few reference photos, and how I cropped the view.

I proceeded to sketch my design on the heavyweight watercolor paper. I was bothered by the lack of a "focal point." I thought of adding a farm animal (horse or cow), but that didn't seem interesting enough, and might detract from the barn too much. It finally came to me - what I call "Christian barn graffiti" would be perfect! It's quite common here in the rural South to see hand-scrawled religious messages - even lines of scripture - painted on old barns. Lettering naturally captures your eye in a painting, but positioning this graffiti in my painting was critical. I hand-wrote the words "Jesus Saves" on a clear piece of plastic, at a size in proportion to the barn, and moved it around on my pencil sketch to determine where the words should be added. The lettering needed to be logical to the painting, not covering hinges or going across a door opening, and not taller than a person would stand to paint them. And the words needed to work with the overall design. The left end of the barn seemed ideal, especially if I simplified the background trees so the strong diagonal of the roof angle would strongly point in that direction. In addition, the water tub - as a singular element, standing out lighter color than its background - would balance the graffiti on the right half of the scene.

I haven't painted in watercolors for a while, so I also used this painting as an exercise to reconnect with the medium. In the past, I've worked with a "limited palette" - just a few watercolors for a whole painting - and had good success. (See some examples in my gallery: Americana, Molly By The Sea, No Turning Back.) Limiting the colors naturally creates harmony, since you don't have one area of the painting screaming out for attention simply due to being a different color. If you remember your grade school lesson on primary colors, you know that blue, red, and yellow are mixed to create all other colors. That theory is basically true, depending heavily on the purity of the primary hues chosen.
Anyway, without getting too technical, I did this entire painting with only 3 paint colors, shown in the swatch. All the greys, rusty colors, and greens of the grass and trees were mixtures of these colors; the only place I used the paint just as it came out of the tube was for the yellow wildflowers in the foreground. It was a challenge which I found really intriguing. Let me know what you think!

The Farmhouse Revisited

Yeah! I'm painting again, after having to sacrifice my painting time to other priorities during much of 2011. I'm delighted to be back at it, and my New Year's resolution was to finish a partially completed commission by the end of January. Here it is, my newest painting, "The Lewis Farmhouse." It might look familiar, since this is the second painting I've done of this home. The first painting (shown in my previous blog post, called "Mamaw & Papaw's House") was so loved by the recipient Alison's mother, Margaret, that she wanted her own original painting... after all, it is the house she grew up in!

So after discussing details like what the house looked like years ago, what angle to depict it from, and what time of year to set it in, I aimed at creating a painting which would be different from the first one while faithful to Margaret's memories. In fact, I purposely didn't even look at the photos I had kept of the first farmhouse painting, just to keep my head clear.

The finished painting shows the farmhouse in a summer setting, with the rusting roof, porch swing, pots of flowers, and circular drive as Margaret requested. Now both Margaret and Alison are each happy owners of portraits of the house which brings them so many memories. I finally looked back at the first house portrait, and was pleased that I had made two distinctly different images.

I'm on a roll and working on two watercolors now, so I'll be posting more new work soon ;-))

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