I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I can finally show you what I've been working on since my painting has arrived at its new home.  It was a wrench to give it away when it's been so long since I've actually painted anything this ambitious, if ever, but the painting wouldn't exist if I hadn't intended to give it away in the first place.  Giving is golden sometimes.

I wanted to paint a brick wall using a yucky pink and cover the bricks with May flies.  "Fish flies" make my friend smile, and I just wanted to cheer him up during a difficult time.  After a couple hundred fish flies, I decided the whole thing was too buggy, even for a guy, and changed direction.  I bricked over bugs and added other things to make him happy.

I didn't have a plan or design from the beginning, which meant I had to think up more things to paint and find a way to make the design work.  That ended up being a whole lot of head scratching and memory searching and online research.

In between all the mind work of figuring out what to paint and how, I had a practical problem because I painted this on primed, unstretched canvas.  Since the original plan was a big bug joke, I wasn't fussed about technicalities or archival qualities.  I intended to roll it up and stick it in the mail.  The better the painting got, the more I worried about delivery, especially since it could sit in the hot sun in a hot state once delivered.

A framer told me it had to be put on stretcher bars.  I didn't have any extra canvas on the bottom, and only 5/16" on the left side, but I got it on the stretcher bars -- which made this 2' x 4' painting big and bulky and expensive to send.  I've been telling myself "never again!" but I liked painting on the unstretched canvas.  I'm almost absolutely sure that I will do it again, and soon.

I actually took some WIP shots along the way for once.  First, I painted mortar colors with the ultimate light source in mind.  I did this with a house brush and a lot of raw sienna.  Then I cut out a template for bricks out of corrugated cardboard.  I slopped and dabbed pukey pink in the template, then without the template slopped and dabbed other brick colors until the bricks looked like bricks.

Tips -- don't make bricks too nice or they don't look real enough.  The mortar is curved, so the bottom part is lighter than the top (which is shaded by the brick).  I did all the initial painting of the bricks with a house brush.

Then I painted a bunch of bugs.  Then I bricked over bugs.  Actual May flies aren't this white, but I took creative liberties.  The fish skeleton is an idea I borrowed from something I saw in a restaurant, the portrait is the Titian I saw in the Detroit art museum, Joan of Arc is from a church... in other words, most of the parts are things that already existed before I decided to copy them.  I just put them together in my own way to create a different meaning, and each part is kind of its own painting.  I figured I must be doing pretty well in realism because I kept trying to pick up papers that were painted on the canvas to get them out of my way.

I loved making this.  I want to make something else now.  I did an in-between thing of another fish skeleton, but I want to do something more.  Maybe something for my own wall :)

Friday, July 18, 2014


I got out my high school year book because my classmates decided to have a reunion tomorrow.  I decided to go since a friend I haven't seen since then is in town and I got out the book to study and remember people.  I bet whoever planned this outing remembers everyone without studying, but I'll be the first to say that I wasn't all that invested in high school. 

Apparently my school had a lot of activities: theater, sports, Glee Club... whole chunks of my yearbook are devoted to these things.  I thought we had football so we could kiss boys from other schools under the bleachers, but I guess there were people with "team spirit" who cared that "we" won the regionals.

I brazenly cut out whenever possible.  It was boring to keep coming up with ways out of class so I took a teacher's pad of passes and filled them out to explain my presence in halls during class.  That even got tedious so I started writing myself out of classes for the entire school year, then I decided to give myself permission to be on the grounds too (to take photos) which made it easier to leave school property.  Whole absences weren't a problem because I had my parents' signatures down pat.  Mom didn't like being bothered with absence notes anyway.

Imagine my surprise when the assistant principal blocked my way out when a school assembly was called.  I mean really, who would willingly go to an assembly?  But I was marched to the gym where I chatted with my pals in the far off seats where kids without "Glee" hung out.  People said my name was called, but I laughed until more people insisted I had to join the activity in the middle of the gym.  I didn't even know what the topic was, and sure didn't want to embarrass myself by being in the middle of it.

National Honor Society.  You Have Got To Be Kidding Me.  A photo was taken of me ready to bolt.  That moment still makes one of my friends bust out laughing.  Okay, I admit I didn't want to be in school, but I did the bare requirements to get A's.  So totally uncool, but all those A's let me get away with all my bogus hall passes.  I swear karma caught up to me for all this when I became a substitute teacher.

I was further surprised when my classmates voted me "Most Artistic".  Since I cut out of class so much, I didn't even know my classmates were aware of my existence.  For those of you who remember Greg, he definitely didn't see that paint roller coming :)

I painted that on the wall
All this seems a million years ago and mostly reminds me I'd like my younger body back and fewer wrinkles.  Alas.  Oh well, I assume some of my classmates have gotten fatter or balder or something.  I'll choose to remember them as they were uh, um, some time ago before they started having class reunions every 5 years instead of 10.

I finished my painting and the varnish is drying.  Maybe it will be in its new home next week and I'll be able to show you what I've been working on.  I think I'll start something new.

Forgot to explain the "repeat" in this, but reunions make me feel like "Groundhog's Day".  Same people, same friendships, over and over.  I wrote something a lot less irreverent about reunions giving us the opportunity to get in touch with ourselves, but looking through the yearbook sent me in a different direction.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Fragile" Painting Tips

Illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a word this week so I'll keep writing about the painting I'm working on, and very happily too despite feeling like a mason.  I keep repainting bricks when things don't work out.  This painting might've been easier if I'd a clear plan in the first place, but I'm enjoying the discovery.

Once in a while I notice how I paint, and wonder if other people know stuff I learned from long-gone old guys.  For instance, to paint fine, straight, parallel lines, thin the paint so it's fluid, then hold a ruler so 1 side rests on the painting and hold the other side up at a 45° angle.  Run the ferule of a brush (metal part holding the bristles) along the ruler.  Presto!  Straight line.  I won't kid you, this technique takes practice, but it's handy.

I'm lazy about changing my paint water, but I think that's good.  Mucked up paint water tints the other colors in a painting, which makes the end result more harmonious.

I wash my palette with hot water.  For acrylics, let the paint dry first then pull off rubbery lumps of yesterday's paint before hitting it with hot water.  Remaining paint floats off a ceramic or glass palette.  None of this is good in the drain, especially turpentine and oils.

Take care of your brushes.  Never leave them face down in solvent or water.  Make sure they're clean and use soap if necessary, and repoint brushes before letting them dry.  Some of my brushes are more than 30 years old and I grieve when I have to give one up because each brush knows me and how I want to paint.  I'm a fan of Winsor-Newton red sable brushes.  I'll paint with anything, but those are best (and more expensive).

Don't aim for perfection in everything.  I've found out the hard way that people really hate that.  Now I start out loose, then find things within the painting to perfect.

Sometimes using a wet brush is a good thing, but sometimes so is a dry brush.  I like dry brush to make things feel softer.  Mix up the techniques and the results can be better.

Don't do what I do unless you're a glutton for punishment.  I'm painting a 2' x 4' canvas with mostly #2 and #5 brushes.  I did the undercoat of the whole thing with a house brush, and I use that 1/2" brush once in a while, but even non-artists can tell you it takes a long time to cover 8 sq ft of canvas with the pointed tip of an 1/8" brush.

Glutton for punishment -- and loving it.  Painting is a meditation I've missed more than I realized.  I used to happily spend my days painting surrounded by other creative people.  We got into our own flows and spent our days alone together.  It was wonderful.  When computers took over, no time to peacefully meditate my days away.

Now I'm fundraising for a living and my days are filled with people and numbers and problems to solve.  Painting what I feel like painting in my spare time, intending to give it away, makes my heart happy and helps me figure out all sorts of things about myself even though the painting is for someone else.

In case you didn't read last week's post, I've been dropping hints about it to the eventual recipient so no overviews until the painting is finished and delivered, but this week's clues are above.

Friday, July 4, 2014


I've lived through hard moments that left me feeling fragile, and I feel the world is unfair and doesn't make sense.  Those lessons come back to me when I see another person struggling with their problems.  Just yesterday I said "Talent doesn't necessarily win" and the young lady I was speaking with fervently agreed, glad someone else recognized her struggles.  Helping her with tips I've painfully learned along the way makes the universe more rational for both of us.

"Fragile" is just a step in the tempering process.  Anyone who feels, tries, fails, fears has felt fragile at some point, but if we push through and find a way to succeed at the other end we're better than we were before we faced those challenges.  The people who faced struggles before us often want to help those following in their footsteps.

My original intent with this blog was to talk about art and share things I've learned.  I didn't realize I'd end up talking about so many other things or that I'd feel so disconnected from my creative process that it felt a lot like being stuck in a bad marriage.  I've had bad experiences both with art and marriage and I didn't want to put in any more hard work into either.

Sometimes people talk about the creative muse, but creative people seldom admit when their muse deserts them.  Of course that creative spark is who we are and somewhere within ourselves, but sometimes I just don't feel like doing it.  It's painful, like wanting to be kissed or held but feeling so afraid of hurt because I've been hurt before that it's just easier to push that person, or the art, away.

I've been painting.  The original idea was to gift a visual joke, but in the process I decided to make a real painting.  It's big for me, 2' x 4', acrylic on unstretched, gessoed canvas.  I've been giving the intended recipient clues about what I've been up to, so I can't show you the whole thing yet because that would spoil the surprise.  Besides, it isn't done so I really can't show you, but I'll let you in on clues I've been dropping along the way.

It's the first time in a long time that I've felt love in painting.  I feel there is magic in my fingertips, I'm a conduit of zen flow, and "I'm the best!" euphoria.  That's phase 1 of a relationship when the other person is everything you ever wanted.  Phase 2 kicked in when I saw it wasn't working and I had to either scrub the canvas or start over or put away the art supplies.  In this case, I scrubbed the canvas and repainted.  Even that feels good.  I'm not willing to settle for less than what my heart wants to express and what's within my ability to do.

Too often art on blogs is seen in a flash of a post or two.  This painting is taking time, and it's time that makes everything in life better.  The sky is bluer, inspirations surround me.  I've really missed it.  It's like sleeping in an empty bed for so long that you've forgotten how necessary it is to cuddle, but then someone touches you and you long to be touched.

The young lady I talked with yesterday is a musician.  I saw the love in her face when she talked of her music.  Her longing woke a sleeping part of me and I saw myself more clearly than I have in a long time, and realize how fragile I've felt in this part of my life.  Painting the last couple of weeks has been leading me to understanding that moment of realization, which is all part of why I need and love to paint.