My ’53 Chevy

My recent painting commission was to paint the scene of an autumn wedding which took place in a barn in the hills of Northern California. I was given a few candid photos of the event, but decided to begin the pastel on location. The hills were still green from recent rains, despite my need to be accurate with the dry grass of October.


Plein Air Start

My clients wished to have certain items included in the painting: the two barns, a red horse trailer, and a blue ’53 Chevy truck which was used by as the couple in place of a limousine.  Reference photos showed the truck on the right of the large barn at the event. I needed to consider the composition of these elements.  It seemed that the red horse trailer and the blue truck would appear as bookends to the two barns if placed this way.  Instead I changed the arrangement, so that the truck was placed on the left, and the driveway would act as a lead in to the barn which was the focal point.

This solution lead me to another issue which was how to accurately depict the Chevy truck without one for visual information.  Fortunately, I was able to purchase one on eBay that was 1/64 scale or the size of a Matchbox car. It was quite useful for drawing the


truck as accurately as necessary given the changes made.

Here is the completed painting which I titled “Before the Wedding”.


“Before the Wedding”, pastel, 12 x 18

Painting in pastels can bring back childhood memories of the sight of a new box of Crayolas or even playing in a pedal car or truck! Also, I hope that the newlyweds find that the painting brings back fond memories of their special day.

Technical Notes:  UArt #400 mounted board.  Pastels by Unison, Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Rembrandt, and Girault. Conte and Stabilo pastel pencils. Some underpainting with alcohol wash. Color  in this image may differ from actual painting.

I Brake For Sheep

Sheep (detail), watercolor

Sheep (detail), watercolor

On the road to the iconic Mont- St.- Michel, the island monastery off the coast of Normandy , the traffic came to an abrupt halt while we were on a family trip a few years ago.  We got out of our rental car as we saw others exiting the tour buses.  To our surprise it was not a car accident, but a flock of muddy sheep strolling across the ridge of the causeway to the abundant grazing land on the far side.

The moment that I saw the image in the camera, I knew that it was to be a future painting.  I did a study for a more detailed watercolor on an 11x 15 sheet of Arches paper.  I can see that the composition would be improved if I raise the horizon to the top third of the paper.  Also, I plan to add more details to the foreground puddles of water.  The water could also be improved by saving the lighter values for highlights. The color and the mist didn’t photograph well, but will also be strengthened. The sheep which are the main focus, could also be improved with attention to the details of the legs and facial features. Additional sheep on the right will also be included in the final painting. Can you tell that I am fond of sheep?

Sheep at Mont-St.- Michel, watercolor, 11x15( study)

Sheep at Mont-St.- Michel, watercolor, 11×15,(study)


Home Portrait as I received it to finish

Home Portrait as I received it to finish

My unusual challenge was to complete a commission of a watercolor painting which had been started though not completed by another artist before she passed away. It was an unusual challenge, but I decided to take on the challenge. The Arches watercolor paper had been damaged and I found that Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground is a wonderful product that will restore the surface of the paper.
I decided to change the direction of the vineyard rows so that the viewer was directed to the home which was the focal point of the painting.

Repair of home portrait, watercolor commission

Repair of home portrait, watercolor commission

The watercolor ground made changes possible. Some time was spent determining the specific tube colors that had been used to add continuity to the piece.

"Walker Home Portrait", watercolor commission

“Walker Home Portrait”, watercolor commission

Although many artists advised me not to take on this challenge. I felt that it was important to support my clients in their project. In the process it was a opportunity to learn from the challenge. It is impossible to match the hand of a different artist since brushstrokes are like signatures, but I did include both names in the lower right.

“Say It With Flowers”

The Blackhawk Gallery of Danville, CA show Vision 2013 is exhibiting four of my pastel paintings. “Say It With Flowers” is one of the paintings on display Feb.1 – April 14. It is a studio painting based on a photo reference from Salinas, CA where a patchwork of flowers caught my attention. The perspective of the flower field leads the viewer down the planted rows to the distant hills.  After blocking in the sky and background, I drew guidelines for the flowers.  Some artistic license was used when I rearranged some of the masses of color. Also, I felt that the rooftops of suburban houses against the hills in the photo could be eliminated since they weren’t necessary elements in the painting.

The pastel is 12×24 on Wallis sanded board. I first applied an underpainting of peach dry pastel to give it a warm cast. Pictured here are some of the stages of the painting, “Say It With Flowers” before it was framed.

"Say It With Flowers"

“Say It With Flowers”

"Say It With Flowers"

“Say It With Flowers”

"Say It With Flowers"

“Say It With Flowers”

Blackhawk Gallery is located at 3416 Blackhawk Plaza, Danville, CA and is open Mon – Sat 10-8 and Sun 11-6.

Conservancy Paint Out

Tonight was the reception for the Tri Valley Conservancy Paint Out at Studio 7 Arts in Pleasanton.  It is always a marathon of sorts for the artists who challenge themselves to paint within a certain area for a short amount of time.  Access to the actual private painting venues began a week ago when we were invited to paint on land in the Tri Valley that is to remain protected from development.

I set up my French easel on the edge of an olive grove on the Crohare property Olivina in Livermore on Saturday and was surprised by a docile horse that was willing to stay relatively still for me to sketch while he grazed.  Later, on Monday I was inspired by the scene of a road that led to the Sun Hill Vineyard which had a sycamore tree at the crest of the hill that was flanked by the vineyard. I was immediately drawn to the scene which had a strong composition with a the dirt road as a right lead into the picture.  Later in the studio I completed the paintings, framed them, and submitted them to Studio 7 Arts for the show which is on display this weekend. It is always interesting to see what other artists paint.  Of course, the reception included some wine from the Livermore Valley.  Bryan Mark Taylor was the judge of the show.  Although I didn’t take home an award, I am pleased with my paintings that were started and finished within the week.  It is a challenge.

The Scenic Journey

Edgar Payne at the Crocker Museum

The Edgar Payne exhibit “The Scenic Journey” at the Crocker Art Museum is outstanding! I made the drive to Sacramento today (unfortunately it is not a scenic journey) to see the work of the poet-painter of the California Sierra.  I had been familiar with some of his work since relocating to California, but I wasn’t prepared to be totally impressed by Payne’s vision, balance of values,  and complete mastery of composition. What did I expect from the author of “Composition of Outdoor Painting“!? 

 It was Payne who is quoted as saying, “Mix Brains with Paint”. And he did just that.  I naturally loved the dramatic light and composition of  the signature piece, “Sunset, Canyon de Chelly” (1916).  But, I was equally in awe of his mastery of composition in the  arrangement of the sails in his work done on the coast of Brittany in Concarneau.  In addition to the impressive American and European landscapes in oil by Payne, the exhibit also included photographs, sketches, ship models, furniture, film, and the Model T that he used to get to the backcountry of the Sierra.  I look forward to studying the exhibition catalog, so that I can glean more from this gifted artist, Edgar Payne (1883-1947).

Exhibition Catalog

The road not taken…


Photo reference - Concannon vineyard

I based a painting on a vivid fall scene at nearby Concannon Vineyards.  I was attracted to the warm colors in the leaves on the foreground vines and also the patterns of the distant vineyards. The pastel painting was started as a demonstration piece at a local art gallery.  After spending several hours on the piece, I knew something wasn’t right.  My suspicions of a composition that wasn’t working were confirmed when I showed this work in progress to some artist friends.  The road created a roadblock in the scene. Back in the studio I eliminated the road that streaked across the painting.  Instead I created a pathway through the vines in the foreground and into the distance vineyard…Now I may enjoy a glass of Petit Syrah for which Concannon is famous.

"Late Harvest", pastel, 11 x 17