Friday, January 28, 2011


The concept of an open studio is an interesting one. The idea of course being that while you are working in your studio, anyone can walk in and watch you while you're in the midst of your process -- in this case, fencing with a canvas. Painting can be such a solitary pursuit, especially for those that seek the solitude of outdoors and the tradition of plein-air.

Being new to this, the fact that at any time, a stranger can walk into my studio and look over my shoulder as I put paint on the canvas, mix paint on the pallet, or just stare at the spot where I intend to place paint while I'm figuring out the next move in this game of chess, can be very disconcerting.

Today, a nice gentleman walked into my studio, and unlike most visitors that linger at the front of the room and tentatively tip-toe about so as to not disturb "the process," this fellow greeted me very boldy and walked right up to the easel. I was in the middle of mixing several different values for an attempt at a Bosc pear. As I placed my first value on the canvas - darkest dark, of course - he shook his head and said, "I just don't know how you guys do that...I'd be terrified...I'm just not creatively inclined."

I thought...well...I am me...but I have to finish this painting ....cause, you know, it's what I do now...and in order to finish it...I have to start the bloody take a deep breath and....after the first stroke, it gets instantly easier...and before I know it, it's fun....(not to mention, being new at this, I don't really feel like I know what the hell I'm doing half the time)...

...and this is the way I've always worked. In music, I was always fearful when starting a new composition. I just had to get that first note on the page and then it became about the fun. That's when the real creativity begins.

In truth, I could just close the door and work in privacy...but what fun would that be?

Offered: Pansies and Vase; 8x10 oil on canvas

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Age and energy

The topic of age was in the air the other night. Listening to NPR, the programs "All Things Considered" and "Fresh Air" were discussing artists and age. A question posed was this: does an artist create more lasting and meaningful works of art because they are advanced in age?

One person mentioned was Monet, who arguably created his best work during his advanced years in his garden at Giverny. Also J.S. Bach, who completed singular works including the B Minor Mass at a point in his late fifties -- advanced age for the 18th century.

While the list of aging geniuses is long, so too is the list of highly accomplished youngsters creating their seminal works before the age of forty.

Does then, the maturity and experience of age surpass the energy and risk-taking of youth when it comes to art? Ironically, the question may be itself a victim of infancy. Consider that only in the last 80 or so years has the average life expectancy increased beyond fifty. A relatively short amount of time in the history of human artistic endeavors. In short, we maybe haven't been living long enough yet to arrive at an accurate evaluation.....and does it even matter.....

I suppose I found this interesting because it hits so close to home for me. Here I sit in front of an easel, embarking on a new artistic life at the age of 46. I sincerely hope my best work is in front of me.

"Watermelon and plums" 9x12, oil on canvas panel

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fall Pear

"Fall Pear"

My first attempt at painting a Bosc pear. Interesting color relationships in this one -- the majority of the painting centering around the warm reds and oranges of fall, I found myself trying to find places to put any kind of blue in the piece...the instructor warned of this, by the way.

Anyhoo, this was a fun piece. I'm anxious to try a larger version

Friday, January 14, 2011

Orange, Grapes, and Bowl

So, here is Assignment 1 from a new painting class with Dan Edmondson. A bit more complex than the daily still-lifes from before, but I tried to stay within the same time-frame and same size: 8x10.

Looking forward to the critique....

Kim is photographing a few more of my contemporary pieces today ad I will post those as they're available...

Also looking forward to Scottsdale Celebration of the Arts which starts this weekend. Some very talented painters that I'm anxious to see their work in person...

Beautiful Arizona blue sky this morning over the red rocks...

Inspiration everywhere these days

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

study, paint, study

Started my first "organized" painting course today...with Dan Edmondson...very excited

...stay tuned tomorrow for Assignment 1 the meantime, this piece is a larger still-life from a little bit ago. I was pretty happy with it, although I know where some drawing issues already exist. I just didn't feel I had the "chops" yet to fix it without making it look like I fixed it. I can't wait to try this one again after some critiques over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tonalism 1

Ever since college, while squeezing an art appreciation class into my practice room dominated schedule at the music school, I've been fascinated by the American Tonalism school of painting...George Inness, James Whistler, etc...

There are some fantastic painters up in Utah (Doug Fryer, Michael Workman, Andrejz Skorut, and Shanna Kunz --- Shanna has a blog on this site that I follow regularly) that are right out of this school and working in a modern style. One of these days soon, I'm going to pester a couple of them into taking me as a student....

Until then, I'm experimenting on my own: Here is a value sketch and the first stage under-painting of a new attempt from today....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

value sketches 2

Today was all about our new puppy, Lucas. Trip to Flagstaff, let him run around our favorite bookstore and he helped me find a book on Cezanne....he really wanted Vermeer....welsh corgis are such art snobs....

Anyway after a trip to snow, Petco and a chai muffin (for me -- not the pup), I did mange to get a bit of study done while Lucas snoozed on the couch and Kim exercised saintly patience.

A quick value study squeezed in between puppy bursts....

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I wrestled with the idea of posting anything today. When I walked into my studio this morning to start the above still-life, I had no clue about what was unfolding a few hours away...

Today, words seem fruitless. Today in Tucson, a lunatic with a 9mm shot eighteen people he didn't even know for no other reason than that he disagreed with their politics. A differing view whipped into maniacal frenzy by a culture of fear, jingoistic hate-mongering blame, and violence advocated by the rapacious, self-serving, megalomaniacs that call themselves patriots and flood the media with vitriolic rantings designed to do only one thing....sell advertising dollars....

So this is what we've come to; public discourse reduced to hysterical finger-pointing and gun-shots...

Today, words actually have killed someone....six people in Tucson to be exact....

As I said, I wrestled with posting today's painting...after much deliberation, I decided that on the heels of this kind of ugliness, I needed to remind myself there are still many out there that are trying to make the world more beautiful....I hope to be one of those one day....peace all

Friday, January 7, 2011


I don't do resolutions. First of all, I'm not organized enough. Although my very, very Capricorn wife has shown me the way many times, I'm not real big on lists. Therefore the act of categorizing the numerous things I'd like to do better, or simply do, on a yearly basis, and then ticking them off, or not ticking them off, just doesn't work for me. I should point out, though, that my wife doesn't do resolutions either...

Anyhoo...non-resolution minded though I am, there are a few things I try to remind myself to do throughout the year, and especially at a time of mental renewal such as this. One of those is to thank the universe everyday for my previously mentioned, infinitely patient wife, Kim.

After fifteen years of marriage and the endurance of my often temperamental moods, when I announced to her recently that I was going to set aside music and focus intently on the study of a discipline that as of slightly more than a year ago I had almost no inclination towards, she merely nodded and asked if I was going to concentrate on oils or acrylics....

If that isn't the epitome of faith, I don't know what is....
...did I mention that she herself is a tremendous artist? Check her work out at

Today's resolution involves another still-life....(these frigging wine bottles are kicking my butt)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

still -life study

I remember having a conversation in school with the great jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. An enormously generous musician, one of the things that struck me about Pat was his seriousness and intensity about studying music. To some, I believe he came across as intimidating, or even rude. He went so far as to say, " need to be practicing...hard...because I'm the guy out there waiting for you..." -- or something to that effect. He then went on to discuss the way he approached the study of depth.

For my part, I took Pat's attitude as a belief not only in himself, but in the individuality of artists. He was saying in essence, "If you want to be serious about this....great...but you need to be as serious as I am because I don't really want to waste my time." It's inspiring to see someone of that level not worrying about showing anybody his underwear because he knows how serious he is himself.

Today, I was talking with my friend -- an artist I greatly respect -- and we were discussing a painter many consider to be a modern master. He told me that some weeks before, a group of folks had come into his studio and told him they taken a workshop with this gentleman and had been -- shall we say -- less than enthusiastic about his attitude. They felt he was too serious and very rude. Once again, here was a great accomplished artist who was saying to his students, "If you want to study, then study in a serious way. Anything else is a waste of time..."

...anything else is not being in service to the art

For me, the study of still-life right now is pretty serious....I mean, the still-life says "either you can draw or you can't...if you can't, you're going to learn..." There are some tremendous still-life painters that have blogs here that I follow regularly, especially Carol Marine and Qiang-Huang....Their daily paintings are a constant inspiration.

...someday...anyway, here is today's offering

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Value sketches

I'm constantly amazed by the generosity of artists. Some of the best advice I received very early on -- and am trying to follow -- was regarding value sketches to work out the lights and darks of a composition. It's also a great chance to work out structural issues before getting too far into the painting. A visual version of a two stave musical sketch before taking the dive into the twenty or more stave score of a full-blown music composition. (For those of you wondering -- a stave is one of those funny looking five-line dealies onto which composers scribble our little black dots...)

Seems like an obvious preliminary step, doesn't it? Apparently lots of people skip it.

Here is my two-stave sketch for a new painting first try at title yet, but the subject is from a photo I took along the Sevier River in Utah.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New year, new directions

(So...a first post....intimidating as hell....)

A few weeks ago, I admitted for the first time to myself and a few friends that I thought a phase of my life that had dominated for nearly 25 years was over and that something new was on the horizon. After being a professional musician and composer for nearly half of my life, it was becoming apparent to me that things were, though still a primary force, was no longer the element of my creative life that was foremost. be honest, I had been feeling this for quite some time -- I just wasn't ready to admit it out loud. Of course, my wife, ever more aware than myself, knew it before I said it -- one of these days I'll learn to go to her first rather than stew about things until I drive everyone else nuts.

The short version (the long version will most certainly be discussed here in the future) is that painting, and all of the things that go with it, has become much more than the therapeutic diversion it had started as a little over one year ago. It has become an obsession....and I feel much better every time I admit. So, dear blog reader, there it is...

Welcome to my first year as a full-time visual artist. I have no idea where this new direction will lead, but as a teacher once told me...we are not in control of the art, we are in service to it...