Paintings by Dianne Mize

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Autumn Maple

Now I remember why I love oil paint:  you can walk away from it for a while and find it right where you left it when you return.

For a reason I don't understand, the moth mother series called for watercolor (one never knows which medium a subject's going to ask for), and so I didn't think in oil for weeks, literally weeks.  Using different media is like playing different musical instruments:  one mode of interpretation is possible with the oboe whereas another is possible with the mandolin and the miracle of this is that the same tune can be played on either, but its expression will differ.

Same is true for painting media:  a fall scene in watercolor will express its content differently than when painted in oils.   This particular little maple, one of the few having any color this year, is asking to be expressed in oils.

Here is its initial block-in.  A thumbnail gouache study of it is HERE

Enjoy your Monday before Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Series Beginning

Finishing the moth series, I have found myself stymied until I awoke this morning with a hankering to do an oil painting for no other reason than just to push paint.  Settling into the studio, I looked out my window and saw that after all the dullness of this season, fall colors are bathing my front yard.  Ah ha!

To get warmed up, I did a five minute 3" x 4" gouache study in my sketchbook.  So here comes another series, this time in oil.

 Happy Friday.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What If?

I'm fascinated by figure skating, especially pairs.  This genre is one of the few requiring the mastery of both athletic and artistic skills.  Are there others?  None come to mind at the moment.

Take a look at this video of Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov.

I wonder how the world of visual arts would look today if its painters and sculptors were required to obtain this level of mastery of skills and expressiveness before gaining world wide acclaim.  I just wonder.

Happy Friday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Alpha Omega

The last in my series of moth paintings is finished and signed. 
"Alpha Omega"    20" x 28"   Watercolor on Cold Press Paper
Enjoy your Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Moth Mother: Third Phase

I know this painting is close to being finished; in fact, I could very well call it finished, but it needs a bit of something more and I'm not sure what.  I know it's at a place where I could overstate (overwork) it and lose it.  So I'm going to live with it for a little while and see where it leads me.

Enjoy your Thursday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Moth Mother: Phase Two

This one is slow to speak to me.  Perhaps I'm distracted, knowing it is most likely the last painting of the series.  Who knows?  But rather than rush it for the sake of being a consistent blogger, I've kept it on my easel where I see it every time I walk by.  Finally this morning, I turned it upside down (as often I have suggested my students do) and it was then I saw what needed to happen in the next step.
Moth mother painting, phase two      Watercolor   20" x 28"
The creative process continues to amaze me.  Just when I think I understand it, it throws another mystery my way.

The weekend approaches.  Enjoy your Thursday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Moth Mother: Phase One

Finally, I got the underpainting set for the moth mother painting.  It took a couple of days to get a feel for the direction for this one.  As I've said before, this phase of the painting determines all that follows, so now that's set. 

In spite of all my efforts, I cannot tweak these digitals to do justice to the painting, but at least they give an idea of what's happening. 

As a reminder of the content of this one, here's the reference photo I'm working from:

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Refections on the Painting Process

Whatever happens at the beginning of a painting determines the progression of all that sets up the painting's destiny.  It's a kind of karma:  the seeds that get sown predict the outcome.

Aware of this, it takes a while for me to apply the first strokes to the painting.  I never know the outcome, I cannot imagine the painting finished.  It always reminds me of the birth of a child:  the moment a child is conceived, his/her genetic makeup determines the person that child will become: male, female, gay, straight, tall, short, blond, brunette--all that and more .  To enable that child to become the person he or she was born to be rather than to brainwash this little human to become what the parents would prefer or what social structure demands is a juggling act that becomes the responsibility of new parents.  It's a daunting task.

And those of us born artists have the thrill of repeating this creative process with every new painting that emerges.  Everything we are translates into what we see and how we see it.  Our preparation--the skills we've mastered--determine how we express what we have perceived.  Our imaginations enhance our interpretations.

Now, isn't that a miracle within itself!

Enjoy your Friday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mother Moth: Preliminary Drawing

More or less, I have finished the preliminary drawing for the mother moth painting.  At this point, I want the emphasis on the eggs she's laying.  We'll see where it leads.

While doing this moth series, I've been acutely aware of how closely related are art and religion.  In both, so long as the participant adheres to the belief of status quo, all goes well, but the moment an idea or concept gets questioned, eyebrows begin to raise and hostility shows its ugly head.

I am reminded of being an art student at the University of Georgia back in the 60's when traditional or classical approaches to art were scorned as dead (just like God was during the same era).  Students who wanted to find their voices in a more traditional approach were dressed down by their instructors as well as their peers.  So in order to maintain a grade average, the student was forced to adhere to the dogma of the day.  It bothered me then and it bothers me now.

Too many of today's artists are stuck in that anti-traditional attitude, blocked from perceiving beyond it.  Andrew Wyeth has been accused of overworking his pieces just because he chose to define his images while Willem de Kooning was praised for his distortions and vague images.  In religion at that time, students believing God was alive and well were sneered at and considered less than intelligent.  Today some of those same kind of attitudes persist, even if in reverse.  As Howard use to say, it's the pattern that matters.

Actually, the attitudes of neither religious zealots nor artistic dogma matter to me.  What matters is that I'm following my inner light, that I not allow that candle to go out, in spite of any prevailing attitudes.

Enjoy this Monday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mother Moth Revisited

There's at least one more moth painting to do.  What began this moth series was a mother moth who, back in the spring, chose my screen porch as a place to deposit her eggs just before she died.  What's odd about this is that the Polyphemus usually finds some camouflaged spot in the woods for laying her eggs, but this mother chose a spot out in the open on a screen panel at the front corner of my front porch. 
I did a small painting of her shortly after discovering her, but since that time have been intrigued with the Polyphemus theme--as you know.  I realize this is somehow playing a large role in my coming to terms with Howard's death; there's a serenity while doing these paintings.

I thought perhaps "Ascending" would be the last one in the series, but after finishing it, I want now to go back to the original mother moth and revisit her as the final painting in the series.   I'm beginning as usual with sketchbook studies to familiarize myself with the subject and get a sense of where I want to take it.

Here's a closeup of the value study of the eggs.

The painting will be another large one, the same size as "Ascending."  Beyond that, the idea is evolving.  And as I always say, stay tuned.

Enjoy your Friday.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


The fourth moth painting is finished.  I entitled it "Ascending." 

"Ascending"      20" x 28"    Watercolor on Paper  
A painting shown as a digital in cyberspace is always at the mercy of individual monitors and translations.  I always hope persons seeing a finished painting receive a decent interpretation of it, but then that's always the risk we take whenever we share images over the web.

Beyond that, I'll let the piece speak for itself.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Four Moth Painting Evolving

I got myself into a pickle on this one.  The environment had totally separated itself from the image, having become too cool against the warmth of the image.

Richard Schmid emphasizes (and I agree) that if the overall temperature of the painting is not in harmony, the painting will be off kilter no matter what else is working.  So my task since the last post is the get the overall temperature working together before proceeding to further definition of the moth.  This is close, though not exactly where it should be yet.

I've included my reference photo here as a reminder of what got all this in motion to begin with.  I notice in the reference photo that the moth's big eyes are hidden, and this painting will honor that.

I know what got me into this pickle:  I was thinking too much.  Often teachers preach sermons and then make the same error they were preaching against.  My constant sermon is "don't think while you're painting."  Just like playing baseball or playing a musical instrument, all the thinking and working out skills needs to be done ahead of time so that when the performance begins, the whole person can let go.  Inevitably when we start thinking about what we're doing while we're in the middle of it, we mess up.  Try thinking about every move you make while driving a car and you realize by doing so, you've taken your eye off the road.

Have a fine Tuesday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Moth Painting Four: Second Phase

This is a fun painting to do.

Since my last post, I have defined the background space which the art world calls "negative space," a term I've not always subscribed to since its function in a painting is anything but negative.  It is the environment in which the image lives and its handling means everything to how the imagery is perceived.  But back in the abstraction era when everything about a painting got analyzed and minimalized, the term "negative" got born and became embedded into the visual language.

While defining the environment, I began to lay in the value structure using the colors I find in the resource image.  It's crucial at this stage of the painting's development that I respond to the original image.  The composition is set, the drawing is done, there is nothing left to figure out, so now I am free to respond to the image itself.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Moth Four: Painting Begins

Finally, the first wash of the new moth painting.

Remember the notan study?

Rather than focus the painting's structure on light and dark, I decided to go warm/cool, with the cool areas falling within the dark side of the notan.  And it seems right to keep as many lost edges as I can manage. 

Now I'm waiting for this to get thoroughly dry so that I can go move forward.

It's a chilly 42 degrees on this October 2 morning in north Georgia.  Beautiful day ahead.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moth Four: Palette Selection

I can't just assume the palette of colors for this painting will be the same as the other three:  each piece calls for it's own combination of colors.  So here's my setup for discovering how I will begin with color:

On the left is my computer monitor; on the right, my watercolor palette.  On the big easel in the back is my sketchbook with the initial studies for the painting, and on the watercolor easel in front is the painting-to-be.  Sitting at the top is a watercolor block where I worked out the color. 

I began by responding to the colors I saw in the resource photograph on the computer monitor and from there began to intuitively explore combinations until I came up with a set of colors that feels right.  On the right side of the watercolor block is my initial exploration; on the left the colors I finally came up with and at the bottom some combinations these colors will yield.

So the palette begins with Antwerp blue, quinacridone violet and quinacridone burnt orange.  The process is slow.  I do a lot of pacing back and forth, etching the reference in my brain and moving slowing towards getting the paint slinging going.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fourth Moth Painting: Ready to Go

It is important that I'm able to clearly distinguish edges when first applying watercolor paint.  The water tends to dissolve pencil lines so that if they are not dark enough before beginning to paint, one can easily lose the intended image.  The direction of lines in this painting are crucial because they all vanish to where the left wing connects the moth's body, so this morning I spent considerable time and effort refining the drawing and darkening edges.
I'm satisfied with the preliminary drawing now.  The painting process is ready to begin.
Enjoy your Tuesday,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Prep Work for New Painting

I bet some of you saw this coming:  I've always been fascinated with the golden section and Fibonacci numbers and all the mysteries implied in both.  This painting feels like one calling for working within the golden section principle.

I'm not one to do a lot of mathematical or scientific calculation;  it's not the math that fascinates me, but the patterns math discovers and how they continue to repeat themselves in nature.

To avoid mathematical calculation, one way to easily set up for a golden section pattern is the rule of thirds, meaning the painting gets set up by placing the image within divisions of thirds.   Here I sectioned my watercolor paper into a grid of thirds, nine blocks.
Grid placed on watercolor paper    20" x 28"
At the intersection of each vertical and horizontal line is the most visually pleasing area of the shape, very close to the golden section.  I notice in the vantage point of my photo reference that all major lines vanish where the left wing connects the moth's body.  I chose this as my center of interest, placing it at the upper left intersection.  By placing a corresponding grid over the computer monitor, I can easily see how the placement of the moth will fit into the entire page.  

Using this as my point of departure, I did a quick gesture drawing to set up the preliminary drawing on the paper.
Gesture drawing placing preliminary image on the paper.     

That's where I am right now.   Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Moth Series (So Far)

This morning I put the three moth paintings on my easel and stood back to get some notion of what this is all about.  There's no question in my mind that these paintings are connected to Howard whose death (as most of you know) was eight months ago.  Howard's lifetime hero was Homer, his works and his attitude about the heroes of these works.  

In Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey, is the account of Odysseus' encounter with Polyphemus, the Cyclops.  You know the story.  This particular moth--who chose to attach herself to my porch screen to lay her eggs before dying--is a Polyphemus, having been named for the Cyclops because of the large eye-like patterns on her wings.

Remember, I discovered while researching moths that their flight patterns follow celestial navigation and it was only after I'd set up a system using that principle to create a spiral pattern to establish a vanishing point that I was able to do a satisfactory drawing of the third painting.   

The completion of this painting is where I am at the moment while a fourth view of the same moth has now captured my attention.

I'm now doing gesture drawings, trying to discover the movement pattern of this particular view.  I'm thinking this will be the largest of all the paintings.  Each has grown progressively larger as the series has progressed. 
Perhaps I will post some of the studies tomorrow.  So many of you have emailed and commented on Facebook  about how you've enjoyed watching the third painting emerge that I've decided to share the evolving of this one as well.
Once again, stay tuned.
And enjoy your Friday.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finale: Polyphemus Painting

I think the moth painting is finished.  In fact, there are several of the earlier phases that might have been called finished, but that's how it goes with painting.  The trick is to stop before it gets overlystated.  I like stopping slightly understating, but what seems an understatement to me might come off as an overstatement to a viewer.

Polyphemus     20" x 22"  Watercolor on Paper
I remember in an art show back in the late 60's, seeing a painting whose entire content was a handwritten message:  "Say Everything Completely."  I remember thinking, Chopin never did that, Shakespeare never did that, Rembrandt never did that.  We complete a work, then leave it to tell its audience what it's all about.  A good painting never says everything completely.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Third Phase: Polyphemus Painting

Okay, so I'll get there eventually, but there's lots of pacing the floor and eyeballing in between each set of paint strokes.  Watercolor tends to be a pain you-know-where anyway;  if you don't allow it to lead, it will go muddy and dull and the piece will look tired.  So keeping the colors spontaneous and fresh is always a part of managing the medium.

But the third phase of the painting is now in place:
Phase three of Polyphemus   Watercolor on paper
This included gradual build up of where darker areas will be plus find the color temperature that best translates how I feel about the subject.  I'm assuming that the next phase will finish the painting.  We'll see.

Have a good Thursday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Phase Two: Polyphemus Painting

This painting is emerging more slowly than my normal pace of working.  I am now in what I think of as "the second phase,"  where, with the approach I'm using in watercolor painting, the subject gets constructed in a composition of out of focus shapes.  During this phase, the light patterns and overall temperature of colors get established.

Second phase of new moth painting        Watercolor on paper
Enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just A Beginning

I know it's risky, but I've decided to share with you a play-by-play of the developing moth painting (watercolor).  It's risky because I want to avoid this being a demonstration painting, so many of which I've done during my teaching years.  Rather, I want it to guide me to where it wants to go.  Knowing I have an audience could affect that.  So, we'll see if this works.

First phase of watercolor painting--the underpainting
First, after studying the colors in the moth photo and coming up with a selection with which to begin the painting, I realized the palette is what I call the north-south-ease-west palette:  two sets of complementary colors.  If they are plotted opposite each other, a violet and a yellow are set in the north and south position; an orange and a blue are set in the east west position.  It's just an easy way to set up a limited palette with potential for a broad range of colors.  What catches my attention is that this directional palette emerged to do a painting set up according to the celestial navigation principal.  Okay, so I'm getting too involved here.

Perhaps, it's best to stop the chatter and get back to work.

Enjoy this Thursday,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I'm taking a risk.  I know myself well enough to know that if I talk too much about a painting while it's germinating, I tend to stall the brush-pushing part.  I want to be careful not to create expectations that might sneak into the process and distort where a painting might go.  But this time, I'm going to take that risk and to share with you something I discovered.

I've not been able to let go of the moth theme since this Polyphemus moth chose my screen porch to lay her eggs and then die.  I photographed her at least twice before that happened.  This particular viewpoint has been in the back of my mind all summer.

Drawing after drawing failed to even get close to whatever's grabbing my attention.  So on a whelm, I googled "polyphemus" and discovered that moths tend to use celestial navigation.  I had earlier noticed the pattern of striations on the moth's wings, all seeming to lean toward her head, but when I went back to take a closer look, I found that they were all leaning to a point above the head.  Linear perspective calls such a convergence a vanishing point.

Prep drawing for watercolor painting  22" x 22"
Nature uses repetitions of patterns everywhere, so just for fun, using the celestial navigation principle, I drew a sphere with lines vanishing to a single point, like the navel of an orange.  Then I drew the moth within that sphere, placeing it slightly below the navel, allow its striations to follow that point.  Joila.  I did a larger version on watercolor paper where the painting will evolve.

That's where I am now and that's why I've been so quiet.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's All In How We Allow Ourselves To See

You already know that every morning when it's not raining, I take my portable painting gear out to the deck and do little studies of our woods.  You'd think I'd grow tired of this:  same trees, same foliage, same time of day.  But not once has it failed to be a new experience, something new discovered about the light, about the temperature of the colors, and my painting process.

I know artists who think once you've painted a thing, it's time to move onto something else. They seem to think that the subject is a prop of some kind, giving them material to paint, but not inherently important.  I don't agree at all:  I think the subject is ours to discover, that it is within that process of discovery that we find ourselves, that we can come upon an infinite array of the universe's mysteries and uncover our relationship to them.

It's the open-endedness that continues to be intriguing.  The more we learn, the more we realize there's so much more to be learned.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


My hard drive has decided to die; Dell's technician will be here Thursday afternoon to replace it.  Meanwhile, I have cyberspace access through my tiny netbook whose keyboard is too small to do much more than cramp my not-so-young fingers, so at the risk of whining about the whole affair, I'd better hold of on blogging until Friday, hoping Dell keeps its promise.

Meanwhile, enjoy your week and I hope to meet you here again at the end of it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Be or Not To Be

Holly Solomon for me has become the symbol of the mainstream art world gone awry. ( Obit HERE).  I wonder whether her hold on attitudes of the mainstream owed its strength to Andy Warhol's portrait of her (see article HERE) or if just being in the right place at the right time would have given her the power she held.  In the sixties, for an artist to have Holly's nod was as close to a guaranteed success as one would desire; to have Holly's disapproval was a total close-out, at least in the mainstream.

I wonder how many artists skewed their works towards get Holly's blessings and how many came to her attention after they'd discovered some new idea on their own.  I wonder how much the teachings of colleges and universities reflected her influence, indeed how many do so today. 

And then I think of Andrew Wyeth (website HERE) who was dogged determined to follow is own artistic direction no matter what was happening in the mainstream, and of Richard Schmid (website HERE) who held tight to his inner direction, resisting current trends and attitudes.  Knowing Holly and her inner circle sneered at both these, each whose work continued to evolve and who, today, are examples excellence in artistic achievement--knowing that makes me smile.

Have a happy Sunday.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where's the Courage?

Another study from deck   Gouache on paper  4" x 5 1/2"  
I wonder, when Chopin wrote his Études, whether he had any notion that nearly 200 years later they would receive attention equal to his larger, more complex works.  We listen to them today without realizing that when they first appeared, they were radical, challenging the established techniques for playing piano.  Radical, bold yet a part of an evolutionary process rather than jumping off the cliff and daring others to follow.

I was angry yesterday and you got a whiff of it in my blog entry.  I was angry because I sense in our culture the loss of courage to be real.  On the one hand, I had been witness to an artist hiding behind plagiarism in order to be bold and acceptable; on the other, young artists being instructed to be bold, to push the limits of their "creative boundaries and technical skills," but left unsaid was that their productions had to be acceptable to the bias of their judges.

Chopin made a discovery that evolved from his native creative process.  It was radical and challenging to accepted standards of his time.  But it happened as a result of an evolving process, allowing his acquired skills to respond to his imagination.  I'd like to see more of today's artists claim that kind of courage.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Are We Screaming?

Has our culture become so loud, busy, non-discerning that the artists among us must scream their heads off just to become noticed?  Are we living on sensory overload?

Yesterday I had two encounters with art, each leaving me wondering who is in charge.  One was a visit to a gallery showing a batch of paintings, all blatant copies of photos, some I've seen passed around as e-mail attachments, others obviously lifted from greeting cards and magazines, and absolutely no credits given.  The paintings were over-sized, some containing little relief gimmicks, most in bold colors--and these predominated the hallway and main gallery area.  I felt socked in the face by somebody with obvious skill but with nothing to say.

Later, with some friends, I watched the final two (recorded) episodes of Bravo's reality show, American's Next Great Artist.  The only evidence of art was the process these youngsters used to try guess what would win for them the title.  What was hard to believe was the verbal garbage thrown at them by their mentors and judges, advising them to be bold and off the top.  Reminded me of those undergrad days when we were advised that to be artists we must "be inventive."

No word about utilizing skills, about composing, about responding to one's inner voice:  just advice to scream out loud so that through all the glitz and masquerading, their voices could be heard--maybe.  I kept thinking about Dale's question that I skirted around in my last blog entry, and I kept thinking about those awful paintings I had been assaulted by just hours earlier, and I wondered how is it that our culture has become so assaulted by loud voices and harsh colors that no longer do we cherish a paper boy strolling the streets whistling Un Bel Di...

Have an unassaultd Thursday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This is what I get from going quiet for a few days:  Dale, who was my student forty years ago, sent me this:
The hyper-realist style fascinates me -- as I am sure it is meant to do -- but I am ambivalent about its "validity."  Mostly they seem to want to dazzle us with their ability to make shiny things.
Here's how I answered him:
In days of yore it was called trompe d'oeil (and a visually challenged person used to be called "blind," but that's another topic altogether.)  Remember William Harnett
     Not much has changed. It's a subject I've continued to be fascinated by--expression vs representation.  You can do it too; it's a matter of pure skill, nothing more.  And you have nailed it on the head--it is showing off their ability, saying "look what I can do," which is ALL I have ever gleaned from this stuff.
     As to its validity, that requires knowing what we mean by validity, doesn't it?  What shall we include in our scope of "art" and what gets called something else?  On the one hand we have the trompe d'oeil, all about pure skill--the image means nothing more than a conduit to show off what the "artist" can do.  And then we have pure idea--all the cerebral stuff-- requiring no skills at all.  (Too much of that going on, too.)  Add to that pure feeling, stuff that is nothing more than emotional vomit.  And on top of that, pure sensation--nothing more than a big whoopee or a huge goddamn or f**k off. 
     There is in every discipline a continuum extending from dull simple-mindedness to the extreme, but somewhere in between there is validity.  Where one begins and the other ends remains ours to sort out.
Enjoy your Tuesday.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Touchy Subject

I seldom lose my temper, but one thing that will raise my hackles without fail is opening an art magazine and seeing a photo of an instructor with his brush scooting along the surface of his student's painting.  Why do people who call themselves teachers do this?

Having spent a 43-year career teaching emerging artists, I claim myself qualified to make a call on this one, even though it's another one of those subjects whose argument has stirred up many a heated discussion between me and other art folks.  It's a subject that those teaching art won't get take seriously and those taking art instruction won't question, but a student should never allow it to happen, no matter how acclaimed the instructor.

In no circumstance is it acceptable for an instructor to touch a student's work.

First of all, the instant the instructor makes the first mark, that painting no longer belongs to the student; second, it is an arrogant assumption and disrespect for the student's art work for a teacher to "correct" the piece.  Any skill needing to be strengthened can be demonstrated elsewhere, even if the teacher needs to reconstruct a facsimile of what the student has done.

Even students--especially students--have a right to own their creations, flawed though they might be.  They have a right to show their exercises to their families with a clear conscious that all the marks placed therein belong to them.  Now if they could just grab the courage to say to their instructors, "Not on my painting, please."

Have a wonderful Friday.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Kind of Prison

I'm always interested in hearing folks talk about their style whether painting, music or writing. 

Recently, on a well-respected blog, there was an article on how to develop ones style of painting.  Okay, I thought, here we go again--and I was right.  This self-imposing sage suggested that the best way to develop a  style is to try out different existing styles by studying and imitating artists of the past who, themselves, had created a style we can unmistakeably read.  For example, I can see an Andrew Wyeth painting from a distance and recognize it as belonging to Wyeth, even before reading his signature. The assumption in the article is that should Wyeth's style fit, then I as the searching artist should adopt it. 

Here's where I part company with this attitude:  your style is like your handwriting--it either evolves or you fake it.  Like learning to form letters as a child, artists learn basic skills for creating images.  In the beginning those images look generic, but under the hand of their maker, while they are being practiced,  they take on a personality of their maker.  Over time that handwriting becomes recognizable.  (You look at the handwriting of a note and recognize who the sender is.)

To fake handwriting or a painting style or a writing style is to camouflage the communication of who I am, is to take on an identity other than my on, is to create a self-imposed prison whose walls become more secure each time they are reinforced.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Birds of a Feather

I've always had trouble getting along with artists who accept and adopt status quo.  Seems we humans have a habit of latching onto whatever cultural attitude is currently in fashion without pausing to question whether that attitude has anything at all to do with who we are and what we really believe.

I remember in the early eighties a new artist taking residence in our community brought with him the attitude that his choice of subject depended upon what people liked.  To him, it was a waste of time and materials to choose subjects that might not delight his viewers or that didn't have some guaranteed response reaction.  If a painting weren't apt to sell, then to this artist it was worthless.

He and I had several lockings-of-the-horns about this notion.  I contended that we artists owe it to ourselves to respond to subjects that speak to us, that whether or not the resulting painting sells is insignificant.  He argued that an artist has to make a living, that if he chose my way, he might as well go back to the corporate world and be a Sunday painter.  I argued that as artists we risk stifling any chance for growth if we allow our intention to be anything other than our own inner drive.  He argued that I was being unrealistic, pedantic and snobbish

And on the argument went for years to follow.  He went his way.  I went mine.

It's still raining in north Georgia.  Hope you have a happy Tuesday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One in a Zillion

With zillions of painters in action today, and their paintings all looking pretty much alike, it can get tiring going from one website to another, even one show to another, without sighing.  And we've come to expect from the various artists' magazines one kind of repetition after another.  Granted, repetition is one of the unifying principles in all the arts--one of the most important ones, in fact--but too much repetition makes boredom.  (I guess the cliche is "too much of a good thing", huh?).

So it was with suspicion that I subscribed to Workshop magazine (published by American Artist).  My first issue arrived Friday.

I confess I scolded myself a bit as I reached inside my mailbox for what I just knew would be another art rag.  And I opened it not the least bit curious about what was inside.  But something caught my attention:  an article on artist Joseph Paquet, a painter I'd never heard of.  His subjects are typical of most plein air painters, but his paintings contain a strength, a life, an invitation to hang around, an import of the individual uniqueness of the artist himself.  I thought you might enjoy meeting this guy: .  And meet him on this video:

It's a rainy Monday in north Georgia.  Hope yours is a good one.
P.S.  There is a three-part interview with Joe here.  It will take about half an hour, but well worth it:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Morning's Quest

Several days ago I noticed dying foliage on one of our oldest and largest back yard trees.  With our house planted right in the middle of our woods and the summer foliage being so lush, I can barely see bits of the browning leaves and thought at first it was illusion caused by the later afternoon light.  But sadly, after taking a closer look, I realized the tree has died.

This morning I decided to make it the focus of my early morning studies.  Because oddly it seemed significant, I chose to make the study larger than usual, not realizing that there was no way I could work fast enough to capture the light changes, and this morning they were rapid and decisive.  Seems like every time I'd look down to mix a color, that particular color would be gone by the time I looked back at the tree.

I literally tired myself out chasing after these fleeting moments.  Time after time I tried to grasp what I was seeing, and time after time it eluded me. Then it hit me square in the face:  I was missing out by not claiming one moment at a time.

Have a happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chasing Light--Again

Light study in woods   Gouache on WC paper   4" x 5"

This morning, just as the light began its prelude in our woods, I spent well over an hour on the deck chasing it with another little gouache study.  (You can click on the image for a larger version, but keep in mind it's only 4 x 5 inches). 

When doing these little plein air studies, I like to check in occasionally to see what's going on in my brain.  What often happens is my attention to the subject will get subverted to random thoughts.  I'll think I'm focused on the subject whereas my brain has gone on automatic pilot: I'm moving paint around on the painting but  my attention will have drifted to other stuff.  That's when it's a good idea to shake out the brain rattle and refocus on the subject, and that's most often when I discover the light has changed once again.

It's called paying attention.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Staging Expression?

In the June issue of The Artist's Magazine appears an article entitled "Portraits With Universal Appeal."   As I understand it, the artist stages his models so that the pose will provoke "...memories that trigger a variety of emotions."  While photographing his models he will give instructions such as "Look down and think of something sad..." or "Look up as if you're looking at God."  Or (and this one really got my goat) "Try to look as if you're attempting to see something a long way off."  (All this reminds me of Hyacinth Bucket in all her staging attempts to appear elite--"Now Richard, look as if you're greeting the Queen.")

But can we really stage a universal expression?  Or can we really create universal appeal by doing a painting with the intent of it having universal appeal ?  And what is universal appeal anyway?  In fact, why should the intent be for our work to have appeal of any kind?  Are we fashion designers or are we artists following an inner voice whether or not what we say has appeal?

Just a few thoughts to get the day started...

Have a safe and happy Tuesday.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Difference Made

What better time than somebody's sabbath to reflect, and after all, isn't that what a sabbath is for? 

Here's what I've been thinking about this morning:  no less than three artists--each in or near their fifth decade of life-- have recently talked with me about where they now find themselves in the course of their artistic lives.  Not one of the three is happy.

Now I cannot make a call as to why, but I can make an observation from what each has told me: what they all have in common is an event that happened in their second decade of life:  a choice.  They don't know one another, have never met so far as I know, yet each made a choice to follow what was expected rather than what their innards cried out for.  One for financial success, the other two for recognition. 

Our culture has set us up.  There is an unspoken demand that we follow a cultural formula or "fail."  Even within the culture-of-follow-your-own-voice, there's a judgment factor and it's judgment we all fear because to be judged inadequate is to be rejected, and the one thing a human being cannot cope with is rejection. And in our twenties, we're too tender and vulnerable and in need of acceptance.  And if we've not been nourished to recognize and claim our quiddity, we're more likely to stumble. 

But "it ain't over 'til it's over."  There's another thing I observe in the trio on my mind this morning:  they are all still alive.  Choices can still be made. 

Have a happy Sunday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Once Beautiful

Years ago I played hammered dulcimer.  My first instrument was a Dusty Strings, a good instrument, a standard model suitable for the beginner and the advanced player.  And it served me well--I began to bond with it as is our nature to bond with the tool through which our soul finds expression.

But after a few years, prowling through a musical instrument shop, I discovered a MasterWorks and found myself falling in love again.  I thought its design was beautiful and its sound quality delightful, so I brought it home with me, sold the Dusty Strings and didn't look back.

After years of playing, of meeting other hammered dulcimer players, of hearing a bunch of other makes, my MasterWorks began to sound pretentious and look clunky.  I began to appreciate the crisp, simple tone quality of the Dusty Strings and resent the MasterWorks'  full-bodied resonance and thick, rounded design.  So off I went in another search.  I did find my instrument and even though it was larger and a much broader range of notes, it was reminiscent of the Dusty Strings.

And today I'm thinking:  what if I'd stuck with the Dusty Strings?

Have a happy Friday,

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Ever wonder where our attitudes come from?  Ever wonder if maybe it's time to give them a spring cleaning?

Somewhere along the way, I acquired an attitude about gouache, that the medium was not suitable for much beyond poster design and underpainting for pastels.  And it stuck.  But yesterday morning that attitude got smashed for all it was worth when it occurred to me that if I wanted to chase the rapid changes of light and color happening every morning in our woods, I needed something I didn't have to pamper (so watercolor was out) or that wouldn't get muddy with rapid changes of mixes (so oil was out) and that I could work back into (so acrylic was out) and that I could grab in a hurry and jump right into. 

And then I remembered gouache (thanks, Dale).  Not to bore you with sequential details, I found myself with a quickly thrown together set of tools and a brush moving around colors, discovering something of what the early morning mist and sunlight were doing in front of my eyes.  It took a while to get reacquainted with the stuff and the light was so dim on the porch I couldn't really see the palette, but I ended up with two little studies (left and middle here):
Quick Studies   Gouache on Paper
Then this morning, I did the one on the right from the deck.  I chased one change after another for nearly an hour.

So gouache--a medium which I had discounted based on attitude rather than fact--has become for me another opened door.

Enjoy your Thursday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Hero

I've always liked Richard Schmid.  Richard was the luckiest among us boomers-turned-artists--lucky, because he lived in a town where a painter could actually develop ones craft.  Growing up in Chicago, when a teenager he studied with a real plein air painter (decades before plein air became la chose à faire), and later, at the American Academy of Art.  Another way to say it is that during his formative years, rather than have his head stuffed with avant-garde clap trap, Richard got the skills and knowledge to enable him to grow into a painter whose unique individuality could evolve.

But what makes Richard special, what keeps bringing me back to his work is its essence--every painting being more than itself, every subject translated with marriage of mastery of skill and fullness of spirit.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I remember my early days as an art student in the sixties when artists, critics and historians no longer valued art accessible to the person on the street.  In fact, an art student whose painting showed any signs of realism was scoffed at.   Our predecessors and our heroes had broken through the realistic image, fragmented it and cast it aside as an interference in the creative process.  Drawing and painting students were commanded to be inventive without being descriptive.   So what were they teaching us?

Rebellion breeds more rebellion.  Decades before us artists had rebelled against academic training, against the academies that shut them out when their work failed to follow criteria of those in control of exhibitions, of the public's attitude.  And just like today, public attitude reinforced whatever trend had been settled on as progress.  Artists who rebelled against those attitudes formed their own followings, sometimes strong enough for mainstream critics to morph their standards to fit into whatever they saw as the new art direction.

So without knowing it in the sixties--the era of rebellion--our art schools were, by default, teaching us to rebel.  A few of us unhappy with how we had been taught to think slowly--over the decades to follow-- took our rebellion as our mission and found ways to train ourselves in techniques and composition and an appreciation for what our eyes see. 

Enjoy your Tuesday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Like Icarus

I don't know if this painting is finished.  My 13-year old neighbor Macklin says it is, and most likely he's right.
"Like Icarus"   Watercolor on Paper  14" x 14"
Here's the photo I used as my primary reference.  The painting is more about the moth as metaphor than the moth being described.  In fact, I'm responding more to my feeling about the moth than my thinking about her.

If there's been one thing that has stymied my work, it has been thinking too much about it.  It's imperative to do multiple studies, to get to know the subject, to plan its placement and to make compositional decisions, but all that needs to be done before the painting begins.  When the first brushstroke hits, the thinking needs to stop so that the muse can take over and create the work, rather like meditating.  

Easier said than done.

Enjoy your Monday,

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thought for Life

This morning I received an email with contents that brought me to attention because it's what I needed to hear, to say to myself and to say out loud to the universe.  For respect of copyright, I won't publish the contents here; rather give you the link.

Go to .

And have a wonderful Friday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Write About That, Too

Painting, like living, either takes a life of its own or stalls out, catching us staring into space wondering what's going on.

On the one hand, we continue in motion without thinking too much about what we're doing; on the other, we analyze the dickens out of every step to discover that we've analyzed the thing to death.  Artists with the most to show just keep moving and let the thing sort out itself.

These days I've not had much to show, hardly anything in fact.  So what am I doing?  Stalling?  Making false starts?  Thinking too much?

I wonder if Shakespeare were ever at a loss for words or if Chopin ever failed to find a tune or if Ansel Adams ever looked through the wrong end of his camera.

This, too, is a part of the journey.

 Enjoy your Thursday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Working on my new painting of the moth, I keep thinking about the story of Icarus, the character in Greek mythology who, with wax-bound wings made by his father, got so excited about being able to fly that he forgot his father's warning not to fly too close to the sun, did so, causing the wax to melt, disassembling the wings and Icarus fell to his death in the sea.

What I keep thinking is that every time we take a new flight, there's always a risk of flying too close to the sun, but if we hold ourselves back for fear our wings will melt, we'll run a greater risk of missing out.

Have a good Wednesday,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Moth Studies

On the top is a photo I shot of a moth on a tree in our yard.  On the right are three exploratory studies of the moth.  The study on top is a gesture study; on bottom left, a quick value study and on the right a study of the darks, leaving lost edges where ever I could to allow light from the outside space into the moth's shape. (Click on drawing for larger view.)

What I'm trying to discover is the moth's essential gesture and light, two elements I want to capture and translate in the upcoming painting. 

Gesture and light are basic to any painting I do.  Of course, there's always the option of creating both out of whole cloth, but I prefer discovering each within the subject and giving my best shot towards translating what I discover.

Stay tuned, and enjoy your Tuesday.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's To Like About Michael Parkes

Yesterday, I introduced you to Michael Parkes. (Go HERE to find his website.)

Michael is not an artist you'd normally find on the circuit of painting blogs; he's not a plein air artist nor does he have spiffy new ideas about how to do one thing or another.  Rather he's an artist that found his voice many years ago and just happened to find a following, not because he was catering to one school or another, nor that he was courting the New York critics or the painting contests (often self-appointed designators of today's best artists).  He was simply responding.

I discovered Micheal's work when our friend, Richard, happened upon his lithographs and began to collect them.  Richard was excited about Parkes' imagery and the techniques he used to translate those images into an accessible language.  Howard and I got enthusiastic about this artist because we recognized a thread from one work to another, a consistent theme and the telling a story about the journey this artist is taking.

When Richard's life was cut short by cancer, he left us four of his Michael Parkes books, each a collection of images of Michael's work, lithographs and paintings.  There's a wisdom reflected in these, a wisdom I can't ignor:  an artist who uses images that speak directly from his or her soul is an artist whose work is unquestionably art.

Have a happy Monday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday's Special Treat

For year's I've been fascinated by the works of Michael Parkes.  Here's a little snippet of him talking about his work.

Have a fun Sunday.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday's Favorite

I like Jim Gurney's blog, Gurney Journey.

Here an artist accomplished in skill, historically informed, successful author and one who's enthusiasm about his art stays--or appears so--at peak.  His blog posts vary over a broad range of subjects and his archives contain some of the most valuable information on the internet.

Check him out.
And have a fun Saturday.

Friday, July 23, 2010

As In Another Language

It's an exhilarating thing to think about how we translate what we see as in another language. Each artist speaks with a unique voice, a unique history of experiences, a unique genetic make-up, all translated through a chosen medium into a presentation.  Then the language gets perceived by an audience of individuals, each with unique experiences and genetic stuff and what comes of it all is response.

The artist becomes a sort of filter through which images and ideas pass as they are being translated into a work.  So if each artist is responding uniquely, how can a painting be a cliché?

Have a happy Friday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Keeping Confidence

When I get wobbly toward a subject begging to be included in a painting, my best bet is to spend some time with it, to get familiar with it.  Since the horse stumped me (described in the previous post) I've begun some quick studies from some photos I took that day. 

Here's a sample:

These are my notes to myself.  They are not meant to be seen, certainly not displayed; rather, they are a way to inform my hand about what my eye is seeing, to search out the spirit of the subject, to gain a familiarity with it.  That way I don't approach the subject half-cocked, and risk getting doubtful about what I'm doing.

It's all about paying attention.

Have a terrific Thursday,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Get ready for it:  I'll be quoting Howard a lot.

One of the things we used to talk about was how when we start doubting ourselves we inevitably do more harm than good.  And then we'll find ourselves on a downhill roll, things will multiply into a giant storm if we don't put the brakes on and regroup.

The key is to catch it and label it before it grows out of control.

That happened recently when, a few weeks ago, I was doing a demo painting at the InsideOut Sautee Art Gallery.  It was a landscape painting, subject out the back window of the gallery.  All went well until, towards the end of the painting, some horses appeared in a distant pasture.   Well, of course, they had to be part of the scene, but as the first brushstroke went down, I began to feel unsure that it would look like a horse.  Instead of taking an analytical look--something I can do confidently--I charged ahead and created a deer, then a goat, then a cow, but never a horse.

And THAT'S when I started getting tired.  Not just tired, but totally wilted.  And not until I got home with the thing did it hit me squarely in the face:  for a brief moment, I had lost confidence.  Truth is it's been years since I've studied a horse, but doubting my hand to follow what my eye was seeing was at the heart of of the problem.

We live out these little metaphors daily. When we pay attention to them we can save ourselves a bundle of agony.

Have a fine Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


In writing and in talking, Howard often used the word "quiddity."  For years I have used the word "essence" in the same spirit, but I'm beginning to prefer "quiddity" because the word encompasses the intrinsic, inherent and fundamental nature of its referent.

There is the quiddity of the subject and the quiddity of the artist.  The marriage of the two make the art work.  And that includes a lot of stuff going on.

I spend hours sitting on my deck, surrounded by our woods.  When it's not overcast in the mornings and late afternoons, I witness the most incredible light show as the sun bathes and dances over tree trunks, earth and foliage.  And no matter how many times I attend this production, it always leaves me in a sense of awe.  Sometimes I zoom in on a piece of it and draw.


Have a lovely Tuesday.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Think about it: a score of a Chopin etude, although written for piano, can be read and played by anybody who reads music, anybody in the world no matter what language they speak, and on any musical instrument, including the harmonica.  It makes no difference that Chopin wrote the piece two hundred years ago or that he was Polish or that he was George Sand's lover or that he was Caucasian.  And when the piece is played, it doesn't matter whether the musician is tall or short, Japanese or Mexican, gay or straight, astronaut or farmer, nine years old or eighty, pauper or billionaire.

What matters is that the instrument has the available notes and that the musician has the skills to play it, and though it doesn't hurt that somebody is listening, an audience is not necessary for the piece to be played.   In fact, without an audience, the musician is free to explore the piece, even to distort it or play it backwards or elaborate or it improvise around it or play it as jazz or the blues or a polka or change its key, its modality, its cadence.

And if the musician chooses to allow an audience hear any of his variation on Chopin's intent, the universality of the etude has not changed at all.  What has changed is its accessibility.

Enjoy your Monday.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Welcome to my journey, one that finds me in the sixth decade of my life having already encompassed a career in teaching, thousands of paintings and a myriad of experiences too rich to describe.  If you have been a follower of my Composing or of my Bagatelles and Meanderings blogs, you've already followed a phase of my journey.  Now, I want blogging to take a new direction, one that more holistically reflects my reality, one where I share with you, in addition to each new painting, experiences and ideas that accompany those works.

There are no parameters except where I draw the line in my private life. I have no idea how this blog will emerge, nor the direction my painting will take.  All I intend is to share with you this journey forward in hopes that something within my journey might touch a chord in ours.

I welcome comments, whatever you want to say.  And I welcome silence realizing that much of the time, you won't have anything to reply.  So onward we go.  Let this phase of my journey begin.