Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Snowball, AR, Searcy County and Merry Christmas!

Snowball, AR
14X18, Oil on Panel

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone out there!  This painting is currently on display at the THEA Foundation as part of the Arkansas League of Artists Winners Show until the end of the month.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Baring Cross Train, Pulaski County

Baring Cross Train
16X20, Oil on Panel

Little Rock is a city of bridges.  We have 4 pedestrian bridges crossing the Arkansas River, 2 of which are former train bridges which have been converted.  In addition there are 4 auto bridges, 2 of which are interstates.  Baring Cross Bridge is the last and is the only train bridge in the city still in use.  This view is from the River Trail on the North Little Rock side.  The state capital building is to the left.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Arkansas River Bridge, Ozark, Franklin Co.

Arkansas River Bridge, Ozark
12X16, Oil on Panel

This picture is darker than the real painting.  I had a great deal of difficulty getting a good picture that didn't exaggerate some colors.  This is the best of my wife's efforts and a good deal better than mine.  I may try to take it again and replace this at some point.  This is from the south side of the Arkansas River looking back towards the town of Ozark.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dying Light at Rush, Marion Co.

Dying Light at Rush
12X16, Oil on Panel

This is based on a plein air I did during the summer at Rush on the Buffalo River.  I had lots of trouble with the color when I was there but I thought the concept and scene were very worthy.

Rush is so named because it was once a mining town.  Zinc was the primary resource extracted there.  While most of the boom town that sprung up practically overnight here is gone, a few structures remain.  The national park service is not actively preserving these structures, however.  There is a trail that runs around one of the old talus piles and if one does not know what they are looking at, they would probably never realize what it was.  Truly a testament to the transient nature of human culture and civilization.  Mother Earth can very quickly cover over our clever industriousness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Capital Avenue, Little Rock

Capital Ave.
12X16, Oil on Panel

This view looks down Capital Avenue in Little Rock from the front of the capital grounds.

I have begun very early work on a solo show that will take place next year but I'll talk about that more at a later date.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

First Presbyterian, Fort Smith, Sebastian County

First Presbyterian, Fort Smith
11X14, Oil on Panel

A couple of months ago I traveled over to Fort Smith, which is right on the western edge of state.  Fort Smith was once the gateway to the wild wild west.  In those days, justice in the area was presided over by "Hangin" Judge Isaac Parker.  Judge Parker was actually an opponent of capital punishment and was only carrying out the sentences he perceived the law required of him to pass down.

I had been to Fort Smith a few times but never really explored the downtown area before this trip.  I found myself liking it very much.  In many ways, the town feels like it could easily be back east!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ola, Yell County

9X12, Oil on Panel

Ola is a tiny town the sits between the Arkansas River Valley and the Ouachita Mountains.  This is not the most memorable view in Ola but I felt like doing some rural decay.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dickey Stephens Park, North Little Rock

Dickey Stephens Park
17" Home Plate

The above painting is available for online auction from now until October 27, 2010 at http://jimelder.org/auction/item.php?id=60.  Dickey Stephens Park is the home of the Arkansas Travelers minor league baseball team.  The Jim Elder Home Plate Heroes fund provides money to organizations aimed at providing opportunities to local underprivileged youth.  Other paintings being auctioned can be seen here:  http://jimelder.org/auction/

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Soul of Blues

I don't really practice any precise "-ism" but if one were to ask me what type of art it is I create, I suppose I would answer with the term "tonal impressionism."  I say this because I think that colors have specific moods and qualities and when used together in certain manners, a synergy can be achieved that sets the stage for the subject matter.  The subject matter is somewhat secondary to the general overall impression of mood which is achieved via the interplay of carefully selected and limited color palettes.

It is from this standpoint and mode of thought that I conclude that the selection of blue in a painting is perhaps the single most important aspect in the color palette.  I am finding that while I may use several yellows and possibly a couple of different reds, one single blue produces the best result for me.  Two blues are competitive with one another.  The intrinsic mood or soul of the painting is contained in the blue.  I do think that sometimes a second blue may be used if in very small quantities for a specific purpose.  For instance, I will sometimes find myself needing a touch of cerulean to give a summer sky a bit more power but other than that, the second blue is very very rare.

Some of the characters that I find in blues are:

Cobalt (PB28) - Earthy but bright and warm
Ultramarine (PB29)- Cool and serene
Prussian (PB27)- Unpredictable, wild and moody
Phthalo - I don't have much experience at all with pthalo and it comes in both a red (PB15:1) and a green (PB15:3) shade.  But painters I know who use it exclusively tend to have results that are soothing and deep.
Cerulean (PB35)- powerful and transcendent but being opaque and high value out of the tube not a candidate to carry a painting solo.  This is the only blue that will augment another well.

There is also the difficult to find Manganese blue that while I've never used I would probably put in a similar category with cerulean.  It is relatively opaque and high in value compared to other blues and this makes it difficult to wield in the shadows.

Phthalo is considered to be a Prussian replacement.  Due to the unpredictability of the pigment for Prussian blue, it can vary rather wildly in character from batch to batch.  Also, it behaves very differently in tints from phthalo which retains it's character more readily while Prussian can have a tendency to get smokey when highly tinted.

I want to caveat the above information:  these are my impressions from my experience with mixing and working with color.  Even if you have used the same pigments as I have, you may have an entirely different mindset on how you want to accomplish your goals and this may be totally useless to you.  But from how I approach and think about color and the goals I want to accomplish, these are my conclusions.  I also want to state these characters I perceive are really only useful when you consider how they mix and interact with other pigments and not on their own.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Monroe County Courthouse, Clarendon, AR

Monroe County Courthouse
8X10, Oil on Panel

I was recently invited to the town of Clarendon by the wife of the mayor to do some painting.  Clarendon is in the Delta of eastern Arkansas and is smack dab at the confluence of White  and Cache Rivers.  

Clarendon suffers from the same ills as most of the rest of the Delta: lack of industry and jobs that drives the young to the cities.  There is a great wealth of farming in the Delta, from soybeans, rice and still some cotton, but not enough jobs associated with that industry to sustain the communities.  Still, some people know what these communities used to be and are doing everything that can to save them.  Clarendon recently was awarded a matching grant for beautification of the downtown area.  They also hope that a change in how the Cache River channel is managed will improve fishing and bring more commerce to the area.  I hope so too, the town still has charm but may not for much longer if the decline cannot be reversed.

I took quite a few pictures while I was there and hope to do more from Clarendon in time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Enon, Contre-Jour

Enon, Contre-jour
14X18, Oil on Panel

This little church is just a mile or two from the house I grew up in.  I used to ride my bike past it all the time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hardboard Panel Prep

As I mentioned previously, my substrate of choice these days is plywood.  I find it to be durable, cheap, and about as convenient as possible considering I have to do all of the prep work.  I use both storebought "art" plywood and hardware store sheets.

The "art" plywood is baltic birch and comes in packs of 5 cut to size.  The advantage of this material is that the cuts are perfectly clean and the board should be very square.  The downside is that they are only available in 1/8" thickness.  This means that sizes are relatively limited without cradling.  In fact, I will only use this material up to 12X16.  That may actually be the upper size limit available, I don't remember offhand.  One of my favorite things about painting on board is that it is extremely easy to frame these paintings with only a point driver.  Having to resort to a cradle for large sizes eliminates this ease and also adds a lot of weight to the finished piece!

For larger pieces, I go with good old hardware store sheet plywood.  I usually use 1/4" oak panels.  It is also available in maple and I think birch may be available as well.  The 1/4" thickness resists warping in sizes up to 30X30.  I have found that propensity to warp is a function of the individual sheet more than anything and is probably due to insufficient curing at the factory or a defect in the internal plies.  I have had some that warp up badly and some that stay nice and flat no matter how or where stored.  If you buy a sheet that wants to warp, you will be forced to cut smaller sizes.  But I'd say in more than 90% of the panels I've bought, I've had no issues with warping at all.  A good stable sheet might could be cut into sizes larger than 30" but only if used in a fairly square aspect ratio.  The longer the aspect ratio, the more likely you are to see some warpage.

After cutting my panels to size, I use coarse sandpaper to remove burrs and smooth the cut edges.  At this stage, you will have two edges that cannot be smoothed very well.  These edges are cut against the grain of the internal plies and will look porous.  I'll fix that later.  I will also lightly sand both faces.  You'll notice that one face is slightly smoother than the other.  That's the face I usually paint on but not always.  Sometimes I might find a flaw in the smooth face or maybe I want that rougher surface for some reason.  After wiping the faces down, it's time for gesso.  Using the precut baltic birch, I avoid all of the previous steps.  I use acrylic dispersion "gesso" from Liquitex, the relatively thin stuff.  I use 3 coats on the face I intend to paint on and usually one or two on the back side.  Whether or not I gesso the backside is sometimes dependent upon time and how impatient I am to use that size.  I do not sand between coats unless the panel is small and I have large brushmarks left.  I have learned that the brushmarks usually are aesthetically pleasing to me in large sizes but distracting in smaller ones.

I know that some artists use a primer or sealer but I do not and I have a very specific reason for that.  Most artists use what's called GAC100 from Gamblin as a primer.  I also know of at least one artist who uses one coat of clear gesso first and then 2-3 coats of the standard gesso over that.  Remember now, when I say gesso, I am referring to acrylic dispersion primer and not traditional, real gesso.

On a hot day here in Arkansas, I can do all 3 coats in a single day.  The longer, more difficult part is sealing the edges.  This is not a necessary step but I like to do it.  It produces a more professional product I think.    I will gesso all 4 cut edges and sand them as smooth as possible.  It may take several coats for the rough edges cut against the grain of the internal plies.  I still use only coarse grain sandpaper.  I don't think you need to use anything very fine, all you want is a sealed edge with no burrs.  This step is something you shouldn't bother with if you are using the precut 1/8" panels.  With these panels, they are so thin you will only succeed in building up a bead of gesso on the face of the panel and it won't do anything for the cut edge.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lonoke Depot, Lonoke County

Lonoke Depot
11X14, Oil on Panel

Three weekends ago I went over to the next county east of here for some plein air in the town of Lonoke.  Lonoke is, aptly, the county seat of Lonoke County.  Before going over there, I checked the town out on Google Street view and really liked the downtown area.  It's an odd sort of layout, with two main rows of businesses centered on the sides of the railroad tracks.  This very interesting depot anchors the downtown area.  The courthouse square is about 2 blocks north of the downtown.

Unlike many other areas of the Delta, Lonoke is holding up quite well.  I'm sure being within commuting distance of Little Rock has a lot to do with that.  The downtown, while not thriving, is holding it's own in a time when so many others are just falling apart.

I did the underpainting for this one on site and then moved on to another painting of the end of the building.  There is a large relief on the end that proudly proclaims, "Lonoke" and I wanted to show that.  The painting turned out to not be of the quality I expect so it I paint over it with oil primer and reuse the panel.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ralph Michaelis Memorial Merit Award

Last Friday night was the reception for the Hot Springs Fine Arts Center Diamond National Show.  My entry won the Ralph Michaelis Memorial Merit Award.  This show had an unusual award structure, there were 3 Honorable Mentions, 3 Merit Awards and Best in Show.  I was told I just barely missed the Best in Show.  This painting has won 2 awards this year.  If it doesn't sell, and at this point I hope it does not, I have another show I want to try to get it into.  

Here are some of the other award winners:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hardboard Panels

I thought I might write some about how I like to work and a great place to start would seem to be at the very beginning, the surface or support.  Supports are often taken for granted but the support you use can have a major impact on the way you work, whether you realize that or not.

Most everyone out there paints on canvas.  That's just the automatic thought, oil on canvas.  It's fairly cheap and easily obtainable.  Every arts and crafts store out there carries pre-stretched cotton duck canvases.  Many of those store brands are less than exemplary.  A couple of years ago, I began to look at alternative surfaces.  I noticed that a couple of artists whose work I loved worked on board so I investigated that.  "Board" can mean quite a number of things, I found out!  But, at the end of the day there are 2 basic varieties of board:  the fiberboards and the plywoods.  Every other option relates to how the surface is prepared.

Fiberboard, or MDF (medium denstiy fiberboard),is also commonly referred to as masonite but that is a trade name for a particular brand of fiberboard.  MDF is basically shredded wood fiber which is mixed with an adhesive and pressed back together under heat and pressure.  Fiberboard is hard but brittle and susceptible to warping under even relatively minor exposure to moisture.  The adhesives used in it's manufacture are also typically formaldehyde resins and these materials do release volatile organics from cut edges.  There do exist some fiberboards which are supposedly archival and these are what you can usually find in art supply stores under names like gessoboard.  I do not know what is done differently in these that make them archival but it's a sure bet they still use formaldehyde resins in their manufacture.  I have used these myself in the past but do not anticpate ever making them a standard part of my practice.  I also certainly would not use hardware store MDF as a painting surface.

Plywoods are pretty well know to most people.  They consist of layers of wood veneer with successive layers arranged such that their grains are at right angles to each other.  Plywood is possibly the first composite material humans ever produced.  It has been around for millenia.  Plywood is strong and light and resistant to warping in smaller footprints.  Larger panels can be made warp resistant by cradling.  I paint on plywood almost exclusively now.

More on hardboard panels later!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Burns Park Plein Air

Burns Park Covered Bridge
9X12, Oil on Panel

A few weeks ago I went out plein air painting with David Paul Cook and Pat White of Sage House Gallery at White Wagon Farm.  We visited this covered bridge at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

Burns Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the country at 1700 acres.  It has a rather magnificent soccer complex which has hosted the US Soccer junior national championship as well as several regional qualifiers.  It also has some fantastic mountain biking trails.  I'll be enjoying those tomorrow morning with a brisk ride before I deliver paintings for the upcoming ALA show.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Guy, Faulkner County

Guy, Faulkner County
9X12, Oil on Panel

The little town of Guy is in northern Faulkner county.  This is very close to the epicenter of the recent spate of earthquakes which have rattle north central Arkansas.  This area is also right in the middle of the Fayetteville Shale region which is being exploited by the hydraulic fracturing process to extract natural gas.  Many people believe that the injection of the fracking fluid into the ground is the cause of the earthquakes here.  I find it fascinating that Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a moratorium on injection on wells in this area and the earthquakes diminished rapidly!  I could stand on quite a soapbox about my feelings concerning hydraulic fracturing.  When the industry began to move in, I was cautiously optimistic that it would bring in much needed jobs and some wealth for the locals who desperately need it.  I say cautiously because I know it's the locals who usually get the butt end of the stick in things like this.  My optimism is pretty much gone.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hot Springs Fine Arts Center Diamond National

I am pleased to announce that "Perry Train Yard" was accepted into the Diamond National Exhibition at the Hot Springs Fine Arts Center.  I delivered it last Saturday.  I was told that entries were up this year both in quality and quantity over last year.  This painting will be offered for sale at this show for the first and possibly only time.  I am seriously considering placing it in my personnal collection permanently.  The show opens with a reception and awards ceremony on Friday, September 2nd from 5-8PM.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sultry Searcy Day

Sultry Searcy County Day
18X24, Oil on Panel
Here is a larger version of a study I did a few weeks ago.  I have not painted this large in a while.  It was nice to see this one come together as quickly as it did since the last relatively large piece I did took several months to work out.

Being the lazy blogger I am, I have a rather substantial backlog of pieces to post, including some new counties.  You'd think I'd be in a hurry to post new counties.  I'll get around to it soon.

I have also recently learned that the Buffalo National River has canceled all artist residencies going forward due to budget cuts.  I believe that mine is the first one being cut.  It may be a blessing in disguise though as about half of my residency was going to taken up with teaching a workshop.   While I would have enjoyed the new challenge of teaching, I think I need to be spending most of my time in the act of painting.  I still plan on going to the river this fall and camping and painting just as I would have during my residency.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Long Pool Rocks, Pope County

Long Pool Rocks
11X14, Oil on Panel

I've built up a bit of an inventory of paintings during the short period while my camera was broken.  I have a new one that is a touch more sophisticated than my old but photographing paintings is never easy.  This new one goes into "landscape" mode when I do closely cropped shots of my pieces.  Guess that means I'm doing a good job!

These huge rocks at the end of Long Pool on Big Piney Creek in Pope County make excellent diving platforms.  They really are this big.  It is rather unusual in the Ozarks when no glaciers were ever active to move huge stones of this size.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mississippi River Bridge at Hwy 49, Helena, Phillips County

Mississippi River Bridge, Hwy 49
8X10, Oil on Panel

Here's the other from my trip to Helena.  Had a lot of trouble with this one, the paint just did not want to stick to the smooth panel with the 104°F heat index!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gist Music, Helena, AR, Phillips County

Gist Music
9X12, Oil on Panel

I have finally gotten my camera replaced and have several paintings that need to be posted.  Here is the completed piece from my recent trip to Helena.  This is Gist Music on Cherry Street.

I am very pleased to announce that I have had two pieces accepted in the Arkansas League of Artists Juried show.  This show will hang at the Cantrell Gallery at 8206 Cantrell Road in Little Rock from September 9 to October 29.  The pieces accepted can be seen here and here.  This show was juried by an outstanding Little Rock based artist, Stephen Cefalo.  I feel very honored to have had not just one but two pieces selected by him for this show.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Buffalo River Artisans Guild Demo Painting

I was invited to do a demo for the Buffalo River Artisans Guild last Saturday so I traveled up to Marshall, AR in the heart of the Ozarks.  I was hoping the weather would cooperate and enable me to do a plein air landscape painting but with the heat, I thought it would be best to keep everyone inside.  I had never done a demo like this in front of people who would be watching everything from beginning to end and expecting some commentary.  But as it turns out, this was a great dry-run for something I will be doing this fall.  I have been selected to be Artist in Residence on the Buffalo National River in September.  In association with this, I will be giving a workshop so the experience here was invaluable.

This painting will be auctioned by the club in August.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Helena, Phillips County - An Impromptu Paintout!

Helena, AR

On Sunday, July 10, I traveled east to the very edge of the state and the mighty Mississippi River.  Helena Arkansas was at one time instrumental in the birth of the grandfather of many forms of American music, the Blues.  Helena was the voice of the Blues starting in 1941 when King Biscuit Time debuted.  King Biscuit Time was a radio show which played the Blues exclusively, giving a voice to African-Americans during a time when they were afforded little to none in the popular media, especially in the South.  It was the first of it's kind.  In 1941, in Helena, Arkansas, Southern African-American culture began to be disseminated to the masses.  And the culture of America was forever changed.  One could certainly argue that this was bound to happen somewhere.  If not Helena, then Memphis.  But the simple fact is, it began in Helena.

 Helena was chosen as the subject of the day by Matt Lee, an artist whose acquaitance I had made via the Wetcanvas online artist community.  He also made arrangements for us to meet and paint with the curator of the Delta Cultural Center, Mr. Bill Branch.  We arrived at 10AM and met at the DCC visitor center.  Bill gave Matt and I a tour of their impressive facility.  Not only were the interpretive exhibits of the history of the Blues and the delta top notch, there was also some fantastic art on display from Hearne Fine Art in Little Rock.  After this, Bill gave us a tour of town.  Helena straddles the very end of Crowley's Ridge.  This landform is unique in North America, it a long ridge of fine soil that runs north-south from southern Missouri to the Missisippi River at Helena in the middle of the pancake flat Delta.  When I was in high school, I went on a gifted and talented program which spent 4 weeks touring the entire state.  At that time, the prevailing thought on the formation of Crowley's Ridge was that is was a deposit of windblown loess.  That seems to be in doubt these days as some sources say it as fluvial in origin or possibly that it is rising due to tectonic forces.  I still subscribe to what I learned many years ago, that it is windblown loess.

Helena is a far different place today than it was in 1941.  Most of the industry is gone and Cherry Street (Helena has no Main Street) is populated with ghosts of the past.  Empty store fronts are much more common than those with tenants.  Still, there is something different to Helena than other towns with this same problem.  There's a strong desire in Helena to rebuild the community.  There are thriving churches downtown and more history than you can shake a stick at.  Some of it is in sore disrepair but some of it is being restored.  I would say that the source of this palpable energy is in large part due to the Delta Cultural Center.   I feel that Helena is the front line of a decades long fight against the decay of small town America.   It has had one of the steepest declines in population in the entire country.  If this town can turn things around, then so can others.  With it's rich history, I think they have a chance.

We started the painting for the day on a boardwalk by the river with the US 49 bridge providing a backdrop.  The heat index was probably already well over 100°F.  I set up in what was a smattering of shade that lasted about 15 minutes at best.  We planned on working for about an hour and with that time constraint in mind, I chose a long-view that cropped out all the foreground.  As the sun moved out from behind a few leaves and fell directly onto my palette, the paint began to slump and all but refused to stick on my simply prepared panels.  I found myself wishing I used linen!  I made do, however.
Matt's first of the day

Close up of Matt's first

Bill's first of the day

My first simple little painting of the day

After this, we returned to the DCC for a light lunch and to refill water bottles.  Then it was time to hit Cherry Street and do some urban landscape.  I chose a building with a nice little striped canopy that Matt pointed out.  It was next door to a building with rusted iron features that I thought would also have made a great little painting but I wondered if I could get that in the amount of time I wanted to spend and from across the street where the best shade was.  The building currently houses Gist Music store and is on the west side of Cherry.  The sun was past zenith and cast a nice shadow across the first third of the canopy.  I quickly built my shadows and I'm very glad I did because the shadow on the canopy crept quickly across the full face of it and by the time I was done had engulfed the entire front of the street.  Both Matt and Bill chose much more challenging, full block scenes.
Bill Branch's second of the day

Matt Lee Works on his 2nd of the Day

Gist Music

In all, I'm very happy with the day.  I don't know if I've ever had time to even try to paint two paintings on location before in the same day, let alone make two that I would be willing to show!  My camera has suddenly decided it's done with it's life.  As soon as I get a new one, I'll post the cropped pictures of these completed pieces.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Searcy County Barn, Study

Searcy County Barn Study
9X12, Oil on Oak Panel
I painted most of this one during last month's Argenta Art Walk.  It is based on a barn between Snowball and Witts Springs in Searcy County.  The actual barn is considerably more dilapidated than I'm showing it.  I'm seriously considering doing this on an 18X24.   There are at least 2 errors here that need to be corrected...anyone?

Monday, June 20, 2011

1 Year Anniversary!

As hard as it is to believe, this blog is now one year old!   I still have no idea how long it will take me to complete this challenge but I feel like I'm making good progress.  When I started, I had only about 8-10 counties done so I've more than doubled that in a year.  Not earth shattering I know I'm happy with that production rate for now.  Thanks to everyone who follows and reads this blog.  I appreciate it and, of course, love to hear feedback!  Happy Birthday Painting Arkansas blog.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jefferson County Courthouse, Pine Bluff, Jefferson Co

Jefferson County Courthouse
11X14, Oil on Birch Panel

Last weekend I went down to Pine Bluff to paint what I think may be the most striking courthouse in Arkansas.    The Jefferson County courthouse is this marvelous white with a glowing golden painted dome.   While not the most ornate courthouse in the state, it certainly does stand out.  It was built in 1856 and partially burned in the '70's.  I had never been to Pine Bluff before last Saturday.  It is a small town with big city problems and the reputation of the town is well known.  I found a downtown deserted on a Saturday morning.  Almost no business was open and the traffic count on Barraque Street, what should be a fairly major street in downtown, was probably no more than 30 cars the whole time I was there.  Several passed by me more than once.  Only one person came by to talk to me and I only saw one other person on foot.

I set up in the shadow of a building across the street from the courthouse, knowing the blazing hot sun would soon rear up over the top of the roofline and bath me.  I had been hoping to catch the building fully backlit so I could explore some more color in the sky but by the time I got there, the sun was already high enough that no cool sky colors were to be found.  You might could call this a modified Sargent palette.  I used Cobalt blue, yellow ochre, and transparent red oxide which I consider to be in essence the same as what Sargent used for a lot of his architectural work.  He probably used ivory black which can appear very blue when tinted and used alongside warmer colors. 

I struggled mightily with size and perspective in this one.  The color of the shadowed white building also gave me fits.  I should have done it from the eastern side so as to avoid that problem but it's always good to take on a challenge.  There were several moments when I almost gave up on it.

After I had had enough of this one, I wandered about the streets for a while, taking photos.  It was enough to rend the preservationist soul of me.  I could clearly see what the town of Pine Bluff had been and what it still could be.  But the fact I could stand in the middle of Main Street for minutes on end trying to find the best vantage point possible on a Saturday morning spoke volumes for how far this town has fallen. 

As is all too often the case with me, I fell in love with what I could see the town becoming.  I know I'll be back.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Falling Water Falls, Pope County

Falling Water Falls
11X14, Oil on Birch Panel

A few weeks ago, I took my son waterfall hunting in the Ozarks.  We've had a phenomenally long waterfall season in this year.  Usually by this time of year, they are starting to trickle.  the downside to the long waterfall season is flooding and severe weather.  I started this one en plein air with a value sketch and then colored it in the studio.  Falling Water Falls is one of the easiest falls in the state to get to and as a result is a favorite target of photographers.  I've never seen a painting of it before though.  It lies at the extreme northern end of Pope County just a bit before crossing into Searcy County on Falling Water Creek in the Ozark National Forest.  On this same day, we saw Six Finger Falls and Keefe Falls.  I packed my 13 lb pochade the .5 mile bushwhack into Keefe Falls and did a value sketch there as well as the rain fell.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cotter Train Bridge #2, Baxter County

Cotter Train Bridge #2
12X16, Oil on Birch Panel

Well folks, I promised myself when I started this blog that I would try to post something often enough that I never felt the need to offer an apology for not posting "in forever."  But here I am, sorry for not posting in forever!  I've been working on several pieces simultaneously and waiting until several were done before posting. I must confess, that with gas prices going up, my progress on this project is probably going to take a major hit this summer.  I plan on trying to pick off a few nearby counties in central Arkansas but will probably not be going very far afield.  I'm going to be working on a portfolio for a submission to a very specific gallery this summer.  I don't plan on posting many of those as I go along.  I might change my mind though.  There may be more action over at my other blog The Art of John D. Wooldridge.

You may remember a few weeks ago, I posted a 6X8 version of this painting.  I liked it enough that I wanted to do a larger version.  While there were many good qualities to the smaller one which did not get translated over into this one, I feel the overall drama of the piece is vastly enhanced.

Interestingly, Bill Garrison told me at his workshop I attended last month that he also did a painting of this bridge at one point in time.  He told me this bridge was designed to rotate on the central pier to accommodate river boat traffic.  After the bridge was finished, the rotation function was tested and then rotated back into place .  It hasn't moved since.  He titled his painting, "Old Once Around."  I wonder what it looks like.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lake Dardanelle Train Bridge, Pope County

Lake Dardanelle Train Bridge
11X14, Oil on Birch Panel

This is another one from the workshop I took with Bill Garrison a few weeks ago.  I did most of this one en plein air but then did a few touch ups in the studio later, mostly incorporating Bill's comments.  One thing he suggested that I'm not sure I really did quite like get right was the vague reflection of the bridge in the water.  I did smudge a little of that color into the water but I don't know if it reads quite as a broken reflection.  I saw this bridge on day one and knew I would have to try to paint it.  It was very windy the day I did this one. This view was somewhat sheltered from the wind by trees and buildings on the point but the water here was still pretty active.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Big Springs Smoked Meats and Restaurant

Yesterday, we went up to Searcy County to hang some paintings at Big Springs Smoked Meats and Restaurant in St. Joe on Hwy 65.    It would be pretty hard to miss the place, it's on one of the few straight stretches of road between Western Grove and Leslie.  I can personally testify that the brisket sandwich is extremely tasty and worth the stop if you happen to be traveling 65 through the heart of the Ozarks.  Of course, I think my paintings are worth a stop too but I'm a bit biased in that.  And if my paintings are no longer there, then you will probably be able to see some by Harrison artist Tara Carey.  Great food, great art,...it's a no lose situation.

I also used this trip to get more reference photos from the Gilbert area.  Gilbert is a small town (population 33) right on the Buffalo River.  It is very typical for Gilbert to record the coldest temperatures in the state during the winter and the sign coming into town proudly claims it to be the "coolest town in Arkansas."  There's one shot I got of a church which I think will be excellent material.  I almost got a face full of barbed wire fence when I slipped in some mud coming back across a small creek from getting the picture.  That actually makes me fairly certain it will turn out to be an exceptional piece, no pain no gain after all.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bill Garrison Workshop and an Award

Earlier this week, I spent 3 days up the Arkansas River in Russellville for a workshop with one of the best painters in the state, Mr. Bill Garrison.  This was Bill's first workshop in quite a few years so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate.  The workshop was held at an Arkansas Tech University facility called Lake Pointe.  It was a beautiful location with nice views of Mt. Nebo across Lake Dardanelle.  The campus had many mature trees for shade and to provide balance for the big but distant views.  The first day was a bit damp and cold so it was spent inside with Bill doing demos.  The second day was very seasonable and after a short morning demo, we hit the easels.  I got a nice underpainting and another "finished" piece on the first day.  The second day was much warmer, with highs probably in the mid 80's, with bright sun.  It was windy on the lake side of the point upon which the facility was located.  However, I had my sights set on a low train bridge on the cove side which was sheltered from the wind.  It was an old rusty thing but still strong and in use.  The dull, rusty red made a wonderful counterpoint against the bright green of the trees busting open.  I "finished" that one by around 2 or so and then went in for the rest of the day.

Here's one of them from the first day.  I'm going to make some tweaks to the other two.

Mt. Nebo #1
8X10, Oil on linen panel

Buckstaff Baths won a merit award at the Hot Springs Fine Arts Center Regional Show!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

White River Paint Out

As fellow Arkansas artist Bill Garrison reminded me in a comment a few days ago, the White River Artists will be having their 3rd annual plein air paint out on May 19-21.  I will be unable to attend but I'm sure there will be plenty of great painters there and lots of camaraderie for anyone interested in participating.  You can get more information at their facebook page.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hot Springs Fine Arts Center Spring Regional Competition

I have 2 pieces juried into the 2011 Hot Springs Fine Arts Center's Spring Regional Competition.  The opening for the show is this Friday night, April 1st, 2011 from 5 to 8PM at the Fine Arts Center at 626 Central Avenue. This corresponds with the city's monthly art walk.  I should be there for most of that time so anyone in the local area, please feel free to come by and say hi!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

White Hole - Downstream, Marion County

White Hole - Downstream
6X8, Oil on Oak Panel

White Hole is a public access area on the White River just a couple of bends downstream from Bull Shoals Lock and Dam.  This is a very popular area with the fly fishers and really anyone looking to hook a trout or two. There are quite a few resorts on this stretch of the river including Gaston's and the White Hole Resort.  At the top of the bluff shown here is the White River Inn.  I chose to leave it out.

Marion County, I'm not done with you yet.  I know way too many of your secrets!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Train Bridge - Cotter, Baxter County

Train Bridge - Cotter
6X8, Oil on Oak Panel

The town of Cotter sits on the banks of the White River.  This train bridge is just upstream from a vehicular bridge of historical note.  The White River in this area is renown for it's trout fishing.  Cotter has been bypassed by a new stretch of 4 lane divided US 412/62.  I wonder what the future holds for this town?  Often times, when small towns like this get bypassed they just fade away.  Cotter at least has a good deal of tourist trade and maybe it will hang on or possibly even thrive with the better access a 4 lane divided highway can bring.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Augusta House Boats, Augusta, Woodruff County

Augusta House Boats
11X14, Oil on Birch Panel

This was from my recent trip up to Jacksonport and through 4 Delta counties.  Downtown Augusta was deserted when I was there.  It has an intriguing old downtown area but being as deserted as it was, it was forlorn feeling.  Especially forlorn given the overcast nature of the afternoon.  I walked down the middle of the street taking pictures, my only accompaniment a set of windchimes tuned in a minor key.  There is a theater in downtown that must have been beautiful in it's heyday.  Sad state of repair today though, I'm afraid.  I may revisit Augusta to paint that theater.

The town is poised on the eastern bank of the White River.  From about Batesville south to the Arkansas River, the White is navigable by steam ship.  Like Jacksonport, the fortunes of Augusta probably rose and fell in time with transportation.  It was probably a major hub of activity until the advent of trains.

Recently, the only working steamboat on the White River was declared unsalvable.  The Mary Woods 2 was moored at Jacksonport State Park.  It sank in 2010.  RIP.