Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge is an absolutely HUGE swampy area in the extreme southern portion of Arkansas. One of these days I would like to take a kayak and go explore this place in greater detail, painting for several days deep in the swamp. I hope I wouldn't get lost but navigating this type of terrain is definitely out of my ken so maybe such a trip would be unwise.
The county seat of Union County is El Dorado. I had heard lots of great things about the town but it had been many years since I had been there. I had no idea just how cool of a town it was! I will be going back and painting El Dorado one of these days.
Here is a studio piece done from photo references collected during my southeast Arkansas trip. This was just a happenstance find. I was almost out of Drew County when I saw this flash of yellow across a swampy pond. I pulled as far off the road as I could and ran over and took as many pictures as I could without getting hit by traffic. Now, there wasn't a whole lot of traffic, but what there was traveled pretty fast!
This big one used my small plein air as it's study. This painting, along with "Carver, Buffalo National River," will be going to Hot Springs tomorrow for the Hot Springs Fine Arts Center's Diamond National Show. The opening for that show is this Friday night.
I have a couple more counties complete and two others moving along nicely. I should get around to photographing those two completed ones soon. If I can get the other two in process done before the end of the year, I will have met my goal of 20 counties in a single year!
But until then, here are couple of pepper paintings from 3 years ago. These three little jalapenos were straight out of my garden. The paintings were done a day or so apart and are the same 3 peppers. They were very fun and I really should do more still life I think.
I painted this one the same night as my Little Rock skyline painting. It was more than a little creepy painting this one in a very dark part of the park where I think people go for all manner of things at night. The moon was about 3/4 full and not providing nearly as much light as I expected. I have painted the covered bridge from almost this exact same spot before. My main goal here was to get the color and value to properly emulate the night and I think I did a pretty decent job. I will need to go back when the moon, weather and temperatures fall into place and do a more interesting angle.
I painted this nocturne of the Little Rock skyline en plein air a few weeks ago. This was done from Fort Roots which currently houses a VA location on top of a hill in North Little Rock. It is a common place for cyclists to come and get some hill climbing in town and a large group ride passed by me the night I was out there. I seem to be perpetually trying to catch up on photographing and posting work.
This one is from a few years back but I still like it. I had posted it to my other blog but I am going to slowly work to phase that out and delete it eventually. Sometimes, I get on a still life kick in the fall. I didn't happen this year because I was so intent of completing the works from my southeast Arkansas trip. These three leaves were from maple tree on the trail behind our house. I just couldn't resist trying to get these colors down.
There are some things I see here I would like to get back into my current work.
Driving through the timberland in Bradley County, I saw this big copse of trees out in the middle of piece of land that had been cut a few years back. The sapling pines provided an almost sea-like surrounding and made me liken the big trees to an island.
I think I came to know about Charles Burchfield via an article in a magazine I was reading at a book store one time. I was instantly struck by how innovative this guy was and that someone who was so innovative was so little known. In Insect Chorus, Burchfield tries to give us his interpretation of the cacophony of insects in the summer time. The varying linear forms are his language for different sounds. Down in the lower left we have crickets with a sharp raucous call while in the trees, cicadas drone on with swirling forms that seem to wind around each other, starting and restarting within a larger, persistent structure. This is genious at work. He developed an entire logical structure of form language for this piece. In other pieces, he did much that same but with feelings such as joy and, more commonly, fear and foreboding. I would really urge you to check this guy out. He did some really special work.
The Big Dam Bridge crosses the Arkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock just east of I-430. It was said at the time it was constructed to be the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. I believe it has been surpassed now by some bridge in China but it is still very impressive for a city the size of Little Rock. It is the lynchpin of the Arkansas River Trail which is a multiuse paved trail system 14 miles long that is very popular with runners, walkers, and cyclists.
This was a plein air nocturne from a few weeks ago that needed just a few finishing touches in the studio.
Warren was probably my favorite town I visited during my trip. It had lots of great buildings and a surprising rolling landscape that gave really nice views of the downtown area which is built up on a small rise. I set up by the local historical society and painted for far too long again.
One interesting thing to note, while painting both in Warren and Rison, I had people stop and ask if the painting would be in the newspaper. I thought that was kind of strange.
I am very pleased to announce that my painting "La Voie de Triomphe" was accepted into a show called Bike Art at The Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, CO. This show happens to run concurrently with the 2014 Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder so there will be a ton of cyclists and cycling afficionados in town for this event. Very exciting stuff!
This was my third plein air from Day 2 of my recent SE AR trip. Inspired by some of the paintings and photography that I had been seeing on Facebook from fellow Arkansan Norwood Creech, I was hoping to find some cotton fields to paint. Finally, just as I was about to leave the Delta behind and go back into the Timberlands of south central Arkansas, I ran into some cotton fields. Some of the first ones still had leaves on the plants and some other fields were either already harvested or in bad shape without the big fluffy bolls I was looking for. But then, there was the field I had been searching for!
This is my 55th county meaning I have only 7 more to go to complete my goal of 20 for the year.
This was my first painting of the second day of my southeast Arkansas trip and my first ever plein air nocturne. One of the great things about "camping" in a van is that it really eliminates a lot of setup and takedown effort so one can get into the campsite later and get out earlier. I made it to Lake Chicot State Park a little after 6PM the night before and tried to get in a sunset painting but did not have near enough time to get the composition set up before the sky colored up and the sun vanished behind the far shore line. So resolved to myself to paint the following morning before sunrise. I set my alarm for 5AM but was already awake when it went off. So, in the low 40's of the predawn, I went down to the boat launch and got set up and was painting by 6AM with a lonely owl in the woods behind me to keep me company.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a two day paint/camp trip to the southeast corner of the state. It was an effort to close out a large chunk of my project in a short period of time. My overall goal was to get very solid starts on paintings in 6 out of the 8 counties in that region for which I had no photo reference material and to get photo reference material for the remaining two. I fell just short of that goal in that I got solid starts/completions for only 5 of the 6 but I did get photo reference for everything. Now, my goal is to fully close out that southeast corner of the state by year's end. It's going to be hard but I do have a solid start and it is feasible.
This was the second painting from my second day. The first day, I made the mistake of doing two street scenes (which I said I wasn't going to do but I have a hard time not painting those!) and also doing them at 8X10. The first painting of that first day I started at 9:30 and finally stopped working on it over 2 hours later. Not the way to make great time but it turned out to be a good painting.
I'm starting my documentation of this trip with this painting because it was the most complete of all of them. All I did in the studio was add a few indications of tree trunks in the far trees and sign it.
I have a lot more things from Desha County I want to paint, including enlarging this one to a 30X40!
This was a fun little painting, playing with all that bright yellow. This is 52 out of 75 counties! I still need 8 more to complete my goal before the end of the year. It's a big task but maybe I can pull it off. I just got back from a paint camp trip to the southeast corner of the state where I got 6 really solid painting starts. Two of those probably only need very minor tune ups and they're done.
A few months ago, I made a 3 county photographing trip, including Sharp County. The town of Cave City sits right on the border with Independence County. I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of this brand new bank being built here. One of the things that caught my eye was how this very modern looking building with the large two story all glass atrium had a native stone façade on the front portion that almost perfectly matched the century old native stone storefronts down the street. I've chosen to focus more on the sign here as I didn't see an obvious way to show how this building melded into the existing street front.
I mentioned a while back that I went to Colorado Springs for a workshop with Dan Schultz. We camped at Cheyenne Mountain State Park for a few days before a storm blew in across the mountains and almost literally blew us of the mountainside. This is the first painting I started when we got there and I was just never very happy with it on site but I brought it home and tweaked it a bit to get this as a final result.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a located in Bentonville in Benton County. This is an incredibly impressive, world-class facility. It's collection is large and growing with some of America's great luminary artists represented: Sargent, Remington, Rothko, geez I could go on and on. It is a must see and is already generating a massive influx of tourists to the region. I highly recommend the trip here to visit. I will have to try to do a post about the contents of the museum itself here in the near future.
This is county 50 of 75 finally. I am way off the mark for my goal of twenty counties this year but I have a trip planned soon to the southeastern corner of the state which should knock out a several more.
I've been having some issues lately with getting pictures of new paintings from my camera to my computer so they can be processed for uploading so here is an older piece. Hopefully I will have another new painting to publish here tonight.
I really should paint flowers more often.
I seem to like to do still life during the spring and fall for some reason. I know a lot of people would quote some composition "rules" on me about this one but I really like the composition. I think the splash of the warmest yellow in the center of the opening blossom is more than sufficient to overcome the convergence of "pointers" that some would say work to pull the eye out of the frame. This was a conscious choice. I looked at several different arrangements and subtle variations of this one and I just kept coming back to this general setup. I thought there was great tension in the relative positions of the flowers within the frame.
It was amazing how fast the one blossom opened as I painted them. It was barely cracked open when I was designing the image but by the time I was done the petals were diverging quickly! Had I needed another couple of hours, I think it would have been fully open. I did chase the shape some before I realized what was happening.
After I got a really good solid start on my painting of Falling Water Falls a few weeks ago, we drove on up the road to another nice multi-cascade fall called Six Finger Falls. Here, thin layers of shale have been shaped into multiple "fingers" (six I guess, I have never bothered to count them) in between which roar cascades of water. This fall is more impressive in higher water but if it gets too high then the water covers over the finger effect. I was not very pleased with the result I got on-site so at the end of my session I wiped away basically all of the rock area to a mid tone gray and took it home and worked it into this a few weeks later.
We had been planning a camping trip to the Buffalo this weekend but with the government shutdown, all national park and forest service campgrounds are closed. Looks like we may be venturing to a new place instead.
A few weeks ago, I went out plein air painting with friend and fellow Arkansas League of Artists board member Sean Lecrone. We went driving out Highway 10 west of Little Rock past Lake Maumelle. I had been out that way a week earlier and had noticed a lot of potential sites that I wanted to get a better look at. There are barns, streams, boats and all sorts of subject matter. We settled on a little boat launch area of Lake Maumelle called Sleepy Hollow and this painting was the end result.
I will be very straightforward, Cezanne's work is rather hit or miss for me. His work that I like I really like but there is also a good bit that I just really get into. I tend to prefer some of his earlier work as well as the work he did near the end of his life. I think his still lifes show his skill as a draftsman. It seems funny then that I would selelct a painting as one of my 20 favorites that is from a period of his that might be my least favorite. I could have selected one of several Cezanne's to be amongst my 20 favorites, all from this time period! Granted, I do really like this piece. It has great lyrical movement in the tree branches which contrasts nicely with the organized farms and linear elements in the midground. Normally, I shy away from a design element which is not visibly grounded in the picture frame, i.e. the tree and most particularly the branches coming from outside the frame on the right. In this case, these elements are not so terribly intrusive to me and contribute well to the design.
But really, it is Cezanne's doggedly relentless pursuit of this mountain that I really like. It is reported he painted it more than 60 times in one decade! That is admirable no matter what one thinks of the result itself. I have places I would like to explore in such a prolific manner. Hopefully, one day I will have the opportunity.
It's rare that any waterfalls run in August in Arkansas but due to a fairly yet summer I was able to take a trip to a few a couple of weeks ago. This one and another are more apt to run year around but another that I was able to visit is typically very dry. Did all but a few minor touch ups on this one on site.
Right about a month ago, I went to Colorado Springs for some mountain biking and a workshop with Dan Schultz. The workshop was a 2 day event with the first day covering plein air landscape painting and the second consisting of portraiture from life. I was mainly interested in the landscapes but figured I couldn't go wrong by extending myself with some portraiture. I really admire Dan's use of color and he typically paints higher key than I do so I thought some exposure to this would be good for me. Dan took us to Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs for the first day. He did his demo then turned us loose. I had previously been trying to paint some on my own in the days before the workshop and found myself stymied and frustrated. I think the lack of humidity played some role in that as I could make out detail on mountains I knew were several miles away. I usually respond well to watching people paint and I think this day was no exception. I don't think I did anything stupendous but it was a huge leap over what I had been doing the day or two before!
The painting above was my first of the day and it really leveraged on Dan's demo. I am unaccustomed to seeing purple in mountains here in Arkansas. You really only see that during certain times of the day. Dan likes to isolate color using a pinhole technique and when I did that I clearly saw the purple. The pinkish purple here is what I thought I saw but it is probably weighted quite a bit too far to the red. I thought about changing it but decided to stick with what I thought was really there.
Dan challenged me with the notion of painting clouds and as I studied them, I became entranced by the idea. I really like some of the work here in this one.
Late in the afternoon, I decided to go down to the creek side and try to tackle this. I knew it would be hard but I've done scenes like this before. I only had about an hour to work and I got a decent start on the stream. I finished the rest from pictures in the studio.
Not surprisingly, I didn't produce anything the next day I feel like showing off. But I did learn a lot and hope to give portraits a try again in the near future.
I have been remiss in tooting my own horn here it seems. I have been accepted into a couple of shows and done some interesting things lately that I just don't seem to get around to blogging about.
I had two out of two paintings accepted into the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum's 65th River Valley Exhibition. The facility there is very cool. The space they have is new to them I believe and is a converted bank. The architecture is in that 50's/60's Modern style with lots of glass and concrete. I was quite impressed with it when I dropped off my paintings there. I was unable to attend the opening but I was informed later that one of my paintings had sold and the show was so successful that they wanted to keep it up until October I believe it was. I was very happy to get into this show because two of the jurors are curators and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. It is thrilling to know that my work was selected by people whose days are surrounded by work painted by some of my favorite artists.
Speaking of Crystal Bridges, I finally made it up there to Bentonville to check the place out and it was amazing. To think that there are now Sargent's hanging in Arkansas! The museum itself is a work of art and has to be seen to be believed. I will do a post with pictures soon. This museum is definitely a national treasure and urge you to go visit it.
My show at Cantrell Gallery comes down this week. The last time I had been in there I was told that 13 paintings had sold! I will have to spend some time updating my Available Work page!
I also had two out of two paintings accepted into the Arkansas League of Artists Annual Juried Show. That show opens this Friday and is also at Cantrell Gallery. So I get 3 full months of hanging work in their main exhibition space!
Last but not least, I went to Colorado Springs a couple of weeks ago to take a 2 day workshop with Dan Schultz. Day 1 was plein air painting and Day was portraiture from life which is a huge departure from what I typically do. The portraiture was very daunting and at least as difficult as I expected.
I've posted this one before. It's one of my favorite paintings of all time and perhaps I should have saved it again for a later installment of this series. By far, Isaac Levitan is one of my favorite painters. I have thought long and hard about trying to do a copy of this painting and possibly others by him.
In this piece, I am infatuated with Levitan's command of value gradations. I particularly love the light on the far hill. The values here are wonderfully compressed with the darks still being higher in value that most of the lights on the nearer, shadowed hill face. I think the reflection of the far hill in the water is more saturated than the actual hill colors but it works for some reason. It's just SO green and yet does not suffer one bit from how acrid some paintings with so much green can be, the so-called "green hell." This isn't the only painting Levitan did with just an abundance of green. There is just wonderful sense of space in this painting. I think maybe I will try to do a copy of this one.
Here is another one of my entries into this year's Arkansas League of Artists Juried Show. I have very fond memories of camping here at Carver on the Buffalo River as a teen with several of my friends. It isn't one of the more frequented campsites on the river but we sure had fun here.
This is a little bit different for me. This little guy's dad, Sam, is a Hereford bull owned by my high school math teacher. When she posted the picture of him to Facebook I was struck by the shadow pattern and really wanted to give a go at painting it. I haven't painted an animal in several years so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I surprised myself! This is one of my entries in an upcoming Arkansas League of Artists juried show.
I started this one as a plein air at small festival in Heber Springs a couple of months ago. A steady drizzle was falling and I had nice little beads of water all over my panel giving it this very interesting look. I got a good enough handle on the architecture and put it away. When I finally came back to it in the studio, I quickly realized this painting was going to be a fighter! I finally got it pinned down and completed to my satisfaction. This building is no longer a bank but houses other business.
I started this classic Delta scene en plein air on the same trip where I painted the Prairie School House. I put some finishing touches on it in the studio. A crop duster was working in the field next to this one while I painted. I made sure I checked the wind direction and thankfully I was upwind. I made sure I got some pictures of the crop duster and that may wind up as a painting. Also just down the road was the place in De Valls Bluff where I had my first real BBQ sandwich. That place will make a great painting for sure!
This painting makes 47 out of 75 counties complete and 5 done this year. I'm way behind on my goal of 20 for this year but maybe a good weekend trip when the weather turns this fall will change that.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip out to the Delta for some plein air painting. At the time, I thought I was about to get to go out to Idaho for some mountain biking and painting so I wanted to get some easel time before that. The Idaho trip didn't pan out but I did get a couple of great little paintings from this trip.
I was walking through the town of Stuttgart, looking for something to jump out at me and taking pictures when I saw a sign for the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie. I knew there was a Grand Prairie Arts Center in town so I thought this might be it. The sign told me to go 7 blocks away from downtown so I got back in the car and headed that way. When I found it, I knew immediately it wasn't the Arts Center. There were several pieces of antique farm equipment fronting a highway which looked to be good painting material. I knew none of them would be things I would want to tackle en plein air right then due to the complexity so I photographed instead. When I turned to the head back to the car, an old church steeple caught my eye. On the other end of the museum grounds were several period buildings, the aforementioned church, a pioneer log cabin, this red schoolhouse, and a seemingly more recent fire department building. I really wanted to paint the church but with limited time, I decided on the red schoolhouse.
Sometimes, things work out in strange ways. I had decided before I laid down a single stroke that I would ask permission. The lady inside looked a little bewildered when I asked if I could paint one of their buildings. After I explained better that I was an artist painting en plein air, she asked if I would bring it in to see when done. Long story short, this painting will be going to the museum as soon I get a frame on it to hang in the gift shop!
Frederic Remington was a master of the nocturne. For many years he lamented that he just could not get the color of night correct. I believe this one was completed after he felt he got it right.
One of the things I most like about this piece is how the main subject is so close to dead center! Also, check out how that diaganol line of the shore cuts right to the lower left hand corner. Here we have a Master who breaks two cardinal rules at the same time! And yet this painting works. It does more than merely "work," it's stunningly brilliant. So much for those rules.
Remington centered his subject reasonably often, especially in his nocturnes it seems. In a lot of the others, though, the subjects take up much more area and are of more variegated shapes so it is less noticeable. I think this works here because he has divided the space up into essentially 3 regions of value with the sky and water occupying roughly the same value range. Each triangular swath of value occupies a different amount of surface area, darkest has the least, the lightest has the middle amount of space, while the mid value occupies the largest area. This variegation of the value pattern creates a unbalanced backdrop which allows the subject to be centered without seeming static.
This painting was supposed to be ready for my show last week but I found I had varnished it before signing it! Uh oh. I use Gamvar exclusively these days and it is a super easy varnish to remove. I few wipes with some OMS and I had a place to sign it. Now it will be heading into the Arkansas League of Artists Signature Members show.
Arkansas State University is in the Delta town of Jonesboro in the northeast corner of the state. My son was thinking about going to school here so we took a trip up there to tour the campus. It has been many years since I had been to Jonesboro and I was very impressed with it. Unlike so many other Delta towns, Jonesboro seems to be thriving and I imagine ASU has a fairly large contribution to that. ASU is the home of the Red Wolves, who play Division 1 football and basketball. The football team has been to a few bowl games in recent years. Interestingly enough, ASU and the University of Arkansas never play each other at least in football. The University of Arkansas system sees no gain in playing a cross state rival.
Here is the last piece that made it into my solo show at Cantrell Gallery that opening last Friday night. Not a whole lot to say about this one. It's the Flat Iron Building in Eureka Springs, one of my favorite towns in Arkansas. Obviously, this building is modeled after the NYC Flat Iron. If memory serves, this actual building is the second Flat Iron in Eureka. The first one burned to the ground at some point and was rebuilt.
My show opening on Friday night was an awesome success! I was extremely pleased with the turnout. There were times when the room was about as full as it could reasonably be! I apologize to the people I that I know who I wasn't able to say hi to because I was busy talking to other people. I received a whole lot of support both from coworkers at my day job and the local cycling community. The cyclists came out in droves to see the show including some who were in town for a mountain bike race the next day. The opening also made the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Top Ten List of things to do that weekend, coming in at #7! Wish I could find a link to that. I was asked about several counties and when I was going to get around to them so this concept is very well received in the local community. I sold eight pieces on opening night with at least two of them going to a large medical facility. Yes, a very successful show for me!
Some of the many fellow cyclists who came out
I also followed up the show by doing my first ever mountain bike race the next morning! That was also a great success except for the fact that I somehow managed to lose my wife's brand new cycling glasses before the race even started. I got 2nd out of 13 in my class. It helped that I really knew the trails well. Check out the writeup about the race from a very popular local outdoors blog, Arkansas Outside! Looks like I'll be heading back up to Eureka Springs in a couple of weeks for another mountain bike race called the Phat Tire Festival. I won't be racing this time but I will be taking some pictures for painting references!