Wednesday 11 November 2015

From Behind The Easel: Roar

“Roar”, 8”x10”, acrylic on board

Sometimes I just do a painting for fun. This little study was about exploring textures and the hierarchy of mouth sizes for some fantasy creatures. This was done right after university when we didn’t have much. At the time (over twenty years ago), I came close to painting over it because the board it was painted on seemed more valuable to me than the image.  I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I suspect my wife convinced me not to erase it. This was not an isolated case. Someday I’ll talk about the power and importance of an artist destroying their work.

Now when I see this piece it is a warm reminder of that place in time. It’s a fun little painting, but what it represents in my history and evolution is what I really enjoy. Based on the colour palette, I was probably inspired by James Gurney’s Dinotopia which had recently been published. I was also starting to become involved in painting Magic Cards for Wizards of the Coast so fantasy subjects were on my mind.  In the end I’m glad this one made the cut!

Thursday 22 October 2015

From Behind The Easel: Miniature Show

“Early Spring," 9”x12,” acrylic on board 

“Liquid Gold," 12”x9,” acrylic on board

These two images are my own work, and will be included in the Miniature Show at Collector’s Covey Gallery. You can learn about the show here and see my past work for it here.

Monday 28 September 2015

The Pensive Palette: Poised

“Poised”, 9”x12” acrylic on board

Sometimes, especially on small paintings, I depict my subject matter in a vignette style. This means that I create a fairly simple background without the environment that clearly allows the focus to be on the animal or bird. This doesn’t mean the background is not important. The colors and textures chosen need to compliment the subject and are hopefully interesting unto themselves. This a technique often employed by portrait artists to showcase the sitter. I like giving our furry and feathered friends this same treatment!

I was fortunate to have permission to use Frank Cleland’s wonderful photo of a Cassin’s Finch for my painting “Poised”. His photo lent itself to the vignette style because it was shot with a telephoto lens that blurred the background. I used specific colors to show off the bird, and subtle brushstrokes to help keep the background from feeling flat and lifeless. I also faded the branch into the background to remind the viewer that, while realistically portrayed, it is a painting and not a photo.

Saturday 19 September 2015

From Behind The Easel: Reverence

“Reverence", 24" x 36" oil on canvas

Sunsets on the Pacific Ocean are so magical because you really feel like you’re standing at the end of the world. This painting is from the high cliffs near Elk on the northern California coast. It’s at these moments when I am overwhelmed with the beauty of nature and need to grasp what I can through my painting.

Monday 24 August 2015

From Behind The Easel: Buster

“Buster”, 9”x12” oil on canvas

This was a fun little painting I did from a trip we took to a farm in New Jersey. Near the end of the day, just before heading to the cars, I decided to poke my head into the stable that seemed unoccupied. To my surprise there was a horse inside with a nameplate over his stall that read “Buster”. I snapped a few reference photos and headed home.

When it came time to do this piece I was reminded of the fabulous light that John Singer Sargent employed in some of his Italian interior paintings. I decided to give Buster some of this Sargent-inspired lighting to brighten his day. 

Saturday 8 August 2015

From Behind The Easel: The Challenge

“The Challenge” (Detail), 24”x18” oil on canvas

Here’s a WIP of two red-winged blackbirds fighting for territory based on the wonderful photos of our dear friend, artist Ann Chaikin.

Please take a look at some of her work - her personal blog, her photography blog, her painting blog, her PBase, her Flickr, and her Facebook display her paintings and photography, and also serve as fountains of inspiration for any art-loving individual.

Monday 2 March 2015

Inspiring Image: One Of My Dots

"Among The Teasels", Randal Dutra, 36" x 50", Oil on linen

I recently posted a quote by Steve Jobs where he advocated for connecting the dots of your life to help find your unique views.  Sometimes your dots can include the many dots of another person who is influential in your life.  I am fortunate to call artist Randal Dutra both mentor and friend.  Randal embodies the creative spirit and is fluent with any medium he feels will convey his vision.  Aside from his beautiful paintings and bronzes, Randal has amassed a 25 year career in film where he worked primarily in animation.  He is best known for his pioneering work on Jurassic Park and was nominated for an Academy Award for directing the animation on Steven Spielberg's War Of The Worlds.

Over the years, Randal has been generous with words of advice, critique, and inspiration.  I am the lucky recipient of his many years of experience across multiple genre and medium.  As we find our way along our journey, it important to remember that others walk before us and can be incredible resources.  When possible, look to those ahead of you for direction, inspiration, and how one can connect the dots.

See more of Randal's work at

Tuesday 27 January 2015

The Pensive Palette: Silhouettes

"Marsh Wren", 22"x14", oil on board

Visual clarity and simplicity are often forgotten by artists who are so excited about their subject matter that they include everything.  Good picture making begins with a solid idea expressed through strong composition.  To help me achieve my compositional goals and maintain a clear visual message, I will often use silhouettes to make sure the main elements read well.  Reducing shapes to basic silhouettes allows me to focus on shapes without the distraction of colour or detail.  I can also make sure the shape I'm working on is interesting and drawn well.

When testing with silhouettes I will usually work quite small (thumbnails under 2") so I'm not tempted to get fussy.  I want to make decisions based on readability and detail only makes this harder.  We all love detail and can easily fall in love with superficial aspects of a subject while forgetting the overall shape of what we're painting.  Another helpful tool is a digital camera or smartphone.  You can take a photo of a sketch or painting in the early stage.  Use a very small, black and white version of this photo to study the overall impact of the shapes and make sure what you want to say is being heard.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Inspiring Image: Find Your Dots

"Trickster", Randal Dutra, 30"x40", oil on linen

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards."- Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, love him or hate him, made a large impact on the way most of us conduct our daily business. While the myth of Jobs is sometimes blown out of proportion, he did have a honed ability to connect seemingly disparate views and elements to create a new, unique perspective.  He is sometimes described as genius because his innovations seem so obvious upon introduction, yet no one had thought of it before him.  Genius can make the complex unknown understood in beautifully simple terms.  Genius helps us find something we didn't know we were looking for.

Jobs was a big advocate of being open to many sources and then trying to "connect the dots" in his own way.  He had the faith to believe his experience(s) were leading to something new.  We can all develop this ability but it requires awareness and reflection.  As Jobs says, hindsight is what helps connect our experiences into something useful.  The process, however, begins with an openness to that which we do not yet know, and the faith that our individual experience has worth.  

Here's to your unique journey!