Friday, November 19, 2021

Black Hills and Badlands Field Sketches

 Here is the full video of field sketches from my trip to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Field Sketching in South Dakota

October 2021

"Happiness, not in another place but this place, not for another hour, but for this hour." - Walt Whitman

This past summer I traveled to the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota with my wife and son. 

We spent a week there at a place called the Hisega Lodge, which was nestled in the hills near a vibrant stream and the lodge was staffed by awesome owners Mike and Tara. We immediately felt at home. 

Most of my time was spent in the Black Hills area filming an adventure motorcycle training course that my wife was participating in, here is a link to that film. I filled all of my spare time in the Black Hills National Forest and Badlands. I took photographs and took reference sketches, thumbnails and wrote notes that I used to do the drawings and paintings in this sketchbook. The work below represents a glance into the sketchbook. I will upload the finished work to YouTube sometime soon. 

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Springtime And Hope

 “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” – Nelson Mandela

April 4, 2021

There's so much to sketch and paint and I am really looking forward to seeing the world in person again. The weather is turning warmer in these parts, and people are getting vaccinated. The world is starting to see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel we've all been in, and it feels very, very good. 

For the past year, a group I co-founded called the Saint Paul Underground Artists League has been meeting every Sunday on Zoom. We sketch, draw, paint, laugh and talk about everything and anything, and it has been awesome to share the time with other Artists. People from all over the world join our Zoom call and it's amazing to see the work they do. 

Here are some things I've been working on this past few months.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

We Endure.

January 17, 2021

"Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
- Robert Frost, 1915

America is in a tumultuous and precarious time. No one can ignore it. I can't ignore it.

We are struggling for our national identity. Many wonder if we will we choose a dark and terrible path or the angels of our better nature?

I remain hopeful our people will choose wisely and that our nation will endure, our democracy will survive and we will be strengthened by our universal and unique American experience. 

We are not what the narrow lens of violence says we are, or what a man in an Oval Office tells us we should be. We are united and bound by our belief that America is, and always will be, a place where freedom is a reality, and the promises of justice can be ultimately realized.

Still, it has been a stressful and heart wrenching time for many of us here in America. 

Art shines a bright light in the darkest places and it is through our art that we find hope. It is through my own art that I find peace in the storm. Maybe this is a shared experience among Artists.

Here are some recent sketches and paintings:

Friday, November 06, 2020

A New eBook. A Nation In The Balance.

November 6, 2020

America's greatest strength has always been its hopeful vision of human progress. - John McCain

As I write this post tonight the American election for President hangs in the balance. I don't really want to talk about politics in this post, there are too many people talking about politics already, I'm just recognizing the situation in my country. We all hope for a peaceful outcome and to see every vote counted, which is the foundation of any functional democracy.

Some big news for me this past month. I published an eBook. It consists of the sketches and paintings and in the exact sequence they exist in the original sketchbook. It contains all the work I did this summer, as I shifted from watercolors to gouache. The book is available for Apple devices as well as eReaders and Kindles. I used the online publishing site, Blurb. 

Here a link to the book if you are interested in buying it and owning digital copy of my work. I also added commentary to the book, which explains the work and my thinking at the time.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Autumn Is Upon Us And Then A Long Winter

"With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells...
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;"

Excerpt from the poem, "To Autumn", written in 1820 by John Keats

I was reading somewhere that fall will be short and the winter will be more snowy and likely longer than average up here in Minnesota. Every Winter brings it's own set of challenges in the Upper Midwest, but this year will be different. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and many people have already been isolating for months and months. 

The wintertime in Minnesota usually heralds a period of isolation for most of us regardless, but in the days before the plague, you could get out to the mall, or walk through a Target, or go to a concert or play. Now those things pose a dangerous health risk for many, and those people are going to look for ways to survive and even prosper this winter. They will want to ward off the inevitable winter blues and cabin fever. 

Why not take up painting or drawing? 

If you already paint and draw, why not plan out how you can improve those skills. I've made a commitment to sharpen my own craftsmanship and to try to help others. I'll be posting videos on my YouTube channel which will demonstrate some of the techniques that have helped me over the years, and there are literally hundreds of great channels out there, offering this content for free. 

I'll be sharing a list of my favorite places to learn in a future post, but for now you can check out Steve Mitchell at the Mind Of Watercolor, or James Gurney's channel. If you are into art, crafting and saving money, check out Lindsay the Frugal Crafter.

For my own part I am scheduling time to draw and paint every day. It's all about making something a habit, even if it only means I spend ten minutes on a sketch, at least I am doing that much and that much is often enough. I also want to study more on the fundamentals of color theory and light, because unraveling the mysteries of art is very rewarding and very interesting. 

Here is some of my recent work in a 3 minute sketchbook tour.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Every Day Objects And Places

August 20, 2020

"Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing–and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Lately I've been doing more sketches of every day places and objects. Water towers are a common site her in the Midwest where I live. Familiarity of objects that surround us, but we hardly even notice, as if they were part of the set, in the stage that represents our lives environment. If you look very closely at these objects, whether they are old buildings or water towers, they have a unique character. 

Creating paintings of the places and objects of our lives is an interesting challenge. How do you make power lines or water towers the stars of a scene?

Using a limited pallet and sometimes just two colors, is also something I'm getting more used to. I'm studying the work and instructions of James Gurney, the author of Dinotopia and extraordinary painter of both imagined and every day places and objects. 

I think you can connect with these common objects in interesting ways when you decided to see them differently or put them into a dramatic scene. It's wonderful to explore a variety of, "stages", and, "sets" for these objects and places. Here are some recent paintings and if you want to see these as I complete them, please check out my Instagram at Owings Art.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Some Fun Things To Do

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

- Mary Anne Radmacher, Author and Artist

I was thinking about perserverance the other day and how we define ourselves in tougher times. We are living in the midst of historic events and people are finding ways to cope. 

Here are ten ideas:

1. Tomorrow is a new day, things will look different.
2. Join an online group that interests you. 
3. Call people and connect frequently.
4. Let go of an old grievance and forgive yourself.
5. Take up a new hobby or expand the one you have.
6. Read a great book.
7. Find an old friend.
8. Paint one room in your house.
9. Play a board or card game with someone.
10. Take an online class.

Facebook groups I enjoy: 
The Saint Paul Underground Artists League -

Fun YouTube Channels
Mind Of Watercolor (Steve Mitchell) -
Lindsay The Frugal Crafter -

Books I Can Recommend:
Night Train To Lisbon -
The Crystal Shard -
The Warmth Of Other Suns -
The Sword Of Shanara -
The Eyes Of The Dragon -

Here are some recent paintings/sketches.

Friday, July 03, 2020

James Gurney - Teacher, Illustrator, Author, Adventurer.

July 3, 2020

"The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom, but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise, he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." 
                                                - Kahlil Gibran

The best teachers I ever knew were the ones that inspired me to learn. That usually came through demonstrating their own enthusiasm and excitement. I had a history teacher in High School who taught me to love history, but he never had to open a history book to do that. He was so passionate, so good at describing historical events and their importance, that it made me really want to learn more about history.

The Artist and Author James Gurney probably never set out to be a teacher, but there is no question that is exactly what he has become. For the past two months I have been immersed in the world of James Gurney, first to study for an interview with him, second to learn why he is so passionate about story-telling through his art.

My friend Steve Mitchell (Mind Of Watercolor) and I, just wrapped up our interview with James Gurney, and I'm hoping some of what we learned about him, is passed on to you. Mr. Gurney's enthusiasm, imaginations and craftsmanship are truly inspirational. If you're an Artist, or just interested in Art, you should get to know James Gurney. 

Here is our interview:

Here are some of my recent sketches.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Learning From Gurney

June 20, 2020

"There is no line between fine art and illustration; there is no high or low art; there is only art, and it comes in many forms." - James Gurney

Normally during the summer months my wife Susan and I would be traveling somewhere on the North American continent on our motorcycles. Not this year. I'm staying put for now and it has given me time to do more art, study more art and create more YouTube videos. 

My friend Steve Mitchell recently introduced me to the Artist James Gurney. Mr. Gurney is perhaps most notable for creating Dinotopia, which is a wonderful series of books, filled with fantastic illustrations. What I love about James Gurney's work is the imagination, composition and craftsmanship he puts into everything he creates. From elaborate landscapes to the most mundane objects, Gurney brings light and life to anything he touches. I am also fascinated and intrigued by the man, outside of his work. He went to college for archaeology and anthropology, before turning to art. He worked for National Geographic, wrote and illustrated his own books, took great adventures and has seemed to defy the odds by keeping his inner child alive.

At some point in 1980 he decided to leave art school and he and his friend Thomas Kinkaid hopped on a freight train to travel across the country and in his words, "All that summer we slept in graveyards and on rooftops and sketched portraits of gravestone cutters and lumberjacks. To make money we drew two-dollar portraits in bars by the light of cigarette machines.

You can listen to one of his original travel logs tapes here:

From that adventure, he and Kincaid wrote the book - The Artist Guide To Sketching. 

I thought one of the things I was learning from Mr. Gurney was how to paint Plein Air with Gouache, and while that is certainly true, I think what I'm really learning from him is to allow yourself be inspired. It seems a very simple thing to let yourself be inspired, but the human condition is such that we create many blockers for ourselves. It's very motivating to find someone in life that not only shares your passions, but has achieved a mastery you have not, and someone who also has the courage to make life an adventure and that's what James Gurney has done.

Link here to his website:
Link here to his YouTube channel:

The following drawings and paintings are from my recent work.