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.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Love, Art and Overcoming Fear

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”– Thomas J. Watson
May 11, 2020
Greetings to those reading this post. It's been a while. I've been self-isolating. 😁
In the midst of the greatest challenge of our lifetimes, all of us have been impacted. There is no playbook for what we are facing. People are getting sick, too many are dying and the global economy has been shaken badly. And yet, in the midst of all of this, we are finding ways to survive, cope and even be happy. If this time has allowed you to get closer to your family, spend time doing art or another hobby, that is truly a blessing. If you are worried about work, a roof over your head or a loved ones health, I feel for you.
No one knows with any certainty how long this will last or what the ultimate impact may be to our lives, but when you strip away all of the control we pretend to maintain to convince ourselves there is some security in this world, we learn there really isn't any. Life has always been tenuous. It's always day-to-day and it's never been anything else. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that every day is precious. Every moment we are here is precious and we should embrace it with our full beings. 
The human soul wasn't meant to live in fear, but fear is the great enemy of love, and it is very easy to get lost in that fear. Love on the other hand is hard. Love requires courage, vulnerability and humility. We aren't taught to love by our society, we are taught to fear. Politicians use fear, media uses fear, mass marketing uses fear. Fear surrounds us. We are afraid to lose our jobs, afraid our relationships will fail, afraid of each other, afraid of failure. We are susceptible to fear because we've been conditioned to fear.
I think love is the antidote for fear. If we are lucky we take our medicine and we evolve. Few of us may master this, and all of us are on a journey, so I don't judge folks whose lives are controlled by fear, because I live with fear as well. I know the struggle isn't an easy one.
I remember my Mom issuing a challenge to us kids when we were old enough to understand it. She said, take 24 hours of your life and count up all the things you do out of fear. Then take the next 24 hours and count up all the things you do out of love. Then spend the rest of your life replacing those fears with love.
A profound lesson and one that is so hard to achieve. I know because I've tried, for a long time, and I'm still trying.
I think love is also about failure, and not fearing failure. As the quote by Thomas Watson says, we have to embrace failure and accept the lessons it brings to us. And that brings me full circle back to art. Anything I ever learned, really learned about drawing and painting, came from failing many times before I succeeded.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Travel Sketches And More

November 9, 2019

When I was a kid I could only imagine what the world of 2020 was going to look like. When you're ten years old and it's 1974, you imagine a future filled with the stuff of science fiction. I expected starships and flying cars, androids and world peace. Okay, maybe not world peace, but definitely a futuristic place. The imaginary future of that ten year old has yet to come.

Today we have awesome computers, cell phones and the Internet, all working together to democratize information. Medical advances mean people can live longer, healthier lives. For the first time in history, we can have a live video chat with someone half a world away or up on the International Space Station. We have some of the greatest minds working together to plan a trip to Mars.

We live in some pretty amazing times and yet the sweetest things in life have little to do with technology. The love of family, friends, meaningful work and the opportunity to travel and experience new things is the stuff of a life well-lived. I am thankful for these things and mindful of their blessings in my own life.

Here are some of the sketches and photos from recent travels and some just for fun.