Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Road Less Traveled

August 8, 2018

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." ~ Robert Frost

Sometimes in life it's a good idea to take a left turn on a dirt road. This summer has passed by quickly and I often need to remind myself to take those dusty roads, both physically and metaphorically.

This summer, the roads have taken me many places, mostly beautiful, but always interesting.

When you travel by motorcycle you experience things that you can never experience in a car or train or plane. On a bike, you feel the road and the wind and you smell the fresh cut grass, raw pine and pastures.

On my motorcycle I am always keenly aware of my surroundings, both for necessity and because I want to see everything. An Artist is almost always interested in the subtleties and details of things. Artists notice the shapes of clouds and the shadows on a face. They notice the nuanced tones of brick brick building or wooden table or piece of fruit.

Artists notice colors and wonder if they can capture it with a paint. They wonder if colors are complimentary or if the composition of what they are looking at would make any sense on a canvas.

When I'm on my bike I look for places and things to draw and paint. For me, the combination of motorcycling and art is as close to nirvana as one can get, legally.

This summer I've ridden many miles, sometimes to paint and sketch and sometimes for the sheer joy of riding. Most of the time I ride with my companion and best friend, my wife. She enjoys riding as much as I do and we find that our time together on the bikes (she has her own), is some of the best time we can spend as a couple.
We've taken rides across Minnesota and Wisconsin, into the woods and bluff country, to the open prairies and winding forest roads. None of our rides have been anything less than awesome. We always found something we hadn't expected.

So this summer has been spent working hard at my job, with many long hours. When I'm free from work though, we get on our bikes and ride. On the other days, I sketch and paint with friends and do the many things that life requires of us.

Here are some of the artifacts of my adventures.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

I Schedule Away My Blockers

May 31, 2018

"One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one's capacity."
                                                                         ~ Auguste Renoir

On the days when I am stuck, when I can't muster the will to draw, I think about drawing. It hangs around the edges of my thoughts. It is constantly with me, a reminder that I could be, should be drawing. And then the weekend comes and I can draw again. I sketch on Saturday mornings with a group of other Artists. Then Sunday comes around and I go to the Art Academy in Saint Paul. And I draw and paint figures for two hours.

I break through my blocks by employing an old technique called scheduling intentionality When I have a schedule, it is intentional. When I am intentional, I force myself to do something, to experience something. Eventually, it becomes a habit. 
This habit may not improve my drawing or painting, but I know absolutely that if I do nothing, my drawing and painting will never improve. This is why I go every week and keep my schedule. I've discovered that the drawings do become marginally better over time. It's like muscle training or conditioning. Some of the strokes, movements and line work become second nature. Instinctually, I can draw features better over time.

There are no magical secrets or short cuts to drawing and painting like a master. It takes hard work and practice. It takes an open-mindedness and willingness to look your mistakes in the eye and accept them. The secret to becoming a great Artist, is hard work. Since I want to become a good Artist, I practice.

These drawings represent some of the work I do at the Art Academy. Sketching figures that pose for a minute, up to 30 minutes. It forces you to practice, and to learn how to judge proportions and angles. 

An art teacher once told me, "If you want to get better at drawing, draw".

Monday, April 30, 2018


April 30, 2018

Springtime has finally arrived here in Minnesota. It's late this year, and about a week and a half ago Old Man Winter through a tantrum, in the form of a blizzard. He dumped 18 inches of snow on us in a 24 hour period and let everyone know, he was pretty pissed about leaving.

The extra-long winter means we will have to make the best out of the next 5 months. Yes, it's been know to snow here in late September. Until that time, we go outside. We go for walks. We ride bikes. We drive with the windows open. We smile more and we say, "hello" to each other.

For a few glorious months we all step in unison, into the warm air and bright sunshine. In these precious days, when the sun shines longer and the birds are singing, we rejoice together, outside.

The change in weather imbues a certain appreciation for each of the seasons. The all have something special and beautiful to offer. Our winters put up a good fight though, and just like this year, the can last a month or two longer than you want them to.

As we step out into the light of day and awaken from our hibernation, we Artists want to create. We are seeing things that we haven't seen for many months, like green grass, budding trees and other people. It's time to get out and do ART. This past weekend we ventured forth with the Twin Cities Metro Sketcher's group. These are some of the pictures.

I'll be posting a video on my YouTube channel soon which will feature some clips from this event.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On The Edge Of Springtime

March 11, 2018

The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”  Auguste Rodin

Up here in the Northland we eagerly await the days when old man winter slowly releases his frozen grip on us. When we can walk outside without having our breath stolen from our lungs by the icy air. When a car will start without a groan and birds are brave enough to sing again.

These early days of spring are filled with anticipation and hope. Soon we will see the first green buds on the trees and rain will fall instead of heavy wet snow. People will venture outside with t-shirts and shorts on them, even though it's only 40 degrees. They will pause, and close their eyes, and feel the warmth of the sun on their faces.

For Artists here it means we can finally leave the studio without nine layers of clothing on us. A chance to dust off our plein air gear, take an inventory and prepare to see a friendlier mother nature. It is a good time to paint outside, while the shadows are still long and before everything turns to a bright green that's almost impossible to paint.

Until that time arrives, I practice painting trees.

I also did a video recently on the newly released QoR watercolor kit. What a great little kit this is and you can find the complete video on my YouTube channel at:

Here is a very short clip of the paint swatches I made from them.

Resting Under A Tree - Watercolor & Ink

Walking Near The Tree - Watercolor & Ink
practicing trees

Monday, February 19, 2018

Awash in Gouache

February 19, 2018

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see". - Henry David Thoreau

This past month or so, I have been experimenting with gouache.
For the people not familiar with this particular medium, it is an opaque, chalky paint, traditionally used by Illustrators. However, many Artists use gouache, pronounced, ɡwäSH or ɡo͞oˈäSH.
Gouache can be re-wet, and used with watercolor. It is similar to acrylic or oil paints in that it is normally used in an opaque painting style. Gouache has larger particles in it and a much higher pigment to binder ratio. It will usually have a white filler which gives it its, "chalky" look and feeling, especially when it dries. 

Here is a painting in Gouache by Friedrich Wilhelm Schwinge (1854 - 1913) - Selbstporträt im Garten (self-portrait in garden)

The author died in 1913, and this work is in the public domain.
The work I've been practicing is much more like the type an Illustrator would do. Illustrators use gouache to do storyboards, thumbnails and finished work. If you're interested in seeing what Illustrators can do with gouache, this is a great reference by James Gurney:

Here is a painting I recently completed using gouache:

Gouache painting after Whitemore
I painted this from reference, using the the work of the famous Artist and Illustrator, Colby Whitmore. More on Coby Whitemore here:

I did YouTube video showing the process I used to do this painting and I discussed the various aspects gouache if you want to check it out.

I also posted a video of talking about the Holbein gouache I used, which you may find interesting if you're looking to try out gouache painting:

What I learned about gouache in this, "experimenting", is that I like it very much. It has interesting qualities, such as being compatible with watercolors. You can also thin them with water. The paints I used were acrylic-based, which is relatively new on the market, but others have been made longer and use gum-arabic as a binder.

I enjoyed the oil-paint-like qualities of gouache. It is such a versatile medium and if you don't like having to use turpentine or chemicals used in oil painting, this might be a great alternative for you.

Here are some watercolor paintings I've completed in the last few weeks.

Leave a comment and share your thoughts and experiences about gouache, I'd love to hear from you.
Man thinking - Watercolor
Claddagh Customer - Watercolor
Old Barn - Watercolor

Mountain Study - Watercolor

Winter Barn - Watercolor
Man in corner - Watercolor