Art, Figure Painting, Interior, Leslie Robinson Sharp, Life, oil painting, Painting

Painting as therapy

“View From a Death Bed” 9″ x 16″ oil 
“Solace” 12″ x 12″ oil

In July, it was five years since my wife, Leslie, died from breast cancer. I wrote quite a lot about it here, at the time. I stopped writing about it after a year but, of course, the process of grief continues. It seems strange to think of all that’s happened without her presence since that time. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process. I can’t always tell if I’m processing or indulging but I’m sometimes moved to paint something that arises out of the experience of loss and attachment.

My life is good. I’ve met a wonderful woman to share it with. I think of what I’ve lost and try to balance it with what I’ve gained.

Figure Painting, Life, Painting, Sketching

Trying to make some sense

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to express my current conundrum visually. Thinking is usually not the best way to get at this kind of thing but I’m afraid of making work that is trite or exploits or cheapens this and I’m especially wary of this since it’s not only my experience. Many people loved Leslie and may have feelings about how or what I express. That being said, I’ve been making some drawings and trying to find a way to start.

I’m sharing a couple of the drawings here.


6" x 7" gouache black and white ink on paper
6″ x 7″ gouache black and white ink on paper


9" x 6" gouache black and white ink on paper
9″ x 6″ gouache black and white ink on paper


As I start this, I realize I could explore this for a long time.

Art, Figure Painting, Interior, Life, oil painting, Painting, Still Life

Miki And The Red Coat


Miki and the Red Coat 21" x 14" oil on linen
Miki and the Red Coat
21″ x 14″ oil on linen

I’ve had this and another on the easel for a while. I’m not sure I’m finished. I want to let it sit for a while. Sometimes when I get to this point with a painting, I decide it’s better to just start another than to continue to worry this one. I’ve painted a few versions of this scene now, each a little different.


Art, Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Study



11" x 14" oil on linen
11″ x 14″ oil on linen

I try to do a self portrait every year around my birthday (My birthday is in March and you can look back through the archives to see other entries in the series). The project started around an assignment I was given in college to do a self portrait as I was then (20-ish years old) and then another predicting how I thought I’d look at age 60. I turned 60 this year so it’s sort of the completion of the project but I’ve been having a hard time producing the painting.

This painting was not intended to be the official yearly selfie but I offer it now until I get serious about completing the project.

The actual intention of this painting was to paint it over again pushing it as far as I could before I got bored with it. I repainted over the same canvas over the course of 6 days and this is where it ended up. Below are photos of the canvas at the end of each session

self-5-4-13   self-5-4-13-2   self-5-4-13-3   self-5-4-13-4  self-5-4-13-5 …  Click on each thumbnail for a larger view


Art, Exhibits, Figure Painting, Landscape, Painting, Plein Air, Portland, Urban Landscape

Under shelter at Union Station

I went with a friend to paint at the Portland Train station – Union Station. It was supposed to rain so I proposed we meet there and paint from under the cover of the overpass across the street from the station. It worked out pretty well. It rained hard and I only got a little wet (from a drain in the overpass) This is the resulting painting.

"Outside Union Station" 9" x 12" oil on linen panel
“Outside Union Station”
9″ x 12″ oil on linen panel


Animal Painting, Art, Figure Painting, Interior, oil painting, Painting, Study

On the Carpet


14″ x 12″ oil on linen panel

This is our little mutt Miki. He’s a rescue dog that we got from a shelter, where he was listed as an American Eskimo mix. I believe the mix part but I think he has more Chihuahua in him than Eskimo dog. However, we looked for inuit words when naming him and settled on miki, which, according to our internet source, means small ice floe.

Obviously, since he wouldn’t hold this pose, I painted this from a photo. He’s afraid of cameras, thus the defensive posture. I wasn’t threatening him, except with the camera.

All in all, he’s a pretty good dog.

Art, Figure Painting, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait

Two Heads

It’s always fun to paint heads, especially my own. These 2 studies were done a couple of days apart.

Both are oil on linen panel 8″ square

( I shaved off my beard between them. ) I’m a fan of Ann Gale’s work and I feel like the one on the right is derivative of her work. Having said that makes it ok,  right?

I think worrying about being derivative is unproductive (to a point). You just have to keep painting, knowing that you’re going to make bad work and derivative work and trust that something true and honest will evolve.

Animal Painting, Figure Painting, Interior, oil painting, Painting

Figure study with dogma


10″ x 8″ oil on panel



Noun: A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

I’ve been thinking about dogma, lately. Probably as a result of 12 years of Catholic education, I have a low tolerance for it, and it’s a pet peeve of mine when it creeps into discussions regarding art.  I usually try to steer clear of discussions that make my dogma alarm go off but sometimes I don’t catch myself and I’m usually sorry.

I was thinking about this study as a kind of personification of dogma but I can’t decide what to put on the end of that scepter-like thing.

Figure Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait, Sketching, watercolor

Gone Sketching


5″ x 3 1/2″ watercolor in sketchbook

Since attending the First Urban Sketching Symposium, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been spending most of my available time drawing rather than painting. I hope to get some painting done soon.

Please check out the Symposium blog and Flickr site for more about that amazing event.

You can also see some of my latest sketches at my other blog -> Sketchbook Meditations

Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture, Study

Head Study


6″ x 6″ oil on mounted canvas

did this quick practice study to get warmed up for another head study of a friend. This one is much better than the one I did of my friend. For one thing, I can paint this face with my eyes closed but it also confirms my concerns about working with someone in the studio. I get nervous and lose my concentration. The study of my friend is labored and stiff in comparison to this one.

8″ x 6″ oil on panel

Art, Figure Painting, Interior, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Study

Interior with model


8″ x 8″ oil on board

I find myself being drawn back to artists I was inspired by in my earliest painting days. I think it was the abstract expressionists who first made me want to use oil paint. In particular, I’ve always loved figurative paintings by abstract expressionists. Richard Diebenkorn went through a figurative stage in the 50s and 60s and I’ve always carried some of those images in the back of my brain.

I had forgotten about Alfred Leslie, who abandoned the incredible abstract paintings he was doing for figurative paintings. I had been trying to remember him but couldn’t recall his name until I came across it on the excellent  Painting Perceptions blog.

Looking back at R.D. et al, I can see relationships with some of the younger artists I now look at.


Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture

One hour head study


8″ x 6″ oil on panel

In my last post, I mentioned studying Daniel Green’s portrait painting video. I took notes and tried to follow his method on this one but gave it up pretty quickly. Here are my observations about using this method.

1. Premixed skin tones – I premixed colors, as per his instructions, but I found that I wasn’t really seeing those colors. His mixtures were pretty brown, based heavily on raw sienna and raw umber, neither of which are colors I have on my palette normally. So, I abandoned his color mixtures very quickly. I found myself mixing more from cad red med, ult blue and yellow ochre.

2. Drawing vs massing shapes – Green spent a long time doing a complete line drawing in dilute paint, on the canvas, before laying in any masses. These studies I’m doing are only one hour total so I don’t have time to do a complete drawing first. I’m also too impatient for that.

3. When to establish a background – Green didn’t put in any background until the painting was pretty far along. Working the way I did, I found it necessary to paint in the background to help correct mistakes I’d make in the massing of shapes.

Although part of the purpose of my doing these studies is to identify a method, I thought Green was a bit too methodical for my taste. Of course, he’s a professional portrait painter who has been doing this for a living for a long time and he has his reasons for doing it his way. A couple of things I disagreed with were, that he said he always paints the eye pupils black. I didn’t like that. I disagreed even more with him saying that he always makes the highlight in both eyes exactly the same color and position in the eye. Maybe I misunderstood him, but that’s just not right. In my observation, the highlights in the eyes are rarely the same.

Having said all that, I’m not that happy with this particular study. It was better at the end of the session. I messed with it a bit without the model present and it’s worse for it.

Doing this exercise pointed up that there are other things I need to work out like, how to satisfactorily light the subject, canvas and palette so that I can see what I’m doing. I use a glass palette, which I like for ease of cleaning and mixing on, but I sometimes get reflections off the glass which makes it difficult to see what I’m mixing. This lighting issue is something I struggle with a lot both in and out of the studio and it’s one of the things that, for me, takes some of the enjoyment out of painting.


Figure Painting, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Portraiture, Study

Head study


8″ x 6″ oil on panel

Another one hour study. I’ve asked some friends and family to sit for quick studies to try and become more comfortable with live models. I tend to over-sympathize with the boredom and general unpleasantness of sitting. The deal is to have them sit for 4 15 minute periods with a 5 minute break between periods.

My goals are:

1. to develop a method, rather than figure it out every time,

2. become comfortable with someone in the studio while I paint (I spend much too much time alone),

3. hone my observational skills, spend time painting from life.

4. it will be nice to have a collection of my friends shrunken heads

I recently reviewed a video on portrait painting by Daniel Green.  Although I don’t agree with everything he had to say, it’s a really thorough and well organized demo from materials through how to know when you’re finished.


Art, Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Self portrait

Birthday Portrait time again


16″ x 12″ oil on paper

It’s that time again. Looking back at my birthday self portrait post from last year, much has changed and stayed the same. I would have to say that, despite my worry and the state of the economy, it’s been a good year for me. I’m still employed and with her cancer in remission, my wife has been feeling pretty good. My daughters, although unemployed, are living back under our roof and we’ve been really enjoying spending time together as a family again.

As I’ve explained before, I try to do a self portrait every year around the time of my birthday. Originally they were based on a pencil drawing I did of myself when I was 22 years old. This year I decided to do an oil based on an oil I did of myself around the same time. Here’s the original. I did it while attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. The class I did it in was focused on painting heads using old master techniques. I remember doing a copy of a Frans Hals just before this.


Art, Figure Painting, Life, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture, Self portrait

still alive


self-4-09-36″ x 6″ oil on canvas


I’m still alive and another year older. Every year near my birthday I do a self portrait to document my slide into dementia. Here is this year’s.

I’ve allowed myself to become consumed with stress over losing my job, of late. I work for a huge tech company that has, despite remarkably good results in these dire economic times, continued to lay off employees. Actually in this case, they are offshoring the jobs. As they layoff employees in North America, they are hiring in Asia. I seem to be safe for now, I’m sure, in part, because my job involves training the new Asian employees. But, as anyone knows who works in the corporate, short term profit driven world, you’re never really safe and you don’t know you’re in danger until it’s too late, not that you can really do anything about it anyway. I think it may be that last part that’s most stressful. Working harder and producing better results makes no difference.

Whenever I get into this kind of mindset, I start planning how I’m going to re-invent myself this time. I’ve done it many times before, having spent many years climbing trees, digging holes, slinging hash, tending bridges, pushing paint, knocking on doors, etc. for a living. I’m sure that something will appear when I need it. It always has.

It occurs to me that stressing over something that hasn’t happened is an affliction of living in an affluent society. By comparison with most people on this planet today, my problems are non-existent. Why can’t I remember that?

Despite all my whining and gnashing of teeth, my life is very good and will likely continue to be. I’m still pissed about the “corporate, short term profit driven world” thing, though.

I’m wishing health, happiness and relative prosperity and, most of all, peace of mind to anyone who happens to read this.

Art, Figure Painting, Landscape, Pastel

Another old pastel from my youth


Human Being

23″ x 17″ pastel flashe and plaster on paper

I’ve been working on a portrait and it’s been really tough to capture a satisfactory likeness.

Since I don’t have anything new to posts I thought I’d post another piece from a long time ago, although the last one I posted drove my page views way down.

This one is one of the last I did in this expressionistic style. I was experimenting with texture and applied plaster to the paper then painted and pasteled over it. The plaster cracked and flaked showing layers underneath.

Art, Figure Painting, Painting, Pastel

and now for something completely different …


Object Of Desire

30″ x 42″ pastel and Flashe’

It’s been difficult to get much painting done lately so I’m posting this one from my angst addled youth.

This was done in the 1980s using pastel and a vinyl based paint called flashe on paper. I liked working this way but I hated framing and storing the work. I still have a few of these and they get dusty and moldy unless they’re under glass.

The imagery I was creating was pretty er .. strong and I was always surprised when one sold. They’re very personal and I’m fond of them partly because they reflect what I was going through at the time but I’m not sure I’d want to live with them.

Animal Painting, Art, equipment, Figure Painting, Sketching, watercolor

Watercolor Paper test

I splurged and bought some handmade paper from Twinrocker Paper Mill to make my next skectchbooks. Although I like to paint with watercolor, I don’t really know what I’m doing. After I made one sketchbook, I wanted to try the paper out so I did these little sketches of our dogs on some leftover scraps.

Osa on Twinrocker white cotto rag……………Wilie on Twinrocker simons green

Watercolor and ink on Twinrocker Handmade paper

I was a little disappointed that the paper seemed to resist the watercolor more than I’m used to with the Fabriano Artistico I usually use. Maybe this is the way good watercolor paper is supposed to be. I seem to remember that you’re supposed to wet the entire paper before painting on it, which I did not do. Since I work back and forth with ink and watercolor I’d rather not have to do that. If any expert watercolorists happen to see this, I’d appreciate it if you could enlighten me on this.

The other thing I wanted to test was if the ink I use would be waterproof on these papers. I use several kinds of inks including Noodler’s and Platinum Carbon in my fountain pens. For dip pens I use Calli and Dr Martin Bombay India ink. I like to be able to paint back over ink lines with watercolor. Some inks depend on a chemical reaction with the paper to become waterproof and the reaction depends on the content of the paper. The testing I did was also a bit disappointing. Most of the inks ran when I painted over them, some worse than others. My testing was not very thorough so I still have hope that I can find a method that works for me.

Art, Figure Painting, oil painting, Self portrait, Sketching

One hour self portrait

one hour self portrait
10″ x 8″ oil on canvas

I have been admiring Kathryn Law’s one hour self portraits and that sounded like a pretty good exercise. I also recently watched a portrait painting demonstration video by Daniel Green. Daniel’s process is to premix several skin tones in 6 gradations. He uses a very different palette than I as well. So, I decided to combine two experiments and try out the palette and premixed skin tones while attempting to complete a portrait sketch in 60 minutes. It seemed like a great idea since having the paint premixed should make it go faster.

This was a disaster. After mixing all these piles of paint, I looked in the mirror and didn’t see any of the colors I’d mixed. Of course a masterful painter could still produce a good painting. Afterall, it’s more about the values than the colors. But this was not a masterful painter, it was me and I choked. Trying to paint quickly with unfamiliar colors was too much and I ended up wiping it down after about 30 minutes. And I didn’t enjoy it at all.

After a break, I did the painting above using my familiar palette and completed it in 60 minutes and had a lot more fun.