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.


Sad day in Oregon

tree sketch

A ferocious wind storm has killed the oldest tree in Oregon and the oldest Sitka Spruce tree in the US. The tree was known as “The Klootchy Creek Giant”

* Height: 200 feet
* Diameter: 17 feet
* Circumference: 673 inches or 56 feet
* Crown spread: 93 feet
* Age: Estimated 500 to 750 years old. The tree started as a seedling shortly after the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

This is not the Klootchy Creek Giant


Art, Landscape, Painting, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Dry Dock revisited

Dry Dock 2

5″ x 8″ watercolor and black and white ink

I posted a sketch of this scene a while back that I did on site. This was done from the earlier sketch and photo. Although the crane is interesting, what draws me back to this is the red plastic netting at the end of the platform.

NW PDX Thumbnails

5″ x 8″ sketchbook page watercolor and ink

I’m feeling the warmth of the sun on the warehouse wall as I listen to the blowing wind and rain outside my studio.

Sketching Travel Sketching

My blog was recently mentioned in an article on Specifically my Costa Rica Travel sketches were featured. page

I’d like to thank Helen South for mentioning me and all the visitors who have stopped by to view my work. I hope you saw something you liked and, if you sketch and blog, please leave me a note so I can visit yours.

Art, Figure Painting, gouache, Painting, Sketching, watercolor


I haven’t posted anything in a while but I have been working. I’ve been painting portraits but haven’t produced anything I like yet. I wanted to do a series of portraits of friends and family and, naturally started with family since they were handy.

I wonder if anyone uses live models for portraits these days. Having someone else in the studio while I paint is very distracting for me and I always worry about the model and feel like I need to entertain them and make sure they’re comfortable.

It seems like maybe starting with people I’m attached to, especially my wife and daughters, was not such a good idea because I’m too invested in a likeness and a painting that they won’t hate.

This is a sketchbook page of some studies.

Portrait sketches

5″ x 8″ watercolor, ink and gouache

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

Self Portraits

self oil 3

16″ X 16.5″ oil on paper final state

I’ve done a lot of self portraits over the years and it’s always an interesting process. In my opinion, it’s impossible to be subjective about your own visage. After staring into your own eyes for hours, you become blind to it in some ways and it’s even more difficult to know whether you’re capturing a likeness or not.

self 2

second state
Since I don’t really know what I look like, I can notice myself trying to compensate in different ways as I paint. Sometimes, if I think I’m being too complimentary, I’ll make myself look ghoulish and other times I indulge the impulse to idealize.

Self 11-6-07

first state

In this case, I think that the earliest version probably looks most like me. The longer I worked on it, the more lean and well groomed I became. But, then again, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Most of you will never know : )

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When I was in college, I had an assignment to do a self portrait and then do another based on the first one but at age 60. I saved the first drawing and when I was around 35 or so I decided to do another version of that drawing every year around my birthday to see how accurate my prediction was and to record the transition. I’ve not been absolutely disciplined about doing them every year and sometimes I’ve done a different pose or medium but I have enough to get a sense of where this is going.

Here are a few, starting with the original (done when I was 20) and ending with the one I did predicting what I would look like at 60. In between are, I think, 35, 40 and 50. Some of these have that ghoulish thing going on. I think it’s pretty clear, from the drawings, that at age twenty I had a very different idea of now old 60 was than I do now at 54.

I apologize for the poor quality of some of the reproductions.

20 to 60

Art, gouache, Landscape, Plein Air, Sketching, watercolor

Cannon Beach

We spent last weekend at a friend’s fabulous beach house in Cannon Beach Oregon. This is the view from the front patio.

Haystack Rock - goauche

This is a really remarkable house, btw. The view is amazing and the house was built to have a zero energy footprint. There’s more information about this incredible house → HERE ← , if you’re interested. Beware the link is to a pdf file.

I spent most of the weekend painting and drawing. After 2 weeks of cold miserable rain, the skies were clear, the sun shined bright and it was warm. It was also a full moon.

There’s a hidden path down to a beach that’s secluded from the main beach except at low tide. I spent one day drawing and painting there and almost got stranded by the incoming tide.

Rocks off Chapman Point - pen and watercolor

Ink sketch of rocks off Chapman Point interior


I had to put in a telephone pole drawing.



I’ve been tagged by my friend Sue. I’ve been tagged before and I don’t think I know 7 others to tag who haven’t already been tagged multiple times so I’ll just list seven things people don’t know about me. Here are 7 unusual jobs I’ve had.

1. tuning a waterfall – As a landscaper I once had the job of tuning a waterfall – moving rocks around in a stream to make different sounds as the water flowed around them.

2. drawbridge tender – For a couple of summers, while in college I was the drawbridge operator for 2 small railroad drawbridges near Philadelphia PA

3. pull wire for computer cash register – another summer job was to travel around the country wiring department stores for computer cash registers when they were first being introduced (I’m dating myself with that one, eh?) They would lock us in the stores over night and let us out in the morning.

4. artist assistant – I worked for one of my art instructors, helping to construct complex canvases for his work

5. apprentice handmade papermaker – after college I apprenticed with Douglass Morse Howell (the father of modern hand made paper)

6. apprentice machinist – I dropped out of college after my freshman year and started an apprenticeship as a machinist. I finished my first year but it was a primary factor in my going back to college.

7. door to door window salesman – This was when I was trying to make a living as a painter an my wife became pregnant with our first child. I made exactly 0 sales.

Art, Landscape, Painting, Portland, Sketching, watercolor

Mt St Helens revisited

Mt St Helen’s gouache

5″ x 8″ Pen, watercolor and gouache

I reworked this sketch of Mt St Helens with gouache as an experiment. In oil painting, I miss being able to make the kinds of marks I make with a pen so I’ve been playing a bit with gouache to see if I can use it like oil paint while still preserving my ability to make lines.

I like the result although I think the colors are a little heavy. I wish I could be this loose while doing plein air oils.

The mountain has been erupting for some time now and steam clouds were being emitted from the crater all day.

Art, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape

Pen and Ink from the Bread and Ink Cafe on SE Hawthorne Blvd Portland

Sketched during dinner at the Bread and Ink Cafe on SE Hawthorne Blvd

From the Bread and Ink Cafe

Pen and Ink in 31/2″ x 5 sketchbook

I sketched this over dinner at a restaurant in one of Portland’s more bohemian neighborhoods. Although it’s not cheap to live there, the Hawthorne area seems to have resisted the temptation to gentrify and remains pretty funky. I used to take my daughter (now 20 years old) to dance classes at the Do Jump Theater and I would sit in the Baghdad Theater Pub and sketch while I waited for her. That was at least ten years ago. This reminded me of those days.

I dig telephone poles.

Art, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape

Industrial plein air / studio hybrid

I returned to the site where I did 2 of the sketches from the previous post and started this plein air painting while standing in the back of my pickup truck. Here it is in two states:

Wilamette Port Scene 2

6″ x 8″ oil on canvas

Wilamette Port Scene Finished camera

It’s the same scene as the middle sketch in the last post but the ship is gone. I thought this would be a good scene to paint because I wasn’t familiar with anything I was looking at and would therefore have an easier time seeing only the shapes and values rather than objects. I was pretty far away from it too, so it was really impossible to make out much detail.
I was really disappointed in what I did plein air and continued to work on it in the studio working from my sketch and photo. I was originally attracted to this kind of jumble of stuff sticking up into the atmospheric sky and I captured that but struggled to resolve the bottom/foreground.

This brings up the question of when a painting is plein air and when it’s a studio painting. I suppose since I didn’t complete the painting on site, it can’t be considered plein air.

Art, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

In search of industrial plein air subject

I set out to find an industrial site to do a plein air painting of. I’ve been trying to find access to industrial sites on the Wilamette River along Hwy 30 and returned there today. I turned down every side road I saw that lead toward the river but they all end at locked gates with spectacular industrial views just beyond.

I found this place down one of the roads. It wasn’t really on the river but it was an interesting building that I could see from a parking lot. Unfortunately there were railroad tracks between me and the building and trains kept blocking my view so I left after doing this thumbnail sketch. It may be better on Sunday. Maybe there won’t be as many trains.

Viking Fire Protection

I moved on down the river and turned down another road that ended in gated lots but this one had an area just above the gates where I could park and have a view of the river.

Container Ship

I did a couple of preparatory sketches. This is of one of those strange container ships that carry cars. They don’t look like ships at all. It was kind of far away.

Dry Dock

Directly across the river was what looked like a dry dock. This looked promising. I’m alway nervous about being on private property and people kept coming and going while I sketched so I was nervous about setting up for oil painting but, again, it might be quieter on Sunday.

Cathedral Park is right across the river also and I kept hearing what sounded like Pirate songs. When I got home I looked it up online and they were having the second annual Pirate Festival. I may have to go to that instead of painting tomorrow.

Art, Landscape, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Burnside Bridge value study

Burnside Bridge value study

gouache and ink in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook

I did this little value study from sketches and photos I did of the bridge last time I visited it. Actually there are two bridges here. The counter weights of the Steele Bridge can be seen towering over and behind the Burnside Bridge.

I’m just starting to play with gouache and this was done with b;ack and white ink and paynes gray and white gouache.

Art, Bookbinding, equipment, Landscape, Portland, Sketching, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Sketching Downtown Portland plus my sketch kit

I buddy of mine and I went to the East Side Esplanade on Portland’s waterfront to sketch today. It was cloudy and threatened rain but was warm and pleasant otherwise. I realized, after I’d started drawing, I’d forgotten to bring some paper towels for watercolor but I think I’m just as happy I didn’t color this sketch of the Portland Skyline.

Portland skyline from East Bank Esplanade

Hawthorne Bridge and Portland Skyline pen and ink in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook

We moved down the way a bit toward the Burnside Bridge. I’ve drawn this one before. I like the Drawbridge Tender’s building. My friend pointed out that it looks kind of medieval with the buttresses under it. Actually I guess they’re not buttresses when they’re holding something up like this. Anyone know what they’re called?

Burnside Bridge detail

Burnside Bridge ink and watercolor in 8″ x 5″ sketchbook.


This sketchbook is just about full and I was stitching up a new one last night. Even though I have gotten some books and found other online references on binding projects like this, I found my self back at Trumpetvine Travels re-reading Martha’s most excellent book binding instructions. Hers are the most clear and detailed I’ve found.

I noticed that Martha recently wrote a post showing her entire sketching kit. If you’re interested in sketching make sure to check out Martha’s beautiful and extremely informative blog, Trumpetvine Travels.

I thought I would show my sketch kit here as well because I always enjoy a peak into other artist’s tools and techniques and, although it’s very similar to Martha’s, I’ve found one thing that I really love that makes the whole thing really easy for me to carry with me and therefore makes me more likely to sketch.

I tried using a map case that Russell Stutler wrote about on his blog, here. but I found it a bit clumsy to open and close and it also, if not balanced exactly right, would hang awkwardly.

This is something I found at an REI store but I don’t see it on their website. It’s a nylon zippered book cover designed for camping and outdoor stuff but I find that it’s the perfect size for a Moleskine sized sketchbook with room to carry a small watercolor box and a couple of drawing utensils.

Sketch Kit 1 Sketch Kit 2 Sketch Kit 3

Everything I need fits in this zipped up little package. It even has a ring so you can clip it on a backpack if you want. Other than at REI, I’m not sure where to find it. It’s labeled as being made by ‘Warp Corp Seattle WA’ but I Googled them and didn’t see anything like this on their site. Maybe other outdoor gear stores would carry it too.

Allana wrote in a comment that she found it on REIs website here.

Art, oil painting, Painting, Plein Air, Sketching, watercolor

More Plein Air from Sauvie Island

I returned to Sauvie Island for another go at plein air. Coming over the bridge that leads onto the island you’re presented with a spectacular panorama including both Mt Hood and Mt St Helens on a clear day. The island is very flat, unlike most other landscapes around here, so you can see long distances. I always want to stop on the bridge and paint from there.

This time I continued down to the end of Sauvie Island road into the wildlife area where the road narrows and turns to gravel. I remembered years ago, when I was driving around the island looking for things to photograph to paint, coming across a beautiful view of Mt St Helens and that’s what I was looking for. I found it just as I remembered it and there was a great spot to pull off the road with the Mountain in view.

It was another perfect day. The air was crystal clear and the temp was in the 70s. Mt St Helens has been erupting again for quite a while and I could see puffs of steam rising above it’s ruined peak throughout the day.


Click for larger view

I started out with a quick ink and watercolor sketch.

Mt St Helens from Sauvie Island - ink and watercolor

Ink and watercolor – (click for larger view)

Since I found such a convenient site to park, I was able to spoil myself by setting my pochade up in the shade right next to the truck.

View of setup for Mt St Helens plein air

Click for larger view

The road I was on is in a fairly remote part of the island but since it was such a beautiful day on a long weekend there was some traffic. The road ends just a little beyond my site at a place popular for fishing. The passing cars would drive between me and my view, Since I was partly hidden from oncoming traffic by brush and the occupants of the cars were often surprised to see me at the last minute and stared as the passed but no one stopped or spoke to me.

Mt St Helens from Steelman Rd plein air

6″ x 8″ oil on canvas (click for larger view)

Here’s the completed oil painting. I think that each plein air painting I’ve done has been a little better than the one before but I’m still a not really happy with them. I’m staying loose with the brushwork and I feel like I’m gaining confidence in that. On the negative side, however, I think most of my plein air oils suffer from a compositional standpoint. This one, as with others, doesn’t have a strong focal point. What drew me to paint the scene was the mountain, but I don’t think the rest of the composition supports it very well. I also feel that the Mountain doesn’t recede enough in space. Looking at the photo, the mountain is very faint. Since it’s the point of interest, making it so faint may make the painting even more ambiguous compositionally.

Now that I’ve photographed it, I think I’ll fiddle with it a bit and try to make the mountain and more distant fields recede more, but I don’t think that will really make the image more interesting. The lines in the composition don’t lead the eye toward the mountain. I don’t think the eye really know where to look.

Advice, criticism, comments all appreciated.

Art, equipment, Sketching, watercolor

Blue Chair – watercolor

I took a break from oil painting yesterday but I did this little ink and watercolor sketch. I also added a little bit of gouache. I’ve tried to paint this scene in oil with no success.

Gouache is something I think I’d like to try more. I only have a limited number of colors now so am not able to do work in gouache alone.

Blue Patio Chair

ink watercolor and gouache in moleskine

I referred once before to some of my feelings about having worked full time as an artist. I came across an excellent blog yesterday by a woman sharing about the process of establishing herself as an artist after having completed her Fine Art degree after the age of 50. It’s very insightful and I recommend it. Her name is
Sue Favinger Smith.

I have occasionally had trouble photographing my oil paintings, particularly when they’re still wet, without a glare. While reading one of my absolute favorite painting blogs by Carol Marine, I found her reference to another blog (that’s why they call it the web), Strobist, with a description of an inexpensive light box.

Here’s my adaptation of it using a simple wooden frame and tracing paper.

Light Box

After making 3 frames, I attached tracing paper with a stapler and use clamps to hold the 3 frames together. I place a piece of white foam core over the top and clip a lamp on each side pointing them through the paper at the painting.

Art, Painting, Sketching, watercolor

Nehalem Bay watercolor

My wife and daughter and I spent a few days at the beach. I trekked out onto the beach by Nehalem Bay to paint. I did an oil the first day and my daughter and our dog and I spent a really great few hours lying around playing in the sand and sketching on the second day.

Nehelem Bay

5″ by 16″ ink and watercolor in moleskine watercolor sketchbook

It was a perfect day, low 80s and light breeze with very few people around on the bay.

Art, oil painting, Painting, Sketching

Champoeg State Park plein air

I spent a lovely day with my buddy painting in the park. I’m still quite unsteady on my feet with plein air but I don’t think this attempt really sucks … and it was fun.

Campoeg State Park plein air

8″ x 10″ oil on gessoed paper

This took about an hour and that’s about the limit of my attention span. I was disappointed with the amount of stuff I had to lug out there. I had a full backpack, a bag with the tripod, the pochade box and a can of solvent. It was manageable but not really comfortable. There must be a better way to deal with the solvent. A wet panel carrier would have put me over the limit. I think I can do better at organizing things and I’ll have to think about what I can do without.

Overall it was a day well spent.

Art, oil painting, Painting, Sketching

Cigar Box

Thanks to everyone who visited and left such encouraging comments. I’ve been away and lost my momentum on my painting practice. I started this sketch before I left and really don’t care for it so it will remain unfinished.

Cigar Box

When I started theses sketches my intention was to avoid a lot of concern about what to paint and just paint but I’ve noticed that I’m thinking too much and getting too careful and this painting looks dead as a result.

Tomorrow morning I’m going with a friend for a painting day out to get restarted. Hopefully that will help shake me loose. Then the following weekend I’m doing a plein air workshop. Wish me luck!

Art, Painting, Sketching

Plein air practice

This is a quick little sketch I did to try out the pochade box I built.
Plein Air Pickup

I’ve always dreaded dragging a lot of stuff with me to paint and therefore, with the exception of ink and watercolor, I’ve stuck pretty much to painting in the studio. Now that I’ve built this box I have no more excuses for not going out into the world to paint.

pochade box 2

Excuses, however, are a specialty of mine so we’ll see…