Art, Life, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Plein Air, Study, watercolor

a month in Italy


I’ve just returned from a month of painting as part of the Jerusalem Studio School Summer Program in Civita Castellana, Italy. It was very stimulating to spend so much time with people dedicated to painting, including modern masters, Israel Hershberg, Vincent Desiderio and Yael Scalia. They were very generous with their time and knowledge. Living and working among so many artists is a wonderful experience. I miss the daily immersion in painting and the camaraderie.


The month was packed with opportunities for artistic experiences. Every Thursday was a bus trip to another city with maps and lists of art treasures to visit. Sunday nights the guest artists showed slides and talked about their work. Two critiques a week led by Vince, Israel or Yael and on regular painting days, the instructors would wander the town and visit painters at work. Communal meals were served in the hotel or various other restaurants in the town and you could usually find some of our community at the Club Cafe either having a cappuccino or drinks late into the night.


Apertivos at Israel and Yael's apartment
Apertivos at Israel and Yael’s apartment

Although I went there with the intention of painting in oil, I started out wandering the town with my sketchbook and watercolors and really loved soaking in the experience that way so continued to work largely in watercolor. I did rent a studio for the last two weeks and did some oil painting there and plein air but the watercolors were the bulk of the work I produced.


Fountain in the Main Piazza from the Club Cafe
Fountain in the Main Piazza from the Club Cafe



Monte Sarrote watercolor
Monte Sarrote watercolor




Although I spent a lot of time painting, the largest impact on me, I think, will be from the time spent in conversation with the other painters and instructors. I came home with a lot to think about.

Me in the studio
Me in the studio
Art, Life, Portraiture, Self portrait, Sketching, Study

Completion of Birthday Self Portrait project


Self Portrait at age 23
Self Portrait at age 23 – 1976


I’ve explained this a couple of times before on the blog. When I was in college I was given an assignment to do a self portrait and was then given information on the aging process and told to do another self portrait projecting what I thought I would look like at the age of 60. I was 23 when I did the first two drawings. I forgot about them for several years but some time in my 30’s I decided it would be interesting to do a similar self portrait every year near my birthday to see how close my vision was. I had planned on doing it every year and to use the same pose and media, etc so that the drawings could be easily compared. Discipline is not my strongest characteristic and I missed some years and got bored and did other compositions some years but I did produce an interesting collection of images over the 37 years since the original drawings.

This being the year I turned 60 is the logical completion of the project and, although I may still do self portraits on my birthday, the original project ends now. My wife’s health began to collapse this  year, not long after my birthday and it’s taken me this much time to get back to thinking about it. Frankly, it’s been difficult to produce any artwork, since her death and this seemed like a fun and simple thing to do to keep my hand in and, of course, to feed the blog.




So it appears that, at the age of 23, I had an exaggerated view of how old 60 is. Perhaps in 1976, 60 year old people did look older than they do today. They say 60 is the new 40, right?

You can find other entries in this progression in the archives of the blog. I posted them as I did them.

I apologize for the quality of the photos. The original two drawings were reproduced from old slides.

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, Landscape, Painting, Study, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Monkey Ward on a rainy night

Alex, if you’re reading, I tried to answer your email but my reply was returned. You may have mistyped your email address.

Montgomery Park in the rain - 6" x 8" watercolor and ink
Montgomery Park in the rain – 6″ x 8″ watercolor and ink

This old Montgomery Ward store was converted, years ago, into Montgomery Park and is now used as office space and convention center. When it was built, in 1920, it was the largest building in Portland.

Art, gouache, Landscape, Painting, Portland, Study, Urban Landscape, watercolor

Mixed Media


“One Dolphin” 14″ x 10″ watercolor, gouache, ink and water soluble crayon


I’ve been doing studies for some larger oil paintings. I always seem to work more freely with watercolor and I’d like to learn ways to incorporate some of that into the oils.

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, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Portland, Study, Urban Landscape

Work in progress


8″ x 10″ oil on panel


Again this is Kelly Point Park.  There is a bridge that goes across the river bank to a barge which is tied to the dolphins I’ve been fascinated with. The study above and the one before are two sections of this same small bridge.


18″ x 26″oil on linen

The second painting is larger than I’ve worked in quite a while. I’m still worrying it. – slowly.

I’ve found myself looking at the work of Ilya Repin and William Merrit Chase, as I work on this. They both commonly included figures in their landscapes. I think, for me, the dolphins fill that role.

Art, Interior, Life, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Portland, Study

Studio Bookcase

This is one of a few pieces I’ve been working on lately.

14″ x 11″ oil on linen panel

I’m trying to paint every day. Sometimes I get stuck on a painting so I pull out another small panel and do a study to keep the brush moving. This is a sketch of a small wooden figure by Portland artist Tom Cramer.

8″ x 6″ oil on panel

This figure is from the 1980’s. Tom’s work has evolved into really intricate painted relief carvings. You can see photos of some of his work on his website but you really have to see them in person to appreciate them fully. Tom and I were featured together on a Portland Cable access TV show, called “Where’s the Art? back around 1987. At the time, Tom was known for these figurines and also for the cars and especially the Vespa scooters he painted. One of the scooters was shown on the show.

After the show, Tom and I traded pieces and that’s how I acquired this little sculpture.


Interior, oil painting, Study, watercolor

Office Chair

The work on my studio is complete and I’ve been trying to get back to where I was before.  I had a glimpse of something I wanted to work toward, while working with Jordan Wolfson in August and I’m trying to find my way back to that.

Here are some recent studies.

14″ x 18″ charcoal and watercolor

14″ x 18″ mixed media

11″ x 14″ oil on  panel

Art, gouache, Landscape, oil painting, Painting, Portland, Study, Urban Landscape, watercolor

More studies


10″ x 12″ oil on linen panel

This painting above is the same one from my last post, but taken a bit further.

6″ x 6″ oil on linen panel

These others are efforts to leave the reference behind a bit and lose myself in what it is I’m drawn to in the scene. They seem a bit self conscious to me, like I’m pushing them for no good reason. Like I’m faking it. Of course, I am faking it, at this point.

6″ x 5.5″ watercolor, ink and water soluble crayon on paper

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, 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, Daily Painters, Landscape, oil painting, Painters, Painting, Portland, Study, Urban Landscape

Red Industrial


6″x8″ oil on panel

This is, again, a theme I’ve visited before in my sketchbook. This one reminds me a bit of master urban landscape painter, Stephen Magsig, author of one of my favorite painting blogs – Postcards From Detroit.

Stephen has started a beautiful new blog showing his more developed urban landscapes – Stephen Magsig Urban Landscape Paintings. There are some really inspiring paintings there.


Art, Baoding Balls, Exhibits, oil painting, Painting, Still Life, Study

Baoding Ball and Cayenne


cayenne5″ x 7″ oil on gessoboard

Quick study in bright saturated color. This is the first time I’ve painted on gesso board. I like that the paint sits up on the surface and it didn’t seem too slippery, as I thought it might.

The green sphere is a Chinese Baoding Ball. I have a couple of sets of them that I enjoy rolling around in my hands but, having looked them up after I painted this, I didn’t realize I’m supposed to do it without allowing the balls to touch. That’s hard! Here’s an interesting video about using them.

Three of my urban landscapes have been accepted in the Town and Country: Oregon at 150 juried exhibition at the Froelick Gallery. The show opens June 2 with a First Thursday opening reception on June 4 from 5 – 8 pm.