Monday, November 26, 2012

The Art of “Seeing” Continued: Catch the Accidental Strokes

The most important thing in learning to paint is learning to “See”. It's vital that you “See” what's in front of you not only what's in your head. You can only paint what you see and you must “See” every detail. When I talk about “Seeing” I mean something a little different than ordinary sight. Most of us see in a very passive way. We go through life looking at things and observing very little of the world around us. An artist must be aware of more. We “See” details of line, value, color, shape and space that the average person misses entirely. The better you develop this mode of “Seeing” the better artist you will be. I call this “developing the Artist's eye”.

As artists we should take in everything. This means your canvas as well as your subject. “See” all the details of your subject whether you are working from photos or life. “See” what you are painting and “See” the painting itself. “See” what is really happening. Be totally aware of each brush stroke. Often the brush, the paint, the hand, the mind and the Universe will conspire together to create amazing beauty. This happens seemingly by accident. It's tragic to wipe it out of existence with your next stroke because you missed it entirely or saw it too late. Don't get me wrong. There's more where that came from, but the one that got away still got away!

I see this in class all the time. I tell a student “That's perfect. Don't touch that spot!” Sure enough they go right back in there and cover it up. Sometimes they do it before I can get the sentence out of my mouth. They don't see where I'm pointing. Other times it almost seems like some gremlin of perversity knocks the hand at just the right moment to destroy that beautiful stroke. Slow down. Pay attention. Don't get carried away with covering the canvas. Stop, step back often, look and “See”. As you get used to “Seeing” in that special way you can speed up a little but always be aware of what you are doing and what kind of marks you're making. Make the stroke then look at it. How does it support the overall design. Change it or keep it then go on to the next stroke.

Pay close attention to the photo or scene and all its details. Just make sure you study the painting as well. “See” what's really there. Often the accidental effects are better than what you intended. If you are too focused on the plan or the outcome you may miss something that is better. Don't be afraid to go off in another direction in response to those happy accidents.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Here are some more of my paintings. Some are new, some not so new, but all are pieces I enjoyed creating. I hope you enjoy seeing these as much as I enjoyed painting them. The first three are from workshops I conducted. I finished all of them this year but the workshops spanned two years. I seldom finish a painting during a workshop since I am very busy helping my students with their work.

I call this one "Cliff's Edge". It is an 11" X 14" oil on canvas. I did this and the next two works with knives. My knife painting workshops are always popular. One of the things I like about painting with knives is that it helps me to loosen up. While I can paint quite realistically this way it prevents me from getting bogged down in the details. I love detail but now and then it's good to let go and paint bold and free.

This one is called "Sunlit Window". It's a 16" X 20" oil painting on canvas. The students had a lot of fun with this subject and their work was amazing. Every picture turned out beautiful and so different. You can order cards and prints by clicking here.

"Mountain Flower's" - 16" X 20" oil on canvas. My student, Anna sold her painting from this workshop. We all had fun painting these. All three of my knife workshop paintings are hanging at Gallery 133 as is the following picture. They are for sale and prints are available.

"Bridge" - 12" X 20" oil on masonite panel. This is an older piece completed over several years. I drew it out and set it aside until I needed to do a demonstration painting at a gallery where I was displaying my work. That was two or three years later. I've found that if I don't draw out a picture onto a canvas or board right away the painting often never happens. I started painting this for the demo and didn't finish until a few years later when I needed new work for a show. It's a lot quicker to finish a painting that's already started if I need new work in a hurry. This is one I painted out of my head so it isn't as realistic as what I usually do. I paint much better now too. I still like this one though.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I want to share my latest painting. I call it "Poppies". Not very original I know, The painting is a 16" X 20"  oil on canvas. This one took a long detour on the way to getting finished. You can see the original at Gallery 133 at 133 South Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. Click here if you wish to order prints or cards  of this one. Watch this space.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gallery 133

I will soon be displaying my art and demonstrating painting techniques at Gallery 133 on Gay Street in Knoxville. I'll be there on Wednesdays for the foreseeable future. I expect to be teaching a class there as well. Call me at (865) 765-5479 for more info or to sign up for classes. I hope to arrange some events on occasional Saturdays as well. I look forward to seeing you all at the gallery for First Friday too. Watch this space for breaking news.