Mystical expressions of scientific ideas.

Studio Notes

Dispatches from the creative crucible


Compressed Value Underpainting

Posted on May 13th, by The_Artist in Blog, Demonstrations. 2 comments

Below are a couple of completed under paintings executed in “en camaïeu”. The phrase “en camaïeu” basically differs from “grisaille” or grey monochrome painting by the addition of a single color. Think of “Grisaille” as being mainly concerned with value (lights and darks), where “camaïeu” painting involves the third element of temperature. The colors I most often use for this sort of underpainting are Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, and White. They dry rapidly and I like the overall warmth they produce. I use a number of different palettes depending on what I’m doing, but the one that gets the most use when I’m in the comfort of my studio is this glass one, backed by a 7 whole tone and 13 half tone value scale.

This style of under-painting is all opaque, the transparencies are part of the over painting process. … Read More »



Learning Your Scales Redux

Posted on May 11th, by The_Artist in Blog, Demonstrations. 1 Comment

I use a number of different palettes depending on what I’m doing, but the one that gets the most use when I’m in the comfort of my studio is this glass one, backed by a 7 whole tone and 13 half tone value scale. The scale is created very simply by tinting Ivory Black with Titanium white. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

In this particular photo it’s laid out with colors for a compressed value underpainting, note how there is no value darker than a step 5 on the 7 step whole tone scale. (More on this in a future post.)

I’ve found this configuration very helpful in the following ways:

This palette allows you to see where on the value range your tubed colors are placed before you intermix them.
It provides context for your mixtures. For example, if … Read More »



Pollice Verso

Posted on May 11th, by The_Artist in Blog, Paintings, Still life. No Comments

Pollice Verso, Oil on Canvas, 9×12″, $550

This painting quotes Gerome’s painting by the same name, translating from latin to “Turning of the Thumb”. Initially one may find the juxtaposition of a gladiator with a couple of squash to be a non-sequitur. But if one looks closely at the painting being quoted, which depicts the vestal virgins calling for the killing of the felled combatant, the substitutions become significant. The hands with thumbs up or thumbs down are now replaced with squashes. These “hands” in turn occupy the place of the doomed athlete. The victorious gladiator looks upward, his gaze not meeting the blood thirsty crowd, but the signature of the artist.

This painting is part of a series of small, intimate works I’m painting inspired by the bodegones of Spanish Baroque painter Juan Sanchez Cotan.



The Light in Darkness Series

Posted on May 10th, by The_Artist in Blog, Paintings, Preliminary Studies, Still life. 1 Comment

Light in Darkness I, Oil on Museum Board, 5 × 7″

I’m doing a series of small scale minimalist paintings of luminous objects and light sources in dark spaces, as a sort of preliminary to a larger project. Its intriguing to contemplate light at its source, with the unaided eye, and have to translate that experience into the medium of a painting with minimal use of convention.



Branch Studies

Posted on May 10th, by The_Artist in Blog, Preliminary Studies. No Comments

Branch Studies, Oil on Panel 5 &#215 7&#8243

A 200 year old Thornless Honey Locust tree lives in my back yard. I love visiting with it from my studio window in the winter and hiding out in its shade in the summer. The custom frames for these little studies are designed to mimic the bark.

Currently available through Century Guild Chicago. 312.617.8711



Crazy Horse and Custer

Posted on May 10th, by The_Artist in Blog, Figurative, Paintings, Portrait Drawings, Preliminary Studies. No Comments

General George Armstrong Custer, Oil on Museum Board, 6 × 6&#8243

Crazy Horse, Oil on Museum Board, 6 × 6&#8243

In honor of the 43 Annual Custer’s Last Stand Fair in Evanston,IL I created these Portrait miniatures of Crazy Horse and Custer. I became enthused about the project the minute I realized that Crazy Horse had never been painted, drawn or photographed during his life time. For reference material I turned instead to accounts of his appearance by his contemporaries, as well as the recounting of his vision by Black Elk. In Crazy Horse’s vision, his animal protector was the white owl, which I incorporated into the likeness through the width of the cheekbones and exaggerated distance between the eyes.

I started with the small sketchbook studies below.







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Latest developments from the studio.

If you'd like to read an account of a five month road trip I took all around the United States with my paint box, visit the travelogue.

Compressed Value Underpainting

Below are a couple of completed under paintings executed in “en camaïeu”. The phrase “en camaïeu” basically differs from “grisaille” or grey monochrome painting...

Learning Your Scales Redux

I use a number of different palettes depending on what I’m doing, but the one that gets the most use when I’m in the...

Pollice Verso

Pollice Verso, Oil on Canvas, 9×12″, $550

This painting quotes Gerome’s painting by the same name, translating from latin to “Turning of the Thumb”. Initially...