Abandoned Coast Guard Station on Chincoteague Island, VA.

charcoal and chalk

charcoal and chalk


I walked about a mile over sand to get there carrying my sketch book and a water bottle. You can drive down the beach if you have the right kind of vehicle. The refuge on Assateague was crowded that day because it was open free to the public on National Parks Day, but I was all alone that far down the beach.

The abandoned Coast Guard Station looks a little spooky to me. I guess the reason they stopped using it is because the shifting sand extended the island another half mile down from there in a hook shape and probably changed the channel too.

I’m not going to do a finished painting of it because it’s too far to lug my painting gear. It’s pretty with red roofs contrasting with the stark empty beach.

Wild Ponies on Assateague Island, VA.

wild ponies on assateague
Did you ever see one of those romantic paintings of wild horses running on the beach? I think those artists traced a photo of horses running and superimposed them on a beach scene because these wild ponies don’t run much. They can be found standing around or walking on the beach but mainly you see them far away standing knee deep in marsh grass with their heads down munching. As far as I can tell they only run once a year when the fire dept. / cowboys round them up and make some of them swim across the channel to Chincoteague Island where they auction them off to benefit the fire dept.

The wild ponies seem a little lethargic to me but the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce free literature says they get veterinary care when they need it. Life’s not easy for them on Assateague Island though. Where do they go for shelter in a hurricane? Once I heard that the reason they look fat is because there’s no fresh water for them to drink on the island so they drink brackish water. The ones that get auctioned at the annual pony swim / auction slim down after they get a better diet and fresh water.

I want to try to paint a marsh landscape but I don’t think I’ll try to draw the wild ponies in, because they’d probably come out looking like spotty blobs out there. Maybe some time in the future….

Study of a Horse / Caravaggio

This is one of my favorite horses at the VMFA.

This is one of my favorite horses at the VMFA.


A study can be a finished painting. Studies are a necessary step in planning a painting. You can see the light on the horse’s shiny coat. You can see the artist studied horse anatomy. It wasn’t traced from a photo. I guess he was practicing drawing and painting the horse large because it’s easier to draw large when you’re working on anatomy. And maybe he wanted to do a color rough too.

Corn Shed ’14 / oil

corn shed 14 oil
This is my second painting of the corn shed. I think it came out better than the one I did last year, so I guess my drawing and painting skills are improving.

I layered glazes on top of glazes here. I painted impasto with my palette knife and also used the palette knife to scratch through glazes. Using thick paint and thin paint on the canvas adds interest because the eye compares different sections of the painting and the textures keep the eye moving around the canvas.

That Alvi’s Maroger Medium is the best stuff, my artist friends. You can do glazes, bleeds, paint impasto, add texture.
Everything you can do with any other kind of paint you can do with oil paint. You can do dry brush, work into your bleeds paint thin lines without much turp, and the medium holds it in place and makes the surface nice and slick so the paint slides easily.

I posted my underpainting below so you can see the major changes I did to this painting. And I put some text on it about linear perspective.

Corn Shed ’14 underpainting

corn shed underpainting
My charcoal sketch for this painting is posted below. I can’t trace my sketch and transfer it to my tinted canvas, I had to draw it again freehand with charcoal on the canvas. Linear perspective is still difficult for me but the more I try to draw it the better it gets. The boards on the shed are warped and not all straight. The temptation is to draw lines horizontal on the canvas when I know they’re horizontal, but the eye sees the lines going up hill and getting that close to what the eye sees makes linear perspective work.

Sometimes when I’m trying to draw a building I hold my charcoal out at arms length and close one eye, resting my arm on my easel to keep it steady. I hold the charcoal or pencil out like that to measure. With figure drawing that helps get proportions and angles right but with linear perspective I have to eyeball it to make my corrections. I don’t get it right on the first try and not on the second try here either. I corrected it again when I added layers of glazes. That’s one thing I like about oil paint, it’s easy to paint over and make it look better. I can make major changes in a painting and if I don’t show you, you can’t see my mistakes.

The Gift Of A Creative Journey

Mail Art

CREATE – Mail Art

I have always loved receiving mail. Real mail. Snail mail. Having bits of paper in my mail box delivered by an honest to goodness person kind of mail. Before the age of emails, texting and social media, paper-in-your-hand mail was the best way to communicate and share your life events with those you cared about.

And even though it isn’t as immediate, I still love the anticipation and feeling of surprise when I open my mailbox and find a treasure waiting for me.

When I found out about a Mail Art Swap on the Bliss Angels Blog I decided to jump in! The theme is CREATE. The challenge was to assemble four envelopes.

I sat down with my box of ephemera and I allowed my Muse to guide me. I had a few lovely craft envelopes to use as a substrate. I found a copy  of a painting of First Lady Louisa Adams. I loved her pose and the wistful look in her eye. I decided to build the art around her.

I have a bag of fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies. I dug deep and pulled one out. It read:

Your flair for the creative takes an important place in your life.

It was a perfect start…again…Synchronicity? The substrate is a craft envelope. In addition to the reproduction of the painting I added art and handmade paper, a wax infused paper doily, a postage stamp, newsprint, and joss paper. I finished the envelope by adding rubber stamped and stencilled acrylic metallic paint. All that was left to do was address, stamp, and send.

As I eagerly await the Art that will grace my mailbox I can’t help but think about creativity and our lives. The power to create is a gift. Creativity can take us to the places of our dreams. Inspiration comes disguised and in many forms. Even on a lowly envelope.

Tires and Drums / oil

rock and roll

rock and roll

When Shelby and I were in school at York Academy of Art we had a great design teacher, Mike Klinedinst. He had high standards. One thing Klinedinst hated was what he called “the red circle trick”. He said a red circle is a weak design element because your eye goes straight to the red circle and stops there. A red circle is a bad focal point.

Our great drawing teacher Ted Fitzkee told us “Never paint a flaming sunset”. If you paint a flaming ball for a sun that’s the landscape version of the red circle trick.

Now when Shelby and I see the red circle trick we laugh.

I don’t know what Klinedinst would think of this painting since I painted a gray circle for a focal point. I hope he’d like it because your eye can move around the painting. I also don’t know if Fitzkee would like the painting but maybe he would because I drew and painted it freehand in plein air. And because I kept correcting my circles and ovals until they looked about right to me. Badly drawn ovals and circles bugged Fitzkee and since he had an influence on me, badly drawn ovals bug me too. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t paint a flaming sunset if I wanted to. Chances of that are slim though because I work slowly and sunsets don’t last long.

To get a lot of texture in the grass I dropped paint on the canvas I first wetted with Maroger Medium (painting in the couch) then scratched through the wet paint with my palette knife. And I drew some skinny lines on top with thin paint.

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