Fine Winter’s Sky / woodcut by Kawase Hasui / Feb 1921

IMG_1363 This is a great exhibit at the VMFA. It’s so inspirational. The plaques say it’s ink and color woodcut prints on paper. I wonder if it’s watercolor because they have some watercolor paintings by the artist. The colors look transparent on the woodcuts too. A lot of depth is showing. One of the plaques says it’s not traditional Japanese landscape. They also have a lot of info on the process he used. It’s complicated. But good to see how much work went into them. You can see layers of colors. I tried to see through the layers. Kawase Hasui did watercolor studies and changed his composition and colors during the steps to the finished prints. He didn’t shy away from detail. The ones with snow have thousands of white dots for snow and the ones with rain have skinny gray lines to represent rain. I wonder if they did a separate wood plate for the snow and printed it on top or if they gouged out tiny dots on the wood block so the ink wouldn’t go in those places on every block. If you like looking at fine woodcuts you should see this exhibit.

Port of Ebisu / Dec. 1921

Port of Ebisu / woodcut print/ Dec. 1921

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Pond at Cold Harbor / oil

Here's a camera shot so you can see what it really looks like.

Here’s a camera shot so you can see what it really looks like.


When I started to work on this painting a couple people who live there stopped and asked me why I was painting the pond when the water’s 4′ low. They think it looks bad. It’s fed by rain and been mostly dry for a while. I said, “It’s still beautiful.” I think they stopped worrying about it after I said the water won’t look like that anyway. Maybe I can make it deeper.

If I worked from a photo instead of painting in plein air my painting might have come out looking far away and browner. When I started the background trees last week there was still some green showing but now a lot more leaves have fallen.

This is my underpainting with glazes started on the background.

This is my underpainting with glazes started on the background.

This is how they wanted the art students to paint at York Academy of Art. Start with the background and work to the foreground. Start dark and build up your lights on top with more opaque paint. First do a detailed underpainting, but you can change it later if you want to with this way of painting by building up layers of glazes. I may as well stick to this method of painting. I think I’m still seeing an improvement in my paintings

about those trees standing in the water -

about those trees standing in the water –

but I always think I can do better next time

Can you see the texture of the bark on your computer? The computer doesn’t show the painting like the naked eye sees it. The background is loud so I had to make the foreground trees loud too. First I blocked them in with a black that I mixed some red into. Yes, I like to mix black in. Make black by mixing Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. If you need a warm black use more brown. If you need a cool black use more blue. This makes a black that isn’t dead to start with. You can mix black into any color on your palette then use it in your glazes and you won’t get a muddy color. If you ever see muddy colors in my paintings , please circle it and send it back to me. Sometimes I put glazes of green and red in on the same day over top of each other. I’m not mixing the paint on the canvas but on my palette. Your eye blends the colors without mud showing.

After the red / black dried I mixed my grays for the bark and painted over the dark glaze. Then scratched through it with my palette knife to show lines of the dark color showing through. It’s fun to scratch off paint to make skinny lines. It shows up best if you use the right values of your colors. That is dark to light.

Barbara told me those dead trees standing in the water are Gum trees. They live a long time standing in water then take forever to fall down when they finally die. Strong trees!

the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical / oil

The air around me was thick with the scent of roses and Maroger Medium. Intoxicating!

The air around me was thick with the scent of roses and Maroger Medium. Intoxicating!


I’m enjoying the Maroger Medium so much! It smells great, just like in days of yore at York Academy of Art. It’s the perfect weight and consistency for painting glazes in the couch or mixing it in with the paint and layering it on thick.

It’s so nice to hang around at Lewis Ginter Botanical every day for a few hours while I work on my painting. Sometimes I get surrounded by a bus load of kids and I don’t mind. Most of the time I’m alone with few distractions.

More artists should go there and paint in plein air. Everyone thinks what you’re doing is beautiful even at the charcoal stage when you know it’s not right. They think the underpainting is a finished painting. What I’m trying to say is, artists, don’t fear failure. They can’t tell anyway. 🙂 So, go out to that beautiful place every day and paint. Become a fixture. It’s a Zen thing. It’s good for you.

Pitcher Plants / oil paint

pitcher plants finishedThe Pitcher Plants are some of my favorites at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. To me they look far out with open mouths and lids that keep the pitcher part from filling up with rain. Bugs go in and can’t get out. When the bugs die and decompose they nourish the plant.

The photos below show the steps of this painting in reverse order, stripping off the layers of paint back to my charcoal sketch on paper.

The Cow is OK / left / 2003 / pastel

image 18.75 x 26.5

image 18.75 x 26.5


When I was working on these drawings I saw a “Weird News” article in a political magazine that had my daughter, Sarah , and I laughing for days. This is what it said :

In Fla. there was a flooded field and a cow was standing in the water. People driving past it were concerned that the cow was stuck in the mud and 911 got so many calls that DOT put a lighted sign by the road saying “The cow is OK”. Then the cow moved on but the sign was still there. It caused a traffic jam as people slowed down to look for the cow.