Hey guys! I’m proud of a painting! I have been feeling pretty down about my paintings lately, because I’m not able to produce the paintings that I have in my mind. But… I keep moving. And tonight, the blind squirrel found a nut.

Before I get into that, I guess I should show you the garbage I’m working through.

I thought I would try my hand at something abstract…

then decided I don’t enjoy abstract paintings.

Then I tried to paint a person…

and realized I suck at that.

Then I decided to try to turn my abstract painting into some trees – it didn’t work.

Then I tried to paint a photo that I took a long time ago of a tree in the Mahoning River after it was swollen from letting the dam out.

There’s something that I liked here, so I figured I could turn this into a really good painting.

This was not a good painting.

Neither was this… at this point, I was feeling pretty down on myself. So I took a day off of painting.

My dog tore her ACL this summer. After several months of trying to figure out a way to get her to use all four legs, we finally decided to have her get surgery. She is doing really well now thankfully, but in order to help her get back to 100%, I have to take her on walks every day. To be honest – I need to get out there as well, I could use a bit of exercise myself.

On our walks, I pass a whole slew of non-descript, average city-suburban houses. It all feels very uninteresting, and makes me thirst for spring when I can start going fishing again so I can get back to the woods. However, the other day I thought about the paintings of the Renaissance masters, and I realized that so many of the subjects (take Rembrandt for example) are mundane, every day life. So, I figured I might as well try to paint some of the mundane things around me.

On my walk with Lego (yes, my dog’s name is Lego) I snapped this very uninteresting photo.

While this photo doesn’t have much going for it in terms of a photograph, it does have some interesting perspective, and geometry that I thought might make for a good painting.

So, tonight while Rachel and I sat in the living room watching reruns of “I Survived,” I sketched out this photo.

One thing I wanted to focus on was drawing the tree as a three dimensional object. I realized recently that I have a bad tendency to paint trees like a two-dimensional cardboard cut out. So the other day, I spent a few minutes really looking at a tree, and realized that there is a ribbon-like structure somewhere under the bark. I decided to try to represent the tree in this photo with a tangle of ribbons, hoping it would result in something with more believable mass.

After the sketch was complete, I applied frisket film to the paper, and (while we continued to watch I Survived) I cut out the tree and houses so I could paint the sky without worrying about painting around the midground and foreground objects.

After cutting the film, I then applied masking fluid in a few places (branches, telephone poles on the right, mirrors on the car that you probably don’t even notice.) When that dried, I painted the sky, and while it was still wet I painted some distant trees. I wanted this to be almost entirely soft edges, which is why I painted the trees while the sky was still wet. Once it dried, I added a few brush strokes of purple to suggest leaves with some crisp edges, and then moved on to the mid ground.

Before I painted the midground, I cut the frisket film, exposing everything except for the tree.

I then painted the midground fairly quickly. I wanted to try to get this to blend into the background, so I used the colors that were on my palette from the previous step. For the houses, I painted the shadowed side first, and then painted the rest of the house with some tea consistency pigments. I then painted shadows in the snow, with a focus on trying to define the slight hill in order to define the contours of the landscape. Then, I let that all dry, and moved on to the tree.

When I painted the tree, I started by painting a few blue fields to suggest some snow. Then, I painted a very light brown/yellow ochre over the entire tree. I then went back into the tree, trying my best to remember where the “ribbons” were, and added some raw umber, and indigo to add shadows.

Once that all dried, I used a very small brush to outline the tree in a few places, just to pull it away from the midground.

And… that’s it. I think I did a good job showing how even a mundane, uninteresting scene can evoke genuine emotions of peace and nostalgia. I’m really proud of this one.

If there is nothing else learned from this painting, I hope it demonstrates that while we are still learning, we HAVE to push through. We are going to paint a whole lot of crap. But every crappy painting is a lesson. If we quit just because we are painting crap, we will never improve.

There’s only one way to get better…


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