Friday, December 19, 2008

Tennessee Christmas

This to me is what a Tennessee Christmas should look like. Too bad we had it this past week instead of Christmas. Maybe we'll get another one on the 24th.
If I don't post again, Merry Christmas everybody.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Oh my God, indeed.
I feel like I am standing in a room full of people and I am in my underwear.
I typically would not show my first attempts at plein air painting because of the quality. They were a horrible mess and I feel exposed, but there is a reason.
When I see other people start to plein air paint and their first attempts are a bit short of what they expected and they feel that they "don't have what it takes" or "no talent" or any other reason they can't, I try to convince them to be patient. Trust me when I tell you this: everyone starts at zero in plein air painting.
I too thought I would just step out there and start cranking off gallery quality paintings left and right. It has been a long gradual process. Talk to any other artist and they will say the same thing. Their first attempts were horrible and they have painted thousands and thousands of paintings that the general public will never see to get to where they are.
The paintings I have posted here were done in the first summer I started painting which was five years ago. I had no idea what I was doing and for the first three years plein air painting would just whip my ass and send me home to think about what else I could do with my life. The first thing I learned was there are no magic brushes, panels, palette colors, workshops, schools, etc., etc., that are going to make you better or teach you how to paint. It is all just equipment and information that YOU have to learn to apply and the only way to do it is paint. Paint everyday. Over and over and over. Make thousands and thousands of mistakes. Each mistake is a lesson that no one else can give you. I found that for me it was a very organic process. I just crammed my head so full of it and painted so much that I was actually just along for the ride. Your work changes and you get better and you' re doing things you couldn't do before and it snowballs and gets bigger and you wonder where it will go in 5-10 years. I remember asking John Budicin what he thought he would do with his art next or where he wanted to be in, say 5 years, and he said,"I have no idea. I never planned any of it. I just go where it takes me."
So keep painting. You may be suprised where it takes you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Painting in Gray Weather

Painted on Swan Creek a lot last week because we seemed to have had a lot of gray weather lately and the creek always has nice darks and lights when everything else gets kinda' flat and gray. Anyway, another creek painting.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I haven't blogged in a while and I think it may be due to the weather this time of year. From Thanksgiving to the last of December is my favorite time of year to be outside. I deer hunted a little around Thanksgiving and have been trying to paint when not hunting.
The coolest thing I have found lately is this great big beaver lodge on Swan creek. In all my time wading streams and creeks and ponds and lakes, all the float hours I have spent on the river, I have never seen a beaver lodge. It looks like it might be about the size of a large Jacuzzi and I would love to be able to peek inside but am afraid I would be mauled by a family of 40lb. beavers and my bones would wind up as construction material in their lodge.

Monday, November 17, 2008


We finally got some good color in the trees and it has just about come and gone already. I think it may have peaked last week and now they are beginning to fall, rapidly. It seems like it goes so fast.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I know it's a bad attitude to have about studio painting but all I can think about is the weather clearing and getting back out.
We have had rain and it has given me time to work in the studio. Ya' know, I knock it quite a bit but it too is a tremendous learning experience. There are techniques and things I can take my time with in the studio that I couldn't do afield. Ways I handle paint, experimentation with tools and techniques, and nice careful thoughtful drawing. I guess ultimately anytime you are painting whether outside or in it is actually good for you as an artist. So here's to studio painting! Now if the sun would just come out...

Monday, November 10, 2008


Had a pretty stiff cold front blow through yesterday with a very constant north wind. I had gone out to paint in the morning but was not prepared for the drop in temps or the wind. I can paint in most conditions but the wind is just aggravating, especially a cold one. Anyway, I got this done yesterday afternoon in overcast, cold, windy conditions. I usually get some pretty funny looks from people when they pass but yesterday they were looking at me as if I had lost my mind.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Painted with Plein Air Nashville this morning at Cheekwood and had quite a turn out. The most I have seen in a long time. This little painting would be much, much, better had SOMEbody not dropped a tripod on it.
I picked up the latest Art of the West magazine the other night and there is a layout in it titled,"Winter Wonderland."The first painting in the article is a Cyrus Afsary, followed by a Len Chmiel, a John DeMott and on to a Richard Schmid. By the time I got to the Richard Schmid I could feel my rods and cones shutting down from too much incredible art that they were trying to filter through to my brain. I am a sucker for a winter landscape and these are some doosies. I think Richard Schmid is the best at making trees "barky", rocks hard, snow soft, clouds airy, and on and on. Giving an object its inherent qualities that make it unique. You can tell what kind of tree, the softness of a flower, the age of a barn, the coarseness of a fabric through a suggestion of texture and those beautiful lost and found edges. Even though it's just paint applied to a 2-D surface you can "feel" everything in the painting, from temperature to moisture in the air. Awesome.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Autumn Colors

The fall colors I have been waiting on have arrived, I just don't remember them being this late. Maybe I'm wrong but I thought it was usually in October a little more.
Painted in Normandy again. Painted at the TWRA Fish Hatchery and again at the farm in the previous blog "On a Back Road". That farm is slowly becoming one of my favorite places to paint. The lay of the land with that farm at the other end makes some beautiful compositions.
Had a guy pull up though, and ask me if I "was a survey'n?" I said,"yep" and he said,"what fer?"I said,"a mall."
The depth and the length of the silence was stunning.
I finally snapped him back to reality by telling him there would be no mall and I was a painter.
Again, stunned silence.
I explained to him what I do for a living and I honestly believe it would have been easier to convince him a mall was coming.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bells Bend

Bells Bend is a jewel. It is an area that is about 20 minutes from downtown Nashville that is still very rural. It has remained this way because the citizens that live there have worked hard to keep it that way and it's geographical location is in a deep bend of the Cumberland river that only allows one way in and one way out. It is truly a paradise of culture and landscape. I have painted there numerous times and have only begun to scratch the surface.
And then along came the developers.
I am not sure what in a person can make them look at this and see massive urban sprawl sold as "new green development" when it just boils down to the destruction of more and more of what makes Nashville unique. What it amounts to is the destruction of quality of life in the area. WE DO NOT NEED ANOTHER MALL, IDIOTS!
Anyhoo, a giant urban area with malls and office space and I am sure some condos and residential called "The Maytown Center", named after the family who proposes this, is being pitched to the city. The folks in Bells Bend have started a massive campaign to get it stopped. This Saturday they had a day of activities in the area to really showcase how special the area is. It started with a paint out followed by classes and workshops at the Bells Bend Park nature center, food and crafts and organic food vendors at the Scottsboro Community Center, and a canoe and kayak float on the Cumberland with all of this followed up that evening with a concert by Nanci Griffith with a s'mores cookout at the campground. I stayed for the Nanci Griffith concert and was impressed. She is very good and has written a ton of hits.
Having said all of that, we had a great day with perfect weather. Had a good group of painters out and picked up a few we don't normally see. I got three done and took in a concert.Yeah.
I wish the people that live in the bend the best of luck getting this stopped. For selfish reasons because it would be one less place I have to paint but more importantly it would be one more place for my grandkids to paint.

Friday, October 31, 2008

On a Back Road

Found this farm a while back but never made the effort to stop until this morning. It is somewhere between Normandy and Wartrace along the Duck River at 3 Forks Bridge. It was a beautiful fall morning and everything just clicked. I love it when that happens.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Gaggle of Painters

Painted this morning with a group. Roger Brown and Beverly, Brett Weaver, Gary Young, Erin Jones, and myself painted at Radnor Lake. Weather was perfect. It is not often I paint with a group (except Plein Air Nashville) but I actually enjoy it. It's not that we learn a whole lot from each other or even talk that much. When the painting starts it gets incredibly quite. It is actually a very solitary pursuit. I painted with Anne Blair Brown once and when we were leaving she said,"I enjoyed watching you paint from afar." The interaction was "good morning"...paint...paint...paint..."good bye." I think I enjoy it because you are with like minded people, people who appreciate the work, dedication, and effort that we all put into this and they know what it means when you say the word "struggle".
The other painting of the cornfield is at Derryberry's and it is the first 10x12 I have ever painted. I ordered a bunch of 10x12 panels from Sourcetek to give it a try and give myself a new compositional challenge. Not sure how I like the format yet, will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


This was done Saturday evening after the cemetary painting that morning. It was the same cornfield in my previous blogs and yes, by the time I left it was full of "critters". For whatever reason, we have had very little color in the trees so far this year. Typically by now the woods are ablaze. I am not sure if it's late or if it is going to happen at all but it has been a very brown fall so far. It's hard to believe it's already the end of October.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Plein Air Nashville painted in the City Cemetary to get in the spirit of Halloween. If there was such a thing as ghosts I would be in the City Cemetary. The stories you could get there would be awesome. It is full of the first settlers in Davidson County. The most notable one I saw was the first settler James Robertson and his family. Apparently, Davy Crockett is in there somewhere but I didn't find it. There is just too many there to see them all and still get off a painting.
I have painted in cemetaries twice now and it is very difficult painting. There are no large masses. It seems like every direction you look it is tons of little shapes and pieces and values and lots of drawing. The painting I did has been simplified and you can see there is still a million little planes and value changes. I suppose you could do a very intimate, small area of maybe one tombstone or something but some of the other ghosts might feel slighted and the last thing I would want to do is piss Davy Crockett off.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I don't get the chance to paint cattle much because they never hold still in the field long enough. If I do paint them they are usually just kind of a suggestion of a cow or I paint in the studio where I can spend a little time with the drawing.
Had some studio time this week so I painted cattle. Had trouble with the anatomy a bit because the cattle proportions have to be pretty accurate. If you miss them slightly it quickly becomes a goat and if you miss them far enough, a big dog.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Skiing Weather

Painted downtown again where I painted the little fire boat a couple of weeks ago. The little boat actually sits right to the left of the edge of this painting. I almost painted it again but opted for this pedestrian bridge instead.
As we were starting to paint I heard the roar of a boat engine coming around the bend in the river. It was a ski boat with 5 guys in it and one barefoot skiing. He drops right at the bridge, they pick him up and then park where we stood to paint. Then, again, another ski boat with a team and skier. This continued until there were 9 boats and 9 teams of barefoot skiers. These guys barefoot ski race. They have teams from all over the country that travel around and do this. We actually were fielding a team from Nashville in this race.
They started at Old Hickory dam and raced to downtown Nashville. When they got there they blasted off in a line and raced back to Old Hickory then turned around and did it again. It takes exactly one plein air painting worth of time to race to Old Hickory and back. Bear in mind while they were doing this a pretty stiff cold front had blown through and it was a bit windy and never got out of the low 60's. You would think this was a young man's sport but most of these guys were my age or older and some appeared to be 60ish. Rock and Roll.
It has been a long time since I water skiied but I remember no matter how young or in shape I was I would always feel like I had been hit by a bus the next day. Sore in places I didn't know I had. Now, I can trip and fall in my den and be crippled for weeks and these guys were tearing it up at their age. Score one for the old guys.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Corn Fairies

If you have ever watched a combine work, it's like magic. The stalks, johnson grass, sticks, etc., etc. goes in the front and out comes this beautiful golden kernel corn, almost ready to eat. It is as if thousands of little corn fairies are busy inside cleaning, husking, and kernelling corn. I pictured it like Willie Wonka's chocolate room. It's an amazing piece of technology.
Well the one pictured in my blog broke down last week and I got "Tim the Corn Guy" to explain and show me how they work. I have seen it and I still don't understand. There are augers, sifters, belts, pulleys, tumblers, and other things I just did not recognize. Again, who ever came up with it was a genius.
Last week they were busy at the farm I have leased to hunt on getting up the corn. I have been painting in the fields as they were there and after they finished. The neatest thing about painting in it now is the amout of wildlife that is coming into the field at dusky dark to pick up the corn that is left. I stopped yesterday afternoon and looked around and couldn't count the number of deer and turkeys that had crept into the field. Nature show.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fire Boat

For those of you who may have noticed I posted this on Sunday when I painted it and then saw it on the computer screen and decided it needed a few minor adjustments. They look so much different on the computer.
I painted downtown Sunday morning in the greenway between the football stadium and the river. Plein Air Nashville had planned on painting there on Saturday morning but "Race for the Cure" had also planned on having their event there and they look like they outnumbered us about 5-6000 to one. As soon as I crossed the river I hit gridlock. It took me about thirty minutes just to get back out of the stadium area. The area we were supposed to paint was actually closed to traffic so I don't know if anyone made a painting attempt there but if you did you're a better man than me.
I went back on Sunday morning and there was only one other person there besides me and it was an elderly black gentleman that spent most of his morning trying to teach me how to fish the Cumberland River. It was a great place to paint. Stuff everywhere. I bit off this little fire boat that sits there all the time. Hopefully we will check ahead of time for downtown activities and barring any will paint there again soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Corner Market

Painted this little market/cafe yesterday in a little community in Rutherford County called Christiana. Apparently it serves a pretty good lunch because by the time I finished, the parking lot you' re looking at was covered up. When I started, no one. I pass this building everytime I go to Bell Buckle and everytime I pass I tell myself I am going to paint it. Finally.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cold Front!

Finally. A good solid fall cold front blew through and the temps stayed in the low 70's. Perfect day. Rest of the week looks as good.
Painted this barn in Williamsport about lunch today and I noticed the greens are starting to lighten up and colors are starting to change to fall just a bit. Won't be long.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bedford County

Spent the last two days painting in Bedford County. Fridays, I pick up my daughter at Webb School so I usually spend Friday's painting in the Bell Buckle area. I painted a barn that I have painted numerous times. I like painting it because no matter what time of day, it seems to always have "good light".
Then this morning, Plein Air Nashville painted in the Fisherman's Park in the heart of Shelbyville. It is on the Duck River and we were trying to get a few more paintings for the Nature Conservancy show the Chestnut Group is having in a couple of weeks. It is a great place to paint. Easy to get to the water and great views of the old corn mill and dam. I think in the later years they actually generated electricity with it.
The only issue I had was one of the "locals" walked up right when I started and stood right over my left shoulder about three feet away the entire time I painted. Two hours this guy stood there and didn't miss a brush stroke. If I can find out who he is I think I am going to send him a "workshop fee".

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Land Trust

Here in Tennessee we have a land trust that Tennesseans can put their land in and it keeps it from being developed for perpetuity. I would like to personally say thanks to anyone who has done it. It is a great gift to Tennessee and to generations that will be here long after we are gone.
Having said that, Jason Saunders is having a one man show at Leiper's Creek Gallery the month of October that is of the Natchez Trace and land trust properties. He knew I had an aquaintance that had a farm in Hickman County that had been put in the trust and wanted to paint it for the show. The farm is owned by Bill McEwen, a gentleman I used to buy bird dogs from when I quail hunted. He was more than gracious and took us all over the farm and told us to help ourselves. We did.
There was just too much there to paint. It is a magnificent piece of land that has been in the family for generations. There are views and little intimate landscapes everywhere. It has little rolling hills and lots of character to it.
We painted all day and I painted three with one being a scraper. I knew when I started it, it wasn't going to happen. Some paintings you just start wrong and you know it. I have a tendency to try and save them when I should just stop and start over. What a waste of time to try and save one that never got off the ground from the start.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Architectural Fatigue

Everytime I paint a cityscape or something architectural I am completely drained mentally at the end. I think it is all of the editing, deciding how to handle what seems like a billion little angles and perspective issues plus the lack of experience with these subjects that wears me out.The above painting was no exception.
Painted with Plein Air Nashville on Saturday morning and we painted in Edgefield, one of the older areas of Nashville that is being remodeled and is actually a very nice area, especially architecturally. Lots of nice homes. We painted from East Park and I tackled this little church. It was a foggy, damp, thick kinda' day with clouds and no sun. This painting did not come easy for me and I was very dissatisfied with the result. It was about to be "scrapped off" but was spared and taken home. After looking at it for a while I actually saw some things in it that I am quite pleased with even though it will never see the inside of a frame. Ya' know, 2 years ago if I had done this painting I would have been doing backflips. Now, it was almost scraped.
It is so rewarding to go back and look at what you were doing a year or two ago as an artist. You never feel like you are getting better until you look back. Getting better has been a very organic process of just painting so much and ingesting so much information it just happens. I don't think I will ever be as good as I want to be but it is nice knowing if I continue to work hard it will be dramatically better than it is.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chemistry 101

Got to stand at my Open Box M and watch what happens when you mix oil and water.
Painted at Swan Creek yesterday with Jason Saunders and it immediately started a light rain. I have painted very little in the rain in the past, drizzles mostly, so a constant steady rain was trying. The paint takes on this slimey mushey quality that makes it very hard to control, especially when you are trying to go over an area with a thicker stroke. It kinda' slides. I had thought about trying to add the little rings of waves where the rain was hitting the creek but I just didn't know if I could make it read as raindrops, plus, did I mention it was raining. The coolest thing about the chemistry of this is that you can just shake your art or blow on it and the water beads right off. Now if I could just get my digital camera to do that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Massey Ferguson

This is a good friend of mine's Massey Ferguson. It has been around Totty's Bend a lot longer than I have and like me has probably seen better days. However, when you turn the key we both start and still have a lot of work left in us. Recently they bought a brand new John Deere 4- wheel drive, top of the line tractor.The inside is nicer than my pick-up. Climate controlled cab, sound system, captain's chair. More to it than I can list here. 65,000 dollars. No, I didn't add an extra 0, it was 65,000 dollars. I am not quite sure how farmers do what they do with the price of land, fuel, feed, equipment, weather, etc., etc., but they are getting it done because I just sat down at my dinner table and ate like a horse thanks to a farmer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The 1436 Studio

Got the boat out again this morning and went back up the river to the same shoal I painted on Wednesday afternoon. The view in this painting is the shoal I stood on in the previous blog to paint. I was actually standing where the deer crossed Wednesday.
I also tried to paint one sitting down in the boat. I have stood up to paint for so many years that I couldn't sit down to paint. It was awkward and clumsy feeling to the point I gave it up. I never really thought about it but I guess we are creatures of habit. The most aggravating aspect of it was handling the garbage bag. I usually hang it under my tripod. In the boat I just laid it next to me and had to pick it up and open it each time. I guess I need to practice though because there are tons of great views on the river with no shoals to stand on and the only way to paint them would be from a boat.
The shoal I painted this morning I have painted quite a few times. It has some wonderful vegetation on it with willow trees and a small row of sycamores. It was a bit overcast so it became another exercise in mixing close value greens.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adventures on the Duck

Every second on the Duck River is an adventure.
I commandeered Mookie's jon boat and put in yesterday afternoon at the camp. Noticing the level of the water, instead of starting the motor I started walking and pulling the boat instead. I walked at least a quarter of a mile right up the middle of the river. I don't know if the levels are that much lower but I don't remember being able to do that in the past.
After getting to the shoal I had intended, I grab my gear and started walking with a camera and looking for something to paint. I have a habit though of walking with my head down trying to avoid any serpentine shapes and lifting it from time to time to check the view. After checking the possibility of a painting there, will put my head down and continue to walk. I would have made a poor pioneer with my head down technique. After walking for an hour, would have picked my head up to be standing in the middle of Indians, or bears or something.
Anyway, walking around a gravel bar, I heard a noise and turned around to notice two small deer crossing the river behind me. Shot as many photos as I could and then realized what a nice painting it would have made. So I threw down my gear, did a painting of the landscape and thought I would add the deer later. I spent most of the day today adding deer. I actually wound up changing quite a bit of the foreground. Once you get it home and start screwing with it, it changes everything. When I paint out and get it home I have to make myself leave them alone. I have ruined more good paintings by trying to "fix" them when I get them in.
The only thing I noticed about the river, other than the levels, was the color. It has had an orange cast or color to it in the Totty's Bend area all summer. Typically this happens early and briefly in the summer and is related to an algae bloom but seems to have been a much longer period this summer due to lack of current. I can't imaging what this will do longterm to certain species of fish and wildlife but hopefully will be temporary. It does appear the river is changing though.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Water Valley

Painted at the Water Valley overlook on the Natchez Trace this morning. It is actually a great spot to paint with views in both directions. The Natchez Trace maintenance guy stopped to see what I was up to and he informed me he was an acrylic painter and enjoyed it quite a bit. I told him I had a hard time with the drying time of acrylics and he said that came in handy because your mistakes dried real fast and you could go back and cover them up pretty quick. Touche.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Studio Painting

I painted in the studio the past week because the temps were so high during the day plus we had a couple of rainy days that made getting out a bit trying. I am not much of a studio painter. I struggle with it and because it is very clumsy and awkward for me I tend to put it off. But, I have made it a goal to try to do maybe one or two a week. I think it is necessary for my growth as an artist and my growth as a business.
Got two here that I pulled off "en plein studio". If I can get a good study to go by, and especially a good photo to supplement the study, I can usually get something done. My biggest issue is the lighting. I have tried a little of everything but until I can build this giant, cavernous studio with all that nice ambient north light, it will be a bit of a struggle.
I also am trying to paint larger. These two paintings were 14x18 and it was like painting the Sistine Chapel for me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

More Sycamores

Painted again this morning at the same place I painted Friday, I just moved my view down the river about ten yards. This little cutbank has started to get some growth back on it from being completely denuded and the growth is mostly in Sycamores and scrub which makes it a lot of fun to paint because every color and value are pretty close and it can be a challenge to get any form out of it. There is also a lot of neat edges and textures that are fun to get in there and squirrel with.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


This is a little painting I did on Friday morning. It is a pair of Sycamore trees that sit on the Duck river. We used to tie trotlines to these trees back when the river seemed to have more water in it. Now, you can walk across the river here without it getting much over your knees.
There is an article in the Sunday Tennessean this morning about the toll development is taking on this river. There are quite a few growing communities in the area that are using this river for their water source and I think it is actually beginning to take a toll on the river. The water levels seem to be getting lower and lower each year during the summer. Development plus the drought we had has really had an impact on the river.
As far as this painting goes I was pleased with the result because it was a hazy gray day and the values were very close. It gave me a chance to try my hand at tons of diffrent greens with all of them being pretty close in value, with temperature changes between them to make it work.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August Again

Man, I hate painting in the month of August. It gets so brutally hot here that to be able to paint you have to find some shade that doesn't move too much or paint very early in the morning on a semi cloudy day. The temps here are in the upper 90's with heat index in the 100's.
Painted the past week on cloudy, hazy, hot mornings. By the time you finish though, say 9-ish, it's already stiffling. Plein Air Nashville even called off their Saturday morning paint out because of the heat.
Ya' know, maybe I just need a studio/cabin in Alaska and every summer just bug out and stay up there until the heat is over. But then again, there is that chance that I could get scattered around by a Grizzly bear. It's always something.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have always wanted to paint a tugboat but you would be suprised how hard they are to catch sitting still. I don't know where they park em' when they are not in them but it's nowhere that I have access to on the Cumberland River. I actually caught this one sitting downtown. I attempted a painting after a PAN paintout one Saturday and the boat turned out but the rest didn't. I had a photo of the river in Cheatham County and put them together and voila, a tugboat painting.
I think being a tugboat captain would be the second best job in the world (right after painter). They are incredible pieces of machinery. We stood on a boat ramp on the Mississippi River one time and watched a tugboat with about 4 barges in front of it go UPSTREAM. The current looked like it was moving at about 75 miles an hour and he just cruised right by. The ground where we stood actually shook when he went by. And if you get a chance there is a video on the web of a tugboat getting caught up against a bridge in a flood. It actually goes underwater, under the bridge and pops up on the other side, engines still running. Most boats would have come out on the other side as flotsam.