Winter is settling in and I’m spending too much time at the computer working on the new website, coordinating workshops and drinking hot liquids.

A painting once again in progress 30″ x 40″ oil

I have several solo exhibits scheduled in 2013.  At least one of them is focused on the power of art as a healing force.  The spaces are large and the opportunity to create a new body of large scale work thrills me.  Sorting through my inventory of oil paintings was a perfect shift away from computer work.  Nine paintings will be getting a new coat of paint.  As an artist, I’ve grown considerably since these paintings were originally resolved.  I can now take them further.

After several hours of mixing, brushing and rubbing to lighten, brighten and breathe new life into the one pictured above, I returned to my computer with a fresh mind and a lighter heart.  The painting was originally extremely dark.  It’s one of the first in a series of work created in 2003 as the result of a personal healing experience.

Oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″

I can’t believe I’m starting over again with a new website ….

“New Seed” oil on kraft paper

This time around I am not attempting to do it all myself.  My new site will offer free tutorial videos, online workshops, an assortment of galleries as well as a unique shop filled with an eclectic offering of used books, miscellaneous art supplies and small paintings.  This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what I’ve done, the paths I’ve explored and the paths I want to continue exploring as well as new directions.  Time to decide which seeds I’ll be planting in the spring and how I will nurture them for an abundant harvest in the summer and fall.

“New Seed” …. from the series of large oil paintings on kraft paper created several years ago, the first series of my Healing Through Art paintings.

I’ve enjoyed a fabulous week along the Wicomico River in Maryland, painting and visiting with friends.

rocks among the marsh grass

The water lapped at the rocks behind me. I turned and decided to paint them.  It’s been a while since I tackled painting a pile of rocks.  As the wind picked up the gentle smacking sound grew louder.  The sky darkened, clouds swirled and I felt like I wanted to paint in that spot forever.  It’s been a great week.

5″ x 5″ oil sketch, en plein air, rocks, water and marsh grass

When I visit my friends in Tyaskin, Maryland, they always have projects for me to do …. painting projects.

Another artist’s painting….. no longer loved.

Anita purchased this painting more than 35 years ago.  She loved it….. but now she doesn’t….. It was going to be discarded.  Ouch!

I was asked if I could modify the painting, eliminating all of the blue ……

For me, it was a 30″ x 40″ canvas that would end up in the trash if I didn’t rescue it in one way or another.  I coated it with two coats of gesso, which luckily I brought with me.  I spent the morning painting, en plein air, Anita’s Baccharis.  Inspired by the autumn tones in the landscape, I created a new painting on the recycled canvas that now hangs happily on her wall above the piano.

Abstract Oil Painting inspired by autumn Baccharis

My heart bleeds for the original artist….. I apologize for painting over your painting.  However, if someone decides they don’t like one of my paintings that is hanging on their wall.  I hope they have an visiting artist friend who will give my painting a new life rather than throwing it away.

October on the Wicomico River in Maryland is perfect.  I don’t have to wear a bee keepers face mask to protect myself from mosquitoes!

Wicomico River, oil painting, en plein air

The colors are simultaneously muted and bright once the mist has lifted from the water.

Plein Air Oil Painting:  5″ x 5″ color study on gessoed birch panel.

I hated it.  I worked all day yesterday resolving issues on a painting I hated.  Why?  It wasn’t painterly.  Even before my first cup of coffee I had paintbrush in hand.

(left)- before, (right)- after

It boiled down to marks and edges.  I was overly focused on larger shapes rather than the smaller shapes that made up the larger shapes. There was little to none when it came to variation of edges.  I had not orchestrated the transitions between shapes allowing for subtleties of rhythm.  Darkening the value of the bottom right corner helped.  I’m still not crazy about the results, but I feel more confident that I will stay aware of painterly transitions when I set up my easel today.  Maybe I’ll tackle the cornfield!

Final version (I hope!)

If I feel the urge to go back into this one again, I’ll scrape it off instead.

Wildflowers, Detail, oil on wood panel

I am much happier with the marks.

Painting, 10.5″ x 18″ oil on wood panel, en plain air landscape

I’ve downloaded a photoshop app that allows me to snap a photo of my painting and change it to black and white on my phone.  This is incredibly helpful while painting en plein air.  I can tell immediately when values aren’t working well.

I painted Bob’s wildflower meadow a week ago.  The clouds were driving me crazy.

Original version of plein air oil painting

Before I could make any changes I had to wait for the oil paint to dry.  The sky already had a nasty green tint to it.  My original plan was only to clean up the sky and correct the cloud issue.

First Four variations

My plan usually changes.  With each stroke, new resolutions had to be found.

Next three variations

After the last resolution I have decided to move on …… whew …… I learned more from working my way through all these variations than I would have if I had started over eight times.  With each change, some elements improved and some nice passages were lost.

Comparison of first and final version of the painting

As always, the most important lesson is that paintings will go more smoothly, with more opportunity to play with color if I resolve the light and dark shapes FIRST!

Final Version of the wildflower meadow, 10.5″ x 18″ oil

Building a new website is not my idea of fun.

Eric Ortega

However, revisiting paintings and drawings created over the last few decades has turned out to be both entertaining and enlightening.  I am surprised by the work that still makes my heart sing, like the portrait of Eric Ortega.  I am also surprised by the work I thought was so splendid and I now see as quite dreadful.

Maybe I should create a new website every five years to rediscover where, as an artist, I’ve been and where I want to be going.

I just pushed the button to publish the new site as well as redirect my domain name to the new site.  It can take up to twenty four hours for the links to work.  Please let me know if you have any trouble loading pages.  All feedback is welcome.  The direct link to the GoDaddy site is  By tomorrow, both should get you to the same place.

Painting:  Oil painting portrait of dancer, Eric Ortega

One last, little painting from Broad Creek, Tyaskin, Maryland.

Broad Creek, 5″ x 5″ en plein air oil painting

It amazes me that such depth of distance can be created on a 5″ x 5″ panel.  After several days of painting the marshes I was able to create the feeling of the bright light, the expansive space as well as the variations of texture and color in the various grasses with minimal brush strokes.  Before I return in October, I might warm up a few days prior to departure by painting quick studies from photographs.  As much as I don’t like working from photos, it’ll be worth it to get right down to business without wasting a few days on site getting accustomed to the marshes again.

Painting:  oil on gessoed birch panel, 5″ x 5″ en plein air. Painted over an underpainting wash of Permanent Mauve.

Playing with different formats from the same vantage point …

Looking upriver from a small beach across the river  from Whitehaven, MD
6″ x 12″ en plein air oil painting on canvas

There is the long, narrow, horizontal view…

Same vantage point, 5″ x 5″ en plein air oil painting

And then there is the square composition variation.  My focus was on mixing both cool and warm variations of the green marsh grasses and phragmites.

Paintings: Top painting – oil on canvas, en plein air landscape, terra rosa underpainting. Bottom painting – oil on gessoed birch panel, en plein air landscape, terra rosa underpainting.