entrance art

My Largest Painting to Date...

Last August, I was hiking with my wife Joy around the mountains of western North Carolina and my mind was relaxing. I could feel it. And when that happens, when my soul "breathes deeply"...that is when I come up with crazy ideas. I can't help it. I'm convinced Joy was brought into my life to consistently bring me back to reality when I start a conversation with "Hey, I have an idea!"

But this time, she just listened and said, "I think you should try it." The idea I had shared was to create the largest painting I've ever done by far. Most of my paintings take about one month to complete. What my mind was questioning whilst hiking that day was "what would a six month painting even look like?" I had no idea. Hmmm.

I still have no idea. This baby is going on nine months now, but it is 90% complete thanks to yesterday. See, yesterday was the last day of studio stroll and it was pouring rain most of the day which was perfect weather to get going on the final stretch of my "big mamma" painting, since no one was exploring the River Arts District in such horrid weather. And because I needed to be there all day, I painted through the downpours and now I'm nearly done.

"Is this a commission?" people ask. "No," I explain. "This is the most impractical art related idea I've ever had." But I had to do it. I am so incredibly thankful that my wife Joy blew on the spark and didn't douse it. Will this ever sell? Is it actually worth the time and effort I put into it? I have no idea and for this one, it doesn't matter.  I want this to be the absolute best oil painting I am capable of creating to date. That is what it is for.

Most of what I do is for very practical reasons, but now and then, I am convinced people need to be okay with doing something simply and only for the joy of doing it. This monster painting is giving me great joy. And when I complete it and it's hanging on the wall in my studio, I will have a party and celebrate. And you'll be invited.

Process: Rocky Mountain Commission

I love working large. Large artwork is commanding. Whether it’s intended as entrance art to grab you as soon as you enter a house or just a large wall piece, a sizable painting is artwork on a grand scale. I am currently working on a large commissioned art project for some nice folks in Austin, TX. The composition is triptych, and is based on a scene of the Rocky mountains -- mountains and birch trees reflecting in a lake. I just finished applying the metallic leaf to the textured surfaces of the panels yesterday and I was ready to go home -- turned off the lights and went to the back of the studio to get my keys, and when I turned around, I saw the panels reflecting back the late afternoon sunlight and I had to get a photo. Sorry. I get excited about stuff like this. One day, I'll have to just do a painting with no paint at all -- just metal covered with resin. I think that would be cool. Anyway, this one is ready for paint now, and by the end of the day, I'll have that first layer of paint applied. 

Sometimes, when I get into a piece, it's cool to explore the background story. This scene from Glacier National Park required just a bit of research so that I'm not just painting a painting, but I'm depicting a place. I want to capture the "spirit" of that place. Throughout time, people have sought out Glacier National Park's rugged peaks, clear waters, and glacial-carved valleys; its landscape giving both desired resources and inspiration to those persistent enough to venture through it. Evidence of human use in this area dates back to over 10,000 years. By the time the first European explorers came into this region, several different tribes inhabited the area. The Blackfeet Indians controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains, while the Salish and Kootenai Indians lived in the western valleys, traveling over the mountains in search of game and to hunt the great herds of buffalo on the eastern plains.

The majority of early European explorers came to this area in search of beaver and other pelts. They were soon followed by miners and, eventually, settlers looking for land. By 1891, the completion of the Great Northern Railway sealed the area’s fate, allowing a greater number of people to enter into the heart of northwest Montana. Homesteaders settled in the valleys west of Marias Pass and soon small towns developed.

Around the turn of the century, people started to look at the land differently. For some, this place held more than minerals to mine or land to farm…they began to recognize that the area had a unique scenic beauty all to its own.

By the late 1800s, influential leaders like George Bird Grinnell, pushed for the creation of a national park. In 1910, Grinnell and others saw their efforts rewarded when President Taft signed the bill establishing Glacier as the country's 10th national park.

This painting has a way to go before completion, but I love the process: texture, aluminum leaf, paint and finish. More to come on this one...

"Big Mamma" begins to sing....

Sealing of "Cullasaja Falls" 

Attention Please

My son Gerin and I hauled my painting "Cullasaja Falls" (affectionately known as "Big Mamma") across the street to do the final sanding and sealing (seen here). Now, the composition is complete and it's ready for the application of aluminum leaf. This painting is begging to be a major statement piece or entrance art (eventually) and it's been exciting seeing it beginning to "come to life" and I can't wait to begin the color application. More to come...

My Cluttered World

My "inner studio" behind the curtain...

My "inner studio" behind the curtain...

I've Been Busy!

This photo shows what a slob I am. "Santa's Workshop" has never been busier, with 21 oil paintings currently underway (that's more than I ever have worked on at one time). I'm SO THANKFUL! I'm working right now on several commission pieces and a dozen new landscape and abstract paintings for my Asheville studio wall. Okay, enough social media...back to work. —

"Golden Pathway"

"Golden Pathway" (4' x 5')

"Golden Pathway" (4' x 5')

Birch Trees in Autumn

#4 of 4. This is the last panel for the Oklahoma City commission I have been working on. I poured the first layer of resin on this one and embedded thousands of pieces of broken up gold on top of the tree texture on the canvas. It's pretty sparkly now. Tomorrow morning, we're packing up a cargo van and headed west for the delivery.

Flowers, Flowers Everywhere

"Field of Tulips" (4' x 5')

"Field of Tulips" (4' x 5')

Thousands of Tulips

This one was just a bit challenging in that it features about 3000 tulips, first sculpted in modeling compound and then painted. Good thing I love my job. This one is also part of the Oklahoma City commission (painting 3 of 4).

Headed west...

"Smoky Mountain Vista" (4' x 5')

"Smoky Mountain Vista" (4' x 5')

Smoky Mountain Vista

I'm just finishing up the painting process of one of four 4' x 5' panels headed west for Oklahoma City in a few weeks. The four paintings requested are really fun for me because they're each a re-visiting of some of my favorite paintings I've completed in the past. The painting this was based on originally was very long and horizontal, whereas this one is vertical, allowing me to depict many more mountain ranges. More to come soon...


Transformation of an idea...

Old Idea, New Painting

A year or so ago, I did a painting that was sent to the gallery in Charleston that represents me (Mitchell-Hill Gallery). It's title was "Through Gates of Splendor". The painting was inspired by a photo I had of a road through coastal pines (originally taken on a road on the central California coast). Living now in the south, I tweaked the pines and transformed them into gnarled old oak trees. Now it's reminiscent of a road to any number antebellum plantations (pretty tricky, eh?)

Well, I recently had some clients from California and they loved the original painting, but asked if I would be offended if the color scheme was changed to a more "autumnal" feel. I explained that I am NEVER offended when I client gets involved. That's really the fun of a commission -- people can have a hand in their artwork and then it's not just "my" painting -- they have ownership of it as well.

There is this prevailing idea that artists are super-sensitive about their creations (because by and large, people are very reluctant to ask me to change this or that in their painting). The opinion seems to be that since I am an artist, I am probably temperamental (hence the term 'temperamental artist'). "You are the professional, and you painted coastal evergreens and maybe it would insult you to ask for autumn colors (since pines do not turn orange and red, hence the term 'evergreen')." But as an artist, I can look at a beautiful road through Monterey coastal pines and see southern oak trees. Why couldn't we bring autumn's mantle to the trees? That's really the joy of being an artist...you can create.

So NO, I'm not temperamental about taking an idea and tweaking it. I do that myself all the time, and at least in this case...I am extremely please with the result.

"Through Gates of Splendor"

"Through Gates of Splendor"

"Autumnal Arms Enfolding"

"Autumnal Arms Enfolding"



My Marathon

Future "Cullasaja Falls"

Future "Cullasaja Falls"

Bigger is Better

Have you ever decided to do something and then wonder, "Oh my gosh. What was I thinking?"

A few days ago, I ordered a 6' x 8' panel for a new project I want to undertake. I knew it would be big. Then today it was delivered.

Oh my gosh. What was I thinking? 

This thing is truly huge.  At 6' x 8', this monster is the largest painting I've ever done. Most paintings take between 3-4 weeks. This one will take six months. I wanted something larger, more intricate and more challenging than anything I've ever done before. I'll take you along step by step until it's complete.

"Is this a commission?" you ask. No. I'm just doing it. It will hang in my Asheville studio until someone adopts it.
"WHY are you doing this?" you ask. "Are you crazy?" Yeah well...

You know how some people get into running and they end up running a marathon? If you ask them WHY the HECK they'd do that, a lot of them will simply answer "to see if I could do it".

So that's my answer. I want to see if I can do it.

This is what I am painting...Cullasaja Falls, North Carolina.

This is what I am painting...Cullasaja Falls, North Carolina.