Sunday Post with Tasteful Nudity

Lazy Sunday afternoon, kicking back and looking out the window at the rain. At least, that was the pose and the illusion. Graphite and white compressed chalk on Ingres toned paper, 15" x 13 3/4".

Lazy Sunday afternoon of kicking back and looking out the window at rain. At least, that was the pose and the pretext. Graphite and white compressed chalk on Ingres toned paper, 15″ x 13 3/4″.

It felt good to sit before a model again and just draw. “Emerging Artist” means one who crawls out from under the show-painting/drawing rock. I’m back in the open and my big solo show opens April 17th. More about that soon, but for today, here are two naked ladies on paper.

Happy Sunday.

All's needed here is the Style Section of the NY Times and a mug of hot coffee. Charcoal on Inges toned paper, 13 3/4" x 19"

All that’s needed here is the Style Section of the Sunday NY Times and a Grande Mocha Latte. And probably a warm quilt. Charcoal on Inges toned paper, 13 3/4″ x 19″

 

Posted in Adventure!, Art, Art Studio, Artists, Charcoal, Drawing, figure drawing, models, Sketching | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheap Trick

Vanda orchid and Jamba fruit dove, joined together in a festive eye-candy scuffle. Acrylic on cradled board, 28" x 24".

Vanda orchid and Jamba fruit dove embroiled in a festive color scuffle. Acrylic over graphite on cradled wood panel, 18″ x 24″.

Does anyone remember the seductive purple Vanda orchid that won my heart at OKC’s famous Myriad Botanical Garden a few months back? I paired her with a jambu fruit dove (Ptilinopus jambu) from the Oklahoma City Zoo’s aviary.

Jambu fruit dove, sketched in OKC Zoo's aviary. Graphite, 8 1/2" x 11".

Jambu fruit dove, sketched at the OKC Zoo. Graphite, 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Another irresistible lure came in the form of a tube of interference violet acrylic. Call it too much of a long cold winter, call it low blood sugar, call it a screaming need for eye-candy. Yes, I did it, and I’m not sorry.

Looks normal from the front. Step to the right, shine a strong light on the orchid, and get a hit of glittering violet. My next painting may be on black velvet.

Looks unassuming and straightforward from the front? Take a step to the right.

My next painting will be on black velvet.

Happy Sunday.

Posted in Adventure!, Art, Art materials, bird art, birds, Diversions, Drawing, Environment, Flowers, natural history, Nature, Oklahoma, painting, Pop culture references, rainforest, self-indulgence, tropics, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Low-Tech Painting Tools I Can’t Live Without

I've got a clamp-on gooseneck daylight lamp that illuminates one small patch at a time. Not good. You want a daylight lamp on a moveable stand. This one's got a 150 watt bulb in a reflector with a wooden handle at the back end so you don't burn your fingers when you turn it. It's actually got a clever ball joint at the top of the stand which puts it a few steps above the usual clamp lamp.

Free-standing adjustable lamp with daylight bulb- essential.

A gooseneck lamp clamps onto the shelf of my easel, but a wrestling match ensues every time I need to redirect its frustrating little beam of light on another tiny patch of picture. Best use: casting bright, color corrected light over the palette. I needed a moveable lamp on a stand and was pleased to find this one, a strong daylight bulb in a metal reflector with a cool wooden handle at the back end. There’s even a clever ball joint to make rotating easier. I know I’m cheap, but I can’t believe I waited this long to buy a good lamp: I can finally see what I’m painting. You can’t have enough good light.

Best cheap painting fixer ever: a grayscale value finder. I can never tell by eyeballing a picture where the values really are; all I know is the whole thing's too damn dark. This little card will verify that, yes, it's too damn dark.

Best cheap painting fixer ever: a grayscale value finder.

I can never tell by eyeballing a picture where the values really are; all I know is the whole thing’s too damn dark. This little card will verify that, yes, it’s too damn dark. Since I constantly misplace these things and get painty thumbprints all over them, I keep a bunch handy.

A hand mirror will shock you. I don't mean when you catch sight of yourself frowning or wrinkling prematurely. Reverse the painting and see the mistakes, instantly. No, this isn't fun. But it's useful.A hand mirror shocks if used properly and I don’t mean if you catch sight of yourself graying prematurely.  Reverse the painting and see your mistakes instantly. Such fun!

Watching paint dry. This one's just been oiled out, meaning it's finished and dry, and a 50/50 mix of Galkyd and Gamsol has been lightly brushed on and left to dry. This serves to even out the different levels of dullness and gloss. Good video tutorial by Gamblin is here.

A newly done painting that’s been brushed with a 50/50 mix of Galkyd and Gamsol and left to dry. The procedure is called “oiling out”(a new phrase for me) employed to even out the surface’s different levels of dullness and gloss. Kind of like varnish, but you can go back and paint on top of it. Good video tutorial by Gamblin is here.

I made the matched set of low-tech canvas-varnishing props in the photo above by eating six pints of gelato, not all at once and not by myself, God help me.

By the way, does anyone know where I can buy a reduction lens- the opposite of a magnifying glass? They’re outstanding if you work in a little room and can’t back up very far. I wish I still had one, but it seems they’ve gone out of production, or fashion. It’s just another useful tool, nothing fancy; my kind of implement.

Happy Friday.

Posted in Art, Art materials, Art Studio, oil painting, painting, Shopping! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why I’m Glad I’m Not Painting Polar Bears

Underpainting of a sleeping jaguar, somewhere around dawn in the leaf litter on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. I've never seen a jaguar there, but they have them there, or at least one. Oil on canvas, 48" x 24".

Underpainting of sleeping jaguar in the leaf litter of Barro Colorado Island, Panama. I’ve never seen a jaguar there, but they do prowl that forest, as do ocelots and pumas, keeping the coatis and agoutis in check. That glare at the left is wet paint. Oil on canvas, 48″ x 24″.

Are you staying warm? No? Me neither. It’s freezing, hasn’t gotten above 25 degrees F in more than a week, hovers mostly around 10, not counting sub-zero wind chill. It snows  just enough to close the public schools every few days. Very unusual around these parts. I’m trying to shiver my way through a new painting right now, wearing long underwear and a fleece neck gaiter and fingerless gloves. This is inside the house. I think we have a little insulation problem. Our windows are double-hung antiques and the chilly scenes of winter outside are all wavy and whitish. Ice grows like psychedelic mold on the inside of the panes. Like I said, a little problem.

Another warm scene. Crimson fronted parakeets flying past a sunny patch of heliconia leaves. Oil on canvas, 24" x 30".

Another scene to warm your hands over. Crimson fronted parakeets flying past a sunny patch of heliconia leaves on BCI. Oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″.

And while hot tea and mulled cider affords a decent bit of inner glow, so does painting tropical subjects. I’m glad I’m not trying to paint snow scenes. That would freeze me to death.

Happy Friday.

Posted in Art, cats, mammals, natural history, Nature, oil painting, Oklahoma, Panama, rainforest, tropics, Weather, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

August, Osage County, Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

Blooming ironweed on a sunbaked tallgrass prairie in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, rendered in pastel. The wind, miraculously, was quiet for the day.

Blooming ironweed rendered in pastel out on the lonesome prairie in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The wind, miraculously, was quiet for Oklahoma, and for August, the heat wasn’t too bad.

With singing dickcissels every fifteen feet (it seemed), giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) flapping over blooming ironweed, and goldenrod pushing up through clumps of big bluestem- and where off in the shade bison rested, the bulls getting itchy, ready to rut- where else could this be but Oklahoma’s Osage County on a late summer day, out on the rolling green acreage (39,000+) of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve?

The most abundant, or at least the most obvious, bird on the prairie that day- a dickcissel sings its own name. I was looking for Henslow's sparrows- they nest here, but no go.

The most abundant, or at least the most obvious, bird on the prairie that day- the dickcissel. A bird that sings its own name. I was looking for Henslow’s sparrows- they do nest here, but they were too elusive for me.

I drove out here last August for a day of scouting and sketching. It’s a long way from everywhere and mostly removed from everything, a truly wide open prairie, no fence for miles, hawks circling in endless skies. And of course, as I was enjoying the solitude, my phone rang. I was in the middle of drawing a dickcissel perched at the top of a solidago spike, and because it was my hairdresser and really hard to get an appointment with her, I took the call. After I hung up, the dickcissel was still on point, emitting a two-second song clip every ten seconds or so. I resumed sketching.

Second pastel of the day, at a waterhole by the side of the road. Favored by sneaky bison, apparently.

Second pastel of the day, at a waterhole by the side of the road. Favored by sneaky bison, apparently.

If you paint in a wildlife refuge with charismatic megafauna (more than 2,500 bison here) wandering around wild, look over your shoulder from time to time. Late in the day I set up by a bucolic waterhole and began a new painting. My car was parked a dozen steps away. As I worked, a pickup pulled alongside and a ranger leaned out the window. “You might not want to stand there” she said, “you’re on a bison trail. They’re hanging out under that copse of trees just around the bend.” I asked her if there’d be time to pack my things if they appeared on the trail. “You might have time to reach your car. How fast can you run?”

"Waiting for Bison, Tallgrass Prairie Waterhole"; mostly plein air pastel 15" x 14"

“Waiting for Bison, Tallgrass Prairie Waterhole”; mostly plein air pastel 15″ x 14″

Rather than staying to find out, I packed everything up and finished the pastel at home where no buffalo roam. But the painting, I’m pleased to say, has been juried into America’s Parks II, a traveling exhibition March 16-April 13 at the Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar, Missouri, going from there to the Wildlife Experience in Parker, Colorado, May 24 to August 10, and finally showing at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson September 13 to October 26. Catch the show if you can- there are 100 wonderful works of art celebrating America’s parks and refuges, with an emphasis on the American Southwest, which includes Osage County. Hope you get to see it. I’m just glad I got out of there with two paintings and my skin intact.

Happy Friday.

Posted in Adventure!, Art, Artists, Cowboys, Drawing, field sketching, mammals, natural history, Nature, Oklahoma, painting, Pastel, plein air, Sketching, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

New year, with various cats

Smilodon californicus, sabertooth cat replica skull with tar pit finish. Measures 14 1/2" long, and those sabers are 6". Best Christmas gift ever- thank you Ant Man!

Smilodon californicus, sabertooth cat replica skull with tar pit finish. Measures 14 1/2″ long, and those sabers are 6″. Best Christmas gift ever- thank you Ant Man!

I’m a cat lover, which doesn’t mean anything but it’s a nice excuse to share kitty pics with you. The Smilodon skull above is a fabulous museum quality cast of a fossil, purchased from the Museum of Osteology’s gift shop. Ant Man gave it to me as a token of love, and nothing says love like an extinct mega predator with six inch canines. It goes nicely with last year’s allosaurus, and bison skull.

Clydesdale consorts with kitten, impossibly cute scene in a barn in Yukon, Oklahoma. An enormous horse named Prince affectionately gnawed the nape of an unnamed barn cat, which purred as the piano-key teeth surrounded its head and chewed lightly. Watercolor over pencil.

Clydesdale consorts with captivating kitty in an Oklahoma Clydesdale barn. Watercolor over pencil.

Last spring I wrote a feature for Oklahoma Today Magazine on a Clydesdale team in Yukon, Oklahoma. The barn cats there were super happy- they could sleep high up on the backs of huge, sweet-smelling, hoofed, heated sofas. I sketched a friendly beast named Prince, who used his big yellow teeth like a row of piano keys to fondly gnaw the head of a purring tabby.

Heidi the cat sniffs at her portrait, in water-soluble graphite in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook. Christmas Day, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Heidi the cat sniffs at her portrait, in water-soluble graphite in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook. Christmas Day, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Christmas in Nebraska, where Ant Man’s people are from, is a regular tradition. A new cat joined the cast this year; she’s a friendly long-haired tabby with a bullseye on her flank. A nice poser, too. Heidi’s her name. We got along well.

Sleeping jaguar, drawing and initial underpainting. Oil on canvas, 48" x 24".

Sleeping jaguar, drawing and initial underpainting. Oil on canvas, 48″ x 24″. Note the bison skull on the wall behind it.

I think this painting might be life-sized. Remember my day at the Tulsa Zoo? I got this nice sketch of a jaguar just before it scared the pampers off a little girl who smacked her hands adorably against the glass as her doting mother smiled. Still warms my heart to remember it. The zoo sketch is now on its way to being an oil painting.

Gizmo, safely asleep. Pastel on paper, about 30" long. Cute!

Gizmo, safely asleep. Pastel on paper, about 30″ long. Cute!

And did you know that there’s a spot on the corner of your wrist that, if a cat bites it slightly, your whole hand goes numb? Gizmo taught me that. She’s so adorable, curled adorably on my lap this very moment. I’m trying not to wake her, since she has an occasional hair-trigger reaction when you bang on the glass, so to speak. Did I mention she used to be a barn cat? If I were a giant Clydesdale horse, she might enjoy a tooth massage, too. I have a great deal of respect for cats, all of them. They’re cute and captivating. And terribly sharp.

Happy Friday.

Posted in Adventure!, Art, cats, Diversions, Drawing, fossils, museums, natural history, Nature, oil painting, paleontology, self-indulgence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Motmot Holiday Gift Bag is a Bookcase

A little festive commemorative ornament to download, cut out, and hang up. Cheers!

A little festive commemorative ornament just for you: download, print out, cut on the dotted line, and hang up. Cheers!

A few last minute gift ideas for you or the lucky bird artists in your life:

Clockwise from left: The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, Drawing and Painting Birds, Capturing the Essence

Clockwise from upper left: The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, Drawing and Painting Birds, Capturing the Essence

The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, by John Muir Laws, Heyday Press, covers so much ground so comprehensively that the next time I teach a bird drawing course, this will surely be the textbook. Proportions, angles, anatomy and birds in motion (there’s a cute orange-and-toothpick visualizing exercise you can do at home) are explained with abundant, beautiful illustrations. Laws is a great instructor and motivator, and this is my new go-to book when I’m stumped on eye-shape of a foreshortened flycatcher or the secret tricks of wing-drawing. Highly recommended.

Capturing the Essence, by William T. Cooper, Yale University Press. Cooper is the king of parrot painting, and if you haven’t seen his Parrots of the World or more recent  Australian Parrots, those would make splendid gifts, too. Capturing the Essence goes into anatomy and field sketching, and Cooper describes design process through thumbnail sketch compositions and good step-by-step painting demos of birds in watercolor, acrylic, and oils. Huge plus: we get loads of gorgeous sketches and paintings of Old World/Down Under species: bowerbirds, hornbills and birds-of-paradise. Admire and study this wondrous book.

Drawing and Painting Birds by Tim Wootton, The Crowood Press. A terrific blend of practical instruction and inspirational work by Wootton and other fine bird artists (disclaimer: I’m on pages 15, 24, 73, 83, and 121). Lots and lots of field sketches to ogle at; cool skeleton drawings reveal the internal scaffolds of various avian body types. There’s a super-helpful articulated gull model to copy, cut-out, assemble and draw from (and freak out the cat with). Demos and discussions of field sketching techniques, how to add color in the field and compose a painting, plus a slew of exercises to warm up your hand and eye prior to sketching real live birds. Awesome book.

Other than peering at a quetzal through new binoculars while wearing hand-tooled cowboy boots, I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the holidays than curling up with one of these volumes, unless you throw in a mug of cocoa and plate of cookies, which I will gladly catch.

Happy Friday.

Holiday wishes from Gizmo, Ant Man (who took the picture) and the Motmot. Cheers!

Happy Holidays from Gizmo, Ant Man (the photographer) and the Motmot. Cheers to all!

Posted in Art, Artists, bird art, bird-drawing technique, birding, birds, Drawing, field sketching, How-to, Illustration, natural history, Nature, Shopping!, Sketching, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments