Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moving Right Along

My blog has moved to

Just finished unpacking my brushes, linseed oil, and paint. The light is good, the canvases are up on the easels, and the dogs are curled up on the sofa. See you there!

If you are a subscriber via Google Reader, the rss feed url is:


Friday, November 9, 2012

Tonight's the Night!

Have blogged little and painted less, all my attention taken up in  preparing for tonight's show. Now  I'm in a flurry of excitement, feeling fizzy and carbonated, with goodwill toward all of humanity.

To recap, in case you are on this page looking for guidance on just where the gallery is and what time the opening begins,

Please join me for the debut of my two latest series:

Tonight! Friday, November 9th, 2012 from 7pm to 10pm, 

at the incomparable Mason Murer Fine Art gallery
199 Armour Dr NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30324  

For more explicit directions go to  where there are maps and links and so forth.

That said, I did make an effort on the feathers the other day, and the other bookends. I expect to be firmly back in the saddle by Monday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Books, True Love, Art Opening

Worked on the books yesterday from 10-2.

Would have gone on all day, but I had a special anniversary dinner to make. Grilled prime steak, roasted Jewel yams,and my pièce de résistance; risotto with porcini mushrooms, caramelized vidalia onion, fresh green peas and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. After that fabulous dinner, we smooched it up. We are so happy. I love that man.

In art-related news, Mason Murer made a great evite, using a painting by one of their terrific artists, Teresa Fischer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bronze d'or, hologram and lovers.

Most of the day I pushed the darks and lights of the bronze d'or candelabra, making the shapes more distinct. It's not done, but this is a big step closer.

Did fiddly outlining on the Lovers Tarot card and began the hologram on the ticket. The painted card is identical to the actual card except for two small changes I've made. Nope, not telling what.

Counting down to the debut of my two latest series: ELEMENTS and LOCATIONS, Friday, November 9th, 2012 from 7pm to 10pm, at the incomparable Mason Murer Fine Art gallery. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Due Diligence, Artist Style

Please join me for the debut of my two latest series: 
Elements and Locations 
Friday, November 9th, 2012, from 7pm to 10 pm
 at the incomparable Mason Murer Fine Art Gallery 
 Mason Murer Fine Art | 199 Armour Drive | Atlanta, GA 30324 | 404.879.1500
Gallery hours: 11 am – 5 pm, Tuesday – Friday, 12 pm – 5 pm Saturday

If you can't attend but would like to support the artist, go to my website, and click the Facebook LIKE icon on the upper left of the home page. 
Easy, free, fast and helpful.

Yesterday I sent out an email to everyone who has ever expressed an interest in coming to one of my shows.  It's not my favorite part of my artist's life - self promotion doesn't come naturally to me - but I consider it due diligence, so I pull up my big girl panties and get on with it.

My fabulous spouse came up with the subject line of the email; Virginia's Excellent Night Out. The idea is to take my work seriously. Myself, not so much. I created an event on Facebook too and gave it the same title. There is some overlap between the email list and my Facebook friends, but they are mostly two separate groups.

I've been handing out show cards left and right. This, I shamelessly enjoy. I'm proud of my work, and people know at a glance whether it appeals to them. There's nothing manipulative or intrusive about it. No pressure, just a seductive bit of visual pleasure.

I scribble the opening date on the margin and explain that the show runs through the end of the year. I don't print it on the cards, because so many people seem to think that if they don't go to the opening, it's over. My website, blog, and email are all on the card, so folks that are interested can find out the Where and When easily. I promise everyone they can find this information on my blog, and for the next couple of weeks I'll post the show time/place at the top of the page.

I'll upload an image of one of the paintings every other day or so on the Facebook event page. Ten works are in the show, which is about two weeks away, so that works out nicely.  I'll add little bits of information about them, just because I enjoy that. There is always a story with my work.

Now back to stroking canvases with paint-laden brushes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Butterscotch. Lemons. Krugerrands.


The golden drapery. All morning. Happy.

A couple of days of drying now commence. 

Meanwhile handing out showcards left and right, working on a pair of oil sketches promised for this Christmas, and choosing the next water in a tub reflecting the trees and clouds. 

Plotting and Sketching

Worked on the Tarot card Knight of Swords earlier this week.

Today I'll either do a second round of color on the drapery, or work on the candelabra.

Spent yesterday going over my list of symbols, book titles, dates, and a phrase from a song I'm planning to include. I made a rough pencil sketch of the composition and tried different combinations.
Book titles are pretty straightforward - I know which ones I want to use, and which books I intend to pair them with. Playing around with the yellow drapery is both more challenging and more fun. It's actually patterned in red, and I plan to substitute Led Zeppelin references. For example, I want to use the winged Apollo figure of the Swan Song logo in place of a tiger.

I found a few photo references on Google for the capital S on the Swan Song stationary. I want to try placing it in repeating pattern where there is actually sort of paisley design.
  • Attached Image: photo.jpg

Monday, October 22, 2012

Patience & Precision


Re-worked the chalice, took out the oyster shaped reflection on the front, then re-worked the tangerine, moving the navel higher and scumbling more tangerine color.

Scumbled sienna and umber on the blade of the sword. Scumbled yellows and ivories over all the candles and added wicks.

Messed with the highlights on the maiden's hair and face, and added more ivory to the candles around her.

Spent several hours doing most of the tiny black outlines on the Lovers tarot card, plus warming the yellow.

All out of patience and precision.

Nap time.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Early morning, Walking Dead

Finished today. Varnishing Sunday. Everything is done for the November 9th show opening. Big whew.
LightGrid 18x36" oil on canvas


Worked from a photo taken last year on the Senoia, Ga location for the The Walking Dead show. My favorite part - besides the contrast between the violent, apocalyptic story and the calm, pastoral landscape - is the shadow of the ropes behind the grid cloth.  I can feel the heat and hear the cicadas.

Going to paint one more of this series - BarnSet. This looks like a straight up Wyeth, a bucolic interior of a barn with hay bales and light coming through the cracks between the boards, yet it is totally fabricated - a set built to be torched. It'll just have to wait for the next show to take a bow.

Dragged two tubs - one round tin and one oblong and brass - around the front yard this morning and took hipsta photos. I want to do another one of those square Elements paintings of water reflecting sky. It might be my new tomato, i.e my go-to image for multiple variations. (Think Degas - dancers or Monet - haystacks).

Tried another set-up for Earth. I started with the dead bird, now 90% skeleton, on a mossy bit of lawn. Scavenged the yard for appropriate props. Threw in a toadstool, a pine cone, a few acorns, a dogwood branch and some maple leaves. We'll see.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Worked on the wood and the iron hardware.

Changed the sword refllections again, and this time I think I'm sticking.

Decided to change the chalice - I don't know what that odd, oyster-esque reflection is, and it's smack dab in the center of the painting. It's too important to not know, you know?
Went through original photos and picked out these to work from:

Just sitting down to lunch. Hard to stop, but my eyes are blurry, a sure sign that it's quitting time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Intentional Blues

Spent most of the day mixing and painting blues. There are eight intentional variations, plus lots of merged edges that make another shade altogether.

While I was working on the  background cloth, I did a first round of paint on the embroidered stars, though they will have to cleaned up and shaded once the blue is dry. They are pretty wonky now. I shifted the stars around too, adding some and deleting others, and did the highlights on the iron lock. Next round will be the wood of the chest, and the iron handles. Maybe a bit of veining on the marble.

Now it's time to put my feet up and have a cup of Earl Grey tea, toast and jam.

Knight of Swords

Placed the Knight Tarot card colors, fiddled with the Guinevere face, did a second round on the Lovers Tarot card. Too wet to add the black outlines on the Tarot cards that will make the images pop. This is where self-discipline comes in handy.
I do like the juxtaposition of the crisp graphic cards and the softer natural face. I'm even okay with this version of the portrait.

Itching to do another round on the blue background cloth. Mixing blues today.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Showing Off

Burned the bacon while making a show card for the November 9th exhibit at Mason Murer. Win/win! Lose weight while you make art.

I love ordering the cards and handing them out. It's the only form of self promotion I actually enjoy. Went ahead and designed this one myself using the thrifty Vistaprint online people. I wish both sides were glossy, but doing it this way is very cost effective.

Please excuse the fuzzy images. They're screen grabs from the online site. I was too excited to wait the two weeks for the card to arrive.  Close counts in horseshoes, right?

I ordered a hundred on the heaviest cardstock they offered. I'm so pleased with this series I might do another version, working with a capable graphic designer friend.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Candles, Books, Maps, & Feathers

Moving right along. Blocked in the upright books, and the creased and folded map.

Placed the book beneath the candelabra. It's actually a leather bound volume of poetry by Sir Walter Scott. The cover is patterned, and stamped with red and gold. It have a different title before I'm done with it.
I shaded the candles a bit and futzed around ineffectively with the maiden portrait. Then I plugged in the basic shapes of the three hawk feathers, which fall from the top right corner, under an arm of the candelabra. and just beneath and in front of the sword blade.

Down to the knight Tarot card, and the iron handles on the front of the chest. Once those are done, I begin again, first with the blue background, then the yellow drape and the wooden chest. The next layer of blue will make a striking difference, ditto the yellow drape. After that the detail work - veining on marble, the down on the shaft of the each feather, the pitted skin of the tangerine - will only be visible in a close up photo, though it will make me very happy.
Stars, pattern on the yellow drape, book titles, print on the tickets and all other writing goes on last.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

textures in shadows

Today I painted texture into the road of LightGrid, mottled the shadows, and punched more darks into the tree.  And away went five hours.
I have two more weeks to get this done and dry enough to varnish properly. The sky needs one more round, the trees in the distance could use some subtle textures, and I need to crisp up the metal edges of the light grid frame.

Yesterday was spent painting the spines of the books on the commissioned still life, but the photo, snapped on the fly right before I placed it in my drying room, is blurry. I'll wait until my next round of work tomorrow, take another photo and post that. Probably I'll work on the book beneath the candles, and the three falling feathers. Once I do those and the Knight tarot card, I'll have paint on every part of the canvas.
Then the real work begins.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Impromptu photography studio, part deux

Did photography of the newly varnished paintings so I could send them along to the gallery and get them up on my website. Asked Robert to help me set up a c-stand with a flag so I could redirect/block light that bounced off the varnish - always an issue for me. He took over, and I let him. It's good to be married to the Key Rigging Grip.

I was heading out to the carport, bright but indirect light, and he decided the kitchen was a better idea.
Here he is in action:

Once again:
The toughest one was BlueScreen, which had a diffused glare right in the center. He lowered the flag, tilted the canvas and I held up a black bounce card, which absorbs rather than ricochets light.

My otherwise respectable refrigerator is a fluttering hodge podge of postcards, family photos, poems, receipts and a half-eaten dollar bill (bad dog). Also an inexcusable number of magnets purchased in art museum gift shops.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Varnishing Day

Spent the morning varnishing five finished paintings for the November 9th show at Mason Murer. One more to go.
Lined them up on a sawhorse and wood boards, and went down the line with a big brush, drizzling Soluvar out of the tin and spreading it evenly.
I'm still finding sticky patches in random places on my skin. Cleaned the brush with mineral spirits, then, an hour or two later, wiped the edges of the paintings down. The soluvar and mineral spirits fumes made me dizzy. Mosquitoes and gnats were lurching through the air, but it was perfect drying conditions - low humidity and warm with a cool breeze.

Four hours later, brought in the paintings and placed them in my studio long enough to take a photo for my Facebook page.
I love how the three square elements paintings in the center - Air, Fire, Water -  pop. Wish I had time to paint a new Earth before the show, but it will be all I can do to get the third location painting done.
A very satisfying day.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Korean chest, candles & curly hair

Put in the princess portrait. First round, and could be worse. From a distance it's not bad. It's mostly curly princess hair and candles all around, which handily echo the candelabra to the right. Putting it  in a frame really helped.

Spent the lion's share of the morning on that. Stopping nearly required an intervention, but until this layer is dry, all I'd be doing is stirring reasonably nice tones into mud.

To distract myself, I blocked in the big iron lock (in the center just under the sword). It's a wonderful old wooden chest, sold to me forty years ago as a Korean money chest.
I love the clasps and handles. There's metal bracketing each corner, plus a pair of large, hand-forged hinges. The top half of the front swings down, and there are a few small drawers along the top inside. There are metal handles on the ends for carrying it, like a camp trunk. No idea how old it really is. Bought it back in the early seventies from some antique place in the Carolinas. Probably Charleston or Mount Pleasant, but possibly along the road to Black Mountain. It's packed with old board games and puzzles from when the kids were younger.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Leaves of LightGrid

Working on LightGrid, the last of the location paintings.
Added leaves to the left side of the tree, and more leaf shapes and color on the right. side. Worked in multiple layers over the pasture in the background and along the roadside. The trick is to keep the background tree line and the pasture unfocused, then indicate the linear wisps of weeds and grass along the roadside without making them actually distinct.

The dirt road got another layer of base colors. It's ready for the detail of ruts and gravel. The only untouched part is the dark shadow cast by the tree. It will take a couple of layers to achieve the right depth of shade, yet build in subtle variation to show the ground beneath. Next round, probably

Here's a detail of the tree to show those leaves I was adding for the last two hours. There are more to come, especially darkest leaves.
I think when I work on the road, I'm going to turn the canvas upside down, so I can focus on making the marks of shape and the volume and not be thinking 'oh golly, all that gravel.'

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tarot & Ticket


Focused in on details of the O2 concert ticket, and The Lovers Tarot card. The concert ticket has a slice of planet earth with faint latitude/longitude grid lines and narrow spires (EDIT: in fact it's a view of the O2 arena itself, a tensile structure. "Most tensile structures are supported by some form of compression or bending elements, such as masts (as in The O2, formerly the Millennium Dome), compression rings or beams." Thanks Wikipedia. ) with a round hologram moon and pinpoints of stars. There's some refining details to come here, along with the printed text and the O2 logo. Making those stratas of blues was a pleasure, and pondering what I'm going to do for the hologram is perplexing. Still thinking about it.

The Tarot card is simple; vibrant hues, mostly primary colors. I concentrated on not dragging or smearing colors into each other, yet smoothing and blending the edges between them. Not a task for the faint hearted. Once it's thoroughly dry, I'll work on outlining every object and figure in black.

After the loose volume and form of the marble bookends, doing the card's graphic design felt like painting a miniature. Even putting in the base color required my #0 and #1 brushes, but I like switching around from loose to precise. Artist's yoga.


Tech side bar: When you obsess on detail, you tend to mow through a lot of small brushes. They have a limited working life anyway - delicate to start, with fewer brush hairs, and those need to be exactly aligned. Rough use or poor handling turn them into something that looks like a squirrel's tail in no time.
After much trial and error I found Silver Ruby Satins. They hold up to the weight of oil, they load paint well and - if carefully cleaned - far outlast all others. I have 38 of them at last count, in the three smallest sizes. Mostly Filberts and Brights. I love them and treat them with respect. That's one of the reasons I have so many - they'll last longer if you switch around. The other reason is my kids figured out that they are a guaranteed hit for all those pesky gift giving occasions, like Mother's Day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


This morning I roughed in the two hawk marble bookends. It took three hours, but at least half an hour was spent cleaning up my palette and mixing paint.
At the end of the day, I painted in the hilt of the sword by cleaning off my brushes. You can get the best neutrals from a dirty brush.

Here's a detail of the hawks - the one on the left has a broken beak. I'm going to look at the unbroken one in a mirror to figure out how to paint it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Fire is mostly done:

Spent this morning adding smoke, adding contrast and color to the burnt pages, and crisping edges all over.

Wrote the Dante's Inferno excerpt from Canto V in Italian on the page on the left. The trickiest part was placing the sentences correctly on the page. I ended up writing the first and longest one backwards across the top of the page, then positioning the following lines beneath the center word and painting in both direction until I ran out of page.
Have mercy.

Per più fiate li occhi ci sospinse
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.

Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,

la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu 'l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.

Now that the lettering is done, I'll be making those edges a touch more burnt siena shading into the carbon in a day or two.

I can plan on varnishing it in two weeks, along with Air, BlueScreen and BoomLift. Then I'll be hopping from LightGrid, which needs a lot of work, and the TSRTS, right up until a week before the November show. Then it'll be all TSRTS, all the time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Holy Grail

This morning I listened to a half hour press conference with the three living member of Led Zeppelin, promoting their concert video Celebration Day. It was surprisingly entertaining to hear. Plenty of dry wit and smooth, expert handling of the (worshipful) press.
Meanwhile, I painted the chalice. Patiently did lots of fine detail, because that's all it is. Blended very carefully. The reward is that it will only require a few more layers to be complete.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bronze D'or

Roughed in the candelabra, on the right.
It's one of a pair of French bronze d'or candelabras. The way the light struck this is why I ultimately chose this particular image to work from.  I like the way the formality and heft of it balances with the ease of the organic, curving shapes. The final image will have an even starker contrast of light and dark.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

En garde!

Today I began the sword. The metal blade is a series of reflections - like stitching together little abstracts. It's still far from what I'm aiming toward. It's like creating a sketchy map of shapes to help me build the layers I need to get the values I want. The hilt is wrapped leather. I also plugged in the first of many layers of white; on the candles, reflections in the chalice, the edges of the tarot cards and the concert ticket.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Buttercups. Doubloons. Saffron. Mustard.

Worked on the drapery, wallowing in the luscious color. I threw in the tangerine, since it's the same palette.

That's the last of the big sweeping brush strokes, laying in swathes of color. Now everything will slow way down as I tackle the intricate candelabra, the detailed tarot cards, princess portrait and ticket. Might get to skate a bit on the book spines, but even the sword blade is a series of reflections - candles flame, saffron drapery, and silver chalice. Yum.

Friday, September 14, 2012

old dog, new trick

Day #2


Looks like more than it is. I mean, I can confidently block in a base coat, but the smartest thing I did was go to Binders and buy a brush the size of a mop (okay, slight exaggeration) with stiff bristles that can handle oil.

Here's what I usually paint with, next to the new brush.

Right tool for the job.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fired Up, Again

Today I dove into mixing and placing the various blues in the background of The Commission.  Started scrubbing that first thin layer of paint into the canvas. Four hours later, I had to make myself stop for lunch. Loving it! It's like the starter's gun fired off in my head. Instead of my usual country mix, I painted to Led Zep on shuffle. Really liking the BBC sessions. One of the things I like about this stage is seeing elements become visible from the negative space of unpainted canvas.
Worked on Fire yesterday. Added a title of my unpublished novel ms and my name to the open paperback flyleaf, the red lettering on the journalism book, and all kinds of ash details to the iron grill. Started refining the page edge of the open book and, bam, I realize I'm nearly done. What a pleasure this series has been!

Monday, September 10, 2012

End of Boomlift, start of the Commission

Added the lettering and signed it on the door of the Boomlift.  Because I could,  I changed the three initials on the crane to Robert's initials. Kept finding little places to improve or clean up. Added texture to the trees, deepening the blues on the crane, cleaning up the tire treads, going over the grip's clothes again, crisping or blurring edges as called for. I doubt that it's even visible on a photograph. Felt like a dog with fleas.
It's on the wall of the drying room until further notice.



I'll work on the tree of LightGrid tomorrow and the pages of the books in Fire.
The initial drawing of the Commission is complete. Here's a shot of the whole canvas, with a Tarot card for scale. The drawing is really hard to see in this photograph, but trust me, it's there.

I pushed the contrast on this closeup photograph  so it will be visible. Here's a detail - the princess in a little antique gold frame overlapping The Knight of swords tarot card.

The drawing went much faster than I anticipated. I'm waiting a few days before I start painting so I can critically review the drawing for any draftsman problems.
What's that saying of Confucius? "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Stepping out today.