Thursday, August 2, 2018

God Breathed: Revisited


So lately, I've found myself working on a number of what I would call "odd projects".  I've been doing paintings that aren't necessarily related to one another.  They're pretty much stand alone pieces, or studies, or random ideas realized in drawing/sketch form.

I'm still working on small works of mostly landscape/nature pieces, but I've also done several other little things that are seemingly random, and they led me to the point of trying to figure out what I should work on next.  I've talked about this before in one of my YouTube vlogs about inspiration.  And just so I don't leave you hanging, here's the link to that video:

I always think it's a good idea to just be working on something until you've discovered that new source of inspiration that leads you into your next big project.  Sometimes that means doing just what I've been doing - random stuff.  Keeping productivity consistent and always working on something so that you don't find yourself stuck in the dreaded "painter's block" mentality.

So that leads me to right now, and what I've decided to work on.  I've been doing something new during my painting time that has become a new source of inspiration - listening to podcasts.  I've subscribed to different ones on different topics such as, of course, art.  So I've been listening to Eric Rhoads' Plein Air Podcast and Danny Grant, who is an artist interviewing artists about their working method, daily routines, etc.  But I'm also interested in theology and apologetics, so I've been listening to Ravi Zacharias and R.C. Sproul as well.

Anyway, something occurred to me as I was listening to Eric Rhoads that probably should have dawned on me before.  It is really really important to have a cohesive body of work.  By that, I mean a body of work in which every painting you do is somehow related or unified with all the others.  Whether it's the subject matter, or the style/technique you use, or both.  Your body of work should be unified.  My problem up until now has been the fact that I've done all these different series of paintings, each having a definitive number of pieces and a definitive end.

So for instance, my series God Breathed from 2016 had a plan that I followed in terms of its premise and approach, and even the number of paintings I was going to do, which ended up being 15.  And then it ended.  I moved on to a new series of paintings.  And then after that another series, and then another series.  So I have all these different series of paintings that are not necessarily related or unified with one another.  And I think that makes the cohesiveness, strength, and integrity of my whole body of work suffer.  It feels as though I've trivialized my mission and purpose as a fine artist, and made it too gimmicky with all these different series.  Eric Rhoads talks about it in terms of branding.  This means, among other things, being consistent with the type of work that I do so that others may see it and recognize it as mine.  And to be truthful, most of the work I've done since God Breathed has not felt nearly as inspired or important to me.  I've realized that God Breathed is more than just a series.  It is the embodiment of my mission statement and purpose as a fine artist.  It's what every one of my paintings should be.  That's not to say my style and approach won't evolve in time.  I'm certain they will.  Trying new things and evolving/progressing are all part of being an artist.  But purpose should undoubtedly be consistent.

So I recently completed my first truly God-breathed painting in two years called I Once Was Lost.  This is a piece about repentance.  I've been wanting to do something related to the Parable of the Prodigal Son for a while, so I did this piece that centers around the moment in which the prodigal son realizes he has hit rock bottom, and it's time to make the ultimate decision:  Do I relinquish my pride and go home and face my father, or do I hold firmly onto my pride and die lost and alone?  So I have him sitting next to this wall covered in graffiti.  And as you look closely, each symbol or word on the wall seems to be giving this kid a message.  Perhaps its a clear seed of hope and faith, or a clear seed of doubt.  Or perhaps the message is ambiguous and could go either way.  My hope for this painting is that there will be some viewers who realize that they are the subject of this painting more so than the kid sitting on the railing.

I Once Was Lost (Luke 15: 17-20)
oil on linen
The next piece I'm working on is called Refiner's Fire, which has to do with the often painful and unpleasant process we go through of becoming who God intends for us to be.  Sometimes that means letting go of the things we are holding onto.  Or perhaps they are holding onto us.  Either way, we often need something as harsh as fire to purify us of those things and become a stronger and more faithful version of ourselves.

More to come soon, including other news from the studio.  Until then, God bless you all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

YouTube Vlog #18 - Treating and Cleaning Wooden Palettes

I recently recorded and posted a new YouTube vlog, and it's all about wooden palettes.  I got an interesting number of inquiries about wooden palettes, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about them.  Specifically, I go into how to treat raw wooden palettes using linseed oil.  Whatever you do, don't try to use new wood palettes without putting a nice, shiny finish on it.

I also got a question about how to clean a wood palette, so I go into that as well.  In this video, I show you two quick demonstrations on how to put a treatment on the palette and how to clean them after a painting session.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Upcoming July Shows

July is very quickly approaching, and it is going to be one crazy month for me!  In addition to spending a week at church camp with some high school kids, I have two shows happening in July that I am looking forward to, and I hope you won't miss!

First is the first Figurative Arts and Classical Nude fine art show in Ottawa, Kansas.  I will have 7 paintings in this show, which runs from July 5th - 26th at the Carnegie Cultural Center in Ottawa (501 S. Main St).  I have already packed up my work and I will be heading down there tomorrow to drop them off.  

This show will open on July 5th, and I hope you will stop by the Carnegie Center during its regular hours to see the show (Wed - Fri 12-5pm).  There will be a closing reception on July 26th from 6-9pm.  For more info, contact the gallery at (785) 242-8478.

As soon as I get back from camp, I will be heading over to Images Art Gallery in Overland Park, Kansas to drop off work for their 14th Annual Juried Exhibition, which runs from July 20th - August 11th.  The opening reception for the Images Gallery show will be on July 20th from 6-9pm, with awards announcements starting at 7pm.  Out of the three pieces I entered for this show (shown below), I am happy to say all three were accepted.  Hope to see you at the reception!  Images Art Gallery is located at 7320 W 80th St. in Overland Park, KS.

A Moment of Silence
oil on canvas
oil on canvas
graphite and oil on paper

Thursday, June 14, 2018

News from the Studio 6/14/18

Hello friends, here is the latest from the studio:

  • I will be showing some work at the first ever Figurative Arts and Classical Nude Exhibition in Ottawa, Kansas from July 5th-26th at the Carnegie Cultural Center Gallery.  Due to some conflicts in scheduling, it seems the reception for this show will be taking place on the last day of the show, July 26th from 6-9pm.  A bit unusual, but you can check out the show during the Carnegie Gallery's regular hours, 10am-6pm starting July 5th.
oil on canvas
Available at Carnegie Cultural Center, July 5-26.
  • I hope to have a few more show announcements coming very soon, especially regarding the Images Art Gallery Juried Exhibition in Overland Park, and the NOAPS Best of America Exhibition in Cincinnati later this fall.  Stay tuned for those announcements.
  • Beyond that, it's been business as usual here in the studio, producing more work.  Here are the works I've completed most recently.  All are currently available directly from me.  Please email me at to inquire about them, and use the painting title as the subject line.
The Stone (John 8: 1-11)
oil on panel

Greater Light
oil on canvas

Contemplating Heaven
oil on panel

Living Water
oil on panel

The Sleeper
oil on canvas
  • I would also like to thank a gentleman, Todd, for purchasing my painting Lament recently.  It is a painting that I did in 2016 as part of my series Light Up The Darkness, a small series of paintings all about the spiritual battle between good and evil.  Specifically, this piece has to do with Christian persecution.  I remember painting this in frustration, knowing this type of atrocity was happening in the world, and knowing nothing was being done about it, and feeling hopeless that it would ever change.  That hopeless and powerless feeling are indicated by the lamenting Crusader on the ground, and the mocking Darkness hovering over him.  This was one of my favorite pieces from the past couple of years, and one I was never sure if I'd ever sell because of just how strong the imagery is.  It's not exactly the type of thing a typical person hangs over the living room sofa.  So thank you, Todd.  Wherever you do end up hanging this piece, you're certain to have a conversation piece!  I am thankful to God for the gift of creativity, the blessing of His provision for the works I create, and certainly for those patrons and collectors who value my work as worthy to own.

I have sometimes taken those blessings for granted, and God has taught me some lessons over the past year regarding that.  One of the striking passages of Scripture I've read recently is Deuteronomy 8: 17-18.  "You may say to yourself, 'My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me.'  But remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth..."  Not to say I am wealthy at all, but I sometimes I need a painful reminder to not take anything for granted, and to acknowledge that every bit of what I've received has been because God has blessed my hands to create, and I believe He has also blessed the work itself.
  • That is all for now.  Please stay tuned for more news from the studio to come!  God bless you guys.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Valuable Lessons in Art: When Less is More

Hello there friends,

Today was another great, full and productive day of painting.  And that means more than simply sitting at the easel with brush in hand, color on palette, and progression on canvas.

It also typically means music blasting, coffee consumed, and lunch neglected.  Today was no exception.  However, it also means I do a lot of thinking.  Artists are more than just painters, sculptors, draftsmen, etc.  We're also full-time philosophers.  We think.  A lot.

So there I was making progress on a new figurative painting, and thinking to myself, "This is the perfect opportunity to challenge myself and my technique."  If there is one thing with which I struggle when it comes to figure paintings, it is overstating things that do not necessarily need to be defined.  So what do I mean by that?

Less is more.

I tend to be too tight and rigid when it comes to painting the figure.  Lately, I've been working on a lot of landscape pieces in a series I've called Scenes of Creation.  You've seen some of them.  And as I was working today on this current figure painting, and as I've been painting my Hands series, I've asked myself, "Why have I allowed myself to be so loose, relaxed, yet intentional with my landscape work, and so overly tight and careful with my figurative work?"

I understand fully that landscape painting is a totally different kind of painting than figurative and portrait painting.  But I also know that there is a way to be more relaxed in my technique with figurative painting as I am with landscapes.  At least I should know this by now.  After all, my favorite painter of all time, whose praises I sing all the day long, knew full well that when it comes to painting the figure, less is more.

Velázquez was just about the greatest master of doing more with less.  There are countless examples of how he did this in his figurative work, but let me show you one that clearly demonstrates what I'm talking about:

So here is one of my favorite pieces by Velázquez called The Forge of Vulcan.  He painted this on his first visit to Rome, so the classical influence of the figure is clearly apparent here in comparison to his previous work.  But Velázquez does something here that is also noteworthy.  Something arguably more significant in his treatment of the figure.  Take a closer look at the foot of one of the figures depicted here:

If I were painting this, I would be so caught up in capturing every detail of the foot - every line, every vein, the individual toes and their toenails.  And probably even the dirt underneath those toenails.  Velázquez seems to have forgotten to finish painting this foot.  Was he really that careless or distracted or absent-minded.  Did he start this foot, take a break, and then work on something else when he came back to the painting, completely forgetting about the foot he started?  Or was this simple, sketched-in handling of the foot completely intentional?  Did Velázquez have the wisdom to know that this was all that was needed to make this a convincing representation?  I absolutely, 100% believe so.  He knew that less was more, and that he could accomplish more with less.  Some details don't need to be defined in order to make a convincing statement.

So here is the start to my figurative painting from today:

Let me start by saying this is a small, 14x20" oil on linen canvas.  And it is by far one of the most difficult poses I've ever tried to draw/paint in my life.  It is already a difficult task for me to draw or paint a reclining figure.  But to add to the challenge, this figure also has that twist throughout her pose so that her bottom half is facing toward the viewer, while her torso faces upward, and her head is turned away from the viewer.  But it also makes for a great display of the anatomy of her skeletal structure that I love.

The truth is I was ready for this challenge.  As artists, we have to continually and gradually challenge ourselves to try things we think are too difficult.  This is one of the reasons I'm working on a series of paintings that focus on hands.  I've never felt comfortable in my ability to draw or paint hands, so it's time to conquer that.  This figurative painting is a stand-alone piece, not part of any series.  It's a challenge for me to conquer something.  For one, my ongoing effort to improve my proficiency in drawing and painting the figure.  But also my handling of the figure, particularly my paint handling.  As I've worked on this piece, I've been studying some contemporary academic figurative works, and trying to determine ways to make a convincing statement without going overboard on detail.  The idea is not to fall short on effort, or take a lazy approach to painting.  But when your goal is to accomplish A, B, and C, you really don't have to waste your time focusing on D through Z.

I've always said that the main objective of the painting process is to move from general to specific.  But the big question that we have to answer as we're working is "How specific do I need to get?"  How specific is too specific?  Do I need to put toenails on those toes?  Does each individual finger need to be painted?  How much of that eye needs to be defined?  How many creases in the forehead do I really need to paint or draw?  Honestly, the one thing I can say I have ever applied the "less is more" principle to in figurative painting has been the representation of hair.  Hair and beards.  If anything, it is the one thing with which we have to be a bit abstract.  Incidentally, I sense a bit more freedom as an artist when I'm painting the hair because I feel less pressure to make it look exactly precise according to what I see on the model or photo reference. 

Thanks for indulging me with this little blog post.  Sometimes this really is like a journal for me to spill out random thoughts I had on a given day.  Today was such a day, and this post is such a post.  Please stay tuned for more coming up, including more scenes of creation, more hands, and the completion of this figurative piece.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

New Series: Hands

Hello friends,

I have finished the first two pieces of a new painting series that I'm working on.  It's called Hands, and it is simply a series of small, simple paintings inspired by Scripture that tell faith stories with hands. 

Hands are one of the most expressive parts of the body, and they can tell a number of different stories and emotions simply by their positioning.  The fascinating thing about Scripture is that there are so many stories and moments from both the Old and New Testaments in which hands can play a significant visual role.  My challenge is to bring those stories to life in painting.

Among some of the subjects I hope to paint with this series include many stories from the life and ministry of Jesus, and possibly some Old Testament moments.  The first idea I had, which also just happened to be the first completed piece in the series, was a moment in the Gospel of Luke in which a woman had been healed by very briefly and barely touching a tassel on Jesus' robe as Jesus was trying to walk through a huge crowd of people.  Through all the commotion, the woman pushes her way through and manages to just graze the hem.  Jesus feels her touch, and a certain amount of power comes out of him (Luke 8:46).  One of the things that intrigues me about this moment is the woman's desperation to touch even a small part of Jesus' robe, knowing that even that much can heal her.  My first inspiration for this piece actually came a couple months ago from a sermon preached at my church that included this passage.

Stay tuned for more of this series.  I hope it inspires and encourages you in some way.

Touch (Luke 8:42-48)
oil on panel
9x12 inches

Covenant: The Blood (Matthew 26: 27-29)
oil on panel
20x10 inches

Friday, April 20, 2018

YouTube Vlog #17 - Life of an Oil Painting

Recently, I recorded some video footage of me in the process of creating a painting for my landscape series Scenes of Creation.  It's taken some time to edit it, but I finally have this video finished.  I didn't record every single detail of the painting, but it does include some nice close-up shots, and a good look at how I apply paint in those small details.  This painting was completed over the course of 3 painting sessions.  It's not a tutorial, as I don't do any talking or explanation of anything.  Just a nice relaxing look at the life of an oil painting by me.  Enjoy!