STUDIO: A New Painting in Progress, Part 1

A Beginning in Yellow


 I am currently at work on my latest large scale piece-large for me being in this case 36″ x 36″.

I had originally built this stretcher with a different image in mind for it. But life intervened before I got started. New thoughts developed and took on more urgency. The current subject came to me in a vision, as my imagery often does. I changed my mind about what I was going to commit the next several months to working on.

 Right now I don’t have to fulfill any commission. I don’t have create a piece for any particular theme show or call for entries. Being so free to choose out of the many painting ideas I have could be challenging. However, as an intuitive artist, I am provided guidance. I know the right idea to proceed with because it’s the one I keep thinking about. I can’t get out of my mind. I’m going to need to paint it out.

I don’t like the white void of a fresh canvas. It lacks an entry point. I almost always begin a painting by laying down a field of color. In this case, it was several coats of Lemon Yellow acrylic paint, all over.

Then I was ready to draw in the major form of the piece.

A rough sketch to begin, right onto the canvas


I would never use a projector to translate imagery onto a canvas. It’s an unsavory practice, an unacceptable shortcut. Real art will never arise from a shortcut mentality.

Be a brave artist. Use your own hand, heart, mind and eye. Don’t rely on a machine to make your discoveries for you.

I also don’t work from separately created preparatory drawings, even though I know that’s the classical technique. I dive in and paint it out directly on the canvas. It’s a flexible, forgiving medium. Most of my painting time is spent fixing mistakes and shoring up weak spots. Since I’m working from imagination, this involves lots of staring, and comparing what is happening in the painting to what I can see in my mind.

Recognizing which mistakes to keep is what makes a painting come alive.

Like many of my works, this vision came presented complete with a title. My new painting is called “The War You Will Always Have With You.”

I do enjoy puns.

I feel this work is very much in sync with the spirit of this age, and now was time for it to be made. If I serve as an effective conduit, by the time the piece is finished, its relevance should be apparent to everyone, without me even having to use words to say it. The painting will speak for itself.

I will continue to provide periodic updates as the painting progresses.


STUDIO: Painting in Progress 2


“A Tale of the Forked River” still laying in the basic elements

I don’t make my paintings from tracings, projections, or copying. Nor do I produce practice preparatory drawings. I work it all out on the canvas.

 Once the initial composition is drawn I remain committed to the original layout. Part of my intuitive painting process is to use that first take on the image as the foundation to build on, to bring out and make more explicit the rhythms and structure that were only loosely suggested at first.

Painting is a constant process of adjustment.  I work all over the surface of painting, trying to nudge the entire image to a certain level of resolution. Then it begins again, working all over, trying to advance whole image to greater amounts of focus. I start with the background and work forward, putting objects in front of other objects in the illusionary space I’m creating.

I always struggle with getting into too much detail too soon on certain intriguing passages. It can be problematic if one part gets too resolved ahead of the rest of the painting. As the rest of the painting gets worked, that impatient piece of it will change based on what’s surrounding it, and usually not for the better. A balanced, gradual approach works best.

This painting is still weeks away from completion.


Incremental Progress

Earlier Installments:

Introduction: Creating a Canvas

Painting in Progress 1

STUDIO: Painting in Progress


Barely begun

The painting has begun on my 36″ x 36″ canvas. I’m using Liquitex acrylic paints to try to make a vision I beheld visible to the world.

The idea was triggered was a simple conversation. One of my sister-in-laws moved to a town in New Jersey called Forked River. She advised us the correct pronunciation of the first word for the place was actually “For-Ked,” two syllables, which amused me somehow. It seemed so archaic and grandiose.

As I pondered this the image appeared to me-not a little town in New Jersey, but an occurrence in the wilderness of the mind and spirit. The title was “A Tale of the Forked River.” Like many of my paintings, it would depict the mysterious, an experience of the uncompromising power and strangeness of life.

I saw the color scheme of yellows predominating with black and white; ragged pine trees, a stony landscape, a crouching figure inadequately armed. All revolved around the presence of The Great Bear.

I wrote the title and a brief note in a book I keep to document the visions I have. There are dozens of entries in the book. I’ll never live long enough to paint out all the ideas I’ve had, and they just keep coming. Looking back I see I dated this one December 7, 2013-a day that will live in infamy.

It takes me weeks and even months to complete a work of this size. Because I’m an intuitive artist, I kind of have to feel my way through the painting-I don’t do preparatory drawings, I work it out on the canvas, which leads to many problems and corrections. But it also leads to discoveries.

This painting has only been worked on a few times so far. It’s at the phase my wife, painter Michele Bledsoe, refers to as a train wreck. The sky is full of light but the material objects are slow to take form. I’m putting it out there in this tentative and unresolved state to share my painting process.


“A Tale of the Forked River” work in progress