Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gone Fishin'

This was another commission piece (acrylic) that I worked on for a friend several years ago.  Note the fisherman in the background, casting the line.  My dad is a great fisherman, and oddly enough, he said it was his mother that really taught him (though Granddad was a good fisherman also).  So then there's me--not a fisherman at all.  I do love being out there in the stream, taking it all in.  I even enjoy trying, but somehow I just never got the "fishin' fever."  Most of my experiences of fishing trips ended up (or began with) me falling in the water and scaring the fish away.  But I have to say that the best times that I've spent fishing were with Dad. When he lived in North Carolina, sometimes we would go to a pier at night and fish for awhile, and we would talk about different things in life, and I loved simply being with him, whether I caught any fish or not (I did catch a blowfish one time).  We would also take the boat out from time to time, and again, just sit and catch up.  Sometimes we would catch something, sometimes we wouldn't.  Either way I could sit and listen to Dad for hours. 

I still enjoyed going to the streams while Dad and my brother fished.  It's been awhile, but I have to say it's a special experience to stand out in the middle of the stream and be still while the water glides past you, carrying leaves and other odd bits, revealing here and there little dapples of light, wavering ghostly reflections that dance on the surface as the breeze quietly whispers through the trees overhead. A certain graceful peace settles in your mind in those moments, then you realize there are fish laughing at you under the water, wondering which stone you'll slip on as you make your way back to the bank...I guess my children will have to learn to fish from their Granddaddy, and that's okay with me. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Several years ago I was asked to do a series of small paintings for a party which had a "Narnia" theme.  I was given some specific guidelines in terms of how the images should be arranged, which were slightly different from the way I would have approached them, but you go with what the client wants, right?

Personally, I have always envisioned a plain wardrobe, or perhaps a very low-key wardrobe with slight, mysterious carvings or patterns, not the fully carved, ornate wardrobe that was in the popular movie, similar to the one the client wanted in this painting.  The idea that within a very plain and simple wardrobe lies the extraordinary entrance to another world filled with adventure and danger is very compelling to me, reminding me that what we see on the surface with our eyes often times may not be the whole story.
Mothballs giving way to crunching snow.  These are acrylic washes over paper with gesso, embellished with colored pencil.
Always winter, never Christmas...
I greatly enjoyed working on this project and the party went well--these were used on the invitations.  One day I would like to go back and read again the Chronicles of Narnia and do a series of images from some of the other books.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Board's Creek

There are some paintings that have a certain sentimental quality for me.  One such important painting is Board's Creek--an oil painting of two cows getting ready to cross a creek in front of a gnarly old tree.  There is an interesting background story behind this painting (of which I will spare you the details), in that it was originally supposed to be a commissioned piece, but I ended up doing another one in its place that better fit the desires of the client at the time. And so now this painting rests above my sofa until it finds a better home.  There is an actual Board's Creek, but this is not it--the scene is made up to fit the composition, though the tree is a real tree up on the parkway near Rocky Knob (one of my favorite to draw and paint, as you will see later), and the cows are painted from photos taken awhile back (and slightly reworked to fit the feel of the painting).

The first composition had the cows turning away from the tree (I still may do a painting from this one day).
I ended up reworking the composition to the following...
...and worked up a quick acrylic wash color study...
I wanted a warm evening/morning glow to this painting, with the foreground in shadow, to allow the light to play on the water and the branches of the tree.  Here are some pencil studies of the tree itself--a wonderful, gnarled, twisting tree with large branches that you can just crawl all over.  Many artists and photographers have created images from this tree.  I just love it. 
And so here is the final oil of Board's Creek.  It measures 40"x30" and is on stretched canvas.
This remains as one of the few large oil paintings that I have done in the last ten years--I usually work in acrylic, but Alison and I are wanting to get a new set of oils to start working in them again--it is definitely her favorite and strongest medium. ~Sean

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ol' Blue

This watercolor was done back in college when our dog Blue passed away.  This was the spot where he always loved to rest, usually in the flowers (unfortunately).  Anyhoo, the piece is simply what it is, a portrait without the subject--his dish is still there, the door is still open, and the flowers are a reminder of the vibrancy of life, even in a place that is dingy and somewhat empty.  This is one of my favorite pieces.

Blue had a heart problem, and being so old, there was not much we could do.  He was a good ol' faithful friend, a peculiar dog with peculiar habits, but that only made him more endearing.  When he had to be put down, we wrapped him in one of my old childhood blankets and buried him in my old toy box.  The humor of the night was that it was cold and the ground was hard, so Phil and I were trying to bury him with a lantern swinging on a branch above us while we labored with a shovel and a pick axe.  I'm sure if the neighbors saw us, there may have been some wondering what we were up too--it probably looked shady!

I did, before the end, do a final portrait of ol' Blue.  Here are the sketches:

And here's the final, with a detail of his head--notice his characteristic smile.