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Updated 11/4/2020

Online Painting Lessons

This page is full of my online lessons in both oils and acrylics. You can receive these lessons in your email by signing up on my Daily Painting mailing list.

Acrylic Painting Lessons Oil Painting Lessons
Rolex 12 x 16 Event Horse in Water Desert Plants Still Life with Five Colors (Opens a new page)
Backlit Horses at the Feeder Horse and Groom, Five Color System (Opens a new page)
Book Cover in Oil (Fantasy Art)
Draft Horses using Elin's Color System
Springbok African Sunrise 48 x 60 Oil
Horse Over Bridge, Oil, 12 x 16
Meg Jack Russell Commission 12 x 16
Pastoral Cow Scene, OIl, 12 x 16

Rolex 12 16 Event Horse in Water

Sometimes the muse that sparks one's creativity takes a serious hike. What do you do when the muse is on vacation, and you have to create? I find that if I'm IN the workspace, and start noodling around with a canvas, an idea will come. Thus it is tonight. After a LONG ride (again six hours in the saddle, pre-riding the trails on the mountain behind the studio for a ride scheduled two weeks from now), I have a mind of mush and the creative energy of a snail. So into the studio I go (the discipline of doing 540+ paintings in the past 18 months helps), and I get out a 12 x 16 board, and start "funnin' around" with some acrylic color and gel medium, alcohol (not for me) spray and daub a bit here and there.... and an idea starts. This painting is going to be a really textured pastoral scene, lots of blades of grass, bushes, and horses. Haven't figured out the lighting yet, but misty sounds good, as does low evening light across pastures.
I can see these paintings finished almost, once the idea is there. My muse is back home again, chuckling and chortling in the corner. I gave him a beer. Let's see where this one goes tomorrow, OK?

Now take a look at this canvas surface, and compare it to yesterday's underpainting. An idea of a painting has come to me, and it will be fun to pull it out of this sketchy-skritchy brushworked background! I have set up the major values and color scheme, without any focal point yet, as I want this background to play a subordinate part in this 12 x 16 acrylic. Yes, it will be horse-related! Even though you can see the underlying abstract structure of the painting-to-be, I doubt very much that you can tell how the finished work is going to look! That's the fun of being an artist--sometimes the path I take to the destination of a finished canvas goes through some mighty interesting territory!
The lighting on this will be overcast, and diffuse. There will be a bit of backlighting on this one though! (Oh, I do love backlit subjects...)

Now take a look at how this acrylic painting is developing! Such fun to add layers on top of what was there yesterday, and start to build the contrast and movement! Although my source material (Rolex, equestrian three-day-event) was much larger, I want the horse and rider to fit into the scenery, so as they head pell-mell through the water (yes, that will be water, just not tonight!), the surrounding scenery will play like the backdrop of a huge stage, with the spotlight on the rider and horse. Do you see how all that mish-mash of brushwork under this focal point now works like the myriad instruments of a symphony? All the players are important when brought together, yet each has its individual "loudness".

I finished up the 12 x 16 acrylic of the Rolex Three Day Event rider, putting many glazes of gel medium and veils of color on the distant trees, the water and the rest of the composition to unify and create visual interest. It sure was fun to paint the water! Not at all like the photo, which showed a muddy, murky splash. I like the greens much better! I think I'm going to hold this one for a show coming up later this year. I think it might do well.

And congratulations to Charlotte McDavid of Birmingham, Alabama, on her acquisition of my painting of Vincent Van Goat. The purchase was made through my ebay store. That's a fast, easy way to make a purchase because of all the different ways of making payment. I like that it is up there 24/7 so many people can view the works.

Backlit Horses at Feeder, 12 x 16

I have had so many people inquiring about the upcoming acrylic lessons DVD that I can do no less but give you a lesson on how I handle acrylics. Although this one won't be in the DVD, you can certainly enjoy how it comes together. The first layer of this 11 x 14 canvas board is covered with soft gel medium mixed with a couple of colors to make a more neutral red orange, and then before it is dry, patted with a wad of plastic wrap to give it interesting texture, both real and illusionary. Those peaks of gel medium are then gently wiped away as it begins to dry, to keep the actual texture under control.
The second layer is again a mixture of soft gel medium, but this time with two blues. Only bits and pieces of these two layers will show through the final painting, but they will be ever so much more exciting than plain white canvas!
I now take a brush handle and sketch in the location of the horses, their shadows and the landscape shapes that will define this painting. It will be another pastoral scene, backlit, as I'm enjoying them immensely. (Perhaps that's because I've done with taxes and it isn't as bad as I'd feared?) No matter, painting is solace, rejuvenation and pleasure. Houseguest Betty Billups is up near Walnut doing her mural for the next couple of days, so life here is full of her paintings, but without her joyful personality.

Congratulations to Lorna McPhee of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on acquiring yesterday's Belted Galloway acrylic! Thank you!

Here's the second step in my painting process using acrylics. I go for the darks, laying in the abstract structure with value contrast and not worrying about edges at all. It is a lot of fun painting with different colors over the underpainting--one person said it reminded her of the cave paintings!
You can see the values and the backlighting coming to the fore as I put umbers, alizarin crimson, untramarine blue and yellow ochre mixes creating the value structure. I am not looking at any source material at this point--letting my innate design sense tell me where to put those darks.

After a six hour ride up and over the mountain behind my studio, I came home with one tired mare, and a bit achy myself. Organized trail rides can be great fun, unless you end up behind a complete idiot, which I did for part of this ride. Makes for some very challenging moments, however my mare came through fine. Today's ride was a good one for a pre-ride for the one I'm leading next month. Knowing how tired my mare is, I can easily see her in this painted pasture, resting with her buddies, glad to be home. So the painting progresses with real-life experience to back it up.

That said, tonight's work on the 11 x 14 acrylic brought it almost to completion, with the light just about in place, and with tweaking that will not majorly change it to come on the morrow. Most of the added paint is in the form of glazed layers, with come opaque areas created to bind and unify the colors and composition. Playing wiht the layers and texture in the foreground will come next, as will the dust, which is only partly in place right now. Fun!

I finished the lesson painting in acrylics, spending most of the work on the details and glazing over to create the illusion of atmosphere and dust. These horses are in a drylot, which means dust and no grass--just hay in the feeder. I enjoyed making the highlights on each of the horses a slightly different color, and then unifying the complementary colors with the glazes using gel medium and thinned colors. I hope you enjoy it!

In other news, I received my advance copy of the American Journal of Veterinary Medicine, with my painting "Lesson Cat" on the cover. You can see the painting in September 2006 of my site! It's sold, of course, and I even had some folks trying to buy it again! Oh dear. Maybe I need to paint more cats... I do so love them!

Yesterday's silly Photoshop'd image of that celebrity had a few of you going for a while... April Fools!

Pastoral Cow Scene, Oil, 12 x 16
Busy day today, getting ready for the get together tomorrow for plein air artists in Riverside to meet Betty Billups and her work here. She's been working prepping the many canvases that will be her four foot by 16 foot plein air mural next week, and I have been catching up on my bookkeeping and taxes. So tonight I started an 11 x 14 oil of a very pastoral scene--which will be focusing on grays. The color scheme will be complimentary purple and yellow green, and the value balance will be midtones. I'm looking forward to how this one will turn out! There will be some plein air painting in between the start and finish... the weather has been fantastic for the last few days--into the low 70s and breezy--perfect for on location painting!
My art instruction DVDs are here.
As you can see, this painting is all about the grays! As I move across the surface, I continue to combine mixes of ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, thalo green, yellow ochre and white to fill in the canvas areas that are distant and cool. I paint the near cow with some more of these mixes, and they are thin enough to be underpainted areas. As I paint, I am always mindful of contrasting areas, where the light area of a cow will be against a darker passage of foliage. And so the painting continues! 11 x 14 oil.
You can see that I kept the grays intact for this one, and held to the complimentary color scheme of purple and yellow green and the mid range of values. The highest value contrast comes in the vicinity of the cows, so that holds your eyes, and there is an implied line created by the direction of the cows (the way they are facing) that brings the viewer into the scene, and allows one to "visit" with the rest of the composition.
This original painting is available for $295 as an 11 x 14 original on my ebay store.

12 x 16 Oil, Horse over Bridge
Do you have those days when your work just seems to not be "good enough"? I'm going through one of those phases, common to all artists, wherein the work one does just doesn't seem "good enough". It doesn't mean quitting. It doesn't mean I hate what I do. It doesn't even mean that I'm stuck! What it means is my head is ahead of my hands. Happens all the time. My brain knows a whole bunch of stuff, but my brain-to-hand connection doesn't know how to get it out on a canvas.

So what to do? I go to my library, and start studying various chapters and parts of books I have there. Over nine shelves of art books have been welcomed to my studio over the years, and in them I can find answers. I seek bits and pieces of knowledge from them. I invite them to come sit on my taboret, and then I paint. I paint with new knowledge and renewed vigor for the task of creating truly "good" art.

This 12 x 16 oil is a start for a painting for the Harness Tracks of America auction, one I enjoy entering with up to three pieces each year. You can find out more about it here. This one won't be for sale when it is done, but will be up for auction in October of this year.

I've laid in the larger darks and some of the mid-tones on this piece, and will be adding the horse, cart, driver, bridge and bushes tomorrow. Very pastoral. Oh, the Springbok painting is on hold while I absorb more knowledge.

Congratulations to Louise Mellon on her addition of the oil "By the Stream" to her collection!
Being an artist is not something I chose to be, rather it evolved from not fitting in as a kid of about nine. I had a good hand-eye coordination, and was really poor at dealing with the teasing that comes of that age. Drawing was an outlet to gain acceptance. ("Draw me a cat, Elin, can you?")
Now art is inherently a part of my daily life, and to cease creating would be equal to having my hands tied. There is one advantage to being an artist--it is in one's head. I found out that i can paint with my brush in my toes, showing that the mental control is the delivery system for creating, not the facile handling of a brush.

Train the mind, the rest will follow. Today's work on the start of yesterday covers the canvas, and puts in the major areas of color for embellishment later. Big fields of color are easier to break down into harmonious pattern than just trying to paint the pattern alone. Tomorrow this one will be finished.
And tomorrow I have a demonstration in Murrieta from 2 to 4 pm, in oils, for an art group. There is also a one-day workshop the following week on the 15th.

Life is full!
I still have some minor detailing to do to finish this one, but at this stage I'm quite pleased with it. What appeals to me is the division of space, and the nice harmony of greens and blues complimenting the oranges and reds. Double complimentary color scheme!
On another note, living in the nature preserve means wildlife, and I came home from the art painting demonstration for the Murrieta Gem of the Valley art group to find not one, but two rattlesnakes as a welcoming committee. One was in the outdoor cat pen (our cats come and go outside, but don't get to roam beyond the "cage" to get to the wild birds), and the other was between the trash bins. Sigh. One knows that the warm weather is upon us when these guys appear. No more walking around after dark without a flashlight! One was a Mexican Red and the other was the more common Western Diamondback. Both were about 30". I have a snake stick to deal with such visitors.

"Out for a Workout" will be sent to the Harness Tracks of America auction.

Draft Horses with Elin's Color System
I'm beginning a new painting, a 12 x 16 oil, and thought you might enjoy the thinking process that goes into creating the art I do. In this image, you can see the source material--a photograph I took many years ago in Temecula, of the Percherons that were destined for the Rose Parade that year. I always liked the position of the man, and that the morning light was coming over my shoulder--those interesting linear shadows intrigued me. Now it is time to do the painting.

This email might be a bit long, but the thought process in the development might be helpful, so here goes: The first thing I do when planning a painting is to figure out the proportions of the focal point to the size of canvas. I have a 12 x 16 canvas underneath the photo, and the proportions of the horses in the photo are too large to the dimentions of the edges of the photo to please me. So I am making the horses and men smaller in proportion to the edges of the canvas--the sketchbook drawing shows that more clearly. There is a LOT more area above and to the left of the animals than what is in the photo. I find that my reference photos are taken closer in for detail capture, to the detriment of the environment of the piece. That environment is an important part of the sense of place in a painting, and ought not be overlooked. Many paintings done while we learn are planned without regard for this aspect of the creating process. I wanted to be sure you see it here.

In a nutshell, don't copy the outer dimensions of the photograph exactly! I'd suggest expanding the backgrounds to a good balance between the focal point and the environment in which the action takes place.

And finally, at the request of several folks, I've put up a special page for my workshops on my web sites. The September workshop is full, but the fantastic Acadia National Park Color Boot Camp still has a few spaces. Imagine staying on the ocean for five nights and painting all day! And getting a week's worth of the Color System! I can hardly wait! There's a link on the page I've put up for registration and information.
Here's the page:
This is the first pass on the 12 x 16 canvas, showing you how I'm picking out the large dark shapes to create the focal point and those very important lines of shadow and roof that collect up the viewer's eye direction, bringing them right where I need them to be.
This underlayment is done with a wash of cadmium orange and burnt umber. The drawing at this stage is done with burnt umber and untramarine blue.

Note again how I've moved the folks and horses down into the picture plane, expanding the background for better design.

Congratulations to new collector Linda Douglas on her purchase of "Easter Morning" from my web site.
Aha! The first thing I need to do to any painting, once I get the abstract structure in place and the location of the major design with that line/mass drawing yesterday, is to make BIG areas of color without much interest in edges, except to NOT make them hard.

I find that students learning and afraid to let go of the need for control end up with so many hard edges that the painting appears tight and unforgiving. To prevent that, I paint in large fields of the color in that area, and mush through to the other areas, not being concerned about where one color starts and another stops. I can ALWAYS tighten up later, but once it is tight, it is a tough call to loosen it back up.

So here you see the affectation of all that morning light (yellow, mostly cool yellow mixed into the lights), and the values staying true to the original abstract structure of yesterday. Yup, the Color System at work!

Now it is time for bed--busy day. I spent a good part of today "rocking" in the pond! I will share a picture as soon as I have some more plants in it. The water is still "seasoning" before I can add any fish or tadpoles that I brought over from the other house.

Last call for the Color Boot Camp workshop in Maine! June 17 will close the doors on this one, so if you're thinking about it, please contact me or the Acadia Workshop Center.
Now that I have all the larger areas filled with the general color and value, I go back in and start adding the details, going from biggest to littlest. The man's hat was the last thing I added before photographing it at this point.

But don't look there, look at the rest of the canvas. Hey, there's a truck in the shed now! The trees have undergone some modification to give them a fullness of form, and the shadows across the ground have been made far more interesting than in the earlier painting. I have worked on the horses' anatomy and positioning, and adding to their form by varying the lights across the hides. No details of harness yet. That comes later! Rushing to the details can derail many a well-started painting! I also want to keep in mind that the hierarchy of edges also works for the hierarchy of details. Nothing should be as detailed as my focal point. Therefore, details of leaves on trees would be too much for the details on the man's hand and that horse's head.
As an artist, I always want to give a specific target for the viewer to see first.
Finished! At least for this evening's work. Details, and more details. The entire painting process today was with a 3/8 inch brush and a small round. These are the calligraphic marks of line that create the visual tension between the larger areas and the linear quality. Also some edges are added with these lines. Look at the harness now, and the contrapunto of the red wagon tongue and the majority of greens. Yet your eye still goes to the thalo blue of the man's jacket in sunshine, and from there, up the arm to the horse's head. Delivering the goods, that's the ticket!

If you have any questions about disappearing edges, just ask yourself, "How important is that area?" Knowing which areas are focal points, or directional markers will go a long way to making good design, no matter what the subject.

Now I'm really happy with this one--an original oil, 12 x 16, for the good price of $400 directly from me.

Springbok African 48 x 60 Oil

Time to begin the big one, and I can already see it finished in my mind. That completely takes out any trepidation. The canvas is a 4 x 5 FOOT gallery wrap, which means the canvas goes all the way around the edges. I'd mentioned that I'd wanted to do the more common African mammals--the lions and the zebra, but I remembered the Springbok, and how elegant they are! Combining that with a tumultous cloud backlit sky, and I think I'll have my painting!

So here I've taken an image of my studio setup, with this huge canvas on my Hughes easel, and it has the tone to get rid of the white canvas already on it. I've sketched in the cloud structure lightly, which makes up the abstract framing element to bring attention and eye direction down to the group of Springbok that are going to be backlit. It's a bit hard to see from this angle. Goodness, photographing this will just have to happen outdoors!
If you have any questions about the easel setup or the taboret shown, please ask. I'm so used to it, that I might overlook something you'd enjoy knowing more about. The hanging covered trash receptacle is a nifty device available from and it uses ordinary grocery bags. No fumes from paint towels!

Congratulations to new collector Anthepy Nelson of Timonium, Maryland on purchasing "The Red Barn" from the dailypaintings site from June of last year. Thank you so much!

Oh Goodness! What a marathon day of painting! I hit the inch and a quarter filbert and went to town on the backdrop for the herd of Springbok that will be bouncing and running across this sky. I'm so pleased with how much I have gotten done, and will be looking to plant those mammals tomorrow. I'll do some correcting on the sky as well when the final layers go on.

I have looked at every Springbok in my files and on the 'Net to where my head's spinning. I know the proportions of leg joints to body thickness, and of course having drawn hundreds of ungulates in my career, pulling off a herd of them from sketches ought to be, well, not quite a piece of cake.

On another note, I received in the mail the Del Mar Race Track's 2007 Turf Club Pass with my painting on it. Every person who purchases a pass for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Racing season this year will have my painting in their hand when they go through the gates! How fun is that? I'm honored to have my image (and name!) on every card for this season.


I'm sending a smaller image to see if the folks missing the emails might get this one. It is "just" one of the pages of my sketchbook, covered in Springbok sketches, as I work out the positions of the herd that will soon be coming across the top of the small ridge in the foreground of the 48 x 60 inch canvas I started yesterday. When dealing with animals, I like to do these kinds of sketches, loosely, to get the "feel" of the movement rather than the details. I can always paint details, and who wants to do them over and over? Called "gesture drawing", this is one of the foundation skills developed in most life drawing classes. Comes in REAL handy when planning imagery!

Those collectors who wrote asking how to get one of the Turf Club cards, I asked the representative if anyone can buy them. He said, 'Absolutely not. These are for the VIPs, the press, the owners and trainers only." I was told that cards can be purchased after the close of the racing season--September 5. Since he was comfortable with the question, I am thinking these are sort of a collectors' item!
I'm sending this from the dailypaintings at googlegroups, since I just cannot figure out why some aren't getting the emails through blogger. (If that was Greek to you, don't worry!) I know it isn't a problem for everyone, it's just frustrating not to know what to do!

I was able to take the oh-so-wet painting out into the sunlight and get an accurate color photo of it, so far. Today's work was spent in planning and plotting the locations of the Springbok. I have scraped the extra paint from the canvas in the area where they are to go, and sketched in the general position of each of the animals. Now, the sketches I sent out yesterday had them all going to the right! But as sometimes happens, a change was in order to help the composition.
By making them go "stage left", I see the composition with more continuity and less weight in that sunlit area. Better design! There will be vegetation and trees in the lower third of the canvas as well, coming tomorrow.

However, tomorrow is our tenth wedding anniversary, so we'll see just how much or how little I get done! Beloved husband already came in with a bottle of Wilson Creek's Almond Champagne, a dozen roses and a card! I'm so lucky to be in his life!
OK, anniversary and my beloved took me away from the easel for an evening out to celebrate ten years last night, so I didn't post my work until this morning. Priorities!

This is a detail shot of the Springbok as I am working on them. The ones on the right are more complete than those on the left side, and I'm starting to "marry" the foreground to the sky with the addition of a mid-ground off in the distance behind the critters.

Some have asked why they aren't hopping like popcorn, but that's a characteristic of the Impala. I didn't choose to paint Impala for two reasons--one, the Springbok were almost wiped out by over hunting at one point, and I'm concerned about such issues, and second, I liked the dark stripe separating their fawn topside from their white underbelly.

In other news, I have two demonstrations for art groups coming up in So. Cal. next week, one in Murrieta, and one in Upland. If you can come to either (daytime for both), let me know. The only workshop I'm doing in California in Murrieta on the 15th already has applicants. Full day of color for $45!!

I am going back to blogger postings, as it just is easier on me..and I need an assistant!
Finally was able to finish this huge canvas, and get the values right on the focal points of the Springbok. They were too light in the earlier posting, and I had more work to do on the foreground. I hope you like it! It is on display through November 18, 2007, at the Colony Theater in Burbank. , along with the other large paintings in the African Moments series.

Meg Jack Russell Commission 12 x 16 Oil

I'm starting the planning stages for a commission of a Jack Russell terrier, and have been given some free rein to do what I like with it. The dog is gone, and it always touches a place of sadness when I am asking my abilities to give the gift of a memory to someone. But I cannot not do it, because I have been so touched by the love of dogs and cats, and their memories are precious to me, too.

I'm working through some ideas for plotting the placement and activity of this JRT, doign what she loved (chasing squirrels) and yet capturing the bundled up energy of this breed. She's mostly white with a tan head. While I work out the design issues, I am thinking about the dog, and studying the three images I have been sent of her. They are small, and don't show a lot of detail. I'm going to have my work cut out for me. AFter I figure the pose, I'll get to working on arranging the background.
Here's one of the source photos:

Many wrote with preferences for picking a sketch from yesterday's choices for the upcoming comission, and I appreciate the wonderful reasons for your selections. All are valid. However the muse came in, snorted in disgust and said I could do better. Knowing he was probably right, I got out the pencils and went back to work. The final sketch loosely done with brushwork shows up on this 11 x 14 inch canvas as I begin the work for Marti's memories of Meg. I drew the dog, compositing her from many other dog images, a background from one of the submitted images, and also from having a terrier myself. Nothing like rubbing a hand over a dog to give you ideas on muscles and structure. (Wonder if I can deduct her as a model? Hmmmm.)
This first pass is over a quick removal of the white canvas with a mixture of Australian Red Gold (Artist Spectrum, manufacturer) and Sap Green (Classic Artist Oils). This under layer was wiped with a paper towel, and then the drawing of the background and dog was done with burnt umber. I've started to do the large dark shapes when I remembered, "Elin, take a PICTURE!!". So here ya go! My muse is back on his tuffet, too, hoisting a brew.

This is where the fun begins--not with the focal point, the dog, but with the background, laying in all those interesting thin color layers, using more transparent pigments such as sap green and burnt umber. I'm starting to get those big shapes in place that will be "noodled" later on to be more interesting. Work on the dog? Nawww, not time yet!! I wait, knowing that if I get the background to look interesting, then it will be my goal to make the dog even MORE interesting. If I get the background too important at this stage, then when I go to work on the dog, everything will be screaming for attention. So I lay in the background areas, making them "nice" but not "TOO" nice! These areas you see today don't have the details yet, that also comes later, as I bring the design to a crescendo for the ultimate finish. Hmmmm, a lot like music. By the way, my muse is imaginary. My hubby would never come in scratching himself and saying I could do better!

Interesting evening. Saw a movie "Big Fish" and it made me think about reality, and where I may be as an artist. We are all at some point on the road to artistic expression, and tonight's movie just helped me to explore my perception of where I am. It isn't a static, no-change location, which is reassuring. As I continue to practice my art, I get better. I learn, I make fewer mistakes, and what I'm doing is very personal and expressive of who I am at this particular moment in time. And moments in time change, so no matter how I feel at the moment, change is inevitable. Perhaps these thoughts are what keep me painting.

I had a wonderful afternoon with Judy Johnson, an artist from Michigan, visiting my studio and meeting her for the first time. Some people are as comfortable as an old sweater--familiar and warm. Judy's that way--and we thoroughly enjoyed one another's company.
And today's work on the commission continues... Now I'm putting in the lighter values, covering the canvas with the shapes and hues of the dog, the patches of snow(!) and the tree trunks. Each element of these added pieces are carefully thought out to enhance the design and keep the viewer's eye within the composition. I minimized the heavier weight of the dog by putting the lower torso in shadow, and having late afternoon light coming in from the right to illuminate the head and chest, keeping the focal point in that area. More work tomorrow!

Finished up this portrait of Meg, and the individual who requested this commission is just thrilled. I'm really pleased with it as well, since it not only allows me to do something meaningful for someone, but it also allows me to think through the puzzle of solving the issues unique to the task.

Sorry about the flub-up on yesterday's subject line. That happens when I type in a date--last year's subject automatically slips in, and I just forgot to update it. Been to Hawaii, not going back any time soon.

Tomorrow is Earth Day, and Betty and I will be heading over to a special event at Dos Lagos near Corona to paint "en plein air'. I will be saying goodby to her next Wednesday, and she already knows how sad that will make me. It's been great fun having such an accomplished artist and friend to interact with, and I'll miss her conversations and good heart.

So tomorrow's painting will be one of the two or more I'll do while on location. See ya then!

Book Cover in Oil (Fantasy Art)
Working out ideas for a book cover job that came my way means getting out the pencil and poking around some of the ideas from the book. It's a story about two brothers, and they have special skills. I've read some of the text, and it is a good one, and I'm honored to be asked to do the cover.

As I work through submitted ideas, I play around with positioning of objects, and thinking hard about where I want the viewer's eye to go. None of these are set in stone, and as you already know, I'm likely to change my mind after working up the concept (remember the Springbok from a week or so ago?). So rather than do a small acrylic, I thought you'd enjoy seeing how a cover in its necessary vertical format comes together.
The bird has it by vote of the author. So I'm working out some of the issues with the trio of figures (bird, two boys) and the environment in which they will be (water, moonlight). And as I do this simple exploratory line drawing, I am mentally placing the large values in place, to convey the mystery and the interest and direction that cover art needs to generate to grab the reader. The design will be a large "S" curve, and backlit (my most favorite value situation--small light, large dark in mid-tones), yet still have the secondary lighting of the moonlight off the raging water on the breast of the bird and the two boys' faces. I can see that in my head, but simple line drawings don't do much to show you what is planned.

The bird will be reduced in size and given more importance by his color contrast rather than size. Darn it! Now I have to go to sleep, and I'd rather keep working on the planning!

However, I do have some back-logged commissions to tweak and get off the board before I leave for Kentucky this Friday.
I've done some serious homework in trying to find a definitive representation of a phoenix, and all the leads come up with firey red and gold/yellow, and with long tail feathers, among other things. Fun to look for something that doesn't exist!

I've started the lay in for the 20 x 16 canvas, with an extra margin of one inche all around to take into account the cropping that might happen. Plus, the spine of the book will have the tail feathers wrapping around to carry the design and color onto it.

Although the figures are not in the composition yet, they will be below and to the right of the legs of the bird, looking up as the shadow comes toward them, and partially in the rushing river water. I love the contrasting red and yellow against all of the fantasy blues, red-violets and greens of the background!
Here we are again, with this 16 x 20 oil, at it's next phase. Since I saw you yesterday, I've spent some time putting in the water big shapes in the foreground, and added two of the long tail feathers to create that all-important arc to bring your eye around where I wnat it to go. I've started to paint the wings, tail and head, but will hold off on the feet until I am sure of the position of the two brothers in the maelstrom of water below. The small dark line below and to the right is the proposed position of the guys, who are connected by the older holding the younger.

I've also delineated the top area, with pines and cedar trees that seem to point to the action, and grasses and rocks starting to take shape (middle ground) behind the phoenix. The boy's expressions and the implied line between them and the bird are yet to come! Now off to bed and much to look forward to tomorrow!
Continuing on with the progression of the cover art, I have now completely covered the canvas with the basic values and colors. The lower right corner is darker than it really is, the lights weren't on the painting very well. You can see that I've punched up the conrast more behind the left wing of the phoenix, and put the two brothers in the water. The drama is in place, now all I need to do for a finish is detail out the phoenix with the addition of tail plumes, eye, feet and the heat of his existence--these mythical creatures come from fire. I'll finish this one before I leave on my trip.

On another bit of news, if you'll go to this link (cut and paste, if you need to), you'll have the first chance to see 17 of my paintings as prints--the ONLY prints available for purchase through the Monarch Collection. The Monarch people handle the prints for the orignals kept at the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art! These are currently the only prints available of my work. There are a few of your favorites there, including "Two Trees".

Now I need to think about leaving for Kentucky and all the days ahead of painting and travel. I do hope you'll be along with me!
After all the work and thought, I'm about 99 percent finished with this one. Even signed it! I really like the added glow around the bird to show his magical power and the vertical drop as he comes in to rescue the two boys. Although I recognize that paintings for book covers might be passe, what with places like Amazon showing these teeny little images...that's why the titles on books now are so HUGE--so you can see them when they are only an inch tall. Yet with all of the digital and 3D art out here today, I still just love the look of a painted cover.