Montana, Day 4 & 5

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Well, I think we’ve seen just about everything Montana can offer us in 5 days. OK, maybe not everything (Lavette H).

This morning we woke up to about an inch of snow. As I’m writing this post we have about 4 inches. It’s been a relaxing 2 days. Yesterday I spent sometime at the house working on a study of a Buffalo we saw just outside of Bozeman, on the way to Big Sky. It was great weather for painting, so I painted on the deck. Today, not quite the same, I had to paint in the house. Last night when we watching the weather report the weatherman referred to Montana as the state of extreme weather. Yeah, I’d say so.

We’ve been spending the last couple of days just being quite and learning to slowdown. Montana is good at getting you to slow down. If I’m not painting I’m sitting with Janice on the couch talking and enjoying a warm fire or we’re preparing a meal together. We just took a walk in the snow just a few minutes ago.

Tomorrow we’re off to Bozeman just to check it out and do a little antiquing. Saturday is supposed to be beautiful so we’re planning on taking a drive to the town of West Yellowstone. The park is currently closed because our idiot leaders can’t get their act together, but the drive should be beautiful. West Yellowstone is getting snow today and tomorrow.

I’ve posted a couple of paintings as well as some of the weather we’ve encountered the last 5 days. enjoy.








Montana, Day 3

Day 3 in Montana was a travel day. We’re leaving the Bitterroot Valley and heading towards Big Sky, a ski resort south of Bozeman.

Or plan was to drive first Helena, the capitol of Montana. We were not impressed with Helena, it looked like they were trying to breathe life into the historic district but it just wasn’t working. Perhaps it’s the economy. The numerous strip malls throughout Helena didn’t help. We pretty much got a burrito and headed south towards Bozeman to pick up some odorless turps. Earlier I picked up some of that natural terpenoids, Nasty stuff. It’s very difficult to clean ones brush with that stuff. Anyway, after our stop in Bozeman we headed south, an hours drive to Big Sky.

We arrived at our beautiful house around 5:00pm. A big thanks must go out to my very generous collectors for offering their home to us for the week.

Driving through Montana you truly do understand why they call Montana, “Big Sky Country”. It really is quite expansive.

And we’re already missing the Bitterroot Valley.

Here are a few shots from our drive.








Montana, Day 2

Our second day in a Montana will be summed up in just few words.

“Today felt like a gift from God. A gift of the unexpected from the God of the impossible.”

Let me give a little context. The weather report last night said today was going to be nothing but rain, wind and cold. A winter storm warning was issued. It was a bit of a downer to say the least, we hadn’t seen the sun since we arrived in the Bitterroot Valley. It was anything but. It was a day of dramatic light, my first painting in Montana and a peaceful walk with my wife in an old neighborhood of Hamilton, MT.

A good, unexpected, day. Nothing more needs to be said.








Montana, Day 1

We arrived in Bozeman, Montana yesterday afternoon. We were greeted with very cloudy skies, but at least it wasn’t too cold…not yet.

Today we woke up in Missoula, a cool little college town at the north end of the Bitterroot Valley. Our plan was too spend 2 days here painting and photographing the valley, including the long, twisting Bitterroot River. My plan, however, had to be adjusted. The weather has been very cold, wet and windy. Painting was out of the question. However, I did take some pictures of the area. It’ a beautiful Valley, especially in the fall with all of the cottonwoods turning gold. Farms dot the landscape with their historic barns and herds of cattle, along with Whitetail deer, filling the pastures.

Earlier in the day we had the opportunity to meet with artist Brent Cotton at his home/studio in Stevensville. His paintings of Montana, especially those of the Bitterroot Valley, are magical. I hope to have the opportunity to paint with him in the near future.

All in all, our day in the Bitterroot Valley has been good. We’ve had to be patient with the weather and fluid in our plans. Monday holds the same. The weather forecast is calling for very strong winds, rain (snow on the peaks) and cold air. Apparently this kind of weather in early October is unusual. We’ve added an extra day in the Bitterroot Valley with the hope of catching a little bit of sunlight on Tuesday morning before heading to Big Sky, MT.

Oh, and just about everything closes down on Sunday’s. It’s even hard to find a cafe open in the morning for a cup of coffee. Restaurants close early if they open at all. The pace here is slower. At dinner tonight, at one of the very few restaurants to be open, we noticed everyone enjoying their time with friends and family over a meal. Not unusual, Right? None of them had a cell phone in their hand, none of them were checking emails or updating Facebook with a picture of the meal they ordered. Things are different here. Things are good here. We put down our cell phones…for a little while. I’m guessing there are families up and down the valley enjoying their family dinners, talking with one another, connecting. Good lessons are to be had here, I pray I have eyes to see them and ears to hear them.

I hope to be painting soon, until then, here are some shots from the Bitterroot.







Arches Oil Paper

Looking for a new surface for your paintings?  Arches Oil Paper might be just what your looking for.


I’ve been working with Arches Oil Paper for the past few months and I must say I really like it. I’m mainly using it for smaller work, 12 x 16 and under. The paper itself is a 140lb (300gsm) stock that has the look and feel of their traditional watercolor paper.  The big difference with this paper is the fact that it’s been treated with who knows what to allow the direct application of oil paint onto the paper.  No more gessoing the paper prior to painting.

The first thing you’ll notice when working with this paper is how absorbent it is, I mean really absorbent.  The first layer of paint just sticks to the paper, no moving it around.  However, once the first layer is applied the paint can be moved around much like it can on linen or canvas. Something else I really appreciate is the lack of glare from the paint itself.  The paint has a very satin to matte like finish to it, much like a pastel. This is great when painting outdoors when the glare on the oils makes it difficult to see color and values accurately, at least for myself.  I’m sure this has something to do with the absobency of the paper.

One of the most common questions I get about the paper is “Do you have to frame it under glass?”  Answer:  No, they can be framed just like an oil. No need for framing these pieces under glass.   Varnish your painting just like you would an oil on linen or canvas and it can be framed without glass. The paper can also be cut to size using a razor or it can be torn to give the piece the deckled edge look.

This paper is also great for doing quick sketches as it keeps your costs down compared to the same quick sketches on linen.

The paper comes in 9 x 12 and 12 x 16 pads as well as 22 x 30 sheets and 51″ x 10 yard rolls.

Give it a try and let me know how you like working with Arches Oil Paper.

Here are a few of my paintings on Arches Oil Paper. More can be seen on my website at

Got Wool? 9 x 12

Got Wool? 9 x 12


Levitation, 11 x 18

Stand Off, 12 x 16

Stand Off, 12 x 16

Black Angus, Likely, CA, 8 x 14

Black Angus, Likely, CA, 8 x 14

Risky Business

Risk: exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.

Adventure: a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.


On the edge of the Grand Canyon


On top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

10 Years ago on May 15 2003 I walked out the doors of a job I had for 10 years. I had actually been working since I was a freshman in high school, so I had actually quit my job after 23 years of working here and there. I quit my job to pursue painting full-time, something we felt God was offering us.

What God was offering looked like this to me: I’m on the edge of the Grand Canyon holding the hand of my wife and she’s holding the hands of all three of our kids and if I wanted to pursue painting full-time it would be like stepping off the edge and praying that God would catch us somewhere on the way down. He did and continues to everyday.

Janice and I live an amazingly adventurous and risky life. This may not come as a surprise to many of you, you’ve probably seen the evidence in the form of pictures and stories on Facebook. Hiking to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite and sitting on the lip with our legs dangling, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 15,000 feet and riding our bikes for miles to the tops of mountains only to hurl ourselves down the mountain road reaching speeds of 50mph. And we have plans for more adventures in the future. I’ve always enjoyed adventures like these, Janice has learned and continues to learn to like them. She’s an inspiration to me.

But these adventures are like short stories. The risks are short lived. They may last a day or, in the case of skydiving, only a few minutes (hopefully not a few seconds). The story of quitting my job is a much longer story.  The risk lasts longer than the time it took me to walk out the doors of my job, it’s daily.

We were at an Easter celebration last week when a friend asked how business was.  I said it was good but always a challenge. I told him that everyday seemed like another day of risk and therefore another day of faith was required. Over the past few years since the economy took it’s dreaded turn the risk seems to come at me almost on a daily basis and I find myself not wanting it. I try pushing it away, praying that God would take away the difficulties and make life easier, less risky, less adventurous.  I was explaining this to a very good friend just a couple of days ago and he had this to say. I’m paraphrasing. “We often forget the path we’ve chosen can be a treacherous path filled with obstacles and dangers. God doesn’t promise to clear the path of such things but He does promise to walk with us” I really needed to hear that. Perhaps it’s God’s mercy that he doesn’t even show us what’s around each corner, if we knew, would we continue? Would you?.

I’m reading, actually rereading, a book by Donald Miller titled “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” It’s a wonderful book about living your life as part of a larger story and becoming a better character in that story. Donald touches on the subject of risk and adventure. In the process of creating a better story for his own life he decides to start a foundation to help kids that are growing up without a father, something he had experienced in his own life. The organization is called The Mentoring Project. He received $25,000 from a friend to get it started and this is what he said. “I started an epic story of my own. And life no longer felt meaningless. It felt stressful and terrifying, but it definitely didn’t feel meaningless.

“Stressful and Terrifying” I think I’ve forgotten that the path I’ve chosen can feel stressful and terrifying and that it’s OK. I’ve chosen not to live a safe and secure life, I’ve chosen to live an adventure. I must learn to embrace all that I’ve chosen and not just the easy stuff, not just the fun stuff, not just the mountain top experiences. My prayer must be that God would walk with me through difficulties not just remove them to make my life easier. Living an adventurous life means we accept the risks along with the mountain top moments that can come with them, there’s no way around that. I believe life was meant to be lived on the precipice’s of the mountains that surround us and the valleys are to be enjoyed as places of rest.

As difficult and risky as my life so often seems, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. God has truly blessed us over the past 10 years since stepping off the edge of the Grand Canyon. We continue to spend most days walking along the edge of the Grand Canyon and still desiring to have a railing to hang onto every once in a while. We’re grateful when the railing appears and we’re grateful for a loving God who cares for us deeply when there isn’t.

I started an epic story of my own. And life no longer felt meaningless. It felt stressful and terrifying, but it definitely didn’t feel meaningless.” Perhaps we can say this of our life as well, perhaps you can too.

Annual Winter Miniature Show at Sage Creek Gallery

Looking for a small painting to give as a gift or to add to your own collection?  If so, the miniature show at Sage Creek Gallery is for you.  I’ll have 6 new paintings for the show which begins December 21st with an opening reception.  Please note that all paintings are available for purchase right now simply by contacting the gallery .  I’ve posted all the images here along with a link to the Sage Creek Gallery website.

I hope you enjoy the paintings.  If you have any questions about them just let me know, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Chester: A Demonstration

As many of may know, I really enjoy painting cattle and other farm animals.  They have a simple, unassuming manner to them that I really find attractive.  I found this bull on a recent trip to the wine country of Sonoma Valley.  I have included a number of photographs to give you a general idea of what my approach is for one of these cattle portraits.

Diagram 1: The painting is a 24 x 22 and I’ll be working from a studio study that I completed a couple of weeks ago. I begin each piece with a general drawing of the important shapes and features of the cattle just to get an idea of where everything finds itself on the canvas.   I then begin to block in all the shadows in the piece using a mix of darker warm and cools.  Most of my values at this point are what I consider my darkest darks in any given area. I’ll lighten up these areas as the painting continues to move forward.

Diagram 1














Diagram 2: In this stage you can see that most, if not all, of the shadow areas are blocked in.  Again, notice the combinations of warms and cools in the the colors.  This stage is still very rough and is designed to simply tell me how the balance of light and shadow are working together.  How are my shadows? are they too dark? Too cool? too Warm? In this stage I’m working very quickly to get everything blocked in without getting bogged down in any details.

Diagram 2














Diagram 3:  In this stage I lay in the background.  In this case I’m using a dark steely blue which compliments the colors in the cattle it self.  The value is very close to the value of the lower part of the cattle and lightens and gets slightly cooler as it gets closer to the top. I also start painting the light on the cattle.  It’s hard to see in the photo but I’m using combinations of cools and warms that are of the same value to create the light.  The same is true of those areas in shadow. The play of warm and cool colors that are very close in value is key in good picture making.

Diagram 3














Diagram 4:  In this stage I’m continuing to lay in the light and I’m also starting the lighten up the shadows and adding more reflected light, especially in the shadows of the face.  Notice how cool the shadows have become. I’ll continue this process of refining colors and values until the painting is finished. I’ll also be softening edges through out the painting, you may notice this on the final piece seen in diagram 5

Diagram 4














Diagram 5:  Here’s the final piece.

Diagram 5: Chester, 24 x 22














Diagram 6:  Here’s a shot of the set-up including the study I used to complete the larger painting of Chester.

Diagram 6: Studio Set-Up












It’s difficult to capture every step required to create a painting in this blog format, let me know if you have any questions regarding my process that I may not have shared in this post.  I’ll do my very best to answer any questions you might have.

I’ll be starting a series of monthly in-studio demonstrations starting November 28th, 2012. (Yes, tomorrow)  If you’re interested in attending these demonstrations just sign up for my newsletter which will contain monthly dates for each of the demonstration.
I hope to see you.

Painting & Biking: How the 2 Work Together

As many of you may know I love biking and painting.  The great thing about these 2 passions of mine is that they really do go hand in hand.  My wife, Janice, and I recently planned a bike ride in wine country, wine country in the fall, that is.  Now I’ve spent a lot of time in wine country photographing and painting the landscape in all seasons.  But a bike ride through the wine country of Sonoma is something I haven’t done. Why didn’t I think of this before?

We started out in the quaint square of downtown Sonoma and we headed north towards Santa Rosa on Highway 12, right through the heart of Sonoma’s wine country.  It was a beautiful ride, although a little dangerous at times.  The shoulder consisted of little more than a white line and maybe 2 inches of shoulder with a few 2-3 foot drop offs right next to the shoulder, very exciting to say the least.  The fall colors were beautiful.  The great thing about being on a bike is the fact that you’re able to see so much more.  You’re more likely to take that little road to see where it leads, hopefully it doesn’t lead to a guy in overalls with a gun in his hand yelling at you to get off his property. (Thankfully nothing like that happened on this ride) The road less traveled often leads to some pretty spectacular, often rarely viewed scenes.  Traveling relatively slow means you just see that much more.  Driving through at 50 miles an hour is nice if you just want to get somewhere as quickly as possible, but if really want to see, try riding a bike or just walking.  This ride wasn’t about seeing how fast we could finish the 5o mile loop.  It wasn’t about trying to see how fast we could climb Bennet Valley Road.  It was about simply seeing. It was about smelling the grape harvest in the air.  It was about slowing down and enjoying all the wine counrty had to offer.This is a good lesson for life as well.  “Stop and Smell the Roses” is how, I believe, the saying goes.

Some paintings will certainly come out of this trip, I’ve already finished a portrait of a sheep and a bull.  Stayed tuned as I post some of those images.

One our big dreams is to paint France while riding our bikes throughout the countryside. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy some of the pics taken along the way.

Missing Friends & Painting on Location

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to really get out and paint.  While painting for my last show at New Masters Gallery in Carmel, I found myself painting in the studio a lot.  I enjoy painting in the studio with all of it’s creature comforts, like no wind, no hot sun beating down on me, no threat of rain, no bugs crawling up my legs just when I’m about to lay down that most important brush stoke, nobody yelling at me to get off their property and no Jack-Wagons honking their horn just as they pass me on the road.  But you know what? I really miss all these things.  But most of ll I missed hanging out with other painters.

In the past 2 weeks I’ve spent some time painting with my good friends Kim Lordier, Jesse Powell, Brian Blood and Laurie Kersey.

We spent a lot of time painting but we also spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking. We talked about more than just art, we talked about or families and life. We talked about the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series.  We discussed the pro and cons of the Ipad II versus the Ipad Mini and talked about our struggling economy and the upcoming elections.  We ate good food & wine (Brian Blood is an amazing cook.) We watched the news as Hurricane Sandy was making landfall in New York.

As you can probably see, It was really good for my soul to get out again. But not just to paint, to reconnect with friends. That was the real blessing to my soul.

Here are some shots from my recent excursions.

Kim working on her pastel

My painting of the hanging Petunia’s.

Laurie Kersey, Jesse Powell and Brian Blood at Garapatta

Jesse Powell painting from the cliffs at Garapatta.

On the precipice