Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Big Three-O

Today marks my thirtieth year as an independent professional artist. After graduating from college in 1977 I spent a year staggering around Los Angeles in various free-lance positions for a couple of different design firms. I also landed some illustration projects. Then I was hired in a full time job at a Houston studio, where I stayed for three years. When I decided to go back out on my own Dallas was the logical place to start, since I had many friends and family in the area.

On September 1, 1981 I set up my drawing table in my little Oak Lawn apartment and the rest is hysteria. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting the image that adorned my first business card. It has been an interesting experience and we'll see what the next thirty years may bring.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Birds and Budding Flower"

Yesterday I delivered "Birds and Budding Flower", acrylic on canvas, 36 by 36 inches. It's to be installed at the new Scott and White Children's Hospital in Temple, Texas, which opens in October.

This was the preliminary sketch. Below are photos of the piece in progress.

Here I've used a grid system to enlarge the sketch and draw it onto the canvas.

Some of these photos are not particularly good, sorry. In this one I've begun my usual dark-to-light painting technique to build the forms. I've changed and simplified the stamens.

More progress on the flower.

The birds and the stem and leaves are completed, and I've started on the background. I always paint from the front subject to the back.

I was concerned the background was a little to dark for a children's hospital setting, so I added some clouds at the top to lighten everything. Here the finished painting sits on my easel.

When the hospital opens I'll visit the site and post a photo of the piece (and probably me beside it) in its new home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Strokes of Genius"

I'm happy to report that two of my sketchbook drawings, above, are to be included in the un-humbly titled Strokes of Genius 4: Exploring Line, published next year by North Light Books. I'll revisit this when the book actually comes out. There were 112 artists chosen for inclusion out of 1650.

The top drawing is in pencil, and was done while I was waiting for a burger at a restaurant. The bottom one was done with a Sharpie. The sprawling oak tree was in a field. You can click on them to see them larger.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Accidental art...

I spent the last two and a half weeks in Taos, New Mexico, among my favorite places anywhere. For awhile now I've been thinking about photographing shapes or textures or whatever which read as art, albeit accidental art, to my eye, and posting them here. So here's the first one.

I saw this shape on the floor of a Taos building and immediately it called to mind the petroglyphs found carved by prehistoric people on rock walls and in caves. This is obviously not prehistoric, nor is it an intentional marking, just an accident of spilled paint or scratch marks made by moving objects on the floor. That I made the connection with petroglyphs shows how being in an environment as magical as Northern New Mexico can play with one's mind.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Favorite paintings*

Lee Baxter Davis, "The Essentials of Love", 18 by 22 inches, ink and watercolor on paper.

For over thirty years Lee Baxter Davis was a professor (he's now retired) at my alma mater, East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce). I actually had him as a teacher in a woodcut class. We had a pretty rocky teacher-student relationship since his was one of the last classes I was taking before graduation, and I never understood why such a class was on my degree plan, since woodcuts were the last thing to possibly interest me or to have any relevance to the direction I was going. Lee, of course, thought it was the most important class ever. It was at seven-thirty in the morning, plus I was going through some weird personal stuff, never mind the stress of trying to get out of school once and for all, so conflict was, I suppose, inevitable. Lee also had a dim view of communication arts, which was my major, so that only added to the tension.

That said, I always admired his work, and years after I was out of school as a student I returned to the University for one of their Christmas art sales. This painting, an ink and watercolor piece, was available, so I snapped it up. While it's not as wild as much of his imagery, I liked everything about it, including the "love" references. I was newly in love at that time, so it seemed to find a place in my interests.

Lee was a very successful teacher, my issues notwithstanding, influencing many disparate artists working today, including Gary Panter, the renegade punk cartoonist who is best known for his many published sketchbooks outlining life as he sees it, as well as his art direction and design for "PeeWee's Playhouse", probably the best avant garde performance art concept turned popular children's show ever made. Greg Metz, a powerful political artist who also teaches at the University of Texas at Dallas, was another of Lee's students. So was Whitney Biennial artist Trenton Doyle Hancock.

Lee's work is included in the Dallas Museum of Art and Houston's Contemporary Art Museum. He was represented in New York by the Clementine Gallery until recently. He is now living in Greenville, Texas, and, I imagine, continuing to happily explore his singular vision. I'm happy we have this painting to enjoy.

More of Lee Baxter Davis' work can be found at his website,

*Which I also happen to own.