Exciting news for this year: Spectacular wildflowers in 2016

Every time I move to a new part of the country, the first thing I do is hop in my car and drive all over the state, it’s one of my favorite ways to spend time on this planet, a modest grab at a bit of freedom for myself. I had some concerns about Texas just before moving here after being spoiled by the beauty of Wisconsin, but those worries were quickly assuaged once I stumbled onto one of the most amazing places in the country (and my second favorite place in the state after Big Bend), an area called the Llano Uplift.

The Uplift is the most geologically rich region I’ve ever traversed, which is as much in evidence in the macro forms of stone and earth majestically gracing the landscape as it is walking down a county road and spotting the myriad varieties of stones and soils along the way. There are fantastic concentrations of iron heavy earths all around, so I get lucky often finding good quality iron oxides for pigment processing. I allow intuition and observation to drive me onto random dirt roads that branch off of the county veins, and some of the best I’ve found end up feeling like a an excursion through a living painting due to the color of the road shifting through all the shades of ochre as I make my way through fields of cactus and cattle, granite pillars and ancient live oaks. I’ve already started the transition into journey mode now, so I’ll be taking the car in for a tune up, and I’m marking out a few places I’ll revisit after my trips last year. I’m pretty excited about finding new ground… Google Earth is easily the best part of the internet.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any plein air landscape work, and even though it’s not my preferred subject matter I’m thinking that I might bring along the easel this year. I mean, it does seem to be the obvious addition to the trip since I’m out there scouting for pigments and drinking in the uncorrupted beauty of the landscape. Add to all of that default scenery a blanket of technicolor vibrating with insect life and I can’t help but move through my days wearing a perpetual smile, drowning in humility and grandeur. No one can paint like Nature can, She is my church.


About 20 minutes into laying down the first pass on this I was feeling a powerful draw towards abstraction, an inclination I ultimately ended up compromising with in small ways. I wanted my grandmother to have an image that brought her some joy and warmth in the cold of winter, not give her pause to wonder what on earth I was trying to communicate to the larger world from my strange one. I let the background fabric go a bit and really liked the result, so I’ll be carrying that element into the next several pieces. I did start an abstracted version of this one, and so we’ll see where it goes, maybe nowhere, maybe everywhere.

I finally got to use some of my prized Henri Roche pastels on this painting as I’ve been waiting for a while for the right piece to apply them to, and they are sooo dreamy. Best present from a mom ever! I’ve been using them as well as Diane Townsend’s Terrages pastels as the models for my own handmade earth pigment set, and I’ll be happy to land somewhere within a few miles of the ballbark of that level of quality. It’s either that or stumble on $16,000 that I’ve got nothing better to do with.

Actually, even if I did have something better to do with that much money, I would still buy these pastels 😀

pastel, Canson Mi-Tientes paper

pastel, Canson Mi-Tientes paper


My first composition for the new year is a gift for my grandmother for her birthday. My intention was to actually get it to her in time for her birthday, but as it turned out the composition that I had initially thought I would depict required about a week to evolve into what it needed to be. I burned through a good amount of eraser to accommodate the myriad adjustments (I love my Kokuyo campus 2B eraser!) but finally managed to get the painting started, so this will be more of a few-days-past-birthday-surprise. I never was a fan of gifting on the scheduled gifting days anyway..

Mitsubishi Hi-uni and Staedtler Mars Technico pencils, Canson XL Mix Media paper

Mitsubishi Hi-uni and Staedtler Mars Technico pencils, Canson XL Mix Media paper