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The Story behind “Serenity”

Is there always a story behind a painting?  Well, no.  Sometimes paintings come just from my soul eyes.  Sometimes they are a direct commision piece, such as a pet portrait, or even a full on portrait, which I do sparingly.  Dogs don’t complain if they are old in the painting.  Rest assured no person wants to see what they actually look like!  (At least most).

But in this case, there is definitely a story.  I think it is an interesting one, so I’ll share it today.  Several years ago I went a garage sale and found a pack of 3  twelve by 36 canvases.  I bought it.  Once I got it home I began to wonder if I could paint watercolor on the canvas, as I had not yet ventured down that road.  Sitting on my couch, gazing out my window I noticed the color of the lake.  The color of the sky. and the colors in the mountains.  I thought, “I’ll just paint one of those canvases, sort of like an experiment, to see what watercolor would do on the canvas.  I painted what is now the center panel of the finished painting.  Once I finished that canvas I set it on an easel in the living room so I could look at it.  Once there I realized I really needed more. I wanted more of the lake.  So I pulled out the second canvas and working with the first one at the top of my table I was able to merge the colors and textures into a single image.  When I was happy, I screwed those to together and put them on the easel to consider.  Once there, it took only about 10 minutes to decide that I really needed to expand the sky.  The sky I was looking at at that moment was building in a rather stormy sunset.  I went back to the studion immediately and repeated the merge process so colors moved together in the sky.  Once dry, I screwed that one on top of the other two and put it on the easel.  Voila!  I had a finished piece…out of three!  I added more stability to the backs, ensuring they were now ONE, and ordered a frame.

And there you have it. The story behind “Serenity”.  Missing your view of Eagle Nest Lake? Missing the mountains that surround it?  Missing the spectacular New Mexico sky? It will hang like a window on your wall.  Need a payment plan or want to make an offer?  Just reach out and contact me.

Stay up to date with my offers and sign up for my email below.


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Thank you for your feedback and some reply to your comments

Hello!  First of all, thank you to all of you who completed my survey.  Please note that I intentionally left off your information so I don’t really know who said what.  There was a large consensus among many of you who completed the surveys and I’ll go over that in a minute.

First, many of you requested works (mostly florals) less than $500 in price.  I do want to remind you that there are actually some available right now. Second, I have confirmed I have about 6 unpainted panels that will fit that price range so I’ll be working on those first.  I’m very focused on reaching the widest market I can and while some work (already done, and few large panels left) are on the over $1500 range, I will continue to expand with both affordable ($500 and less) while meeting the needs of those of you that expressed that price was not a consideration.

Next in the process of the posts and the related email newsletters sent, there are many new subscribers to this blog.  To you who have subscribed to the blog, please consider signing up for the email.  You can find a link to do that on the home page.

I really very much appreciate the feedback.  I’ll do my best to keep all those comments in mind as I pull out the next few panels to paint!



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To Frame or Not to Frame? That is the question!

So, once you’re completed a painting that your pleased with, or purchased a painting at a gallery or show which is unframed, the next step is to decide to frame it (or not) and get it on your wall!  Here’s some framing tips from my perspective as an artist and former gallery owner!

A Guide to Why it’s Framed…or Not

We’ve all been there.  We find a great little piece and think “I love it, but I don’t love the frame.”  The Gallery owner may say, “No Problem..I’ll take it out”  or…No Can Do.”  Why?  What’s the difference and what can you do about it? (This custom frame job would make me reluctant to unframe!)

First, “why can’t I buy that without the frame?”.  I’ve heard the question enough, I know a good percentage of you ask.  Most of the time, the answer is simple.  In many cases, shipping or packing a piece of work without framing may significantly increase the likelihood of damage to the piece.  Take a pastel, oil pastel, or traditional watercolor, and taking the piece out of the frame, and in this case, the glass, put’s the piece at risk.  Pastel is loosely affixed to it’s media, usually an archival “sanded” paper.  It is framed substantially away from the glass and the mat.  This is done to prevent static electricity from pulling pastel from the paper and sticking it to the mat and glass.  Taking it out of its frame requires great care in packing and shipping (read: $$).  Not that it can’t be done….just that it takes much more care in packing.  Similarly, oil pastel works on paper require framing behind glass, because they never really dry. Shipping without adequate protection increases the likelihood of smudging. Traditional watercolor (on paper) is susceptible to damage from moisture and scratching.

That said, there are still ways to avoid the dangers and get the frame job you love.  The first possibility is to take the whole piece to your favorite framer and have it unframed, and re-framed by a professional. Why go to that expense?  If your piece is not a “stock” size, then cutting mats, mounting, spacing and framing can make the most prolific artist shudder.  If, on the other hand, your piece is a “standard” or “stock” size, it may be as simple as picking up a pre-cut mat and frame from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. So, what is a stock size?  4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, 9 x 12, 11 x 14, 12 x 16, 16 x 20, 18 x 24 (all in inches) are standard stock sizes for most pre-made frames, many pre-made mats and many pre-packaged paks of glass and foam core.

If your original is 15 1/2 x 22 (a standard 1/2 sheet of watercolor paper) or other non-stock size, you may find it difficult to do it yourself.  The warehouse stores (like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s) are often a less expensive option, though they won’t offer as wide a range of high quality framing options as most professional frame shops.  In the early days I seldom framed my own work. I said, “I’m the professional at painting.  Let the framing professional do the framing.”  I tended to wind up with bloody fingers and great stress. Now, though if I need a frame, which I mostly don’t,  I use where I can upload an image of my piece and test it with different mat colors/styles and frames.  They cut everything to my specifications and ship it to me. They use good quality acrylic in lieu of glass which is helpful in keeping the overall weight down. Just don’t clean it with Windex…it will scratch the surface.  You can pick up a good “plastic cleaner” from Walmart or just about any grocery store. It is actually quite affordable, and as long as you got your measurements right, it is even easy to put together!

What about those new watercolors on canvas or panel? Those oils and acrylics on canvas…all with painted edges, unframed?  They are actually suitable as they are..and often hang that way in galleries and homes, and museums.  Unframed canvases don’t work in your decor?  Ask your frame shop about “floating Canvas frames”.  These frames, are as high quality as any other wood moulding, will “float” the canvas in the frame, allowing those painted edges to be seen while giving a more traditional look to the piece.  More and more artists are moving to the canvas or panels with new canvas being “watercolor ready”.  I love it.  I love that the canvas or panels can take layers and layers of watercolor, that I can finish it with protective, invisible, non yellowing varnish, and that there is no glass or frame necessarily required, saving me and my customer LOTS OF MONEY!  If I can save $200-$400 in framing, just think what you save when you buy it!  Plus, remember those standard sizes above?  Most stock canvases are in those sizes as well.  It’s not until you get into large, custom stretched canvas or custom ordered panels that you get outside those sizes. And most of those are sold unframed, with painted edges.

So…next time you feel prompted to ask about that frame, consider this article..What is the medium?  Are you shipping it?  Can you get it safely home? But by all means, ask.  I’ll answer your questions and help you choose the best course.

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So, what the heck is Scratchbord(TM)????

Some of my quickest selling works were done on Scratchbord(TM).  Say Whaaaat?  Scratchbord (TM)  Scratchbord(TM) is manufactured by Ampersand.  Ampersand manufactures multiple art surfaces, most common are claybord, aquabord, pastelbord and more.  The panels I paint on most often are Ampersand products.  Scratchbord is a clay coated hardboard panel for scratchboard that is coated with India ink. It is infinitely more durable and easier to use than traditional “Scratch” papers and similar surfaces that some of you may have used in school. The clay coated hardboard makes a rigid surface to work on, and when you use the custom tools like a tiny knife, steel wool and wire brushes you can take your time scratching through the ink down to the white clay methodically, allowing for highly realist images with depths of shadow.  The most well known of my scratchbord works is the pet portrait “Little Bear” which I posted in the December 4th issue on Pet Portraits.  I have, however done many others.  I love working with it.  It takes me back to my “drawing” roots which I began as a child, using pencils and charcoal sticks.  I can sit for hours scratching detail into the board. It is “zen” for me. Here are some images of the process:

First, a drawing on paper
Then, transfer drawing to board (outside lines only at first) then begin directional scratching
Adding in some color (inks)
The finished piece

I don’t always add in full color.  Sometimes just a touch is the right approach:

Daisies Daisies (sold)

Tools used in this piece were simple.  Everything but the centers was done with the knife (rightmost tool in the kit).  The centers, used the stiff brush (left most red handled tool) which creates multiple lines at once.  I hope this has given you a basic understanding of exactly what scratchbord(TM) is and what beautiful works can be created with this wonderful product!



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Custom Pet Portraits Preserve Precious Memories

I have been doing pet portraits for about 30 years.  Like most things, it started with my pets.  Then when family members saw what I had done, they wanted portraits of their pets.  My Dad’s cats.  My sister’s dog.  And it spread from there.  I’ve lost count of how many I have done, but I can say they are hanging in homes across the country.  As time went on I expanded the media I employed.  First it was all watercolor.  Here are some the earliest ones:

This was my first one.  My two cats, Jessica (the grey

Jessica and Gizmo stole my chair

one) and Gizmo (the Tabby).  I really loved those two.  Jessica was with me for 24 years.  Two weeks after Jessica crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Gizmo passed.  He died of a broken heart.  I realized just now I did a second painting of them.  It is the second one below.

Playing Hide and Seek

They were always chasing each other around. When they weren’t napping, that is.  When my parents saw these, they wanted one of their cats.  They were the funniest pair I’ve ever encountered and capturing photos became the biggest challenge.  They were litter-mates and always together.  Cutie Pies.  I called this “Better Water Here”.

Better Water Here



As I mentioned, they it was my sister.  She was crazy about her rottweiler, Rip, and when she lost him, it was time to paint my first dog.  Fortunately she had quite few good photos, and she mailed them to me.  This is the result:

Krissy’s Rip


From this one, word spread.  I began to take orders from her friends, and my friends, then friends of our friends!  Since then, I’ve done portraits in Acrylic, Soft pastel and Scratchbord (TM).  Scratchbord portraits are some of my favorites, but are best with the pet is white, or mostly white.  Here are a couple of samples:

Ceasar: Ink and Sratchbord Black Pet Portrait
Little Bear: Ink and Scratcbord Black Pet Portrait

So, what is Scratchbord? It is actually white clay, baked on to Masonite, then coated 32 times with black India Ink. The manufacturer is Ampersand.

So that is how I buy it.  I then use a tiny knife, steel wool and various other specialized tools, to scratch through the ink, down to the white clay, leaving as much ink as is needed to create depth and texture.  Then I use ink to paint in features such as the eyes, and the pinks and blues visible in Ceasar (the cat).  I’ve done hundreds.  I have never had one rejected.  I know the owners love their paintings as much as I love to recall the antics of my cats when I look at those paintings.

Most pet portraits take a few weeks to complete.  Pricing is based primarily on size, but if you want a scratchbord piece remember it is really only good for white or mostly white animals.  I can use paper, canvas, panel/wood for watercolor, oil pastel, soft pastel or acrylic.  You can view how various media look on the pet portraits page here.

I need 5 or 6 photos of the pet.  You can choose to have me paint a particular photo that you love, or ask me to paint a composite with fully realistic impression of the pet.  I require a 50% deposit, with balance due upon final acceptance of the piece.  You can contact me with the form below to get a quote.  Standard sizes are 8 x 8, 8 x 10, 10 x 12, 10 x 10, 12 x 16, 12 x 12, 16 x 16 or 16 x 20.  I can go bigger but it starts getting expensive and takes up alot of wall space.

Save those precious memories!  Order a Pet Portrait!

[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” /][/contact-form]

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New Ideas for Gift Giving

Yes, I know.  I’m not the most prolific poster.  While I’ve said it before, I am trying to be more diligent on that score.  For this holiday coming, I’ve set up a page of smaller, less expensive works that fit well in the gift giving genre.  In addition, I’m working on more!  One of my new products are small boxes that are perfect for dried flowers or even wooden utensil storage.  I make them out of wood, then paint them with acrylic paint with some of the images I’m best known for…flowers of course.  There is only one left at this juncture, so I am making more as fast as I can.  They are very

Sunflowers Squared Box

affordable at only $30, so they have been selling quite quickly..almost as fast as I can make them.  So, check out the gifts page. You may just find the perfect gift for your loved ones.  Let me know if you have questions.  Just leave a comment here or fill out my contact page.



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