My Painting Journey
In 2016, I took my first oil painting class from Larry and Pam Smith of Two Smith Gallery in downtown Duluth. Previously, I had only painted walls and furniture. I was somewhat afraid of the effort, as I never considered myself a good freehand drawer and worried considerably about the proportions. Fortunately, they taught me how to “grid” my canvas which helped me to rough in my painting. Once that was out of the way, my years of detailed cosmetic dental work helped me tremendously with shapes and color. I have truly enjoyed the learning process, which will likely go on forever. Experimenting with different styles and subjects keeps it interesting. I give great credit to my teachers for their expertise and patience with me. They make the learning experience fun. I have a new hobby to keep me busy for years to come!
The following is a guide to the oil paintings hanging in my office with a brief description of what and where the subject was from. Enjoy!
The Fruit Bowl
This is the first painting I ever did when I started taking painting lessons in 2016. My art instructors start everyone with this to learn shapes, color and blending. Being my first painting, it has a special place in my heart.
My second painting ever – and I “almost” bit off more than I could chew. This is from a picture I took in New Zealand while touring the film set for the Hobbit. Doing this painting made me realize that my detail tendencies from dentistry carried over into painting. I dabbled in water reflections, wood and stone work. It remains one of my most favorite works.
Actually, Tawhai Falls in New Zealand. If you saw “The Two Towers” in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you may recognize this as the pool where Gollum was eating a fish on a rock with Faramir’s archers sighting in on him. It remains the only painting I did at home instead of class, and made the mistake of painting detail in the distance rather than the foreground – opposite of what is taught.
New Zealand has several of the best hikes in the world. This picture was taken about 7-8 miles up the Routeburn Track at the “Harris Saddle”, one of the highest points on the trail. Once again I got a little too “detail” oriented on this, but I learned a lot about mountains and shadowing.
Hilton Head has long been a favorite of ours. Since I started painting, I actively look for pictures to take that are “paintable”. Early one morning before the wind picked up I got this photo with the reflections in the water. The sailboat was actually a boat in Seattle – I substituted it for a big power launch that was in the original photo. Artistic license!
East Point House
This is my maternal grandparent’s farmhouse near Cullman, Alabama – where my mother was brought up and I have many wonderful memories. I did this version from parts of several old pictures, because the house I remembered had been wrapped in green asbestos tile and had a new front porch. My mom always said she liked it better this way, so this painting was a Christmas gift for her.
1941 Ford Truck
I found this old truck in a petting zoo barnyard in Alaska. I painted the truck, then took artistic license and painted a different backdrop – just a made up landscape.
The Hobbit Holes
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937)
If you are ever in New Zealand and have a chance to visit the movie set for the Hobbit – go early in the day. We made it before other tour groups clogged the views. If you are a movie fan of the Lord of the Rings, you will recognize Bag End (Bilbo and Frodo’s hole) and Sam and Rosie Cotton’s place.
—January and February 2017
My first attempt at animals and to “loosen” up my picture by not putting so much detail in the landscape. There are more sheep than people in New Zealand – these guys were by the side of the road and more than willing to pose for me!
Red Sail Boat
This is my first “forgery”. Rather than use a photo I had taken, I saw this on a magazine cover and liked it. A definite attempt at looseness and I loved the color / shading challenge.
Bloody Marsh Sunset
From a photo taken by Taylor Brawner (in St. Simons, GA), this was my first attempt to use a palette knife to stay loose. It was fun and freeing. It was accepted into the 2017 Johns Creek Summer Serendipity Art Competition. I didn’t win anything, but gained satisfaction from being accepted. Moral Victory!
From a photo I took in St. Simons at East Beach. I eliminated the lifeguard stand and people (I love artistic license)! This was an experiment at the palette knife for the fence post and incorporating colors that weren’t in the actual fence. This painting was accepted into the 2019 Johns Creek Summer Serendipity Art Show.
Good Morning Sunshine
One of my patients is a professional photographer (Michael Amos) and he graciously allowed me to paint his photo of sunflowers. This was larger than most of my previous efforts, and straddled the line between loose and detail. It was accepted into the 2018 Johns Creek Summer Serendipity Art Competition.
My sunflower painting took 5 of the 6 weeks of my art classes, so I walked in for the sixth class with no picture, but a sketch of what I wanted to do. My goal was to paint the painting in 3 hours. I did cover the canvas, but took 2-3 hours later at home to tweak it. Though it seems rudimentary, I have received many complements on it. It was fun to “go fast”.
After two years of painting I decided to try my first person. What better person to paint than my grandson Kepler? He was about 7 months old in this picture. It was quite the struggle. I changed his sweater color twice. I am most proud of the lamb, and probably couldn’t do it again.
After the success with the lamb, I decided to paint my “grand-dog” Hank (named for Hank Aaron). The hair was hard, the teeth were easy 🙂 I feel like I captured his “smile” well.
Based on another photo by the incomparable Michael Amos (www.michaelsphotographs.com) – this is a group of Shrimp Boats tucked in for the evening in Darien, GA. Close observation of the middle boat will reveal a bit of a double entendre – if you know movies and my family.
“The most beautiful name in the wide world”
Moulton Barn Sunrise
The John Moulton Barn is a historic barn in within the Mormon Row Historic District in the Grand Teton National Park. It is perhaps the most photographed barn in America. I only used one #10 flat brush to do the entire painting – another effort at “looseness”.
A Roman Welcome
Painted from a picture I took while wandering the back streets of Rome – a very welcoming place!
Lime Kiln Lighthouse
Located on San Juan Island – this “primarily” palette knife effort was inspired by its frequent use at the Kois Center, where I am a Clinical Instructor. We have a saying there – “Be a lighthouse, not a lifeboat”. We try to guide the students, not carry them. That is a great motto for many things in life!
Sunflowers only bloom for a few weeks in the summer – but when they do – it is a flurry of activity with the bees and flowers in a symbiotic relationship. The best part of it is that you can get right in there taking pictures and the bees ignore you!
I started this in January…it took me longer than anything else I’ve done – but it was a labor of love (grandkids!). Faces aren’t my thing, and this is the second portrait painting I’ve done (probably won’t do another for a while). This shows them enjoying the outdoors last 4th of July.
– March 2020
Though my family is unabashedly East Coast beach fans, I will concede that the gulf coast has some nice views. Enjoy this sunset!
— Johns Creek Summer Serendipity Art Show 2021
In October of 2020 I helped my art teachers (Larry and Pam Smith) with the 5th Paint Duluth Event – a Plein Aire event where artist assembled and had to paint outside…not the typical painting from pictures after carefully outlining your painting, but sketching the scene freehand and dealing with changing conditions. I had never done that before, but was encouraged to try it the next year. So to prepare, I attempted something I called “faux plein aire” practice. I took the next 6 week series of lessons and attempted to paint as if I was outside “eyeballing” the scene. I managed 5 paintings, all 11X14. Not all were in 3 hours (my goal) but overall I felt like I got some good practice in and was pretty pleased. Here are the 5 “fake” paintings: