Oh Happy Day!

It finally got up to 75°F (24°C) today which is about the coolest temp I dare to pour my paint backgrounds for Sky Pads (this one is #28). The cooler it gets, the less the paint wants to separate out into patterns, and I want patterns. It was also a bit windy today, so while the paint was drying various critters and leaf litter floated onto the scene. The signs of their presence will stay there, as it’s my home-made rule not to change anything even if I don’t care for it.

So here’s the poured background and the drawing which will go over it as soon as it’s dry enough to take a light pen drawing without smearing. The drawing took me forever, so it was good that I did it while I had plenty of time waiting for this first good outdoor day. We’ll see how I feel about painting the drawing’s complexity as we go along. I’ll let you all imagine how the two will fit together. I looked at the canvas right side up and upside down and decided that the way I’ve published it is the way it will be. Probably.

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Looking great in light or darkness



Sky Pads 27, with a bit of light on the subject

Unlike the first two photos of this painting in a previous post (the background and the beginning of the pad formations) this one is a bit brighter. It is really close to what the painting looks like in good but not super bright light. I didn’t lighten any of the original background colors to get to this point, just got better light for the photo. However, the interesting thing about this painting is that if you see it in a somewhat dark space it looks like those first two photos and is still quite dramatic but in a more somber way. If that is at all possible!


Here are the first two photos in case you missed them. A lot darker, but more mysterious in a way. Cool to know you can see the painting this way now, too, if you just turn down the lights!

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Light in the darkness

One of the things I had to reverse for Sky Pads 27 was my drawing. Since the background was so dark, I would never be able to see a projection of black drawing lines on it. So I flipped the white/black areas in Photoshop so the drawing lines would be white.

I always project drawings onto the canvas if the canvas is bigger than, say, 16″ x 20″. My rationale is, I’ve already drawn the subject once in a small, manageable size. So there’s no need to draw it from scratch again when I can just draw it on the canvas from a projection of my original drawing. No matter what, I can’t trace a photograph because unless I make an original drawing of it I miss a lot of detail. Drawing it helps me come to “know” the subject matter so when I start to paint there’s no confusion about any particular details.

Here’s the original drawing and the inverse version. I think the inverse is pretty interesting all on its own. My in-house art critic tried to convince me to leave the white lines as-is and stop now. I told him no way, even if he is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of  Chicago. He replied as he usually does, “You handle paint really well”. Thank goodness for that!


Here’s the painting progress so far. You can see the drawing lines on the left side where I’ll continue to let leaves make various degrees of appearance and definition.

Some leaves are braver than others

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It got dark all of a sudden

Three coats of thin oil paint over the poured paint background

If you were in love with the poured paint initial version of this piece–

This one is a bit of a throwback to a previous Sky Pads painting. Since it’s part of a series, and the series likes to meander, I have no issue with going backwards.

I guess this latest version could be somewhat of a shocker. I’m sure it will be hard to convince you that the three coats of paint that have been laid down since the first splashy one are really that transparent. For the oil paint nerds among you, here’s what they are, in the order they were done, from first to last.

Over that delightful blue-purple-pale yellow wash came phthalo blue dulled down with a bit of dioxazine purple (both naturally transparent oils) with a few thinned splashes of deep chrome yellow (not transparent, but thinned enough to look like it) in the areas I wanted to highlight a bit. Wait a couple of days for the layer to set, with help from Grumbacher’s oil painting medium III which provides a fast-drying gloss finish. Next layer, phthalo green (naturally transparent), darkened a bit with some cadmium red (not transparent). Repeat waiting for it to dry. Third layer, a mix of indian yellow and dioxazine purple. Both transparent. I adjusted the ratio of yellow to purple in favor of one side or the other depending on whether I wanted to emphasize lighter areas or darken some areas even more. These two colors in particular create a nice range of brown shades when mixed.

At this point things are going “in reverse order”, as I mentioned would happen in a comment on my previous blog post. Way before all these layers I would normally have drawn in the lily pad subject matter, but here we are 3 layers later and no sign of leaves. In fact, until late last night I hadn’t even sketched them out.

If all of this goes according to plan, I will have to paint opaque white areas where the leaves will go and start painting them as if I were back on a blank white canvas. My source photograph is pretty spectacular (and it will never be revealed, just to avoid kibbitzers asking why I didn’t do this or that) so I’m hoping to get that photo’s same spectacular quality, if not a faithful reproduction of it.

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Back to work–Sky Pads 27

I’ve known for some time now what shape Sky Pads 27 was going to take. Mother Nature got in the way, so in spite of having stretched a canvas and chosen a source photo and a plan for the first paint layer I was unable to go any further since I always do paint pours  outside and the weather was not cooperating…for days…and days. I finally decided to put Ma Nature in her place and throw caution to the wind. I did not tell my cats what I was doing, but I did protect them by banning them from the work area and keeping windows open in 30°F weather. They were fine. I was cold. But not as cold as I would have been had I attempted to do this outside. Turpentine doesn’t freeze until it reaches extremely low temps, but it wouldn’t have dried either.

I covered the cement basement floor area in Visqueen, set my canvas on a work table, and poured paint diluted with turpentine all over it. Then I got my hair dryer and evaporated as much of the turpentine as possible off the canvas while leaving the paint intact, wiped down the now puddled-with-turpentine Visqueen, packed the soaked paper towels in a plastic bag and took it outside.

The place still reeked of turp fumes but my heating system quickly carried them to the  cathedral ceilings as soon as all the cold air coming in settled in the lower half of the floor areas and pushed the warmer fume-laden air up. I shall await all the protesters telling me how un-eco-friendly and dangerous this process was even though I am already admitting that. I don’t recommend anyone try this. I only did it because I was getting desperate. Fortunately I doubt I will have to repeat it before spring season finally appears. In the meantime, here’s the result:


Initial paint pour. This one is a bit of a throwback to a previous Sky Pads painting. Since it’s part of a series, and the series likes to meander, I have no issue with going backwards.

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26 it is

Sky Pads 26 finished. HOW did I ever make it to 26???

I got here somehow but couldn’t post sooner because I had no good photo light on the day I finished and then I had to take a few days break for a bit of oral surgery. All good now!

The sparkle of light in this one just bedazzles me. I can almost feel the sun bouncing off the leaves. I also like the slow top-to-bottom color transition from yellow/red to purple/red. I can’t think of what’s not to like, and that’s a happy place to be! After some varnish and a frame, this one will be joining a few of its companions in early March at the (thankfully indoor) show, “For the Love of Art Fair” in South Bend, Indiana.

Next up, the search for a worthy successor to this lovely canvas. Can I say, “27”?? Still a long way to go to catch up with Monet’s 200-something water lily œuvre.

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Another quick dip

The last pass will be pretty quick. There are only a few dark areas that I want to emphasize even more. They will be in purple instead of the mars red I’ve been using so far. Then we wait. The paint has a dryer in it, so hopefully in less than two weeks I’ll be able to varnish it. Framing will happen in a snap since I do it myself. Don’t have to send it out and wait. So it’s looking really good at this point to find this painting on my display wall at the For the Love of Art Fair in South Bend, Indiana in early March!

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Short dive into the pond

Footnote: how annoying it is to see the background change (it hasn’t, by the way) depending on time of day and quality of light in the very same space each photo was taken. The middle photo is probably closest to reality.

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A short tour to (sort of) warmer weather

Christmas holidays rolled around and Greg (the SO) and I took a bit of a “catch up with people we haven’t seen in years–or even decades–trip”. We started in Michigan, stopped at the brother’s house in Ohio for Christmas, then on to friends in or near Asheville (North Carolina, Atlanta (Georgia), and Hollywood (Florida). Despite much complaining on the SO’s part, we drove the whole way there and back. I had to sign a contract that we would never do that again. The driving, not the vacation.

First stop, Ohio. We spent early Christmas Eve at the traditional watering hole for friends and family, the Shamrock in Logan, Ohio.

In Columbus we went with friends to see the Christmas light display at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

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And then there was this–


The day after Christmas we were on our way to a somewhat warmer clime, at least in the daytime, in the mountains of North Carolina. We took the scenic route and it was spectacular, and even better was when we (finally) arrived at John and Mary’s house near a tiny town called Burnsville. This mountain was out their back door, and it was a steep climb up. The last 100 feet or so were more or less straight up. Most of this part of North Carolina looks just like this, and we loved it!

Would love to be here in summer, but wondering if you would see the mountains through the trees😏


A couple of days later, on to Atlanta. The SO is fond of AirBnB so we tried our darnedest to find one but apparently they aren’t specialists in last-second booking. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we ended up in this funky but cool hotel right near Greg’s old neighborhood where he lived, oh, 4 decades ago. Before I get to the Atlanta tour, let me show you one of the reasons this hotel was so neat–

Meet Pirate

Pirate pretty much rules the hotel. He prowls the hallways, visits guests in their rooms, and pretty much keeps watch over the place. You can tell he deserves his name by the mangled left ear. Arrrrghh!

We did a lot of walking in Atlanta, starting at the nearby house where Greg lived so many years ago. It looked great–until we saw the garage! Further up the street (it was fairly hilly) while looking for an old ravine, we came upon this neat grove of really mature bamboo. The chairs suggest that someone likes to relax in this mini-forest. Greg said this wasn’t the ravine he was looking for, and as we kept walking we finally found it, except it had morphed into streets and houses. Near the shopping area of the neighborhood we found this crazy bike sculpture along with a plaque explaining how it got there. Up the street from the bike was this metal-front pizza parlor with some very faint neon which somehow intrigued our neon expert. He wanted to digitally preserve it but it was hard when the neon wasn’t real bright and it was also mid-day. We did the best we could. Our final walk adventure was the Beltline, Atlanta’s version of New York’s High Line, both of which have made walking/bicycling paths over what used to be old railway lines. There were lots of sculpture and murals along the way but this crystal-shaped metal one really caught my eye. We also liked someone’s whimsical way of letting pedestrians know they need to look out for the bikes.


Next stop, Hollywood, Florida. It’s nothing like that other Hollywood except maybe for a lot of people with a lot of money. Our friends John and Lauren don’t fall into that category, but they have a really nice apartment on an inlet behind the Atlantic Ocean. Owners tie up their boats right outside their back door. Non-boat owners like Lauren feed the birds outside her back door instead. Again walking! The actual beach was right across the street and it wasn’t exactly deserted. We spent quite a few minutes watching pros and wanna-be surfers practicing on artificially generated waves at a place where you could rent time on a boogie board. Later we took a stroll through a beachside residential area where John and Lauren lived before they got their apartment. Lots of mega-buildings, and some odd sculptures and signs. Apparently there has also been quite a feral cat issue.


So now that we’re back in freezer-land (have actually been back for a few weeks) I’ve had time to finally get to work on another Sky Pads. This one has the background pour done last year, and one and a half layers of lily pads on top. Will probably have to do another two and a half layers or so before it’s finished.

Beginnings of Sky Pads 26

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A new record

Holy smokers, it’s been over a month since I last posted. I think that’s some kind of record, although I’m not going to take the necessary time to be sure. Enough time passing already!

So here’s the finished painting, Sky Pads 25.

These colors new to the series. Variations on blue and orange will always work out somehow.

I had quite a few decisions to make during this painting’s progress. Here’s a quick summary since it’s been so long that even faithful followers of this blog will have forgotten anything previously written about this piece.

The background initially took me aback. It came out quite differently than I expected even though I had no definite plan except for choosing the colors. The colors themselves chose to blend in intensity and combinations that I could not have predicted. As usual, I went with what I got anyway.

Mulled over the colors for the pads. In the original source photo they are variations of green and yellow. For whatever now long-forgotten reason that combination didn’t set me on fire vis a vis blending or complimenting the background. So I settled on a deep blue-green instead. The interesting part is that in a few places the paint of the leaf layers blended itself into the paint of the background–even though the background was a couple of weeks dry–and took on a more subtle dusty blue cast. Ya, so go with it again.

The most dangerous part was just after each painting session. I was never immediately thrilled with the results, but I knew I was going to keep on pushing through. As it happens, I paint with my canvas flat on a table. That’s a horrible perspective from which to make a judgement. So when I’m done for the day, I prop it up against the wall without looking at it and go into another room to clean up me and my paint tools. That usually takes a few minutes, and those few minutes are long enough for me to be away from the work and be ready to look at it with fresh eyes. When I returned to this one in its proper upright perspective I was amazed at how good it really looked. Every single time. Some sort of transformation while I was gone. I’m still looking around for signs of secretive helpful elves.

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