November 30, 2007

painting demo - "Almonds"

Throughout art history painters have used the technology of the day to create art. Vermeer had the camera obscura, Rockwell used hundreds of photographs to compose a single painting, etc. The photo-realists took this to a new level in the 70's. As I mentioned in the "Pacific Cod" blog, I find the use of a laptop near my easel invaluable. This is how I utilize it in my work:
First I coat the panel with umber and pull up the forms with a rag:

I next rough in the darks:

establish the highlights:

Final detail:

là vous l'avez - Almonds!

November 29, 2007

"Bozo Oysters"

I grew up in Baltimore in the 50's watching Stu Kerr play Bozo the clown, so I had a tough time not thinking, “Give me a "B,” give me an “O,” give me a “Z,” give me another “O” when we ate at Bozo’s Seafood Restaurant in Metairie, Louisiana, a Cajun/Creole version of the Westview Lounge in Baltimore, but the oysters were first rate. I like the play of greens and pinks in this piece.

I am currently in a juried show called “Small Wonders” at the Maryland Federation of Art’s Circle Gallery in Annapolis. My painting is called “Gulf Oysters” and was painted before I started the daily paintings. Nonetheless, had I had all these small, immediate paintings to choose from to submit, I still would have chosen an oyster piece as they are one of my favorite things, both to paint and to eat!

November 28, 2007

"The Enchanted Oyster"

Once upon a time there was a magical place called New Orleans. In this enchanted city you could indulge your wildest fantasies, be they musical, artistic, culinary…whatever. The pace was slow and easy. Indeed, the "Big Easy" was its name. Then one day an ill wind named Katrina blew into town and much that once was, was lost. No longer could you hear the sound of the street cars on St. Charles Avenue. No longer could you go to Mike Anderson’s on Bourbon St and get 25 cent oysters in the afternoon. Alas, those glorious chilled pewter plates of delicious, glistening mollusks are a fading memory. No longer do the neon lights bounce off the copper-topped bar and onto the sweet flesh of the freshly shucked local oysters. Oh sure, the Acme is still there, but sadly it has become somewhat of a tourist destination. This lone oyster is tangible evidence of bygone days. Enjoy and remember.

November 27, 2007

"Compost bin"

They say “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This painting is proof. The reflections of egg shells, coffee filters, rotting green tomatoes and onion skins off this battered compost bin caught my eye and appealed to my odd sensibilities. I always feel better returning a bit of organic matter back to mother earth. These lowly subjects now have served a greater purpose than mere food for worms.

November 26, 2007

"Cépage Laguiole corkscrew"

Oil on panel - 5" x 7"
Many artists have been dining at the “wine painting” table of late. It is easy to understand why. The full spectrum of colors that come from different varietals and the play of light off of glass, metal, cloth, and cork make for unending compositional possibilities. I am known to have a thing for corks. Should the great flood come tomorrow, our house would rise up and float away with the thousands of corks stored here. Every flat surface in my studio is taken up with stuff so I have gone vertical and have made large bulletin boards of wine corks. I almost hate to cover them up - they are so handsome. The stelvin closure (aka the screw cap) is starting to surpass the cork as the best way to seal a good bottle of wine so corks may be going the way of the 8-track. Enjoy them while you can!

November 25, 2007


Oil on panel 5" x 5"
One plump, salty oyster shucked at Nick's in Cross Street Market in Baltimore...yum!

November 24, 2007


Oil on panel 6" x 6"
This painting is the opposite of yesterday’s piece. Where fish are cold and slimy, cats are warm and fuzzy. This cat, JJ is particularly warm and fuzzy. He spends a lot of time on his back and if I didn’t know better would think he was half rabbit. He came into our lives about a year ago and is the perfect studio cat, a good mouser too. I suspect you will be seeing lots of him as he is a good model, spending much of his time sleeping in the studio.

November 23, 2007

"Back in the swim"

Just like falling off a bike, you have to dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. I thought I should paint something that had a lot of textural possibilities and that I could have fun with. This fish fit the bill.

November 21, 2007


Every man of my generation knows the song “Wipeout” by the Safaris. Back in the day we beat out the rhythm to that song on any make-shift percussion surface we could find, be it desk, table, whatever. Tonight I did a wipeout of my daily painting. Even a good artist can have a bad day and trying to salvage a painting that is not working is futile and ultimately frustrating. I set myself up for this piece to crash. Against my better instincts I broke out the blending brushes and pretended that I was Johannes Vermeer. I can’t lose sight of the purpose of the daily paintings. I will break for Thanksgiving and get back to the easel on Friday.

November 20, 2007


One thing artists and chefs have in common is the love of creating new things. Their palette is used to stimulate our palates. Who hasn’t been impressed with the care and artistry of a beautifully plated dish? One such artist was the chef at the now dark “Abacrombie.” Restaurants often have small windows to pass dishes through that create a sort of diorama. I always enjoy the chance to peek inside to the workings of the kitchen. Here is a painting of Chef Sonny working on one of his ephemeral masterpieces.

November 19, 2007

"nudité dans la fenêtre"

I am certain that those who know me well are wondering where all these still life paintings are coming from. Where is the guy who painted all those dancers and mimes and models? It's true, I have been holding off on painting the figure until I was comfortable with the small format and quick nature of the daily paintings. I think this first little nude worked out well.

November 17, 2007

"Bridal Bouquet"

More intricate than the usual daily paintings, this painting was started yesterday. It is the companion piece to "centerpiece" posted last week. The cameo is a family heirloom - "something old."

November 16, 2007


Oil on panel 5" x 7"
This little sketch tested the limitations of my paint box. I finally got to use a bit of rose madder and cerulean blue, colors not usually on my palette.

November 15, 2007

"Dynamite roll"

Oil on panel - 5" x 5"
Another aspect of poissons morts - sushi. Less sad than the fish market and infinitely more tasty, sushi is an art unto itself. The colors hearken to the fast approaching holidays. I allowed myself some fun with the heightened color. The julienned jalapeno and slivered scallion played nicely off the wasabi.

November 14, 2007

"My two cents worth"

Oil on panel 5" x 5"
This little piggy bank provided me with some fun surfaces to render. The glass had a slight pebbly texture, was tinted copper-pink and the light danced off the shiny coins within. I ride a Harley Ultra and my nickname is "Hog Adams" so the HOG thing seemed to fit. Also, I am always putting in my two cents, for what it's worth.

November 13, 2007


Oil on panel - 6" x 6"
I once reluctantly went ocean fishing with some friends while vacationing on the Outer Banks. We cast our nets upon the waters for hours but the bounty of the sea eluded us but for one poor red drum. He was unceremoniously thrown into a cooler full of ice on board to be filleted later. I would periodically open the lid and gaze at this poor creature. His eyes were larger than mine. He beckoned me to let him go. If it had been up to me I would have set him free but my crewmates would have keelhauled me on the spot. I have an aquarium in my studio so I have a soft spot for our finned friends. That said, he was delicious, so he did not die in vain. I was struck by the variety of colors on these 3 redfish. The cadmium red eyes of these little guys reminded me of that fateful day on “the minnow.”

November 12, 2007


It is truly amazing how fast this year has flown by. Fall is here and with it a bounty of new subject matter. Take for instance the chestnut. Each is as unique as a snowflake and the warm colors and soft reflections off the shell make them fun to paint, either singly or in a bunch. Here is today’s painting.

November 11, 2007

"Brussels sprouts"

Every child's nightmare becomes fodder for the daily paintings.

November 10, 2007

"Pins and needles"

The daily paintings are meant as warm up exercises. This one is a case in point. My wife was making a beautiful velvet jacket for me and was using the studio to cut and pin the pattern. This little pin box caught my eye. The black box, clear lid and bright shiny pins had the makings of a fun sketch.

November 8, 2007

"Pacific cod"

While plein air painting has much to recommend it, the practical aspects often get in the way. With this painting, I suppose I could have stood in front of the fish counter and dutifully captured every glistening scale on these beauties, but I doubt that the fish monger would have approved. Thank goodness we live in the age of digital image capture. A twin-aged blade to be sure - the ability to grab subjects and compositions on the fly is truly remarkable. I have had a darkroom since I was 14 and have only just “e-bayed” my enlarger this very year – sniff, sniff. The thought of me doing “wet” photography for reference would be akin to cranking up the old eight track player. I still carry a small sketch pad with me, more for taking notes, but my little Canon Elph does most of the heavy work. Is it possible to utilize modern technology without falling into the trap of having it do the all the work for you? As old school artists, we are keenly aware of those guys at the outdoor art faire who pass off their shrink wrapped computer manipulated photos as paintings. Are they “art”? If based on their own photography (which is an art-form) they are, but putting them through the “watercolor” filter in Adobe Photoshop and printing them out on cold-pressed watercolor paper is deception. The answer came to me as my eyesight started to go. I set up a laptop near my easel to close in on detail for a portrait I was working on – I’d grown tired of wearing the opti-viewer, a device like a jewelers loupe. Everything in my studio is on wheels, rather like being on the set of “Starlight Express.” I pushed the laptop away from me a bit and “voila” I had the feeling of painting from life. Yes, it is two dimensional, but isn’t that what we do when we close one eye to get a better feel while sketching in a painting anyway? I am only one week into this “daily painting” thing and I wanted more than the “daily pear” or the “daily apple.” Now the world is my oyster! Pun intended.

November 7, 2007


It seems only fitting that I should end my quest for the perfect vice painting with this quick sketch. It may not be perfect, but I couldn't resist a good pun.

November 6, 2007

"Hon Bar oysters"

Is it possible for food, in this case, oysters, to be a vice? I started painting oysters last year quite by accident. Every Wednesday morning I join a group of retired art professors from a local college who meet over breakfast to brainstorm about their work and discuss the latest exhibitions. It’s our version of Picasso and his friends at Els Quatre Gats. Last year one of the guys arranged for us to have a group show—aptly called “The Breakfast Club”—at a gallery in Berkeley Springs, WV. There was just one caveat: no nudes. I was working primarily with the figure so this posed (no pun intended) a problem. As it turns out this restriction proved fortuitous and I rediscovered my long dormant love of the still life. Who knew? I produced a dozen lovely, tight paintings of that lowly bivalve…the oyster. It seemed only right. Oysters have been portrayed throughout art history and they have a soft, wet sensuality that I thought would be my little joke on the gallery. The daily paintings have made me realize that I am more Manet then DeHeem. Wielding a charged brush is more exciting to me than meticulously painting dew and bugs on a perfectly painted leaf. That genre has its place, but not in my studio. To make a long story short…oops, too late, I give you the “Hon Bar Oysters!”

Below is a painting from the "Breakfast Club" show:

"Oysters - Mike Anderson's, New Orleans" oil on canvas - 14" x 19"

November 5, 2007


Oil on panel - 8" x 10"
A dear friend of mine got married this past weekend and I am commemorating the occasion by doing a small painting of her bouquet. I am coupling this with the groom’s boutonnière nestled in a shadowbox frame. Together they will make a nice keepsake. I was given a centerpiece from the reception table and it has made a good subject to reacquaint myself with floral painting, a subject that is not usually in my repertoire. I think I know the joy Vincent must have felt painting his sunflowers as I splashed in those cadmium yellow blossoms. The arrangement has a bacchanalian feel with the inclusion of clusters of grapes, so the vice theme, although vague, is still intact.

November 2, 2007

"Boston legal"

Oil on panel - 6" x 6"
I am continuing my quest for the perfect vice painting. The glass was particularly challenging. It came with a bottle of The Glenlivet and has a lovely crest on the bottom of the glass. The shape, I was soon to learn, is as difficult to convey visually as it is to drink from. An eight-sided rectangle is not a good vessel from which to imbibe spirits. Picture Scotty from the old Star Trek series drinking Saurian brandy from a square glass and you get the picture. I usually smoke cigars or a pipe while I am working so painting the billowing wisps of smoke was easy.

November 1, 2007


Perhaps I should have called this site the "Daily vice paintings." I am having fun with the light play off the colored liquid and glass.
Yes, I did drink the scotch yesterday to celebrate my return to the easel. If this keeps up I may have the credentials as fairly decent bartender.
Tomorrow: Creme de menthe?...I don't think so.
"You have much to learn grasshopper."