Category Archives: Animals

Large Mongoose Painting

After completing the charcoal base values, which took about 2 weeks in total, I was then able to proceed with the painting portion of the work. Once the values had been liberally sealed so they wouldn’t smudge, I applied a heavy gel medium over the whole canvas with what I like to refer to as my “magic brush.” Gel medium is a thick paste like paint medium lacking pigment. It gives great texture and dries clear showing the value underneath. My magic brush is just a simple flat 1 inch painter’s brush that I have used to apply gel medium for years. At this point, the brush is so caked with hardened gel medium, it is now really just about 50 thick, spike-like collections of bristle groups that I can use to get the pronounced swirls in the gel medium covering my canvas. I have occasionally applied the gel medium to reinforce aspects of the subject matter but more often I apply a simple, overlapping swirl pattern to keep a consistent look between my works.

Once the gel medium has been applied and has dried, I lay in my base shadow colors with an acrylic wash of pretty watery paint. After that is done, I acrylic wash in my base colors. I will usually do this stage with the canvas flat so the paint doesn’t run and just pools into the valleys in my swirling texture. Moving forward, I hand mix my paints to layer in complexity and nuance into the painting color work. Once completed, the painting is almost done. I will often push in the shadows darker and layer in lighter illuminated areas and highlights. In a final pass, I will dry-brush areas to help reinforce the heavy texture, brushing in lighter values across the peaks of the gel medium texture.

Large Mongoose Charcoals

Yes. I have returned to blogging on my website. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’m still pretty disillusioned with social media so I haven’t decided if I’ll push this to any of those sites. After getting my website back up, I realized I missed talking about my process. So this is going to be more for my kids and I and whomever wants to check in and hear me ramble about my art process. So enough about that.

Here is my charcoal pass for the Large mongoose painting I am titling Courtyard at Moonlight. This painting shows Isabella De La Rosa as seen by William Weatherford. I started with a Photoshop mock-up where I cobbled together what photo references I could, applied a grid overlay to the image, and then transferred the grid lines to my toned canvas. For any of you who have not heard the term before, toning is where you apply a light to middle value of evenly to the whole canvas.

Once the grid has been lightly erased into the toned canvas, I blocked in the forms and then started laying in my values paying close attention to the shapes and lines in each square of the grid. Focusing on line and shape in each grid square helps to view the subject matter more objectively and accurately, assisting with the maintaining of good scale and proportion. Once the values were laid in, I went in and refined in details using charcoal pencils, kneaded erasers, and a folded paper towel for blending small areas and working in the charcoal. The folded rough paper towel is one of my favorite drawing tools. It is cheap and you can fold and re-fold sharp corners in it allowing you to blend in and manipulate tighter details in your charcoal.

After finishing the charcoal, I applied spray fixative liberally (so liberally that it pooled up on the surface in places) to seal the charcoal layer. Final touches to details were applied with black and white colored pencils and I used the white colored pencil to pull out brighter light areas as the spray fixative darkens all the charcoals.

Completed Holiday Card for 2019

I finished the holiday card painting for 2019. The bookshelf took some time but was more enjoyable than I had anticipated. Once I finished it, however, it was competing a little too much with the characters so I pushed it back with a black wash. The story was fun to write as well. I had to sit there in front of the painting for a time before the characters started to speak to me. The old sheep felt so tired to me that I couldn’t avoid that coming out in the story.


New Holiday Card for 2019

Finally getting around to posting again. Been a while. I’m gonna keep these short and sweet from now on to make the posting seem less daunting. Here are the finished charcoals for this year’s holiday card. The base is charcoal which was then sealed with about 7 lbs of fixative. Seriously, the thing was swimming in it. I was a little worried as it started cloudy but, as always, it dried clear. Then I went in with white colored pencil and popped out some of the highlights and ushed back in a little more light into areas. Everything goes pretty dark after the fixative.


New Deer Painting Completed

I’m kicking myself as I wasn’t able to get this piece done in time to get it to my father for his birthday. I didn’t push hard ehoughand ended up succumbing to sickness near the end. That and my day job has been kicking my rear with class revisions and the like. I did get the piece done, regardless. I just hope dad doesn’t mind getting it a little late.

This one proved to be a challenge. The canvas I worked on had parts where the gesso resisted the charcoal. I was able to build out what I needed in black and white colored pencil after sprayfixing the charcoal. The reference I used was mostly black and white with lighting directly overhead so I had to work up the color and more angled lighting from my brain. I’m not a huge fan of winging things like that. Still, I think I was able to piece it together well enough. I still have to address the canvas sides and maybe push in a few details on the headress. Still I’m ready to call it done.


Arctic Fox Christmas Painting Complete

The painting of the arctic fox for my annual holiday card came together with a little work. The dress color kept changing. I began with a bright red fabric but found it overpowering and so dialed it back to a warm yellow-orange with hints of reds and a red accent sash. As with many of my paintings, I would I had to keep pushing more and more white to make it feel properly illuminated. I also pushed the contrast in the foreground chair. It helped to add a little space. The atmospheric perspective in the room is pretty negligible but just that little bit helped. The texture proved to be a bit of a challenge in the face. The mouth was particularly tricky, getting that right with the heavy texture fighting me. Still, all in all, I feel like I captured the feeling I wanted. As with the other holiday cards, I wrote a little hint fiction. This one went over the 50-word count I was trying to keep to. I expect the count is more in keeping with the spirit of brevity and surgical word and information choice so going a bit over felt okay.

Warm Meat Pies and Apples
Charity always delighted in the first snow of the season. Delicate crystals drifted from the heavens, frosting windows and collecting in soft mounds. The world’s fresh linens draped over the contents of the summer den. The sight conjured visions of her days as a cub, frolicking in the crisp air with her sisters. Soon they would arrive with warm meat pies and apples, driving away the silence and filling her home with lively conversation and cheer.

I don’t have any expectations of including Charity in my book but that might change once I get deeper into the writing. I am enjoying the back and forth play between the small bits of character building in the writing. I love how they emerge from the imagery and, afterward, help influence the interpretation of the imagery right back. These characters start to take on a life in my mind, playing out tiny vignettes. Hopefully, I will find the opportunity to do them all justice and write flash fiction for each of the paintings. With each new painting, their world grows more complex.


Arctic Fox Christmas Painting Charcoal Values Complete

I finished the charcoal value pass for our arctic fox Christmas card. This one was a challenge due to the fact that I decided to work fairly small and didn’t take the time to sand down my gesso as much as I could have. The gesso application on the canvas was a little thick and the horizontal brush texture posed some issues achieving a finer level of detail in a few spots. Next time I’ll have to make sure my smaller canvases are sanded down more. There are times when I really appreciate the added texture but not so much on the smaller works. It took a little more time but I was able to get the base values refined to a point where I was comfortable moving forward. Once I spray-fixed the charcoal, I did go in after with a white and black colored pencil to push in a little more refinement.

I decided to go with the arctic fox for the Christmas painting this year. I did an exhaustive search of winter animals and the fox jumped out at me. I’m currently rolling around a bit of flash fiction in my head to accompany the piece. I’m thinking of her likening the snow on the ground with fresh linens covering the furniture of the summer home, protecting it until the spring. I’m not sure if I will include her in my final novel dealing with the animals but you never know. I generally complete the paintings and then let them speak to me, telling me about who the character is. If it fits in the story, I’ll work it in.

You might be wondering why, if I end working in colored pencil now, why not just work in colored pencil or graphite instead of charcoal. I have found that charcoal has some really excellent properties, particularly in showcasing lighting effects and gradual shifts in value. I also like how easy it is to tone a large canvas with a compressed charcoal stick. The work I do in colored pencil is pretty minimal at the end anyway. I expect that, for me, it will always be charcoal.


New Cat Painting Completed

As expected, the painting of the cat piece took about a day. The time frame for these smaller pieces runs pretty consistent. It will take me about an hour or two to mock up the work in Photoshop which doesn’t count looking for reference images that will work together with respect to lighting and angles. The charcoal base layer takes about 7-8 hours. Sometimes, if I am working up a more complicated background than a simple blank wall studio environment, it will take another couple of hours to complete that. After the charcoal, I spray fix the heck out of the thing to seal it. The sealant will darken the work a bit so I’ve now taken to going in and pushing the lighter areas a bit with white colored pencil once everything is dry. After that, I use a heavy gel medium for texture which dries clear. That is usually ready to go in a few hours. After that, I apply acrylic washes, unifying the base colors and shadow colors. On top of that, I start working thicker and drier as I go, picking up more and more of the texture as the piece progresses. Sometimes it can be a little challenging working around the heavy texture to capture details but I think I’m getting better at it. All things being equal, I can bang out one of these smaller works in 48 hours using that process.

I haven’t come up with a name for this little lady yet. I might have to hold off on that until I start work on the novel in earnest. Once I finish Miranda and the Men from Mars, I’ll nail down my premise, probably do a workup on my key characters, lay out a solid three-act structure, and break the story. Outlines seemed to help the last few short scripts I wrote so I might take some time to put that together first. I expect writing the novel will be considerably different from writing for screen but I think the brevity and focus on action and strong visual writing will serve my writing well. Guess we’ll all see. If you’re interested to check out my writing, feel free to check out my writer’s website at


New Cat Painting Underway

In honor of my birth-mother’s up-coming birthday, I decided to jump back into my animal paintings and work up another cat. It is great to be back painting after almost a year away. Completing my Master’s in Creative Writing was fantastic and, while I’m now much better prepared to write Miranda’s children’s book and the novel dealing with the animals I’ve been painting, I did miss working in charcoal and paint. Here is the charcoal value pass on canvas and I hope to complete the painting in another day or so. It took a little while to get the feel for the charcoal again after not working with it for a bit. Before, this probably would have taken me maybe 4-5 hours. This time, I spent 2 days. I’ve been known to rush things and I didn’t want my return to the medium to be sloppy, especially since this one is going to my mother.

The size of this painting is roughly 6″ by 8″.  I am finding some variation in the canvas sizes I buy from what they are labelled. The differences aren’t huge, but the actual scale can vary by 1/4 of an inch or so. I should start bringing a ruler with me to the art supply store. I’m going to keep these works fairly small as that seems to be the size that moves locally and I would love to have more of these on other people’s walls as opposed to my own.


Beaver Painting Complete

I’m really happy that my taking part in the creative writing master’s program still allowed me enough time to complete my annual holiday card. This year I took a break from the usual panel of the Franklin and Nunu book and decided to go with one of my animal paintings. I’ve pretty much maintained my pace on the smaller paintings, even with the increased focus on the environments. This beaver took me a day to pull the reference images, piece together the Photoshop mockup, complete the charcoal base values, and apply the gel medium. The next day I finished about 90 percent of the washes and drybrushing. I did take a little extra time the following day to push the lighting further (thanks to Nicholas Boyd for the critique) but overall, two days of work seems to be fairly consistent.

On this painting I decided I wanted to depart from my usual cool blue and teal shadows and push a warmer deep red tone to unify the piece. I thought, with the candle light, it would make for a warmer, cozier environment and would pop well against the cool white backlighting from the window.