Monday, December 1, 2014


"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"
                                     -- Laozi (c. 604 BC - 531 BC)

In canyon land the most dramatic lighting is usually experienced in early morning and late afternoon. And -- if (either by accident or by fortuitous planning) you find yourself in the right place at the right time -- you may have no more than an hour to capture on paper, canvas or panel that fleeting delight.

Time (and the sun) wait for no man. So, it would be a dreadful mistake waiting it trying to find the right brush, or paint tube, or to figure out where your darkest shadows or lightest highlights are to be found.

So, well in advance of my actual departure I train: I train my eye -- sharpening my observational skills and increasing my perceptual awareness (the goal being to quickly and accurately capture the essential while editing or eliminating the superfluous); I train with my materials, till my brushes and pencils become an extension of myself and I know intuitively precisely what color combination will get me the specific hue, tint, or shade I'm observing.

During my upcoming adventures I plan on producing some step-by-step demos and time laps videos to share with you. And, since reshooting may not be a practical option, I'll practice creating a few of those now too. (Let me know what you think.)

I've used my View Catcher to select my composition and, starting with a 6"x6" gessobord panel toned neutral gray I rough in the shapes with graphite and begin blocking in the shadow areas (working from a cooler, less intense background to a warmer, more contrasty foreground).

With the shadows in place I begin to block in general areas of middle tone and light middle tone (but reserve my lightest lights and darkest darks for the final stages -- when I am most focused and my observations are most accurate).

I am still working on general relationships at this stage -- light/dark, cool/warm, dull/intense, shapes, and overlapping planes.

I haven't introduced the sky yet. But I am now keenly aware of my lights and shadows, five advancing planes, and the split complementary (red/green, orange/blue, purple/yellow) that dominates my subject.

As my awareness of my subject becomes more specific I continue to fine tune colors, contrasts and shapes -- particularly in the foreground.

Almost there. I now introduce the sky (to compete the color contrasts) and begin finalizing the highlights (reserving the boldest and brightest for the foreground).

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly, 6"x6", oils on Gessobord

At this stage of the adventure prep I'm working on 6"x6" and 6"x8" panels. As my skills sharpen (and especially once I've shed some of my desire to include too many details) and scale up to 8"x8" and 9"x12" panels -- making sure to scale up my brushes too (and reserving my #2 round sable exclusively for signatures only).

If you'd like to see more of these step-by-step demos (with the occasional video demo thrown in) during the lead-up to our little road trip how about dropping me a line and letting me know what you think?



Looking for unique gifts for the holidays? Why not purchase a one-of-a-kind work of art and know you're also helping support my upcoming adventure too? (Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly can be yours for just $250 unframed/$260 framed, plus shipping and handling (and you'll be billed via PayPal for added security). 

Email me for details or to enquire about other available artwork.


  1. What a wonderful description and demonstration of your work. It's inspiring.
    I'm currently reading your latest book and enjoying it immensely.

    1. Thanks Teri, I'm delighted to hear that you're enjoying both the blog posts and the book. (There's more of both on the way.) :-D