Things are starting to take shape.


The bee is finished! Now I need to turn my attention to the flower.

A little raw umber for the dark parts of the bee, and some yellow ochre for his fuzzy sweater.

Looks odd, huh? As I mentioned, this piece started out as a close-up of a fern. Since I had already painted burnt sienna and green on the background, I figured it was close enough to the base colors I would need. Besides, I was pretty anxious to get started on the bee--you know, strike while the iron was hot. So after a very quick chalk pastel drawing, I set straight to work.

Only God can make a cow. But you can watch me paint one! 

JULY 2015: BUMBLEBEE in oil

Step into the studio as a portrait comes to life.

I add more blue to cool down the flower and enhance the sense of depth. Even though it's purple, there are many variations in tone within the purple because of the shadows, sunlight, and reflective color. If I just paint the same tone of purple and add white for sunlight, it will look flat and unrealistic. After you stare at something long enough, you start to see all the nuances of the colors within colors. 

Back to the bee. Trying to make sense of the legs and figure out how the wing attaches. I learn so much every time I paint something in close-up detail. 

Blending and more detail on leaves. ‚Äč

Close-up view.

More blossoms, and time for some leaves in the background. First I put in the darker areas.

The printed photo I took of the bee, along with the image on my laptop. These will be my visual references as I paint in oil.

One Saturday afternoon in June I was on the back porch enjoying the beautiful flowers I had planted a few weeks before. Apparently the local pollinators enjoyed them too, as a big, fat bumblebee was furiously busy visiting each tiny angelonia blossom. He remained oblivious to my presence as I took some close-up shots with my old iPhone 4. I had planned to continue work on a giant painting of a fern that day, but changed my mind when I saw how clear the photos turned out. I scrapped the fern idea and instead painted this handsomely-dressed fellow. 

The creative process is messy and often uncertain. Each time I begin a painting, I have a mental picture of the way I want it to turn out. Sometimes it looks just as I hoped it would;

at other times, I feel like a bystander wondering where it will go. But as I've gotten older,

I've learned to enjoy the ride, and am usually happy with whatever I paint, even if it

bears no resemblance to my initial vision. 

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Finally finished! It took me about a month to paint this. The finished piece is 30x30, and the bee itself is 15" long (counting the wings). This painting became the focal-point for my exhibit at the Botanical Garden.

Mar 2015: Brown Cow in oil

I use a makeshift mahl stick to avoid smudging wet paint.

Maybe it's starting to look a tiny bit like a bee? I have to really focus on the bee and ignore the distracting fern-ish things going on in the background. I start in with some white paint to establish the highlights.

Now to really dig in and paint the nitty-gritty details on the bee.

march 2015: brown cow

I spend some time on the background, then the bee, then finally start putting in some purple on the flower.

More detail for the bee: darker darks, rough in the eye, and establish the wings.

Time to add in dark areas to establish depth.


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Now that I have established the size and position of the bee, I rough in some of the blossoms with burnt sienna, burnt umber, and white.

It's at this stage in the painting when at least one member of my family says,

"Aren't you done yet? Looks finished to me."  Then I sigh, roll my eyes, and continue painting for another day or two.

I'll admit the changes are subtle, but look closely at the details in the flower, and you'll notice the changes.

Older posts:

I prepare a wood panel with several coats of gesso primer, sanding between layers.

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Pesky specks, flakes, and brush bristles almost always find their way into the painting somewhere in the process. A nice sharp exacto knife is just the thing to scrape away unwanted stuff that has dried. 

Watch a flower bloom before your eyes, step by step.

february 2015: india in oil