“Belties” Belted Galloway oil painting
In the early years of my art career, I focused strictly on wildlife and natural landscapes. Only wild, tough animals like cougars and grizzly bears were proper painting subjects, and not mushy zoo animals either. I had to observe the real thing in the wild. And the grizzly bears I encountered in Alaska were definitely wild and awe inspiring.
Plein air painting in Alaska with John Seerey-Lester, 1992
Fast forward a couple of decades.
I knew cows existed, as a little cracker kid, I rode them around Florida pastures on brief, bumpy rides. Mostly, when I looked at them, I thought steak or milk—not painting motifs. My mind was pretty rigid on some things.
Well these past seven years my mind has been expanded in amazing and enlightening ways by a fascinating girl—dietary and creatively. I no longer have filters on judging whether something is paint worthy. Other forms of mind expansion I tried as a younger, less wiser me often concluded in unpredictable results. But the natural way of this one person has opened the flood gates of beautiful possibilities.
One day I find myself on a gravel road in North Carolina painting an old homestead. Some cows are lying in the field around it. A few of them get up and straggle towards me. Before I knew it a whole herd of them are lined up in front of me inches from my easel. I couldn’t even see the house anymore.
Studying their faces, I grew interested in the forms. So I took out my sketchbook and started drawing. Drawing always gives me ideas. My advice to artists; carry a sketchbook with you and draw everything.
A few days later, my navigator and I, were headed to town and we saw white cows dotting a pasture. Eventually one became the subject of this egg tempera painting of a Charolais cow.
Last August we were in Maine and more aware of cows now, I wanted to see the Belted Galloway’s. So we went on a cow hunt. When we finally caught up to some I was surprised to see that they were smaller than the Charolais in Carolina. They look like big shaggy dogs.
I painted this small oil painting of these Belted Galloway’s on site and just added some finishing touches. It’s destined for the Northlight Gallery in Maine next month.
I have an upcoming solo show at Crossnore Art Gallery in North Carolina. The opening reception is July 2 from 4 – 6 p.m. Here are a few of my new egg tempera paintings that will be available.
The rooster painting was unintentionally inspired by a trip to Elk River Falls. After a short hike up to the falls I made a small painting of it, intending to use it as a study for a larger studio piece. Something has to “click” with me in a scene to get my creative juices flowing. While the falling water was magnificent, splashing into a lovely aquamarine pool below, I just wasn’t feeling it.
Leaving the area, I saw an old man and two boys sawing trees with a portable sawmill. Suddenly I caught a flash of color and light on the opposite side of the road and saw this rooster perched on the fence in the sunlight, wood smoke drifting behind him. A simple thing, but that was all it took to ignite and idea.
Ruler of the Roost
Egg tempera and oil glaze
10 x 8 in.
I love exploring old cemeteries. My daughter Sarah inherited this quirk from me too. When she was small we used to make rubbings on paper of the inscriptions.
Somewhere on a back road in North Carolina, I came across an old cemetery and stopped to check it out. Spending time with people from the past lays a pensive mood on one.
Walking out from under the shady old oaks, I saw this Charolais cow and calf in the bright sunshine across the road. A reminder of renewal, death and rebirth inhabit common ground. I love the placid expression on the cow.
Egg tempera and oil glaze
8 x 10 in.
Miles to Go
12 x 24 in.
My paintings reach a state of completion where I am satisfied with them, said what I wanted to say and evoke a certain mood or sense of place. They all have to have the ineffable “it” before they leave the studio. I pour my heart, mind and soul into each one, frame and hang em’ up and wait and for the right person to find it. For I do believe that each painting has an owner. Luckily they often find each other, like soul mates.
But every now and then a painting will hang around a bit longer than the others.
Miles to Go is such a painting. Originally inspired by the last mountain vista I see as I leave Spruce Pine for Florida, the original painting was a large vertical. I had been experimenting with brush strokes in tempera and got carried away making many vertical ones in the sky. I was thinking of night falling, and my hand naturally traced my thoughts.
Lately, I’ve gone back to refining my brushwork and in seeing this painting hanging in Crossnore gallery last year, decided to rework it. So I took it back to the studio and cut the top two-thirds off.
I reckon I could have made a new mountain themed painting, but I think there is a single idea and only one painting for it. Making two paintings would have diluted the idea. That is what makes original paintings so special. The Madonna theme was a common one in Leonardo’s day, but he had the idea for Mona Lisa. There are many Madonna paintings, there is only one Mona Lisa.
oil on panel
9 x 12 in.
I just returned from a show in Charlotte, North Carolina to benefit Crossnore School. This is one of the paintings that went home with a lovely pair of sisters.
I’m sure she will have a good home.
Charolais, egg tempera painting
egg tempera on panel
18 by 14 in.
A couple of years ago I noticed the pastures around the studio in North Carolina were populated by pure white cows. Numerous cows, spread all over the land of the surrounding countryside. Beautiful creatures, going about their cow business; lying down, grazing and lying down again.
Apparently they tire easily.
Fascinated, I got acquainted with a few, made some drawings and sketches and painted one in egg tempera. Still not knowing what I had painted until the painting’s buyer explained it to me. I love when that happens. I just go around looking at stuff, interesting shapes, textures, inhaling the beautiful colors of light. I’m always learning something new.
Evidently I had painted a Charolais cow, a breed from France.
French cows in the hills and hollows of North Carolina, imagine that. Intrigued, I decided to paint more of them this summer, so I went on a cow hunt. But all the pastures were cow barren this year. Not a Charolais in sight. I drove all over 3 counties looking for them. I asked around. Nobody had seen them. I was assured there were bunches of them lining both sides of the road on the way to Plumtree. Last night I was painting the North Toe River and the property owner assured me again there were Charolais in pastures all along the road heading up to Plumtree.
Not being familiar with cows morning routine, this morning I got up early and headed up there thinking I would sneak up on them.
There weren’t any.
Oil on Linen
48 x 60 in.
egg tempera on panel
Last month I attended a benefit arts gala at the Charlotte Country Club in North Carolina. Proceeds from the sale went towards supporting the Stepping Stones program at Crossnore School. Above is a couple of paintings of mine that sold. I love when my work can help make a difference in another persons life.
Meanwhile. . .
Work continues on the Florida Hospital commssion.
Here is a preview of the study at the VIP reception with Florida Hospital Cancer Center Director, Debra Trovato.
The painting is scheduled to be completed in January. Stay tuned.