Outdoor Sketching

Pastel sketch done on location in a roadside park in New Hampshire.

It’s great to be outside in pleasant weather, better to also be sketching. In portraiture, proportion and perspective are very important. It is immediately apparent if they are wrong. When sketching the landscape, I like to keep the process loose and edit the scene if it seems like the right thing to do. Who knows, or cares, if it isn’t exactly “correct?”



Sketch from Life

A three hour portrait sketch in water-soluble oils from a model, with other artists in the Warren Tri-County Fine Arts Association.

If you are new to oil painting, you might want to try water-soluble oil paint. There are several brands. They are less expensive than traditional oils, work well for sketching, and though water-soluble, dry to a non-permeable finish.

Joining a local artists’ group is a good way to set a regular art making schedule, meet others with a similar interest, and receive encouragement, advice and local art news.

Venetian Side “Street”


An oil done from a photo taken by a friend. It’s about 14×17 done on primed and sanded masonite board.

Painting from photos can be hazardous. There is the constant temptation to merely copy, with the consequent feeling of failure if it doesn’t look just like the photo. Photos should be treated like quick, preliminary reference sketches. They can be rearranged and edited as much as desired, colors can be muted or pushed and values modulated. Pay attention especially to shadows, that they don’t lose all detail and color and turn deadly. Remember your painting from life experience and do what it takes to achieve a pleasing composition


Madonna and Child neutral copy

This is the finished drawing shown in the previous post. As mentioned, it is of an exquisitely beautiful 1929 sculpture by Alceo Dossena, who intended it to appear as though from the Renaissance Period. He was a master of his craft; hope you think my pencil scratching does due respect to his work.

What an honor!

The good people at the Detroit Institute of Art posted this photo on their Facebook page Monday, the 4th. I’m drawing one of the most beautiful pieces in the museum’s collection, “Madonna and Child” by Alceo Dossena.


Here’s the link:


There’s a fascinating story behind the sculpture. Although it looks like a Renaissance masterpiece complete with chips and stains, it was actually done in 1929. The sculptor, Alceo Dossena of Italy, specialized in this type of work. Unbeknownst to Dossena, his dealer sold some of his pieces as authentic Renaissance antiquities. Dossena sued. The resulting publicity brought him to the attention of a patron in Detroit. Dosenna received a commission to create this image of sublime tenderness between Mother and Child specifically for the DIA.




Late Summer Afternoon

late summer afternoon copy

Some years ago I had the opportunity to take a landscape pastel painting class with an esteemed local artist, the late August Gloss. Gloss worked for Disney in the 30’s then returned to Michigan to set up his Starkweather Alley Gallery. He taught extensively, offering instruction to many aspiring pastel painters over the years, several of whom went on to successful careers of their own.

Homage to My Father

homage to my father copy

Last Spring at Macomb Community College I took a painting class under Professor Daniel Rosbury. One of the assignments was to paint a still life with a cup, an article of clothing, a feather, a piece of fruit and a flat background. I chose a watercolor painting by my father as the background. I think he would have liked this oil painting.