Pastel Class at AOY

January 27, 2016

Hello friends and fellow artists,

I wanted to invite anyone interested in learning about pastel painting techniques to attend my class at the Artists of Yardley in Yardley PA this Spring.  I’ve used my knowledge of oil painting techniques and applied them to pastel paintings to create images imbued with intense, luminous color that people often mistake for oil paintings.  Below is an example. Now I am offering these techniques which I’ve learned through many hours of studio practice in this intensive six week class.  This information CANNOT be found in any text book!  I will cover everything from the initial linear construction of still life objects, to color blocking, to refined blending techniques. If this is something that interests you, don’t miss the opportunity to take this class.  Sign up now at


“Santa’s Snack”, pastel on black paper, 15 x 20 inches


Facial Expressions

January 25, 2016

In my studies of painting, I have seen many portraits that are well rendered but lack that component that make them truly compelling works of art. It is often hard to distinguish what these paintings are lacking, but we always know when we see a portrait painting that possesses that quality which makes it a true masterpiece. Beyond accurate rendering of facial features, great portraits have a strong presence, so that the viewer feels instantly that they know the person. One component that creates such a presence is the expression of the sitter in the painting. Their mood and personality are revealed in their gaze.  Their facial expressions can be enhanced by the specific brushwork around certain features.  When painting the eyes for example, the rendering of a few creases can reveal an array of different emotions. Is the brow furrowed or relaxed?  Or what about the mouth; do the lines around it display a smile or a frown? Often these lines will be etched into someone’s face as they age, but it is particularly hard to render such expressions on someone who is youthful. It is very easy to exaggerate certain lines and make someone look too angry, or too sad. Only the most masterful hand can explore a range of emotions with an almost imperceptible execution of brush strokes.

Below are two paintings, one by Diego Velazquez and the the other by Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres.  These are two of my personal favorites, as they each clearly reveal the strong presence and character of their sitters and are equally imbued with a subtlety of emotion through facial expression.

Diego Valesquez, “Juan de Paraje” 1650

If you look at the eyes of the portrait by Valezquez above, there is a deeply soulful expression.  The sitter, with his erect posture, seems to be portyaing someone who commands a certain degree of power, and yet there is a softness, or even sadness in his gaze.  He posesses a sense of quiet poise beneath his assertive exterior.

Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres, “Portrait of Louis-Francois Bertin” 1832

The portrait by Ingres is similar to the one by Velazquez.  Again, the posture of the sitter, is very assertive, almost like a lion ready to pounce.  The chair wraps around his strong, restless figure, and seems to act as an arm to stop him from leaping out of the canvas.  As you move up towards his eyes, there again is this emmediate sense of strength.  His right brow is raised which increases his look of sternness.  A trace of tender compassion, however, still reveals itself beneath the man’s rugged exterior. Interestingly, if you cover his right eye, this tenderness is revealed, whereas, if you cover his left, the strong, stern lion emerges.

There are countless examples of great portraits like the ones above, but how does an artist capture someones emotion simply with a piece of charcoal or a paint brush?  I will attempt to provide an answer to that very question with a future blog post using a combination of videos and photo demonstrations.

“Portrait of Jim” Completed!

January 15, 2016

Hello friends,

Below is a photo of the portrait of Jim (including some details) which I completed about six months ago, but just recently had the chance to varnish.  I posted several videos on my layering technique(s), which can be found in previous blogs. Varnishing a painting is always a fun experience as it allows you to view the piece differently.  Areas of color, particularly the darker passages become fresh again and appear as they did when the paint was still wet. The varnish makes the colors richer and deeper and greatly enhances the image.


“Portrait of Jim Wentzel”, 2015


(Detail 1)


(Detail 2)


Listen to Your Inner Voice

January 13, 2016

I wanted to write a few paragraphs on a topic that I think effects many artists. The topic involves creating art for the sake of art. Creating art period can be a challenge with all of the other demands in life. Too often I get caught up with doing the household chores, walking the dog, making dinner, paying the bills, working my day job, etc, and as a result, my creative artistic energies get drained and inevitably my art production falls to the waste side. I think of these daily obstacles as background noise which can, at times, become excessively loud. The challenge is learning how to synchronize myself to it all.

Another challenge for me is listening to my inner voice. This is the voice that drives my creativity. It is the voice that beckons me to stay true to my artistic vision. It is the honesty in my soul, and the passion in my heart. It is often difficult to hear with the background noise. Sometimes it is heard but ignored.

I know that this can be a common problem for the professional artist interested only in selling his work. Instead of creating art that reflects his soul, an artist will feel the need to paint what he thinks to be a commercially acceptable piece of art. Having done this myself, I’ve discovered that this approach produces mediocre art at best. It is hard to discover greatness in something that doesn’t ignite even a dim spark in my soul. Without the artist’s inspiration behind it, a painting itself is soulless. The process is tedious for the artist and the end result is bland even if the technique is superb.

On the other hand, art that is created in a genuine manner provides a glimpse into the artist’s mind and soul. It is the manifestation of an inspired idea executed through a series of brush strokes. Each mark contributes to the display of the artist’s emotions. The excitement, pain, sadness, or joy that the artist felt in creating the image is then conveyed to the viewer and will touch them on some level. The act of painting is then a heightened experience fueled by desire and passion. This is where greatness in art begins!

Four New Art Classes Being Held at the Artists of Yardley This Summer!

May 14, 2015

Hello friends and fellow artists,

I just created 3 new classes and 1 workshop which will take place at the Artists of Yardley, this summer!  I will be teaching an oil painting, color theory, pastel and mixed medium class. If you are interested in any of these topics, be sure to secure your spot now by signing up for them on the AOY website!  Dates, times and pricing for each class can be found under the summer adult art classes link at  Hope to see you there!

The Artists of Yardley is a non-profit organization, dedicated to nurturing the creative spirit of the community by educating and encouraging individuals to experience, appreciate and share in the arts.

How to Achieve Finer Nuances of Color with Section Glazes

January 26, 2015

Please watch this link to see a demonstration where I’m using a variety different colors combined into one glaze.  I use this method often as a finishing layer as it allows me to tone down, brighten or shift my colors.  This is a very easy and enjoyable way to finalize areas in a painting. I’ve tried to pack a lot of information into this short video, but I realize that there is much more that I’d like to cover on this topic. One thing that I didn’t address are the technical aspects of glazing, such as the ratio of medium to pigment, and how the layering effect of a specific color influences another color. I’ve decided to put out a series of video/demos over the next few weeks where I will address each of these topics using both glazing and direct painting techniques as exercises. Enjoy this video and stay tuned for more!  And in the meantime,…happy painting!

Dead Coloring vs. Monochromatic & Grissaille Painting

January 14, 2015

I wanted to clarify some of the terminology I use when describing various stages within my painting process as it can, at times, become a bit confusing. I specifically wanted to discuss my definition of dead coloring and how that differs from a monochromatic or grissaille painting. Often both monochromatic (a mixture of one color with black & white to create varying tints and shades) and grisaille (a palette consisting of only gray tones) are referred to as dead coloring techniques.  However, I find in discussing each technique, that it is important to make a distinction between them to avoid further confusion.  The word coloring to me implies that there is in fact some description of varying hues, regardless of how limited they might be. My dead color layer is usually painted over my tonal depiction, taking the illusion one step closer to a full color representation. Usually I will completely render my detail in the dead color phase. This allows me to easily manipulate the hues in my finishing layers with very thin translucent glazes. Because the detail is rendered to near completion in the dead color phase, I consider this to be one of the most crucial and labor intensive layers of the entire painting process.  Below is a short clip of my palette set up for a dead color painting that I am currently working on. Eventually this painting will be completed with final glazes which I will also record. If you scroll further down, you will find examples of grisaille and monochromatic paintings which I provided in order to show the differences between each technique.

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IMG_2342 “Passages” oil on wood, 2010 If you check out some of my previous blogs, you can read more specifically about my procedure(es) behind the painting above. This shows a fully rendered monochromatic under-painting (excluding the blue background ) created with tints and shades of Viridian Green. With this technique it is very important to choose a dominant color (the color which will be most prevalent in the completed image). thNEFIJ4Q0 I provided this example of “The Adoration of the Magi” by Leonardo Devinci because it clearly shows the process he used to develop his paintings. Here we see a very precise linear drawing on an earth toned ground and the shadows are applied as washes of Raw or Burnt Umber most likely, to bring out the sculptural form. If this had been taken a step further and white had been used in the highlights as either a pure pigment or mixed with the umber, this would become a monochromatic painting similar to the one that I executed above. tumblr_mf17s3bCbU1qzon56o1_400[1] Here we see a traditional Grisaille done by contemporary artist Patrick Byrnes using grays mixed with just black & white paint over an imprimatura. I personally don’t like using this technique for the purposes of an under painting, as I find the grays have a tendency to dull down any colors that are laid on top.  I do however find it very useful when I am preparing a tonal study for a finished piece. I also would recommend this technique to anyone who is just learning how to mix and apply paint in a representational manner.  By eliminating the complication of color and concentrating on only light and dark values, one can more easily observe and manipulate the illusion of a three dimensional form.