Monday, December 8, 2014


Today I took a vacation day to go work on a big painting project.  Each Christmas, my church has a pageant called "Walk To The Manger".  This year they decided that the set piece was not tall enough, so they extended it two feet across the bottom.  I was asked to paint a new stone wall, to visually blend with the original painted backdrop.  Took me about 7 hours to complete the project.
There was some strange thing happening to the original was done in oil paints, and had some kind of varnish put on the lower portion.  It appeared to have oxidized, and turned a light gray. I was using acrylic paints. I decided to rework the main back wall, to better define the stones, and to soften some of the grayish color.

Below is the general process.  I stained the plywood with a wash of brown.  Then I used dark brown to define the shapes of the stones.  I added golden brown highlites, then darker brown shadows.  I used a spritzer bottle with water in it, and rubbed a lot of it with rags, to soft-blend my brush strokes.  Then I used a dark brown again, to define some cracks between the stones.  Finally I used a gray wash that was close to the "oxydized" stain on the original oil painting.  I sprayed water over the wash, and then rubbed the gray looked a bit like fog when done.  All in all...a fun day working large-scale!!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "Before the show"

Last night I went to see my friends, Amado Espinoza and his wife Karen Lisondra perform at the "Just Off Broadway Theatre" with several other musicians.  These are sketches I made while they were setting up before the show.

And here are a few pics from the concert.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "Giant Royal Hornet"

Did a sketch on my way home from work tonight.  This giant animatronic Japanese Hornet sits out in front of Union Station as part of the "Xtreme Bugs" exhibit.  The crown was added yesterday in honor of the Kansas City Royals being in the World Series.

Friday, October 10, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "Cicada Hawk"

About a month ago, I noticed what looked to be a "hornet" burrowing into the ground by my back screened porch door. Not I sprayed it. But not to let a perfect specimen go to waste, I decided to sketch it!  As my daughter, Courtney, informed me...this was not a hornet.  It was actually a "CICADA KILLER" (or HAWK).  I looked up the insect online, and was pretty creeped out by it.  This is a female, and she was making a nest in the ground. They then sting and kill about 3 to 4 cicadas, bring them to the den, and start laying eggs in the cicadas.  Nasty.
But this lovely lady looks cool...and I couldn't resist a couple of evenings of sketch time with her.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tree Trolls!

Here's a little October fun I just posted on Facebook...thought it would fit nicely on my blog, too.  Only had to coax those trolls out a little bit with a nudge from Photoshop.  These are trees on the street where I used to live.  My daughters remember these trees very well from when they were little.  No doubt. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "Ren Fest 2014"

Today I had a fun sketching at the Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs, MO.  I've gone sketching there three years in a row, and each time try to find something different to draw.  I would have had sketches of people in all their wonderful costumes, but they kept moving all the time. So...I captured a couple of buildings, a statue, and a horse. A great day to be outside.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Painting a DIDGERIDOO!

Today I had the pleasure of delivering a project that I've been painting on for a couple of weeks.  My incredibly talented musician friend, Amado Espinoza, makes instruments as well as performs with them.  He had asked me if I would barter with him...drum lessons in exchange for me designing and painting his hand-made "didgeridoo".  This is an unusual instrument from Australia that he made from PVC pipe that you can find at the hardware store.  He crafted a unique "slider" tube that allows for changes in pitch when he plays.  Above is the "Big Reveal" with Amado and his wife, Karen Lisondra.

These are some images of research that I gathered for inspiration.  Amado had shown me the pattern in the upper left corner that he liked.  I also found some other "didge" designs, as well as photos of the "goanna" lizard from Australia.  Amado wanted a more "Aboriginal" style.  Below is the didgeridoo before it's been painted.  Amado was playing it in my kitchen, while I recorded it with my little digital microphone on the floor.
I made some quick sketches at the kitchen table while we discussed some options of what this could look like, colors, techniques, etc.  On the right side are some photoshoped renders of how this might look with a solid black "slider".  I was concerned with scratches that would form during use of the slider pipe, so I suggested a "spatter" effect, which we went with in the end.
I used ENAMEL spray paints, so I had to set up outside...the fumes were quite strong.  Probably would have been fine if I had been on a "walkabout" looking for some "Dreamtime" experiences.  But I needed to keep a clear head. :)

I made a little stand out of a broom handle and some scrap wood.  This came in handy for the detail painting and for moving the "didge" around while it was drying in my garage. I used BLACK for a base coat.  Then I used BLACK, GRAY, and WHITE enamel paints that I sprayed into a bristle brush. I would sling dots of spatter on the upper slider tube, building lots of layers up of alternating tones.
After I let that dry, I used a RUSTY RED on the bottom tube.

Once the enamel coats were dry after a couple of days, I began the detailing work.  I masked off the main area with blue painter's tape, creating the GOANNA lizard. I then painted the shape of the lizard with BLACK acrylic paint, brushed on.
Then came the laborious process of drawing and painting DOTS and DOTS and MORE DOTS!!!  For the white areas of details, I primarily used a WHITE SHARPIE pen.  It is acrylic water-based paint.  I changed up the patterns on the lizard a bit before I was all done.  Then I used a 1/4" wide wooden dowel to paint on all of the larger border dots.  I would dip the dowel into acrylic paints...follow the shapes of the lizard, and alternated WHITE, YELLOW and ORANGE dots until all of the tube was covered.  This was not so much fun, because I had to go over everything TWICE to get the coverage to be opaque enough.  This took several hours, with a day for drying between each application of each color.
The last stage was to spray the whole designed area with clear enamel varnish.  Below is the final didgeridoo with Amado's "AE" logo at the top.  He was very happy with the finished piece...which makes ME happy!
If you would like to learn more about Amado and his music and the instruments that he makes, please visit his website:
or you can find him on Facebook here:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "Cicadas and Spudnuts"

About two hours ago, I just got home after driving 9 hours from my home town, El Dorado, Arkansas.  I spent the week with my mom, "Miz Dee" and visited with my brother Kris and his wife Debra.  I had no real plans other than to spend a lot of time sketching.  Mission accomplished!

The sketches above are my first attempts at drawing some bugs from actual specimens.  It was very enjoyable and I will do more.  The larger Cicada was already just a shell when I found it on my Mom's deck.  The little brown ones had already been discarded by molting cicadas and were clinging to the tool shed in the backyard.  Fortunately, Mom had an old magnifying glass I could use...tri-focals are NOT good for sketching bugs!!!
Below is the "Tool Room" where my brother Kris is co-owner, and works with his buddies David and Phillip.  My Mom and I just hung around and drew for a couple of was hilarious.  Reminds me of Floyd's Barber Shop in Mayberry (the old Andy Griffith Show)...the guys and customers say all kinds of ridiculous and funny things.  I told Kris he needs to just put up a microphone and record the goofy things said.  Would be a hit radio show!
Below is my sketch from our time there.  I had wanted to catch the sunlight that shines in through the front door on all the rows of tools and supplies.
Staying with the theme of "sunlight", I was attracted to the early morning sun shining into my Mom's front living room.
Next up...a few shells from Mom's collection at home.
One of the mornings, Mom and I went sketching at the downtown "Square" in El Dorado.  They are currently working on some improvements, and I drew this little CAT while the work crews were getting ready for the day.
We had some time to waste while waiting for my brother and his wife to meet up with us for lunch.  Below is a sketch of "The Black Cat" where we ate.  The tree on the left was actually this flat on the top...I'm not sure why, since there were no power lines to keep the tree away from.
Most of our sketching out doors was done in the was pretty hot this week.  One of the places we go to often is "Rusty Acres" salvage yard.  I've drawn stuff from there before and posted it.  The piles of junk just go on and on and on!  This sketch was of a rusted out old dirt-mover and an abandoned truck bed.  We only lasted a couple of hours before the heat got to us, so I only have one sketch.
Below, Miz Dee is showing a curious customer some of her sketches.
On my last day at my Mom's house, we just decided to stay home and draw and looked at some of her collection of art books.  Mom found this old set of guache paints that had not been used for 30 years.  I gave them a try, and they still were "good".  I have not painted much with guache...not sure I like them.  I was trying to see if I could build my colors with layers, like I do when I paint with oils.  It will take a lot more time messing with the paints before I feel like using them over water colors.  But I had fun anyway.
I had taped off the brown-toned paper with masking tape first.  The little shed was done in the late evening as the sun was going down behind the shed.  Mom was a very cooperative model, and let me paint her while she took a nap in her festive muumuu.
And last but not least...a SPUDNUT!  Can't make a trip home without eating some of those!
That's it for this post.  Thanks, Mom, Kris & Debra for a fun time!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "Sketch a bit...FLY a bit"

What a SPECTACULAR FUN DAY I just had!!  It was one of the most excellent and unexpected good times I've had in a LONG while!!  I traded some sketches for two plane rides at the Excelsior Springs, MO Airport "Fly In" event.  Artist Cathy Johnson, author and leader of the "Urban Sketchers Midwest" group, organized a sketch-crawl at the airport again this year.

I couldn't wait to get out there and start drawing, so I arrived about 3 hours earlier than our scheduled time.  This allowed me to enjoy the pancake breakfast they had at one of the hangers.  The sketch below was done where everyone was eating.  I bought some new gray markers to try a tonal study.  As happens with using ink pens, you can't correct mistakes.  My proportions were off a bit on the people in the center area, and they look like giants.  The lighting was really bright at the hanger doors, so all the dark shapes worked great for the gray tones.
 Next up, a sketch of the hangers, and a few planes.
Before I get into the story about my plane rides, I'll keep going with showing you the sketches I did.  Below is a PIPER SUPER CUB.
 And here is the linework for a PT STEARMAN bi-plane.
 This is after adding my watercolor washes on top.

Now I'll fill you in on my double-whammy adventure!  While I was sketching the airplane hangers, there was a group in front of me that was having fun flying one of the new "DRONE-Cams".  Several times during the drawing, I could hear that 4-prop aircraft hovering above me.  I thought it was hilarious that I was being spied upon!  After awhile, the owner of the drone came over to talk, and to see what I was sketching.  His name is Steve Johnson, and is the Director of the "Recreational Aviation Foundation".  Then he asked me if I would be interested in trading a sketch of his plane for a RIDE in that plane.  I said, "ABSOLUTELY!!!  I would LOVE to do that!!" (or something to that effect).
So here are a few photos of that excursion, flying over Excelsior Springs, and above the airport.  It was a BLAST!
Once we landed, I went to work on drawing Steve's plane. Here he is below with the final sketch.  I had a terrific time, and really enjoyed chatting a bit with his family and some of his friends who also flew in for the event.
So as I am drawing, putting the finishing touches on Steve's CUB sketch, another pilot arrived and was kind enough to loan me his pocket knife so I could cut out the page from my sketchbook without ripping it up.  This gentleman was Dan Kirkpatrick who owns the Blue and Orange Bi-plane (plus a couple of others).  It turns out that he is also the manager of the airport, too!!  Dan and I had spoken last year for a bit, and he had left some nice comments on my blog about the drawings I did of his planes.  In short order, we began a little bartering...and I agreed to draw a sketch of Dan's airplane in exchange for a ride in his bi-plane!!!!  Below is a pic of Dan, and the sketch.

So "Off we go, into the wild blue yonder"...again!!  This time in an open cockpit!  I was grinning so much that my teeth were drying out the whole flight.  Dan said you can tell who is a happy aviator by counting the bugs on his teeth. Believe me...I was HAPPY!!
I think both pilots felt like they got a square deal with an original piece of artwork of their airplane.  I, for one, think I got the BEST deal of all!  A HUGE "Thanks" to Steve and Dan...I'll never forget this!!

UPDATE 8-17-14!  Here are a few more pics that were posted on Facebook today.