Sunday, December 9, 2012


One of my favorite places to paint in Austin is along Bull Creek, especially when the leaves are changing color. I went back a few times in November, because the fall color doesn't last any longer in Texas than it does where I grew up in Ohio; it just gets started a bit later. 

2012-11-17 Bull Creek

While I was painting this 9x12" on November 18, a woman offered to buy it because I was painting it in a park where she used to bring her dog to play, and she had just come from having it put down. I put it in a frame for her, and she told me that she had it hanging up and loved it.

2012-11-18 Bull Creek 9x12"
Instead of fighting the crowds at a mall on Black Friday, I went back out to the creek and painted this stand of Sycamore trees at the edge of the waterfall.
2012-11-23 Bull Creek 9x12"
 When I finished this one, I could easily have turned around and painted the opposite view, because by then  the clouds cleared, the sky turned a gorgeous blue, the sun shifted, and lit the other side. Unfortunately, it was time to head for home. Phooey.
2012-11-27 Bull Creek 12x9"

Thursday, November 15, 2012


This cabin is located at Wenmohs Ranch. Some time in the mid 1800s, a teacher lived in half of this small building, while the other half was used as a smokehouse. I painted it during a Saturday morning outing with a small group from Plein Air Austin. The perspective on the upper window is pretty wonky, and I suppose I should fix it, but if anyone complains, I'll just say "it's folk art." 

2012-09-22 Wenmohs Ranch 12x9"

This next one was painted on a cold, gray day in Georgetown, Texas, along the South San Gabriel River. I had to ignore the construction noise being generated at the apartment building going up just across the river to my right.

2012-10-06 South San Gabriel River 10x8"

This final one was painted with a group from Plein Air Austin, on a great piece of property in Bee Cave, TX. I had to get past a guard house, then drove past multimillion dollar homes & 2 electric gates, but once I got onto the ranch it was amazing. The first thing I saw was a group of wild turkeys walking around. 

2012-11-03_Formby Ranch 9x12"

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I did this painting as a gift for my wife Leslie on our 20th wedding anniversary last week. I tell people never ask the assistant manager at a cookie store if she gives free samples, or you may pay for them for the next 27 years.

Clancy 14 x 11" Oil on canvas

Leslie told me that she felt like a heel because she didn't get me anything. Actually, she got me a nice new studio easel, but she didn't know it at the time... I just put it together last night, and can't wait to try it out. It's a Richeson Best Classic Dulce easel, if anyone cares.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Here are some of the most recent paintings I've done out in the field. The first is in the woods behind my house. I came across this spot one morning while I was out for a walk, and made a point of coming back on Labor Day, September 3, to paint it. It was nice to just walk for 5 minutes instead of my usual "drive around for an hour until I see something I like, and can paint from the side of the road" routine.

Oak Hill 10x8"Oil
On Saturday, September 8, I filled my tank, reset my odometer, and drove around for an hour until I saw something I liked, and could paint from the side of the road... This was in Walburg, Texas.When I got home, I saw that all my meandering had put over 200 miles on my truck.

Walburg, TX 8x10" Oil
 It was such a beautiful weekend that I went out again on Sunday. This time, I stayed in my neighborhood, and painted another in field near my house. You know you live in Texas when 90° feels cool.

Legend Oaks 8x10" Oil

Friday, August 24, 2012


I recently made a small watercolor box to take outside with my sketchbook during lunch. I made it out of an  older Altoids tin with a smooth top; newer ones have the name embossed on the lid. I had a bunch of tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolors at home, otherwise I would have just bought a set.  I used a section of a mini ice cube tray for the wells, chopping it off a with a Dremel tool. It's an extremely tight fit, and probably wouldn't need any glue to hold it in;  I glued it in anyway. I sprayed the lid with white appliance epoxy paint.

Altoids Tin Watercolor Box

It's a nice accompaniment for the cigar box pochade I made last year for small oil sketches. The box cost $1.00 at a local cigar shop and the palette and brush holder were made from scraps of 1/8" plywood that I had in the garage. I glued some 1/4 round molding to the palette so it snaps onto the side of the box without any screws. The brush holder is held on by a small thumbscrew with a plastic knob, and a box lid support keeps the box open if it gets windy. A 6x8" panel is held in place by a piece of spring steel from a picture frame, even when the lid is closed. A 1/4-20 nut in a small block of wood connects it to a tripod. I painted the inside of the box, and added a piece of glass for my dabs of paint. I found a small US Army map pouch at a surplus store that fits the box perfectly. It also holds a mini tripod that I got at the local Big Lots store, but that one is a bit flimsy, so I use a regular one most of the time.

Cigar Box Pochade mounted on a tripod.

This is the box I used for my pochade.

U.S. Army map pouch

Bottom of Palette

Everything but a full size tripod fits in the bag. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012


It was 100° on Saturday, but it felt a lot cooler in the shade because of a nice breeze. I drove up to Pflugerville, north of Austin, to where this old cotton gin sits next to the First Methodist Church.

Pflugerville Cotton Gin 9x12"

 When I was finished and had a bite to eat, I found I still had enough energy to try another one right away. I pointed my truck northeast and let it take me wherever it wanted to go. I ended up in Cele, Texas, which isn't a wide spot in the road, but is in fact a bend in the road. I pulled over and set up to do this quick sketch.

Cele TX barn 8x10"

Often, I will do a screen grab of the map or the compass of my iphone when I'm painting, so I can remember exactly where I ended up. This one was at 30°26'25" N, 97°31'16"W

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


This corrugated metal building in Henley, TX was at one time a old general store, if the faded sign on the side is to be believed. Of course, the other sign says Used Cars... I was drawn to it for a couple of reasons, mostly the rusted metal roof and a shady spot to stand for a few hours while attempting the painting. It is right on HWY 290 west, about 5 miles or so outside of Dripping Springs. Luckily, there was plenty of room to pull over and set up to paint as the traffic zoomed past at 70 MPH.

McCarty General Store 9x12"

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Last year, I attended a plein air workshop with Rusty Jones, and we painted a building that had been the Driftwood, TX post office for many years. It now has Texaco signs and antique gas pumps out front, and Rusty told us the trick would be to paint the enormous red star on the front of the building without making it the focus of the painting.

A few weeks ago, I painted another building with the same problem to solve. This one is on 290 West, between Austin and Dripping Springs. There are several terrific buildings to paint, including one that looks like an old train station, painted a golden yellow. The reason I chose to paint this one was that I found a tree to provide me with a bit of shade. I want to go back to paint the yellow building once it cools down around here, which will probably be October.

Texaco Star 9x12"

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Usually, when I head out to paint, I pick a direction and aim my truck that way. On Saturday, I decided to go east on 6th Street, where it becomes a two way road, but then ended up headed north when nothing caught my eye.  I soon (well, maybe not soon) found myself north of Parmer Lane near Pflugerville, where I saw this barn and set up to paint on the side of the road. As I was finishing this 9x12, I was approached by the guy whose family used to own the property, and who now leases it. He couldn't remember what the current owner calls the place, but it used to be the Thurman Farm.

Thurman Farm 9x12"
Painting the Thurman Farm

On Sunday, I headed east again, and ended up in Manor (to those of you not from these parts, it's pronounced "May-ner" and not "manner"). I found this old building, which looks like it may have been a general store at one time.

2012-05-20 manor, tx

Painting a manor in Manor

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I met Bruce Tinnin, one of my business partners at Powerhouse Animation, to paint in the park behind a YMCA in Cedar Park. There are trails, cliffs and this waterfall. We had a good bit of rain in the last week, so the water was flowing when I did this study. I can see why Bruce keeps going back to this park to paint, and it's not just that it's near his home.

Brushy Creek Waterfall 12x9"

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I recently bought a set of watercolor pencils, and have been playing around with them and some water brush pens, which have a reservoir of water built in. Having seen James Gurney's watercolor pencil sketches, like this one I know it's possible to do good sketches with these things, but I'm not sure I like the pencils yet. The ink washes are done with a Pentel Tradio pen and the water brushes.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


This week, I went out to the area around Bastrop, TX; the second time I went out there to paint. The first time was last year, and I didn't get to paint anything that day, because I (of course) chose to drive in that direction the day the major wildfires started . This time, I drove through Bastrop State Park, and saw nothing I felt like trying to paint. I wasn't in the mood to paint blackened stumps, so I gave up and was heading for home when I saw this broken down stable, with some hills way off in the distance. I'm always drawn to those rusted metal roofs.

This 9x12" study is what came of it.

Stable near Bastrop 9x12"

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I went back out to McKinney Falls State Park while there is still hope of catching some wildflowers in bloom. We're getting to the tail end of the season, and Texas is starting to get really hot. I wandered around taking photos until I saw this hill. It's not the view I thought I would go back to paint, but this was fun.

McKinney Falls Wildflowers 12x9"

You can still find some nice blooms at the park. Here are a few of the flowers I saw today.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Today, Saturday, I went out to McKinney Falls State Park, where I took a bunch of photos and painted at the remains of the homestead. I didn't have a lot of time to spend, so I just did this one 8x10" study.

McKinney Falls Homestead, 8x10"

As I was leaving, I came across a really nice field of wildflowers and a mostly dead tree, which would make a great subject if I can get back out to the park on Sunday.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


On Saturday morning, I went out with painting buddy Jimmy Longacre to a new gated subdivision in Johnson City, called The Preserve at Walnut Springs. It's a beautiful 2000+ acre hill country ranch being subdivided into 66 non-contiguous 5-7 acre parcels, with 1500 acres to remain undeveloped. What's really nice about painting there is that they cleared out all the cedar and left stands of native oaks. It was definitely worth the 45 minute drive from my house.

We both did 3 studies: a 2 hour 9x12, a one hour 6x8, and another 2 hour 9x12. Here are mine.

2012-04-07 Walnut Springs 1

2012-04-07 Walnut Springs 2

In reality, the main tree in the 2nd painting was pretty boxy, but the painting emphasized it too much, I think. The main problem is the even distance from the top and side. To fix that, I should have let it go out past the edges of the canvas.

2012-04-07 Walnut Springs 3

Sunday, April 1, 2012


On Saturday, I went out with some of the guys from Powerhouse Animation to paint the area around Inks Lake and Longhorn Cavern. We've had an amazing year for wildflowers in Texas.

This building dates from the 1930s, and was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as officers quarters.

Officers Quarters, 9x12"

Ronnie Williford, Bruce Tinnin, Evgeny Lubaev, Frank Gabriel

Thursday, March 29, 2012


This painting of Bull Creek in Austin is one of my 45 minute "lunchtime paintings." I keep coming back to this same area because it's close to my office (about 10 minutes), and if I work quickly, I can get back to work in a little more than an hour. We had several days of rain, and the creek was full.

2012-03-21 Bull Creek 10x8"

I've circled the place where I painted. I stood in the shade, just under the bridge.