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How Did You Do That Painting?

Some people ask you if you use projectors to do your work. No, I do not, although I did years ago when I had small children to speed things up some, but the distortion rate was too much. Do I graph? Yes, when I am scaling up to a larger surface and want to have precision on multiple details. The longer I paint, the less support I need… “measuring” (seeing with the eyes and estimating where it goes on the page in relation to other things in the same work) becomes more normal.

In “Cowboys in Tandem”, I used graphing to place the horses and riders. No, I do not “color within the lines.”

Cowboys in Tandem - 48"x60" - Oil
Cowboys in Tandem – 48″x60″ – Oil

In “Howdy Do”, it was sketched on without aid.

Howdy Do - Framed Size 20"x16" - Watercolor
Howdy Do – Framed Size 20″x16″ – Watercolor


Another question: why do you not do live demos? I have done two. They caused me so much trauma, I will never do it again. The first one was a public event, a fundraiser for a local art council. At that one, I was one of maybe 12 artists selected for that year’s fundraiser. We had to do a completed painting within an 8 hour period. At this “phantom artist” event, we had to paint from start to finish with the crowds strolling through watching, until completion. I prayed in agony for a month, that the Lord would help me perform in front of people. Please don’t let me fail. At the end of the time I was there, I produced a 12″x14″ painting of some cowboys chatting on horseback in a little cozy spot. At one point during the painting, I thought I would burst, so I went for a walk for coffee, then did what I had to do. The painting sold at the fund raiser to a nice couple. Obviously, I did not project or graph that piece. It was a lovely piece of work. It cost me a month of my life. However, not only did the painting be completed, I was able also to create a set of mixed media “opera glasses” for added fundraising and fun. The Lord was good. I slept that night.

The second demo I did, I wanted to do in gratitude to people who had allowed me to photograph them working out on the range, and had hoped to demonstrate to older folks as well. It was a disaster. I was so nervous, I could not even  fit a drawing onto the canvas, I tried to demo three different methods within an hour time period, and lost all three. I will not do live demos, unless I am comfortable and painting with a friend. It would be simplified a great deal if I tried again. Failure is part of art though, I have equal disasters in my own space. But its harder when you’re trying to please others.

All of the next 11 example were drawn without placement aid of graphing.

Lady In a Red Dress - Watercolor
Lady In a Red Dress – Watercolor

Gathered Neighbors

A Gathering of Friends – Watercolor

Morning Hills - 12" x 6" - Oil
Morning Hills – 12″ x 6″ – Oil


I liked the light beaming these tomatoes on my counter.
I liked the light beaming these tomatoes on my counter.


Jim - Watercolor
Jim – Watercolor


Chip - Watercolor
Chip – Watercolor



Desert Rained - 16"x20" - Oil
Desert Rained – 16″x20″ – Oil


Peloncillo Morning - 15"x30" - Oil
Peloncillo Morning – 15″x30″ – Oil


Hot Dog - Watercolor
Hot Dog – Watercolor


Sunflower Field - 14"x18" - Oil
Sunflower Field – 14″x18″ – Oil


So how do I do that? How do I get a likeness? How do I get my paintings to come together. I draw. I erase. If I’m intimidated or need to be extra precise, I graph into 3″ or 4″ squares onto a larger surface. When I use watercolors, I sketch in with a #2 pencil. I do not graph with watercolor. I have to get an accurate enough drawing though when I begin, because you get one shot with watercolor. When I draw onto a canvas or graph onto a canvas, I use a smaller size paint brush, and whatever color seems to be a good color at the time to “draw” with. I do fairly loose sketching because most of the detail is done in later stages with oil paint anyway. The idea is placement… size relationship and approximate likeness or form.

Some things I do plein aire. I don’t do that a lot, because I’m annoyed by hot air and insects, having to set up lighting so my colors don’t all look dark when I bring the painting into the studio. I am not a hot dog. There are wonderful painters who have mastered plein aire and are wildly famous. They also battle the elements and win. There are painters like Richard Schmid who even bow after their performance, and have sold out theater space for their painting of portraits or other lessons and demos. Wow. He’s amazing. I’m happy for them. I do take lots of photos when I am out and about, and I live in a beautiful place, so I work from my own photos in the studio most of my time. The rest are purely out of my imagination, sometimes it goes pretty far out there, and no, it cannot be projected or graphed.

You know, since I have passed the age of having to prove anything, I have begun to trust and like what I do, and am happy with it. I really hope others are too, but what you see is what you get. So there you go.

How did I do that? Lots of hard work, practice and love.

Simple Joy - Watercolor
Simple Joy – Watercolor


His Work Accomplished - 36"x18" - Oil
His Work Accomplished – 36″x18″ – Oil


The County Fair - large watercolor
The County Fair – large watercolor


Dance of the Prickly Pear - 8"x16" - Oil
Dance of the Prickly Pear – 8″x16″ – Oil



  1. What an amazing collection of paintings. I work very hard at drawing and to have someone watch me I wold have a meltdown. Good for you hat you did it even if you won’t ever do i again. Your watercolors are lovely.

    • Thank you Carol. I appreciate your work and art also. It’s nice to hear of your experience, and be in good company.

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