Dec 25, 2012

Rx for short plein air days

Silent Night, 12x12" oil on panel

Robert en plein air
Me en plein air
Studio mate Robert Rigsby and I had a two-painting day on Sunday. A downtown street in the a.m. (click to view), then downtown Center Street after dark. It was magical. Both of us had lights to wear on our heads. Neither of us had ever donned them. Fear of looking like crazed artists, I guess. Together, we looked like miners in search of a painting. “Strength in numbers” they say. Robert and I provided plenty of laughs for each other. The lights and dazzle of downtown Goldsboro provided plenty of inspiration for both of us.
I hope all of you had a Magical Christmas and that the magic will continue for you through the New Year.

Dec 4, 2012

A place called “home”

 Christmas in my hometown, 9x12" oil on panel
Ask someone who grew up in the military where he was born, and chances are that place differs from his hometown. Charles City, Iowa holds little significance to me other than, according to my birth certificate, its being the place where I was born. Goldsboro, North Carolina, on the other hand, holds great significance to me. It’s where I went to junior and senior high school, where I first fell in love, started a dreadful 30+ year habit of smoking cigarettes, reigned in 1967-68 as (heaven forbid) “Miss Goldsboro”, but most importantly, where my parents decided to retire, thus becoming “home” for my parents, my brother and me. Here’s a painting that includes the new Paramount Theatre, rebuilt after the old one was destroyed by fire in the wee morning hours of 2005.

Nov 9, 2012

The day after our election

Schooner Russamee, 7x9½" watercolor
The polls had closed more than twelve hours earlier. The political advertising storm was now history. Beaufort, NC was a town of anchored boats and wet sidewalks. It was chilly with a light drizzle. Not the ideal day for painting en plein air. Because so many tourists had gone home for the season, I was able to find the perfect parking spot facing this impressive boat. So here I was given an opportunity to do another painting dans la voiture, translated from French to “in the car.” Similar to plein air painting, but within the comfort of my auto. You may recall several other paintings I’ve done dans la voiture.

When I first decided to use this term I googled the phrase, only to find a soft porn French video. Don’t you just love the Internet?

Oct 23, 2012

Sweet dreams

Turndown, 7½  x 9" watercolor
Upon my return from dinner my second night at Fearrington House, a chocolate truffle and a decanter with port wine were waiting. I’ve had turndowns that include chocolate, but never wine. The wine went untouched; the chocolate gave me the energy to paint this scene.

I really thought until today that I like this painting more than the one of the entire room. Now that I’ve printed them both out as greeting cards, I’m leaning toward the first, more busy one. I’d love to hear your opinions. This one, or Room No. 10?

Fearrington House

Room No. 10, 7 x 9½" watercolor
Leave it to an artist to undo a room
This calligraphic style of painting is “about the adjectives, not about the nouns.” See more about this quote at “Company’s coming.”

A stay at The Fearrington House Inn brings with it incredible ambiance, a room with a view, plus each day, a breakfast fit for a King and afternoon tea fit for a Queen. I did not find time to paint my tea experience this time, maybe next.

My first night, I painted my room. With all the giant pillows on the bed, turndown service was a serious matter. Suspecting this luxury might be coming, I painted the bed with all its pillows early in the process.

Oct 21, 2012


Perched, 6x6" watercolor
Feathers, straw, & twigs, 6x6" watercolor
Ordinarily I would not come home referring to a weekend as trés chic. This was no ordinary weekend. I was given a trunk show at a wonderful shop known as Dovecote. I come up short for words to describe this quaint shop of fashion for the home, garden, and person. Dovecote is located in the charming country community known as Fearrington Village, close to Pittsboro and not far from Chapel Hill, NC.

My history with the Village dates back maybe five years ago when I was invited there to show my wedding watercolors to one of North Carolina’s premier wedding photographers. She said, “Put together a press kit. Just do it.” 

Several years later I got my foot in the door at Dovecote with some cow paintings. I got my foot out the door earlier today with at least eight small watercolors I’d painted of the two doves that nest inside this fanciful shop of taste, style and whimsy.

Oct 18, 2012

Peace College commission

It was called Peace College, 7 x 9½" watercolor
Shows, travel and other commissions have buried me, so I was happy when my customer told me she could wait for this painting. I promised her I would get to it in October. Finally October arrived and two weeks ago Monday I had reason to be in Raleigh and therefore, good reason to do the painting while I was there. Wrong. It rained buckets.

So this past Monday, a meeting with The Little Art Gallery in Cameron Village gave me reason again to drive up to Raleigh. This time I had told customer Jennifer I would paint it then. Again, it rained buckets. Not one to go back on my word, here was good reason to paint dans la voiture. Click to see how I came up with this term.

The area where one sees this view is now a parking lot. Of course, all slots had been taken when I went there. I parked my compact SUV at a right angle to all the other cars and alongside some traffic cones. This gave me a direct view of the scene. Perfect! I had to run the car intermittently so I could turn on the defrost and the windshield wipers. I had time to fantasize what I would say if a police officer questioned my parking arrangement. “My daughter goes to school there, and I’m waiting for her to come out.” Now certainly, I am more than old enough to have a daughter in college, but I am also old enough to know fibbing is not a good thing. Nobody asked.

Oct 15, 2012


Heads Up sunroom, 7½x9" watercolor
Just got back from a mad dash down to Beaufort, North Carolina. No doubt the town has much changed since Blackbeard set anchor in its harbor almost three hundred years ago. In reference to this quaint little seaport town, I recall a statement made by someone across the bridge in Morehead, “Those Beaufort people are said to be a little more gentrified than we are.”

I am charmed by the new friend I’ve made in Beaufort and by her house so full of artifacts and artwork (including some of mine I’m proud to say). She and her husband are world travelers and their house and garden offer testimony to all the exotic places their travels have taken them. Charles, who initially served two years in the Peace Corps, has spent 25 years as a foreign service officer for USAID.

An accomplished leader of child development in third world countries, at home Deborah is an exemplary cook and host. After a scrumptious dinner Friday night we retired to the sunroom to enjoy dessert. The minute we sat down in the room adjoining her kitchen, I spotted the carved heads above. Had to paint them.

What is it about interiors that so intrigues us? Much of a person’s soul, I think, is revealed in their surroundings. Like the lines on an old person’s face, a room and its furnishings convey a wealth of information about its inhabitants.

Oct 6, 2012

Serendipitous spider sculpture

Last week, I was driving through the town where I live and noticed some flowers on the curb that had no leaves. The lilies, shooting through the ground with only their stems, are a late summer blooming plant. I don’t know how I remembered the name Lycoris.

The very next day it was serendipitous for me to discover the sculpture I came upon. I was in New Bern to teach a watercolor workshop during the Craven County Art Festival. I had met my students under the veranda behind the city’s Convention Center. In search of a plein air scene to paint as a demo, my eyes couldn’t seem to escape this beautiful landmark.

Spider Lily Sculpture, 7 x 9½" watercolor
At first I thought the kinetic sculpture was a “whirligig” by famous North Carolina whirligig sculptor Vollis Simpson. Not so. Upon reading the plaque under the sculpture, I found the name of the sculpture is Spider Lily, named after the plant Lycoris Radiata. I learned that this prized plant species made its 1850s debut into the United States in New Bern.

Commissioned and contributed by Dr. Jim Congleton, the sculpture by California artist Susan Pascal Beran was dedicated to the city of New Bern in December of last year.

Sep 18, 2012

From the North Star State to North Carolina

Downstairs at Rita’s, 7 x 9½" watercolor

Here’s where I slept most nights on my recent visit to Minnesota. Rita and I go all the way back to a design conference in 1980 at Lutsen, Minnesota where she and my business partner Rick met and began a four-year romance. Rita learned and owned a computer before I did, so soon after graphic design made the leap from drawing board to desktop, I spent hours with her and an occasional client in this sub-level space. Not much trace of a computer now, as Rita has retired from that business.

Seems I’ve acquired the habit of painting most of the places I stay when I’m on the road. I missed, however, painting my accommodations last Friday night in New Bern, NC. During the town’s Friday ArtWalk, I painted in front of Carolina Creations Fine Art & Contemporary Craft Gallery where my North Carolina Meets French Impressionism show now hangs. Artist owners of Carolina Creations, Michael and Janet, graciously put me up for the night in their nifty studio guest room.

Here I was, beginning a painting in front of Carolina Creations. That's not paint on my palette; that's cheese for my palate. Photo compliments of artist Michaelé Rose Watson.

Sep 9, 2012

Headed for Hawaii

My friend Kazuko’s, 7x9½" watercolor
I can think of only one bad thing about having friends and that is losing friends, either because they move away or pass away.

Wednesday I returned from a two-week vacation in Minnesota. I was there last year and would have held off going for another year except for one thing. My dear friend Kazuko is moving later this month from a Minneapolis suburb to Hawaii to be closer to her son. Unless my ship comes in big time, I don’t foresee any trips to Hawaii in my future. So this may have been my last chance to see her; certainly this warranted my trip to Minnesota.

I did the painting right after finishing a wonderful Japanese meal that she’d prepared for us. The best view of her house was from across the street in a neighbor’s driveway. She saw that they were treated to sushi afterwards, so I wasn’t to worry about trespassing.

The painting will be my going away gift to Kazuko, so this one will
one day hang in Hawaii. This painting in winter with snow would have offered a greater contrast to the Aloha state. Don’t ask why I don’t relish the idea of plein air painting during a Minnesota winter.

Aug 19, 2012

I wasn’t wearing Maidenform®

Guest room at Llewellyn’s, 9x6" watercolor
 Last night I dreamt I was sleeping in a beautiful bed in a fabulous historic home in Beaufort, NC. This morning I woke up and found this watercolor I’d done. Inspiration led me down to the waterfront where I did two more watercolors. Lately my life has been all that I might dream it to be.
Sky, sand, water, Beaufort 1, 4x11" watercolor
Sky, sand, water, Beaufort 2, 4x11" watercolor
See below the oil I painted of the same scene several years ago. I wonder if some of the sailboats are the same ones I painted today.
Moored in Beaufort, 12x12" oil on canvas

Aug 4, 2012

It pays to ask.

Sunny morning on Marsh Street, 8x16" oil on panel
Some of you know I spent a good part of my life as an art director/graphic designer. For nineteen years I was self-employed and got used to getting the information from customers necessary to meet their objectives. Commissioned paintings come relatively easy to me now as a result of my graphics background.

Below is the second painting I did at the same address in Beaufort, NC. Sold the oil to someone in Charlotte, NC. Thinking the owner of the house wanted a bigger version, I’m glad now I didn’t go on automatic pilot and do another. He wanted a watercolor, small, and loose. I’m grateful he knew what he wanted. I delivered the watercolor to his Chapel Hill address on Thursday.
John Hughes Home, 7x9½" watercolor

Jul 24, 2012

The sky’s the limit

Coming home from Puerto Rico, 6x4" watercolor
I’m lost in thoughts of the massacre in Colorado and a graveside memorial I’ll be attending in just a couple of hours. Words really are inadequate and sometimes inappropriate. I will not tell my nephew that although he’s lost his 91-year-old grandmother, there are people today whose feelings of loss are more acute.

Above is a little watercolor I did on my way back from a wedding in Puerto Rico. I’m not the first artist that noticed looking down at the clouds is indeed spectacular. In fact, I know that Georgia O’Keefe’s Sky Above Clouds paintings were probably the trigger that inspired me to paint this little scene. I know of one other living painter/sketcher who will attempt to capture anything, anywhere. Raynald Murphy is an artist in Montreal, Canada. Both of us have sketched passing scenes from the passenger seat of automobiles. Not crazy, just passionate.

What is a sketch but a moment's passion, searching for the truth. 

Jul 12, 2012

Binging on plein air

Red truck, 8x10" oil on panel
At the crack of dawn this morning I went for the second time to a sunflower field near Kinston, NC to paint with studio mate and painting buddy Robert. I’ll maybe share that painting on Sunday in my weekly Behr Path newsletter. Arriving back in Goldsboro, I drove by an amazingly red pick up truck parked near some pink and fuchsia crepe myrtles.

Painting Andy’s on a rainy day
I finished two commissioned oils last weekend, and came down with a miserable case of cabin fever. I still have more than a dozen paintings I’ve been asked to do. Five of them will allow me to paint en plein air. The others, four watercolors and three to five oil paintings, will need to be done from photos. This does not lend itself to fresh air and sunshine, two things to which I’ve become addicted. So, realizing that a good state of mind will lend itself well to the work in front of me, yesterday I went out in the rain and painted Andy Griffith’s old apartment. Click to see Andy Griffith lived upstairs.

Jun 30, 2012

Plein air Carolina style

Strength in numbers, 11x14" oil on panel
“Can't ya see the sunshine?”
Would have been better to get out in the morning Thursday before the day turned into such a scorcher. Not only did painting buddy Robert’s pick-up truck lift us into a bit of a breeze, it kept us above and away from thousands of fire ants. As we were packing up, I said to Robert, “That’s some piece of [plein air] equipment. We’ll have to keep it (his truck) in mind.”

Being elevated lends itself so well to much plein air painting. The first marshes I painted, I was lucky enough to have access to someone’s deck overlooking them. Had it not been for Robert’s truck, the field of sunflowers would have been reduced to a streak of yellow. Peering down makes for a deeper expanse of mid and foreground.

Jun 18, 2012

Whimsical whirligigs

Whirligigs at Fearrington, 7x9½" watercolor (SOLD)
The very same day I painted the Fainting Goats, I did these two watercolors. Vollis Simpson’s whimsical whirligigs put me in a whimsical mood, so once the idea entered my head, I couldn’t resist painting Partly Beltie skies. Read more about celebrated North Carolina whirligig creator Vollis Simpson by clicking NYT.

Partly Beltie skies, 7x9½" watercolor

Jun 10, 2012


I don’t think subscribers received my last blog post. Scroll down after this one and you’ll see the goats. Lots of them. Probably why you didn’t receive it — goat overload. Didn’t think about the byte thing.

The road leading out, 11x14" oil on panel
I’m into blues and purples, and it was a blue day when I painted this, but this shows up way more blue than it should. And no matter how I manipulate it, I can’t seem to tone down the blue. This happened with another recent painting as well. Click My backyard 2 to see way too blue hydrangeas. Pity, as it’s one of my better paintings. Recalling I photographed both paintings on the same day about the same time, I finally realized what happened. I either photographed them too early in the day, under a cloud, or in too much shadow. Woe. I may photograph them again in different light.

Jun 9, 2012

Fainting goats

Feeling divided, 3x3" watercolor
Lots to show this time but very little to say for a change. This is as close as I come to having kids. Soon I hope some of these goats will follow the cows home to Fearrington Village from whence they came. Many of the goats at Fearrington are belted like the Village’s Scottish Belted Galloway cows, but are a black-and-white-marked domestic breed known as fainting goats. Imagine designing a couch for them.

I need to lie down.

Bed and breakfast, 4x6" watercolor
Billie lunches with his better half, 4x6" watercolor
Billy fat, 4x6" watercolor
Check out the goatee., 6x4" watercolor
Different strokes, 6x4" watercolor
Double-spaced, 4x6" watercolor
Essence of goat, 4x6" watercolor
Drawing straws, 4x6" watercolor
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”, 6x4" watercolor

Hitting the hay, 4x6" watercolor
It’s hard to be coy when you’re a goat, 3x3" watercolor
Lunch at Fearrington, 4x6" watercolor
Tête-à-tête, 4x6" watercolor

May 31, 2012

Rainy day watercolours

Beltie gathering place, 7x9½" watercolor
I lived in England 1952-1956. Years passed and in 1985, en route to London, I began laughing as the plane I was on landed at Gatwick. My travel companion asked, “What’s so funny?”

“It’s still raining,” I replied.

One nice thing about painting watercolors en plein air on damp days and in high humidity is that the paint stays wet. Both of these paintings stayed damp long enough for me to lay down saturated grounds before later going in with the calligraphy that defines everything. Wanting to get some fuzziness to the cows, I laid in some calligraphy for them when the paper was only partially dry. Because there is drying time in this style watercolor between the soft ground coat and the hard-edge calligraphy, I rarely include in these paintings people, animals, motor vehicles; anything that moves.
Click to see the third calligraphic watercolor I did outside The Belted Goat (also at Fearrington Village).

p.s. Do you think Prince Charles would accept a plein air invitation? :-) I know he paints in watercolour.
The Roost at Fearrington Village, 7x9½" watercolor

May 30, 2012

Strength in numbers

Beltline 1, 3x9" watercolor

When I look at just one of these, I see mostly black and green marks. When I look at all of them, I see a herd of cows; specifically, Belted Galloway cows, otherwise known as “Oreo Cows.” I drove all the way up to Fearrington Village near Pittsboro, NC yesterday, not only to participate in a paint out, but to deliver to a customer what may be the last of my Old Well watercolors. I had my oils with me, but with a thunderstorm threatening, the sun couldn’t stay out from behind a cloud for more than minutes at a time. Oh well, scratch the oils, I love painting the “Belties” at Fearrington Village.

When I say strength in numbers, I am often reminded of something photographer Annie Leibovitz once said.  She felt the strength of her photos lie not in any one photo she’s taken, but in her collection of photos.

Down and Up, 4x6" watercolor

A Pepto Bismol™ moment, 4x6" watercolor

Facing West, 4x6" watercolor

Heads and Tail, 4x6" watercolor

Ring Around the Rosie, 4x6" watercolor

Shakin’ Tail, 4x6" watercolor

The Lone Oreo, 3x3" watercolor

Two down, one to go, 4x6" watercolor

Playing doubles, 4x6" watercolor

Two’s company, three’s a crowd, 4x6" watercolor

Wide belts are in, 4x6" watercolor
Beltline 2, 3x9" watercolor