All posts by pattonh

That crazy feeling!

We’ve all felt it, some more than once. You meet somebody for the first time and your chemistry goes wild. Bells ring, firecrackers explode. It can’t be defined, but it’s real.

That excitement that hits out of the blue. It’s not love, maybe lust or infatuation that can lead to love, but whatever it is, it’s wonderful.

“Love You Crazy” is how it felt to me.
acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30


Painting the hard way – without a plan

img_20161008_094821-1blog-entry-1I know I’m supposed to have a plan, a value study, at least an idea of a warm or cool palette. Usually, I have none of these. Patience is not my strength. That must be why I’ve never experienced “the white canvas” fear.

If I spent just one hour determining what I wanted to paint, how I want to do it and what the message or mood of the painting would be, I would save a lot of time in completing a work.

1. I’ll do a floral. After a certain number of bright flowers, I decided “enough”. But the floral arrangement didn’t take up much of the canvas.

2. I’ll put a woman in, much like Matisse often did. She’ll have to be way back in the painting to get behind the flowers. What will her mood be? Paint her without a reference and she will reveal herself. Okay, she looks pensive or sad, so I can go with that theme.

3. How do I fill up this large expanse of table now? I love violin music, so even though I can’t play a single instrument, I’ll put a violin on the table. I’ll need a reference for sure. Five attempts later, drawing and redrawing the violin (with paint) in proper perspective, I pour myself a glass of wine. I’ll give my girl a glass, too. My wine finished, I see that I’ll have to add a wine bottle and glass to the right of the violin to fill in the composition. I’ll wait till morning to include that.

4. The next morning is a fresh look at the painting. The wine bottle and empty glass are added. With the bottle content, I realize the my girl is on her second glass. because the other glass is empty. Who is this glass for? Did he come and leave? Did he not show up? Is the violin his or hers?

5. Obviously the entire left side of the painting needs some substance to balance it. The trusted idea of a square within a square to make a good composition comes to mind. A window. A cat looking out the window. She has to be looking at something, so I decide on sailboats coming in at sunset. Sunset needs more work.

6. The cowrie shell my Dad brought back from his time in the Pacific during World War II adds a bit more mystery to the painting. Dad told me to put my ear to the shell and I could hear the Pacific Ocean. He was right. I still listen and think of him.

7. The pottery with paint brushes puts a little of “me” into the paintings and the violin bow pulls the composition into a pattern that keeps the viewer’s eye going around the painting without leaving.

This is a painting in progress still. Colors will change for sure, and maybe a few objects, but I wanted to show the labor I am still going through to get to a finish that works for me. I mark different areas in the painting with charcoal to remind me of changes. I sometimes paint right into the charcoal lines that show size changes and get a shadow effect that can work very well or be disastrous and need repainting. The closer view shows some of these marks.

When finished, I’ll repost the painting, but for other artists, especially, it’s fun to see an individual’s process and mistakes, and the ideas that pop up while at work.

And for my next painting, I WILL have a pan. No, really.

“Black Swan” Wins Top Prize

Black SwanI received notice from The International Society of Acrylic Painters (Florida) that my painting “Black Swan” was awarded first place in the first online annual exhibit.

The award is especially meaningful to me because the juror, Mark Mehaffey in an artist whose work I’ve long admired. His depiction of excitement and movement and color relationships teases the eye.

The title refers to a financial term that describes when something that was thought impossible actually happens. The painting itself uses small collage pieces from newspapers at the time showing sinking stock market, a ticking clock, the push to score high and the increasing pressures on the American economy.

I still have the painting in my studio and it’s calming to look back , remember the fear and know that we survived.

Sketch an idea, then go for it!


In the Garden of Eden
In the Garden of Eden

I do a quick sketch on a wash-off board to get an idea of how I want to start. The first image doesn’t always translate well to a large triptych, but it’s fairly easy to adjust sizes as I go. Once the general composition is in place, the rest is just fun. Choosing which animals, choosing a naive style, developing a childlike palette, changing mistakes, etc. Using acrylic enables me to simply paint over areas time after time for a layered look which adds energy to the image.

quick sketch to triger the idea.
quick sketch on small board to trigger the idea.

There are times when the head is muddled, unable to block out outside responsibilities and stresses. Naive style drawing and painting give me the freedom to put serious work aside for a while and go to another world of promise, happiness and peace.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden have been a favorite theme of mine, loving the imagery of a lush garden in deserts of Mesopotamia with many animals, streams, two innocent people finding their way. The myth has so many possibilities of interpretation, from sweet innocence to the horrific judgement of their god when he is not obeyed.

I usually choose to interpret the beauty and peacefulness of the Christian version of the story (their are many such tales of the first man and woman in other, earlier
religions, suggesting many cultures searching for their beginnings.)

My versions give most importance to the animals, standing by as Eve hands the apple to Adam.

Until that first bite, all is well.

The Art and Pony Show

When I painted my first pony with my beloved crow on his back, I knew my muse was next to me. The idea came in a flash, even the style and subject.

The next two are continuations of the pony family and my muse is still with me. All are on 40 x 40 canvas with prepared surfaces of modeling paste to give great texture. I still have pony ideas, even sketches, to work with and may continue now or do something entirely different to give myself a different challenge, then back to the ponies until my muse moves on. I never know when that will be.

So here are ponies one, two and three and ideas for more prancing in my head, some swimming, some jumping, some at night under moonlight.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Desert Pony
Red Pony
Red Pony
Pony with Foal
Pony with Foal

Chasing Matisse

Who doesn’t love the work of artist Henri Matisse?

The artist once said “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Perhaps this is what draws so many of us to his work, the joy, the playfulness, the feeling of contentment

I admire the work of countless artists, some of whom are very dark and somber, but who use color and marks to render raw, emotional images that haunt the viewer. But that’s another story for another day.


When I decided to reinterpret a painting I completed years ago, “Girl with Black Dog (above 30 x 40), I was inspired by Matisse to use cheerful patterning so familiar in his work. In his works below, look for the floor patterning, the curly designs on the green table and the music sheet with the apple.





You can find some of these patterns in this new work. Mine are different, but you can recognize similarities. Truthfully, had I just made up my own patterns without looking at his work, probably he would have already used them. The diversity in his patterning seems endless.

Waiting for Henri, 40 x 40
Waiting for Henri, 40 x 40

It was great fun. I wonder what’s next. A big, new white canvas is an exciting thing to behold.

Playing with ideas on Photoshop

Photographing a painting and putting the image into Photoshop to play with different changes and ideas is great fun. It’s also a good way to take a longer look at your work and maybe see something else the original needs. Not enough contrast? Shapes too similar? Colors not working?

I painted the clouds in an abstract manner to make them look somewhat like animals moving across the sky in the wind. In the altered photos they sometimes look almost threatening, sometimes cheerful and festive. Crazy fun .

“Seabreeze” (40 x 40) is just off the easel and I played with it for an hour or so just for fun. Going to black and white brings out contrast values, choosing the posterize filter can sometimes spark an idea for another painting, and all the filters are just fun to look at.

I’ve put a couple of versions here, along with the finished painting. Interesting, don’t you agree?

the original painting
the original painting

Seabreeze4Seabreeze3Seabreeze ink outlineSeabreeze dark strokesSeabreeze2