Brushed Up Bright

After eighty-seven Tuesdays, it’s time to freshen up the blog’s face, and tighten up posts and pages. To that end, this special edition of It Happens Every Tuesday  features a new WordPress theme , ARI by elmastudio.  To make it a bit easier to find, Brushed Up Bright, is moving from the dustbin of being a “page” to the  bright lights of “Categories”  under  “Tools of the Trade” , and a new category “video”, for all the posts including that feature. I think I might just be getting a handle on this blog thing.

Thanks for reading.


– Acrylic and dry pigments

I started with oils, loved the smell and the creamy texture under the brush, but as my technique transitioned from a thicker application of paint, into using multiple thin, opaque and translucent layers, I wanted those layers to dry quickly,  and that wasn’t happening with the oil paint. So I started to experiment with acrylics. I’ll spend days and weeks just looking, but when it comes to making  marks or applying pigment to canvas, I’m an impatient painter. Acrylics do dry fast and as my technique expanded to include scraping, sanding, scrubbing and all manner of abrasive manipulation of the canvas, acrylics not only held up to the abuse I delivered but  glowed under the strain, and I’ve used acrylics ever since. Golden is my brand of choice. Why Golden? No particular reason other than Golden acrylics were the very first acrylic paints I experimented with, and while I’ve tried a variety of other brands over the years, Golden acrylics consistently do what I want with no surprises.

The whole dry pigment idea started out with crushing up pastel sticks and rubbing the pigmented powder into the canvas, but now it’s the way I describe my catch-all basket of mark making tools . . . colored pencil, pastel, charcoal, graphite . . . whatever gets used that doesn’t come out of a tube.  These “dry pigment” media do require something to make them stay put, and I use fixatives to accomplish that task. The original Blair 105 was a great fixative, workable and water-soluble, and had been an integral component in my technique for years  . . .  but then the 105 formula was changed and that was the end of that. I’ve experimented with all manner of fixatives since, and my current fave is SpectraFix.  SpectraFix is a casein-based fixative using milk proteins and grain alcohol . . . It does what it’s supposed to do, with no funky odor or noxious fumes . . . and that’s good enough for me

brights and flats – Brushes

When I think  painting, its brush on canvas, and while I use many tools to accomplish what becomes a painting, brushes are my number one tool. I have a couple of  favorite shops where I purchase my materials, and the brush displays are my  Sirens song . . . come to me . . . come to me . . . and my destruction? Leaving the shop with a fist full of new brights and flats! I have an affinity for small to medium-sized brushes (from a #12 down) and larger 2″-3″ long handled ink/water-color brushes. I like my brushes a bit on the stiff side, and I test them on the length of my fore arm, drawing down, elbow to wrist, as if  applying a light wash. I’ve both natural and synthetic bristle brushes, and I can’t say I prefer one over the other, they just need to pass the arm test. (a slight tickling, more than a breeze, less than a scrub). I think of rounds being better for drawing lines, but I’ve found rounds less versatile in my technique, and I can draw drawing with a #8 brighta wonderfully expressive line with a brush as wide as a #8 bright . . . gently rolling it, as I go from edge to face. A cursory view of my work illustrates my love of line, and my approach to line is often more sculptural than painterly . . . I’ll lay down a foundation for my lines with the brush, and carve them into their final structure with other tools.

 – Canvas

The canvas. I’ve always stretched my own and the heavier the better. Same for the stretcher bars, I want big and beefy. I like the object that is the recipient of my energies to be my equal. I want it to have it’s own mass, it’s own substance, so regardless of my abuse (and believe me I do abuse my canvasses) or even if all I contribute is a drop of pigment or an imperceptible line, the stretched canvas as an object, requires acknowledgement.

I don’t prime my canvases. I love the way raw canvas drinks up paint (and it’s natural color too!), and as I carve, slather, dribble, splash, and drown it in washes of pigment, I know what the canvas accepts can’t be reversed, and that is a challenge I willing accept . . . it seems to me, an honesty of intent, the canvas becomes a partner in my endeavors rather than a simple repository of my dithering.

From Nothing Toward Everything Between Milk and Toast

#87 – Tuesday November 13th

A fascination with process. I’ve been filming the progress of two of the new canvasses and for this week’s Tuesday, a short video featuring vignettes on the development of one of those canvasses.

Thanks for watching.


Tools of the Trade Tuesday

#72 – Tuesday July 31st

 For the most part, the tools I use in painting are remarkably similar to those used by prehistoric artisans: pigments, a tool to apply the pigment, and a surface to accept the pigment. Several thousand years later, I’m using pigments suspended in advanced polymers, handcrafted sable brushes, 14oz un-primed cotton canvas, and 140lb cold press watercolor paper for drawing, but at its essence, this process of creating images hasn’t changed. However there is one tool I find my self using, that wasn’t available to those painters of cave walls, the camera.

I take pictures, but I’m not a photographer. I push a button and my little Cannon PowerShot does the work.  The camera is the tool that allows me to capture the transient objects I assemble, pieces of the natural world that become the inspiration for paintings, and ultimately the tool for documenting those paintings progress for this missive (a nice nimble way for getting the idea across).  I don’t mess with all the options available through the function button. I point and shoot. Afterwards, I might do some manipulation of the images, crop them, or play with contrast and shadows, but that’s it.  My snapshots get taped or pinned to the studio walls, an aid to memory and springboard to exploration.

Thanks for reading.


As I stated I am not a photographer. For all reproduction purposes, including exhibition announcements and catalogues, my work is shot by professionals, most notably, by the photographer Verser Engelhard, who has documented my work for over two decades.