Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oil Painting: Stir Fry Painting - Part 1

Stir fry painting?  Oh jeez, what is he painting now?  

This is the first stage of a painting of stir fried vegetables in a wok.  It is a painting/illustration for the story Harvest Dinner from The Book of Bartholomew.  The story publishes in eight days, so I am working feverishly to get this painting done, along with a couple other drawings of food.

Why is he always painting food?

Harvest Dinner is a story of harvesting some food from a garden and making a dinner.  There is a menu for the meal and it is this that I am illustrating. I got together with Amy Sippl and her husband Greg to have dinner.  Amy cooked the menu from the story and then I took pictures and we ate.  I did bring some garlic and onion fried yams.  It is always pleasant getting together with them.  If you want to read some of Amy's writing about food, go to her own blog:

I will show additional stages of the painting and share how I am making it as it develops.
Be well and eat good food,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oil Painting: Potatoes

Bowl of Potatoes
Media: Oil Paint on Canvas
Size: 4" x 4" x 1.5"

I really liked painting these fingerling potatoes from my garden.  The opposite of the painting Eggs in a Bowl, these shapes were not hard-edged.  This presents a completely different set of problems, dimples can't be too dimply, curves can't be too curvy.  Every edge still has an exactness to it for it to breathe.  A neighbor friend of mine bought this painting for her husband who loves potatoes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Oil Painting: Bowl of Eggs

Bowl of Eggs
Media:  Oil Paint on canvas
Size: 6" x 12" x 1.5"

Yes, it is difficult to paint oblong shapes with consistent curves.  But then I noticed that eggs aren't necessarily consistent in their curves.  Each one is a little different in shape and size.  And though they are white eggs there are very few areas that are just white in the painting.  Curves aren't consistent, white isn't white - this painting was a bit of a puzzler.  Like all my oils, the image wraps around the sides of the canvas.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Funny Story - Watch Your Attachments

I recently e-mailed a woman to help me with a possible refinance of my mortgage.  I needed to send her a copy of my mortgage statement.  So I scanned three pages of the statement, saw scans 1, 2 and 3 in my scans folder, attached them to the e-mail and sent it off. Once the e-mail was sent it popped up on the screen and I could see the attachments.  Oops, instead of attaching my statements, I attached three drawings for the Fat Pig BBQ Sauce logo (on the left).  I quickly resent an email apologizing and saying I hoped she laughed instead of being offended. She wrote back that she was laughing
because she sent it off to her coworker to crunch the numbers without looking at the attachment.  Lesson learned, check my attachments before sending.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Illustration: Fat Pig BBQ Sauce logo

I recently created a pig image for the Fat Pig BBQ Sauce logo. Fat Pig BBQ Sauce is a very tasty sauce created by Brad and Michelle.  Honestly, I've had some and it is very good.  Well, they had a clip art pig on their label, but since they were a very small business, that worked fine.  But now they were making another batch of sauce and asked if I would tweak their pig for them.  Anyone who has read this blog knows I don't mind tweaking pigs. The image above is the first pig I created.  One of the requirements was that the pig be wearing a chef's hat.  The other was that the pig should be winking one eye.  I liked this one. 
I added the Fat Pig name so Brad and Michelle could see how the image might integrate with the text.  Although they liked this pig head, they did not choose it.  The fat pig below was the drawing they chose.  They liked the curly tale and the smile.  I okayed this sketch with them before adding color.  The only change they wanted was a little larger hat.
 I must digress here for a moment and share some more of the story.  When looking to create a fat pig, I decided to google the term "fat pig."  I did not have a real pig handy, so I wanted to look at a lot of images.  I have to confess I was not expecting what I found.  The first several images were of pig illustrations and some photos of large pigs.  These gave way to images of Brittany Spears!  The images were of her first comeback performance after her drug rehab.  She was obviously not in the best "Brittany" shape, but was still nowhere near fat.  Further down the page where images of obese women.  Okay, Brittany is a celebrity and I expect people to be judgmental and catty toward celebrities, but it was just plain rude to include these other women.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- but I was -- and insulted!  Why weren't there any images of obese men.  It is just incredibly unfair and insulting to these women.  I digressed and now I will unigress.

Below you can find the final colored image I created for the logo.  I am quite happy with it - he has some personality.  The little larger hat looks much better, too.  If Fat Pig BBQ Sauce ever takes off and you happen to come across it, try it.  You won't be disappointed.  Just don't call the pig Brittany! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Watercolor: Forget Me Not

This is a watercolor of a Forget Me Not flower I finished this morning. I don't know if I have much to say about this painting.  It is 7" x 11" on Fabriano hot press paper - my favorite.  I enjoyed sitting at my table drawing and painting this.  I'm quite happy with it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tony Orrico - 1 circle proto

Something beautiful.  Sometimes we have to have endurance to experience beauty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Watercolor: Coreopsis

This is the first sketch for a watercolor I created of a coreopsis flower. In this drawing I was working on composition. Since this plant has flowers generally in the upward direction, but occasionally has a horizontal bloom popping out, I decided to go horizontal, like I did with the spiderwort painting of the last entry.  The part that caused the most consternation was the petal length.  Visually, my brain wants to see the petals all being equal length, but that is not always the case in nature.  The flower is tipping sideways and gravity has its effects.  Bottom petals want to curve up while upper petals reach for the sky.

This second drawing is one I traced from the first drawing so I could transfer it to watercolor paper.  In this step I eliminate all unnecessary detail and sketch lines that I did not want.  I will also adjust the pivot or angle of some parts.  I will trace this lightly onto the paper, therefore any small details can be lost.  Also, a transfer is an approximation.  Once I start adding color to the painting, I follow my eyes and my instincts,  The transfer gives me a reference point so my image is not too distorted. 

Here is the finished watercolor.  I completed it in two sittings, a week apart.  I had to cut more flowers because the original had died.  I find this painting acceptable but a bit of a characterization instead of a good observational treatment.  Unfortunately, my mind wondered at a few crucial moments during the process - much of that having to do with acquiring a new puppy that likes to chew on everything and needed house-training.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stop Making Sense

I am sitting at my drawing table this morning and pondering the end of the world. It is an odd hobby.

I am also wondering about what to paint this week. As I sit and ruminate by my window I feel the chill breeze of the morning on my skin. I hear the sounds of my neighbor emptying her dishwasher -- the unmistakable clatter of stacking plates and the chiming of glasses as they casually bump into each other. Yesterday, the cottonwood seeds were floating through my backyard like lazy snowflakes. Their numbers were so immense that it actually did seem like snow and a layer was accumulating on the lawn. Yesterday I also ate a wild strawberry from my yard. Unfortunately, it was more about texture than about taste. My mind has wondered... I am supposed to be thinking of something to paint, something that will trigger thoughts of the end of the world. But there's the rub, thoughts aren't part of the end of the world. Thoughts and associations and dreams and experience are part of this side of the Great Divide. Instead of painting and thinking about the senselessness of the end, I was busy making sense of the moment.

A glance out my window provides the subject for painting - a spiderwort plant in full bloom. I throw on some shorts and head out to cut a segment off and put it in a vase. Again, I feel the chill breeze on my naked upper torso and neck. My hair goes on end.  I feel the wet dewy grass underneath my feet and the smell of rain is in the air. I select, I clip, I place and I draw.

My friend mentioned to me that nothing ends, it simply becomes something else.  That may be true in terms of that which can be physically explained.  But what happens to our experience?  What happens to the simple act of sensing, if one does not have senses?  I do not know what happens on the other side.  But I am pretty sure I will not be sitting at a table, observing a spiderwort, enjoying the smell of eraser shavings (have you ever noticed the smell of eraser shavings?), feeling the texture of the paper with my fingertips and a morning breeze on my skin.  What is beauty without the senses?

Like my thoughts, a spiderwort is an angular thing that zigs and zags back and forth from one plant segment, or node, to another.  Creating a composition out of these scattering energies is a challenge.  I feel what is vertical in essence, seems horizontal in representation. Cropping and editing diminishes the overall effect of this plant.  A part cannot represent the whole because the plant is about the perpendicular relationship of its parts.  How does one work with so much information and condense it into a representation of the whole?  How can one possibly make sense of it?

On the second day of painting, my spiderwort has already diminished to the point that I need to cut another. Again, I feel the breeze on my body.  It is another day threatening to rain.  I select, I clip, I place and I paint.

I went for a run yesterday.  I alternate mornings of painting and running but think about the end of the world while doing both.  My body hit a rhythm for the first time since I have started this ritual.  Although it was work, it was easy. I felt the air fill my lungs and my feet pounding on the sidewalk.  I ran under a tree and its wet leaves touched the top of my head.  A cold wetness sits on top of my head for another half a block.  I think, once the world ends this will no longer happen, there will no longer be someone interpreting sensory experience. We are the one's on the planet that accelerate learning and evolution by giving meaning to experience.  Soon, no one will be placing experience in an order that makes sense, that supports all of this to become more. This decay has already begun.

One day, we will stop using our eyes, our noses, our fingers, our skin, our tongues and our ears.  What will a world be like without the foundation on which all decisions, learnings and associations have been made?  I hope there will be a benefit when we stop making sense.

I look out my window, it has begun to rain.

Warning Mask Collaboration

While up at Mallard Island earlier this summer, I worked with Mike Peterson of Madison, WI.  There is a corner of the eave of the Library where tall people can hit their head if they are not careful.  Don, the Big Cheese, asked that a ribbon or something be placed there.  I decided to do something more.  I sketched a face on some tin and cut it out with tin snips.  I then handed the mask and some paint to Mike, who was doing painting jobs during the week.  He painted the blue and yellow/orange and white on the mask.  Once it was dry, which took quite a long time, I drew the details of the face with a permanent marker.  Mike then added the jingle bells while I created a tongue.  Once complete, I mounted it in place.

This was a fun project working with Mike Peterson and doing something that might at least help some people not hit their head on this overhanging eave.  Thanks, Mike.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Final Resting Places

This first week of painting while being mindful of the end of the earth, I decided to finish an old painting I had begun over a year ago.  It is a watercolor of a wild ginger plant (previous entries about this painting can be seen here:

The painting had a base coat that delineated the veins in the leaves and the stems and the small basal flower.  It had been awhile since I worked on this painting so I took my time mixing the colors I needed before putting brush to paper.  There is nothing worse than ruining a painting with your first brushstroke of the day.

While painting, I was thinking about the end of the world and it occurred to me that part of creativity at the end of the world would be to go back and finish up some things.  As time draws to a close, there is a need for a sense of closure.  If one has time to see one's end coming there will be time to put some things in place.  With human life coming to a close, culture will be completely decimated and revealed as the facade that it is.  In this state, what kind of role could art and creativity possibly have?

One role would be to make things whole by preparing for the end - to put things in their final resting place.

One aspect of this would be using creativity to complete things that are still undone.  I don't think I would worry about completing a particular painting that had been sitting around for a few years.  Then again, finishing it might give me peace.  But as I look around the world that is left I would probably see things that just seem wrong - out of place.   There will be fewer and fewer people to track the volumes of "stuff" we have created and I am sure it will be strewn about from wind or thoughtlessness.  How much of my studio and house (especially my tool bench) are taken up by old things that I will never use - that others will never use?  How many paintings have I had sitting in my studio for years?  Will this be my legacy to eternity, that I collected and created useless stuff and left it lying around?  It would only be fitting considering the consumerist culture I live in now.  But at the end of time, perhaps the best thing we could do is put things in their rightful and proper final resting places, which might mean getting rid of them completely.

As I work on the wild ginger painting, I am focusing on putting things in their proper and final resting place.  I already have a painting that has a few stages completed.  I am now pushing edges back by darkening them, bringing edges forward by warming them up.  Areas of the leaves need to feel more like a surface, so I am placing grey/light blue over whole areas.  I am taking the structure that already exists and adding colors to create surface, to create a sense of life.  My goal is to place every square centimeter of the painting in its final resting place.  When I step back to critiqued my progress I am looking for unsettled places, places where my eye (my heart) cannot rest.  If I cannot find rest, I have to go back in and rework that area more.  My painting won't be complete until the entire painting feels at rest -- when each stroke, color, value and surface feels in its proper and final resting place.  Then, and only then, do I know that it is done.

At the end of the world it is much harder to put things in their proper place.  We obviously have not been good at putting things in their proper place, otherwise the world would not be coming to an end.  It would be understandable in our present condition if one's life ended feeling disrupted and out of sorts.  The act of putting objects and relationships in their proper final resting place can help to make the soul less disrupted, less aimless, less hopeless.  It can be healing.

My thoughts are that I would take all of my useless stuff and compact it into an area where it is out of the way, so it has a small local impact instead of a broad impact. I would like to make a game of it.  When our population is down to a few hundred, we could have competitions to see who can hide or destroy the most debris.  Perhaps I would burn it all up and leave no trace of it.  I need to make space for the world again to be what it will without me -- without us.  It is the respectful thing to do in response to our decimating the planet.  Then I would go about trying to put bigger things in their rightful place.  Perhaps I would become the last Johnny Appleseed, planting trees throughout the land to replace the forests humans had destroyed centuries earlier.  I wonder about creating an art piece that might be found by others visiting our planet or if life here ever became self-aware again.  Perhaps a highly evolved squirrel might one day climb onto a stone sculpture I created and recognize that someone as intelligent as it had been here before.  Perhaps not.

And this brings me back to questioning the relevance of creativity and art at the end of the world.  If no one else is going to see it, what is its relevance?  Obviously, art at the end of the world will not be created for  others to consume (is that all it is now?).  It will go back from where it came -- to ritual, to healing.  I wonder if there is a way to begin putting the human race and its impact in its proper place?  Is there a way to gather all that we have done, package it up and store it away so the next world can have its own go at life without our leftovers disrupting it?  That is, once the environment becomes inhabitable again.  As an artist, I like  to think that we creatives might best be able to look out at the canvas of this planet and recognize how best to put things in their final resting place.  We've already done this hundreds of times with our art.  Perhaps the most important art piece we'll ever create as a species is our final resting place - the planet we pass on to the rest of eternity.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oil Painting: Red Onion

Red Onion
Oil Paint on Canvas
6" x 8"

Friday, May 6, 2011

22' Spinning Flower for International Children's Festival

Here is a teaser video for the Flint Hills International Children's Festival's Discovery Garden project I am creating this year.  The idea of the garden is that it is a world of discovery.  There will be interactive elements in the garden where children will find objects and images.  The highlight of the garden is this 22' diameter spinning flower that will be on top of a twenty-five foot tree trunk.  The Discovery Garden will also include more than 20,000 flowers and plants, a small discovery cottage, discovery boxes and more.  I will share more as it develops.  I developed this display with Angela Koebler and built the display with many, many people.

The Flint Hills International Children's Festival is produced by the Ordway Theater for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul.  This is the eleventh year for the festival.  This is the third year I have created a "garden" for it.   The festival is the weekend of June 4 & 5, 2011.  It is held in downtown Saint Paul in the Rice Park area.  Come on down, say "hello," discover things in the garden and see a giant spinning flower.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Video: Chicken Drawing

Here is a chicken drawing for you!  The species is a Silver-Spangled Hamberg.  The original drawing will be available at my sale this weekend. 


Friday, April 22, 2011

Oil Painting: Pickle Jar

Pickle Jar
Oil Paint on Canvas
A 4.5" x 7"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oil Painting: Laura's Dog

This is a dog painting in oil I recently completed. It is my friend Laura's dog. Laura lives in New York City and has two dogs that she takes out for walks and would, for me, take photographs of them taking a pee.

I finally finished this painting.  It will be used for the cover of a story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story is titled Mental Exercises in which, while walking home from a party, Ned reminisces about a walk with his father and their dog Jingles.  I want to thank Laura for being such a good sport and willing participant.  Although, I did hear that the dogs were a little bit put-out by their part of the project.  Granted they had to go pee anyway, but who would want that posted on a blog?  It is disrespectful.

Keep on using your Artist's Brain - even if it is embarrassing to your pet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Illustration: Donkey Burger Logo Trials

I recently was creating a logo for Donkey Burger, the fast-food restaurant in The Book of Bartholomew. A donkey was the first order of business. I needed to create a comical donkey head. Below are some trials of different donkey heads. You can see that I had a pretty good beginning and only tweaked hair, mouth, ears and eyes from this point. My first go is the upper left image in the group of eight. I didn't like the hair, so I printed out several incomplete donkey heads and then tried different hair styles.

After I settled on a hair style, I wasn't happy with the ears.  I had one thin ear and one big ear.  They didn't match.  At first I copied and pasted the thin ear to the other side of his head, so they matched.  I didn't quite like this.  Then I created a big ear for the front, to match the one in the back. I liked this better.

Now that I had the donkey head like I wanted it (although I still want to change the eyes slightly) I made it into an official Donkey Burger logo by adding the name, some circles and stars and the tagline. I like "Meat with a Kick," which is safer than the other choice of "Eat My Ass."

This logo will appear on the next published story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story is titled "Lunch Rap," and will be published on March 18 at

I hope you enjoyed this. Keep using your Donkey...ooops!... I mean, your Artist's Brain.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Drawing: Glass of Water

Here is a glass of water to go with the salad.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Drawing: Salad

I decided to draw a salad the other day. It will be an illustration for the story Someone To Call Home. I went to the kitchen and tore apart Romain lettuce leaves, added sliced red onion, feta cheese, diced apple and pine nuts. I topped it all off with some ranch dressing. I then sat and drew for three hours. I sketched out the bowl and a few "landmarks" with pencil and then began drawing with ink. I was getting hungry and happy to finish the drawing and eat the salad.

I know some artists who would gather every Wednesday night, draw/paint the food they were going to eat that night and then cook it and eat it. I joined them one night to paint a plate of shrimp that we then grilled. That was delicious, too. Food and art go together, don't you think?