Sunday, August 31, 2008


Dear Folks,
Now here is truly something different for me. This is the view outside my brother's house in Charleston, SC. I was inspired by artwork he already had in his house by another artist. The vibrant colors were perfect for that coastal setting. I learned a lot from doing this and the several other views and versions of that yard. I am hoping that it keeps me reminded that just because I am used to only mild variations on arid and semi-arid landscapes,my work doesn't need to all be yellow ochre. Even if the view in front of me really is. One can extrapolate to push color if one is careful how one does it.
I feel that the teaching artists I've worked with over the past have given me a pretty good grasp of color theory and I've usually been pretty determined to tell the absolute truth about a landscape. That's what I try to do in my plein air work. But you can have some fun with the color notes you make in the field when you take it into the studio. You have to be conscious of your color choices though. There aren't exactly rules to follow, but you need to stay true to value and consistency or it won't read right.
I've been very happy with these particular pieces and am trying to work a bit more of that sort of color choice into my landscapes. I've always put a little of these bright colors into my work, but it's it often so muted by the overpainting that it's lost. I need to be reminded to let those colors stand sometimes.
Do you like this type of thing? Or do you prefer the more naturalistic form of landscape?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Color Challenge

Dear All,

Before we leave the subject of still-life, I have to show you this. This is of some Chinese bronzes I inherited from my grandparents who went to China in 1920 as missionaries. In fact, my mother was born there. They returned from four years there with, among other things, a two year old child and these items, an incense burner, two vases and the candlesticks. I have a photo of these things in their house in China.

But the history of these items is not why I show you this painting. See how muted the colors are? Well, that's because this was an exercise in using a very very limited palette. I used four tubes of paint. White, black, yellow ochre and cadmium red light. That's it. Think you see blue in there? You do. It's what happens when Ivory Black is mixed with Titanium White. It goes blue. But that is only a relative thing. If you were to mix those colors on a neutral palette, it would look gray. But in this painting, with these other muted colors as background, it looks blue. Neat huh?

OK, this was just an exercise piece, but I thought the result was interesting from a skills point of view. Hope you do too.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Those of you who know how much I hate to do still-life will be proud of me. Peggy and I actually set this up at my studio and painted it without an instructor looming over us with a whip. Well, Peggy doesn't need to be battered. She likes still-life. I, on the other hand, detest it. It's way too technical for me. And, ok, I admit it, I don't even like other artists' still-lifes. And if it has flowers in it? Whoa, Katy, let me out that door! Now THAT'S complicated! Unfortunately most workshops I encounter are offered in still-life. I don't know if that's because most people are more mindful of technique and detail than I am or if they just don't want to get mosquito-bit outdoors. Now I try to paint my landscapes en plein air, and the reason is that I fully understand the criticism of painting from photos--that the light lies, the color lies, the perspective lies, etc., but I would way rather do that than paint something which just sits on a table doing nothing but gathering, reflecting, emitting and changing light. So confusing.
So, anyway, this is a still-life of pears. At least you can eat the subject matter when you get tired of it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Morning in the Hill Country

Dear Folks,
I am back at it with the Jay Lauver's Art Blog and wanted to show you another piece done for reference purposes for a later bigger studio piece. This one is another 8x10 done on location. I took photos and used both this and the photos for a canvas, 16x20. It looks much the same so I won't bother to put that on the blog, and besides, I kinda like this a little better. I think the things done plein air are actually a bit more free and lively.
This was at a ranch in Comfort Texas, and in fact, the place where the previous blog posting painting was done. Peggy and I got up early one morning and found this lovely misty morning glowing outside the door. Hard to resist.
I've had several rather shy inquiries about my prices and while I am not doing this blog strictly as a commercial enterprise, I am not averse to lettting you know that my work is mostly for sale. Almost all of my plein air pieces of the 8"x10" size come framed and range in price from $200 to $500. The vast majority of them are about $300 framed. I have gotten to the point too, where I do not sell them unframed unless there are extraordinary circumstances. I learned this the hard way when I would see pieces I had sold unframed put in cheap thin black frames which did not complement the work and presented it very poorly. Framing does not necessarily make the painting but it certainly can belittle it. I don't understand why you would pay for an original work of art and then not present it like you were proud of it.
Oops. I think that's another lecture. And if you are reading this, I am likely preaching to the choir. Sorry.
I hope you are enjoying the rain, which is a big weather break for us South Texans. Maybe the drought is going away?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hill Country Cedar

Dear Folks,

Thanks for the positive feedback on that exotic painting from last time. It's not my usual thing, but it was fun.

Today's painting is more my usual thing. This was done plein air at a ranch up near Comfort in the Texas Hill Country. We sat outside on a gray day during the late winter. Technically, the trees we all call "Cedar" in this part of the country are actually junipers, but tradition holds sway over biological accuracy.

Again, this was done on an 8"x10" gessoed board. You may ask why so many of my pieces are done on this board, and the answer is twofold. One: it's very convenient to carry when going on location. It fits in a backpack with several other boards until I am ready to use it and it takes up no room. When it is a done painting I can either leave it in my paint box or put it in a wet box designed specifically for that size painting. I have carried many wet paintings of that size board all at the same time in such a box. Mine holds six at a time. They even dry well in there. Secondly: I like this surface for a more impressionistic work. My brushes are very soft because this surface does not really allow the use of bristle brushes, but it allows me to control edges and make good blending lines and color.

Sometimes these small paintings make great reference material for a bigger, more studious piece, but I am usually trying my best to produce something complete when I paint out. Or at least something which can be easily made finished. Sometimes I go out with a plan to work on a specific element of art--such as color or light--and then I don't necessarily worry about producing a finished piece. This painting did not require much attention in the studio as I had time and unchanging light the day we were out.

That's my lecture for today. It may be more than you wanted to know!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Christmas on the Riverwalk


Here we have something very different for me. This is the San Antonio Riverwalk during the holidays. I can never remember if it's actually Thanksgiving day or the day after, there is a big ceremony to light the lights along the famous Riverwalk. All the huge cypress trees are completely festooned with bright Christmas lights and it just makes for a fairyland of color.

Of course this brings out scads of people, and the boat ride people and sidewalk vendors and stores and restaurants gear up for that. Lots of activity. This was done from a photo my brother, the ace photographer, took last year. I was a little dubious about it as it is so far off my usual path. But the further I got into it, the more fun it became.

There were lots of challenges to it, some of which I did better than others. The lights themselves had to be depicted with straight color from the tubes, and then there was the light reflected on the water and then the light reflected on more absorbant surfaces like the trees and the boat parts and the umbrellas. I took liberties with some of the lighting just to give the piece a more painterly feel. Note the halos around the Christmas lights.

I have no idea what I'll do with this painting. It's little again, 8"x10" on board, but I am wondering if there might be a place for it during the holidays. Maybe there will be a contest?

Just wanted to show you something different from all the recent animals.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Flying English Setter

Dear All,

Here is the action painting of Dove, the dog I showed in portrait yesterday. D'Lynn had a very nice photo taken at a show which showed Dove in full excited extension. I made some adjustments to enhance the feeling of movement. I changed the angle of the tail to a more upright position to give the feeling of lift. And I lowered the position of the pole to let you know how high Dove can go. She really does air her jumps.

The two portraits from yesterday were done on gessoed board and required framing. This piece is done on gallery wrapped linen canvas and does not require framing if it is not desired. The colors of the background go around the sides of the painting and make a complete image without needing to be set off by a frame.

Again, this is done with a very light oil wash for the background, to let the brush strokes help with the feeling of movement. The figure of the dog is done in opaque paint.

I love doing this sort of work. I think it brings the animal to life to show it doing what it does best. And, much as most owners think they would like a more formal portrait, I think this is the way they really remember their beloved pet. Out there happy and laughing and doing whatever it is that makes them special to the owner.

I hope you like this as much as I do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

English Setters!

Dear All,
Herewith are the promised dog portraits I've been working on the past couple of months. There is still one more painting of the top dog which is an action painting but I haven't gotten that loaded into the computer yet. Tomorrow.
These two dogs belong to D'Lynn, one of the folks we train with at Eurodog Training center. The top dog is Dove, her current competition agility dog. Dove is a sweetie with a great disposition and plenty of drive to be a top level competitor. In fact, twice now, she has gone to the National AKC Agility Invitationals, where only the top five dogs in each breed in the country are invited to participate. Dove is currently the top English Setter in Agility in AKC in the country!
The bottom painting is of Belle, D'Lynn's very first English Setter from several years ago. Belle has been gone now for several years, but D'Lynn holds her in a special place in her heart and wanted a portrait of that special dog. I never knew this dog, but doing the portrait made me feel a connection to her as though she'd been sitting at my feet while I was at the easel.
I hope you like these dog portraits. I think they came out rather well. They are small, on my usual 8"x10" gessoed board, and were varnished and framed in matching frames before being presented. Now stay tuned tomorrow for the action painting of Dove flying her fences!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just Getting Started

Dear Readers,

I promised a horse in honor of the Olympics, and this is a horse, even if a very young one. I also present this to you to prove that I do watercolors too, as well as oils.

This little baby is my very own Sadie, done when she was newly born. She grew up to be a beautiful chestnut Trakhener cross with a peppery personality and lots of talent. We did hunters and some cross country and eventually dressage. She even knew how to do piaffe! Very advanced for a stiff old rider like me.

I have had good success with watercolor in the past, as it lends itself to showcasing good drawing and I have always been fairly good at drawing horses. I quit doing it for a long while because I didn't have a good place to store my things and work uninterrupted for as long as it takes to work wet into wet. I now have that place with the new studio and am anxious to get back into watercolor soon.

This piece has been sitting around for quite a while and now that I look at it again, think it might make a good submission to the Chronicle of the Horse as cover art. I'll have to do something about that.

We're hoping for rain here. Are you wishing it would stop raining where you are?

Have a happy day!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Guiniviere and Julia


We are laying the cow paintings to rest. This is the other of the two portrait cows. I was gratified to get many suggestions on naming the first one and am declaring the winning name to be GUINIVIERE. Yep. I think that suits her just fine. Elegant and feminine and just what she looks like. So thanks to Anne for that suggestion!

And since I now have a list of other good suggestions, I can go ahead and name this one. And she is a JULIA. Thanks to Sandy for that one!

So Julia and Guiniviere are a pair, I think. I will eventually frame them similarly and offer them as a twosome. I see them going to a rancher somewhere maybe.

Are you watching the Olympic equestrian events? I plan to do that as much as possible. For a change, the TV people have recognised how popular those events are and are airing most of them. I had friends who went to the Atlanta games and they told me that the attendance numbers for the equestrian events were extremely large and eclipsed a lot of the track and field events. Yet the TV people still didn't cover it. One had to buy tapes if one wanted to see how it all went. So I'm excited to see the events are scheduled to show for this Olympics.

Think I'll put a horse painting on the blog next, in honor of the Olympics. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What Is Her Name?

Dear Readers,

This is one of the cow portraits I promised a while back. It's from a photo I took the day my friend Peggy and I went to paint on a ranch near here. We were supervised by a large herd of cows and their bull and I just had to take pictures.

Now, my problem with this little painting is the title. I'd like this cow to have a name. Something feminine. Something elegant. Something not the name of any of my friends who might take it personally. Like, I like Margaret, but I'm afraid Peggy might not like that. I like Calista, but that was my great aunt. She was quite proper and would have been aghast at a cow with her name. Can't do it. I am open for suggestions. You can't know the names of all the people I don't want to offend, but you might have some names which would just suit. Send them on!

For those of you who know about the dog portraits I'm doing right now--they will be on the blog next week. They are being delivered on Monday and then I can put them up for you to see. Stay tuned to Jay Lauver's Art Blog. (See how clever I was to get that in there? )

Have a sunny day!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Andalusian

Hi everyone!
Here is one of my favorite horse paintings. It's a little one, only 8"x10", but I like the style and the color and the drawing and the subject and - and --. Well, I like it.
This horse belongs to the De La Parra family here in San Antonio. Several years ago I was with a group of trail riding women who were invited to visit their facility to see their Andalusian stallions and watch them work. It was a wonderful experience. I took a lot of photos, but this gray really struck a pose for us as we all snapped away with our cameras. I am sorry that I never learned his name but he was a fine looking animal.
One reason I like this painting is the many colors in the coat of a seemingly " white" horse. So much yellow reflected from the ground to his belly, and so much light blue in the folds of his muscle and skin.
I've had several offers to buy this piece, but I just can't make myself part with it. I use it on my business cards and as a sample piece for anyone wanting a portrait of their own horse.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
Have a great day!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tourist Art?

Dear Y'all,

If you are an artist in San Antonio, you must do at least one version of the various sights famous in the town. A big favorite is the Arneson River Theater on the Riverwalk in downtown. Not to be left out, this is my take on that famous landmark. I did this on location and with reference photos which I took myself. The work boat in the foreground was there and added an element not found in most versions of this scene, so I kept it in, just to be a little different.

The original of this is 16"x20" and is on canvas. I felt it was a good enough piece to have reproductions made and I sell those regularly at the gallery. This seems a more painterly option than the usual almost photographic versions of the Riverwalk at that gallery. People seem to like it as it sells well.

I am still getting a mixture of comments on the blog and email responses which indicates to me that folks are still having a bit of trouble with postings. It's still a mystery to me too.