Category Archives: 100 dollar paintings

Choosing a painting subject

A simple spring subject.  Oil on canvas, 11x14

A simple spring subject. Oil on canvas, 11×14

I’ve often been asked how I decide what to paint.  To me, the answer is obvious.  Just as writers are advised to “paint what you know,” so, too, should painters.  What interests you?  Do you have a passion or special message?  For me, just walking out the door will often suggest a subject.  In fact, I once had an exhibit which was solely painted from “my 90 acres,” i.e., everything and everyone was from the home place.  That was a little challenging as I do get out and about, but it was a good exhibit.

This painting that I completed yesterday is a scene just out my studio door.  The dog and some spring bushes.  Pretty simple.  However, if you look back at some of the famous painters of the past century, regional artists or French Impressionists, some of their best work was of ordinary daily scenes.  I don’t live near the ocean or the Rocky Mountains, so my usual subjects are the soft hills here in southern Indiana, small villages, flower gardens, vegetables, my favorite people and places.  Try taking a look around your own home town with new eyes.  You’ll be surprised at subjects which suggest themselves.  Good luck!

Frequency of plein air painting

I’m often asked how I can find the time to paint, especially with a full-time job.  My answer is that if it’s really important to you, you’ll make the time.  In my case, summers are my less busy time but in the performing arts season, my weekends are usually busy.

Plein air oil painting of apples, 8 x 10

One of the good things about living on my 90 acres is that I can just walk out the door of my studio and find something paintable, nearly every season, any time of day.  Sometimes I don’t have a great deal of time to pack up and drive to some scenic location so I start scouting around the farm for something interesting.

This past weekend I just walked behind my studio into my apple orchard to do a quick plein air sketch.  The wind was blowing, the bugs were biting, but this little 8 x 10 oil painting only took about an hour.  It’s not so much the finished product as the practice.  Sargent used to paint daily, even when he was visiting friends, and then wipe off his canvases at the end of the day to start anew the next day.  I won’t tell you how many layers of painting some of my canvases have.  😉