Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bethany in Green

Bethany in Green by David R. Darrow 8" x 14" (20.3cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
SOLD Collection of L. Grace
San Diego, CA – USA

About This Painting

I'm not as good at math as I should be.

And I am really lame at guessing ages.

In 1991 a little girl came into my life that would change my heart and my mind, and sway my resolutions, the subsequent blessings of which I could never have foreseen.


Because of Bethany, I have a wonderful daughter.

See, in 1991, my daughter did not yet exist, because her mother and I (mostly me) had decided a few years earlier to stop at 2 children. We had two fine boys, and were having plenty of fun, and absorbing the challenges that come with raising two boys on an artist's income.

That year our little family of 4 had season passes to what is now called Six Flags Magic Mountain and decided, for reasons I cannot remember, to take some of our friends' daughters with us. Bethany was 5, and her mother instructed her simply, "Now you hold on to Mr. Darrow's hand the whole time, okay?" Right there in her driveway before we even left for the amusement park, she looked up at me and smiled and grabbed my hand.

Like Superman too close to Kryptonite, I began to melt... little by little throughout the day, this warm, sweet, smiling little girl brought down the giant I thought I was.

At the end of the day, I didn't want to return her to her mother.

But I did. (It's the law).

Later that year we decided to expand our family and "try for a girl." And in 1992 God blessed us with a sweet daughter of our own who has been the subject of many of my paintings, and has her daddy's heart forever.

Well, in 1994 we moved away from that area, and I have never seen anyone in Bethany's family since. Fast-forward to 2007, Tuesday in fact, and I get an e-mail from Bethany assuming, of course, that I remember who she is.

I'm picturing a little smiling cutie looking up at me holding my hand, and I am mentally trying to stretch her image into an older person that has the facility to write e-mails (I told you math escapes me at times).

She attached to the e-mail a picture of her now... posing with a melancholy expression in front of a green wall... and that's when reality smacked me across the face.

She's in her early 20s now, married and just found out she's expecting a child of her own.

How did Bethany turn into a woman in — what's it been —three weeks? All I could write back to her was "Wow! You've grown up!" and then, "This picture looks so much like a work of art with that pose and lighting that I want to know if I can do an oil painting interpretation of it," to which she enthusiastically agreed.

I showed the finished painting to my oldest son when we got together for Thanksgiving and asked him if he remembered Bethany.

"Do I remember her?" he said, as if I asked him if he likes to surf. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have a sister!"

The Legend of Bethany, the 5-year-old girl who melted a man's heart, lives on.

And now she is immortalized.  ◙

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Distracted by David R. Darrow 14" x 11" (35.6cm x 27.9cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of L. Grace
San Diego, CA – USA

About This Painting

My daughter is one of my favorite models.

Every now and again I see her face in a certain light... the highlights glancing off her cheekbones in some way, or the pattern of the shadows bringing out her natural beauty...

In this case, I happened to catch her looking simply beautiful while she was watching a fascinating show on TV... while I messed with the lights she kept her eyes on the story from which I could not steal her.  ◙

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Slice of Life

Slice of Life by David R. Darrow 7" x 5" (17.8cm x 12.7cm)
Oil on Panel
SOLD Collection of Robin Neudorfer
San Marino, CA – USA

About This Painting

There's a "farmer's market" in a large Carlsbad, CA parking lot each Wednesday. Vendors — most of them the actual farmers of the produce the sell at the market — set up white-topped tent booths and hawk their wares for one day a week.

I think the tomatoes from local growers beat the taste of store tomatoes 365 days a year. So, when I can, I buy them from local growers.

When setting up for a new display at a local art gallery a while back, it looked to me like there was a little bit of room for another painting, and so I asked the owner if I could bring in a 5 x 7 to add to the upcoming show. Permission granted, I told her I'd "be right back" and headed home.

When I arrived in my studio, I got out a blank 5 x 7 panel and dashed to the kitchen to find something to paint.

I couldn't resist this gorgeous, red tomato I had purchased a couple of days before at the farmer's market. Slicing into it, juice spilled out either side, but the firm tomato fruit held its shape perfectly as I removed this aromatic wedge and posed the parts to compose my painting.

An hour later, I returned to the gallery with this finished painting, framed and wired, ready to hang.

"Careful," I smiled. "It's still wet."

"You just painted it?"

"Yep. I told you I'd be right back."

I probably priced it too high for my little known name at the time, so eventually it came back home.

It's time to let it go.  ◙

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Bodice by David R. Darrow 7-1/2" x 11" (19.1cm x 27.9cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of Maria Boustani
Beckley, WV – USA

About This Painting

I just finished my 2007 Portrait Workshop in Carlsbad, CA this past weekend. This painting was the last of the four I did as demonstrations for my painting style. In the short time allowed for demos, everything I teach gets crammed into a very rapid painting — and sometimes, these demos come out pretty rewarding.

I talk while I paint, so the workshop attendees can "hear what's going on in my mind" — to see what I see, and understand the decisions I make with paint.

At one point, I was trying to describe the edges and value differences between the light of the model's flesh and "that blue... uh... that, uh vest thing?"

The model who was sitting as still as a mannequin piped up. "Bodice," and went 'back to frozen.'

I will never forget, now.   ◙

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Workshop 2007 was a blast

workshop 3I had a great group of people at my workshop this past weekend. Everyone seemed in very good spirits, eager to paint and to learn, and filled with enthusiasm despite the challenges of painting from life in front of other people. We had a lot of fun together. The models were great. Good character to their faces, and just fun people, too, as we all got to know them. It is such a pleasure to paint from life from professional models who take their work seriously (I have painted from pros who are nonchalant, and I can tell you the energy is much different!) workshop 3I started the first session with a 1.5 hour demo quick study in getting the light and shadow patterns down; thinking abstractly about the vague shapes you see while squinting, and putting this little patchwork of a puzzle together on the canvas. This was a purposely rapid portrait demo, using only 4 colors and white. Raw Umber, Yellow Ocher, Alizarin Crimson and Cerulean Blue) because I was trying to demonstrate the importance of value and shadow patterns over color issues. Color seems to bog most students down, when in fact Value and Drawing are far more critical. I spent a good deal of time in each session, except the last, helping attendees get a better feel for how I approach a painting. The individual attention one-on one with the students that wanted it seemed to set them in a new direction and get them approaching the task in a new way. workshop 3I didn't get much time to paint in Saturday's morning session. But when I did get going, I did a discussion about drawing the features in abstractly, how I measure, what I look for in line and proportion and rapidly banging in the shadows in bulk. This is the result of an hour's work. I also discussed how light and shadow describe form to the viewer's brain... how one shadow describes the forms of both the object that is casting the shadow and the object onto which it is cast. The characteristics of the edges of the shadows are critical in striking recognition within the viewer's mind. It was a great weekend, and I am already being asked when my next workshop will be. If you are interested in getting information about my next workshop by e-mail, be sure to add your e-mail address to my private mailing list. All info on my mailing list is confidential.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Where Have I Been?

18 x 6 - Acrylic, Pacheco Pass, CA

Busyland. It's right near the edge of the earth, so if you think I fell off it, you're close. Actually, to fill in the income holes between painting sales, I do websites and have been constructing one for a long-time client... I am trying to set it all up with good CSS structure which makes it easier to change in the future should they want a new look. Unfortunately, some of the structure I have been attempting is mind-boggling when switching between browsers. It's astounding that since 1998 when CSS2 standards were established, all the major browsers do not agree on how to display pages using these standards. But I have also been working on three commissions I have obtained since the San Diego Reader cover article about me hit the stands. I simply have not had much time to do anything but "real work" -- which is a delight for a full-time artist. Along the way, I have been feeding my artistic mind with how-to videos rented from One of my favorites to watch (or just listen to) is the 10-hour set of Morgan Weistling's Advanced Fundamentals for the Beginning Expert, which you can now rent from them. Even though I practically know this video by heart, it's like the Bible in some ways -- I always get something new out of it, or at least a good reminder or two, minimum. I have also watched and enjoyed DVDs such as In the Studio with Scott Burdick, Richard Schmid's The Captain's Portrait, and John Howard Sanden. (These are found in the SmartFlix Painting: Oil category.) Sometimes watching or listening to masters talk about their work beats the heck out of listening to music. And I love music! Also, I have been switching gears a little to try acrylic painting again. For the majority of my career as an illustrator I avoided oils due to longer drying times, and my general unfamiliarity with the medium -- preferring acrylic for just about everything. When I started painting in oils full-time in 2000, I left acrylics behing (actually, in a drawer), and didn't look back. But the work of Roger Bansemer has sparked interest once again in acrylics... Especially his Tropical Paintings. He is also the influence behind my trying a limited palette for my recent paintings, starting back on July 4th with San Elijo Lagoon. His tropicals are largely done with Red, Blue and Yellow, White and Black. Above is an 18" x 6" of the Pacheco Pass in northern California (SR-152) that I played with for an hour or so recently, painting from a photo I took on a recent trip. I'll finish it when I get the time.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Braids and a Black Tee

Braids and a Black Tee by David R. Darrow 11" x 14" (27.9cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
Not for sale. Collection of the Artist
About This Painting
Maybe you like your job a lot, but do you like it so much that you'd even watch a video of someone else doing it?
Well,that's what I do.
I rent or buy DVDs of other artists painting. I own or have watched videos of Morgan Weistling (portraits and figurative), Scott Burdick (figurative), Richard Schmid (figures, landscapes, portrait) and Roger Bansemer (landscape, plein air), and watch them many times because I always — and I mean always — pick up something new and inspiring, each time. I am constantly inspired and awed by the work of many other artists.
This painting came about as a direct result of 1) having just watched Weistling's 10-hour painting video set Advanced Fundamentals for the Beginning Expert, and 2) seeing my daughter sitting in a certain light with a certain look that is "very her" when deep in thought.
It was one of those moments where I just had to start smooshing paint on a canvas. I purposely chose a limited palette of Alizarin, Yellow Ochre, Black and White.  ◙

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Carmen by David R. Darrow 14" x 11" (35.6cm x 27.9cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
SOLD Collection of Peggy Mione
Lake Forest, CA – USA

About This Painting

"Hey, can I paint your portrait?" I asked, rather out of nowhere, handing her my card. You've got such a great face."

"Yeah?" she asked with a big smile. "You're an artist?"

"No, but I'm thinking of starting..." I joked. My daughter's eyes darted at me suddenly waiting for the resolution. "Yes, I'm an artist. I paint portraits and still lifes, and really whatever I feel like painting... two or three paintings a week. It's how I make my living... and I'd like to paint you."

"That would be so cool!" she beamed. I gave her a few details of how I handle this kind of thing, told her to bring a friend for her own comfort, and told her that I wanted her to look at my paintings on my website, and she would like to be painted by me, e-mail or call me.

I never ask for a potential model's phone number, because I don't want to appear to be 'hitting on them.' I leave it totally up to them. As a result, I do not have a lot of luck getting models from the general public. I might hand out 40 or 50 cards only to people I really want to paint — I am very picky — before one will follow through. It's just an unfortunate byproduct of the world we live in, sadly. That, and perhaps because I eat too many doughnut holes... but that's another story.

Carmen waited on my daughter and I with great patience and a servant's attitude when I took my daughter shopping for her 15th birthday present[s] a few weeks ago. I told my daughter that I would take her to the mall and wait patiently in all the shops she wanted to go in while she tried stuff on, and told her there was no time limit — just a dollar limit.

We spent an entire hour and a half in just one store that caught my daughter's fancy, and Carmen was just delightful the entire time. She offered cheerful conversation, ran about the store grabbing articles she thought might look good on my daughter, reserved items behind the counter for us, and was just genuinely confident and friendly.

As we were finally checking out, I caught a glimpse of Carmen's face in some unique lighting which enhanced the God-given, beautiful structure of her face, and I decided at that moment, that I had to paint her.

I'm so glad she agreed! She is a beautiful person internally, too.  ◙

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Less Than Zero - The Doughnut Hole

Less Than Zero by David R. Darrow 10" x 7" (25.4cm x 17.8cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel
SOLD Collection of Pamela Penner
Encinitas, CA – USA

About This Painting

The Doughnut Hole If you haven't figured it out by now, every painting I do reveals a little something about me. Even with my theme of Everyday Paintings, which is a tongue-in-cheek twist on the painting excellence for which I always strive, I don't just grab an object or any ol' person to pose and just make a painting. In essence, I am painting a history of myself in shuffled chapters, pictures of a memory, a trait, revealing a fondness, or just letting the viewer know what really 'grabbed me' at one moment.

The subjects I choose are all related to what I love about life, whether a beautiful scene, some tasty food or wine, the delicate, innocence of a child, the beauty and grace of a woman, or the rugged stories told in the weathered face of a man. So much to see; too little time.

Powdered Doughnuts
by Justin Clayton
Recently I was inspired by a masterful painting done by a friend and fellow Daily Painter, Justin Clayton. Justin is one of a very small handful of artists on the entire planet who actually comes very close to painting one complete oil painting every day, and they are always exceptional. I admire his talent, determination and discipline.

He chose, as his subject matter for the painting that caught my eye, white powdered doughnuts on a white background. (I think he could have sold a blank canvas with that title in a Beverly Hills art gallery for $150,000, but he has integrity, too).

His painting also made me hungry. See, doughnuts have always been a weakness of mine. One of my fondest memories as a child was when my dad would get me into the car to run some Saturday morning errands with him, and we'd stop off first for doughnuts at the local Winchell's. Just me and my dad. A little box of milk and a powdered doughnut.

As an adult I still like doughnuts. I used to order coffee with them, and in some sort of canceling-out-calories math or culinary division by zero would sweeten my coffee and cream with Equal. You can't be too careful when you're "watching your weight."

Truth is, though, I've never bought doughnut holes. I've always thought they were the big lie, the conspiracy common to doughnut shops. They sell the doughnut to one guy, and the part they took out of it gets sold to someone else. That's like... well, selling place mats made from the neck hole they cut out of a poncho, or making black basketballs out of the centers of tires. Okay, maybe that's stretching it.

But who really buys doughnut holes, and why? They are the un-doughnut. Everyone knows the legal limit is 2 doughnuts in the company kitchen on Friday mornings. But what's the limit on doughnut holes? Five? Seven? Eighteen?

And how do you eat them politely? I feel silly taking a bite out of something that is bite-sized. And popping the whole thing in my mouth just looks bad. And if you do, you're all done, and all you got was one bite.

There is just a lot wrong with doughnut holes. There ought to be a law...  ◙

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Lemons and Olive Branches

Lemons and Olive Branches by David R. Darrow 11" x 14" (27.9cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Gessoed Mahogany Panel
SOLD Collection of Pamela Penner
Encinitas, CA – USA

About This Painting
Completed late last year.
I love the way the color of the objects work with and against each other, each vying for attention, poking in and out of the light. The organic in harmony with the inorganic; symbolic of our lives. The bitter of the lemon with the peace-offering olive branches.
Give and take.
Dark and Light.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Charley Parker, over at Lines and Colors, has written up a generous piece about me and my San Diego Weekly Reader Article. Thank you, Charley!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Watchful by David R. Darrow 10" x 8" (25.4cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of Sara Scribner
Enid, OK – USA

About This Painting

"My wife Megen called me on her way home from Costco tonight and told me about you approaching her," the e-mail from John began. "She was very flattered."

That was nice, I thought. I remember her distinctly. I had gone to the photo section to pick up a large print of a painting I had done recently to give to the model for that painting, as is my custom.

Megen, whom I had never met, was being served as I found a place to wait at the end of the short line. She glanced my direction as I approached the counter, and immediately left a visual impression on me. Her eyes were kind and warm, and there was a gentleness to her face that moved me.

I tried not to stare, but I was already thinking can I paint you?

The funny thing about asking a stranger if I can paint him or her, is that I know at first glance if they "are a painting waiting to happen." I really do. But I have this internal sense that if I were to ask them as soon as I think such a thought, they will think I am a nut. "How could you possibly think that? You just now saw me!"

So, I look for signs. And at that moment, Megen was done with her business and walked away before I could even form a sentence. That's a sign. Forget it, David.

Well, my turn at the photo center, and I discovered a problem with my print, so they graciously offered to reprint it while I wait. Ten minutes later, after wandering and wishing through the HDTV section I picked up my replacement print and headed out, only to notice that Megen was still in the store, and was just approaching the customer service desk.

Seemed like a sign to me. So I walked over to her and handed her my card and asked if I could paint her.

Her face lit up in the most dazzling smile. She said she'd consider it. By the time I got home, her husband had already written to me. In his e-mail he added that his wife had told him that the first thing that came to her mind was “You don’t want to paint me you should see my kids.

Pretty and modest. I like that. I had that sense about her the moment I saw her.

John went on, "I wanted to say 'Thank You' for making my wife’s day and to invite ourselves to meet you."

I still have not met John, though obviously I have met his wife, and I have to tell you, she made my day. And I did briefly meet their kids, and they are indeed gorgeous, and sweet! Precious little ones. I hope I get to paint them someday soon.

It is always a joy to paint one of God's naturally beautiful creations.  ◙

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Alexandra - Original Oil by David R. Darrow

Alexandra - A Quick Head Study by David R. Darrow 11" x 14" (27.9cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
SOLD Collection of Tim Clarke
Pacific Grove, CA – USA

About This Painting

I do private in-home painting lessons in the San Diego area, largely by demonstration and 'thinking out loud" while I paint for the student. This gives the student both the visual feedback of how I am mixing my colors and applying them, and what I am thinking at the moment, so they get the "whys" answered.

This was painted last year in one such session. I am taking it off my shelf forever and offering it to the highest bidder. I suspect an art student might want it to have to study, so I am putting it out there for a low starting bid of 5 dollars — about the price of the canvas and well within reach of all but the most pitifully broke art student.

Please note that this is somewhat 'unfinished' — especially at the bottom, which is why I have shown the entire canvas.  ◙

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Encouraging E

Encouraging E by David R. Darrow 6-1/2" x 13-3/4" (16.5cm x 34.9cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of Frederica Anderson
Amarillo, TX – USA

About This Painting

An artist friend e-mailed me yesterday sounding like, well... like a lot of artists I have talked with feel from time to time: blocked.

There's nothing more discouraging to a competent artist such as E than to feel that you have somehow used up the last bit of creativity and skill you'll ever have.

I know. I have been there.

My advice to E was based on something I stumbled on back in 2000, and was actually a variation of a then-popular quote: Dance Like No One Is Watching. For me, it mutated into Paint Like You Just Don't Care. My hunch was that E, who has a somewhat meticulous style and an elaborate process of preparation, was frozen in fatigue and fear. For me, the symptoms of fear are many and varied forms of procrastination masquerading as professional preparation. Somewhere deep inside I know that I cannot possibly do a bad painting if I never actually start it. And I feel better about not starting it if I am actually doing something useful or even necessary.

The cure? Stop caring.

For many artists there is a tactile quality to the job that cannot be explained or transferred. An artist can rub a seemingly ordinary corner of a piece of paper between his thumb and index finger and tell immediately if he or she will enjoy drawing on it. Certain paints do not feel as good as others. Sometimes a canvas and a loaded brush can just feel fantastic as the bristles slide over the weave, slathering thick paint over the surface.

There are subtle vibrations that make their way up from the canvas through the brush handle, to the fingers and into the nervous system, and at times these feelings can be either pleasurable or irritating.

The way to get past the pain that is blocking you is simply to make it fun again. And it can be fun if you don't care. Forget the stretcher bars — tape a piece of scrap canvas to a piece of wood, and start painting in the next three minutes.

Find a picture with interesting lighting. Put out a limited palette (in my case, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre, with Black and White). Grab a big fat brush, mix something messy and dark and start painting. Feel the thing that got you into painting in the first place. Get some pleasure back into your work.

And whatever you do, don't make the mistake of caring.

I decided to taste a sample of my own medicine after hitting the send button to E. I grabbed a photo I had received from a friend in France which was taken with a cellphone camera. This became the image reference for my interpretation of these shapes in paint. It was so much fun that I couldn't stop!

And — go figure — I ended up liking the finished painting. When it's dry I am going to mount it on a masonite panel and trim it down. So, the dimensions are "approximate" – give or take a quarter inch either direction.

I guess all that is the long way around the block just to say if you're not careful, you might enjoy yourself and do a good painting.  ◙

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

San Elijo Lagoon

San Elijo Lagoon - Plein Air by David R. Darrow 14" x 11" (35.6cm x 27.9cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of Jolie Elman
Glendora, CA – USA

About This Painting

So what does a full-time artist do on his day off? Same thing: painting.

Our nation celebrated another year of Independence and Freedom yesterday... both are pretty important concepts to Americans, though I am not too sure how greatly they are appreciated anymore — since we grow up with them, and that's just how things are.

I exercised my Freedom of Expression by getting up at 5:00 am and meeting a Canadian for a morning Plein Air session at San Elijo (san-el-EE-ho) Lagoon, in Cardiff by the Sea, CA. [Google Map]. We positioned ourselves about 3/4 of a mile from the beach, looking directly west across the lagoon. It was overcast, a little misty and very quiet. The only sounds were distant cars and local wildlife: seaguls, egrets and fish jumping out of the still water to catch bugs for an instant breakfast.

My painting partner for the day was Holly, who, like me, had an illustration career that kept her indoors for the better part of her creative life, so for each of us, the opportunity to go outside and paint sounds more like a play day. And it makes working on a national holiday seem not-so-insane.

David, talking and talkingBonus: unlike working alone in a studio, there's someone to talk with.

Or maybe just talk to.

Holly asserts, with photographic documentation, that I just painted and talked. I think she did all the talking, but I don't have any photos to prove it.

Painting hit the dirt!She's lucky I spoke to her at all after she hit the ground laughing like some kind of Canadian Tickle-Me-Elmo doll when my painting blew off my easel landing on the ground exactly the way toast and jam always does: gooey side down. She was still laughing as I wiped the whole painting off the canvas with a rag and started over.

Well, this fresh start ended up being a good thing. Also, some of you artists that subscribe to my mailing list might appreciate knowing that this was done with a limited palette: Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, and Cobalt Blue, plus black and white. The limited palette does two things: first, it really forces me to concentrate on values instead of hues, and second, it unifies the painting, since every brush stroke likely has all the other colors in it. I did not rinse my brush until the painting was done... just constantly wiped it off on my rag.

By the way, if you are not familiar with the term plein air, it is French for open air and traditionally describes the genre of paintings that are done outdoors with the intent of quickly capturing the feeling of open air.

Personally, I have expanded that definition to include: The relatively short expanse of space between the easel and the ground. i.e. — "David watched in helpless horror as his painting plummeted through plein air coming to rest at his feet."  ◙

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chicago Dave

Chicago Dave by David R. Darrow 8" x 8" (20.3cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
SOLD Collection of Cruz Melf
Bolingbrook, IL – USA

About This Painting

I've painted this fellow before.

He's a friend with whom I have a lot in common. And it turns out he's a great character model. The fact that he's a musician makes me want to use him as a musician model, obviously, but he's so full of life and is such fun to talk and laugh with that it's just tempting to see what else we can come up with using his ambiguous mug.

Dave's also from Chicago, and makes it no secret. He's been here — oh, I don't know how long — and still waxes on about Chicago. In less lucid moments he even feigns that accent, where you can just about imagine him hamming, "da' Bears."

Chicago Dave is the only model I can remember telling me to "try the light from below, like 'dis." And the only one whose 'advice' I might follow... and so I tried it, reluctantly.

Loved it.

It reminded me immediately of all the campfire spooky stories with the obligatory flashlight pointed up from below. If there is such a thing as ominous lighting, this is it.

It's also fascinating what this reversed lighting does to facial structure and an otherwise kind face. And it was fun to paint Chicago Dave in this upside-down lighting.

For me, and possibly him, it was a very abstract experience.  ◙

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Friday, June 29, 2007

My 15 Minutes of Fame

Click to see it largerIf you don't count the time I was on Wheel of Fortune, on June 22, 1980 (it's true), I finally got my Andy-Warhol-guaranteed 15-minutes of fame.

Oh sure, you know me as the Everyday Paintings guy, but San Diego County folks get an entire article about me in the cover story of this week's San Diego Reader, a free, weekly publication that gets distributed all over the county at locations such as pizza places, 7-Elevens and Circle-K convenience stores. You know: places where wealthy art buyers go for a heads-up on up-and-coming, 50-year-old artists.

Click for Large viewThe author of the 8000-word cover story, Geoff Bouvier, e-mailed me in March listing his substantial credentials, and asked me if he could do a story about the experience of getting one's portrait painted. He wanted to write it from the perspective of the paintee but also learn about the whole process from the painter. Sounded interesting to me.

I agreed to it, and managed to work it all into my schedule, which at the time, back in March and April, was about as easy as juggling porcupines.

Well, yesterday was the big day, and the published Readers have been distributed.Click to see this larger

If you are one of my San Diego neighbors and you're interested in reading the article and owning a copy, run out and get one today... they typically go quite fast.

Anyone else interested in reading the article? You have two choices:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Jessi by David R. Darrow 9" x 9" (22.9cm x 22.9cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of Dean E. Bailiff
Palm Harbor, FL – USA

About This Painting

My wife invited me out for a beer one evening last week. We met at our favorite pizza and beer place in Carlsbad after a long day for each of us, in an already long week full of ups and downs.

She placed the order at the counter and I wandered outside to find a spot in the warm summer evening air. I could see it would be a challenge — with summer in a beach town off to its official start, it seemed everyone in town had gone from the beach to Pizza Port to wind down before heading home.

I plopped my superfluous jacket down across the mostly-crowded picnic-style table, at the same time asking the guests to my left if there was room for my wife and I to squeeze in and sit across from each other. As the head of household gave me a murky response along the lines of "we're expecting a few more" a couple to the right of where I was trying to squeeze in suddenly scooted further down, making more room and said definitively, "Sure! Have a seat."

I looked back at the gentleman who had attempted to decline our presence and said with a smile, "I like their answer better."

Just then my wife showed up with our cold beers and I scurried around the table and sat down next to Jessi, opening the seat across from me and next to Josh for my wife.

We would learn that they had just recently met and were out getting to know each other better.

The two of them were just plain fun folks. We talked easily, joked and laughed together like old friends that had just met. Unusually friendly, I thought. A breath of fresh air.

Eventually the conversation got around the the traditional so-what-do-you-dos and Jessi, a pretty mid-twenties brunette dipped into her purse quickly pulling out two business cards announcing that she is a massage therapist working her day job at what is arguably the finest five-star spa and resort in San Diego County, and at the top of many lists worldwide. We were impressed.

She went on to tell us she trained at Lauterstein-Conway School of Massage in Austin, TX, and was recruited from school directly to this prestigious position in San Diego. "That credential will never be any lower than first position on my resume," she beamed.

Josh — whom I hope to convince to sit for a painting soon, too — is, as we later learned, an officer in the military, having already served 2 tours in Iraq.

Now, I am a scraggly-haired, sun-weathered, California-grown, has-been surfer/artist, and when I ask a short-haired fellow if he's in the military, the typical response is a hesitant yet authoritative "Yes, sir." I guess I might indeed look like a peacenik from decades ago, you know, from the pictures in Time-Life, but honestly, I admire these brace young men and women for taking on the exhausting, dangerous and now highly controversial task of serving our country and the cause of freedom in so many different capacities, and so I stood to shake his hand, smiled and said "It's truly an honor to meet you, sir."

Eventually, the conversation got around to Teresa's work, and finally mine. "I'm an artist. I paint portraits and stuff," I nonchalaunted. Turning to Jessi, I added, "You have great eyes. Can I paint you?"

"Sure! That'd be great," she shot back. And so, just like that, it was settled.

She's as fascinating to paint as to know.

And the whole thing has been a confirmation that it is often serendipitous to talk to complete strangers.  ◙

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Checkin' The Fit

Checkin' The Fit - Relisted by David R. Darrow 8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm)
Oil on Panel
SOLD Collection of Jeffery McCabe
Port Huron, MI – USA

About This Painting

In very few professions these days, the hat still makes the man.

I live in California, where the only people that wear hats as part of their job, anymore, are cowboys, baseball players and workers in hard-hat areas.

I sometimes wish I lived in the '30s and '40s when even California men wore hats to work, to dinner parties, to town – on a date.

I always fancied myself a hat-person. I got myself a little English-style brimmed cap when I was thirteen. It didn't fit well, though. I have a deep head, front to back... even size XL will give me a headache. I like to think that God gave me extra thinkin' room, for coming up with more ideas, pictures and words.

I console myself with that thought when I walk out of hat stores with nothing on my head.

It's funny, too, because you really can't fake it. People can tell if you're a real cowboy by the look of your hat. And there are such a variety of cowboy hats out there, too. People like to keep them neat and clean, others like to crumple them up and make them look well-worn, some like straw, others leather, others felt.

It's a distinctive American thing, too, the cowboy hat. And getting a good fit is what it's about.

My oldest son, Drew, modeled for this painting. You'll see more of him the near future.  ◙

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Green Chair

Green Chair by David R. Darrow 8" x 8" (20.3cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
Framed and Ready to Hang
Collection of Randall and Valerie Hasson
Santa Fe, NM - USA

About This Painting

I always love it when an artist names the painting after, perhaps, the least important part of the painting.

Then again, naming it Oh my gosh! You have really grown up! wouldn't work. And Beautiful Young Lady is rather banal. Or, as my daughter would say: Duh!

Holly, my model in the Green Chair, is the daughter of a friend and fellow artist, Randall M. Hasson and his wife Valerie. (Take a look at his work. His art is amazing. He does large paintings that are a combination of painted subject matter layered with amazing quotations, poetry and scripture in a variety of lettering styles and calligraphy. You've never seen anything like it. His work has to be seen in person to really get the intensity of his work.)

But enough about him.

His daughter was 12 or 13 when I first met Randy and his family. Randy was just developing the style of his work at the time, and we hit it off as budding artists. Mutual back-patters always make good friends.

Well, four years later, Randy opened a gallery for his work and I was invited to the opening. And standing next to him when I arrived was this tall, elegant, striking young woman, now 16, whom I barely recognized as "little Holly" from four years earlier, the last time I had seen her.

I asked if I could shoot some reference photos of her for a maybe-painting someday, and last year ran across those photos and put together this head study of Holly's beautiful features and sculpturesque face.

It hung in a small gallery for a year, and now it's time for it to be seen by a wider audience.

This painting is framed in an imported, distressed gold-metal-leaf frame and is ready to hang.  ◙

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Stolen Glory

Stolen Glory by David R. Darrow 12" x 5" (30.5cm x 12.7cm)
Oil on Panel
SOLD Collection of Bridget Baker
Deer Park, IL – USA

About This Painting

There's a woman in my old neighborhood who loves gardening and especially tending her roses. I commented that this one beautiful variety, with its brilliant yellow-orange center and deep magenta "blush," was one of the most beautiful roses I'd ever seen.

She told me it is a "Chris Evert."

"Like the tennis player?"

"Named after her," I was told. I never knew about that kind of thing. And I never forgot this was a Chris Evert rose. This particular bush produced rose after rose of incredible shape and intense color.

For weeks at a time recently, however, I rarely saw the woman... working too many hours I surmised. Scurrying off early in the morning and not seen again until after dark. But the roses bloomed day after day into perfect blossoms, then fluffed and then dropped their petals in piles all around, and died. Day after day I walked by these perfect roses watching this sad cycle occur again and again.

One morning I saw this perfect bloom, and almost in anger that it would suffer a similar fate, I grabbed my clippers and walked straight out to the rose bush and brazenly cut the blossom off and took it inside.

I never heard a word about it from the woman. Not a word.

The irony was that I had to end its life to enjoy it. Which was, in my opinion, much better than being neglected.

And I was able to extend its life by painting its portrait.  ◙

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Unforeseen Conclusion

Unforeseen Conclusion by David R. Darrow 13-7/8" x 8" (35.2cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
This painting is not framed
Click here to bid on eBay
Opening Bid: $99 / Buy It Now™ $399.00 Ends: Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 1:55 PM (Pacific Time)

About This Painting

This may seem a little odd, and I want to assure you I have not slipped into "my dark period..." This is just a slightly different approach to finding and representing beauty in everyday things.

On my first morning in my new place, I awoke to find this bird on my balcony, at the foot of the sliding glass doors. She likely died on impact, trying to fly through what she thought was an open passage, instead coming to this unforeseen conclusion.

I stared for a moment, then muttered aloud, sadly but somewhat understandingly, "Didn't see that coming, did you?"

I thought briefly about how to properly dispose of this beautiful but lifeless creature and suddenly flashed on a time when my oldest sister Jan helped me put to rest my pet hamster. I was 12; she was 18.

Late that night I was awakened by noise under my bed, and when I peeked under, I saw that the escaped hamster had met his demise via a higher link on the food chain, our cat.

Jan helped me coax the 'toy' away from the cat, and then she prepared a shoebox lined with tissue into which to lay its body for disposal. We both wanted a little diginity for the little fellow under such otherwise humbling circumstances.

All this flashed through my mind as I gathered up the bird. It was right about at that moment that I decided I would do a painting about this...

I see metaphors... they're everywhere. Sometimes they don't even know they're metaphors.

Death had come to us both.

I had slept in my new place only once and, on my first morning, this is what I awoke to. Far from being 'creeped out' I just felt what I felt... there are times in life when you start off on something wonderful and just don't see how it's going to end.

Four years ago, I stood on a beach marrying the woman I was sure was the love of my life, my closest friend, the woman I wanted holding my hand when I passed from this life. From there, on that clear, sunny day I could not have seen the actual conclusion that lay ahead in the distance. Today I live alone.

Unlike this bird, though, my life is not over. I've found a new place to live. A new place to paint. A new place to think. To move on.

But it is very still, and very quiet now.  ◙

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Starting Over

I never painted 74 new paintings in a year before. And I probably never would have if I had not set the goal of painting 365 paintings in a year, or rather, 30 paintings in 30 days, ongoing. Having failed at an initial [and naive] goal, I succeeded in accomplishing something I likely never would have. Yesterday I officially started over. After moving art books up four flights of stairsIt's been nearly 2 months since my last Everyday Painting, interrupted by a few significant things in my life, namely a large commission, a demonstration commission, and, most significantly, marital separation (I had to move out for medical reasons: she was sick of me). I actually moved into my new apartment/studio at the beginning of May, but just yesterday completed setting my studio back up ready for painting. Besides the grueling work of moving all my stuff out of my old place, putting it into a truck and then hauling it all back out at the next place and then up 4 flights of stairs, there was the additional, previously unknown inconvenience of the notice to vacate for two days while the owners tented and fumigated the entire complex. Mine is the middle circus tent, top floor. (Where's the Google Earth camera when you need it?) So yesterday I sat down and started a painting, and I will be posting it today. Starting over has never been as significant to me as is does today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crate Expectations

Building a Crate
For Shipping a Painting

Well, it's not like waving goodbye to your kid on a school bus on his first day of Kindergarten... but it's close. If I can avoid putting a 32 x 40 painting in the hands of a courier again for the rest of my life, I will likely have fewer gray hairs. Not that I don't trust FedEx — after all, both of my sons work for that fine company — but my anxiety over shipping hit me before I even got the painting started, which, as it turned out, was a good thing. Rule #1: If you are shipping out an unframed painting, build the crate after you have stretched your canvas, but before you start painting. You don't want sawdust in the paint.
Unlike most of the things I have learned in my life I did not learn this the hard way. I am delighted to tell you I actually thought of this in advance.
As I contemplated what this shipping crate should look and function like, I decided to head over to Home Depot to look at wood. This was not a tough decision. For me, thinking about being inside a Home Depot takes about as much forethought as Michael Moore gives to going into a Krispy Kreme. I'm there. I picked out my wood, did a little measuring and then sat down and did some figuring on a scrap of paper which a guy in the Windows Department gave me. With those figures in mind, I grabbed a sheet of 1/8" luan mahogany (door skin) and headed over to the cutting area and had the fellow cut two panels to size so I could then go home and build this box. I then glued and nailed these spacers around the bottom-inside of it, to keep the painting off the bottom skin, and away from the sides. I added FedEx-friendly handles to one side, encouraging them to carry it with those, and to stand it up on edge when not carrying it. Then I made some cleats to hold the painting down to the spacers, and away from the "lid-skin." These were all pre-drilled and marked with numbers so I could re-assemble the crate on shipping day without making new saw-dust that might fall on the painting surface. I carefully set the 32" x 40" portrait inside and onto the spacers. I then screwed on all the cleats (10 of them) which I had previously attached when the canvas was unpainted (bare), and which I had numbered and marked with a line on the cleat and the frame, so that I could easily align them again with their individual holes. With the painting so firmly held in place by the cleats that it actually added strength to the crate, I dropped the top skin into the pre-dadoed reveal on the top, and screwed about 50 wide-head screws on to hold the top skin into the groove, adding corners made from scrap 1/8" "skin" for extra strength and durability. I added a "strap" of scrap luan for added strength across the middle, and duct-taped the edges down so it wouldn't catch on anything in shipping. I then drove it to FedEx — where I got a compliment on my crate from a customer. I need to give credit to Morgan Weistling, a fantastic painter and dearest of friends, who advised me when I called asking for suggestions. His advice: make it as light as you can to encourage them to carry it, not fork-lift it and add handles to suggest the same. He also advised me to use FedEx, as he has had the best handling and treatment from them, out of all the major carriers. I will not sleep for 2 days.
Click here to watch a little movie of a 3D fly-through of my crate. Made with Google Sketch-up. A free modeling program for Mac or PC! The blue, translucent rectangles represent the as-yet unattached bottom and lid, which would later be dropped into place.
Update It arrived safely 2 days later, and, according to my client, looked like it had been handled gently all the way from CA to KS. Whew! And they loved the painting. In my accompanying letter to them, asking them to consider it for two weeks before asking for changes, if any, my client responded:
David, Sorry, I would like to tell you to do this or that to the picture... Impossible, it looks absolutely perfect right now! The three things I was hoping to get... you got. 1. It is a damn good work of art. 2. It looks just like her. 3. You actually "caught" her. The mannerisms, etc.
That totally makes my day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Anne: A Completed Portrait

Anne - Finished Portrait by David R. Darrow 32" x 40" (81.3cm x 101.6cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen
Not For Sale
Private Collection

About This Painting

It's done!

And with client approval and acceptance I can ship it this week.

I am delighted with the result. It did not "fly off my brush with ease" as these things go with some artists... this has been a lot of work, and I have enjoyed the struggle.

I finished it last night, poured a glass of cabernet sauvignon and toasted my worthy adversary: Portrait of Anne. I have been wrestling with her the better part of a month — not every day, but most days.

She has been a delight to paint. An absolutely lovely face, and a distinctly handsome woman [1] and it was a pleasure to get to know her personally prior to starting this painting.

I am told by her husband Charles, who commissioned this as a symbol of gratitude for the love of his life for their 20th anniversary, that it will hang in the same room in which the reference material was gathered for this painting, in their modest Kansas home.  ◙

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


Someday... by David R. Darrow 11" x 14" (27.9cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel
SOLD Collection of Anthepy Nelson
Timonium, MD – USA

About This Painting

Her large, beautiful, but longing eyes betrayed her. She looked as if she wanted to be somewhere else.

She had a servant's heart, a warm smile, easily able to be chatty with those on whom she waited each day. She was beyond dutiful when performing her tasks. She was the best around. And nothing about the moment I caught her eyes staring at a distant hope "somewhere out there" diminished the excellence of her work, her attitude, her presence.

In a moment of stolen rest, twisting at the waist to wring out the morning's aches and tension, she stood staring at something beyond the physical window that only she could see, for its reality was in her mind, not outside.

Jamie, who modeled for this painting, caught my artist's eye one morning when I was out to breakfast with my daughter. She laughed easily, chatted at each of the tables in her station, looked each person in the eye making each feel as though we were all old friends. She's a waitress at a popular breakfast chain, and my daughter and I were out for pancakes and eggs.

"Would you like sausage or bacon with your breakfast, sir?"

"Bacon, please. And I'd like you to consider modeling for a painting."

Later that week, she did.  ◙

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Reflections on a Fall Morning

Reflections on a Fall Morning by David R. Darrow 12" x 9" (30.5cm x 22.9cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel
SOLD Collection of Doris Darrow
Sunnyvale, CA – USA
Happy 79th Birthday, Mom!

About This Painting

Weather or not...

That is not a typo, it's a pun.

I joined a group of plein air painters at San Diego's Balboa Park, once the site of a World's Fair one Fall morning to paint sites on the grounds.

There is a gorgeous reflecting pond and Arboretum there, and immediately after setting up my French Easel, it began to drizzle. That's no big deal when painting in oil... the water is repelled by the oil in the paint, so I decided to stick it out and keep painting.

Three hours later the precipitation had increased to actual, bona fide raining and I decided to pack it up, and finish the painting later from snapshots.  ◙

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oil Sketch - Geoff

Geoff wanted the whole experience of getting a portrait done, so I spared him nothing. The first day started with my arrival at his house, him inviting me in, and his eyes bugging out of his head — albeit politely — as I began to load my stuff into his house. The majority of my stuff was more related to photography and video: lighting, stands, audio mixer, microphone, lots of cords and wires... and the minority were essentials: French easel, paints, canvas, brushes. To loosen up and get my head in an abstract place, I grabbed a gessoed luan mahogany panel, 11 x 14, and began painting freehand rapidly, squishing paint here and there with no underdrawing, no toning. After about an hour (would have been quicker if were weren't having such a fascinating conversation that demanded non-visual parts of my brain), I set my brushes down, flipped the board around so Geoff could see it, and said , "Here's a quick oil portrait of you that I am proud to say barely resembles you." His girlfriend, who visited the following day, said she kinda thought it looked like maybe his 12-year-old-son, in a way, if, you know, he had one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Michelle in Conte

Michelle in Conte by David R. Darrow 12" x 14" (30.5cm x 35.6cm)
Conte on Smooth Newsprint This painting is not framed Click here to bid on eBay
Opening Bid: $19.95 / Buy It Now™ $29.95 Ends: Friday, April 20, 2007 at 7:21 PM (Pacific Time)

About This Drawing

I've decided to post some of my Life Drawings on eBay for sale.

Each of them that I sell is a one-of-a-kind original from the hand, eyes and experience of David R. Darrow. That's me.

These were usually done as demonstrations when I was teaching Life Drawing at a local college. They are all done on 18" x 24" smooth newsprint — the favorite of students and teachers, but not inherently archival. Newsprint is known to yellow and get brittle over time, which I think adds to the character of it. If mounted properly, matted with acid-free mat board, and protected with glass, these drawings can last for decades and look quite elegant.

I recommend taking your drawing to a Poster and Framing shop at a local mall and have them dry-mount it on foam-core. They can also trim it to your frame size, help you with matting, and frame it too, if you want. The mounting and foam-core is about $10, last I checked.

Some of these will be listed as auctions and others in my eBay store.

You may want to take a moment to bookmark my store by name: Everyday Paintings (just like my art website, only different)

The shipping cost covers double mailing tubes, insurance and the shipping weight. If you purchase more than one of these drawings you may have each additional drawing for $19.95 with free shipping if all are shipped together. I will provide the discount on the invoice, or if that is not possible, I will refund the portion that is overpaid, immediately, through Paypal. (It's complicated at my end, but it works).

Please ignore the picture and description of the shipping carton at the bottom of this page... that is for my paintings and has nothing to do with this auction  ◙

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Simultaneous Commissions

Sketch 2I got a rush job that could lead to bigger things (more on that later) so this weekend I have been doing an art house call, so to speak. Geoff, the man in the pictures, is commissioning an oil portrait of his likeness (more on that later) and so I have taken about as much of my studio and lighting and video and audio equipment to his home 35 miles away, and set up in his living room to go through the process. Geoff — knowing that it's a much shorter event for each of us if we just get together and get to know each other for a couple hours, maybe do some charcoal and then color sketches and then shoot reference photos for me to use in the studio — wanted the real deal, the old-fashioned sitting; an "I'm sitting for a portrait" experience. He's allowing me the privilege of videotaping over my shoulder while I draw and paint to eventually use for an instructional demo DVD (more on that later). Due to several forms of upheaval and inconvenient transitions going on in my life (more on that later) as well as the currently diminutive size of my studio, we could not do the work at my location, and so we chose his. Sketch 1It has been surprisingly rattling to my confidence to finally get set up in his home (about an hour and a half of set-up) and then draw in front of him. I'm not sure why. I scrapped the first drawing (not shown) and started over again. The drawing to the right is what I arrived at by the time my sketch was done and he had to leave for work. Before he got up from his seat, I shot a few reference photos, and, back in my studio this afternoon, studied my drawing and the photos and solved the problems related to why it wasn't looking enough like him. The sketch at the top of this post is the final charcoal under-drawing on an acrylic-toned canvas that will be covered in oil paint tomorrow. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Promise by David R. Darrow 7" x 10" (17.8cm x 25.4cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel SOLD Collection of Svietlana T. Franke
Baltimore, MD – USA

About This Painting

Whenever I look through a camera lens, I start seeing framed pictures. Usually I see framed paintings, to be more specific.

When I saw this young woman sitting in this lighting, I asked if I could take some pictures of her. I told her that this particular lighting would make for a wonderful head-study and that I'd like to do a painting or drawing of her someday.

Getting around to it has been a bit of a challenge.

I met her in my second term at Art Center College of Design — coming up on 30 years ago — when I took the picture on which this painting is based. I mostly wanted to take her picture because I thought she was pretty and I liked her.

I found an old box of slides the other day, and when I saw this image again after all these years, I thought again that "this particular lighting would make for a wonderful head-study."

And so I guess I have kept that promise, just like it was yesterday. Only now I have no idea where she is. I haven't seen her since college.  ◙

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Searching by David R. Darrow 8" x 8" (20.3cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Canvas on Birch Panel Available in my eBay Store
Price: $350.00 — Or Make an Offer

About This Painting

I met this fascinating fellow when I stopped in at a local place for a cold drink on a summer day four or five years ago.

He recently posed for me.

There are some days here on the California coast that simply insist that you pour something soothing down your parched throat, further demanding that it had better have the right flavor.

I am not much of a fan of beer.

Not since I got spoiled by the hand-crafted ale made at Carlsbad Brewing Company's Pizza Port right here in my town. To someone who has not found delight in award-winning ale versus a cold beer, I can only describe it as the difference between, say, Yuban or Folgers coffee and a cup of espresso made with a fine Italian espresso machine and the skilled barista creating it.

So, when I stopped in for a chilled ale one day a few years ago, I met Dave. Well, you don't really meet Dave. Dave is part of the atmosphere at Pizza Port.

You experience Dave.

This day he was — as he always is, I have since learned — working on his own personal record on the pinball machine, on which he also held the game's top score until his 15-year-old daughter recently topped him.

When Dave has had enough of the machine that eventually always wins, he backs away, gives it a respectful chin-up reverse nod, and goes out to the outer courtyard with his now-warm glass of ale and mingles with the crowd. Sometimes he retrieves his white-lacquer, steel-string, acoustic guitar from someone who has been "watching it for him" and breaks into just about any popular tune, folk or rock, from the 1950s on forward. He seemingly knows them all.

Dave has done just about everything, I recently learned when I sat down with him and talked mano y mano for about three hours. He's done carpentry, accounting, ditch-digging, welding, auto-mechanic, you name it... but what he always wanted to be — and still laments that it never happened for him despite years on the circuit — was a professional musician. He plays several instruments, wails on the guitar, sings with a decent rock-baritone-to-second-tenor, powerful voice, possesses a performer's heart, and has a head full of knowledge about anything from the US government, crack-pot laws, rock and roll, automobiles and biblical eschatology — the latter being the topic of the bulk of the conversation for those three hours.

The conversation was lively and kept my attention well-enough... but part of the way through, and as a complete non-sequitur — since there really is no way to ease up to such a thing — I cut in with, "Hey, can I paint your portrait?" If I didn't ask him at that moment, I would not be able to listen attentively to much more of the conversation, since, despite the engaging subject, my mind was already beginning to get lost in color mixes and the direction of my brushstrokes in the painting of him I was doing in my head while his voice seemed to be fading into echoing oblivion.

He replied with a twinkle in his eye that by such a request he could tell I chose only the finest-looking models to paint, and that he could therefore trust me as a great artist, and that he would gladly pose. Then he bellowed a hearty laugh and raised his glass of ale for me to do the same.

We clinked the deal right there, and went on talking about the Bible the rest of the night. I am glad to have gotten to know Dave.

I know I will paint him again.  ◙

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Progress: Anne

AnneYes, progress is being made, and for the most part, it's not 'ready for presentation' most of the time. To show all the steps or stages, or shoot a picture every hour on the hour would feel too much like someone is watching over my shoulder. More unnerving than creepy. Besides that, to paint something so large and make it accurate, there's a place I have to go in my head that is neither automatic nor explainable. In some ways it's mindless — not thinking about what I am painting (an eye, a cheek, a neck or hair), but rather what are the shapes and hues, values and edges that make it look good?. To snap out of such a mental place is a bit abrupt and disquieting. So I just paint on. Blank CanvasI start, of course, with a blank canvas. This one, at 32" wide by 40" high (81cm x 101cm) stares back at me like Goliath to this Little David. "Go on... I dare you," it taunts. No it's really not that bad. Even if Norman Rockwell said it better, a blank canvas just has to be dealt with. Dangling prepositions notwithstanding. The first thing I have to do is tone the canvas. This serves at least 2 purposes: One is to get rid of all that glaring white which will effectively fool my eyes while I paint, likely resulting in too light of a painting. The second it to get a darker tone down into the valleys of the canvas weave. Often when painting, a gentle brush stroke will apply paint only to the high-points of the canvas texture, (the threads and crossovers of the woven linen) leaving the valleys (the space between threads) untouched, revealing the white acrylic (in the case of this Classens 166 acrylic-primed Belgian Linen) priming. The result is an unpleasant bright speckling, especially in darker passages. Direct from the tubeWorking very quickly due to the extremely quick drying time of acrylic tube paint, with my left hand I spray a mist of water all over the surface of the canvas to wet it, then with my right hand I squeeze random squiggles of Cobalt Blue and Raw Umber Liquitex Acrylic. These are both compatible with the existing acrylic ground, and subsequent oil paint will adhere to it safely. Acrylic Brushed OutIf this were oil-primed canvas, I would have to use these colors from my oil paint supply, since acrylic cannot be painted over oil and expected to last long, if at all. Using acrylic saves waiting time. Without even taking the time to cap my acrylic tubes, I begin brushing frantically to gain an abstract thin coat of acrylic all over the surface. I do this with a moist, cheap, 1.5" house painting brush (the $1.25 kind from the warehouse hardware store whose name rhymes with Foam Depot). The already moist bristles will help the paint flow, and not grab hold of the hairs of the brush, instead. Dabbing on a textureQuickly, I grab a paper towel and start dabbing and wiping, patting and dragging. The purpose here it to gain a "natural abstract" effect, with dissimilar textures throughout, while lightening the value of this tone so that it is not too dark. This texture can add interest to areas of transparency, but will mostly be covered by the final painting. Tone CanvasIt needs to be light enough to draw on with charcoal... which is my next step. A careful drawing is done with a 4B General Charcoal Pencil. The softer charcoal pencils draw darker with a lighter touch, and are easier to erase with a kneaded eraser. In the case of this painting I erased my first completed drawing after "sleeping on it" for a night. No, I did not sleep on my painting — I did the drawing in the evening and purposely did not start the painting that night, for two important reasons: 1) I wanted to give myself a mental and visual break so that my fresh eye in the morning would warn me of any corrections that needed to be made, and 2) I wanted to have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Charcoal UnderdrawingBefore I retired for the night, I took one more look at the drawing and decided the figure was just a little too big for the composition, and having learned to trust my instincts, went to bed knowing that in the morning I would erase the whole thing and redraw it. I went to bed a little frustrated. Stage One PaintingThe next day I began the drawing all over again, and when satisfied that I have a good road map for beginning my painting, I start applying the darkest of the darks, wherever they fall, and begin building a shadow pattern, constantly working wet into wet. Click to view a movie of t progress so farFor the curious, I have created an audio-free, short movie of the progress thus far. It's just a few aligned still-shots cross-dissolving. Note that none of it is in a finished state, even though I appear to move from section to section somewhat thoroughly. (Quicktime 7.0 or higher required. Some browsers may force you to download the entire movie before playing. The file is 2.7MB, and you may have to right-click [PC] or option-click [Mac] to properly Save the file). The entire painting, so far, can be seen here.