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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