Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Diving Rock - Thomaston, GA

Diving Rock -- Flint River, GAby David R. Darrow
10" x 8" (25.4cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
This painting is not framed

$195 + $8.95 S/H
Click image for larger view.

About This Painting

In Thomaston Georgia, there is a wide, calm, clear river called the Flint River.

The day I was there, the water was easily 85°f and the daytime temperature was about the same. The air had only slightly less water in it than the Flint River, but it still looked inviting — so I took a dip.

From my vantage point, I could see kids, young and old, jumping off this rocksticking about 8 feet out of the warm water, with precarious access from the backside. If I was still a kid, I would have been all over it, non-stop.

They eventually got dragged home by their weary parents, but I stuck around to enjoy the long day and the warming light of the setting sun. It was amazingly quiet, peaceful and beautiful.  ◙

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Come Hither

Come Hitherby David R. Darrow
6" x 6" (15.2cm x 15.2cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas

Collection of Cal Piorkowski
Newton, NJ – USA

About This Painting

This lovely 1965 Chevy Impala parked in my neighborhood for just a time, her eyelids seductively begging me to paint her.

This car was a beauty. Classic lines, heavy metal, even "spats" over the rear wheels. The two sets of three, horizontally-aligned tail light lenses affixed as if to pause with a poetic 'dot dot dot' demanding my full attention.

It's more than just a car.

It's a Classic!  ◙

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Be A Pepper

Be A Pepperby David R. Darrow
8" x 6" (20.3cm x 15.2cm)
Oil on Belgian Linen Panel

Collection of Derek Beasley
Lancaster, CA – USA

About This Painting

Another pepper from my garden.

I watched this little fellow grow and plump up and turn a brilliant emerald green (if you don't know, they turn red soon after). I felt that the young plant was too weak to hold this 6" pepper – it seemed all the watering and nutrients were going toward sustaining the pepper, so I pruned it off.

Now the plant is three times the size is was, has new flower buds which will bear fruit, and will be doing its pepper thing again, soon.

It's so fascinating to see them take shape, change color, and reshape. Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?

Maybe you'd have to have grown up in the 70s to understand this one.  ◙

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Thursday, September 01, 2011


Capturedby David R. Darrow
6" x 8" (15.2cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel

Collection of Robert Marchese
Rochester, NY – USA

About This Painting

This 6" x 8" painting "Captured" is the newest by San Jose, CA artist David R. Darrow.  ◙

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

San Felipe Lake, Gilroy, CA

San Felipe Lake, Gilroy CAby David R. Darrow
6" x 6" (15.2cm x 15.2cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas
This painting is not framed

Click here to bid on eBay
Opening Bid: 1¢
Ends: Friday, September 2, 2011)
at 6:00 PM (Pacific Time)

About This Painting

San Felipe Lake sneaks up on you. You turn a corner and Boo! there it is. It's just a bit southeast of Gilroy proper along Pacheco Pass Rd.

Somewhat humorously, nearby this Gilroy lake is the town of Aromas — I wonder what connection there is to its next-door neighbor Gilroy being the garlic capitol of the world.

As I rounded the corner, heading south on CA SR-152 one day recently looking for scenes to paint, this came into view, and it was all I could do to pull over on the one, small turn-off and not spill my morning coffee.

This is painted more abstractly than I usually paint since I wanted to capture the airbushy blends in 'chunks of color' instead.  ◙

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Draped in Satin - Acrylic Figure

As a beginning illustrator and very "wet behind the ears" in 1980 when I set out at 22 to make a living right out of art school, all I knew was "fast media" — I had only used oils in a few figure painting classes, and didn't know the medium well. None of the instructors I had really talked much about the inherent properties of oil, drying time, block-ins, washes, etc., so Oils were a mystery to me until 2000, 20 years later, when I decided to learn them "for reals."

Old Acrylics

Click the picture for a larger view

Acrylics dry fast, so that's what I used when doing all my time-sensitive commercial work. I did a lot of airbrush work back then, so It was an obvious choice. Still, the darks in acrylic dry a step or 2 lighter, and the lights dry a bit darker by the time the water has "flashed off" — so it was always a wait-and-see game, for me.

I decided to try a small figure painting in acrylic, using washes, glazes and scumbling to achieve an atmospheric effect. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane. For starters, some of the still-good tubes of acrylic I have are older than many of the people on my mailing list. In the picture of some tubes of mine, you can see that I dated them, sometimes, so I would know when I bought them — never thinking I would actually have them nearly 30 years later. The tube in the middle, dated 9/85 is a sure tell. But if you're a Pasadena local, you know that the tube to the left (Modular Color) was from an old product line that was hue and value-based, sold in metal tubes, and in this case, from "Standard Brands" paint store on Orange Grove in Pasadena — that store long ago having changed hands. (The $1.03 price tag is certainly nostalgic!) That store tag means I bought it during my school years, 1977–1980. Yikes-squared!

And it still flows.

I put the near-full "Portrait Pink" tube in the picture to show how useless therefore largely-unused it is.

But I digress...

Stage 1 – The drawing in pencil and then brownish acrylic

I started with a canvas glued to 1/8" luan mahogany plywood. You can't see it here, but the canvas has been highly textured with modeling paste, knifed– and bushed–on, coated in gesso, and sanded.

Stage 2 –  A quick, warm/neutral wash of acrylic:

Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, greatly thinned with water

Stage 3 (2.5, really)  — I pat it and wipe it down quickly before it dries to get rid of

the drips and brush marks.

Stage 4 – I start re-working the darks before I completely lose my drawing,

then do another 2 or 3 washes over it.

Stage 5 — I alternate between warm and cool washes of color.

Here, a Payne's Gray wash has been added mostly at the top. By the way, Payne's Gray is merely a premixed Ultramarine Blue and Ivory Black — it says so right on the label.

Stage 6 — A Yellow Ocher wash has been added, plus some reworking

of the lost highlights using Titanium White Gesso and water.

Burnt Sienna is used in the shadows to keep them from going too dark, for now.

Stage 7 — Creating atmosphere with more thin washes.

Yellow Ocher and Burnt Sienna both have a slight opacity to them — they are not true transparent colors, like Ultramarine is. Therefore, they tend to lighten. This begins to create a "foggy," more unified look to the lights and darks. This also ties the cool highlights back to the color scheme.

Stage 8 — I wash in some local color and re-enforce the highlights.

I want a warm-to-cool graduated background, and I want something light behind the head to bring out the profile, so I start working the cool light on the wall. I also add the red of the drape on the chair, while reinforcing the satin white.

Close-up — A bit blurry, sorry!

Stage 9 — Oil Wash or Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue and Raw Umber, Turp and Linseed Oil


You may object to oil paint being used in an acrylic painting since one cannot paint with both. This is mostly true. The astute among you will know that you cannot paint acrylic over oil — ever. But the reverse is not true. You can paint oil over (dried) acrylic. This is completely archival.

The really super-astute among you will realize that this last stage — where I am leaving off for now — is where I became frustrated with the way the acrylic painting was going, seeing the seemingly endless work ahead to get what I wanted, therefore I "changed horses in the middle of this stream."

Goodbye acrylic, for now. This painting has plenty of potential, and it's only going to be realized if I enjoy painting it, so... I did what I had to do. For now, I like oils better, and I believe I can finish this faster/sooner and with greater artistic freedom in oils.

Paint Smarter™


Friday, August 26, 2011

Step-by-Step Description of "Curl"

This painting started out on a panel primed with gesso, then sanded, then painted with a medium gray, latex, flat wall-paint I got from Home Depot.
My first step, above, was to tone the panel with a bit of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, thinned well with mineral spirits. Next step was to sketch in the proportions of the head. Working on an 8 x 10 panel, I make things a lot easier on myself by cropping my digital photo exactly as I wanted it cropped at exactly 8 x 10 proportions. This allows me to do the sketch paying attention to the shaped of the head as well as the shapes of the negative space around the head. This is painted from the image on the monitor.
Admittedly, I got a little lost right away. I started jumping around trying to "get something right" instead of focusing on connecting values and shapes. Jumping around is always my downfall. Part of the problem is that I do not realize I am doing the jumping around.
And no one was around to stop me.
Eventually, I come to my senses and do the only thing I can do to make the painting better: remove the offending parts. My general proportions were mostly right as far as placing the head on the panel, but I went awry somewhere near the mouth.
As soon as I wiped off the mouth, The Voices stopped.
Just kidding. Now they only sounded muffled.
I got the bigger shapes dropped back in; a smaller mouth, the orange of the background, the cool of the flesh in light.
Back on track, I worked on balancing the shadow values more with the light values, trying to separate the warm shadows from the cool north light on the brighter side. I also blockiin the hand, which I see as an element of the painting that is necessary for the femininity in the pose, but not important enough that I want to draw attention to it. I intend to keep it impressionistic.
Curl – 8" x 10" oil on panel, by David R. Darrow
The completed painting is a result of refocusing and starting at the top of the forehead and working my way down checking the drawing, comparing shapes, values and hues, adjusting edges and temperatures.

I try not to get discouraged when a painting goes off a bit. I don't like that I have to spend extra time on it, but it does feel good to whip it back into shape. 


Curlby David R. Darrow
8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm)
Oil on Panel

Collection of Suzie Gregory
Columbus, IN – USA

About This Painting

One of my Beautiful Strangers™ encounters led to this painting.

Beautiful Strangers are 'portraits of friends I have never met.'

I met Blythe in the market. She may have generated the slowest double-take on record. She was in line at the quick check-out at the grocery store, and I was on my way to the produce section and had to cut in front of her just to get by.

I smiled as I inched my cart into the space in front of her so she wouldn't think I was just busting through. She smiled at me and back up to let me through. And the light caught her just so.

I saw a painting in my mind as I passed by her.

All the way to the bagged Baby Spinach and organic carrots, I tried to talk myself out of asking her to be in a painting of mine. Finally, I just asked myself, "Who are you kidding? How are you going to paint a face like that if you don't ask her?"

So I did. And she agreed.

She was a natural. Every which way she turned her head she looked like another painting. She brushed her hair through her fingers and I said "Hold that... ...Okay... ...let go of your hair." A single strand of her hair dropped and curled around into the light.  ◙

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sonoma Roadside

Sonoma Roadsideby David R. Darrow
8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm)
Oil on Panel

Collection of George Reis
San Diego, CA – USA

About This Painting

Something happens to me when I drive through the lush, green fields of wine country. On a recent drive through Sonoma, I was taken by this scene at a glance as I drove by, so I went back to see it again — it ended up becoming a painting.

It had been a beautiful day, perfect weather, the slightest breeze. Driving with the windows down, smelling the rich earth mixed with a hint of salt air filtering in from the not-so-distant Pacific Ocean.

And now as the sun began its descent, the colors started to concentrate. The leaves, ever-so-slightly backlit, glowed a deep yellow green against the blue mountains.

I must go back.

Highway 12. Sonoma, CA. Wine Country.  ◙

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hot Pants

Hot Pantsby David R. Darrow
8" x 6" (20.3cm x 15.2cm)
Oil on Stretched, Washed Denim

Collection of David Hansen
Milwaukee, WI – USA

About This Painting

Not just a couple of peppers. These are peppers from my own vegetable garden in San Jose, CA. And not just a still life on ordinary canvas – this painting is done on my old blue jeans... unstitched, washed and archivally stretched and glued onto a birch plywood panel, then gessoed with archival-quality, clear gesso.

Peppers on pants: Hot pants!  ◙

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Friday, August 19, 2011

A Stroll in Lucca Italy

A Stroll In Lucca, Italyby David R. Darrow
5" x 7" (12.7cm x 17.8cm)
Oil on Panel

Collection of Leta Terrell
Lake Providence, LA – USA

About This Painting

I sometimes live vicariously through the lives of strangers, which is why I have on my Beautiful Strangers™ business card "Oil portraits of friends I have never met."

Getting to know the people who model for me is always a step into a new world.

And so it goes with clients who hire me to paint for them, as was the case with one client, recently, who wanted to gift his wife with a painting to remind her of the wonderful time they had together in a trip to Italy. I got to see his collection of snapshots and hear him talk about what memories he had of these various locations, the beauty, the moments that touched them both.

One in particular was a stroll around the section of Lucca (I believe he referred to it as Lucca Park). This walkway at the south-east of the walled city was strewn with Fall leaves and dappled sunlight, walled out on the right, and protected by a small berm on the left, seemingly endless in its forward distance.

I did this color sketch before the final, much larger painting to present to my client. He was pleased, and gave me the go-ahead for the final.  ◙

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Creek at Broad St. – Looking East, San Luis Obispo

Creek At Broad St. – Looking East (San Luis Obispo)by David R. Darrow
6" x 8" (15.2cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel

Collection of Jan Krynski
Chicago, IL – USA

About This Painting

A while back I started a couple of paintings en plein air down by the creek near Broad Street in San Luis Obispo, CA. It's downtown, north of Higuera.

I finished one of them months ago. It was the view looking west. My own mother bought that one. She said she "had to have it" since it was a place my late father and she would stop for lunch when traveling south. They moved to the South San Francisco Bay during my second semester in Art School, and though Interstate 5 running through central California is 1.25 hours faster, they always took the slower SR-101 to Southern California since it is the more beautiful route. About 3.5 hours into it, it's great to stop in beautiful San Luis Obispo for a respite.

Now I myself am in San Jose, and when I head south to visit my kids, I take the 101 through SLO, too, and I make it a habit to stop off at this creek.

This is the second painting I started down in that creek area. This is the view looking east, and is equally beautiful.  ◙

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nude with White Satin Scarf

Nude with White Satin Scarfby David R. Darrow
6" x 8" (15.2cm x 20.3cm)
Oil on Washed Denim on Panel

Collection of George Reis
San Diego, CA – USA

About This Painting


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thomas James

Thomas Jamesby David R. Darrow
5" x 7" (12.7cm x 17.8cm)
Acrylic on Panel

Collection of James Thomas
Santa Clara, CA – USA

About This Painting

Several months ago I gave a Head Painting Demonstration for a local artists group, and chose this fascinating looking gentleman from the audience to be my model (I added some of the scraggly appearance by use of artistic license — the model is actually a very nicely-groomed fellow).

He did an excellent job, like a pro.

I took 2 snapshots of the pose, thinking I might get back to the oil painting someday (still haven't).

And then last night I decided to drying slinging some acrylic paint around. I haven't painted in acrylic in 3 years or so, and I wanted to try out a build-up method of scumbling and glazing.

In the end I had a decent little painting. I made up the bandanna and blue shirt to give him a cowboy look, and reversed his real name (James Thomas) because I thought Thomas James sounded more Western... probably because of Jesse.   ◙

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Pitfalls of Art Contests and Donation Requests

Pop Art Trompe (Beer Can) - 18" x 24" Oil on Canvas
Ken Davies
I have for over 3 decades been enamored of the work of artist Ken Davies since acquiring his book Artist At Work. This book was a godsend when I bought it at H.G. Daniels in downtown Los Angeles, CA, during my art school days at age 21. I was trying to hone my skills at realism, and was meeting all sorts of opposition from faculty at Art Center College of Design — from, in particular, the chairman of the Illustration Department, Phil Hayes, who was a proponent of New York-style conceptual, editorial art, which at the time was taking a 'lunge toward grunge' and non-objectivity. Davies' work represented to me the pinnacle of the kind of realism that moved my soul at that time in my life. 15 years later I added his first book Painting Sharp-Focus Realism to my collection (the painter and my cousin, the late Raymond Page owned the book in his personal library and gave it to me some time before his passing).

One of my favorite stories, which to me typifies the lure of artist contests and the calls for fundraiser donations, is the following, as told by Ken Davies in his 1976 book Artist At Work, and is the description that accompanies the painting above which, I should add, is highly atypical of his work.
For over twenty years, I've been a member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists. Back in the late ’50s, I submitted a painting to their big, annual exhibition and it promptly got rejected. I think it was the first time a painting of mine had ever been rejected, so I was particularly anxious to go to the opening and see what the "good" paintings looked like. One accepted piece consisted of several crushed, rusty tin cans attached to a piece of wood. In those days, that was not a typical work of art, and so I was properly shocked. I was also annoyed at my rejection.

Several weeks later, when The Guild asked its membership to donate a painting for a fund-raising art auction, my annoyance returned and I thought I would be clever and sarcastic with my donation. I decided to paint the worst non-objective painting I could think of and then to paint a very realistic crushed beer can, complete with shadow as though it were attached to the canvas. When the painting was finished, I was rather pleased with myself. I could hardly wait to submit my masterpiece and get my revenge. I delivered it with an evil glint in my eye, then went home to await their shocked reaction. When the day of the art auction arrived and the results were announced, I was completely appalled. Not only had my horrible painting been sold, but it had brought an outrageous amount of money!

I never did find out who bought it and have not seen it since. But I'd love to know where my "backfired revenge" painting is today."

I wonder if Ken Davies ever found out who bought this painting. The book this is from was written in 1978.


I got a nice note from Ken Davies telling me he still (as of the publish date of this blog entry) does not know what became of the painting. The story was such a popular one that it has been re-published in his new book Ken Davies: American Realist which can be purchased from his website.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Least Expensive Way to Mail An Original Painting

The past few weeks I have been on task with some graphic design work, working on a CD package and some website stuff. It was all fun work, so I actually did not mind that I was not painting much. I've needed a break from painting, anyway, "so I could miss it again..." — time to look through painters' work on Facebook albums and blogs — time to get inspired.

A few inspiring blogs for you to check out later:
  • The Broadview Blog - An interesting approach to understanding plein air painting. Concept Artist Robh Ruppel — also a student of the late Fred Fixler — demonstrates with digital media (Wacom tablet and stylus, plus Photoshop or other digital painting app.) how he constructs digital paintings that are every bit as amazing as those done in traditional media (which Ruppel also handles expertly)
  • Land Sketch and Nathan Fowkes Art — Two blogs by artist Nathan Fowkes who does extremely simple, little color and value studies to truly capture the essence of what he is looking it. Often using a combination of gouache (pronounced 'gwash') and watercolor in his little sketchbooks, these are gems, all. Take a look at his painting kit, shown at the top of Land Sketch. Gouache is the fancy name for high-quality opaque watercolor, sometimes called tempera.

Cheapest Mailing Available

I found a cheap way to mail paintings. The safety and condition is not guaranteed, but the reduction of postage costs is.
Painting Mail

Today, I am mailing to an artist friend of mine, using no packaging, a sketch that I started on a painting panel but know I won't get back to. That's right, I just wrote on the back like a postcard, addressed it, weighed it and put proper first-class postage on it. (I'm not completely stupid: I did wait for it to dry and then I varnished it). ;-)

I have no idea what it will look like when it gets there, but it seemed like a funny idea to me. Much better than tossing it in the trash or a fire. Someone will be surprised. And maybe a few postal workers will get a good eye-roll out of it.

Update: The recipient, my artist friend Annie Salness, called to let me know that it arrived in great shape, "not a scratch on it."

The Broadcast

Not sure when I will be back on (my broadcast Dave the Painting Guy), but I wanted to be in touch. I'll let you know by mass mail when I am back to broadcasting. Should be soon.

I may get on very soon and work more on another demo I started, at right. I painted a fellow named James who came to watch my demo for the Santa Clara Art Association on Wednesday March 2, 2011.

I only had about 1 hour to 1-hour-15-minutes to do an oil portrait (a little too lean on time for my taste), so I did not get terribly far. But as always, I had a great time.