Methods and Visions

Oil paints have always been my preferred medium.

Nancy's easelMy studio work begins with drawings. Lots and lots of drawings. The final drawings are composed using golden section rectangle grids as the “bones” on which to hang my composition. The final drawing is transferred to a toned canvas. I then lay in a monochromatic underpainting, upon which I layer multiple glazes of translucent oils. The first layers are the darker colors, followed by the bulk of the mid tones and ending with the highlights in the final layers. Each layer must dry before the next can be applied, and the composition of the painting medium changes with each layer to ensure proper adhesion. The final result is a delicate and rich effect with great depth, due to these many layers.

My plein air work is, of course, quite different. The light is constantly changing, and with it the colors of the landscape before me. Obviously there is no chance to let layers dry. The painting must be executed very quickly, with sure strokes of the brush and great attention to the quality of the light. Years of training and experience are called into play. Often I must memorize the scene as I start painting because I know that it will be radically changed by the time I complete my work. The challenges are great, but then so are the rewards. When I am able to successfully complete a plein air painting, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. And these paintings can become studies for later studio pieces.

My figurative work in oils is handled much as a plein air painting, but often I choose to work on a clear primed Belgian linen, which I allow to show through and become part of the painting. I am equally comfortable with painting on a gessoed board. The advantage to working from a model is that the light can be controlled, and the necessity to work quickly is dictated only by the difficulty of the pose for the model. The other advantages that come to mind are that there are no biting insects in my studio and I can control the temperature, which is not the case with painting outdoors.



Techniques in Figure Drawing

Over thirty years ago when I first started drawing from nude models, I used the traditional method of charcoal or pencil on white paper. But there always seemed to be something missing. My paintings have always focused on light, and it is difficult to portray light when working on white paper.

Discovering the combination of white pastel and toned paper was the breakthrough for me. I now paint the light and allow the paper itself to become the shadows. This technique forces me to look at the human figure in an entirely new way. Observing and capturing the way light flows over the curves of the body is such an exciting approach to figure work.

I prefer to work directly from a model, and do so every week or two. Often I am fortunate enough to have other artists join me in my studio to share the experience. This is my special treat to myself as an artist.

Recently I have begun working from models using oil paint, often on clear-primed Belgian linen. I find that the tone of the linen is similar to the toned pastel paper, and it allows me to again focus on the light.

Several of the paintings are done over a longer period of time using the studies I created during the modeling sessions.

I enjoy experimenting with different mediums, techniques and subjects, feeling that this keeps my creative spirit vibrant. When I feel myself becoming comfortable with the way I am working, I do something different. When an artist finds that their work is routine and predictable, there isn’t much growth. I want to always keep reaching.


"I am always doing that which I cannot do,
in order that I may learn how to do it."

–Pablo Picasso