Getting Down to Paint on Muriwai – Part 3

So now that the aluminium panel is all prepped and ready to go, the first step is to mask of the bottom half of the painting. I use just a piece of paper and 3m automotive masking tape. This type of tape has a higher bond and resists paint from bleeding underneath. The first color for the sky is a very pale blue that blocks everything in. It is made from a mixture of White and a very small amount of Blue. I reduce this mixture about 50% with the Wicked High Performance Reducer in the airbrush. One of the strengths of the airbrush is in the way that it so finely atomizes paint. This allows for extremely controlled and even application of paint. Perfect for all of the fades that are in this sky. The picture below shows that blue against the gray of the primer. I have removed the mask here to show the difference however during normal painting, I will leave the masking in place until the top section is finished. 

There are two colors that will establish the warmer areas of the sunset. First is a pale, warm yellow which is made of White and Detail Yellow Ochre. For the warmer color, I used the same pale yellow and add a small amount of Detail Burnt Orange. This orange will aid in the transition of into the darker blue above. This orange shift will also be echoed again where the sun will be as well.

From here the deeper blue of the night sky is added. Again, the strength of the airbrush here really shines. The method is to get a very even transition from a very transparent dark blue into the very warm area of the sun without having it turn green This is made up of Blue and a small mount of Black. This dark blue is very heavily reduced with the HP reducer and I have also added a small amount of Balancing Clear. This balancing clear improves the spray performance and also bolsters the surface strength of this fragile, over reduced color.

With the darker blue now established, I can start moving on to the clouds and sun. The glare from the sun will cover the clouds so I start with the clouds first. Using a similar warm yellow as the sky, I start blocking in the lighter base for the clouds.

Here is the painting with all of the light areas of the clouds in place.

Using the same warmer orange color as in the sky, the darker areas of the clouds are added in with the same paint brush technique. 

Finally the clouds are blended together with a color that is between the lighter and darker colors that were just used. After the sun is put in, I can adjust the overall tone and atmospheric perspective.

The main glare area of the sun is again a very pale yellow and again is applied with the airbrush. In order to get the best transition, I add a little of the balancing clear.

Now to echo the orange transition band that is in the upper part of the sky, A highly reduced Burnt Orange is carefully applied in the halo around the sun.

With that, the upper half of the painting is locked down. In the next blog post, I’ll get into the waves in the water. As always, thank you so much for reading along and please add comments an ask questions. That is what this is all about!




Posted in How-to

Prep work for the Muriwai Painting – Part 2

The archival quality of a painting has always fascinated me. To see the results of the care that the old masters took with their art to ensure that the work would survive hundreds of years is amazing to me. It makes perfect sense as artists. The hope is that long after we are gone, our work will continue to speak about ourselves, the times that we live in and the stories that we want to tell.

My miniature work demanded some departure from traditional archival techniques. For example, traditional canvases and even linen have a texture in the fiber that can be distracting in the final painting. That moved me to look to different substrates that were much smoother. Prepared hardboard made the best sense. This acid free pressed board is coated with a gesso which becomes the surface that accepts the paint. While it was a good option, the paint I was using introduced another substrate which would become the perfect choice. This paint that has lent itself best to the techniques that I use. It is a liquid acrylic based paint from Createx. The Wicked Colors line was developed as an all surface paint but  specifically has applications in custom motorcycle and automotive painting. Since this paint was formulated to perform optimally on metal, it made sense to look at primed metal panels. Nothing is more archival than aluminium and titanium. Both do not oxidize and remains stable indefinitely. Standard 2 part automotive primer etches into the surface and creates the perfect surface for paint. For the Muriwai painting, I cut a 4.5 x 2.5 piece of .063 aluminium and prime one side. Both sides are powder coated so the back is still completely protected.

At the same time as the prep of the aluminium, I also start the frame for this painting. Knowing the color palette in this painting is black, ochre and orange, I chose Bubinga for the frame. This wood has an incredible orange glow and will go perfectly with both the painting and the black volcanic sand backdrop. The Bubinga plank is already milled so just some sanding is needed before the wood is cut into the frame rails.

Now that the reference is all set and the aluminium is prepped, I am ready to start the painting. In my next blog entry I’ll get into how I block out all the major areas. Thanks for following along! As always, any questions, comments, song lyrics or drink recipes you want to post in the comment section would be very awesome!

Posted in How-to

Creating the painting ‘Muriwai Sunset’ – Part 1

Muriwai Sunset


My recent painting was such a great experience for me and I wanted to create a diary of sorts of how this little painting came to be. Over the next few blog entries, I’ll take you all on a step by step journey of my entire process. As this series of entries unfolds, I would love to have you comment and ask questions on anything from the techniques to the motivation to anything in between. It is so often that the world sees only the few ‘in process’ photos that I post on Facebook and Instagram before the painting is finished. These blog posts will give you access from beginning to end. I hope you enjoy it!

The Beginning

I have been so fortunate to have never been caught with the dreaded Blank Canvas Syndrome. That crushing feeling of staring at a blank canvas with no idea of what to do on it. For me, ideas for paintings are like riding down a river. One painting naturally leads into another. Sometimes it is crazy like rapids, sometimes it is smooth and seamless. This painting is no exception. My latest series of paintings have been centered around beach scenes. specifically of places around Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Having grown up in Massachusetts and having the ocean be a very big part of my life, it just seemed natural to tell those stories. These works are painted on small aluminium panels and then I float them in a frame above sand from the same area of the subject. The first in the series is of the art galleries on Commercial Street in Provincetown.


I was talking to my cousin about this new group of paintings and it had come up that he was planning a trip to New Zealand. With that, I asked him to do me a favor. I asked for some photos and a handful of sand from a beach that he found interesting. Did he ever come through. One of his stops was at Muriwai Beach which is on the Northwestern coast of New Zealand and his sunset photos were more than I could have asked for. The black sand from this volcanic beach was equally incredible.

Now that I had my reference photo and sand, I was able to set up the painting.

The first step for me in any new painting is to develop the composition. Composing the elements in a painting create everything from movement to emotion. Objects can lead the viewer through the piece and then hold them within that piece. In a case like the Muriwai painting, the challenge is that there are fewer points of interest to play around with. The attention that the brilliant setting sun demands is obvious so that was the place to start. Rather than  have the sun dead center, which would give a feeling of serenity, I offset it to the right. The waves have so much going on in them with all the highlights, shadows and reflections that it will be a perfect way to give the viewers eye something to follow. Muriwai has these great natural vents as well so I shifted them over to the left to give a stronger diagonal sense of movement.

Once the composition is set, I reduce the photo to the actual size of the painting and then convert it to black and white. These will become the stencils that I will use to block in the major areas of the painting.


With the reference photo and copies made, I am ready to prep the panel for paint. In the next blog installment, I’ll show how I get those things ready! Again, if you have any questions  or comments along the way, I would love to have you ask them below.

Posted in How-to

It’s all about the process


I love talking to artists about the motivations behind the work that they do. It is an incredible window into who they are and what is important to them. Hearing these insights however, did not always fill me with inspiration. I would often find myself intimidated as I listened to artists describe the incredible stories that motivated their work. Listening to the deep soul searching that was involved or the unshakable need to shed light on an important issue, I would often return to my workbench and look at the pretty cars that I was painting and feel bit underwhelmed about what I was saying with my work. It became apparent that my choice of subject was purely visual.  As I thought about that it was clear that these vintage and exotic cars definitely had endless stories behind them. The military paintings had very important stories behind each one as well, however those stories were not always my primary drive behind why they were chosen to be paintings. That really came to bother me. As I dug deeper though, the answer became clear. I started by asking myself what was important to me about my work. What did I really enjoy about the painting that I was doing? All the answers to these questions led back to one thing. I am intoxicated by the process. I revel in tackling technical challenges that seem impossible. My joy was not coming from the subject but rather the actual painting process. Things began to make sense for me once I really came to this realization. I often wondered why I was comfortable painting any subject matter and didn’t prefer one over the other. It was because the process came first for me, the subject was secondary.

So what did I do with this info? Well by default, adding any self realization helps us grow. Removing that faulty filter that was nagging me about my own art motivations really allowed me to hear and interact with other artists about their work and that in turn that motivates me even more. Coming to this understanding also shows me where I could improve as an artist. Now that I understand that I tend to choose my subjects from a purely visual standpoint, I could work harder to look for subjects with stories that are in need of being told to balance things out.

It will always be the process first for me but now not only can I be comfortable with that, I can also grow from it.

Posted in Commentary

Growth involves a little pain


Pictures 005

‘You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”

What an incredible quote by the ispirationalist Jim Rohn. We have so many things in our lives that seem to buffer us, demand our attention, even seem that they have control over us. Soundly the most important thing that I have learned in my short 46 years on this planet is that we may not be able to control the things that happen to us but we are always in control of what our reaction to those things are. It is what defines us, it is what reminds us of our strength and our character. Think about that for a second. You could have the worst thing in the world happen to you and no matter what that could possibly be, you have the power at that very moment to control your response.

You may have noticed that my postings of new art has been non existent as of late. Rather there have been posts about random furniture restoration projects. As of the first of August, I have found myself for the first time in many years, trying to move my studio to a new location. As anyone knows who has spent a significant amount of time in one location. Change can often create a massive amount of chaos. This chaos is something that I have taken on as a solo project. Not one of my wiser moves but it has taught me a lot. As was quoted above, what is out of my control has given me a chance to respond.

The space I am moving into is in a building in a suburb of Boston which is great, literally minutes from the amazing art communities of South Boston, it is 20 minutes from where I am living which is also great. I now have access to a spray booth which allows me to now do all my own priming and clearing. The challenge for me is that the space is in need of some freshening up. In addition, I decided to bravely take on the task of restoring all of my studio furniture as well. A noble cause yet it has pushed off my ability to get back to painting. This has had quite a negative result on my state of mind as of late. Well negative and positive I suppose. Negative in the realization of how really ingrained my desire to produce art is tied into my happiness. The positive is ……… in the realization of how ingrained my desire to produce art is tied into my happiness.

So this is the chance for me to take Mr. Rohn’s advice right about now. As my ability to paint is packed neatly into tidy moving boxes and a list of cleaning, moving and restoring tasks still standing in the way of getting back to it, I need to stick to the things I have charge over and get through it.

More crazy art is on the way! I think it is packed in that box over there……..



Posted in Commentary

The Lace How-To


My buddy Joe Larry Mason was asking some questions about how I worked out the stockings and lace on the ‘Beantown Beauty’ air cleaner so I thought that I would pull together a quick how-to on how I got this one done.

First step is to paint in the base flesh color for the legs. I used Createx Illustration colors and the flesh color is made up with white, a touch of scarlet and touch of Burnt Sienna.


Second step is to create the stocking color. Simply adding a touch of black to the original flesh color gets that done. I cut out a stencil of the left leg first, This will give me the chance to get the shadows in.


Third step is to use another cut out to paint in the stocking color of the right leg.


Fourth step is to establish the lace. I use another cut stencil to lay out the edge of the lace.


Now, using a bit of reference material, I use a #2 pencil to sketch out the basic lace pattern. As the design nears the edge of her legs, the patters condenses.


Now that the basic pattern is laid out I can use the watercolor brush to paint in the lace pattern.


Using the first left leg cut out stencil, I add a touch more black to the flesh color and shade the darker areas.


Same color for the right leg. and then I use pure white to add a soft high lights on the top of the leg and knee cap.




Finally, I cut a new stencil for the red in her shoes and then add a simple pin stripe to tie it all together and that is how this one came together!



Posted in How-to

Mors Ex Tenebris



The motto of the Marine All weather Attack squadron 242. Translated it means ‘Death from the Darkness’ Nothing describes the Grumman A-6 Intruder better than the Bat’s motto. This incredible attack aircraft was in service between 1963 to 1997 and was designed as a medium all weather, carrier based attack plane. On its five hardpoints, it was capable of carrying everything from 5 inch Zuni rockets to AGM-84 Harpoon missiles to B83 nuclear bombs. The Intruder’s electronics allowed operation at any time in any weather.


Mors Ex Tenebris 002


For this painting I wanted to show the A6 operational yet also give respect to its retirement after 34 years and nearly 3 million flight hours. Showing the aircraft on the lift with the waves crashing behind just seemed right. It was always ready to go. For the markings, I chose VA-75 The Sunday Punchers, the Navy’s first A-6 squadron and the last to fly the Intruder in 1997.





The seed for this painting was originally sowed by my brother in law Rob. He knew that Navy aviation was a favorite of mine and that aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet were a regular target for my paintings. As I began to do my homework in prep for this painting, I began to really understand what the A-6 had represented and what it had really brought to the table in so many of the conflicts over the last 30 years. So with that, the painting changed from the original idea of a low level bombing run to the current portrait. As with nearly all of my paintings, I find that the research side of the work is just as fulfilling as the creation of the work itself.

Posted in Paintings

Speak softly and carry a big stick. The smoke and fire step by step

Smoke and Fire How-to


The job came into the studio to custom paint a rifle stock. The theme and colors were left wide open. After doing some rough sketches for ideas, I ended up with smoke and fire. Rather than do the normal realistic flames, I decided to pick something that looked like a huge, explosive fire. For all my art, I am using Createx Wicked Colors, a Richpen 213c airbrush and a Winsor Newton Series 7 watercolor brush Size 0.


I normally post updates of paintings on facebook. As I got things started, there was a request for a step by step on the process so I started taking pictures. What I quickly found was that it was difficult to get decent pictures as I was working. The gun had a silver metallic base and the matte black paint that I was using created a washed out glare on any of the curves. By the end it was clear that a proper How-to needed to come from a flat panel painting.


The panel that this painting was done on is a 3×4.5 inch piece of powder coated aluminum which I masked off the edge just to give the final painting a white border.



Next step is to paint the base color. In this case I am using AutoAir aluminum base fine.



On the rifle, I masked off basically the top half of the gun to minimize overspray then cut out the basic cloud shapes. For the flat panel, I omitted that step and just started blocking in the clouds with a very dark gray made from Detail Black and Detail White. I use the High Performance reducer when airbrushing as well, The ratio completely depends on what is needed. In this case, the cloud color needs to cover the aluminum without any detail so the ratio of paint to reducer is about 2:1.



Next a light yellow is mixed using Detail White and Golden Yellow. Again the color needed to cover so the reduction is 2:1.



It was important to get the overall forms of the clouds locked in early so for that I used a light gray made up of Detail White and Detail Black. Here more control was needed so I increased the ratio of reducer. The mix here is roughly 1:2 paint to reducer.




Same blocking in step was next for the fire. Here the color was a deep orange made from Detail Orange and a little Crimson.



Since the edge of the smoke is on top of the fire, I decided to finish the fire first. Using the same deep orange, I swap the airbrush for a small round watercolor brush. The paintbrush for this is nothing special. The technique here is rough on the brush so I try not to use anything nice. Basically it is just pushing the paint into the areas that will eventually be dark. While I use the same deep orange as before, I use it unreduced. This gives that dry, crumbled feel.



The next step is to blend all that paint brush work. For that I go back to the airbrush and use Detail Orange. The ultimate goal is to create the desired texture. Very often that takes several techniques.



Finally, an over reduced Crimson is used to add the darkest areas. This step is also done with the airbrush.



There are two steps that are used to bring out the hottest spots in the fire. The first step is to paint in the hot spots with the paint brush. This color is a very pale mixture of Detail White and Golden Yellow.



The next step is to push the light yellow back. For this I use a highly reduced Burnt Sienna which has a great yellow cast when pushed.



Now I repeat the same two steps again to create the hottest spots.








Finally the fire needed something to break it up. To do that, light gray is added to the top edge of the billows. This is where the fireball is the coolest. This detail really adds a lot of form to the flames and also breaks things up.



A very light gray is used here on the outer edge to add the highlight. This color is used across the light areas of all the smoke. This color is highly reduced at about 1:10 paint to reducer. This high reduction allows for very fine control and sharp details.



A deep gray is used next to tuck in the darkest areas of the smoke. Again, the reduction here is fairly high to give more control. This image shows half of the gray applied to show the contrast of the colors.




Here is all of the deepest gray in.


The paint brush is used next with a light gray to add the highlighted edge of the smoke billows. For this higher detail work, I switch to the Winsor Newton brush. This brush holds an incredible point. I also use the Regular reducer rather than the High Performance reducer. The Regular reducer keeps the paint flowing better off the traditional paint brush.



The same light gray color is used in the airbrush next to blend the edges of the highlights.



Finally Detail black is used to clean up any mistakes in the clouds. I unmask the edge and paint in the red pinstripe and this panel is now finished!


















Posted in How-to

Oh wait, let me show you….

I’d like to say that I am getting used to the blank stare that I usually get when trying to explain my work. That of course would be a lie. The one huge advantage that I have in painting so small is that I can literally have a painting on me at all times. The cards, pictures and even the web images simply don’t give the real impact that an actual painting does. I can get in depth all I want with the details on why I paint on razor blades but it isn’t until I actually show the real thing that things start to make a little sense.

That convinced me that I needed to make sure that I was prepared. At first I would carry an unframed blade painting with me but that obviously has its problems. Bucket List

First, the edges of the painting would always start to show wear. Second, it’s just plain wrong to walk around in public with razor blades in your pocket. I decided that I need a small portable frame to show off the latest unframed piece. Basically I made a small version of the frame that I have been using on all my paintings. This one however uses a magnet in the center to hold the current painting and swap them out quickly.


Bucket List framed

‘Bucket List’ has been in the travelling frame a lot lately. I have a regular sized frame for it but I just love having this painting with me all the time so the big frame sits empty.

So now I can get through the blank stare stage of the conversation quicker and move on to my favorite part of showing my work which is the inevitable ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ part. More on that next time!


Posted in Paintings

Love Letters


‘Love Letters’


Music is woven as tightly as art in my life. I grew up in an a family where playing an instrument was as normal as doing homework or riding a bike. I have actually been playing drums longer than I have been airbrushing. The lines between music and visual art have always been blurred for me. Both forms of creativity share so much. As a result, it is very rare to find me painting without music playing. Music is such an important part of my creative process I can often look at a completed painting and remember the songs that were playing during its creation.

The painting ‘Love Letters’ was a direct result of that connection between art and music. Jason Mraz is a favorite of mine and his style of music seems to get a lot of play while I am working so it seemed a natural subject to paint. I wanted the image to focus on his guitar which is the Taylor NS72ce.Taylor NS72ce


A beautiful guitar made with Indian rosewood and Western red cedar. I also wanted to have the letter symbols that he uses in the painting as well. The letter symbols are made up of simple geometric shapes in primary colors that spell the word ‘LOVE’. To add a visual twist to the painting, I decided to make the letters look like they were made out of glass. This was the first challenge. I needed to get some reference photos to make sure that I was able to capture the light the right way. The people at the local arts and craft stores are pretty much used to my insanity so it was no surprise to see me with a basket full of glass beads, paint and floral wire. They usually don’t even ask me any more. In the end, it was bits of tempered glass and colored Sharpie markers that did the trick. The floral wire glued to the top allowed me to position the pieces for the photo.



Once the reference photos were shot it really was business as usual. The background, guitar and letters were built up layer by layer. I used a small plate of titanium as the substrate because of its incredible luster and amazing archival qualities. As I was working through the painting, I made a call to Larry’s Custom Woodworking to get the frame in process. For this painting, I wanted the frame to match the actual wood of the guitar. That meant the frame would be made of solid Indian Rosewood and the backdrop would be Western red cedar. To take it even one step further, both the frame and backdrop received the same gloss finish that the guitar gets.





Often the music in my life will inspire a painting like this one and sometimes it is the other way around. Regardless though, there will never be one without the other in my studio.

Posted in Paintings