This is a house I've painted twice before. I like the way it sits on the edge of a hill all by itself. The trees seem to be guardians that frame it to anyone who approaches. I left out the parked cars and junk piles. Let's just call it artistic editing.
For anyone interested I'll be showing at First Night in downtown Pittsburgh, Dec. 31. The exhibition, The Painted City, is at 937 Liberty Ave. 6-11 pm. Here is the link for more info.
Sometimes a simple shadow is the reward for seeing. I titled this Reaching Shadow because it appeared to extend the entire width of this oddly windowed house.
I usually don't paint interiors, but this one done seven years ago at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art was just acquired for their collection. I'm so proud to say this is the third piece of mine in their collection of American Art. Thank you to the Westmoreland Society and the museum for making this possible. http://www.wmuseumaa.org/
Sometimes I walk the streets near my studio wondering if there is anything new. New in the sense that I haven't noticed before that is worthy of becoming a painting. Usually it is a light and shadow situation which catches my eye. But here were a bunch of pigeons clustered together on telephone wires. (I suppose they were getting ready for bed.) The thin vertical telephone pole shapes, wires and birds broke up the sky space while also adding an authentic texture to this city scene.
This painting is from a collaborative effort with my twin brother Don. While here in San Francisco he shared a photo from the coast he took this summer. I liked it so much that this painting was created. During last visit here I did a lot of coastal studies which came in handy for additional reference.
This group of houses is on Home Street - such a great name for a street. Actually this view is from the back. The alley ways and backyards have become a rich source of inspiration lately. I'm influenced by the Ashcan School of painting and especially the NY tenements that John Sloan painted in the early 1900s. I also find it interesting that a guy from Lock Haven, PA became the visual voice of New York City.
October has always been my favorite month. It seems like the skies are more interesting, especially towards the end of day. Recently I noticed how the evening light was illuminating house peaks in an area known as Friendship. The idea of using cast shadows from objects outside of the image is something I've used plenty of times. Here the opposite side of the street shows us a street light, trees and roof lines. It creates the illusion there is much more going on but is only implied.
Pittsburgh has a particular style of architecture. Some areas have skinny row houses that are packed together on steep hillsides. This is the case with the 10th Ward of the city. You can sense the claustrophobic environment in this alleyway painting I did last week. To think I once drove through these places only to get somewhere else, never really seeing just how interesting they were.
Next Saturday from 10 - 6 is our 7th Annual Lawrenceville Artists' Tour. It features 16 artists from my neighborhood. To download a map, go to http://lvpgh.com/ It is mostly a walking tour so you'll get the added benefit of exercise, not to mention see a lot of interesting architecture and new shops. You'll also see why Lawrenceville is the new, hot hipster place to be. And if you get the urge for some new body art there are tattoo parlors here as well.
This is another from the 10th Ward area of Lawrenceville. I was intrigued how the light carved out these three houses from the shadowed hillside. Since I've moved about a mile from my studio I can walk and more closely observe possible subjects. Driving doesn't do the same thing.
On another note, I just returned from a plein air festival in Wheeling, West Virginia. It is called Paint Olgebay, which is an amazing park, resort and nature reserve. I'll return next year because it is an excellent event. This year, despite rain and cool temps, 65 artists painted for the three days. Here is the website for anyone who may be interested. http://www.oionline.com/paint/artists.htm
I just moved to a new place that has some interesting views of the city. The distant downtown buildings are framed by the various backyards textures. It is a classic view and visually describes why this is such an interesting place to live and paint.
Next April I'm having an exhibition in Johnstown, PA. I'm going to call it Portrait of Johnstown because of the 12 months I'll have spent looking at the flood-famous town. The 60 paintings will NOT be postcard images. Johnstown isn't pretty, but it is interesting with one helluva lot of character. I get to know a place by walking the streets, eating at a local diner, listening to the people and then setting up my easel.
Also, a friend/collector just posted a Wikipedia entry for me. This was such a nice thing for her to do. Thank you Catherine!
Earlier this week I spent some time painting the Muskingham River in Ohio. It was interesting because an artist friend has a cottage that is right on the river's edge. That allowed for constant observation of how the sky changes affect the river color. This painting was about how the last golden rays kissed the water goodnight.
Sometimes one painting leads to another. This is what happened with the most recent painting, Last Light. After I did it, the idea of deeply shadowed alleyways prompted me to look at photos I took last winter. This new one depicts early morning light on Polish Hill. The tricky aspect of this painting was to keep the hillside in the distance, even though it is warm. Conversely, the foreground is in deep, bluish shadow and normally these cool colors tend to recede. I think of these scenes as urban canyons where light darts through openings, creating tension because of the imposing masses.
Painting the area close to my studio has become much more important to me over the last few years. I especially like the narrow alley ways. They allow me to describe how colors change over distance while also showing a sense of place. In this painting the late day light is just touching some row houses before they drop into shadow.
I'm an identical twin. Sometimes I forget how lucky I was to be born along with another human who would be there as my best friend, for life. It's not quite like having a regular sibling. The bond goes deeper, like similar DNA. As a result, I see pairs of things that appear to be the same, but upon closer examination are different. These chairs caught my eye last week while I did an artist-in-residence program. Sometimes you need to get to know twins before the differences are apparent. These chairs were like that. What fun it was to get to know them over two hours as they were bathed in a sweet evening light.
This exhibition, Across the Alleghenies, was just installed at the Pennsylvania Governor's Residence in Harrisburg. Patrick Ruane and I are the featured painters until December. We are both showing work of our region, Western PA. This is because the newly elected governor is a native of Pittsburgh. The curator thought it would be fitting to pair us for this show. All of my 11 paintings depict the city and Pat has 10 rural landscapes. It is an honor for us to exhibit together, especially since we have been friends and colleagues for 25 years. To see an image of the PA Governor's residence click on their website.
This announcement above is worth clicking on to see the larger version of Pat's painting, Silver Morning. It is both subtle and poetic.
Last weekend I delivered three paintings to Gallery Plan B in Washington D.C. for the exhibition, Local Color. The show opens July 28. This is another architectural study from my series on Logan Circle. It is really fun to walk the streets and see how many great buildings have been preserved.
When you look at all the hillsides around here one thing jumps out – repeated patterns. Most of it is the geometric shapes of houses. The idea behind this painting was the red chimney pots and how they created small areas of interest as the light caught them. It was a rather complicated scene that I did before as an 11 x 14 study. This piece was a combination of the study and a photo. www.donoughe.com
These are part of a small series I'm doing for an exhibition in Washington DC next month. The show is titled "Local Color" at Gallery Plan B. Because the Gallery is close to Logan Circle, I've decided to feature this historic area. The sculpture is John Logan, Commander of the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War. The area, which is also a traffic circle, is surrounded by amazing Victorian homes. If you get to DC, it is well worth a visit.
I'm often asked if I'll do a painting of someone's house. The answer is yes – if I can do it from my own plein air study and photos. Usually these commissions start with a small sketch and study. The one above was done after visiting the location at different times of the day to get the best lighting situation. Optimum time was late day, around 6:30 - 7:45. That was perfect. The morning was all back-light and afternoon wasn't working either. The key was to have a nice distribution of light and shadow with the entry way becoming the focal point. After this small study was approved I started the larger size, which is 24 x 45. The final painting was started in my studio and finished on location. The process was about 2-3 weeks. A lot of that time was spent conceptualizing how it to create a painting that was worthy of that handsome house.
Rain, rain go away. The excess water in the rivers has caused a lot of this, flooded trunks. These reflections appeared to move with the viewer. Very strange. The same phenomenon seems to happen with eyes on some museum portraits. The general rule with reflection is that dark values reflect lighter, lights reflect darker and middle tones reflect about the same.
This is one of the 60 newly posted paintings on my web site.
This is the fifth painting of my vintage series. It shows the J&L Works beside the parkway east. This image is seared into my memory because it was my first impression of Pittsburgh. During the 1960s my oldest brother was living in Hazelwood while attending Pitt Dental School. For fun he would drive my twin, Don, and I the 95 miles from Cambria county to see the "big city." Our entrance was always greeted with the smell of rotten eggs, thick smoke, and strange sounds–all coming from this dark, hulking mill. It was an ominous feeling for a couple 10 year old hayseeds. This painting visually recalls that experience over 40 years ago.
These dusty steel mills become really exciting when molten metal is poured. The flames illuminate surfaces while the yellow green lights pierce the smoke from the ceiling. Cool blue light from outside streams through dirty glass panels. This creates three distinct light sources and a visual poetry that you wouldn't expect from such a dangerous and enormous space.
These two buses are in a junk yard that I drive by almost everyday. They are tucked into the forest directly across from where I stop. As traffic whizzes by I find myself staring at these shapes, thinking about the thousands of hours spent on buses like this as a child. Yet I'm also intrigued by the bold, intense yellow against a field of non-color. The contrast and abstract shapes bring thoughts of Mark Rothko. It has taken me four years of observation to make this painting–in 90 minutes.
This is the latest of my vintage series of paintings. It is from an image taken in the early 1900s from the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh. I'm using Van Dyke brown, Portland gray and white to achieve a look similar to an aged photo. It really forces me to "feel the weight" of the buildings. I've told students for years that value trumps color every time. Now I'm getting a chance to practice what I preach.
I've been using the idea of missing houses in recent work. The spaces remind me of a smile without a tooth. Most of the urban landscape work has been done within a few blocks of my studio. It just doesn't seem necessary to travel to "find" a good painting location when so many interesting options exist nearby.
Here is the finished version of Last Snow. The previously posted image was the 16 x 20 inch study. I didn't change much except there is a lot more information now that it is enlarged. It is hard to keep the spirit of the quickly painted smaller painting. Also you have to use 4 - 6 inch wide brushes to create the same look. I just can't bring myself to mix puddles of oil paint that would accommodate that size of brush stroke. It is a compromise, like a lot of things in life.
A few years ago I visited five different steel mills in the western Pennsylvania region. From those visits I've been doing a series of industrial paintings. In a way it is to document an important aspect of this region's history before it is gone. This mill makes couplers for the railroad industry and it is just a few blocks from my studio.
I should have titled this Last Snow, Hopefully. It seems everyone is sick of winter. That is apparent when visitors to my studio say, nice painting, but... I usually know what is coming next. Winter paintings can actually make people feel cold, which hasn't stopped me from doing them. This isolated group of houses on Polish Hill really caught my eye a few weeks ago. I liked the austere loneliness of the scene even though they appear to be glued together. The shadows were a nice way to lead the viewer up the hill. I'm almost finished with a large 36 x 50 canvas of this one. It will be posted next.
Rain and wet snow are usually enough to keep me in my studio. However a couple weeks ago I was invited to paint from a balcony on Mt. Washington, which has a grand view. (Hence, Grandview Avenue, which is where I was.) Rather than wait for a sunny day I decided to paint the city enveloped by full dampness. There is a lot to learn when the atmosphere is full of moisture. For one thing, edges are soft, values become quite close and the colors are tints of pastel. In addition it can be a quiet painting experience with hours of consistent gray diffused light.
This was painted on one of those dark, damp days that you wanted to stay in bed. Fortunately the sun peeked out enough for me to do this sketch. It is a simple statement about how light and shadow fall on snow.
Sometimes I get excited to make a painting after just completing one, which is what happened here. By then I feel more like responding to the landscape rather than copying it. In addition, my mass colors are already mixed on my palette. I'm safely parked, and there it is right in front of me, the next potential painting. Why didn't I see this before? These efforts tend to be quite good or losers that get scraped off. This one was a keeper.
Because I'm an identical twin, I look for subject matter that reflect double images. Here is a painting I did late last summer. The houses here were similar but different once you really got to know them. In a sense this painting is about how twins can be perceived as a unit. Our other six siblings stood apart from our close bond. In later years we tried to distinguish ourselves as unique individuals, but it wasn't easy because we always had a lot of the same interests. Painting for me can use this personal history as a source of inspiration. Here for example, I'm using the shadows and wires as a metaphor to connect the elements and unify the "family". I know it sounds like a bit much, and honestly I wonder if anyone needs to know the back story to enjoy the finished painting.
I may have posted something about this last year, so forgive me if you'll seen it before. During 2009 I did about 100 plein air paintings of Indiana County, all 9 x 12 inch. Of those, 80 were selected to become one large wall mural. They have since been purchased by The Museum of Indiana University of Pennsylvania for permanent installation in The Performing Arts Center. At the dedication Friday was, from left, Bill Double the museum board president, myself and Michael Hood, the dean of fine arts. These gentlemen were instrumental in raising the private funds needed to purchase the piece. It is in an ideal location and I'm so very proud since I'm an alumni of the university.
The bright sunshine is chasing away our snow! Frosty will be a mud puddle later today. I have to admit the return to nicer weather will be a welcome change. But already I'm missing the snow. The top sketch was done this morning as the sun melted some nice patches. I find snow so interesting to paint. For one thing the land masses become the lightest area, when usually it is the sky that is the lightest value. I also enjoy seeing the subtle changes of color temperature that occur within the light and shadow families.
During the last week and a half I've been driving to Westmoreland County to paint an historic area near New Florence, Pa. The first painting shows the pristine Tubmill Creek and the other shows a building known simply as the Clubhouse. Each painting is 36 x 48 and each required a lot of work. The building is situated on a hill that overlooks the Ross stone furnace, which can be seen on the left side of the top painting.
I'll be artist-in-residence there this coming July when it is a lush green environment. The winter landscapes should be a nice contrast to that work.
This is something a little different for me. I was drawn to this scene by the strong shadow family of blue and orange – a complementary combination. The light family was also the background so it made for an interesting juxtaposition of light and dark. The location is near my studio in an industrial/warehouse area.
This is the latest in my vintage painting series. I loved the austere feeling of this house on an unpaved road. The photo used for this painting was taken on April 12, 1920. The street runs under what is now the Bloomfield Bridge.
Contrast in life can be a good thing. Yesterday for example, I got on a plane in sunny San Francisco and returned to the frozen tundra of Western Pennsylvania. It was a great a week of painting the Bay Area and it was quite startling to feel the cold again. I did a lot of work while there – mid-century architecture in Daly City, coastal seascapes, the Golden Gate Park and Bridge. The painting above was done on the Montara coast near Moss Beach. The strong winds and crashing waves made this painting a real challenge. I'm showing this image because contrast was the idea for it: light against dark, soft against hard, and movement against the unmovable.
About a year ago my identical twin brother Don took an interesting winter photo. I liked it so much that it inspired the above painting for his office. He lives in San Francisco, which is where I'm painting this week. I normally don't work from photos that were taken by others, but Don and I have a similar sense of landscape aesthetic so it seems natural to collaborate. The image was taken north of Lock Haven in Clinton County. We are currently working together on images of the bay area. Here is an interesting online interview about Don and his design process.
Here is a 5 x 7 inch study done quickly after premixing a group of five mass colors. The power lines were edited out because I was focused on the road that angled up the mountain.
This image shows the 9 x 12 inch panel. It is a little different proportion, slightly more square. Basically the same painting, but somewhat darker. The sky became cloudier as I worked and the landmasses became darker as a result. I used the premixed colors and blocked it in using dark to light and thin to thick sequential passes. As you can see this one has a bit more information.
Full time artist living in Pittsburgh, PA. I've been a gravedigger, chicken catcher, landscaper, graphic designer, museum art installer, college instructor, and now, finally, I'm painting everyday, which is what I've been trying to do all along.