Monday, April 26, 2010

Staci and Maui

This painting is about 10 years old. That's my youngest daughter, Staci and our dog, Maui. They were sitting on a picnic table in our back yard, and the light was cutting through the trees producing that wonderful dappled light effect I enjoy painting. Something obviously caught Maui's attention. Probably a rabbit or squirrel that happened to be in "his" yard.

Maui was an orphan when we got him. He had been in three other homes, and those owners couldn't handle having a puppy, so we ended up with him. I believe he was under a year old when he came to live with us. Now he's 14 and still acting like a puppy at times, despite loss of hearing and diminished sight.

In this painting I achieved a rather impressionistic approach that appeals to me, but doesn't come easily. I tend to over render, instead of letting the brushstrokes determine the forms and shadows. It wasn't until several years ago that I really came to understand impressionism and what it meant. It's a challenge to try to paint in that manner and make it turn out. I was pleased with the way this one turned out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bela Lugosi

I think I've enjoyed Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula since I was ten years old. Back in those days, TV Guide would put a one word description of the genre of the film in it's listing. For Dracula they used the word "melodrama". I had to look that one up!

Whatever it meant I enjoyed watching that movie, and saw it several times back then, and have seen it many more times since. Lugosi's portrayal was the ultimate Dracula for me; suave, deadly and alluring. You rooted for him instead of being repulsed by him. I think that's the difference in the classic monsters versus the gorefest of today. Back then you had sympathy for the monsters. Some of them, the Wolf Man in particular didn't necessarily want to be the way they were.

Bela Lugosi was a fine actor, who like all of us had issues in his life. I believe these issues prevented us from seeing the full extent of his potential as an actor. I wish he would have done more radio plays, as the few we have are quite decent.

The photo I worked from for this portrait is actually from the film Mark of the Vampire, in which Lugosi plays an actor playing a vampire! It was based on the sadly lost film London After Midnight, starring Lon Chaney Sr. It remains one of my favorite photographs of Bela Lugosi.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Grandma Helen

Since I never knew any of my blood grandparents, we did the next best thing; we adopted one!! Her name was Helen Smith, and we moved next door to her soon after her husband had passed away. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. We were told to stay away from Mrs. Smith because she didn't like kids. Very soon after we moved in Helen had her handyman cut a hole in the hedge in her backyard that separated her yard from ours!

I remember sitting on her front porch drinking pop. Sometimes she would babysit me and my brothers, and we'd stay up late and watch roller derby and eat these small pizzas that you cooked in a toaster oven and cost a dime apiece!! She became a very important part of our family. She loved the occasional beer, Pepsi, Lawrence Welk and the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Whenever she went out to a restaurant with us, inevitably someone she knew would come up and greet her! It seemed like everybody knew her. Even in her later years she'd get a hundred Christmas cards!!

She ended up living at the Widow's Home downtown, and lost a leg. It didn't diminish her humor or warmth. When they were taking her to the hospital where she would later pass away, she asked the driver to stop and get them both a beer!! She was one of a kind, and I feel extremely blessed to have known her.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I grew up never knowing my blood grandparents. They were all gone before I was born. All I know about them is what my folks have told me, and through photographs. Those photos are priceless to me. It's the only "contact" I have with them.

This portrait is of my dad's dad. Painting it brought out some strange emotions in me. I was thinking about the fact that I never got to meet him, and wondered what he was like. What hobbies did he have, what were his worries, etc. I sorta felt cheated that I never got to know him, and wondered what he would think about me. These things I'll never know this side of Heaven.

The original photo I had to work from was quite tiny. I really like his face and was anxious to capture it in oils. He favors my older brother. I'm really looking forward to meeting him someday...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Even though I'm a fan of the Universal Monsters, the Creature from the Black Lagoon has never been a favorite of mine. He is hugely popular and has a large fan base. I've seen several of the films he was in, but he never really clicked with me. Maybe it's because he doesn't emote very well. I really don't know.

I do know he's very difficult to paint. I enjoy the challenge of painting him, but rendering all those scales can get very tedious! I've painted him several times and even though I swear I'll never do another portrait of him I end of trying it one more time.