Wednesday, February 03, 2016

What does arbitrary color mean?

To answer the question... What does arbitrary color mean?

When the colors an artist uses are not based on what he/she sees but chosen arbitrarily. The term implies that it has no meaning but it may have a symbolic meaning or emotional meaning.

In the painting above Matisse is using arbitrary color. The color does not try to match what is actually seen. The color is being used as a compositional element to balance the composition. The color creates rhythm and balance.

Look at the just the blue areas. The blue is placed in patches as the red and yellow are. If you follow the blue around the canvas it seems to simulate how our eye jumps around a scene stitching together our experience.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What do I need to buy if I want to start learning how to draw?

Here is my answer to What do I need to buy if I want to start learning how to draw?
Get a sketchbook, a pencil and practice all the time. That said I like to use a 2mm lead holder with 4B lead. Staetdler makes one with a point sharpener in the end. I like it because I can carry it with me and I don't have to worry about sharpening. It even works out to be less expensive if you compare the cost of drawing pencils and how much gets wasted in sharpening! A kneaded eraser is pretty great to have. I use the black hard bound sketchbooks 9x12 or sometimes 6x8. You don't need anything special but getting new toys certainly can be inspiring and keep you going.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What are rules and tips for foreshortening an object?

Here is an answer to a question about foreshortening.

You can figure out foreshortening by using the rules of perspective. It would be too complex to describe the rules of perspective here, but in a nutshell...

The basic idea of linear perspective is that objects in space look smaller the farther away they get from the viewer. If you learn to draw a box using linear perspective you will be able to draw boxes that appear to be in a three dimensional space. Anything can be put into a box. The parts of a thing can be broken up into smaller boxes. Even figures and the parts of a figure can be placed in boxes. The more you can master the rules of perspective the easier it will be for you to draw things in a 3D space. You will understand how and why things look foreshortened.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Four paintings from the Air series framed and ready for David Joyce Gallery.

The Mayor's Art Show came down last month and I have two more shows before the end of the year. Four small paintings have been chosen for a group show at the David Joyce Gallery. These four are from a new series called Air. The title of the show is Taking Flight: a Visual Voyage. I had a twist on the concept that I hoped would fit. It did! The Fire Season series dealt with elemental forces. When Henry and I began learning about Robert Boyle's experiments with the vacuum and the bell jar, I began a journey of thought that inspired this new series. It is a fascinating project for me. The more I explore, the more questions emerge. My initial inspiration comes from the idea that Air is a complicated substance but invisible. There are connections to breath and spirit, nature and weather and also environmental issues. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I added a couple monotype prints to my web page. Monotypes are much like original paintings. They are one of a kind works but they use a printmaking process of working on a plate and with an etching press. There is an energy to the process that I really like. These are part of the Fire Season series but were done a couple years ago. I haven't shown anyone before now.
Fire's Warmth by John Holdway

Monday, July 27, 2015

Two Rivers Pulsing

I have been working on a new series of abstract paintings that continue to explore elemental conceptions of nature. The series title is Two Rivers Pulsing ( at least the working title) which is from 
Emerson's poem Two Rivers. For me the poem speaks to my long interest in the expression of the internal and external worlds.

Two Rivers
by Ralf Waldo Emerson

Thy summer voice, Musketaquit,
Repeats the music of the rain;
But sweeter rivers pulsing flit
Through thee, as thou through the Concord Plain.

Thou in thy narrow banks art pent:
The stream I love unbounded goes
Through flood and sea and firmament;
Through light, through life, it forward flows.

I see the inundation sweet,
I hear the spending of the steam
Through years, through men, through Nature fleet,
Through love and thought, through power and dream.

Musketaquit, a goblin strong,
Of shard and flint makes jewels gay;
They lose their grief who hear his song,
And where he winds is the day of day.

So forth and brighter fares my stream,—
Who drink it shall not thirst again;
No darkness taints its equal gleam,
And ages drop in it like rain.

Here is a glimpse of one of the pieces that I am finishing up from the series.
Here Beside the River

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sketchbook Studies

Jean commented on the method of doing thumbnail studies. I bucked this type of preliminary work, wanting to use a more improvisational approach in my work when I was younger. I worked intuitively and reacted to what was happening in the moment. When I began a series of realistic observational still life paintings 14 years ago I started to see the advantage to doing preparatory studies. When I started following the steps. (I actually created my own method somewhat based on classical techniques.) I was having less failed paintings and I was much faster. I could also expand and work in any size I wanted.

In researching classical methods and found that this preliminary work is extremely important. You can go to visit James Gurney's blog to start learning about adopting the old techniques. He is very generous with his knowledge. There is a huge explosion of information on classical painting techniques so you will have no trouble finding information. Other resources you might like are illustrators who work using classical methods such as Donato Giancola and Dan Dos Santos also there are atielier trained artists like Stan Prokopenko.

I have always been interested in intuition and improvisation. I have developed a synthesized technique for myself. I create dozens if not hundreds of thumbnail compositional studies. These play a different role than they do to classical or imaginative realism. I don't want to create a roadmap or plan for a painting. I want to focus on intuition and improvisation while I am painting even when it comes to composition elements. These studies serve as a method of developing the abstract visual language and mark making language. I find it extremely important in my work. 

Sketchbook Page

Magma Chamber on the easel

Monday, July 20, 2015

Idea Mining

To get ideas I just start doing these little scribbles. I am starting to look for something to develop. I am searching for the thing that will light the fire. The idea is the most important thing. I know what to do when the idea comes.

Monday, July 13, 2015

River Retreat Abstract

A lot of my work is moving toward abstraction. I haven't shown much of it on the web yet. Here is an example.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The epic feel in movies inspired me to do a series of long format watercolor studies.