An Iron Staircase Trifecta

A while back I took some photos of an old fire escape in Sandersville, Georgia. It’s pretty well known in the area because of its proximity and obviously intricate ironwork.

It then occurred to me that I could paint different angles of the iron staircase, thereby increasing the chances of selling more than one, if not all three of the prints.

I must say, though, that this was the first time I had ever attempted something so complicated and intricate. Not only was it difficult to replicate the spiral in the spiral staircase, not to mention the actual intricate ironwork, but painting the color “black” is not as simple as one might think!

Yes, I understood how that trying to paint snow and clouds is always going to be hard, partly because there is no such thing as “white” snow or “white” clouds; there are ALWAYS more colors at play. But I never really thought of “black” being as complicated as it was.

Finally, since I recently resigned from the church I pastored in Warthen, it seems like these paintings will be the last done of scenes from the area. That does make me sad, but for me to paint something, there needs to be some motivation. Now that we are most likely moving away from the area, it stings too much right now to invest my emotions into any more reminders.

But if you are a fan, don’t worry. I don’t plan on quitting art; I’m just changing scenery.

The Easiest Color to Paint?

Just recently, I was at the Farmer’s Market in Dublin, GA, when an older couple stopped by my table. As they were looking at my paintings, the wife half-whispered to her husband, “You should ask if he could do one of your car.”

Having done a few vehicles, I couldn’t help but ask what kind of car he had. Believe it or not, it was on old Nash Metropolitan. If you don’t know what one of those are, here is a photo. It was a sub-compact before the word was ever coined.

1959 Nash Metropolitan

We got to talking about his car, which is always fun to do – talk with people about their classic cars – and I asked him, “How does it ride?” “Like a two-wheeled cart,” he replied.

But when we got to talking about doing a painting of the Metropolitan, he said, “I don’t know, it would be a hard color.”

“Oh, really? What color is it?” I asked.

“White.”

I laughed and said, “That’s no problem, white is the easiest color! That’s the color of the canvas! All I have to do is add shading.”

Watercolor on 9×12″ stretched canvas

And that’s the honest truth! Granted, if one wanted to get really picky and demanded that the color of the white be identical to the white on the subject of the painting, then we might have an issue. As you can see in the painting of the lift truck I did for EMC, the tricky part was to recreate the curves and create depth with shadow. I didn’t have to worry about whether the “white” was actually Windsor or Distressed Eggshell.

So, yeah, I like painting things that are white. Maybe the old gentleman will give me a call. I hope so. My painting skills have improved since I painted the bucket truck.

I might even try something daring, like a snow-covered field. Because, after all, white IS just white, correct?

I make myself laugh.

It’s All in a Name

Recently I finished an unnamed painting using acrylic paint. Since I began painting back in 2020, I’ve always used watercolor, but rarely acrylic. Watercolor has always been preferrable due to the ability to blend colors and correct my mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, nearly a year’s worth of mistakes is what ultimately led to this painting. After successfully completing a commissioned work of “Doolittle Pond,” the owner of the property asked if I could do a painting of his chestnut orchard. I happily agreed, but what followed was nothing but frustration.

Remember, I haven’t been at this for very long and my abilities are not as great as some might think. Therefore, in a moment of believing the hype, I accepted the challenge not knowing how difficult a realistic painting of actual trees would be! I went about the usual steps I take to create a painting, then launched into it with anticipation. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned. What I wound up with were two completely embarrassing and failed attempts to earn a commission, along with a stained and now worthless 16×20″ stretched canvas.

Then, a week or so ago I sat looking at that pitiful canvas, a green-and-blue-stained failure complete with the scraggly black beginnings of chestnut tree trunks and limbs. In an instant of inspiration (or maybe desperation) I thought, “I could cover all that with some acrylic paint!” I mean, seriously, even if it was a total disaster, at least I could have fun creating something “off the wall” while recycling a canvas!

Funny thing, what started off as an “off the wall” endeavor is now ON the wall in our living room! The first moment my wife laid eyes on it she said, “I love it.” So, it became a keeper. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think I’ll make prints.

But as I was holding this painting in the frame, just as I was about to take it into the living room to hang on the wall, I stood and admired it with my wife. The feeling was sort of surreal, honestly. It was like I was holding a masterpiece I could never afford, yet there it was.

I said, “You know what, Valerie? The only thing that separates this painting from those that might cost a fortune is that thing right there . . . the signature. If only it was a Picasso, it would be worth millions.”

Honestly, this painting may not be on the level of the great masters’, but had it only been a splotch of paint on the canvas, and one put there by Leonardo DaVinci, it wouldn’t matter the composition.

Yet, what is human life? Each life is a creation of the greatest artist in the universe and one-of-a-kind. Sure, some may seem worthy to be viewed and admired by all, while others are nothing more than a splotch of color on an outline of what is planned. But would we through away a single scribble if it were made by Monet or van Gogh?

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

– King David, Psalm 139:14

We are not valuable because of our beauty. We are priceless because we bear the signature of the Divine.

A Truck in Mitchell, GA

9’x12″ watercolor and gouache on cold-pressed paper

In a little town called Mitchell, GA, there is a building with half a truck attached to it.

It’s a 1954 Cheverolet. I don’t know what else to say about it, except I don’t think this is what an engineer in Detroit had in mind.

I Don’t Do Portraits

My Granddaughter, Emma Louise

I Don’t Do Portraits

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked, “Do you do portraits?” Every time my answer is the same . . . “No, not if you want it to look like somebody.”

Fact is, I know I’m just an amateur artist. It’s easy in this stage of my learning to draw and paint “things,” but people are different. When you can paint people, you can paint.

Regardless, for our 38th wedding anniversary this week, I painted a portrait of our granddaughter, Emma. I did it for my wife, and she LOVED it. Emma’s mom (our daughter) was both pleased and sad.

As she described it, if I do portraits for future grandchildren, I will have improved by then, leaving Emma’s as the worst of the bunch. LOL.

Oh well.

Where I’ve Never Been

Not too long ago, a friend asked if I would paint a nighttime sky for him. He said, “I’ll give you $10.” “Sure,” I replied, leaving him shocked.

A few weeks later, while I was working on another painting, he reminded me of our conversation and showed me a screen saver on his computer, one with a mountain, snow, and a starry nighttime sky. He asked, “Can you do something like this?”

Well, the painting you see here is of a scene that resembles the one in the screen saver photo, but it’s not an exact replica. I did the foreground a little differently, for one thing.

The thing I wanted to accomplish in this piece was an evenly dark sky and realistic-looking snow. I also wanted the mountain to look as real as possible. What I did not anticipate was how getting the darkness of the sky correct lent to a real lighting effect on the mountain. It’s like it almost glows!

I’ve never been to a place like the one in this painting, but I would love to visit there one day. Cool, clean air, clear streams, and a majestic mountain dominating the view. But for now, my friend has a nice painting for $10 and I will have prints.

Want one?

The Least of These

Last night I finished a piece I have entitled “The Least of These.” I based it on a photo I took of a Christian worker in a Muslim-owned brick kiln in Pakistan.

My hope is to raise funds to help buy people like this brother and his family out of debt and out of this literal slavery.

So many people in Pakistan live in poverty. Of the Christians that live there, the majority of them live in abject poverty. This is not simply a matter of choice, but opportunity. With a near 98% Muslim population in a Muslim country, the Christians are not afforded the same opportunities and are often forced to do the hardest work.

Those who work at the kilns are required to have their whole families live there in horrible conditions. They live there until the debt they owe is paid off. That, of course, is the catch. Most often, even though the goal might have been to pay off a small loan for food or medical expenses (usually no more than $200), families wind up working for generations paying off accumulated fees and additional loans attached to the little salary they receive.

Working with Grace Charity Schools in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, I will be using funds raised from the sale of this and other paintings and prints to rescue these families from indentured slavery and help them start over.

For every gift from $20-$50, I will send you a simple semi-matte print in your choice of size (5″x7″ and up), shipping included.

For every gift OVER $50, I will send you an 8.5″x11″ Sommerset Giclee reproduction print.

For any gift of $75 or more, I will send you a signed and artist-enhanced Sommerset Giclee reproduction (I will enhance the print with actual paint).

Pastor Victor Sammuel, myself, and a family living and working at a brick kiln in Pakistan.
Making the bricks by hand, 1,000 a day, in 115 degrees.
The “kitchen” of the family above.

Please consider helping, and God bless!

Click here to donate. Thank You!

Rebecca’s Forrest

Not long ago, my sister Rebecca sent a photo to me. It was a picture she took while walking through the edge of German forrest near where she lives.

The original painting was done on cold pressed Arches paper, the 150 lb. kind. The size was an 8×10.

So, I did have prints made, but not in the original size. I upped the print to a 9×12 which still retains the look of the original, just a tad bigger.

I sent the first signed artist’s proof print (1 of 25) to my sister. Let me know if you’d like one of the remaining 24.

“Rebecca’s Forrest”

Peaceful Times

Last week I finished this painting of a rocking chair in a log cabin. The chair is sitting outside in on the porch that divides the two sections of the old structure.

What captured my attention and led to this painting was the simplistic peacefulness of the scene. No TV’s, computers, smartphones, game consoles, notifications, Twitter, Facebook, or children’s toy commercials.

Granted, back in those “good ol’ days” there were no air-conditioning, motorized transportation, safety razors, microwaves, or anti-biotics, either. I like those things!

But what I do wish I had, and what this painting reminds us of, is peace and calm.

Even back in then, when most things required far more labor than today, a time came for rest. When the sun began to set, and the crickets began to sing, that rocking chair provided someone with a place of contemplation as a warm breeze wafted away the stress of the day.

Where to we find that kind of rest today? Where can we find that kind of peace? In many ways, quite honestly, it’s nothing more than a sentimental dream. However, even though our bodies may wind up more worn down and unhealthy due to our modern culture’s never-ending rat race, our souls should not have to be stressed or frazzled.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30 CSB

You may not have access to an old wooden rocking chair in a cozy log cabin, but you do have access to Jesus. Crawl up in His arms and let Him rock you a while.

Rapid Progression

It seems like an eternity ago, but it’s not even been two years since the original shutdowns began in 2020. With that in mind, it was only then that I started my painting journey.

When people hear that I’ve only been painting around a year or so, they can hardly believe it. Some think I’m joking. However, when you look at the examples below, you will see that much changed over a few months time.

What really got me started was the fact that, as a pastor, I could not visit with any of our congregation. Not only would they not come to worship together, but I wasn’t allowed to go to their homes. It was sad, believe me. Therefore, I started sending out greeting cards.

But one thing that became obvious early on was the fact that pre-made greeting card companies were not prepared for COVID. They didn’t have anything that said, “Hey, dear church member, your pastor is thinking of you!” So, I ordered some blank cards and started drawing and writing my own.

As I continued to send these cards the little drawings started to get more complicated. They went from stick men to miniature paintings.

The watershed moment came when one of the ladies in our church asked if I could paint a portrait of her sister’s dog. I honestly did not know if I could or could not, but I agreed to try. When I gave it to her she was so excited and asked me what she owed. I had no idea what to ask, so I said, “It doesn’t matter, really. Just whatever you think it’s worth.”

She gave me $50 and a used watch. I was happy with that. I’d never been paid for my art before, so yippee!

But the moment that sealed my fate, the moment that I discovered painting might be worth seriously pursuing, came next.

In our area there are a lot of old church buildings. I went to a funeral at one of them, Balerma Baptist, and thought the setting was so pretty. I went back a few days later and took a photograph of what might look good as a painting. Then, I went home and did my best to duplicate the photograph.

As you might imagine, I was quite pleased with the results! And, like any other normal person would do, I posted a picture of the painting on Facebook.

It wasn’t long before I got a message: “Would you want to sell that painting?”

“Umm, sure, I guess” was my reply.

“How much do you want for it?” asked the lady.

Having no clue, and having only sold one other painting for $50 and a used watch, I replied, “Whatever you think it’s worth.” Wow, talk about an novice response! I had no clue.

I thought I had run the lady off until she replied a day later with: “How about $150?”

I had to think about it, of course . . . . . . . . for as long as it took for the initial shock to wear off. “Uh, yeah. That’ll be fine.”

That’s when I realized I might actually be able to paint. It still amazes me.

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