Sunday, December 05, 2021

End of the 2021 Wedding Season

 My 2021 wedding season is over.  I've finished three paintings in the past few weeks.  Two have been delivered and the third will go out tomorrow. They weren't finished in the order started, though, due to one start-over and one paint-drying issue.  So here they are in the order started.

A couple of posts ago, I showed an image of a blank canvas.  This was a painting that I started at the event and then scrubbed out the next day in the studio.  That happens occasionally.  So here's how the painting eventually turned out (click on the images to see a larger version):

The couple wanted their first dance and their dogs.  This was a Biltmore wedding and reception, so they were under a huge clear tent.  When I started this one over, I flipped it to a vertical orientation, stripped the tent architecture down to something more visually attractive, eliminated all the distracting furniture and people, and brought in their three dogs.  This turned out very different from most of my paintings.  It was delivered to them last week.

The second painting was one started at The Ridge, which is in the mountains northwest of Asheville.  Heck, it's northwest of Marshall, so it's way out there.  This couple was more specific: they wanted the first dance, with the doors open, looking out at the mountains, under the chandelier.  This one felt good, right from the beginning.  As with the Biltmore painting, I simplified the room's architecture to keep the attention focused on the couple and the things that were important to them.  

Oil paints dry at different rates.  Some, like burnt umber, dry overnight.  Whites are the worst and that was the case here: some of the whites took way over a week to get dry to the touch.  This is the painting that's going out tomorrow.

The final painting of the year was started at the Asheville Country Club.  I'd never been there before and it turned out to be a really nice venue.  On the other hand, I have created a painting for the bride before.  She's a real joy to work with: enthusiastic, great sense of humor, and knows what she wants.  In this case, she wanted the first dance, both families, the fall colors seen through the windows, and the chandelier and twinkle lights.  

This was another painting that was working right from the get-go.  Things fell into place quickly and I was very happy with it by the end of the night.  There was a guest table right next to me and it turns out that one of the ladies was taking and posting photos of the painting development the whole evening.  Before he left, one of the guys said "we had the best seats in the house!".  Love getting comments like that.  This couple came to the studio yesterday to pick up their painting.  I was going to get a photo of them but we got to talking and I totally forgot.

So now there's a break before the next wedding painting.  I'll be working on some paintings for an exhibition at Pink Dog Creative in Asheville in a few months.  I've got a lot of work to do!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

What Kinda Deer Is That?


We had an unusual visitor to the back yard yesterday.  This is a young male whitetail deer with very unusual coloring.  It's called a piebald - no idea where that name came from, but there ya go.  Very rare, a bit more common (supposedly) than pure albino.  We're hoping the guy keeps coming around.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Not Every Wedding Painting Goes Smoothly

 As the title of this post says, not every wedding painting goes smoothly.  A couple of weeks ago, I started a new painting at a reception.  Lots of people came by and loved the painting, took lots of photos that are presumably posted in Instagram, Facebook, and who knows what other social media platforms.  I had nothing but positive comments.  And the next day in the studio, I wiped it all off.  

The first start just didn't feel right.  It didn't feel balanced and it didn't feel connected to the couple.  Continuing with it is like like trying to make a wrecked car look showroom fresh.  So I started over from scratch.  The requirements: they wanted it to show the first dance, and they wanted their dogs in it.  

After a good bit of work, it's done, and here's what it looks like now:

 This is quite a bit different from both the first try and from almost all the other wedding paintings I've done.  For one, it's in a vertical (portrait) orientation, rather than my usual horizontal (landscape) setup.  The architecture is greatly simplified: in reality, it was a tent with a white support structure covered with clear plastic, while mine has half the number of supports.  I cleared out all the furniture since it didn't add anything, changed the color of the carpet from blue to warm brown, and eliminated other people to keep the focus on the couple.  The hanging flowers were there, I just re-positioned them because that's what painters can do.  The dogs, of course, were not really in the tent, but they're the couple's "children" so they're an important part.

So this one is done.  I started a new painting last night (Saturday).  This one felt pretty good from the very beginning.  This one also is showing just the couple.  Here's how it looked at the end of the reception:

When the bride breaks down in tears when she sees the painting at the end of the reception, it usually means either (a) she loves it, (b) she hates it, or (c) she's drunk.  In this case, she loved it.  I love it when people react so strongly to one of my paintings!  This, of course, has a long way to go and I'll post the completed painting after they approve it.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Upcoming Exhibition

 Six of my small portraits from Iraq will be in an exhibition of art by veterans in a couple of weeks.  "Through Their Eyes" showcases art by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  One of my paintings, "Iraqi Guard" is shown in the ad.  The exhibition will be in the Bridgewater Commons mall, in Bridgewater, NJ, from November 6-13.  They'll have an opening reception on the 6th at 4 pm.  If you're in the area, go see it!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Latest Wedding Painting


Morgan and Major

My most recently finished wedding painting is about to go to the clients.  Morgan (the bride) and Major (the groom) were married at the Biltmore and had their reception under a huge tent on the side terrace of the big house.  They wanted their painting to show their first dance and some key family members.  

This painting was a bit of a challenge, primarily due to the size of the painting.  It's the largest wedding painting I've done at 36"x48".  That let me do some things differently and I took advantage of it.  As a result, I wound up doing much more to it than normally, simply because I could, and that was fun.  It also meant that it took two months to finish it up.  Okay, so about two weeks of that time was spent on vacation in Massachusetts, but still ...  So click on the image to see a larger version of it and tell me what you think.

Now I need to get it to the couple, along with their notecards with the image of the painting printed on the front.  I'm looking to do that later this week.  Meanwhile, I've got another commission underway in the studio, another of my own paintings underway, and I need to do another couple of paintings for the upcoming show in the spring.  Oh, and I need to come up with a title for the show.  Oh, and I need to finish up the current round of yardwork to keep my spousal unit happy.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


 We've been on vacation for the past couple of weeks.  One of J's friends from way way back came out to visit and we all three went up to Cape Cod.  None of us had ever been there and it was on J's bucket list.  We drove up in two long days in the car.  We'd rented a house in West Yarmouth, which is near Hyannis on the southern side of the Cape.  Mostly, we wandered and let unexpected discoveries guide our actions.  That's how we wound up on a long scenic drive that led us first to Brax Landing (an outstanding restaurant) and then on to Provincetown, out at the northern end of the Cape.  Another day, we discovered Main Street in Hyannis where J and her friend browsed all the shops.  We found another outstanding restaurant there, the Anejo, a Mexican place under a 250-year-old beech tree.  We also went out to Martha's Vineyard for an enjoyable afternoon of wandering around aimlessly.  Then it was two days of driving to get home.  

Now it's time to play catch-up.  I have a wedding painting in process, an art exhibition at Mars Hill University to swap out, a yard to mow, a writeup to get done, and three potential painting clients to talk with.  Time to get busy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

End of an Era

 Yesterday, the last US military plane with the last load of military members and Afghan civilians left Kabul.  Our mission there is officially done after 20 years.  So why am I so down?  I think it's because leaving was the right thing to do, but it was done in the worst possible way.

As I stated in a previous posting, we were propping up a government that was doomed to fail no matter what we did.  The Afghan government was a kleptocracy that did not have much support from its people, who were ambivalent about it at best.  Despite all the assistance, training, and funding that we and the international community provided, we couldn't get it to do the right thing.  

Individual people, both within and outside the government, were wonderful.  Brave women stood up to advance the cause of women.  The Afghan Army and police forces took unbelievable losses in their fight against the Taliban and individual soldiers were as brave and effective as any US soldier.  I saw that myself in Kandahar.  There were people inside the government doing their best to do what was right: provide services, root out corruption, and make Afghanistan a better place.  Local leaders, despite being uneducated, could negotiate contracts as well as any Fortune 500 executive.  

But there was no leadership glue to hold the country together.  The Taliban, however, had a mission and thousands of loyal adherents. After Trump signed the withdrawal agreement, it was only a matter of time.  Everybody knew it.  The speed of the government's collapse, though, took everybody by surprise.  In my last post on this topic, the "experts" were thinking it would take 90 days.  I said it would be less than 30.  In reality, it was about 48 hours.  

The US military response was truly amazing.  From nothing, our military created a humanitarian airlift that pulled over 123,000 people out of the country in just over two weeks.  It was ugly in the beginning, but our troops quickly stood up an efficient, effective, multi-national effort.  

Parts of the State Department did a fantastic job as well.  All those Afghan evacuees had to go somewhere, and the State Department found nations in the region and elsewhere that agreed to take them.  That's not a small accomplishment.  

Other parts of this story are really ugly.  The ISIS-K attack on the airport that killed 13 of our troops and 170 Afghans, as well as wounding over 200 more, was the low point.  Another low point is the State Department's handling of the Special Immigrant Visas for those Afghans who worked with us over the past 20 years.  As I've said for years, the State Department never wanted to do SIVs and slow-rolled them from the outset.  The rationale was that rewarding capable Afghans for their service by bringing them out of Afghanistan undermined the mission.  Essentially, we were showing that we had no faith that the Afghan government would succeed.  I understand that rationale, but don't like it.  And by continuing to slow-roll visa processing even after Trump signed the withdrawal agreement, the State Department consular service left thousands of people to fend for themselves.  I'd like to take the whole State Department Consular Service, dump them in Kandahar, and let them find their own way home.

Today there's a photo making the rounds on Facebook of a bunch of military working dogs who were left in their cages at the Kabul airport.  Leaving our dogs in the airport is horrifying.  But I wouldn't want to be the individual who had to make that decision.  You've got one last plane, so do you take a bunch of Afghan women and children, or dogs?  There's no room for both.  It's a bad decision, either way.

So now we're out.  The Taliban has what they wanted: control of the country.  Now it's their turn to run it.  I don't think the Taliban will be quite as brutal as before.  Afghanistan is a "Go Fund Me" country that survives on international donations, which will be hard to come by if they don't pay at least some attention to international norms.  Well, that's the hope, anyway.  The Taliban will do what they damn well please.  And one of the things they'll have to deal with is ISIS-K.  Good luck with that.

Was it worth it?  Was it worth 20 years, thousands of lives, trillions of dollars?  Damned if I know.