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’36 Ford Admiration Society

11″x14″ Oil on canvas

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“There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.”  -Henry Ford, American Industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, 1863-1947

There is definitely “joy in work”, meaningful work, that is.  We’ve all had boring, mundane jobs that we worked only for the money.  Some actually manage to find a path to their bliss and do what God put them here to do.  Those creative souls; artists, writers, singers, poets, musicians, dancers and the like, tend to do work they love and frankly couldn’t do it any other way.  Some are even fortunate enough to do it full time and make a living with their chosen craft.  What a novel idea!  So I paint.  I paint virtually every waking moment that I can.  It truly is my bliss and aside from spending time with my wife and family, I am happiest with a brush in my hand, sitting before a canvas in my studio, creating new things that have never been seen before.
This new piece, most recent from my river of bliss, is another of my caricatured cars.  It is a smallish, 11″x14″ oil on canvas.  It is a 1936 Ford Roadster with a group of admirers gathered to, well, admire it!  This piece is based on another photo found on the web.  It is an actual car on the west coast, but I don’t know who the owner is.  I just love the car and the style from that period, full, or “fat-fendered”, interesting lines and scads of character!  They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
I read something recently that John Lasseter, Director at Pixar, said while making the film, “Cars”.  He wanted the characters (the cars) to have “definite personalities, but still be cars”.  So as you know, they gave the cars eyes and mouths. They are masterful creations, of course, and the finished product is probably in the film collection of every child and car guy on the planet.  I wanted to do the same thing with my paintings, give my cars personality, but didn’t want to go the literal route.  Plus, Pixar might not care for me “borrowing” ideas from them.  So, I strive to give my cars character through the classic cartooning technique of  “rubberizing” them, bending, stretching and animating them as much as possible.  You may have noticed too, that I use the headlights on all my cars almost as eyes, enlarging them and adding to the “expression”.
So, follow your own bliss, be happy and do meaningful work!  Me, I have another car on the easel awaiting my blissful attention.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.


24″x36″ Oil on canvas

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“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”
-Jean Cocteau, French poet, novelist, painter and filmmaker, 1889-1963

First of all, thank you to my good friend from Texas, Cooper Yaun, one of the coolest people on the planet, for bringing that wonderful Cocteau quote to my attention after my previous post. Thanks, Coop!

So, as promised, here is one of my recent industrial (train) paintings I mentioned in my last post.  I did this one last summer.  I took my trusty Canon and 300 millimeter lens to my local train yard and began framing (composing) photos of the broadside of locomotives and rolling stock by looking at all quadrants of the engine, searching for abstract shapes and designs that appealed to me.  One word of caution; if you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to shoot photos of trains, make sure you mind the laws and safety rules.  All railroad property is private and it is against the law to go on the property, not to mention dangerous.  Railroad police do have the power to arrest and they will.  Hence, my mention of my “trusty 300″.  I sit on public property and shoot till the cows come home… or the trains, as it were.  Be safe out there.

This piece was a study in design and texture for the most part.  Norfolk-Southern Railroad’s livery colors are black and white, so to add a bit of color and strengthen the design, I framed the loco with a rich, blue sky.  Painting the world of trains up close and personal in a fairly large format really emphasizes the scale and brute power of the real thing.  As I said in my previous post, I have plans to go way larger with these and can’t wait to do a really large piece.

Painting realistic pieces, whether it be trains, cars or flowers is as much about observation as it is in the actual act of painting.  I have long been interested in trains and have spent many hours in the field observing them.  So I have a pretty good working knowledge of the subject and really enjoy the almost endless amount of detail within the abstract shapes.  They are amazing pieces of modernity.  I have had many people ask me how I can stand to spend so much time focused on those details.  The time spent painting these behemoths is a total joy for me and the ultimate escape, but somehow, those details have become so much more to me.  I’m constantly asked “why trains?”.  I find them to be the perfect metaphor for a life lived.  I thrive on painting the side of a sun-bleached locomotive that has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles for years and accumulated a life of dust, road grime, graffiti, and rust, hauling our daily household items that we take for granted to market.  There’s life in that and I find it very much worthy of the endeavor of painting.

So, I continue to seek out the truth in realism with each painting completed, as far as my abilities will allow.  This piece is entitled “Workhorse”, in part, due to the fact that Norfolk-Southern’s mascot is a Thoroughbred, but also because of the undying service that old SD40-2 has provided since it was built in 1972!  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

Lily Underpainting

24″x36″ Oil on canvas

“There is just no end to reality. You can keep going closer into it, but you never ever come out the other end.”  -Joseph Raffael, American realist painter 1933-

Yikes, I can’t believe it has been almost eight months since my last post!  Holy cow, where does time go?  Well, I have been painting all these months, but mostly on larger pieces and commissions, as well as some commercial work.  Whatever it takes to pay the bills and of course, sooth the savage beast within the artist!  I am really trying to find time to bring my blog back to life, so be patient with me.  I will post every chance I get, I promise.

After many years of painting and exploration of techniques and ideas, and searching for myself as an artist, I have been slowly coming to terms with the idea that I am a realist, period.  I know what you’re thinking, “but Don, those shiny little cars and those trains? Aren’t those realism enough?”  Well, yes, but, I’ve been searching for a deeper, more true sense of realism.  No, I still don’t have words to explain myself.  I’m a painter, not a writer.  It’s just a feeling that I’ve been searching for in every painting for years, constantly questioning every piece I do and rarely getting answers or satisfaction.  I guess that’s just the way we artists work through things.  I suppose that constant search IS my realism.

Through the years, even during my newspaper illustration days, I tried every “ism” there was from expressionism to impressionism, always trying to be painterly, which I have always greatly admired in other artists.  But in recent months I have begun working much larger than ever before and have plans to expand to an even larger format.  My work has become less painterly and more realistic.  I have always enjoyed looking at things closely, not the big picture, but the up-close-and-personal picture.  In my industrial paintings, I have been painting closeup details of trains instead of the classic train in the landscape version.  I will post a couple soon.  I am painting rust and grime and graffiti, details that tend to be overlooked in our daily ramblings.

In my naturalist work, I have been doing the same, looking closer at flowers, rocks, water, wildlife, all-things natural.  My trusty 300 millimeter lens on my Canon and I have been exploring that world in recent years.  I am looking at things with that lens that my naked eye can’t see.  A mysterious other world is at our feet, should we take the time to look.  I like that.  More chance of finding wonderful abstract shapes to expand on in making my compositions stronger.

Today, I took about and hour and a half to sketch out the piece you see above in turps and burnt umber, alla prima.  It is an 2′x3′ oil, monochromatic under painting, of a lily I shot in my garden one morning after a rain last summer.  With the coming of Spring, it just felt right to do a fairly large piece and explore that flower head up close and personal.  As I begin the next phase of color, the painting will slowly come to life much like Spring itself.  I will continue to explore my world of realism and see how far I can take it with this little flower.  I think Joseph Raffael is right, there is no end to reality.  The challenge will be to see how deep I can take it.  So, hopefully, my next post will be the finished piece, and hopefully in the near future.  Meanwhile, go outside and look a little closer at the world around you.  You will be amazed at how real it is.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

1935 Ford Coupe

14″x11″ Oil on canvas

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“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  -Theodor Seuss Geisel, “Dr. Seuss”, American writer, poet and cartoonist, 1904-1991

As you may have noticed, I finally changed the name of my blog to more reflect my broader interests as a painter.  I haven’t done the “painting a day” thing with any regularity in a couple years, much less a painting a day!  So just know that I will continue my art blog and hopefully you will find something that interest you.  I really want to re-design it, but that will come in time, I suppose. I will try to continue with more regularity as well.  I really enjoy doing it, it just takes time and effort, both of which seem to be at a premium these days.

With this piece I decided to illustrate my process again with the rough oil sketch and finished piece above.  This little 1935 Ford Coupe was a lot of fun to paint.  It is based on a car I found on the web.  I was intrigued by the shiny black paint with chrome wheels and wide whitewalls, lots of contrasts.  One of my friends, Ron Petro, of California, a fellow artist and gearhead, told me today that my work “just feels good”.  More specifically, he said;  “Yeah, but your art, I stare at, and it just feels good.  I get lost in the illustration because its a feeling, even more than a visual”.  How cool is that?  Ron hit the nail on the head.  It is just a feeling!

I actually started doing these little car caricatures about a year ago one day on a whim.  I was looking for something to paint while going through some old issues of Street Rodder magazine, looking at cartoons by the late Dave Bell, and thought I would try to do a cartoon car in oils just as I had back in my teens.  I guess I was trying to re-capture some of the feelings I had in my youth, the freedom, the cars, the music, all the things that made me happy as a young man.  During that period, the early to mid-seventies, I was doing a lot of car drawings.  I was years away from trying to paint and hadn’t begun my newspaper career yet.  I did my first caricature of myself standing next to my beloved ’66 Mustang Fastback.  At the time I thought the drawing was great.  Not so much, now.  I may post it at some point, if for nothing else, to get a good laugh.  But it was an honest start.  Art is certainly all about honesty and feelings, a feeling.  These little cars make me happy.  I hope they have the same effect on others.  Thanks for getting to the point, Ron.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

Tufted Titmouse

8″x10″ oil on gesso-coated board

The piece is available. Email me at for details

“As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for the rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.”  -John Adams, 2nd US President, 1735-1826

I do love the “warbling of birds” and I would be remiss if I didn’t say I love the “prattling of my children”, especially since this very morning, my eldest, Lindsay, and her hubby, Brian, gave us our second grandchild, Miss Olivia Cate Anderson!  So I thought, to honor such a beautiful event, I would post a painting of a beautiful subject, a wild bird.

I know, you’re probably wondering, I didn’t know he painted wildlife too!?  Ah, but I am a man of many interests.  I have always loved the outdoors and have fancied myself something of a naturalist since I was about 12 years of age.  I have always loved walking in the woods, listening to and watching wild birds and other wildlife. I love hiking and camping in state parks, particularly the Southern mountains and doing what I can to preserve and protect our natural world.

This painting is based on a photo by my friend, Kathy Dassinger Cobb, a photographer and lover of all things wild.  I wanted a strong, abstract design, but kept it as simple as possible with utter focus on the bird.  I have mentioned before my struggle to keep my paintings loose and this was no exception.  Try as I may, my natural bent was to move toward detail, painting the environment where the subject lives, which meant detailing the branches of the tree. But overall, I am reasonably pleased with the outcome and I will do more. Funny, I have always avoided painting wildlife because of a certain stigma that the so-called “high art” world has attached to it. You know the one; wildlife art is “mere illustration”.  Well, call it what you will, but I call it fun.

So, to my newest grandchild, Olivia, and her big brother, Jacob, I dedicate this painting in hopes that I may nurture in them the same love and respect for the environment that I have always held. It is in them that we will eventually place our trust to continue the good fight to save our natural world.  Welcome to the world, dearest Olivia! Pop loves you!  -Enjoy

Posted in A Painting a Day.

48 Ford Convertible

11″x14′ Oil on canvas

This painting is available. Please email me at for details.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”  -Walter (Walt) Elias Disney, Animator and Entrepreneur 1901-1966

Today, on this wet, gray, cloudy day, we ventured out to get our Christmas tree.  We stopped at a local farmer’s market where we had been told had a nice variety of trees at reasonable prices.  But truth be known, it wasn’t the trees and prices that caught my eye.  As I parked the truck in the lot, I looked up to see a rusty, old ’36 Ford Sedan acting as a display. I immediately headed to the car, walking by rows of lovely, evergreen trees, smelling for all intents and purposes, like Christmas, stuck on spikes for our inspection.  I noticed they had built a steamy waterfall flowing out over the top of the radiator, of course, further rotting and rusting the sculpted, classic grill.  The young man told me that was done to make it look like the radiator had ruptured when it came through the wall of the shed, which it was protruding from.  Being more interested in the car than the trees, I stepped inside the shed to inspect the rest of the car, a four-door sedan with suicide doors.  Much to my surprise, the car was in quite good shape and very restorable!  Ah, if only I had money!!  Oh yes, we (my wife) found a tree in record time, but I couldn’t get that old sedan off my mind.

So, this post is a pretty cool little ’48 Ford Convertible, black with red scallops and white walls.  It is a real car, as opposed to one that I made up from my feeble, yet fertile little mind.  Wait, can a mind be feeble AND fertile?  Oh well, I digress; I can’t remember where I found it on the web, but I knew that I had to paint it.  I am a sucker for fat fenders all day!  I sketched it in oils, my usual way, and began slapping on the color.  It was an enjoyable piece, like most of them are.

I can’t get that little Ford sedan off my mind.  Of course, even if I had the money, the guy might not want to sell it, it being his display and all.  But it sure is fun to dream about taking that thing home and bringing it back to life!  I’m thinking beefy flathead power, 4-speed, dropped front axle, new grill, of course… sigh, shiny black paint, maybe red wire rims with wide whitewall tires from where else, Coker Tire Company (no relation), etc, etc.  Dreaming is so much fun.  But then the cool thing is, I can have that car and so many more by just creating them on canvas!  Hmmm.  Well, as Walt Disney said; time to “quit talking and begin doing”.  On to my next creation.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

Rainy Day At Cranberry

14″x11″ Oil on canvas

This painting is available from the artist. Email at for price

“Tweetsie Country can be roughly defined as being bounded on the north by the Great Depression, and the east by the state of North Carolina, on the west by Tennessee and on the south by hope and determination.”  -Mallory Hope Ferrell, railroad historian and author of “Tweetsie Country” 1935-

To those of you who have little or no interest in railroad history and folklore, may have some difficulty in understanding Mal’s quote, but for those of us lucky enough to know the man, it’s a cool quote.  I think it’s a pretty cool quote even if I didn’t know Mal!

As you may have surmised by now, this painting is not a hot rod, sports car, or classic car piece, but a classic painting of bucolic railroad history that took place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of east Tennessee and western North Carolina.  It was  a tiny narrow gauge railroad  named the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, or “Tweetsie” as the locals called her because of the sound her whistle made rolling through the mountains.

I have always loved the Tweetsie and wanted to do a painting or six based on this charming railroad.  I purchased Mal’s book years ago and have pored over the old black and white photos many times, studying the details of the trains, the people and the places that made up Tweetsie country.  It was a railroad that carried on the tradition of being the main transport and backbone of a rural back country region for well over a century.  The train crews knew the people by name and they the crew.  Names like engineer, Sherman Pippin, and conductor, Cy Crumley, were household names in that region for decades.  It hauled their milk and eggs, took their children to school and to summer camp, carried the parents to work and back.  In these modern times we have nothing to compare it to, that I know of.

So, I sat down one day late last year and began sketching in oils from one of the photos. I was enamored by a photo of #11 sitting at the Cranberry water tank in Cranberry, N.C. in 1938.  It appeared to be an overcast day  so as the painting developed, I decided I wanted it to be a rainy day (artistic license) with lots of steam coming from the stack and steam cocks.  I have hiked in the Blue Ridge many times in my life, so I was quite familiar with her moods, misty mountain effects, etc.  As you can see I really pushed the background trees and distant mountain in the middle right area of the piece to the back.  That was to give it that rainy, misty feeling that adds so much beauty to the Blue Ridge.  In the photo the trees are quite detailed because it isn’t raining.  I was searching for a more moody scene.  I wanted the steel of the rails to look wet and that was probably the biggest challenge.  All in all I think I achieved what I was after.  I hope you think so.  Oh, by the way, the Tweetsie lives again, in the form of a tourist railroad, albeit, standard gauge, based in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  Check them out some time.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

’34 Ford Pickup

11″x14″ Oil on canvas


“There’s no retirement for an artist, it’s your way of living so there’s no end to it.”  -Paul David Hewson “Bono”, Irish singer/activist, 1960-

I have spoken many times of my love for sketching direct to canvas with a brush instead of a pencil. Today’s piece illustrates my point. I decided to photograph the oil sketch this time so as to give a little insight into my working process. I began as I do with most of my paintings, sketching with my brush loaded with a mix of burnt umber and odorless mineral spirits. I blocked the painting in with a few lines to get the overall shape, a road map if you will, for me to follow as I work in more detail of the object I am painting. In this case, a very cool little 1934 Ford hot rod Pickup, custom built by Tennessee car builder, Jason Graham. Oh, before I go on, if you look closely at the sketch, you may be able to discern the few lines left of what I had originally started to sketch that day; a Porsche 911. There are many such sketches under most of my oil paintings. Sometimes you start with an idea, get into it and decide it’s not working. That’s when you grab a rag, wipe it out and start on something else. Oils are great for that!

Most of the rest of my process is typical; shaping, re-shaping and defining those shapes with details from photographs, cleaning up lines, building color and texture to ultimately come up with the piece you see here. The most difficult part of this painting was getting the engine detail to a point (from a small photo) where it would pass muster with the average car guy. I wish I could have taken it to a higher level, but hopefully it will be convincing enough. It’s a pretty radical engine for that little pickup.

I think Bono hit the nail on the head. I have told many family and friends that I would never “retire” and I would probably die at my easel some day. No, I don’t consider that a morbid thought. I can’t imagine a better way of dying than doing exactly what you love the most! Art is a way of life and living and one that I am so thankful for!  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

’40 Ford Coupe

9″x12″ Oil on canvas

Painting is available. Contact me at for price.

“Drawing is the honesty of the art.  There is no possibility of cheating.  It is either good or bad.”  -Salvador Dali, Spanish Surrealist painter 1904-1989

Okay, it’s been a while since my last post, but as promised, in addition to several projects for clients, I have been working on many new CARtoons, or CARicatures, heehee.  I’m having a blast with these!  This piece, as the title reflects, is a 1940 Ford Coupe, my all-time favorite car and one I hope to own some day.  I have wanted one since I was 15!  That year I actually had an opportunity to get one, free!  There was one in a barn out in the middle of a cotton field down in south Alabama, near my grandfather’s place.  I was told by the farmer that if I could get it out of there and get it home, I could have it.  Well, being 15 and having virtually no access to a trailer or tow truck or that key ingredient, money, it was pretty much an impossible dream.  Neither of my parents saw the “urgency” I placed on this find.  The car was complete and in pretty good shape, as I recall… a true “barn find”!  I still ache over that miss after all these years and have often wondered whatever happened to it. I drove by there a few years later in my ’66 Mustang Fastback while visiting my grandparents and neither the Coupe nor the barn was there, just a fallow field.  There’s that ache again.

I agree with Dali that “drawing is the honesty of the art”.  It’s the framework, the skeleton, if you will.  I still draw in my sketchbooks, but I rarely draw them as preliminary sketches for paintings anymore.  I find it so much more thrilling and satisfying to draw with a brush.  It’s a little like walking a tight rope without a net.  The great part is, if I fall, I just wipe up the mess and re-paint!

I  began this painting as I do most, with my brush loaded with burnt umber and turps.  I prefer to watch the mystery unfold pushing and pulling thin washes of paint around, making adjustments with turps, wiping out areas and re-drawing until I get what I am looking for, both in design and subject matter.  Cars are such a joy to paint, especially the old ones.

Once I have completed the grisaille (French word for monochromatic palette) , I focus on the details, the shape of the fenders and headlights, the bumpers, and grills, the stance of the car, whether the nose is down or up and so on.  Of course, any self-respecting hot rodder will have the nose in the weeds, IMHO.  That’s a given.  Then I slowly work in the colors, taking great pains to paint the reflected light, whether it be from the ground or the sky.  For an artist, the chrome on a car is only as good as what it reflects.  That’s what brings it to life and gives it that “shine”.  This ’40 Ford is solid black, so the challenge was in painting the reflected light to give it depth, hence the blues and lavenders on top of the fenders and the gray ground colors on the bottom.  In case you are wondering, the darker areas in the middle of the fenders and doors are trees or the horizon reflecting in the paint.  The next time you see a shiny car or go to a classic car show, really “look” at what makes up the reflection in the paint.  It’s not rocket science, just art.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.

’36 Ford Roadster

5 1/4″x7 1/2″ Oil on gesso-coated board


“In art as in love, instinct is enough.”  -Anatole France, French poet, journalist and novelist, 1844-1924

I love old cars! Okay, I love most cars, but old cars have always held a special place in my heart.  I’ve owned a few and hope to own another.  Older cars, particularly from the 30s and 40s, with their fat fenders and exposed headlights, ornate, yet functional grills and trim, all made of steel, of course, were rolling works of art in their own right.  Detroit had it going on back then.  It’s no wonder that so many artists, like myself, are drawn to their charm and design.  As a cartoonist/caricaturist, I especially get a kick out of exaggerating these classic features, giving them an almost human feel, not unlike the folks at Disney and Pixar.  So far, I’ve steered clear of putting eyeballs in the windows!  But don’t think I haven’t thought about it!  I actually prefer to give my CARtoons a personality based on distorting the features, accentuating the innate design, animating them, if you will.

This piece is an oil on board of a 1936 Ford Roadster hotrod.  The hardest part of this process is working in the small “daily painting” format for my blog.  I am working on some larger pieces that I will also post here soon.  This painting, as most on my blog, is roughly 5″x7″.  That’s a tiny painting to attempt this amount of detail, especially in oils.  I used my usual process of sketching with a bristol brush loaded with burnt umber and turps, slowly shaping the image while the paint was wet until I got what I was looking for.  I tend to use Liquin as my medium because it quickens the drying time.  Then I shift gears (pardon the pun, snicker…) and use small, synthetic brushes to tighten and render the final details and highlights.  It’s a blast painting these CARtoons, almost as much fun as it would be driving that beast on a beautiful Spring day, going through the gears, listening to the rumble of that sweet flathead!  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.