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Tufted Titmouse

8″x10″ oil on gesso-coated board

Click here to bid on painting

“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 CokerArt@yahoo.com 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 CokerArt@yahoo.com 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.  http://tweetsie.com/  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.


’34 Ford Pickup

11″x14″ Oil on canvas

SOLD!

“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 CokerArt@yahoo.com 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

SOLD!

“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.


Scattin’ Speedster

6″x7 1/2″ Oil on gesso-coated board

SOLD!

“Every single Pixar film, at one time or another, has been the worst movie ever put on film. But we know. We trust our process. We don’t get scared and say, ‘Oh, no, this film isn’t working.’” -John Lasseter 1957-

I believe that John Lasseter’s statement applies to all the arts, especially drawing and painting.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a painting just to set it aside because it didn’t seem to be working, only to come back to it later, finish it, and realize that sticking it out to the end made all the difference.  You have to believe in your work and know deep down that it is worth the time it takes to finish, if for no other reason, just to see what the heck it will look like in the end!  I’ve mentioned here before the thrill I get in sketching in oils with burnt umber.  I have a couple of artist friends who think everything should be left in that sketchy, loose state.  I agree, for some things.  But the thing of it is, if you don’t take it to the next level,  how will you know how much you have grown as a painter if you never finish anything?  One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Rumi; “Daring enough to finish.”

Today’s post is another CARtoon for lack of any other way to describe them.  This particular piece is a little Porsche Speedster scattin’ through the streets at night.  I love the Pixar film, “Cars”, as well as a wonderful old film short from Disney called “Susie The Little Blue Coupe” from 1952.  Of course, as a “gearhead”, I noticed that Susie actually seems to be a roadster, not a coupe. Just sayin’.  Here’s a link to the Disney short. It’s only 8 minutes long.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYOiVSsr1KM   I wanted this piece to be as animated as possible to pay homage to these films.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have always loved cars and have been drawing and painting them since I was a young man. The last six months or so I have begun many such images and continue to work on them “on the side” while doing other work.  I feel they are worth the time and effort because of the joy they bring me as an artist/cartoonist and a lover of all-things automotive.  I think that’s the basic reason we as artists do what we do, right?  Anyway, I hope you like it and stay tuned for more as I can assure you, I AM “daring enough to finish”!  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.


Young Picasso

14″x11″ Graphite on 60 lb. Strathmore paper

This drawing is available. Contact me at CokerArt@yahoo.com for price.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”  -Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973

Back during the first week of August my family and I went to Nashville for a long weekend.  You might say it was a much-needed mini vacation.  We go to Nashville a couple of times a year to visit my sister, Loretta and her hubby Chip, a Nashville writer, musician and producer.  My wife, Bernadette, is a songwriter and she and Chip collaborate often. Usually, my sister has the weekend planned pretty well with parties, friends, live music, tours, whatever, to make sure no one is bored.  Like that’s going to happen.  This is Nashville, for crying out loud!  This weekend was a little more free-wheeling, less planned, so I managed to pull out my sketchpad one afternoon.  I always carry at least a sketch pad on trips, just in case!  Loretta has a couple of coffee table art books, one on Rembrandt, the other on Picasso, two very different artists.  While thumbing through the Picasso book I saw this wonderful photo of him as a very young artist.  I was intrigued by his boyish looks and his dark, Spanish eyes. So, I began sketching and after a couple of hours of casual work, drawing, erasing, working and re-working, I came up with what you see above.  Sometimes all the inspiration you need is right there in front of you on the coffee table.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.


Petina Dub

7″x5″ Oil on canvas

SOLD!

“I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.”  -Walter Elias “Walt” Disney, 1901-1966

I guess I could say that applies to me as well, not that my successes are anywhere near what Mr. Disney accomplished in his relative short life.  I have always believed that my next piece, whatever the subject matter, will be better than the previous effort.  That’s the motivation that keeps most artists and creative people moving forward.

I have said here before that I am interested in painting a variety of subjects; caricatures, landscapes, trains, portraits, horses, whatever strikes my fancy.  Well, as you can see by today’s post, I’m living up to my own ideal.  Let me explain.  When I was in my teens, back in the 70s, I loved cars.  Yes, I was what they call today, a “Gearhead” (still am at heart) .  I owned and drove a sweet little ’66 Mustang 2+2 Fastback that consumed most of my time, aside from girls and friends, of course. Let me backtrack a bit.  When I first started drawing as a small child, I came to it as most kids do, copying imagery from newspapers and magazines for the fun of it.  I learned to draw cartoons by tracing them from the Sunday newspaper comics.  Now, back to where we were.  As a teen, what time I wasn’t working on my car, or a buddy’s car, I was trying to draw caricatures of them.

About that time I discovered a cool new magazine called “Street Rodder” that had a cartoonist named Dave Bell who drew a strip called “Henry Hirise” for each issue about hotrodding. How cool was that?!  So I began experimenting with auto caricature.  Maybe I’ll post my first self-caricature with my Mustang at some point. Mmmm, maybe not.  Anyway, recently, Dave Bell passed away so I felt the need to do a tribute piece about him.  I will post it soon.  While doing that I began sketching small auto caricatures again and realized how much fun it had been all those years ago, so I decided to roll with it and see what happens.

Today’s post was inspired by a photo I found on the web of one of the old VW Bus utility “trucks”.  I owned a little baby blue bug after I sold my Mustang and drove it and loved it for years.  There’s a movement in the car world these days called “Rat-Rodding” where guys leave the original rusty petina as is, sometimes revealing all kinds of previous paint jobs or whatnot.  Anyway, that’s kind of what I was going for here.  It was great fun painting all the rust and other petina on this tiny piece for the pure joy of it, like back in my childhood, because like Walt, I’m always going on to other things.  -Enjoy!

Posted in A Painting a Day.


Ezra Pound

7″x5″ watercolor on Arches 140lb paper

This painting is AVAILABLE. Please contact me at CokerArt@yahoo.com for price.

“Humanity is the rich effluvium, it is the waste and the manure and the soil, and from it grows the tree of the arts.”  -Ezra Pound, 1885-1972

I am often asked how I choose the faces I want to caricature.  What is my criteria in choosing the faces I want to draw, paint, distort, some say mangle.  I love interesting faces and interesting history.  Basically that is my criteria.  I read periodicals, search the web for artists, politicians, pop culture figures, etc.  I have vast hard copy files from my years as a newspaper illustrator/cartoonist where I clipped magazines and newspapers regularly.  In those days my choices were usually made for me by people of interest making headlines, or by the dictates of my editor.  The first drawing I did for a newspaper was Judge John Sirica who presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars.  I was 18 years old.  It was a straight portrait, not a caricature.  I still have it. Someday maybe I’ll post it.  Maybe not, it’s pretty crude.  I had yet to begin my study of the art of caricature.  Now, as a freelance illustrator and fine artist, I tend to choose people that interest me, people of history or modern people making history.  Sometimes I simply choose a face because I can’t resist it.  Ezra Pound is one such face.

Ezra Pound was an American expatriate poet, controversial in his political views, once hailed as the “Mad poet”, was eventually arrested for treason in Europe by American forces during World War II.  He was confined for months in detention at an American camp in Pisa.  During his incarceration he began work on one of his more famous works, The Cantos.  On the one hand, Time Magazine called him; “A cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children”.  On the other hand, Ernest Hemingway said of him; “The best of Pound’s writing and it is in The Cantos- will last as long as there is any literature.”  How could I resist that!?  -Enjoy

Posted in A Painting a Day.