Art ~ Writing ~ Life

From Handprints To Footprints

Rock Sketches In Acrylic

February 1, 2017
Steve Campbell

It was time to be a visual artist again, so I spent a couple days getting my artist’s eye back in shape by working on some sketches. I decided to look at rocks and study their shapes and colors. I’ve chosen 3 better ones to share.

They’re all acrylic paintings on scraps of canvas prepared with gesso and glued to cardboard—something I started doing years ago when I painted field studies of wildlife. They’re cheap and easy to put together and lighter than canvas boards.

I love earth colors. But they can be a bit dark, so I punched them up a bit. One facet of art is the exaggeration an artist puts into their artwork. I had fun with color and tried to be as painterly as possible too.

When I’m a bit rusty with my craft, I tend to draw with my brushes instead of painting with them. Squinting blurs the image and keeps me from seeing edges. Then I load my brushes and lay down paint and color, mixing values on the canvas. That way the objects look like they haven’t been cut and pasted to the canvas.

I exaggerated the colors, which was a lot of fun to do. No masterpieces here. But, oh well. I needed a break from writing and this was the perfect escape.


Evolution of a Painting

September 26, 2012
Steve Campbell

This is a re-post from my Facebook page, March 1, 2010.

In 1988, black bear weren’t a common sight around Corry, PA. I had caught a glimpse of one during the spring while I was on one of my many field hikes into the swamps in and around Corry. I was sketching a beaver dam when I saw the big bear ramble through less than 50 yards away. I stayed as still as possible for several minutes after it disappeared into the underbrush, then I disappeared in the opposite direction.

The sighting stayed with me throughout the summer; I purposely scanned the woods and waterways for another glimpse of the bear. I planned to photograph it, but we never crossed paths, although it may have been out there, nearby, out of sight, watching me. Swamps have a plethora of hiding places. That’s why deer take refuge in them during hunting season.

From this near encounter came the idea for my next painting.

The hardest thing for me as a painter is getting my signature right.

Although the painting looks done, I wasn’t happy with it. I changed my signature again and got rid of the halo around the front of the bear.

As you can see in the above photo, I glazed the water with Ultramarine Blue. I decided that it looked too “vivid” so I changed it back (see photo below). Now I had a finished painting. Here it is at the gallery, April 1989.

Allow Mistakes

August 17, 2012
Steve Campbell

The three paintings shown below are from 1986 when I wanted to show a deer running through a winter landscape. They are painting sketches filled with mistakes I made while learning about deer and the art of painting. Each painting sketch gets better, but they all contain obvious errors that detract from each picture. Fortunately, I was never afraid to make mistakes while I painted, which helped me grow as an artist. After all, making art is a lifelong process of making mistakes.

"Deer Running, Sketch 1"

Deer Running, Sketch 1, Acrylic

"Deer Running, Sketch 2"

Deer Running, Sketch 2, Acrylic

"Deer Running, Sketch 3"

Deer Running, Sketch 3, Acrylic

While mistakes are often blows to the ego, they’re also beautiful learning lessons. And learning art is achieving the knowledge of which mistakes to correct and which ones to keep. Did you know that good paintings are full of wonderful accidents that the artist refused to fix?

TV painter Bob Ross called his mistakes “happy accidents” because they sparked his creativity and urged him to try new methods. As you study your subject and the painting process, you must not worry about the results or be afraid to paint something “ugly.” As you grow, you will learn how to spot errors and mistakes and problems in your art and find solutions for correcting them. There are many how-to books and Internet sites that will teach you. Just look for their banner headlines:


While you paint, learn not to think too much about the result. Set yourself a goal, but don’t force the painting along. When you’re painting, lose yourself in the act of applying a variety of dark and light and big and small brushstrokes of color that tell different stories within the big picture. Painting, like writing or making music, is about emotions and the landscape they create. The result won’t be perfect, but it will be true.

"People Reading Stock Exchange"

People Reading Stock Exchange, Norman Rockwell

No matter what, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, like Norman Rockwell did when he mistakenly painted the three-legged boy in this picture of an illustration he did for The Saturday Evening Post. Yes, the boy in the red shirt has three legs. Two with their knees locked, and a third with the knee bent so that he can rest his hand on it. Rockwell was embarrassed, naturally, when the error was printed for the multitude of Post subscribers to see, but he never repeated this mistake in any of his 4,000-plus paintings.

Never stop learning.

Hungry Fox

November 19, 2011
Steve Campbell

Hungry Fox

Hungy Fox, Acrylic Painting

Cloud Ruler

October 26, 2011
Steve Campbell

Cloud Ruler

Cloud Ruler, Acrylic Painting

Spirit in the Woods

October 10, 2011
Steve Campbell

Spirit in the Woods

Spirit in the Woods, Acrylic Painting

Howling in the Sky

July 14, 2011
Steve Campbell

Spirit in the Sky

Spirit in the Sky, Acrylic Painting, circa 1996

Acrylic Skyscape Painting

June 12, 2011
Steve Campbell

Country Sky

Country Sky, Acrylic Painting, circa 1990

Painting 1989: Beaver-Dam Bear

May 11, 2011
Steve Campbell

Beaverdam Bear

Beaver-Dam Bear, Acrylic Painting, 1989

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