Starting the Day With a Smile

I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story before…maybe or maybe not. If I have, just stop reading and skip ahead.

When I was growing up — way back when — my friends and I listened to a popular radio station in Kansas City. It featured a morning serial, and we all loved hearing the exploits of the infamous Chickenman, a super hero from the town of Midland City.

I think of the white, winged warrior often, and I still laugh at one of the most memorable lines:

“I must be fair to Midland.”

That, of course, is a pun on our Midwestern expression, fair to middlin’, meaning not good, not bad, just somewhere in-between.

Lately my art has been a bit erratic. On some days, I surprise myself with paintings that far exceed my expectations. On other days, I fall so far short of my vision that I want to crawl — literally — back to bed and hide under the covers.

Most days, though, are a bit in-between, that is to say, fair to middlin’. 

Here is one recently-finished landscape, inspired by a project from Creating Your Own Masterpieces in Oil by T. Stonefield. It’s not bad; it’s not good. It’s just fair to middlin’.

Framed and Matted HRM

This scene of the Hudson River is supposed to have a sailboat gliding along. I tried, couldn’t get it to look right and wiped it away. I’ve since been practicing drawing and painting sailboats, although I haven’t come up with quite the right techniques yet.

There is also supposed to be another shallow pool of water closer to the viewer. I tried that, too. Mine just didn’t look right, so I called upon the concept of artistic license and changed it.

As with most of my recent paintings, there are things I like and things I don’t like.

I like:

  • The background. The skies, the hills, and the distant tree line all came out the way I wanted.
  • The river. Unlike many of my rivers and lakes, this one does seem to lie flat upon the landscape. Many of my bodies of water seem to be rising up as though they’re threatening to overturn and spill everywhere.
  • The mid-ground trees. I was pleased with these.
  • The colors of the foreground. I liked the colors — especially the darker shadow.

What I don’t like:

  • The tree on the left. I struggled with this one, especially the trunk. I widened it. I narrowed it. I lightened it. I darkened it. I tweaked the limbs and leaves a lot, too. I think I managed to make some improvements, but I was never completely satisfied with it.
  • The trees and bushes on the right. When I first painted this area, I thought I’d done a good job. I liked the greens I had mixed. It was only later — after the area had dried — that I realized how these trees and bushes looked. They appear to have been outlined with a darker shade of green and then filled in with lighter hues — which is exactly how I approached them. Unfortunately, I did it rather haphazardly and ended up with shadows at the tops of the trees. Wrong. Maybe I can go back and fix this. I might try that.


For me, that’s the most important question to ask with each painting I complete. With this one, the answer is obvious. I still need lots of work on drawing and painting trees.

So, maybe later today I’ll do that. Right now, I’m laughing as I sit here and listen to the exploits of the world’s greatest crime fighter. Yep. Chickenman can still make me laugh after all these years. I hope he brings a smile to your face today, too.


    1. For me, it’s the most important step in the process. By seeing what I’m doing wrong, I know what to work on. Being able to find things I like in a painting gives me encouragement that I am making progress.

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