All posts by artiststevel

A New Approach to Pastels

White Cat Artbygordon 2019

In the last few months I’ve been developing a style which I’ve never actually adopted before. It is very loose and quite quick-sketches of animal portraits and inevitably people.

My son and his: Artbygordon 2019

In the past I would always avoid the portrait but the discipline and eye for proportion has only recently gelled. Instead of sketching on a board with an outline, I work up the whole composition from nothing to the final.

Singer in a Band: Artbygordon 2019

I have enjoyed a totally different feeling of creating than painting or previous pastels, it is a sort of discipline where you watch as proportion and scale work together to fill a plane.

Ranger:Artbygordon 2019

In the past many of the images would go south as the logical mind would fill in the gaps of what is really there. A new disciplined approach to these images is not only an enjoyable departure from recent images based on mood but it is also quite relaxing.

Steve: Artbygordon 2019

I am excited to see how each image develops faster than the previous as my skill in seeing and rendering have improved. I hope to bring much of the discipline to the new paintings I”m working on.

The Ballerina: Artbygordon 2019
Rot: Artbygordon 2019
Marilyn: Artbygordon 2019

The Belgians Of ENnis Texas: Bluebonnet trails

Artbygordon 2019 Ennis Texas

Not far from the Sugar Ridge Winery, surrounded by fields of fragrant bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes is a Belgian Horse Farm. A ride to see the bluebonnet trails of Ennis is not complete without stopping by to visit them.

Artbygordon 2019 Ennis Texas

I don’t like the word awesome but these horses are the epitome of awesome. Their size and stature, with grace and poise makes one feel a bit awkward being just human.

Artbygordon 2019 Ennis Texas

The light was flat as it was later in the day with a high sun and a bright sky. I wanted to capture a backlit image showing their amazing eyes and the beauty of their chestnut coat.

Artbygordon 2019 Ennis Texas

Two of them came to the fence while a mother and daughter feed them. The larger one I remembered from my previous visit. On this visit there were four of them and a donkey.

I hope you like the images, feel free to leave a comment. Every time I see them, I’m more impressed.

Seeing Life Like A Child: Rediscovering Your Why

Discover Gardens Dallas, Texas: Artbygordon 2019

Yesterday I went to the Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas for a plant sale. A regular trip I take where I find more plants than I need and buy more than I should…it’s a passion and a business.

Plants are part of my creative outlet and this year I am planning something great, that may change as the summer heats up but for now I am planning the best wildlife garden I’ve ever created.

Disovery Gardens, Dallas Texas: Artbygordon

I will be using many of the plants from the previous year as well as filling in the gaps with more host plants. I will have no shortage of milkweed this year and I hope the Monarchs and Queens will appreciate my labor.

I spoke with a fellow gardener yesterday and we discussed the extraordinary life and how uncomfortable but beautiful it is to break away from standards of the norm. She mentioned a book called finding your why by Simon Sinek. I am very interested in reading this book as it will add to expanding my own sense of purpose.

Discover Gardens Dallas, Texas: Artbygordon 2019

The latitude of an individual’s why is so diverse but we all have that need to see life outside our normal expectations and that is a common theme I”m finding.

So how do we see through the eyes of a child after logic and age has dictated our path. I believe getting back to what made us smile, got us excited-we lose a lot of this thought process when raise our own kids as it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Discover Gardens Dallas, Texas: Artbygordon 2019

Now as my life finds its new and exciting path, I find myself starting another wildlife garden, choosing the colors to add, the weeds to control and what wild vine to just let grow. I told the women I spoke with about the fact that if you are patient and aware, your purpose and joy will show itself and I truly believe this.

My purpose and joy is in nature and that’s what moves me more than anything. I am excited to see where all of my labor takes me. Listen to strangers, they will give you great wisdoms and show just a bit of light on your own journey and together you might discover the extraordinary life.


Spring 2019: A Garden Begins

Fort Sill Oklahoma: Artbygordon copyright 2019

Spring is time for a new chapter that I’ve been avoiding. You watch the joy of your life grow like a seed you’ve planted, it grows away from you and it’s good. As my son goes off to the army this gardener is out of a job.

Canadian Geese Fort Sill Oklahoma: Artbygordon copyright 2019

My purpose has always been deeply grounded in art and nature. I raised two sons to respect nature and enjoy all its treasured moments. With my oldest son we would go fly-fishing and go on travels, with my youngest it was kayaking and fishing of which I learned more than I taught.

Wildflowers Fort Sill Oklahoma: Artbygordon copyright 2019

In recent years I have learned more about plants as I build wildlife gardens, all the blooms and plants are native and used for local wildlife. I choose host plants and nectar plants that grow with little water or care. 

Fort Sill Oklahoma: Artbygordon copyright 2019

I have counted more than 50 bird species and almost as many butterfly and moth species: the gardens are working. It is a great feeling to build something and watch wildlife come.

Iris from Wildlife Garden: Artbygordon copyright 2019

This year, the garden will be much of what grew last year. I am allowing the winners from the previous year to grow even stronger roots and adding complementary plants such as more milkweeds, dutchman’s pipe and herbs. 

Canadian Geese Fort Sill Oklahoma: Artbygordon copyright 2019

I’m going to show the different stages as the garden starts from scrubby overgrown mess to a bit more controlled. It is important for me to show how to maintain a wildlife garden that doesn’t drive the neighbors mad that’s the new idea this year.

I always find a metaphor in nature and especially gardening. I am finding a new path, choosing order over chaos, discipline over disorder and I’m excited about writing, photographing and describing the process. 

Garden Begins Sneak Preview: Artbygordon copyright 2019

If my son can go and learn discipline and structure, I am inspired that I can do the same. Wish me luck.

Gardening and Raising Independent Children: Lessons in the Weeds

There’s a little bit of selfishness in all of us but it’s something that gets a bit complicated when raising kids. Who wants to feel like they are not needed anymore? No one of course, but letting a child go and live his or her life is the epitome of becoming a bit more irrelevant.

Zinnias and sunflowers

There is a great pride a parent takes in watching our words, motions and even our facial expressions reflected in this wonderful person who we’ve watched grow from a helpless infant to a confident adult.

I am having great difficulty finding my own purpose as I watch my son find his. I feel like an actor whose whole life has been a television series: a comedy, a drama, and a love story. So what’s left of this actor?

Garden in the last year or so: Zinnias

All my talents and ideas seem raw and ready for me to see the next path that I’m supposed to take but I’m feeling a lot of melancholy looking back. I am happy to say I savored every moment like it was the most incredible buffet but it went so fast, to ever be able to fully enjoy it, I find myself looking back through pages, reading the beginning, not questioning or fretting just reflecting.

I started this post while tending to an overgrown winter garden, a canvas of sorts, much like the children we raise. I watch the same story unfold as nature gives us all the inspiration we need to live extraordinary lives.

Selfishness is a common trait in the garden as well as our lives. You watch the weeds that bind other plants, clutter and block the light; the sunflower even disperses a chemical with its seeds that stops other seeds from germinating.

I am the mediator, I go in and remove obstacles, plant the garden the way I see fit but in the end, it grows to be its own despite the gardener. 

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The child grows out of the garden, out of all our ideas, ideals and expectations. They become adults despite us, they find their path and their place in this world. We can remove some of the obstacles but the main goal for any parent is to raise their child to find their own garden. 

We are all selfish gardeners, planting seeds, fertilizing soil and loving every bit of the flowers we are lucky to enjoy. 

Life is putting the plants out for spring.


My lemon tree with flowers

Its spring in a few days and I’m excited about putting out my plants. Every year it is a ritual and there are so many reasons for it and many directly relate to the trials of a creative and not-so creative life.

One particular plant is a seventeen year old lemon tree and that’s just an estimate-it’s probably a little older. It started as a seed, as my exwife told me “you can’t grow lemons in Texas”. 

My lemon tree with droplets in the spring

It’s never produced a lemon and only a handful of flowers in more than a decade. I’m hopeful every year but lack of fruit is the difference between growing from seed and growing a store-bought plant, which is a grafted stock from an existing plant, but that’s science and botany and another story to tell.

Last summer was probably it’s most spectacular year, full and desperate to fruit. This winter it showed my neglect with a lack of leaves and dried up broken stems. It sinks in the pot, lays over looking for bits of light but there is a spark in it, a life force that is ready for the summer.

Remnants of the Ocotillo

I dragged it outside and watered it, even feed it. I can’t fix the winter or make up for shortcomings in care but I can make this next summer the most spectacular and I will. 

I’ve always found hope in watching a dormant plant be born again in spring. Bits of green adorn ash colored limbs as if it were rising from the dead. During a very dark time in my life, the garden was a place for me to watch spring make everything new, every spring of new growth was like hope.

East Texas Redbuds

In our lives, there is always winter, a time where we crawl deep inside ourselves and find strength mingled with weakness, we throw off our broken dying limbs that don’t serve us anymore and we search for that green, that youth that hides in each of us.

This year, I’ve become a bit more realistic, there are less plants that I held over-the sambuc Jasmine which is such an easy plant as it long as it doesn’t get too cold and it rewards you with a wonderful fragrance that soothes and relaxes me in the spring.

Carrion Flower

Some plants brighten up the first day they feel the warmth but others are stubborn, they hold on to their dark and pensive state, the Occatillo, a favorite plant of mine because of its dramatic spiny disposition, it is gray, hard and thorny. I’m not sure if it’s alive or dead but you learn patience and realizing nature is on its own schedule, not yours.

It’s a great responsibility to take plants through the winter and I will be honest, I loose more than I keep. Winter is my introspective time, I don’t get the excitement and feeling of hope like I do in spring, maybe it’s the lack of light but I don’t take the responsibility of taking care of plants lightly.

The Garden in Summer

Plants take you out of yourself, much like pets and children, it’s not about you or what you feel like doing. My manic state tends to over buy plants and my opposite state tends to give up but in the end I have plants with strong roots that can take the winter and still recover in the spring.

Much like humanity, not all of us will be the same after winter, some of us will be stronger, some of us will change our path, some of us will want to give up but as long as winter lays itself down for spring, there is hope. 

Sometimes hope is as simple as putting your plants out in the spring.

Ten Things I’ve lEarned about Social Media: AN OLD INTRO TO AN UPDATE

1. Not all sharing is equal: regardless of your intention.
What you share will not suit everyone’s need or interest. Making an impact starts with honest interaction followed by useful data for mutual benefit.
If you share without real interaction and sincere interest in viewers you become the blur of words and pix the reader learns to avoid.

2. You can’t fake social. 
Social media requires one important factor; you must really be social. People need to know you are interested in their stuff as well as your own. Drive-by social media will get you quickly ignored. Find people with like interests or things that inspire you and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and sharing.

3. Give them something to do. 
Okay, you’ve got their attention, now what? Get them to respond, to engage or go somewhere. This is where pinterest, Facebook and tumblr, to name just a few, allow you to find something than repost it sharing it with others, they find your website, your information or something they need to know and the reason you started sharing in the first place.

4. Engagement is not an option-it’s a necessary goal. 
Now you have started a relationship, you need to engage your readers, be available, answer questions or expand on information you’ve shared. Engagement shows that you are not just sharing information you stand behind the ideas, you can support them with knowledge and useful expertise.

 5. Make goals and learn how to reach them. 
You need to share with a purpose. Have a clear vision of what you want your audience to do and a formula for what a successful campaign would equal whether in new connections, reposts and retweets or amount of response and engagement.

 6. Ask the experts-learn from others’ experiences. 
You’ve been growing a following on various platforms. Now it’s time to add to the momentum, see why others who are leaders in social media have larger engaged following-it’s time to take your sharing to the next level-learn from the professionals that have the following and solid content to prove it.

 7. There are no shortcuts; it takes time, work and content. 
In a society wanting everything now, there is no shortcut to creating a lasting impression; it takes many hours of patience and perseverance.

 8. Don’t disappear- stay focused and engaged so your audience will. You’ve done all the work, you’ve taken the time and effort now you must keep yourself and your audience engaged. Don’t disappear and at the same time don’t keep tweeting the same old thing, give them something new, something interesting and keep them engaged.

 9. Social media is a two-way street, retweet and mean it.
A relationship requires give and take. If you only show and tell your own story no one is going to share theirs or yours with anyone, you need to work with your audience and offer them the same respect and appreciation for their thoughts, stories and products.

 10. Don’t cry wolf. Don’t offer false information, thoughts and ideas that are pointless, exaggerated information-make a good first impression and make sure your audience knows your not only going to be there but that they can count on your perspective and trusted information.

Here is just a small list of the experts that have impressed me with their knowledge of social media and wealth of content. These are specific to the creative side of social media.

http://www.artpromotivate.com- a great site for artists-Graham Matthews is the owner and does a wonderful job of connecting and offering artists valuable information. He’s also a gifted artist https://plus.google.com/101360643544552502915/posts.

Jennifer Mattern from All Indie Writers http://allindiewriters.com It’s a great place for lots of information on writers, publishing, blogs, etc.

http://www.angelikafineart.com- a wonderful artist I found on twitter who has so much information to share and a great following.

Let me know if this post was helpful. It’s still a work in progress but social media and marketing in general is a knowledge that grows and adapts in a rapidly changing landscape.

A love of Birds: A collection of Photographs

I have counted 65 bird species in my backyard, many of them just visitors, I am in the process of collecting photographs of each species. If you build it they will come.

People would say my very small yard is a bit of a jungle, especially my son, but it’s the reason so many birds have found food, shelter and even nesting space in and around my yard.

I have families of wrens, chickadees, cardinals, a pair of downy woodpeckers, a whole large family of very large bluejays that put up with my presence and a family of squirrels.

Besides the birds, there are also more than 35 species of butterflies. I am in a very small way creating an oasis for wildlife which I photograph, paint and write about-it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.

My goal now is to photograph each species of birds, butterflies and in the near future the plants I grow to attract them. I do not use any pesticide, herbicides or any other sides to keep them safe and allow a safe haven for a small piece of wildlife to thrive….and they are thriving.

Pastel Sketching: Awakening an old Love

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I’ve always considered pastel a continuation of oil painting, just another medium with the same basic process. I used to smooth the texture and use my finger a lot to create a softness. I have discovered quite suddenly a new vision for my pastels.

Another pastel with a basic idea of the texture and light but the end of a previous series.

It started the last time I picked up pastels, I had more interest in texture and the vibration of color than simply rendering a scene correctly. My mindset was very much like oils and the overall image was what I was seeking.

The water in the distance, I believe worked but everything after seemed to be less than what I was seeking. The new view of what pastels should be was just beginning to form. This was several years ago.

Unfortunately for the last image, it seemed by the time I was finished, I lost the reason I started in the first place, this is how series of work begin and end.

Recently, I had the desire to create pastels but with no image in mind. When there is no image, I miss what is special about the finished product so I tend to stumble in the dark.

It can be a frustrating time not knowing exactly what the finished product should be. When I was traveling, selling insurance, I got into a habit of quick sketches, simple renderings created in one day.

This was a series of fast pastel works that each took no more than an evening. They were all from memory and most from my travels in East Texas.

A New Way of Seeing and Rendering Pastels

Yesterday, I wanted to paint, unfortunately the studio is quite cold and I found myself staring at half finished paintings with no direction. I dug out some poster boards that had been cut a few months ago and decided to start sketching.

What should I start with? The question again seemed complicated but I believe I was overthinking it. I decided to create images I had been talking about creating for the longest time, my son and my grandchild, my son’s dog Ranger and an old friend’s daughter who is by now probably in her teens.

The wonderful thing that happened is I realized details and proportion better than I ever have. Creativity and the skills of seeing are subconscious tools that grow and ferment in the brain and then suddenly you can create what in the past seemed impossible.

Very quickly I used only 4 or 5 pastel colors but I interpreted each color, shadow and line with specific cools and warms, I will later go and perfect some of the colors but I could see how all the parts fit in perfectly and it was almost effortless creating them on the board.

I only looked for the basic form and than only the shadows. It is a wonderful feeling to truly see and decipher that which in the past the conscious might have assumed and took over.

I liked the idea and the discipline of working up tones and putting colors and textures to work with each other. The image slowly appears and it is much like how colors are separated in the CMYK printing process-you lay down a group of colors, overlay another layer of colors and watch as the image becomes itself.

I don’t think I have enjoyed sketching so much as I have in the last two days and I was lucky enough to see old images as new again. To truly see and allow the subconscious to rule the hands is quite a feeling of control and discipline that I needed on this cold rainy March afternoon.

Lessons on the Road: Parenting Meets Travel Blogging

Lower Falls in Yosemite

Lessons are better taught through real life experiences. I’ve always preached to my son to not panic in the midst of crisis, a lesson learned from scuba diving. Once you panic you lose all logic and one minor crisis can become a dangerous situation.

After a full day exploring Yosemite, watching mule deer a bit closer than we would have liked and exploring the rocks around the lower falls, our only disappointment was not being able to walk the six hour round trip hike to the upper falls.

It was time to get on the road for Inyo National Forest, to a cabin in the high sierras. We had no service and tried navigating with a map but the mountain roads were confusing. More time had passed and now I was getting more uncomfortable as the light was getting dim and the snow deep.

As we continued getting more lost, signs became less common and our stress level grew higher. We were both beginning to snap at each with the increasing fatigue. We were tired and frustrated.

Suddenly to bring the tension to a pinnacle; 2 deer in the headlights. They came out of nowhere, I veered to the left and they veered to the right. A rare moment when man and nature cooperates but I realized it was time to stop and regroup.

We decided to find the nearest town and after getting phone service and finding the charger for his dead phone we would eat and organize our thoughts. I was doing as I had always preached, instead of reacting and continuing to get more tense, we slowed down and methodically made good decisions that would make a bad situation better.

We ate really good pizza in a small restraunt, had coffee for the long night ahead and got a grasp on the situation. Because of the closed passes we would have to drive six hours to get to where we needed to go, around a mountain range and through a state forest.

I made the best decision I could have made-find the nearest hotel, relax, eat and get a good night sleep. So I paid for a cabin six hours away and a hotel in Groveland but it was so worth it. We ended up experiencing a wonderful night sleep in a circa 1800 gold rush hotel and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast. We lived to drive another day.

Several things we learned on our trip through Yosemite: don’t take passes for granted-they close during the winter months. Be flexible and have a secondary plan, If your going to nearly hit deer make sure they are cooperative deer that don’t panic and the biggest rule of all don’t panic.