Cleaning Fish

These are photos of my dad cleaning cod fish during the summer fishing season in Newfoundland, the most easterly province of Canada.

 This design shown below is already in the composition of the original photo I took in 2012.
 I will create a painting without changing much regarding the subject position and his focus.

The design of two  paintings above are good examples of how the golden spiral or golden ratio is used in the design. Check the link here for an explanation          Golden spiral or golden ratio 

I am working on  an homemade  20" x 16" cradled hardboard panel, which is not the ideal golden ratio which would be more like 26" x 16", an uncommon size. So, it is loosely overlaid on my photo to show how it relates. Its not a perfect design but close. The point where dad's right index finger ends is the main focus point, it is exactly at the 1/3 point both horizontally and vertically. It is also within the smallest square in the golden ratio design. The red lines in the photo show the power of lines and gaze of the subject to cause a reinforced focus at the one main focal point mentioned. That point could be called the epicenter of focus for the subject as well as the viewer.

I did my sketch directly on a gessoed panel which I made myself . I used a little blue pigment in the gesso. I will often use the texture of the gesso brush strokes to start layering in directional flow in a certain direction to create an early effect in building up the composition. I avoided texture in the face and body area because that would not work well when detailing the exposed body skin later.

Below  I did some more refining of the drawing. I have to get this outline as close as possible. It is very hard to get that likeness of person in portrait work. I will admit portrait painting is not my greatest skill set. I am mostly a land and seascape painter.

Next I blocked in the background and inside space of the fish stage. In Newfoundland the fish stage is a building on a wharf/dock that is used to store boating and fishing gear. This old fish stage was built by my Dad and Grandfather many, many, years ago. It is very weathered and the original lime coating has long washed off. I love the texture of the clapboard and I used gesso to get that texture with a course brush. I use texture often to make certain things stand out and with acrylics thick gesso works well.

Continued blocking in base colors , trying to get a feel for color combos etc. In this painting I am using white, black, burnt umber, raw sienna, colbalt blue hue, naphthol red, yellow ocher, deep portrait pink, and cad yellow medium. There may be other small amounts of other colors I have missed.

 In this painting line direction plays a big part in the composition. For example look at this sketch again and notice how the arrows help focus attention toward the main point of interest , perhaps the figure first ,then the knife and fish. The door frame lines, the eyes focused with laser precision,  the posture, the arms, and even the direction of the clapboard and table support, all help to focus the viewers eye toward the figure and his main point of interest.

Below, I worked on getting some of the green background foliage. You can see the texture starting to be built on the clapboard.

Working on the shirt and pants  fabric, shadows and highlights.

Worked on the face, ear, arms and hands below, attempting to get the likeness in the sketch before I add more layers of paint. I have to get it very , very close at this point.

Futile Sacrifices

I finally found the courage to post this. I have never shown this to the public. It may be offensive to some people for different reasons. But, I feel the time is right to post it. Its an acrylic on Hardboard panel 24" x  32"

I posted this on my painting demo blog, not just my painting site  because it explains the whole process that was needed to make this painting . Its not a step by step of how the paint was applied to the panel but it does get into the planning and research side of it. It took hundreds of hours to plan it and perhaps less then 40 hrs to apply the paint.

This painting has a long history attached to it. But, the story line behind the subject material goes back thousands of years.   I researched the subject material for this work, off and on for more then 20 years, with far too many days and hours invested into it, then I want to disclose. I started the painting in 2010 after all the research, and didn't finish it until 2017.  It is based on Isaiah 1:11-13  'Bring no more futile sacrifices'. Since the beginning of time man has been offering up sacrifices to their gods. They would bring animals to their temples and sacrifice them in ceremonial ritual, in hope these burnt offering would appease their angry gods. They believed in a concept of a god that was separate from them, and this separation theology caused them to believe in what has been called substitutionary atonement. A living being was sacrificed as a substitute for the tribe so they could feel in right standing, at-one-ment,  again with their distant and angry deity.  This idea carried over from ancient temple worship to modern day Christianity where the Jesus character became the symbolic human sacrifice, that would end all this futile sacrifices once and for all. Progressive Christianity have rejected this idea,of any need for atonement at all, and along with it, the old view of a vindictive and angry tribal god, out there somewhere, that needs to be appeased.  They have realized a new way to view what the Divine is. Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven within us. The divinity and realm of heaven is found within our hearts, not at some remote location. The loving intelligence that is at the matrix of all being is found within. Modern Spirituality has come a long way and there has been a rethinking and appreciating the deep underlying truth in the old myths. Myths in this sense is not necessarily false, but rather their symbolism brings out even greater truth, that have always been there, but not easily realized. Parables tell stories that bring out great truth but we don't believe the characters are actual persons who lived in real life, myth is similar except they are more like embellished storied that are based on oral stories, passed on through multiple generations and then written down decades or centuries later. They bring out great truths like parables, and are not meant to be always seen an historical literal fact.This painting is all about symbolism and myth and the power of myth to change lives.  I won't get into all that, here.

(detail section of the temple)

 In this painting  I have installed the Jewish holy temple which stood on the temple mount in Jerusalem, before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE.. The vantage point is looking westward from the slope of the mount of olives, where some historians believe the Crucifixion of Jesus took place 2000 years ago. More info here This is the setting of the painting, based on myth and reasoning of others,  that I have researched. It is on a day  when the animals were sacrificed and burnt offering were made. The sun is setting in the west over the temple and the smoke of the sacrifices are bellowing upward. I have Jesus on the cross at the same time the animals were sacrificed just before sunset. The eastern twin gates (Golden Gate) have been sealed up, off and on since the 9th century and has remained that way since here Golden Gate In this painting I have them open. A causeway was said to have been there, according to one source, that led from the eastern gates to the mount of olives,it is believed to have intersected an old road that went to Bethany. This is where Romans crucified criminals and enemies of the empire, at a busy crossroad, so all would see.  At the moment of Jesus's death there was a myth that the temple curtain ripped in two pieces and exposed the  Holy of Holies. That is why I have a white light shinning at the temple door opening, with imagination you could say its in the shape of a divine presence  Shekhinah leaving the temple.There is so much more symbolism but, I can't get into it all, here. It would take many pages to explain.I have a huge stack of research paper to back up my reasoning for this setting. Much of it is controversy, including this painting, concerning details of location, timing of events,  and whether it all happen as we have been told. I will not judge the truth of it all. This painting cannot be based on fact but it is more of a synthesis of myth.  The bottom line, is the fact that nobody really knows exactly what happened so long ago. The painting is based on myth passed on to our generation. I turned it all into a painting that tells a different story then all other crucifixion paintings have done. Its totally different then any other painting I have done. Its a dark subject about a dark age that not everybody will appreciate, but its a story that needs to be brought out.

I will add here also, other thoughts on design for this painting. You will notice the rays of the sun radiating outward from the sun center and upward  I fanned the original gesso brush strokes like that to create brush marks so the final paint coats would follow in those grooves. The sun setting directly over the temple is not uncommon in temple design and position, what adds to this painting is that it is seen precisely directly over the temple at the location of where the cross is placed, at the western mid slop of the mount of olives. The temple is at the 1/3 horizontal and  1/3  vertical crossing point and the cross is intentionally tilted toward the temple slightly. The temple and sun are meant to be the main vocal point. The Moslem dome of the rock temple sits at the Jewish temple site today. The olive gardens were common at this location. If you look close there are figures in the garden looking toward the cross. The cross is dark because it is in shadow and I didn't want this image on the cross to be the main point of interest.

The idea that the Jesus character was looking toward the temple adds to the whole mythology because Christianity later made the crucifixion symbolic of him being the final sacrifice to supposedly end all ritual sacrifice.  However, this sacrifice, with symbols of wine (blood) and bread (body) are re-enacted continually over and over again in Christian ritual, to this day. It still proclaims a separation between us and God and it is only through belief in this blood sacrifice of Jesus that we can have access to the divine. It is just a remake of the old temple sacrificial system rebranded to be more socially acceptable. People still need a priest and an institution to have access to the holy presence in this system of belief. The unity message of Jesus was completely misunderstood. Its hard to see the small figures on the walkway through the eastern gates  but they all have a lamb following behind them. The whole sacrificial system of atonement was barbaric by modern human standards. The sheep going to the slaughter is a little side detail that is not easily seen on the digital small image you are looking at  on your screen. The smoke is the burnt offering being offered in the fire in front of the holy of hollies. I mentioned before the large curtain that separated people from the supposed seat and presence of God was ripped asunder the same moment Jesus died ,according to the legend.The white light where the dark curtain is split in the center of the temple is symbolic of the spirit departing the earthly temple of stone (hardened hearts) and the beginning of it residing in the open spiritual hearts of the people. Or, put it this way, its symbolic in the sense that with the ripping of the veil of separation we now all have access to divinity. It resides in our spiritual heart, the true holy of holies. Jesus was the one who pointed to the new way, the new life and the new truth with his message of the kingdom of heaven found within. It was his message of individual access to the oneness of the divine Spirit, for all, that got him killed by the religion of separation theology. His message of the kingdom of heaven within all, did not fit well with both the Jewish and Roman system of ideology. For the past 2000 years it still did not fit with the ingrained idea of a separate god and the need for an institutional religion of belief and ritual, to regulate our access to the divine. The deeper story of Jesus is not  about blood sacrifice, although we can respect its symbolic effect, but, it is more about his message, the good news, that removes the veil of separation between us and the divine. His whole message in summary and the message in this painting, is the proclamation that we all have access to the divine presence, now, through the holy of holies found within our spiritual heart, it is not found in temples of stone or through tablets of clay. The message is loud and clear  'Bring no more futile sacrifices' on stone alters (with hearts clenched), for the kingdom of heaven is found within, in a open and pure spiritual heart, beyond the the veil of separation woven by a false sense of  an egoic self  and beyond  body and blood. This illusion of a separate egoic self is the root cause of all our perceptions of separation from others, nature and the divine presence. But, you will have to do your own research on all that. The wisdom teachings for thousands of years have been saying this, and now we have the internet full of information on this subject.

“God is born in the Heart and the Heart is born in God,” as the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart

Luke 17: 20-21    (the kingdom of heaven/God is found within you)

My painting site Here

My other blog    Here


In Ontario, Canada there is a limestone formation that runs along the entire Bruce peninsula which runs north into lake |Huron. Near Tobermory there is a famous cave at lake level called the Grotto. Above is a photo my son and his wife took within the cave opening looking west. This was the only reference photo I had so after scanning google images I found thousands of photos of this area and hundreds of photos taken at this same angle looking out from within the cave. Some of these photos had a sunset happening at the lake opening just below the cliff . I can't post any of these photos because of copyright infringement concerns.So I used perhaps a dozen other photos from google to get a feel for what it looks like from this vantage point at sunset. When I had the idea set as the best composition I was ready to attempt this challenging project.

I uses an 18"x 24 " cradled hardboard panel board which I had already gessoed with several coats.  My first coat of dark paint was just gesso tinted with burnt umber and black to get the general shape of the cave opening and the cliff .

You can see the texture in this gesso mixture above. 

The sky and water is a base coat below where I was trying different color mixes  to get a feel for what colors I would use. I used cobalt blue, titanium white and cad yellow light, crimson, and cad red hue. In the water area I added some phthalo green to the mix . These waters in lake Huron can have an aqua green color in certain light and flat calm water conditions, especially in shallow water. I am getting this aqua color in there to just get a feel for  how it would look. Phthalo green is a very powerful color so just a dab in the mix is all you need.

Worked a little more to form the sky below

Still working on that sunset below

 I wanted this painting to be an experiment in texture. To get the limestone texture I used acrylic pumice gel  medium with black and burnt umber. Its a product I use often to get texture, it is acrylic medium with sandy grit in it . Below is my first layer of this pumice mixture. I applied it with a palette knife. It looks a little raw at this point. The heavy texture in the cliff across the cove may prove to be a difficult area to work with and keep it convincing. It may be over done with texture . But, this is an experiment after all.

close up of the texture below

Added some color to the texture below. Painting is all about creative expression. I no longer strive for photo-realism ...I dropped that a long time ago. Painting is meant to be a different art form then photography and freedom of expression is a big part of the joy of painting. Broad strokes gives a sense of liberation and it allows the right brain intuitive and artistic mind to work rather then the analytical left brain approach.

Starting to form  the rocks in the water.


After many different glazes with acrylic glazing liquid and color pigment on the sky and water  below.

Still more glazes below and working on the rocks and cliff.

I wanted to do rocks under the shallow water, so I did not add texture to any rocks that appear to be underwater. Multiple glazes with Golden acrylic glazing liquid did that trick. My technique to do this under water look is the use of many layers of lightly pigmented glazes. I mix alternating glazes with reds, yellows and blues. For further info on doing glazes check out my demo below click on the link:


I have always been fascinated at how, if we use our imagination we can see faces and images in rock and cliff formations. In this rock formation , see the original photo below, there is what appears like an ancient dinosaur with its mouth open, I played with this idea to see if I could get that subtle imprint in the rock formation. Its not an easy task.I didn't want it to dominate , it had to be subtle, something a viewer would not see at first glance.


As I did the rocks in the water I could imagine them looking like giant prehistoric frogs .


So, I wanted the rocks to have a subtle frog look in the water . I went with it ....It was interesting how the ancient stones could speak as I was doing this painting. Below you see the dinosaur and what looks like frogs in the water stones. Maybe I have a good imagination...😊...No!...I am not stoned.


I added trees , pines, birch and spruce below.

I found  that this painting did not photograph well, I tried different lighting . The texture messed up the photos . But the next 5 photos show the finished painting with different lighting. I am not 100% happy with this painting . I am not sure all that texture was needed in the cliff across the cove.





On this  24" x 18" panel its not possible to put the golden ratio and spiral ( drawing below) into play but in a loose kind of  way, somehow it is possible. I can see a close enough order here, to imagine that center vertical line fitting at the cliff vertical edge and the water horizon point near the sun and the sun would be inside one of the smallest box inside the spiral. Maybe its just my imagination, the same imagination that sees dinosaurs and frogs in this painting and is suggesting that the ancient stones speak.  😎

 This photo below is a reverse image from a free sample through shutterstock . It will give you an idea what I am trying to say.

Fibonacci Sequence