New Painting- "Pledge"

“Pledge” 20x16” acrylic on canvas mounted to panel.

After spending quite a bit of time drawing and working with some experimental layered drawing techniques, it was time to get back to painting. Although I’m not working with multiple physical layers in this piece as in some of those recent experiments I did use many many layers of veiled glazes. The subject is also inspired by the mask drawing series I’ve been working on lately and I hope to continue the series. I almost named this piece, “Princess” or “The Princess’ Promise” or something along those lines, since I see her as some type of royal promising something. I’m not quite sure what she’s promising but I assume it has something to do with loyalty or being faithful to the cause. Maybe the answer will become clearer as the series progresses.

“Pledge” will be on exhibit at the Naperville Art League Gallery as part of the “Mysterious” show opening May 10.

This is my starting point, a quickly drawn sketch that I wandered away from a little as I painted and became aware of what was working and what could be improved. And a couple of detail shots below.



Experimenting with Layered Drawing and "The Sleepers in the Earth"

“The Sleepers in the Earth- Red Beetle” 12x12x1.5 Graphite, gouache, colored pencil and acrylic on paper mounted to a cradled panel.

I’ve been doing several pieces lately that explore the idea of layered drawings. These have all been experiments in using different materials and techniques with the aim of creating a piece that has multiple “applications” of drawing and I’m sure there will be more to come. “The Sleepers in the Earth- Red Beetle” is one of my latest pieces in this experimental series. Actually I’m tossing a few ideas and themes into the mix, such as my attempt at combining beetles with portraiture, and the use of brighter color. I think that last one might be coming from too many hours spent listening to the tie dye soaked music of the psychedelic era with its complimentary trippy artwork, maybe the former too, but I digress.

This is my finished graphite drawing, done on paper that had previously been toned and mounted to a cradled support. It had a deep sienna color, perfect for an idea I never got around to but which wouldn’t work for me now, so I recoated it with a mix of acrylic glazes before the drawing began. I’ve worked out a pretty good way of applying the acrylic so that the surface doesn’t get too slick, always a danger if you are repeatedly painting glaze after glaze. I used a piece of tracing paper overlaid on the artwork to draw a quick beetle sketch atop the subject so I had a good idea of how the two would interact.

And now the layering action begins. This shot is after a pass or two of acrylic glaze and then a few applications of torn pieces of the same sheet of tracing paper I used to sketch the beetle placement layout on. I used some additional strips of that same paper with beetle drawing on them to build more of the layering effect I was after. The sides of the portrait drawing are fading off into the background, what I was shooting for. The tricky part is deciding how far to bury the drawing. Too many layers and it’s lost forever.

More and more layers of acrylic glaze and then it was time to draw the beetle in place. The beetle drawing has all the same detail as the portrait drawing did. The portrait drawing is becoming obscured but as the second drawing is executed over the first the dark streak down the central part of the face, nose and mouth, is suggesting a figure and I accentuate the shape by playing dark off of light value. The lower third of the drawing, or maybe painting at this point, has all kinds of interesting shapes emerging. I decided I want to give them some delineation and refine the shapes to suggest figures and or animals, the “sleepers” of the title.

Now I begin to amp up the color with more intensity. I decided the portrait would work better with an overall cool color and wanted to simplify the shadows of the face and keep the values in a narrow range. This is where the psychedelic vibe come on. I’m also working with graphic shapes and strokes, looser versions of the elements that make up the initial drawing. This picture shot with a raking light gives a good indication of the texture I create that allow dry media like graphite and colored pencil to work well.

The figure is simplified and some of the initial portrait drawing’s passages are highlighted with color. The cad red light really pops off the painting especially against the pthalo blue and green in the background. A majority of the initial drawing becomes obliterated with all of the subsequent layers of paint and pencil but original pencil lines show through here and there most notably in the cheeks an around the eyes. Easier to see in the actual piece than in a photo.

I had a great time tweaking the sleeping figures, picking up shapes of bones and skulls. And if you look closely you’ll see I’ve indicated vertebrae depending from under the chin of the subject as well. The title of this piece is inspired by a line from Emily Bronte’s novel, “Wuthering Heights” by way of the Genesis album, “Wind and Wuthering”. From Wikipedia:

"Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers..." and "...In That Quiet Earth" are two linked instrumental tracks. The titles refer to the last paragraph of the novel which inspired the album's title - "Wuthering Heights", by Emily Brontë:

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

“The Sleepers in the Earth- Red Beetle” is available $750.00 plus shipping. The work is ready to hang as is or it may be framed by the buyer at their expense if they prefer. For more information or to make this piece a part of your collection please email me using the Contact page. Include the mailing address you would like the work shipped to for a total price quote. All sales through PayPal only.

I’ve posted more of my experiments in layered drawing techniques on my Instagram gallery. You can see them here (along with other examples of my work), and please consider following me if you’re so inclined, thanks!

New! Shop Page and Drawing Sale

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Friday March 3 marks the opening of a new “Shop” page on my website. While most of the work presented on my site is for sale, the Shop page is designed mainly for prints, smaller pieces, experimental work, or items that stand outside of a series. March 3 is also the first Friday of the month, when I typically kick off my “Featured” sale, one item, at a reduced price, for one week. Well, this Friday I’m combining the opening of my Shop, with a Featured Drawing Sale, offering a number of my drawings at substantially reduced prices for two weeks. Sales items have a tendency to sell quickly and I may add or replace sold items with other work, so please check back often to see what’s posted.

In addition to the Featured Drawing Sale I’ve posted a new series of three dimensional faux fresco works in the Shop. These pieces are an extension of the fresco fragments in my Dankquart Collection series. Composed of a wood and polymer clay sculpted eye and beetle, each piece has been finished with numerous layers of various acrylic products to give them a look of ancient artifacts. Mounted to a textured aged panel and framed in black, they are ready to hang and enjoy.

I’ve also included some of my smaller paintings and a couple of sketches too, all priced at a level welcoming to both first time buyers and those looking to expand their collections.

Finally, to those of you who have supported my artistic efforts by buying my work, thank you. Your purchases allow me to continue making art and keep the ship sailing and I genuinely appreciate it. Now it back to the studio!

Angel Reliquary

Photo of warrior angel reliquary
“Reliquary of a Warrior Angel” approximately 18.5x26x6” (wings extended). Mixed media.

I thought it might be nice to do a post about some of the steps involved in creating my newest reliquary piece. I have to say it took much more time than I anticipated to go from drawing to final art not counting the year or so the concept rattled around in my brain. Months ago I even asked a friend of mine who is an accomplished woodworker if he could build the casework for me, before I began work on another project and set the idea aside. But a couple of months ago I revisited the concept and began sketching, considering things like what type of figure I would portray and how the doors would open into wings. That’s when I decided to call my own number and get to work.

Photo of sketch
This is my original sketchbook drawing. I had settled on painting an angel, in this case an angel as warrior. The angel would have some mystical elements that picked up and expanded the ones featured in my Dankquart Collection series and of course the doors would open up and be painted as wings. Making the subject angel a warrior meant I could work in a box of vintage arrow tips that I had stored away waiting for the right project and I’ve indicated them in the drawing. I also included a skull flower ornament at the top of the piece which has become an icon in the imagined culture that these piece originate from, (the same iconic sculpt as the pendants that were available as this month’s Featured piece).

Photo of John Walker's artworkOnce I had the drawing, and a firm idea of how the entire piece would work, I created a paper mockup.

Photo of John Walker's artwork
Originally I planned to have the doors open out, and then open out again, as they are mocked up here. That created an interesting situation with hinges that I didn’t care for when I got into the actual production, and so would later change to the swing up version used on the final.

Photo of John Walker's artwork
The doors would need to be solid to cover the interior artwork but the outside wing pieces could be shaped as indicated in my model. They also needed to fit in such a way that they did not come in contact with the painting inside once the doors were closed.

I then went from the mock up paper stage to a full size drawing, and from that made some templates. These would be used to cut the pieces out and make sure that they all worked together properly. You can see I’ve switched to the swing up wings at this point.

The surround/box design with the first set of doors in place, and trim yet to be added.

Here the casework construction is nearly complete and I’m testing the fit of the artwork to make sure the wings visually run in one continuous sweep from the central painting across the two open doors. I wasn’t happy with the original design of the angel artwork and changed it as I went farther along with the rendering as you can see below. The wings took a trip back to the bandsaw to add some more indications of feathers.

The wings/doors were placed alongside the central artwork as I painted to keep the continuity. I planned to carry the landscape background across the panels which would help make all three, or five depending how you look at it, panels read as one piece of art. However my initial idea of having the land rise up so that a portion showed behind the figure was not working so was painted out. You can just see the area planned for gold leaf application encircling the head.

With the artwork complete I turned my attention to painting the casework. This is the old box of arrow paint replacements that I had tucked away. Still like new in the box, they needed to be given a nice patina. I love that green color, must be some copper under that shiny silver.

Another trial fit of artwork and casework. Those holes at the top will contain the reliquary items, small pieces of bone, etc. created with polymer clay and encased in resin filled brass containers. I’ve also drilled holes for all of the arrow tips along the top and the two brass trim pieces at the bottom corners. Once they are added I do some final painting, add the gold scroll accents, the dragonfly and then give the entire piece a coat of satin varnish.
While the casework varnish dries I return to the painting to apply some antique varnish, a multi step process that produces the small cracks seen in the detail shot below. Then it’s on to sculpt the skullflower icon for the top and the reliquary items for the brass container inserts. The skull flower is composed of two different types of polymer clay around a central wire spine. When completed I fit it to the casework and drill into it from inside the frame. This way I can run a thin post that will anchor the ornament to the frame during final assembly. The reliquary parts are painted and after drying overnight, placed in the brass holders which are then filled with resin and left in an old cigar box to cure.

When the painting is finalized I flip over the pieces and paint the doors. You can see how the wings hang inside the outer doors. All of the parts and frame have had sufficient time to dry before I do one last test fit of artwork and doors and then it’s on to the final assembly.

The moon and sun symbols are gold and silver composition leaf.

I shot a quick in studio video which gives a much better idea of how the whole piece works and posted to my Instagram account. (And please consider following me if you are so inclined.) Watch the video HERE.



“Bound” Approx. 8.5 x 5” dome size. Approx. 7 x 4 x 2” sculpture size. Apoxie and polymer clays, acrylic, resin, wire, metal rod, glass dome, wood base.

My newest sculpt comes from another little sketchbook entry, an idea that came to me one night while exploring more ideas of sculpting my embryonic figures inside of pieces of vegetables or fruit. I thought about the concept of two figures intertwined inside a core and their connection to each other. The final piece can be interpreted in different ways, I think, and I prefer to let each individual make their own decisions about meaning, so no more from me about that. But as always I love to hear interpretations from viewers so please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or comments.
This is a crop of my little sketchbook drawing. About as far as I take these types of things. I like to get the idea down with just enough detail to record the concept and any important wrinkles then let the rest develop when I go to finish.
The pair of figures wrapped with barbed wire. I created the barbed wire, kind of a tricky thing to make especially at the proper scale, and took several tries to get right.
Lots of detail in both the sculpt and the paint. The figures were sculpted separately and affixed in place. The barbed wire was added last.
Back of the piece showing the heart shape and the way the skin begins to peel away. You can also see the purple shoots which have erupted through the top.
Top of the sculpt with the peeling skin, shoots and wire.

Video of the finished work and an in progress video will be available on my Instagram account.
And please consider following me on Instagram if you would like to see more of my in progress photos and videos along with up to date posts of current work.

“Bound” is available for purchase studio direct. For more information and pricing please email me using the Contact page.

The Keeper

thekeeperframed1One of my goals for the new year is to create more small pieces, this is the first. Acrylic on panel mounted in a reclaimed vintage frame with polymer clay bird skull and feathers collected from my walks through a local park.
This is the sketch I worked from. I typically tape these to my board as I work and they often wind up doubling as a pallet to tip my brushes on.

Acrylic on panel 7x5”.

Creating the frame ornament. Polymer clay bird skull painted with multiple layers of acrylic glazes surrounded by bird feathers collected on walks in a local park.

“The Keeper” is available studio direct for $395.00 plus shipping and sales tax if applicable. Contact me for purchase information.

Whispers of the Ancients

“Whispers of the Ancients” 18x24” graphite, colored pencil, acrylic and hornet nest paper on Strathmore paper.

The drawing continues my exploration of a theme of “masks”. Graphite drawing with a few touches of black colored pencil to deepen the darkest dark values and red acrylic. The outer “mat” area is bald faced hornet nest paper. Rather than creating a separate mat I wanted the integrity of adding the paper to the actual drawing surface. The outer edge of the nest paper was left rough as you might see on a deckled edge of a sheet of drawing paper. I’ve referenced the bald faced hornets in many of my drawings and felt the nest material tied in perfectly with the subject and theme of this series and this drawing in particular.

Adhering the hornet nest paper to the drawing surface. I used pieces from two different nests, carefully disassembling the paper in layers.

Open Edition Prints now Available

I will now be offering a greater selection of open edition prints through my Saatchi Art online gallery. “The Imperialist” and “Moonflower Maiden” are now available today through Saatchi in both fine art paper and/or canvas editions. For more information see my Saatchi Art page.

“The Imperialist” (cropped)

“Moonflower Maiden”


“Masquerade” 16x13.5” graphite with colored pencil on Strathmore paper

I’ve done a few drawings in the past that were inspirited by the unraveling of the paper exterior of bald faced hornet’s nests. This is another. It’s also one of my favorite types of drawings to do, just me sitting down with a pencil and paper and seeing where the drawing wants to take me. The only reference on this piece was a couple of feathers, one from a hawk the other from a Baltimore oriole that were found in a local park, and an old bell that hangs as an ornament on our Christmas tree. Oddly enough, my studio mate, Guinness the dog, turned up a chunk of a hornet’s nest in the snow after the drawing was completed. Interesting timing!

Wanderlust 4 Artwork

I’m thrilled to say that I will be participating again this year in “Wanderlust” the 4th annual travel themed, postcard sized, art show at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.

A preview of my two postcard sized drawings for Wanderlust 4.

My work for the show began with the idea that every great trip leaves a great story to tell. And so I began to create a scenario in my mind of a couple of adventurous types traveling back in the day, and what they may have experienced, when suddenly the story went sideways, (as happens all too often) and morphed into something more. Many times there is a story running through my mind as I create a piece of work but I usually don’t write them down letting the viewer interpret the work for themselves. This time I did write the story down, the story of a couple of travelers, an artist, and an old red book…

To the finder.
Inspired by discovery of the Great Pyramid, wealthy socialites Granger and Lyla Cashington left their home in London for an extended journey abroad. Their excursion took them to a particularly remote corner of the globe whereupon a series of navigational miscalculations threw them off track. In a failed attempt to retrace their route, they stumbled across a remote, uncharted settlement, shrouded in dense mist.
Visitors were a rare commodity in this unknown place, and the Cashington party was treated to a royal welcome. A lavish ceremony was held in their honor and all manner of food and drink were served. One exceptional delicacy was reserved for the Cashingtons alone and the villagers buzzed with glee like giant insects as they ate it.
Guided by villagers, the crew returned to their path, made way to a seaport and then boarded a ship for home. Friends and relations gathered to welcome Granger and Lyla upon their return, and a series of dinner parties were planned in their honor.
At the last of the summer soire╠ües a traveling artist was engaged to render drawings of the guests. He made his living journeying from town to town offering his skill as a purveyor of “distinctly different” portraits, and was hired after insisting he possessed the unique ability to discern traits in his subjects others could not.
After much pleading by the hosts, Granger and Lyla Cashington reluctantly agreed to sit and let the artist draw their likeness, but when they appeared before him he gasped aloud. His legs buckled and he knocked over over his easel scattering pencils and paper across the floor. Pale as a ghost he fled the party for the safety of his hotel room.
A chill ran down his spine. His head was spinning. What he had seen at the party was the stuff of nightmares. The world saw Lyla and Granger Cashington as a glamorous high society couple but his view was different. He saw the burden they carried, the darkness spreading through them. Should he tell someone? Call the police? Who would believe his story?
Deep in thought he wrestled with his choices until suddenly the clanging of alarm bells jolted him upright.
A raging fire had broken out. The flames spread quickly, engulfing the hotel and knifing their way through his door. His world became an orange-red blaze and he fell to the floor unconscious. The artist survived the inferno, but, badly burned, and raving unconsolably, he was conveyed to a dilapidated, distant, sanitarium where any story of the Cashington’s true nature, as only he perceived it, was dismissed as madness.
Recovered, but frail and withdrawn, the artist spent his days sketching in the sanitarium’s library. He drew incessantly, mumbling to himself as he recorded his memories of the Cashingtons and their terrible secret. His doctors claiming the “demented drawings” injurious to his health destroyed the work as quickly as it was produced and so he hid his two most carefully rendered pieces between the pages of a red cloth bound book.
The artist remained at the sanitarium until his passing. The decrepit building was eventually torn down and it’s contents, including the musty old library books, were donated to charity. It was an unremarkable collection of books to be sure, with the exception of one volume, an old, red cloth bound book, containing a cautionary tale about the dangers one may encounter when exploring the uncharted and unknown, a warning recorded not in the text on its pages, but in the drawings placed between them.
“Wanderlust 4” opens Saturday December 10 at Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco.