University of Texas, Pan America, study abroad trip- Peru, June 2015


Thankyou Charles Clark Chevrolet for making this Study Abroad trip possible for me.


‘The more I give myself permission and enjoy it without feeling guilty or judgmental about any other time, the better I feel about the quality of my work’

This quote summed up how I approached the Study abroad trip with U.T.P.A. from June 7th to June 24th 2015.

I had given this trip more careful planning than my usual trips due to the mountainous terrain we would be negotiating. I was very excited about this excursion due to a childhood fascination with a character I followed on Children’s BBC called Paddington Bear, he claimed he came from darkest Peru. 3,200 mi SA_Lima copy

We stayed in Miraflores district of Lima in a charming hotel with a short walk to the coast.


Lima is home to a third of Peru’s entire population of 30 million. From a climate perspective, it averages 5co (2in) of rainfall per year. Despite that, it has been home to continued civilizations due to it’s high humidity of clouds called garua which hangs between the foothills and coast, home to Lima. This makes it rich agriculturally because of this microclimate.


In Miraflores, where we saw the Huaca Pucllana, a ceremonial and administrative center built by the Lima civilization between 400 and 700AD and later inhabited by the conquering Wari culture and eventually the Incas, who arrived when the Huaca was already being used for agricultural purposes rather than as a temple or site for ceremonies. Archaeologists are still excavating the complex.

Below is a group shot during our first evening in Peru. Thanks Erik Qeler for the photo.

Erik Qeler_photo of group in Lima


After visiting the Pyramid, Eric and Nicole pictured here we walked back towards our hotel and stopped for an almost Barcelonaesque scene. I think the bus pick us up in this square before driving us back.

We visited the Historical Center of Lima after lunch and i used it as an opportunity to paint the Lima Cathedral viewed behind Eric, Sarah and myself. I appreciated that Dr. Robert Bradley who has an excellent appreciation of Peruvian Cuisine always made sure after a trip, we would visit a fascinating place to eat. The image on the right had a huge collection of National flags and visiting football supporters from abroad as well as local Lima football clubs.

historic center

The Larco Museum we visited in the evening. It’s collection of MesoAmerican Artifacts  in regard to the Analytical portrait renditions in pottery plus the sophistication of their aesthetic stylisation were a rare treat, perhaps the best collection of this type in the world.



What appears to be an ornate necklace is infact a Quipu. These were used by Inca’s as a codec system.


I enjoyed the mural design scattered around the Miraflores district of Peru.

In Lima’s historical district is this library housed in some beautiful architecture and across from the library is a Church designed in typical Rococo Baroque style.


The next morning we headed of to Pachacamac, coastal ruin Only 19 miles (30km)  south of Lima. Basically, a desert next to the ocean.



Sarah Elizabeth’s photo of the UTPA group headed for the Tempo Del Sol

bus trip The trip was comfortable on this nice coach. I took a nap on it on the way back.

“Pachacámac” in Quechua means “Pacha” world, and “camac” to animate – “The One who Animates the World.” Culturally and chronologically it is related to Chancay, and other centers of the Cuismancu empire, including Huari. At the time of the Spanish conquest it was a major Inca shrine. The first occupation of Pachacamac began around 200 AD with complex architecture, included were stone walls that served as the base for the fantastic adobe structures. With the arrival of the Huari culture in 650 AD, Pachacamac’s influence extended to other zones of the central, and the coastal Andes. Numerous Huari influences appear on the ceramics and textiles of the site. After Huari’s collapse, Pachacamac grew in size, eventually covering 210 acres.

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The next morning we headed to the Lima Airport and flew to Cusco. Distance between Lima and Cuzco is 572.44 km (355.7 miles). As soon as we landed in Cusco we caught a coach at the Airport and headed to Pisco.

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The coach journey was beautiful,the contrast of the high mountain peaks and the fertile valleys made a fantastic contrast of colors. When we eventually reached Pisco Town, the coach took up the whole width of the street. As we the main party of our group was located in the central part of the town, this made for a fascinating bus ride.

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The picture to the left is the cafe that was right next to the ladies hotel. The men were about a quarter of a mile from the center with this amazing view behind me. This was our chance to acclimate and do some mountain hiking.

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Visiting the Pisac Ruins of the Sacred Valley

Visiting the Pisac Ruins, the photo below on the left is of the Intihuatana, which means “sun calendar” in Quechua, is from above. Photo on the right is of our Professor of History, Dr. Robert Bradley. Our walking encyclopedia for Inca History.

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Quechua woman in the Sacred Valley, Peru. So the Quechua language was spoken by the Inka’s as well as by Pre-Inca civilizations. What i found fascinating was the bowler hat? The hat has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was brought to the country by British railway workers.

The Sacred Valley is the home for Southern Peruvian Quechua. In Ecuador Quechua is a transplanted Imperial language the Inca brought in.

Quecha women

Jim Sykes on the right purchasing some items from the Quechua lady. Some of the group on the same path up to the mountain.


On the way back down the mountain, i hooked up with Sarah Elizabeth and Erik Queler.

That is Eric going down the mountain, it was a shortcut. The shortcut in future, i will not be wanting to take again. At the bottom of the shortcut, this chap informed me the route we had taken was not  good one and pointed the the safer route directly behind him. He managed to sell me this memento which i bought as a reminder, beware of shortcuts in the Andes.


The rest of the journey down was a lot more tranquil in comparison.

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A few days later we headed to Ollantaytambo. ON the Coach journey there we stopped along the way. I loved the stark contrast of the houses that were painted and their juxtaposition to the mountains behind them. There were so many places i wanted to stop and paint a picture of.


Ollantaytambo was another amazing place of interest. I certainly was expecting to visit a Disco or gate crash a wedding. The hosts at the wedding kept handing us beers, even the babies were drinking beer. I was asked to dance a few times. Up until the Peru trip, being asked to dance was like most people think about being in a fire or drowning, fortunately, a few nights before Sarah Elizabeth patiently taught me some simple steps. That gave me at least the confidence to attempt a form of dance. The Quechua ladies were extremely fit, their dancing moves very athletic and they could drink a pub dry, respect.


The place Sarah Elizabeth talk me some moves      The wedding gate crash

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That was my location while painting the magnificent view. Meanwhile while being serenaded  by Nicole Guzman, a Champion singer for mariachi and upbeat rancheras for Texas. She possesses an amazing voice.  It all added to the beautiful ambience.


Later in the day, down in the valley from that mountain, the tour included a culinary experience that dates back 4000 years. An earth oven to bake the food. The menu was variety and extremely tasty. A variety of Potatoes, vegetables and meat protein.10407222_10152830771861971_4852241219186699584_n

While everyone was waiting for the results from the earth oven, i thought i’d paint a scene. It was a challenge because the sun was setting quickly.



Good food, happy people.



these evening get togethers at local restaurants were always fun before moving onto the next town.

Aguas Calentes and Machu Picchu

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The train journey was one of the most amazing train journeys i’ve ever experienced. Going through the Central Highlands on a train with glass ceilings is a vista paradise.


The station at Aguas Calentes was a very narrow platform due to how it’s design is factored into the steep mountain passes.

Train at Clenetias

From our hotel room, we could see how the real estate is well planned in order to facilitate rail infrastructure.



This was a little an interesting little market near our hotel. Not frequented by tourist because it was shown to me by our tour guide Jim Sykes. I like it because i got a full stomach for a lot of food for about 2 dollars.


Factoring in the soccer pitch was impressive due to limited space. It also acted as a social hub for a lot of the townsfolk.



Artist, Activists. Poets, writers, singers, history scholars from South Texas and Mexico about to climb up to Machu Picchu, what could go wrong, nothing, it was awesome.



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I am getting a little thirsty at this point and low on water. Wheres Coco leaves and lime when you need it.



that was an epic experience



The following evening there was a Copa America., we went to a local bar to watch.


Heading back from Machu Picchu

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The journey back took much longer, there were many delays. So i got out my sketch book and drew.  Ivete Kuete joined in the art jam.


we only stayed a night, because we had spend sometime here already. I am sat here drinking coffee, waiting for the bus to our next adventure.


Painting in Peru

My medium for painting in Peru for plein air was Watercolor. As you probably already know, plein air is french translated into English meaning, “in the open air” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. You might wonder why use that word. Whats important about any discipline or profession are semantics. Basically the use of words associated with a particular discipline/ profession have a dictionary that comes with that area of work or study. So the word used here ‘plein air’, is synonymous in Art History and with all people studying and practising art.

The main factor for choosing this medium was the regions i grew up in and am uncle who first showed me how to paint, he used watercolor. All the art clubs had watercolor and oil where the staple mediums for most hobbyist. I spent probably about 15 years trying to develop my watercolor skills in my formative years of starting out. In the last 15 years i’ve hardly used them, except on a business trip abroad to South East Asia about 5 years ago. I felt Peru was a good choice for the medium because of the climate, i though pleasant temperature that would be amiable to the medium.

Water color kit

So I choose a some basics colors, Cadmium, Ochre and Chrome Yellow. Ceruleum and Cobalt Blue along with Rose and a darker red, sorry the label has worn off, so i can’t read what they are. I will say basically, you want two types of red, a light red and a dark red. I try to always have two primaries of each set, two blues, reds and yellows, but i had three yellows types on this trip because i thought i might run out. Also i bought a chinese white just in case i wanted to break out the Designer Gouche, which i ended up rarely using. I bought also a Chinese Marker pencil, some crayons and a few graphite sticks. The brush i use is a fairly expensive one., a Petit Cris that is squirrel hair. The reason is the water retension of this type of brush is impressive. I am able to paint a lot longer with one dip of the water cup and the variation of thickness is gently touching into the variation of a Chinese Water color pen brush.

My first day painting was in Lima on the 8th, in the Administrative Square. It was unusually warm for a Lima winter, El Nino was not plunging the city into overcast, but it was warm clear skies. The key also was precipitation, a key component to drying time for the water colorist. It was low and my applied water color to the page was drying relatively quickly and was allowing me to layer more washes over the top. So paying attention to meteorology has some practical advantages, it can help you decide on what medium to use during your opportunity to break out the painting or sketch pad.


Below is where I painted the above scene from. What i really enjoyed about the experience besides admiring the beautiful architecture, was the interaction of the locals. They taught me some spanish while another would graciously empty and refill my water. The main group of students had gone into view the interior of the Church. I was too wrapped up in the beauty of my location outside. I think i gave the dog some of my water, a friendly soul.

Painting in LimaPhoto courtesy of Miriam Michelle Bootz

002_smallTemple of Pachamac Ruins, south of Lima

This was the next day on our adventure. The difficulty was finding a good view, it was sparse and desert like visual. Nice temperature, but the humidity was higher and i had problems waiting to paint wet on dry, because the paint was taking it’s time to dry. Also the staff at the site told me to stop painting or they would eject me. When one of the students asked them why, the reason given was the Belgian archeologists would not be happy about me painting it


Pisac, our first evening. An enchanting place, with good company and Coco leaves. A Golden Valley well named as the Sun kisses the top of the mountain. The precipitation was high and it took a long time for the paper to dry. I had to finish this painting later on.

.An eveing in June at the Town of Pisac, Cusco, Peru. It was a pleasant evening, around 7.00pm. Sipping coffee on a balcony with a gentle caressing Andean chill in the air.

Admiring the mountain back drop, the only clue to it’s immense presence, specs of light from the dwellings higher up, plus the sea of stars silhouetting her peaks. Also, the fact i had climb004_smalled to those elevations earlier that day to explore one of her jewels, a beautiful Inca ruin.

The market’s plastic coverings were being patiently dismantled by the village inhabitants, only to be reconstructed again early in the morning. I can still hear the market traders gently talking in Spanish with the same grace and economy of pace they poetically display daily, while climbing her inca steps from the golden valley to the heavens.

Perhaps the stones and rocks are recording their utterings, so that future generations can understand and enjoy their revelations.


Intihuatana Ruins, Cusco, Peru

Another Ruin i got asked to leave. They thought my watercolors would damage the rocks. I thought it was absolutely far enough, they had no way of knowing my paints were water soluble. I think with a nation’s national treasure such as these architecture wonders, they can’t take risks. All i can say about the journey up to the mountain to get this painting is, that it was a wonderful walk because it was my first attempt at hiking this attitude, a good acclimation.



The painting was looking over towards an Inca Grain storage in the middle right at the town of Ollantayambo. The conditions were ideal and i was beginning to remember how much fun watercolor was, in that, i wasn’t corralling cats, i was fine tuning pigment alchemy.

Photo on left, courtesy Ana Carlina Delgado


The next day, we climbed another mountain at Ollantayambo an i painted the same Inca Grain storage you can see on the left. At this point i was very much enjoying the medium. The weather condition were excellent, a warm temperature with low precipitation.


This was my location for the painting that day. Again another Inca monument but no custodians at this particular location. That meant of course, no concern to consider. I of course was respectful of the monument and left the site as i had found it.


This is a place i had dreamed about being able to visit and paint. I didn’t realise i would actually have the opportunity to fulfil that dream. I painted it as if nothing else in the world mattered and i was in a place of tranquility and all my concerns and cares melted away. I just admired this engineering wonder of the world and tried in a limited time frame of approximately to capture it gesturally. I was the hottest day during my visit to Peru and i got some sun burn on my foot. I had put sunblock on but did not cover my whole foot. The exciting aspect of painting this scene from life, I was able to appreciate the sun changing position and through that observation, I was able to understand and appreciate the structure in a manner not really possible from a photograph.


I then made my way along the Inca trail to a higher elevation were the Sun Temple was located. From that view i was able to gesture Machu Picchu from the other side of the mountain. By this time i was dehydrated, i had used most of the water i carried with me on the paintings. This was going to be an interesting trip back down and no Coco leaves and lime to chew on to off set fatigue and water loss.


This was a view from the hotel in Cousco in the breakfast room. I was able to enjoy good conversation and paint a beautiful scene. The tiled roofs reminded me of Provence, Sicily and parts of Spain.


The Inca Fort above Cousco and our last day there. I wanted to contrast the Inca Fort with the modernity of the current settlement down below in the distance. Jim Sykes had asked anyone earlier if they wanted to walk down with him. I volunteered because i wanted to paint longer and not have the time constraint of catching the bus. It was a fantastic walk down, and we stopped in a restaurant before meeting up with the main group.


My last day in Peru, Lima. I had walked down in the early morning to paint this then returned the later in the day with Miriam, Rafael and Gladys. I thought, Brighton Pier, this was a surprise in terms of architectural style, i had to paint it.

Dance centre in Cusco

Last weekend, my last in Peru, i went with Miriam Michelle Bootz and Norma Perez to try and use up our slots on the museum ticket for Cousco before heading back to Lima. We managed to get to one museum, but understandably, the other Museums were shut, it was Sunday after all. What i didn’t expect was, the Culture Center and their performance of dance.

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My thoughts on Peruvian culture and in this particular case, central Peru, has managed to preserve and cultivate it’s past while assimilating certain aspects of contemporary modernism. In some ways, similar to a living language. Refreshingly dynamic and perpetual. The adaptation of this artistic forms means, it’s relevance as living cultural conduit has a promising legacy for present and future generations.


It somehow preserves the etymology of traditions whether pre or post Colombian, in a manner that clearly communicates a raw accessibly visual art to the outsider. It’s resonates emphatically to your core, as a beautiful universal language.

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The dance I love for a number of reasons; color, variety of dress, the clarity of gender role. This aspect may be deemed suspicious, depending on your presupposition of what gender role infers, so I will try and elaborate. I love that the expression of love from both genders expresses an equal. An expression of mutual consensual love towards each other. There is not a Coercion of one dominating the other. Regardless of matriarchies or patriarchies, the dancers infer neutrality towards a mutual union of love.

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Another aspect of the symbolism of the dance, is it’s use of fertility symbols displays a universal bond with indigenous cultures that are indeed ubiquitous.

Again, I stress my ignorance of many aspects of this culture, but this is the inference I am deducing from what I have witnessed.

In many instances, being in the physical presence of a performance cannot be communicated via a secondary medium. So I am certainly struggling to find the best words to honor what i witnessed.

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Much of my description is emotive, however I will continue to research and study this area of South America in the hope of building my knowledge base in a steady pace as time allows. It will allow me to refine and revise my observations and continue to enjoy it’s fascinating culture.

Estimado Perú , gracias por deleitándose aspectos de tu hermoso corazón latiendo a mí. Estoy en deuda .

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Exhibition, UTPA 2012

Exhibition Overview

2D to 3D is an exhibition that explores the anatomy of process for a visual artist where the commercial arts are used in an industry such as animation, games or creating a 3D product for a toy franchise.  I emphasize the traditional sketch process for capturing ideas and I also show how to use technology as part of composing and painting a traditional canvas with brush and acrylics.

Marketing to Art faculty through LiveStream Broadcast with TriCaster.

I did some marketing for my gallery exhibition by staging a prequel event a week before the opening. Designing and creating the poster was my first objective.

I did a  live stream event using USTREAM from my studio in San Antonio TX and gave the password link for a class room in UTPA, in Edinburg TX, about four and a half hours drive away. The equipment i used to live stream, was NewTek’s TriCaster along with its Virtual Set Editor.

Below are some examples of the virtual set I used in my LiveStream Webcast on the 18th of September.

Above: The Virtual Set called “Atrium”, designed by NewTek’s Carlos Villareal, is the one I used for this particular Webcast. I was also able to see and hear the students live.

As part of my live Webcast to UTPA, I was able to use TriCaster’s camera zoom function to describe my sketch book process.

Turning the Virtual Character into Physical Reality

Fortunately, I have access to two 3D Printers, one at University of Texas Pan Am and the other at NewTek’s headquarters in San Antonio that enabled me to show the transformation of a computer file into a physical product.

Donna Sweigart who teaches jewelry uses the 3D Printer and  first introduced me to this process. These were my first two project files that she printed and used to help me understand the process.

One of the great privileges of working for NewTek is the collection of people who work there. Kevin  Rouviere and Shawn Wisniewski who work in the Engineering department have been using the 3D Printer for a number of years now for prototyping hardware design. I was able to use their experience and advice to help me refine what I had learned with Donna at UTPA.

Sketchbook Display Cabinet

The catalyst of how an idea begins is thoroughly addressed through the display of my sketchbooks. The first spark of an idea, converted into a scribble. Vignettes show where these ideas may occur are grouped to help promote the idea of recording an idea wherever possible.

Through the generosity of the International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS) in McAllen, I was able to get the loan of the display cabinet and some of their staff to help with the installation.

In the image above I displayed a grouping of sketch books with each image labeled as to where it was sketched or painted.

Arranging the artwork into groups here with just some of the many volunteers. Invaluable help that saved me many hours of work.

Overview of Concept and Philosophy.

The personal development of an idea may not appear to be logical to the uninitiated, but to the educator keen to reference processes, I chart the idea’s journey to it’s goal: a finished product. The context of why we record an initial idea is addressed and framed.

The context of that initial idea is often lost in the rhetoric – because it is a drawing, the creator must be an artist. The issue is, first and foremost, you are recording ideas as a process of problem solving. The drawing’s benefits are shown to be broader than the context of trying to create pretty pictures, or finished products in themselves.  The student is constrained by this idea — I show, by sheer volume, that the initial idea doesn’t have to be polished, it just has to be expressed.

This exhibition tries to highlight that my drawings are merely a process, my concern is the idea, not it’s aesthetic look. The student liberates himself from the outward appearance of their scribble, by realizing that style and appearance are arbitrary in the process of developing an idea. The ideas are addressed specifically as concept sketches, not finished illustrations.

Second day of setting up the artwork on the walls of the gallery.

That is not to say I abandon a particular methodology or world view when thinking about how to express that idea. Those ideas are drawn with a world view that believes in a universal communication based on a classical understandings of how to describe a 3Dimentional world onto a 2D piece of paper.

That treatment is extended all the way through to my finished 3D product using an advanced 3D Application, whether in creating a character as an asset for a 3D game or a 3D Printed model.

Opening Reception and Audience Participation

My exhibition opening is participatory from the attendee’s experience after I deliver an initial overview of why I use my approach and why the gallery’s art content is displayed in the order it is.

Above: I loved that I could leave my keyboard and go point to the big projector screen and highlight specific aspects of detail. The Colombian Mammoth gave me an opportunity to communicate the importance of research. Studying the characteristics of a particular species of animal and how that gives you latitude creatively.

Above: Scribble warmup exercise. The audience participation begins with me showing some warmup techniques I use to get the artistic juices flowing.

I demonstrated with the aid of a Wacom digital display drawing tablet. The audience could see my mark making and explain my reason for employing a particular approach. A number of tables were brought into the gallery space just for the opening night. Each table was covered with paper and crayons randomly sprinkled on each of the tables.

Above: A scribble doodle jam by artists wrapped up in the moment, I love to see this.

The participants who want to be involved pick up a crayon and go through the basic warmup exercises, then are able to experiment with that technique and play with some of their own ideas.

Graffiti on the BIG wooden work bench!

For the particular exhibition at University of Texas Pan Am, I was fortunate enough to meet Mark Cloet, an incredible artist from Belgium, who was spending time here as a Fulbright Scholar. He suggested I extend my idea of drawing on a linen napkin at restaurants to drawing on a wooden table used in one of the student’s workshops at the University, as part of the introductory segment for the opening night.

Cloet made the initial marks, then I joined in. Mark proceeded to encourage other participants into the communal ‘art jam’. This was odd, but by serendipity, an overlap to some degree in the industrial art I highlight through part of the exhibition display, in particular the Storyboard section, which is a collaborative process. This chap was truly an inspiration in his attitude towards art and how to gently coerce people to be proactive and become involved in the process of art. I could not but be impressed by this rare inspiring individual. Thank you Belgium for sharing him.

Digital Tools and Expanding the Problem Solver’s Horizon

The other crucial aspect of this exhibition’s purpose is to show the process leading to an end product. I touched on some of those end results in order again to frame a context for why we need a defined process. I briefly take the attendees through a series of finished rendered images, but I also show them a sneak look at the 3D Application that is always the hub for my digital process, the Grand Central for the creation of my 3D Assets, LightWave 3D.

Above: NewTek’s LightWave 3D User Interface and the I.K. set up of a Pterosaurs

The above theme I developed, is a series of concepts called Ptolemies travels. This is just one group of characters I rendered in LightWave’s 3D application.

The above image was a concept motor bike I designed, a cross between a Harley Davidson Panhead 1948 and a Tron Bike.

A concept character I developed for a series of paintings for a future exhibition.

All the images above are examples of character development using NewTek’s LightWave 3D, an Emmy-winning modelling, animation and rendering application.

Demonstrating how the digital technology is part of the process and evolution of the design is a crucial element of the exhibition. Therefore, it is another tool at the disposal of the artist. The philosophy remains the same on my approach when involving the technology as part of the process.

Requiem of the Amazon: Journey of a Canvas.

A more unusual category I include in my presentation is how the digital process works for me.  Rather than being the finalizing of an idea from the initial idea created with a crayon, the digital tool can be the initial process that helps me as reference when transferring my idea to a more traditional art form: painting on canvas.

Here was an example of that process. This is a canvas I painted which was graciously  loaned to the University Gallery for my exhibition by Kirk Clark.

A nervous part of the transit of the canvas for me. Too many doors to negotiate.

The painting for the opening night was displayed in the lobby, but the next day moved into the gallery for better security.

This was displayed at the entrance of the gallery.

The mounting area was too big for the poster, so the Gallery assistant, Janette Pena, suggested I draw some characters around the poster on the board. I used chalk and charcoal. A big Thank You to Janette Pena for providing all the photos in this post that show the gallery set up and the reception.

Dr. Susan Fitzsimmons, Department Chair for the UTPA Fine Arts Department gives an overview in regard to the goals of the Exhibition:

Susan Fitzsimmons,

Chair, UTPA

We hit the Jackpot with the exhibit by Graham Toms. He is not only an extraordinary artist but a phenomenal teacher. When I went to his talk at UTPA last spring I noticed how he was able to captivate the entire audience of students in a large auditorium. The idea popped into my mind in late July to invite him to exhibit and work with our students for a longer period of time. Fortunately, he was both enthusiastic and energetic, and we managed to stage a coupe—not only the exhibit created within a few months but the opportunity for students to work with a real professional in the field of animation.

Graham worked collaboratively with students and the audience at his opening exhibit, and this interaction and energy was an exciting performance of process. It is the rare opportunity to see group creation, everyone working on his own path, but collectively to achieve a goal. It was collective dance of joy around a drawing table. Remember when the role of artists was to draw out the beautiful and noble from contemporary life?

Graham is able to work across disciplines, and to communicate with a diverse audience. The young students are enthralled by his images and artistic skills and the sophisticated collector can appreciate the depth of his themes.

The rate of technological innovation has rapidly outpaced social evolution, and in the area of art academic learning, we have been slow to react. Graham Toms models the virtues of “Those who can do” and challenges academics to work outside their silo. As Pearl Bailey said: “Them’s that thinks they is, ain’t.”

It is gratifying to introduce students to a life-long learner, a creator who embodies all that they wish to become. Graham Toms work is the intelligent response to the perception of value, and that is a universal message that has not been lost in the murky waters of contemporary life.

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Painting Exhibition- Avian Serenity- 7th July til 4th August – At Pam’s Patio Kitchen,

Avian Serenity – The goal of this exhibition is to narrow down the visual subject and emotional narrative. By doing so the artist is forced to work with a more confined choice in the hope that the restricted subject will be explored with greater depth. The end result yields a greater degree of variety on the particular subject.

I want to capture the essence of a particular bird, but at the same time avoid making the birds look like suspended lumps of concrete or chiseled bird shapes from driftwood. This is something i notice with many depictions of birds, beautiful detail, but stilted execution resulting in a frozen inanimate rendering. It is a difficult balance to achieve what i want, because i am prone to using a particular method of gazing. This usually results in a more defined detailed rendering than an impressionistic gesture.

I want the feeling of motion, like the wind whipping up the plumes of the bird while resting on branches, but at the same time i want to describe in sharp focus specific areas of detail depending on the pose and angle.

Below are three images revealing a little of my process for preparing a gold leaf base effect for some of my canvases for this up and coming exhibition.

1) Glaze medium. This is used to bind the paint compounds together.

2) Bronze metal powder, Bronze powder premixed. I prefer the powder unmixed so i can figure out my own ratios for mixing.

3) Bronze residue left in my water bucket. I use this bucket to stand my brushes in while i work. Then wash the brushes out with soap when I’m finished. Finished as in, when you finish each session of painting you rinse brushes out. I confess to shirking this important chore and left them standing for days, this is extremely naughty and bad for your brushes. If the brushes had a voice, they would be like the Animals in George Orwel’s Animal Farm writing their own little manifesto against me.

Ah….another very important point to make is when you are mixing the bronze powder into the glaze, wear a mask, I mix outdoors.

Below are the paintings with a Gold leaf base effect

Yellow and Blue symphony

Deer lookout

Lovebird Huddle

The images below, the landscapes are primary and the birds secondary to the importance of the narrative. I find landscape painting difficult technically, i choose to include a lot of variables and execute them quickly, owning to my attention span constantly being challenged by other competing desires……such as napping, shoe lace tying and being interrupted and figuring out any random noise..

The West of Ireland

The Enchanted Antrim Glen-

The painting below, i am using Gold iridescent paint.

Golden symphony

Below is a painting still in progress. I am calling it “Fibonaccis beauty”. This painting will be the main center piece owing to it’s size and ambition. Fibonacci introduced to Europe the Hindu-Arabic numerals. The painting is loosely playing with the rule of thirds and the Golden Mean Spiral. The rule of thirds can be applied to many things, it’s a system that is thought to reflect universal truths about the maths used to create perfect balances in the Universe, weather it’s a face, a sea shell or used in Architecture.

Fibonaccis beauty

The composition is loosely based on this particular Golden means using the thirds principle, it’s known as Fibonacci Spiral. For my painting i have flipped it and rotated it 90 degrees.

I have started to work on a halo to emphasizing the idea of a perfect balance or universal truth. A concept that would have been incorporated into the world view of the people using this system from the classical period. It certainly would have been incorporated into the Ptolemaic world view. I am alluding to the period in art History of the Byzantium Empire that would have had access to this knowledge of ratios and many other classical concepts.

“Fibonacci’s beauty” is watching me carefully to make sure my handy work is up to standard. Below is the finished piece.

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Graham Toms, 3D Education specialist- Texas Longhorn Comission- 4x stage process

Here is a commission done for a rancher from Seguin, Texas, to paint his 2x Texas Longhorns. I felt this was a great opportunity to study this animals anatomy in some detail. I decided to make the project ‘fun’, fun as in challenging.

Instead of just copying from a photo, I decided to create both bulls in 3D using an application called LightWave 3D. This process was carried through with the aid of other applications such as Zbrush, 3D Coat and Photoshop. The bulk of this process involves sculpting the subjects in polygons, texturing with muscle detail ( called Displacement maps), color detail, rigging the character to move the bull in to any particular pose I want. This also includes staging the bull for dramatic lighting and a good point of view to add to the drama of 2 bulls.

In the original photo, the bulls appear to be gently sparring with their horns. With my pose I want to exaggerate it as a serious confrontation between to huge bulls sparring over territory to make the narrative more engaging.

I am going to share a description and explanation of my methodology. I hope you find it engaging and hopefully useful it you are involved in the visual arts or are aspiring to break into this particular profession.

Here was the jpgs of his Texas Longhorns sent to me via Email by the client.


A crucial part of any subject is research. A few photos isn’t going to give you enough information when designing. However, if we do limit ourselves to just a few photo references we are restricting our latitude. That means we are limiting ourselves to a more holistic understanding of our subject that we could greatly benefit in future projects. So besides the photos which are indeed important because the client wants his bulls represented in the painting, I use other references as show in picture below.

Using plenty of good anatomy books on animals as well as faithfully reproduced plastic animals along the way. I also study a variety of different cattle types because there may be something another breed emphasizes better than the Longhorn breed. Anything that will enhance the look of the subject, I will incorporate.

The image below is what is know as a base mesh.  This mesh is a polygoned model that has to have an economical amount of polygons. It must also have equally spaced polygons  for the purposes of UV mapping. UV mapping I will explain a little later on. Also the base mesh has to have what is know as good poly-flow. The poly-flow is where the quad are created in a way that will echo the physiology of the animals muscularity. This is very important if I want to move the bull in a particular pose, or animate it. The polyflow will deform the mesh in a way that must compliments the animals physiology, not distort it in a manner that looks unnatural.

Once the base mesh is created I need to create the detail that discribes the Muscles and the texture colors of my subject. Before that can be done I need to create a UV map. This process projects a texture map onto a 3D object. The letters “U” and “V” are used to describe the 2D mesh.

Here is my particular method, below is am image showing my object transferred to 3D Coat. LightWave is great at transferring data from it’s native application to a multitude of other 3rd party applications.

Below is an image showing how i have selected edges of polygons on my model to create a flattened bull hide. The hide makes it easy for me to transfer in to photoshop and quickly editing my textures if I need to. To create the hide i had to select edges along a row of polygons then click a function that flattens those polygons out. Here the spacing of polygons becomes important. Keeping all the quad polygons relatively the same size, the detail painted onto each polygon will be a similar resolution.

When the UV map is created, i open the Longhorn in LightWave and check the new UV map. The next step is to now export the Base Mesh of my longhorn along with it’s brand new UV map into ZBrush for painting Color textures and Displacement maps. The image below shows the indispensable Wacom Cintiq 21 inch and the image to the right is the Bull texture painted using the tablet.

I am able to paint directly onto the 3D model because of the UV map. Here is what the texture on the Longhorn looks like mapped onto the UV.

However, ZBrush does do an auto map UV, which when bought into Lightwave would look like this

So I’ll quickly summarize the steps-

1) Build base mesh in LightWave’s Modeler

2) Build UV map to create ‘animal hide”.

3) Paint texture maps and Displacement map directly on to 3D Base Mesh

The next stage is now to set up an FK or IK system for the bull. Basically the FK and IK is a form of puppetry that allows us to pose or animate the bull into desired position. I have the Longhorn in LightWaves Layout and begin to construct the FK through a system called joints. Below, the image shows the Joint system. I make a copy of the longhorn and make a different texture map.

Now i can test different camera positions and lens types, plus experiment with different lighting effects, such as a distant light spot light or area light. I initially just work in monochrome so i can focus on the other all design and dramatic lighting. I have rendered the image in LightWave then taken the rendered image into Photoshop for some highlight re touching.

When I am happy with the pose, angle and lighting, I apply all the color texture maps.

I am ready to use this reference for my canvas painting. I initially start with a tonal study to focus on composition,  shading and lighting.

This stage shows me now applying the first glazes of color. Good lighting and a solid easel help a great deal especially with large heavier canvases.

Here is a better view of the first application of glaze color over the top of the monochromatic under coat

Here is stage 2 of color glazing below, the colors are very saturated and quickly applied. I’ll probably need another 8 layers of color glazing to get the finish i need.

This image below is the third stage of color glaze. I am by this stage trying to refine gradients plus refine the muscle structure. There are still a few hours of refinement left, but by this stage, the painting starts to get more fun. The glazes create more depth or in technical terms, better volumetric. and this only happens after numerous layering, it doesn’t happen in the first application. Patience is a virtue with this method, i am terribly impatient but love to tease myself with this type of dichotomy.

The final color glaze is applied. The only thing needed now is the Gloss Varnish to project the color against UV light. plus the color will appear more saturated with the gloss will also create a better feeling of spacial depth. Also a stronger contrast between lights and darkest are enhanced.

Over the next week I hope to focus the project of the Texas Longhorn on the CGI side of things. I will be experimenting with LightWave 11’s Flocking and Instancing features after i have added walking cycles to the bulls.

Lunchtime i went to Bigz for a burger. They have great paper table cloths, my favorite, because I can draw on them. I brought my crayons, even though the burger place has their own supply for clients. I bought a plastic Bull with me.


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