It's 2am and freezing cold in the studio.

Tonight, it’s 23 degrees out and snowing. Only a few degrees warmer in my studio and I am wondering why I was such a slow learner from a workshop that I took several years ago. All the instructor wanted me to do was simplify with 3 colors! It seemed simple, but time after time I kept adding detail. After a few hours of this during the workshop, he kept dumbing down the paintings. I thought I understood what the goal was and yet I seem to fail miserably at it. Why wasn’t I getting the concept? It’s haunted me to this day and every now and then I start a painting out with an attempt at this formula. For the most part, it helps, but my inability to grasp the simple approach to painting has frustrated me. Every now and then, I will see a post of his showing a old master who has this concept carried through in the painting. I see it, I understand it, but dammit, I can’t seem to produce the same results! And when I read about a designer who has taken his class and “gets it” right away, I am thoroughly pissed. I am just blind to simplification? What is wrong with me? There are other painters who have this down and it’s amazing to see their process from the simple start to an amazing finished painting. Ugh. So anyways, here’s my 3 color approach to my current painting. I’m sure it haven’t dumbed it down as much as it could be. Maybe I’m holding on to visual cues to help when I start to add detail. I think I get this. The color underlying simple painting is supposed to let me know if it can stand on it’s own two feet. If it can’t then I’ve got problems.

My attempt at simplifying what is going to a busy painting once completed. 

My attempt at simplifying what is going to a busy painting once completed. 

Other things on my mind while painting tonight, are just for me to remind myself of why I paint. If any of it is useful to you, great. If not, I don’t care, I said it was for me.

1. If you are just starting out to paint and can find a mentor willing to guide your development as a painter, DO NOT WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY! I only wish I had that, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Honestly, though, I’m late to the game when it comes to painting and really didn’t show much promise early on. Thank God for the Norfolk Drawing Group!  I owe so much to everyone there for all I have learned.

2. I’m at a place now where my competition isn’t with anyone else but myself. I can see in my mind where I want my completed paintings should look like when they are finished, but rarely do they ever hit the mark.

3. Painting to just paint is reward enough for me. It’s the process of painting and getting better at it is what makes me happy. I’m at a point in my development where much of my old work has made it’s way to the trash bin.

4. I’m not a writer, and half the time I have a hard time trying to figure out what’s wrong with my own paintings that I really am no authority on how to paint.

5. The more I learn about painting, the more I feel clueless. It’s like math, I see it, but don’t expect me to break it down and communicate the reasons behind it.

6. Give up on trying to paint what sells. It doesn’t work for me, it probably won’t work for you unless you are a machine or robot. Paint what you know and love, the effort somehow transcends through to the painting.

7. If I sound mad, I am. Not at you, but at myself and the lack of progress made.

8. I forgot what 8 was for.

9. You can’t help being inspired by others. Just make sure you are feeding your influences beyond just one painter. Nobody likes a clone. So go out there and find as many painters as you can to admire and appreciate.

10. If you aren’t painting for yourself, pack it up, throw in the towel and just quit. I am grateful for every person who has loved my paintings enough to be willing to pay me for them.

I’m going to stop writing now that my feet have warmed up enough to work a little more in the studio. I hope the little heater has gotten it warmer than 30 degrees by now.

Not much heat coming out of this little guy to make a dent in the cold.  Feels like 30 degrees inside. 

Not much heat coming out of this little guy to make a dent in the cold.  Feels like 30 degrees inside. 



Doug Clarke is an award winning Plein Air and Studio painter based out of Virginia Beach. He works in oils creating plein air and studio paintings.

Graduating with Honors and Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Commonwealth University, Doug's work has evolved from commercial to fine art.  As an active member of the Norfolk Drawing Group, the painter strives for excellence in his figure drawings and paintings.  His commitment to life drawing and painting led him outdoors to paint "en plein air".  There he realized his passion for capturing light and nature in his own personal way.

Doug has been commissioned to paint both Harborfest and Neptune Festival posters for 2014.  Awards include 1st place awards for Plein Air 757,  Williamsburg Plein Air and the Plein Air Mount Lebanon quick draw competitions, as well as a three time winner of the Historic Fort Monroe Plein Air Exhibition.  His paintings are collected far and abroad internationally.  Doug’s work is currently represented by Harbor Gallery and the Ellen Moore Gallery.

In pursuit of mastering his craft, he has participates in local and national plein air events

When painting outdoors, Doug is very passionate about capturing the vanishing landscapes of Southeastern Virginia.