Fallen Leaf

Brian Bailey, A Walk to Fallen Leaf

Brian Bailey, A Walk to Fallen Leaf, Oil on Canvas, 8″ x 10″, © 2015

I have been drawing and painting everyday for quite awhile now and I can feel my work changing.  I can feel my relationship to painting changing and my insights feel more focused and tangible.  I have a degree in art and have spent years creating and thinking about art but, in a way, I feel like I just woke up.  I’ve spent a lot of hours reading about painting recently and, at times, I’m shocked by the things that never occurred to me. It can feel like there is an overwhelming amount to learn but this is also the thought that’s most energizing.  There is always something to learn and there are always insights that are not obvious until you make a connection with someone else’s perspective.  I feel more excited about reading than at any other time I can remember.

My latest efforts have been in oil and mostly inspired by landscape.  My wife and I went to Lake Tahoe for a wedding last weekend and managed to fit in a short hike to Fallen Leaf Lake.  It was beautiful, and I came home with many new photographs.  With this latest painting, I’m using a slightly heavier impasto and I think I’ll continue down that road, building some thicker surfaces. Thanks for taking a look and your comments are always appreciated.



Into the Fog, Oil on Canvas, by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Into the Fog, Oil on Canvas, 10″ x 8″, © 2015

I’ve been thinking more about how important the relationships of shapes are in each painting.  It’s not only the shapes themselves that create a certain feeling within a composition but their relationship to the borders of the surface.  A shape very close to the edge of a plane can feel tense, as though it’s ready to fall off or it’s unwelcome.   Shapes with edges that are tucked in about a third of the way from the edge feel comfortable and settled.  The edges themselves change the way one shape relates to another.  A softened edge welcomes and blends with an adjoining shape.  One that is crisp can push away other shapes and divide the surface.  The more I think and learn about composition, the more the elements on the page have a narrative quality.  There is still so much to learn and, I think, that’s what keeps pulling me back to paint again and again.

I painted Into the Fog from a photo I took of the Golden Gate Bridge while in Tiburon, across the bay, through the cloudy sky and fog.  I’m still working on several paintings on small panels, like this one, and started a slightly larger work yesterday.  I’m still considering what to do with the 36″ x 36″ canvas leaning against the counter behind me.  It’s interesting to think about, having painted small works for quite some time.

Returning to Oil

Oil Painting by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, August Field, Oil on Canvas, 10″ x 8″, © 2015

I’ve been busy reacquainting myself with oil painting over the last couple of weeks and it feels great. I’ve even gotten out and done some plein air painting north of San Francisco. This first painting, August Field, was started that morning and finished at home.  I’m still focused on thinking in terms of composition and experimenting with how the elements of a painting support each other.  It really makes the whole painting process more enjoyable and engaging. I’m planning to continue oil painting on small canvases or panels like this one, experimenting with composition and, eventually, produce some larger works.  This second painting was produced from a photograph taken on the same morning of painting outdoors.

Oil Painting by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Respite, Oil on Canvas, 10″ x 8″, © 2015


Acrylic Painting by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, A Path to the Trees, Acrylic, 8″ x 8″ © 2015

I’ve been drawn out of the city this week, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  My mind is consumed with all of the possibilities of landscape.  I’ve been really trying to increase my knowledge of composition and am experimenting with a number of different landscape paintings.  I feel like the arrangement of elements can tell a story more than I ever have in the past.  It feels empowering to read about art and try to plug in to what other painters were thinking.  I’m sure I’ll have more to share next Friday.  As always, thank you for reading.


There is something that just feels right about drawing or simply making marks.  If you ask most people about drawing they almost immediately say something like, “I can’t even draw a stick figure.” It can be very hard to suspend judgement of the drawings that we make, but it can feel amazingly good to let go and let the images come out freely.  So this week,  I’ve taken time to explore with just a pencil and paper.  This is a drawing of my wife from an afternoon that we spent near Napa, CA.

Brian Bailey, Drawing

Brian Bailey © 2015


Golden Gate Bridge by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Golden Gate Bridge, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″ © 2015

I’ve spent much of the last week thinking about composition.  Over the last year, I’ve mostly painted scenes from around San Francisco with a focus on buildings, streets, and city life.  The compositions are dominated by sharp vertical and horizontal lines.  Shadows and trees are often the only soft and organic elements.  I went back to Baker Beach and did this painting of the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day.  There are still vertical and horizontal constructed elements but it feels more relaxed than my paintings of the city. The curve of the shoreline, the groups of trees, and the color shifts in the sand all create a pathway through the painting that I feel really good about.

I’ve been trying to see things in terms of major color groups along with light and shadow as I walk around the city.  In the past, I’ve spent lots of time on paintings without thinking about the structure that underlies the work and those paintings end up in a pile with others that “just don’t feel right.”  I’ve never been drawn to instructional materials that resemble a recipe or formula for creating art but reading about composition and looking at the way successful paintings are put together feels empowering and fascinating. It seems that lines and the weight of visual elements can make your eyes move in and out of a picture and create balance or unbalance in an unlimited number of ways.


When reading, I can appreciate an author taking some liberties and playing around with language to enhance the readers understanding or enjoyment of a story. I can also appreciate when language is succinct.  There is a rhythmic and poetic quality to the writing of a great author whether they are verbose or concise.  My latest efforts drawing and painting have been focused on squeezing as much poetry as I can out of just a few lines.

Drawing by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey © 2015

I spent some time at the beach this week drawing the Golden Gate Bridge and some gestures.  When drawing from a real-life situation, it’s impossible to reproduce every detail.  I think the best anyone can do is to capture a sense of feeling.  The more I work at drawing and painting and the more I study the work of others, I’m convinced that I should focus my efforts on simplifying and letting go.  With these drawings and all of my recent work, I’m hoping to capture a sense of life with as few lines as possible.

Drawing by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey © 2015

City Life

Watercolor Painting, Grant Street, Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Grant Street, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″ © 2015

Lately, one of the most interesting aspects of painting has been trying to find a middle ground between unfinished and overworked.  I feel like I’m edging closer to being comfortable with my process.  It’s about finding the right state of mind and being able to stay in that space for longer and longer periods of time.  It’s also about identifying when the moment has passed and I need to take a break to refocus.

I’ve been including people in all my recent paintings and it feels like discovering a new language.  I was so struck by the beauty and variety of buildings in San Francisco that, for a while, I was ignoring its residents.  Now I find myself paying more attention to the relationship that people have to the places they live. It’s interesting to notice how one influences the other…

When to Stop

Watercolor Painting, Morning Walk

Brian Bailey, Morning Walk, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″, © 2015

I think that, for me, knowing when to stop might just be the most important factor in a drawing or painting.  I’ve overworked so many paintings, thinking that I could make them better by filling in just a little more information.  I think the truth is that my work is usually strongest when I can convince myself to make it quickly and leave it alone for at least a day or two, at which point I might add a detail that makes it more striking.  Working on a painting while it’s all still wet and letting washes bleed into each other can feel like walking on a tightrope, where one false step can lead to disaster, but it can also give the work a greater sense of unity.  I feel that one of my strongest tools is leaving a washed surface alone and letting the viewer fill in the details. It’s all about knowing when to stop.

I want to say thank you to all of the people that read and comment on these posts.  Your support and encouragement are awesome!  Just a reminder, please check out my Etsy store, ArtFromBrian, if you are interested in purchasing any of the work on this site.  Thanks again!

Water and Ink

Watercolor Painting, On the Corner

Brian Bailey, On the Corner, 6″ x 6″, © 2015

Drawing in ink and combining it with watercolor has become my favorite way to paint lately.  The freedom of letting colors and edges run together is interesting and each painting feels experimental.  I’m always trying to land the work on a point of balance between controlling the painting with learned technique and discovering passages that emerge naturally.