Adam Houston

American Impressionist Oil Painter

Bound for Glory

No. 122 is a larger portrait of Woody Guthrie. I tried to take the things I learned with 121 and bring that same spirit into the larger version. It’s a totally different painting but I really wanted this one to look and feel like him.

In regards to the subject– there is no way to touch what Dylan wrote, nearly 50 years ago, so here you go…

I’m out here a thousand miles from my home
Walkin’ a road other men have gone down
I’m seein’ your world of people and things
Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings

Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
’Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along
Seems sick an’ it’s hungry, it’s tired an’ it’s torn
It looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born

Hey, Woody Guthrie, but I know that you know
All the things that I’m a-sayin’ an’ a-many times more
I’m a-singin’ you the song, but I can’t sing enough
’Cause there’s not many men that done the things that you’ve done

Here’s to Cisco an’ Sonny an’ Leadbelly too
An’ to all the good people that traveled with you
Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men
That come with the dust and are gone with the wind

Woody Guthrie (Study)

No. 121 is a quick little portrait of Woody Guthrie. It’s not great but I was trying some new things and pushing out a little bit.

First off, I started painting it right onto the canvas – no sketching, measuring or anything. Just went right into it, trying paint the basic shapes and then mold it into place. Secondly, I did this one abiding by the “rules” for that Value Study on the Daily Paintworks site. The guidelines for that were to only use Burnt Sienna and also to not use white. So in order to get the lightest lights you either had be careful where you put the darker paint or remove it with a thinner or medium.
It was very frustrating to work this way but it really kept it feeling alive. So many times I reach for the white and then you end up going down this rabbit trail of course corrections. Here it was sort of a one-shot deal and it forced me to be a lot more deliberate.

Life and How to Live It

Here’s a little painting of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think I was about 16 years old, sitting in a literature class, bored out of my mind when we were told to read Self Reliance. I got about a paragraph into it before it started to sink in and the entire world seemed to disappear.

Now, telling a 16 year old to embrace their genius and trust themselves is a little like throwing a bale of catnip to a kitten. They eat it up. But, something clicked that day. My eyes were opened and I could see the world clearly for the first time.

I owe a lot to Ralph. He coaxed what is inside of me out. He let me know it was alright not to be on the basketball team, to be an artist, to sit down when everyone else was standing up. Alright to be who I am.


Here’s the second portrait of Grant. I was irritated with how the smaller one did not really look like him so I took my time on this one and made sure it captured the essence of what I was seeing.

I don’t really know why I wanted to paint Grant. I’ve read his autobiography and the Civil War series by Shelby Foote so I felt like I got to know him in a weird way. The thing that is so remarkable about Grant is that he was designed for war. He was a failure at most of the things he tried in life except designing and executing warfare.

More than anything Grant had a will to win. He had this strange confidence but it was not rooted in pride. If anything it was the opposite of pride. A sort of unflinching commitment to rolling over what was in front of him regardless of the cost.

U.S. Grant (Study)

So, as a part of my set this year I really wanted to try and start painting people. When I got in a rut last year I did some monotone paintings to make it a little bit easier and I am trying that again.

I think I just free-handed this one after drawing it a time or two in a sketchpad. It does not really look like him but I had a great time painting it. It’s a remarkable thing to capture the essence of someone with paint and if it’s just the slightest bit off you lose it.