Adam Houston

American Impressionist Oil Painter


No. 226 is horrendous but ended up being important. I did an incredibly careful underpainting, added color and was disappointed (again) by the results. This time, I decided that the composition could have been what was causing the problem. If it’s fundamentally flawed then no one could paint it, right?

So, I trimmed the bushes in the front, added a meadow in the back and a tree line in the distance. I worked it like crazy. And it still stunk.

The good news is that those changes helped things start clicking. I ended up using this one as sort of a frankenpainting for the remaining four to test colors and ideas. So the bushes grew again, the meadow disappeared and it shifted to a sunset. I had to be content with this one being a disaster so that the future ones could be better.

In Search of Subtle

I liked 224 alright, but it felt too primary. It felt too loud and I wanted to explore how to make it more subtle. I wanted to try something where the greens were more muted and knocked back. So with 225 I did a normal Burnt Sienna underpainting and then used a limited color palette on top of that. During this exploration I also decided to ignore or blend the background with the sky and make it all a warm yellow. In the end it feels a little too murky but it was good to try this and see what a whole new color palette could do to the tone.

Embracing Limitations

For the first one of these in color I wanted to try something different. I have a couple of books by Kevin Macpherson and he talks about using a very limited palette of yellow, red and blue. With these trees I was really wanting to explore greens and getting a feel for how to mix those so I gave his set-up a try. It was very disorienting to start with. I rely so much on Burnt Sienna that it was rough to try and “find” the browns and grays.

The limited palette forced me to slow down and really think about what the color was vs. reaching for a tube or Terre Verte. I was also really trying to work “fat over learn” with this one. There was no set underpainting and I used a heavily thinned coat to rough out what went where. I’m not sure the result was radically different from what I’ve been doing but it was great to expand and explore a little.

Barnsley Tree I

So, here we are in 2014. It feels great to be back at it again with a fresh year. I’ve not posted a lot this month, but I have been hard at work. I did a lot of thinking at the end of last year about what I wanted to accomplish in 2014 and what my goals should be. Out of that thinking I came up with some very clear paths for the year and am excited about what this year holds.

The two core things I want to focus on this year are color and craft.

For the last year, I’ve been more and more bothered about my color sense and seeing how much work is needed there. I’m going to try and focus a lot more on building and shaping my paintings with color vs. using it as window dressing to what is essentially value.

The craft part ties directly into the focus on color, but it goes deeper than that. Color IS painting and to understand color correctly is to understand the craft of painting. But there are so many things that define the craft of painting. This means a much greater focus on learning and being taught vs. trying to create art. Art is what I want to create, but I’ve got to get a handle on the craft before that can happen.

There might be fewer “finished” paintings and not as much will end up on Etsy, but I can already feel the benefits of this focus. Which brings us to No. 223.

This painting is really what kicked off the intense color focus. I looked at this and was really happy. But I also knew that the feeling I was getting would be lost when I the applied color. And I found that terribly irritating. Why could I not “say” the same thing with color that I was seemingly able to convey with a single tone? I wanted to get to the bottom of that. Or at least start digging.

So, here’s to a new year, lots of learning and a bunch of new paintings!

30a Pines V

This one is a new interpretation of No. 186 and No. 168 from 2011. I was so completely out of gas with the ones from Florida by the time I did that 186 that I wanted to go back and see what was really there. It was interesting to revisit that same composition after having some distance to process everything and boil down my technique a little more.

Trees at Pooles Mill

Finally done – another 100 in the books. It seemed like I had to go back to the trees one more time and as it worked out they are closing out the year. I think I learned more from painting those stupid trees than anything else this year and am glad I got to do a big one of them. At 18″ x 24″ this is one of the largest things I painted all year and it was a completely different process.

This was a fun year and I think I made more progress in 2011 vs. 2010 even though the work may not have been as finished or as varied. I’m starting to learn how to paint and that was what this was all supposed to be about.

Beach Pine

I probably should have gone back and worked this one a little more. It’s a tad blobby but that is what I wanted to experiment with. There was no real way to paint all the bushes and greenery behind the tree so I tired to make the dabs of color do the work.


Alright… at long last, the final tree painting. I had done that whole run where the sky was pink or yellow and the background trees were really blue and wanted to try one last one that was different. I decided to go back to more of the greens and close on that. I really love this one and wish I had paid more attention to the dirt area. Otherwise it’s exactly what I wanted to paint. It only took doing it 18 times…

I’ll start with something new on Monday. Promise.

Trees XVII

At this point what is there left to say about these trees? I am tired of them, you are probably tired of them. I think my dog is tired of them. Still learning but I am ready to move on.

Trees XVI

Winding down on the trees finally. Have a few more to go but I am starting to get to the end of the line here in terms of what I can learn from these guys. Overall I was really happy with this one. I love the background trees and doing the was just a revelation for me. I’ve seen stuff like that in books forever but to really bear down and work on the atmosphere was so fun. The fore-ground trees are so-so but these are so much better than the first few.