Nocturne – The S.U.M. Great Falls Power Plant

Ink, inked collage, grey wax pencil and surface alteration on paper. 18″ x 24″



Happy Saturday afternoon Everybody –


At last, I’ve finished my Power Plant picture! Wow, it was a long time on the boards. I don’t want to get caught up in another one like this for awhile, but I am pleased with the end result. It’s a potent picture. If you want a really good look at it, you can find a higher resolution large image (and three detail views) here:




Are you’re wondering about the S.U.M. in the picture’s title? It stands for the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. Envisioned and championed by Alexander Hamilton, The society was founded in 1791 as a private, state-sponsered corporation meant to establish industry along the Passaic River, especially at the Great Falls, which offered a fantastic opportunity for hydro-power.


The power plant (also water powered) began generating electicity in 1914, and continued to do so until 1969, when the low cost of fossil fuels and high cost of replacing aging equipment forced closure. The oil crisis of the 1970’s changed that equation. Three new turbines were installed and the plant was rededicated in 1987. It’s still in operation. The best part though, is that one of the old turbines was left in place. As you look at my drawing, it’s behind and below the window on the right.


I’ve become quite fond of this grand old building.


Have a fine weekend –


Your Buddy Bill



PS: just for fun, here is the old turbine. The thing that looks so much like a giant pink stovepipe is where the water came down, hitting the turbine’s blades and forcing it to spin around a horizontal axis (just like the wheels on your car do). This in turn spun the generator (in the green housing). While the setup is no longer functional, I’m so glad it remains as a piece of history.




The photo below is of the three more modern turbines, which spin in a vertical axis. Usually only one or two of them are in operation – the river has to be quite high before there is enough water to power all three.




And here we are again!


Now the cage over the last window has been printed – I did it by cutting stencils, and then inking and hand rubbing a snippet of fine, wire mesh ribbon (of the sort used to wrap presents). Does it seem a bit fussy to go to all of this trouble for such a subtle texture? Perhaps, but if you take a look at the photo in my previous post, you’ll see the difference really is lovely.


All I have to do now is finish up the cage frame and I’m done with this picture!



Your Buddy Bill



PS: click READ FULL ARTICLE, in the grey bar  immediately below the photo for an enlarged view. It really is worth it!




Good Morning!


Here’s a quick photo of the same window from yesterday, now with it’s cage frame roughed in. I did much more work on the frames for the other two windows before I printed the wire mesh. Perhaps I should not have taken them quite so far – I  have a hunch I may end up sanding and scraping some highlights back in.


For this last window, I’m going to print the cage mesh first, and then finish up the frame. Bet it’s a better plan!



Your Buddy Bill



PS: click READ FULL ARTICLE, in the grey bar  immediately below the photo, and youll get a larger view. It’s worth taking a closer look at the window details.




Hey All –


A holiday weekend and the rhythm of living have cut into my work time lately, but I’m at it once again. Here are a couple of working shots:




The view above is of the center windows in various stages of completion. The one on the right is done, with a wire cage in place over the window beneath. In the center, you can see how carefully rendered a window is before I create the cage over top – now I’m peeling off the tape that masked out the frame for the cage, which will be painted next. At left, I’ve just begun the glass panes. So far, this window looks an awful lot like a miniature painting by Piet Mondrian. Just for fun, below is one of his wonderful abstract compositions!




And finally, this last photo was taken moments ago. I’m much further along now – this is the same window that was once so abstract! What’s really exciting is that as soon as this window is finished, so is my power plant picture. IT COULD HAPPEN TOMORROW! 





Hey All –


Some folks are curious about how I did the bricks in the power plant picture I’m currently finishing. I’ve written about it before, but this morning I realized I did so in an email update sent out before I began blogging. So, here again is a description my process:


For starters, I wanted a graphic method for portraying brickwork that mimicked its texture and precision without leaving my drawing looking too sterile and mechanical. I also wanted to actually build the building in my drawing. I know it sounds kinda weird, but a good way to tell the truth about something is to find a drawing method in sympathy with it. I needed it here especially; the building being portrayed had great presence, with a palpable sense of age and long use.


I decided the answer was to hand print sections of brickwork, using the same ink I draw with.


Brick_ How_To


Of course, creating an image in sympathy with what it portrays sometimes means being a lot more sympathetic than was expected. It turned out that my first drawing of the power plant really was a technical rendering. It had to be. I needed an exact guide to cut out multiple sections of the building in archival foam core board. These were to become my printing blocks, but it felt more like I was making an actual architect’s model! The top photo gives you a pretty good view of all of this.


In the middle of my next photo (just above) are two cut out test sections. The black one (it turned that way from being inked) printed the brickwork samples on the scrap paper it’s lying upon. The other test section is only partially complete. Because it’s not inked, you can see how I created the morter lines between the bricks by burning/incising them into the surface with a fine-tipped wood burning tool (seen below). I mostly use this tool to melt little indented eyes and whatnot into foam rubber fishing flies and bass plugs. Now we can add brickwork to the list!




What comes next is lovely!


The ink was so liquid – and the paper surface of my foam core printing blocks became so saturated – that the result was entrancingly irregular! Some of the printed bricks squished and bled together. In other areas, the impression was light, or even nonexistent. Add to this that I sanded and scraped portions of my drawing paper’s surface beforehand (and laid in uneven washes of diluted ink too), and the total effect captures the same feeling of spontaneous happenstance that typifies great mark making. It’s repetitive and geometric, yet beat up and charismatic, just like the real building.


Logan brick detail2


My last photo is a detail view from another drawing of same power plant. Though very different in feel, I used one of the same printing blocks to again add a delicate indication of bricks. 






Hey ya –


I’m still, still, still doing windows! I know, I can’t believe it either.


I have to confess that after I finished the one above, I quit for a few days. I had other chores to do and thus good excuses, but the truth is that I’m just plain tired of this picture. It’s strong – very strong – and once I’ve moved on to the next one and am looking back, I know I’ll be pleased and proud of what I’ve accomplished. But that doesn’t help much right now, when I still have three more windows to do and they’re the toughest of all. Before I tell you why, take a look at the next two photos:




Do you see how the middle windows have wire cages over them? Visually speaking, these do marvelous, perplexing things. For starters, the dirty, rusting wire blurs and softens the windows. It’s as if they’re under murky water, and yet there is also a grainy/mesh texture, which though quiet is still distinct, especailly in real life. You can’t see it in these photos because images in blog format are too low rez, but I want that texture in my drawing. Oh, and don’t forget, the windows I do must be darkened and somehow go all contrasty too, even though they’re blurred, because my picture is a night scene.


Here’s my plan:




First, in this photo taken yesterday, you can see that I once again used strips of tape to mask out all of the mullions between the glass panes. There is also tape blocking out the metal framing for the wire cages.


Today was spent painting glass (in the first photo of this post you can get a peek at how that’s coming along). As soon as the panes are done, I’ll pull up the tape for the mullions and paint them.


Then comes the sneaky part! I’m actually going to create the mesh pattern over the windows by inking and printing real mesh. It wasn’t easy to find some that was the right size – everything you or I would first think of turned out to be far too coarse. Finally though, I figured it out – and the secret has to do with wrapping presents!




This photo is of a piece of scrap of paper with random ink marks, and right over top of them are my mesh samples, made by inking and hand rubbing/printing fancy metallic ribbon! It turns out my sweet bride, who is ever frugal, saves ribbon! She has a whole bag full of the stuff and in it was exactly what I needed.


Sooooo, I paint three windows, print mesh, paint the cage frames annnnnnnd. . . I’M DONE!!!!!!!



Give me a few days and I’ll report back in –


Your Buddy Bill



PS: to expand these images, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.





Hey ya –


Bit by bit and no faster, I’m painting the window panes and mullions in my picture (see previous posts). It’s gonna take awhile, so mood management is key! First, I have a reward system for determination and effort. Today for instance, I went out for an early breakfast with my Sweetie, my young friend, Patrick, and his mom, Maura. Had a grand time, AND I wore one of my very FAVORITE shirts, which you probably ought to know is of a Hawaiian style, made by Reidun.


I have lots of them. These days, the deal is that I have no say: my sis chooses the fabric, my Sweetie makes ’em and the game is to come up with one I won’t wear. They could go for the tacky win, like for instance by choosing something with big pink flowers and adding shiny gold piping around the yoke. But you see, I’ve already been there; my dear old grandma, (bless her odd, long gone soul), used to make shirts just like that when I was a kid. I wore ’em, and suffered, and said I liked them – which meant grandma kept sewing. Despite all, I grew into a fondness for loud shirts, but also hope I’ve gained sophistication, and an appreciation for idiosyncratic style that simply makes me happy! Mood management succeeds – see?


Half way through breakfast, Patrick snapped the photo above with his phone. Behind that jungle scene, my tummy is contentedly digesting French toast!



Your Buddy Bill



PS: I’m also going to dinner tonight! Is this the shirt for it?




Or should I go with this – which is the closest my fashion team has come to a win? It was made for one of my fishing trips to the Jellystone Yellowstone country, where tough guys don’t wear Yogi and Boo-Boo. There was some finger pointing and a few giggles, but I did get compliments too!





Hey All –


After messing around, trying to create very graphic windows by ingeniously making stamps so I could print each glass pane with India ink, I finally concluded it was crazy, and that I had to do ’em the old fashioned way. Forward motion means patience, little brushes, plenty of tea and good tunes. Each window will take at least a day. So be it. I sure didn’t want any of my Paterson drawings to lead me into this sort nit-picky detailing, but this is a very lovely picture – I must carry it through to the end. Next week I’m done . . . maybe?


Your Buddy Bill —————-


PS: The window on the left has just been completed. Now I’m masking out the mullions in the window at the other end with thin strips of tape. Once that’s done, I’ll paint the glass, lift the tape and finish the job. The three windows in the middle are going to be much harder. You’ll see why next week.




Here is a closer look.




PS: to expand these images, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.


Screen shot 2015-06-16 at 10.38.23 AM


Good Morning –


Here is a screenshot of my desktop with ALL of my Paterson pictures as thumnbnails.


One of the river pix (2nd from the right – middle row) isn’t done yet. I also did a sneaky bit, making a digital rough of my latest power plant picture (lower right): I pasted in hugely darkened, photoshoped windows snaked out of a photograph of the building, just to see how such a thing might look. The windows I actually paint will have to be at least this potent for my power plant to really pack its punch.


This is the first time I’ve seen all of these together at once, and the first hint of what my contribution to Bob’s and my exhibition will look like. Overall, pretty nice, but also waaaaay darker than I realized! I wonder if I should try to do a couple of light, sketchy pictures just to change the mix a bit?


Your Buddy Bill



PS: I thought you might like to see a larger view of my digital rough with the pasted in windows. Remember, these aren’t the real deal! I still have to actually do ’em.


collaged rough


PS: to expand these images (and to better see my lineup of thumbnail images), click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.




Good Evening All –


As promised, here is an update photo showing my progress since my last post. The left half of the water is now done and the upper part of the building is getting close. Tomorrow, I’ll start on the dreaded windows, which I’m guessing will take maybe a day a piece.


It seems a silly thing to be afraid of doing windows, I know, but these must be really graphic, dark and looming. If I manage it – this picture may at last look like the moonlit nocturne I’ve wanted it to become. Hopefully, we’ll be able to tell if it’s working by week’s end!


More to come –


Your Buddy Bill



PS: to expand this image and see more detail, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.


Happy Friday Everybody!


I’m not going to have much playtime this weekend, as I’m still tied up in the wee details of this big ol’ power plant picture (see my previous post). Here though, are some larger detail views of what I’ve been nudging along:








I’m a little behind where I wanted to be at this point, but there is still hope that I will have all but the windows done by the end of the weekend. The water boiling out of the plant is going to be a particular challenge – perhaps taken on tomorrow!


Look for my next update either late this weekend or monday –


Your Buddy Bill



PS: to expand these images and see more detail, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.



Hey all –


We haven’t seen this picture (which stalled when half finished) in almost a year! It was the first of my Paterson, NJ drawings – and is of the most iconic building downtown, the old power plant beside the Great Falls.


With this new series, I had intended to push the fluidity and expressiveness of my rendering. I also wanted to explore new (and very complex) texture making much more thoroughly. What I didn’t want was to fall back on my natural affinity for rendering hyper-detail. It’s not easy to ignore second nature, but I think it has been worthwhile. I’m becoming a more broadly powerful artist.


That said, I still have what in truth is a pretty wonderful drawing that should be finished. So to heck with the brave new me! I can now see that in this picture at least, the old me was doing just fine. I’ll embrace the detail, accepting that fussy, fussy days lie ahead.


When last we looked, the picture had come this far:




After a few more days spent using leeeeeetle brushes, here it is now:




I wish I could give you a high definition view, but a blog format won’t really work for that. I’ll try to post some good detail shots in the next day or two, so you can get a better sense of what this thing really looks like.


Meanwhile, my plan is to try very hard to finish everything except the windows by Sunday. They’re going to be the most difficult and important part. So far, this picture is like a lovely portrait of someone dear, who is missing eyes. I’m scared of those windows! If I manage to do them well though, my drawing will suddenly have leapt to an entirely new level. It won’t be the most exuberant thing I’ve done, but it will be very beautiful.


Until then, think of me noodling along, trying to capture the essence of other really important aspects – like electrical conduit and cornices!


Your Buddy Bill



PS: to expand these images and see more detail, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.


Good Morning  –


Here is the image I didn’t get around to posting yesterday – it’s my latest drawing, laying face down on the lightbox. Now you can really see how badly I scrape and dig into a sheet and why my pictures must be patched and reinforced before they’re flattened and signed!


I’m going to the drag races tomorrow! Hope you have an enjoyable plan for the weekend too.


Your Buddy Bill





And here I am again! I’ve just now received an email and new image from my partner in art, Bob Demarest!


Last autumn, a canoeing enthusiast and friend of his took him around the bend and deep into the chasm of the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ.


Bob said it was like entering a cathedral. The result has been several truly wonderful paintings. One has eluded him however, despite several attempts. It’s a seemingly simple picture of his buddy paddling up into the very throat on his own to see if it was safe before taking Bob. It was. They did it, and Bob has wanted a painting commemorating that moment ever since. He has at last conquered the image, by leaving most of it a tasty pencil rendering. There is color only where it counts most.


Demarest new painting


PS: For a better look, click READ FULL ARTICLE in the grey bar below!



 To the Left of the Great Falls – A Spring Morning in Paterson, NJ. 

Ink, inked collage, digitally altered/pigment over-transferred working drawings, grey pencil & surface alteration on paper. 18 x 24″ 



Hello All –


Double your time, then double it again: this old axiom usually proves true when I estimate how long a painting will take. This latest one was no exception, but at long last it’s DONE! I like it a lot!


My mother (who was a painter), would sometimes speak of her change of brain when discussing her work and method. What an apt description this is of what must happen as an artist’s approach evolves. It’s normal now for me to brutally scar, scrap and even rip up the top layer of my paper. It gets even worse when I attack in the wet, yet I’m astonished by the degree to which I can alter the character (or even the tone and temperature) of my paper, surface and simple India ink. Much of my technique has descended from how I not so long ago desperately tried to save and yet wrecked drawings. Horridly fatigued paper and ground in, over scrubbed mark making suddenly look good.


Of course, all of this means no picture is really done until I’ve spent an hour or two patching and reinforcing it from the back. Can you spot the actual holes in this new one? Hint: the largest is the size of a pencil eraser – look for the brown spot (actually my backing board peeking through) in the shadowed area to the right of the power plant.


Your Buddy Bill



PS: To give you a real sense of the texture and character of this painting, here is a close up scan of the rock wall and water at the lower right.




And this is a view of the upper left, scanned before I added the fence and other final details.




PS: to expand these images and see more detail, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.




Hey there –


I have a new article out on fly tying tricks (as in better ways to make better flies to hoodwink innocent trout)!


Fly Tyer Magazine is the only one of its kind, so it has claimed a niche. That said, I think it’s the best fly fishing related publication going. Beautifully produced, it’s always informative and strictly no nonsense. The Editor, Dave Klausmeyer, is a straight forward guy – enthusiastic and unashamedly opinionated. In short, he’s a gas to work for (and chat with). Over the years, I’ve written, photographed (and even occasionally illustrated) many articles for this magazine, and am happy that I’ve recently begun doing a few columns for them as well.


If you want to learn more about Fly Tyer, you can visit their website: http://flytyer.com/


Okay, enough about bug making – now I gotta get back to ink slinging. Hopefully I’ll post about that tomorrow night!


Your Buddy Bill



PS: For a better look, click READ FULL ARTICLE in the grey bar below!





Hey All –


Almost the first thing I saw when I got back home from my trip late Tuesday night was my beautiful bride’s newly painted toes! Well okay, it wasn’t really the very first thing I saw. Reidun heard me backing in our upper driveway and dashed out of the house. She’d been waiting up for me, reading in bed, and there in my rear view mirror she stood, um, shall we say, spectacularly au naturel? I’m a lucky boy.


Reidun’s pal, Grace, painted her toes. She is just home from a triumphant first year of college, but she and Reidun having been painting toes since Grace was a peewee. They have quite the kit now and Grace is a wonder. She is the happiest, goofiest, quickest witted, most perfect Grace there is, and sooooo lives up to her name.


In a few minutes I’m going to open my ink pots and get to it again! Am hoping I’ll make good moves and quickly. I’ll keep posting as I progress, so check back in once or twice a week!


Summertime living is here!


Your Buddy Bill


PS: For a better view of Reidun’s wonder toes, click READ FULL ARTICLE in the grey bar below!



Well, my ink pots are capped, my brushes are cleaned (sort of), and it’s almost time to shovel stuff into the car. Sometimes I pack quite carefully for an expedition, but that’s not gonna happen today! I’ve worked on the pictures I’m about to show you until almost the last minute.


If you’ve kept up with my blog, you know I’m trying to portray views no one notices when they go to see the Great Falls, in downtown Paterson, NJ. My latest pictures are of the escarpment over which the waterfall plummets – just the rock face and not much more. The falls are out of sight to the right and only the end of the lovely old power plant is in view at left.


I’ve been struggling, but I’ve realized something, and it’s that an interplay of textures can define and describe a scene, perhaps more beguilingly than if it were merely rendered in a range of tones. We must discuss this further soon, but for now, let’s just say that something great is happening, if I can just understand it.


Time for show & tell: this first picture is the study begun on site and since used as a guinea pig for new technique in the studio. Along with regular brush work and mark making, there is the inevitable surface abuse. Added to this, I’ve acually printed some of the building using kraft foam that I cut to shape and beat up with sandpaper. I then brushed it with ink, flipped, positioned and pressed it down to create a grainy, almost foreboding silhouette of structure. Stranger still is how I managed a few areas of the building’s detail. First, in an out of order sort of move, I did a careful architectural rendering (pencil on tracing paper) – aren’t you supposed to do this sort of thing beforehand? Next, I scanned the drawing and took it into Photoshop, where I messed with it for a great long while, giving it graininess and a halo-like effect around the lines. That accomplished, I printed it out in reverse with my laser printer and pigment transferred portions of it right back in over top of my painting! Finally, of course, more brush work over top of all. Cool, huh?




Just so you can see it, here is what the architectural drawing looked like before and after I digitally messed around with it.




And at last, this is my slowly developing maybe masterpiece of grain and texture, done entirely in the studio. All of the method I’ve mentioned is in this one too, along with some pretty difficult inked collage, and even a little grey wax pencil. For the brick work, I created several stamps by incising archival foam core board with a wood burner. These were then inked and printed as with the kraft foam.




I still have a fair ways to go with this, but I’m already excited by what’s happening. Though I have an almost overwhelming desire to keep working, it’s actually a great time to run away for a week. When I get back, I’ll have fresh eyes and who knows, maybe I’ll have caught a muskie (a giant fish that looks like the meanest pike you could possibly imagine) .


I’ll write again once I’m back. Meanwhile take care All!


Your Buddy Bill


PS: to expand these images and see more detail, click READ FULL ARTICLE, immediately below.


Hey All –


I didn’t get as much as I’d hoped done on my latest drawing today, but hey, Reidun got off work early. I’m leaving for a week in two days, and this afternoon was gorgeous – so of course we went right back into the hammock. Wouldn’t you?


And now I have a surprise! Before I tell you more though, I should mention that a pair of pileated woodpeckers are spending a lot of time in the woods around our house. They’re main food source is carpenter ants and these incredibly cool birds are real jackhammers. At some point since last Sunday, they tore into the tree trunk right beside where we hang out!


I have two pictures for you. The first is of my Sweetie in the hammock with the (de)construction site right behind her. It looks like there is a big ant colony in there too, so I bet the birds were as happy as she is.


Can you imagine pounding your nose into an old dead oak like that?


I’ll post a picture of that drawing tomorrow –


Your Buddy Bill







Studio view


Hey ya –


Just a quick note and photo from the studio. I’m slinging ink and messing with some really odd new tricks – pushing hard before I leave on Sunday for southern Illinois. With luck (and hopefully a little bit of sleep tonight), the picture propped up at lower left may be a good bit further along by tomorrow evening. I’ll post another photo if it is. Then I hafta frantically pack the car, forget something I need (because I always do) and head for the land of everything but trout to catch what I can. I’ll enjoy friends I miss, drink fabulous home brew, attend a high school graduation and give a budding scientist a big hug (and a safety lecture) before she heads off to Barrow, Alaska on a six week research trip.


Oh, and as I’ve been working since just after 5:00 this morning, I think I’m allowed climb into the hammock with my Sweetie when she gets home. I’ve earned such delight, yes?


All of the sudden it looks like summer out there!


Your Buddy Bill


Ps: For a better look at my latest drawings (and my messy work table), click READ FULL ARTICLE in the grey bar below!