The following passage by E.H. Gombrich was a revelation to me, maybe an epiphany. I had been looking for a way to break out of my old habits when I found this. It became the central idea of a “Self-forgiveness Theory.” It says to keep trying, modifying, and correcting -- that the eraser is the tool of more expressive realism. In almost mystical terms: trying to create perfection is impossible, but forgiving yourself and your drawings for being imperfect and constantly refining your vision is possible.

“Seen in this light, that dry psychological formula of schema and correction can tell us a good deal, not only about the essential unity between medieval and post-medieval art, but also of their vital difference. To the Middle Ages, the schema is the image, to the post-medieval artist, it is the starting point for corrections, adjustments, adaptations, the means to probe reality and to wrestle with the particular. The hallmark of the medieval artist is the firm line that testifies to the mastery of his craft. That of the post-medieval artist is not facility, which he avoids, but constant alertness. Its symptom is the sketch, or rather the many sketches which precede the finished work and, for all the skill of hand and eye of the master, a constant readiness to learn, to make and match and remake till the portrayal ceases to be a second hand formula and reflects the unique and unrepeatable experience the artist wishes to seize and hold.”

Art & Illusion: A study in Psychology of Pictorial Representation, Page 173

-- E. H. Gombrich

Saturday, December 28, 2013


For years I have watched various art organizations -- from the inside and the outside. I've watched them struggle to stay viable and I've noticed a few problems. First, after almost every regime change, the "stunning incompetence" of the past team is discovered. The second is the complaint: members don't volunteer enough. 

That the previous team was flawed, let it go. The new team is different and should have a different focus.  Tasks will be accomplished more easily if an attitude of inclusiveness is adopted. Blaming the past groups just shuts doors. Also, the more transparent the succeeding team is, the more they can attract support from members -- you can't volunteer if you don't know the plans. 

In my many years on boards and committees, I never had a problem getting enough volunteers. I made personal phone calls asking members to handle a specific task. Some couldn't or wouldn't, but most were able to help. I tried hard to make the phone calls sound like an invitation but never like a guilt-trip. 

The other problem is the small group of perpetual leaders and volunteers. At first glance, this doesn't seem like a problem, but it is. If there are people who are always willing to do the all the heavy lifting in an organization, then few others will be compelled to step forward. 

Letting new people take positions of leadership has many rewards. Depending on the tasks, they will develop skills and/or make new contacts. The new skills will not only help the organization but should translate into new confidence for the member. Networking, this is the real power for the organization and the individual. Knowing who can help your organization (generate publicity, provide display space, sponsor awards, host workshops…) and then working with them is an important step. 

I know, all this sounds like common sense but these little problems hobble many organizations. Just being aware of them might help. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Horizontal Swamp Watercolor

I wanted to make a long format watercolor of a swamp scene. I had done a smaller version and liked the color palette.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An invitation to an exhibit

Swamps and Other Wetlands
A Painting Series
By Ray M. Hershberger

Arts of the Albemarle
516 East Main Street
Elizabeth City, NC 27909

February 2013
First Friday Opening:
February 1, 5:30 - 7:00 pm

Whether you are just going to work or traveling across the country, there is a good chance that you've seen these wetlands. Swamps, marshes, streams and drainage ditches are wonderful discoveries waiting at the bottom of almost every hill. Often, these magical spaces are doppelgänger worlds of reflections, packed with both life and decay. Among the dappled light and shifting shadows are amazing, complex color arrangements. These are the worlds that I am trying to capture in paint.

Please visit my website:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Close to being done

I've spent my painting time in the studio trying to make this more exciting and inviting. I did add some more trees and branches and I tried to pick the color up in the foreground.

Quick WC Swamp -- almost completed

I have almost finished this piece. Time to go home but no reflective time. I think a tree or two might be needed and although no one else will notice, I want to add some variety of color to the tree trunks. I had used a few different colors, but they have dried rather flat. Now, I need to use some dark tone gouache and staining colors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An Easy Correction

After a nights sleep I came back and looked at the last project. When I looked at the highlights on the tree trunks, they felt a little stiff and applied. With a small flat brush, I gently scrubbed the right side of the highlights. Next I applied a very light wash over them. Finally, I put a small highlight line over the older muted one. Is it really finished? I hope, but I will stay open to change; however, I hope I remember to honor the intent of its beginning -- quick painting.

Swamp Exhibit heading to Elizabeth City, NC

SWAMPS AND OTHER WETLANDS will be at The Arts of the Albemarle Gallery in Elizabeth City, NC during the month of February. The opening reception will be from 5:30 to 7:00 on Friday, February 1, 2013. I hope you can make it. I would love to see you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quick Watercolor Swamps

After drawing in the major elements, waterline and some of the major foreground trees, I added  a light blue wash (cobalt and cerulean). Next I deepened that solution with some ultramarine and added the darker water shapes. While the paper was damp, I dropped in the purples, ochers, and  orange/rust tones. With a brush damped with more paste-like green colors, I added the foreground. At this stage I was careful to make sure the paper was damp.  The next thing was to speckle with some random thrown paint.

 The trees were then added, back to front. Lighter and more delicate strokes to the back and darker and wider trees coming forward.  As I brushed the trunk, I had another bush loaded with another color, ready to drop that into the wet strokes. This gave the trunks some subtle variety. Finally with a light shade of gouache. I cast the light on the left side of the trees.

This is another swamp, but painted in almost the same way.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Quick Watercolor of Swamp

Here is the drawing and some of the first thoughts. I started with a light wash across the sky and a darker wash over the land (water). Instead of starting with the lights on the trees, I thought I would block in the shadows. I like the dance of shapes and marks that I have created.

Worked a little more on the trees and then went to the ground, breaking up the shapes with shadows and tonal variations.

Once I started to put the green washes onto the trees, I realized the painting was losing much of playful character of the underpainting, so I reinforced the shadows with much darker shades. I tried to drop warmer tones into the dark shadows to add variety. Using darker tones, I also tried to separate the layers of the trees. Something was still needed, so I added some lights in gouache.