Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pastel making with Kitty -- Day Two "Crumble Colors"

my first "Crumble Color"

pastels from Day 1 broken to color bits

color bits are gently mixed and wetted to form new sticks

Day Two of making "Crumble Colors" with Kitty Wallis.

It was a labor-intensive day! The colors from yesterday were used to create new sticks that had bits of color side by side. Not mud, which would have happen if we had stirred the wet pastel together.

Based on our preferences and curiosities, we mixed the special pastel sticks you see in the third photo. They will dry and be ready for use soon.

What I hope will happen is that I will be able to use one of these new Crumble Color pastel sticks to show the "brushwork" or directionality of my stroke as well as the value that is right for the area. As I mixed various color combinations for these sticks, my thoughts went to the new paintings that their use will allow.

This one is the color of a nostril. That one is the color of mist. Here's one that is the color of the shadow under a cloud.

Once they are dry, we can test them. With the stroke should come irregular lines of color. Broken color. I can hardly wait!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pastel making with Kitty -- Day One

Three and a half inches of snow fell at Kitty's while we were busy making pastels!

A day of pastel making, but this was just part one of a two day project.

we made four batches of white to bring the colors down in value

Yesterday was a great day! It was day one in a two day adventure at Kitty's studio making very special pastels. First we started with pure colors and their values. Hansa Primrose. Azo Yellow. Quinacridone Magenta. Napthol Red. Ultramarine Blue. Pthalo Blue. We mixed and rolled and formed these beautiful pure colors.

While we worked, we didn't really notice that the temperatures were dropping outside. It started to snow around 4:00 and what was at first just a few flakes, quickly became a good snowstorm right at rush hour! People abandoned their cars in the middle of roads. It took four hours to travel ten miles! I was snug at Kitty's house. Three and a half inches fell in Southwest Portland.

I don't drive in the snow. Really. Hey, I'm still a bit of a Valley Girl, I guess. My dear husband picked me up at Kitty's place later that evening.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Willem de Kooning

I am reading "de Kooning: An American Master" by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, the 600 page biography on the great modern artist. Even though I have only read about a third of the book, I am enthralled by the man. And inspired to "work as though every stroke might be your last." Words to paint by.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas is almost over -- but it was great!

A couple of days spent with my sons and their wives, a Christmas day spent with good friends, lots of time on the phone to talk to family and friends ... Christmas is almost over now and mine has been wonderful.

Special thanks to all of you who stop in to read and sometimes comment on what you see here. It makes the world feel just a little smaller.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

200th painting for 2009!

Christmas Amaryllis
18 x 24

The buds shed their papery covers and slowly unfold themselves with grace.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Self Portrait

10 x 12

My life caught me unawares earlier this year when I accidentally fell in the cold water of Puget Sound. It is easy to pretend to be unchanged by the event, especially since it happened five months ago. Easy to smile and nod and laugh, to tell the story of my many minutes in the cold water. To act as if it is barely a blip on the screen of my life.

Some days, that is true. It is but one incident in a life filled with incidents.

But other days it feels important. Today was a day like that.

Without trying to suppress it or reframe it or ignore it, today I honestly responded to my feelings with my painting. I won't begin to try to figure out what that means, but I will just rest with it.

My thoughts flow as the melody of this tune. Melancholy and sweet. Hopeful and quiet. It is a good day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

White Spider Mums

Gallery 2121 will be open for receptions for an exhibit entitled Hearth & Home on Saturday, December 19, 11am - 6pm and Monday December 21, 5pm-8pm to celebrate a limited time art exhibit and sale of picturesque paintings and platinum palladium photography at:
2121 SE Belmont Street, Portland, OR 97215

Six artists and one photographer reflect a broad range of representational styles and approaches that capture the beauty and diversity of our surroundings. Paintings of traditional and urban landscape, marine art, contemporary figures, animal portraits and mixed media are all incorporated into an exhibit that aims to showcase this season of hearth and home.

Nationally recognized, award winning artists include: Pam Flanders, Mark Larsen, Celeste Bergin, Carrie Holst, Katherine van Schoonhoven, and Carolyn Rondthaler along with award winning photographer David Burbach.
Gallery Hours:
Sat December 19, 11AM - 6PM and Mon December 21, 5PM-8PM
Hours also by appointment: (503) 762-7948
2121 SE Belmont Street, Portland, OR 97215

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


9 x 12

As I painted today, I marveled at the complicated shapes that form a face, that form a mouth. And I wondered, "What words will she speak, when she does? Will they be English or some other language? "

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


24 x 18

There he sat, from the deck high above me. Regal in his bearing, but still a pirate. He would take what did not belong to him and feel no regret for the taking. A primitive. Pleasure seeker.

Looking down at all of the pretty girls walking past as if he would eat the most delicious for his snack.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sailing Club

9 x 12

It was a great opportunity to play with abstraction as I worked on my third entry for "Subject to Interpretations." If you haven't see it yet, just click on the title and that will take you to the blog.

Instead of painting the boats, I zoomed in on the sails and focused on how the wind and light defined their forms.

The Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters have tried to maintain our group painting efforts through the cold weather months by creating winter projects. This year, I designed the project in the form of a new blog. Twice a month, I post a photo reference (the "Subject") and all of the artists from the group can paint from that and I post the photos of their paintings (the "Interpretations"). The holidays may keep many artists from painting in December, but this is my entry.

I remember watching the Olympia Sailing Club out with their boats on a race in Budd Inlet last summer. Their bright sails in the full sun were graceful as they caught the wind and light and I took many photos of them and sketched them as they zipped past. And now, I look forward to seeing how the other interpret the scene.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chasing the Light

12 x 18

Maybe not chasing the light, but I am certainly studying the light more carefully since critique last week. This painting is done from a photo I took in Palm Desert on a sunny January morning.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cold Outside!

18 x 8

pastel with water under painting

Temperatures in the 20s and 30s make me look for warm subject matter. This palm tree painted from a photo I took in Temecula, CA, along the Butterfield Trail.

I used a piece of Wallis paper that had a crease in it, making it the perfect support for a quick study. First, I did a gesture drawing with graphite. Then I lightly put in pastel in big blocks of color and value. I used a wet brush to push it into the paper and soften the edges. Once it was dry, I added a bit more pastel on top.

Baby, it's cold outside
! Perhaps some snow in the forecast!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Filling up

Calder Cow

Sargent "Leon Delafosse"

Paint. Paint. Paint. I can be driven when I am pursuing art. Push. Push. Push. Things flow and it's a joy to be in the studio or out in the field. Then, without warning, I am dry. Parched of ideas and energy. Not that I love art any less. I just need to be recharged.

Spending time with art friends is one way I fill up. Even better is spending time with art friends on an all-art adventure. That is exactly what I did.

A day trip north to the Seattle Art Museum to see the Michelangelo exhibit and Calder exhibit. To stand in front of Michelangelo's drawings of the human form that date back to the mid-1400s is nothing short of amazing. It made me want to draw and to draw more. One hundred times or more. There's a nice series of lectures about this exhibit on the SAM website if you are interested in seeing/hearing more about this exhibit.

In another special exhibit, the whimsy of Alexander Calder. I LOVED the cow. A bit of wire bent like a three-dimensional contour drawing. Udders and all. A delight!

Of course, no trip to SAM is complete without adequate time to admire the Sargent portrait of Leon Delafosse and the Robert Henri portrait of the dancer. All four of us stood for a long time looking at these two masterful paintings. We would walk up close to inspect a brush stroke, then step back to see the strokes come together to form a hand or the fold in the skirt. Close again to see how he did that, back again to admire the perfect effect.

The timing was just right to zip over to the hills of Kirkland and peek at Casey Klahn's "River Series" exhibit at Northwest University. It was lovely to see in person the paintings that I have admired on his blog. I enjoyed that very much.

Then, a short drive down the hill to the Howard Mandville Gallery for a look at their small works show. We watched the sun set over Lake Washington, the Seattle skyline in periwinkle silhouette
with a lemon yellow and soft orange ground.

Now I feel full to the top. And I'm ready to paint again.

How to you replenish your artistic energy?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Structured Critique

Well, in the interest of not overreacting, I will laugh and say that Structured Critique was tough.

I brought in five paintings. I missed the mark with most of them. Distressingly so. I thought that at least one of them would get a "Wow, that's pretty good" comment. None did.

Kitty Wallis, my mentor and the leader of Structured Critique, observed that I did not observe and paint the light pattern consistently, so that ruined the effect of form and space of my figures. I knew that something was missing in my paintings, something that was keeping them from making the viewer want to look at them longer. Now I know what was off.

While negative feedback is never pleasurable (unless you are a masochist), it is good. Good to hear the truth. And I know that I can always count on Kitty for the truth.

I have a new painting on the easel already, and you can believe that I am looking carefully at the light pattern. I have every intention of getting it more right next time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

John Singer Sargent

Mrs Knowles and Her Children
Youngstown, Ohio
Butler Institute of American Art

The Official White House portrait of
President Theodore Roosevelt
Washington, D.C.
The White House

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale
Washington, D.C.
Corcoran Gallery of Art

It's hard to choose a favorite among John Singer Sargent's large body of work. His paintings cover a broad spectrum of subject matter and his style evolved in the course of his long painting career. Here are a few of my favorites.

I like the informality of the top painting. As a mother with two sons, I instantly identified with the mother's attempt to get the boys dressed in their good clothes and her relaxation in letting them be themselves while they sat for the portrait. Her face is serene. One son cuddles close to his mother. The other is missing his shoes and is sprawled on the loveseat. This painting feels like more than a portrait to capture their likenesses. Sargent captured their relationships and personalities, too.

The formal portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt is gorgeous. It knocks me out! I feel like I could hear the man speak at any moment. TR had a respect for the beauty of our country and a mindset for conservation that resonates within me. Maybe my fondness for this president prejudices my admiration for the portrait, but it is awfully good, don't you agree?

Finally, Oyster Gatherers at Cancale. The figures are real people engaged in a real activity in a real landscape. When I think of the other paintings of that period (think of it, 1878!) I can only say that Sargent was a genius. He saw what he saw and felt how he felt and painted all of that in a miraculous way.

a wonderful website to check out. Which of Sargent's paintings are your favorites?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Carried away by color!

I had to turn on the heater in the studio to get things warmed up after a few days away for Thanksgiving. But, nothing was going to stop me from using my new pastels. Here you see my efforts.

Both of these were done from photos I took in Santa Cruz, where I went with three art friends for a week of painting and art adventure last year.

Neither painting is finished, but look at that color! Wow. In the top painting you can see how I got ahold of an orchid colored pastel and sort of let it take over the painting. If a little is good, a lot is better, right?

In the bottom painting, I put down some of those gorgeous nearly neon yellow greens. Felt like sunshine was pouring out of the paper!

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New pastels ready to use!

ready to use!

me making one of many purple pastels
Kitty Wallis' portrait of Jack
looks like he's peeking over my shoulder
(posted with permission)

You may be wondering why I have made such a fuss over the pastels made at Kitty Wallis' studio with her Moist Pastels.

Simply put, they are PURE COLOR. Kitty has spent years creating formulae for mixing pure color from pure pigments and finding just the right white chalk so that there is no hint of gray in even the lightest mixtures.

Painting with Kitty's pastels is like painting with light.

Light is a thing that cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else – by color. (Paul Cezanne)

Tomorrow, I will use them! I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


18 x 12
Dakota Board

under painting


Incredible people who know and understand a language of symbols. People who anticipate what is to come. Tricky meter change at the end of the movement. Build up the intensity to the next phrase. Hold the tension of the rest before entering with the note, subito piano.

Her thumb on her bow, but her mind on Hindemith.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009


13 x 13

Little boys and water. Little boys and sticks and water. Little boys and sticks and rocks and water.

They seem to go together in a magical way.

When my boys were little, I spent hundreds of hours with them near water and helped them throw sticks and climb rocks. Now they are grown men, engineers, who work long days in offices and have wives and homes and other things that take up their time.

But, when I was at the park painting, and saw this little boy with his mother (I could hardly miss them since they walked right past my easel to get to the river), I was flooded with memories.

Of course he had to step out onto the rocks in the water. Of course he had to throw a stick (many sticks). Of course his face split into a huge smile each time he heard the splash. His body would stiffen and he would hop in excitement. I asked his mother, through tears (mine), if I could photograph him. Yes. Are you sure he's not in your way? I shook my head and smiled, because I could not trust my voice.

Littleboysandsticksandrocksandwater. The title of today's painting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009