Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monochrome and Art Walk for Annie

Tulips in Jar
8 x 10
raw umber and white on canvas panel

Still putting miles on my oil brushes as I learn the vowels and consonants of this medium. In time, I will feel confident about it and be able to describe with more elegant language what I see. For now it's very simple "See Dick. See Dick run."

Although I do not know her, I have been moved by the story of fellow artist, Annie Salness and her recovery from a serious stroke earlier this year. Many artists are donating work to raise funds to help cover her medical expenses. This is my donation, a little scene from my favorite Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

You can help by coming to the auction and making a purchase of art. 100% of the proceeds go toward Annie's medical expenses. "Art Walk for Annie", Tuesday, December 7, 6:30-8:30 pm Sunset Presbyterian Church Lobby 14986 NW Cornell Road (xHwy 26, by Phoenix Inn and Arco Station) Portland OR 97229

Monday, November 29, 2010

Water, never boring

Lewis River 3
18 x 24
pastel on Wallis Museum

Saturday, November 27, 2010

3 Stages of a Painting


mid point

beginning underpainting

Here you see three stages of a painting today. The bottom photo shows my initial ideas and the set up of value and color harmony with the underpainting. I was interested in the warm yellow/gold/orange colors with the green/blue/violets. These complements really create a buzz for me.

The middle photo shows the first applications of pastel. In this stage I try to get the flow of the painting to go right. I correct what feels clumsy or harsh and start to set up what will be the areas of most interest.

The top photo shows what I think is the final version. I am careful not to go too far, and it's possible that I will add more later after it rests. My first look tomorrow will be the most telling.

Lewis River
18 x 24
pastel on Wallis Museum

Come see my work at the Pittock Mansion

Every year at Christmas, volunteers deck the halls of the Pittock Mansion with holiday finery. This year, you can also see artwork done by seven specially invited artists hanging in the Social Room show "A Northwest Christmas: The Natural Beauty and Bounty of Oregon."

Participating artists: Celeste Bergin, Michael Fisher, Pam Flanders, Carrie Holst, Brooks Hickerson, Jim King, and Katherine van Schoonhoven.

I hope that you will come and see the mansion lit with thousands of lights and filled with historic Christmas decorations. There is a charge to tour the mansion, you can read more about hours and details here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thinking and thanking

High temperature today at home, only 19 degrees F. At least there wasn't too much snow and ice on the roads as we worked our way up to our kids' neighborhood (where it was a whopping 20 degrees!). But, the normal 3 hour drive stretched to 5 hours with holiday traffic. It was slow, and there was a 7 person line at the Taco Bell to use the bathroom, but it was safe.

I wish you safe traveling mercies and a very warm and thanks-filled Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


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Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Still Life and SNOW!

10 x 8, raw umber and white, still life

9 x 12, raw umber and white, from 11/15/10

Warm inside the studio, despite the snow outside. More snow in the forecast for tomorrow!

I was happy to paint with oils again, a fun little still life. I can see that I have not connected the dark shapes in the painting I did today. The dark areas appear as disjointed islands when I squint down. Ah well.

Any day spent painting is a GOOD DAY! How was yours?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Retreat Complete!

This year is a bumper crop for mushrooms. After the book writing retreat these last four days, I feel a little like a mushroom myself!

Kitty has so much to say about art and art making, I am excited to help get her book written so that you can also benefit from her wisdom. On the table you can see a portfolio filled with portraits that date back to 1958, when she was a sweet young art student painting portraits on the streets of New York. We made great progress on the book and plan to have a few more retreats to finish the job. Whew!

After we wrapped up our writing retreat and Kitty drove back to her place, I decided that I needed to do something relaxing to help me transition back to the reality of my own life. Where else would I go but my favorite National Wildlife Refuge?

It was a cool 43 degrees, but since it wasn't raining, I put the top down on the car and listened and watched for the birds. The Tundra Swans are back! Unlike Canada Geese, who squawk and gossip and interrupt each other as they fly by, the swans are silent except for an occasional "Ooh!" They sound exactly like a woman being pinched!

The geese were startled by the passing Amtrack train and complained as they lifted off the grub-rich ground. They looked like origami shapes against the evening sky.

Ahh. A good night's sleep and I will back to painting tomorrow. What a great week it's been!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A book writing retreat with Kitty Wallis!

It may be cold and rainy outside, but it's warm and bright as Kitty and I work on writing her book! Today we pounded out several chapters and selected some jpeg images of Kitty's colorful paintings that beautifully demonstrate how she practices what she teaches.

This will be a book that you will want to own, I just know it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Raw Umber and White, a monochrome study

I had a great time learning more about oil painting today in my session with Thomas Kitts. I used discrete value puddles for this painting and did not blend across the values. Not all of the marks you see are mine, but many of them are and I am pleased with what I did.

In the weeks ahead, I will do more monochromatic value studies like this. It's like magic when the values work and define the shapes and turn the forms. Magic!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

... with a good stout ship beneath your feet ...

No sooner had we gotten home from Alaska when we sold our boat. This week we bought our new one. What a thrill to clean it up and start settling in. Or, as the Muppets say, it was our time to poop the deck!

ink sketch of salon cushions

here's the new boat ... hooray!

the clouds lifted over Lake Union to reveal the Space Needle

Our family joined us to check out the new boat and to make sure it passed the height test. Yes, our tall 6'4" and 6'1" sons can walk about with ease. More painting spaces, too!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Water and Sky
18 x 24, pastel on Wallis Museum

I'm busy painting, but not painting much worth showing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sketching with friends

Squash sketch at Carolyn's with Celeste and Carolyn and a fresh cup of coffee. Great way to spend time with friends.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Before my next oil painting session with Thomas Kitts, I have some homework to accomplish. Above you see my attempt at mixing values with raw umber and white. The mixes are supposed to differ only in one value (75% on the left set and 85% on the right for the dark mid tone). As I look at the photo, I can see that I have mixed the 50% values a little differently, too. This is harder than it looks!

Next, I am supposed to paint three still life paintings using objects that are midtone to dark in value. You can see the objects I think I'll paint in the photo below. I am going to try out a recycled panel and see how that works. This is a canvas panel that I have painted over with galkyd and titanium white.

Last week I went to the opening of Scott Gellatly's show at the Brian Marki Fine Art Gallery. He paints Northwest landscapes, en plein air, with a contemporary feel to them. Brian Marki was gracious and very enthusiastic about Scott's work and it was a pleasure to meet the artist in the minutes before the reception officially started. I like homework assignments like this!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day Three of Kitty Wallis Workshop

Kitty calls her workshops "Color Intensive" and she is RIGHT! Here's what a temperature-controlled value palette can do. For this study, Kitty had us choose warm colors for the lighter values (in equal value steps, light to mid-tones) and cool colors for the darker values (equal steps from mid-tones to dark). Good to know how the warm lights make this painting look like a lemony confection!

In this study, we selected both warm and cool pastels for each of the value steps, and then used that limited palette to render a painting from a black and white photo. What do you think?

This was my final painting of the day. My painting time was very interrupted but I am still pleased with some parts of this painting. I can see the the values are considered and even describe some of the forms.

Here you see a more fully developed color wheel. Notice the shift from the outer pure colors to the more grayed tones in the center. Choosing the right pastel for value-matching was a big challenge. On the right you see my table-mate's box. It was great to meet Dori Dewberry and see her fine work during the workshop. You can see more of her work on her blog here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day Two of Kitty Wallis Workshop

Somehow I missed photographing my first painting today. Above you see my second painting, 18 x 24 painted with abstract color from a black and white photograph. I left a lot of the under painting without pastel on top because I liked the way the wet pigment worked.

Kitty's afternoon demo, another show-stopper.

In the morning, we created our own color wheels, using pastels from our boxes. Pure colors ring the outside of the wheel, and grayed colors move into the center, with the center most point a gray of 33% each red, blue, and yellow. By doing this exercise, I discovered that I did not have a cool red pastel stick in my box. I discovered some other holes, but I was surprised by the red.

One of the points of this exercise was to begin to develop a keener color sense. That is, to look at a color (whether in nature, a photograph, or my pastel stick) and see its components. I like to think of it like "color factoring" (remember factoring from Math class?).

This workshop has been especially fun for me. Our group ranges in age from 17 -- it's not polite to ask but I think 70 something. The points of view are varied and thrilling. I can hardly wait to go back for day three!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day One of Kitty Wallis Workshop

You've heard the expression "Color gets the credit but value does all of the work"? It's true! You can see how value carries this painting along and gives the shapes their meaning and place, despite their color. This painting was rendered from a black and white photo using a playful limited value palette.

We are rapt whenever Kitty paints demos. She starts with a pigment dispersions to create with wet media under painting that becomes her value map. Once it's dry, she adds pastel marks to the top. Her first question when she start with the pastel is: "Now, what do I need correct?" That's where she starts with pastel.

This is my second painting today, done from my own photo reference. I made big mistakes with the under painting and then muddled my way through the rest of the painting. Sigh. Still so much to learn!

Kitty Wallis. Extraordinary artist, teacher, and human being.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Lewis River Meditation
18 x 24
pastel on recycled prepared panel

Monday, November 1, 2010

Session 3 with Thomas Kitts

  • Working with a toned canvas, toned to the common denominator midtone of the composition
  • Decide on center of interest and work it up a bit before working up surrounding areas
  • Notice and paint value and temperature, with special emphasis on darkest darks, lightest lights
  • Manage the amount of paint I apply, from slurry underpainting to dry brush to juicy
  • Always be willing to correct drawing errors
  • Application of practiced variety in brushwork
  • Discussion of composition decisions and effects
Sometimes a learning lesson isn't so much about the final result, but about the process and what I learned along the way. I'm still excited about oil painting and eager to learn more and to do better. Thomas gave me a thumbs up for my brushwork painting (previous post) and some more homework for the two weeks between today and our next meeting.

The wooden mask in this still life came from Japan, where Thomas' father got it in WWII. A non-face face to work with, so interesting! Can you tell from my painting that my center of interest was the left eye?