Monday, January 31, 2011

Art books to read often

Three books Eric Jacobsen recommends to his students:

All three were on my studio library shelf. Now they are in my house, by my bed, on the coffee table. I will continue to look at them again and again and refer to them often with my painting questions and thoughts.

Are these books the ones you refer to in your art practice? Do you have others you recommend?

10 x 10
painting start

something new to try in the studio

My eye doctor did a bang up job dilating my pupils for my eye exam today. Six hours later my vision is still blurred and it's hard to tell that my eyes are green for all of the black pupils. Even with the blurry vision, I started a new oil painting to put into practice and remind myself again of some of the things from the Still Life workshop I took over the weekend. Big shapes with the right values first. Tomorrow I'll look again and see if I need much detail to finish it. Starts are a lot of fun!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Painting Expressive Still-Lifes in Oils" with Eric Jacobsen

Ginger Jar and Alstromeria
11 x 14
oil on Ray Mar panel

left: my set up with dim overhead light
right: Eric Jacobsen demonstration

left: Eileen's tulips glow with light
right: 15 in the class felt crowded but wonderfully dynamic and exciting

Eric Jacobsen is a remarkable artist and an encouraging and nurturing instructor. I loved his "Painting Expressive Still-Lifes in Oils" workshop! His passion for art comes through in every word he says and every brushstroke he makes. He leads with genuine humility, which just serves to accentuate his greatness. Am I gushing? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday workshop, held in the courtyard of Art on the Boulevard Gallery in Vancouver, Washington.

"I am not as concerned about the accuracy of your drawing as I am about the feeling you put into your painting." He urged us to continue to practice rendering objects and drawing accurately, but to allow our paintings to be joyful and exciting. "If you're not in the work, then what is the point?" he asked.

I left the workshop feeling energized about painting more, painting better, looking for big shapes, concentrating on the abstract shapes, leaving detail for the end, and mixing luscious grays to set off the pure colors and jewel tones of my set up.

I can hardly wait for the weather to improve for plein air work with oils! Special thanks to Eric for his time and care and positive regard for me and for all of his students.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More lemons

Whole and Quarters
9 x 12
oil on canvas panel

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

White Charcoal Solution!

Before I put this piece away in the flat file (or the circular file), I thought I would give it another think. I wanted to use white lines between the shapes and not do it with a tiny brush and acrylic paint. Originally, I thought I could use the new Sharpie paint pens (they come in white, did you know that?!) but the white seemed to absorb into the watercolor paper and not leave the clean line I desired for this batik effect.

Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

How about white charcoal? One line as a test and it seemed to be just what I wanted. Another two hours later, and it was finished! I like it.

Problems just give artists a new way to be creative.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chalk it up to experience

I charged off and started in on this full sheet watercolor piece with an idea that I would try my hand at a technique I saw in International Artist Magazine. I spent hours on this, with very high hopes at a beautiful outcome. But, when push came to shove, it did not work out the way I wanted. So, chalk this one up to experience and move on. That's just what I'll do.

But, I have to say that I believe that no effort is truly wasted. Something good will come out of this. I just know it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Four Monets at Portland Art Museum!

As a special exhibit, Portland Art Museum hung four Monet paintings in one room of their Contemporary building. Dating from 1879 ("River at Lavacourt") to 1888 ("Le Chateau d'Antibes") to 1914 ("Waterlilies") to 1917 ("Nymphaes"), the show was gorgeous!

The earlier pieces were more carefully rendered, much more detailed than the later pieces.

At first, I thought the water lilies were rough, and somewhat inexpertly painted. Especially the ovals of the lily pads. But, as I stepped back from the paintings, ten feet, then twenty feet, it was magic. The rough ellipses became ripples from an insect on the water, a shadow under a pad, light shimmering across the surface of the water.

Transcendent. Monet. I have a whole new respect for his work and for his vision.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There is nothing so evocative as a path.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reordering my world at the beach

sketching at the beach

sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Eric Wiegardt's studio and gallery
my all time favorite watercolor artist and teacher

The beach, a place where I recharge my batteries. I love the smell of the air here and the feeling I have when I walk the dune and look out at the ocean stretching out as far as I can see. Somehow, at the beach, my world gets reordered. My problems and concerns take on a different perspective in the face of the huge ocean, the constant pound of the surf, the pull of the tides.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inspired by International Artist Magazine

The images of his watercolor paintings jumped off the page at me when I read the article about Martin Taylor in International Artist Magazine. If you click the link to the magazine, you can page through to get to Taylor's pages and look for yourself!

He broke up his images into interesting shapes of color and then enhanced this design by using white acrylic to create lines around the shapes. I liked it well enough to try my hand at it myself. So far, I've just drawn the image onto my full sheet of watercolor paper, and painted just a few of the pieces. I'll let you know how this turns out. So far, I love the idea, and I'm excited by the start.

I've been thinking about inspiration and things that inspire me. What inspires you?

I wonder if maybe, just maybe, it's possible that the key to inspiration is the openness and willingness to BE INSPIRED. What do you think?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Lemons, no lemon bread

Feeling my way around the forms of these lemons and it's starting to make some sense to me. Like little puzzle pieces fitting together, I know that there's plenty more to go, but I'm excited to see things take shape.

I used to be an enthusiastic baker. But now I just bake at Christmas and my favorite home baked good is lemon bread, a dense pound cake loaf with fresh lemon juice in its icing and zest in its dough. I have a nice collection of lemons now ... could be time to bake again!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fragrant lemons

My studio is fragrant with the smell of lemons. A strong light source on this small still life, and the lemons warm and give off their tangy scent. I painted this right over the top of another painting. I like that about oil. One painting makes way for the next and so it goes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weird and Wonderful Instruments

18 x 24
pastel on Wallis Museum Paper
recycled with gesso texture

I guess it's true that if you are a musician, everything looks like an instrument. These tanks and connecting tubes had the potential to make weird and wonderful sounds. Maybe like this...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lemon study

Lemon, yellow study
8 x 8
oil on BFK

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


8 x 10
oil on canvas panel

The Lemon
Edouard Manet, 1880

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mixing transitional colors

As I said yesterday about my session with Thomas Kitts, it was good to have feedback on the paintings I had done between sessions. And, as I said in yesterday's post, with some paintings I hit the mark and with others I missed it.

With the Turner palette painting from January 6, Thomas said that I created a problem for myself by putting complementary colors next to one another and then blending them for the transition. That created many dull, gray colors. As an alternate, he suggested I experiment with and try to mix transitional colors to move through colors without using gray. What you see in the above samples are my attempts today to do that very thing.

The top swatch is my most successful transition, I think. I got from violet to yellow without getting any gray in between. I love that!

My question for you: do you use transitional colors? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Yesterday, in our conversation about mixing and using transition colors, Thomas referred to the book Franz A Bischoff: The Life and Art of an American Master. I am ordering the book today (click on the title for the link). It is filled with examples of this California artist's amazing work. Below, you see two examples of Bischoff's work. I think you will agree, this is a man who knew how to transition colors!!

Monterey Coast, Franz A. Bischoff

Roses, Franz A. Bischoff

Monday, January 10, 2011

Session 4 with Thomas Kitts

9 x 12
oil on canvas panel

set up at Thomas Kitts' studio

It was a full session today with Thomas Kitts! First, critique of some of my practice pieces since my last session with him. Feedback is so helpful! In some pieces I hit the mark, in others I did not. That's to be expected. I think that if I were to hit the mark every time, it would indicate that I'm not stretching and trying hard enough. So speaks this over-achiever!

Next, an introduction to mediums and resins and other stuff artists add to their paint for various effects. It was truly interesting to hear and see what Titian, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Turner and others used to create their masterpieces.

Then, I got to paint with the mediums. Today I used Liquin, cold wax, and marble dust in a gel slurry. And my palette? A limited palette, sort of an Old Masters selection of Yellow Ochre, Umber, Ivory Black, Transparent Iron Oxide, and Alizarin. I like the old world quality to the painting and I will paint more with this limited palette to figure it out and experiment.

Any day spent painting is a good day. I'd count this one doubly good!

By the way, Thomas is holding a workshop February 7-9, 2011 "Essential Alla Prima Oil Painting Techniques." He is a good teacher and I think that this will be a wonderful workshop! Click here for details and contact information.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New oil palette

18 x 24
oil on board

above: aircraft windows doing duty as palettes below: window/palette in action

Conversation last night at my house ...

Me (to my husband): Do you think Home Depot sells Plexiglas?

Husband: Why do you need Plexiglas?

Me: Does Home Depot sell it, do you think?

Husband: I don't know, depends on how big a piece you need.

Me: Well, something thick enough to not bend when I lift it, and something like 18" x 24".

Husband: What do you need it for?

Me: I need a bigger palette and I've heard that some artists use plexi.

Husband: I might have something you could use.

Me: What?

Husband: A window. An airplane window.

Me: What?!

Husband: I'll let you look at it.

.............................. some time passes ................................

Husband comes to the studio with two windows from an airplane. One about 18" x 24" (the smaller one in the photo above) and the other about 18" x 30".

Me: These are PERFECT! I love them! Thank you so much!!

Husband: I guess not every artist has a Cessna 210 window for her palette, right?

You can see the bigger window/palette with paint on it in the last photo. It is exactly what I hoped for, but didn't know I could just ask and have it magically appear like that!

What a guy! I'm keeping him, for sure!!

(Any other artists using airplane windows for palettes?)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Too Much Water

Too Much Water
18 x 24
pastel on recycled Wallis museum paper

Some days the water is big and the land is just too far away. It's good to have friends to stand in the gap.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Turned on by Turner!

Turner on Orcas Island
oil on stretched canvas
11 x 14

Back to the practice of color mixing from the Living Colors book. Turner's palette totally turned me on. I fell in love with every color I mixed. While I do not always enjoy the subject of his paintings, I always love Turner's colors. Click here to see what I mean.

After mixing these gorgeous colors, I decided that I wanted to paint with them and see what happened. Not copying Turner's painting, but using his palette to paint my own painting. I'm not sure that it's really ORIGINAL in the cleanest sense of the word, to paint with Turner's colors, but it was grand!

And now, for some fitting music ...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Finding Flow
18 x 24
pastel on recycled Wallis Museum Paper

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Handling Critique

painting from critique
facing the wall for a week or more

How do you handle critical feedback? I attend a monthly critique and during that time I present one or two paintings to a small group of artists for their feedback and comments.

I used to feel much more attached to my paintings. They felt like "darlings" and I can say, I didn't like them to be criticized. I felt defensive and upset. Sometimes, in the early days, I would come home and immediately make changes to my paintings based on what I heard at critique.

I have come a long way, baby! I don't feel nearly so attached to my paintings. Probably because I have painted many more, so the overall importance of the piece being critiqued is less. One piece in 900 is different from one piece in 45.

Listening to feedback with a non-defensive attitude is not easy. But, it certainly allows others to say more about how they feel, what they see, what is not working, what is working. I like that. I kind of want to squeeze all of the available information so that I have it. I take notes.

Then, I come home and I put my painting away. Today I have stood it against the wall in the studio. I will leave it there for a week or more. Then, I will turn it back, and look at it with fresh eyes. I will re-read my notes of the critique comments. And then I can decide what happens next.

How about you? How do you handle critique? Is it helpful? Hurtful?

Monday, January 3, 2011


18 x 24
oil on hardboard

scraping off yellow ochre and some of the water

Although there was much that I liked about my first attempt at painting my refuge in oil, some of it went awry. I couldn't make the land masses read the way I wanted them to, as the bleached, dry grasses of winter. Yellow ochre became the opaque culprit for a flat look and I didn't like or intend.

The paint was thick and I was able to scrape it down. I applied M. Graham's Walnut Galkyd Oil to the entire painting and then repainted the areas I thought were weak. I like it's unapologetic boldness.

Now, back to the studio for more mixing practice.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Swans like gods

too much yellow ochre on this oil painting
scrape, scrape, scrape

We've had some very cold days this last week. So cold that much of the water at the wildlife refuge is now ice. The tundra swans are always kind of full of themselves. Today, they walked on the water like gods. There will be no reasoning with them after this!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mixing and sorting

left: palette colors used by Leonardo da Vinci
right: oil paint I mixed to match

above: oil paint I mixed to match
below: Hans Holbein palette

The book Living Colors: The Definitive Guide to Color Palettes Through the Ages is unique. For every piece of artwork represented on the left side of a page is a corresponding palette on the right. I used two of the palettes for my paint mixing exercise today. It was a fun challenge and one that I will repeat again. Artist friend Roxanne Clingman Colyer told me of her practice of matching paint store color chips by mixing oil paint to match. Her suggestion helped me remember this book and resulted in my practice today mixing color.

I loved the process of mixing color to match the palette swatches. I started with what I thought was the base color and then asked myself what else did I see. I would add that color and decide if it was enough or too much. What else needs to be added? Does it need to be warmer? Cooler? Darker? Lighter? Bluer? Redder? Duller? Brighter? Perfect questions that I should ask more often while I am painting.

And then, ...

A New Year Tradition! The annual clean out the flat file event! The paintings I don't immediately frame, I store in a flat file in my studio. At the end of the year one or two drawers are full of these paintings (this year I painted 225 paintings!) and on New Year's Day I sort them all out.

You can see some already in the trash. Not worth saving, not worth cleaning the paper and re-using it. TRASH! Then, on the top of the files you see three piles.

  • Pile #1 (the small pile on the left): pretty good, maybe put into a frame or enter in a show or contest.
  • Pile #2 (the center pile): needs something but might be pretty good with more work
  • Pile #3 (the large pile on the right): not so good, but the paper is worth saving!
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! Today's date: 1-1-11. Wild!