Friday, December 31, 2010

"The Colorist" Top 10 Posts!

Fitzhugh Sound/900
16 x 20
pastel on prepared board

Sometimes water acts as a giant mirror, reflecting the intensity of a beautiful sky.

I am honored to be one of the artists named by Casey Klahn, pastel artist and author of "The Colorist" blog, in his "Top Ten Posts on an Artist's Blog 2010." He acknowledged my posts from my four month boating trip this summer from Olympia, WA to Juneau, AK. Thank you, Casey!

I love to read "The Colorist" because it is filled with fine art and art thoughts. And Casey always answers his readers' comments with thoughtful responses that invite dialogue and conversation.

You raise the bar high for bloggers, Casey. Thank you!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


More Expressive Drawing play today. This time I used a variety of drawing materials and created two samplers. The one on the left is done on Rives BFK, a smooth surface, and the one on the right is done on Arches Cold Press paper, a textured surface.

As I made marks, I also made notes about what I felt or observed about each line, each mark, and how the different drawing tools felt and looked on the different surfaces.

I used a 9B graphite pencil, charcoal pencil, Conte crayon, Prismacolor marker, and vine charcoal. It was really interesting to use them, one after the next, and to keenly observe how they were different from one another. The graphite felt oily. The marker felt fast. Vine charcoal subtle. Charcoal pencil resistant. Conte descriptive of texture.

These samplers reminded me of the old needlework samplers that my grandmother and her mother made a long time ago. A sampler is a way of trying out something. No big commitment. The sampler of chocolates only has one of each kind. Too bad, that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Theme: Water; Variation: Sailboat on Lake Union

Water continues to be on my mind.

A motif I can't keep from humming and improvising around. Today, a variation on the theme that includes the small sailboat next to me on Lake Union. The sun is out. The wind has lifted a light chop on the water, creating a wondrous squiggle as the mast lets go of its need to reflect itself perfectly.

Speaking of themes and variations, one of the most lovely is this, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, and this the 18th variation played by Arthur Rubinstein.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Narrative Flux
vine charcoal, acrylic, gesso, compressed charcoal
24 x 36, Fabriano 140#

In the book Expressive Drawing, exercises are called "Play." Don't you love that?

Here's Play 2. I used various drawing media, and started with an expressive mark. Then, I responded to it. After three minutes, I stopped drawing and obliterated portions of the drawing that didn't seem to work. Then, I went back to drawing. This pattern of putting something down and then taking some of it away is called "Flux." Assert. Obliterate. Back and forth.

A variation of this Play is to add narrative. So, in addition to drawing and taking away, I added symbols and words.

All of this came from a question Kitty Wallis asked me this morning at breakfast (with the Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters):

"How do you find your musician knowledge and experience bridging into and informing your painting?"

Monday, December 27, 2010

Expressive Drawing

acrylic on Arches Hot Press, 140#

I can't resist a good art book! Right now I am reading a great book, Expressive Drawing: A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within by Steven Aimone (click the title and you will see a lot of the book on line!).

In the first chapter are some guided exercises to help create a more playful attitude about drawing. My paper is 29" x 22", a little smaller than the recommended 48" x 36" size. Holding my 1" flat brush like a fencer holds a foil, I made a mark and let it be whatever it wanted to be. No thinking or planning, just load the brush and put it down.

Then, I stepped back and looked at the line I made. Reloaded the brush, and responded to the first line.

Have you ever tried this kind of "automatic drawing"? Did you know that the Surrealists used a version of this to express the subconscious? It may that Picasso even practiced automatic drawing in his later years.

This is one art book I am very glad I did not resist!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas wherever you are

Seems that this year Christmas is quite different for me. But, you know what? It turns out that just because it's different, it's not bad. And wherever I am, with family and friends, it's still Christmas.

Santa showed up as we were eating dinner. He gave us candy canes and a hard time (mostly for being naughty ... must be the twinkle of mischief I seem to carry around in my eyes) and served as another reminder to me, that Christmas is sweet.

One of the best things for me about Christmas is the music. Here's another favorite of mine. Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs

From the marina on Lake Union, a nice walk to Gas Works Park where I sat on a graffiti decorated bench and sketched the Seattle skyline. I couldn't help but think of the old television program, "Frasier" and the contour drawing in the opening credits.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you peace and good will and a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

December Book Writing Retreat

Now we're really getting this book written! A success, by all measures, this week's book writing retreat was busy and hard and satisfying!

We put together two more chapters, including one that is filled with great color exercises.

Kitty did a portrait painting demo yesterday (I was the model ... say "cheese!"), and I will write how it felt to have her paint me. Hint, when she says "Squint down to see the shapes and values" she means it. And, she really does what she says!!

So, what does a book writing retreat look like? Tables full of file folders, paper, computers, printer, and two artist writers. Like the picture you see, plus another artist writer. Me!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitty Wallis painted my portrait today!

Portrait painting. Kitty has been painting portraits since she was a young student at Cooper Union. Of course, portrait painting and Kitty's unique approach to portraits MUST be a part of her book.

Today, in the quiet and comfort of my studio, Kitty painted my portrait in front of several objective observers. We all had a good time and Kitty and I pulled together some wonderful information for her book.

Although, in the end, she was not satisfied with the likeness, I loved the sparkle of mischief she captured in my eye!

Photo credit: Roxanne Colyer Clingman

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Celeste told me to do it, so I did!

A friend gave me six untempered Masonite boards (thanks, Debra!) and I think I can use them for oil painting supports. I talked to several artists and they said that I needed to gesso the boards. So, I applied three layers of gesso to the boards with light sanding in between. They look so pretty.

But then, when I asked Celeste Bergin about it, she suggested that I paint a giant "X" across the back to prevent warping. So, I did it. Hey, if Celeste tells you to do something, you should probably do it because she's right most of the time!

Have you used untempered Masonite boards for oil painting supports? How did you prepare them?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Water Worry

I think about water a lot. I love to watch it move and flow. It is always determined to discover the lowest spots and to pool there. Maybe water is on my mind a lot because I nearly lost my life after falling into the 52 degree water of Puget Sound.

I may look okay, but somehow I always have a niggling worry about water.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Landscape of Life

Landscape of Life
18 x 24
Pastel on Wallis Museum

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Maybe it's the dark days. Maybe it's the rain. Maybe it's the thought of getting older and feeling myself creaking as I do my best to flex with the changes. I'm not sure exactly what drove me to turn a landscape into a face. My face. My little girl face. But, I've started.

Maybe it's because behind every face, every face lined with age, is a landscape of life. And a child, still inside, wondering who is that woman looking back at her in the mirror.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Noise of Waters

Lewis River 5
24 x 18
pastel on Wallis Museum

All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters by James Joyce
All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water's

The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters
Far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mixing puddles of paint

The mixing was so nice on my new tempered glass palette. I'm still painting monochrome still life pieces, which feel like scales to me. I never minded scales in my piano practice, but they were not thrilling for anyone else. So, too, the monochrome paintings.

Instead of putting my palette into the freezer, I popped it into a Masterson sealed palette protector. I hope that the paint will stay fresh for my work tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pittock pretty at Christmas time

over the top Victorian Christmas decorations in every room

down in the salon, my painting (right) hangs next to Celeste Bergin's (left)

my painting (left) James F. King (center) Dave McDaniel (right)

The Pittock Mansion was built in 1909 by Henry Pittock, publisher of The Oregonian newspaper. Open to the public since 1965, it is a beautifully restored French Renaissance Chateau and at Christmas, it is decorated in full-blown Victorian style.

My paintings are hanging in the show "The Natural Beauty and Bounty of Oregon" until January 2, 2011.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keeping it vertical

Refuge 3
24 x 18
pastel on Wallis Museum

Pacing and growling over vertical landscapes again today. This time with quiet water and a serene scene from my favorite spot, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Did you know that in 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt started the national wildlife refuge program by designating Florida's Pelican Island as a protected wildlife preserve? You can read more about these precious national resources here.

This afternoon was a little cloudy and dark at the refuge, but the sky was filled with swans and geese and cranes. I watched all kinds of ducks splash in the ponds and share jokes with the chuckling mallards. I also saw this very well fed coyote! Yikes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Challenge of vertical

Lewis River 4
24 x 18
pastel on Wallis Museum

Turn the paper from landscape to portrait and a whole wagon load of challenges appear. Where is the interest? How can I move the eye of the viewer up and around and back up again? It's a sure sign that I'm learning something new when I pace around my studio and growl at the painting on the easel!

That pretty much describes my day.

How was your day?

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


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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!