Sunday, April 27, 2008

Back Porch Painting

One of the many ways an artist can get into a rut is to paint on the same size of canvas all the time. Once in a while you really need to grab up a long rectangle, a square, something that is very out of the norm for you. The decisions about composition are the same but you will not respond with the same old/ same old. You might have to think a bit, come up with something a bit different. So besides making myself work real small then large, I am changing canvas shapes. My back yard is in full bloom right now with giant hollyhocks. The long verticals are fun to work with and they look wonderful against the sky. Sometimes we tend to ignore the ordinary, it is there every day. But look around you at the ordinary and paint it with a fresh look at it. Be a visitor to your own yard, there is probably something good to paint.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Studies & Starts

They are called studies or starts for a reason. Putting aside thoughts of what show are you working on, how will I frame this- all those types of thoughts have you looking the wrong way. Focus on what is in front of you, study and play with the colors. Mix that hollyhock pink till you get it right. Many times I do not go out to complete a painting - but take along cheap small canvas boards that have many coats of paint on them, and just do starts. I know you hear this over and over again, but the layout at the very beginning of your painting determines its success in the end. If you don't get it down right with a design, composition that looks great as is- there is no fixing it later. Sometimes these little starts actually turn out quite nice. Maybe that is because I am not thinking about painting for someone else or with expectations. When doing studies/starts, think first. This is not the time for emotional expression, but doing what you know about good design & composition. Have a different focus, sometimes layout, sometimes edge treatment. This is so valuable, just as doing boring scales when learning the piano. You are training you fingers to respond to what you see, you brain to what you know. After doing several starts, then pull out that BIG canvas and really feel off center. It is good to make your brain work that way, not to work in a rut. Or your work will look like it is in a rut. Then why do it. Try it. Just Paint!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I know this has nothing to do with art, but isn't this just the cutest little creature? His name was Hogbert, a wonderful little pet of an old friend. Hogbert passed away recently and here is his photo. I know I had never seen an actual hedgehog before. Apparently he lived over 6 years. How cute is this?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Plein Air in Hawaii

Looking at artwork done by other artists is always a good learning experience, especially when you are seeing artwork done from life, from people who really know what they are painting. I check out website from groups all over the country, luckily these guys from Hawaii contacted me and that is how I heard about them. When you are planning to travel to paint in an area that you are not at all familiar with it really helps to study artists local to that land, you are not going to paint how they paint. What is shows you is their version of what they know well. Many artist purposely do not do this so not to be influenced by those artists, but I have seen too many artists who travel to Arizona who obviously did not do their homework and it shows in their work. How many paintings have you seen where the cactus are perfectly straight like telephone poles, with only two arms- or the colors are the same palette that would be used in that artists home state- Wisconsin green. I know that the well seasoned artist probably has enough control of himself to paint the colors he sees, that's what makes him a master. But, until that time comes for me, I will continue to study the location I will be painting. Using my watercolor journal has helped me, I mix up the colors of leaves, soil, sky, the colors of the land in front of you. Push out what you are used to automatically putting down on the palette and paint what is there. I truly
hope to never again see a lime green desert painting----- So, check out the websites and the artwork of fellow artists who paint in lands far different from your own. Like Hawaii- If you have a trip coming up there check out any shows that might be going on, or a paint-out you could attend. Contact the group for information. Artist are generally a friendly, sharing bunch, with the few crabby exceptions.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

California Painting-Frank Bette Art Center

Frank Bettes Art Center Plein Air Paint-out in Alameda California

What I great way to start my week. In my InBox on Monday morning was a Congratulations You are invited to participate in the Frank Bette Art Center Paint-out this July. I had applied for it because it really sounded fun. I is in Alameda California, on the bay near San Fran. It has been years since I have been in that part of Calif., it is beautiful. Can't wait to try my hand at the old Victorian homes, marinas filled with boats, and the city streets. A bit nervous too, none of those things are subjects that I paint everyday. It is really out of my element. If you are just stepping out to enter shows that are juried all I can say is go for it. Do your homework, don't apply for a show that the judge is an abstract person if you paint in realism. Here I almost didn't apply and now I will be painting in northern California this summer. Check out the website to learn more about their paint-out. Like the silly ad says, you can't win if you don't play-- you can't go to paint-outs if you never enter. Do it. Write me if you need places to find good show opportunities that might work for you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

WaterColor Journals

Today I am doing a demo on how to pack up a travel watercolor kit & journal. So for my students: Rodrick Smith is a wonderful example of an artist who uses this technique to capture the moment. On his website you will see this pic, click on the Alaskan Journal to watch the pages turn with beautiful watercolor sketches of what he saw and experienced on his trip. Take the time to see the other links with his watercolors, the ones from Catalina Island are especially nice. He is very good about sharing his ideas with others so don't hesitate to contact him. Take your sketch books with you everywhere. Draw what ever is in front of you, add a bit of color. The more you do the more confident you will become. Be free with the color try to catch the values you see. Add a couple new colors to your box after awhile. Try to keep it as simple as you can and learn to mix your own color.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fminus cartoon for my birthday

One cool thing but somewhat dangerous thing about having a comic strip author as your son is you might get a personal comic for your birthday. Here was my gift I saw when I opened up this mornings Tribune- he pokes fun at us artists and how overly serious we take our profession. You can see more of his comics at or just look in your local paper each morning. No he is not sensitive, but FUNNY! Thank you Tony for letting me start my day with a laugh, again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Summertime means Holllyhocks

We have been so fortunate this year with our spring. Usually we have freezing nights then suddenly in one weekend, it is HOT. Not this year, wonderfully warm days, cool evenings and the best part is the hollyhocks are coming up. This will be the 5th year for these and the flowers started out a deep purple, this generation looks like they are white. Time to put in some fresh seed. Can't wait to paint them though. Myself and 2 other women have a show the "Impressionist Challenge" the first week of June at the Joyous Lake Gallery. I plan to paint in my yard, also a ranch scene, all much larger than I usually work. I can easily drag an easel and large canvas back onto the back porch then back out the next day. Same time, same place. If you are comfortable working in one size, make yourself try much larger or much smaller. It can be a bit uncomfortable but that space is treated no differently. Make yourself get out of the comfort zone, you might discover that you are very good at painting small. This is all because my son Tony has been bugging me to paint BIG, he even bought be a huge canvas that has been a clothes line for the last year. My mentor & friend, Darlene Swaim gave me a huge easel. No excuse now! So I'll let you know how it goes. Big brushes for sure. Thanks Tony & Darlene. You both push me to work in ways I'm not sure I want to go.

Oprah's Big Give in Yuma

I have a dear friend, Mike Shelton, friends since the 70's. He had an afro and I had bell bottoms. He has always had a heart for the less fortunate but rather than say "oh well" , he actually does something about it. Here is his letter, think about participating if you can.
Oprah's Big Give
My submission was selected by ABC5/KECY-TV/Fox 9 for Oprah's Big Give. My project is to raise enough money to fully remodel/repair the kitchen and dining area of Crossroads Mission in Yuma. The Mission's kitchen serves 400 meals a day. In fact, they provide 100,000 meals a year. It needs mold resistent materials, more basic silverware, a convection oven that cooks evenly and consistently, a salad area with 'sneeze guards', tables and chairs, the list goes on.

If Crossroads raises more money or in-kind donations than the other groups in the competition, the Big Give will give another $4000 on top of whatever we make. I want not only to enable the Crossroads Mission kitchen to pass needed inspections, but to go beyond that and really upgrade the kitchen capabilities. The thing is we need to have any gift in no later than Monday, April 14th, 5pm. By winning, Crossroads Mission will also be recognized nationally on Oprah's Big Give program on ABC-TV.

Crossroads Mission is a non-profit organization approaching its 50th anniversary. It addresses the needs of the homeless, the displaced, those broken by dependency on alcohol or drug abuse. Wherever they are from, they come to Crossroads looking to make a new start in life. Crossroads maintains a family shelter and a mens shelter, A drug and alcohol recovery program. A career center and a thrift store. A great deal in the way of clothing, furniture and other necessities are given to the needy thanks to the generosity of the community. The Mission reaches out to the disadvantaged and displaced to help them refocus on their life's goals. Crossroads Mission is there to provide love and support when oftentimes no one else seems to care.

If you are moved to help financially, make out the check to Crossroads Mission, with 'Big Give' in the memo section. A receipt for tax purposes will be provided. Please pass on this message to others you believe would be interested.

Send to: Mike Shelton, 2681 S. Virginia Drive #8, Yuma, AZ 85364

Monday, April 7, 2008

March in Santa Fe

One of the biggest issues I have in outdoor painting is knowing when to stop messing with the piece. To know when to stop and let it be. Overworking a piece is death to the painting. Plein air painting is fresh, confident not full of unneccesary detail. One thing that helps prevent overworking is COLD snow and ice that forms on your legs while standing thigh deep in snow. That really forces you to think, and just put it down. This pieces was quickly completed in a couple of hours (just as I could not feel my toes) at Hyde Park , 10 miles north of Santa Fe in March. The stream was flowing downhill, part of it under the snow, with clear ice forming over the top. Dry grasses poked through the surface and there were alot of little and not so little paw prints on the snow. Once I got just tooo cold, it was time to quit. It works, I was very happy with this, it definitely looks just how I felt. I guess I really am a desert girl.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

the Paper Studio

I have always done crafts of some sort, from the time I was little making my Barbies clothes, paperdolls, and it's not that different now. One fascination I have had is with beautiful papers. Many years ago a dear friend of mine and I had a small greeting card Co., we used handmade papers and anything cool to create our cards. That is when I learned to really enjoy paper as much as fabric. I still enjoy it and work with papers to create my yearly ornaments that I send my friends and clients at Christmas. Just this week I made Awards for the Tucson Plein Air Painter show coming up on Saturday. This morning I got news that the place I get my paper and get so much inspiration from , the Paper Studio in Tempe was burglarized. Their insurance policy does not cover that so they are really hurting. Being a small business owner I know how devastating something like this can be. They are forced now to only be open on Saturdays and they had to let staff go. I know that my husband's business is like a family so we know this is tough. Cindy Iverson and her husband have worked very hard to get their business going with quality product and good customer service. If you have never been to their store in Tempe, then please set aside some time and go by. Shop their online service if possible. Buy a friend a gift certificate, or sign up for a class. The Paper Studio 480-557-5700

We are open to the public on Saturdays 10am to 5pm. We are located at 520 E. Southern Avenue in beautiful Tempe, Arizona. The cross streets are Southern Avenue, one block west of Rural Road at the NWC of Southern and McAllister. If you take the I-60 freeway, exit at Rural road and head about a mile north to Southern Avenue.