Thursday, August 30, 2012


"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
—Emile Zola

I came across a website which reviews/describes some of the Big Names in daily painting - Raymond Logan's Daily Painter Review (Logan himself is a pretty big name). 

The site isn't active anymore — the most recent post is more than a year old — but it is well worth looking at. Comparing an artist's work from one, two, or three years ago and her work today is revelatory. They were all great painters three years ago, and they are even greater painters now. For most of them, their style didn't change drastically, but evolved into something that makes their statements clearer, more definite, more confident.

It makes me think about the concept of developing a style.  That's the advice I hear often, that for an artist to be successful (what defines success is a whole ’nother conversation...) they need a particular style that identifies them. Which I cannot argue with: an artist whose every painting is one-off isn't going to be recognized; it's too hard to categorize and store them in one's brain.

An early effort by the artist, ca 1969. If you look closely, you may
be able to discern that this was drawn on the back of pin-feed
computer paper. I'm thinking of submitting this to the Street View challenge on DPW.

"Developing a style" is something I always thought of as a deliberate process. You "decide" how you're going to paint, and start doing it. Yes, feel free to laugh, that's a pretty silly idea. In my limited experience I've come to realize that the style develops itself. The artist works; the work evolves. You try different things, you fail, you try again, you have some limited success, you get some crazy ideas from other artists, you try a different thing, you fail, you try again... Twenty years later you think "where did the time go?" and all of a sudden you've got "a style"  :-)

Probably there's a nice medium to be reached between pure experimentation and a deliberate process of learning — meandering versus a focused path. A balance between thinking about painting and actually painting.  

There's an analogy I always used to make when I was [trying to] learn to play drums. You can listen to all the tracks you want, watch as many performances as you want (and you should), but eventually it comes down to Stick Time. The amount of time you spend with drumsticks in your hand. Learning from others is essential, but at some point you have to start learning from yourself. The same is true when you're painting. You can and should watch demos, attend workshops, read books, look at other paintings—but what it really comes down to is the amount of time you spend with a paintbrush in your hand.

Which I should probably be doing right now, instead of writing...

Here's where I found the link for the Daily Painter Review - lots of great stuff here:

and here's an awesome drum groove for you, from the great Bernie Purdie:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Third Street

12" x 9"
oil on canvas panel

Wilmington NC is a very dog-friendly city. This lovely girl waited patiently outside the cafe for her human to pick up coffee, but that didn't stop her from occasionally sticking her nose in the door to check on things.

This was painted for the Street View challenge on DPW. It coincided nicely with the most recent Start I did. I've been wanting to paint this scene for a while, because I just love the dog and flag, but it wasn't quite clicking for me. Punching up the color and contrast made it a cheerier scene.

I'll be getting back to the Starts soon - recently I've been painting larger format stuff.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Watching the Waves Roll In

11" x 14" oil on stretched canvas

I had so much fun painting this one - I didn't stress about being super realistic or accurate. Just enjoyed the colors and the movement, and tried to capture what it FELT like on that beach, more than what it LOOKED like. That approach was very freeing and relaxing.

You may have noticed I'm not posting as frequently lately. It's due to two things: one is that I'm taking a class (non painting-related) at the local community college, so that reduces my free time. The other is that I've been painting on larger canvases recently, and it takes longer to finish a painting.

My husband, who is not a painter but is definitely an artist, has suggested several times that painting those small 6x6 and 5x7 pieces might be limiting me. I don't know if that's true or not, but since I rarely paint outside in the summer (not in this climate, believe you me) there's really no need to paint alla prima, and I can complete a canvas over a period of days, instead of rushing to get it down before the light changes :-)

So I've been using up my stock of 8x10 and 9x12 panels, and these larger canvases I've had cluttering up my studio.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with CAROL SCHIFF

I was initially drawn to Carol’s work because of the subject matter—lots of beaches and Florida scenes, and beautiful cool colors. All you Parrotheads out there will probably enjoy her paintings too! But she paints much more than that, and is equally adept at landscapes, still lifes, and people. Even with so much versatility, she has her own unique style, something I envy a great deal.

Carol kindly agreed to answer my questions, and tell us more about her painting.


Q. You paint such a wide variety of subjects - landscapes, still lives, people, food, buildings - how do you decide what to paint? Is there a subject you’re drawn to more than others?

Yes, there is a subject that I am drawn to…. light. The actual subject matter is not that important to me, it is the light, the contrast, that catches my eye.

Q. Do you paint more from real life, or from photo reference?

I paint almost exclusively from images. Sometimes this is looked on as a big no-no, but I think if the masters had the opportunity to paint from an image, they would have grabbed it and run! There are changes that must be made. The perspective is not always correct, the shadows are not transparent, so on and so forth. But, there are also light effects that the human eye cannot see, a rim of saturated color or a purple or blue cast that keep me coming back to images. Of course, it is also much more convenient!

If I set up a still life, chances are I will photo it. I may take 20-30 shots from different angles before I get the one I want to paint. I load it on my memory stick and every day I review the choices and choose one to paint. I then go to photo shop and compose some more, a little cropping, punch up the contrast or colors. Only then do I start to paint.

Q. Do you have any tips for plein air painting?

Don’t do it! Just joking. It’s fine if you enjoy that type of thing, but I prefer air conditioning, bathroom, kitchens etc. By the time I drag all my equipment to a site, find the perfect composition, fight the heat, the bugs, the wind and the changing scene, I always ask myself “Is it worth it?” For me, that answer is “No.”

Q. You generally paint with oils. Have you ever used other mediums, and what do you consider the advantages/disadvantages of oil paints?

I have tried many. I started with drawing lessons in charcoal, went on to watercolor and pastel, dabbled with acrylics (still do), but when I tried oils, I never went back!

Oils are so creamy, so forgiving (scrape, scrape, scrape), the hues are incredible. I love mixing paint. At the end of the day, I pile all the left over paint on the corner of my palette and get those most incredible grays. The next day, I love using those grays in another painting.

For me, there are no disadvantages. I know some people have issues with the solvents, but that is not a problem for me. The only solvent I use is a dab of turps. Maybe the drying time could be a little faster, but on the other hand, I hate the way acrylics dry while I am still trying to push paint around.

Q. Everyone has some bit of trusty equipment they can’t do without, whether it’s a brand/type of brush, a special medium, etc. Do you have strong preferences for paint or tools?

I do like bright brushes, but I use a variety of brands, usually the ones with the better price. I refuse to pay $80 for a brush! Probably my favorite is a great flexible palette knife, usually a Fredrix. I use a mix of paints, but when I find a color I like, I purchase the same brand because the color varies so much from one brand to another.

Q. Have you had formal training in painting?

No, but I did study for eight years with a wonderful Australian artist by the name of Sandra Johnson. She does pastels and oil and is extremely talented. I finally had to leave when I realized I would never develop my own style while studying with her. I had to make the color choices I wanted and fix my own problems instead of trying to pick her brain. All my paintings looked like bad Sandra Johnson’s.

Q. Which other artists do you particularly admire? Who is an inspiration for you?

At the moment Andre Kohn is a great source of inspiration. He is fabulous and I love his lost edges, lose brushwork, everything he does. Another favorite is Lynn Boggess. He has influenced my work with palette knives. He is one of those brave souls who takes giant canvases up the side of a mountain and paints with a trowel. His work is unbelievable and must be seen in person to really be appreciated. He has a totally unique look to his work. I get excited just thinking about it!

Q. Your style has really been evolving lately. What has influenced your direction?

When I first started on the internet, I fell in love with the chunky brushwork of Carol Marine. I had never seen that before. So, I tried to work in that manner, but eventually, I realized my work looked like many other artists on the internet. I decided to try to change it. The more I tried to change it, the more fun it became. I got interested in using palette knives and they are becoming more and more important to my work. I have always liked plenty of texture in my work and palette knives give me that. Some days it’s a little like making mud pies and I have paint everywhere.

Another area I have been experimenting with is abstract mixed media. This is quite a surprise to me as I didn’t appreciate abstract in the past. It is also very demanding and for me, takes a lot of planning. I have done a few abstracts that I am pleased with but for the most part, I am struggling in that area. Usually, every week or two, I give it a try. I tried yesterday and ended the day with nothing. Painting wise, it is the most freeing and also the most demanding thing I have tried. The freeing part comes from not having to get that image just right, the demanding part is looking at a blank canvas and trying to compose an interesting scene. What colors do I use, where is the center of interest, what type of composition, how do I get movement ? It’s not just throwing paint a la Jackson Pollack !

Q. Do you have plans or goals in your painting? Is there something specific you want to achieve?

Just to please myself. I want to feel that what I did this month is better than last month. I am trying to set an example for my children and grandchildren so they see me struggle and overcome a problem and see that my work becomes better as I stick with it.

Q. How do you market your art? What is your advice for someone new to selling?

I have my blog, of course, and I try to post 3 times a week. I am a member of and I also post on My savior has been my Etsy sites, and where I post palette knife, abstract, mixed media and even a collage or two.

I tried sending portfolios to art agents, but they usually didn’t even reply. Recently I have entered into contracts with three companies to license my work. All these companies found me on Etsy. I have been contacted by art agents who do prints for international hotels, galleries, and even a movie producer… all through Etsy. I have sold hundreds of paintings all around the world thanks to Etsy. Within a few months, my paintings will be on candy bags, and also on wooden wall d├ęcor as well as laser cut metal wall art. All because of Etsy!

I also have a Facebook page and occasionally post on Pinterest. The best advice I can give is get a presence on the internet. Set up a site on Etsy or E-bay and take advantage of the artist blogs. You can get such valuable information and ideas on the blogs.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Shades of Grey

8"x10" acrylic on canvas panel

I almost didn't do this DPW challenge for a couple of reasons, one of which is that so many people painted the scene so beautifully, I didn't think I had anything else to add. No reason to reinvent the wheel (pun fully intended). But you know, that's not a useful perspective—it doesn't matter what anyone else is doing, and it's a terrible mistake to compare yourself to other artists. Learn from them, certainly, but don't measure yourself against them.

The other reason is that, frankly, it just looked too hard! But then a Mr. Smarty-Pants painter I know said "it's just a bunch of shapes and colors."  Which I can't deny. So that led to painting it as simple shapes, in simple colors. (Five shades of grey, obviously). I worked on a red ground to keep some of the spirit of the bright red truck in the original photo. Because I worked with fast-drying acrylics, I didn't try to blend anything, just let everything be its own graphic shape, but with kind of organic edges, not too crisp.

I made a few other compositional decisions along the way. Without the color cues, too much of the painting was mid-tones, and you couldn't tell the truck from the bushes. So I took out a lot of trees and surrounded the car with more white sky. Also removed the buildings—I had the rooftop on the right-hand side originally, but then decided that the geometric shape only detracted from the shape of the truck. Again, with color and temperature to help define shapes it might have worked; with only five shades it was too prominent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two Water Towers

Purchase "Water Towers"

8"x6" on the left; 16"x12" on the right. Oil on hardboard, oil on stretched canvas, respectively.

One of my friends takes these beautiful photos of the sunset on his way home from work. I really like the water tower—a little industrial romance. And I love the combination of that cool, purpley green with the lavender sky.

The small one wasn't exactly a study, I planned for a finished painting, but I did put more detail into the larger one. I like them both, they each have their good points.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pull Up a Chair

oil on hardboard

I had a lot of fun with this one. This was again a scene that I couldn't decide how to crop, and when I changed from horizontal to vertical it all fell into place. I suppose for landscape painters it's easy to default to a horizontal format; surprising things happen when you switch that around.

My palette looked very different while painting this - colors I don't normally use, like Phthalo Green and Magenta for the beach chairs. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Battery Park

8" x 6" oil on hardboard
Purchase "Battery Park"

I've been wanting to paint this scene for a while, but couldn't quite decide how to crop it. The vertical format I think is more appealing than my original compositions. I avoided it because it puts the horizon right smack in the middle, but now that it's done I kind of like the way the sky and water act as a divider between the warm greens in the trees and the cool greens on the ground.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to not set your house on fire

It's Tippy Tuesday! A collection of tips I've gained through experience or learned from other artists.

Painting materials can be very dangerous!

By Sylvain Pedneault (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
via Wikimedia Commons
I started to write this week about the groovy new metal trash can I got for my studio. I wanted a non-flammable disposal container for rags and paper towels. I don't use a lot of solvents and such, but I know that spontaneous combustion is a real thing, and the most common household cause is oil-soaked rags.

While looking for some interesting links and fact sheets to include here, I realized that this is a very serious issue, and I'm not qualified to make recommendations or give suggestions. Anyone using paints, solvents, adhesives, and numerous other art or craft materials should read the product information carefully, and also look for other reliable sources of information.

Most of the information I was able to find from official sources was related to state-specific storage and disposal regulations. It's pretty dull reading, but at least a place to start. I don't like to link to something that's just opinion or hearsay, so I'll suggest you do some research yourself and find what's relevant to your particular materials use.

However, I did find this great publication from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission called "Art and Craft Safety Guide." It's available as a PDF, here.

Happy safe painting, everyone!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Oriental Red Yellow Blue

Purchase "Oriental Red Yellow Blue"
6" x 8"
oil on hardboard

I painted this for the Paint it Primary challenge on DPW. I'm fairly happy with the painting, but I don't know if the color scheme is an asset. It's OK.

My personal challenge in this painting was NOT going detailed with the buildings and boats in the background. I've tried to paint marina scenes many times, with only limited success, because I have that tendency to paint every mast, every porthole, and it ends up stiff and awkward. So in that area I feel like I made progress in this painting.

"Oriental" is the name of a town in North Carolina on the Neuse River, known as the "sailing capital of NC."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Purchase "Caroline"
9 x 12, oil on stretched canvas

This is last week's DPW Challenge, posted by Carol Marine. I named the painting "Caroline" in her honor.

Florals have never been a big draw to me, so this was a challenge indeed. Some of the paintings were very deft and graceful. The more tightly-cropped compositions are appealing. Mine seems a bit labored. I might try it again.
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