Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2014

I'll be taking my usual yearly hiatus from posting and sending out the weekly newsletter for a few weeks. I like a period of reflection and refreshment at the end of the year, and a nice fresh start with new ideas and new directions.

If you'd like to stay informed of future sales, specials, workshops, etc., do subscribe to my newsletter. You can enjoy a new painting in your mailbox every week!

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my blog or FB page, participated in the Carnivals, and especially those who bought paintings! It is still such a thrill to me when someone likes my artwork enough to pay money for it—I appreciate your support so much.

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and creative 2014.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Painting Demo Blog Carnival


Visit the links below to see the participating artists' painting demonstrations. Some artists are offering giveaways or special prices for the Painting Demo Blog Carnival. My painting, Afternoon Fields, is for auction on Daily Paintworks at a crazy low starting bid.

p.s. If you're looking for deals, please see my Giant Holiday Sale and 2014 Wall Calendars.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2014 Calendar for sale now

My 2014 calendar of paintings is now available at Lulu. This year it's offered in two sizes: large (13.5" x 19") and regular (11 x 8.5). Each calendar features 13 paintings: the 12 months plus the cover. The two sizes have different covers, but the interior pages are the same.

Why yes, they are perfect for holiday giving, thanks for asking :-)

It may not be obvious which size you're ordering, so make sure you know what you're getting:

The regular size calendar has this landscape painting on the cover. Use this link: Regular Calendar

The large calendar has this portrait of Igor on the cover. Use this link: Large Calendar

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Toward El Sol

4.5" x 4.5"
oil on panel

You can view and purchase this painting here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tips and Tricks Blog Carnival


Get the benefit of advice from working artists - tips and tricks to make your painting journey a smoother path.  

Visit the links below to see the participating artists' photos and tips. Some artists are offering giveaways or discounts for the Tips and Tricks Blog Carnival.

Sarah Sedwick

Linda Nickles

Marla Laubisch

Jo MacKenzie

Joanne Grant

Taryn Day

Enter for a chance to win this painting. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter and you'll be entered in the drawing. If you already subscribe, you're automatically entered.

Drawing on October 22nd.

"Last Touches"
oil on canvas panel
7" x 5"

Click the image to enlarge

When you have limited time, you want every painting to be a masterpiece—unfortunately it doesn't work that way. However, there are some things you can do to maximize your progress in the time available. These painting tips are directed toward beginner painters—they might not be as useful for an experienced artist, but they'll help a newbie overcome some obstacles faster.  (Be aware that I paint in oils; tips may not be applicable to acrylic or watercolor paints.)

Studio Tips

Keep a jar of vegetable oil around to drop your paintbrushes in. So many times I've left my studio for "just a few minutes" and came back five days later. If you put your paintbrushes in oil every time you leave, it will keep them fresh and cleanable. Yes, it's bad to leave your brushes bristle-down in a container. You know what's worse? Letting the paint dry in the brush for a week.
If you use oils paints, you need to be aware of spontaneous combustion. It's a real thing, and a major cause of house fires. I'm not an expert, so consult those who are, and find a safe way to dispose of rags or paper towels that have oil paint or mediums on them.

If you paint plein air, you can't have enough clips. Of course you recognize the clothes pin; the others are generally called "pony clips," and are available at any hardware store. Use them to attach a trash bag to your easel; to secure your canvas so it doesn't get blown into the dirt (that's never happened to me, oh no); to keep your paper palette pad from flapping around; and a myriad of other uses.

1) If you cut your own panels out of Masonite™ (or similar material) as I do: you need to seal ALL the surfaces, including the back and sides. Painting the back will prevent bowing; painting the sides will prevent moisture infiltration, which is very detrimental to hard board like this. I use a craft-grade acrylic paint on the back. 

2) I make a little hanging device out of card stock, and Elmers-glue it onto the back. The hole is made with a paper punch. This is super useful to hang the painting to dry, and it lets your customer hang the painting immediately upon purchasing, even if they don't get it framed.

3) Come up with some sort of unique identifier for your paintings. It may not seem like it now, but in a year or two you'll have so many paintings you can't keep them straight in your mind. It might be a simple consecutive number system, it could include the date—just make sure you can identify each painting uniquely.

Speaking of serial numbers—establish some sort of tracking system for all your paintings. It can be a notebook or a document on the computer. I use a simple Microsoft Word document. Include the serial number, the title of the painting, where it is offered for sale, and its status (for sale, sold, gifted, etc.).

When you cut your board, it pays to devise a cutting diagram. You can't rely on the board to be the exact size it claims to be, so measure it first. Remember that the width of the saw blade matters, you need to take that into account. In my experience, when you're cutting to fit a standard frame size (e.g., 5x7, 8x10) it's best to cut the board just a hair smaller. The quality control at the Cheap Frame Factory isn't very good, and it sucks to have to shave off a piece of your painting to make it fit a frame.

Painting Tips
Grey scales. GET SOME OF THESE. You can make your own or find them in a number of places, often with photographic materials. Remember how Value Is Everything? These will help you determine value. The one on the left was included in a pad of disposable palette sheets; the one on the right I made myself for a workshop.

Here's how it works: Put the scale on a photo reference, and you can see where a particular area falls on the scale. Squint your eyes and you'll see that the sky is somewhere around 3 or 4. Turn the scale over so the white is showing, and you can see what color something really is. The white is a palate cleanser for the eyes—you're not influenced by the surrounding hues. If your scale doesn't have holes in it, make them with a paper punch.

Premix all (or most) of the scene's colors on your palette before you start painting. It may seem tedious, but it's MUCH easier to compare the colors right next to each other than comparing paint already on the canvas with paint on the palette. You can read more about this here.

It's well worth it to finish your paintings with varnish. It evens out inconsistencies of gloss/matte in the paint, and it protects the painting from dust. Dust is actually very harmful; the particles are abrasive and will scratch the painting over time. I like this particular varnish because it can be used on a painting that hasn't fully cured yet - oil paintings can take months to dry completely, and if someone wants to buy my painting I'm not going to make them wait 6 months until I can varnish it :-)  This brand can be used on an oil painting that is dry to the touch. Put it on very thinly with a soft brush.

• Simplifying a photo to a limited number of greys in Photoshop (value, again).

[Before I write about editing photos on the computer, I have to say this: Adjusting your image with software can be a priceless learning tool. But make sure it's a limited tool: use it to build your chops, for a limited amount of time or limited number of paintings. Don't become dependent on it.]

This technique can be really useful when you're overwhelmed with a complicated scene. Value is everything, and if you get it right, the colors don't even matter. See some good examples of that principle here.

This is a photo of a town in Bulgaria, from the Virtual Paintout's April location. To me, this is a fairly complex scene with a lot of shapes and planes. This technique is also useful for a photo where the lights and shadows aren't obvious, such as an overcast day.

Open the image in Photoshop. Then,  Duplicate the Layer so you're working on a copy.

Make sure you've selected the new layer before you start. You can tell it's selected because it's highlighted with blue.

From the "Image" menu, choose "Adjustments: Black and White..."  You'll be presented with a dialog box where you can try out different presets for different effects. Or, just click the "OK" button to use the default.

Then, from the "Image" menu, choose "Posterize..."  You can set the number of greys to use. I generally use 3 to 5 levels; more than that isn't helpful. 

It's so much easier to see the lightest and darkest parts of the painting now, and to make comparisons between shadowed areas.

A caveat: Photoshop will make the lightest parts of your photos white and the darkest parts black. In real life, the scene (and your photo) may not have that extreme of a value range. Maybe there's nothing in the scene that's as light as white or as dark as black. So remember that you're looking at a relative range, and adjust accordingly.

The End.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Commuter Art 5

I've been driving myself a lot lately, so I haven't had the opportunity to do many sketches. But last week I was a passenger again, and managed a few.

Sept 24.
Corner of Wilmington and Morgan. I end up drawing churches a lot because the architecture in downtown Raleigh isn't inspiring. There are a lot of state government buildings, which look, as my boss says, "like auditrons." And if you know what that is, you're really dating yourself!

Sept 25.
First Presbyterian on Salisbury Street. I kind of gave up on this drawing, the church has SO many facades. Doesn't that one on the left look like a surprised face?

Sept. 26
This is not my yard; it's a diorama in the Museum of Natural Sciences. Which is a FABULOUS museum, and you really need to visit it, and also the Nature Resource Center, which is a total science geek experience.

Sept 30.
This place on Capital Blvd sells doghouses. And patio furniture, and what must be, from the paint colors, play houses.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Grassy Field - sold

4" x 4"
oil on panel

You can view this painting here.

I painted this for DPW's Paint the Grass challenge. There's a really pretty field on my way home from work—it's part of a horse farm, so it's very scenic with white rail fences, shady trees, ducks, and of course horses. This time of year the light on it is gorgeous when I'm driving by. This is actually part of the Commuter Art series; it's not all downtown.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


10" x 8" oil on panel

You can view and purchase this painting here.

This is a departure for me - I rarely paint figures. I liked this scene from a photo I took on a beach vacation a few years ago. It was a very warm sunset, with incredibly orange light falling on everyone, but the water outside was still cool and green. 

I've pulled out this photo a few times and considered painting it, and never quite settled on a composition I liked. Sometimes you have to stop trying to tell the whole story, and just tell part of it. Here's the original photo (I blurred the faces to protect everyone's anonymity). There are all kinds of possible ways to crop this scene. I like all those pretty pastel colors on the left, where the people are sitting outside.  That could be its own painting.

I zoomed in a lot and simplified the scene.

Initial sketch. Trying to decide how many bottles and plates to include.

A temperature/value underpainting. It's all warm - even the purple has a lot of red in it, rather than blue.

Starting the "correct" values on the sunlit areas. Not that different from the underpainting, given how orange-red the light is.

Adding detail in the shadow areas.

Refining the table in the foreground, and the first pass at the tree. I used Viridian, a color I don't use much, but it was perfect for the palm tree. The last bit will be the dishes and glasses, and a string of lights above.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Starsky and Hutch

8" x 10"
oil on panel

You can view or purchase this painting here.

So this was a somewhat different approach for me. I decided to start with a strong line drawing, and let the lines be part of the finished piece. For some reason that now eludes me, I sketched with a red Sharpie. I'm not sure what I think about it. The ink bled through the paint, no matter how many layers. Some parts seem kind of cool, some kind of cartoony.

What I originally liked about the scene was the yellow truck against the cool fence with leaf shadows, but gradually that car in the alley seemed important. I don't know the model, it might have been a Mustang—it was some sort of groovy car from the late 1960s/early 1970s, the kind police detectives drove around in. Hence the title.

The original sketch. From one of my Commuter Art photos.

The sunlit areas.

The shadows.

Sky and shadowed trees. Here I decide the trash bin behind the groovy car is just distracting, and I paint over it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Commuter Art 4

Commuter Art: a week of sketching in the car on the way to/from work.

Aug 28
I don't know the name of this place, but I've taken about 10 photos of it, one of which will show up later as a painting.

Aug 29
Color Graphics - printers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Forget Me Not

10" x 8" oil on panel


I painted this for August's Virtual Paintout location of Detroit. In the midst of so much decay, this vacant lot was filled with beautiful little blue flowers. It looked like a field out in the country. I titled the painting "Forget Me Not" both for the flower and in tribute to what the people of Detroit have endured—they are strong and will be back better than ever!

I'm very happy with how this turned out. I followed a tutorial by Karen Margulis. She paints in pastels, but the principles apply to any medium. Because there is a finite limit to how many layers of pastel will stick to the paper, it also gave me an approach that circumvented my greatest flaw: overworking.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Commuter Art 3

I felt a little rushed this week, and it was hard to concentrate on drawing. None of these sketches are as developed as I'd like, but I do have some inspirations for my next Commuter Painting (Commuter Painting #1 will be here Monday).

One of the challenges of drawing while riding is that I'm balancing my iphone precariously on my knee, and of course it starts to slide off, and I grab at it, and manage to move the picture or zoom it in or out. Then nothing lines up with what I've sketched so far, and I never seem to get it back into frame the same. So some of the drawings have... multiple perspectives, I'll call it.

Aug 21.
Hayes Barton Baptist Church. Everyone recognizes this church in Five Points. As always, the power lines are my favorite part.

Aug 22.
This is my parking space in the garage at work. I haven't actually parked there yet, because my permit didn't become valid until Friday. But I visited it a couple times, to make sure I knew where it was, and took a photo. For more than one reason. See below:

Check it out. This gigantic SUV is encroaching on my space. Next time s/he does that, I'm going to sketch their license plate!

Aug 23.
Mami Nora's. It's a lot prettier in color.

Aug 23 (two in one day)
Green Taxi. I'm getting a little better with drawing cars. I know they're just boxes on top of boxes, but the newer ones have weird complex curves and no distinct edges, sort of like boats. Very hard to draw. This taxi was old and boxy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Day in the Life - Blog Carnival

   A Day in the Life of an Artist REVEALED!

What do those crazy artists do all day long? Find out here! 

Visit the links below to see the participating artists' photos and descriptions of their days. Some artists are offering giveaways or special prices for the Day in the Life Blog Carnival.

Cindy MichaudJo MacKenzieChristine ParkerMarla Laubisch
Joanne GrantKevin LarsonCindy WilliamsSharon Graves
Sally BinardKaren JohnstonCharleen Martin

You can enter to win the painting shown in this post! Just subscribe to my weekly newsletter and you'll be entered in the drawing. If you already subscribe, you're automatically entered. (Drawing on August 28).

Commuter Art 2

These are my sketches from the week of August 12-16. Despite appearances, I do work five days a week - but there's been one day a week that I didn't sketch for whatever reason.

I did a painting based on one of the previous week's sketches, but haven't scanned/uploaded/published it yet. Tomorrow's Day in the Life Blog Carnival took precedence (remember to check back here for that).

8/13.  Food vendor at the Museum of Natural Sciences.

8/14.  I've taken a photo of this place every day.

8/15. This doesn't look very much like Igor. I'm bad at cat portraits too.

8/16. This little building out in the country used to be some sort of general store.

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