Monday, June 24, 2013


Radiant                                                      6x6 inch oil

Summer is here, and sunflowers are back!  I'm doing a series of them with thick paint, using a brush and/or a palette knife, and experimenting with different background colors.  I find it much easier to be more expressive with sunflowers than I am with many other flowers.  I think that it's because their petals are so pleasantly unruly.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nesting Instinct

Nesting Instinct                              6x8 inches  oil

A while ago, I asked for some "creative input" on what to put in this crow's beak.  He needed to be holding something to balance the composition.  I had been thinking that an earring would be clever, but decided that the painting's style was a little too rustic for a shiny bauble.  Someone suggested that he carry a bit of nesting material, which seemed like the perfect solution.

Copying a Master: Edgar Payne Part 3

Eucalypti, after Edgar Payne                        20x 24 inches

And here is the completed painting.  This was a terrific experience that I will be sure to repeat.  I learned SO much.  My next step will be to paint a landscape of my own using the same methods I employed while copying this piece.  I hope you enjoyed the process as much as I did.  I'd love to answer any questions you may have.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Mowing

Summer Mowing                                          8x10 in.  oil    $360 

Painting outdoors is my most pleasurable activity.  I love being out in warm weather enjoying the sites, smells and sounds of nature.  Painting "plein air" is challenging.  The light changes quickly, and in this case, my model didn't stay still very long.  I consider my plein air pieces to be studies of light and color to take back to the studio, along with a photograph of the scene, with the possibility of creating from it.  But occasionally (and in this case) I'm happy with the painting as it is.  If I repainted it, I'm sure I'd lose the looseness and immediacy of the piece.  My strategy here was pretty simple: get my model in before she moved and then paint the scene around her. She happens to be "Patches,"  Rock Ledge Ranch's resident jersey.  It was a perfect morning of painting in the company of some favorite artist friends.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures                                          6 x 6" oil

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With this painting, I focused on creating a very simplified interpretation of the vase and flowers.   When I painted it about one year ago, it didn't turn out at all like I had wanted and I tossed it into my "reject pile."  Last week, I was cleaning up in my studio and ran across it.  My first reaction was "Where did I get this great painting?"  It wasn't until I looked at the signature that I remembered painting it.  When I judged the work on its own merit, versus what I had wanted it to look like, I realized that it worked very well.  Lesson learned: don't scrape off every painting that doesn't please me.    I need to put it in my reject pile and look at it again down the road.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Copying a Master: Edgar Payne Part 2

It turns out that this blog post is my 100th!  I'm not sure how that happened so quickly.

The Edgar Payne exhibit blew my socks off!  I found the Eucalypti painting and was stunned to see that none of the values (lights and darks) in the painting were as dark as those in the photo from which I was working.  The darkest foreground trees were no darker than the tree on the left that you see below.  I took six pages of notes such as: "the trees are entirely blue green with only a small amount of yellow greens where the light hits,"  "dark warm brown underpainting for the trees and ground, even under the lightest values,"  "paint is as thick in the sky and background as it is in the foreground," "the grass green is the awful yellowy pea green that is popular in women's clothing right now."  Anything that would give me total recall of what I'd seen!

When I got back to my studio, I began lightening all the values in my painting starting in the background and continued correcting shapes as I went.   As I moved forward, I decided that I really liked having the contrast and depth of the range of light values in the back to the dark values in front and decided to stick with the more contrasty version that I had created...

Another very helpful tip came from an artist friend smarter than I, she suggested that I would be able to see the brushwork in the original more clearly if I blew up sections of the photo, like this:

Such an obvious solution, but it hadn't occurred to me!  I decided that I was happy with the brushwork I'd already done in the sky, but continued from there paying close attention to Edgar's techniques.  At this point, I was unable to continue painting for over a month, but when I resumed, I began making real progress.

Please forgive any difference in lighting and color in my photographs.  I shot the photos on different days with different weather outside the window and at different times of day, so there is naturally some discrepancy. This last progress shot is a little anemic, despite my editing attempts.

The painting is nearly completed, but still needs some tweaking here and there, and some additional work in the foreground.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Copying a Master: Edgar Payne

A couple of months ago, I mentioned in a post that I went through my first spell of artist's block this winter.  I tried everything I could think of to pop myself out of it:  painting a different subject matter, using a different palette of colors, a different style, etc. and finally decided that since nothing seemed to coming out of me that I was happy with, I should take a break from trying to come up with something on my own and use the time to learn something by copying a master painting.  I've never tried this before and the idea was very intimidating!

The painting I picked was one of Edgar Payne's landscapes, "Eucalypti."  I'd always loved this painting because it reminded me of the eucalyptus trees that I grew up near.  I was also planning to see the Edgar Payne exhibit and knew that I'd see the original when it arrived in Tulsa.  Before I saw the original, I started working from a photo of the painting I found in a collection of Payne's work.

I began by deciding that he had basically started with a white canvas and drew directly on the canvas with a brush and burnt sienna.  The canvas is 20 x 24," the same size as the original painting and I did color that canvas (toning it) with a pale wash of the burnt sienna to prevent any unpainted slivers of the glaring white canvas from showing.

After drawing it, I could see that my shapes were "off."  I took a photo of my canvas, and then drew on it in Photoshop to make corrections.  

Having drawn out the necessary changes on the photograph, it was much easier for me to make the corrections in the studio the next day.  You can see that I also starting indicating where the darks and lights would be in the painting.

Then, it was time to start painting!  I had done some research online to learn what colors Edgar generally used on his palette.  Most of them are the basics that most artists use, but there was one that I wasn't familiar with, Van Dyke Brown, and one that I didn't want to run out and buy (Hooker's Green), so I did some research to figure out how to mix those colors using paint that I already had in the studio.  After that, I read that Payne made grays that he mixed in with all his colors and that the grays consisted of different proportions of Ultramarine Blue and Indian Red, with a little Cadmium Yellow added.  

With everything laid out on my palette, I started by blocking in the shapes with the colors and values that I saw peeking out from the paint strokes applied over them.  I discovered that I wasn't able to really see Edgar's brushwork in the photo I was working from, so I was kind of on my own with the sky.  I just did the best I could to get the colors, values and cloud shapes correct.

It was at this point that I was able to see the original painting, and came back from Tulsa with all kinds of information that I needed.  I'll start with that in my next post.

 If you attended the April Art Walk, you may have seen the painting in my studio at just about this stage.  I'll have the completed piece on display at my next open studio, Friday June 7th, from 5 to 8 pm.