Sunday, December 8, 2013

"I Don't Get It"

In my long journey of learning to paint, occasionally I come across a concept that alludes me. I think that I understand it, but then realize that I really don't. With all the resources available to me, I pursue understanding like a hunting dog after a raccoon.  And usually I tree that raccoon but there are times when that varmint gets away.  I'm feeling rather Southern today in touch with my Carolina roots.  I know when I don't know.  If I can't describe it in my own words and either give examples or demonstrate it, then I know it falls under the category of I Don't Get It.  

This was the case with the concept of local tone.  I came across this idea when Quang Ho gave the keynote demonstration at the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition in 2012 in Colorado.  He explained the eight visual intentions/approaches available for painters to use to express their intentions for an image.  The first was light and shadow, then local tone, followed by six more.  Hmm . . . my head tilted a little.

Upon returning home I ordered all three of his DVD's because I know an excellent teacher when I hear one and he was the genuine article.  Watching Nuts and Bolts, a six hour DVD in which Ho explains the painting process as a whole including the visual approaches artists have used over the centuries (well worth buying) I still was a little fuzzy on this particular concept.  Being the person I am, I had to stay with it until I could make it my own.  I truly believe the statement made by Nelson Shanks.  "We train to become enabled by competence not restricted by inability."

The internet is a wonderful thing and soon I was googling anything I could find about Local Tone.  A helpful site was a description of Kevin Weckback's workshop.  Here he talks about the visual approaches, and is a former student of Quang Ho.  Read it, sorta got it but I knew I still couldn't own it so I gave up and pulled my Scarlette O'Hara attitude-"I'll think about that tomorrow."

Then last week I was rereading some of Daniel Gerhartz's Technical Insight blogs and my eye caught a simple phrase-value, tone, AND color . . . . Bells went off-duh!  Value and tone mean two different things.

Fast forward to yesterday and a pleasant day spent with a student of mine and a visit to a fellow artist's open house.  The conversation on the way home was where I made the connection and that raccoon was dead meat.  The point of this post is not necessarily to teach you what local tone is although it is well worth knowing but that learning anything is not a straight forward linear process.  It's filled with stops and starts, confusion and sorting out.  Learning to be the painter you want to be is not easy but it sure is an interesting, spiritual, and purpose-filled journey, one well-worth devoting your life to.  My "tool box" is now a little heavier with new found understanding.

If I have peaked your interest in this particular visual approach, another useful link is Victoria Ekelund's post.  Once you understand what local tone is you will see it and be able to recognize it making viewing art more enjoyable.  Here's one of my favorites by Mary Cassatt.

                                                                   The Child's Bath

Enjoy the journey of learning and Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Anderson Fine Art Gallery

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a workshop sponsored by Mary Anderson of The Anderson Fine Art Gallery.  The workshop with Romel de la Torre painting the figure was exciting and I met a lot of new people including Mary Anderson.

The current exhibition while we were there included Judith Pond Kudlow and her paintings of fabric and garments which spoke right to my heart.  Here is one of her paintings with Mary on the right listening to me running my mouth.  If you get a chance to visit St. Simons Island, GA stop in to this lovely gallery and experience true southern charm, great art, and the warm hospitality of Mary Anderson.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

News for the New Year

Beginning in January I will be offering a once a month "workshop" class.  How is this different than the weekly classes I teach, you ask?  It will include a two to three hour teaching/demo in the morning and then after lunch, students will paint with input from me.  I realized after many years of three hour classes that students needed to see me in action and hear my thoughts about why I do what I do in order to make  greater gains in their own work.

I'm excited about this unique opportunity for my students old and new. The first class will be Friday, January 3, 2014 and will go from 9:00 till 4:00.  If interested contact me by e-mail for more information at

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grays and Whites

What's the big deal about grays and whites you ask?  Everything.  Atmosphere between you and and an object you are observing makes the chroma of that object somewhat gray or in other words, less intense.  For representational painters understanding how to gray a color is essential.

White objects are effected by the temperature of the light on them.  Warm light of pure sunshine is warm where light reflected from the blue of the sky filtered through clouds are cool.  Reflected light off a surface also effects the temperature of white.  Short explanation but there is a lot more to it.

Now Gamblin Colors has created grays and whites that help with the issue of changing intensity and temperature of your colors.  For a more complete explanation of their colors click here. 

A big thank you to Scott Gellathly for a well written article and for including me as one of the many who use Gamblin colors.  

                                                     Gamblin Artists Colors

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wonderful Workshop in Daytona Beach

This past week's painting workshop was a great experience for all. The feedback from the seven participants, Judy, Debra, Trudy, Shayna, Dottie, Tammy, and Dawn told me I hit the mark. Painting white fabric with lace was touch and go but I pulled it out of the weeds.  One problem was the medium I was using had a smell that affected one of my students so I had to switch.  Tried something new and found the drying time took forever.  But it all worked out in the end.
Each morning was my time to teach beyond the brush.  We discussed schools of different painting processes and painting "intentions and concepts."  Tuesday night was a cruise on Spruce Creek leaving from Cracker Creek.  The sunset cruise with wine and goodies was breathtaking and ended with a demonstration on how to crack a whip hence the name "Florida Cracker."

During the day my ladies worked long and hard.  Lunch was provided by Shayna, one of our artist, and my husband, David.  He loves cooking so when he said he wanted to fix a traditional Southern dinner, there was no stopping him.

Here's Trudy jumping right in with a colorful block-in.

Debra found one of my wooded puppets and put him in a setting.

Dawn challenged herself with a piece of white cut embroidery to accompany fruit and glass.

Tammy found a piece of velvet tapestry and is blocking in building form first.

Initial block-in by Judy.  Another lace fabric to challenge her.

Trudy is from the Cayman Islands by way of Georgia and you can see how she loves color.  Mango anyone?

Looking through the viewfinder and cropping her still life, Shayna is planning and drawing first.  As I emphasized the entire week-"Honor Your Process."  There is no one right way to start a painting so my other message was "choose your process that supports your strengths and your weaknesses."  But this is a topic for another blog.

My next workshop will be in Fredericksburg, TX in February.  Contact The Good Art Co. for more information.

Next April 4-7 I will be hosting a visiting artist Karen Winslow who will be teaching the prismatic palette in both landscape and still life.  Contact me for more information.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Almost Finished

Sorry for the delay and the almost finished white lace painting.  Last week was my week long workshop and my attention went there even though the painting is finished.  As usual, I will look at it for a while and tweak it if needed. I will get a picture of the entire 30 x 40 inch canvas and post tomorrow.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Small Bites

If you have been following along on this painting, you may ask yourself, "How do you paint the intricate lace patterns?"  Okay, one bite at a time isn't a sufficient enough answer but describing the process in a verbal linear fashion may be impossible-but here goes.

 First, there are about four areas that are treated somewhat differently in the approach.  Top left lace is folded and draped on top of itself which means there is no distinct pattern and the values, in places, are very close. Brushwork is varied-dabs mostly.  I look for distinct open areas where the dark of the rug shows through.  That is painted in as the shape that I see.  Those small areas must be somewhat dry before I try to put in the small strings that cross the dark area.  You can see where one area has the strings and lower down it is still just a dark pattern.  On to the right of this area.

Top middle: one must see that value pattern that is underneath the string pattern and continue the light/shadow pattern first ignoring the lace (that was done earlier in the block-in).  Squint down on the band of lace in that area and ask yourself-"Where is it darker than the dark shadow already there?  Is it  warmer or cooler than the shadow pattern?"  I do this all across the top band.  On the far top right there is very little pattern showing because it is totally in shadow. This is about four hours of work.    So far so good.

Looking at the bottom, you can see the left block-in looks differently than the right.  That's because the left lace is draped such that the folds overlap in places.  That's where you see no blackish background.  In contrast, the bottom right is flat against the background with only a slight fold.

The same questions are constantly being asked in my head about values and temperature.  My colors are still pretty much the same,  I'm using Warm White from Gamblin to keep the light side warm.  Next installment, I hope to have the bottom finished. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Love Maybe

     Here I have massed in the light shapes and the shadow shapes.  This is the stage that goes quickly because I only have to decide is it light or is it dark.  It's like sorting laundry into two piles.

       Someone asked about the colors I use.  First let me say I paint with a small north light window but it's not enough light so I augment it with a 5,000K bulb up next to the window.  That "leans" the light a little warm.  Remember 6,500K is close to north light coolness.  Next because this beautiful fabric is old and has a yellowed aged cast to it, I want the light sides to be toward warm making the light perfect.  I'm using the new Gamblin Warm White as my base white.  It holds the warmness when mixed and does not cool the color or make it chalky like some whites.  This is an indoor atmosphere so I'm not using all the brilliant colors of the outdoor palette.  Shadows in the studio tend to be warm also.  My light is a mixture of the Warm White, a touch of raw umber (green shade) and a touch of Cobalt blue.  My lights are massed in at about 2/ 3 in value and all my lights then can later be adjusted with a range of the lightest light at a 1 and the darkest light at about a 4.  You can see the pattern clearly.  Shadows go darker and start at about a 6.  Again I can go up to a 5 and the darkest darks get to about an 8 but only in the dark creases of the folds.  Translucent lights need to be ignored at this point. 

How do you eat an elephant? Yea, one bite at a time.  At this point the progress slows down and my love turns to labor, like in pains.  I have to remember the elephant question or else I would give up.  How do I know?  Because when I paint this type of lace, it takes concentration and focusing on the values of the surface changes.  Then and only then do I focus on the strings of the lace.  One stroke then about thirty seconds to a minute before the next stroke is made. 

The open lace work is treated differently since the rug shows through in some areas.  The basic rug color is painted in and here is where I have negative thoughts running through my head.  When I look at the entire surface I feel like I can't do it but if I focus on one area and tell myself that if this one area gets completed today, that's great. Small bites.   I'll  think about the other lace sections tomorrow.  Now I sound like Scarlette O'Hara.

 Not finished but good enough for today.  Comments and questions are welcomed. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Love Affair Continued

Day 2- With great anticipation day two began.  One of the bad habits I engage in and need is not cleaning my palette.  I do clean my brushes the same day but the big glass palette is usually left without cleaning the days previous mixed colors.  My first 15 minutes or more, first thing, is scraping the glass and getting it pristine clean.  It's sort of a meditation for me and gets my thinking transitioned into what I will be doing.  While I'm scraping I think of my next steps.  It works and I can't do without it.  I guess you could call it a form of foreplay.

The dark background is still wet so the vase needs to be blocked in and the edges worked into the background.  The blue is a low chroma blue almost gray so out comes the grays-Portland and Torret Grays from Gamblin (not an ad but they are wonderful).  Cobalt blue is added into the grays.  Two values are mixed for light shape, shadow shape.  The mantra plays in my head as I look at the form-light shape, shadow shape.  Say that three times fast.

I also thinly block in a dark blue/umber value for the rug.  Having a dark surface to paint the pattern of the rug on is a must.  The dark gives the light threads a three dimensional look which adds to the texture feel.

This is the progress after about four hours at the easel.  I have blocked in the light and shadow shapes of the white cloth leaving the lace area untouched.  Painting the open lace work needs a different process.  When blocking in the light and shadow, my light value (about a 2/3) is the middle value for the light.  That way I can go lighter and a little darker to build the form.  Same in the shadow area.  The shadow value is about a 7.  Translucent light areas are ignored at this point and I have to simplify, simplify, simplify.

This will need to dry so tomorrow will probably be the rug area.  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Love Affair

Now you were probably thinking you would be reading about some kind of sorted affair and were looking forward to the juicy details.  Sorry but it is about love.  These last few months have been a search for self and what really inspires me to paint. Plein air painting is not one of my favorite endeavors, but I decided if I try it---I might like it.  I now have all the right equipment, have been out in the field, and have actually completed several small pieces that aren't too shabby but not ready for prime time.

Above is "The Cottage." The cottage was built back in the early 1900's and located at Cracker Creek here in Port Orange. The early morning light on the front porch glowed along with the metal roof.  My Maine experience didn't produce anything great, but with practice I may be able to relax and truly enjoy painting in the great outdoors.

So back to this love thing.  While in Maine, we stopped in Kennebunkport and visited North Light Gallery and True North Light Gallery.  It was great to see Jill and Harry.  As I walked from one gallery to the next, I saw a small little store front with Asian imports.  The owner had been an diplomat and now had friends that sent him items to sell like small chests, garments, and vases.  I found two treasures; one was a jacket made of silk and a vase from Korea.

The grayish blue with the crane design had me at first sight and of course I brought it home.  It is unusual in that it is three sided and not spherical.

Here's the love part.  I put it with my lace fabric and created a new setup to paint.  The drama of the light across the vase and the glowing translucent light that passes through the fabric makes my toes curl.  Is that love?  You bet!  I juxtaposed the textures of the smooth ceramic glazed sides with the delicate lace and folds on top of the rough threads of the rug.  My intention is to capture the light across all these diverse textures.

Yesterday after setting it up, I loosely sketched in the folds and placement of the vase.  Under the white fabric is one of my favorite blue rugs.  Here is today's progress.

                                                              Actual still life

                                                     Ultramarine blue and burnt umber sketch

The dark background is a "black mixture" made with all transparent colors with a leaning toward reddish orange.  This mixture is made of sap green, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, a little ivory black, and trans. red oxide.

Here the background is blocked in on this 30"x40" linen canvas.  The reddish glow at the top gives what Adrian Gottlieb calls optical red; an illusion of light in a dark shadowed area. He referred to paintings by Rembrandt and how this red glow gives a feeling of space even in the darkness.  I have used it many times with great success.  Thanks Adrian.

I will post my progress this week.  My work today felt like a love affair.  I got up this morning with excited anticipation and throughout the day was almost giddy.  Yep, this is where my passion lies. Did I say that I just love painting fabrics?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Love With Warm White

I can't believe it's been two months since my last post.  No excuses-well yea. Two sets of grandchildren visiting which means fun, games, excursions, and no easel time.  Once I got out of my daily routine, it was difficult to get back to the easel.  When I did, my brain was still in neutral with nothing much to say.

These last three weeks, however, have been busy.  Three paintings all with my favorite object-white fabric.  Now here's the great news.  Gamblin has put some new colors on the market and the one I am in love with and I mean LOVE is their Warm White.

It's the perfect balance of yellow and orange pigments to lighten and warm my whites that are in the direct light in my studio.  When mixed with other colors, it warms them while maintaining their hue.  There's no chalkiness and it glows with a sunlit warmth I'm looking for. Gee I sound like a freaking commercial.

The first painting leans toward the cool blues but the areas of light I wanted to pop with a warmer white so I used the Warm White.  This is a 30x40 on linen canvas. 

The next painting was all about red. Red rug and red pitcher so I keyed the white lighter and brighter using the Gamblin's Warm White. This is a departure from my usual cool backgrounds.  Red comes forward so I let the design border of the rug be more distinct in design instead of trying to send in back into the "air" of the background.

Today I did a quick study (8x10)  to change it up a bit since these last two were large and required drying time between layers.  Here is where I used the Warm White to make a cool gray green.  I think it works beautifully.

There was no Titanium White used at all, just the Warm White.  The image is a little washed out but the white of the fabric is soft and airy grey green. I had to order a large tube so as not to run out.  If you have any questions, please ask in the comment section. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Let There Be Light

We all know that to make an area appear lighter, make the area next to it darker.  This idea was reinforced at the OPA Exhibition in Fredericksburg, TX when Kenn Backhaus painted for us with a fantastic demonstration.  The image was of a building with an archway; I think it might have been a cathedral.  The sunlight streamed brilliantly across the face of a portion of the wall leaving more than half of it in shadow.  "To make an area appear bathed in sunlight it has to have a strong contrast of a dark area. That area should be larger than the light area," he said.    I'm paraphrasing here but I think I am close to his actual words.

His words were my inspiration in this painting and I took the shadow side way down in value (more than the actual value that was visible).  The other idea was keeping the lightest light in the focal area and playing down all the other lights while still creating a light path.  The dark area in the bottom right corner was a cast shadow from my camera phone-sorry.

 This 11x14 was so much fun.  I completed it in less than three hours.  No underpainting, just laying blocks of color shapes of light and dark with some mid-tones.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Making Canvas Panels

I've tried a couple of ways of making canvas panels including using Miracle Muck as the adhesive.  My latest attempt is my favorite and not as expensive as buying a dry mount press and the adhesive sheets.  These are the materials you will need in order to create a panel as good as the commercial ones.
Materials Needed
Birchwood panels cut to size
Canvas cut to size with an extra 1/8th of an inch on each side
Lamin-All (liquid adhesive)
Exacto knife
house painting brush

First dilute the Lamin-All with water.  About a fourth of a cup of Lamin-All and 1 Tab. water.  Stir and store in plastic container.
Next brush a thin coat of Lamin-All on one side of the wood panel.  Let it set for approximately 30 minutes until it goes from a milky color to clear.

After it turns clear, position the canvas on the board, cover with cloth, and press with the iron (set to perm. press).  Iron for about 3 minutes-more if the board is larger.

After the panel cools, trim the excess canvas flush with the edge.

I completed five panels during this session in an assembly line type production system.  And the finished products.  Tadaaah!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Oil Painters of America in Fredericksburg, Texas was an event that filled me with many thoughts and emotions.  So much talent present in this event has still left me with so much to think about. InSight Gallery  was the host and the exhibition was beyond description.  The work displayed was magnificent and the gallery was truly first class.  The speaker that brought many to tears, even some men, was Joe Paquet who spoke on authenticity and voice.  His profound statements that was peppered throughout the one and a half hour presentations was worth the price of admission.   "Make a conscious choice to surround yourself with authentic words, music and art to remind you what is possible."  Authenticity is the cornerstone that I took away from this talk.  What is it?  His example may help to understand the concept.  He shared the time when he walked out of the final Harry Potter movie.  He was struck by something, he felt, was much larger than the film, it was that fact that Ms. Rowling built this thing, this idea from thin air, moved words around in a personal way, created a world, which had not existed and turned it into a very real thing.  That is what we (artists) do everyday, we create, he said.   We create what has never existed, bring something to the world and shape it with our own hearts and hands.  It's a gift we have which is easy to lose sight of.

Voice is part of this authenticity.  How do we arrive at this illusive element that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary?  It's what you observe that captures your attention and says, "Paint Me."  It's what remains in your visual memory after viewing a(an) scene, object, a person.  It requires us to be always vigilant to our surroundings and hone our skills of memory.  No easy task but necessary if we want to take our art to a level that separates us from the ordinary.  Words that Joe used were uncommon beauty, wholly remarkable, feeling vs. seeing.  He further stated that the true path was an organic one.  Know yourself NOT your audience.

As I stood and began to walk toward the exit, Joe was standing to the side.  I couldn't help but ask the question that still was giving me some angst.  Could a series of paintings that encompassed a theme be authentic?  As a still life painter your subject matter can be contrived.  You bring the elements together as opposed to a plein air painter who discovers their subject matter.  His answer confused me and still I didn't understand.  With his keen sense of understanding, he simply asked.  Do you know the different between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation?  He had to say no more.  I got it.  When we paint for an audience or because our galleries want more of a particular subject matter, then we are not being authentic.  Painting a theme or series is not what matters. It's the motivation for painting a subject that makes the difference.

My big aha was this for me personally.  If I paint similar images over and over because I love those objects and because each time it brings something internal that satisfies me and is like the first time I painted it, then it is authentic.  If I paint those subjects over and over again because my buyers want those images, then it ceases to be authentic.

As I have stated in earlier posts and blogs, this making of art is a journey.  And too often we don't know what we don't know.  I'm sure though, when we need the knowledge and understanding, it comes to us.  We just need to be hungry for it and aware that we don't know it all.  If our cup is full (full of our own ego and self) then we have no room for new understanding.  You can not fill a cup that is overflowing.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In Love with Light

In my opinion, painting  is all about painting the "light."  The more you know about light, its qualities, and how it effects your painting, the better painter you will be.  So much information is out there about light and I don't want to rehash this available info so here are some short statements that you can follow up on for yourself.
1.  Bright, strong light blows out the color of the object so that the color is the color of the light and not the object.  The local color and details will be visible in the halftone and even in the shadow area.
2. Know the color of your light source. Cool north light makes cool colored objects look like their true color.  Warm light on warm colored objects looks like their true color.  The shadow side will be the opposite.
3.  Everything is either light or it's shadow; it can't be both.
4.  Light in a painting effects every bit of your painting.  It will determine edges, the "air" around the objects in still life, and the movement of your eye throughout the painting.  It also effects the mood of the painting and is a powerful element to be considered carefully.

These are just a few concepts about painting light and if any are foreign in your quiver of knowledge, spend some time reading many of the experts of our field.

Been busy teaching with some painting in between.  My October workshop is now full but if you are interested, I have a waiting list in case of any cancellations.

Some of my work since my last posting.

                                                  Lemons and Blue  16x20, oil on panel
The mood I wanted to convey was of serenity and softness.  I had never painted satin before but it was really fun and I think I captured it.  My "air" color was cool greenish gray and it helped to send the bright Flo blue dish back into the atmosphere.

                                                        Flo Blue with Clementines  18x24

Sorry the second image is a little crocked.  This setup was lit with a warm light to help make the Clementines pop.  The cool Flo Blue pitcher had to be treated with less intensity because of the warm light on the blue vase.

This next week and a half I am concentrating on my teaching and then getting ready for the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition in Frederickburg, TX.  I can't wait to see all these magnificent paintings that are on the website in person. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Want to learn about how to "lean your colors" when mixing the beautiful grays?  Do you have some simple compositional skills that include Baroque and sinister diagonals?  This October 14th through 18th, I will be teaching a five day workshop here in my own studio in Port Orange, Florida.   Spaces are still available.  Check out Workshop and Classes on my blog.

Working from direct observation will not only deepen your knowledge and understanding of your subject, but also how light effects objects surfaces when creating the luminous still life, portrait, or landscape.  Developing your powers of observation will not only lead you to an improved ability to see colors, but also to see more clearly color temperature changes enabling you to create airy, luminous colors, lifting you to your next level as an artist.

Become the painter you want to be; sign up today!

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