Sunday, December 30, 2012

Look at the Birdies in the Window

Yesterday, it was my extreme JOY to pick up my painting from the correctly named "JOY" art show at City of the World Gallery located at 1229 S. Casino Center in Las Vegas.  When I arrived I found my painting prominently displayed in the front window.  I was reminded of the feeling I had some 35 years ago when I was chosen from among the students of Mr. Easton's art class at Eldon High School to have my art displayed in the front window of the library located on Main Street of my hometown of Eldon, Missouri.  I wish I had captured the moment with a photograph, but none was taken. To make my showcase week even more special, I was given the exciting news that a local doctor had fallen in love with one of my watercolors and wanted to buy it for $20.00.  That was a large sum of money to me.  At that moment, I felt like a REAL artist.  Back then, to create something that someone else actually was willing to pay money for was what I viewed as the criteria of a genuine artist.

Now fast forward through a lifetime of raising six kids, college classes, along with years of reconciling bank statements, preparing taxes and financial reports to December 29, 2012.  It was as if I was 16 again and my dream of being a REAL artist was rekindled.  You can rest assured that yesterday a photo was taken to capture my excitement.  When entering the gallery, I was greeted by the owner, Roz Knight and after a few comments about how wonderful my work is, the question was asked of me, "Are you showing in a gallery somewhere?"  A little more conversation, then me signing a contract and one of my 2013 goals was realized- My art hanging in a gallery!

So this week will be a scramble to get my work all ready to hang on my wall space in preparation for January's First Friday event on January 4, 2013 .  If you are in the Las Vegas area this week and have some time on your hands come down to The City of the World Gallery for the Thursday Preview or if you are brave the First Friday event and you will find me at the gallery, making my dream come true.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

There is something about children and Christmas that brings joy to ones heart.  This makes sense because we are celebrating the birth of a baby, Gods son, born in a manger over 2000 years.  He is the perfect Christmas gift and I pray that His blessing and peace live in your heart and if you don't know Him, that 2013 will be the year that you get aquatinted!  Merry Christmas!

Christmas Memories- this is a Christmas painting I did last year.
If your interested in learning more about my art, please visit my website at

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Let My Vacation Begin

Today, I was reviewing past blog drafts when I came across my thoughts written some 6 months ago as I returned from our last vacation.  I found that even 6 months ago my heart was preparing me for a change because I wrote these words... 
     "The anticipation and preparation that goes into taking vacation can be both exciting and exhausting. I always write a list of items I want to make sure and pack. There are big plans of how I will spend my time and often my plans and reality don't line up. We had two whole weeks recently that we packed the car to the brim and drove off into the eastern sunrise heading to my home childhood stomping grounds of Central Missouri. The all important pink beach bag filled with all the books, sketch book, pencils, painting DVD's and my i Pad.  
     As an artist I was torn between my desire to just paint along every stream and river that we drove past and the reality that I had to reach our destination.  Will life ever slow down enough that I can just focus on my art and not ever again worry about cramming my passion into a weekend or a two week time frame?"

I have been employed by the same church and Christian School for 27 years and have just retired my position as business administrator.  Now I can say that is a lot of years working as a bean counting and I am proud of my years there.  As a matter of fact, just this week they threw me a little party to show how much they appreciated me.  It was very touching and I hugged a lot of necks and cried some tears and with a great deal of mixed emotion, I now am faced with turning a new page in my life.

 The decision to retire wasn't an easy one because the economy uncertainty that we face in this country and especially here in Nevada makes leaving a job a decision not to be taken lightly.  I only dream that down the road I may supplement my husband's pension with the sale of my art or perhaps giving some lessons in the future.  I see some artists are very successful in selling their paintings, but as a whole I understand that the market isn't anything like it used to be.  I guess this is the ideal time to develop your style and increase your artistic abilities.

This past year has been one of the most difficult years professionally that I have faced and so today I'm sitting here full of mixed emotions.  Many of the things I was sure of a year ago have crumbled and have left me wanting.  What I do know is that man may disappoint but God will never forsake and that I find great pleasure in painting.

So that is why today I am determined to cast off this heaviness, turning my eyes towards the amazing world that God has given us, pick up a paintbrush and declare with great passion, "Let the vacation begin!"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last Leaf

I started working on a little piece today that I think I'm going to call "Last Leaf". We've had a long, hot summer and an autumn with unseasonable warm weather but today that all changed...rain and snow fell across the valley and the cold northern wind has done an effective job of relieving the trees of the last of the reluctant leaves.  The original photo that I used for my inspiration was taken by Dini Esplin, a talented photographer from Spring Creek, Nevada.  When I saw this photo I knew this would make a great painting and I hope that I can capture the emotion that occurs with seasonal transitions.  This "WIP" (work in progress) is oil on a 12x16 inch canvas.

Last Leaf  WIP as I am working on the fine details
Last Leaf- 12 x 16 Oil

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hectic Days

Everyone on the planet has experienced days that are sometimes pretty hectic and of course artists are no exception.  We may spend a little too much time inhaling paint fumes and turpenoid but life requires an occasional venture out of the studio and into the wilds of REAL LIFE!  This pretty much describes my entire last week.  Between recovering from my own recent carpal tunnel surgery and doctor appointments for both my mother and mother-in-law, the whole week seemed to be spent running just to wait.

It is times like these that make me so thankful for my little studio and my ability to lose myself in a painting.  In no time, I am returning to the pleasant experiences of a recent family hike on Mt. Rose near Reno.  That hike maybe 2 months past and 500 miles away, but painting brings the memory acutely back as I try capture the emotion of the day on a 16 x 20 canvas.  This piece is still a WIP (work in progress) but it has brought a release from the stress of the week.  I find myself traveling back to that beautiful October afternoon.  This piece also has that normal effect of predominately consuming my attention as most of my WIP paintings do.  Washing dishes, folding laundry or sitting in a crowded waiting room will often find me looking at the last photo taken of the piece and mediating on my next correction or addition to the composition.  I know if you even have a spark of creativity in your life you know what I'm talking about.  Here is my current consuming obsession....

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Passion, Purpose, Persistance and all those other "P" Words

Passion" hasn't been a word that I would think many of my friends would use when describing me.  When I look up the definition of the word in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary I find one of the definitions listed as “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction”.  Obsession would also be a synonym of the word I think.  Remember, if you have read my bio you know that I’m not an art major but rather have a business degree.  I have also spent the last 27 years working as an accountant for a church and Christian School.  You can’t get more conservative than that.  So I have always used adjectives when describing myself with words like detailed, accurate, organized and honest.  While I hold deep convictions about my faith and principles, outward displays of passion have not been very visible. 

I picked up a paintbrush again just a little over two years ago after a 30 year break.  From that point I have felt a change in the way I viewed things around me.  I call it “Looking through my artist eyes.”  I began to view my surroundings in heightened detail and appreciation because I was always thinking about how I would paint that or what colors would I mix together to get that shade.  It is as if my thought processes have been transformed.  I look at this amazing world that God has created with a new wonderment and for that I am so happy to have opened the doors once again to my creative self.

Today, I was looking around some artist blogs for inspiration and ideas to improve my own blog and I came across this quote by an artist named Cheryl Anderson.  I felt her words accurately described what painting has become for me in my life and I wanted to share it.  Painting is truly an obsession for me. Almost every thought I have is never more than two steps removed from painting.” (

I am on the very edge of my retirement and so here I am within a month of starting a new journey and I have no idea if my art will ever be more than a hobby.  I dream that it will,  but the important thing is that I give it my best effort.  I believe that Purpose in your life comes when you follow Persistently the Passion that God has put in your heart.  

Enjoying a beautiful Nevada morning

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Light and Contrast

Taking private painting lessons would be a complete waste of money if I didn't apply the things I learn in each following painting.  In seven lessons, I have really only accomplished one painting to completion, but I have taken several pieces that I have completed independently to have them evaluated.  As I have blogged on previous occasions, my instructor, Lily Adamzcyk gives a brutally honest critique of each work.  Techniques have been analyzed such as how to paint specific elements like grass, water and never use white to brighten.  Probably the most important lesson I have tried to implement is that of light and contrast.  For a painting to have depth and interest you must have both. 

Keeping that in mind I began working on this large piece that was inspired by a fall hike that I took with my son and daughter-in-law near Reno.  The colors were just beginning to change and the birch trees nearly glowed in contrast to all of the darker pines.  The bright morning sunlight filtered across the trail whenever the foliage gave opportunity. 

Because of their prominence in the composition, you would first think that my main focus here is the grouping of the three birch trees near the trail but in actuality, it is the sunlight that is really the star here. I have attempted to show the trail and grass highlighted by the sunlight in a number of locations.  It is almost as if you have walked out of the darkness and into the light as the trail absorbs the energy and warmth of the morning rays.  This energy continues as the trail briefly disappears only to return brighter as you are prompted to continue up the mountain.

At my next lesson, I am sure that there are refining details that Lily will use to help me improve this piece but I think that she will immediately know that I have been listening.

24 x 36 Oil- "Morning Sunlight"

Monday, October 29, 2012

Watch Grass Grow

I have blogged a number of times about my painting lessons that I am taking with a very talented local artist by the name of Lily Adamczyk.  If you have followed any of my former blog posts you know that I have been painting only for the past 2 years and have been using acrylics up to this point.  Taking lessons from an accomplished artist and learning a new medium like oils can open one up to a new level of critiquing that facebook friends or family dare not provide.  In their defense 1. they probably don't want to hurt my feelings and 2. even with all my bad habits I demonstrate a level of skill they may not have themselves.  

I chose for the subject of my first solo oil painting a field with three longhorns.  Well, actually two longhorns and a calf.  We took this photo somewhere along the road while traveling in Nebraska.  I loved the look these bovine gave us as we forced my 14 year old niece to stand in a field of corn so that we could take her picture. You don't come across too many fields of corn in the Nevada desert so we made her pose all across the countries bread basket states.  Actually, now that I think about it, I haven't seen too many longhorns in Las Vegas either.  Regardless of what crazy things we were doing to make them stare at us like this, I loved this photo and knew immediately that I wanted to try and paint it.

So as I began painting out my scene on the blank canvas, I couldn't really get around the fact that my subject was surrounded by a great deal of green grass.  I decided to split that up with a small stream running across and to have a distant barn on the horizon.  As I posted this painting on facebook, I received a number of compliments about the way I painted my grass.  So, I proudly carried my partially completed work to my most recent painting lesson so that Lily could get a close up look at my masterpiece.  I was sure the she would like the way I handled the long grass in this composition because I tried to follow her instructions on the painting I had done previously that I call "Memories of the Road Home".  Boy was I WRONG!!! 

Lily's first comment to me was that she see me making this mistake all the time and she is going to break me of my bad habits, especially when it comes to painting grass and having things springing up from the edges of my canvas.  I guess that meant that she didn't like the tree I added in the corner.

The first correction she had me do was to add more contrast to the grass areas by adding brown squiggly lines in different directions. After these are completed, I'm going to come back in with a light ochre to simulate the grass that has gone to seed in my photo.

With this close up, you can see that I have started adding the contrast to the grass and have worked to DEFINE the BOVINE by darkening the shadows and highlighting the areas that are being impacted by the sunlight.  I can honestly say that this action has resulted in a marked improvement.  Lily is always right.

This is close up of an area that I have not yet added the contrast and I can see what a difference this makes in the overall feeling of the grass.  

I was thinking about the fact that for so many year I have not viewed nature with "ARTIST EYES" and now I am trying to interrupt what my memory remembers it to look like.  The randomness and imprefections that exists in nature is missing from my pieces because I'm trying to interrupt it and not really obeserve it.  What I really need to do to improve my paintings, is get outside and literally "WATCH GRASS GROW".

Nosey Girls- 18 x 24 (Oil)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hummingbirds 6 inches long

I know that I'm not the only one that finds great joy in watching the hummingbirds dart around the feeder.  These tiny creatures pack a super attitude as they dive bomb each other, chattering and scolding as they fly past.  I'm fortunate because in Las Vegas these little guys hang out all year round.

Hummingbirds have been a recent favorite painting subject of mine.  Most paintings I have observed that contain this aerial acrobats usually have a canvas full of colorful flowers and showcase these tiny winged jewels.  My idea was to compose the piece by having the flowers dwarfed by the bird himself.  Hence comes my 6 inch hummingbirds.  My friend Doug Beck from Seattle Washington has taken some fantastic photos of hummingbirds and with his permission I have used these photos as my inspiration.  Check out his work at  You will be very impressed with his photos.

Hummingbird I- 24 x 36

Hummingbird II- 24 x 36
Both of these paintings are for sale on my website at if you want to check them out.  I know that I have several more paintings coming in the future that feature lots of bright flowers, feisty little winged creatures and an abundance of green.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Network your artwork

Last night, I was sitting at a board meeting of my local art guild that I serve as treasurer for and I was considering the value of networking.  After all, that is the main reason I joined the guild in the first place. One individual present who just so happens to teach classes on the social media site Facebook stated, "You should never post pictures of your entire artwork because the risk that you creation will be stolen and used without your permission.  Also the public won't want to come see your exhibitions because they have seen everything you have to offer on the internet."  As I glanced around the table at all my fellow artists, I knew that I was probably the only individual sitting there that happily shares each piece of art as I complete it on a regular basis.  

I have taken the approach to chronicle my creative journey that I am embarked on.  Partly as a method of journaling my progression and also hopefully by inspiring others to pick up a brush, a canvas and just go PAINT! Grab your camera and shoot pictures of the first thing that grabs your eye.  Pick up that sketch pad and a pencil and just start drawing.  The important thing is to get creative.  Your life and those around you will be greatly enriched.

There is freedom in letting that creative person emerge after years of ignoring him or her.  If my posting one piece of art, blog about something I have learned or sharing a problem that I am currently struggling with results in someone letting their buried passion be stirred, then I happily post my work, the ENTIRE painting.  After all, we have all heard that "Imitation is the highest form of flattery" and while I'm not hanging in galleries or supporting myself by the sales of my artwork just yet, both are on my goals list. Maybe my thoughts will change as I get closer to my goals but right now, I just want to share the things I learn and be transparent because I hope that others will learn along with me.

This is also my motivation with this blog.  I watch as people from all points of this planet, open my pages.  I would love to hear more from my readers if there is something that is helpful or if I made you chuckle because you can identify with what I am feeling.

I end this blog post with a photo taken of me enjoying a beautiful Utah afternoon trying to look as if I know how to be an artist plein air style

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Back to the basics-WAY BACK!

This blog is somewhat of an embarrassing blog to write because it requires that I make a very personal confession, "I have dirty brushes."  Okay, there I have said it for the world to read and so now I can move forward towards my recovery.

You would think that somehow along this journey to becoming an artist, I would have learned how to properly maintain my brushes, but I guess not. I only remember in high school art class washing my brushes in the sink under running water and doing that only until the water ran clear.  I thought that was all there was when it came to brush care....(I will continue this blog as soon as you have stopped laughing.)

I became suspiciously aware of the fact that there just be a bit more to paint brush care when I started taking formal painting lessons.  Each week, I would arrive to Lily's house to have sitting before me my unfinished painting, a clean palette with little colorful blobs of oil paint and 5 or 6 paint brushes that all had bristles that were well rounded, a sharp point or had a nice sharp edges.   The bristles were stiff and a frankly a joy to paint with. I know that a number of my brushes are very old but I have found that when I buy brand new brushes, that before you know it, the edges of the bristles are spread apart and I no longer am able to paint a nice straight detailed line.  Even after trying to shape the edges, while the bristles were wet and allowing them to dry on a flat surface I would still have brushes that were far from what Lily had.  So a couple of weeks ago I decided to swallow my pride and ask Lily for help.
The paint brush exorcism took place yesterday at the end of my painting lesson when I painfully submitted my brushes to Lily's scrutiny.  During my 2 hour lesson, my brushes soaked in cleaning solution suspended by a wire hanger.  Just before I was to leave, Lily and I went to her kitchen sink where she pulled out a tub of brush cleaning soap and began to squeezing the bristles and rubbing the brushes vigorously in the palm of her hand.

To my horror, old paint that had worked its way into the ferrule of my brush began to turn the white soap lather into a nasty green-gray color.  I think I heard Lily mutter something under her breath about never having seen such dirty brushes. 
Yes...that is suppose to be a 3/8 Angle Shader on the right that I apparently have ruined in comparison to a #6 angle brush that with my new gained knowledge won't ruin.

So here is what I learned about brush care:
     1.  If the brushes are really dirty you will need to soak them in a brush cleaner solution perhaps as long as overnight.  I definitely think that describes my current situation.  You want to us a brush washer that allows you to suspend your brushes in the solution without covering the ferrule of your brush.

2.  Use a brush soap and get the bristles well lathered.  Rub the bristles vigorously in the palm of your hand then squeeze the bristles between your finger and thumb nail to work the old paint out from deep within the base of the bristles and the ferrule.  Repeat until your soap lather is white.  Leave some lather on your bristles to work as a sizing to allow you to form the desired shape with your fingers.

3.  Lay the brush flat on a paper towel to allow to dry.  Don't stand them up on the end of the handles as the water will stay in the ferrule and will eventually cause damage to your paint brush handle.

 Now is when the fun really begins.  I am off to the store to purchase the necessary items and then I will begin the long process of trying to save my brushes by soaking and soaping them back to life.  As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Pain-No Gain

Yesterday, was my scheduled 4th painting lesson.  I was anxious to progress on the current oil painting that I am working on of a fallen tree up on Mt. Charleston.  The difficult thing for me when it comes to taking these lessons is that I feel insecure because (1.)  I'm painting in oils and (2.) my natural approach to the subject is very different from that of my instructor.  Each step of the way she gives me instructions on the next process in the piece and often I don't produce the result that she is wanting.  Either I am trying to be too detailed, over doing it or not doing enough.  This can be frustrating, but as I have stated many times, I am self-taught and obviously in many aspects, self-taught incorrectly.  Bad habits can be hard to rid oneself of if they are deeply ingrained and apparently my bad habits have very "deep tap roots".

I was excited to take along my most recent painting that I call, "Memories of the Road Home" and one of which I have been very happy with. As I painted this one, I had tried to remember the points I have learned in the book I am reading by Margaret Kessler entitled, "Painting Better Landscapes" and the things I have learned so far in my 3 previous painting lessons that I have taken with Lily Adamczyk and all in all I thought I had done a pretty good job.  Boy was I mistaken!
This is my original painting that I had completed that I am calling, "A Memory of the Road Home".
I was sure that Lily would discuss a few things that I could improve on to make it a better landscape painting.  After all, there could only be a few minor changes that I could do to improve it because the overall piece was done well, or at least that was what I thought.  It was the last few minutes of my lesson when Lily suggested that we take a look at what I had brought along.  She picked the canvas up and in a matter of 30 seconds or so she said..."Do you mind if I...." and she grabbed a roll of masking tape in her other other and began placing pieces of tape in different directions on the surface of my canvas.

Lily said that when you are painting buildings it is very important that you emphasize angles and lines and the best way to insure that they are straight is by using masking tape.  As you can see, I was blind to the extent that my lines and angles were off.  Only the tape showed me just how crooked they were.
Lily then proceeded to pull out her brushes and paint palette and go to work on the roof of my old homestead.  She explained that the detail of painting each shingle wasn't necessary but what was more important was getting the base colors correct and giving just the impressions of the tiles.  That was also her advise when it came to old wooden slates that the house is comprised of.
Lily giving me a lesson on how to improve my painting

I was amazed by her ability to add a few colors together and come up with the perfect matching color to use for those old green shingles.  She mixed Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Green,  Black, and White to make the shingles.  We also added a blue tint to the path way to give it interest.  My other notes include- STAY AWAY FROM WHITE...and throw away your fan brush.  An angle brush works great because you don't have to paint every blade grass, rather give the impression of the grass.

My piece in it's current stage of transformation.  We have brought the one tree down into the foreground, added a stone wall, radically changed the grass and my path.  I am still working on lightening the grass and detailing some of the foreground. 
It was a painful couple of hours, but my resolve is to turn the PAIN into GAIN and remember that critique, no matter how painful, will make me a better artist.  After I finish this piece a second time, maybe I will start a second painting of this same house so that I can reproduce this effect on my own from start to finish.  Perhaps this view with some overgrown rosebushes and an old tire swing would make and interesting composition.  Practice makes Perfect...and I need a LOT of practice.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week 3-Be Patient and Paint the Plan

My oil painting is progressing along nicely and I'm pleased at the progress.  I knew that I would learn a lot by taking one on one lessons but I find myself struggling at my home easel now.  I'm trying to incorporate the things I have leaned these past 3 lessons into my own works at home and I feel a bit lost.  I think this is normal and I just have to keep working at it until I break free of old habits and take my time staying with the plan.  Painting TOP to BOTTOM, BACK to FRONT.  No cheating even if I can't wait to see how that bright yellow foliage of the Aspen trees are going to pop against those dark green pines.

For the past two years that I have returned to my childhood passion,  I have been committed to practicing and have painted nearly 100 pieces.  Some of course better than others.  I have sold about 8 pieces in that time but have many stacked around the house.  I believe I have shown my dedication and have reached that point of taking my art to the next level.  Private lessons are what I feel is needed for me to advance to the next level. 

I think there are plenty of other new, struggling artists that must feel the same way that I do.  At 51 years old, do I have enough time to progress my talent to where I want it to be?  Only God knows that answer,but in the mean time I want to either be painting, teaching or sharing what I am learning with others by blogging about my experiences.

Original Photo that I chose to use as the inspiration for my first oil painting

WK 1- Laying out the composition by sketching the main details using a neutral colored paint

WK 1- blocking in the main base colors that will eventually be the mountains, sky and foreground

WK 1- Stopping the first lessons with my canvas covered in a layer of acrylic paints.

WK 2- Here I am painting my canvas top to bottom and back to front.  Most of this background area will be covered up with my foreground details but you have to give the viewer that distance to create interest
WK 3-  Here I have changed the mountain color from purple to more blue.  Blue gives a better feeling of distance because of the haze created in the atmosphere that gives a blue tint to objects in the distance.  I have focused on my areas of light and shadow and developed the path way.  The view's eye is drawn to both areas in the distance that reflect the sunlight.  It makes you feel that the path continue down over the hill and there must be something interesting there.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Something to Think About

As I was studying the book called "Painting Better Landscapes" by Margaret Kessler, I found on page 24 a gem amongst the technical advice.  Even while you are still visualizing and planning your piece you need to consider the WHY of the painting.  Why are you painting this scene and what mood are you trying to convey.  She says, and I quote, "With in the limits of convention, paint the ordinary in an extraordinary way.  Don't just decorate: dramatize.  Exaggerate motion and color; vary the value range and textural quality.  By emphasizing or downplaying objects, manipulate the scene to engage the viewer psychologically."

There is freedom in this statement and as an artist I appreciate that I have artistic license to add or remove certain elements to improve my composition.  Of course I didn't need to read this in a book to know that as the artist the only boundaries that I have are those invisible ones that I myself have created in my mind.  Breaking those chains and tearing down the cobwebs that years of non-creativeness have left isn't always and easy task.  I struggle in my compositions with using colors and painting the randomness of nature.  I can stand back to observe my piece and realize after hours of work that I have once again painted my bushes to have a manicured symmetry and all lined up like little soldiers at attention and all my rocks are smooth round river rocks.

This is exactly why visualizing and planning are SO important.  I must see this painting completed in my mind before I ever start laying out my palette.  Sketching my idea out will  help me steer away from these composition traps and I am ready to begin.  So here is my inspirational photo and I will blog my steps as I work through the teachings outline in this book by Ms. Kessler.

This old homestead photo that we took while on our Missouri vacation is very near to where both my great-grandparents lived.  I recall both of their houses on the main dirt road that parallels the highway 133 between Crocker and Richland.  My mother was born in a house probably very much like this one there in Swedeborg.  I attended the little country school there for both 1st and 3rd grade.  It is this exact feeling that I want to evoke with this painting.  I want to stir up feelings that include memories of a vibrant house that is full of laughter and that now stands in decay because of neglect and misuse.  The memories are still very sweet because they are bigger than the outer shell made of lumber and penny nails.

Old House Ruins located in Swedeborg, Missouri

Ivy covered log located in what is left of the yard of the old house
Quick sketch made of house and log that I will use as my plan.  I am considering adding a old water pump too.

Memories of the Road Home- 16 x 20 Acrylic. This is the final rendition and I am pleased with the end results.  I wanted to inspire self-reflection as one looks back into the past.  I used several photos we took as we visited Swedeborg, Missouri on vacation this summer. This town is where my Grandmother and Grandfather lived, my mom was born and two sets of Great-grandparents lived. My roots are deep in this little town of about 250. When you spend time painting a scene like this you do a great deal of remembering about childhood, growing old, family and those that have gone before you.

In memory of:  Franklin Vail & Claudine Butler Miller (Mauer) 
                          Harry & Hazel (Morris) Miller
                          Clara May (Freeman) McKim 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Making a Plan

I've started reading a book called "Painting Better Landscapes" by Margaret Kessler and right off I knew I was in trouble.  The book begins as soon as page 14 talking about a plan...You are supposed to have a VALUE PLAN.  Ms. Kessler states," Planning the values in your sketchbook is probably the most neglected aspect of the painting process.  I cannot overemphasize its importance."  I guess that says it pretty clearly.

Sketching out my plan with pencil or charcoal is something I have never done up to this point.  I just start a new piece by covering the canvas with paint and then painting, excuse me for using the old saying, "by the seat of my pants".  I was keenly aware that on my first painting lesson, that while we didn't grab a pencil, my teacher, Lily Adamczyk had me block out all the main areas of my painting using a neutral colored paint.  She quickly planned which trees we wanted to emphasize and which ones were in the wrong place in my photo. When I actually started painting, I had a plan.  Of course it was Lily's plan because at this point, I'm still very much lost in the transition between using acrylic to oil and trying to understand Lily's approach and techniques.  Let me show you what I mean...

Here is what my masterpiece looked like at the end of my first two hour lesson.

The Initial Plan
Blocking out the colors of the background and the foreground

Working from Top to Bottom, Back to front

  Ms. Kessler lists on page 8 of her book the five progressive steps to construct a painting:
  1. Visualize the idea
  2. Composing the idea (blueprint)
  3. Establishing the values (foundation)
  4. Blocking the color harmony (framework)
  5. Refind the details (finishing)
On the same page, Ms. Kessler also addresses the importance of developing your own style by stating a very simple but powerful truth.  "As long as you are following someone else's lead, you will always be behind."

So today, I'm digging out those very neglected sketching pencils, overused kneadable eraser and grabbing one of the many empty sketchbooks that are in my studio so that I can begin to discipline myself to MAKE A PLAN first, before I ever grab a canvas or pick up a brush.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Naples Yellow-SUNSHINE in a Tube

Since I am a self-taught artist, with little or no formal training to speak of, my knowledge of mixing colors is very basic and is mostly what Mr. Easton taught me in high school art class in Eldon, Missouri.  I have spent the past 2 years, going through bottles of white acrylic paint because logic told me that to lighten a color, add white.  I would add white to my colors if I wanted to gradually lighten the base color or to add a refection.  If you add white to green or brown it results in a color that is lighter but often I noticed that the color seemed to loose the vibrancy and actually become duller and even gray.  I couldn't figure out why other artists have the ability to paint beautiful landscapes that reflect bright blue skies, striking sunsets or sparkling water.  Heck, even their dirt is brighter than mine it seems.

At my first painting lesson two weeks ago, I was introduced to an amazing color that I had never heard of before...NAPLES YELLOW.  It is a mixture of white and yellow ochre and maybe something else.  You can find all the specific chemistry used to create this color online, but to me, it is like having SUNSHINE in a tube!  I went right out and bought myself some and couldn't wait to compare the colors that I could mix. 

I also found that I am not alone in my praise of this pigment.  I found a very well written explanation on an artist forum called "Wet Canvas" that I thought I would include.
Larry says...."As a plein air painter of subjects outdoors...I generally observe that light and color appear warmer. It is difficult imitating color we see outdoors in natural light, and our tendency is to add white to "brighten" as well as lighten a color. What I have observed quite some time ago is that white is a cool color (generally speaking)...and yes, it tints...but it also cools the color down and flattens its potential for three dimensional punch. Cooling down or neutralizing works against the notion of "brightening"...and is thus counter productive for me.

What I use as a substitute for tinting closer color to maintain warmth and yet lighten is Naples Yellow. It makes lovely tints that feel warmer. As a color goes back I'll use some Naples Yellow plus white since that color would begin to lose its sense of nearness to the eye anyway, and if I want the color to appear even further back I'll use just the white to tint.

I try to be sparing with my use of white so that particular highlights I want will pop with greater depth illusion. Of course it is not always possible to avoid I'll often add a bit of Naples to the mix after using white to restore some of the warmth lost.

Some will argue against this, as is their right...but such thinking has worked for me for umteen years, and I think where painting is concerned the ends does justify the means. Proof is in the pudding as they say...
Larry (09-12-2005, 03:35 PM

First I took Hooker Green and mixed a small amount of white.  I also took the same amount of Hooker Green and mixed it with an equal portion of Naples Yellow.  You can see my second mixture has a warmer glow than does the first.  I have experienced Hooker Green turning a gray tone very easily when I'm trying to paint a variety of foliage.  Trees don't look that gray to me so this isn't something I want to find happening on my palette.

The second color I mixed was using my bottle of Apple Barrel Chocolate Bar Brown as the base color.  This really showed the remarkable difference in tone and vibrancy as you can see by the photo below.  Naples Yellow has definitely won a big place on my palette. 

Check out my website to see all my available artwork.  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wild Horses of Nevada

I realize that Nevada is not the only state to have wild horses.  According to Wild Horse Facts at  "Wild horses in North America live on islands off the Atlantic coast, as well as on the mainland. Small populations of horses live on Sable Island (Canada), Assateague Island (coast of Maryland and Virginia), Shackleford Island (off the coast of North Carolina) and Cumberland Islands (off the coast of Georgia). As well as the following western states including Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, North Dakota and New Mexico."

Nevada is however the state with the largest population of wild horses and burros and so it isn't uncommon to be treated to a sighting of these magnificent creatures when driving anywhere in the state.  Several months ago, Brad and I took the opportunity to take a drive to Goldfield and while out exploring the area just North we came upon a small herd of wild horses.  We took some great pictures of them and I knew that I would be painting wild horses very soon.  

Today was the day and so I pulled out a 24 x 36 inch canvas and started working on my composition.  As you can see by my painting in progress shot, the work has only just begun.  This particular mare in the photograph that I am working from appeared to be an Appaloosa I believe at the time of our visit she had a young colt following her.  I love the angle of the photo and the two lone Joshua Trees in the background.

I have only roughed in the background and sketched my mare in with pencil.  I am struggling with the vast openness of this canvas and just how to make the composition interesting.  I believe that I am going to make the mare larger and add that colt so that the idea of how that generations of wild horses have been roaming the desert of Nevada for over 100 year.

Here are a few more pictures that we took of this herd.