Thursday, January 31, 2013

Inspiration All Around You

It was back in October that my husband and I had the joy of taking a small (not necessarily small for Brad and I) hike with our son, daughter-in-law and brand new baby granddaughter at Mt. Rose in the Reno area.  The trail is actually called Galena Creek Trail and it was an amazing mile or so up and back.  I understand the trail will actually take you all the way to Lake Tahoe but I didn't need to walk that far to be inspired.

This one little event has so far resulted in a number of paintings that have all be inspired by the photos we took of that area.  I found myself just snapping pictures of everything.  The fall colors were brilliant against the clear sky.  The sounds of wildlife and rushing water made the experience not only a visual masterpiece but also a treat to compare to any concert man could produce.  One thing I know is that there are more paintings coming in the future that can be traced back to that two hours one crisp October morning.  So take a little time this week and find something inspiring and don't forget your camera!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Let Gravity Be Your Painting Friend

Last week I went to my painting lesson as usual.  I'm currently working on a winter scene that contains a number of bare trees.  I am actually painting from a reference photograph that taken by a fellow artists and Facebook friend, Clive Hughes.  I fell in love with the reflection and the bright sun rays and graciously he granted me permission to use his photo.

Reference Photo taken by Irish artist, Clive Hughes

I am in the place in my painting where I need to add the small fine branches for the background, so I grabbed the small script brush and started to paint away.  I had only made a few lines when I heard my painting instructor, Lily Adamczyk give a loud statement about the way I was holding my brush the wrong way.  My painting lessons are often a humbling learning process because it seems almost every lesson brings to light something that I am not doing correctly.

I was holding my brush more as you would a pen.  Far down on the handle near the bristles.  According to Lily, I need to hold my brushes more to the end of the handle so that I can allow for a more freedom of movement, letting the paint actually do the work.  The result will be a more natural looking branch because small branch detail should not be rigid or uniform.  Another helpful technique is to actually paint the small branches with the canvas turned upside down.  This allows gravity to actually assist you with the loose, free movement that you need to make realistic branches.
Current state of my WIP painting that I am doing from the above reference photo at my painting lesson

To reinforce what I have learned I had the perfect picture to come home and work on because there was actually painting a woodland snow scene full of bare trees that is a WIP on my easel.

A portion of my WIP painting that shows the lack of fine branch detail

Holding my brush the WRONG way!

Example of the correct way to hold the brush to get the loose fluid movement needed for the fine branch detail.  The canvas flipped upside down can also be a helpful technique.  This allows gravity to help your brush movement.

Additional small branches add to fill in the tree using the technique that Lily taught me

Friday, January 25, 2013


I've started reading a book called "Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color" by Kevin Macpherson and so far it is an informative read. His book starts out with several pages about the equipment of a well prepared painter and even explains how to clean your brushes.  Very practical advice for any want to be en plein air painter.

 Mr. Macpherson refers to colors as "NOTES" which I found very interesting.  Chapter one is titled "Seeing Color Accurately"  He states that "You must train your eye to see and simplify."  A color note is the combination of the Hue (name of the color), + Value (degree of grayness) + Chroma (intensity or lack of) =COLOR NOTE.  On page 19, the author tells us that "Our preconceived thoughts limit our sensitivity to seeing."

I have often realized this with my own painting because preconceived mental images of simple things like rock, grass, trees and clouds all impact my paintings and cause struggles in my attempts to paint more convincing landscapes.  It is like I spent most of my life "not really seeing" the nature around me.  My natural tendency is to paint my landscapes too uniform and rigid.  I have often mentioned my struggle with painting something as simple as rocks looking like smooth river rocks and my bushes being soldiers at attention.

I was chatting about some of these points with my husband over our morning ritual of McDonald's coffee and he made the comment about looking at the colors out of focus.  I was pretty shocked at his intuition when I flipped the page to page 21 titled, "A Colorful World out of Focus".  Mr. Mcpaherson actually suggests taking off your glasses so that you are focused on the COLOR rather than the image.  He even talks about and gives examples of entire paintings he did without the aid of his glasses.  What a concept!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What in the World is a Pogonip?

Last week we had a real cold spell in Las Vegas and so I started several winter scenes in my little studio with space heater blasting. They actually called it a "Hard Freeze" because the temperature dropped into the 20's at night and several days the afternoon high didn't even reach the 40's.  The Mojave Desert does get below freezing during the winter but this cold snap was actually nothing compared to the week that our Northern Nevada neighbors experienced.  Shortly after this drop in temperatures, I started noticing beautiful photos of ice crystals taken in the Reno area being posted on Facebook.  The word "Pogonip" was popping up everywhere and so I had to do a little research on this word because I had never seen it before. 

Turns out the word pogonip originates from a Shoshone word and occurs only when the humidity in the air is nearly 100% and the temperature is below freezing.  This causes ice crystals to form in the air, creating an ice fog as it were.  The crystals then cling to everything creating a beautiful encasement around leaves, twigs, branches, grasses and anything else that happens to be around. The world just sparkles because it appears to be dusted in diamonds and crystals.   I was so impressed by the photo taken by Spring Creek, Nevada photographer, Dini Torrence Esplin that I had to get her permission to attempt a rendition in acrylic paint on a canvas and this is the results:

Amazing photograph taken by Dini Esplin

"Pogonip in the Pines"  11 x 14 Acrylic

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Greatest Masterpiece

This past few weeks I have given a great deal of consideration to the new pressure I'm now feeling to change my mindset from a life of running a business office that serviced 100+ employees, 700+ students and a congregation of 1200+ attendees to a retired person who wants to see their art appreciated by an ever increasing group of viewers.  The creative pressure to always stay inspired and excited is certainly different from the pressure I had on payroll days or at the end of the year tax document preparation.

For the past month, I have been on the hunt for things that inspire me and yesterday it was a song.  The lyrics from "Mighty to Save" sung by the the group Hillsong just struck a cord in my heart.  When the words of the song came to the phrase,"Author of Salvation"  I couldn't help but meditate all day on the meaning of those 3 words.  It was as if they just jumped out at me.   Jesus not only made the plan for my salvation, He authored it in His blood.  When it came time for me to open my sketchbook, I was moved to attempt to capture my feelings on paper.  Usually it's a landscape that will catch my eye, and while God created more beauty in this world than any of us can fathom, His greatest masterpiece was completed upon two ugly, rough and blood soaked timbers. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sketchbook entries for the week

In my effort to fill my sketchbook in 2013 I've started by looking towards my amazing grandchildren for sketching inspiration.

Winter on My Mind

The weather here in Las Vegas has been unseasonable cold with several days of temperatures never leaving the 30's.  For almost 20 years we have heated our home exclusively with a wood stove.  This works fine at night to take e chill out of the air, but with these temps the house has been like living in a meat locker all day.  The last few days have certainly been a challenge and my studio has been SO cold that I've been painting in my jacket and scarf.  Mittens wouldn't allow for good brush strokes so gloves weren't an option but for a moment I did consider it.  Seems fitting to have a winter scene in progress on my easel and so yesterday I started working on this 16x20 frozen composition in acrylics.  The weather today is supposed to begin warming up and so maybe spring will soon be in the studio air!

Friday, January 11, 2013

MISSING-Picture on a Milk Carton


Ever since the first missing child's picture appeared on the side of a milk carton we have used the public as a very important part of the recovery process.  All of us have watched Adam Walsh in his TV crusade, "Americas Most Wanted" bring criminals and fugitives to justice.  It is the public that becomes the tool that can aid law enforcement to eventually apprehend dangerous murderers and rapists from our midst. Maybe once again the public can again help locate a lousy art thief.

Yesterday, a dear friend and painting instructor, Lily Adamscyzk had a prize possession go missing.  No it wasn't a kidnapping of a child or a family member, but rather a painting that she calls "A Night in Paris" was apparently stolen right out of her gallery here in Las Vegas. Currently, there are no real leads as to who perpetrated the theft or where the painting is located.  You might be thinking how could I compare the theft of a piece of art to that of a kidnapped child and while I know nothing compares to the well being and life of a fellow human; as an artist your paintings become a very real part of your life.  Often, so much of your identity and energy is poured into the work that you develop a very strong emotional attachment.  I know that this whole affair has taken a toll on my friend.

When I spoke to Lily last night she explained, "That only a few times in an artists life do you create a piece of art that turns out exactly the way you had hoped and that you are completely proud of and this piece is that to me.  It's like having a child and he is lost and I don't know where he is tonight."

Take a good look at this very distinctive 24" x 36" gallery wrapped oil painting of the Las Vegas skyline and then consider the risk that every artist takes to show their work in a public venue.  I hope that the final outcome of this story will be the recovery of the piece. Doing a little research on stolen art I discovered that there are many famous works of art stolen over the century. I didn't realize that the "Mona Lisa" was stolen in 1911 and recovered several years later and Edvard Munch's "The Scream" has actually been stolen twice. Not sure why anyone would bother with that one.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013- Year of My Sketchbook

I have been doing a great deal of blogging about sketching this week and have picked up that small tablet of blank paper and have done a couple of drawings.  However, I don't think that drawing a picture with pen and pencil really reflects the creative discipline that other artists put such emphasis on.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the sketchbook of a very accomplished wildlife artist, John Seerey-Lester while reviewing this photo album on Facebook.  I just love the artist community that Facebook has created, because when I asked him about his sketchbook, I received a wonderful reply that I have recorded below that was not only informative, but very encouraging.  Please check out Mr. Seerey-Lester's work.  I guarantee you will be impressed and inspired.

I see that the sketchbook really serves as a diary or journal of sorts for Mr. Seerey-Lester and that excites me.  I am anxious now to start my own creative record for this year.  I plan on creating a separate page on this blog to record my sketchbook in hopes that it will inspire someone else to make that commitment.  I would love to hear from you if you do.

  • Julie Diveley Townsend I know this is a silly question, but is this a typical example of your sketchbook? I'm trying to sketch more but find that I'm sometimes not sure what to record for future reference. Just curious.

  • John Seerey-Lester Julie, yes this is typical. I sketch most days if I'm doing something other than sitting at the easel. I use a ballpoint pen to sketch then use a watercolor wash. I do about one sketch book per year. These are also journals and contain a lot of writing aswellas sketches. Every time we take a trip somewhere I do at least one sketch on location each day. For instance, we've just come back from Sanibel Island where I sketched the bird life each day. I have over 30 of these sketch books now and it's great to occasionally go through them and remember what you did, where and when. I also use them to record ideas for future paintings. Hope this helps ?

  • Julie Diveley Townsend Thank you for sharing. I know I'm told that making preliminary sketches on location are so key but I just haven't got the hang of it. Actually seeing your sketchbook gives me a better feel of what it is that I should consider doing myself. What a treasure these are for you I am sure.

  • John Seerey-Lester Yes Julie, I do treasure them. Try keeping a sketch book yourself and sketch in it each week. I think you will soon see the benefit. Good luck. Let me know how you go on.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sketching Hummingbirds

Keeping with my 2013 commitment to stay busy sketching if I'm not painting, I started a little hummingbird sketch tonight....

Pen & Marker Sketch in progress


Hummingbirds are the most amazing little creatures and photography is the only real way that you're going to get one to sit still long enough to sketch him.  So I'm using a photo taken by a photographer friend of mine, Doug Beck.  You can see some of his amazing photos at

In the Las Vegas area we are blessed to enjoy 4 species of hummingbirds, and come the cold weather don't think you should take in your hummingbird feeder because 2 of the species stay here year round. Yes, we have backyard entertainment year round here in the Mojave Desert!  Remember one of the best things you can do to paint with skill is to pick up a pencil and practice drawing with skill.  So along with all those other resolutions to loose weight, read your Bible and show kindness- make sure you include a sketchbook in there somewhere.  You will be blessed if you do!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sketch and Then Sketch Some More

I have always been a doodler...the margins of my note pads have often been filled with little nonsensical drawings, some of them recognizable and many simply shaded forms and scrolls.  I may be sitting still listening to the lecture, sermon or teaching but my pencil is always moving.  Drawing is the first step to improving your painting and really can't be emphasized enough.  I've been cleaning up in the studio today and took out my stack of unused sketchpads from out of the drawer where they are hidden from sight and moved them prominently on the shelf where I will remember to use them.

Tonight, I sat down and began to draw an iguana because I noticed a number of people walking through the gallery made comments about one of the artists work that contain iguanas, lions and horses.  Animals, and yes even reptiles are a favorite subject of many an art observer.  I decided that I'm going to start including some sketches on my gallery wall and see the response that I get.  Below I have added a couple of my pencil and ink creations.   

I had noticed recently a very interesting idea to prepare a small simple sketch of the eye of each member of your household and have it framed together.  I think that was a great idea and one that I want to do for each of my kids.  I could see doing a family nose, lip and ear study also.  This can be added to my long list of art endeavors.  So grab a pencil and piece of paper and draw something! 

Tonight's Iguana Sketch
The shallow edge of the pool at the Super 8 Motel, Santa Clarita California

Study of an Eye

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gallery Space

Well, today was the day that Brad and I hung my own little gallery wall space at City of the World Gallery located at 1229 S. Casino Center Blvd, Las Vegas, NV  89104.    I think it might measure a whopping 4' x 8' but I was able to squeeze 8 of my best pieces there along with my bio and business cards.  It might not seem like much but for me it represents a beginning and I am blessed to have the opportunity to share with others something that brings me satisfaction and joy.  Tomorrow is the "First Friday" in 2013 and I plan on being down there at the gallery, hoping to have a chance to talk to anyone that wants to listen about the gallery and my art in specific.  Come on down and join the First Friday festivities.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Starting Out To Be A Busy One

I'm make preparations to hang my artwork on Thursday at the City of the World Gallery.  Lots of little details to get ready but I'm SO excited to see everything framed and hung. 

My new oil paintings all have to be varnished.  I thought that you had to wait about 6 months before applying a coat of varnish to seal the piece but once again I have learned something new from my friend, instructor and accomplished artist, Lily Adamczyk.  She uses a varnish called Gamar made by Gamblin that is sold at Blicks Art Supply.  Making a trip there first thing in the morning.  I was also able to purchase a few more frames at Hobby Lobby and of course that was at their 50% off weekly special.  YES!

Thanks to my son, I've got my new business cards just in the nick of time. I've been updating my website and blog so they look all pretty. Now maybe tomorrow I can actually start another painting...MAYBE!