Wednesday, January 28, 2009

where the heart is...or isn't

Hopefully, when you look at your work you remember what you loved about the scene, the idea, the message.

In this painting, the island in the distance has special meaning for the people I was with. I was painting with them in mind, not because I was excited about the scene. That was a problem the first time and still a problem the second time around. I'll try to remember that lesson.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

path to lake, revisited

This painting is from a September fishing trip to Canada. I was painting plein air from the upper deck of our chalet - listening to conversations below, smelling dinner cooking. I was determined to paint this scene but my lack of enthusiasm for painting and increased interest in food shows. Brought it home, put it away.

Today I took it out and washed it off. This painting didn't have a foundation of watercolor or oil under the pastel. I could have scrubbed the surface clean if I wanted to start a totally different painting but I thought I'd give this composition another try - this time, without the scene in front of me and without a reference photo.

I applied an oil underpainting and changed a few things. We'll see what happens next...

Monday, January 26, 2009


Not my original vision but it is finally finished. 14.5 x 11.5 inches, pastel over watercolor foundation

Saturday, January 24, 2009

watercolor foundation for pastel

I found this incomplete pastel while cleaning my studio today. All work on this was done plein air but I'll finish it in the Studio. It has a watercolor foundation on mounted Wallis paper.

I've come across it several times in the past year and each time I'm surprised because I don't usually keep unfinished art. If a painting isn't working, I get rid of it - rip it up, hose it off. But, each time I see this piece I remember my attempt that September day to capture the energy of the subject. At the time, I was wishing to be in my comfortable Studio but instead I was on-site with all my art junk spread around, weighted down so it wouldn't blow away and covered so it wouldn't get wet. I stayed there until it started to rain because the process of painting directly was so much more exciting than when working from a photo.

I read a wonderful quote the other day in William F. Reese' new book, 'The Painter's Process'.

"Remember that one is never as good a painter as one thinks when a piece works, or as bad as one thinks when it doesn't."

Friday, January 23, 2009

pastel over oil

Here's the finished painting, "Winter Riverwalk". Scroll down to see detail shots and the oil foundation alone.

details from Winter Riverwalk

As requested, here are several detail images from the finished pastel painting. Most of the underpainting was covered with pastel (as in the first detail image). The other two details show some of the oil underpainting. The oil paint is very thin when applied to the mounted Wallis paper so it dries overnight. Click on the image to make it larger.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

underpainting for pastel

Today I completed the oil underpainting for the my first pastel of 2009. 19 x 24 inches on Wallis paper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

finally, number five

Based on my little experiment of painting 5 foundations on the same day and then turning them into finished paintings one at a time on different days, I have an opinion about what works for me: I don't think I'll make a habit of this. By the third painting, it begins to feel like an unfinished project. I have more enthusiasm and energy when I paint one painting at a time.

Monday, January 19, 2009

flat blue sky

At this time of year in Washington, it's hard to remember what a flat blue sky looks like but here it is for painting 4 of 5. I'm forming an opinion about this process of painting 5 foundations at once then adding color one at a time. On to painting #5 to see if my experience changes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

back to it

I'm back to painting this morning and not a minute too soon. Too many days out of the studio this week. This is the third of the five painting foundations I did (and posted) a week ago. Two to go.

Friday, January 16, 2009

banks of the wenatchee

I hope to be back to some kind of daily painting schedule soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

monday monday

Are successful paintings the ones that just flow through you from the great beyond? You know, the ones that make you think you're special.

Or, is a successful painting one that you learn from? For Monday's painting I changed my palette from cool over a warm foundation, to warm over warm. It was an experiment and I learned a few things. Among them, a technique new to me where I touch the edge of a paper towel to mineral spirits and kind of tickle over the canvas. It lifts paint in a random manner and gives new hope for overworked areas. I also learned that I'm more comfortable with a cool palette.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

sunday foundations

A rainy gray Sunday. The scenes outside my Studio windows are muted and all mid-to-dark values. A good day for painting foundations for the week ahead. I've never started five paintings at once before but next week is a busy one and I'll be out of the studio a part of each day. We'll see how this goes.

When I worked in colored pencil, I usually used a French Gray grisaille under the color. You can see this process at Paintings in Progress on my website. In oil, I use a mixture of several colors then lift pigment with brush or paper towel where I need more light.

A nice surprise this morning. I got a mention on Katherine Tyrrell's Making a Mark site for Who's made a mark this week (11 January 2009). Painting is such a solitary vocation, connections like this one mean a lot.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day is confabulation. The meaning: a filling in of gaps in memory by fabrication. Today's 9 x 12 oil painting is exactly that - an interpretation (or fabrication) of a scene remembered from a photo shoot.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

bad reference photos for good paintings

Early January in Washington state is not a good time to shoot new landscape reference photos. A camera gets really wet.

When looking AGAIN at the photos I have on hand, I chose one from our road trip to northern California last winter. It was taken at about 60 mph from the car. This very bad photo set me free to interpret more loosely. I've included it here along with the composition sketch and the finished piece.

I want to express my appreciation to Katherine Tyrrell, Making a Mark for including me in her 25 Recent Posts from My Regular Reads (right side, scroll down). If you aren't familiar with this blog, check it out when you can spend some time there. Lots of information and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

that which brought me to now

For the past 8 years, my husband and I have been working on our retirement property in Olympia, WA. Five acres on the the water.

Our plan was to build a house there in 2007. After 6 years of weed-eating and cutting blackberries in the rain we built a "barn" with garage below and studio space above. At that time, retirement was just a year away. The house was already designed, my dreams were all in place.

After 6 (long) weeks of retirement, my husband started his own business. We realized that we wouldn't be building a house there for a long time, if ever, because it is too far from his customers in the Seattle area. I was very sad. I can weed-eat for 7 hours straight toward a dream but when the dream is gone, it is just work.

A year later we began to consider selling. We mentioned it to a friend who knew someone who might be interested. The whole life-changing transaction took only 6 weeks and by the last day of December 2008 the sale was complete. The new owners love it and will be good stewards of all our hard work. We are happy and we are sad.

So, today I painted a remembrance of late afternoon last Fall at the property. The focus is the lower driveway out to the road and our new life. Without the property, the chain saw and weed eater just sit. I'm painting. It will be good, as soon as I get used to it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


These are mini-scenes from "Banks of the Upper Dean." Something happened with this painting: I saw a glimmer of what might be possible if I keep at this landscapes in oil thing! Click on the title to see the painting on my Recent Work blog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

to have and to hold - or not

The initial sketch of a new painting is so exciting, so full of promise. Is the goal to hold onto the vision I have? Or is it better to let go and allow it to change, evolve and emerge?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Here is how yesterday's painting looks today. I'm calling it done. Celebrating my first painting of the New Year.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I'm back

Happy New Year!
I love it when I can start a day early with a cup of mocha by the fire in my Studio. As I write this, it is still dark outside. This morning's reading inspiration was the February 2009 issue of The Pastel Journal. A good article by Margot Schulzke about gesture in painting and as always, good advice from Richard McKinley about color and arrangement of palette. If I was the Queen of Organization for colored pencil, Richard is surely the King of Organization for pastel and oil.

Above is my first painting of 2009, in progress. Oil, 9 x 12 inches. Looking forward to a year of happy painting.