Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I'm posting one of my more "mysterious" skull paintings which I love to paint. (This painting won Honorable Mention at a local abstract show a few years ago and like all my paintings that win awards, was safely "put to pasture" in my studio.)

I wanted to create an interesting background for the skulls so I painted several layers of acrylic and then added texture and lines by pressing the wet areas with plastic wrap. After letting it dry for a while, I peeled it up to reveal different patterns. At the end, for a bit of irony, I added the symbol for "Long Life."

Finally, I love to dress up for Halloween and one costume that I've always thought would be fun would be fun as an artist would be to dress like a famous painting, such as Vermeer's iconic Girl with the Pearl Earring or the Mona Lisa. I see I'm not the first though with that idea, as you can see from these young ladies creative art costumes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Let's Get Creative

I can't imagine not living a creative life, but it can also be a lifelong challenge. Pure joy and high energy one day, and, depending on how much you "put out there" exhausting the next. One of the great rewards from writing a daily painting or creative-based blog is that it really does help you focus and stay motivated.

Along those lines, the other day I came across this posting celebrating November as "Art Ever Day Month" (or AEDM)--inspired by National Novel Writing Month (aka Nanowrimo!) There's some great creative artwork by the participants so be sure to check it out or join yourself.

When it comes to creating art everyday, I'm reminded of what our novel writing teacher at Lighthouse Workshop coaches which is that essential "just do it" mantra. More specifically he encourages us to be OK with our SFD. Or "So-So" (fill in your own "S" word here as neeeded) First Draft.

For creating art, you need to free yourself in the same way. Details, minor adjustments, etc. should be left to the end.

I tell me students be OK with the "ugly stage"--embrace it! Why, because it means you are creating and learning. Quite frankly, I often learn more from an unsuccessful painting so I try to keep that in mind as well. Here's a quick "demo" I did for my watercolor students regarding negative painting, glazing, and line as a design element. A perfect painting? No. But did I enjoy the creative process, absolutely.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sunny Provence

Today, in the snow storm I'm craving the sunshine and a much warmer climate and so I'm posting a colorful quick study I did when I was in Provence (perhaps my favorite painting destination) a few years ago.

I also thought it would be a fun contrast from yesterday's "blast from the past" painting of France. For those of you who've been abroad on painting workshops, you know the logistics of art travel (nothing like juggling easels and paints on a bus!) can be challenging, but there's nothing like painting plein air on location far from home.

This watercolor study is from the quintessential Provencale town of Aix en Provence (about 20 mile north of Marseilles) where around every corner was a painting in the making. There's no better winter hobby than studio painting, so for more information about my Denver based watercolor classes please write to me at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Castle From the Past

Nesting today and under the weather, so am posting a rather nostalgic painting. This is one of my earliest watercolors at least that I still own. According to the signed date, I was just 15 years old...

Anyway, like many artists who look back at their earliest works, I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it's fun to see your budding origins as an artist, isn't it? And on the other, the mature artist finds fault or at least discord with their current art "persona."

For example, why use such a somber Payne's Gray? A pigment that wouldn't be near my palette today. And what's going on with that heavy handed white gouache and low quality paper?

I've no idea where the original image source came from (pre Internet!) other than I was completely obsessed with France. A postcard from one of my many European pen pals (again, pre Internet) perhaps?

In the end though, what's important is that I must have enjoyed painting it, because more than 25 years later (yikes!) I'm still p
ainting. And I can't imagine my life today sans art.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Abstract Tuesday

First welcome to my new visitors from around the world, thanks for stopping by!

Here's the abstract mixed-media painting ("The Invention of Color") I posted yesterday on Daily Painters Abstract Gallery. This is one of those paintings where I just set out to explore and don't really have a plan of action.

I used gessosed illustration board (so it would take the paint better) and applied many different layers of transparent Golden acrylics, pastels, graphite, collage tissue paper, and then stamping at the end to add even more depth. These kind of paintings may take you on long journey but they are worth it.

One of my favorite art books for mixed media exercises like this is Celebrate your Creative Self by Mary Todd Beam. For more information about my mixed media or acrylic painting classes, please write to me at the studio:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Watercolor Monday

Since I posted an abstract painting on Yupo over the weekend, I wanted to post a more traditional watermedia painting today to show just how versatile and fresh this surface can be.

One of my earliest forays into art was with pen and ink sketching with watercolor. Yupo works great for that application as you can see here. Here's an example of a quick (maybe 10-15 minutes) study I painted of peppers using a fine black Sharpie and watercolor. As I often do I started with a pure contour drawing before adding any color.

As I mentioned in my previous posting you can easily find Yupo in sheets (I prefer the heavier ones) or pads now online at Cheap Joes, Amazon, and Daniel Smith.

For more information about my watercolor classes, please write to me at or visit me on Teach Street. I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Yupo Saturday

First, what is Yupo? As some of you may know, it's a 100% recyclable "tree free" synthetic paper from the commercial printing industry. I first came across Yupo at a workshop almost 10 years ago. Because Yupo more like plastic, it's very durable and super smooth.

Today, with Yupo's growing popularity as an artist "paper" you can easily purchase Yupo online at places like Cheap Joes--who even sells Yupo in a pad.

I find Yupo's to be a versatile and adventurous painting surface that works well for both detailed representational work or loose abstracts as I've done here. In this particular painting, I used Golden liquid acrylics for really bold color saturation.

In researching Yupo art, I found this demo of painting sunflowers on Yupo as well as a great looking Yupo demo video from master watermedia artist George James.

I love introducing Yupo to my watermedia students, for more information please write to me at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cherries Flambe

One of my absolute favorite oil painting books in my studio is California painter Dan McCaw's A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art. (Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print but you can still find it used.)

You can also see more of Dan McCaw's work on his website. I love McCaw's brushwork, value patterns, and unusual color keys. His abstract figures are fantastic and to me, he makes "creating great art" look easy. And while I know that's not always true in daily practice, it's inspiring and motivating to think so.

In his book, McCaw says he often paints abstracted still lifes like this purely from imagination.
While painting this "imagined" still life of apples and cherries (an exercise taken from his book) was highly enjoyable to paint, I quickly discovered balancing the powerful reds with the right accents while maintaining interesting shape variety was much more challenging than I thought it would be. All the more reason to keep on painting...

For more information about my Denver oil painting classes, please email me at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jazz Cat

As many of you know, artists sometimes struggle with buying art at times. How many times has a friend or family member (well meaning) said: Why don't you just paint that yourself? And on one hand they may have a point, but I feel strongly about owning a variety art and getting inspiration from other artists. This is one of my favorite paintings and to date, the only commission I've ever had done.

This wonderful cat portrait of our beloved tabby Jasmine (aka Jazzy) was created by Colorado artist and illustrator Matt McFarren several years ago. Obviously, I wanted something a bit different than the "classic" pet portrait to fit her small cat/big personality.

I know a commission painting of any kind can be a luxury purchase, but I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance. You'll really enjoy owning a one of kind, personal piece. Here's a link to some fantastic pet painters on Daily Painters.

For more information about my oil painting classes, please write to me at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Watercolor Monday

In honor of my new watercolor students, I thought I'd post one of my favorite floral watercolors. (Not to mention, am already having some summer withdrawal.) This was painted in the garden of our local park where each year they plant huge beds of towering red and orange canna flowers--which I recently learned are related to the ginger and banana plant.

It's a bit startling to see such spiky and exotic botanicals at our mile high altitude, so I love to paint them. Because the flower colors are so warm, I played with a lot of cool blues in the rest of the painting.

For more information about my watercolor classes, please send me an email at Have a great fall week!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Figure Friday

This is "Waiting on the Red Sofa" one of my favorite oil figure paintings (it hangs in my studio). I painted this from the live model in one sitting. I love what she was wearing--especially the dark shawl--and her expression. Figure painting is sometimes like trying to hit a moving target, at least for me, but there's something very exciting about capturing someone right in front of you.

Here, I tried to concentrate on keeping the models surrounding very abstract and impressionistic, but with bold, pure color notes. For more figure painting inspiration, check out the Daily Painters Figure Art there are some amazing and varied figure artists posting there. Also be sure to check out this month's American Art Collector Magazine for some amazing figure paintings.

For more information about my art or oil painting classes, please send me a note at look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Colors Squashed

Because I love to paint nature and organic subjects, I try to keep my art in tune with the seasons. Hot of the easel, this is a quick oil painting color study of pumpkins and squashes which I painted in the studio yesterday. For better color harmony, I prefer a limited palette in oils. But this time I challenged myself with just 4 pigments + white.
  • One blue: French Ultra
  • Two yellows: Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow
  • One red: Rose Madder
  • One White: Permalba (mix of Titanium + Zinc)
I always tell students, less is more when it comes to your palette. I think this oil study is a good example of how you can paint a colorful painting with very few colors. For more information about my oil painting classes please email me at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Snow

In honor of our first snow of the year in Denver (I'm never quite ready), I'm posting one of my favorite winter impressionistic landscapes.

I wish I could say I painted this bravely en plein air, but it was done in my studio from a photo I took in Steamboat Springs. As I've noted a few times on my blog, my favorite part of winter is painting winter landscapes. I love to play with a variety colorful whites!

Speaking of landscape painting, like many painters, I've long admired master painter Richard Schmid and I see that he's got a new landscape painting book coming in November that's looks fantastic.

Winter is a great time to start painting, so please drop me a line for more information about my painting classes or click on my Teach Street button.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Creative Space

I don't know about you but I love seeing other artist's studios and work spaces. I'm thrilled when other artists share their studio spaces so I'm doing so here.

About a year and a half ago I converted our old screened in summer porch into a year round, north lit studio with sky lights. My must haves were a hardy oak floor and plenty of room for a watercolor/drawing table and 2 easels.

Like many artists, I also added a lot of bookshelves for storage (in my case lots of skulls!), supplies, frames, and art books. The only thing I would have liked now that I'm settled in is perhaps a sink, but the kitchen's not far. It's a daily thrill to be able to paint and now teach in a dedicated studio space in my house.

Want to see more artists' studios? Here's an all Studio magazine issue from American Artist that I'll definitely be ordering.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Free Bird

The painter Andrew Wyeth once said that watercolor "perfectly expresses the free side of my nature."
I have to agree. There's something special about painting in watercolor, yes it can be bold and exciting, but it's also very versatile, calming, and zen. The brush. The paper. Layering the transparent color...It can be extremely addictive.

As many of you know, watercolor media also lends itself to experimentation, but once in a while I paint what I consider to be a fairly traditional, straightforward watercolor. A white (or mostly white) subject in sunlight is a great way to do bring out the magical properties of watercolor. That's why I chose this snowy egret and it turned out to be one of my favorite watercolors.

For more information about my Denver watercolor classes please drop me a line at

And for more information about watercolor and some of the best watercolor artists in the country check out The American Watercolor Society.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pillow Talk

First, welcome again to all my new visitors from the Daily Painters Abstract Gallery and American Art Collector Magazine. Thanks for stopping by!

In honor of American Art Collector's amazing figure/nude October 2009 issue I wanted to post another figure. Painting the figure from life, for me, is one of the great joys and challenges of oil painting. I just loved this pose from the minute the model decided to basically take a nap on the pillows.

Speaking of figure painting, I just came across a very interesting new art themed reality show called Star Portraits on Bravo Canada where artists are challenged each week to paint a celebrity portrait. Isn't that a great concept? I can't wait to watch them online.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ivory Kimono

Like many artists, I own hundreds of art books, but only a handful become "must have" favorites. A few weeks ago I ordered Kevin Weckbach's little paperback A Visual Palette: A Philosophy of the Natural Principles of Painting and I've read it twice already.

I've taken only a few classes with Kevin, so it was a treat to have his insights and wisdom handy in book form. I highly recommend it, especially if you like Robert Henri's classic The Art Spirit, another studio favorite. While neither book is heavy on visuals, the information in them is invaluable.

A few years ago, Kevin's wife (then pregnant) modeled for another figure class I was taking and she is the model here. It's one of my personal favorite figure paintings.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Drawing Joy

I was looking through my old portfolio the other day and came across this charcoal study of a skull I did in Jean Schiff's drawing class at Art League a few years ago.

It reminded me, like many many painters, my original passion for art sprang from joy of pure drawing. Pen and ink. Pencil sketches. Contour drawings with a Sharpie. And of course, the Crayola 64 pack. (Magenta and periwinkle were my favorites)

Quite frankly, today, I love painting and color so much that I probably don't draw as much as I should. But, I think the art of drawing is an undervalued art form today and something to be treasured. Unfortunately, Ms. Schiff passed away earlier this year and I think she would have agreed. She was an excellent teacher and I know many students that have benefited from her wealth of knowledge will miss her.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hot House Flower

I just finished reading Margot Berwin's highly-enjoyable new novel Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire (which I thought was a great title) and my inspiration for posting one of my all time favorite floral watercolor paintings of an orchid.

Unfortunately, I don't have much of a green thumb so I usually visit the Denver Botanic Gardens when I need a flower subject as I did here.

Also, just received the "Cum Laude award" on TeachStreet so thanks so much and welcome to all my new TeachStreet students!