Monday, November 30, 2009

Color HarMonday

Looking for a relaxing and fun painting class? I teach students as individuals or in pairs in the comfort of my home studio. I work with students from beginner to advanced in watercolor, oils, and acrylics.

For more information about my painting classes (located in Central Denver), please send me a note at

As a painter who loves to work with color, I'm always seeking an appealing and satisfying color harmony. One simple way to achieve this is discipline. I've learned over the years to work with a limited palette.

I tell my students a good way to start is to pick 1 or 2 primaries (reds, blues, yellows) and a white. From there, you can easily create what I call these color harmony boards. I always find that they give me ideas and inspiration for colors that I would have not considered before. As an organic painter, I like these rather random circles of colors but you could certainly make a grid of squares, etc. if you want to be more organized about it.

In this example, planning for a landscape oil painting, I had the student start with three primary pigment circles: Cad Yellow Light, Ultramarine Blue, and Alizarin Crimson. Tip: Be sure to label the back of your board with exact colors, paint brands, etc. in case you want to refer to at a later date.

Then we mixed "around the color wheel" making orange, red-orange, violet, red-violet, green, an blue violet. Then each of those hues was mixed with white which is the tint of that color. Finally, we mixed all the colors together for what I call the "magic" neutral (it's the brownish circle here). A "trick" I often use is to use this "magic" neutral somewhere in the painting at the end to tie all the colors together.

Note too that three pigments plus white give us a stunning range of harmonious colors and values from dark violet to creamy light yellow (I call this lemon meringue). Almost immediately I get ideas from this for an abstract as well as landscape. Happy painting and have a great week!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Picket Fence Pour

Happy Weekend Everyone! Today, I'm hoping to have some time to work on my Colorado Watercolor Society entry in the studio which is due in just a few weeks. For some inspiration, I thought I post one of my first poured watercolor paintings. (While I was happy with the blending some of my edges are just too sharp, so I'll watch that next time.)

This is a watercolor technique were you mask out areas of your painting (with masking fluid, tape, shelf paper, etc.) and then pouring transparent layers of colors over the paper. In this case, I started with yellow, then red, then blue--working from lightest to darkest values. It can get a bit messy (I like to pour outside) but it's worth it and it's quite addictive.

Artist Jean Grastorf, who has mastered this technique, has a short YouTube demo of watercolor pouring.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

True Companion

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Or as we fondly call it at our house, Zeke Day...

Many years ago on this day, I was working downtown...It was cold and miserable unlike the sunshine today. After taking a late lunch, I was headed back to the office spotted a mobile pet adoption center in one of the empty office buildings. Looking for any excuse to get out of the rain, I thought I'd just pop in to look at the puppies or kittens. But it was late afternoon and the staff said they only had one pet left, an older cat, so I turned to go.

Suddenly a man called after me, "He would love a home for Thanksgiving." Now, I was not looking for another cat, especially an older one. But something made me pause.

"Oh, I don't need a cat....What's he look like?" I asked stalling.

"He's a beautiful blue gray," they responded. "Well go get him. His owner said his name's Ezekiel--but he's more of a Zeke." Before I could object the next thing I knew they were bringing out the biggest, most plush gray cat I'd ever seen. I had always wanted a gray cat, but who would abandon such a healthy, handsome pet? I was suspicious...

The volunteers assured me though he was was of the friendliest cats they'd ever seen. As if to demonstrate, when they set Zeke down he immediately jumped into my arms and well, hugged me. It's a bit of a blur after that, but the next thing I knew I was riding back to the office on the shuttle bus gripping my big adoption box with my mittens.

The next day Zeke was showered with turkey and quickly made himself at home. (I like to think the turkey was only a part of his devotion.) Because he was an older cat, his time with us was much too short and he is often missed, but I will always be glad that one Thanksgiving Eve I stopped long enough to find my true companion, studio muse and model.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Red Gates

Happy Thursday! I spent most of the day out of the studio so I'm posting one my favorite landscapes of the Gates of Lodore, which is a stunning canyon area in Dinasour National Monument the upper northwestern corner of Colorado.

I've thought the name sounded like something from the Lord of the Rings. And there is an English connection, Also known as the Canyon of Lodore, it was named for the "Cataract of Lodore" poem written in 1820 which describes an area in Cumbria, England.

This painting is SOLD, but for more information about other works or my Denver based painting classes, please send me a note at or visit me on TeachStreet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Deja Vu Pear

Yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to paint a "colored" object (in this case a yellow green Bartlett pear) inside a semi-opaque white object (here a bag) where I could study the addtiional effects of reflected light on the white object and vice versa.

Like many artists, as a young art student I would often paint fruit as a still life so when I paint a pear like this I tend to have a strange, but comforting sense of deja vu as I paint. There's also something interesting about painting something edible.

For more information about my painting classes (oil, acrylic, or watercolor) please email me at Have a great week!

"Deja Vu Pear" 8 x 10 oil on canvas panel, please write for purchase information.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Snowy Stream

When I woke up to fresh snow last weekend, I was inspired to paint another snowy, but colorful winter landscape oil painting. I particularly love using the painting knife for snow because it's like frosting your landscape as if it were a giant cupcake.

To help keep the snow scene from getting too cool, I first tinted the canvas with warm orange red hue and let some of that peak through as you can probably see. Painting on a tinted canvas or surface is one of my favorite painting techniques.

A landscape painting book that has a somewhat similar technique that I really enjoy is Paint Red Hot Landscapes That Sell by artist Canadian painter Mike Svob. I absolutely love his landscapes.

Also, speaking of cupcakes (and now thinking about them too now...) I came across a fun art blog called Artist Food Network that combines art with a recipe, which I thought was a great idea.)

For more information about my art or classes, please write to me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

White of Way Painting

I'm primarily known as a colorist. But I tell my students one of my favorite value painting exercises is to paint white objects, whether in oil or watercolor.

For example, this is a quick 8 x 10 oil painting study of a white art smock that was hanging against a blackboard. Painting white objects on a white background is even more interesting, but here I couldn't resist painting the dark blackboard.

I will always be drawn to colorful, high chroma paintings but there's something very soothing about white subject matter. For some more of muted "white" still life paintings look at the work of Italian painter Giorgio Morandi. And here's another interesting blog post about painting white objects.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tinsel Town Abstract

Happy Tuesday! Inspired by the sparkling snow over the weekend, I wanted to create a whimsical abstract that might also be interpreted as hanging glass holiday ornaments and tinsel. I painted this with oils on a tinted canvas using a brush and a knife for a variety of textures.

In this type of "high-key" abstract, I love to push the boundaries of colorful whites and neutrals in where in contrast the touches of pure pigment really pop.

Many thanks to all my awesome students--It's been a joy meeting all of you and I look forward to creating some great paintings this winter. For more information about my classes in Denver please write to me at or visit my TeachStreet page.

"TinselTown" 18 x 18 oil on canvas board, available, please write to me at for pricing info

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tears in my Eyes

Happy Monday! Am happy to report that the sun is back out in force here my Denver studio and that always inspires my painting. This morning's quick knife painting oil study (8 x 8) of an onion on black and white cloth.

Don't always use Thalo Blue on my palette, but it really came in handy here and it makes a some fantastic greens.

If you like these small still life oil paintings, be sure to check out daily oil painter Michael Naples. They are consistently well-crafted with great brushwork, composition, and color. Also, I believe, he was one of the first artists to start the daily painting movement. Here's an article about him as well in Empty Easel.

For more information about my art and painting classes, please email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. I love to play a variety of music in the studio and the title also refers to a line from one of my favorite songs, Bob Marley's Waiting in Vain.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Celebrating the Seasons with Watercolor

As you know one of the keys of successful watercolor painting is saving the white areas to help the rest of the painting really sparkle. Sometimes easier said than done though right?

One of my favorite watercolor exercises is to show students how to save the white by using stickers (at any large craft store or online you can find every size and shape imaginable), tape, adhesive paper (such as shelf paper), etc.. Once these are down, you can then paint freely and loosely (wet in wet for example) right over them. Two tips: Don't try to pull them off until you r painting is dry, but don't leave them on too long either.

(I'd like to give a creative shout out to Denver artist Lindy Lyman for originally showing me this watermedia technique many years ago.)

This week one of my students, who is also a teacher, had the wonderful idea of representing all the four seasons in her "sticker" painting and she was kind enough to let me share it here. It reminded me that nature's rhythms in a variety of forms can a be an endless source of painting inspiration. Well done Laura!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Snowbound on my Easel

It's a sunny, warm November day here without a snowflake in site--But I decided to paint a snow scene continuing my colorful knife painting series. Here I tinted the canvas a warm golden yellow to help warm up the mostly cool landscape hues.

I started with quick sketch and then "painted" in the oil paints entirely with the painting knife. As I usually do, to keep the colors extra vibrant and clean, I used a limited, but versatile, palette of only Indian Yellow, Quin Rose, Thalo Blue, Ultra Blue, and White. Sure, it's some extra mixing but that's part of the fun.

Also, I really like these new RGM stainless steel knifes with the comfy, colorful rubber handles. Can't wait to get some additional sizes of these. It's like painting with colored butter!

For more information about this piece or my oil painting classes in Denver, please drop me a line at I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Juicy Fruit Tuesday

I had such a fantastic time yesterday panting an abstract landscape with the painting knife, I thought I'd do a quick still life study this morning.

I set up this pear on a antique studio chair that my grandmother owned. The chair itself has been painted about 20 times and it's currently bright turquoise, so it makes an interesting background.

I also started with a warm red tinted canvas to energy and complement the yellow green pear. If you haven't tried it an all knife painting is a great way to simplify your form while keeping your colors vibrant. For more information about "full spectrum color" painting be sure to check out Susan Sarback's book Capturing Radiant Color in Oils.

"Single Pear" 8 x 8 oil on panel
Available for purchase, please email me at for more information about my art or Denver area oil painting classes, thanks!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Emerald City

Happy Monday! Hot off the today's easel, here's a loose, abstract forest landscape. I love painting evergreen forests, particularly the positive/negative tree shapes and their cast shadows. And using a painting knife is a great way to get both texture and to keep your colors vibrant. A great book about this type of painting is Susan Sarback's Capturing Radiant Colors in Oils.

Also, if you like this type of "forest landscape", be sure to check out one of my favorite painters, Emily Carr, who I discovered on a trip to Vancouver.

For more information about my art or my classes, please email me in the studio at

"Emerald City" 12 x 12 oil on panel
Fellow artists please check out my new art marketing blog: Art Smarts

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Groovy Yupo Painting

I wanted to post another Yupo painting, but this time a figure to show the versatility of the surface. I painted this particular model in a quick pose session using a fine black Sharpie for the quick sketch and then adding watercolor glazes. (Her "costume" had a distinct seventies denim vibe so I chose colors to accentuate that look.)

Several years ago, one of my art goals was to be juried into the annual Colorado Watercolor Society show and the piece that I was happily juried in with (which I'll post one of these days) was a figure painting on Yupo.

Also, if you enjoy watercolor figure painting, be sure to check out Don Andrews book "Interpretting the Figure in Watercolor"--his bold, grainy color combinations and figure compostions are some of my favorites For more information about my art classes, please drop me a line at'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Pears & Free Art Night

TGIF everyone! I painted this watercolor of three pears yesterday as a quick demo for my class. I was attracted to these pears in the store because of their interesting speckles, which I thought would be fun to paint with my Funny Brush (which I don't use very often).

Artists please check out my NEW Art Marketing & Creativity Blog Art Smarts. I hope you find it helpful! Have a great weekend. Speaking of the weekend...

If you are in Denver be sure to take advantage of this Saturday's Free Museum Night--I went last year and while it can be crazy and crowded, I had a fantastic time particularly at the Kirkland -- my favorite "unsung" art museum in Denver!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holding onto Red

Thought I'd post one of my quick oil painting studies today from Art Students League. I love to paint the live model and these quick (a few minutes literally) oil panting figure studies are great fun and for me a way to approach the figure in a more painterly fashion.

One of my favorite painting books about doing quick studies is 60 Minutes to Better Painting by California painter Craig Nelson. A great addition to your art book shelf for under 10 bucks. If anyone out there has attended one of his workshops I'd love to hear about it!

Also, I'm often asked where I buy these great little "gatorfoam" primed painting panels, they are from Abend Fine Art Gallery here in Denver.

Also, I see that Fine Art America (the site where I sell prints of some of my most popular paintings) is having their first ever 15% off print sale through November 8 (promo code: FALL09), so be sure to check that out. There's some fantastic artists on that site and you can find just about any subject matter imaginable.

Finally, be sure to check out my new Art Marketing Blog ART SMARTS creatively exclusively for for fellow artists and painters who want to improve their art brand and become more successful. Happy painting and art collecting!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Landscape Wednesday

I haven't posted a landscape in a while and I was planning to work on a winter landscape in the studio today, so I thought I'd post one of my favorites. This small oil landscape painting was painted from a photo I took just outside of Taos, New Mexico.

It's a fairly simply composition, but I think the painting captures the expansive peace and quiet that you feel in New Mexico. I'm also pleased to say that it was the first painting to sell at one of my shows. You never know quite what will sell on any given day, but it's always nice when a collector notices a painting that's one of your favorites.

"Sage Solitude" 12 x 12 oil on linen, Private Collection

For more information about my Denver oil painting classes, please write to me anytime at or visit me on TeachStreet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Watercolor Monday

Welcome to November! This is one of my favorite large (full sheet) watercolor floral paintings from my orchid series. It was also inspired by some of the floral painting examples in one of my favorite painting books: Painting from the Inside Out by Betsy Dillard Stroud.

Orchids don't need soil to grow (or so I'm told) and I was intrigued with the idea that they live suspended in the jungle. I don't use masking fluid that often when painting watercolor, but here I decided to experiment with it for the mysterious tendrils of jungle growth in the background and I thought it worked out pretty well. Just be sure your paper is bone dry when you drizzle the masking fluid on then let it dry completely. I also prefer a colored masking fluid (like Pebeo) so you know where it is. I also added oil pastel for extra texture and a colorful line element--one of my favorite watercolor techniques.

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