Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Magical Box of Color

"Sixty Four" Mixed Media Watercolor and Crayon 15 x 22
I hope everyone is enjoying a happy and creative holiday season. As the year winds down, I want to thank my many loyal students, several who have painted with me for over a year now, for sharing their art time with me. I’m looking forward to an amazing 2012 and can’t wait to see what you all paint! And I look forward to meeting many new artists in the upcoming year as I teach and venture out to more workshops.

Over the holidays I received many great art and thoughtful owl gifts (thanks everyone!) including a lovely little art book called Water, Paper, and Paint by artist Heather Jones Smith. Ms. Smith includes several interesting watermedia exercises including the one I painted today which stresses watercolor color mixing and color harmony. I call these abstract paintings “color quilts.” FYI, my paper here is a Quiller 140lb Cold Press block. 

In this painting, I used Daniel Smith Quin Gold as my “mother color” meaning every color mixed included some Quin Gold. My other colors included a range of warms and cools such as lemon yellow, permanent rose, cobalt blue, crimson, thalo blue, indigo, winsor violet, etc.
The 64 Crayola box--An artist favorite since 1958.
In addition to many wonderful art books, I also received a classic 64 Crayola crayon box. Arguably one of the one of the best art bargains ever--Less than $3 at Super Target. As you may know some of the Crayola colors have changed since we were young artists in the um seventies but it’s still a magical box of waxy color. I decided to add all 64 colors to today’s exercise painting. (I particularly liked the lighter crayon on the darker watercolor washes.)

Over the holiday break I also watched a Nita Leland video where she talks about exploring the various levels of creativity—from intuitive (pure fun and child like) to genius. On a sunny but still cold winter day like today it was my goal to keep my art brain warm and fuzzy. Mission accomplished. This type of exercise, at least for me, works well as a stepping stone before I return tomorrow into some “more serious” representational oil painting. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, have a colorful week!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Winter Demo with A Modern Oil Painting Master

Quang Ho Still Life Demo in progress (detail)
I rarely post a painting that's not mine but this is worth the exception. For months I’ve been looking forward to acclaimed Denver painter Quang Ho’s six hour long still life oil painting demo this past Saturday. I hate to gush but it was truly amazing. Honestly, I’m still exhausted just from observing and absorbing. (I want to quickly note that the room was lit for painting. I didn't want to use the flash so my photos really don't do his painting justice.)
Quang begins with a "loose" washy block in of shapes
After Quang introduced the session by explaining his light and shadow approach (you can learn more about this in his Nuts and Bolts DVD), he arranged a lovely still life that included red tulips, orange persimmons, a big green glass bottle, and some light greenish white lilies. He emphasized that he's looking for variety and color flow. Watching him arrange the objects was truly a treat. 
Quang's Still Life Setup

Quang started with orange/lilly area and moved on to adjacent shapes.
  Briefly, for those of you interested in Quang’s painting materials:
  • Support: Square-ish (around 30x 34?) double primed linen mounted on gator board so he can trim this easily if he needs to. Looked like a wonderful surface to paint on.
  • Brushes: Both bristle (mostly filberts and egberts—long tongue like filberts) and softer mongoose brushes. He mentioned the British Rosemary brand. He cleans his brushes with Turpenoid Natural.
  • Palette: Relatively large glass palette (with around 20 colors). He uses a variety of brands and noted he likes LeFranc white (something I will try). Medium: Odorless Turpenoid.
  • He’s right handed and stands when he paints (stepping back a lot) and keeps the palette on a table in front (not to the side) of his easel as you can see below. Note this is a "classroom" easel.
Quang's Palette--lots of color!
I couldn’t begin to touch on the depth of knowledge a master painter like Quang has but I wanted to share a few random notes I made during the demo that struck a chord.   
Getting to the final stages...Quang painted the table fabric last.
  1. He learns more about painting from philosophy and science books than he does from art books.  
  2. Be sure to consider the macro: What is the big picture—the  main story you are telling? What is the light doing?
  3. On the flip side you need to be conscious of the micro: Even in a large painting each brushstroke matters. There are no repeats in nature.
  4. Every piece is an important part to the whole. Carefully record unique and specific shapes.
  5. Take your time. Don't rush. Mix a new color for every brush stroke.
  6. Don’t be as concerned about having a single focal point as you are about how the eye travels through the painting.  
  7. Start with the area that you think you do the most correct and work off of that.
  8. Painting is a series of decisions so it’s important not to freeze—Make a decision!
  9. Focusing on value before color helps you color mix.
  10. When painting light and shadow approach classify your shapes into light OR shadow shapes. It's one or the other. 
  11. Note light and dark (a value range) is NOT the same—for example you might have a relatively light shadow.  
  12. As the object turns from the light and shadow the color intensity is at its greatest.
  13. Be very mindful recording the shape where the light and shadow meet.
  14. There’s no negative space—everything counts.
  15. Where can you merge your edges? Search and destroy...
  16. Start with your blueprint and don’t get lost in the detail.
  17. There’s no “mud” just bad shapes.
  18. Light is an organism that moves as one.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the highlights from the demo. I also want to thank Quang for sharing his knowledge. One day, many years from now, I'll be telling my students about this demo. It's was like watching a magician who explains everything he's doing but in the end it's still magical.

Monday, December 5, 2011

All That Glitters

Vienna Holiday-36x36-Oil on Canvas SOLD
Last week’s Daily Paintworks’ challenge was deceptively straightforward: Paint something in the style of a painter you admire. Several of my favorite painters came to mind immediately: Van Gogh, Matisse, Hopper, O’Keeffe, Dixon, Bonnard, Cezanne…

Then I was thinking about all the visual inspiration of the holiday season--jewel tones, golds, silvers, nature based imagery, as well as cultural symbols. That train of thought led me to Austrian art nouveau painter Gustav Klimt. Thank you to a new collector from Colorado Springs for the purchase of this!

His vibrant colors, use of flat, dazzling patterns, unique (and sometimes controversial) figural compositions are so contemporary that I have to remind myself that Klimt died before 1920.  Here’s a wonderful example of one of his gilt figures, Hope II.
For the challenge, I choose to paint an abstract and initially planned to add gold leaf which I’ve done previously in some of my abstract paintings. Instead I chose a short cut using Golden brand (I love their metallic paints) acrylic gold paint as the undertone. Not the same effect, but interesting and given gold prices, much less expensive. Then switched to oil paint for all the overall painting.

This painting is also the largest painting I’ve done for a DPW challenge, but I prefer a larger scale (this is 36x36) when I paint abstractly.  In fact, on Cybermonday I bought a new Sorg easel just for larger works. It’s due on Wednesday and I can’t wait to try it! Pics and a review to come. In the meantime, I hope the holiday season brings you much creative joy and inspiration!

P.S. Quick congrats to artist Ms. Dawn Hartigan for winning my November free fine art print contest! Be looking for another contest after the holidays.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Not So Still Life

Still of the Night-Oil on Canvas-16x16
"I never wanted color to be color. I never wanted texture to be texture, or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse together into a living spirit."  Clyfford Still

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Last Friday marked the long-awaited opening of the Clyfford Still Museum. As some of you may know, Still was an American Abstract Expressionist whose contemporaries included Pollock, Motherwell, and DeKooning.
Clyfford Still Museum-Denver, CO
Still is also classified as a “color field” painter as many of his works contain impasto (thickly painted) bold shapes of blacks, yellows, reds, and whites. Whether you are fan of this movement or not, I think it would be hard to ignore its influence on many contemporary American artists and collectors.

When Still died in 1980 he left over 2,400 works (many of which were never seen in public) to a city willing to create a museum dedicated solely to the artist. In 2004, Denver won the bid for the museum. Like many art lovers in town, I’ve been looking forward to the museum unveiling ever since. I hope to have time this holiday week to visit the collection. In the meantime I’m posting an oil abstract that I painted in honor of such an important part of American art history taking place right in my backyard.  

Finally, big congratulations to my students who were juried into some of our local fall art exhibits--One of whom won not only their first show ribbon but the Commissioner's Choice for a lovely landscape. I’m so proud!  Also, there's still time to win a free fine art print (see previous posting for details)--just comment on any post to be entered until November 30. (I've only got 2 entrants so far, so your odds of winning are pretty good!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

"Ruby Slippers" Oil on Canvas 8x10
This week's painting challenge on Daily Paintworks is (as you may have guessed) shoes. Initially, I was planning to paint my favorite black velvet pumps but I couldn't find them. Then I remembered this ruby patent leather pair. Like many "fancy shoes" they aren't super comfy. I thought it was interesting that several of the DPW challenge painters noted a strong emotional connection to their shoes. 

For me it was a crystal clear memory of more than a year ago...I was in Santa Fe. After a long day of strolling Canyon Road galleries and boutiques along the Plaza, I'm at the Coyote Cafe Rooftop Bar--One of my favorite stops. Probably about to order a mango margarita and some veggie tacos. In other words, a heavenly artist day...

But I'm with friends (and some folks I don't know that well). We've been out a while and moods are turning as the weather chills. The place is packed and loud and service grinds to a halt. I'm starving, tired, and my feet are beginning to burn. Am less than thrilled with my less than practical footwear choice. And then a waiter (or perhaps another customer trying to cheer me up) catches a flash of red as I cross my tired legs and I get a "cute shoes."

And for a moment, I'm glad I didn't just throw on my scratched and faded practical Merrills. The searing pain is briefly tolerable. But a few minutes later I'm cold, fighting a headache, and trying to follow a heated discussion out about some sushi dinner reservations gone bad. And as wonderful as my day has been in one of my  favorite places to visit been I find myself wishing I could click my sore heels and be magically back at  home in my quiet and calming studio. Because there's simply no place like it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blue Pumpkin Pie?

"Ghostly Gourd" 8x10 oil on panel--SOLD
Brr...The best thing about a snow day is that it’s the perfect excuse for hot chocolate and staying warm and dry in the studio. Today, I painted this blue-ish pumpkin for this week’s pumpkin themed DPW Painting Challenge.  I spotted this interesting “non orange” pumpkin "alternative" at our local Pearl Street Farmer’s Market just a couple of weeks ago.

I was particularly drawn to the contradictory sage green-blue color. My favorite pie is pumpkin chiffon so I kept thinking about the color of the insides and how cool it would be if it were blue inside as well. 

Speaking of snow and cold as a winter gift to myself, about a week ago, I signed up for Dreama Tolle Perry’s painting workshop in Florida in January 2012. I’ve admired Ms. Perry’s work for a long time and I’m really looking forward to it. January is often our chilliest month in Colorado so the warmer Florida Gulf will be a nice break. I’m also looking forward to meeting new artists in a different part of the country.

Anyway, if you seen Dreama’s work you know she loves an abundance of color. Her workshop supply list has a few more colors than I would normally use since I usually prefer a limited palette. So I’m trying some of the new colors well in advance.

This may seem a bit over zealous but a several years ago, I took a plein air workshop where I spent days trying to juggle a unfamiliar neon bright orange. In this pumpkin oil painting, I tried out Dreama's suggested Rembrandt Transparent Red Medium. Intense, but rendered very pleasant range of red violets, red oranges, and a really clean pink. Time for some more hot chocolate--Thanks for stopping by. Have a colorful and creative day!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

To Catch a Falling Dream

"Dream Big" Mixed Media on Canvas 24x24
Typically, one would not expect to get a lot of art inspiration at the podiatrist. (Unless of you course you like to paint feet.)  But I was in a waiting room a few weeks ago that happened to have a large colorful Native American poster. The elaborate feathered headdress reminded me that I’d been planning to paint a dream catcher.

And then I saw Core New Art Space (a contemporary co-op gallery in Denver) was having an upcoming dream themed show. So that gave me the final push to paint a dream catcher this week. FYI, the extra texture on the painting incorporates both acrylic gel skins and "recycled" dried paint peeled off plastic palettes.  Something new in the studio that I used that also helped me with this painting was an Ott full spectrum rechargeable light. The battery feature is great because it's cordless and that's always helpful in a studio.

I read that some cultures believe dream catchers help sort the good dreams from the bad. As someone with an active imagination prone to crazy dreams, vivid nightmares, and a restless night brain this is quite appealing. They say the good dreams flow down the feathers to the peaceful sleeper. (I have real dream catcher I bought in Taos but my cat kept attacking the dangling feathers. So this painting might be a more suitable replacement.)

Lone Tree Art Exhibit: November 12-December 31, 2011
I’m pleased that I had a small oil painting juried into the Lone Tree Art Show. If you’re in the area be sure to stop by the opening cocktail reception on Sat. November 12. This event usually features some beautiful regional art at great prices. P.S. There's still time to enter my contest to win a FREE print of my art (see details in previous post).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Win a Scarlet Owl Studio Print

Aspen Moondance-Mixed Media on Canvas-18x24
How to Win a Free Art Print
I've been wanting to run a blog contest for a while now so in honor of my new prints available on ImageKind, I'm having a special blog contest (details below) between now and November 15, 2011 for a prize of  a $30 value print of your choice of my prints in the Scarlet Owl Studio gallery on ImageKind. Note that most of these original paintings have been sold or are in private collections so I'm happy to have another way to offer them to my visitors and collectors.

Also, I'll be adding more images to the print gallery throughout the month.  For available prints, please visit my Prints for Sale Page or click on the black ImageKind banner on the right hand side.
New Art Supply of the Week
For all my acrylic painters out there, I wanted to share a new studio tool that I'm really enjoying and that is the Martin Universal Design Mijello Peel-Able Palette. I also use a covered palette, but I really like the roomy elliptical shape, separate mixing area, non slip rubber feet, and easy peel off cleaning.  It's available at many online art stores such as Daniel Smith, Dick Blick, Cheap Joes, etc. I've recently seen the peel off palettes in gray as well which I think would be even better for mixing.

Contest Details: To enter to win simply comment on any Colorful Connections blog posting from today (October 15, 2011) until November 15, 2011. The winner will be picked randomly using random.org. No purchase is necessary. The winner will receive any Scarlet Owl Studio print of their choice of my work on ImageKind up to $30 value (winner pays shipping if outside US). I will announce the lucky winner by November 20, 2011. Thanks all and good luck!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Favorite Watercolor Books

"Fading Fast" watercolor 12x16
Taking a break from oil painting today to do a watercolor. This is a watercolor study of some large roses in the Washington Park garden from early September. These flowers were starting to get a bit worn and shaggy at the end of the season. But still a wonderful vintage-y pink lavender color none the less. It's our first really chilly day of the fall season so painting colorful flowers is always a nice way to warm up the day.

For my fellow watercolor enthusiasts, I painted this on a 140 lb. Cold Press Arches Block. It's my go standard for smaller watercolor paintings. My color palette for this was primarily transparent colors which I prefer: permanent rose, opera, some quin magenta, cobalt blue, thalo blue, ultramarine blue, lemon yellow, and aureolin yellow. I used a combination of wet in wet and dry transparent layers here, which is pretty typical of most of my watercolor painting.

My Top Ten Favorite Watercolor Books
While I own dozens of watercolor books, these are the books I find myself rereading for practical tips as well as inspiration. Best of all, many of these gems are quite affordable (under $10) used on Amazon.
  1. How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself by Nita Engle
  2. Watercolor Painting Outside the Lines by Linda Kemp
  3. Interpreting the Figure in Watercolor by Don Andrews
  4. Making Watercolor Sing by Jean Dobie
  5. Pouring Light by Jean Grastorf
  6. Painting from the Inside Out by Betsey Dillard Stroud
  7. Transparent Watercolor by William Condit
  8. The Collected Best of Watercolor by Schlemm and Doherty
  9. William Mathews: Working the West
  10. Reflections of Nature: Paintings by Joseph Raffael (one of my all time favorite contemporary watercolor artists)
Quick welcome to my new fall students and to my loyal ongoing students my sincere thanks for sharing your painting time with me. I'm looking forward to painting this winter with all of you. For as long as I can remember, painting is a powerful antidote for colder, grayer months. For more info regarding my classes, please visit My Classes Page. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

Oil Study of Wash Park Boathouse-8x8
Today’s post is a small plein air oil study I've been working on for the Denver Plein Art Competition. It’s a painting of the Washington Park boathouse--one of my favorite local landmarks. But truth be told, I just couldn’t finish this painting to my satisfaction on site. Nor did I finish my watercolor of the garden.

From what I can tell reading other posts, forums, and blogs  the discussion regarding “finishing” of a plein air painting (particularly for a competition) is a somewhat controversial. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be definite answer for how much is acceptable to paint back in your studio. In general, the range I found for various plein air events (if it was addressed) was “none” (for quick draws or one day paint outs for example) up to 20 percent later touch up.

In this case, given the contest took place over several weeks, my goal was to finish the painting as close to 100% as I could get.  Since I don’t usually paint plein air on regular basis, I admit I was rusty, and so I fell short of this goal.

So I have some thoughts in my next post about how I’ll make my next plein air competition or paint out more successful. Hopefully, these tips will help you too if you’re planning a first time plein air event.

In the meantime, I promised some additional tips about how to improve your chances for getting into juried art shows in general. My first suggestion is: Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your entry. I always back out a show due date at least a week on my calendar. Why? You might have trouble with your images, your computer, the entry website, etc. So give yourself plenty of time. For more art show tips check out this helpful article: Five Tips for Getting Into Juried Shows.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Picking Treasures for Painting Gold

"Tang Horse Study" 8x8 oil
I'd rather be painting or reading so I don't watch much TV, but one show I never miss is American Pickers on History Channel. I’m guessing fellow still life painters may have the same reaction as they watch Mike and Frank brush the dust off a rusty vintage toy or funky mechanical part. And that is: That thing would be an awesome still life subject!  

I’ve been an urban antique hunter for more years than I’d like to admit. On any given weekend if I’m not painting or teaching, you might find me at a resale shop, flea market, auction, estate sale, or sometimes even a scary basement (where magically my bug and germ phobias disappear) hunting for “rusty gold” still life treasures. (If you like this type of thing you might want to check out the book I just started reading called Killer Stuff and Tons of Money.)  

Anyway, several years ago, I found this little off white ceramic tang horse. The horse isn’t valuable (could be from Target?) but I just loved the shape. Plus, as I've mentioned before, I love painting white or off white subjects since they are often full of color depending on the lighting.

I placed my horse figure in kitchen window with late spring backlighting, made a quick sketch, and took a few reference photos. My painting goal was to capture the warm reflective light. If you don’t have time to paint something that catches your eye, grab your camera and take a few shots. 

You'll find these photos and/or sketches are handy later for reference and ideas in the studio. For example, I’d forgotten about this little horse until I browsed through my photos. Thanks for stopping by—I’ll be back with some more show entry tips in my next post! Students and friends I look forward to seeing you soon!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easel Does It Apples

Sunlit Apples-8x10-oil on canvas
Yesterday, I was inspired to do a mostly knife color study from re-reading Arthur Stern's book How to See Color and Paint It,  This is older but excellent oil painting book with superb exercises to help train your color vision and ability to record what you see. Not what you think you see. My very quick tips for learning to paint this way are for each shape ask yourself 4 key questions:

1. What color family is it? Note the answer is one of these 6: Red, orange, yellow, blue, green, or violet. IN other words, there's no brown, gray, beige, etc. There is a dull very dark orange however. 
2. How relatively light or dark is it? I find it helpful to locate the darkest dark in your photo or set up and compare to that. A simple value range might be something like: Very light, light, medium, dark, very dark. 
3. How bright or dull is it? Another way to think of this is how close is the color to your color out of the tube (which is usually at a high intensity). There are several ways to dull or "kill the brightness" of your color such as adding the color complement or my favorite: palette mud (scraped together from your mixing),
4. How warm or cool is it? Most colors will have a tendency to lean toward their neighboring color such as red-orange, blue-green, red-violet, etc. I think you may find that some of your darks are actually quite warm.

For example, are sunlit Granny Smith apples in an orange-y teak wood really just green? Another way I approach these paintings is to consider that in most sunlight scenes you'll likely (after some observation) discover a full range of color and temperature as I did painting these apples.

Also, if you paint smaller studies (under 12") I highly recommend using some kind of canvas holder. I designed this handy small canvas holder (I'm calling it the Eeezle ) based on some I've seen other painters use. So I didn't invent this but I thought it would be nice to have a midtone gray as the backdrop so this is a 16x16 square piece of 1/4 inch MDF painted flat gray.  
I also chose a 16x16 since I often paint 12x12 panels. The adjustable bars (ledges) are stained and varnished oak (I guessed a hard wood would warp less). The bottom bar is actually stable and the top bar is adjustable with easy to use thumb screws in the back.
Here's the apple painting in progress with the magenta toned canvas (the same color I used for the raven in my previous post). The neon magenta is not the easiest background to paint on (ouch--my eyes!), but I love the contrast with the yellow greens and it motivates me to work quickly. Also, I've not forgotten my promise to include some "getting into art show" tips this week and so be sure to check back for those tips.
Have a great day at your easel!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Show Me the Art

Fall Raven-12x12 Oil on Canvas--Available on Daily Paintworks
Today's painting is for this week's Daily Paintworks challenge which is something inspired by fall. About a week ago I was up at our local park working on my Denver Plein Air Arts Festival entry when I took several reference photos of this raven since I wasn't able to paint him from life. I'm a pretty fast painter, but not that fast!

It seems fall is also the season when there are many juried art show deadlines. As an art teacher, I'm often asked about entering shows so I thought I'd share a few tips. First, obviously, you need to find an art show. More specifically, you want to look for an art show that's a good match for you--your style, your subject matter (animals, landscapes, figure, etc), your level, etc. Here are a few ideas to get you started in your area:
  • Local galleries--particularly co-ops
  • Art organizations and clubs such as your local watercolor or plein air society
  • City or county art associations or councils
  • Art stores often have a community board with flyers, post cards, etc.announcing shows
  • Schools, churches, museums, community centers
  • Other non-profit organizations such as zoos, botanical gardens, performing arts
  • Also ask other artists (particularly those who know the local scene) 
  • Local newspapers and other publications often have "Calls for the Entry"
  • Craigslist (Check your Community/Artist section)

You can also Google something like "My city art shows" or "My city calls for entries" etc. There are also many websites that feature art shows and deadlines around the country such as as Artshow and CAFE (Call for Entry). In the upcoming week, I'll post some more tips for entering shows, in the meantime, it's back to the easel. In the meantime, get out there and enter your art!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spot On Color

"Seeing Spots" oil on canvas 11x14
I had such a fantastic time painting the colorful pinto horse a few days ago, I decided to paint an appaloosa. I love working with patterns and textures when I paint animals. This time I chose a higher key and added more surface texture. In this case, I used a painting knife along with the brushwork. I really had to stop myself from painting more leopard pattern spots--it's rather addictive.

My color selection for this painting was a few more pigments than I typically use, but still fairly limited. Also, I'm sometimes I asked about my preference for paint brands. I've tested almost every brand over many years so on a palette like this it's not unusual that each of these is a different brand. This doesn't make replacing your colors very practical though, so you may want to pick a few favorites and stick with those.

Permalba White, Indian Yellow, Trans Red Oxide, Perm Rose, Aliz Crimson, Ultra Blue, Thalo Blue, Yellow Green and small amount of Ivory Black.

Also, quick note about black since I'm often asked about that as well. Personally, I don't usually use black but I find myself using it sometimes and in moderation when I paint animals. Like many artists, I work with ivory black as a very dark neutral blue. And I usually mix black with another pigment help warm it up such as a touch of Alizarin or Red Oxide.

I don't know about you but I always think of colorful or patterned equines such as palominos, pintos (paints), and appaloosas being featured in Native American or Western art work, but in doing some research, I came across this interesting 17th century Flemish painting by Meulen of Louis XIV riding an appaloosa. In fact, artists have been depicting spotted horses in art since the 11 century.

This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
So my painting challenge to you today is a patterned animal--have fun and see you in the studio! For more info about my classes, please click on my class link at the top.

Monday, September 19, 2011

That Which We Already Possess

"Painted Pony" 8x8 Oil on canvas-SOLD

It's great to be back. Has it really been almost two months? I didn't mean to take a such a long break but with some out of town travel, a few non art related business projects (thank you clients!), and lots of new students (thanks and welcome!), it's been hard to find easel time late in the summer but as fall approaches (along with some show deadlines) I'm ready to focus and get back to work.  

During my blogging break I've had some amazing art inspiration--a long awaited trip to exotic Kauai (one of the most amazing places I've ever seen), meeting one of my long time art idols Dan McCaw and his sons in person at Gallery 1261 a few weeks ago, participating in the Denver Plein Air Arts Festival (reminding me just how challenging plein art can be), and attending Core Gallery's Black and White Show to see one of my student's first shows. If you paint you know how exciting that is--Congratulations again Grace!

I felt a bit like a groupie waiting in line after Mr. McCaw's gallery talk to have him sign his book. He could not have been more gracious. If you read my blog you know it's one of my favorite art books of all time. Well worth the out of print price on Amazon. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's written this but it felt like it to me. And I wanted to share what he wrote since I think it perfectly and eloquently captures how I also feel about teaching:

We are both on the same journey to find and value that which we already possess. Good Luck.

The only thing missing was that I would have loved to follow him (but in a non stalking way!) to his workshop at the Weekend with Masters. Maybe next year...Coincidentally last week's Artists Helping Artists talk show featured an interview with Dan McCaw and I highly recommend listening to it whether your a fan or not. All of the above events have given me a slew of painting ideas, such as a very colorful pinto horse painted on a red toned canvas.

Finally a big thanks to all my summer students and their parents. Especially those who returned to high school and universities--I miss you already but it was great sharing my summer with you and I look forward to seeing you next year! And for all my new fall students, welcome, I know it's going to be super colorful season and journey!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Inspiration Swedish Style

Getting close...
About eight years. That's how long I'd been waiting (along with many other IKEA fans in Colorado). That's when I first heard buzz that an  IKEA might open here. So yesterday, when I would normally be in the studio in the early morning, I found myself (along with a cast of thousands) in a cavernous parking garage waiting in line for the Grand Opening of the Denver IKEA store in a sea of cadmium yellow medium and cobalt blue.

500 seat restaurant--love the snowball lights!
Shopping Snack--Yum!
Thankfully the opening seemed well-organized and while I did win a sofa or chair, I only waited about an hour. While I've browsed the IKEA website many times, I've never visited an actual store. I was immediately struck by the massive scale--imagine an airport with towels,candles, rugs, and cool mugs. One of the staff told me the Denver store was now the largest IKEA in North America. I think it will likely take a few visits to really get a good sense of the place. Tip: Wear comfy shoes--it was also a great walking workout.

As a foodie with a Scandinavian heritage, I was particularly looking forward to the cafe and the Swedish Food Market. They did not disappoint. I had very tasty pancake with ligonberry preserves and bought some dark chocolate bars and in the market. Eventually I had get back to the studio, but I had enough time to pick up these fun Mala felt tip stamping markers. I also had my eye on this interesting paper roll holder and drawing paper that I thought would be great for casual sketching. (Both were in the kid's department where I thought the prices were super affordable.)

Colors, shapes, and textures in every direction! 

I'm back in the studio painting and teaching today, but I have to admit, I've got a touch of  IKEA fever so if there are days I'm not posting in the next few weeks, you'll know where to find me...Welcome to Denver, IKEA!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Painting Colorado's Most Iconic Subject

"Ancient Roots" Mixed Media on Canvas 36 x 48
Now, I've not conducted an official poll but I've been a Colorado based artist for almost my entire adult life. In that time, I've conservatively assert that I've proudly attended hundreds of art shows, festivals, workshops, etc. so I feel that I'm a fairly good judge of popular and beloved subject matter.

Now you might think it would be our Rocky Mountains--in particular snowy capped peaks. Yes, I've seen many versions of mountainscapes so that's a possible landscape favorite but even more than mountains, I'm going to go out on a limb (pun intended) and say that Colorado artists have an undying passion for shimmery, quaking aspen trees. In all seasons, forms, shapes, and sizes. How can you resist a tree with patterns?

I've painting aspens before of course but it's been a while and I this time I wanted to paint on a relatively large canvas help express the scale of a towering pale forest. In this painting on stretched canvas, I used many layers of acrylics, molding paste (for bark texture) and oil pastels for line work and details (personally my favorite  part). 

I recently read that aspen trees grow as large stands of genetically identical trees (technically, stems) connected by a single root system. The largest known fully connected aspen is a grove in Utah nicknamed Pando. Some experts believe this aspen grove to be the heaviest organism in the world.

I really loved working on this and can't wait to paint another with I think a warmer background next time. But I may need to taking a painting break later this  week for the new Ikea Grand Opening! Don't think I'm going to camp out, but I have been waiting for years for the store to arrive in Denver. I'm certain I'll be able to find an interesting and colorful studio accessory--if I can get into the parking lot. Wish me luck and in the meantime enjoy all your creative endeavors!  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Temptations

Happy Very Warm Summer Everyone! Thanks for your patience as summer has lured me out of the studio for the past week or so. While I've been teaching (thanks again summer students for all your hard work), I've also been distracted to several summer activities that have (unfortunately) not involved painting. But I promise to be back to the easel soon.

One of my favorite places to find a colorful inspiration are farmer's markets. Here are a few photos from the South Pearl Street Farmer's Market here in Denver, Colorado. One of my favorite things to buy are the amazing High Desert Peppers (hot of course!) and the Front Range Basil Tomatoes from the MMLocal booth. I love the colors of the rainbow beets as well.

For those of you who have been patiently following my Still Life 101 tips, here's Step 3 or How to Get Your Sketch onto the Canvas after you've toned your canvas. I feel there two basic rough in options, one is a bit more "devil may care" while the other your left brain will love.

Option 1:  Assuming I warmed up with a planning sketch (as described in previous post) I "just do it." I lightly sketch my subject (from careful observation) directly onto the canvas. Focus on the big shapes again using a dry brush. (I usually use a round or small filbert.) Just enough paint to see the lines on a toned canvas. I prefer a brush rather than pencil or charcoal which I find smudgy. 

This next part is very important because I think the key to success for moving from your simple big shapes to painting is creating believable 3D objects. On the Compose it Grid tool I was using big, simple flat shapes—more of an outline to get started. But when I switch to the canvas I’m now adding dimension to the shapes. For example the onion that was a rough circle becomes a sphere, the stems become slender cylinders, the table top a giant cube, etc. 

Tone on tone sketch in using Option 2 (lines not visible in photo)
Option 2: Left brain spoiler alert! Sometimes, it's helpful to ensure that your overall shapes and proportions are relatively accurate. Otherwise you’ll find you need to correct later while painting. This means lots of scraping, etc. which in turn breaks your rhythm. So I’d rather move objects now rather than later.

Therefore a more careful way to transfer your composition what is often called the grid transfer method. This classic method can get quite complicated (I’ve seen some artists use hundreds of transfer squares) depending on your subject, size of canvas, and level of detail. But especially for smaller paintings (under 12x16 or so), I find I only need a simple “4 box” grid. I create this by marking the half way point on each side of the canvas.

For example, for my onions on a 9x12 vertical canvas I marked 4.5 inches (top and bottom) and 6 inches on the sides. With a very light pencil line I then draw a connecting line to create 4 quadrants (in this case 4 rectangles). Next, make a corresponding grid over your planning sketch or reference photo with pen or pencil. If you have a color printer photo you may want to print out a low res black/white version to grid. Or if you used a tool like a Compose It Grid obviously the space is already divided for you.

Another benefit from locating these “north/south” and “east/west” dividing lines is you can improve your composition greatly by avoiding the placement of any strong lines or shapes directly on them. Hopefully one of those 2 methods will work for you and help get you going. If we can make that an almost ritual like habit daily painting becomes that much easier.

P.S Quick thanks to Cindy and the nice folks at Compose It Grid for the blog link on their Reviews Page. I promise I have no affiliation with them--I just really, really love these easy to use grids.

Monday, July 11, 2011

High Chroma Canyon

Acrylic and Pastel on canvas-20x30
Today’s Painting:
I posted this mixed media painting (inspired by the colors and textures of the southwest landscape) a while ago in progress, but recently we completed painting. This was a collaboration with a student and while it took us a while (lots of glazing layers) we had a fantastic time. And learned a lot in the process as well. We particularly enjoyed working with the oil pastel under and over the acrylic glazes.  

So the next time you’re looking for a painting project (particularly on a larger surface) consider working on a collaboration painting with fellow artist. Most likely you each have different creative strengths you can bring to the canvas. 

Speaking of you next painting project, if you prefer smaller scale paintings, I’m continuing from my previous post regarding tips about how to get started on your daily painting. In this case, the oil still life.

Step 2: Tone it Down
The sooner we make our mark on the canvas the better. Toning your support also makes judging your values so much easier. Before I sketch onto my canvas, I usually tone my canvas with warm wash of acrylic paint for quick drying.

Color wise, I prefer golds, oranges, corals, pinks, or sienna. For the onions, I used Transparent Red Oxide. For a ease and speed, I use a rag, paper towel, or a big old house painting brush. If it’s acrylic, it should be dry within a few minutes.

There are times you may want tone your canvas boldly with red, violet, magenta, yellow, or even black as daily painter Karen Jurick so skillfully does. Note that if you tone with a dark color, you can use a light colored pencil for your sketch.) In the next post I’ll chat in detail about what do after you’ve toned your support.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Getting Off on the Right Start

"Sweet Reds" onion oil painting on canvas 9x12
As a painting teacher, I’m often asked: What’s the best way to start a painting? I bet if you asked 10 advanced oil painters who’ve honed their craft they give slightly different answers. But as an almost daily painter, I’m always trying to make the craft of painting as easy and predictable as possible.

So I thought I’d share my "no fail" process for starting a simple oil daily still life painting, such as a 12x12 or smaller since these typically are not a huge time commitment.

By the way, I have nothing against working from my own photos references. I do this all the time, particularly when I work in watercolor. That being said, I think painting from life improves my overall observation skills and for me at least, there’s no substitute for it.

Step One: Organize your shapes.
Trust me, I’m all for an enthusiastic, fearless painting approach. I pour, splatter, smush (that's a technical term), etc. all the time as a starting point. But if you haven’t had your morning mocha (that’s me) or your drawing skills are a tad rusty, I recommend you take a few minutes to plan your still life composition OFF the canvas.

The key is to plan on same ratio as your selected canvas size. For example here’s my sketch of the baby sweet red onions on a Compose It Grid (3:4 proportions to match my 9x12 canvas choice) with a dry erase pen which wipes off easily. If your canvas is a square, plan in a square, etc. Seems obvious, but I see other artists plan in different shapes all the time.  

If you don’t have a Compose it Grid (or similar tool), you can also easily trace the outline of your canvas onto a big sketchpad or make a smaller (but same ratio) sketch often called a thumbnail. For example, a 9x12 canvas thumbnail sketch could be 4.5 x 6, 2.75 x 3, etc.

Keep your sketch (and composition) relatively simple. No value or details yet, just shapes. I prefer a black marker rather than a pencil or charcoal.  We don’t need any shading. Look for big positive shapes. Try a few different compositions before moving over to the canvas. Personally, I prefer a still life that takes up at least 75 percent of the canvas so keep your subjects close at hand. Remember, backgrounds, foregrounds, and shadows are shapes. This is also the time to consider a variety of vertical and horizontal layout options.

In my next post I’ll talk about the next steps such how we get the sketch on the canvas and what I always do before I sketch on the canvas to make judging values much easier. Thanks for stopping by and happy summer painting!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Millefiore: Contemporary Floral Abstract

"Millefiore" Acrylic on canvas 18x 24
Today's Painting: 1000 Flowers
For this poured acrylic painting (which is basically a two part process) I used successive poured layers of Hansa Yellow, then Quin Magenta, and finally Thalo Blue (green shade). To keep the paint as fluid as possible (and easy to move around the canvas),  I mix diluted fluid acrylics into old plastic cups. I then tilt the canvas with each pour.  Note the Thalo will make a fairly dark line as you can see.

The acrylic pours stain the canvas leaving organic patterns of shape, color, and line. I then take some time to look at the canvas from a variety of angles before shapes start to emerge. Here, I kept seeing floral shapes and a vase so that's what I decided to work with. 

The final stage is to paint directly "alla prima" into and around the shapes suggested by the poured paint. Here I used the Golden Open Acrylics working with my "double primary" palette: 2 yellows, 2 reds, 2 blues and titanium white. As I  painted I kept thinking about the Italian glasswork Millefiore (e.g., 1000 flowers) and decided that I wanted to mimic that look within the flower shapes. At the end I felt the painting needed 3 key fixes:
  1. Another small dark shape for balance (I choose a small bird silhouette)
  2. Interesting texture. I'm not exactly sure what to call these but if you paint with acrylic you may see those skins that form around the top of your flip top tubes. Since this paint skins are flat donut shape, I thought they'd be perfect for the flower centers. And a great way to recycle dried paint!
  3. Some "quiet areas" of color fields since pours can get very busy. Note these color fields don't have to be pale color, just less detailed. 
Thanks for stopping by--as always have a colorful week!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just Desserts

Just Desserts-9x12 Acrylic on Canvas
Today's Painting
Happy July 1 everyone! This is the third painting in my trio of "sweet treat" paintings. Here, I included a cappuccino since that's usually the time I crave a sweet. Again, these were painted with Golden Open Acrylics for easier blending.

Free Style Brushes
Speaking of new acrylic painting tools, here's an interesting new line of brushes and knives from Liquitex (who also has a great new website focused on art inspiration) called Free Style. Recently a student brought a brush just made for splattering! Super cool and much bigger than an old toothbrush! Check out a short Free Style Brush demo video above. 

Pouring Away
I always seem to get a lot of interest in my poured paintings and so am posting (in my student gallery above) a wonderful new example created by one of my younger students. I love pouring both watercolor and acrylics. It's one my favorite techniques to "KO" that big white canvas. Here we poured Hansa Lemon, Quin Rose, and Thalo Blue thinned down acrylics from old plastic cups--letting each pour dry for a bit in the sun between layers.

Then the student painted with similar colors and white to create a contemporary landscape. For extra detail and bling at the end we added some gold lines to emphasize the tree leaves. Thanks for stopping by and have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let Them Paint Cake!

Buttercream Dreams--9x12--Acrylic on Canvas-SOLD
Today's Painting
Mmm...Cake. I've had some very positive feedback about my colorful red velvet cake piece  that I painted earlier this year with the slower drying Golden Open Acrylic paints. This painting is part of a set for a commission.  For me, if I had to pick a favorite dessert, it's probably cake so this is certainly a painless  subject to research. Plus, I find it very energizing to paint graphically with bold shapes and unusual color pairings like many of the contemporary pop artists such as Wayne Thiebaud.  

Colorful Connections Turns 2!
Before I forget, I wanted to quickly celebrate my 200th posting or what is basically my two year blogging anniversary.  Woohoo--Very exciting--So many thanks to all my visitors, students, and followers.I can honestly say that blogging about my teaching and painting has changed my art career as I'm sure it has for many artists. So again, my sincere thanks!

Cherry Creek Arts Festival This Weekend-July 2, 3, & 4, 2011
I feel very lucky to be able to walk to one of the premium art fairs in the country each 4th of July weekend. I don't think I've ever missed a year.  Each year the festival receives over 2,000 applications so as an artist it's fascinating to see the 230 artists selected. Like many artists in the Denver area, it's one of my top art goals to be in this show. Until then, I'm happy to be a spectator and speaking of food, be sure to check out the free culinary demos--it's one of my favorite breaks between art ogling.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rosy June Weekend

Ron's Roses-6x6-oil on canvas panel
Today's Painting
Last week, one of my watercolor student's who also loves painting florals brought in roses from his garden. I would have painted my own but, as I mentioned before, I do not have a viridian thumb.  My roses are blooming but with lots of critters which I hope to have under control soon. Anyway, I've been wanting to do a 6x6 rose oil study for sometime so this colorful bouquet was the perfect opportunity. Thanks Ron for sharing your garden! P.S. If you love roses like I do the Denver Rose Society Annual Rose Show is Sunday, August 14 at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

All Colorado Art Show 
Diane at The All Colorado Art Show--June 2011
On Saturday evening (after a very tasty meal at one of my favorite little Mexican restaurants--Chez Jose) I attended the opening reception and saw may friends and familiar faces including a few students. Here's my student Diane with her wonderful acrylic waterfall painting. For you adventurers out there, she told me this waterfall is somewhere just outside of beautiful Nederland, Colorado. Am looking forward to the juror's talk and gallery walk on Thurs. July 14. As an artist it's always a fascinating to hear first hand what a juror says about the art work he or she selected and why.

Call for Entry: Mini Masterpieces
Speaking of shows, if you are in the Denver area and you like to paint on an intimate scale (5x7 or less) check out the call for entry for Mountainside Miniatures. I went to the show last year and it's amazing what some artists can get into a small canvas. The show also offers over $1000 in cash and merchandise prizes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Fine Art of Travel

Mixed Media-24 x 30
Recently a student who had seen one of my larger mixed media  paintings asked if we could create a similar type of painting (i.e. mixed media collage) to pay homage to her trip to Italy this year. I thought this was a fantastic idea.

I've always loved bold graphic vintage travel posters (here are some examples from a poster website) so I thought we could combine the two looks onto a gallery wrap canvas. This is still a work in progress but we had so much fun creating it that I wanted to share it with everyone.

I love the idea of putting your travel memories (here we've included things like museum tickets, train tickets, a map, etc.) into a piece of art work kind of like a giant scrap book. My tip is to layout all your travel ephemera to get an idea of the size of canvas you'll need. I think bigger is better in this case to give you lots of room to work. In this painting, we also added rubber stamps of famous Italian landmarks as well as the individual names of all the cities she visited such as Rome and Venice. She also choose gorgeous warm colors that she associated with Italy--golds, plums, rusts, etc. 

We used acrylic paints for quick drying and easier glazing. I also love the look and feel of waxy encaustic paintings so some of the pieces of paper have been sealed with tinted acrylic gel (such as a matte heavy gel).  Here, I tinted the gel with a touch of metallic gold and some interference blue. And certainly you could cover the entire canvas surface with a tinted gel as well, which will also help seal and protect the surface. 

Before I go wanted to offer a quick congrats to another student who not only got into the All Colorado Art Show with two beautiful landscapes but it's his first show as well. If you're an artist who shows you know how exciting that first show can be--so way to go Dallas!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Garden of Secrets

Garden of Secrets-WC-22x30
All Colorado Art Show: June 25-August 10, 2011
I"m pleased to announce that my contemporary floral watercolor painting posted today--Garden of Secrets-- was just juried into the 28th Annual All Colorado Art Show at the Curtis Arts & Humanities Center in Greenwood Village, Colorado. The juror was Ms. Jill Desmond is a Modern and Contemporary Curatorial Assistant for the Denver Art Museum. She'll be doing a juror lecture about evolution figure painting, which should be very interesting, on Thursday, July 14, at 6:30P.

I painted this large full sheet 22 x 30 watercolor from sketches and photo references I took last summer at my nearby Washington Park, where each year they plant a wonderful garden, including these towering cana flowers.  The always lively garden is one of my favorite places to paint in the city--Just be sure to watch out for the sprinklers if you've got watercolor paper!

The show opens June 25, 2011 and runs through August 10, 2011. If you are in the area, please be sure to stop by the reception on Saturday, June 25 from 5P to 7P. And a quick congrats to my student Diane for also getting into the show!

Watercolor Landscape Book
This reminds me to mention a great watercolor book that I may not have mentioned before and that is the late William Condit's Transparent Watercolor which you can usually find on used on Amazon for less than $10.  Mr. Condit was an extremely talented Colorado watercolor painter and the book also features some of his watercolor mentors. Particularly if you enjoy watercolor landscapes, I think you'll love this gem.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Art News

Denver Summer Art Market
Summer Art Market Report
First, a huge THANKS to my many friends and students who stopped by to visit me at the Summer Art Market over the weekend. It was great to see you all and hope you enjoyed the Market. Thank you to to all my collectors who made purchases--it was wonderful to meet you and I greatly appreciate your support. I'm thrilled to report that I sold some of my favorite paintings that I've posted this year.

My niece at the SAM--already a budding artist!
Festival Packing List: Tape, Tags, Scissors, and a Tabby!
I'm a little sunburn and am missing some of my big toe (thanks to the on site EMT crew who got me back on my on my feet just in time to man my booth) but otherwise it was fantastic! Note to self and other aspiring festival artists, do not set up your tent in flip flops! I just wish I had more time and opportunity to shop around myself. I've said it before, but I think the quality and variety of the SAM is amazing. Very motivating and inspiring as an artist! I was planning on just doing this one show this year, but I had such a good time I'm now considering the Boulder Fall Show on the Pearl Street Mall.  Well, better let the toe at least rest for a few days and then I'll think about that.

New DPW Gallery!
Looking for high quality daily paintings at affordable prices? I'm thrilled to announce that Daily Paintwork Auctions is live this week. Unlike eBay or Etsy, Daily Paintworks Auctions will focus only on fine art. I've sold some art in the past on eBay and Etsy but I'm looking forward to trying Daily Paintworks as my exclusive online sales outlet. Here's a link to the Scarlet Owl Studio DPW Gallery Page.  My plan is to post several of my unframed "bin work" at after festival pricing in the next few weeks so be looking for those.
Summer Painting Classes
Now that the Market is over, I'm back in the studio painting and teaching so if you are looking for relaxing summer art class please email me. For more info about my classes please click on the Art Classes link at the top of the page.