Monday, September 30, 2013

Challenge Day 30: Fun at the Finish

Ab Ex Chicken-Acrylic On Canvas--Collection Artist

Happy Fall everyone and congrats to all of you who participated in Leslie’s “30in30” challenge! We made it to the finish! Personally, while I wasn’t able to “paint and post” every day I did paint and post more frequently. There was no doubt that a challenge like this is motivating in the studio! 

In the past month, I’ve shared my thoughts on color and painting more spontaneously. Today’s whimsical acrylic painting is just a fun tribute to both of those topics. 

First, this was painted entirely with a wood shim. That’s right no brush, no palette knife just a good old hardware wood shim. As you can guess, a tool like this really challenges you to paint in a different way.  From a color standpoint, I wanted to emphasize the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). I felt this would help support the more graphic illustrative look which was my intent.

Once in a while, I think it’s nice to remember why we love making art and just enjoy the process...

YUPO & Bird Painting Workshop: Sat. November 16, 2013
I’ve posted some details for my upcoming painting workshop on both my website and on the workshop page of my blog.  If you have any questions about the workshop or would like to sign up, please write to me.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Challenge Day 29: Two for One Sunday

"Carol's Colors" oil study on Ampersand Gesso Panel 8x10
Focus and time limits - works for me. Small size canvases are also good tools to increase focus. (Liz Reday)

I had a really easy decision for my second to last day of the painting challenge this morning. Thankfully Carol Marine offered up this gorgeous sunlit autumn leaves photo for this week’s DPW painting challenge.

I rarely use photos other than my own but I just loved the glow of the leaves and colors in this. My other Sunday goal (allowing me some Broncos game time) was to “get in and get out” and do this 8x10 study in under two hours.

This required some upfront planning but can definitely save you painting time in the long run.  First, I took a few minutes to crop the photo reference. Selecting my own composition helps me not only familiarize myself with the subject but also gets me thinking about the painting before I start.

Next, I grabbed an already warm toned  8 x 10 Ampersand Gessoboard. While I usually prefer the tooth of linen or cotton panels, I find loose and fast brushstrokes work well on this smooth hard surface.  

My other tip is that in general fast=keep it simple. For example, I used just three transparent primary pigments and white. This not only enhances your color harmony but it makes color mixing decisions much easier.  Here my three oil paints were ultramarine blue, Indian yellow and alizarin crimson. (Note : Thalo, lemon, and permanent rose would have been an interesting choice here too.)

Another key factor is what I like to call painting “mise en place.” You may have heard chefs use this term in a busy kitchen. It basically means your initial organization and "everything in its place." This prep helps ensure that your painting time stays on track.  

Finally, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to stop by and comment in September--I greatly appreciate all your interest and support during the challenge!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Challenge Day 27: The Personal Nature of Color

"Coastal Tide" watercolor on YUPO (collection artist)
“Color may come purely from imagination and, so long as the value and relationship is good, may be even more beautiful than life. I do not consider that faking.  That is understanding color.”
Andrew Loomis

Since I’ve taken a bit of side trip into watercolor land during the 30 day challenge I’ve been re-reading some of my watercolor books. I have some wonderful books but over the years they've taken a bit of a "back shelf” to my oil painting books. (Which reminds me, if anyone has read the new Alla Prima II yet I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!)

Last night I was reading Watercolor Free & Easy by Washington based painter Eric Wiegardt. Since I love color I tend to skip to the color chapters read those first—like eating the cream in the Oreo!  In this book, I particularly liked the section about having a “Personal Color Sense” or “Color Instinct” if you will.
Along the way, you’ve likely heard from other artists that if you get the value relationships correct then you can paint that “super dark” any “super dark” hue of your choosing. But how do you decide exactly what that color will be? 
That’s a great question. Some of that answer for me is “intuition” and painting—a lot. But in addition, Wiegardt offers some helpful questions to help you select a color that works best for your painting and not necessarily the one you see in front of you:
  • What color best expresses the painting’s mood and/or emotion?
  • What temperature dominance makes sense (note the colors follow this choice)/
  • Could I use complements to add excitement and interest?
  • Are all my colors the right intensity? Should some be brighter or grayer?
  • Is there an overall “mother” color or tone that would work well? (Think of a night cafĂ© scene.)
  • Is there some “bounced” color I could take advantage of?

So the rest of the week I plan to keep this idea of color choice in mind as I hope to finish out the challenge month with at least a few more posts.
P.S. Thanks Rick B. for lending me his lovely Oregon coast sketch/photo (as well as some salt!) for my YUPO landscape painting today!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Challenge Day 20: Colors on the Fly

YUPO and watercolor negative painting exercise
Am continuing to prepare for my upcoming bird themed November workshop. Here’s how I painted this easy and fun “negative” YUPO painting in less than 10 easy steps:

Materials: YUPO pad (9x12), transparent watercolors, large and small acrylic flat brush printer paper (Legion Paper has a YUPO sample pack for just $3.00.)

  1. I tape the back of my YUPO sheet to a foam core board so I can easily move it around without touching it. YUPO doesn't buckle so you don't need to stretch it.
  2. To start, I applied a variety of transparent watercolors (blues, reds, golds) with a big flat (over 1 inch). A sponge brush also works.  Remember, colors don’t fade much on the YUPO so don't be shy!
  3. For more dynamic color blends tilt your board diagonally at a 45 degree angle.
  4. Paint rolls off the YUPO quickly so it helps to have an old beach towel, etc. handy to catch the drips or go outside.
  5. When the I get the colors the way I want them I let the painting dry flat overnight (I prefer this to hairdryer).
  6. Then I printed out a simple bird, branch, leaves shape on plain printer paper and cut around image to make quick stencil.  (You could also use heavier printer paper or transfer your design/drawing to stencil paper.)
  7. Using  an 8x10 window white mat, I decide where I want the stencil over the painting.
  8. When I’m happy with the placement, I gently tack on the stencil over the painting with a small piece of tape.
  9. Then carefully use a damp (not too much water) small  acrylic brush and a tissue to “erase” around the stencil.You could certainly add more detail to the painting at this point as well.
Also, you can seal your YUPO on watercolor with an archival acrylic spray so it's protected from water. This exercise will also help to fine tune your negative painting skills which come in handy no matter what medium and subject you prefer. Thanks for stopping by, have fun, and keep painting!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Challenge Day 15: The Half Time Report

"YUPO Feathers" 9x12 watercolors on YUPO (collection artist)
Happy Sunday everyone--How’s your challenge painting going? Whew, today’s the half-way point. 15 days down, 15 to go…

Briefly, today’s painting is a study of feathers in YUPO. It’s a photo I took in the park this summer and have been thinking about for a while. Maybe for a larger abstract. So I thought it would be interesting to do a color study in the YUPO. (FYI, came across some helpful YUPO tips from the Beautiful Hello blog for those of you who want to "Do on it on YUPO.")

I’m not a runner but I imagine if you’re a long distance runner at the half way mark in a marathon it’s a mix of emotions. Elation that you’ve made it this far yet at the same time disheartened to that you’ve still got a long ways to go…

I was thinking today too even though it’s the weekend why is it sometimes so difficult to focus on something we actually enjoy? Is it guilt? Is it changing priorities? Is it fear of success? I love painting so it's not the desire that lacking. I think most artists I know would love to paint for hours upon hours with no life interventions...Music on, colors flying, lost in creative bliss...

But like any other creative passion, it’s finding that balance that I think is the tricky part. For example, if I start painting like crazy, I tend to need a long break at some point. Nothing wrong with that approach per se.

But I often wonder if I’d be more productive over the long run if I just maintained my creative energy inside of “sprinting” too hard and too soon.  So if an artistic life is like a marathon that you plan to run your whole life what’s the best strategy for success? Can’t say I have an answer for that right now. But I do think I’ll have a better idea at the end of the month…And thanks again everyone for cheering me on along the way. Because cheerleaders do make a difference!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Challenge Day 14: YUPO at the Beach

"YUPO Gull" watercolor on YUPO 8x8  (collection artist)
In watercolor, the experienced know that seeming chaos is usually the precursor to a strong painting... (Hilary Page)

I have to admit I’m really enjoying my “watercolor vacation” this week.  If you ever feel like you need a creative break (and who doesn’t?) you might want to try a different medium. It’s unbelievably liberating and refreshing!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m dedicated to improving my oil painting skills but for my previous challenge painting, I had such a good time cavorting with the YUPO and watercolor that I just had to try another. I bought a whole pad after all…

I took this gull pic last January when I was in Marco Island Florida. I liked the speckles on his head and the bright yellow eyes.

I wanted more texture in this YUPO painting, so I added some paint splatter (tapping brush) and salt (with a salt grinder). Both work great for beaches.  Also, I lifted some of the lights in this with a damp Q-tip as well as a stiffer brush (such as an inexpensive acrylic round).  You can also spray the YUPO surface with alcohol or fine water spray for additional spots of light and suggested texture.

Are we there yet??  Kudos and sincere thanks to all the fellow 30 in 30 challengers who’ve stopped by, took time to write a comment, etc.  Painting is certainly a joyous part of my life, but it’s not always easy. In fact a sign in my studio says: Make time for your art. It’s important. So on that note, happy weekend painting all! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Challenge Day 12: Visiting an Old Friend...

"YUPO Chickadee" Transparent WC on YUPO 9x12 (collection artist)
Hmm..You may notice a gap between um Challenge Day 5 and today. OK. About a week. The good news is that one reason I got a little behind in the challenge (in addition to out of town guests) is that I've been planning my new November workshop which will be bird themed and feature painting on YUPO--one of my all time favorite painting surfaces. (Sorry for the all caps that's just how YUPO is.)

Briefly, YUPO is a synthetic waterproof "paper." It's super smooth, clean bright white, and you can much more easily make value corrections such as lifting out your lights. It can feel a little strange at first and like any other new art technique take some adjustment, but now I just love it.

A few years ago when I became more of a "daily painter" I moved away from watermedia to oils. But I've always had a special place in my heart for watercolor and fluid acrylics. So you can imagine my delight when I was asked to teach a workshop that featured watercolors and YUPO and birds. Honestly, I can't think of a more exciting combination.

There was only one tiny problem. I had to confess I hadn't painted with YUPO recently but even as I was saying this I was heading toward the garage so I could run up to the Guiry's art store by my studio and buy a pad. (YUPO comes in pads and large sheets--online at Dick Blick.)

So today's painting is a watercolor and YUPO study of a chickadee in my backyard aspen trees. One quick YUPO tip: Use just 3 primaries (red,yellow, blue) because this takes a while to dry and it will run around on you. The 3 primaries will create wonderful harmonious mixes on their own.

If you have any questions about my SAT., November 16 YUPO workshop please email me. I'll have a link for it soon as well. Happy Challenge Painting everyone--we're almost half way there!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Challenge Day 5: And the winner is....

"Reedy Redwing" 8x8 oil on panel
Please Click Here to Bid--Thanks!
Challenge Day 5. Yesterday I posted that  was giving away my pink rose painting to an artist who posted on Day 4 of Leslie’s 30in30 Challenge.  So drum roll please…

And the lucky random number was entry number 229!  That's a a lovely landscape by painter Ms. Donna Pierce-Clark from Ohio—Be sure to check out her gorgeous watercolors. Congratulations Donna and welcome to my new followers!

Like a lot of folks this time of year I’ve got a slew of things going on—Some art related, some not. Like out of town visitors, taking a new class, enjoying the weather, fall shopping, etc. Or today a massage which sounds relaxing but I’ve tweaked something in my upper back and want to be back at the easel as soon as possible.

Thankfully I painted a few small paintings in anticipation of the challenge and this is one of them. One of my favorite summer birds in Wash Park near my studio are the red-wing blackbirds. They’re lcheerful and fairly easy to take a pic of which is always helpful for painting.

My challenge was all those green reeds. So I toned the board with a warm (acrylic) coral wash of quin. burnt scarlet--one of my favorite toning colors. FYI, I just use a small cheap sponge brush for the toning (not too much water) so it takes less than a minute to cover the panel.

If you love painting anything with wings and feathers like I do, stay tuned for more details regarding my November painting workshop here in the Denver area. OK off for my massage where I’ll need to explain the hazards of a daily painting challenge! And hopefully they’ll get me back up and running for the challenge! It's only Day 5...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Challenge Day 4: Giving Thanks with A Rose

"Leslie's Rose" 5x7 oil on panel
Challenge Day 4. Keeping today’s post short and sweet so I can get back to the easel.

First, I want to thank Leslie again for hosting the challenge thus my painting title today. I know many of you also enjoy the AHA show as I do.  And if you do, you know Leslie and her co-hosts are always promoting giving back to the art community.

So in the spirit of AHA, I’m going to give away this rose (does that sound like something they say on The Bachelor??) to an artist who posts today in the challenge. (At the end of the day, I’ll go to and draw a number.) I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

My quick tip today:  I think pinks (like some greens) can be a tricky color range. I like to try to look for and really push the whole range from  warms and cools—so from almost peachy into the cooler lavenders. Find this can help whatever the subject read pinkish, but not too pink.

So good luck, post your painting today join the challenge (it’s not too late) and enjoy your painting time today!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Keeping the Light in the Light: Challenge Day 3

"Broken Light" 10x10 study in progress oil on panel
The sky is the source of light in Nature and it governs everything. (John Constable)

OK. Challenge Day 3. Only 27 to go….Whew, even when you love painting it can be a challenge to complete a painting every day. Big kudos to all of you in the 30in30 challenge!

Since it’s OK to post a painting in progress (thank goodness) I got a pretty good start on this 10x10 oil tree/landscape study this morning. As with most of my recent paintings, I painted this from my iPad. I saw this beautiful old cottonwood along the Bear Creek Trail in Lakewood, CO late last spring. My three painting goals today: 
  1. Good value organization before getting too wrapped p in the color. 
  2. Paint each value group at the same time--So darks, then mediums, then lights. 
  3. Keep the lights in the light and the darks in the darks.
If you’re interested in strengthening your compositions through value simplification check out this excellent post by Michigan artist Sharon Tarr regarding notans—or the placement of your darks and lights.

Monday, September 2, 2013

From Comfort Zone to Twilight Zone: Challenge Day 2

"The After Hours" 8x10 oil on panel
Click Here to Bid--Thank You!
Happy Labor Day everyone! Before I talk about today’s challenge painting, I wanted to announce that I’ll be teaching a fun and exciting November painting workshop in the Denver area.  I'm super excited about the workshop (it's one of my favorite subject themes!). As soon as I have more details I’ll share them here.

In the meantime, for today’s Challenge Day 2 I wanted to paint a subject a little out of my let's say out of my nature subject "comfort zone." My first thought was a figure which used to paint frequently but rarely now. Then I remembered a photo reference I took earlier in the year...

One of my “guilty pleasure” classic TV shows that I sometimes catch late at night is the original black and white Twilight Zone. And one of my favorite TZ episodes is The After Hours. 

This is the episode where a young woman name Marsha, who’s shopping  in a creepy department store for a last minute gift, slowly comes to realize (spoiler alert) that she’s really a mannequin.
Edgar Degas--The Millinery Shop (Art Institute of Chicago)
I was reminded of this episode when I saw this “party ready” mannequin in a closed boutique late night in my neighborhood. The color palette also reminded me a little of one of my favorite paintings, Degas’ The Millinery Shop—also a “boutique” painting.  Hmm..Coincidence?

Happy Challenge Painting everyone and thanks for stopping by!