Friday, February 29, 2008


The month of February even had an extra day this year and I managed to paint only two paintings! I had hoped to explore my challenge a little more but I think I will move on. I hope you enjoy the paintings that were sent to me by some of the followers of the blog inspired by this month's challenge.

For March, I wanted to start with a drawing and turn it into a painting. One of the exercises in the "Learning to Draw..a creative approach" by Kaupelis is my choice to start out the month. I may add additional drawing challenges later. Using watercolor paper, wet the paper (you can experiment with different degrees of wetness) and draw on the wet or damp paper with ink. You can use a pen or any instrument that will make a mark. You can use more than one drawing tool on the image. The wet paper will cause interesting effects. He suggests India Ink but I think I will use either acrylic ink or liquid Hydrus watercolor because I want to make a completed painting from this start. You can just do the drawing or continue to work with the image into a more finished piece.

I just received a great painting from Barb Sailor which is a more complicated variation on this idea. I am posting her description of the process she went through plus the image.

Hi Myrna,

Just wanted to send you this painting because I got the idea for the Elegant Writer from you and wanted to show you my results.

I finished this painting a couple of weeks ago. It was actually started about 4 years ago when I painted a picture of an Ohio barn with lots of trees in a sunset. I hated the painting and it has been sitting around for 4 years. A while ago I decided to cut up the painting into assorted squares and rectangles and glue it to a piece of illustration board fitting the pieces together into an abstract design mainly in the colors of a sunset. A couple weeks ago I collaged white tissue paper over the design and then, when it was dry, I dry-brushed white gesso over the top of the collaged tissue paper, catching the texture and allowing some of the sunset color to glow through. I then drew my portrait of the woman with a black Elegant Writer Calligraphy pen and completed the painting by spreading the black ink with watercolor brush and water and some davy's grey watercolor paint. My source for the drawing was the body of one person and the head of another which I cut and pasted on the computer to create a 'new' person.

Thank you for the creative idea.


Barbara Sailor

You might want to try a painting of your own with this idea. If you think of other variations that interest you, go for it! This challenge is meant to be a stimulus for creativity. Let the March madness begin!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


A last minute decision found me back on a plane to meet up with my siblings in Denver. We haven't all been together for a long time. I will be turning around and going back to Denver next Tuesday to teach a workshop in Littleton next Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I printed out a number of photos of George James which I took in the workshop so I would have something to work on during the trip. I choose to draw with a pen so I cannot erase. Each drawing is an attempt to correct the errors I noticed in the last drawing. I like to draw over and over rather than erase and erase. This way you have to redraw everything and consider every line in relation to the whole. You can see how each drawing gets more a more accurate likeness.

While I was in Denver, we went to the bookstore so I could get an Artist Magazine for my sisters and brother. While I was there I discovered another drawing book by Robert Kaupelis called "Learning to Draw..A creative approach". It has some wonderful drawing exercises plus examples of master drawings and student drawings. If you are struggling with drawing or want to do something more interesting than these "atelier" type of images, you will fall in love with this book. I can't wait to try some of the ideas.

Tomorrow is the last day of the month. I will post the paintings people sent me recently and reveal the next challenge.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This is a painting I did after the workshop in Michigan. It is of my youngest son, Joel, when he was about 5 and in his Halloween costume. This painting was accepted into the California Watercolor Society national show. The workshop in Michigan by Mr. Roycroft was an interesting one. Someone asked him if he learned his painting process from Nita Engle but he ignored the question. He does not give others credit. I try to always give credit whenever I can. I appreciate original ideas and think the owner deserves the credit. Passing on what we learn from others is also very important to keep the flow going. No two people will do anything exactly the same so there is no fear of "copying" in my mind. I am posting an interesting article I found on a blog called Creative Creativity: A Daily Guide To Creativity And New Ideas

Don't Save Your Best Ideas For Later - Creativity Tip
Posted: 20 Feb 2008 10:29 PM CST
There's a concept floating around that each person gets only a limited number of ideas in their lifetime.
Well, maybe no one ever says it out loud, but they treat their own ideas that way.
Instead of using their great ideas as they have them, people squirrel them away and store them on an idea shelf in their heads where they gather dust. And there are only so many ideas you can fit on that shelf, so instead of constantly coming up with new ideas, they just wander over to the dusty mind shelf and look at the great ideas they've never used. Afraid that if they use them, there will be a terrible empty spot on the shelf that will never be filled.
But, we know that's wrong. The truth is that as soon as you use your best idea, you come up with a better idea. Burning through them quickly lets you cycle through ideas at top speed.
Even writing an idea down in a notebook will let you come up with a new idea. It's amazing what clearing your mind of a little clutter will do.
Do a little mind cleaning and act on all the "great ideas" that are sitting on your dusty idea shelf. I promise you, you'll have more great ideas than you can use in your lifetime.
And no one lives forever.
That's probably the best reason for using your best ideas right now!
(you know, death
Top Yourself!

Posted: 24 Feb 2008 02:24 PM CST
This is an extension of the last post, Don't Save Your Best Ideas For Later.
Don't be afraid to top yourself. Once you have successfully created something, your instinct will be to stay safe and only change the formula only slightly when you begin your next project.
Instead, why not top yourself every single time? Why not set your standard for each project so high that while you're working on it you can't possibly conceive of any way to improve upon it. Burn up the concept behind your work so totally that by the end it is curled up exhausted in the corner of your brain.
Of course, this way of working requires an act of faith on your part. It means every time you start work on something you are entering uncharted territory - traveling through the bits of ancient maps that said "here be dragons" or  "end of the world." It requires you to trust that you don't have a limited number of ideas and that you should parcel them out in tiny quantities in everything you do.
The phrase "Jumping the Shark" has made some people afraid to take chances this way. Inherent in its meaning is the idea that once a certain change is made, a concept or artist or actor or writer or series will never be good again. Truthfully, what kills most of these things is an extended lack of change that results in a gradual decline in quality and audience interest followed by a change forced from the outside onto a uninspired artist or team.
Instead of shark jumping, think about "Jump and a net will appear." Take a chance that you might fail because you are unsure about where your heading next. The universe takes care of artists who jump off of creative cliffs without looking. Besides, if it doesn't, you'll land right next to another steep cliff you can jump off of and keep jumping until that net does appear.
Take the artistic champ of topping yourself every single time.
Jump and a net will appear.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I was sitting at the Gallery Concord on Saturday. This was the first chance I had to see the guitar we are painting for a charity auction. The City of Concord is sponsoring this event. It is along the lines of the cows, hearts, horses and others that have been so popular in the past few years. We decided to have each member of the gallery create a small painting. These were reproduced and collaged on the guitar. The guitar is life size. Old used paint tubes and brushes were glued to the base. I think it is looking great. It needs to be varnished and then I think it will be done. My contribution is on the back. It is the little girl. You can see my signature. It will be interesting to see who bids on this piece and where it will wind up. During the promotion, it will be on display at the gallery. If you are in the area, stop by and see it up close.


I have noticed on Sandy Maudlin and Rhonda Carpenter's blogs some beautiful paintings done in the saturated wet technique first introduced by Cheng Kee Chee, the master of this idea. I have developed a modified version for portraits that I thought I would share. I have not had the privilege of taking a workshop with Mr. Chee but learned this process from a workshop in Michigan from Roland Roycroft. I love his landscapes and wanted to learn how he did them, so I took a workshop vacation up in Michigan a few summers ago. I was not capable of mentally processing the way Roland does in his poured landscapes. He masks out both positive and negative shapes at the same time. My brain could not think this way. I could do one or the other, but not both at the same time. In the middle of the week Roland introduced the saturated wet technique and I fell in love with it. I always want to do portraits but I found that I could not wipe out accurately without some markers. I reasoned that if I drew the image on the page and then painted in the darks with a staining thalo blue I could then wash it off, soaking the paper and load it back up with beautiful rich color and wipe back out with accuracy because you could see the thalo blue on the paper. It worked!!! I love the unexpected color in untraditional places that this process produces. This image is from a photo that my father took of me as a little girl. I made the mistake of stapling the paper too close to the image so it is not able to go successfully under a mat. Perhaps I could trim the paper and float the image. It is these small details we need to keep in mind or they will trip us up in the final result.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I hope everyone enjoys the slide show. I didn't get the full names of a few of the participants. The images are reversed, and the color is slightly off but you can still see the beauty and variety. It was such a fun group of people to spend time with. One person came down from Oregon for the opportunity to work with Prof. James. I have put my painting in the slide show and also posted it above. I like the color and value shifts. I had fun with the figures. They are from some of my figure drawings. The imagery in the painting is strange but it was fun experimenting with the ideas of paint application and light and dark patterns. Check out Sandy Maudlin's blog. She has shared some additional information for working with YUPO. As soon as I get a free moment, I want to try some of these techniques on the Tyvek.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Today was the last day of the George James workshop. Everything came together and people finished paintings with pretty amazing results for a workshop effort. I was able to photograph each one and I will post that slide show tomorrow. Today I am sharing the two small demos George did to explain his way of designing shapes. One strategy is to have dark shapes connecting through the painting. He calls this linkage. If you do the same with light shapes, he calls this passage. He demonstrated both. This is a concept I think I will be able to utilize in more of my paintings. It doesn't work if you are following the logic of how light works in the real world. He calls this "light logic". His method is arbitrary light and dark shapes with a focus on design and contrast. You create a very different kind of painting using this idea.

The second part of his morning discussion dealt with entering competitions and the jurying process. I found this information very very valuable. He described the heirarchy of types of shows. Starting with local shows, then regional, national and lastly international. The competition increases as you move up in the heirarchy. The awards also increase. The larger the prize money, the tougher the competition.

There are two types of judging. One is a single judge and the other is multiple judges. A single judge has more time to look at the slides and review them to make his decision. In this case, where your slide was in the pack was not very critical. When there are multiple judges, they all get together and decide at one time. George noticed that the judges were being hyper critical of the first few trays to insure a top notch show. If there are 3 judges, then if all 3 vote yes the painting is in, if 2 vote yes it may be reviewed if they need more paintings after the first round of viewing is done. If only one or no judges vote yes, the painting is out. George decided to send his slides into competitions somewhere in the middle of the receiving dates to position his slide past the first trays because the slides are placed in the slide trays in order of being received.

If you are accepted into the National Watercolor Society, you have the option of sending in an additional 3 paintings in mats to be reviewed by a panel. If they feel your work is up to the society standards, they will grant you signature membership. I always thought it was a separate viewing from the painting in the show by a different group of people than those who selected the show paintings. It turns out they put a slide of the painting accepted into the show on the wall and then place the additional 3 paintings underneath that so they are seeing all 4 at one time. Therefore, it is best to have all 4 related in subject matter and definitely of the same degree of excellence.

The other piece of information I found interesting is that the American Watercolor Society has quotas on how many signature members can be in their yearly national show. They are competing against each other for these slots. That way there are always opportunities for the unaffiliated entries to be accepted.

George shared how he evaluates slides submitted for a show where he is the single judge. This is his method and not necessarily the way all judges do it.
He receives the submitted slides which have been placed in order of being received. He views them at his home and can take as much time as he needs to decide. He is given the total number of paintings he can accept for the show. This number is related to the exhibition space available. Let's say there are 700 entries and space for 100 paintings. The first thing he does is go through the slides and get a feel for the range of SUBJECT matter. The next thing he looks at is CRAFT (how well painted)
Next he pares it down to 200 paintings. If more than one slide was permitted to be entered per person, he eliminates all but one per person. Now, to get it down to the exact number of paintings for the show, he looks for STRONG DESIGN, STRONG COLOR and UNIQUENESS. The juror is always working towards a balanced show in terms of subject matter and styles of painting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Today was exciting to see how George James develops his figurative paintings. We also had the privilege of seeing his sketch books. If you want to know how to draw from memory with conviction, the sketch books reveal the answers...draw every day, draw everything, practice, practice, practice. No real surprise, here! I think he has drawn every image in Bridgeman's Constructive Anatomy Book. This was the first art book I ever purchased. I can still feel the thrill I felt when I first saw this book. I had to save my baby sitting money for a long time to be able to purchase it. I don't know where this book is buried in my house (I would never get rid of it) so I purchased a soft bound edition a few years ago. The original will show up sometime. Now, I am inspired to do more drawing from this book.

Regarding the slide show images: I was sitting on the far right shooting the overhead mirror, therefore most of the images are reversed and have some distortion. When I had a chance, I photographed with the painting in front of me. The two details where done this way. The color is off. Somehow it looks too yellow. I corrected as much as I could. He did a second fast demo of a head in 4 steps of values.

Tomorrow is going to be super interesting as he is going to give a lecture about how jurying works in art society national shows. He is most active in the National Watercolor Society which has it's headquarters in Southern California where he lives.

I have been chugging along painting the worst paintings of my life this week! I am receiving comments from some of you excited to see what I have done. I promise to post it, but don't have too high of expectations! I rarely have a good painting from a workshop. I find it a place to try new ideas and processes. It takes awhile to integrate this information into my work. George likes flat images, simplified shapes, hard edges, strong geometry in his composition, works almost exclusively with a flat brush. All of these things are contrary to my sensibilities....I like lost and found edges, round brushes, ambiguity, texture, line. So what am I gaining from the workshop? New ways of developing Composition ideas, texture techniques, new ways of working with watercolor paints, alternation of contrasts, new tools to manipulate paint. Lots to process and think about.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I am posting the painting sequence that George James went through to show us how he builds a painting. I was sitting in about the 3rd row and was photographing the overhead mirror. You can see the distortions that creates. The final finished piece was taken directly looking at the painting. The color is as close as I can get it but "no cigar" as they say. I hope it gives you some idea of his process.

It is so interesting to take a workshop and experience the "student" mentality as opposed to giving the workshop and watching what others do with your information. I noticed real resistance in myself to painting in a new way. I always make an effort to try it the instructors way, so I did but was unhappy with what I produced and felt "lost" much of the time, not knowing how to proceed. You think you want to paint like someone else but it feels "wrong" when you do it. The other thing I noticed in myself was how quickly I want to give up and tell myself this isn't for me because I'm not any good at it. We don't give ourselves very much time to succeed, do we? Another observation is that, almost to a person, everyone was pretty much painting the way they always do instead of forcing themselves to work in his manner. I think there are two general categories of workshops. The first is a "technique" workshop where you attempt to paint in the style of the instructor. The second is a non-technique workshop where you are focusing on something other than technique and apply the information to your style of painting. The workshops that I give tend to be the latter. The trick for the "technique" type of workshop is to figure out how to adapt the ideas and integrate them into what you already do. It takes some time and experimenting. It seems the older I get the less time I feel I have and the less patient I am with myself. There is no skirting the learning curve. Tomorrow he will demonstrate working with the figure. That should be great fun.

Tonight a few of the workshop participants went out to dinner with George and his wife. He is a very genuine individual, with no prima donna traits. An interesting man with a great deal of experience in the art world and shares generously. I have taken quite a few workshops and have found every instructor, so far, to be very personable. I do hear stories of a few who have delusions of grandeur but haven't met them yet.

Kathy Mitchell is also taking this workshop and did a beautiful painting today. I am posting it with her permission.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I spent a very enjoyable day learning to tame Yupo synthetic paper. I have done very few paintings on this material and welcome the challenge to master it...well, maybe not master it ... but at least have more control! Between Mike's (Bailey) class of Watercolor Beyond the Obvious in the next room and many of the participants in the James workshop, I had an opportunity to see lots of friends I don't see often. The morning was off to a great start.

George James is a very personable, relaxed master. He has spent 17 years working on this paper and being a former college professor, he knows how to communicate. He explained everything from how much water to have in the paint, the brush and the paper to how much pressure to apply when leveling the paint with the roller and glazing with a brush. Day one was mostly demonstrating different techniques and then we were unleashed to give it a try ourselves. He makes it look so easy but it takes a lot of practice and skill building to get it just right.

His main goal is to show us how to have control over the paint. His wet into wet technique is not very flowing, just softer edges. He kept emphasizing the goal was to control the paint, while everyone was having so much fun letting the paint flow and run all over the place, totally out of control. We were like kids splashing in a puddle, having the best time. In the morning we worked on small samples...I am going to put mine in my notebook for reference. In the afternoon I started a full sheet to try and put some of the techniques into practice. Tomorrow we will learn about designing the painting.

I have posted one of the samples... mostly it is about glazing. The second one is the painting I started this afternoon. It's not nearly finished but thought I would show it in the beginning stages. I did a sort of floral image much wetter than he suggests for the wet into wet. When that dried, I started going back into different areas with different techniques. Most of this is in the upper right of the painting. I am totally making it up as I go, which is not how I work at all! I think I will really enjoy tomorrow where we will plan the painting first. I am going to try and use my February Pose Maniac figures.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I am pleased to be able to announce I have finally finished a painting for this month. It is already the 17th!!!! This is on Arches cold pressed block 12 x 16. It looks different than any painting I have ever done. I'm not totally satisfied with the result but I like a lot of what is happening and I decided to make this a painting where I was going to experiment with different ideas and see what happens. With all my value studies, I just dove in and didn't use any of them. I was considering value as I went along but it really is a better idea to have it planned out in advance. After reviewing the slide show again, I was struck how the value pattern of this stone was so similar to the painting I did today. I have no idea if this image was in my subconscious while I was painting.

One of the things I wanted to discover is whether Stretch and Cling wrap would make a good masking material. I did a light wet into wet wash all over the paper and let it dry. Then I stretched the wrap over the painting as tight as I could get it. It didn't quite cover the whole sheet so some of the bottom was uncovered Then I took my drawing (it was on tracing paper) and transfered the outline of the 3 figures onto the cling wrap. On the back of my tracing paper drawing I use a heavy line made from a watercolor crayon over the drawing lines. I turn it over and place it on my paper and using a mechanical pencil retrace the lines. This transfers a thin line of water soluble crayon on the paper and usually disappears by the time I have finished the painting. I used this method to transfer the outline of the figures onto the cling wrap. Then I used a tool I had purchased awhile ago but never used. It is a stencil cutter.... like a wood burning tool but has a very fine metal needle-like end that heats up and melts through stencil plastic. It worked great on the cling wrap. I'm not sure if the heat sealed the edge or not but I got a decent seal with the plastic wrap. Next I will try this tool on clear tape to see if it cuts through it. I am not very agile with an exacto knife going around curves not to mention I usually cut into the paper so this handy dandy instrument is very exciting! I got it at Michael's Craft Store with one of my 40% off coupons.
I started putting darker washes in the background sweeping right over the figures which were masked off. Then I took off the cling wrap and started working on the figures. Eventually, I decided to use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (found in the Grocery Store in the cleaning products isle) I tore it into small pieces and lifted color and swept it across certain passages. This has real potential for interesting blending of colors and edges as well as lifting color. I think I may have found a way to paint shapes and still have lost and found edges (a personal favorite of mine)

Tomorrow starts the George James workshop on Yupo. I will attempt to post each day and share his wisdom.
Now, time to tackle those damn taxes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I should have been working on my taxes or painting today, but instead I agreed to help out a friend who wanted my "artist's eye for color" to help her select some granite for her bathroom remodel. Friendships are important so I spent the afternoon looking at tons (literally) of marble and granite slabs. I had never done this before, so I was in awe of Mother Nature's variety and beauty. The different colors and patterns were amazing. I had my camera with me thinking I might see some interesting people but what I found was a treasure trove of inspiration for future paintings !!! I don't know how much help I was to my friend because I became lost in my own little world, photographing like mad. I wound up with 141 shots and have put 41 of them into a slide show to inspire you to find inspiration in unlikely places (and always have your camera or sketch book with you). There was one slab that was a fabricated piece...a composite of gemstone like pieces in a mosaic. I don't know how they did it but the slab was priced at $20,000. I could have photographed sections of this piece for days. Some of the images in the slide show come from this piece and some from different natural slabs of stone. I have "enhanced" all of them in Photoshop Elements so the colors are more intense and the values are exaggerated.
Tomorrow I am DEFINITELY going to work on my taxes and paint!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I am finally back home just as the weather started to warm up in KC. I like to travel with some art supplies. It was a whirlwind kind of trip with no time to draw or paint except at the airport and on the plane. I tried to upload some additional drawings but the computer gods were not smiling on me tonight. This is the only one that would load. I did a sketch with the Elegant Writer and then used the water brush to create a tonal drawing. I decided to try and add some color. A friend had given me a little Koi watercolor travel set. It is so cute. The size of your palm. The quality of the paint is student grade but for a sketch book it is fine. The ink continued to run as I added color so I decided to try one with an initial pencil sketch and then color. This is the result. I am using my recycled tan colored paper sketch book so the white really shows up well! I was surprised the paper performed fairly decently with watercolor. It really isn't a wet media kind of book but the paper seems a little heavier than many sketchbooks. I am hoping to get a serious painting done this weekend. Monday I start a 4 day George James Workshop in Yupo. Can't wait!

Monday, February 11, 2008


We are in Kansas City (actually Overland Park, Ks. but it's always Kansas City to me) to celebrate a brother-in-law's 90th birthday tomorrow. It was fun to see some brilliant Californian outside the airport waiting for the shuttle bus to the rental car building wearing flip flops and a sweatshirt in 12 degree weather. Some people need to pack their brains as well as their toothbrush. Being of hardy Midwestern stock, we are managing in the cold.
We had dinner tonight with my husband's oldest brother who is a most remarkable 85 years young! (In this family we are the babies!!!!) Anyway, Paul was telling me about this painting. I took the photo that inspired this painting of my husband and his brother on a beautiful autumn day in KC a few years ago. Paul takes a vigorous walk each morning with a bag of doggie treats in his hand and he greets all the animals along the way and gives them a little snack. Recently Paul was talking with the owner of this beautiful miniature collie and was told the dog had since died. Paul made a copy of the painting for them and left it on their doorstep. He told me it made them so very happy. It's really nice to know that your art can make a difference in someone's life. I did mention to Paul that I have the copyrights to that image and that he was illegally reproducing my work. He gave me a kiss in payment, so now we are squared away!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I received the sad news yesterday that Karen Mason had passed away. Karen was in charge of the Gallery Concord when I first joined. It was her suggestion that I teach a workshop at the gallery that started me on this wonderful path. I didn't take her up on it right away but when some others were looking for a portrait class, I decided to see if I could transfer what I knew to someone else. It all started with Karen.

I never had the privilege of taking any classes from her. Those that did praised her teaching ability. She was an awesome artist but doing and teaching aren't always the same. She had a special fondness for painting old cars and people.

I will miss her friendly smile and positive encouragement. I have taken the liberty of including the message I received from the President of California Watercolor Association, Samantha McNally. I also went to Karen's website for her photo and painting image.

"CWA has lost a dedicated member. Karen Mason passed away on February 8, 2008.

Karen was a Signature Member and Outstanding Member of CWA and because of her passion for art she gave of herself in all activities of CWA, even through her illness. She has held almost every position within CWA including President from 1996 - 1997, Newsletter Director, Outreach Director, Hospitality Chair, and Advisory Committee and was part of the original Building Committee. Over the years, she has also chaired many CWA shows.

In partnership with Jerry Little, Karen brought national recognition to the East Bay Watercolor Society, now known as the California Watercolor Association. She and Jerry Little also set up the first CWA show in the California State Capitol.

Her dedication to the arts was further exemplified in her giving of her time and talents to open Gallery Concord. Karen was instrumental in the creation of Gallery Concord (which is located at 1765 Galindo, Concord, CA), including meeting with Visual Arts Benefactors of Concord to secure funding.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the California Watercolor Association.

Karen Mason Memorial Fund
California Watercolor Association
P.O. Box 4631
Walnut Creek, CA 94596"

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Tracy had requested that I talk a little about how to create value patterns. There are basically two different value patterns. The first is the natural way the light is falling on the subject creating a three dimensional image through value. This light on the subject is often what draws an artist to the subject in the first place. What they really want to depict is the light. Many times the light is partially blocked by some object which throws a light pattern on the object that is different than the natural contours of the object. Think dappled light through leaves in a garden or light through venetian blinds creating a stripe pattern on an object, etc. This is superimposing one form over another that are unrelated. You can take this idea and create your own two different images and lay one over the other.
First, create a line drawing of your image. In my case it is the three figures. Next create an abstract design with three values...white, black and grey. John Salminen has a great video where he shows how to create such an abstract design. Jane Hoffstetter in her book "The 7 Keys to Great Paintings" had a wonderful chapter on creating these abstract designs. I believe Gerald Brommer in some of his books also works with this idea. I often photograph things that have wonderful abstract shapes and intersting value patterns for just this purpose. The photograph that I posted is from the incredible Disney Performing Arts Center in LA by the genius architect Frank Gehry. He also designed the Guggenheim in Bilboa, Spain. There is a fabulous video that you can get from the video store showing his design process. It is extraordinary!!!!!! Anyway, I wasn't sure when I would get to Bilbao, but I get to the L.A. area several times a year, so I made a trip into the city to see this marvel of achitecture and took a gazillion digital photos. This is one of them. Next, I removed the color to see the values. Then, working in Photoshop Elements, I posterized it into 4 values. I then superimposed my drawing over the abstract and created a value pattern that is totally arbitrary in that it has nothing to do with the contours of the figures. I did all this in the computer with the layers feature. I have not mastered this feature so my son was literally standing over me telling me what to do next. Frankly, I think it would be easier and more effective to print out the posterized version of the photo and take my drawing which is on tracing paper and lay it over and move it around to get different ideas. There is no end of variations you can create by using an arbitrary value pattern. The benefit of value is that it is at the top of the hierarchy of contrasts as a tool for the artist to create a focal point and to lead the viewer through the painting. As you create these abstract value patterns, that is what you need to be thinking can I direct the eye all around the painting with value. Creating value patterns is a fun way to fill those wasted minutes sitting in doctor's offices or bus stops or airports or commercials on tv. Keep that sketch book with you at all times. You never know when the opportunity will present itself.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


It's been a long day and I am really tired but I wanted to post this demo painting before I fall into bed. I enjoy doing demonstrations for art groups. It is a nice way to meet new people and practice working under pressure. I'm not sure why I need to learn to work under pressure but it is a challenge. It's good to challenge ourselves once in awhile. The most difficult thing to do is talk while you paint. This group had a few people that asked some very deep questions where you had to really think about it. One person asked me if I could only paint one more painting, what subject would it be and what media would I pick. I'm still ruminating on that one!

I thought I had allowed enough extra time to get there before the meeting started. I never, ever get used to the rush hour traffic here. It was a parking lot as soon as I got on the freeway. Even the carpool lane was stop and go. It took me an hour and a half but I did make it before they were ready to turn the program over to me. I got home in half an hour. During the drive I was listening to a book on tape 'Reading Lolita in Tehran". It puts things in perspective. I can live with overcrowded freeways.

I'm sure you recognize this lady. I think I took a few years off of her in this one. Actual painting time was probably about 45 minutes. I'm always working so fast during these demos that I'm not really satisfied with the results. It feels like a painted sketch to me. There was a woman who told me she took lots of photos during the demo. I asked her to send me some if they came out. If I get them, I can make a little slide show out of it.

Tomorrow I set up for a two day open studio event with some other artists. Photos to follow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


This is a very frustrating week for me. I am down to the wire for working on my taxes so I spent all afternoon at the computer entering data. Tomorrow I have to ready my paintings and information sheets for Thursday's set up for a weekend exhibit. I will get to paint tomorrow night because I am doing a demo for the Santa Clara Art Association. Friday and Saturday is the exhibit and then on Sunday we leave for Kansas City for four days for a family celebration. Sometimes other things besides painting have to take center stage.
In the meantime, I have done some value studies and discovered some additional compositions from the original composition. I am starting to see that with these three figures there are unlimited combinations just for composition. Each composition can have many value arrangements. When you add in color and all the various techniques, there is a potential for years of work. One of the value studies wasn't going well, so I just let it go and started on another one. I was able to put 4 on a sheet of typing paper and printed out a number of copies. It makes it easy to work up these studies. I will take some of these sheets with me so I can create some color studies while I am traveling. Once I get the time to paint, it should go quickly with all these decisions made in advance.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I drew three figures from the Pose Maniac site to use for this month. It is amazing how you can turn the figures 360 degrees. I decided I wanted all back views in compatible poses. Sitting in front of the computer, I felt constrained to draw smaller than if I was able to stand and use my whole arm. I did 4 or 5 in my sketch book and then traced these three. The great thing about tracing paper is you can flip the image. This gave me more flexibility in combining the figures into a composition. I wanted to work on a larger piece of paper so I took the 3 figures to the copy shop and had them enlarged. This month is very busy and I wanted to save some time. I retraced the images tonight so I am ready to go. Since I was going to work with shapes, I just used the shapes of the muscles and ligaments. I think this makes for a very interesting division of the body plus as I paint these shapes, it will reinforce my visual memory of the structure of the muscles and help with figure drawing in the future. I can see these figures working into some very abstract forms in the future. Now I have to create a value plan and a color concept and I will be ready to paint. By running off copies of the design I can try different ideas without having to redraw. Normally I like redrawing but this is a complex image and time is a factor.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


I had a great two day workshop sponsored by Society of Western Artists. My watercolor portrait workshop is usually 5 days, so we didn't get as much covered as I would like but everyone had a good start on their painting. I didn't photograph anyone's work because it wasn't finished but I was able to complete my demo painting. Everyone explored the fun of Tyvek paper. Paint acts so differently on this paper that it takes some practice to get the results you want. The workshop was in the office of a landscape architect with amazing space and ambiance. There is an empty office next door to hers that may be a possible place for me to set up my own workshop on the Peninsula. I will explore this possibility. Lack of a convenient location for Peninsula and South Bay students has held me back so far. I'm not scheduled to do a workshop for the south bay until 2010!

I decided to post my reference photo this time and the first stage then the finished piece. I like this face. I think I will do it again on Wednesday when I do a demo for the Santa Clara Art Association monthly meeting. I will create a different composition. I have another shot of this woman in a slightly different pose and expression. Perhaps I will work with that image.

I really get carried away with hat brims! Exaggeration is a wonderful tool for the artist. I plan to work with this more expressive idea a lot more.

My drawing is ready for my first February Challenge painting. I am excited about the image and anxious to get started. Now all I have to figure out is how I am going to work in doing my taxes this week and still paint every day. This should be my most difficult problem in life!

Friday, February 1, 2008


FINALLY! I feel ready to move on now. I had to finish this painting. I decided to make it look like a quilt square. The tape I used did a great job of keeping the lines clean. There was no leakage underneath. It was important to do the 8th head with as much detail and care as the first. This is a very different image than I have done before. I am interested in hearing how others respond to the multiple image in one painting.

I have been thinking about the February challenge for a while. It got more and more complicated as I thought of more and more interesting elements. Finally, I decided I needed to save some of these ideas for another challenge. So, here is what I decided I wanted to work on this month. I want to put the rest of the 3 requirements that were the January challenge aside for at least a month. We will get back to them but I was sick of this woman and want to do something else for now. I would like to create some paintings using the Pose Maniac website. I am a figurative painter, so this is the subject that gets me excited. It is difficult to paint good paintings when you aren't engaged in the subject. So, if figures aren't your thing, choose a subject that inspires you.

The next thing I want to work on is painting wet into wet. I know how to do it but I want to really focus on this technique. Lately I have been so taken with artists that are masters of wet into wet. I plan to really study their work. Shirley Trevena comes to mind, Don Andrews is a master, Charles Reid has a different way of flowing colors together. The latest issue of Amercian Artist features a father/daughter David and Jae Drummond who do exquisite wet into wet. The latest issue of the Artist Magazine has an article by Brigit O'Connor's florals done wet into wet. I'm sure I will discover many more when I search through my books and magazines. If this isn't a technique that you want to explore, pick your own.

The last thing I am going to focus on this month is shapes. I am not a shape painter so this is an area for greater investigation. Now for the twist! I am going to combine the "shape" element with one additional design element. Each painting will combine "shape" with a different additional element. I am going to start with Shape and Line. I am going to stick to the same image for the month. Your creative muscles get stretched farther this way. I'm excited to get started on this challenge.

To recap: Pick a subject that gets your heart racing, then pick a technique to explore for the month, lastly choose one design element for the month and add a different design element with each painting.

I will be teaching Saturday and Sunday so it will be Monday before I can put brush to paper. I will post my demo and hopefully my students work, with their permission.

Related Posts with Thumbnails