Thursday, September 30, 2010


Well, I'm very glad I did this one on 300# Arches because it did need some scrubbing when the nose decided to just run all over the face!

And I used some white gouche touched with yellow for areas of the hair and a bit to reshape the nose with a pinkish beige, too.  Hey, when it's the 4th time you've tried this portrait and it's going south again, you pull out all the tools!  Jerry says it looks like her, but I think it's too stiff.  Becoming looser and more free with colors and shapes in portraits is the goal...I will get better, the more I still going to do one a week (maybe now on to someone I don't know).

Oh, and dropped in some dark Indanthrone Blue in the center of Morning Glory pool so it's done and I've begun something totally different (as Monty Python used to say).


Almost finished with this one - needs a bit darker blue in the middle to give it some depth...and maybe some steam in the form of white gouache here and there over the painting (or I might leave it without much steam).

Still working on The Hardest Portrait...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Today is National Coffee Day.  Guess we Americans drink so much coffee we have to have a special day to commemorate our addiction.

So - meet me at the nearest Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Peets, Caribou Coffee, or Borders (Seattle's Best) shop - and then lets take a long walk in the September woods!

(Photo taken last year.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Working larger on this and placing the pool in the landscape so it doesn't look like it's floating or some abstracted piece...

And while I'm letting that rest, I'm trying another portrait of Alaina (granddaughter, age 8).  There is something so difficult about getting her features right once I start putting the paint on the paper.  The first try was on hotpress paper = stupid choice = gave up when she began to look so clownish.

So I pulled out a piece of 300# rough (so it will take some scrubbing and modeling of the features after the paint is on).

I don't know what is giving me such fits with this portrait but I'm definitely calling it the hardest portrait I've tried so far...

Monday, September 27, 2010


Rather than jumping in with a large painting right away, I'll take Carrie's good advice and do a small study before tackling the larger one - just to get a feel for the colors, how it works or doesn't in the composition, etc.

So I did this study of Morning Glory Pool at Yellowstone National Park (5.25" x 11" scrap of Arches cold press). 

I'm happy with the colors and the texture.  But it definitely needs a sense of place - so a walkway or some background to put it somewhere rather than floating in place.

So now on to something bigger but also with a bit more stuff to tell you what you're actually looking at in this painting.

And it's about time for another portrait, I think.  (I did challenge myself to do one a week and I've been a bit lax on that.)

I don't know what it is - the rain, the cool air that says autumn is here, or maybe too much caffeine but I feel like I want to do everything right now.  And I just checked and my Cheap Joe's order is going to be delivered today = artist tape I've been needing AND a roll of Arches paper!!!  Whew!!!  Ready for the next challenge???


Over the weekend, I began reading Wendy Richmond's book, Art Without Compromise*

I won this book from a give-away on one of my well-visited blogs by Katharine Cartwright.  Kathy calls her blog A Blog Dedicated to the Advancement of Critical Thinking in Art.  And it is.  She reviews various books, facilitates discussions on everything from being self-motivated as an artist working alone, to the state of the art world and awards.  Well worth sitting back with a good cup or glass of something tasty and taking it in slowly - then thinking about it and joining in the discussions. 

Wendy talks about how to get your work where you want it to go with the minimum of stress, not by saying things like:
Give up your fear.  Don't be influenced by others.  Find your own voice.  You can't control the uncontrollable aspect of art-making.

She gives you actual concrete guides.  Like using a "Visual Reflection Notebook" to look at where your work has been and where it's going over the last few years (or decades, if you've been painting that long).  Wendy's Visual Reflection Notebook is an assignment she gives her classes:  Print out all the paintings/sketches/doodles you've done - make them all small (I did mine wallet-sized) - paste them into a notebook in random or chronological order - then look at them to see themes.  Put in the good and the bad paintings (you learn from the bad ones!), and put in any paintings or words of wisdom from artists who inspire you. 

Your Visual Reflection Notebook should tell you what themes have come up and disappeared in the past, what subjects you like to paint/draw, what things you want to achieve, what direction you're going.  It's about you.  It doesn't have to be shown to anyone else.  In fact, keep it to yourself until you see a cohesive work come together.  No cohesive work but scattershot with techniques and palettes and foundations?  Why?  Too many workshops?  Too much influence of others?  Too few years of painting so far?

Perhaps like Georgia O'Keeffe did, take the printouts and mark which ones were done for others, which ones were done under the influence of a teacher/mentor, and which ones were done for you.  The ones done for you...what is there about them that makes them your own?  Is it some remark you are trying to make about your life, your world?  Or is it as simple as a palette of colors that pulls you in and makes you happy?  (Happiness is allowed in art!).

This is a very powerful thing that Ms. Richmond has given us in the Visual Reflection Notebook.  Just think of all those little paintings and drawings laid out, ready to be glued into a notebook, ready to be seen and pondered by you, the creator.  Use your notebook to jot down ideas that come to you from seeing these works.  What inspired you then, what inspires you now - and why? 

When viewing the work as a whole like this, you may find that you're not too bad at all and have some good paintings under your belt.  Perhaps you'll find there is no real cohesion to the work - no central theme or direction (yet).  Perhaps you'll discover something very interesting and unknown about your work.  What fun!!!  Afterall, what's more fun than learning more about yourself and having good tools to use to help you learn?

Now go on over and check out Kathy's latest book review and discussion...see you there!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


After the little studies, I went back to my full sheets and did a bit of tweaking.

September Sky and Steam.....



both worked on without looking at the photo reference.

Both full sheet (22" x 30") paintings on Arches watercolor paper - hot press or cold press.

(With the first painting, I'll have to do a bit of creative cropping so the thing isn't cut in two...I'm tempted to get rid of some of the bottom and the right side.  Jerry says crop the sky and the right side.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010


You may get their newsletter - but if you don't, you won't know that Nick Simmons is on sale this weekend :)  Well, okay, HE'S not on sale, but his DVD, Innovative Watermedia, is on sale at Creative Catalyst.

You can't beat the price and you'll enjoy the DVD (I have it and have recommended it to others).  Loose, free, big painting with lots of "secrets" to his success in the techniques he shares.  And he's a natural teacher - very relaxed and open on the DVD.  Plus you get to hear some of his music.

Have a great weekend...


Yesterday, the wind picked up and blew for hours.  The trees were whipped around, their sparse and pathetic looking leaves, blown about like an old woman's thinning hair. 

And finally...

It Rained!

The temperature has dropped 20 degrees.  We are now officially experiencing autumn with 75F temps during the day and a cooler set of nights coming. 


(I was just getting ready to go out and photograph the crackly, brown, bristly grass, and still might - it will take more than a modest rain to green up this stuff again.)

Friday, September 24, 2010


Carrie Holst had a great idea - since I'm struggling a bit with my big paintings that I want to keep more painterly and less copyist (as Joan Sandford-Cook coined that term), go back and do small studies to loosen up and maybe bring out the colors that way.  She did suggest doing a high key, low key - but I didn't go for that.  Just went for seeing the colors and then playing them up a bit more without referring back to the photo.

So here's what I have - 4 small watercolor studies or sketches (whatever you want to call them) - all  about 7.5" x 11"

All added in the order they were painted (first on top, last on the bottom).

Got a bit muddied and overworked on this one due to the fact that I put in people much too large - unless they were Yellowstone Giants - and then smooshed them out again and tried again = not a good idea when going for spontaneity and fresh-looking work.

But even with this one, they all look more painterly than the large full sheet I did. time to go back to the full sheet and let 'er rip?!?

Made this one a more summery looking scene in this one so played with the Ultramarine Turquoise in the sky and ground/water.  Of course, it became more like a bridge over a stream but that's okay, too.

And finally - I think we are going to get rain - real rain, not the weak 5 minute drizzle we got the other day. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I'm looking at the last few paintings I've done and they seem too stiff.  Not painterly enough.  I want to get to a point where my work is more flowing, blending of more colors on the paper, not the palette, etc.  Good texture, color, and value - these are things I want in my paintings.  But I don't see my paintings turning out that way.  Somewhere between wanting and doing, something takes over and controls my brush.  I become timid with color.  I look at the photo reference too much and try to mimic that instead of putting it aside and painting (after using the photo just to start).  So...more work, more painting.  Someday I'll get there, yes?  I hope...

Do we paint in a way that coordinates with our personalities? 

Here is SmokeScape as it stands.  I think I need to put it aside for a while and let it tell me what it needs after a break...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


22" x 30" Arches 140# hot press paper
Daniel Smith paints

I could fiddle with this more and more and more...but I'm trying to make the painting look like the photo = not what I want.  I want to explore my artistic vision of something and don't think I accomplished it with this one.  I also find that working this big one returns to simple mistakes - like Irina said, having the horizon line right in the middle - and like I see, being too timid with the colors.  Painting wet-in-wet and I have to know when to get really dark to let the values show better.  Although things are misty and steamy, they still need darks.

So...learning how to paint bigger is like learning how to paint smaller - more thinking and less fiddling with the paper!

Now on to the next full sheet - again, using the Yellowstone photos as reference and motivation.

Here's the photo.

And below is the painting started this morning.

I'm calling this one

Full sheet (22" x 30" Aches 140# cold press paper this time).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Building up the colors.  Putting in the boardwalk and the little people.  The sky needs to be more menacing so will work on that a bit more.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I looked at this one, pinned to my bulletin board, each time I entered my little painting room.  It looks a bit stilted but I hope to become looser with my portraits as I continue to do one every week.  I touched a bit more pinks to the faces here and there and put the numbers in behind them.  Done for what it is.

Full sheet (22" x 30") Arches cold press 140# watercolor paper, Daniel Smith paints.

Looking through my photos after reading a bit in my latest Watercolor magazine, I thought about big skies and the photos of big skies I have.  What to choose next?

I picked this one that shows a very cold, lowering sky that looked and felt like it could snow (in September) at any moment.  And I liked the complements of the blue-greys and the orange-browns so...

This photo, taken in Yellowstone National Park, was chosen for my next attempt. 

And I started with a full sheet Arches 140# cold press, finding a big brush to touch in the colors lightly, middle to bottom and then middle to top, turning it upside down and working on each area separately.  I need a bigger brush that is soft and holds lots of water - any suggestions?

I want to work lightly and build up those darks slowly.  We'll see if my impatience allows me to do that!

Testing the waters with full sheet paintings before my roll of paper arrives...and then I'll be playing in the BIG TIME! ha ha

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Returned to my painting, Lucky Numbers, to finish it up. 

It's done except for adding in the numbers in the white squares and rectangles.  What do you think?  Jerry says it is the best thing I've ever painted.  Maybe he meant it's the best portrait I've ever painted.  It looks like them but not exactly...could do with some tweaking but I'm leaving it after seeing a painting by John Singer Sargent of a client compared to a photo of the client during the same time, wearing the same clothing. 

You don't have to be exact.  You can have some changes - a longer neck, fuller hair or brighter skin, etc., as long as in the end people know the models know it's them.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it! ha ha

(Jerry and I helped his friend, George, celebrate his 70th birthday last night with a huge gathering at a local restaurant.  George rented out the 2nd and 3rd floors and there was a band and everyone was asked to come in 1920's costume so the place was packed with gangsters and flappers.  A fun evening.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Before going on the extended vacation, I had received some new toys in the mail.  I tried out the Neocolor II watercolor crayons and made a test sheet (on yupo so the color is pretty bright and clear) of each color.  Thought you might like to see what comes in the box of 30.

If you buy these, make sure you get the watersoluble ones - they call them wax crayons but the Neocolor I series is actually wax and can't be thinned or worked with water - only turps.

I'm happy with the variety of colors in the box and think 30 of these will do the trick.  They do have them in boxes of 50, I think.

While Jerry had his photo group over for their monthly meeting, I watched one of my new DVDS:  Joseph Zbukvic's "Watercolor Impressions" from The Artist's Place (

In the DVD, Joseph paints 3 paintings and one small watercolor sketch - all on site.  We get a painting from a Melbourne harbor, a busy Melbourne street scene, and then he travels to Venice to show us a sketch of a fish market and a painting along the canal. 

As he paints, he talks about his work and his process, and you get to see how he works his paper, paint and brush, with lots of calligraphic lines and squiggles (that he calls the jewelry of the painting).

Joseph lays out his palette, not really concerning himself with specific colors, but knowing that his cool colors are on one side and his warm colors on the opposite side.  He paints according to these questions he asks himself:

1.  Is it dark?  Is it light?
2.  Is it cool?  Is it warm?

He limits his color use and often only uses 3-5 colors in his palette.

The scene shows the harbor where he sat and sketched and then painted.  Not much sunshine there, but he often paints grey scenes that have little bits of color here and there.
He always looks at things he's painting as shapes and he looks at the shapes in terms of tone (what I call value).  He uses Saunders rough 300# watercolor paper, getting some "staccatto" steps in his painting due to the rough texture of the paper.

He almost always adds people in his paintings, moving them where they look the best in the finished painting, not necessarily sticking to what he sees in front of him as he paints.  He prewets some areas and paints some areas wet on dry, using round brushes.  He often tells his students, "Never state.  Always indicate."  Meaning, don't get too caught up in the details - hint at things in the background and use the calligraphic marks that makes your work uniquely your own.  Always keep an eye on the whole painting while working.

Joseph says tone (value) is your number 1 weapon in creating the illusion of depth.

Connect your shapes!  Don't have separate shapes all over the painting and don't fill in every shape completely but leave some whites by using a staccato touch with your brush, dancing over the paper.  Filling everything in is boring.  Using round brushes that are not soft but springy, allows you to "draw" with the brush when it comes down to putting in the "jewelry" of the painting.

Joseph says you should always try to convey the message of the scene.  It doesn't have to be completely accurate so think as you're painting - will that look better if I moved it over there, or put a person here...

He does use white gouache sparingly to bring back whites he's lose.  He's very careful to use it in small areas.

1.  The Melbourne scene as Joseph sketched and painted it.
2.  The closeup showing how he adds people to the scene.
3.  And the final painting. 

This should whet your appetite for more.  The DVD is definitely worth the price and it was delivered very quickly after ordering. 

Joseph offers workshops all over the world - but his workshops sell out quickly!  So check out his website and see if he'll be in your area next year.  I think he'd be amazing as a teacher and wish he lived closer than Melbourne!

(The DVD has a scene in Venice along the canal.  Joseph sets up and then deals with a huge amount of problems - a garbage boat parks in front of his boat he was going to paint, the water is rising and starting to flood the walk where he's set up, the noise of the garbage boat as it continues to stay and load garbage all through the scene - and yet he handles it with great grace and just keeps working, using his experience to be able to make a beautiful painting out of what would have given most of us a case of the weepies where we'd have packed up our things and gone home.)

And maybe this weekend, I'll get to do some painting of my own!

Friday, September 17, 2010


After leaving the town of West Yellowstone early in the morning on our last day touring, we drove until we got into Idaho again and stopped at Yellowstone Bear World.  We were not going to pay and drive around - the guy at the entrance made it sound like:  No stopping, no rolling down your windows, no messing with those rules or we'll kick you out.  However, we stopped at the gift shop before leaving and went in, looked around, found out they had bear cubs in the back along with hot drinks (it was COLD!!!) and restrooms.  So we went behind the gift shop and began looking.  Bear cubs and a petting zoo that looked pretty cool and photo-worthy. 

The male cubs were born in January - so were 8 months' old.  They were big enough to cause problems if you weren't feeding them correctly, grabbing and chewing on your coat or shoes.  I didn't feed them but watched them before and after their feeding for a while, went inside to warm up, and went back out to watch some more.  They were rough with each other, tussling and rolling around but no growling.

These were all male black bear cubs.  Did you know that black bears come in 3 colors - black, brown and cinnamon?  I didn't.

Do not rub their bellies - it's a trick!!

My sister loves bears - so I took a lot of the photos for her.

After we spent a couple of hours there, we did do the drive-through and saw the big, black, male bears and realized why they don't want you to roll down your window or stop more than a second or two - they could come right up to your vehicle and you don't want a big black bear trying to get into your car!!

The wolves were not scary - but there were only 3 of them along the road and this guy decided he might like to bite a tire or two...

But then, a long drive back to Salt Lake City. These are mountains in Utah as we drove along. Back to warmer weather - in the 90'sF again in SLC - and even drier air (ouch, my nose and sinuses!!).

So for this trip we drove miles through parts of Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and spent almost every night somewhere new.  No wonder it felt so good to get back to our own home and sleep in our own bed after 9 days + nights away!


About a week before we left for our trip to Yellowstone, I saw a program about the artist, Thomas Moran.  He travelled to Yellowstone to document, in watercolor sketches, the unbelievable beauty of the region.  Along with photographer, William Henry Jackson, they gave our government documented proof of the wild stories of erupting geysers and pools of gold and blue the early settlers had talked about.  Because of Moran and Jackson, Congress established Yellowstone as the world's first national park in 1872. 

In Mammoth Hot Springs, in the Albright Visitor Center, there is a permanent display of some of Moran's watercolors and Jackson's photographs.  They are displayed in a very dark area (to keep the colors from fading).  I enjoyed seeing the sights as they looked when Moran saw them in 1871-1872 - and then compared those sights with the way they looked as we travelled to some of those same sights.

I picked up a couple of postcards - which were highly saturated - to have a souvenir of his work.  Can you imagine going to some place wild and undocumented and being the one to return with work to show what you've seen?  If I remember the program correctly, he was the first artist to sell a painting to be displayed in the halls of Congress - an oil painting of a waterfall in Yellowstone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Leaving Old Faithful Inn and their bison (yes, he is in the parking lot area) behind, we did more sightseeing of the park, heading north.

Old Faithful Inn was built in the winter of 1903-1904.  The chimney lobby is formed by 500 tons of hand quarried lava block, stands 80 feet high and has 8 fireplaces!  They do things big in the west!

Mammoth Hot Springs (Lower and Upper Terraces) is one of the best examples of travertine-depositing hot springs.  The Shoshone and Bannock tribes collected minerals from MHS for white paint.  The color you see is created by thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms) living in the hot water flows.  The hottest water and heat-loving thermophiles create the colorless and yellow colors while the orange, brown and green thermophiles live in the cooler water.

Living sculpture!

The weather turned colder. Rainy, cloudy skies, colder temperatures had us layering our clothes and hoodies, putting on gloves and hats and spending time warming up in the car in between walks.


Desolate beauty.  The trees leached up the poisonous minerals until they had "bobby-socks" feet, white-washed and pale as winter.  Eventually, wind and snow toppled them.  The landscape was littered with remains which looked like dry, white bones scattered under trees which had yet to fall.  


The Teton Range rises abruptly from the Jackson Hole valley, provoking feelings of insignificance.  I cannot imagine the early settlers in this wild, open country.  It was a beautiful blue sky day without a cloud in the sky - and, yes, the sky is that blue!  The air was clean and dry and about 25F cooler than when we left the heat of Salt Lake City.  We drove around, stopped, parked, walked and took photos here and there.  This is, apparently, the iconic image that transfixed Ansel Adams. 

From sagebrush flats to wet meadows and lakes and ponds, Grand Teton National Park has it all.  It was a beautiful place. 

Along the way we stopped at a place called Mormon Row  where an old farmstead still stood and a bison herd roamed freely.  No fences, no wires, just the herd walking from place to place and people stopping to take photos (from a safe distance away, hopefully).

This guy was on the side of the road and I snapped him as we stopped for several crossing in front of a few cars.  They seem to gentle but occasionally look at you with a beady eye and snort to tell you this is not a petting zoo and don't be stupid enough to think you can get closer to me without a car in between us.

Have you seen Old Faithful erupt?  Apparently, it does so with such regularity the park service posts the times in the Old Faithful Inn.  Dozens of people sit on the balcony facing the geyser and wait, drink in hand, making it a party atmosphere.  That's if you don't want to go ahead and walk the few yards from the hotel to the geyser, sit on the benches there, and wait.

Jerry and I took the long walk along the boardwalk the next morning, after spending the night in the Old Faithful Inn (no t.v., no internet access: it was like all you were supposed to do was walk around the look at geysers and sulfurous pools! ha ha).  A nice, brisk walk with just a few other hardy souls out that morning as we walked past Old Faithful, Castle Geyser, and on to Morning Glory Pool. 

When it was first discovered and documented, Morning Glory Pool was a cobalt blue color - the hottest of the lava/water mixes produce the bluer colors in the pools.  So they called it Morning Glory for what it most resembled.  Since that time (1871), people visiting have thrown coins and other junk in it, clogging the vents and making it look more green in the center and cooling on the outside to an orange and brown color.

A brisk walk back, breakfast at the Inn, and we were on our way through Yellowstone Park up towards the northern entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs.

Come back again to see more photos from the trip until I get back to painting (first the laundry, grocery, house cleaning, shopping for shoes - for a party Saturday, petting the cat, etc.).  But I'm thinking about Nick Simmons and his comment of wanting to see some serious watercolor acreage...couldn't ask for more acreage than what's in some of my Yellowstone photos so maybe that will make it's way onto a large sheet?