Thursday, February 4, 2016

Painting out of My Comfort Zone

Close up at Stage 4 shown below
Pastel, 18"x24"
I have painted many years mostly landscapes with rarely people in them, or without much in the way of man-made objects. The occasional barn or street scenes but mostly the "pure" landscape. Lately I have tried to move a little more out of my comfort zone of trees, rocks and water. And, I have gone to live model sessions to help me do something that is harder for me! This is a good lesson for anyone that is an artist ... do things occasionally that are not what you normally do!

So, I am going to show the progression shots of the one currently on my easel. I have completed two other paintings that are technically not landscapes... where this one is more about the landscape, but with the added element of the canoe and three people in the canoe. I'll show you those other two at the bottom of the post.

First light layer of pastel
Wet with alcohol for under-painting

The first layers of pastel!

Here is how I laid in the first of the composition with a light layer of pastel after I had done a "road map" type of drawing. The road map for me is not a detail drawing, but more placement of the elements in the correct proportions and placement on the surface.

The colors chosen for this first layer help me in my later choices of color and value. I tend to paint rather cool paintings, so it has helped me to use warmer under-paintings... it sparkles through some of the later layers! It gives it life in my view.

The under-painting in alcohol!

I put a small amount of denatured alcohol in a small glass jar and using a soft brush, I liquify the first layer of pastel. As you can see above, I am light-handed with that layer, but it created quite a solid mass of color, rather more opaque.

Beginning to add more pastel on the under-painting
I really didn't want it quite that solid. Some color pigments seem to do this while others will give me a more transparent coverage. I will have to remember the stick I used and decide to try a different one next time... such as something with alizarin crimson ... more transparent.

Choosing Colors!

At this stage, I am deciding to add the colors and values I have in my mind that will help tell the story. I am very lightly adding those most of the time since I love the process of layering in pastel. I like trying about three colors for the sky, which sets the tone of the rest of the painting and maybe I will not go back into the sky except for adjustments as I work on the trees above the bridge.

Refining some of the possible focal point
This stage also helps me determine if I have shapes and sizes that are in the right proportion. I did decide the bridge was a little too thick at the top and adjusted the sides it to a slimmer proportion.

Playing with adding some details!

Adding more pastel and a few details... which helps me decide how many details. What will help and what will hurt! I know at this stage, which is where I stopped for the day, those tree limbs will be too much detail, and will be adjusted as I go along... a little too picky for me!

But, I don't know that until I try it. I love the process of brushing off... which many times is really the effect I was trying to achieve in the first place! It will be fun to enter the studio with fresh eyes today.

Here are two of my latest paintings that were out of what I call my "comfort zone." I guess I mean "out of my comfort zone" to be out of my landscape arena... which is my first love... you know trees, rocks and water! Enjoy ...

"I Like the Sun" Pastel 16"x20"

"My Ride to Work" Pastel 16"x12"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Changing the Focus of a Painting

The Joe-Pye Weed

Here is a pastel painting that I started near the end of 2015 and the focal area of the painting was intended to be the Joe-Pye Weed. I love painting rivers or creeks and rocks so that was why I chose the photo to work from. As I was painting, the tree in the upper slight right was becoming the focal point because of the vivid yellow-green color... where the sunlight was hitting the tree. As I worked on the rocks, they started taking on the role of the "focal point." What gives here? Why can't I stick to the point of the river and rocks?

I set it aside for a few days, and when I came back to the painting, I knew the weeds growing on the sandy spit sticking out from the rocks should be my focal point... those beautiful Joe-Pye Weed flowers, the mass of purple flowers, at the top. No matter what colors and values and temperature I tried, I couldn't make it work for me. Okay, let it sit more. Go on to other paintings.

That painting sat there for a couple of months.... taunting me to do something to take it from soft and quiet, to becoming a "painting." I just didn't know what I wanted ... so my mantra is to "do nothing" if you don't know what to do.

Serendipity happened ... I did a small demonstration painting for a student this past week of a beautiful dogwood tree as it had turned to the ruby reds and rust colors against a backdrop of green... North Georgia mountains greens and early morning atmosphere. After the student left, I had the thought of why not change my "Joe-Pye" painting to have something more concrete like this dogwood color scheme?

Here is the demo painting. Ruby reds, dark burgundy, burnt oranges to play against the greens and blues of early fall. Even the dried grasses were wonderfully warm colors supporting the focal area of the "Ruby Dogwood" trees.

Below is what I transformed the above painting into and I have put the first one next to it so you can see the differences without scrolling back to the top. It is probably not finished even yet, but it is "becoming" something more.

You can even see where I created a different grouping of background trees... by brushing off the pastel which created a soft effect, and then enhancing that with more neutral greens, adding some ruby and burnt oranges, and... my favorite ... sky holes to see through!

I don't give up on a piece when I see it has some wonderful "parts"... but those parts did not make a whole painting to me. It now seems to be getting closer to being a painting... about my feeling for what this scene could become! I still have the Joe-Pye Weed flowers, and maybe more of a story in this painting about how fall progresses.

Take the time to really look at what the painting is becoming, and is it where you want it to be. What is the painting about? Ask yourself important questions. I've been told I need to sit on my stool and think about what I am trying to accomplish. I am doing that more... thank you my friend and mentor, Duane Wakeham!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Double The Fun With Team Teaching?

"Rock Hopscotch" Pastel 11x14

Have you taken a class with two teachers sharing the teaching?

You don't want to miss this information I have for you. Karen Margulis and I will be team-teaching some workshops. Here is how it came about!

I received an e-mail about the 5th Plein Air Convention which will be held April 15-19, 2016, in Tucson, AZ. I went to the first PA Convention in Las Vegas and had a great time. I was intrigued this time because I have been through Tucson and have painted a few paintings from one of the Saguaro Parks. I decided I would try to get a friend or two to consider going also. I also love driving across our Country and stopping along the way to paint and see the sights.

I sent an e-mail to very good friend and previous student, Karen Margulis, to see if she might be interested in a road trip. We enjoy painting together and traveling and spending time learning more about our art. Karen has become quite a star in the pastel world with her paintings and her workshops. I am so proud of her! We will both be attending the International Association of Pastels Societies (IAPS) Convention this June and both of us will be receiving the Master Circle Gold Medallion, a three-inch medallion engraved with our name and the year the honor is bestowed engraved on the back.

How Did This Happen?

Karen was definitely interested, and had an intriguing idea and asked would I be interested in teaching along the way... teaching as a duo! I thought it was a fantastic idea and we are now planning the trip and the workshops.

"Where The Fairies Play" Pastel 18x24"
Karen Margulis

The Benefits of Two!

So you would have two award winning instructors for double the educational value and twice the fun! My expertise and what I am often told is "I want to learn color from you." My teaching style is more by individual thoughts as students ask questions. I have patience and am gentle... but, I ask the hard questions to get inside each student's head to see where they are going.

Karen's strength is organization and step-by-step instruction. Her biggest request and what she focuses on most is how to simplify and paint with more expression. She teaches you to loosen up and add spice to your paintings... one of her favorite topics.

We both like simplifying the plein air process making it less overwhelming and fun.

Where Will These Workshops Be Held?

We are working on details for possible Louisiana and Texas workshops, but would like to hear from you. If you have connections and/or resources to host an April 2016 workshop (from Georgia to Arizona) or would be interested in being added to our interest list, let us know.

You can e-mail me or Karen if you have information, or are interested in signing up. We will be deciding the dates very soon, but don't miss this opportunity to reserve your spot in our special workshop. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Prints? Are they worth doing?

"Dune Shadows" Pastel 8"x10"
My Etsy Shop for Purchases 

Two big questions

1.  Have you ever considered purchasing a print of your favorite artist's painting? 

2.  Would you prefer there to be no prints of an original that you did purchase?

Some of my opinions -- and a few more questions

What do you think about prints of my fine art originals to supplement what I offer? At this time I do have "Fine Art America" as a site that produces "print-on-demand" offers for my originals along with the pricing for the original itself. I have made this a link so you can take a look there also!

One of my galleries was contacted by a company that saw my work on their site and liked what they saw. I was asked if I wanted to talk to this company about producing prints for me. 

I think it could hurt the sale of my originals. I have been of the opinion that there are a very few reasons an artist should produce prints. .... #1 if the artist takes a long time to do an original, which might mean the original is pricey. Making prints of these would make sense. #2 is if the artist is selling most of their originals, then making prints would be a smart thing to do also. So... that is kind of three things: (1) Price of originals is high; (2) long time to produce work / intricate originals; and (3) selling most of their originals! 

What do you think?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Teaching is Fun

Purchase Hot Rose
Acrylic 3"x3"

Having Fun

When I am teaching a student, many times we talk more than we paint... but this is a very good thing. It helps me get inside the head of the student and find out what they are all about! Most teachers don't want to create a student that paints like "the teacher!"


Do I consider this work ... definitely ... but fun also. My brain is constantly thinking, how do I help this student? What can I show them?

I paint with the student, working on something that might be along the lines of what the student is working on. I will set up a still life, or we might work from photographs... of course this is in the studio. If we are painting "plein air" which means "in the open air" ... or you can just call it "painting outdoors" ... we are usually looking at the landscape and choosing what to paint. Vista, or close-up, trees, grass, lakes or streams, etc.!

One Idea For You!

A recent student asked me how to make paint drips or runs on the canvas. So to show her, I created an 8x10 showing her to dip the brush in the paint, apply random strokes, "be happy strokes," onto the canvas. Next, I took the brush with paint still on the tip and lightly dipped it into my clean water. Applying the brush tip to the acrylic on the canvas, I added blobs of water that ran down the canvas. Now... the canvas was on a stand-up easel, but if you are painting flat, you just pick it up and tilt it different ways.

What did I see in these drips? I saw stems and leaves of flowers. The only thing to do was imagine I was looking at roses... this is what I saw in my "mind's eye." The above little "gem" was the next one I did after the original 8x10 showing the student. This one is a 3"x3" acrylic on a small stretched canvas and is offered along with several others, and more to come, in my Etsy shop.

I had about a dozen little 3x3 and 3.5x2.5 canvases taped to a foam core board ... boy was I having fun! And, the student was encouraged to do something a little different!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is your reality?

The Reality in my mind!

The Mood in my mind!

Happiness, for most of us, is a choice. Reality is not. It seems, though, that choosing to be happy ends up changing the reality that we keep track of. (Seth Godin - his newsletter on 1/27/15)

Your mood vs. your reality 

The first image above was the reality I saw when looking at my reference photo! I had changed many elements ... their actual location, or size, or more sand, less sand, more low foliage, etc. So I was already changing the "reality" of the photo. And it was not going in the direction I wanted. So, I put it aside for another day.

The second image was a few months later, when I revisited the unfinished painting... and tried using a new process and creating the mood I felt! I'll talk about the process in another blog post.

It is not exactly what I want, and still rather unfinished. But, it is going in a direction I "feel" rather than sticking too close to the reference photo. I will be sure to show the finished painting ... or at least a finished experiment ... when I get there. There are many little things that are not up to my standard in the composition and design of this piece, but I do believe they are still evolving.

So... I would say, I am choosing to change the reality of this scene to my own view of what I felt when at this location ... my own happiness!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Special Workshop - Florida!

"Ocean View" Oil, 7"x5"
Purchase Painting

My Annual Florida Workshop - 2015!
Pastel, Oil or Acrylic -- Studio or Plein Air
Melbourne/Indialantic, Florida

Feb. 25 - March 1, 2015 -- Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat. and Sunday
$90 per day -- choose your own days! Take three or more, at $10 off per day.

Florida is a special workshop I do each year ---- And you can choose your own days, take one, two, three, four or all five! This is a relatively small class... because of students deciding to paint in the studio (with the doors open to the outside, or outside in the beautiful landscape on this property!

I have done this workshop for 11 years, this would be #12. There are many returning students each year, and several new ones each year! The intention for this workshop is to have each student plan the days they can come -- just one day, two, etc. ... or all five. You can paint in the studio or plein air on the grounds of my host for the workshop. This location is beautiful and is along the intercoastal waterway. I will discuss creating studies, working from photographs as if you were outdoors, doing thumbnails and notans .... among all the other theories you may need to create your own personal vision.... instead of thinking of creating a "painting." This thought process most times takes the pressure off trying too hard! Try it, you'll like it and it might just give you a boost to try more!  And, I do not teach you to paint like me ... we find your vision!

Three Key Benefits of Marsha Savage Workshops

The workshop engages the student to study the key elements of starting a painting in a controlled way. A plan is made, started and keeps the student on track, instead of just "flying by the seat of their pants."

Study with a teacher in a workshop allows students to ask their own questions, but more importantly to see and listen to other students' questions and processes.

Learning to enjoy the journey, not necessarily trying to finish a piece is a key element in my discussions during the whole of the workshop. This also means to follow their own path, taking what they need from the workshop and are capable of at their stage, not just learning to paint in the style of the instructor.

Registration is by e-mailing me for the workshop. I will give the address and a supply list if you need one. I am not a teacher that wants you to go out and buy new supplies if you don't need them! All the classes are kept between 10 - 16 students at most. Many times there are only about 5-6... which is how I am planning my workshops most of the time these days! Take advantage of this more relaxed atmosphere, no pressure, and small group!

For more information about me, my bio and my artist statement look through my web site, , or you can call 770-926-3623 (Smyrna, GA), or e-mail me at marshasavageart @