Monday, January 25, 2010

What a hectic few days!

I will be posting a rather lengthy post in a couple of days -- after I do quite a bit of photographing.

I attended what is called an "unparty" with my students from my night class in Smyrna. I have called it quits with this Smyrna class -- needing to devote more brain power to my studio work and marketing. It was a difficult decision, but . . . we are a family and still get together. We even have a class trip planned in July to the Tetons! Not teaching, but a retreat as equals.

But, the new post will have photos of a "book" the class gave me that was created by several of the students. A handmade book with stamps, photos, quips that I say, etc. It is a real treat. I hope the photos will do justice to what they gave me. I only wish I had a recording of the commentary that went along with showcasing this book while giving it to me at the party.

These students -- all 10 of them -- are so special. Some of them have been taking from me for over 8 years. I kept trying to push them out of the nest (not really), but I did emphasize that they would learn from many different teachers over the course of their art life.

And, though I quit these weekly classes in Smyrna, I have not stopped teaching my workshops. I have also started a new format of teaching for me: Mentoring Mini-Workshops. These mini-workshops are on a Saturday in Woodstock -- only 5 minutes from my home. They are only once per month and each is a 5-hour class devoted to a very specific topic. And, the mentoring part means these students have access to me after the Saturday class to offer advice, critique their homework -- yes, there is homework, and even a 15 minute session of question / answer if they need it. The format is something I wanted to try. I hear many students that don't paint except when they come to class. That is not good as most of you know. So I tried to think of a way they would have to paint without my supervision -- at least close supervision. They must learn to make mistakes and learn from them. Not have me there to tell them what to do. Don't you think?

Anyway, I will be putting the next few blog posts together for you -- hopefully to see what this class gave to me. What a great group of students!

Keep creating!!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Painting With Oil Stain Underpainting

Here is a 24" x 18" Ampersand Pastelbord with the oil stain underpainting technique done on it. This technique is one being talked about by Richard McKinley in his workshops and on the Pastel Journal Pastel Pointers Blog. I love his work and his underpaintings are wonderful even before he adds pastel to them.

This is about the second or third time I have tried this technique and I am not sure I have it right yet. But, even so, I let it dry this time -- where I did not let it get dry enough the first time I did an oil stain underpainting. So, I continued with the pastel painting of a creek scene on top of this underpainting.
The photo on the right is the initial drawing and laying in of the first layers of pastel. I want to keep the lower foreground area in shadow and see if I can keep from "counting" the rocks -- which I mean I don't want to be to literal with all the little rocks. We shall see if I can do that. If not, then I will deal with softening them at the end of the painting. Sometimes that works best for me anyway. I can decide what needs the softer edges and where I can even have a few scattered harder edges. I love this drawing in part. Sometime in the future I hope to be able to incorporate this type of gesture work with only a portion of the piece done in a more finished look.

On the left, I have begun adding the second and third layers of pastel. I am deciding the focal point area will be in the upper third of the painting and will range from the little cascade beside the tree and roots leading up to where the creek disappears around a bend and the light coming around that bend also.
And, above on the right is the last photo for this post -- I have added much more in the way of rocks in the foreground and middle ground. At this point I am also adding the foliage and trying out different colors and temperatures to create the aerial perspective in that foliage area.

Each photo above was taken on a different day -- which means I have had this painting on the easel for four days of work now. I did not get to work on the painting today, but did yesterday and I'll show that photo on the next post. If you have any comments, please post them. I am always interested in what you might have to say. Ask questions if you wish! Happy Painting!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Two More Paintings

Well, I spent all day today in the studio doing the same thing I did yesterday -- working on paintings that were started as a demo in a class. Most of the time my demos only show a student how I would design the surface, what elements I would use from a photo or scene if plein air, and then what I do to get it laid in on the surface. And, sometimes a student will ask a question and I will use the demo to illustrate that point. Many times these are not even worth finishing.

When I come home from a class, I just tuck them in a shelf. I do decide now and then to pull some out to destroy them or see if there is anything that can be salvaged . . . or is there something I can do to have some fun. Something maybe I have been meaning to study and try, so I usually try it out on the demo. What have I got to lose.

So, I had one with these huge rocks in the foreground with much foliage behind it. The scene is from a workshop I gave a year ago in Sapphire Valley, North Carolina. I have a photo of the painting as it was (I forgot and did just a little to one of the rocks before photographing it), with just the initial blocking in. The painting is pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord and it is 14" x 11".

You can see how I decided to continue on the painting. I didn't really change anything, but just brought it up to a finished look. I'm not sure, but I think you can click on the image and a larger one will open. I need to try that and see if it is so. I think it turned out successfully. The only thing I am still a little unsure of is the two smaller trees on the right side. They look a little fake to me and I would prefer if they were less obvious. I'll take another look tomorrow. This painting is actually a little more detailed than most of what I do these days. I have been trying to simplify my paintings, but this one just did not lend itself to that concept for me.

Here is the second painting of the day -- one with a misty morning light. I have had problems in the past with creating the correct value to accomplish a misty look without it looking pasty. So that was my lesson for myself today, trying to keep it looking misty without it looking pasty! I thoroughly enjoyed working on this one today. I think it is working! Yippee! I have also posted a grey scale of this one.

When looking at the photos of the paintings on the computer screen, I can see just a spot or two that needs a little tweaking -- mainly to do with a shape I find a little bothersome.

The scene is from a photograph I took about a year ago when I was teaching a workshop in Ellijay, GA. We were at a planned development called Falling Water. This is one I might just decide to enter into one of my shows coming up. And the painting I posted yesterday called Much Gold -- at least I think that was the name.

What's up for tomorrow? We shall see. Weather is still iffy for driving, which is great and keeps me from thinking of things to do that would interfere with painting in the studio! Yes!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two New Paintings

Here is the first of the two new paintings -- "Much Gold" is what I have given the name to this painting. Sometimes I give one while working on it and then change it later if needed. This painting is pastel and on a piece of Canson Mi Tientes paper and is 16” x 12”. It was started as a demonstration in one of my classes in Smyrna. It has been put away for several months. I decided to take a few of these demos out and see if any were worth continuing on.

This painting only had the initial lay in on the paper. So, I started adding pastel and used a piece of pipe insulation to blend the pastel pigment into the paper. Canson is said not to be lightfast -- meaning that if you put it into the sun, and left it, the color would eventually fade. Many times in the past, I have used some wonderful colors and let some of it show through. That means in time the wonderful color would no longer be part of the painting and it would as if I had used a very light or even whitish paper. So . . . from now on I will use my finger or something to "mush" the pastel into the paper and create a barrier and soft background to do the remaining painting on.

Here you can see what may be the finished piece and also a grey scale of that piece. I say "may be finished" because I like for it to sit and walk by it for a couple of days to see if anything "pops" out at me as needing a minor tweak. I am very pleased with the outcome of this piece. It is 16" by 12" -- but I have measured up from the bottom to where 12" would be if I want to crop it to a square format of 12" by 12". It looks good that way and I know square format paintings are very popular. I'm not sure the top of the background trees and the sky shape is important to the painting. So, I will have to make that decision in a couple of days. What do you think?

Here are two images of the second painting -- it is not quite as successful -- but will sit there and I will look at it as I work on something else and see if I can decide what it really needs.

So, you can probably see why I don't really know if it is quite right yet. The grey scale looks fine, but when I look at the colors, I'm not sure there is harmony in the painting. The image is not quite as good as the original and there is a little more "wheat", "pink", and "ochre" colors in the grasses. The background trees are a hill and there is no sky showing, which is what I wanted, but I am not sure it doesn't just look like a "brick" wall. I added a small amount of texture to the whole background, using a hard "Nupastel" stick in just a slightly darker shade -- hope to make it look like a bank of trees without drawing too much attention to it.

This is a scene I have painted several times before with different colors, time of day, and a slight change of elements . . . there were bee hives between the left most tree and the middle one. Also, there was a small two-track grassy pasture road in the foreground curing around past the last tree and out of the scene. I left both of these elements out. I am trying to learn to simplify scenes somewhat and trying also to quit "decorating" the images in my scenes. This was also a demonstration started in one of my classes in Smyrna and I thought it had good "bones" and was worth trying to make into a finished painting.

I have made a decision that mostly when I paint, to forget the idea that something needs to be painted to frame and take to a gallery or show. I want to take any pressure off the "production" of my work. It should give me more freedom to try things that might not work, brush off more (which I have been doing for awhile anyway), and just generally free me up to just play around trying out new things. I think this will be the only way I can get better and move my art to the next level.

I have another one I was working on that is still too "iffy" to show. I might do that tomorrow. I have asked a friend what she thought and she gave me her issues with it. Now I have to decide if they coincide with mine.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mentoring Mini-Workshops in Woodstock GA

Classes will be held on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. on one Saturday per month. This is a new format for my teaching. Each mini-workshop will focus on a particular aspect of painting theory along with instruction on techniques in pastel, oil or acrylic. Each mini-workshop will be intensive and fun. There will be loads of discussion along with the planning and painting. This is to help students learn how to help themselves learn, critique their own efforts, and allows time between workshops to work on their own.

Sat., January 16 -- Value

Sat., March 13 -- Design and Composition

Sat., April 3 -- Temperature

Sat., May 1 -- Color

The cost is $75 for the 5-hour class. Materials can run anywhere from $40 to $100 depending upon what type of painting medium you use. And, you may need to bring your own easel, but talk to me about this. Painting is from photographs or still life setups. Weather permitting during spring and fall we try to go outside for a class or two for some "plein air" instruction! My classes usually fill up in a hurry, so if you are interested, please e-mail ASAP at ! A $25 deposit is required to assure you a spot in the class, assure me that you are serious, and a supply list will be sent. Normally the deposit is due at least two weeks before the session starts . . . so . . . if you are interested, please e-mail me for an address to send the deposit or discuss questions.

Instruction is appropriate for beginners and advanced students as each student receives individual instruction and critiques. I will also do demonstrations of the theory being discussed each session. I paint in all three mediums, but have focused on teaching pastel for the past several years. My teaching is basic principles of good painting and does apply to all mediums. Technique emphasis is on application of the medium in a way you wish to paint - whether it is realist, abstract, impressionist, or somewhere inbetween! You most likely will not produce a "finished" pretty painting. My emphasis is on starting correctly and not about me painting on your piece. Of course, we never forget to think about drawing and aerial perspective.

There will be a "framing" workshop scheduled at my home -- so if you are interested, please e-mail me. I held one this past fall and it was a huge success and several students that could not attend have asked me to do anther one.

I have been teaching in Smyrna for about eight years, previously at Concord Gallery and for about a year and a half before that at the Mable House located between Smyrna and Mableton, GA. The Concord Gallery closed its doors just before Thanksgiving in 2004, so I have been holding classes with the City of Smyrna at their Community Center located in downtown Smyrna on Atlanta Road. It was time to try a different format for teaching, a little more student friendly, and closer to my home!

E-mail me at to put your name on the list for any session and I will send you a supply list. If you need to discuss anything by phone, I'll send you the phone number by private e-mail. Hope to hear from you!