Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Old Hotel

Since I'm going to be away from my studio for several days, I'm trying to spend creative time in my sketchbook each day. There's a freedom in working this way. Instead of a large, gallery-quality painting and the pressure that goes with it, (pressure I love, by the way..) working in the sketchbook gives me a sense of play that makes these little pieces a joy to make.

In my studio I can usually stage the light for good photos, but I'm improvising today. A quick shot with my cell phone camera, uploaded to my tablet and shared here.  I'm learning to blog on the go!  

I brought my basic supplies along. The bag I keep these in is one of the things I keep an eye on, always aware of where it is in the event we head out someplace at the last minute. 

Today I took the time to finish a drawing I started a few weeks ago. Drawn on location, it still needed color added and a few details put in place. It's funny to me how working on this little piece smoothed out the wrinkles in my spirit and relaxed my shoulders. The need to create things is real. 

The abandoned hotel, car dealer and tiled store fronts in Lordsburg, NM caught my eye one evening while waiting to meet my husband for dinner and I just had to sketch it out. 
This sketchbook is becoming more important to me daily, just like the others do as I begin to fill them up. 

Monday, December 29, 2014


Sometimes I feel like I have two lives: the one that involves things like family, home life, eating, bills, shopping or any of the wonderful or mundane activities that life revolves around, and the life that happens in my studio.  Together these two aspects keep my life balanced. Occasionally though, one overtakes the other and I begin to feel stressed.

The creative needs that drive my studio time don't go away just because daily life has crowded them aside any more than bills or life pressures go away when I'm on a deadline in the studio. Both are real and each needs consideration. However, there are times when this is easier said than done. There are days, weeks or even months when no matter how good my plan is, I lose all control of events. Such is life. 

One way I keep myself balanced when reality runs over me is to read. When I absolutely can't squeeze painting time out of a day, I can read about creative pursuits. I am also beginning to explore digital sketching when riding in the car or waiting for appointments. Both help me keep my perspective. 

Another fan of Danny Gregory, Van Stone has written a good resource for the imagination and creative thought.

Knowing I was headed into a crazy few days this week, I purchased the book, Sketch! The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique and Drawing Daily Life, by France Belleville-Van Stone. The thing that "drew" me to this book was the chapter on digital sketching.  

A digital sketch by the author
The author did this on her iPhone.  Blows my mind!  
A sketch done on my iPad in the car this weekend

While I'll probably never fully get control of life, (Actually, who will? Really...) I can find ways to cope with the crazy times and continue to grow and progress.  If you're looking for a quick read, Sketch! is a fun book and has enough good material to give the mind plenty of scope for thought and planning.  The illustrations are fantastic as well; I totally recommend the book!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Small Cactus

Decided to try a small sized work again.  I over painted it.  Again.  Rats.

I need to get better at doing commissions... they stress me out.  It's easy to tell the difference between the paintings that I do for "me" and the ones I do to try to please someone.  All of you artists out there painting commissions and thriving, I take my hat off to you!

Doing okay at this point...

Right here I began to get too heavy with the blossom areas.   

Red Blossoms
Watercolor on paper
12" x 16"

Working Small

I was asked to paint a small cactus for a Christmas gift this past weekend.  "No sweat," I thought!  HA.  I was wrong.  This has been a tough project and I wish I hadn't used such a dark background.  However, it's finished and here's the result.  

Watercolor on paper
12" x 12"  

I realize from this painting that I like working on large paper; that the big cacti paintings are more dramatic and effective.  While I am not thrilled with this piece, it has given me an idea for a large one.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Little Space in the World

I love to peek into other people's studios and see their processes.  How they use their space is fascinating; kind of like driving through a neighborhood at night and looking into the lighted living rooms.  Artistic voyeurism?

Recently, I gave the studio a good going over, throwing out all of the useless debris of the past 4 semesters.  The walls are empty again and the floor is not a danger to any who dare to enter.  What a relief.

For all of you like-minded folks out there, here's a free peek into my painting studio; nothing fancy, but I love my space.

Other than the bathtub, this is the most inspiring place in my world.

Without North facing windows, I have to adjust the light myself.  I've found the blinds give me a good approximation of the steady North light.  

Notice the essentials closest to where I work: shelves with extra paint, tools and, on the top shelf, the emergency bag of chocolates.  You never know when the need will reach a critical point! I'm ready. 

My husband made my table; it can adjust for the angle I need.  This is the perfect angle for drawing and watercolor painting, and painting I am!  This has been a full and productive week.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Barrel Cactus Redo

I painted the top view of a barrel cactus in October for the show, but was not entirely happy with how it turned out.  You can see the process here:


And here:


The main problem I had with it was my choice to under-paint the fruit area with a strong yellow.  It made it nearly impossible to get the value ranges I wanted in that area.  The whole painting ended up one value, and that's not my idea of good work.  This is the finished piece:

The first version, Crowning Glory, 30" tall by 41.5" wide
This picture was taken right after I finished it; after a few days of drying time, the colors faded a bit and made the painting a bit bleh.

Since I don't have another sheet of paper that large, I am doing the next one on a full sheet of Arches, 22" x 30."  Painting on white paper with no under-layer, I'm finding it easier to get the value ranges I want.  

I got so involved painting that I forgot to get photos of the beginning stages.  I love to lay the colors down beside each other and watch them blend on their own and got carried away!   

The colors I am mixing for this are more vivid, although when I'm closer to the end I'll be able to see if I need to grey them down a bit.  

Beginning to add the ripe fruit colors in the upper right corner

The value ranges are stronger since I'm laying the color down on white paper.  I am already happier with this.  

Progress, so far...

It will be exciting to see what shadows do to make the different areas pop out more.  However, I have a small commission to get done in the next couple of days so this one will have to wait till next week to get finished.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Digital Sketching is Fun

Today I downloaded a drawing app and played with it for a couple of hours. The one I got is Sketchbook Express. I love my iPad mini anyway, but now it's even more fun. It is probably a good thing I didn't have an art app while in school; I'd have been in the back row drawing everything instead of taking notes. Here are some of my digital masterpieces:

My paint box..

With quite a few brush tools and color mixing ability, I can get all kinds of effects. Particularly fun is the ability to lay down both translucent and opaque color together. 

Sugar jar..
I love gesture drawings. Looking at the object while drawing- not the paper- gives the sketches a wonky immediacy that a carefully drafted drawing rarely has. Finishing them with realistic color and shading just gives them more charm, at least to me. 

Living room..
There's a sense when using digital sketching that the drawing is disposable, which somehow makes it easier to let myself explore the possibilities. However, if I want to keep the sketch, the program saves it for me. The best bit?  Many apps for drawing/painting are free. It's a win/win thing!  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Twilight on the Inside Passage

This was fun to paint.  Inspired by a series of photos I took while in Alaska, this is a representation of evenings on the ferry boat and how I felt there.  Now that this one is out of my system, I am in the mood for more.  I just hope the stars all align to keep my life interruption-free for a day or two!

Twilight on the Inside Passage
Watercolor on paper
18" x 24"

Warming Up

Sometimes, when it's been awhile since I painted, I need a warm-up exercise.  Yesterday and today I'm playing with blue hues to capture a memory of the trip we took up the Inside Passage of Alaska this past summer. Hopefully, this'll get me in the groove and ready to get out the big sheets of paper.

Watercolor painting lends itself to getting other jobs done while the washes dry; so yesterday was baking day, too.

I decided to give the paper a light wash of Yellow Ochre to help me capture the twilight mood I wanted.

Getting the clouds in; some soft and some hard edges.  Not sure if I like some of the hard edges, but that's easily fixed when I get close to the end.

I'm using Cerulean, Pthalo and Indigo blues with a tiny touch of Alizarin for the clouds. This is where I left off last night.

This is a no-pressure piece, fun, light and simple- the perfect combination to get me in the swing of being in the studio again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again!

It's been since the middle of October since I have had time to paint.  I've been saying all along that I've been too busy getting an art degree to create much art and it's the truth!   Today I can paint for the joy of it.  I've spent a few days getting the studio excavated and now I'm ready to go again.  

I wanted pictures of the show with people in them to give the scale of the work for my portfolio.  One of these days I'll have time to submit it to galleries! That's my mom, can you tell?

It has taken some days of rest from the push to get papers turned in and finals done to even generate the creative energy to want to paint, but I can feel it creeping into my bones this morning.  This is an exciting time!

Going to hang this in my studio to remind me to keep setting goals

The hardest part of today will be to decide what idea to start with; I have so many ideas jumbled up in my head wanting to find expression.  What a problem to have, huh?  If anybody needs me, I'll be in the studio, practicing my craft.  Happily.  

Me, free as a bird

Monday, December 1, 2014


There is one paper left to write and it is standing between me and a degree!  I have this week to wrap it up and get it submitted, but seem to be having difficulties getting the job done.  You know the drill, most likely.  You know you have a job to do, but end up looking at Facebook, checking email, researching some idea you've been wondering about; sigh…  You'd think I was 8 instead of someone's grandmother.

Trying to find creative inspiration through a sketch or simple painting often helps me begin to work up enthusiasm for a project
Avoidance seems to be my speciality this week.  I'm creatively constipated.  (sorry about the little metaphor here, but it does seem appropriate)  Sometimes I do the same thing when I haven't worked out all of the details of a painting.  I can find so many things to do instead of getting to work!

We are planning a tiny house to build.  This is my way of thinking through the process and of course this morning I had more ideas to add.
So far today I've gone for a nice, brisk walk.  I've worked on an organizational project in my sketchbook (so much more fun than doing it in real life) and had a nice, hot bowl of posole.  Even though I was already full.  Now here I am, posting on my blog.  However, there is a method to my madness here.  If I don't put anything up for a few days, don't worry, I have not been kidnapped.  Neither have I gotten lost amongst the cacti.  I've just run out of excuses, rolled up my sleeves and gotten to work on this dang paper. I will be back.  I will be back with a painting if I have anything to say in the matter.  Have a great week!

Cleaning out closets is way more fun on paper than in the actual closet!  This killed a good hour of my morning. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Self Portrait

Recently, while sorting through boxes I had stored away for several years I came across this lovely gem:

Green Alice
Watercolor on 300 lb. paper
14" x 10"

In a watercolor class I took years ago, we were assigned to sit in front of a mirror and make a funny face, then using a 'gesture drawing' technique, sketch ourselves. (No looking at the paper, just the subject)  After the drawings were done we were assigned to use a color that matched our expressions to paint them.  

For something so simple and silly, this assignment turned out to be one of my favorite pieces that year.  In fact, my children loved it and wanted to try it themselves.  Looking at it again after all this time I am reminded that sometimes the best paintings are those with a simple motif or subject using a limited palette.  

Never underestimate the power of simplicity.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thoughts on College Graduation..

After four and a half years, I am fast approaching the December 12 completion of my Bachelor in Fine Arts degree process.  Every time I stop to think about this, I have a hard time processing the knowledge.  This goal has taken full concentration and effort for so long that the idea of having it behind me gives me a lump in my throat.   Don't misunderstand, I don't tear up because I'll miss it!  To be honest, it is emotional to me because it will be such a relief.

Learning to handle watercolor
When I began, I told myself that each time it got hard I would just ask, "Do I want this badly enough to ___________?"  The answer was always yes, although by this past year the answer has been less enthusiastic!  This goal has cost attending family events and time with my loved ones, enjoying friendships and even income I could have been earning.  An acquaintance once implied that I was going to school for my own entertainment and that it was a selfish thing to do.  However, my sweet husband has been cheering me along, encouraging me when things were difficult and comforting me when missing important things made me sad.  In other words, this has been a major event in my life, filled with doubts at times and discouragement.  I couldn't have done this without someone in my corner.

Trying to find a style, but painting from photographs only
As I look at this process I've been through, I see it through my art.  Of course, I take a visual view of it!  I've learned so much about myself and motives and know that this has been worth the effort.  I am a stronger, more able woman coming out this end of the process- in addition to being a better painter.

Learning to paint from life, including imagining parts of it instead of copying only what I saw

This painting was pivotal in my development.  For the first time, I 'got' the concept of painting from my heart rather than just my eyes.  This came straight out of my creativity and nearly knocked me over; suddenly I saw my potential and a different way to create!
The inspiration for this piece was simply a desire to play with light and shadows. It was painted with pure joy!  

The largest painting I've ever done in watercolor, this piece was liberating to create as I have learned I can paint how I want something to appear instead of being a slave to total reality.  

Looking back only makes me anxious to move into what lies ahead.  The possibilities are only limited by my own shortness of sight.  Here goes Meemaw, bravely into the future!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Green, Green, the Grass is Green..

Or is it?

Recently I saw a group of pictures in which the painter had used green colors straight from the tube for his vegetation.  The work was actually charming and the artist shows promise, but one of the marks of a beginning painter is tube-greens.  I have  friend who often judges paintings at our state fair and he can spot a green straight out of the tube from a mile away.  Really!  

As children, many of us got beautiful new boxes of crayons with their sharp tips and bright colors now and then.  I don't know about you, but the variations of green were wasted on me.  For trees, grass, bushes and leaves in my pictures, I wanted the truest, brightest green in the box.  I think when we approach painting, at times we  automatically think vegetation = green.  Period.  As we learn to "see" the world through painterly eyes however, we begin to understand the subtle shades of green, passing into grays or blues and even with oranges or reds beneath them.

One of the best ways I know to begin to understand the amazing world of greens is to mix them myself.  When one practices mixing colors, the outcome is an increase in the ability to see the world around us in its amazing technicolor wonder.
Using colors found in most painters boxes, I made 132 different mixtures of green.  Some, like Pthalo Blue are strong and make bright colors, while Cobalt or Cerulean are weak mixers and make more grayed greens.  

Most painters have a variety of blues and yellows on their palettes.  What we often don't know, or forget, is that green shades don't always have to be mixed from just yellow and blue.  By mixing each of our yellows with every other color in the palette in turn, we can find many ways to express green.  Even if it doesn't look like "green" on the paper, when applied to a tree or bush shape, or even dropped into a wash as a grassy area, the viewer will still see it as green.  A variety of greens in one piece can give a texture one green hue alone can't match.

Gunnar Widforss is one of my all time favorite watercolor landscape artists.  He is a fabulous example of a painter who used subtle greens to dramatic effect.  
A mixed green will always add a richness to any genre of painting that one straight out of the tube cannot.

Maynard Dixon's paintings of the West are stunning to me.  His ability to reduce fussy detail to simple shapes so effectively is a skill I am trying to incorporate as I learn and practice landscapes.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I struggle with landscapes.  As I work to develop a landscape style, I look to painters like Widforss and Dixon for knowledge and inspiration, particularly in the ways they handled vegetation and green passages in their work.   

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winsor Newton Watercolor Markers?

This week I've been taking a look at Winsor Newton's new watercolor markers.  Taking a look because I haven't gotten my hands on some to try them out. Yet.  However, I know what I'll be hoping is in my stocking this year.  Following are some links that I've been looking at today.  

A simple demonstration with a look basic watersoluability (is that a word?):


A good look at all of the colors:


A very nice review of them from H. Locke's blog post on Wordpress:


If anyone out there has tried these babies, I'd love to know about your experience and to see what you've produced with them.

(Image from Winsor Newton's website)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Art Journey America; Landscapes

Whenever I have taken an art class and all of the final work is set out for critique, I never fail to be amazed by all of the different styles lined up for review.  When each student draws or paints the same thing, each piece is still very different, showing the unique styles of the artists who made the works.  After a few classes, one can look at the work being produced and pick out who made what pieces as personal styles become more apparent. To me, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the world of fine art.

My worn copy; I think even the cover of this book is enticing
A few months ago I bought a book entitled, Art Journey America; Landscapes, 89 Painters' Perspectives.  This book can hold my attention for hours.  Unlike books that one reads then puts away, consumed and finished, this book can be perused over and over.  Looking at the subject of landscape painting and the endless style possibilities within the genre,  paired with the variety of materials and interpretations contained in this book is, to me, very instructive. Not to mention a sensual treat!

Each page has a short biography and interview with the artist featured and one representation of that artist's work.  How did they choose just one painting to represent themselves?  I  often get no further than the next page before I'm off to the computer to research an artist and look at his or her other works.  
If you are looking for inspiration to get your creativity jump-started or ideas of how to handle a passage of your own work that has you stumped, consider investing in this book.  If I ever turn out a landscape that reaches the mark, it will be, in part at least, because of what I learned from these artists.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Merriam Webster Dictionary describes nostalgia as "a feeling of homesickness, or a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition."  In my wanderings, I usually have to stop the car and take pictures of old, run-down places.  I don't know why, but there is a longing in me to create art that reflects the emotions these old places stir.  I haven't had time to experiment much with paintings that would be classified as nostalgic, but I have photos in a file that I can look at to inspire me when the time is right.  

I love history. My preferred method of experiencing it is by visiting historic places and seeing with my own eyes the things that have been left-over from another time, then going home and reading about them.  Luckily, we live in the southwest and have easy access to historic places from ancient Native American ruins to remnants of the old west of the 1800's.  

Today, the wind is blowing cold and the light outside is bright and giving the air a clarity that only comes with Fall.  Days like this fill me with nostalgia.  Here are some of the photos from my collection. They are my work; if you'd like to use any of them for a project of your own, feel free but please give me credit for the ideas.  

Old California Spanish Mission. I love entryways and windows, they are so filled with symbolism and possibilities. 

Mesa Verde in Colorado

Doorway of a Spanish Mission in California

Cemetery in Mogollon, NM, a mining ghost town nestled in a canyon and repopulated by a few hardy souls in recent years

Typical 1800's house, adobe and hand-made windows, Lake Valley, NM

Lake Valley, NM

Lake Valley, NM church, adobe brick and plaster

Lake Valley, NM, mining equipment from the Bridal Chamber Mine

Adobe ruin, New Mexico