Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Power of Line

Since I was a child I have been in love with drawing, both with the looking and doing of it. I don't know why this mysterious dream of line has gripped me for so long. It is in my bones, my cells. A good line can make me light up with excitement and aspiration of connecting reality, imagination, intuition and intellect all into a simple element called line. This fall I began teaching a drawing course for incoming freshmen at a local university. The experience has been one of frustration in part trying to get the students to understand the importance of drawing let alone the fascination and love for it. I am grateful for this experience because it has woke me up yet again from my drawing slumber. It can be difficult to invest one's time in an art world where much of what is sold, marketed and praised are mostly paintings, but I hope that like me after contemplating the below drawings or drawings of your choice we will spend more time with this nurturing Mother of art, drawing. It is hard to put into words why these images touch me so deeply, but I will try to do them justice.
Portrait of Madame d'Haussonville by Ingres
I am in awe of the restraint Ingres had in the drawing of the dress and various background elements so that the strongest emphasis is on the portrait and especially on that haunting gaze.  How with the simplest of line in the gown has he suggested the bulging, pinching, folds and specific anatomical qualities of the elbow, shoulder,forearm and graceful fold of the fingers? In a time when we are obsessed with the microscopic "real" this drawing feels more realistic and alive to me. because of it's omissions and subordination to the crucial. It also shows the humble servant, the artist, holding back on the egoistic need of proving his immense skill in order to honor the subject and the viewer.


 Peter Paul Rubens: Don Diego Messia (1627)

This simple portrait by Rubens may not arrest my attention as quickly as some of his dynamic baroque drawings, but upon longer retrospection with it the very nature of it's understated qualities reveals to me even more what a master of line he was.  I am struck again by the restraint, the putting in only the most important elements in their hierarchical order. The pinpoint focus of the eyes created with the sharpest clarity, the robust thick curls made with variations of thick and heavy; thinner and lighter lines to suggest the light highlighted on their cylindrical forms and the shadow and gravitational pull close to the scalp. I love how he is able then to show us through his line variation the difference between that hair and the thinner, wiry strands of the mustache.  The ghostlike lines of the collar shows the intelligence of the artist who doesn't put everything in with the same treatment therefore equalizing all.


 John Singer Sargent - Study for El Jaleo

Perhaps one of the first "moving pictures" this quick sketch just oozes with raw delicious line. I love in a few minutes or even maybe a few seconds Sargent wrangles on the page all of the essential qualities of this action. He could not use the same quiet line as in the above Ingres drawing to capture this. Through his line we sense the swift swirling, bouncing dress and the arms pushing up and out of the whirling atmosphere as strong thrusting solid forms.  This drawing makes us all want to run out and scribble away speedily hoping to capture the same effect. I will insert a small warning, however, that it was his disciplined study that gave him the capability to have this freedom in this sketch. Every line is knowledge and understanding of how certain lines produce different effects.

The journey is for the sensitive, humble,  patient and  relentless romantic.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Love Affair with Still Lifes

Almost from the time that I started taking art lessons, about 9 years ago, I have had a love affair with the still life genre.  When I first started out learning I would go buy magazines and art books trying to discover what artwork I liked.  Of course I liked any type of genre as long as I thought the work excellent, but as I started to learn how to draw and paint in the classroom, we would often be working from still life arrangements.  The more time I spent painting and drawing still lifes the more I looked at other historical and contemporary still life works and over time it became a true love affair.  I also realized after a few years that there was this attitude, shall we say, towards still lifes....especially "pretty" still lifes.  I think once I even read it was the least respected of all the genres. I am still baffled by that hierarchy since I love it so much. At some of my first student shows I would overhear lots of comments like, "I don't usually like still lifes" or "My wife likes still lifes, but I've never cared for them".  There was also this idea implied that still life painting was sort of a woman's art.  I've never really been the type of person who cares about these sorts of things. I just go on about my way unoffended and happily doing what I love. This week as I was pouring over inspiring still life images a humorous thought struck me that all of the ones I was looking at were male artists.  So here's to the men and women who love still life paintings!  I hope you enjoy these works as much as I do.

Chardin, Jean Baptiste- Simeon
French 1699- 1779

Mortelmans, Frans
Belgium 1865-1936

Carlsen, Soren-Emil
Denmark/American 1853-1932

Pushman, Hovsep
Armenian/American 1877-1966

Leffel, David A.
American 1931- _

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Operation Joy!

Hi Everyone! I wanted to share with you my "Operation Joy" project this month. I have recently been reading Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project, which I highly recommend.  You can also get acquainted with her studies and lectures for free on You Tube to see if you are interested.

I think this is going to be a great month of joy for me.  Don't worry I'm not depressed or anything like that, but I am always looking for ways to make my life better and  trying to discover what might be keeping me from living at my most fulfilled.  There are tons of things that bring me joy every day and trust me I've come a long way in the last 9 years! The biggest decision that has brought me the most joy - and the most struggle- was to make my way as an artist. 

However, I tend to be a real worker bee, a get things done cross off the daily checklist, always planning for the future kind of person.  This is mostly because of the examples I had from my parents, especially my Mother.  She moved from task to task. Which instilled in me a great work ethic and I am forever grateful for that, but as I have become an adult there are times when I feel like my days are flying by and I'm not truly enjoying them - I'm just getting things done.  In growing up and trying to accomplish my goals I have lost some touch with that young girl who was adventurous, a discoverer, an inventor of fantastical make believe play. When we were kids I would come up with an adventure for me and my siblings to do. Something as simple as walking down the train tracks until we reached a pond where we could see turtles and huge sunflowers (something we weren't suppose to do mind you because we lived in a rough neighborhood and my parents were at work).  I would risk getting found out or getting in trouble because darn it doing the same thing as yesterday was just boring.

Anyways, this month I'm trying to be more mindful about my days and not let them slip into the abyss of  "to-dos". This is also a protective device for me creatively because if your creative process gets on the list of to-dos, why bother.   So each week this month, I am focusing on one specific way to incorporate more en-JOY-ment into my daily life.  These are not humongous life altering changes by the way, they are simple bite size additions that pack a punch.  This week my challenge is do something for 30 minutes each day that I don't normally do, that isn't on the to -do list and that won't benefit me in any other way than sheer enjoyment.  For example, yesterday I played the banjo to an online banjo lesson for 30 minutes.   I love the sound of the banjo and I've always wanted to learn and yes I even have a banjo to play, but it just sits there because it isn't on the list of things I must do. So guess what, I played it, had fun and even played it some more that night with my boyfriend. JOY!

What can you do this week to get more joy out of your day?  Life is short right? I'm more afraid of getting to the end of my life having successfully completed daily to-do's without joy and being present, than not getting everything "done".

Also, since I am an are a couple  of my recent paintings completed that really did give me great joy!

"Red Plums and a Moroccan Jar", 16"x20", oil on linen

"Farm Country", 10"x30", oil on linen
I'm pleased to announce that this painting will be exhibited in this years Oil Painters of America's National Salon Juried Exhibition
This years Salon is going to be held at The Castle Gallery of Fine Art in Fort Wayne, IN
It is always an honor for my work to be accepted among so many of the top artists in the country!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Rewards of Stretching

One thing I have learned as an artist and in life in general is that to grow you must stretch yourself.
Stretching contains a duality that is both painful and rewarding. If done well it can be strengthening  and if done poorly can be damaging.   It can be a contradictory, unpredictable and sometimes a confusing experience.  But I think if you stretch a little bit at a time and then a lot when you are feeling brave and resilient, the payoffs can be BIG. 

My strategy is always to do what I can, what feels good and natural for me to do every single day. In other words EASE into it.  Just because it feels easy or natural does not mean that it is not beneficial or productive. However, I do think if this is your mode of operation all the time then you will stagnate and your work will become dull.  This daily action really builds up and gives me the courage and quite frankly the kind of routine boredom that will push me to try new things and take on new challenges.

Goethe said it best, "Action has magic, grace and power in it."

A place to start is identifying things that are easy for you to do. This way you have a list of "go-to" actions when you're just not the mood.  ( Never fall for that in the mood bullshit. Your thoughts and emotions can easily be convinced to get in the mood just by doing. )

Here's my list of things that are easy for me to do:
  • Hop in the car and paint a sunrise or go out and do a plein air painting.
  • Doing paintings on demands for crowds. (nothing will get you over your fear quicker than the demand to help others)
  • Doing any kind of quick sketch or simple painting that I know will require less than 6 hours to complete.
  • Learning from other artists in workshops. This is super enjoyable for me and really recharges my batteries. I am not just meant to be a giver, but also a receiver. I LOVE being a student!

Here is a 60 minute demonstration outdoor landscape painting I did for a workshop.

Just being outside and painting brings me so much joy. I love the spontaneity of the moment, connection to nature and making quick thoughtful painting solutions.
A recent "90 minute Quick Draw" painting done for the Weekend in The West Show in Evergreen, Colorado. This really gets the adrenaline pumping and the desire to satisfy all parties involved prompts me to really focus and push for the best result under pressure.

In a workshop with the great David Leffel in Los Angeles. Love watching this man paint.

Things that stretch me are:

  • Working on portrait or figurative work.
  • Turning those small sketches or plein air paintings into larger works... or doing larger plein air works.
  • Taking my work into photoshop and comparing it to a master work to analyze where I can improve.
  • Changing my approach and finding ways to improve the outcome of my plein air paintings. For example, using a limited palette or purposefully trying out specific compositions suggested in how to books.

This painting started as a plein air sunrise, but I  made some changes to it later in the studio after rigorously comparing one of my paintings to a Dwight Tryon piece and taking notes on things I could improve.
"Malibu Morning", 30"x40", oil on linen
This was enlarged from a plein air study I did last year. Luckily I had taken a video of the scene which I played often while painting to give me a stronger connection again to the place.

"Farm Land" , 10"x30", oil on linen
This is a spot I found after weeks of driving around looking for new painting spots here in Oklahoma. I always love these types of scenes, they just feel like home. I did a couple of smaller plein sketches in different directions of this place. On this day I decided this extreme panoramic format would really capture that wide open, big sky feeling.
"At Her Dressing Table", 30"x24", was my first studio figurative piece.  I have done tons of failed figure paintings in open studio and art class sessions over the last 8 years.  There was a lot of thought and trial and error that went into this and many moments where I thought it wasn't going to make it. One thing I did do to make the stretching a little less difficult for me, was to set her up like one of my still life paintings. So I kind of just saw her as a large vase in a still life. Sounds crazy, but it really helped me not to get to caught up in the attachment to painting a person (which my mind identifies as really really hard!). 
 Happy to say this piece received an Honorable Mention Award at the Oil Painters of America National Show recently in Dallas, TX. 
Hint : Seeeeee....big pay offs for stretching. 

The second category are all things that take more effort on my part and perhaps feel a bit uncomfortable, but it is the combination of these two ingredients: Natural + Stretch that really have improved my work year after year.  Maybe it will work for you too.

So I encourage you to not avoid the difficult tasks, but also have some patience and wisdom to know when and how much to do them. The main thing is you don't want to get so discouraged or overwhelmed that you sink into a week or even more of not creating.

Pace yourself and celebrate your victories!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Black, Orange, Yellow & White

So I've been having fun playing around with just using these 4 colors: Ivory Black, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow and Flake White. Essentially they are the three primaries. Ivory Black is blue, orange is my red and yellow is yellow- ha. I have been looking a lot at the Barbizon painters this month (Corot, Daubigny and Rousseau) and I was amazed at how effective their paintings were even without an array of color.  Nowadays (hee hee), we have soooo many choices when it comes to color - and I love it. I mean I can't imagine a world without Sorolla's cobalt violet  - BUT I think about all of the beautiful works that were created hundreds of years ago like DaVinci, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Velasquez and Titian. In fact I think it was Titian that said all you needed was a red, black, yellow and white to paint.  Also, if you look at some of Sorolla's early academy works the presence of all that fun bold color is not there.  Of course I'm not poo pooing color, but I think there is something to be learned from their use of the limited colors they had - the subtlety and restraint, and also how strong their other skills had to be to carry the painting without the salivation of color. Sometimes, when we have so much readily available we can also lose something special.

  I've always gone back to a limited palette from time time when I feel it's time to strengthen my skills again. I experimented with this particular combo on some of my sunrises.   I wanted to try exploring this limited palette to see if I could get more harmony in my work.  I feel as though it is taking me back to focusing on using temperature changes and how the more de-saturated tones help the saturated colors have stronger effect. I also think that it forces me to focus on other things that need improvement in my work, like composition, shapes and value...once I don't have the distraction of "color matching".

So here are some of the results and I hope you will give it a try as well!  (If you use social media use the #blackandorangepainting so we can follow along). 

I was really amazed how just Ivory Black + White looks so blue among all of the other orange and yellow tones....and vice versa. Here are a couple of examples:

The greens in this one were just made with Ivory Black & Cadmium Yellow

Again the colors that were achievable in this one amazed me too. I love how Cadmium Orange looks so pink with just a little bit of white and it looks purple with a little bit of black and white.
This one was done with a little bit different combo, I just substituted the cadmium orange with Burnt Sienna. The Sienna is transparent and does not look so cupcake pink as the orange. I loved the warmth and luminosity of this one.

On these two I substituted black with Burnt Umber + Cobalt Blue.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Ebb & Flow

April's Mini Painting Giveaway

Winner is Carlos Herrera. Congratulations Carlos!!!

It seems like a daily challenge as an artist to actually make art! Ironic since it is our very job and since we chose the must be in our nature... to make it. Yes?  I am sure that I am not alone in that, however that may be, I seem to have a resistance to actually doing the work.  Some people seem to us to be super human and  above these lowly commoner feelings (wink), but I guarantee you they are not, but maybe they have developed better tools to make the load a little lighter.  I think everyone struggles with this to a certain degree and some wind up paralyzed and like a dusty forgotten book on a shelf, rotting in isolation, never having the chance to fulfill their purpose.  What's underneath this green goblin is of course the usual suspects: fear of failure/rejection and a biological disdain for discomfort.  So how do people move past these issues to become champions, the best in their field or just productive enough to not feel like shit about themselves?  My personal experience has been that I must accept that this is a daily fight and that it is part of being human.  I am not exempt from being human. It's in our nature to have fears, doubts, disappointments and jealousy. 

So the first step, I think, is to show some compassion and understanding for yourself. After all this is the person who is trying to protect you from pain, embarrassment and wants you to fit in so you don't get clobbered by criticism.  It's just trying to do it's job.

Step #2   is while acknowledging this part of yourself and not shaming yourself for it, you must develop a plan to deal with it.  I know that when I give in to this side and don't create, the next day  will be even harder and I walk with a heavier chain of shame and regret. If this is you, and you have 100 links of chain of regret and shame of not creating then I beg you to forgive yourself and give yourself a NEW beginning.

Part of my plan is that I write down what my biggest triggers are for inaction and then I write what I will do when this happens to take action.  So for example,
  • Trigger: Jealousy. 
  • Result: Hopeless and don't want to make art. 
  • Cause: Fear that I am not enough. 
  •  Actions: 1. Find 3 people to compliment and appreciate their efforts. 2. Examine my own history and actions and thank myself for all that I have done. Appreciate the hard work I have put in.

Step #3   Say YES to pain.  One way to build up your pain tolerance is to keep experiencing it. Every time you push through pain and realize that you are not going to die from it, you get a little bit stronger. It doesn't get easier, but you will get stronger. Yes, just accept that it never gets easier.  One way I have integrated this is my life is by taking action immediately. Part of doing the sunrise paintings is that I am immediately dealing with this problem as soon as I wake up.  I don't give myself time to think. I wake up, make coffee, get in the car and go paint. Immediately, I am saying to myself you are a creator and today you will create. 
Self Talk Tactics.  Another thing I like to do is, self talk. So I will literally say, "Let's do it!", "Bring it on!" "Bring on the pain!" "I'm willing to fail!" "I'm ready to suck!". "Let's do it!" "Let's get it started!"  Yes, you feel kind of silly - but it changes your state of mind.  Then, immediately move into action after this.  Sometimes for me, it's actually jumping in the car to do a plein air sketch and setting up a simple still life right away.

Their are periods when the struggle is harder and I find being an artist so hard....then because our bodies and minds have to change...(Enter the song Spinning Wheel....You know the song, what goes up must come down....).......the next period is followed by almost a euphoria or enlightenment of "What was my problem?" This is so easy!  Don't be fooled by the latter, the former will show up again. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, again just saying that this is the natural ebb and flow. Your awareness of that ebb and flow can help you to get through the ebb and enjoy the flow but realizing that the ebb must follow it.

Happy Painting Everyone!!!!!!!  Wishing you all much success!

My favorite books are:

The Art of war
The Art spirit
The Artist's way - Daily
The Tools - by Phil Stutz & Barry Michels

Some of my Take Action paintings while I was in Ebb. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Some of my Favorite Tools

Hey Guys! I just thought I would share some of my favorite tools with you this week.

1. Color Reducer - Value Finder

The first thing I think you have to learn to do either in drawing or painting is understanding value comparison.  This is one tool that is really great for that because it cancels out all of the color into one color, in this case red (sometimes comes in green too). So that you can look at your scene and your painting with it and make your comparisons.  This is just to help you learn to see value instead of color, as some colors can really fool our eye into thinking they are either lighter or darker.

You can purchase this particular one here:
 2. A Value Finder-  I like this one because you can hold the little cut out holes over an object to judge what value it truly is.  Simultaneous contrast is especially something that can make us misjudge a value. For instance when you are staring into a shadow that has a brilliant reflected light, the more you stare at it in that isolated way the brighter and lighter the reflection will look. Always compare it to something in the light to get the true value or brilliance, but if you just can't see it resort to a tool like this to reveal the truth.
You can get it here:

 3.  A Good Ol' Color Wheel - This can help you come up with pleasing color schemes for you painting or can help you if you are struggling with judging your saturation levels or hues.  A lot of times student may resort too much to white to lighten and they lose the brilliance of the color. You can hold up the scale to the object that you are painting and to what you painted to see where you are off.  Also, it's a good idea to go through paintings by artists that you admire and just see what kind of color schemes they are using. A lot of times they are altering reality to fit into a pleasing color strategy. I like this particular color wheel because of the gray overlay and that it gives you some color theory education too!
They have this one here: or if you have a Hobby Lobby they have them there too.
Okay. That's it!  I also want to thank everyone who has been supporting me. All the MINI sales, likes, comments, shares, watching you tube videos and purchasing video lessons at  You all keep me able to live the dream as a full time artist and I am so grateful to you!