Tuesday, May 31, 2011

more dusk

This was another from yesterday's explorations into dusk.  I liked what the acrylics were doing. They keep me away from "chalk." I think that when pastels have a lot of white, they look yucky. Whites need to be saved for highlights. That white is such an "uncolor." I have been working hard to move away from it and make more luminous grays.
Once again I have also come back to the "diva." Where is my real interest? That is where the fun happens, play down the other parts. Equal interest is uninteresting.
Now off to the Mountain Maryland Plein Air!

Monday, May 30, 2011

memory paintings at dusk

How much color can go in a  nightfall painting and still say dusk? Honestly, I am not sure. So I keep experimenting and using my memory, instead of plein air painting. Some consistencies include that after the sun sets the tree edges have a warm color, the ground is cool and the rest of the landscape is much darker.
These are both from my soccer field. We had a thunderstorm during the week and afterwards was glorious. Brilliant color and small puddles of colored water. I let it sit with me for days and finally painted today. The underpaintings were different. The top on has an acrylic underpainting, somthing I decided to do in order to push the intensity. The bottom one is a rubbed in pastel underpainting. Softer.
Always searching...
Now back to cutting boards, preparing frames, and packing all my stuff for a week of plein air painting at the Mountain Maryland Plein Air 2011. Think successful thoughts for me, k?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

fog and use of underpainting

7x8 pastel and watercolor on wallis

When painting fog I can tend to use whimpy colors. I know the fog calms all the colors chroma, but white and colors that tend towards white tend to uninteresting and chalky.
That explains why I began this small roadside study like this.
Knowing also that the color of fog leans cool, I made a warm underpainting to contrast and add a little zing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

scoping the scene

 Next week I will be part of the Mountain Maryland Plein Air Event. I was fortunate to be included two years in a row. Whenever I take part in a "painting competition" like this one, I always either arrive early or go a week or two before to scope out the territory. This time, since I was here last year I decided that I would just make a small "thinking " visit, stay overnight and leave that next day. I was counting on a twilight watch.
Ahhhh, the best laid plans are always in for a surprise. I managed to get one drawing (bottom) then the torrential rains came. Thunder and lightening, sideways rain. I was fortunate that my hotel room faces the town, so I sketched through my rain drenched window (top.) With the torrential rain continuing, I decided to go out to dinner. There's always tomorrow!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


16x 5.5 pastel and watercolor on Uart

Still working with the long vertical, but this time I tried a different ratio. It's almost a one to three, almost. I am playing with the colors that make a deep ceiling of space, which is more challenging when the color is hazy and not as pronounced. I constantly keep in mind the concept of harmonious colors at expense to the "real" colors.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hail to the Heilman (box, that is)

new box with larger pastels

old box with mostly nubs

my box, in action (See the easel attachment)

I have always loved my Heilman backpack pastel box. That box has seen a lot of action from bears in Virginia to peccaries in Costa Rica. It has been around. An indispensable friend would be the best way to describe it.

Recently I have a dilemma and have been wondering what to do. As my plein air pastel paintings become larger and larger I am finding the need to have bigger pastels. Let me explain. Richard has always called my box, a box filled with "nubs." He teases me in a nice kind of way. The size of the pastel did not matter to me before. Smaller pastels meant more choice on location. That was when my average plein air piece was 8x8. So now when I am working in a 18x9 and 20x10 I am seeing why the nubs are a disadvantage. I need more strokes to cover bigger areas and the paintings becomes "choppy."

So I thought about taking the whole box apart and replacing the nubs with larger pieces. But no, I like working with tiny pieces too. That's when I decide that I have so, so many pastels I could easily make up a new box! Did I have time before the plein air event? I would have to have it by Friday.

Marge Heilman to the rescue. I called her in California on Monday afternoon and she said, No problem." She would have it out immediately. Much to my surprise there it was, at more door, at noon today...a mere 48 hours later. WOW!

I just love this box. I love that it just attaches to my tripod and then has an easel arm attachment for the box (see above.) Less to carry. Sturdy and easy to pack. Now I will carry both boxes in my car and chose which one to use depending on the size of the painting!

If you don't have a box, I highly recommend buying this one. This is my third: 2 backpack boxes and 1 large (studio box.) Buy it here.

You can see that this new box is filled with mostly Giraults (my favorites), some Diane Townsend Terrages and a couple Mount Visions, Unisons and Creatacolor. Two rows of neutrals still control the box. There is a small section of "whites" intentionally placed below the darkest blues. This reminds me of the full range of value. These colors are saved for accents or else a painting looks chalky.

That's it for now. Toodles!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

studies for later paintings

18x9 pastel and watercolor

One thing I always do before a plein air competition is scout out the territory. I really don't like to come in cold. So much of painting is about the feel, not just the light and things.
Recently I have really enjoyed the very long vertical, so I plan to do at least one long vertical. Last year I did a couple squares and rectangles from this view. I used those and created a new idea. It's the essence of downtown Cumberland right after sunset. Knowing that I would do this vertical format, I had to a special frame made to accommodate my  possible work. This painting (above) won't count, of course, but it gave me ideas. It's simpler if you just use standard sizing...but oh dear....no I wouldn't want anything simple??? Would I? I also made a small square frame of my favorite gold scoop chops.
Rules for a plein air competition demand that all work must be done on site, during the prescribed times. You get your board/canvases stamped on the beginning day and must use only those for your new work.  Plein air competitions are sort of nerve wracking...that is till you produce the first painting that you like. It's only then you breathe a sigh of relief. "Ah, I am not a total failure and won't embarrass myself!" I say. Normally I am a very positive person, but in these competitions the pressure often makes me feel VERY insignificant...more than usual.

PS Last night while doing my "observation walk" I saw the first firefly of the year!! Yipee, summer is here!

Monday, May 23, 2011

total craziness and mindful

18x9 pastel and watercolor on Uart
An early morning at lake and I was practicing watch, wait and paint. Practicing is the key word. I am still not satisfied..this may be sacrificed before the day's end.
This weekend was nutz and I think it will be crazy for a while and I will survive. (Although you may see more erratic posting...sorry.)
I did manage to paint, but was unsatisfied with those as well.

So I leave you with a piece of a poem by Mary Oliver.

Every day
  I see or hear
        that more or less

kills me
with delight,
    that leaves me
       like a needle

in the haystack
   of light.
It is what I was born for-
      to, look, to listen

This excerpt was taken from the poem called Mindful, from Mary Oliver's book Why I Wake Early. Check it out and enjoy! For months it has been by my bedside, savoring it day by day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

wonder is the key to discovery

about 10x18 pastel on wallis

Wonder is the key to discovery. You can easily see this is true when you watch young children. It is no different for adults.
That brings me to explain why I am vacuuming  old paintings and making nocturnes from  memories long past. It's actually quite exhilerating and freeing to just work on the paper and just see what happens. I choose colors because I like them and I watch to see what happens if I...?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

skies and memory

10x23 pastel and watercolor on Uart
watercolor underpainting
I have learned that sky paintings from memory are much more "real" than the paintings I often do in plein air. Yesterday I walked to the Safeway parking lot in Kensington, bought a Starbucks chai and watched. And what a show it was! During the day I would take time to think about that sky and make a mental picture. Later, when I was finally at the easel this just rolled out of me. The image was firm my mind.
I also know how skies are built, so I began with a simple underpainting of the graduating sky colors. I can easily see this one as a 75"x30" painting. Can you?

This morning I painted outside with dismal result. It was more satisfying to simply finish the memory painting.
I have a plein air event in 2 weeks. Maybe I should jut watch then turn the easel around and paint. Hmmmmm. Maybe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

defintion of twilight

12x24 pastel on uart

Twilight, the moments after the sun has sunk and before the darkness, is my favorite time.
Here are some of its definitions I found in the dictionary.
Twilight is:
1.The diffused light from the sky during the early evening or early morning when the sun is below the horizon and its light is refracted by the earth's atmosphere.
2. A period or condition of decline following growth, glory, or success: in the twilight of his life.
3. A state of ambiguity or obscurity.
Those three definitions are so completely different, but they make me think about what links them and wonder why I have this fascination with this particular time. hmmmmmm. More on this later.

This is the pastel that grew upon the watercolor underpainting. Still it has a limited palette, yet I also used discord colors to add interest. My pastels were from the red/purple and orange/red family with the complement of blue. The discords were blue purple and green. You may see them as a clear hue or they were used to create a neutral.

Monday, May 16, 2011

benefits of a limited palette

12x24 watercolor
The benefits of a limited palette can not be over stated. I at least start out with one in the underpainting. Paint is an easy way to limit your colors yet still make so many more. Pastels are a little trickier. Yes, you can choose a few sticks, but you have still eliminated many many combinations that still fall with the limited palette.
This underpainting has 5 tube colors, cad yellow, cad orange, cerulean, cobalt blue and ultramarine blue (plus white);it is essentially two color families-complementary colors.  It's the set-up: value plus the colors that lie underneath.
So pastellist, have I convinced you to try a paint underpainting?
Tomorrow you will see the pastel portion.

PS I received a wonderful email from a subscriber  today. It made my day! Here is a quote from her email:
"I have over a thousand books about art and painting in particular. Your work is more helpful and interesting than most of these books. You "reveal" many artists' secrets and remind those of us with quite a bit of experience of the things we have forgot. Please do whatever is necessary to get this book one of the books on  my shelves. What you say and illustrate is particularly of great aid for pastellists."
Thank you so much Linda...I don't know about a book. We will just continue this journey together!
PPS This is another memory painting of my field.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

twilight, memory painting

AH, I love painting from memory. The field at twilight made a strong impression. I could wait to paint it. Finally 36 hours later I created this.
With this I  leave you a quote from Whistler,a painting should not be an exact imitation of reality. It should make an effect through color or through the arrangement of areas of color.Memory was his greatest tool.

Friday, May 13, 2011

BFFs- my muse

9x9 pastel and watercolor on Uart
 Do you frequent a few spots repeatedly? I sure do. I can count the spots on one hand. It's almost like these locations become part of me, like a best friend. I no longer question what she is, instead I can listen for nuances. How is her day going? What is she feeling?
This is early morning out at Needwood; this pond is a favorite. She speaks to me and yet I can be totally myself with her.

PS Sorry about the blogger thing that has happened in the last couple of days. It was completely down, no posting, no comments. Thank you to all who sent me emails!!!! I think Blogger is now up!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the baseball field early evening

9x9 pastel and watercolor on Uart
 The tree on the right has been obsessing me, the way it turns a goldish silver in the light is extraordinary. I watch it every night at sunset, just to see that color! I worked on many studies before getting a composition. I wanted it to be different than my usual field compositions so I included the hill going down to the houses. It caught the light just right.  In addition the buttercups have been left there unmowed. Yay!
That decided I packed up my stuff. Since carrying my stuff is still an issue,  I simply did the watercolor underpainting the first time, returning the next night for the pastel. Violet and yellow predominated in the underpainting- simple.
This evening I brought the pastels. I was out there painting during "pick up" adult softball so fly balls  kept coming precariously close to the easel. It added to the drama of the scene.
Planning and patience are becoming a bigger part of my repertoire.  I can see this one growing huge.
PS This is my first painting done (since surgery on January 13th) while standing at the easel.  Yay! It felt so GOOD!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

write the ending of the story..but oops

12x12 oil on board, unfinished

Before you begin you must always write the ending of the story. What do I mean by that, you ask. When visualizing your painting you have to have a goal. Wandering endlessly through the painting may sometimes lead you where you want to go, but most often you will just fritter away your time. The goal is the concept...the idea that began the painting.
Now this said one must always be open to what the painting says. The concept will continue to guide all the choices. Still you must always stand back and look objectively at the painting. Moving forward to that preconceived ending without consideration as to what is already happening in the painting is a fruitless endeavor.
I share this with you because of what has happened as I painted this painting.
It's still unfinished...but I am standing back.

Monday, May 9, 2011

color temperature and fractured color

9x10 pastel and watercolor on Uart
I am trying to get back into my early morning routine. So today (at 6:20am) as I was driving to school I stopped and painted. It was a small soccer field, nothing really amazing , but the light was cool and light.
I once again began my underpainting with just a focus on temperature.  Temperature sets the tone. Next, since I wanted a glow in the sky I fractured the color to make it vibrate. Fracturing color is something so easy to do with pastel. Keep within the same value range and choose different analogous colors, in small part, side by side. Voila! Vibration!
Now back to the studio.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

the canal, early morning and color temperature

There is nothing better than the canal on a warm May morning.
Today I decided to do a full color (somewhat tempered) underpainting and then let loose on the pastel.
As always I began with my focal point, which this time was the place where the sky, the tree branch and the canal meets. I liked the way the leaves of the tree appeared so  cool and the sky warm. Have you ever noticed that determining the temperature and the value, is more important than the color itself? It was hard (but necessary) to pull back color from other areas so that that portion could shine.
I know this one is not finished, even though I worked it to death. Maybe in a day or two I will vacuum off some pastel, fix other parts and begin again...Who knows what might happen?
Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

green and the use of grays

12x12 oil on wood
Needless to say I kept at it with this one. While I liked it in its GREEN state, it was not one I could live with...too electric. It needed soft grays. I am not sure you can tell, but now the sun actually vibrates and I like it more. It has some depth, without it being about space.
The neutrals work as the joiners, the colors that make the other colors come alive.  This painting, one of many  about underpainting and making a glow through simultaneous contrast. You will see more.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

sunrise in the mall parking lot, again

5x7 pastel on twinrocker
In the mall parking lot I once again created a small plein air study of sunrise. Even though the colors include orange it is a more lemon orange countered to violet gray clouds.
Sunset is the opposite the colors are hotter.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

it's about the GREENS

12x12 oil on wood panel

I continue to experiment with underpaintings, texture and color combinations. As I stray from the "real" and move towards the feeling of the glow I am coming upon fascinating (for me) effects of simultaneaous contrast.
This oil (top) was created from an uninspiring plein air pastel (above). I decided in the studio that the concept was about GREEN, that baby soft green only found in the first moments of Spring. The remaining pink petals would need to be ignored. It would also be about the sun through the GREENS.
Next I decided best how to show off those baby GREENS and that decided the underpainting. I must admit this one was fun so far.
The journey continues....till tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

method of underpaintings

1. one color grisaille
2.one color underpainting
3.two color oil underpainting

4.watercolor full color underpainting

5. watercolor full color underpainting

You wonder, how does an underpainting effect the outcome of a painting? First of all the underpainting is the diving board that every other decision jumps off of.  Whether its the calm one color grisaille or the electric magenta and yellow block-in, the underpainting  informs you for each following decision.
 The one color grisaille(numbers 1 and 2)  is a method where you place all your information down first. Gradually you move away deciding which pieces of information needs to be there and which to throw out. In this method, you are not reading off the color, instead it is the value that informs you.
The two color underpainting (number 3) is a kind of blocking in method. Here you choose the  dominant color, first  in sun and then shadow.  Gradually you refine the shapes and colors. Details come last. I feel I resonate to this method more.
In my pastels I do a full color underpaintings (numbers 4 and 5) and play fully off the colors on the paper. The colors chosen are what I see as the "skeleton of the landscape." The skeleton underpaintings work well in plein air.
What's your underpainting method?

Monday, May 2, 2011


24x12 oil on board
This is the painting that I have lovingly labored over for the last 2 months. Finally it is in its resting stage. The grandeur of the sky, and the new beginnings the sunrise offers were my small (heh) goals.
I am learning to paint big on the floor.
More tomorrow from the list.

PS  If anyone knows how to fight barrel distortion in a long photo please let me know.