Thursday, July 2, 2015

Stages of the latest portrait

The days of the week have all run together lately. I had a rush job portrait commission so this piece has been my only focus for the last week. It's now done and in the mail to the client. YES- made the deadline! While I was working I took quick shots with my phone so I could share the progress online. Here are the steps as it went.

 I used a blue Canson Mi-Teintes paper. I know some of the photos look more grey than blue but I did shoot with the natural light from the window in front of my drawing board.

 First layers on skin and shirts.

 I used a variety of browns and golden yellows on his shirt. Building up the skin tones was trickier- using a lot of deco orange, pumpkin and mineral orange and burnt ochre.

 To get the blond hair to be blond and not turn green on this blue paper I had to layer white pencil first to keep the yellow and blue from mixing.

 It took a little while to figure out the reds for the other shirt. What finally worked was using peach and vermillion in the light areas and permanent red for the overall color, tuscan red for the shadows.

Calling it done!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Projects, parties and inspiriation

Sometimes in my commission work I get to switch things up. Instead of doing a beautiful face in colored pencil I just finished a graphite portrait of this lovely home. I really enjoy working in pencil once in a while. It takes me back to focusing on light and dark values. Value is king after all. If you don't have the values down the work won't be successful. I'll be mailing this piece out to the client this week and soon will have another house to do for her and I also have another people portrait to do soon. I love my time at the drawing board!

This week I'm also prepping for the Friday Painting Party. We've been in the middle of a wicked heat wave so my brain went to the beach hoping my body will follow- hence this month's project.....

This is from a photo I took at last year's beach trip. I love to lie under the umbrella and watch these guys skitter across the sand, pecking and poking. To stay updated on Painting Party info please visit my Facebook page. I'm usually posting links to cool artsy stuff I find online too.

The photo below is from the park where I walk in the morning. Because of this very hot weather we've been having I go to the park as early as 6:15 so I can finish my miles before I melt into the concrete. I really don't mind because I love to see the early morning light on the trees. Sometimes I even get to spot an eagle looking for breakfast. This tree is the eagle's favorite look out spot so every time I pass it on my laps around the lake I look up to see if he's sitting up there. This particular morning the orange light on the tree trunk and the moon peeking through the gap made for an interesting shot. You know this is going to show up on a canvas sometime. I might even play with gold leaf on this one- we'll see. I'll share when it gets going.

What's inspiring you lately?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Challenges and getting back to the drawing board

My favorite place to walk in the morning- Tuscawilla Park. This morning there was a breeze, the sun was shining, the crows were squawking and the ducks were mumbling to themselves when I walked by (you know how some words just don't look right when you spell them correctly? I had to look up squawking and it still doesn't look right to me LOL). Anyway.... it felt good to be out again. I did a very slow 2 miles today, much less than and much slower than I usually do but that's ok. 

For the last week and a half I've been fighting off a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. I've had the condition for many years and it's always been very mild- very, VERY fortunate that way. For some reason the first half of this year has been a little different. This is the second really bad flare I've had since the beginning of the year and it's been an extreme challenge. That's never happened before and this one took the wind out of my sails. Not being able to walk pissed me off but even more frustrating was not being able to paint or draw. I would look at the work sitting there- calling my name- the desire was there but the energy and physical ability just wasn't. 

Finally, yesterday, I was recovered enough to get back to the drawing board to work on this commission of Connor. Wow, did that feel good to be back. Got my Netflix shows going (Orange is the New Black) and I was able to hold and work the pencil for a few hours. If I could I would have gotten up and done a happy dance! :D

I'm excited about getting this little guy finished and I have several more commissions lined up. The next one being a house portrait in graphite. That'll be a little change of pace- looking forward to it.

Do any of you out there have similar issues with a chronic condition? I'd love to hear from you. If you're an artist how do you deal with it and your studio time? It can be pretty scary to think about the possibility of not being able to work. An artist friend of mine has had some severe vision problems and she's talked about turning to sculpture if she ever lost her sight. For me the fear is losing the use of my hands so I guess I'd have to come up with some creative way to hold a brush and pencil. We're artists right? We're creative. We can figure out a way.

So for now.... I'm back to work and not going to dwell on the negative possibilities because I can't even imagine a life without painting.

Take care everyone and have a beautiful Sunday.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's that saying? Do as I say........

I am constantly bugging my students about reference photos. Everyone who comes to class hears.... "Do you have your reference picture?" I'm pretty sure they get tired of hearing me ask that question but reference photos are a must. If you're going to paint something that you want to look realistic then you need to have a good reference. There are some folks in the world who think you're only a good artist if you can paint or draw anything out of your head without having to look at any references. I've heard people say this very thing and it's a very big misconception. Even the old masters used references. They might not have had a nifty DSLR camera or a phone that takes pictures but they used other methods including having models pose, setting up still lifes and dioramas in their studios or painting plein air.

So, after all that, after all the years of nagging people for good reference pics, did I take my own advice? I started a portrait commission recently. I got the reference photo via email and then printed it out. It was pretty blurry but I thought I could still work from it. Boy was I wrong. I got the basic shapes down (or so I thought) and proceeded to add color. The longer I worked the harder it became. I just couldn't tell what was going on. If you're working on something like a face you'd better have the detail info. Below is the photo I was trying to work with.

Check out this next photo..... what a difference a few more pixels make. Thankfully my client was able to get me a better image. So that's what this little guy's eyes look like! And there are pineapples on his hat- I had no idea what those orange blobs were.

When I went back to work on the portrait I had to re-draw portions of the hat and re-draw all the facial features. It certainly would have saved me time had I waited for a better picture to start with.

This is the portrait in progress. Lots to do yet and I still have a few adjustments to make on the face but it certainly is a lot easier to work with a good photo reference. Lesson learned: take my own damn advice! :)

Friday, May 15, 2015


So it's a couple of weeks after the workshop and I've been busy getting back into the routine of walking at the park, classes, portrait commissions and landscape painting. In between those things I get to play with little people like these 2 lovely ladies...

I mean, look at those faces- how can I resist? Sometimes I just have to put the brushes down and pick up a puppet or a book and snuggle with little girls on my lap.

Okay, back to art stuff.... while I was at the workshop in Live Oak I was introduced to a new paper (new to me anyway). It's called TerraSkin and one of the ladies taking the class was kind enough to bring a piece of it for me to play with. It intrigued me so when I got home I ordered a pad. What is TerraSkin? It's made from rocks. That alone was enough for me to try it. Here are some basics about it from their website

  • TerraSkin is a combination of mineral powder (>75%) and a small quantity (<25%) of non-toxic resin combined to create an environmentally friendly paper.
  • The production of TerraSkin requires no water, so the TerraSkin papermaking process incurs no water pollutants.
  • Used TerraSkin paper will start to degrade under the proper environmental conditions of high heat, moisture and UV light.
  • Most importantly, in producing TerraSkin, the harvesting of trees is unnecessary, thereby safeguarding the natural environment’s beauty and biodiversity for all living beings.
  • TerraSkin also has beautiful printing capabilities and a unique texture and feel. Because the paper is fiberless, it does not absorb ink like regular paper and also uses less ink than regular paper. Images stay much crisper and cleaner because the ink doesn’t bleed.
  • TerraSkin is water – resistant and inherently strong and durable.

It was originally formulated for commercial uses such as packaging, labels, banners, printing etc.... so there isn't anything about it's use for artists on the website but if you poke around online you can find info and videos about using this stone paper.

Here is my first time playing with TerraSkin.... I wanted to try mixed media with portrait work so I figured this paper would be ideal for it. It's very similar to Yupo paper but has a slight texture where Yupo is very slick. Because of the texture it accepts colored pencil pretty well. You can't build up as many layers as you can on Canson Mi-Teintes or watercolor paper but you can do some layering. I started this one by drawing the face first with colored pencils; I did a few layers of skin tones. Then I started playing with very loose washes of blue watercolor. The paper surface is slightly porous so it absorbs a little of the paint but a lot sits on the surface and takes a while to dry.

When it was dry I started playing with acrylic paint, some right from the tube and some watered down. I also sprayed it with water while the paint was still wet. I scratched into the paint with the handle end of the brush to make some marks and then I kept layering acrylic and watercolor. At one point I splattered the blue and then sprayed it to encourage it run across the face and then let the puddles dry where they were.

The background really looks a mess but it's fun to let loose and experiment. I can always go back into it and paint some more layers over it and change the look completely. I can definitely see playing with these techniques some more. If you work on paper and like playing with mixed media, give this paper a try.

Time to pick up a brush.... 

Monday, May 4, 2015

What's in Live Oak?

When I told someone I was going to do an art workshop in Live Oak they asked.... "there are enough people in Live Oak that would take an art workshop?? There's nothing in Live Oak!" Well, this past weekend I had the pleasure of going to Live Oak to teach a colored pencil portrait workshop and yes, there are artists there. In fact, there are lots of them and with quite a bit of talent! AND.... 6 people from Live Oak have been accepted to the upcoming CPSA International Exhibition in Atlanta this summer so I'd say Live Oak does have something good going on.

What a wonderful group of ladies. They were funny, kind, sweet, generous and like I said - amazingly talented. In fact a few of them had me wondering what in the world they were doing there. I want to take a class from them!

Cathy has such an intuitive way of working where she uses so much unusual color in her portraits. She is an inspiration to me!

Suzanne working on a large portrait of her daughter. I'm hoping she'll send me a photo of the finished piece.

Anda was just whipping out this portrait of her hubby. She's great at capturing light.

Marilyn's portrait of her little great-nephew is going to be a stunner.
 Can't wait to see it when it's finished.

If anyone ever asks you- what's in Live Oak? Tell them about all the fab colored pencil people who live there and tell them to get some fried chicken at the Dixie Grill.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hanging on to winter

Fire and Ice

As I sit in my studio enjoying the air conditioning on a hot, Florida spring day, I'm still enamored with ice. I think I'm trying to hold off the inevitable - VERY hot summer days. This is the third ice painting so far, finished this one yesterday. There's more I want to do in my quest of hanging on to winter but for now I have to set the brushes aside and focus on prepping for a colored pencil portrait workshop I'm doing in Live Oak next week and then I have several portrait commissions to work on. It's good to be busy!

I love to see what other artists are doing. While I've been working at the easel I have my laptop open on the table so I can watch/listen to stuff while I paint. This week I've been re-watching the Work of Art reality show from Bravo. I found them on YouTube. I saw them when they were first aired but it's been a while. I loved watching the process of the artists. My only wish is that Bravo would make more seasons. It's very sad that they stopped after season 2.

So 2 questions for you..... What are you working on? (feel free to share pics) and Do you know of any good documentaries on art- preferably something on contemporary artists?

Back to work...... 
Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Finished the latest ice painting this morning. I'm calling it Frozen, it's 18x18 in size. Next up.... I've been given some photos by one of my students and I can't wait to start the next one. I'm intrigued by these pictures- there are some interesting forms and patterns to play with. We'll see what happens.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ice Painting

Ice Storm

Just thought I'd share the work I'm doing at the moment. I've been pretty busy with Painting Party stuff along with some other projects but I had to try something different. I've been looking for some new inspiration and my daughter sent me some photos that she took up in GA this winter. They had an ice storm up there and she got some fabulous pictures of trees and leaves caught in the ice. I wanted to see how this kind of scene would work with my usual technique of texturing the canvas and using a hot red underpainting. The painting above is the first one and the one below is in progress. They're a lot of fun but definitely a challenge, especially when trying to decide how much of the texture to enhance and how much of the red color to let peek through. Getting a smooth, even line on that texture isn't easy either!

Back to it. Hope you've been having a creative week. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The stages of Pouty Face

Many times when working on a portrait I post pictures of the piece in progress on my Facebook page. I've found that people really love to see the progression and the layers build up. I've noticed that artists and non-artists alike enjoy seeing how it works so here is the progression of colored pencil layers as I was working on the Pouty Face portrait I shared in the last blog post.

Here I've just got the basic outline in and I'm working out my palette while starting to get some darks blocked in.

You can see that little strip of paper on the side- that's where I test my colors. For this portrait I'm working on a dark blue Canson pastel paper. It's actually darker than it looks in the photos. When I took these pics I was just using my phone at the drawing board. The board is right in front of 2 windows so sometimes the colors shift depending on the time of day I took the picture.

So here I'm beginning to build up skin tones. Any time I'm working on colored paper I cut an extra strip of the same color paper to test the pencils on- especially for skin. On this paper I couldn't use any of my usual portrait colors that have yellow in them. You know what happens when you mix yellow and blue..... he didn't need to have green skin.

I used lots of peachy and orangey tones to work the skin. Surprisingly deco orange got used a lot. I hadn't considered it right away but it really worked.

In this pic the lips look a lot more orange than they really were. They were a bit of a challenge though to get them pink enough without them turning purple on the paper.

He's almost done here- just building up the background colors and the red of his shirt. I went back into the eyes to push the values a little more and then back into the hair to fill it out with more strands.

Pouty Face is done and Pouty Face happens to be my youngest grandson. He is quite the character so I'm sure I'll be doing more portraits with his very expressive self.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What have I been doing?

Boy do I have some updating to do!! I've done a lot of work since posting last so I'll share a few pics...

These are brand new landscapes inspired by aerial photos I took as I was flying into Tampa airport. These pieces are very textured. I used Super Heavy Gesso and many layers of drybrushing. Size wise they're 11x14 and 12x12.

This one is the newest tree piece and the largest one I've done- it's 48x36 and it has tons of texture. I covered the entire canvas with layers of tissue paper.

Then..... there's the colored pencil work. I've been doing some commission work and of course doing portraits of my grandbabies. Pouty Face is the one I just finished this past week and I think it's one of my faves. Harlen is such a character I know I'll be doing more with his beautiful face.

This gorgeous animal is Winston and he was a commission piece for a dear friend of mine. He was a real joy to paint and a real challenge too. That hair!!!

Yep, still partying. Friday Painting Parties are still happening. In fact I'm now doing an afternoon session along with the evening. Last month we did a scene from Tuscawilla Park - Ibis Morning, a line up of birds along the waters edge.

This month we're doing a landscape....

Just one more bit of news for now- a show at Gateway Bank! Check this out. The reception is passed but the show is up until May 26th.

There's a sampling of what I've been up to. Leaving for now but I'll be back! I swear! I'll be adding new work to the pages up at the top and I'll post more of the portrait work including photos of the work as it progresses. See you soon.