Choosing background color


I was trying to figure out what the best Canson paper might be for a seascape, rock outcropping painting and decided to see what other pastel artists use.

I found this article which advises the use of warm gray. It depends on the mood you are going for in the painting. In the past, I have toned watercolor paper with cadmium orange and did an abstract in blue – it was striking. Most recently, I have done work on black paper, but I think this next painting calls for a moodier background.

I’m thinking “moon stone “.

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Battle Royale


There had been a class I had taken which had individuals using little squares of construction paper to mass together light, medium and dark values. This exercise was to help us see as artists and be able to create visually interesting paintings. The class was excellent, and I am so thankful that I was able to attend.

There is a lot to consider when creating a painting. I was incredibly intimidated when I decided to retry this path. It’s frustrating and can be a bit harsh if you don’t have a thick skin.

The creative process can be brutal. Winston Churchill, no stranger to battle or painting, called the process of painting a “battle royale”. The battle is between the artist and painting and only one can win.

Take the example of just arranging the three separate values of construction paper mentioned above. Now imagine that you need to consider these things in a painting and you haven’t even gotten to the color yet. Don’t forget about variation within your shapes, the hard and soft edges, and the all-important “glow factor”. Keep all this in mind as you work to strengthen your focal point.

Remember the essence of warm and cool within the colors and shapes of massed values. About those shapes, make sure they are all different. No ice cube trays!

Painting is so difficult it makes you wonder why anyone would want to do it.

A painting a day part 3


This is a follow up post to “A painting a day part 2”

I was researching reference photos from a prior trip to use for a landscape painting after doing still-life for awhile, and was feeling pretty frightened.  Did I even know how to paint atmospheric perspective anymore?  What if it sucked!?

Well, again, I came back to the thought – it’s only paper, it’s only 9×12, it’s just paint.  You can do it over again, it’s small and won’t take up months or even years of your life.

You can do this.

Right. I had my thumbnail sketch (always do one!) so that I would have my main darks outlined.  I reserved my dark shapes throughout the painting.  I started with the hardest, darkest soft pastels on the black Mi-Teintes paper (wrong side).  I layered slowly, using very light pressure.  I took my time.  I wasn’t going to finish this in one day, one week, and may not even do it in a month.  I was learning how to SEE again.

Slowly, it happened.  The painting took form.  I could see it coming into focus with each lightly applied layer.  And finally, I could use the softest pastels for the punch of color in certain areas, while reserving the black of the paper for my darkest areas, and it was done.

Crested Butte

This painting took me a bit longer than a day.  I’m happy with it, and I have learned everything I think I could learn from this painting. Even though I am not officially producing a painting every single day, I am producing a painting as often as I can, and my work is definitely improving because of it.  I used to produce maybe a painting every month or 6.  Now, I am producing around 3 per month.  This is huge because it means I am not avoiding the process of painting.

I feel like I am painting on my own terms and most importantly, without fear.

Sketch for seascape


I did this sketch from a photo taken while my husband and I were on a whale watch tour around Vancouver. I had to minimize the Cascades because they were in the middle of the page. I’m not completely sold on the drawing for a painting.

A painting a day part 2


This post is a continuation of “Challenging Myself to do a painting a day”

I had completed my first painting in one day. I was excited to set up my next still life. My husband, seeing how excited I was had bought me some pretty interesting looking fruit, but it wasn’t ready for prime-time.  I set up a still life with an old copper kettle my husband’s grandfather gave me and put a couple of onions in front.  I used brighter light this time than I had with the “space apple”.  It was magic.

I took many photos and worked from the photos instead of from life because the angles from the photos were not conducive to working from life, and the light was much more extreme.  I would not have been able to see my paper unless I used the photo reference.  I saw a lot more colors in the onions than what I expected to see!

Kettle and Onions

By now, I was getting engrossed in the painting process.  This second painting certainly was not going to take me a day or even a week to complete, but I finished it in much less time than many of my other paintings.  Was I ready for a landscape?

I was still intimidated at the thought of attempting a landscape.  It had been a fairly long hiatus for me.  Still, I was somewhat comforted by the idea that I was working small, on 9×12 paper, and if it went awry, I could start over without having spent months trying to paint a landscape that just would not turn out.  Also, the benefit of working small is that if the painting does work, you have a really great prototype for a much larger painting.  So many benefits to working small!

I had a few reference photos from our trip to Creste Butte over the summer and I began sorting them to see which ones spoke to me.

see the next post “Challenges Resolved”

Challenging Myself to Create a Painting a Day


Periodically, I try to challenge myself to do more, do better, be different, or more creative.  This past year, that took the form of trying to challenge myself to do more painting.

In July 2017, I tried to challenge myself to create 100 paintings or drawings by the end of the year.  Needless to say, that was REALLY unrealistic.  I was trying to go from 0 to 200 mph in 3 seconds.  I needed something else.

Then I rediscovered the #apaintingaday movement. I had heard about it before, but it didn’t seem like a feasible option for me until I looked into it a little bit further. Around Christmas, I did some exploring and found that this movement was flexible in that it is more about doing as many paintings as you can, but that it also gives you the path to achieve a painting a day if that is what you so desire.  Honestly, I had NO CLUE how anyone could create something they would be happy with in a single day and find their work progressing.  That is the ultimate goal, right?

I started with a couple of still life set ups.  The first one was an apple.  I later called it “Space Apple”.  Because.

Anyway, I started to do the painting in pastel, and I was not prepared. I have been drawing since I was a kid, and I have done some fairly complicated still-life paintings in my life.  I was a little out of practice, and wanted to get this painting done in a few hours, but MAN…I had forgotten how much is happening with just an apple!

I did it.  I completed a decent painting, not the best painting, or a masterpiece, not even one that I would sell, but it was one that I could feel like I had accomplished something REAL.  I did a painting in a few hours.  It was such a fantastic feeling.  I wanted MORE.

See the next installment, “More Challenges”

“Windows” a Series of Happy Accidents