Thursday, July 17, 2014

Still Life Painting Workshop

Still life study #1
 8" x 10"
(work in progress)

Still life study #2
12" x 12" (work in progress)

I took another desert detour and landed in Jacksonville, FL painting still life with professional oil painter, Qiang Huang and a great group of artists. The workshop came highly recommended by Janet McGrath, a portrait artist and dear friend, living in Central Florida.  Janet attended his class several years ago and it was something I’ve wanted to do ever since.
Here are the paintings I started on the first and second days. At this point, I consider them to be studies, because there are still issues relating to lighting, color, and edges. During the revision process, the advice I received will be very helpful in (hopefully) making improvements.
The information provided in these three days was incredible. Not to spoil the show, but Qiang covered many concepts, including still-life set up, design, studio lighting, palette colors, painting tools, oil paint properties, surfaces, and being a professional artist, etc. He explained his personal five-step painting approach, while performing live demonstrations and giving individual instructions. His ideas and methods not only apply to still life painting, but to rendering virtually any subject matter.
I try to attend a workshop every several years. It keeps the creativity flowing and I enjoy being a part of the discovery process, while working alongside other artists. The tips are valuable references for the future, whether it is experimenting with a different color, paint brush, or layering technique.
Watching videos is no comparison to receiving this type of onsite coaching and evaluation.
If you live near Jacksonville, Florida or are able to travel distance, take a look at the workshops offered at the Corse Gallery each year.  Eileen Corse, the gallery owner (and fabulous palette knife painter), hosts amazing artists from all over the U.S.  The lighting and atmosphere is most comfortable. This was the third workshop I have attended there and thoroughly enjoyed each experience!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Does Color Equal Light?

Now that the party is over, it’s time to get back to the desert… or at least for a little while

16x12 Oil on linen
While hiking in the base of Bryce Canyon, I spotted this nice sturdy pine tree (again).  I felt like it deserved an array of ornaments, with its nearly perfect shape. Then I began noticing the other triangles surrounding it. There was a similar shape in the large rock framing the tree, and less obvious triangle created by the grassy slope. Still narrower triangles were located in the distance. This may sound a bit odd, but as an observer in a new location, you can’t help what you notice…
This painting will match the others of my southwestern series, but honestly, it is not a favorite. That may be because it lacks a morning or evening light source and strong contrasting values. The mid-day sun exposure removed the chance of a more dramatic shadow below the tree, and the rocks depict an almost evenly lit pattern. The image then becomes one about complementary colors … between the red /green, blue/ orange placement.

When the painting is altered to black and white, it is evident that there is little contrast here, as well...

On the other hand, let's take a look at an earlier painting (and one that I especially like), in its black and white version. If we’re seeing the same thing… this painting has better lighting effects, with and without color.

black & white version of "The Middle Ground" 
What do you think?

Prior to starting the single pine tree painting, I thought color harmony would be enough to satisfy my vision, but in the end, it was a failed attempt. 

So now you might ask… why not just fix it? The answer is simple. I’ve given up trying. It is hard to imagine where shadows would realistically fall or what would happen with the gradation of colors.

This is an example of … Color does not equal light.                                                          

I believe the most critical eye for judging your own artwork should begin with yourself.  It doesn’t matter if the finished piece contains many or none of the elements of so-called “good art”, as long as you are happy with the results.

When your paintings are complete, take a long look at them and determine the things you want to repeat. Is it in the colors, the composition, the infusion of light, or brush strokes? Include those same properties in your future pieces and don’t forget to experiment along the way!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Art Show Update

The response to our portrait show was simply amazing. Friends, family, and members of the community, young and old, arrived in droves. It was evidence that the creation and love of art touches many lives. The paintings will be hanging for another four weeks, so there is still an opportunity to see them in person.
Eve, Nika, Troid

(Nika's beautiful paintings behind us)
But we knew right off the canvas that it was going to be a fantastic night. Prior to show-time, we received a colorful surprise…

A “secret admirer,” whom we soon discovered was Troid’s husband, scheduled a timely arrival of a beautiful bouquet of flowers, along with three rose corsages. The message read, “To three talented ladies”.  What a way to begin!

Within the 2-hour time frame, questions and conversations about the artwork, our processes, and experiences filled the room. The positive energy was contagious.
And of all the special people who attended, one of Nika’s students made a huge impact on me. In his late eighties, Philip decided to learn painting for the first time in his life and had been receiving private lessons from Nika, for several years. He spoke about how much he enjoys creating art and still eagerly awaits her instruction at his home, several times a month. He explained, “Painting has opened my eyes. I observe the world differently now… in the colors around me, and through the light and the shadows. It’s wonderful.”  I could sense the true passion, in his words and expression.

When I asked about his current project, he replied, “It’s a collage. I think it’s a landscape, but I’m not sure.” We both laughed and agreed that his collage was a work in progress…

Philip was one of the last people to leave the show. As he walked slowly and cautiously to the exit door, with a cane to steady him on one side, and friend supporting the other, a thought crossed my mind… You’re never too old to learn something new; you’re never too old to motivate and inspire someone else.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Art Show Time!

If you have followed this blog for a while, you might recall my joining a figure painting/drawing from life group back in October 2012. I have not posted many of these paintings on the home page, but I have completed a portrait or two per month, since then. You can see several of them under the Portraits tab.
Two of my fellow artists and I decided to combine our efforts in organizing this art show, Face Value, featuring portraits and figures. Much of the artwork depicts the models who sat for us during these open studio sessions over the past two years.

We have officially invaded Picture This! Frameshop and Gallery and the artwork is on display. Karen Kearney, the shop owner, has graciously offered this wall space to us for 6 weeks. The show will run through July 11th and features nearly 100 drawings and paintings by Nika Zakharov (art instructor/professional artist) and Troid Brett (student of Nika) and Me (follower of Nika). We figured… Why not?!

The four of us will be there on Friday, June 6, 2014 from 6-8pm with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. Here’s your chance to view our artwork and meet us in person!  

We hope to see you there! 
(don't you just love that palm tree?)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Painting in Southwestern Style

12x16 Oil on Linen
Original & Prints Available

This landscape painting changed quite a bit compared to the previous post. The sky is now a combination of colors, with magenta faintly showing in the background. The mountain formation has a choppy, linear effect, and the direction of the grass gathers at the focal tree. I strategically added bright yellow at the base of the tree, drawing even more attention to it.
Although the painting began about the tree, per se, the real life zig-zagging groves of the mountainside most interested me. I decided to take this linear concept throughout the entire painting, with variations in width and prominence of the brush strokes. It is a more impressionistic painting than the other works currently in this southwestern series.
A few weeks ago, I had a delightful conversation with a talented young art student, who aspires to gain gallery representation in New York City, after completing her BFA. When I asked her plan of action, she explained that her instructor stressed the importance of finding an artistic style. She admitted that would be somewhat of a challenge, given her passion for painting many subjects using different mediums.

For some artists, finding a style comes easily. Others struggle for years, never quite settling on one distinctive look.  The importance of accomplishing this consistent body of work depends upon your goals. First things first, and then all of the rest will follow …

One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time ~ Barbara Walters (

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Composing a Landscape Painting

Work in Progress
Here is my latest work in progress using oils on a linen canvas. The first layer is a base coat of transparent magenta.  I chose magenta over burnt sienna (my other favorite base coat), because I planned to use a more vibrant palette rather than earth tones. At this point, the painting consists of various warm and cool colors, with bold strokes and distinct masses dividing the sky, mountains, and field. Now I will wait for this thicker layer to dry for several days. We’ll see where it goes!

When mapping the composition, I loosely applied the rule of thirds.  As you can see, the tree lies at the intersection of the lower right portion of the canvas, causing it to become the focal point. I could have dropped the horizon line to obtain an even more effective composition, but this would have also decreased the amount of sky space with the elevation of the mountain, if kept proportional. Decisions, decisions... 

Although it is especially helpful when composing landscapes, using the rule of thirds is practical for virtually any subject matter, including portraits, flowers, and still life.
Here’s an excellent 2-minute video, further explaining this concept:

 Credit: Will Kemp/

"Even in front of nature, one must compose" ~ Edgar Degas