Sitting on an ice cold rock to paint a picture has to be true dedication. My paints were plopped on the ground beside me along with a small water container. We were above 9000 ft. elevation, and it was October and COLD. Very cold. The mittens on my hands had a place for my thumb and a finger to poke out to hold the cold paint brush.

After completing this small, glazed painting in about 3 hours time, I went on to another one. The second painting, which I will post if I ever find it again, had a beautiful pattern of ice crystals formed in the wash of the sky. The wet paint actually froze before it dried. Nothing like a little help from nature to make painting more challenging. I loved the crystallized touch and turned that painting into an African scene with palm trees (the ice crystals) and a giraffe.

This all happened at a wildlife workshop in the early 90's, and our instructor had dared us to go out into the field that day and paint. Most people from the workshop went on a gambling excursion, but about five of us took the dare - and FROZE. We were out from early morning until almost dark... but we were in the Rockies, in a beautiful area to paint. It was glorious and so, so, so cold. I remember being miserably cold and totally happy, too. And I'll never forget it.


"SOLITUDE" Gouache and Transparent Watercolor on Bristol Board 12 x 9"



Elegant swans always catch my eye. They are enchanting and incredibly graceful creatures and show up in so many areas of the world.

This painting is from the long ago, probably painted in the early '90's. Wonder if he is the rejected suitor?

"SWAN SONG" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 18 x 14"



Time with family is so important to me during the holidays. Our four grandkids have been with us since Christmas night, and on Tuesday, I'll see both of my brothers and their families.

This painting of my brother and sister-in-law's dogs was done many years ago. I remember being amazed that when I painted the values darker in that grayish fur on little Sarah, that she actually looked real. This may have been one of the first dog portraits I ever painted, and I learned a lot about paying attention to edges.

We'll be painting this next week, and I'll get to meet my youngest niece, too. There's a package for her in my suitcase - new paints and brushes. Can't wait to enjoy watching her explore the glorious experiences art brings.

"DOOGIE AND SARAH" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 24 x 18" COLLECTED



The true Gift of Christmas brings peace, love, and life to everyone who is willing to receive it.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." from John, Chapter One
"CHRISTMAS" Transparent Watercolor on YUPO 9 x 9"



It's simply incredible that it was FORTY YEARS ago that a space craft from Earth made the first orbit around the moon on Christmas Eve. Are you old enough to remember? While orbiting the moon, the crew read verses from Genesis, which were broadcast live. At that point, it was the MOST watched show ever on TV.

This painting isn't forty years old, but it is from the archives. Wonder what will be happening forty years from today on Earth. I wonder.

December 24, 1968 - William Anders:
"For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you".

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."

Jim Lovell:
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Frank Borman:
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good."

Borman then added, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

"FULL MOON TONIGHT" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 21 x 14"



Decorating a Christmas tree always brings back a lot of memories. This year we bought a 'new' tree, the first artificial tree my husband has actually ever purchased. (For years, he grew and sold real live Christmas trees.) My husband read this a while ago and asked that I mention that we also always buy a live tree for the deck outside our living room window. The birds find shelter there, and we enjoy the birds and the tree until early spring. He wants all to know that he hasn't abandoned his past.

Our tree is decorated with lots of artsy ornaments as well as bird related ornaments. Many are gifts from friends and student artists. Hope you enjoy seeing them.



Time REALLY does fly... and very fast. Twenty years ago when this was painted, our two sons were in high school, and we still lived in our hometown. We'd probably completed a couple of months of watercolor classes when I painted this holly twig during our Wednesday night class.

Suzanne Mayes Wentzell was my first watercolor teacher, but I think Shirley Quakenbush was the teacher during this class when she taught us how to glaze using flowers as an example.

Hope your holidays are full of love and joy.

"SPRIG" Transparent Watercolor on CP Crescent Watercolor Board 12 x 12" COLLECTED



Some adjustments were made to this painting Thursday evening. The tall pillars, as well as some of the water areas, were darkened. More shadows and cracks were added to the building because I just didn't want to stop working on this painting. Some small dots of Cobalt Teal Blue were spotted here and there to add interest when viewed up close. The balcony grill work was adjusted, too, as well as that overhang above it. Gotta call it quits on this for sure or I'll fall back into my old ways of overkill. Can you see the slight differences the minor changes made? It's done.



Recently something unexpected has happened in my painting process. In times past, once a painting was about half done, I 'd often lose interest in painting it and have to push myself to stay with it. Occasionally I'd wish someone else would just complete the picture for me.

Lately I've discovered that I actually don't want a painting to be finished because I'll miss working on it. Is there such a thing an '''''empty nest syndrome''''' for painters? This post is one of the paintings that I didn't want to 'grow up and leave home.'

For the past several months, the entire process of planning, painting, and adjusting paintings has been invigorating and exciting. It's fun to see how the next part will look, to find out what would happen if... and I've certainly not been in my usual rush to finish works in progress. Even though I presently have a couple more paintings already in the planning and painting stages, I'll miss not getting to 'visit my brush' on the one that just got completed. Is that weird or not?

"SERENADE" Fluid Acrylics on 140#HP Arches 30 x 19"



Wednesday's class last week included a holiday luncheon at a nearby restaurant overlooking the lake. But before we left for lunch, we had time for a demo as well as critique time of works some of the artists had brought in from their studios.

This photo reference from our trip to Italy has several minor details changed to help improve the composition. The chimney was reversed and moved to the left to make the division of space more comfortable and the perspective seem correct. That roof line has been straightened, too, at the top and bottom edges. Click on each picture to see the details if you like.

There's 'junk' in the photo on the center right that's been turned into building surface, and the picture is narrower, with measurements that follow the golden mean and Phi.

Notice the distant hills and how that horizon line has been adjusted, too, to bring more focus on the buildings. Although I loved the palm fronds on the upper left, they were changed to repeat the look of the foliage on the right so they wouldn't draw too much attention. The long lines of the fronds seem to steal focus from the roof tiles.

All the planning ahead of time used to bother me because I wasn't painting. Now I relish the planning, organizing, and rearranging of the composition and enjoy having several future paintings in the planning stages.

It's rewarding to take a decent photo and try to make it better before painting the scene. (But it didn't used to be...it was a struggle for a long time.) Plus, all that time spent studying the photo and drawing helps me know the subject better. 'They say' the better you know something, the better you can paint it. They may be right.

This painting took less than two hours to actually paint. However, the planning and drawing involved at least six hours, plus it took a long while to fly to Italy to get that picture!

"SMELL THE CAPPUCCINO?" Transparent Watercolor on 140# CP Arches 13 x 19.5"



Here's an update and hopefully an improvement over the pomegranates that I posted on the 4th. Rather than leave the lighter ones as they were, Rhonda suggested darkening them - so they didn't look so much like onions. Her suggestion worked. Thank you, Rhonda.

Using a blind contour drawing as a springboard for a painting allows a lot of freedom for an artist. Almost anything goes, and imagination can have so much fun discovering what the painting will be.

Instead of using fluid acrylics to rework these, I added transparent watercolor over the existing acrylics. In case it didn't look so good, it could be wiped off quickly. Hope they don't resemble red onions ..... well, maybe a little ..... or a lot?

They've been renamed, too. Now they're "THREE OF A KIND."



My mom purchased some oil paints for me when I was in sixth grade. She was the best encourager a young artist could've ever had.

Later while I was in college, acrylics became the 'new' medium to use instead of oils. Once our two boys were nearly out of high school, I made time again to paint, and took off with the latest rage of watercolor in the late 80's.
Last summer oils became a challenge to relearn. Posted here is my reference photo followed by a two minute oil sketch, followed by a quick study, both on paper. The last post shows the final study. None are finished paintings.

As usual, it's the shapes in the photo that fascinate me, like the shapes of the hands against the dark shape of the coats. In my classes we've been discussing which of the seven elements of design each of us are most drawn to when we create art.

One of the artists in class is most driven by the element of direction, one by size, and many by color. Several lean toward the element of texture. One woman loves scale or size as a motivating element.
I am certainly a value painter. Contrast of values attracts me the most for sure, then shapes, then textures. Fourth on my list is color, with direction and line next, and size or scale being the least important to me.
Progress for the new year may mean dragging those oils back out. I do love the smell, the creamy consistency of the paint, the way the brush springs back against the canvas.....

"TEA TIME IN RYE" Oil on unstretched canvas 12 x 9"



Expression in art can have many meanings and forms for an artist. Today's demo was a quickly painted landscape using juicy watercolors, and I actually didn't want to leave the painting to go to a great holiday gathering of friends. Of course, we had a really good time together, and I was so glad I went.

This little oil painting, also from a summer ago, expressed my immediate impression of two people communicating. I realized during this morning's demo that when I'm forced to paint fast like this, I'm may be more likely to capture the essence of the message. Maybe I need a timer on me once in a while to speed me up, to help me capture that sense of moment that adds life to a painting.

This oil is a study of basic shapes for sure, with value and contrast being emphasized. Though the proportions could be more accurate, it's still something I could work with for a larger painting later.

Tomorrow's day includes working with fluid acrylics again. Painting with them seems to allow more freedom in my approach, and I like that. I've worked on one fluid acrylic painting for a couple of weeks now and really don't want it to end. The process of building the painting is a lot of fun so I'm sure that I won't use the timer to speed me up. It'll be posted as soon as it's done, as well as today's demo. Can't wait to show you.

"BEFORE CLASS STARTS" Oil on unstretched canvas 9 x 14"



This unique window was near our hotel in Venice. Actually, we stayed in an updated old monastery, not hotel, in Academia, the artsy area of Venice. The place at one time was a home for orphaned boys, and they've remodeled it to be graciously comfortable with some very up to date features.

These ancient walls have been repaired, plastered, bricked over, and patched as much as possible, and that look fascinates me immensely. The textures of the structures there are beyond belief. And the stories those walls could tell when they learn to talk.....

The painting is done in a trasnsparent watercolor style using fluid acrylics. Acrylic ink was used with a nib to help create some of the cracks in the walls, too. It's a painting I really didn't want to finish because it was so much fun to do.

"PRAYER BOX" Fluid Acrylics on 140#HP Arches 15 x 21" COLLECTED



Here's another oil study done on canvas last year. Strong shapes appeal to me, and as our model switched seats after about a ten minute pose, it was easy to add her new pose next to the old one, creating some dynamics to the study.

Though this painting is small, it was an great adventure in shape and value, with some play on texture. Color appears to be important in this study, but the strength of the painting comes from the the over lapping and interlocking shapes of different values.

This is another painting study that needs to be developed bigger, either in oil or fluid acrylics. That will have to wait until after the holidays, though. I enjoy the apparent sense of intimacy shared by the 'two' women.

"GIRL TALK" Oil on unstretched canvas 9 x 12"



Blind contour drawings usually result in some pretty neat line work drawings. I love to do them, and in class, challenged each artist to 'draw' the still life in front of them without looking at the paper as they drew.

After making three or four drawings, we choose the ones we liked best and retraced parts or all of them onto watercolor paper, using pen and ink. After lightly splattering the paper with miskit, I popped open some fluid acrylics and took off painting as loose and free as I could to capture these pomegranates.

They tend to show a strong resemblance to onions, (remember it was a BLIND contour drawing to start with,) but I sure had fun. After class, I peeled my 'first ever' pomegranate and enjoyed the delicious seeds.

"POMEGRANATES" Fluid Acrylics on 140#HP Arches 15 x 9"



One beautiful day this past September, we'd finished sightseeing on a small island in northern Italy and had about a half an hour to wait before our ride arrived. This older gentleman waited, too, as he leaned into his cane, and I saw a painting waiting to emerge. After a very quick one minute gesture sketch, my brushes were ready to fly.

Plopping some color on the postcard sized paper, I worked on what had first drawn my eye - his demeanor. I'd barely roughed in his clothes and skin shapes and glanced up to see what to adjust. At that moment, he stood up and walked away. WAIT!

So much for painting plein aire. The rest of the painting took about twenty five minutes with a little tweaking added later. One of my cousins has this at her house now, and I must go visit soon.

"LOST IN THOUGHT" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Fabriano Artistico 7 x 5" COLLECTED



My passion for the past twenty years has been to create art while discovering all I can about watercolor. Acrylics, Acrylic Inks, Fluid Acrylics, Gouache, Collage, as well as other media, have been tossed into the mix as I journeyed along the art trail.

This painting is an oil, just regular old oil paints. It's just a small study from life which may be turned into a watermedia painting in the future.

The oils were fun to work with - for about a week. Clean up's no fun, though. I'm still in love with what can be said with watermedia. I love the diversity of watermedia, the textures, the ease of use, the challenges, the vibrancy...

"SHARING" Oil on unstretched canvas 10 x 7"



Imagine being a pilgrim or Indian about 300 years ago and how you might have communicated with others. Fast forward to today. Now we can go to many, many places all over the world to communicate, 'visit,' and explore, without ever leaving our computer chair. The pilgrims and Indians could never have imagined any of this.

Here in this country, we set aside one special day to be thankful for our abundance and blessings. This year one of the things that stands out is knowing an extended community here on the Internet via blogs.

I'm very grateful for all the places to discover, to be able to find such beautiful art in a variety of forms, and to 'meet' the diverse artists from so many artistic fields. I'm grateful that you are here today visiting this blog. Thanks for enriching my life by sharing it via art.

I appreciate the encouraging comments and helpful suggestions that many of you post here, and wish for all of you God's bounteous blessings on your life and your creativity. Happy Thanksgiving. (And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Carl, on Thanksgiving day.)

"HARVESTED" Transparent Watercolor on Crescent Board 22 x 12"



My childhood memories of Thanksgiving include Grandma' s Waldorf Salad, which she sometimes called it Waldorf Apple Salad. This year I'm making it (for the first time) for our Thanksgiving at our son and daughter-in-law's house. Just in case you are interested in the very best Waldorf Salad recipe ever, here it is.

2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
2 eggs beaten
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons Salad oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons orange juice
1 cup pineapple juice

Combine sugar, & flour, then add rest of ingredients above. Cook until thick. Cool till COLD. Add ½ cup thick whipping cream. Mix in diced apples (NOT Red Delicious - Granny Smiths are good), 2/3 can grated pineapple, 2/3 cup chopped pecans, marshmallow miniatures. Add chopped celery and halved red seedless grapes. Sometimes add mandarin oranges. (I don't remember these in the salad, but she had them written down in her special cookbook.) She may have made this the night before to let the flavors blend.

I can vividly remember Grandma cutting each grape in half to remove the seeds, because back in the 50's, there were no seedless grapes. It was my favorite holiday dish ever. She did make a great oyster dressing, too.....and homemade pies, and cookies, and cakes...great memories.

"OUT ON A LIMB" Fluid Acrylics on 140#CP Arches 24 x 18"



The six of us who went to Italy are part of Wednesday morning's class. Before we left, I gave each person in class a package of watercolor trading cards to paint. Everyone was to exchange cards when we had our Italian celebration upon our return. The actual size of each card is only about 2 1/4 inches by 3 1/2 inches.

The posts here show off the creativity and diversity in the class, as each person selected their own theme or subjects for their cards. Almost everyone in class completed 14 cards to exchange, which was a considerable accomplishment. There are a couple of artists who are presently finishing their 14 cards to hand out next month at our Christmas party. Some of the other classes would like to have a shot at making trading cards to share, too, so we may attempt that after the holidays.

It was fun to guess which cards each class member painted. Can anyone guess which row of cards I painted? Can you tell which rows of cards have been painted by the people who went to Italy? (Two of the Italian travelers are in the process of creating their cards, so they're only 4 rows of Italy travelers' cards shown.)

Mary Jane Noe also has a row of beautifully painted cards that you may be able to recognize after looking at her work on her blog - see side bar. I keep hounding the others to start an art blog. Maybe they will soon. Click on each set of images to enlarge. (Thanks, Rhonda and Dawn, for a heads up about how to be sure they enlarge.)



Painting right on the spot outdoors can be fun, especially in a beautiful area. Carol and I found a cold stone bench near the shores of Lake Como and set up our art studio. We painted for several hours there, enjoying the swans on the lake and the people meandering through the 'shopping district' of Varenna.

This small, postcard sized painting included some pen and ink work to define it a bit more. I can still hear the tourists dragging their suitcases on the cobblestone walkways... clickity clack, clickity clack..... Inspiration was everywhere.
Hopefully someone can explain why my posts don't have the same color intensity as what I see in front of me before I download into the blogger network. Thanks for your help.

"LAKESIDE" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Fabriano Artistico, 5 x 7" COLLECTED



Watercolor can be fresh and free or tight and controlled - and anything in between. I love the many, many ways it can be handled to allow for varied results and especially like to play with the loose, painterly possibilities when doing a portrait.

A few weeks ago one of the classes painted along with me to learn to do portraits, and we made an effort to paint loosely, as you can see in this finished painting. Our goal was to see the values of each shape and recreate what we observed with appropriate edges.

If anything, painting a good portrait involves well honed observation skills. Really looking carefully at a shape, how it changes in value, its edge ...that's what it's all about.

"FOCUSED" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 11 x 15"



One afternoon in Italy, we took a ferry over to Bellagio. There was a wonderful outdoor cafe where I sat down to paint while my friends enjoyed another gelato.

This is a pen and ink with watercolor, but I did the watercolor part first and added the ink later. There aren't many value changes here to make the scene dynamic, but it conveys the place.

"GELATO" Transparent Watercolor and Pen & Ink on 140#CP Fabriano Artistico 7 x 5"



Thank you so much, everyone, for critiquing this painting. After making some adjustments, I think this is as good as it's going to get. The original is posted here also for comparison.

Some teal has been dabbled on the tablecloth to the left of the jeans, but the post here doesn't pick it up very well. There's an excitement in the older painting that may be missing in the newer version, but it's done. This will be a good subject to try again and again. And to think I hate to do laundry!
Thank you, all of you --- Myrna, Nava, Suzanne, Rhonda, Joan, Dawn, Milind, Stephen, Lynne, Nick, Vicki, and Ann --- for your help and encouragement with this painting. Critiques are probably the most important part of the process for me right now, and I so appreciate your artistic eye and helpful suggestions. Now I'm headed to the studio to see what's going to happen next - no laundry to do today thanks to my sweet 'Honey.'

"LINE DANCING" Fluid Acrylics with Gesso on 140#HP Arches 30 x 22" Title - compliments of Rhonda Carpenter:-D



Great News!

Nicholas Simmons
will be HERE to hold another one of his awesome workshops. The dates are a ways away, but I'm already fired up. Set aside August 6 - 9, 2010, for Nick's workshop.

Only a year ago, Nick was here in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, to lead a workshop in my teaching studio with 23 excited artists, inspiring us, encouraging us, instructing us, entertaining us, challenging us... I could go on and on. His workshop was over the TOP!

We painted for five solid days last November, with one morning devoted to learning about Photoshop. Nick is a master with the brush and has the added ability to clearly convey his processes to a whole class.
More details about the workshop will be posted on my sidebar next month, and sign up for the workshop will be available as of Jan. 1, 2009. Check out Nick's blog at http://nicholassimmons.blogspot.com/ where there's a link to his website on his blog. Can't wait!



This painting would not come together enough to suit me. Finally I realized that I'm a value painter who likes specific edges for most of my paintings, and this one doesn't have that. It's sloppy looking (which I love but don't usually paint) and looked too half hazard to me (which is how I planned, or didn't, plan it.)

Done fairly quickly as a class demo a week ago, it didn't quite capture the essence I felt about the scene. The point of the lesson was to be flexible and let the painting lead, rather than have each area preplanned. I had miskited in the clothesline ahead of time and sketched in the upper window and roof line, but the laundry area was very ambiguous to start with.

After living with it for a while, I find that the painting's growing on me. Critiques please.

Painted on 140#HP Arches using fluid acrylics with gesso flowed into the wet acrylics in several areas. Probably not quite completed..... full sheet 30 x 22"



Here's another view painted from the coastline of Lake Como in northern Italy. You can see how Varenna's promenade extends out over the water, but what's really amazing is how the village is built right up the hill. There's also another smaller village just five minutes above via hairpin turns up the side of the mountain. One day while we were there, the Alps in the distance got a good dusting of snow. Beautiful!

"ITALIAN PROMENADE" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Fabriano Artistico, 7 x 5" COLLECTED



Painting with watercolors outside, without any easel or table, presents some unique challenges. Before deciding what to paint, I look for a good place to perch that has room to place my painting gear beside me. Holding my paper or pad of paper in front of me with my paints off to the left, I usually try not to face my subject matter, preferring to have it off to the side.

See the Winsor Newton palette that went overseas with me? It's shown closed up with my two extra brushes, then partially open, then, below, fully opened with every bit of my gear around it. It has a sealed container for water which is covered by a couple of lids that serve as water holders, a small round brush, and 12 Cotman colors.

First thing I did was pry out the Cotmans and fill each remaining plastic square with my favorite colors, letting them dry out completely before topping them off again. Before closing it to pack, I make sure the colors were dry so they wouldn't slop out of their squares.

There are two side trays that pull out, so one was kept for mixing and the other made into space for MORE colors. Using some hot glue to build up an edge to separate the colors, I made sure the rim of hot glue was low enough to let the tray slide back where it belonged later. Now the palette holds 20 colors, not 12. It's good to have ample granulating colors and extra greens for a travel palette.

A Cheap Joes half inch flat travel brush and a Daniel Smith #8 round travel brush give me a range of brushes to use, although the flat's used the most. Thanks, Jude, for giving me the brush. It's great for travel.

Along with a 5x7 pad of 140#CP Fabriano or Arches paper, there are tissues, an automatic pencil, a permanent marker for pen and ink, and a cut in half credit card, all placed inside a heavy duty ziplock baggy. That's it, and it all fits inside my purse, not adding much weight at all. Have paint, will travel!

Posted below is the same painting as my last post but showing very slight adjustments to the sky and some walls. I had some trouble getting a good photo to post that showed the subtle changes, though, but on our monitor it looks much more accurate than the previous post.

After the whole painting was wet, a little raw sienna was added to the upper part of the sky but not allowed to travel down onto the sunlit buildings. Although I liked the pure white sky, after trying a little color on a piece of wettable acetate over the painting, it was obvious that the slight tint in the sky pushed the viewer down into the painting better. Raw sienna was also glazed onto the wet paper over parts of the buildings to help unify and darken them, and a small amount was added to the foreground water area.

Being able to re-wet a whole painting and not have it bleed is great. Fluid Acrylics and Transparent Watercolors, made of the same exact pigments but with different binders, are virtually impossible to tell apart on the paper. I love how transparent they are - though that's certainly not true of tube acrylics.

I'm off to a new painting, actually two in the works right now. After sorting some of my photos, I realized I better get busy. There are more that MUST be painted than I ever imagined.