Saturday, April 23, 2016


                                  The Hay Barn | Pastel | 6x8

I've been told that our rectangular hay bales (as opposed to round ones) is particular to our horizontal flat landscape here in the Sacramento Valley. Apparently, hilly farms need to use harvesters that roll the hay into the rounded forms we associate with other parts of the west and Europe. These marvelous stacks are ubiquitous in the West Sacramento to Vacaville corridor and indeed up and down the entire California Valley.  
Every year I try to buy one single bale of straw (granted, a different product than hay) to use on my 4 raised bed gardens. What a task! The only close purveyor gets measly shipments that are gone the same day while the farmers look askance as tho buying only One is sacrilege!  

Painting Notes : How fun small 6x8s are to paint! I got used to doing small formats during the 3  30/30 challenges and now I love them. They are perfect for encouraging me to simplify.  Indeed, I recommended them for painters who are either too prone to detail or overwhelmed by a larger format. I envy oil painters who can simply go up in size by using larger brushes.  We pastelists have to deal with our color choice  in the same size stick no matter whether we are painting a 6x8 or a 24x30. They just get used up faster! Maybe that's another reason these small formats appeal to me in Plein air painting - I can use my iddy-bitty small bits til they literally disintegrate on the pape

Monday, April 18, 2016


            Up Putah Creek  | Pastel | 8x6

April in Winters, CA is my favorite place to be! A short 35 minute drive allows me to increasingly go into my 'nature' mode. By the time I arrive there, my eyes are bathed in beauty - every scene I see has the potential to be a great painting.  This time of year, what I see is all about green. What I paint, is all about NOT green. That's my challenge today!  Just past the new bridge in downtown, this is a look back upstream.

Painting Notes:  At least 3 value planes - today's stated purpose!  On site, it was ALL shades of green.  Years ago, Susan Sarback of the School of Light & Color in Folsom taught me/us a method for relaxing one's eyes to perceive the underlying colors.  As I understood it, stand with your feet apart, hands down. Slowly rotate side to side, all the while letting your eyes go with your body, not concentrating on seeing anything but the scene scan by - from right to left, left to right. After about ten times doing this, begin to notice the underlying colors - works easiest first if you try it on an interior room corner, preferably a white or light colored room with one distinctive source of light. The more you relax the more colors you will see as your eyes quickly scan the scene while your mind is open to the perception of colors. Then paint these colors.  What is most interesting to me is that this is not a subjective perception of color. Literally, scores of artists (once open to the perception of color) will see the same colors!.  

Monday, April 11, 2016


                  Figure Studies  | Pastel

My new Monday routine is 3 indulgent hours at Patris' Studio where she has a model long pose in the afternoon. I've heard it said if you can perfect figure and portrait work, you drawing skills in everything you depict will increase. I've watched one artist in particular go from  mediocre to award-winning in a fairly short period of time where he claims the figure work in particular caused him to leap forward in his artistic abilities. I made a goal of going to figure/portrait sessions at least twice a month this year.  Within three sessions, I now look forward to these 3 hours as a highlight of my week!

Painting Notes:  You can tell I'm not paying much attention to the backgrounds, just using Canson or Strathmore tinted drawing papers. My method has been to photograph the model once she's in place and grid the photo. By griding my paper initially, I mark in the key lines. Then the photo gets turned off. I'll refer to it again later in when I blow up the eyes usually. That's because I'm quite nearsighted- it's a hassle looking thru my glasses to see the model, then having to move them off my face every time I look at the paper.  Always previously, I've done the measuring and all, but I watched an artist short circuit the learning process by referring to photos and make more rapid advancement, so for now, I'm trying that out. One thing I can say with this 'short cut' is that my finished product looks substantially more like the model than other non-referenced attempts which I always felt were 'human' but maybe not the particular human model in front of me!  I try to keep focused on the face as I love to put in fabric drapes and hair! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016


                      The Kitchen Garden at Inn at Park Winters  | Pastel | 6x12

Went out to the magnificent Inn at Park Winters yesterday where we got the royal tour from owner Rafael Galiano!  The entire property was so divine, gorgeously landscaped, beautifully appointed! Spent a lovely afternoon painting their view of the Blue Ridge. There was so many choices of beauty to paint, it's a bit odd that I picked this bucolic scene of the kitchen garden, the shed and the pick-up, but after painting non-stop for a week, I wanted something small and simple. 

Painting Notes:  I loved the telephone poles for their atmospheric perspective and the flash of orange from the pick-up.  One half of this is all about the background while the other half, the grasses and mustard. After painting the background, I applied some super darks to the foreground and sprayed them in with ISO, then laid my grasses and flowers in with rapid, almost quirky strokes! So fun!

Friday, April 8, 2016


                Springtime in Winters | Pastel | 12x9

Wow! Spring is a bit early here in northern California.  The poppies are aflame, the blue lupine just starting to coat hillsides, blue brodaeia and purple crown vetch are only outperformed by the fields of mustard.  Driving out a farm road, I slammed on the brakes and backed up for this curve filled with California poppies. A sheep barn is just to the left here with its corrugated metal roof sloping almost to the ground.  After two plus hours painting in the shade of a lovely tree, I felt like a sauve had been applied to my soul. Complete contentment!

Painting Notes:  After extensive search online, I've learned that the three pads of Wallis Warm Belgian Mist I bought last year is it- finito, no mas, unavailable forever more. I have 28 9x12s left and no hope for more.  I had a special moment when painting this painting. After tinting the underpainting and spraying with ISO, I started with the smaller tree to the right.  It came out so well that I knew the painting was going to be a winner, so with my heart beating just a bit faster, I continued on. Finished it all on site, only added a signature back at the studio and felt like I'd truly been 'in the zone' for this one!

Thursday, April 7, 2016


                     Davis Ranch Vista | Pastel | 12x9

On my first day painting in Winters for their 10th Annual Winters Plein Air, I was happily finishing a painting of a barn when a lovely woman approached me. She liked my work and asked me to come visit her ranch a mile down the road when I was done. The whole ranch was love at first sight for me and I had multiple choices of gorgeousness to paint. We decided on the view of the Blue Ridge from the back of their lovely home.  I spent two late afternoons of sheer delight there doing this commission, painting til I was 'chasing the light' while listening to the blackbirds at the pond just below me!

Painting Notes:  Substrate- Wallis Warm Belgian Mist - a delight to make marks on!   Pushing the furthest hills back and getting the progression down the slope with values and cool/warm was a challenge.  Barbara Jaenicke's words kept repeating in my head: warmer/cooler, lighter/ darker, brighter/duller?  I knew I wanted to have a really spectacular flower/grass foreground so on the night before doing this passage, I went online and watched a You Tube video by Karen Margulis on depicting grasses ( I practiced first, then went right into the passage and was pleased with the result.

Monday, April 4, 2016


                    Canoeing Lake Solano | Pastel | 12x9

Sunday was my second day out at the Winters Plein Air Festival (10th Annual) and I gravitated towards water.  There is a bridge across Lake Solano and the view of the reeds and trees reflected into the still water led me to park at the Campground and carry my art gear lakeside. Here I spent 2 1/2 hours of pure delight watching a steady Sunday stream of canoeists, kayaker and paddle boarders going by.

Painting Notes: Wallis warm Belgian Mist substrate was my choice again.  I finished the top half and had the colors all down for the lake when I moved on to do more on a commission I started Friday.  Back in the studio, I completed the lake reflections, using my handy-dandy, inside-out bill-counting finger nub to evenly, in one stroke at a time, pull the colors down vertically. Then a judicious use of horizontal strokes with the finger nub creates the sense of water movement. After all that was done, I put the canoe and the couple into the scene and created more water movement around the canoe.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


                              Patchwork Barn | Pastel | 9x12

The 10th Annual Winters Plein Air Festival kicked off Friday April 1st, giving us all the opportunity to paint the beauty of spring in Winters, Ca. This small rural town is surrounded by agricultural fields with the Blue Ridge - the last hilly wrinkle of the coastal range before the great California Valley.
For years, I've longed to,paint this barn and this was the first place to which I headed. The farmer nicely mowed a patch on the road in front of the barn so it was a perfect place for me to put the Eurovan, open the rear and paint in the shade! Poppies, lupine and purple crown vetch are sprinkled everywhere along with the ubiquitous mustard that makes our area a patchwork of green and yellow.

Painting notes: Wallis Warm is again my go-to substrate. I am just loving it's warm medium beige tone which sets the mood for a warm painting.  The path to the barn is conceptual as one of my goals this year is to use my artistic license to add, move, grow, shrink or leave out elements to create a better composition. Same with the flowers which were around but not quite where I put them. I'm trying to get away from my strict realism, so this passive foreground filled with loose strokes was a perfect way to do so