Sunday, May 29, 2016


                                Bandit  | Pastel | 9x12
One of the galleriesI I regularly show at has a dog-themed show every year. The show is in support of the local Rescue Shelter.  This year, I chose my sister-in-law's full of personality pooch as my subject.  I am enjoying painting pet portraits and expect I will continue to have them as a main theme in my work for years.  I like to choose a pet I personally know.  This little guy is full of spunk, brightness and joy! He often has one ear in the air and is obviously fascinated by life and enjoying himself immensely. He is also delightful to be around - none of that incessant yapping or jumping on me that drives me crazy in dogs. 

Painting Notes:  Wire-haired dogs are especially fun to paint. Lay in base colors of the skin below the hair, then literally sculpt the hairs on top.  The background I photographed Bandit on was way too busy - a predominantly black cowhide - so I opted for creating a simple backdrop. The smooth aliuminum oxide paper from England - Fisher 400 (from Pro- Art Panels)- has a lovely almost velvety texture, at the same time allowing one to lightly skim the side of a Terry Ludwig pastel across it, just picking up bits of the color.  It is a joy to work on but often too smooth for my landscapes as it pushes me to render over- realistically - a good thing in a pet portrait but not what I want in a more impressionistic landscape.

Monday, May 16, 2016


                          Blue Fish Cove  | Pastel | 9x12

Point Lobos State Park is just a few minutes south of Carmel, Ca. Small but spectacular, this rugged coastline is filled with rocky points jutting into the ocean, cypress clinging to steep precipices, wildflowers in abundance and one of the most prolific collections of poison oak I've ever seen!  A mere half mile walk into Blue Fish Cove was a bit more rigorous carrying all my Plein air gear. I took everything I could out of my backpack but pastels are heavy and I needed my tripod, of course.  The day was overcast which was fortunate as the light remained unchanging all day. I painted this from 10:30 am- 1:30 pm while a steady group of walkers came by, stopped, chatted and moved on. I told them all about the Carmel Art Festival going on and sure enough, many of them came by on Saturday and Sunday to see all our paintings!

Painting Notes:  Rocks present their own special challenge - how to render them believable without having to fill in every crevice. I started by outlining the planes with a black Nupastel, then filling in broad strokes of three to four different shades of blond, beige and gray lights; brown, umber and Sienna darks. Then back in with the black and dark gray/brown hard pastels to redefine some of the darker crevices. Like painting where trees and sky meet, it was all about weaving the forms together. 

Monday, May 9, 2016


                    The Canal Path   | Pastel | 6x6

One water feature we have a lot of here in the Sacramento Valley is irrigation ditches! I painted a different vision of this ditch over 15 years ago. Stumbling on old photos, it leapt off the page of thumbnails due to its clear shapes and dramatic quality. What fun to revisit my ditch and give it new life!

Painting Notes:  It is so rewarding to revisit a scene you painted long ago and reawaken the elements that drew you to it in the first place!  This time around, I could create whole sections with minimal strokes. I had a definite sense of lights and darks, warm and cool, bright and dull and was able to apply that knowledge to create a much stronger work. Wish I had a photo of the old one!

Saturday, May 7, 2016


                   O Canada!  | Pastel | 6x6

A large book on birds, in particular the images of ducks and geese, is my first memory of being enchanted with drawing/painting. The grown-ups were chatting away while I was left to entertain myself. A piece of paper and a pencil kept me rapt for hours drawing a mallard until it was time to go. I think I was 8 years old.  I subjugated my artistic instincts for the following 12 years, seldom even doodling and never taking an art class - if I didn't think I could ace a subject, I stayed away from it as my drive was to be an All A's Student.  Whenever the idea of a Do-Over comes to mind, knowing how enraptured I become when I'm painting and creating, I wish I had those 'lost years' under my belt now!

Painting Notes:  I'm trying to decide between using UArt 400 or 600 as my new Fav Substrate.  I love the increased smoothness of the 600 but my tendency to be over-realistic makes me want to keep some bumpy tooth.  The question is pretty much moot when you're doing a 6x6!  The lovely texture of Art Spectrum in a 6x6 becomes hills and valleys that make the painting so impressionistic as to be damn-near obscured!  I conclude the size of the piece dictates the substrate for me.  Art Spectrum in a 9x12 makes an impressionistic look instantly possible just by the stroke.  A parallel in using oils is the brush size and shape.  The substrate affects this too but not nearly like it does in pastel.

Friday, May 6, 2016


                        Crescent City Lighthouse  | Pastel | 6x6

If you've ever been to Crescent City, CA, you'll recognize this scene. Located right on the border between California and Oregon, this iconic lighthouse sits on its own island. Access is via a graveled roadway and only at low tide.  Back in the 1990's, I spent a lovely week in Crescent City taking a watercolor workshop with Judi Betts. We all went out to the island one day and painted the lighthouse from different angles.  Revisiting the area this past year, I couldn't help but smile broadly as I looked on at the lighthouse, recalling a wonderful comraderie we artists shared that week and especially that day painting this beautiful landmark!

Painting Notes:  I got very precise on this little gem - couldn't help myself! I wanted it to look exactly like it is, leaving out only a few scraggly bushes and an out building on the far right.  This is a candidate for a much larger rendering where I can use broad brushstrokes on the rocks and landscape. Brush strokes, of course, implies one using a brush, but in pastel jingo, it means using the side of the pastel to make gestural sweeps across the surface.  Now that we can no longer get Wallis warm Belgian Mist pastel paper, I'm appreciating UArt paper for its similarity to Wallis and embracing underpaintings. I used SpectraFix, a casein based fixative to soak the dark colors and sky into the paper. I was too heavy handed with the spray coat and have to keep this one taped down at least overnight to get the paper to lay flat again. Note to self!

Thursday, May 5, 2016


                   When the Lights Go On  | Pastel | 6x6

Evenings often find me 'walking the loop' - a 1 to 2 mile loop from the house. I cross a canal along the way that affords a view over into an industrial area. One of the block buildings has a roof full of bright lights that come on early and stay on til dawn. The canal is always full of coots and mallards.  I'm always reminded that we live on the fringe - in one direction is the city while most of the other directions are agricultural fields.  The residential areas are fast encroaching on the fields but there still is a lovely feeling of being 'out in the country'.

Painting Notes -  Life has gotten in the way of painting lately and now I'm faced with some hefty deadlines. I need a cache of small paintings to take with me to Virginia for my 50th High School Reunion where 6-7 of us that have 'products' to sell will have a display room for the 'gang' to check out. I've already sold over 6 paintings to my newly refound friends so I'm anxious to have some to offer. Couple that with 2 shows to paint for before leaving in two weeks! Trying to capture the feel of evening after sunset without making all but the sky almost black was the challenge that drew me to this scene. The title comes from the song that I kept singing all the while painting this.