Saturday, February 28, 2009

supporting the arts

hilltop shadow
pastel on Wallis paper 7.5"x9.5"

Well, it's the last day of February, and I met my goal of painting every day, even though I didn't complete a new painting each day. And there were a few I didn't post. It's been such a good thing for me. I hope to keep up the daily, or near daily consistency.

This weekend our town, Columbia Missouri, is hosting an annual Documentary Film Festival, called the True False Film Festival. It has become quite a huge event, attracting thousands of people each year, and requiring hundreds of volunteers. I'm happy that I got to be one of them this year and support the arts in another way. And I get to see lots of amazing films. It has made it a little difficult to paint the last couple of days, but I'm pretty happy with this one.

Happy March everyone. Spring is coming!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

cedar grove

cedar grove
pastel on Wallis paper 7"x7"

This quick sketch was done from a photo taken the other day, just down the hill from the sunny happy place.
Cedars are the only green thing around right now, which is kind of a relief really. I've always had a hard time "capturing" cedar trees. The deep dark shadows and those highlights- gold, russet, sometimes almost red, sometimes yellow-green.
The sky really was an intense blue that day.

Top of the Hill

Top of the Hill
oil on board 6"x6"

This painting was done yesterday, just couldn't get around to doing the blog thing last night. What a wonderfully sunny day we had here for the end of February. A great opportunity to get out and paint. I took my oils and found the sunniest spot I could find.
Even though, on first glance, everything around here looks brown and yellow this time of year, the sun was exposing all kinds of pinks and oranges in the distant treeline. This is a little greeting card-ish, but heck, it was just me and my paints in a sunny happy place.
I have a several new art books, and am reading one by Kevin MacPherson to help me understand oils a little better. It's very helpful so far.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Belize sunrise

Belize sunrise
pastel on paper

Sunrise, always changing, always different. Sometime I think I will paint only skies for a month or so. What a challenge. But I did have fun on the clouds.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beyond pretty

Bishop canal
pastel on Wallis paper 5.5"x8.5"

In the town of Bishop, California there is a canal that carries water from the mountains to the big cities, and there are nice trails on both sides for walking, biking. The town of Bishop lies in a valley between the Sierra Mountains and the White Mountains. Lots of material for artists there!
I'm trying to think more about composition in my paintings. I started reading Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts. Very helpful so far, and I've only read chapter one. He talks about different "armatures". I guess you would say it is the form of the composition, such as "S", "L", diagonal, radiating lines, fulcrum, etc. I realized that I'm often stuck on "L".
Especially in the world of landscapes, there are plenty of "pretty pictures" out there. I want to learn to paint in a way that makes an impact beyond pretty.
I was attracted to the shapes in this scene created by the water, and the strong shadows.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

fall grasslands pastel version

fall grasslands pastel
pastel on Wallis paper 6"x9"

This is the same scene that I painted in oil a few days ago. I added some vertical elements to hopefully improve the composition. I feel that both photos have turned out too orange. The paintings are not quite so orange though they may need some lighter golden tones. I was having trouble coming up with a luminous color that wasn't too bright. Gee, I may need to buy more pastels. :)
These grassland areas are the Missouri River bottomlands that flooded so badly in '93. Now it is a wetlands project. Waste water is channeled there to be naturally purified. You can see tons of birds there. Geese, ducks, eagles, herons, egrets...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


pastel on colourfix paper 9"x12"

This little scene is painted from a photo I took while in Guatemala. If the sweet little Mayan woman looks really short, it's because she is. The colors, the people, the scenery there are all so beautiful.
This was a very different subject for me. I don't usually include people in my paintings.
It's nice to be back to pastels today, after some experimenting with oils. I feel more at home with them, which is a nice feeling.
Before taking up pastels I painted with watercolors for a few years. My husband and I took the train to Santa Fe two (or is it three?) years ago for our anniversary, and that's where I first saw the incredible pastels that sparked my interest in this medium. I didn't know anything about it before that, and have been learning what I can from books and lots of trial and error.
I just bought an instructional video with Albert Handell demonstrating. I love his work. I'm considering going to one of his workshops and would love to hear from anyone who has been to one.

Monday, February 16, 2009

fall grasslands

fall grasslands
oil on panel 9"x10"

This is the one I said I wouldn't post. But it's what I worked on today, and after all it's not about showing off. Back to pastels tomorrow.

small bird

small bird
pastel on Canson paper

This painting is from 2 days ago. A fat little bird. I believe it's a sparrow.

I don't really like Canson paper, but I can work on it without the worry of ruining a "good" piece of paper. And since I was on the road, I packed light and took a few sheets of paper and my box of Rembrandt pastels, my first pastels. These days I use an assortment of Schminke, Unison, Great American and a few Mount Vision. I prefer Schminke for their buttery softness.

You will probably never see today's painting. I tried painting with oils again, and remembered why I love pastels. So, that's a good thing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

driving by woods on a snowy evening...

Snowy evening
pastel on paper 6"x9"

...or Where I've Been This Weekend. Iowa. It is mostly cornfields, but there are some trees.

It was a little exciting driving through a snowstorm, and the snow really was beautiful.
I was also inspired to paint a snowy scene after looking at some great little paintings on Karen Phipps blog.
Another very quick painting for me. Under an hour. This has been very good for me because it used to take me months to complete a painting. It's good to keep moving on.

Thanks everyone for stopping by...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

the color of february

The Color of February
Pastel on Wallis paper 7.5"x11.5"

Last weekend I drove for a couple hours through the countryside and noticed again the beautiful colors that are everywhere this time of year- the dried grasses and the lavender sky and tree lines. It's wonderful how painting makes you aware of all the colors. The grass is no longer yellow, but thousands of shades of green, grey, yellow, pink, red.... It takes your breath away sometimes.

This scene is in southern Missouri where the hills are bigger.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

pink path

pink path
pastel on Sennelier LaCarte paper 6"x6"

This picture definitely had a mind of it's own. It's not what I intended it to be, but somewhere in the process I decided not to fight it.
It became an exercise in seeing how slight differences in value can really shape a landscape
. I don't usually paint in the little-hatch-mark technique, but it is such an interesting way to layer and visually blend colors. It's nice that you don't ever feel that you've made a mistake, as almost anything can be covered with more layers of little marks.
Normally I have trouble keeping my fingers out of the painting (too much blending), but with this method the temptation isn't really there- it's easy to see how that would spoil the picture, so I'm happy to say my hands are clean.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Boonville Bottoms

Boonville Bottoms
pastel on Canson paper 4.5"x8"

Looking across the muddy Missouri River from the town of Boonville.
The river bottoms are flat and fairly featureless, but provide some interesting subject matter in terms of the bands of color, and the sense of space. There aren't many "long views" in Missouri, the kind that are so plentiful out west, so I enjoy looking out over the bottomlands.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

a joy ride in a paint-box

County Road
oil on board 7"x7"

When I was a kid, my mom had a group of friends that would come over and paint with oils, and smoke cigars. Thankfully, she let us dabble in her paints to our hearts content, but kept us out of the cigars. I often wish I'd never quit painting, but I did until well into adulthood. Perhaps I wouldn't be so afraid of that empty "cowering" canvas if I had continued to paint.
I love Winston Churchill's little book, Painting as a Pastime. It begins with this quote.
The first quality that is needed is Audacity. There really is not time for the deliberate approach. Two years of drawing-lessons, three years of copying woodcuts, five years of plaster casts- these are for the young... We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box. And for this Audacity is the only ticket.

I need more audacity, but I'm working on it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fallen Branch

Fallen Branch

I sat in the park and did 2 paintings of trees today. One oil and one pastel. We're having some amazing weather for February. I'll work on this some more, but wanted to post it tonight.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Pastel on Paper 5.75"x9"

This was an attempt to loosely interpret a photograph of some trees, with a more gestural quality. I've been following Casy Klahn's Tree School on his blog. Although we have quite different painting styles, I greatly admire his work, and there is so much to learn there. I am trying to incorporate some of his ideas in my paintings.

I'm finding pretty consistently that the parts of a painting that are easiest to paint, are the best parts. Or perhaps the truth is that some parts just come out right the first time, and so they are "easy", and I don't spend a lot of time reworking them. In this painting I struggled with the sky and the trees. The ground, the hills, came easy. Hopefully as I get more experience, and make better choices of color and value, more and more of the painting will seem easy or flow more naturally.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wild Plums

Wild Plums
Pastel on paper 12"x16"

There was an abundance of these tart little plums this fall in Missouri. They were nicer to look at than they were to eat.
The plums were fun to paint, but the leaves were difficult and I didn't really enjoy painting them. I think it shows. I'm not sure I'd want to try anything like this again. There's a lot here that I'm not happy with, but I was ready to be done with it, at least for now.

I welcome suggestions and critiques of any of my paintings.

Monday, February 2, 2009


pastel on paper 5.5"x6.5"

Well it's only the second day of February and I'm already "cheating". I have been painting all afternoon, and there's no way it's a one day painting. So, here's the painting I did the last day of January.

These little guys are gleaners. They hang out under the bird feeder and pick up the seed that the other birds drop. They're especially beautiful when it snows.

Daily Painting #1

February Wetlands
pastel on paper 8.5"x11.5"

February 1st turned out to be a beautiful sunny day so my husband and I hiked to one of our favorite spots, the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River bottoms, a wetlands area.
I forgot to take my camera, which was good because it forced me to finish this on site. After getting home I decided that I may need to rework that crazy sky.
The bottom picture is the original version, the top picture has the reworked sky. What do you think? Although I often wish I could hit the "undo changes" button with pastel, this time I'm glad I did it. Anyway it's too late because the old version is literally dust in the wind.