Monday, March 5, 2018

Yellow Balance

oil on prepared paper 8"x 8"

This is the first of several studies I'm going to paint with a single color as the main theme. It's a prep for an upcoming class with each week focusing on a different color. 

I always find yellow a challenge. Cool yellows must not look too green, and yellow in deep shadow is so hard to get just right.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Conch Shell on Green

oil on paper mounted on board 8"x 8"
link to auction

I painted this shell using the Zorn Palette (just white, black, yellow ocher and cadmium red), but changed my mind about the background. I wanted the green to be intense, as to contrast with the subtle colors of the shell, so went outside of the (Zorn) box.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

After Anders Zorn's "Emma Zorn Reading"

oil on paper mounted on board 10"x15"

I'm still in the midst of teaching a six week class using the "Zorn Palette", and thought I could learn by copying one his paintings. As in the original, I used just titanium white, ivory black, yellow ocher and cadmium red. 

Anders Zorn's portrait of his wife is 15.8 × 23.9 in, while my copy is much smaller. Zorn's style is often thought of as full of bravura, but I found the soft, internal expression of the woman subtly and lovingly painted.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Margot on Christmas

oil on board 7" x 9"

This is my grandniece Margo, with the photo credit going to my nephew Jordan Meeder.

I'm gearing up to teach my limited palette class, and wanted to try the Zorn palette on a portrait. Just using white, black, yellow ocher and cadmium red makes painting seem closer to drawing- the values become more important than getting the exact right color. Every tone leads to just two questions- how light/dark is it, and is it cool or warm?

Here is the original photo.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


pastel on pumice board 8"x 10"

I like the intelligent look this goat is giving me. 

I've come to think that, although the handling takes some getting used to, pastels are not so different from oils. They are a little easier and faster to blend, just needing a swipe with a finger, but it's still all about values.

Time to get back to oils, as I'll be teaching a limited palette class in January. I spent the afternoon making a chart of Anders Zorn's colors, just yellow ocher, cadmium red, ivory black and white mixed to get a wide range of colors.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

White Apple

pastel on pumice board 20"x 20"

I've been continuing to experiment with pastel. This started out loose (and I liked the looseness), but gradually settled down into something quieter and more balanced.

Never having taken a pastel class, and not knowing any pastel artists well, I feel like I need to find my own way with the medium. I ordered a set of very soft pastels by Sennelier, but found them much too soft for details. Then I ordered Nupastels, which I can sharpen to nice points using a razor. I'm very happy with using the two sets in combination.

I tried using fixitive on a section and it darkened the colors dreadfully, so I drew over that area. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Two Shells on Blue Paper

pastel on paper 12" x 16 3/4"

Working in pastel is giving me a real jolt. It's so difficult! Yet the the feel of the soft sticks in my fingers, and the beautiful textures they give are satisfying. I thought it would be kind of like drawing in charcoal, except in color. Instead I find it hard to be very exacting, and easy to get muddy colors (on that point I'm disagreeing with my last post).  I can now see why so many pastel artists end up not blending colors, but instead placing strokes of differing colors side by side. 

This is drawn on charcoal paper, but I've been reading about preparing my own rough surfaces by mixing ground pumice into gesso and spreading it on heavyweight illustration board. Perhaps I'll enjoy a rougher, sturdier surface. Or perhaps I'll give up and go back to oils!

What really bothers me is having to leave this without a fixitive spray. How on earth to store it? It's as smudge-able as a sidewalk chalk drawing. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Conch Shell on Red

 pastel 12" x 13"

This is my first attempt using pastels. I've had no interest in the medium until recently, an interest that grew out of the charcoal class I've been teaching. My demonstration drawings with charcoal and white chalk had me craving the feeling of a dry medium, but in color. 

I like strict realism in color, and sometimes find that pastel paintings are too pretty. Still, I think my paintings could use some bold color, which pastel makes quite hard to not achieve. 

So much to find out- some online articles I read say that fixitive doesn't really "fix" pastel drawings- that they'll still smudge. Also that it will darken the colors. Some fixitives that I look up on DickBlick say they are glossy. I wonder what effect that would have on pastel? 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Self at 58

charcoal and white conte crayon 25" x 16"

I was intrigued with the idea of being quite honest about getting older. So here I am.

I used two small mirrors to get this view, and boy, was it hard to keep my face in the same position! I had to keep moving my head to check my drawing's progress from a bit of a distance. For a long time it seemed I was drawing sections of my face that didn't line up with each other. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Plant Study

charcoal and conte crayon 16" x 12"

First I drew all the negative (background) spaces, then the plant. In other words, all the chunks of flat white behind the leaves came first. I always tell my students that a strong awareness of negative spaces makes for stronger work. I think it helped here. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Large Plant in an Industrial Space

charcoal and white conte crayon  25"x 19"

I'm interested in the organic shapes of this large plant as mingled with the straight lines of my new studio space. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Tulip's Shadow

oil on board 6.5"x 6"

I moved into a new studio last week, a space in an industrial building that was once a pants factory. There are about thirty other businesses here, such as a private detective and a kombucha manufacturer, a hair salon and a karate studio. I feel so at home here. The building has such strong bones yet beautiful details. 

This is my first painting completed in my new space, a single tulip on an industrial windowsill, casting an evocative shadow. 

Here's a photo of my space before I moved in. It looks to me almost like an art school classroom. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Two paintings from the Village of Upper Ridge Valley

 Church Courtyard  oil on paper 6"x6"

Large Pine Tree oil on paper mounted on board 6"x8"

I've spend a few hours painting on the grounds of a beautiful country church, in the tiny town of Upper Ridge Valley, Bucks County. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


oil on linen mounted on board 14"x10"

Using fabric folds helps me make compositions I find interesting, even fascinating. Fabric can become so much more than itself, as in this scene where it reminds me of white smoke from a smokestack. 

Unfortunately, after a few days of posing, gravity caused the muslin fabric to droop so much that I had to stop painting it. So, lesson learned (I hope). This painting isn't really finished, but I am fond of it, so here it is. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Red Box Radishes

oil on paper mounted on board 6" x 8"

Did you know that radishes shrink to half their size if left out of the refrigerator overnight? So this was a one day effort- which I very much enjoyed. Painting in one long, intense session can be very satisfying.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Jerusalem Lutheran Church Graveyard, Late Afternoon

oil on paper mounted on board 4"x 8"
My teaching schedule is over for a while, and painting outside is really getting me fired up! This is a two hour oil sketch of a local church's quiet backyard. I'm now working on a larger version.

Here is another quick study- of a garden in the rain. It was my first outside painting for more than a year, and although it was a dark scene, it broke the ice for me. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Manhattan Rooftops

pen and ink 9"x 6"

Friday, June 2, 2017

Small Cactus

 oil on board 6"x 6"

I love rosette patterns, as seen in this small "hen and chicks" cactus plant. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cactus Flower

oil on board 6.5"x 6.5"

I like elucidating structure, whether it's that of buildings or vegetables, faces or flowers. This amazingly odd cactus flower gave me all the structure that I could possibly want, although it did take a while to put it all together!

World of Apples: Painting Lesson Plan #4- speed studies

In this lesson, my students took a painting surface measuring 8"x 12", and divided it into six 4"x4" squares. They painted a red delicious apples six times, only being allowed ten minutes per apple. 

They could spend some time mixing their colors before the first timer was set, using their View Catchers to judge where the most saturated reds were, and what other colors were actually there- not what they assumed they'd find. I implored them to use red's compliment (green) to de-saturate the reds. 

The top photo is of all the apples painted by all the students, while the second image is of just one student's six timed studies.

Next, everyone had to paint one apple behind another. The idea was to create a sense of distance by under-reporting the darks in the distant apple, and placing their most saturated reds on the closer one. They also slightly blurred the edges of the one in the rear.

I think they did very well with this exercise, and they seemed to find it intriguing.