Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Inhale, Exhale"

18x36", acrylic and mixed media on canvas

I started experimenting with turquoise and found that it's a powerful color! I kept having to return to the area where I painted it and try to cover it up. Eventually it calmed down to the point where it's just present. Meanwhile, this emotional painting emerged. 

Also, after taking the picture and cleaning it up, I suddenly see new things in it. Do I change them? Leave them? I think I'll live with it and see what happens.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"The Game"

(Not available.)

30x40", acrylic and mixed media on canvas

One weekend a couple of years ago, when a few of us were touring wine country, I surreptitiously took pictures of people. This came out of one such picture. I think my two favorite things about it are the way that the focal point is way off center, and the eyes behind the sunglasses, which I invented and which came out surprisingly well!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Abstract Figure 2"

14x11", oil on canvas board

This was another fast painting done in class. The straight edges and lines come from using a color shaper, which is sort of like a palette knife, but softer. Someone in class wanted some additional color, so we added a scarf to the pose. Maybe I should have titled this "The Striped Scarf" or some such.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Abstract Figure 1"

14x11", oil on canvas board

This was a fast painting I did in an abstract figurative class that artist and teacher Michael Azgour taught at the Pacific Art League. So, in class we would have warm-ups and exercises, of course. In one we would have only a limited amount of time to fill the entire canvas. Then, in this lesson he also suggested that we add a geometric shape (in this case a grid) and use elements of it to abstract the figure. I'm not sure I integrated the grid and the figure, but it did keep my painting looser.

This is painted from a live model, and there is an immediacy that I like, and the rapid brush strokes (and some pencil scribbles) worked. In this case. You often end up with dimensions that are way out of whack. I assume that the better you get, the more often you get accurate dimensions. But even very experienced artists say they do a lot of throw-away paintings. Or paint-overs, I guess.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Figure With Shadow"

8x10",  oil on canvas board

This is another one of those paintings that I like, but I don't quite know why, and it's not a good likeness. But it has something. I think there's a freedom to it. I'd recently been looking at my Nathan Oliveira book, and an abstract figure occurred by and by. It does have a few things I normally do, like all the scratches for texture, and juxtaposing green and purple. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Not Yet"

30x30x1.5", acrylic and mixed media, SOLD

This one has soul. There's some stillness to it, and discomfort. And some mystery.

I seem to want to make three kinds of paintings: small still lifes that are also skill builders, abstracts, and abstract figurative, as with this one. A few people had trouble figuring out what it was at first, but that doesn't bother me. It just feels right.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Shadow Puppets"

6x6", oil on canvas board 

This is the next in my series of figs that I used to learn to paint in neutrals. When I use neutrals, they seem to come out dark. I might have to think about that. There's a bit of palette knife work here, too, as with the prior one.

I've been thinking about neutrals, and the most neutral color is grey. But a warm grey is brown, so grey and brown might be just cool and warm versions of the same neutral. Strangely, while the best-known color palette (there are many) divides colors into three primaries, there seem to be only two neutrals. I think it's because the three primaries contain one cool (blue) and two warms (red and yellow). It you neutralize blue, it goes cool grey, of course. But if you neutralize red and yellow, they both go brown. Now, they're a little different, but much more similar to each other than they are to neutral blue. (I haven't run into this in any books. So maybe I don't read enough, or this is whacked.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

"One Left"

6x6", oil on canvas board 

I did a series of figs as a part of learning to paint in neutrals, so I also needed to find some bowls around the house that had the neutral coloring I wanted. One of the hardest things about figs is getting that blush on them. It's surprisingly blue! But the hardest part of this painting was getting the near edge of the bowl right. It kept wanting to look like really thick ceramic. There's some mild palette knife work here, too, and I like it. I'll have to do more.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Going Solo" Redux

6x6", oil on canvas board 

I decided I needed to focus more on neutral colors. So I started redoing a few recent paintings that had too much of a kind of baby room look. (Nothing against baby rooms. I just want to paint a variety of styles.) Above is the redone painting. Below is the original (which appeared earlier on this blog). I redid not only the background, but I also brightened up the flower petals. The flower does glow a lot more.

Strangely, this points to one of my painting idiosyncracies. I like mud. (Well, I also like bright colors.) But mud makes a great supporting player. It really highlights the main character, which, in this case, is the flower.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


18x24x.75", oil on stretched canvas

I did this awhile ago, following the suggestions in Steve Aimone's amazing book, Expressive Drawing. You can find another painting that I did earlier in my blog, where I described the system. Like that, this is another funny little painting where I like it but I'm not sure why. I think I like the pure energy of the thang.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Perception: Contemplation"

30x40x1.5", acrylic on stretched canvas

As with yesterday's painting, this was done on a textured surface. In fact, this surface had loads of texture and was painted yellow. Now, when I do my figurative paintings, I usually start with an image as a jumping-off point, and ideally I put that image away after painting the framework. I say "ideally" because sometimes I get caught up in making all the details completely accurate, which is not what abstract painting is about. It's better to start the dialogue with the painting. To do that, you constantly ask "What does it need?" (Well, not in words, perhaps.) The trap is that, since you're always looking for how to improve it, it means you're looking for what's not right, and you can become very critical of yourself and your painting. 

This one was a bit of a surprise in that I was painting it up close, but it really came to life from a distance, or if you suddenly saw it while coming around a corner. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"The Red Box"

30x48x1.5", acrylic on stretched canvas

Now we're getting somewhere. I've been doing my textured abstracts and figurative abstracts, and wondering if or when I'd combine them. This is a start. I had put a little bit of my texture material on the canvas (the texture material is stuff from the hardware store). I took the built-up canvas to my class with Sefla Joseph and worked on this. Besides painting with a brush, I also put in a lot of the skin tone with palette knife. And I am seeing the mix of figurative plus texture starting to work. I've got one or two more in the works, but it feels pretty good.

And, by the way, one reason I love working with Sefla is that I get surprised, either about things she suggests  or about my results. This is good. If you only heard what you already know, then why study with someone?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"In Your Face"

6x6", oil on canvas board

I painted this one over another painting that I didn't like much. But I enjoyed letting colors from the prior painting show through. It's a cool practice, since you can surprise yourself and end up, say, combining colors that you didn't expect to. Like, I rarely use hot pink. The title was interesting to come up with. The pear looks like it has a big butt, so I almost named it Baby Got Back (that's the song that starts "I like big butts and I cannot lie").

Friday, September 7, 2012


6x6x3/8", oil on textured board

I don't actually remember when I did this. Sometime in the last six months, I would think. But I like it. I'm not sure why. And I think this is why I keep doing abstracts.

Hmm. OK, let's get rational, here. It's mostly low key, but with pops of color. It has a full range of values, including difference values of the same hue. The composition is pretty good. If I were to find fault, it might be that too many of the shapes are the same size, but since it works for me anyway, let's just say it breaks that rule. 

Anyway, I might have trouble selling this one.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Look Over There"

6x6", oil on canvas board  

It's funny how concepts change. I've been feeling uncomfortable about the bright colors throughout my paintings. Partly, the colors make them look more like decorations and less like statements of how amazing a small household item can be. Partly, the bright backgrounds might steal the show from the main item. So I decided to go more neutral. In this one that red-brown background might not be really neutral, but it's more neutral than many things I've painted recently. Onward!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


6x6", oil on canvas board

This has a funny composition. I think I was entranced with using colored glass, so that became the focus, particularly the neck of the bottle. Usually the focus is the flowers. In order to get the shadows inside the bottle, I had to arrange the light to shine from almost straight upwards. The yellow behind the flowers is an effect that came about by mistake on a prior painting, but I decided to try it again here, and it does give an ethereal glow. I wonder if this is how haloes came to be? 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


6x6", oil on canvas board 

I've been painting but not posting much. Time to catch up. In recent months I've dived back into my skill builders. And they're adorable. Partly they let me work on a skill I want to gain, but also I love how intimate they are. So I have a handful of those lined up to post.

I'm also in a class with Sefla Joseph, who is a wonderfully creative teacher as well as an amazing artist. In those classes I'm working on my figurative abstract work. More on that when the time is right.

Friday, August 31, 2012


6x6", oil on canvas board

I haven't posted in awhile. You know, summer traveling for family and vacations. This means I did this awhile ago and I might not remember any issues I had. I can see that I ran into the question of what to do when you're  painting something on a reflective white surface: The lightest thing is the reflection, so you have to make the surface kind of grey. I think I tried to work in some yellow to offset that.

Outside of that, I really enjoy having roots or other things stick out past the edge of the bowl and create neat shadows.

Friday, June 22, 2012


NFS - 24x20x1.5", acrylic and mixed media on canvas

I'm really enjoying using the cardboard. It gives wonderful texture, especially when glued down and then ripped off. Also, sometimes it has a stowaway, such as white paper on the reverse, or tape that's left flapping (which appears in this piece). Mind you, I'm a little cautious of being trite. There are textural effects that are used too commonly, and cardboard might be one. We'll see. Speaking of effects, I do like the one you can see on the right of putting tape down, adding paint, letting it dry, then pulling it up. I don't think I've done that since college.

Compositionally, this was a bit of a conundrum. You can see it if you use your hand to hide the block in the lower right corner. The painting then becomes more amorphous, consisting mostly of dripping colors. The block gives it structure. But after I put it in, it still seemed too obstructive and obdurate. Eventually I added the circles, and that helped. The fact that they're not in a straight line, and, in fact, that they mimic the curve of the cardboard across the top, adds a bit of swirl to the picture.

My husband says his eyes keep returning to the spot of red at the bottom, left of center. I actually like leaving a bit of raw canvas. It seems more honest.

And, FYI, if you're wondering where the name comes from, it's a bit of text in the upper right quadrant (see the picture, below; you might need to click it). I like the name because names are hard. They can limit a picture by telling you what I meant you to see, which forces you to interpret it a certain way. This was just handed to me and leaves it wide open. I hope.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


6x6", oil on canvas board 

So, mostly I do large abstracts and small still lifes. Don't know why. It's what feels right and that's how I've chosen to paint: Doing what feels right. 

But recently I decided to try more small abstracts. I figure I'll still get the benefit of the small still lifes: You do more paintings, and thus get more lessons, in a smaller period of time; and you're not risking much in materials or personal judgment because there's not much investment. But, strangely, I also like them for a couple of other funny reasons: I get to hold the board with one hand and move it around and turn it, and the brush or knife with the other, and they interact like you were putting frosting on a cupcake. It's very satisfying. Also, I use up paint on my palette. I even find that mildly dried-up paint can give good texture.

And this is one such, with wonderful areas of texture: paint, scraping, dragging.

Finally, another thing I like about the small paintings is that I can go overboard on the color. A big painting full of hot colors can be overwhelming. But a 6x6" balances the color with the size. I'm imagining this one at, say, 48x48" and it could take over a room. Of course, maybe that's good...

Monday, June 4, 2012


24x30x1.5", acrylic and mixed media on canvas

So, while I've been working on the small skill-builders, I've also been doing some work on my larger textured abstracts. I don't really know how the two styles relate to each other. I figure that I should do what I feel inclined to do, and that varies. This one has sand or stucco patch, cardboard, and some lines created by putting white glue on the cardboard and using it sort of like a stamp. I think I also used some marble dust to give it that matte look. 

I set this up to be extra large because the texture really is a huge component, and it's harder to see in a photo. Below is a detail from the upper right corner that shows all of the elements. You can click it to see it even bigger.

To be honest, this one sat there in a near-finished state, quite patient, really, until I decided it was time to finish it up. It was fun.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Ethel and Myrtle"

6x6", oil on canvas board 

This felt like a step back after the last one. Hmm. What can I learn? Perhaps the white flowers give me problems? Maybe that I'm being too detailed in the petals? Hmm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Just Chillin'"

6x6", oil on canvas board

OK, two in a row that I really like. The flower is surprisingly simple. It has a tan color for the shadowed areas, and a brighter yellow for the areas in the light, and I simplified the shape a lot. I added a bit of red to a couple of the petals. 

I'm really getting to where I love how the water creates little bits of light where it meets the container.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Full Speed Ahead"

6x6", oil on canvas board

OK, something worked right here. I could argue with the drawing on the flower, but I don't want to touch it. I love how the water looks in the pitcher, and the brush strokes on the outside of the pitcher. I do see a lot of improvement from the posts a couple of weeks ago, which is encouraging. Can I keep this up?

Strangely, if I compare this with others, I still broke the rule about not making two things the same: The background color has about the same area as the pitcher. Hmm. I'll have to think about that.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Hide Behind Me"

6x6", oil on canvas board

I was charmed by the little bud hiding inside the vase, hence the title. OK, how's the painting? The focal point has some pop. The painting is pretty loose. I'm doing a few in a row that are OK. Modified yay. But this one still doesn't sing. Why? Ah! I remember something in Alla Prima by Richard Schmid... Here it is, page 14 (which is a really good page), in a section called "When Things Go Wrong." It contains good stuff, some of which is this:
The next question is what exactly am I doing wrong? For the answer to that, the process of elimination must continue. I already know that there are only TWO possible errors in working from life. (Remember that.) To put it neatly, they are:
1. Painting something that is not there in a subject.
2. Not painting something essential that is there.
I also know that those two errors can only occur within one or more of the four visible elements: Color, Values, Drawing, or Edges (or some combination of those).
Color, values, drawing, or edges. I guess they make up the composition. I'm not going to change the drawing, and I don't think it's edges. But, in recent posts I've written about at things that are the same, since similarity creates boredom. If you think of  paintings as having three values, maybe I have the same amount of medium as I have dark. If I play with it in Photoshop, what happens? [Runs off to do so.]

I think this is better. Still not completely happy with the flower, but the background is now darker and cooler. It no longer tries to pull focus from the flower, which pops more. And there's more mystery in the edges on the vase. I might have to do this to the original painting.


Friday, May 4, 2012

"Look Over There"

6x6", oil on canvas board

Continuing with using the neutral colors. Yes, with earthier tones the paintings seem richer than with with the primaries and secondaries. It's funny what can be a neutral. I just has to be less electric than what the focal colors. So a mild blue or purple or orange could be neutral. But in this painting the blue jumps out. And, dang it I still seem to have the friend egg effect: The vase is real close to the middle. As I recall, I also wrestled with getting the angles on the lip correct. They really are accurate. Maybe it's the foot of the vase.

And it's looking like the rule that says "Make no two things the same" really is extremely important. Amazing how much you can learn when that's your main goal. Too bad I keep making the same mistakes.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Going Solo"

6x6", oil on canvas board

UPDATE: I reworked this as part of my goal to learn about using neutrals. I appears later in this blog

This one was hard because the values in the flower are dark, and it's sitting on a dark background. It's possible that the yellow is the focal point; at least, it pulls your eye. But the composition works, the horizon like is off-center, and the glass has good reflections. But I think my favorite part is the shadow across the center of the flower. Really makes it look dimensional. Still learning. 

I think the big issue is courage...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Where Are the Bees?"

6x6", oil on canvas board

At about this point I wanted to start using more neutrals. Now, in a small painting you can use a lot of color, since it won't feel as overwhelming. But I felt like I was using too many primaries and secondaries and wanted to learn more about neutrals.

So, given that the current exploration is for education, what can I learn from this? It's rather sweet. The execution is OK. The composition could have been better. Hmm. Partly, I think too many things are similar: The space above and to the left of the flower are about the same, and the square footage of the flower is about the same as that of the vase. And you could almost fold the painting in half on the diagonal, and the two halves would match. I don't know that that's bad, mind you, but worth noting. And given how much background there is, it could have used a bit more variety. And if I wanted more drama, I would have had a broader spectrum of values. But it is kind of true to the nature of the flower, which has tidy, contracted petals. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


6x6", oil on canvas board

This is the third painting I did on that same day, and I decided to add a different element: The duck. I'm still working on colors bouncing around in the water and through the glass. And while I've been working mostly  with black base coats, I think I decided to experiment with yellow. I'm thinking I like the black.

And this one feels a bit like a step backwards. Some of it might be that I broke the rule about not having things be the same: I have the same distance between the border and the top of the flower, the left side of the jar, and the duck's butt. And I just noticed that the horizon line is right in the middle. I think the focal point is the duck, but it's not clear. Yeah, hmm, all those things pretty effectively kill the drama.

An artist friend of mine knows of someone who has a list of things he goes through when he evaluates his paintings. I've avoided making such a list, but maybe I should.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


6x6", oil on canvas board

This was the second painting I did on the same day as the prior post. I wanted to use a lot of cobalt blue (I don't know how it looks on your monitor). I used a piece of cloth again, but a different one. And I had a lot of colors to figure out! The blues in the cloth vary Some are solid and dark, others mixed with white. Then each color is modified by shadow or glass or water. And you have to choose how to abstract what you see because the reflections change if you  move your head even slightly. It's almost like a puzzle. Seriously.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Say What?"

6x6", oil on canvas board

I sometimes wonder how daily painters come up with something to paint, day after day. Me, I anguish over my setups for ages. But, of course, the solution is to use some of the same elements over again. This one uses the same elements as the prior painting but with one flower instead of three, and with the addition of the striped cloth.

And that time and effort can be important: I had decided to do three paintings this day, and if I spent ages setting each one up, it would hamper my ability to do them all. So, this is the first. I did it in the morning. Then I did the second one in the afternoon, and the third in the evening. Of course, I had optimistically thought I could do all three by mid-afternoon, but no. Life happens, or my focus comes and goes. I actually ponder why painting is easy some days and hard other days, and there seem to be a number of factors: excitement about the work; energy level, like how much sleep you got, and if your schedule is full; mood, which is related to energy level; when your productive times are; if you have everything set out and ready (today I spent time washing brushes); and probably some other stuff. About the productive times, I've found that mine are around 7 am, 4 pm, and midnight. These are roughly eight hours apart. I can't paint during all of them, since I wouldn't get enough sleep, but it's useful to know. "I should be painting! Augghh! Oh, it's 1 o'clock. Things will pick up in a few hours."

As for this painting, it was fun figuring out how to run the stripes through the water. And I enjoyed creating the colors for the shadows. But things might be looking a bit cartoonish, I see some perspective issues, and I wish the bottle looked crisper. Still, the paintings are getting better. Must keep my eyes on the prize.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"By A Nose"

6x6", oil on canvas board

We continue. The massing is going pretty well. And the shadows. I need to think about whether I want details like those lines down the petals; I like to put in a few, but I'm beginning to think they don't add much.

This piece presents lessons in working the background. Like, decide whether you want the strokes to be random or in a specific direction. These strokes support the way the flowers are leaning out and make it look like they're racing (hence the title). I also like to let some of the underpainting show through; makes it feel more honest. I've also found that it's nice to have kind of a lighter area around the objects I'm painting. It highlights them and makes them come forward.

Another issue I started to work on was putting down a lot of paint. It's one of the truisms of painting, and I wanted to play with it. And, yes, I'm discovering that the first layers should be thinner and drier, and they get thicker and wetter as they build up. If you don't make the bottom layer dry, then the paint that's on your brush during later layers just pushes the existing paint around. You want the new paint to be willing to exit the brush and sit on top of existing paint.

OK. Complementary colors, some energy, the focal point is nicely off center. I still need to work on the glass and water, more colors in the background, like maybe a warm and cool of the same color, and maybe some perspective. But things are improving.

UPDATE: I had some process pictures on a different camera. Here they are:

You can see that I'm painting on black. Above, finding some bright bits to play with. Then, below, using my yellow/orange mixes to create flower shadow right from the beginning. I sometimes prefer paintings at this phase. There's something raw about them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Stop Staring"

6x8", oil on canvas board

For this one I went back into a painting I did long ago and didn't like, and applied the ideas of massing and generalizing. And using interesting shadows and highlights. And I invented the stripes in back. The part that I think is the most interesting is the colors on the tiny glass vase.

It's improved. It lacks the polish of the ones I'm doing now. I think one problem is related to what I mentioned yesterday about things being the same. The color on this one is roughly equally split between white and purple. It has no identity. There are a couple of good ways to think about that. One is to ask "what color of painting is it?" Not foolproof, but not bad. Another is to think of it as a martini recipe, which (I think) should be about 60/30/10, proportionately.

And, of course, break this or any rule if you can make it work. That's way fun.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Duet" and "Ka-Pow"

Duet, 6x6", oil on canvas board

The two paintings I posted yesterday taught me about massing, so I thought I'd try it again. I chose basically the same composition to see if I could do it better, but changed the background color. The result is below. I still found myself painting individual petals. Grumble...  Then I took out the top left flower, tried it again, and squinted more. What I wanted to see the dark and light portions of each flower. The painting above was the outcome. Much, much better. And, hey look: Shadow edges on flower petals are softer than the outer edge of the petal. (Right. You knew that.)

Ka-Pow, 6x6", oil on canvas board

Would the lower of the two pieces (Ka-Pow) have worked without the massing? I'm not really sure. The upper left flower pulls your eye out of the piece. And the value pattern ain't so hot. And everything is the same size. I run into this occasionally in my paintings: Too many things are the same size.

So, one trick I learned for checking your composition is to look along the edges of your painting, at how often the color changes along the edge, and whether it's utterly symmetrical (likely to be boring) or varied (likely to be interesting). I added "likely to be" because there's always someone who can break a rule and make it work. Dang it!

And if you want to read more on the issue of things being the same and how to fix it, get The Simple Secret to Better Painting, by Greg Albert. Good stuff there.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Jostling" and "Time Out"

Jostling, 6x6", oil on canvas board

So, as I mentioned in the prior post, I'm trying to loosen up my painting, so I'm going back to frequent small exercises. Being loose means a lot of things. For me it means being painterly and feeling more relaxed -- mostly -- while I'm painting. I got tired of feeling tense and perfectionistic.

OK, so, I did the painting below (blue basecoat). It made me impatient with myself (I might have to paint over it). But you don't paint every petal! You know how they say to mass in the general shapes? I haven't been doing that enough! So I simplified the composition and redid it and came up with the above (black basecoat). Better. OK, I see a few problems, but it's in the right direction.

Time Out, 6x6", oil on canvas board

I looked online to see what people said about painting loosely. One page said that to paint loosely, you put down the paint once and don't touch it. Fixing it is what looses the freshness. It brings to mind a wonderful exercise we did in the Carol Marine workshop I took long ago: How many strokes does it take you to do a painting? I did a little 6x8" in about 200 strokes.

What did I learn so far? Set up your still life so there are interesting shadows. Then I like to mix my main colors on my palette. Then mass in the shapes just like they say in the books. Spend time loading your brush the way you want, then put down the stroke. Use a couple of variants of each color to add richness and build dimension. Don't be too attached to making it match your setup. Instead, be interested in what's on the canvas. Use the setup only for reference. As the painting continues, you should look at the canvas more and more and the setup less and less.

Monday, April 16, 2012


5x5" or so, oil on unstretched canvas

So there are a few skills that I want to work on, so I've decided to go back to my small still lifes. I don't know for how long. Like this blog's title, as long as it feels right.

What it came out of was that I was painting these figurative abstract pieces, and I'd have a sketch or a photo to work form, and I'd find myself trying to replicate it much too carefully. I want to use it as inspiration, but take the painting where I want it to go.

So the skill I'm trying to learn is to paint looser. That's what everyone wants to learn, right? It's kind of the holy grail of painting. So I decided to do some little studies. This one came out reasonably well. I also went and looked at Daily Paintworks, since they have a really nice collection of active painters. And I started to pick up a few tips and develop some criteria. I'll get into those in posts in the near future. But for right now, let's start saying what loose painting is not:

  • Cautious
  • Tight
  • Realistic
OK. More later.

Friday, March 30, 2012


6x8", oil on canvas board

I use a glass sheet to I put out my paints on. It's next to my easel, on the drawing table. Along the back of the table is a row of smaller display easels, and I've put various little canvases there. There are little canvas boards, and also some bits of unrolled canvas wrapped around a piece of plexiglas. Some might be unfinished paintings I started a few years ago that never worked for me and have been collecting dust. Others are just bits of canvas that aren't fit for stretching, so I might as well paint on them. Maybe I can put them in a frame or something.

Why did I put them there? For two reasons. The first is that I wanted something to experiment on. Like, what happens if I add some marble dust to my paint? Or what happens if I put down some thick paint for texture, let it mostly dry, then scrape it? Which brand of water soluble pencil works best on wet paint? Or how about if I scribble with an oil pen and then paint over that? What if it's RED oil pen?

But I mentioned two things. The other thing is that I'm kind of cheap, and I hate seeing paint go to waste. Sometimes I have a pile of paint and it won't work on my current painting. So I smear and scrape it onto one of the little canvases. The biggest benefit (besides the cheap thing) is that I'm not risking much, so I can cut loose. It's pretty hard to loosen up when you're working on a 36x36" canvas. I mean, you CAN, but it's not the same. I guess there's another benefit, which is that paintings that weren't going anywhere are now becoming useful. It's fun to paint over an existing image and see what happens.

So, this was one of those small canvases. And I like it. I'm not sure why. Maybe I should try more neutrals. I did spritz it, and you can see the drippies at the bottom. Love those. I'll admit that there's one part of it that seems a little wacky, but I'm going to see if anyone else picks it out. 

Anyway, that was a long story, but I put it out there in case anyone else wants to set up small canvases to play on.

This one is now framed and hanging in my house. I don't do that for a lot of my paintints, for some reason. So, cool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Work from class: Still lifes

Last year I took a still life class from Jim Smyth through the Palo Alto Art Center. Below are three of the better pieces that came out of the class. There were more, and I might post them; not sure. You can tell by looking at them what the challenge in them was. For the second and third, it was about reflections. For the first, I think it was about the fruit and getting its transparency, as well as the shape of the platter under it.

It's satisfying to see that I have some ability to render these (although I could point out flaws in any of them). But I'd like to put that ability into something with more, oh, passion or gut. Jim teaches some figure classes. Hmm.

Chinese Vase, 12x16", oil on canvas board  

Brass Cup12x16", oil on canvas board

Red Vase12x16", oil on canvas board

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"No Warning"

18x36x1.5", oil on canvas

This is another like the one I posted a couple of days ago: Warm neutral colors with a large area that lacks detail but actually has a lot of texture. I also did this one with a lot of marble dust. At the top I put in some dynamic elements because it just looked too static otherwise. To me, at least. 

That "To me, at least" is a funny question. I'm wrestling with how to gauge my paintings. The easy answer is to use my own judgment or follow my heart, etc., etc. The trouble is, I have a couple of paintings that really don't do much for me, but other people seem to like them. Are they being honest, or gently kind and supportive, or is my perception out of whack? And if they're right, do I go public with the paintings? Keep them in my stack and wait? Similarly, I have a couple of paintings that seem like they're executed just fine, but the content doesn't do anything for me. I haven't gone public with any of these paintings because they seem to lack something. Maybe I should paint over them.

Don't know. I think I'll take one or two back to my painting group and talk about it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


24x30x1.5", oil on canvas

This doesn't look like something I'd do, but I really like it! (And I'm not sure what to make of that.) Normally I paint in saturated colors, and it's literally hard for me to tone that down. This one is mostly cool and warm neutrals, with a little black and red. And white. It took courage to scribble in the black. It's very exposed -- right on the white canvas -- and I just hauled off and scribbled and didn't know how it would come out. You have to do that without reservation, because if you try to be careful, it will look like it. There are also some cool drips going down. I put a lot of marble dust in the paint, and it was almost like clay. Then, since it's water soluble oils, I sprayed it with water, and the heavy drips crawled down the surface. I like it when my work uses naturally occurring events. Things feel more organic that way.

I'm getting up the courage to paint bigger. More later.