Thursday, December 30, 2010

plein aire trip

I painted this outside in Sperryville, Virginia, at the end of October. I have since adjusted some details, and will probably go back and work on the colors of the pathway some more. But I have been conscious of neglecting my blog and wanted to post!

Two more paintings are being finished and I hope to publish these on the blog before our annual trip to Arizona next week. Happy New Year!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


This painting, Bluemont Vineyard, won third place at the 2010 Gala Exhibition Juried Art Show in Elkins, West Virginia, last week. Even better than the ribbon was the nice check that went with the award!

I did few paintings the past few months - gardening with heirloom seeds and getting inspired by local organic farms kept me busy outside, then a desire to have serenity in the house spurred me on to organizing and purging stuff, and finally, teaching duties started again several weeks ago. But, but, but, all the while I have been letting ideas simmer on a back burner of the mind, absorbing views outside, musing on the main theme of my work, which boils down to light. I have sketches and photos and blank canvases, and now, after the excitement of participating in an art walk in Orange, and attending two receptions for art shows and gathering even more inspiration from other artists' works, I am ready to paint.

I look forward to sharing here soon, and often!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

onion family

When I paint a still life I like to express human emotions through the interaction of the various components. This trio seemed like a mom, dad, and child to me. I'm still tweaking this one, planning to add some transparent dark glazes here and there and maybe a lightening of the back table plane. The "Onion Family" will be one of three of my works on display at the Food for Thought show at Village Frameworks in Culpeper during the month of September.

Other news: Just heard that I will have two paintings at the 2010 Gala Juried Art Exhibition in Elkins, West Virginia, September 10 - 29. Opening reception is September 10, 6 - 10 pm.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I've been entering several juried shows and exhibitions in the past few weeks. One painting was recently accepted into a national landscape show and another was selected for a calendar, to appear as the image for November. It is currently on view at the Calendar Show in Culpeper, Virginia, at the Windmore Foundation's Headquarters in oldtown Culpeper.

While pulling together a group of ten paintings for another show, I re-photographed this painting of our farm, painted as an image of early autumn when the maples down by the driveway are in fiery form. This painting is 24 x 36 inches, one of two that I have done in that size format. I find that I like working large, but at the same time enjoy doing quick paintings on 4 x 6 boards, too.

This painting is titled Fall At the Farm, and is not for sale as it was a gift to my husband. It hangs in my studio and reminds me daily of the beauty of our Piedmont region.

Monday, July 19, 2010

floral bouquet

20x30 watercolor pencil and watercolor on illustration board. Five years in the making, as I kept taking long breaks. This shows a little over half of the work; the complete image is of a bouquet centered on a white background.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Yesterday I spent the morning under a tent at the Culpeper Farmer's Market. Besides vendors selling produce and frozen beef, this particular market also allows cake bakers and artists to show their work. As a member of Windmore Foundation for the Arts, I volunteer to hang out and display paintings. I was dubious at first -- people are coming to buy lettuce, not art, I thought, but I learned that you just never know...

Sold two paintings (small) and had lots of good conversations with people who stopped by to comment and chat. Several paintings prompted these talks, one of which is Hay Bales. Hey, this is Culpeper, home to flatter land than most in this Shenandoah region and thus full of miles of hayfields and rolled bales. Folk who live here either own these fields and harvest the hay or they have moved here to enjoy the sight of green/golden grass.

This painting is actually of a field in Michigan! It is one of my first landscapes, painted three years ago.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Field

Playing around with color patches...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't Box Me In

I've discovered that some people dislike boxwood shrubs - the smell (which I can't detect), the link in mind to geometric garden styles (which I like in their place, in lovely Colonial gardens), or who knows. I don't have any in my yard which is a rambling sprawl of lawn and perennials and bushes and trees. However, I do know that I have been attracted to hedges lately, as a theme to paint. I like the pattern of bushes next to each other, the play of light on different parts, the oblong rounded shapes of greens.

Yesterday I went with a group of artists to an alpaca breeding farm. A very large, lush heaven on earth for alpacas - an enormous pond, rolling hills, grass, huge fenced enclosures, able-bodied people taking care of the animals: recording of age and breeding times, pregnancy watches, exercise walks, bottle-feeding newborns whose mothers were unable to nurse. If one didn't want to paint the alpacas, there were gorgeous vistas everywhere you looked, even shady tree-lined driveways and an old manor house, plus tidy barns and stables.

But I was attracted to this over-grown boxwood hedge. There it was, front on, blocking my viewpoint from that vista. I liked it's rhythmic pattern, I liked the shade cast on grass and driveway, I liked the play of light all over.

I'm also pleased by my pencil drawing that I did before the painting. So often I plunge into painting, but when painting outside, with quickly moving sunlight and cloud cover, I've learned to take the time to make thumbnails to get the composition right at the beginning. Find my darks to ground the image, use the pencil strokes to establish brushstroke directions to make a lively painting. Color takes care of itself once I begin.

Oil with palette knife on Ampersand Gessoboard, 11 x 14 inches. "The Boxwood Hedge"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Iris Time

Today was watercolor day (Wednesdays) and I painted radishes, plums, and a yellow iris. This time of year, irises are all over our yard and others. Neighbors and friends admire each other's different colors and varieties. This purple and white iris was painted last year during Iris Season, but it got lost in a shuffle of papers. I found it last night and intend to frame it, but first will make some color prints and notecards of it.

I used acrylic washes, on paper, carefully choosing the background color, capturing the opposing hue on the color wheel and matching the intensity of the blue-purple. Betty Edward's book, Color, is an excellent text for learning color theory and putting the knowledge to practical use in painting. I painted this study after working through her exercises and highly recommend this book for all artists working with color but baffled by typical college color courses, which generally leave one with extensive charts but no working knowledge.

Tomorrow: today's watercolors

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the coming storm

Back to brushes and medium (Liquin) in this painting. The underpainting was a tone of alizarin crimson mixed with leftover paints, then I brushed in the sky using 3 blues and titanium white. I fiddled around with the cloud, realizing after I put in the foreground that I had a rainstorm on the horizon. I looked at a photo of a sky with clouds to start, but the painting is totally different from my beginning. I finessed the clouds with a fan brush, and laid on thick white with the palette knife. My idea is a rainstorm coming, off at the far horizon. The white fluffy clouds and sunshine are still around, but the storm is moving in. I left the dark blue threatening sky up in the left top corner. Rainstorms come and go, but is there a bigger storm threatening?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

pear trees, again

My favorite spot, Bradford pear trees, guardians of the entrance to our farm, painted again, for, oh, at least the fifth or sixth time. I'm not yet tired of this particular view.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blackbirds Rising

Second photo is the entire image of the painting, first photo is a bit zoomed in.

I have been doubtful about this painting from the time I selected the image from my photos to even now, trying to capture it digitally. I had doubts while painting it and have reworked the field and trees twice.

However, I have had rave comments from people visiting my studio and seeing this painting "in real life". "My Favorite!" says one person. "I love it!" says another.

It may be speaking to people who see this scene frequently - birds suddenly spooked or moved by the spirit wind to rise up from feasting on leavings in the harvested cornfields. They rise as many entities then become one as they change direction and move up and away into the sky.

Video captures images today; it not the medium of my generation. I'm still painting one image at a time, frozen, no different than an Impressionist, a Medievalist, or even a Matisse. This idea might be better served by video or even storyboarding.

Still, maybe in one painting I have captured the blackbirds rising.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


"The Driveway" is a painting that I thought I had finished a few months ago. Every time I looked at it, though, I did not have a heartsong. That is my key to knowing when a painting is done.
I had the photo reference out, and while I felt that I had been true to the colors of the photo and even more, to the colors that I saw that day, the painting didn't work.
Put it back up on my easel a few days ago and started some, um, exaggeration. Maybe imagination is a better word. I let the painting itself tell me what it needed.

Sometimes it is very liberating to work on a failure - you can't mess it up any worse, so the freedom to let the muse do her work is right there, by your shoulder whispering in your ear.

It's not winter in this painting. It could be summer, it could be fall, it could be late spring. I know where the path leads, but in true reality, it could lead anywhere.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

quick study

For my birthday, my husband bought me a small, aluminum outdoor easel. It's not the latest Soltech easel (pricey, but with a box attached for palette), but it is so lightweight and portable and quick to set up that I will now not think twice about packing up supplies and hiking around the property. Yesterday, first time this year, I did just that.

I worked quickly and finished in 45 minutes. This painting is 8 x 10 inches, not a show stopper, but a nice little study and an encouragement to do this several times a week.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

student project

An interesting project that I assigned to my adult drawing class and also to my advanced teen art class - I set up a simple still life (3 objects) and had them lightly sketch it as accurately and simply as possible. Then they were instructed to change their position and draw the same still life from another perspective on top of the first drawing. Then, move again, and draw a third sketch on top of the previous two. This was challenging to keep the drawings "separate" and not become confused.

Next part - extend some lines from the drawing to edges of the paper to break up the background and break through positive and negative spaces. Another challenge to sort of keep the still life yet abstract the subject as well as the rectangular space of the paper. After extending the lines to get a pleasing composition, I gave the adult class options to add color outside of class, but had the teens darken lines with a sharpie marker. They had to be careful when adding the black to keep everything balanced. This meant not going over some lines as well as thickening other lines. The first photo shows the overall composition of one student's work. The second photo shows his color scheme.

I used this assignment to move into some color theory for these students. I wanted them to work with only five tones, limiting their palette. I gave them 3 choices:

a. choose a secondary color (a mixture of two primaries) and add white and black to this color to make 5 values.
b. choose 5 analogous colors on the color wheel (the color wheel set up with primary, secondary, and tertiary colors). Example - red, red-purple, purple, purple-blue, blue.
c. choose any two complementary colors for two of the five hues, and mixtures of both for the other three. The student's work shown here has a color choice of blue and orange, with mixtures of predominantly orange with some blue, predominantly blue with some orange, and then a mixture of orange and blue that makes a lovely brown.

Limitations - they used acrylic paint, and work in hour sessions only. This means they can't mix five nice batches of paint to work from for an extended session, so they are constantly mixing their hues and not always repeating the exact same color each time. But, actually, that works in a serendipitous way - all colors are in the same "family" no matter, and the paintings are holding together tonally.

This is definitely a lesson I will keep and use again!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Glade

This is from another photo I took during that loooongg bike ride last summer along the Greenbrier River in West Virginia (22 miles). When we came to this place, we were close to the finish point and we were utterly exhausted and one person was crabby (that would be me). Still, the beauty of this particular spot along the river drove cranky thoughts from my mind for more than a few minutes. It was like a place in one of my favorite but rare dreams - a forest with places of lush green lawn where I wander around in delight. Some people have dreams where they fly, not me, except once, and it was in a place like this. I took lots of photos but they can't capture the alive but calm greens and deep quietness.

This painting is the largest I've ever done: 24 x 36 inches. Took a lot of sap green and ultramarine blue, my favorite pigments for mixing my base green. I add alizarin for the darkest areas, and various yellows (lemon, cadmium, and indian) for the different warm greens. A touch of white either lightens a hue to a lovely cool bright highlight on leaves or else neutralizes some hues to dull grays which are necessary to bring out more intense color. Still, working within this color range is challenging to keep it interesting. I hope I succeeded for the viewer. For me, this painting takes me back.