Saturday, May 31, 2008


I have been fighting with my printer all day trying to get some images printed to start a new painting. I was lectured by my son that I don't have enough memory left on my laptop because of all the photos. so I have been transferring many of them onto an auxiliary hard drive trying to get 10% of the memory freed up. I can't believe how many photos that is!! In the meantime I thought I would try the printer again but it is printing only half the photo. What's up with that???????

While I was messing with the two hard drives and all the photos, I came across one of my self portraits done with a random watercolor wash background, then a brush pen drawing and pastel on top. I did this painting looking in a mirror without a photo reference. It is distorted but I really had fun doing it and I like it a lot. Most people don't like it because they think it is too unflattering. I don't really care about flattering myself in my work. It is so freeing not to take yourself so seriously.

I sometimes take the time to stop and photograph along the way. Here are the steps to the finished painting. I started with wet into wet on watercolor cold press paper. When dry I used a Japanese brush pen which holds an ink cartridge. I love drawing with this tool. Unfortunately I don't know the manufacturer but it is quality hair in the brush and was around $60.00 Then I started applying hard pastel and finally some soft pastel in the end.

Quote for the day: "PASSION: There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue these" Michael Nolan

A BIG THANK YOU TO NAVA WHO CREATED THE HTML FOR THE PHOTOS SO I COULD POST THEM! I have spent 3 days trying to upload the images to no avail. It pays to have great friends who share their genius with you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I don't usually obsess over famous people. In fact, I usually avoid drawing them. There is something about this face that is fascinating plus he has been photographed by so many outstanding creative photographers. The variety and clarity of the images are toooooo tempting for me. It keeps my skills up, too. I usually don't try for an accurate likeness but have been doing so with these drawings. It is amazing how a hair's breath difference changes the likeness. I still haven't really "nailed" it but am getting close. I have not been measuring and comparing the way I teach portraiture, just eye-balling it. I would probably come closer to a perfect likeness if I took the time to measure but I wasn't feeling the need. I think I will now move to simplifying and maybe doing some "wire sculpture" type drawings.

I really wanted to start on another painting today using my "expression" photos. I took these myself, so a better use of my time. My printer is acting up again and I couldn't print them out so I just left my desk in disgust and went to draw Willie in another room. I guess I will draw directly from the computer screen tomorrow and get moving on the new painting. I bought the laptop so I could work directly from the computer but I still prefer to have the print. It's hard to totally embrace the new technology at this stage of life, but I am working hard to stay on top of things.

I found a couple of wonderful tiny little books for a recent Grad and will share some of the inspirational quotes.

The first book is called "Do What you Love"

PURPOSE: "There are many wonderful things that will never be done if you do not do them"...Charles D. Gill

Monday, May 26, 2008


This is a painting I have been playing with the past several days. I tried to paint watercolor on a regular canvas. I thought because it was coated by the manufacturer with gesso, that it would accept the paint. Well, not so! The paint just beaded up. I tried massaging it and working with it but not much success. I did get some color to stick, so I sprayed it with an acrylic spray. Let that dry. Then I coated it with full strength Clear Gesso so I could save what was underneath and then tried painting again. The paint didn't bead up but it crawled beyond the lines and generally was a mess. I was ready to totally cover the whole thing up but decided to play with what I had since I could hardly "ruin" it. It was already "ruined". This is a very freeing situation when you have a dog to play with. I added line with a pen and full strength liquid watercolor. I used some watercolor crayon here and there. Overall, it turned out fair. I will probably wind up reusing the canvas later. In the meantime, I will leave it as is. I think I prefer laminating watercolor paper to a canvas rather than painting watercolor directly on the canvas. There are still more experiments to be tried.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Here are some photos of my drawing and painting kit that I take with me when I travel. One could have it with them at all times because of its' size but I save it for when I am on the road. Please note that my hand is not that fat!!! It is the camera angle. I wanted to show the size in relation to my hand. Hotels have miniature bottles of shampoo, mouthwash etc. for the guests. I use such a bottle cleaned out as a small water container. It fits in the kit nicely and doesn't leak. I have several Elegant Writer Pens in this kit, two regular travel brushes, one brush that holds water in the handle and a small mechanical pencil as well as a pen with permanent ink. A purse size packet of tissues complete the set.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Here is the sketchbook page from my return flight from the Cedar Hills workshop in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area last week. I was crammed into my middle seat next to two big guys. I felt like a contortionist sketching and painting in the limited space but it passes the time and is a fun activity while flying. The first drawing was done with the Elegant Writer caligraphy pen. I started to put some color on it but the ink kept bleeding and I decided it wasn't a good decision to add color, so I started the second image drawn with a pencil and then full color applied. I love my little art kit. I still haven't put any paint in the second Altoids box but the clear plastic water bottle lids are in place so I will probably fill them before my next trip. I don't really need a second box but there is room in the small makeup case I have everything so I will take advantage of it. It just occurred to me that I should photograph the whole setup. I will take care of that tomorrow.

I heard that you can paint watercolor on regular gessoed canvas (not the "special watercolor canvas") so I am intrigued. I spent part of the day transferring one of my drawings onto a 10" square canvas and will start to paint it tomorrow. I suspect I will finish it in a few hours. This canvas has a gesso coating so I don't see why it wouldn't work as gesso accepts watercolor very nicely. I will post tomorrow the results of this experiment.

Speaking of experimenting, I just booked a workshop in Minneapolis for next year and they want a short version of the "Vern" series as the focus of the workshop. Ideas are flashing around in my head how to present this material in five days. I am looking for some "guinea pigs" in the Bay Area to try these ideas out on. If you are interested in such a class, send me a note and I will find a place and time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


This morning I awoke at 6 AM and stayed in bed for an hour drawing this sketch of Willie Nelson. It was so nice and quiet and a great way to start the day before rushing around.

While I was in Texas I bought a magazine with the most amazing photos of Willie Nelson celebrating his 75th birthday. He is a big hero in Texas, beloved by all. He has the most amazing face and I have been collecting images of him. The photographer is so talented and created some very unusual photos. The detail and camera angles are incredible. I like to draw very detailed graphite sketches in an Aquabee sketch book. I cannot see this kind of detail without a photograph. It is just for practice and fun. Working from someone else's photographs means I can't display or sell any of them, but I find great joy in the process of drawing. The magazine has a website with a video interview with Willie. You can stop action the video. I plan to do that and draw from the "still". Website is The photographer is Platon. I went to his website and loved, loved, loved his work. He uses a slightly distorted camera angle much of the time. My new Photoshop Elements 6 has a feature that will distort in this manner. I think I can get some of my photos to have this same effect.

If you want to improve your drawing skills, there are no shortcuts. The old "practice, practice, practice" still applies.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Here is the slide show of the work completed and shared on Saturday, our last day of the Advanced Portrait Class. We worked on head with hands in the portrait. Everyone did a great job. Hands can be challenging. Lots of painters avoid this aspect of portraiture.

It was a fun class and everyone put forth a lot of effort . I don't have any more classes scheduled in the Bay Area at this time. I hope to focus on my own painting for this summer. I am starting some preliminary sketches for my next idea. Right now my printer and my computer aren't talking to each other. Technical help in the form of my son should arrive tomorrow. I am hoping he can figure out what is wrong. Why can't all my machines just get along?

Sunday, May 18, 2008


We finished up the workshop with some great work! It was a jam packed week with lots of fun, laughs, bonding and of course lots of drawing and painting. I have posted the rest of the paintings, most are finished but some are in progress. We worked on different surfaces ....diluted matte medium, gesso, clear gesso and Tyvek, not to mention traditional watercolor paper.

Plans are in the works for a return visit to Texas next year to do a workshop in Ransom Canyon.

The return trip turned into a marathon of travel hell. I left the art facility at 4 PM and I finally arrived home after midnight SF time which equated to 2 AM Dallas time and headed out the door Saturday morning at 8 AM to teach another class. I will post those paintings tomorrow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


The week is flying by. Tomorrow is the last day and then back to California. I am posting my demo I did today. Everyone has been so enthusiastic and working fast and furious, producing a good body of work. I will have a wonderful slide show Saturday night. By the end of an intense day, it is hard to do a lot of writing, so I will let the work speak for itself.



I am having trouble creating a slide show tonight so I though I would just post each painting separately. Everyone is very enthusiastic and accomplishing more in a shorter time than I had anticipated. I am hoping we will get all three paintings completed this week. Often we get things started but they are finished at home after the workshop.

The weather here in Texas is interesting. I haven't been in a tornado warning for awhile! I always got confused between "tornado watch" and "tornado warning". Turns out "warning" is the one to take cover. It is unnerving to be watching a map on television of the storm pattern and not knowing what county you are in. The front desk assured me the hotel was not in danger so I went to bed and ignored the storm. The whole thing "blew over" after a few hours.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This is the demo painting I did this morning for the workshop here in Cedar Hill, Texas. The facility here is brand new and beautiful. Everyone has been so welcoming. Genuine Texas Hospitality. Wonderful energy is flowing from the participants and we are having a wonderful time. There is some exciting work being done. I am hoping to post a slide show tomorrow night with everyone's first painting.

I was excited to meet Nancy Standlee in person! What fun to meet someone through this internet and become friends and supporters and then finally be able to spend time in each other's company sharing our passion for art. Nancy was instrumental in making this workshop happen. We all need enthusiastic supporters as we move ahead in our art. I am finding wonderful new friends and boosters all around the country now through the blog world. The internet has allowed us to grow closer together and support each other in our artistic endeavors.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Saturday we worked on self-portraits by doing modified blind contour drawings looking into mirrors. Everyone was inspired by the work of Elizabeth Layton. I had two posters of her work and a special "Coloring Book" version of her work. "Grandma" Layton took up art at the age of 68 and cured herself of lifelong depression through her amazing contour drawing self portraits. She is an inspirational figure that speaks to the power of art on our spirit. You can read all about her and see some of her work by putting "Grandma" Elizabeth Layton into the search. There are many web sites to explore regarding her life and work.

Everyone worked quickly and finished at least one self portrait. I loved them all! I am thinking now how I should have taken the photo of the painting with the person so everyone could see how they really captured the essence of each person.

The slide show also has some completed bozzetto sheets of "expressions" and several full size paintings based on one of the bozzettos.

Right now I am in Cedar Hill, Texas. The art school looks wonderful and I am excited to begin the week long workshop. I will be able to share our progress throughout the week.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Today I reframed 4 paintings but didn't have a chance to do any drawing or painting, so I have dipped into the archives for something to share.

I have too many palettes and most of them have been loaded with paint! In an effort to use up some of the paint and not be wasteful, I started painting sheets of watercolor with random wet into wet washes. I would take these watercolor starts to model sessions and then I would draw the model on the paper with a Japanese brush pen that takes ink cartridges and finish the painting with pastels. It was amazing how these random colors worked so well every time! I love the look of the watercolor peeking through the pastel and part of the ink drawing showing here and there. It's a fun process. Give it a try.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I did this fast little drawing (5 x 7) in my sketch book and decided to paint it. I spent a few more minutes creating little value plans and thumbnails for composition. This guy's face is so entertaining, I think I will do all the variations in composition sooner or later but I need to decide on one for the workshop. I spent the rest of the day installing the new Photoshop Elements 6 for the Mac. It looks exciting with some cool new tools but now I have to learn the darn thing all over again. I hate that they put all the instruction on the internet instead of in a book. I like to have the book open as I go. I guess a trip to the bookstore is in order. I have been working with Elements 2 so it was time to upgrade.

I can't remember whether I have posted the following comments by artist Sue Archer. It was on the CCP Blog awhile back and I saved it for my teaching. It was so perfectly worded and expressed my sentiments on the subject perfectly. If I have posted this before, I think it is worth repeating:

"The drawing process is the heart of art, the foundation of painting. Drawing involves learning how to "see" as an artist. It is during this process that you learn about your "subject", the lines, the shapes, the relationships. This is your "homework", your prep work for painting. It is during this process the artist is designing and composing.

Projecting can be a useful tool to assist the drawing process but it should never used as a crutch. Many accomplished artists project at some time during the drawing process, including the contemporary painter, Joseph Raffael. However they can draw.

They use the camera viewfinder as a cropping and designing tool, documenting a slice of time that will be transformed by the painting process. But this process involves the knowledge of drawing. Raffael's work often is up to 100 inches. Projection of his image helps him with scale and placement of shapes. The painting grows from this image and the artist transforms this into his or her vision.

During this transformation, you should do what artists do when they draw: add & subtract, pick & choose, emphasize & minimize, enhance & reduce. Often there are shapes, colors and values in your image that won't work in your painting. Use what you like and change what doesn't work.

The camera is a great tool for artists but it lies and has its limitations. Different lenses can cause distortions to reality. These need to be addressed. They distort perspective and the artist needs to be able to see this and correct for it. Values can be exaggerated and don't read well if copied verbatim.

So for those of you who feel they come up short on their drawing skills, take a class, carry a sketch book wherever you go, and just draw. You can learn to draw! As Lynn said, drawing is essential to art; it is very satisfying and fun too."


Sunday, May 4, 2008


On the morning of the last day in New York, we went to the Hoffman Gallery to see a watercolor painting by Joseph Raffael. It was magnificent and what a treat to be able to stand so close and really study how he created it. Monumental in size and sparkling with drops of color, I was captivated. I have a book on him, so upon my return, I took out the book and reread it as I didn't remember the details of his technique. I also visited his website where there are a number of short videos showing him painting. I decided I wanted to try to achieve something of his look in a portrait. I toyed with the idea of projecting the photo to trace all the small shapes but I just couldn't make myself do it. Drawing is fundamental to my work and my ethic. I decided I could draw the image on by hand and then just paint the drops of color without having to create the shapes on the page first. Besides, I wanted the idea of his but not a carbon copy of his work.

I decided to use the new photos I had taken of one of the housepainters who worked on our house last week. Bill Cook was spattered with paint and a very colorful character. He told my husband that outside of his mother, I was the only other woman who liked his face! I think his face is a treasure. I will be using his image for my demo in the Texas Workshop next week, so I wanted to get started. First I drew in my sketch book to get familiar with this new face. Next I drew with my Cheap Joe's Oiler Boiler with Walnut Ink onto Tyvek and using the Hydrus Liquid Watercolors, I was able to complete the painting in about 4 hours. I was struggling at first with everything running together but I managed to get things under control. Overall, I think I achieved the look I was after. Next I will try it on hot press paper and see what happens.

Below is an excerpt from a speech given by Zelda Fichandler. She is the chair of graduate acting and a master teacher at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

" Numberless demands are made on us even before we're old enough to internalize them. Clean your plate or you can't go out to play. You have seven minutes to finish the test. Big boys don't cry…. It takes time to dissolve the restrictions of an educational system where answers are either right or wrong and where uniqueness can be perceived as disruptive. Be patient as you discover the ways in which you are not replaceable by anyone else. " quote from Zelda Fichandler,

EXPRESSIONS! Student work week 3

Here is a slide show of the work my students in the Advanced Watercolor Portrait class have done in the past several weeks. There are some large paintings worked up from a bozzetto changing the light pattern on the face and some starts on the lesson of expressions which we worked on Saturday. I am seeing some tremendous growth in several of my students. As a teacher, this is as exciting as seeing progress in my own work. I feel like a proud parent. It is the real joy of sharing through teaching.

I had the opportunity to photograph the assistant curator of the Triton Museum in Santa Clara, California during a talk on art he did for Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. His name is Preston Metcalf and he gave me permission to use the photos as I saw fit. What a brave man! He was the most enthusiastic speaker with the most amazing facial expressions and hand gestures. His passion for art was electric. I share these photos with my class because of the range of facial expressions by one individual. They are genuine and natural, unlike a book currently available on the subject that uses people "acting" out the expressions.

Expression is what I most wish to express in my paintings. It is endlessly fascinating to me how a subtle change in any of the features produces a different "mood". Years ago I took a class in college called "Non-verbal Communication". The knowledge I gained in this class has perhaps had the most impact on me over any other class I took, includng the art classes. Much of our 6th sense and intuition comes from the subconscious recognizing non-verbal facial expressions that flash so quickly your conscious mind doesn't register it. One researcher has taken film that when slowed down frame by frame shows that flash of true emotion and then the "social mask" returns.

So, the message for today is pay attention to your intuition!

Speaking of the mysteries of the mind, I came across an amazing artist in my continual wanderings on the internet. This Genius, Gregory Blackstock, is an Autistic, Artistic Savant. He is the "Rain Man" of art. He spent 25 years as a dishwasher but has spent his whole life drawing from memory (he never is looking at an object when he draws is all in his head!) He creates sheets of objects like a catalog with beautiful calligraphy neatly penned in perfect rows (no ruler used). I have included the website where you can check him out. There is a wonderful little video to watch as well. His works sells for significant dollars and there is a book available through his gallery. We all probably have this information stored in our brains but not the ability to access it. It is a gift that Gregory can show us what is possible. Gregory Blackstock autistic artistic savant

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