Friday, July 31, 2009


It seems like there are challenges everywhere I turn. First of all, the internet signal to my computer keeps cutting out. Just when I want to post to the blog, no connection! Irritating to say the least.

The second challenge is really comprehending all the color ideas in Faber Birren's book, "Creative Color". My copy dates back to 1961. I think it may be out of print. It was the text for the college class I took in color. I am rereading it and trying some of the exercises. Above is the latest "Frenchman" painting trying to get LUSTER effect. This is the use of HUE, SHADE, BLACK combination of color forms. It turns out that DOMINANCE is critical for the effect. A small amount of pure hue surrounded by dark shades or black give the optical illusion of luster. Luster is generally "seen" in metal or fabric, not skin. In a portrait the effect isn't exactly lustrious but a beautiful glow. Rembrandt did it best! I think this version from the "Vern" series worked better. At the time I was translating a beautiful landscape painting by Wolf Kahn into a color scheme for a portrait. Now I realize that it followed the HUE, SHADE, BLACK formula which produced this beautiful glowing light. My latest version isn't as dramatic and has a much warmer set of colors but I think it works. I did lose the "intensity" of the yellow when I glazed the painting with red. A little watercolor crayon should bring it back.

The next painting will be pure hue surrounded by gray or neutral tones to capture "luminosity". I have attempted this before with limited success.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


In response to Rhonda Carpenter's request for more information on my last post, I will describe what I am trying to accomplish.

Faber Birren devoted his life to the study of color. Perhaps the most complicated of all the elements of design. In his book "Creative Color", he devised this schematic shown above where you have HUE (PURE COLOR) WHITE & BLACK in an equilateral triangle. If you combine HUE with WHITE you create a color called a TINT. If you combine HUE with BLACK you create a color called a SHADE. Lastly, if you combine WHITE with BLACK you get GRAY. He places each of these between the HUE, WHITE AND BLACK. In the center is what is called a TONE. A TONE is created when you mix GRAY (BLACK & WHITE) with a HUE or when you neutralize a HUE by adding it's compliment. By adding a compliment you are in effect combining all three primary colors in some ratio. Even a small addition of the 3rd primary creates a dulled color. So, you can see that this "triangle" has lines connecting each to the other where there is some common element. The idea that he had was to draw a straight line through three connecting "words" and create a painting using only these aspects of color. Why? You would have a natural harmony because each element has a relationship with one of the others. This is also a way to establish mood.

So, within this concept, a HUE must be a pure color. Many tubes of paint are mixtures and already TINTS, SHADES OR TONES. Magenta was one of those colors that was already altered. It would not work with the HUE/TINT/WHITE painting, as I found out. I should have known in advance but it isn't always easy to see the subtle alteration of a color. Watercolor makes this idea more difficult because the TINT is created by adding water instead of white pigment. At what point does HUE become TINT? I don't really know but will use my best judgement. Another factor making watercolor so challenging for this project is the transparent nature of watercolor. With color glazing I am getting tones when I don't want them. An opaque paint such as acrylic would be much easier to create the effects. I struggle on! Above is my watercolor version of WHITE/TONE/SHADE.

Color can be parsed very mathematically but I am not interested in "exact". I am satisfied with "approximate". I am intriguied by the concept and the visual result of following these color design formulas. If I get a general approximation of the effect by following the guidelines, I am not going to stress over a minor infraction.

Just to complicate the matter further, consider the aspect of DOMINANCE. If there are three items to work with, they could be used equally or one could dominate and the other two could be very minor or one could dominate, one could subordinate and the third could be very minor....think "PAPA, MAMA, BABY" or two could be equal and the third could be minor. When you switch the players around into the different positions you see why one lifetime isn't enough to grasp it all!

I have set the challenge for myself to paint the same image using a different combination of HUE, TINT, WHITE, GRAY, BLACK, SHADE & TONE and see what it looks like. The more I understand the more I have a powerful tool to express my ideas.
I am not going to try for all the variations of dominance within each grouping.

Rhonda,is your head spinning yet ? Aren't you sorry you asked!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Today's efforts were focused on color. I made two attempts to do a painting with hue/tint/white. I started with a magenta along with yellow and thalo blue. Magenta has some blue in it so the mixtures with yellow were actually tones (neutralized). I started over with deep rose red, new gamboge and thalo blue. Finally, I was able to create a painting with only hue/tint/white.

I had this idea to grid the failed two paintings and alternate the strips. It's much more interesting than the original versions.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I spend most mornings exercising in the pool, so I wake up and put on my suit before I have a chance to talk myself out of it. This morning I went into the studio to get some drawings transfered to watercolor paper in preparation for painting before I left for the pool. Well, I started painting and never left the house! About noon I decided to change out of my suit. It wasn't going to get wet today.

My project was to create illustrations for my book showing how one value study can be painted in a variety of ways depending on what value represented light, mid and dark. It's a lot easier to paint than it is to verbalize the concept in a few sentences. I am finding the wording a challenge. Most of these paintings are 9 x 12. I started out doing 4.5 x 6 paintings but found it difficult to paint "neatly" so small. I used the same three colors for all of the paintings. My photography and adjustments have slightly altered the color, but you get the idea. The colors are Quin Gold by Sennelier (it has a green tinge to it) Brown Madder and Indigo. The last image is a different value pattern than the rest. One of the samples got away from me and deviated from the value pattern. I will leave it up to the viewer to decide which one that is.

Painting really goes so much faster when decisions like value and color are decided in advance, not to mention the success rate goes up. I know which basic colors I am going to work with before I start, but I decide as I go along what will go where. It's great to only have to focus on technique and the color choices. There's still enough surprises to keep it interesting. If it were totally worked out in advance, it would take the fun out of painting for me.

Monday, July 20, 2009


After much contemplation, I decided to darken the dark areas and let the collage paper be the mid value. But first I needed to correct the drawing and sharpen the dark shapes. I cut a piece of tracing paper the size of my painting and redrew the shapes correcting as I went. I covered the lines on the back of the tracing paper with white watercolor crayon and transferred the drawing onto the painting. I kept the light on the left side of the painting very warm and had the face dissolve into collage paper. I like the ambiguous foreground/background interplay with this painting and the values finally work for me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I was inspired by this fantastic artist from Lisbon, Portugal known as Vhils (click on blog title for a direct link) and decided to see if I could achieve a similar effect with paper and paint instead of huge crumbling exterior walls and paint! I collaged an old painting with my hand painted tissue paper and then drew my Frenchman on top with a white pencil. I then started painting with glazes of acrylic paint. I had a great time painting, rubbing, spritz with alcohol then rub, paint again etc. I tried some interesting techniques and liked some of the results. However, overall I didn't like the final result. The white against the papers I used was unpleasant and I lost a lot of the original paper which was supposed to be the dark values. It got smeared and painted over too much. After looking at it for a long time, I decided to keep the right side and cover over the rest with more collage paper. I haven't decided where to go from here. I have a few ideas. There is always gesso waiting in the wings if it is a total failure. In the meantime, I decided to try again with the original idea but thought I needed cool colors to play off the chalk white. I also decided not to make the collage so striped. It takes awhile to dry so I shall add the face tomorrow. I don't know if this trial and error process will produce anything good but I sure am having fun.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I received this e-mail from Bonnie, one of my favorite students (who become new friends!)
"Today I was meeting with some other artists...and I was raving about your newly organized studio---how inspiring it was to see on your blog.

So, until I took your San Diego class and learned about texture, etc., mine was neat as a pin, also. Now its a mess, and overflowing. Your fault! Some stuff is even in boxes in the pool house. And the stuff piled on the floor, and the rolling file cabinet, there is just no place else to put it that I can think of."

Nice try but I only accept responsibility for my own messes! I should have a disclaimer: Work with me at your own risk!

The good news is I have discovered a wonderful use for corrugated cardboard in a new book "Art From Intuition" by Dean Nimmer, Watson Guptill Publications. Among lots of wonderful ideas was this cardboard printing idea. I have photographed the tools I used. First I drew the design onto the cardboard. I easily made corrections knowing they wouldn't show in the final print. Then I had to decide which parts to leave solid and which to cut away. Using an exacto knife, I scored the cardboard and peeled away the paper. I found one of the tools to a cheap clay sculpting set (Michael's Craft Store) was perfect for cleaning off the paper between the ribs. I felt like a hygienist at the Dentist office...nice to be on the other side of the scraping for a change!! I forgot to reverse the drawing but will try to make a note for next time. In my enthusiastic haste to see how it would print, I forgot to coat the cardboard with gloss varnish medium. After wasting ink and several sheets of paper, I decided to reread the directions. Ha! I guess I skipped an important step. I put two coats of varnish on. Amazingly, I didn't have gloss but I did have what is in the photo. It worked pretty well. I think the gloss will give a smoother surface for the ink. It's on my shopping list. I originally used red oxide for the ink so that color is under the varnish on the plate. I did the final print, with decent results, using Ultramarine Blue ink. The image I designed doesn't look that exciting, so I will do something more with it tomorrow. The barren I used to burnish the back of the paper, transferring the ink from the cardboard to the paper, was found in the cake decorating section of Michael's. It works very nicely for my purposes.

I think this cut cardboard has interesting potential and I have plenty of this material to work with. Check out Belinda Del Pesco's blog (click on my blog title for a direct link). She is a real print maker and has a great way to use scrap foam board for printing. Her images are stunning. Ideas abound!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I think this is about as low as I can go and still have the image read "Frenchman" I may play with it further, but for now I am satisfied. I have ten versions of simplification, each one with a little less extraneous information. I think it comes naturally to Peggy Stermer Cox. She's absolutely brilliant at designing, not so with me. But, I am getting the hang of it and having fun with the process. I am finding tracing paper a great tool. As I try different ideas, I can easily erase the lines that don't work and trace some of the lines and shapes from previous versions that I particularly liked, as I work out new drawings. It makes the process go fairly quickly.

I was doing these additional drawings for the book I am working on. It is slowly taking shape and I am getting excited about it.
I have nine pages completed. Trying to fit what I want to do on each page into the templates they provide is a little more difficult that I thought. I am learning a lot....especially patience!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Here is an exercise I hadn't tried before. Not that it is a new idea. Cut paper images were perfected by Matisse and so have been around for awhile. Years ago we were at Disneyworld with the kids and had their silhouettes made from cut paper. The artist never drew a line. He just looked at his subject and started cutting and turning the paper all the while producing remarkable likenesses. Lately, I kept running into the idea but thought portraiture a little too challenging. When ideas keep reappearing and jumping out at you, it's time to pay attention. So, in preparation for my new book, I wanted to include the idea of using cut paper as a design technique. I needed to have a sample to include for reference. Here is my "Frenchman a la Matisse" . Cutting shapes without a pattern is more difficult than I had anticipated. There were a few false starts, frustration, temptation to quit but then....I started to really get into it! After awhile I started cutting back into the shapes for negative spaces. After a time, I couldn't stop. I kept adding little shapes and lines to the face. When I have more time, I think I want to practice and get much better. I see real potential for some interesting paintings based on these cut paper patterns. There are some fun examples in the back of the book "Body Parts" by Northlight. Give this a try. Share your results with me and I'll make a slide show.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I was able to work in the studio tonight with excellent light! I only have one more major space to organize and the studio will be up and running. One of the best ideas I had was putting the portable overhead mirror that I use for teaching on top of my work surface. It keeps it safe and out of the way but also lets me check what I am working on instantly without having to stand it up and walk away from it. Since so many of my paintings are on Tyvek or YUPO, they have to be worked on flat. Now I can check my drawing easily before I paint. This mirror breaks down easily, is light weight and fits in my compact car for transport. It costs around $200 and has been an excellent investment. I will have to go through my receipts to find the company information.

I spent hours at the computer this morning moving photographs onto the auxiliary hard drive organizing them into categories as I went. Payback time for the slipshod way I treated the photos when I took them. The digital equivalent of throwing them in a box unsorted. At least I will be able to quickly find what I need in the future.

I am making great progress on my book, as well. I have 6 pages completed. I realized I needed more drawings and I have to redo some in ink so they will photograph better. I should have enough to complete a few more pages tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I started out early in the studio finding the perfect place for each little piece of minutiae that crossed my path. Today was going to be the final day of organization. But no. After a few hours I was seeking some form of creative avoidance. I soon found myself at my computer. I started moving tons of photos onto the extra hard drive and finally freed up enough space to start working on my book. provides free software downloads with the instructions, guidance and templates to self publish all kinds of books. I am working on a companion book for my Variations workshop. I really got caught up in the process and am slowly learning the ins and outs of this program. Today I designed the cover, the introduction and a few additional pages.

To add to the mix, my website has been redesigned with the ability to be interactive and I will be able to update it myself, much like the blog but more personalized. My web designer is ready to give me hands on lessons on exactly how to do this. I am anxious to have the new web design activated. So, my time management skills will need to magically show up and save the day. Or maybe it's my self-discipline that needs to emerge from where it's been hiding.

Well, life is never boring. I just get excited about too many things at one time. It reminds me of that wonderful expression: "I jumped on my horse and rode off in all directions!"

Here are a few pictures of the new shelves and one perfectly organized cupboard. More to follow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


A member of my critique group, Jane P., found herself unexpectedly in the hospital with a serious medical incident! What a shock to everyone, especially Jane. Fortunately, she is making a swift and full recovery. The group decided to make her an art bouquet as it will express our feelings of friendship and love and last longer than fresh flowers. Here is my effort. All the cards are artist trading card (ATC) size of 2.5 x 3.5. This one started out as a little experiment on YUPO that went awry. This section looked like leaves and ferns so I stamped some little violets to complete my bouquet.

I have been spending the last 3 days working on organizing my studio. I tore down an ancient wall system that consisted of wire cubes that were falling apart and inefficient because of the shape. My husband replaced it with four 6' shelves. I was inspired by the studios shown in the recent issue of Watercolor magazine. Especially Donna Zagotta's beautiful workspace. There are a few challenges. I have quite bit of space but I must consider that the walls sometimes move in this part of the world, so I don't want to put anything dangerous up high on a shelf that may come flying off. Storing framed paintings is still unresolved but I have a plan that requires selling off a desk. I still have another day or two before it is all finally realized. I am going through every box, bag, shelf etc. I can't believe all the "stuff" I have accumulated. Doing collage makes for more junk that is saved for some future project! I didn't take any before pictures to protect my reputation but will post the final results when I get finished.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Here is a virtual tour via slide show of the beautiful Gualala Art Center, situated amid the beautiful Redwoods on the California Coast. The building is modeled after a large lumber mill. Designed, built and maintained by volunteers, the building hosts over 1700 events each year. As you can see, they are working on some project in the front of the building. There was an additional exhibition space inside which I failed to photograph. It was a joy to work in such an inviting environment.

On another note, I received a DVD of my demonstration a few weeks ago for the Valley Watercolor Society. I think I am legally able to duplicate it but will check to make sure. In the meantime, click on the blog title and you will go to the VWS home page. There you will find a photo of me and with another click you can see a magical speedy version of the painting taking shape which you can watch. They have a very techno savvy crew in their society. It was generous of them to send me the DVD.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Sitting in a meadow back off the main road is a romantic little chapel that looks like it jumped out of a fairy tale book! It looks enchanted and definitely is enchanting. Every detail from the interesting shape of the building down to the small collection of shells embeded in the swirl of the ceiling, is beautifully thought out and executed with the finest craftsmanship. A sparkling jewel in the landscape. I didn't have time to paint it (maybe next trip) but I went overboard photographing. I hope you enjoy this slide show. Next time you are in the area, make sure you stop and enjoy this chapel. The door is always open.

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