Monday, January 18, 2010


Photographing my art is always a chore. I have to drag out my lights on stands and clamps, lights that are stored in a precarious jumble behind a table. The cords are always tangled, and the light stands, being cheap ones, don't cooperate when I manipulate them. It takes probably an hour to set up all this stuff. So I only do it once every few months when I have enough paintings to make it worthwhile.

What if the key lights were set up all the time? My husband mounts two brackets on the walls at the far corners of the studio. I clamp two clamp lights to the brackets. The light clamps aren't strong enough, so I add a pinchy clamp from the hardware store that is so strong I can barely open it. Voila! Lights stored out of the way but also ready for use. All I need do is fasten the cords to the walls and it'll be perfect.

Friday, January 15, 2010

January Clearing: Reaping the Rewards

Now that the junk is cleared away in the studio, and road blocks are gone, the paint is flowing. Nothing like releasing pent-up energy. Even took my palette out of the garage freezer and moved it to the kitchen freezer. You wouldn’t think that would make much difference, but the process of putting on shoes to go out in the garage maze slows me down just that little bit. Even better would be a freezer in my studio. (Like that’s going to happen.)

These hills posed on the fly as we drove from Boise to Portland. I’m working on a series, and playing around with the color and movement.


Much studying of edges this year. I have been delighted with some of the discoveries. A carefully selected color on the tops of the hills helps them roll back under the sky. No need to blend; the color creates the proper edge.

An edge challenge here is in the water. Because of the way the hills slant, their reflections can't be painted in long vertical strokes, yet I still wanted the brush marks to be vertical. I started this reflection with the canvas on its side, painting the reflection like a butterfly wing. That took it out of the brain-interpreted image zone, reducing everything to colors and shapes. Then I turned the painting back upright, and went over all the brushwork with the same colors, using short bits of intermediate color to soften jumpy transitions. It worked pretty well, but I'll have to keep playing with the technique.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Winter is the perfect time for a slugabed to paint the sunrise. Here above the 45th parallel, December sunrise is after 7:30, and anyone can manage to get up by 7 to go paint on a midwinter day... even me. Which makes it truly pathetic that I haven’t managed to get up even once this winter until this morning. So it would have been nice to have a spectacular show to reward me for my superhuman efforts. But no.
Still, it was a pleasant morning, a paintbrush in my hand, gradually lightening sky, peaceful calm on the river. Exaggerating the color a little, I managed to put some expression into the sky.
Now if you want me to get up other mornings this winter, let’s have some dramatic skies!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January Clearing 8

The studio is now organized, drawers have been cleaned, I have more floor space, and I'm beginning to feel like I can breathe in here. I have a pile on my workbench of little jobs that haven't gotten done. The procrastination pile. Mostly these things aren't very important, but when they pile up, they become more so.

The same thing happens in my office, where I waste a lot of time shuffling low-priority papers. The answer to this is simple: Take a half hour each day to


January Clearing 7

I pull out the drawer of dropcloths and sheets. Nothing in this drawer is out of place. I fold everything and put it back. Suddenly there is more room in the drawer. Somehow, putting things in order makes less of things. Why can't they just stay that way? Hurry. Which creates a mess, which takes time to straighten out. Interesting loop.

Painter's tape has migrated to three different locations. I put it all in the same drawer and find that I have lots. Sometimes a perceived shortage is merely stuff in the wrong places. Food distribution, perhaps? Water? I know, painter's tape isn't going to save the world, but I'm beginning to see a lot of parallels between the mess in my studio and problems in the outside world.

Friday, January 8, 2010

REVIEW Watermedia Techniques: Watercolor and Gouache

WATER MEDIA TECHNIQUES: WATERCOLOR AND GOUACHE by Stephen Quiller. (Crystal Productions)
This video is full of basic techniques, which Quiller demonstrates in clear, simple demos. It’s a real treat to watch Quiller make shapes with quick confidence using a two-inch wash brush. Grasses, trees, and wood grain emerge magically from the various brush angles and negative and positive shape making.
He constructs a painting, using the transparent qualities of watercolor, then builds translucent and opaque passages with gouache. Because gouache is made of the same gum arabic binder and handles similarly on the brush to watercolor, it is fully compatible with watercolor. It’s great for fine detail, and for creating highlights on a painting, similar to the use of “body color” in 18th century traditional watercolor. The combination of watercolor and gouache also allows the artist to build a painting from dark to light, as in oil painting. Underpaintings, and scumbling techniques become possible.
One interesting demo is a plein-air sketch in watercolor, followed by a studio painting in watercolor and gouache. It’s interesting to see how Quiller takes elements from the sketch and creates a dramatically different studio work, informed by the information he collected in the field.
An excellent video for exploring the possibilities of the two media.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January Clearing 5

Today I go through the photos. Not my digital photos, but the older ones, the film prints. There are a lot of them. I was as shutter-happy then as I am now, only now it costs a whole lot less.

The thing that strikes me about these old photos is that they aren't very good. I'm not inspired to paint from them. I am enjoying looking through them, but I can do that with the photo album, of which these are mostly duplicates. If I really need one of these pictures, the best of them are in the family albums.

I save the garden flower photos for a friend. I save the landscape photos for my oil classes, because you never know. For the time being, I save the wildflower photos for my watercolor paintings, though I may want to use my more recent photos. The rest go in the trash. My closet is pounds lighter.

I have just thrown away hours of (enjoyable) work. And feel good about it. Maybe the things we do in our lives are not as important as they seem at the time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January Clearing 6

Came across lots of stuff. A small desktop easel, hasn't been used in 3 years. Watercolor paper that runs through the printer. Scratch tools for clayboard. Some of these will be useful for some other artist.

Cardmaking papers can go downstairs with the cardmaking stuff in the storeroom, which I get out once a year... what were they doing in my studio? Stuff seems to migrate into drawers and shelves where it cannot be found. Boxes multiply, almost like coat hangers. I am starting to let some air into the closet. My eyes begin to find useful things among the noise.

January Clearing 4

Side one of my closet. Mostly this was pretty easy. A few things in the wrong drawers, but mostly watercolor supplies.

Ran into the Gouache. Uh-oh. This is a problem. Quite a few tubes of buttery, filmy, rich-colored paint. When did I last use it? More than ten years ago. Does it fit into my current work? Not at all. If I keep the paint, it will be for play.

This is a tough decision. When I look at the paint, I have a desire to play with it. I spent good money on it. But I also have an oil painting on my easel. And a studio full of stuff on the floor that needs closet space. I decide to give the gouache away and to give myself a gift of space.

Monday, January 4, 2010

January Clearing 3

How to clear the studio? Some thoughts:
Useful for oil painting in current style: keep
Possibly useful for oil painting: maybe keep
Useful for watercolor painting in current style: keep
Useful for teaching oils: keep
Useful for teaching watercolors: keep some
Useful for acrylic collage: keep
Useful for plein air: keep
Haven't used in 3 years: consider clearing
Haven't used in 5 years: strongly consider clearing.

So... looking at boxes in the top of the studio closet:
Handmade paper: keep
Collage: keep
Texture tools: keep
Watercolor techniques reference cards: keep
Powdered dye: keep
Projector: 3 yrs. Think about this.
Roll of book cover: keep
Photos: need to go through these. I can't keep every photo I ever took, can I?
Chinese brush supplies: 5 yrs: This I can give away.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January Clearing 2

I have a bad habit of not being able to find a tool in a drawer, and buying a new one to replace the one I can't find. This fills the drawer with more stuff, and then I can't find a tool....
Remedy: take my brush drawer and remove all the brushes that I don't use any more. Perhaps my college student daughter would like these perfectly-good-used-but-not-my-favorite brushes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

January Clearing 1

It's pretty easy for paper to take over my office and studio, and even other rooms in the house. It comes in at the rate of about 15 pieces of snail mail per day, countless sales receipts, plus whatever e-mails or web pages I foolishly print. Resolved: if I can find the information easily on the internet, I do not need to store it in paper form in my house. If (as with magazine articles) I may want to refer to it later, it can be stored as a pdf on my computer. Resolved: Add as close as possible to zero paper files to my existing collection. Reduce the number of files in my house by one drawer each year, until I am down to... er... 4?

This will take some diligence. And some screening of existing files.