Sunday, September 30, 2012


Fog at Sea and Beach
8 x 6

Field test 2, OREGON COAST, 60-65 degrees.  No sun, but also no wind!

Again, what I am looking for is a little faster drying color that I can still push around on my canvas.  I have put away my Fastmatte white and pulled out an M Graham Alkyd white, which I have been using for years now, and which appears to have only a moderate amount of alkyd with the Sunflower oil.

It's not a very good test, changing two things at once, I know.  But today, I am enjoying painting with more mobile paint.  The Fastmatte colors themselves are a little stiff, but mixed with my white, and/or a little Safflower oil, and they move across the canvas just the way I want them to.

My paintings are completely dry in 2 days.   The colors are not quite as matte, but they also haven't dried in and are retaining their color well.  Since I don't care about having a matte painting, I call this a success.

Next thing I want to try is replacing a few of my slower drying colors in my regular oil palette with Fastmatte colors, to see if they are compatible.  My slowest driers are Sap Green and Indian Yellow.

FASTMATTE with Safflower Oil
Fast drying?  Moderately.  Matte?  Moderately.  Colors push into other colors?  Yes, at these temperatures.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Pennsylvania Hills on the Verge of Fall
8 x 6

A short trip to visit my Mom.  On my way from the airport I spy a lovely sunset over a park.  Go back in the morning, sit on the dewy grass with my smallest paint box, and spend time looking at the trees with just a hint of fall color in them.  They are oak and maple and sycamore, and many other species.  Beside me is an unmowed field, chockfull of yarrow and goldenrod and hundreds of other robust meadow plants.  For a moment, I miss the shear exuberance of species in these Pennsylvania hills.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Cascading Boughs and Water
9 x 12

"Everything is energy and that's all there is to it.  Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality.  It can be no other way.  This is not philosophy.  This is Physics."
Albert Einstein

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Some 100 boards (3 sheets plywood) drying outdoors
along with my rolling folding table

1.  Cut (or get someone to cut) your boards into sizes.  It's a good idea to choose a few sizes and make a lot of those, to limit the number and sizes of frames you need to buy.  Since these paintings will have to be framed, the frames will be your biggest expense.

You'll want to choose your sizes with consideration to warping.  I tested a 12 x 16, and it was plenty stable.  In this batch I am going up to 18 x 24, the largest size that I stock multiple frames for.  Anything larger and I think you'd need thicker board.  And the whole package would end up pretty heavy.  Some artists paint on larger boards.  They are mostly young guys.

2.  Knock off any rough edges with a knife or sandpaper.  I personally keep this step to a bare minimum.  In fact, I am philosophically opposed to sanding.  At every stage of this process I am doing everything I can to avoid sanding.  This particular board has a side that is a little soft.  Some of the cuts came out rough if that side was upward on the saw.  I will use the other side whenever I can, knowing that some paintings will be losers and I will end up painting on the other side when I retire the image.  Still, choose the best side to go forward with.

3.  With your sealant (I used 50/50 Gamsol/Galkyd) coat all the edges of the board, plus one side.  Let the boards dry 24 hours.

4.  With your sealant, again coat all the edges of the board, plus the other side.  Let the boards dry 24 hours.

The point of sealing the board on all sides is to prevent warping.  Also, it keeps that back side from getting scratched up in case I choose to use it later.

First coat in pink, 2 coats in taupe
Next step is your ground.  I am using Gamblin Oil Painting Ground.  You could use Acrylic Gesso instead.  It dries faster.  I find that the oil painting ground is a much better surface for painting on.  My colors hold their intensity and do almost none of that drying in where the colors look dull and extremely matte.

If you like to tone your canvas on location, you can use the ground in white.  I like to have a color already on my board.  I've gone through various stages with this, most of the time choosing a gray of value 4.  Now I'm starting to play with some other colors, as you can see above.  These are great fun to have peeping through your image.  If you are using Acrylic Gesso, color your gesso with acrylic color.  If you are using Oil Painting Ground, color it with oil paint.  A little experimentation will reveal your personal preferences.

5. Choose the best side of your board.  Take a palette knife or scraper and knock off any major bumps, leaves, or bugs that decided to become part of your art project while it was drying outdoors.  Coat the board with a thin coating of ground.  There's a good video on how to do that HERE.  You don't need to put color in this layer, because you'll be covering it up.  Let this coat dry completely.  In 90 degree heat in Portland it took my boards 24 hours.

As you can see in the photo, this first coat leaves quite a bit of the wood grain showing.  If that's the texture you like, you could stop here.  But I want all those lines pretty much filled.

6.  Take a palette knife or scraper and knock off any new bumps.  Get the brush hairs, before they become permanent ridges.  Then coat the board with a second coat of ground.  This layer should be the color that you want to finally paint on.

If you're a lover of smooth texture, you would be sanding between all these steps.  As a former watercolor painter, I kind of enjoy random textures.  I have taken a cat's paw firm roller and gone over the board, giving it a gently bumpy texture that kind of reminds me of watercolor paper.  I love it.  You might not.  Be my guest and sand it smooth.  Or just smooth everything out with a brush.  You could even press a canvas into it to get a woven texture.  But if you're going to do that, it would probably be easier to paint on canvas glued to a board.

If you still have a lot of wood grain, you might want an extra coat.  Otherwise, you're good.

7.  Let your boards dry a good long time before stacking them one on top of the other.  You don't want to press out all those nice bumps that you just made.  If you have any warping, a nice stack of boards will pretty much flatten one another.  It's a good way to store them.

Then, have fun painting!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Testing Sealants

I have decided to try painting on panels.  Why?
-All my friends do it.  HA!  Since when has that mattered?
-They're less work to finish and frame.
-They're smaller to store.
-They are more stable support for thick paint.

Why not?  
-They have to be framed (as opposed to gallery-wrapped canvas, which can have its sides painted.)
-If you put them in panel carriers the edges get smeared.
-They are heavy.
-If you buy them instead of making them, they are really expensive.

So I probably won't use them for air travel, but let's try this out and see if I like it.

So I ask everyone I know and do an internet search on how to prepare them.  As usual, I get a bazillion answers, and have to resort to my own testing.

I have settled on 1/4 inch sandee plywood from Home Depot.  It has a fully filled core, birch veneer, and smooth surface both sides, though one is very soft and will definitely be second choice.  I buy a sheet and have my husband saw it up into appropriate sized bits.  (This involves cleaning the garage, but hey.)

I take some of the scraps (there shouldn't have been any, but who knew the saw blade would eat up so much wood?) and use them to test sealing finishes.  Above are my squares, testing Gesso, PVA size, GAC 100 from Golden, and a 50/50 mix of Galkyd/Gamsol.  I finish both sides plus the ends.  Then I soak them 24 hours in a tub of warm water to simulate humidity and dry them in 90 degree sun to test for warping.

The GAC 100 softened slightly on the surface.  This might not happen if it's cured longer than a day, but I decide to eliminate it except for in travel situations.  The Gesso and the PVA size panels warped slightly.  The winner?  50/50 Galkyd/Gamsol.  Which means they have to be done outdoors.  Better get busy making enough panels to last til spring.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Memaloose Island
12 x 9

Sept 4,  Pacific Northwest Plein Air Day 5

One of the areas that caught my eye the day before was Memaloose State Park.  This morning I have been here since sunrise, watching the shadows change on the hills across the river.  I want to wait for my painting buddy to arrive before I set up.

Turns out she thought I meant a different spot, so I set up with a view of the island with its odd memorial. 

 " The Chinook Indian tribes of the Columbia Gorge used to lay the bones of their dead on open pyres on Memaloose Island in the middle of the Columbia River near The Dalles. A granite monument visible from Memaloose State Park campground marks the resting place where a local pioneer named Victor Trevitt wished to chart his eternal course buried among honorable men. "  State Parks web site.

The oaks are looking particularly lacy this morning. I finish by indulging myself in a bit of brushwork.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Hood Valley Sky
24 x 18

Sept 2, Pacific Northwest Plein Air, Day 3

At Sakura Ridge B & B the views are spectacular.  The whole Hood River Valley stretches out below us, dotted with farms and patched with forest.  Mount Hood rises above the misty valley, still shadowed in the late morning.  I bravely set up an 18 x 24 canvas on my largest easel.  After the first hour of painting, I have to take down my umbrella.  The wind has come.  After another hour, I am struggling to keep the canvas from sailing off into the pear trees.  Okay.  A simple painting is better than a smeared one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Fishing Platform
9 x 12

Sept 3, Pacific Northwest Plein Air, Day 4,

Karen Whitworth, Talya Johnson and I are headed east in search of dry hills and cliffs.  It is late morning, and the shadow patterns in the gorge keep calling us to stop.  But we have already committed to going as far as The Dalles this morning, so we pass up many promising panting spots.  We stop at The Dalles, where we stumble upon a group of dipnet platforms, hanging out over the river.  I imagine standing on one. I'd definitely want a belay line.

Basalt and Bushes
8 x
We enter Horsethief Lake State Park just at the moment when shadows are falling across the basalt cliffs.  Unanimously, we decide to paint there.  A ranger comes out to see what we are up to, standing in the dry brush so far from the lake.  Painters: a real headshaker.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Alpine Meadow Shadows
16 x 12

August 2, Pacific Northwest Plein Air, Day 3

I talk a few other people into returning to the alpine meadow with me: Kat Sowa, Za Vue, Brenda Boylan.  We tromp through the bushes together.  Some are delighted with the mountain, others with the stream.  It is later in the afternoon and the shadows are longer. I paint the same scene with a different composition.

Karen Whitworth arrives just as we are finishing.  We sit down on the roadside together, captivated by the same stand of trees.  Our paintings turn out completely different.

Alpine Meadow
8 x 6

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Dawn Dancers
8 x 6

Sept 2, Day 3 Pacific Northwest Plein Air,

A cold morning.... too cold to stand at the edge of the gorge.  I position my van with the sliding door open to the sunrise, and paint my limited view.  The VW van is here again (or still) but the park is quiet.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Meadows and Mountain
16 x 12
Sept 1, Pacific Northwest Plein Air, Day 2 cont:

After the sunrise painting, a nap is in order.  I stop at a campground on my way up to Mt. Hood and rest for about an hour.  Then it's on up to the area near Sahalie Falls.  Just along the road is a colorful meadow, with a view of the mountain.  I work my way through the shrubbery to a spot in the shade.  Tiny berries decorate the bushes, blueberries, and huckleberries with their blue-black luster.  Folks around here seem to call them all huckleberries, but they're all yummy, full of late summer sugars.  The woods are cool and shaded, and surprisingly light on mosquitoes.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Columbia Gorge Sunrise
12 x 9
Pacific Northwest Plein Air, Day 2

My hosts, the Fields have suggested Ruthton Park for my sunrise painting.  It's a pocket park, with a nice overlook of the Columbia River, and today, a VW van parked in the back corner.  I tiptoe my supplies to the cliff edge and set up to watch the sun rise.  It is a still, cold morning, a slight bite reminding me that fall is around the corner.  Still, I'm confident that sweater weather will end in about an hour.  The river goes through several color phases.  I choose one, and lay it down in paint.

The view in the other direction is enchanting as well.  I'm getting hungry.  But painting comes first.
Train Tunnel at Dawn
8 x 6

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


West Light on East Fork
12 x 9

Sept 1, Pacific Northwest Plein  Air Competition, Day 2.

Painting a 24 x 18 is exhausting.  I come down from Sahalie Falls, day 1, and rest in a campground for an hour. This is the scene I'm contemplating.  With light glowing through the trees and bouncing off the water, I find it hard to close my eyes. I want to get out my paints, but I know that the minute I do, the sun will fall behind those trees and the light will be over.  So I go back the next day at the same time.  Nature's reruns are never exactly the same, but sometimes you can recapture the essence.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Sahalie Falls
24 x 18
August 31, Pacific Northwest Plein Air Competition, Day 1,

We (some 40 painters and 10 or so writers) meet at The Gorge White House, a lovely farm full of flowers, pears, and mountain views.  The past two years I've had difficulty creating good compositions here.  I have a burning desire to go paint at Sahalie Falls, and I am halfway there.  So up the mountain I go, trying to find the place on my recollection from last year.

The falls are exactly where I left them, and luckily, there is light on the water.  This is a cool, quiet spot to paint, with no wind and very few distractions.  I am at peace, having found what I came for.