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Updated 3/29/12

The Daily Paintings and Postcard-Sized Sketches in Oils and Acrylics

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1 I've been going through my artwork, pulling those that need better imagery on the web site, and this one came up, done from a plein air competition in Palm Springs/Indian Wells a few years ago. I can remember painting this in the pre-dawn hours, and how cold it was standing on the Monterey Street Bridge looking at San Jacinto.

Pulling out this 12 x 16 oil, my critical eye looked it over and decided that it needed another going over. Here it is now, with the improved values and better color, and far more conveying the true nature of the morning sun hitting the 10,800 foot Mt. San Jacinto overlooking the desert.

Below is the original one from my web site. We learn much as we grow as an artist, and it is no problem to acknowledge the improvement without disliking the history that makes one the artist one is today. I liked the earlier version, too.



Tonight I'm sitting here in Lexington, getting ready for a day tomorrow of plein air painting with a great bunch of artists from the area and we're going to paint the river (I think). Look for some interesting plein air oils tomorrow!
2 Yes, we went to the Kentucky river, and I sat at the boat launch and did this 8 x 10 oil looking downriver, and enjoyed the division of space and the feeling of atmosphere of the morning light. I notice that the value curve on this one is also almost sine-wave perfect. I love it when that happens!

to Charlotte Evans of Birmingham, Alabama.

3 A very full day today, with a trail ride through several farms and along deep forested creeks with belly deep grass, creek crossings and wild turkey hens thundering up out of the meadow to startle the horses! We saw white tail deer and had a great ride early this afternoon.

Then, as the weather mixed up the sky, I headed over to the end of the barn under cover while the wind buffeted the trees and painted this 8 x 10 oil of the back pasture. The skies opened up and drenched the parched fields in a bucket-filling downpour that left as quickly as it began. It has been close to a record number of days without rain, although still the greens are everywhere. Painting while the rain clattered like marbles on the tin covering was exciting, yet that was topped by the discovery of a corn snake--a species I haven't seen close up in the wild--coming to watch. Gentle enough to capture, I showed it to the farm manager's boy and friend, then we let it loose in the woodpile.

Tomorrow Melissa and I head over to Shaker Village where the workshop was going to be held, and spend a day painting on location with a group of local artists. It will be a full day. But today was not finished yet, as I just felt I had to go out and try to get a photograph of the fireflies/lightning bugs that are such a part of my growing up, and so welcoming to see yet again. We don't have these insects in California, and they are so dear to my heart. Who says you can't photograph a lightning bug? I was able to get these two on the driveway up to the farm! I'm just glad nobody was around to take a picture of this crazy artist chasing bugs!

4 Off to meet up with about eight other plein air painting buddies at Shaker Village this morning, and the weather could not have been more perfect! Breezy and sunny, with puffy clouds (that later became wonderful rain!), I quickly painted a 5 x7 study, and then decided to start a lesson painting for your enjoyment.

And enjoyment was all over the place, because this area is absolutely beautiful for painting! I took 65 photographs before beginning the session--the place has so many painting opportunities, I can see why it is a favorite.

My source material is below, to share with you what I was seeing while painting. My first pass is the OH-SO-IMPORTANT abstract structure--the bones of the canvas. My underpainting to get rid of the white 16 x 12 canvas was a concoction of cad orange and sap green, thinned and rubbed out.

These lines may be "scribbles and jots" to the casual observer, but these lines are crucial to establishing the division of space and patterns of repetition to carry the eye. I was intrigued by the tree in the meadow above, and that repeated ball of tree on the lower right, and the linear quality of the Queen Anne's Lace and the shadow shape of the tree line near the horizon.
Tomorrow I'll start covering the canvas, and yes, I almost finished it today!


After painting, we all enjoyed a Shaker meal for lunch in the original buildings. Wonderful time!
5 When I work on a painting that has no "obvious" focal point selected, i have to be very careful to balance the value groupings to convey the viewer's eye to whatever I decide will be the eventual area of greatest interest. One exercise for artists to discover their own strengths and preferences in value placement and weight, is to take black and white paper, and cut shapes out of the black to place on the white paper. One can get a strong feeling for what "goes right" in this exercise. Looking at my painting at this stage, it is as if I did that exercise! However, my values structure is locked in, and as I progress, I won't lose sight of those large darks.

Today was a wonderfully full day with a three-hour trail ride deep into the Kentucky woods with friends of Melissa. I rode Belle at first, but she pitched a fit when she couldn't lead the ride, so i switched horses with J.B., Melissa's daughter. I'm on "Lurch", a HUGE Irish import hunter gelding in this photo--the red horse on the left. We're at the "Blue Hole" although it doesn't look blue right now. Beautiful ride!


To show you just how BIG this nice fellow is, here's a photo of me next to him after the ride. I'm 5'4" tall, and he TOWERS over me! It was like riding an aircraft carrier, and just look at his feet!

6 If you'll compare this image with yesterday's blocking in of the value pattern, you'll perhaps see that I have kept with the general values of the areas as I fill in the larger color notes of those areas. Think of a quilt with the swatches of fabric, that create a design of values. I fill in the large "swatches" of color to make my quilt, and then embellish the swatches to make a finished painting. Can you guess which swatch is missing? Yes, the sky! (and the distant fields and the tops of the Queen Anne's Lace, but those are small ones.)

Today I spent a wonderful afternoon with Kathy (omigosh, forgot her last name!) and David her husband, who came up to Lexington from Florida to visit relatives and see the horses, and we got together and painted down at the Iroquois Hunt Club. I managed to do three paintings--two of the creek and one of the Grimes Mill, which is now the Hunt Club headquarters. Great day, not many bugs and great company! Have a safe trip back to Florida!, Kathy
7 It is almost done, and if you'll again compare this painting with yesterday's in process, you'll see I have don a tremendous amount to alter and change those large laid-in shapes! It isn't finished yet, but at this stage I may need to stop so it will be able to travel back home on Saturday. I travel with not-quite-dry oils by sandwiching them between sheets of wax paper, and wrapping the pile of paintings so they don't shift while in transit. I can also "quick dry" some of them by putting them on the dashboard of a closed up car in the sun. At least dry enough to travel.

Today was special in another way, because friend and artist Barbara Livingston picked me up, for a fun day of signtseeing in her old "turf"--she grew up in Versailles. We also had a unique opportunity to visit Ashford Stud, where outstanding horses such as Fusaichi Pegasus, Hennesy and Giant's Causeway are in full breeding season. Amazingly beautiful stallions, we were able to get behind the scenes with an escort by Helen from Ireland, whom Barbara knows. She took us all throughout the farm, seeing horses worth millions of dollars and the extraordinarily beautiful grounds.
Here we are at the main gate of Ashford. If you'd like to see more, please go to there site here.



Also, if you go to the Bluegrass Plein Air site, here, and scroll down a bit, you'll see a photograph of a bunch of plein air painters from our excursion to the Shaker Village site. Fun!
8 How sad I am that this is my last night in Kentucky--yet how happy I will be to see and enjoy all that awaits me upon my return to California tomorrow! I share with you one of the two quick studies I did a couple days ago while Painting with Kathy Lambert from Florida. This is the warm up one, while I was still establishing a "sense of place" in my mind. It is of the creek, still swollen from the recent rains, behind the Iroquois Hunt Club.

Interesting that I have found just how important it is to take the time to get a "sense of place" before beginning a plein air painting. Without it, one's work looks false and full of effort. I'm sure you'll see that tomorrow's 5 x 7, which was painted immediately following this one, is MUCH more evocative of the creek and its gift of being in front of me. I will miss the rushing and trickling water, but my pond is working well at home now, and I can hardy wait to see it.

That sense of place comes when I wait in an area for 30 to 45 minutes before begining painting. I can set up, but tend to wait until I have allowed the site to sort out in my head, making the choice of what to paint an easy one. The place tells me. So when you head out the door to paint--don't be in such a hurry to set up and get something done. Sometimes the best learning time is BEFORE you lift your brushes, when you rest quietly and allow the place to speak its special magic to you!

I went for my last ride around the farm today with Melissa, on Belle who was again a joy to ride, and we circled by these round bales. I will so miss the greens and yellows of this area!

9 Back home again, into the hot tub, two glasses of wine later, and I'm about ready to slide into the sheets for a good night's rest! Although I'm posting it at 8:45 pm, my head thinks it's 11:45!! The flights were uneventful, but it was hard to say goodbye to Melissa and Kentucky--but who's complaining with the reception awaiting here? We went over to the Red Mile and did some needed reference photography of the harness horse training and workouts before she took me to the airport.

Today's painting is one that I did on location at the Iroquois Hunt Club creek a few days ago, and is the second of three I did that afternoon. This one, a five by seven oil, as compared with the first, shows how important it is to have the sense of place "in place" before beginning painting. It is much better in design and value than the first, more hurried one of yesterday. It really says moving water and stream to me.

Tomorrow the routine begins again, with some stress, yet I know I am happy to be home, refreshed, loving my hubby, so will say "nighty nite" to all of you for yet another day. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your artistic journey!
10 OK, not the last of the last, but the last finished one I did while there. This is a 12 x 9 oil of Grimes Mill which is now the headquarters of the Iroquois Hunt Club, and the third painting I did on location that afternoon which seems already so long ago. I'm glad I had done these, as it has allowed me to spend some time here working on the goat pen and the chicken run--tomorrow I pick up my milk goat and her daughter (yet unnamed), and a flock of chickens from my friend and goat lady Sue. Of COURSE I'll post pictures!

So, what can I tell you about the process and procedure on this one? I can say that it didn't LOOK like this, in that there were shadows on the sunny side that were not very attractive, so I made my own! I like the essential horse-head hitching post and chain in the lower left, and that the renovation kept the millstones, which are in the front lawn filled now with flowers.

Tomorrow I'll finish the 16 x 12 landscape I started as a lesson painting, and present that to you finished. Thanks for joining me on this journey! Of course, all the paintings you have seen are for sale, but I'm working behind the scenes with my assistant (Alberto) to put them all in my ebay store. I'll send out news what that is all ready to go!.
11 I decided to finish up a couple of paintings that were started earlier--one is the book cover with the phoenix on it, and I may update that with a daylight photographed image to show the nuances. The other is the one started on location in Kentucky, and is the hillside with all of the texture in the greens. Although the mark-making at this point is subtle, the differences are pronounced in where I want your eye to go. This 16 x 12 oil now has the stronger message I wanted to convey about the light and the atmosphere as I looked across the valley.

On another note, I brought home Heather doe goat and her adorable week-old daughter. Tomorrow I will take pictures! We'll be back in goat milk, and with the chickens that came along, hopefully fresh eggs for quiche and breakfast! I love the sound of a rooster--as long as he isn't under our bedroom! Now, since I know they get up a whole lot sooner than I do, I'm off to get some much-needed shut-eye!
12 I thought you'd enjoy an acrylic painting (24 x 30) that I did some time ago--long sold, and yet I still love it.
I'm prepping my time for the last bit of digital cinematography I need for the Acrylic Painting DVD, and these images are coming out for that purpose. Called "Snow Feed", this is an example of how beautifully well acrylics handle layering to create atmosphere. As with all my work, if I were to do it again today (hey, there's an idea!), I would probably do it a bit differently!
Oh, yes, you also wanted to see the young doeling. Here's a couple pics of her, one in the feeder (Mom's looking on), and one showing her lovely markings, called "sundgau". We've named her "Uke" a Japanese word for the person who "gives the art" in aikido.

13 Back with the acrylics, and this is a 5 x 5 study from some photographs I'd taken several years ago at the Wildlife Way Station. I've been working on the acrylic video, and so I've put up the oils for a few days. This little gem will appear in my ebay store in a few days, along with more of my art.

Now, I know you've asked me to share a photograph of the fellow who is working for me, and it is with a great deal of pleasure that I captured a photo of Alberto, standing in the studio about ready to head back to the computer. He is the most charming fellow, delightfully shy and yet not, and so highly paintable! However, he was difficult as a subject to photograph, as he is constantly busy. (I'll try to get a closer image when he isn't expecting it. Then you can tell him he's cute!)

14 Every once in a while, I do demonstrations for art groups, and this painting is a result of such a painting event from many years ago. It is an oil, 16 x 20 inches, and is not on the web sites. It has some compositional flaws in the design that I have never fixed, and so it doesn't get exhibited. Can you tell where the strengths and weaknesses of this painting lie? Before you get too deep into the "tell Elin the bad news" mode, look at this image below. It is a detail of the people in the painting. I show this to you because to me, it is the essence of capturing the human figure with good brush work. The gesture is in place, the story is told, and the communication is strong. Tear apart the rest of the painting, but please appreciate this part of the work for the positive message it conveys!

I'm still working on the DVD for the acrylics, and will continue to share other existing paintings until the editing is finished.

Congratulations to returning collectors Frank Barrese from Temecula on their purchase of "Sunflowers"--the painting that I did while Betty Billups was here.
15 Many years ago (at least eleven) I did this 36 x 30 oil as a commission for the Las Vegas "Dream House" decorator's challenge through my friend and gallery owner Randy Holland. It was fun to do these big canvases (there were four), and I still have two of them. I am bringing this one to you as both a lesson painting, and to share with you some of my "checkered past".

Although I was happy with it at the time of its creation, I now know more, and am ready to accept the challenge of bringing it up to the artistic standard I hold today. Unless someone rescues it at a $400 price tag, I'm going to spend some time tomorrow painting out portions of it to present to you as tomorrow's daily. (Then the price will be higher!) I have been asked to share some larger canvases with you, and this seems like a good place for starting.

So many joyful things on my plate right now....just finished sending off the entries for the Harness Tracks of America auction, and working diligently on the editing of the Acrylic DVD. I have ALL the digital footage from the original tapes on four separate external hard drives, and am so pleased that the additional footage dovetails right into the lesson format I want to present to you! I will announce pre-orders as soon as the master DVD is in the hands of my duplication service. You have been SO patient!
16 Well, quite a difference from yesterday's bland painting, don't you think?

I'm pleased with it, as it seems more welcoming. I warmed up the closer sunlit foliage, made the sky more interesting and balanced, and highlighted the ocean with more of that tourquoise yummy water color that one sees in special places on the globe with warm climates and tropical breezes!

I think the only thing that would make it truly finished would be to add a couple of chairs and a small table on the deck... waiting for us to come and sit down, talk about painting, and enjoy the view! Can you get away?
17 Sometimes cats have "moments'. This is a calico (loosely taken from my own Pesto Kitty) that his having one of those don't-mess-with-me-I'm-busy moments. What is interesting about this smallish 5 x 8 acrylic on watercolor paper, is that it showcases the versatility of this medium, even as we see it handled somewhere between oils and watercolor in this fashion. I did this one for the slide show in the DVD on acrylic painting, so it will go on forever even after it sells.

I went for a ride this evening on Raindance, heading up on a horse trail to the north from our place. Out in the field about 40 feet from me was a coyote--so Rainey and I decided to see where it would go. Keeping about 50 feet behind it, we followed the coyote as it trotted up over some terrain that might lend itself to another trail! We lost it when the going got rough, and the barranca dropoffs were over ten feet. Time to get Vincent out with my tools and go for a hike and start a new trail! ... but first to finish the DVD editing!
18 I'm deep into the final editing on the Acrylic DVD, and this painting is the one I'm doing for the Intermediate/Advanced section of the lessons. It is using the Color System, with some explanation, and will incorporate elements of water, horses and landscape. I'm really enjoying this!! The image below is the first pass to "get rid of the white"--sure looks like a mess at this point!

I'll post more images later today (running a tad behind on yesterday's post, but this is so exciting, I just had to make sure the presentation of it was done on a rested mind.
19 This is the second layer of color that I've put on this 16 x 20 canvas, demonstrating the importance of layering in acrylics to build texture and hold to a good design. The areas where the horse/mules and waterfalls will go still has the least amount of paint, but look at all the lucious jewel tones that are in the lower part of the painting! This will be the water pool area.

I'm just about ready to start dab-dab-dabbing with my trusty not-so-dusty sponge to make the texture patterns in the upper area that will eventually transmogrify into trees! Such fun, cameras rolling, editing going on--never a dull moment!. Tomorow, however, I am riding, and going to take my camera in case I come across that coyote again.
20 Now this is where the painting truly "goes into the Uglies"! Every painting I have ever done goes into this stage before I add what it takes to pull it out the other side. At this stage, the painting is absolutely FULL of texture with the many layers covering that ol' white canvas. I know that these layers will add much to the finished painting, creating subtle variations that will delight the eye.

That the painting is so bland at this point is similar to an empty house, with newly painted and wallpapered walls. This is the backdrop for the furniture (horse, man and mules) that is coming!
21 NoW it is starting to hum! I've spent another 40 minutes of painting (soon to be edited down to the essential delivery mode in the DVD), and adding the lights on the focal areas really helps this painting along. Plus, I've added not only the waterfalls, but the greens of the trees along the shoreline. The painting has a bit too much blue at the top--due to my lights/camera interplay. But you can see that this one is progressing well, with a lot of textural nuance!

Ah, off to Santa Barbara tomorrow, to study with an aikido master, Donovan Waite. I am sure I'll learn a great deal, and nothing beats the ocean in summer and that incredibly romantic Santa Barbara! I will still post a daily painting, just will have a heck of a time figuring out how to do it!
However, you just KNOW my paints are going along with me!
22 I'm so happy I brought my watercolors in a quick dash for the camper as we left for Santa Barbara! The seminar with Seventh Dan Donovan Waite was absolutely exhausting in both mind and body! But what an opportunity to study the fluid movements of this master of aikido!

So what could I do but paint the effects of seeing the flow and energy in the training? Here is a watercolor, about 7 x 5 inches, of two partners in motion, one receiving the art and doing a high fall, and the one giving the art in a balanced, centered position.


Tomorrow we go back for another day--I hope I will have the physical stamina to learn and offer good partnerships. Then it will be back home to digital editing on the Acrylic DVD!

23 This is WAY too much fun! Doing the final footage for the Acrylic DVD, and I'm painting another in the "Aunt Pru" series--acrylic collage gone awry! This is the beginning stage of one such creation, and it is SUCH fun to create by applying objects to canvas/board with acrylics. They are SO right for assemblage creating! This one might be called "Uncle Willie" when I'm done!


And the aikido seminar in Santa Barbara is past now, but I took over 200 photographs of the morning session, and attach one for your enjoyment. The camera worked its magic, having the focal point in focus, but the natural spirals and curves of the "art" of aikido very much in evidence. One of the reasons I find it so pleasing is the black/white/gray and no dominant colors--every color in these places is muted, and the calmness of the practice area is like a salve for the mind. There are no kicks or blocks in aikido--it is the art of blending. Now I'm home and can blend back into my DVD editing, caring for the goats, and giving thanks for living this life. Thanks for listening.
24 Ho ho ho! Uncle Willy comes to town! Here he is, monacle and moustache, and just a little 8 x 10 canvas, showing the variances of using acrylics as a collage/assemblage medium! I always have such fun when I pull out the stops to create thees silly, whimsical characters with acrylics. Full of yarn, handmade paper, feathers and gold pseudo leaf, this is just a hoot to create! Acrylics are SO versatile!

Yesterday several of you commented about the possibility of having....um... hemp leaves! in the handmade paper. Well, there's a joke for you, I guess Uncle Willy is a hippy! Those layers are no longer visible in this image. I worked some more on him, so he has a different look now, and will be featured in the DVD on Acrylic Painting that is falling off my brushes!
25 Yippee!!! This 16 x 20 canvas is where I can call it finished--I especially love the way the values point out the light on this one. The filming production on this phase is done, and now I have two short segments to film tomorrow, and then stitch all the clips together into the Acrylic DVD (Final Cut Pro)! Wow! I'm actually going to meet my deadline to have it ready for shipment the first week in July!

I'm just pleased as punch at how this one turned out, especially since I combined three references to make the composition. Being an artist is so much fun!

On another note, Alberto's been working hard updating my ebay store, adding some of the horse paintings! I'm fortunate that he knows computers and can take some of the work off my shoulders so I can finish this project. He begins his master's program this fall, but says he'll still work for me when I need it. I appreciate what he is doing for me. Today we also got the Epson 4000 up and running, because I have a print run of my painting "Two Trees" for a fundraiser for the group in Ventura County fighting to preserve the hillsides in their natural state. I support projects like this when I can.

And having the Epson on line again, I can make prints of the cat painting "Lesson Cat" that was on the April issue of the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine for those folks who wanted a print of that one. Busy busy!!
26 While working on inventorying my collection, Alberto discovered one that has not been on the web site, and whick I've used over the past couple years to experiment using those handmade papers. Here it is, a 24 x 30 of draft horses in backlighting. The handmade papers create the overall texture on this one, and in this version it is decent, if not ground shaking.

Now I've taken it into Photoshop and done some color management, seeing what it looks like with some color shifts. In this version, I played down the color intensities, and shifted the colors over to the grayer side. Do you like this one better?

Then I shifted it over to the greener side, which makes more of a summer morning out of it. I kept the sky colors intact for the most part. Maybe you prefer these colors?

But that was not the finish. I decided that I needed more drama and contrast, so again I Photoshopped the image and punched it up as another experiment. Maybe this one appeals to the majority? In any event, Photoshop or its equivalent can allow you as it does me, to experiment and see what possible directions to go in with a work in progress!

27 A new commission is in my hands, a large, 30 x 40 inch oil of three dogs, Maggie, Buddy and Sydney, positioned in a landscape. The owner writes: " I think I want something between realistic and impressionistic. I know I want a light and bright painting. I think the mountains need to be somewhat smoky with a beautiful bright blue sky. I would like to feel pulled into the far scene as if it is a window to an incredibly peaceful place. I would like the season to be summer with the eye first drawn to my dogs in the forward scene, and then led to the long scene behind it. Will you be able to show me a sketch as you plan the painting?
My living room walls are a medium shade of gold. My furniture has shades of brown and sage green, anchored by a beautiful oriental rug of many colors. I also have accents of brick red and gold."

And so the communication begins. All the details about price and projected timeline are in place, and now the sketching for structure in the overall design of the painting comes out. Today you see the first rough idea...I can work on this slowly while I work hard on the final digital editing!

I have been reminded that the duplication of my "Two Trees" painting is not a print, but a reproduction, and I stand corrected. It is true, a print is an artform (Emile Nolde is pointing a finger at me! A good site for the German printmakers, by the way is here). Alberto named the Epson 4000 "Wilma", and is tenderly coercing her into making beautiful repros for me. She keeps humming along, making the 50 reproductions of the painting, and I'm already planning more work for Wilma with the "Lesson Cat" from the JAVMA Journal's April cover.

And the votes for yesterday's painting came in equally for the first and second one (the greenish one) and the gray one coming in third. The high contrast one fell a distant fourth. Thanks for your feedback!
28 You get to see it first, the layout of the new cover for the Acrylic DVD! I haven't decided which of the three paintings will be featured on the cover, but right now these two newer ones hold sway. I hope you enjoy it! Now back to editing so I can have the master finished and begin taking orders. Whew. Long hours in the "saddle" of digital editing! More last minute filming tomorrow morning, and then... (crosses fingers)... the master will be done!
29 The final footage of the Acrylic Painting Lessons DVD was finished up this morning when I went on location with Vincent van Goat carrying the supplies up into the brush behind the studio. The end result is this 6 x 8 acrylic view of the riparian habitat where UCR students spend many hours researching. I shared how I work with acrylic paints when outdoors and on location with the camera running. It sure was a good trial--the weather was reaching up to the 90s, and dry winds buffeted the easel. The pill boxes of paint did just fine, and Vincent's goat bell clanged throughout as he munched the vegetation.


And here's my cameraman Alberto, bearing with me in the bright light and heat to capture the footage on location today. What a great help! That little Sony digital camera has sure earned its keep, too!
30 I have spent about 16 hours editing the DVD today. This is the grunt work--details about scene changes, putting the clips in order and lining them up for the changes between the palette and the canvas, without compromising the audio. Fun, but I get tired of listening to myself! There are some funny outtakes and the plein air footage came out crackerjack!

The other news is that I have placed almost all of the horse paintings on ebay, in my "store". If you click here, you'll go directly there, and perhaps see some artwork that has been hidden deeply on the other web site to add to your collection. If you go there on your own, just search on my name. Alberto has been working to bring all the web site's artwork to the ebay store.

The image you see today is an acrylic I did that never made it to the web site--it sold as I was finishing it, at the Cattlemen's Western Art Show in Paso Robles. It was a 12 x 12. I think it was a good one because the horse, rider and pack horse are secondary focal points behind the waterfalls.