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Updated 3/31/12

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

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October 2008


Started a new painting, this one is an 8 x 10 inch oil (the oils were still out from the dog painting!). It is from a photo I took of the studio cat, "Pesto" snoozing right next to this computer. I liked her relaxed pose so much, and the usual piles of papers on my desk, sooooo... that this seems a natural subject to paint. Plus, she's a good model.

The canvas is toned, (what I DIDN'T do for the dog painting--makes for a major headache if not done--so many "holidays"--tiny white specks of canvas showing through!) with a thin mix of red-gold and burnt umber. The first lay-in is here, roughly defining the edges of the large shapes, and also keeping the details until later on. I'm using mostly cools from my cool box, and since this is inside with just diffuse lighting, I'm going to have to put some "punch" in the colors and/or values to make it sing.

Pesto is a calico, and very friendly! And that's my Capresso machine in the background--can't live without my coffee! And isn't everyone's desk as cluttered as mine?

Now, she is usually not this shy, but when I told her she was being painted, this was her response:


Well, not completely finished, but surely further along than it was the last time I posted!
What's fun about this painting is the curving lines that all roll up to the focal point--Pesto Kitty--zonked out on the papers, paw extended. It's about 95% completed at this stage, and will get some softened edges (I never seem to have enough transitional edges!) and more detailing on the kitty-face.

I'm very pleased with the strength of the brushwork on the lower half, though. It's what I've sought to be able to do for a while.

Now I'm packing for a return to Arizona next week, for rest and rejuvenation listening to the elk bugling at night while I sit by my camp fire at Hawley Lake. Aspens are turning, the weather there is wonderfully crisp, and I'm rarin' to go--this trip with the THREE dogs... two little ones and the old, deaf girl. Good company while I paint, and they're used to the camper from my trip north last month.

I'll really enjoy posting the work from this trip--I so love to go there, and it seems to show in the canvases. Here's a reminder of the trip last year:


It just doesn't get much better.... Here on the Apache reservation in the White Mountains, surrounded by incredible clarity and beautiful aspens. This is the first full day of painting, and I took it for all it was worth! Driving up to highway 117 near the turnoff to Sunrise Ski Area, I saw this grove and decided to get right into it.
This is a 5 x 7 oil, the first one of the day, and I really do like the juxtaposition of the areas of color balanced by the calligraphic lines of the limbs and trunks. It fell off my brushes!

The cold last night was well below freezing, and I listened to the Canadian Geese flying. Tonight I go back to sleep under a bazillion stars in a deserted campground and listen again for the elk in the night. Wolves, too!

And of course Sparky and Onslow where lovin' it too, getting to romp in the field--with a new use for a big paint brush stake holding them just far enough from getting tangled in the setup. Yes, those color boxes did their duty today, and it was so much fun to take what was in front of me and punch it up with the Color System.


Here's a "long drink of water" in the form of a diptych--two 12" square canvases, one above another, and painted on location at the Railroad Grade Trailhead near Sunrise Ski Area. It's an acrylic, and I had several people looking over my shoulder while I worked. I'm going to add some clouds to the canvas, as the composition will benefit from breaking up the sky area.

Using the acrylics in this REALLY dry air is tough--thank goodness for a spray bottle! I'm looking forward to working with the Golden Open Acrylics for challenges like these. But I do so love how they are finished so quickly, and it's hard to beat them for making texture in a painting.

On my way out of the campground this morning, I went off on one of many side roads along streams in the area. I took my camera, and thought you'd enjoy some of the beauty that is everywhere. Each bend in the road brings yet another "Arizona Highways" image to life. The camera really doesn't capture the true radiance of the foliage, so my brushes have to do the job!

Last night something large and heavy landed on the roof of the camper in the middle of the night, waking me and the dogs. Whatever it was, it walked around the roof for a while, then left. I don't know still if it was furry or feathered. However other wildlife was very close, with the elk bugling and the coyotes keeping company with yelps as I sat by the fire earlier in the evening. Soem of the other plein air artists came up for a campfire dinner, but most were gone by 8:30.


One of the beauties of Hawley Lake, and of course of other lakes, is how the surface of the water changes from moment to moment. I started this 8 x 10 oil in late morning, looking from my campsite across to the cabins and distant, aspen-covered mountains. Before it was completed, the smooth reflections were gone, replaced by ripples and wind.

Done mostly with the cool box colors, the only time I went into the warms was for the sunlit rocks and the near shore. The contrast between that and the rest of the vista is what makes me think it works. All it needs now is a boat with a couple of fishermen. Later....

This photograph, taken from my camp site, is going to become my next large studio painting. I just fell in love with the idea of seeing a picnic table in the woods--in early morning light. The original source photo is not a square format, so I'm going to do a smaller, 12 x 12 acrylic to act as a study for the bigger work. The larger canvas may be a 30 x 40. I'm overdue for a BIG canvas, done in oils. I think I'll have to add a squirrel, since they were everywhere, too.

One of the greatest benefits of being in such a lovely place is the source material gathered for future works. Experiencing over time the actual colors and nuances of the "real" makes the "imaginary" paintings work later on. Hawley Lake, at 8,200 feet is perhaps one of the highest lakes in Arizona. This morning the wind was up, and yet it was warmer than the past couple of days. I'm sorry to leave this idyllic spot for lower elevations....


Last night was the last night in the cold and clear air high in the Arizona mountains, and I was completely alone (except for the three dogs), and enjoyed a solitude that allows for contemplation and choice-making. It was a fabulous night, as I placed the camper so I could look out the door and see the fire while my dinner of brats and garlic marinated mixed vegetables (in the foil) cooked over the open wood flames. I brought out my guitar, and ran through a couple songbooks, dogs for an audience, with the only harmony being the elk going about their own affairs in the distance. Company would have been nice...

I am home now, and easing back into the routines, including a ride with the neighbors to show them the newest trails behind our place. I'd only been back 45 minutes, and found myself up on the mare and heading out when they stopped by on their horses... one must have priorities!

Remember I said that the upper half of the diptych I did a few days ago needed clouds to assist the composition? Here it is below, completed. Now it and it's mate are hanging in the Joyous Lake Gallery for the month of October. (It has sold.)

I'll have more paintings to share tomorrow, and the beginning of the bigger painting of the woods and picnic table--first the study, then the larger canvas--in stages. Thanks for joining me on the journey--now off to some much-needed sleep!


One of the nice things about on location painting (and one of its down sides!) is how the light changes from moment to moment. I was walking the dogs in the morning, and saw the distant light across this promontory of trees and rocks, and thought I'd like to get a small painting of this scene. The reflections were what held it up for me, and the flash of orange on the rocks. So this 7 x 5 inch oil came off the brushes as a fisherman in his floating inner tube came by several times. He had good luck catching rainbow trout--but kept throwing them back. I would have taken one of the smaller ones for my dinner, but he was too far from shore.

"Reflections" is available for sale for $90, please let me know if you'd like to add this one to your art collection.

On the way out from Hawley Lake, I found these fellows to show you that although the roads are very well maintained, the "wildlife" will keep your speed down. This trip I didn't see any elk, but saw these ladies each time I was on the road.


I'm sitting here "licking my wounds" so to speak, after disturbing a beehive while working on the trails behind our house this evening. It started out as an ordinary, good evening ride, taking the mare and going up over the mountains on the newest trail. I stopped to let the horse catch her breath at one of the high points, and looked up to see a coyote watching me with distant interest. He turned and disappeared, so I continued down the mountain.
As is my tendency, I decided to take a different route back, picking my way through some brush and grassy areas and finding a potentially new trail. When the brush got thicker, I dismounted and had the mare follow me while I broke away some of the larger branches. It was hot, sweaty work on a 90 degree afternoon, and I was enjoying the labor when the mare began stomping her back feet and shifting herself around, obviously bothered by something. I thought at first that she'd just mis-stepped on some of the brush, when I saw, and then heard the buzzing.... ACK! BEES!
The mare brushed by me and took off at a dead run, and I let her go, knowing she'd head home. Me, I lept up off the trail straight down the mountain, with buzzing and stinging letting me know I was in for a good fight. Flapping my hat, jumping brush, I catapulted down the hill like a ungainly springbok, until I hit the sagebrush at the bottom, about 300 feet below. There I rolled and spun away from them, because bees will follow the scent of the ones that have stung. So I knew I had to break the scent trail, and then deal with the ones that were on me. The more recent introduction of the nortorious "killer" bees kept me moving as fast as I could to get away, because I didn't know if these were the ones that follow for up to a quarter mile. I know I kept moving and ducking to destroy the scent trail on the air, adrenalin rushing through me and a high keening wail coming from my throat as the panic of my situation settled in.
I kept moving, heading toward home, picking and swatting the remaining attackers, and then stopped, bent over my knees, trying to catch my breath. You ever get so out of breath that your lungs hurt? That was how much exertion I'd expended, and I felt each one of my 60 years as I regrouped and headed for home. Thank goodness I wasn't carrying those extra pounds!
The mare was happy to see me and came up to greet me without bridle, as she had broken the headstall in her panicked flight. I found the bit and reins, and took her inside the gate for a much needed cool bath. She's got extra rations tonight, and I'm headed for the hot tub after I send this. What a ride!

Now, the ART for the day, is the beginning of one of the bigger canvases--this one is 24 x 36, and is started from one of the reference shots I took at Hawley Lake (below). Although there were cows in the image, I'm going to replace/morph them into horses--the Apache broomtails, most likely. I am undecided at this point and welcome any breed suggestions, though.

The underpainting is done with Austrailian Red Gold and Quinacradone Violet--just some warm colors that have dried. They will not lift into the future paint layers. What you see here is the abstract structure of the design. Yes, it is familiar--the misty morning horses in pasture painting of a couple weeks ago has a similar composition. Why change it if it ain't broke? I do need to experiment further with this composition, and my source lends itself well to the design.

More tomorrow... ewwww, just found another stinger!


As I work with laying in the large areas of color, I'm really careful to keep the values where they need to be to carry the design. One advantage of toning the canvas is that the end result of the toning is near to a middle value--not too light nor too dark--and helps to keep the values in relation to one another. Since I'm painting completely with the Cool Box Colors, I can use the remaining warm underpainting areas to guide me. It does this by being a counterpoint to the cool mixes I'm putting on the canvas. I can keep the proportion of warms to cools in balance by having the tool of the background WARM underpainting showing through. In other words, I just keep painting cools until it "reads right" for the balance of warms vs. cools (in most cases maybe 85% cools to 15% warms in landscapes).

Just for giggles, how about an eyeful of a painting I did in the mid 1970s? Before Color System, before workshop training, before almost everything related to my painting--other than a degree in fine art that taught me nothing about landscape painting. A collector's daughter from that time emailed me with paintings of which I had no images. You can see I was painting loosely even then, but sure was all over the place in finding a focal point! And my colors were just ghastly to my eyes today. One cannot tell the time of day in this painting, because I didn't know about such things and how to control color and temperature to get that message across.

Thirty years can make a real difference in one's art! Yet each month and day that passed in between those times was and still is richly lived.

Remember, it is the journey, not the destination or distance traveled, that determines the artist. In looking back, all one sees is a measure of the distance. At the time I painted this, I thought it was a good painting. I was living in Germany, and did a series of my memories of California. Even though I would do it completely differently today, it has a charm of its own. Enjoy!


Yesterday you saw the blues going in. Now the canvas is 95 percent covered. I'm still in the cool box as I paint the rocks in the foreground with the "big three" sky colors, creating the illusion of their reflected colors from the blue overhead atmosphere. Variations on those mixes creates the visual interest there. You can click on the image to get a larger verson with more details.

Although the light area at the upper left is in sunlight, I painted it completely with cool mixes to keep it back there.

At this point, I stopped to take a photo because of the warms that are (finally) appearing on the grassy area across the water and on the rocks and pine needles in the foreground. I wanted to share with you the painting at this stage with the cools in place. Compositionally, do you see how the three trunks on the left mirror the lit three trunks on the upper right? Ties the whole image together with implied lines going between them--like a bridge across the water!

As long as the painting holds up with cool box mixes, adding the warms in smaller percentages will always enhance, not destroy, the composition and color balance. As I'll be painting so much detail in the foreground, I want you to have a resting place, separate from the horses across the water. In fact, those horses will be much less prominent than shown by the areas unpainted, because when I paint them, I'll pick colors and values that will have them blend in--just like the "Morning Pasture" painting from September 14th's blog entry (opens a new page).

I just love a painting at this stage--the source material and the painting are now distantly related, yet the details that will fully tell the story are not yet in place. When you paint, do you put the focal point in first? How much more can you get, if you delay that addition until the rest of the canvas is singing along? Now that my canvas has the basic colors in place, the fun begins as I make each area more interesting to you, the viewer. Eye candy!


I had a heck of a time photographing this one in the studio tonight. I'm due for a new camera, and will be going out to look for a Canon Powershot A590 IS tomorrow. I dropped my earlier model of this handy camera while in Arizona, and I miss it.

So what's new tonight? Details, all those details. The brushwork is still very visible, and one of the brumby horses (Apache horses) is in--the second and third one will come into the field tomorrow.

I added the broken pattern of light on the central trunk to both make it more interesting, and also to cut that dark shape into interesting values. The trio on the left stay dark in value, but have been connected to one another with the tracery of branches. This also cuts the strength of the blue water over there, too. I had to wait for these layers to dry a bit before adding the tremendous noodly-details of pine boughs and twigs on the right side, too. Compare this stage of the painting with the one from yesterday, and you'll see the entire canvas has changed. I've embellished and made more interesting each area, so the eye has many places to "play".

Working on these larger canvases is SO satisfying right now. I cannot explain the completeness I have in me when something just goes right, but these three canvases (yes, there are three now--the third 24 x 30 is coming to you later this week--in stages!) are deeply soul satisfying both to create and to enjoy. The hiatus I took from the daily paintings has come full circle now, and my work has gone to a new level of maturity. I'm very pleased with each one of these canvases' sense of place. At least two of them will be entered in the Women Artists of the West show at the Saks Gallery in Denver this January. And I'll probably send at least one to the Spring show for the American Academy of Equine Art. I'll have to consider shipping costs on these bigger canvases, though.

Other news, I went on a four-hour ride using my neighbor's endurance horse (Arab/Thoroughbred)--we covered about 12 miles but because of the terrain, would translate in endurance miles to 36 miles. Carolyn Hock is a top endurance rider, and I'm fortunate that she's my neighbor! I'm sore today, but excited to ride with her again. Her training regimen is VERY demanding, and yet I really enjoyed it.

And I bring home Chiron the Andalusian next weekend! Life is exciting!!


Here's the painting, about as finished as it is going to get at this point. I made it slightly larger so if you click on it, you'll see more details.

I didn't realize how important breaking up the blue areas was until something said to put in the pine bough on the lower right. The balance of the painting is profoundly affected when that branch is not there (use a finger over it to see what I mean).

This canvas is available pre-show season for $1200, and that price will escalate as it is shipped and shown around the country.

Now I'm off on another canvas, this one 24 x 30, and the subject is in line with the recent landscapes with added horses, rather than horses in a supporting landscape.

This painting is coming from source material provided by artist Judi Evans, and is from Fay's Farm in Dawsonville. I've walked these pastures and already have a "sense of place" that is part of these new paintings. Tomorrow, more of the canvas covered and more great color.


Now that I have that structure in place, I can continue to cover the canvas with big color shapes to define the values and hues of this morning light scene. I'm painting it with large brushes and enjoying the simplicity that mixing colors using the Color System is giving me. The tree trunks won't stay that dark, but their inherent value is low, and that provides a wonderful contrast to the light and more pure hues--almost like stained glass!

The horses (yet to come) will be in the shade on the lower left. They'll be lazing around--I have my source material at hand--two photos of horses in sunlight in a pasture setting, so I'll have to reduce the values of them to get them to "read right" in the shade of the big trees. That's for later.

I'm so pleased that many of you have written about the value you find in having these paintings come to you in stages. When I was doing the daily paintings, each day's painting was completed so swiftly that I didn't have time to reflect, to plan, or to revise. The work done during that time was "OK", but I can see a much greater value for me as an artist to have time to let the painting get into me, so it can come out so much differently from the inspiration of being there, or seeing the source material. It truly DOES make a difference! I'm not decrying the earlier work, for each one was a stepping stone to this painting and the ones to come. That is as it should be.

This one is going to have a grand feel to it--it is already there, and revising and refining it will be with the intent of keeping that feel. The painting has to hold up from across the room. That will bring the viewer in closer to see the warts on the horses' noses, heh heh!

News! TOMORROW MORNING, I ride the Shagya Arabian stallion on an endurance conditioning ride, beginning at 6:30. Yes, I'll have my new camera... the Canon A590IS, and it is going with me. I'll be sure to share some images with you, as I'm so looking forward to the adventure.


Me on the Shagya Arabian Stallion

This morning's sun had not yet washed the valley, and I have a grin bright enough to cast some shadows anyway! This is yours truly, on *KS Rubin this morning, famous enough to have his OWN web page! Not often does one get to ride such a quality horse; I am still pinching myself. What a rush to have this power and grace under me as the sun later came to warm the hills. Then it was on the scooter to run errands and home to chores, after this amazing ride-at-first-light experience.

But I've digressed... back to painting! Since resuming a more stringent riding schedule, the paintings have been easier to produce, and this backlit landscape is no different. Getting to the easel is exciting and I'm loving every moment of it.

This 24 x 30 oil is at the stage where it is time to think about getting those horses under the trees, and leaving that bit of warm to capture the eye tells me that regardless of my source material for the horses, they must have dappled sunlight on them!

Unlike the earlier misty morning, this painting has sunlight to contrast with the darks of the trunks, and I need to keep that in mind as I paint it.

What's happened since yesterday is the detailing out of the trees, the "flutter pattern" of leaves on so many levels, from deep shadow to light. This breakup of the larger shapes creates visual exitement without creating unrest in the viewer. There is no clash of color here, just a "flitter" of leaves in the trees and grass blades in the foreground. In doing this, I try to be harmonious with the earlier, larger layers, so the contrast is not overwhelming in each area. I will have another complete pass on these areas to further to tone down and pull out details, leaving alone other areas. Sometimes I'll use a glaze with resin gel, and others paint mixtures of three or more colors. That's what I call the refinement stage. Lots to do yet!

This painting, when finished, might begin its show career as an entry into the Women Artists of the West show in Denver in 2009. It may or may not get in. Quality there is very high!

Saturday I head to the Art Expo in Pasadena to meet with friend David R. Becker, who's teaching classes. And I'm also going to get some hands-on with the slow drying Golden Acrylics. Ought to be an interesting day. Hmmmm, I wonder if I should post whatever I do in the workshop? Gadfry!

28 Done with Golden Acrylics:

Done with Atelier Interactive Acrylics:

Many of you are awaiting my take on the Interactive (Atelier) and Open (Golden) acrylics--those paints that increase working times so that one can change or rework a passage of paint well after the traditional drying time of "normal" acrylics. I went to the workshop at the Art Expo in Pasadena last Saturday, and in the company of a couple of friends painted with these acrylics.

This post will be rather long as I go into my impressions, and I hope you'll bear with me. If you're not an artist, perhaps you'll skip to the end for the information about these two paintings.

I first got ahold of the Atelier Interactive acrylics, at the booth for Atelier and with the palette of the artist doing the display. I pulled out a pre-textured canvas (fiber gel) and after asking permission, painted the landscape with the fence (first image, on the left). It is 7 x 5 inches on textured canvas board.

The Atelier Interactive colors were not nearly as bright--although I must admit that Atelier didn't have available my Color System Twelve, and I was working with two blues, two reds and two yellows--the popular idea of having primaries in "one of each temperature"--which is NOT my System--and the painting shows the limits of using that formula. This painting is bland, to say the least.
The colors available to me in this quick, out-of-my-head study (kneeling by her chair, painting in my hand) were:
Thalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Napthol Red Light, Napthol Crimson, Cad Yellow Light, Arylamide Yellow Deep. No earths, no greens. All that you see mixed there are created from these six colors plus white.

With these Interactives, one has to use a mister of water and/or an "Unlocking Formula" mister to reopen the paint for working on it again. In other words, it did dry, and this was the HUGE drawback for me--I didn't know if it was dry, and thus would put a layer on top of it, and without unlocking or rewetting it, the Interactives would mislead me into thinking they were wet, or dry, or who knows what. I was looking for the re-working phase and length of being able to work the paint. Didn't find it, as I had to spritz BEFORE I painted--an extra step for this artist. Even though this painting is bland because I didn't have my Color System colors at hand, I was very dissatisfied with the working structure of these acrylics in having to add a second mister bottle to the mix.

Now, on to the Golden Paints "Acrylics Like Oils" workshop, where I spent a much longer time working with the colors, and was able to assemble the entire Color System pigments before beginning work. I did three paintings during the session, and the one below was the second. You can immediately see that the Color System comes through in giving the brillance of the cadmiums a place to "play". But I'm not comparing the colors here--both manufacturers have a full range of the pigments. However, I liked one feature of these Golden "Open" acrylics--the device to increase working time was contained in a little bottle that was dripped on the palette, just like any medium. No spritzing, although a spray bottle of water can be used if one needs to thin paint. The "Thinner" which is what they call it, allowed me to really work the paint WAY beyond normal drying times after making my mixes and applying them to the canvas. Glazing with thin paint over semi-dry passages was fantastic. Blending was outstanding on wet passages. The paint stayed wet on the palette longer, too. It was more what I'm used to using with oils, and the handling of them is more equal to that medium.

So, to compare: I prefer the Golden Open Acrylics, because it is based upon a firm platform of current knowledge in how to handle paint. Only limit--no thick impasto passages (thicker than a penny, e.g.) because thick passages take a longer time to set up. Had I had the full Color System with the Atelier, I might have had a different opinion, but the need for another spritzer bottle was a major turn off.

I've filled out my System colors with the Open Acrylics, and in the weeks ahead will be painting in more traditional oil-like fashion with these new acrylics. Ought to be interesting! But first I'll finish up the horses in landscape tomorrow.

Both of these 7 x 5 inch acrylic paintings are available for $100 until next weekend, when the second one will be going into the Riverside Art Museum's Show, "Off the Wall". The second one is also a small study for the next larger landscape painting with horses.

And Chiron the Andalusian is HERE! Such fun to have a young horse around. Pictures with my next post!


I know many of you have been waiting for this one, and I'm pleased to present it to you in its finished state. Called "High Summer", it is a 24 x 30 oil. And I am very pleased to call this one of my own. In line with the series I'm working on, the horses are in there, but not so obvious to the viewer on first impact. First, the structure and sense of place come to you.

Howard Pyle, the recognized "Father of American Illustration", used to say to his students at the Brandywine School in Delaware, "Thirty minutes, thirty yards." What he meant by that is the design structure of the painting needs to be done early enough in the painting process that it holds up throughout, and strongly enough to catch the viewer's eye from across the room, drawing him or her to the surface where details and brushwork and subtle colorations can continue to interest. I am striving for that goal, and with this series am truly seeing it happen. Below is a closeup of the focal point, which is NOT the strongest color, contrast or texture in the work. But doesn't your eye go there only after the first "oh my" when you see the painting? If it did happen that way, then I was successful.

Sorry about the glare on the smaller image--it's after dark now and my lighting isn't the best.

Congratulations to Dawn Burdine of College Station, Texas, on acquiring "Sunrise Aspens" directly from me after a lovely tea here in the studio today. She and her husband are out visiting family, and came by to see the studio. What a wonderful world of artists we are!


I thought you might enjoy the transformation of an old painting into what you see to the right. This was a 16 x 20 oil painting, that I did on location many years ago. The location was in the Temecula Wine Country, about this time of year. Why did I alter it? Because in those "old days", I was using a limited palette of five colors--Ultramarine Blue, Thalo Green, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Light, and Cadmium Yellow Light, plus the workhorse Titanium White. Adequate to get the essence of a scene, but no drama nor color singing. I've repainted over about 95% of the original surface. (Note: there was no varnish on this painting.)

I'm so pleased with the Color System I'm using now, that painting over an old work allows me to practice what I've learned, and also to measure my growth as an artist. I've attached the original painting, and I'd like for you to notice the less-than-successful depiction of a backlit subject. It is weak in values. I didn't work out a good composition--at that time I was going to a place and immediately sitting down and trying to capture it. Now I let a place "speak" to me before I lift my brushes.

If you enjoy this process of changing older work, please let me know.