The Nuns, revisited

blog-picI painted this about a year ago, from a photo I took during last summer’s vacation. It has never “felt” quite right….something, something, has always bothered me about it. I’ve taken it out from time to time during the year, trying to come to grips with what it was…, a year later …

I can see I let the photo lead the painting, shortcomings and all. I was too literal with the reference. Various areas vying for attention, rendered nothing as the focal point. The areas circled below highlight this;

1. The fountain has a lot of contrast plus too warm a color for the rest of the painting

2. This high contrast edge draws the eye out of the picture to the right

3. Another high contrast line drawing the eye out of the picture

4. Another high contrast get the idea

All of these things work to break down the flow and basic premise of the painting, which was the two nuns at the water cistern.




When I have a painting like this I feel there’s nothing to lose, so I began the makeover…


I got rid of the contrast on the right building, thought what if the fountain was lighter, the steps more in harmony with the nuns, starting to go in a better direction.


Push the fountain way back, just because you can paint something doesn’t mean you should. The nuns are starting to look like they have more life, there’s some air around them to breath.

nunslrfinalA little more work and the nuns have finally prevailed as the  stars of the painting, (even though they were never touched in this made-over version).


Painting News…

Every year since 1934 Las Vegan’s have celebrated Helldorado Days. The theme harkens back to our frontier roots. The celebration concludes with an art show, which I decided to enter this year, a western theme was not required.

I was honored to receive the first place award in oil painting for the piece below, “Mending Her Shoe”.

MendingHerShoeLR2As John and I walked around admiring the other art work, several people we talked to congratulated me as well as told me how well the frame fit the painting. I truly believe that a frame can make or break a painting, and believe me, I realize how very luck I am that my woodworker husband, John is also my framer. He carved and gilded the frame especially for this painting.

It was a joint project as I found a motif for the corner, drew it, and he did the rest, a process which he has documented on his own blog here.

The painting was from a photo I took while visiting our Nevada Ballet Theatre during a rehearsal .


Red to the Rescue!


The Traveler, by Diane Eugster
The Traveler, by Diane Eugster

Have you ever looked at one of your finished paintings and thought “what if”. What if I made this area brighter, duller, lighter, darker…you get the idea.

I was viewing my recent painting, in the previous post, The Traveler, with this question… what if this painting had a large dark area? It might add an anchor and make a more graphic image because I would be using both ends of the value scale and cutting out the middle. It’s funny how value is relative, the painting as it is (was) is light, and middle value with dark and light accents. When a large dark is introduced, the rest of the painting is all of a sudden thrown into the light value category in relation to the large dark.

O.K., go for it, what color to use? Either a darker value of something already in the painting, or something that is the absolute opposite of everything in the painting, yes, red was my choice. 

The color red has some special characteristics that no other color possess. It is one of the only colors that reads as a dark even in it’s lighter shades. So I could still get the light effect and the weight of a darker tone.

I was happy with the outcome, a stronger, more graphic image.


Conserving Values

Lately I’ve really been concerned about conserving values. When I first learned to draw, the number one challenge was to see how many shades of grey I could capture in my sketch, after all, the visual world is made of hundreds, maybe thousands of shades from black to white. But the more I paint, the more I have a respect for other artists who exercise restraint with their values, which in the end produces a much stronger image.

Floating, by Robert Lemler
Floating, by Robert Lemler

For an example look at this painting by one of my favorite artists, Robert Lemler. The image on the left is the finished painting, the image on the right is the grey scale version. Removing the color in an image makes seeing the framework of values easier. This painting is mainly composed of three values and a dark accent but wow, the impact!

Painting by Casey Baugh
Painting by Casey Baugh

Another artist I admire is Casey Baugh. Here he uses two values from the high end and two from the low end to produce a more solemn, moody piece.


I decided to work from this photo. A great subject, but as you can see the scattering of many values makes a fractured image. This happens a lot outdoors in bright sunlight, the camera makes the shadows too dark while the lights get blown out. I decided to keep the girl in the 8 to 9 value range in order to stand out against her surroundings, while everything else in the 3 to 4 value range with a few dark and light accents.


The Traveler, by Diane Eugster

Conserving the values gave me the cohesion I was after, staying mid to light on the value scale gave the painting a freshness.



Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

Lately I’ve been going through some of my older, not as successful paintings, deciding which one to use as a base for a new one, a sort of “Phoenix rising from the ashes” approach.

There are huge benefits to working this way. The color and texture provide a great jumping off point for something new, also a primed surface with a layer of dryed oil paint is a wonderful support, the new paint layer will retain the richness of the color not sinking in like a more porous surface would.

At first, starting the new painting can be a little confusing. Thinking of it as a mosaic, one patch at a time helps me until the new overtakes the old.


Working the simple to the complex, saving the head and face for last, since it will require the most accuracy. I’m using the placement of everything else to tell me the location of the head. After the head is established than the planes of the face, than the features, big shapes to small.


The planes of the face are laid in, always comparing. The angle of the chin compared to the shoulder, the center of the back compared with the  back of the head, the forehead is a continuation of the upward sweep of the arm.

When everything was in it’s basic location, it was a good time to focus on the painting, forgetting about my reference image. Is this succeeding on it’s own merit? Are things moving in a comfortable way, balanced?

Something that bothered me was too many major shapes pointing upward to the right. Reworking the central diamond shape, pushing the right point downward might help.

This is so important to me, looking at the big picture, well rendered areas mean nothing if the whole is not balanced and flowing.

Jasmine and Sage by Diane Eugster

Pulling that central background shape downward was the adjustment I was after.



%d bloggers like this: