Making it Your Own-

About two months ago my husband John and I had a tent at the Summerlin Art Festival. It was a terrific weekend, great weather and good sales. On Sunday as the fair was winding down I realized I had not even gone over to check out the entertainment on the stage, so phone in hand, (you never know when a good photo op with show up), I found myself watching a Mariachi band made up of teenagers. They were super high energy with their shiny instruments gleaming against a background of black uniforms with crisp white shirts. But alas, the stage  backed up to the bright sun light, it was impossible to get a good shot. I realized the photo wasn’t meant to be and enjoyed the lively music. At one point the band broke for a few minutes. Walking toward me was a beautiful mexican girl with a violin. Quickly I asked, “do you mind if I take your picture?”, I knew at the time, this would be a painting.

Days after the event I opened the image and found my optimism was well founded. I could see what made me want to paint this, it just needed some adjustments.

The original photo
The original photo

First the three value thumbnail sketch would help to “clear out the clutter”, kind of like having a garage sale, it gives me a fresh start.


Yes, it’s coming into focus now, at this point I begin to see the manipulations that need to happen to “make it my own”.

  • change the expression, a little less smile
  • fade the shadow side into darkness
  • a little more formal
  • some underlying energy
la Niña Mariachi by Diane Eugster
la Niña Mariachi by Diane Eugster


Getting in “The Zone”

Those of us who paint are familiar with “the zone”. That place where it’s easy to get  lost in the world of your painting, a place with a repetitive cadence; look, mix, apply, evaluate …and again. A place where hours melt by, while the world outside pulses with turmoil, your’s swirls with texture, color and emotion. It’s such a great place to be but it can be very hard to get there.

Sometimes stopping everyday tasks to go in and actually paint can be like walking on the stage of a Balanchine Ballet mid number and being in the flow, it’s  a hard transition.

Here are some things I do to ease myself into “the Zone”-


If I haven’t actually begun the painting yet, I’ll pull out my paper and pencil (always in the ready position), and do a drawing of the subject. There are fewer things to deal with in a drawing, no color, no paint to scrape off, just exploring with a pencil, taking my time, what’s the rush, this is part of my painting time. Soon something magic will happen and the subject has turned into art, a thing that’s one step closer to a painting. Taping it to the wall by my canvas helps me to see there are more possibilities than the obvious.

Lay the paints out on the palette…too many options….where do I start? Sometimes a one color block in gets the thing on the canvas, giving a sense of how it takes up space, the movement of it all. SteppingBloglr

Than the paint, I like to give myself suggestions, a sort of menu of what might look appetizing. With a knife I mix two colors on my palette, and another, what about those two? Getting ten to twelve colors in the same value range, usually the mid value range and things start to get exciting.

Just put something down. There is one of two things that will happen, you’ll hit the mark and have something to take off from or it’s the wrong thing, so now you know what the right thing is cause that wasn’t it! Forget about anyones expectations but your own and enjoy the process –

Stepping Out by Diane Eugster
Stepping Out by Diane Eugster

Before & After

I’ve always loved before and afters, whether it’s a personal makeover or a living room makeover, but my favorite before and afters are paintings.

At the beginning of this year I did a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, which was very rewarding, but of course the time was limited, so decisions had to be made, and fast.

Now that I have time I’ve been looking over some of these small 8″x 8″ paintings…what subtle improvements could I make, things that I missed the first time around.

The original painting  “Little Swans” could have used a darker mass to anchor the girls. In the after I chose to use a darker version of a green tone already in the scene, the additional dancers liven things up.

In the painting “Saturday at the Dog Park” I  asked myself “what is the point of this painting”, my answer; it’s all about the dogs and their owners.  In the before, the strong blue shadows overtake everything. The man in the middle floats because his pants are the same value and color as the shadows. In the after I lighten the shadows and totally eliminated the distant ones which pulled my eye right out of the scene. Now it’s easier to see the people and their pets.

There are some small changes here. In the before a red hand comes in at the far left, there isn’t enough of the person to identify that it’s a hand. The same for the leg on the far right, more confusion than help, in telling the story. In the after I eliminated the hand and leg, got rid of too many horizontal lines in the bars, pushed the green in the back wall a little, added some red to the bags on the floor… all little things but they make a big difference.

Why don’t you pull out one of your old paintings for a remodel, you might be surprised at how your judgment has developed and how your problem solving skills have increased.


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