Words from the Wise

I’ve just finished reading Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting for the third time in ten years and finding it as inspiring and eye opening as ever. Written by John Carlson in 1929 it’s not a flashy book, no color pictures, no flowery language, doesn’t even mention paints, color or canvas. What it does offer up is how to see and think like an artist.

Thought I would unpack three of my favorite quotes from Carlson;

“An artist must first be a dreamer, and than a sane analyzer of those dreams.”

I believe this speaks to imposing your own preferences on a subject. How can I make this subject more appealing to me? It’s letting your imagination run wild, then reining it into something that can actually be painted. Here is an example below of a reference photo and the changes that took place that transformed it into what was in my head.

The real story here is a neighbor of mine sitting in front of a window in my dining room. Not very interesting. What I’d like her to be, an Eastern European immigrant, traveling with her favorite chicken. “At The Station”

“There can be no expression without previous impression.”

This is about actually getting emotional about your subject. Look at it, really look at it, how does it make you feel? Let it filter through your heart as well as your head. If you can’t come up with anything , move along, this isn’t a good subject for you.

This subject just exploded with youth and freedom, warmth and escaping the normal world. Infusing her into a bubbling atmosphere of weightlessness, moving toward nowhere in particular was my vision for her. “Going in Circles”

“In Art, knowledge assists invention.”

As artists, we can never believe we draw well enough or understand color enough. It’s life long training that help us gain the skill and knowledge to invent within our paintings. To create something that is unique to our personal vision.

A photo of a friend’s daughter in the back, overgrown yard of a neighbor.

There happened to be a broom resting against the dilapidated porch, she grabbed it. What I saw, a mystical being, walking through the tall sun lite grass, searching for some work to do with her broom. She might physically clean something up or help someone to “clean up” a problem in their life. “Summer Spirit”

Next time you’re faced with a new subject take some time to dig deep into the possibilities.

Up Close at the Met

Last week John and I where in New York City for the American Impressionist Society 20th National Art Show opening.

We signed up for a list of demonstrations, lectures and tours. On the second day we found ourselves with 1 1/2 hours of free time, of course we had to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park.

But what do you do with only a short time in a museum that would take a week to see? I headed right for the American Painters. John Singer Sargent, Robert Henri, Mary Cassatt, George Bellows. . .this is where I can really get inspired.

Standing in front of this enormous Sargent painting of The Wyndham Sisters took my breath away but looking up close was even more spellbinding.

In this detail from the lady in the center you can see the confidently placed, few brushstrokes that rendered the sparkling pearls and jewelry.

Mrs. Hugh Hammersley by John Singer Sargent

A wonderful staccato of brushwork to make up a seemingly complicated lace collar.

Rendered so freshly, no overworking here. . .

A totally different genre, Frederick Remington’s On The Southern Plains.

Just look at the simplicity of those faces, horse and riders! Simplicity that only comes after a lifetime of study and painting.

Even the prairie grass and shadows have a rhythmic direction in the strokes.

Fluer de Lis by Robert Reid

One of my favorite American Impressionists, what a wonderfully delicate, yet textural way he rendered that face and those hands.

James Jebusa Shannon, Jungle Tales

Look at those faces, not a hard edge to be found.

It’s so inspiring to see the work of those masters that have come before us. There really is no “right way” to paint, whatever it takes to get the end result.

I was reading something the other day directed at painters that said, “art doesn’t happen in nature, it happens in our head”.


100 feet of Bubble Wrap

I’m looking at 100 feet of bubble wrap, 40 primed canvas, a towering stack of cardboard boxes, and a receipt from Uhaul.

If you drive Southeast of Vegas for about 4 hours on US 93 a miraculous thing happens. The shaggy limbs of the Joshua tree cactus transform to the statuesque arms of the Saguaro, then you know you’ve left the Mojave desert and entered the Sonoran. I want to paint that.

Mohave Desert of Southern Nevada
Mohave Desert of Southern Nevada

Sonoran Desert of Arizona
Sonoran Desert of Arizona


We’re moving….temporarily…..for six months……to Scottsdale, Arizona.

Why Scottsdale?  It’s a great central location to take day trips to other interesting cities like Sedona, Tucson and Tubac, where art galleries abound.

Sedona, Tubac, Tucson
Sedona, Tubac, Tucson

Scottsdale itself has Historic Old Town with it’s vintage, western  feel. The heart of this area is Main St., where Every Thursday night  galleries open their doors for the Art walk.  Musicians play on the sidewalk as galleries  showcase new works by nationally known artists.

Did I mention the landscape? Plein air painting, hiking and biking.

The Phoenix Art Museum.

The Scottsdale Artists School, one of a handful of school in the US where nationally known artists teach intensive week-long workshops.

Scottsdale Artists School
Scottsdale Artists School

Packing up 20 years worth of stuff from a five bedroom house to live for 6 months in a two bedroom unfurnished apartment has been interesting, but our house will not be empty as friends and relatives are taking advantage of our absence to have their own Las Vegas getaways.

I’m very excited at all the possibilities and will be blogging along the way about the experiences  and discoveries we find in our new Arizona home.


American Impressionist show in Scottsdale

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.02.59 AMJohn and I drove to Scottsdale, AZ earlier this week to see the American Impressionist art exhibition at the Trailside Gallery.

It was a beautiful drive, the Sonoran desert of Arizona has more interesting vegetation; Saguaro, Ocotillos, and Cholla cactus compared to our desert, the Mohave. The skies were heavy with storm clouds which added to the drama.

We arrived around 4:30 on Thursday, got something to eat, than onto the gallery for the opening and awards ceremony at 6 pm.

Walking into the gallery I was taken with sheer size of the show, 180 paintings. As we maneuvered between the growing crowd to get a closer look at the paintings, I could see we were in for a visual feast! One by one the sparkling color and deft brushstrokes brought me in.

After viewing the entire show, I wanted to go back and see some of my favorites, which started me thinking “what was it about these that especially stood out to me?”

Counter Attack by Ken Backhaus
Counter Attack by Kenn Backhaus

The above painting, Counter Attack by Kenn Backhaus uses every possible technique to embody the feeling of fast, sharp, speed. Quick brushwork and a totally unexpected use of yellow gold as his main color make this something I’ve never seen before.

Coachman by Carolyn Anderson
Coachman by Carolyn Anderson

We were fortunate to also see a live demonstration by show judge Carolyn Anderson. Her painting above, “Coachman” is a fantastic example of her unique style.  An ethereal, open quality to her work, draws me into her stories. She defies many of the “rules” of common painting principles, like always put your darkest darks in your center of interest- she almost never does this, her characters seem to breathe as you view them.

Spent Shells by Lori Putman
Spent Shells by Lori Putnam

I just love this painting by artist Lori Putnam, it’s so unexpected. Who would think the unlikely subject of a tractor and some old white buildings could be a symphony of fabulous color harmonies. Look at that wonderful composition, pulling my eye into the painting with the broken concrete, leading me to the tractor, than up the roof and around the painting again!

Miss Margaret with Her Violin by Nancy Crookston
Miss Margaret with Her Violin by Nancy Crookston

Miss Margaret with Her Violin by Nancy Crookston is another example of breaking the mold. Instead of making poetry from construction as in the previous painting, Crookston has taken an all too often sugary subject, a little girl with pigtails and turned it on it’s head. How about holding some daisies or a puppy…. no, Crookston surprises us with an adult instrument, the violin. Her expression, a big “look at me” smile? How about a young child just being who she is, natural, relaxed and unaware of her unpretentious beauty.

I came away from this show feeling inspired and at the same time, overwhelmed by all the monumental talent. But in the end I have to remind myself that my only competition is myself, we all have our unique vision and voice … now to try and get some of that down on canvas…

What I wish I saw-

About every six months or so I like to slow down and really look at what I’m doing with my painting. This kind of keeps me from aimlessly painting away without a focus.

Searching for some inspiration I came across this YouTube video by acclaimed artist Jeffrey Watts. During his drawing demonstration of a figure from life he had some very profound things to say, “a good drawing is a combination of what you see, what you know and what you’d like to see”. 

That was it, the thing I’d been missing lately, painting what I’d like to see, using more exaggeration, manipulations, in short taking more liberties with my subjects.

In order to paint more of what I’d like to see, I need to get more of what I know.

Drawing by Michelangelo

Looking at drawings by masters like Michelangelo, I find myself asking; “did his models really look like that?”.  More likely he probably was able to draw what he wanted to see, because he had the knowledge to manipulate his subjects.



I’ve decided to focus on drawing hands. Why hands? because I think the hands are the next most expressive element after the face in a figurative subject.

I found a free pdf download of a 1920  book by anatomy expert George Bridgman. His book plus photos I found in magazines and ones I took were the source for my drawings. A good practice is drawing from life……alot. The second best is drawing from pictures…..alot. After all a painting is just a drawing done with paint!

Jet Lag is Fading – Time to Paint

John and I returned to Las Vegas from our trip to the historic east coast last night. The jet lag is fading and we’re finally getting up to speed.

Did I find the painting inspiration I hoped for…..yes and more!

Beginning with a tour of Washington D.C., the Freer Gallery was a wonderful stop. The Whistler Peacock Room was deconstructed in London and transported to the gallery.

"The Peacock room" by Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur
“The Peacock room” photo by Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur

It was a fascinating feeling to stand in this room which Whistler painted and redecorated in 1876 resulting in the owners disapproving shock, unpaid for the massive project Whistler filed for bankruptcy.

A John Singer Sargent painting “The Loggia” was a joy to view up close. Look at how simply he dashed in that head and hands.

The Loggia by John Singer Sargent
The Loggia by John Singer Sargent

Detail of the Loggia by John Singer Sargent
Detail of the Loggia by John Singer Sargent

More of his work can be found online here.

On to Colonial Williamsburg. We just couldn’t get enough of this authentic city which was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699. The fascinating thing to me was that the people weren’t just costumed actors but functioning 17th century tradesmen filling orders for handmade furniture, hand sewn clothing etc.

It was truly a beautiful place to learn as well as just walk around the gravel pathways to see what  could be discovered. Just a few of the hundreds of pics I took there are below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Time to start painting, but where do I start?

New Places, New Inspirations

This is the time of year when John and I love to travel and experience new places. Going somewhere new is a great way to get inspired with fresh ideas.

One thing that always interests us both are places with history, so this time it’s Colonial America and going during the 4th of July seems like a good idea. What better place than Jamestown, Virginia , where the first colonial settelment was started by the English, followed by Yorktown and Williamsburg.

The kinds of inspiration I hope to find? Costumed characters, people working at old word crafts, floral and fauna not usually found in my familiar southwest landscape. 

Braiding Her Hair by Diane Eugster
Braiding Her Hair by Diane Eugster

Several years ago I painted this type of subject in “Braiding her hair”, (above)
and another of a seasoned woodworker in “At the Bench”, (below)
It will be interested to see what we find!

At the Bench by Diane Eugster
At the Bench by Diane Eugster

A Photo Shoot, Starting at the End

Harley, posing at the "train station"
Harley, posing at the “train station”

I have a bulletin board in my studio, that holds all kinds of relevant things, enty forms, shipping box size charts, but most importantly inspirational images.

My bulletin board



These images are the basis for the feeling I wanted in my new round of paintings. This is where I start, at the end. Now how am I going to get there?

Person; I hired one of my favorite models, Harley, to help me achieve my goal.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.49.00 PM
Clark County Heritage Museum

Place; This one was a little more difficult. Where within a 30 mile radius could I find a location with a 1920’s – 40’s look? Neighborhoods, interiors, museums…..yes….our Clark County Heritage Museum has a transplanted street of houses from that era.

John, helping me with location snapshots.
John, helping me with location snapshots.

Going out to the location before hand, seeing the actual layout as well as things like what direction the sun was coming from,  where the restrooms were, all very helpful information in formulating a plan.

Some of the old luggage a friend loaned me
Some of the old luggage a friend loaned me

Thing; the props. This is the fun part. The museum had a train station, so retro luggage was high on my list. I asked around and bingo….my friend Judy had some old luggage that she generously lent me.

Old gloves, my neighbor Carol had a great pair of cream colored short gloves.

Vintage style dresses, yes the Goodwill is my go to fashionista boutique. Found a variety of things that could work. For my esthetic, keeping the value in mid range and tones muted works best.

Farm related props , a bonus, the museum also had a relocated barn; metal pails, work gloves, the apron I made for the my painting in the previous post.

Now I was ready to make the plan. Using the snap shots from the previous visit I layed out a simple story board of each location and what props were needed.

Knowing the layout I was able to make the best use of time, keeping clothing changes to a minimum while getting maximum impact. This also helps to keep me on track. Otherwise it’s easy to lose focus, go in another direction, spending way to much time.

Having an assistant, my husband John, was a super help, to not only assist with carrying everything but working with my portable lighting when it was needed.

On the day of the shoot we experienced the expected, a beautiful day, and the unexpected, two school bus loads of kids, but it all went well and I was very happy with the photos I took.

Testing the 50mm lens on the Landscape

Last week I did more research online to find out if the 50mm lens was useful for more than just shooting indoors with low light.  I found out that it also has some great advantages for outdoor landscape photos.

To wrap my head around this I practiced in my backyard.


For both of these photos I stood in exactly the same location, ISO 100, shutter priority mode 125. In both I focused on the low tree in the middle.

The one with the zoom lens (that came with the camera) is flatter, has duller color and shadows. The 50mm lens photo doesn’t take in as wide an image, but has much more life to it.

The sun is shinning, the sky is clear and I’m ready to take my new 50mm 1.4 lens out to Red Rock and see how it performs. John and I got on our hiking boots , got in the truck and headed for the mountains.


Our desert can be rather dry and flat, but hike 10 minutes up a trail and the beauty starts to unfold.


I like the way the 50mm allows focusing on a near object, while softening the background, more like I see things with my own eyes.



This photo, focusing in the distance, allowed the foreground to soften. Next week another trail….

What a Difference a Museum Makes

Over the weekend my husband John and I, had the opportunity to visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 4.51.46 PM
Women Ironing, 1884, Edgar Degas

What struck me was the large collection of Edgar Dégas oil and pastel paintings there.

 It was interesting to get up close and personal with those paintings, really look into all the wonderful layering of color on color on color, the end result being indescribably beautiful.
When I got home, the goal on my next painting was to layer some intense, unexpected colors together and just see what would happen.
 I started with some simple color studies just to get a feeling of what direction I wanted to take, then I did my “predictable beginning” , just starting with any color to block the masses in and get something started.
Then I had some fun, seeing what paint would do. I was tempted to use burnt umber and sienna for the warm brown background but I reminded myself the point was to use bright color to achieve muted tones and shades, so I chose Cadmium Red light, Cadmium Orange and Viridian. I used the same mixture for the hair, plus white for the skin tones. I did sneak in Naples Yellow and Ivory Black in smaller amounts.
I’ve painted this model before and I’ve always been bored with the outcome. But this time, not being concerned with the things, i.e. a dress, a chair a fold in the backdrop, but how “the things” existed as shapes in space, how one shape reacted to the shape next to it. I was much happier with the results .


%d bloggers like this: