In the Garden, continued…

It took me about three days to get the answer I wanted. What was the question? Something about the color harmony of “In the Garden” was not working. Pulling out the color wheel usually clears things up for me.


In the original painting above the main colors in the figure are cool versions of blues and violets. The background greens were leaning  toward the yellow family. On the color wheel it is clear that the yellow greens were a large step around the wheel from the cool violets. This large step is why the warm greens are too jarring when placed next to the violets in the painting.


In the final image above, I shifted the background to a family of greens closer to the violets. This shift has made all the difference.

Color harmonies can enhance the mood of a subject or detract from it. If I were painting a Mardi Gras scene in the French Quarter using complimentary colors (those opposite each other on the wheel), would be a good choice for high energy and bright impact, but the opposite was what I wanted here, more natural, quieter and calmer.

In the Garden

InTheGardenlrBack in the studio, from our trip to Virgina I was really looking forward to closing the door and getting lost in some paint. This new painting “In the Garden” was from a photo I took while on our recent vacation to Colonial Williamsburg.

My favorite area in the settlement was the garden. Every time we passed this area I said to John “what a minute let’s see what they’re doing now”. They were growing all kinds of herbs and vegetables, a small stand sold small plants while there were at least four costumed people doing “regular” chores in the garden, like using a sickle to clear weeds, hoeing with iron picks and sweeping with hand made brooms.

This young women really caught the feeling of the 96 degree, 80% humidity day.  A little wilted, she appeared to me to be a great subject for a painting.


I started this differently that usual. My goal was to get the head in the right place, the right size, than work outwardly from there. I liked the feeling of working this way, there was a freedom about it.

Since this day was overcast the temperature of the painting was to be cool in the lights, warmer in the shadows.


Working downward and outward, adding more shapes, comparing them to what I already had on the canvas.
BrJust had to interject this picture of my dog, Brandy. She was almost as happy I was to get back in the studio, she was in this position for most of the day.gardenDemo4This is the hardest part. Looking carefully, not at what to add, but what to take away, a simple image is a strong image. I decided to remove the distant house in the upper left. The idea of a distant house was what I kept wanting to hold on to but the design element it made was doing nothing to help the movement in the painting and was instead acting as a distraction. There was also a horizontal fence in the photo which I put in, than took out.

InTheGardenlrIn the final version I suggested some flowers at the horizon to bring the color in the skirt and apron upward.




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.



Three Reasons Artists Should Like Pinterest

I’ve poked around in Pinterest from time to time but have finally decided to dive in and see if there was anything there for me.

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Screen grab from Pinterest


  1. An Auxiliary Brain– have you every found an inspirational image while web surfing, maybe it’s a great pose, or light condition you’d like to emulate, you save it to your bookmarks. Three months later your looking at a long list of web addresses in your side bar and can’t remember why you saved it? By having a Pinterest account with the Pin it button in your browser menu bar you can grab images on the fly, pin them on your boards, even secret boards, (if you don’t want the public looking over your shoulder). Having a visual place where it’s all there for me to see makes it really easy.Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 7.42.12 PM
  2. Free on-line Art Portfolio and Website Traffic Generator- if you don’t have a website for your artwork Pinterest can be your online portfolio. If you do have a website, linking your artwork from your Pinterest art portfolio to your website is a great way to get traffic to your site.Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 7.45.22 PM
  3. Find Out What the Public Thinks Of Your Work-sign up for a business instead of personal account (this is free, can also convert a personal to business) and increase your rankings in searches, link your website to your Pinterest account and access a very thorough set of analytics that will tell you everything from how many people went to your web sight from Pinterest to how many people clicked on your art, if they were men or women and more.

Of course there are many other things you can do, take a look at my boards to get some ideas!

Monday Afternoon at the Art Group

Quick Study of Anastasia by Diane Eugster
Quick Study of Anastasia by Diane Eugster

It may not be realistic to work from live models all the time but most cities have groups that facilitate two or three hour sessions with real people.

Even in our city, Las Vegas, which is not a mecca for the arts, there are several types to choose from.

Nude figure drawing groups which can be hosted by gallery spaces or individuals at their homes. Look at Meet-up online for what’s going on in your area.


Portrait painting, short and long poses are another type of group that help hone your skills. Usually the model fee is split up between the participants. This type of group is easy to find models for, family members, neighbors etc. In a previous blog post I wrote about other places to find models.

These groups are fun and good for us types that spend too much time in the studio and need to mingle with humanity. If you can’t find one, start one, maybe in your garage with a few friends, you’d be surprised how these things can grow.

Changing my ways – Alla Prima

closeupI’ve heard of artists freezing their oil paintings to preserve the workability, or using special oils that retard the drying time, but I don’t have room in my freezer for a painting and I like the consistency of paint out of the tube.

If I’m going to adopt a direct painting style for all my work, where the paint is wet and workable during the entire process I’m going to start by looking at my tools.

The canvas support; the goal is a non absorbent surface, where the oil in the paint sits on top and doesn’t soak into the support, leaving the pigment dry and hard to manipulate. I tested the canvas I’ve been using by putting a stroke of unthinned oil paint on the surface than wiping it off.

StrokeOn Utrecht

Here it is, my first road block, I had no idea my (supposedly triple primed) Utrecht canvas was as porous as a piece of cardboard! The image on the left shows how dry the initial stroke looks, after wiping off you can see the color stained, which I expected, but also the oil layer has been sucked into the canvas. What do I do now? Either buy some oil primed linen canvas, the benchmark for a nonabsorbent oil painting surface, or try to work with what I have.

I’m going to do both, while I wait for the oil primed linen canvas to arrive I’ll  apply two coats of Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso to the canvas.


With two coats of Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso the surface is much better. The initial paint stroke goes on creamier, it wipes off showing a crisper stroke. Meanwhile, the new oil primed linen canvas have come, I’ll run them through the same test.



The clear winner is the oil primed linen canvas, the stroke sits on the surface, wiped off it’s almost gone!

The Paint; I use Gamblin oil paint and am happy with the quality, but since the earth colors, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna are all fast drying I’m going to keep them off my palette. Approximations of them can be easily mixed so they won’t really be missed.

Alla Prima, My New Obsession

Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla, all used it in the creation of their fabulous art-


Alla Prima is a style of painting where the entire surface is worked wet into wet.

Artist Richard Schmid even wrote a book about it  Alla Prima; Everything I know about Painting, which has a wealth of  advise and information for every artist .

Pushing wet paint around, the brush gliding over the canvas, long strokes that intermingle, that’s the beauty of direct painting. After working with this direct approach for a month on the 30/30 challenge, there’s no going back to the way I worked before.

In the past it was so frustrating to approach a painting on the 4th or 5th day only to find the paint in a worse than dry state… that gummy in between stage, where I felt like I was wading through mud with rubber boots on.  Yes, it’s time for a change.

Some of the most successfully completed work I’ve done were fast and fresh, like this image I did of my husband John-johnLR

In the next post; all about my painting process make-over….




Experimenting with Color, Painting without White

I like to throw a challenge out to myself when planning a painting, it wakes me out of the trance of doing things the same way all of the time.

I began this painting by using only the paint colors that I had to in order to paint the subject. Being very conservative about my choices was a good way of experimenting with color.

The most obvious thing I needed was a red, Cad Red Medium wouldn’t let me get the warmer orange reds, so I decided on Cad Red Light.


As I looked further I could see some rich cool reds would also help the painting so I went ahead and added Cad Red Medium (though later on in the painting I saw I could have done without it).

The darkest darks in the image where brown, so Burnt Umber made the list.


The warm light in the image made Naples Yellow my choice, which is one of my favorite colors because of it’s buttery light tone and it’s opacity.

blo4 I grabbed my tube of white as if almost by habit, than stopped myself, can I get by using Naples Yellow in place of white? The answer was yes,using Naples Yellow instead of white kept the warm glow in the image. The opaque quality lighten up the Umber, while keeping some warmth, burnt umber can get very grey when mixed with white. The pinks that were made with the reds and the naples yellow kept the color harmony in the painting.

Lady in Red by Diane Eugster
Lady in Red by Diane Eugster

Welcome to my Struggle-

My previous post described how I begin a new painting, here what’s next-



At this point I can learn a lot from my painting if I ask the right questions.

Is the eye path or movement the way I had envisioned? Is there anything distracting from the flow?

-I can see that the dark area at the bottom is way too overpowering for the top area. Seem like it’s weighing the painting down. I need to lift things upward.
-The girl blends with the background too much, more contrast needed there.
-The dark hat is not interesting enough. It commands  attention way up there at the top, but just doesn’t deserve it. There’s a need for more color intensity or dynamic shape, or a pattern…all viable  options…
Getting closer… I even signed it, but things are still not right. At times like this I go to my computer desktop.
During the week I go to Pinterest, grab onto inspirational paintings that I admire and put them on my desktop to study throughout the week. Taking an image of my painting and shuffling it in amongst the others usually will make a painting in need scream out for help. See below –
Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.06.44 PM
There’s mine in the middle, it is becoming more obvious that –
1. The contrast in the upper areas is too weak
2. Her hand, in that position is not working, interrupting that upwards flow
3. The top of her leg is too light, fracturing the upper body from the lower
some other minor things and…
After the changes, I think this is an improvement.