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.


The Results of 30/30

30 Paintings in 30 Days by Diane Eugster
30 Paintings in 30 Days by Diane Eugster

The image above is a college of the paintings I completed in January as a result of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.

This experience taught me many things I truly believe I would not have learned otherwise. You could say it was a microcosm of how I work, the Cliffsnotes, the Reader’s Digest version.

Going through a beginning, a middle, and end each day, I began to see how I work a painting. Otherwise a painting may take 1 or 2 weeks, things happen so incrementally that I haven’t seen the patterns. I can compare it to watching a time-lapse of myself painting 30 paintings. Isn’t that what athletes do, watch video after video of themselves to determine what they are doing wrong, or right?

My first discovery was how much self-doubt I had while working. It took me about 2 weeks to put my finger on it. Nagging, whispering “you can’t do it”, “why did you do that?” “you’re just not good enough”, all the while holding me back and squelching my creativity. When I finally put a name to it I was ready to fight back.

I’ve never been one for mantra’s …yes you can… yes you can…, but I stopped and looked around, 14 times I did do it, 14 times I figured it out. Having the visual right in front of my face, I began to believe I really could.

This year I am going to make it a goal to put visuals on my studio wall of things I accomplish, got in a show, my work singled out, and not just accomplishments that involve other people’s opinions of me but ones where I achieved a step forward personally in my painting. We are so quick to dwell on the negative things that happen with our work and push away, too easily, all of the positives that we’ve accomplished.

The college at the top of the page was made through an awesome, free, website called PicMonkey. They even have Facebook templates so that you can create a college to fit your banner.

30 Paintings in 30 Days, day 30

The last one, it was a little sad, I’ve become so used to my routine of going into the studio to find out what my subject was for the day.


This is from a series of photos I took many years ago. Several times I’ve tried unsuccessfully to paint these images, until now. I really feel I have gained invaluable experience and information over this last month, which I am going to blog about in my next posts.

The part of all this I wasn’t prepared for was how cutting 5 to 8 hours out of every day would affect my non-painting life. John was a big help, pitching in where he could, but he also had two large custom furniture jobs and a class to teach this month.

Around day 18 I began to get a little cranky when I got up to find I ran out of toothpaste, found the cereal box empty, couldn’t locate any socks and had to kick dust bunnies to the side as I made my way to the studio. I have never been a person to lose things, but this month I lost a pair of earrings, a pair of glasses and my car keys. Guess I was a little preoccupied.

The positives however outweighed the negatives by a huge margin. Painting 30 paintings in 30 days , yes, I’m going to do this again sometime, just not this year!

30 Paintings in 30 Days, day 28 and 29

Day 28’s painting was another from photos I took while at the ballet practice of our Nevada Ballet Theater.



The one above is the new one, the one to the left is the first one I painted about 2 weeks ago.

I tried something different, in the one to the left I painted the figures first, than the room around them, the newest one, above, I painted the room, than the figures on top. I think I like the new one best, the colors are a little more muted because they have intermingled with the room, and the edges are softer.


Day 29 was a nude figure- Her red hair against all the blue-green is what appealed to me about the image. Locating the warm to cool passages in the shadows helped to turn the forms.

30 Paintings in 30 Days, days 26 and 27

Three more days, it has been the best of times and the worst of times, but I will be relieved to finally be finished.


Yesterday, Monday, was the first day I didn’t know if I would finish my painting. Tuesdays are an extra busy day because John and I do our volunteer work to clean out the cat adoption cages at Petsmart. It’s also the day I take classes at the gym, so my painting “Wine?”came to a conclusion about 7;30 pm, luckily John stepped in and picked up dinner at El Pollo Loco. Everything being in muted indoor light, this was another study in subtle color relationships.


Today’s painting “Bridal Boutique” yet another study in subtle color relationships, I’m starting to see a pattern here. While walking around Tivoli Village, an upscale shopping area here in Las Vegas, I saw this Bridal store. As the sun shimmered in the window it was stunning to see the light play on the satin fabric.

Color relationships is not the only pattern I’m seeing in my work. To someone who hasn’t experienced painting before, it might seem that an artist starts a painting than methodically works calmly to the end. Maybe some may actually work like this, but my journey is more like the bottom illustration.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 7.17.46 AMI begin, than an uphill struggle, a small platform of ease, than another uphill struggle etc. until the giant valley at the top, where I do not know if it can be solved… helped… or saved. If the giant valley can be crossed, the painting is a downhill path with small stops until the end. There really isn’t such a thing as an easy painting.


30 Paintings in 30 Days, days 24 & 25

AtTheParkLRThis is a scene from the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California. In an unlikely location, in the middle of a residential area, I never realized all that lay behind  those giant metal gates. Sweeping grounds with remarkable flower gardens and several art galleries, one of which houses Gainsborough’s famous Blue Boy.

Despite the crowds at the art exhibits, some quite places like this bench, could be found in out of the way places, which is where I took the photo for this painting. A study in greens my palette was Cad. Yellow Light, Cad. Yellow Medium, Cad. Red Deep, Permanent Green Light, Cobalt Blue and Ivory Black.

AtTheFairLRThis is a scene from the San Diego County Fair. We find ourselves there almost every July as John enters his furniture in the Design in Wood Show. The livestock exhibition is something I always look forward to.

This painting  gave me the opportunity to lay some heavy paint in the straw area for extra texture.



30 Paintings in 30 Days, days 22 and 23

The Boat Makers Tool Shed by Diane Eugster
Paper White by Diane Eugster

Days 22 and 23rd’s paintings are both still lifes of a sort, but very different in nature.

Several years ago we drove from Las Vegas to Albany, Oregon. We stopped many times along the way to stretch our legs. On one of these stops we found ourselves in a forest of  wild rhododendrons.  I tried once to grow some of these in our Las Vegas yard, but they need acid soil and ours is as alkaline as they come.

When I began to paint these I had no idea what colors were in the white flowers, so I worked my way from the obvious to the subtle. The large area of cool dark green was obvious. As I worked through the green I began to see blue and warmer passages but didn’t  get side tracked, the value is always more important than the color.

After the large dark was massed in, yes, those flowers were pale blue,pale violet, pale green and pale yellow, but again I massed in the more obvious pale blue, than worked toward the less obvious areas.. Whenever I got “stuck” in the flowers, I moved onto make the blue passages in the greens, than the warm passages, then back to flowers….everything was much easier to see now.

The Boat Makers Tool Shed by Diane Eugster

When visiting Seattle, Washington we visited a Boat Maker’s School. It was a fascinating place of partially constructed boats, a library of construction books and tool sheds filled with all sorts of equipment. My husband John is a woodworker and was explaining to me that these chisels all started out much longer but years of sharpening had rendered several of them unusually short. The years of patina on these well used tools made me wonder how many sets of hands had held them, and what about all the projects they helped to create…



30 Paintings in 30 Days, days 20 and 21

SceneFrom-ItalyLRDay 20’s painting is a subject I would have never painted before this challenge. As I’ve said before in this blog, angles are a big problem for me, and an image like this would have sent me into a dyslexic turmoil. What I’ve discover…it’s all about the angles. Everything is angles, if I can master the angles, I can master the drawing. I’m learning to look past the complex and just compare one angle at a time.


Day 21’s painting was about subtle color and textures. This is a photo of a model I took several years ago. I put her in a pink night-gown that looked like a dress and elbow length gloves. There was a cool light coming in the window that played nicely off the satin gown.

In this painting I worked from the obvious to the difficult. When I started, I had no idea what color her skin would be, but as the background and the dress developed they told me what the flesh needed to be.

30 Paintings in 30 Days, days 18 and 19

The Littlest Swans by Diane EugsterDay 18 and 19 feature dancing, but of very different kinds; one fresh and airy, one dark and earthy.

When John walked by my easel yesterday morning, he took a look at the photo for the day and said ” how are you going to paint that?”, I said… I don’t know. 

At first it looked like everything was just floating, not many solid darks, and a background of neural grey. But as I lookup at it longer, I saw why I selected it. All of the values were very close, causing the colors to have an unusual richness. I could also see there was warmth in that grey, the magic being the cool tones against the warm neutral. This is usually the case with me, when I finally realize what I’m looking at, I can paint it.

This young ballet group was performing at an outdoor park, the backdrop is a white piece of canvas, the light from outside is just peeking through at floor level.

MusicLRThis dancer and accompanying musicians were the entertainment at a Belly Dancing convention here in Las Vegas at the South Point Casino and Hotel.

This photo was another challenge as it was blurry from the dim light and movement in the scene. It was a temptation to start at the face, but I’ve learned, painting a head is worthless if it’s in the wrong place. All the the things going on next to her were really what defines her. I started on the easiest parts to grasp, than as things progressed the more difficult areas became easier. My palette was Cad. Yellow Lemon, Yellow Ochre, Cad. Red Deep, Viridian, Permanent Red Oxide and Ivory Black.



30 Paintings in 30 Days, days 16 and 17


I love the southwest landscape. It’s amazing how different the deserts can look. Ours here is Las Vegas is very textural with very little color, except for our Red Rock Canyon, my husband John calls it a tortured beauty.

This painting is from the New Mexico desert, also very textural but with more subtle color, they do get much more rain than we do.

When I start a painting like this, with lots of grasses and bushes, keeping the painting as dry as possible is important to me. If the paint has too much medium in it, the surface will be slippery causing overlaying textures to turn to mush. The first layer is scrubbed on with a stiff bristol brush. Next a thicker almost pasty layer. The final  layer I like to use a scruffy badger hair brush with painting medium, with the thicker paint underneath I can get some good traction, dragging thin paint on top in a hit and miss.


Today’s painting was from a scene at the local dog park. It’s so fun to see these guys interact and show their personalities .

I always have a hard time with blues at the start of a painting, are they more toward green or more toward violet? Staring with the most neutral blue, Cobalt blue, gives me a good base to go either way. As areas get developed, it becomes very apparent which direction I need to push the blue.

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