Workshop’s Over Now What

It’s been a week since I finished the Sunny Apinchapong workshop and I am still hearing his words as I paint, which is a good thing.

Sometimes coming away from a workshop can leave me with a let down feeling, like that was exciting and stimulating but now I’m on my own.

White flowers in a Vase, by Diane Eugster
White flowers in a Vase, by Diane Eugster

Sunny gave me so much to work on, here are a few of his mantras:

  1. Mass in with a big brush, you’re not ready to start the painting, keep roughing in those large shapes!
  2. Compare, compare, compare, is that lighter or darker than that passage over there? Look, look, look
  3. Trust yourself, don’t think too much, just get it down!
  4. Is that area really that orange, it’s orangish, not orange!
  5. Check your edges, if two dark object meet with a soft line in the shadow, join them together as one!

The still-life above was a challenge, at first all the white flowers looked very similar, but I searched for the small differences in color and found them, I compared the shape of this one to that one and saw the differences. I knocked back the colors when they were not subtle enough.

Pitch and a Basket, by Diane Eugster
Pitch and a Basket, by Diane Eugster

The same applied to the still-life above, in order to paint better I need to see better. Detail is not what I’m looking for but ways to translate the complications of the really world into paint.

Painting the Color of Light

Since finishing up with the Robert Lemler workshop at SAS I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that light has color temperature.

When outside in the late afternoon, the sun starting to go down, the color of light is very warm. Everything the late afternoon light falls on will have warmth (orange) in the color while the shadows will have cool or blue tones.

Cool light comes from LEDs or the sky on a cloudy day. The result is everything illuminated by it will have cool tones in it, the shadows will be warm.

Paintings that use these principles will have a heightened sense of brightness while still having vivid color. Getting control of this concept, one can exaggerate it for special effect. An artist who used this in all of his work was Joaquin Sorolla.

Painting by Sorrolla
Painting by Sorolla

In the painting above by  Sorolla I’ve noted just a few of the many temperature changes. These areas are patches of the same color, but one in light and one in shadow.

Here are three paintings I’ve done using  this principle.

Painting by Diane Eugster
Painting by Diane Eugster

This portrait sketch has a cool light, warm shadow relationship.

Painting by Diane Eugster
Painting by Diane Eugster

This painting, a warm light with cool shadows. Even though there are some warmer areas in the shadow, cool dominates with grays, blues and greens.

Painting by Diane Eugster
Painting by Diane Eugster

Here a cool light falls on the figure with warmth in the shadows.

I’m going to start paying special attention to see how this works outside and inside.

First Day Robert Lemler Workshop

Monday was the first day of a workshop I signed up for with renowned artist Robert Lemler.

Why Robert Lemler? I’ve long admired the way he distills a complex subject down to a beautiful, simple design.

The day was started with a demonstration to illustrate how to see only the light and shadow pattern, than how to work within these divisions to add interest with color changes not value changes.

Painting by Robert Lemar
Painting by Robert Lemler

The painting above (sorry for the glare), is one of three paintings Robert brought to the class. A very difficult subject because her skin is basically one dark value, it’s the way the reflected lights are placed on her face that describe the form.

Painting by Robert Lemlar
Painting by Robert Lemler

This one is a fantastic example of how light falls on a form, just look at the stair steps of light that hit his face under his lips, how getting just the right value perfectly explains what is happening there.

Painting by Robert Lemlar
Painting by Robert Lemler

Another painting with basically one large dark shape in cool light. The dimension he is able to suggest with just the right bits of light in the right places!

We did small oil studies for the rest of the day, some under warm light, some under cool, so that we could not only decider the shapes of light and shadow but how the temperature of the light changed the colors.

Composition is King

How the painting is put together, the design, the composition will always be the most important element of painting to me.

That’s why I have a list of images in queue ready to be started but waiting for a solution to design problems. This is one of those images. Even though it had a lot going for it, the colors were washed out and the photo was flat, no real contrast. Having no distinguishable dark areas and light makes it hard to compose a painting, so I decided to really push the values where I needed them in order to make a good break up of the space.Ticket-draw

An exploratory sketch, my way to flesh out the idea, confirmed that this could work. Of course you never really know until some paint is on the canvas, but it seemed the odds were good for success!ticket-draw2

Starting with the darks, the framework, the anchor, I used Burnt Sienna to get a warm glow underneath the build up of paint I was planning to do. I wanted to keep the darks moving through the picture. I remember once someone said you should be able to walk across the darks in your paintings.

Ticket to Ride by Diane Eugster
Ticket to Ride by Diane Eugster

I used Gamblin’s oil priming on the canvas for this painting, it creates a slick surface but provides a ground where a lot of textural effects can be used, which was great for this subject with old wood surfaces.

Choosing a Direction

Friday in open studio at Scottsdale Artists School I was presented with a young woman in a long wool coat. Just painting what was before me could have produced something lackluster. Yes, the model was attractive and the coat interesting but that’s not enough. Thinking about how I wanted to portray this young woman with a long wool coat, was the key to a successful painting.

She could be a Russian spy……or

A homeless teen with an oversized coat……or

A New Yorker, in the 50’s….or

A Vogue model…..yes, this is the one I like best

Having an idea of the elements to exaggerate in the scene helped me make decisions working through it. The long graceful lines in her coat screamed grace and fashion, one hand  in a pocket, the other at her side gave her some attitude, her hair an isometrical wave. Picking out these things and exaggerating them  provided  a strong direction to take. wool1

I wanted to get the coat shape in right away, since it was the largest, most important thing in the image.


Working on a toned surface saved a lot of time. The mid-tones are already there, making it easy to judge the lights against. The light source was cool, so her flesh tones had alizarin, lemon yellow and white in them. Working now to quickly get the background in so I can see all the pieces and how they work together.wool3

At this point everything is blocked in and I like the value (dark and light), patterns, my job from here on out is to develop more interest in each area while keeping the values close. The face gets some shadows, but all fairly light to keep the face together and not fracture it with dark tones.WoolCoatlr

I debated on using the stripes in the background and decided they would make an interesting contrast to the fluid lines in the coat. Since taking David Shevlino’s workshop I have been reaching for my 1″ flat synthetic brushes all the time, they enable a long stroke with sharp or soft edges depending on how it’s angled.



When the Painting is Fueled by the Model

It was Saturday morning, I left one hour early for the 9am open studio session, even though our apartment is only five minutes away from the art school, I’ve learned over the last few weeks that if you are not one of the first six people who make it in the doors when they open in the morning, you will be left holding a palette, paint box and canvas, trying to find the best position in the second row of easels, or worse.

Anyway, I was the first one in the parking lot and the first one in the door. Set up my palette, walked around the school a little, waited….and waited…..The model was late, this was unusual as they usually arrived a half hour early so that the lights could be set up etc. Five after nine, a wispy figure raced in to the room…. that must be the model.


She flung off her glasses and coat and launched into the model’s chair. This was going to be a full on, front face view from my spot in the room. Why was she late? What was she thinking? There was an expression on her face that couldn’t be explained, only painted.


At this point the solid structure of her face was established, it’s amazing how unsymmetrical the human face really is. I slowed down to check my angles like David Shevlino suggested, comparing  things like; the angle of the end of the eye to the edge of her mouth, the angle of the widest part of her jaw to the inner corner of her eyes.


This is the finished sketch, I feel that I captured the aura surrounding her.

I had another experience like this only when an elderly cowboy model, “Vinnie” had a hard time finding the art studio, arrived late, and announced to the class that he liked horses more than people. His pensive expression fueled my painting for the rest of the day.


Getting “Normal”

It’s been one week since we arrived in Scottsdale and our days are starting to get somewhat “normal”.

John found his bench for carving picture frames was too high when placed on the apartment floor carpeting, so he went out on the patio and sawed the legs down-

IMG_1320Can you get kicked out of an apartment complex for that?

Have organized my studio area in a way that I feel comfortable with. The lighting needs some tweaking but it will do for now.


In the evening, my first night at the Scottsdale Artists School open studio. The first thing I learned…leaving at 6pm for the 6:30 session was going to get me a place in the third row toward the back of the room, note to self….leave much earlier next time.

I found a group of all ages and skill levels. During the breaks everyone walked around the room to see what was being done by other artists, a very stimulating atmosphere.

We had a good model but it took me some time to get adjusted. By the end of the first hour I was getting in the flow. By the end of the second hour I was tired and very tempted to call it a night, but I reminded myself, these longer poses were a great thing to take advantage of. The last hour was really worth staying for as I was able to pull the portrait sketch together and iron out some of the problem areas. A good session, looking forward to many more, Wednesday is figure gestures!

Tuesday night Portrait Open Session

Welcome the Unexpected

Spending weeks gathering inspirations before a photo shoot is a regular part of my process.

For this particular session I came across an image on a site about french farmhouse design that inspired me. The soft vertical lines of the girl’s apron as they descended downward toward the rounded shapes of yarn was intriguing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 12.26.45 PM

I considered the possibilities of this scene – eggs could replace the yarn…hmmm. After purchasing a dozen brown eggs the next step was to boil them, it wouldn’t be fun if they cracked while we were trying to get the picture.

The day of the shoot my model, Harley, looked wonderfully earthy in her dress and linen apron. Then the eggs……eggs weight a lot more than yarn. Gravity was not our friend as we angled and lifted, but it wasn’t working. Forget the eggs.

Next the wind, didn’t plan on that, what’s next…..? Holding the apron from flying in her face, we were both laughing by now, and….snap….that’s the painting, didn’t expect it, but thank you nature for the unexpected!

Swept Away by Diane Eugster
Swept Away by Diane Eugster


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