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Thursday, March 29, 2012

A new art gadget

I was at our local art supply store and happened on this little gadget.  It is a color matching guide by the Color Wheel Company, called a "Magic Palette".  Because it has a cut-out inside each color swatch, you can isolate the color you are trying to match (I like that).

I used it to match colors in my photographic reference.

And I used it to match the color of a pastel stick.

For oil painters, they have the printed paint color (i.e. Phthalo Blue) on the cards, and then have various mixtures of white and ivory black to that key color on the same card.  Cool!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Drifting Along" pastel

12 x 9 pastel on paper

I finished this today.  It was fun and challenging.  I know I still have a lot to learn about painting water.

I discovered a new way to take art classes!  Actually, I've known about it for a while, but I've only just signed up for a couple of streaming DVD pastel workshops.  It is really neat!  I highly recommend it if you have no workshops in your area, or you just want to learn by watching a demonstration by a successful artist.

Go to and view the available workshops on either DVD purchase or streaming purchase.  The streaming purchase is a fraction of the cost of the purchase of the DVD and you can see it on your computer for 6 months at any time of the day.

I signed up for "Painting Realistic Landscapes in Pastel:  Skies with Liz Haywood-Sullivan" and "Mixing Greens" from her also.

Now I see a "Painting a Stream"!!!  I'll have to get that one now!  Woo-hoo!  This is GREAT!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Painting upside-down!

12 x 9 pastel

This is a fun and different piece I'm working on - looking down into a pond beneath desert palm trees with the reflections interrupted by a few floating leaves.  I took the picture a couple of years ago, and I've kept the print out so I could paint it, but the photo wasn't very good, so it took me a long time to finally try it.  I was feeling in a playful mood, willing to experiment with this and use my imagination where the photograph left me muddled.  It really is like painting a tree upside-down!  A mind-bending exercise.

Check back in a couple of days and see if I've finished it....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Mountain Pond" pastel

11 x 14 pastel on board

We've had yucky weather for days and days - high winds - 35-55mph.  Drizzles, clouds, cold.  Good time to hole-up in the studio.

I so much enjoy a white surface to start with - to watercolor an underpainting first, and then pastel over it.  But ... I had purchased two PastelBords 2 years ago in a buff-ochre-ish color.  I was getting low on my stash, so I thought I'd try it here.  Oh my gosh, things really went awry for me ... I don't know why.  This painting was a struggle from the get go.

Rather than get all mad about it, I just figured it was a "practice session" and a chance to push myself in many ways.  I want to do more pond scenes so this was a good one to practice reflections, values, warms and cools, trying to get different greens in there to make sense, and the most difficult for me .... the shore where grass was growing.

It was a good exercise and I think I learned a bit.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Field Study - desert view

Early in the morning, as I faced this view, the sun was above the hills and shining in my face.  It glittered off of the tops of the palm trees.  It lighted the ridges of the mountains.

This is a field study of this scene.  I messed up the values a bit.  I think it was because I did not use an umbrella.  When your painting is in the shade, but the pastels are in the sun, it can mess you up a bit.  I can either work on it at home, or start a new one with my photo and this painting as a reference.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Oasis Stream" plein air pastel painting

I went to Indian Canyons in Palm Springs.  I went on a short trail I'd never been on, called Andreas Canyon.  It was lovely!  I got there at 8am and the sun was coming through the trees up the canyon, highlighting the gurgling stream.  I was all by myself with the sound of the stream for music.

I started with a watercolor underpainting, then did an "impression" of the view in pastel.  I love the natural palm trees with all the dead fronds hanging down like huge hula skirts!  The sun highlights the edges in a warm orange color.

When I was done, I drove toward the main canyon visitor center and trailhead, but spotted a large group of plein air painters!  I stopped to visit and found out they were taking a 3-day oil painting class from Mark Kerckhoff (from San Juan Capistrano).  I got his information so I might take a class someday (maybe get a few oil paints first!).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hiking with my painting gear

9 x 12 pastel
I bought a larger backpack, with the help of an REI associate.  I have never backpacked, and there were so many to choose from - most of which were too big.  I needed one for my pastel box, a backboard, and all the other stuff.  I ended up with a large "day pack".  It had straps on the bottom which I attach the tripod.  There is a pouch on each side for water and a drink - a necessity in the desert.

It worked perfectly!  But heavy!  Even with the new "backpack" size pastel box.  I ended up carrying the pastel box by hand and everything else on or in the backpack.

I visited The Living Desert park in Palm Desert, California.  I had never gone out on their "nature trail" which goes outside of the park into the desert.  I hiked about 20-30 minutes and stopped at one of their bench seats to rest.  Seemed like a good place to paint, so I did the painting above.

Then I went up the trail a little farther and saw where it starts to scramble up the canyon and then loops along the ridge on the other side to come back.  Another day.....  So, I headed back to the park and found I was exhausted!  Feet, shoulders, back.  Just plain pooped!

You can see more pictures of the Park on my website blog here.  When you get there, just click on "Artist's Blog".  I have some photos of the cactus and desert palms.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When you can't do art, you can still learn about it!

It's 90 degrees F. and a perfect day to lounge by the pool!  To get over the guilt of not painting, I brought library books on art!  Here is one I am enjoying:

Splash 5, Best of Watercolor - The Glory of Color, Rachel Rubin Wolf, 1998 by North Light Books.

I love ALL the Spash books.  I think they publish one every year, with submissions from watercolor and watermedia artists.  The theme may change from year to year.  It is inspiration and I learn something from the short excerpts from the artists.

The page I am showing here is artwork done by by Betty Ganley.  I think I can put down what I learned from her in my  own words, without infringing copyright laws.  Basically she is saying that when you paint with complementary colors, like red and green, you should make one color the more dominant one throughout the painting.  So, she is made red her dominant color.  Additionally, she brought "harmony" into her painting by putting a little green into the red areas for "darker reds" or toned down reds; and she put a little red into her green areas to make some of her greens darker or toned down.

Even though this is a watercolor book, and I am pursuing pastel as a medium, I still learned from this.  In my Southwest canyon paintings, there are red or pinkish rocks, and greens in the plant life.  It is good for me to remember to make one more dominant than the other.

I am learning so much while getting a tan!!!!!  I love multi-tasking!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Painting the unfamiliar

When I visit a place away from home, often the landscape and plant life are very different.  Fan-shaped palm trees are one of those unfamiliar things to me.  I struggle with them.  They can be so complicated.  I really want to be able to paint them well, so, I decided to do a quick study of just one tree.  This is it.... not fantastic, but every time I do one I'll be more comfortable with it.  I only give myself 45 minutes, that way I don't keep messing with it and making mud.