Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's a Great Thing

For those of you who are afraid to try painting outside in a public place because you don't want people to watch you work, I gotta tell ya, it's really a great thing. People who stop to look at what we're doing always have kind words. While I was out painting Saturday morning -- with my friends Monica and Rosemary, who both did some great work out there -- an elderly gentleman came up to study my painting. From the few comments he made, I could tell he was an artist, and we proceeded to have a very nice chat. And then he left me with these words: "God bless you and God bless your art. It's a great thing you're doing... great for yourself and great for all who see it." Wow!! That is a moment I will treasure always.

Now about this painting, I'm trying to push myself in some new directions to see where things will lead. I let the painting stay very loose, and I tried to include some big, bold strokes of heavy paint. I always like the way they look in other people's paintings but I'm never really satisfied with how they look in mine. I'm letting this one sit overnight to see how I like it in the morning. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm so honored!

I feel so honored! I've been given an award for my blog by Lori Putnam, which really means a lot to me. My hope -- always -- is that by sharing the information I've gained through my own experiences with so many fellow artists, I can enrich your art experience. And of course, what I receive from you in return is invaluable. Thank you for reading my blog and responding!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Documentary About Art

There's a new documentary about women artists and the quest to achieve work-life balance called Who Does She Think She Is? that looks really interesting. It will be screened here in Cincinnati (well, in Covington KY at the Carnegie Art Center) on June 9 and 10 at 7 pm. Get full details at If you don't live in the area but want more info on other screenings of the film, go to

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fantastic Morning

Had another fantastic morning of painting at Spring Grove, a cemetery! But the place is beautiful and full of great subjects. And it was absolutely perfect painting weather. I'm looking forward to returning there many times. Cincinnati area artists, please join me!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Painting Green

So here is the painting I started last Saturday morning. It started to rain just as I finished my block-in, and I had forgotten my camera so the only other reference I was able to get was a pencil sketch. But I finished the painting on Wednesday night, and I'm actually really happy with it. Maybe not having the real subject to refer to enabled me to focus on bringing out the thing that moved me -- the cool morning backlight casting that dappled shadow below the silhouetted trees.

One thing I'm really happy with in this painting is the variety of greens. I know that painting greens in the landscape can be a big challenge, especially here in the Midwest in the summer where it is nothing but lush greens everywhere. I've asked many artists about working with green, and they've offered many good solutions, but here's what works best for me:

I use a limited palette -- not as limited as Kevin Macpherson's -- but still limited. My palette consists of Cadmium Lemon (cool), Cadmium Yellow Medium (warm), Alizarin Crimson (cool), Cadmium Red Medium (warm), Ultramarine Blue (neutral), and Titanium White (cool). I do not use any pre-mixed tube greens, like Sap or Viridian. With this palette I can mix a huge range of greens, from warm to cool, light to dark, and intense to dull. The advantages are that the greens never get garish, and because all of the greens are mixed from the same root color (the Ultramarine Blue), they always harmonize with each other.  If you're having trouble with your greens, try it - it works!

Great weather predicted for tomorrow morning's paint-out!

A Closer Look at Kevin Macpherson's Painting

Here are some closer, bigger pix of Kevin Macpherson's demo:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Day with Kevin Macpherson

There's nothing more enlightening and inspiring than watching a really talented artist paint, and that's exactly what I got to do today. Kevin Macpherson, the author of two of the best art-instruction books around, was in town (well, in Middletown, close to Cincinnati) for the opening of his exhibition at the Middletown Arts Center. While here, he gave a lecture and a demonstration. He showed us how he translates a small field sketch into a larger studio painting, although some of his students in the audience had fun teasing him about being too chicken to tackle all this Midwestern summer green in a plein-air demo!

One of the most valuable things for me was watching Kevin do his block-in. I tend to do the block-in very quickly, trying to cover the canvas with big shapes as quickly as possible. I try to be accurate with the values but I don't take much care with variations in color and I really don't think about the edges. Kevin takes an entirely different approach. He thinks of a painting as a jigsaw puzzle, and his objective is to lay in each small piece (shape) as accurately as possible in value, color, and edge.

He starts by putting in all of the shadows, and as you can see in the first photo, he allows the shadow shapes to be much larger than they actually are. That's because in the middle phase he goes in and paints in the medium value-shapes negatively. This allows the colors to intermingle, creating entirely new colors right on the canvas. His finished block-in really represents all of the dark and middle values very accurately, including beautiful color and temperature variations. He then goes in and adds all of the lightest shapes, highlights, and details, reworking some edges as needed. Because he's so careful with the very first layer of paint, he doesn't have to go over every shape to create the form--he only needs to add lights where needed. It's a very economic, efficient, and direct way of painting.

I'm really inspired to try his approach, taking greater care right from the start. I'm thinking of using it to re-work the plein-air sketch I started yesterday morning. We got rained out after about 45 minutes but I felt like I was off to a good start with that painting so I'm going to give it another go.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I finally painted! I know there are a million things wrong with this little painting. And I made the classic beginner plein-air painter mistake of painting in the sun without an umbrella, which threw off all of my values. But none of that matters. The point is that I made a commitment to paint today, and I did it! And I was with my friend Ray, which made it even better!! Please join me next Saturday if you can.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Holding Myself Accountable

Okay, so another month has passed, and I still haven't painted. But now I have a plan! I am issuing an invitation to all plein-air painters (and those who want to give it a try) to join me on Saturday mornings for paint-outs throughout the summer, all within the Cincinnati area. Knowing that you'll be counting on me to show up will definitely make me get out there. Keep checking the list to the left for the latest schedule of locations.

Speaking of accountability, have you seen what Marc Hanson has been doing? He made a public commitment through his blog to return to painting from life by painting four plein-air paintings every day for an entire month. And he pulled it off! Be sure to visit his blog (link below in my list of favorite blogs) for a healthy dose of inspiration. 

See you on Saturdays!