The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Helping Kids Through Art

I'd like to tell you about an organization I just learned about today called Our Kids Atlanta. Their focus is on helping at-risk kids through art-based mentoring programs. The belief is that through art and the connections they make through the art programs, kids will learn how to make better life choices in every aspect of their lives.

I've committed to donate some art to their fundraiser this summer, but they really need more than that. If anyone reading this is in the northwest Atlanta area, they could use some good art teachers and a boost to get their drawing and painting programs started. They've got a great program for dance and photography already, as you can see from their website:

Our Kids Atlanta homepage

But they have a long wishlist, like any non-profit:

Curriculum Design - Curricula and lesson plans for Arts classes.
Mentors & Teaching Assistants - Interact directly with students in class settings.
Grant Writing & Fund Raising
Solicit for InKind Donations - Art Supplies, Cameras, Local Airtime, Talent.
Event PlanningSilent Auctions & Public Events, Student Exhibits & Recitals, Cultural Enhancement.
Costume Making & Design
Marketing Consulting - Marketing & PR.
Graphic Design - Brochures, Printed Materials.
Web DesignSite Design & Maintenance.
Media & Video - Videographers, Editors, Voice Over Talent, Copy Writers. 

Please contact Jeff or Bliss through the website if you can help.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Postcard from Burnetteville

This is a 9"x12" quick study from the landscape in my head, no reference, done with a painting knife. Yes, the buildings are a bit wonky, but so am I. What a great way to relax after a busy day. I had paint halfway to my elbows after this one. I'd like to do more imagination pieces, focusing on areas I'd like to improve. Really like the way the sky turns out when done with a knife.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Washed Out Weekend

Had a lot of storms this weekend, so it put me in the mood to play with some water media. I've been wanting to try gouache for a while now, just to see if it liked me any better than regular watercolors (the jury is still out). I also thought it might be convenient for plein air, or auto de plein air, as I worry about leaving my oils in my car once the heat kicks in.

So, like a good student, I first did my color charts. Then I tried a couple of ACEOs:

The gouache definitely acts more like oils than regular watercolor, but they took some getting used to. The paint layer is more delicate than you would think. It's very easy to remove an underlayer down to the support with one swipe of the brush, particularly if the underlayer is still damp. This could be good or bad, depending on what you are trying to do. It's also very, very easy to make mud -- far easier than with oils. But if you don't take it to that extreme, it seemed easier or quicker to mix color. But that may be because I was using my brush to do it. I don't do that often with oils.

All in all, I don't think I'll be giving up my oils any time soon. The gouache might be good for quick studies, and I definitely wouldn't have to worry about spontaneous combustion!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring-time Greens

Jim Serrett has a wonderful blog entry today on mixing greens. Check it out.
Pochade Box Paintings

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jim Lamb

I haven't given up on looking for the perfect landscape painting workshop. In reading an old Workshops magazine, I found mention of an artist I hadn't looked at yet. Jim Lamb is an artist in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite places. I almost moved to Seattle a few years ago simply because of the beauty. I couldn't find where he is teaching any workshops, however, but here are some samples of his work.  Check out his site at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Duck, Duck, Goose

Cool and drizzly today -- good day to be a water fowl. This was another lunchtime "auto de plein air" and no, he (or she) didn't hold still for me the whole time. If you're a goose, I wonder if being an office park goose is a good gig. Probably.

This is 6x9" oils, done entirely with palette knives. $29.99

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Daily Painters of Georgia Group

Thought I'd pass this along. There are some wonderful artists on this site:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tin Roof, Rusted

I had an unexpected hour and a half last night to paint, so thought I'd take advantage of every minute of it. This is a 9"x12" knife painting (primarily) on gessoed watercolor paper. So it's a larger quick study.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Elin Pendleton workshop

Haven't been painting the last few days. I hate it when life and work get too busy for playing with paint! However, I'm still thinking about it all the time.I wonder if that counts as obsession....

Elin is a California painter who paints landscapes, animals, and just about anything in both acrylics and oils. If you're not familiar with Elin's work, sign up for her newsletter just for the entertainment. She's funny and it sounds like her workshops are a blast. I know they sell out fast. And I like her work, too, which always helps. ;-)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Waiter, there's a monkey ball in my soup

Have not been able to do any lunchtime painting this week, and I miss it! This isn't a landscape, but it is "of" the landscape. It's the seedpod from a sweetgum tree. We've always called them "monkey balls" for some reason long lost to memory. As Beck can attest, they hurt when you step on them and get them caught in your paws.

Oil on canvas board, 4"x6"
$24.99, no S&H

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Camille Przewodek, Plein Air Colorist

This is another artist I am investigating for workshop possibilities ("investigating" sounds way too serious! "Researching" perhaps.). She is a famous and talented plein air artist who is also a colorist. The work of colorists have always fascinated me, and one day I want to find out what their thought processes are in choosing colors. Here are some fantastic examples, some more in the colorist tradition than others. You can see more on her website at What do you think?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Suwanee Creek Plein Air, with audience

Today was another glorious day to be outside painting. Days like today only grace Atlanta 3 or 4 times per year. This is Suwanee Creek Greenway, painting of the creek. Sorry for the glare.
This was a strange experience, as I had a watcher from across the creek. Terrible photo, but you can just make him out:
It was a tiny Jack Russell terrier, who sat on the log I was painting, watching me. There is nothing but swamp and deer on that side of the creek for quite a distance. He wasn't wearing a collar and I tried to coax him into swimming the creek, but he just watched me until my husband stopped by with our big dog, then he ran off into the woods. I hope he has a home.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

How to Simplify Landscapes, part 2

"It is easy to paint a thousand points of light with a thousand brushstrokes. It is much more difficult-- and infinitely more eloquent -- to paint a thousand points of light with only one hundred strokes."  Mitchell Albala

True to my penchant for making lists, here's a list of ways to simplify details in a landscape painting. Some are suggestions that we'll have to assume how to accomplish with blobs of paint. Others are more practical.

1. Use big brushes. "Well, duh" was my first reaction to that bit of advice. Yes, it works. However, the true detail-aholic will learn how to turn that brush every which way to suggest detail.  Example: the following quick study. It's about 6"x9", done with a half-inch brush.
2. Only paint large shapes or masses. Kevin MacPherson, in his book, Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color, has a chapter just on simplifying details. This is one of his recommendations. Start with the large shapes in flat color, then work down toward the details. Details are really just smaller shapes. Laurel Daniel has a very easy-to-understand demo of this on her blog here:

3. Squint. While some people recommend this for estimating values, it also works for identifying large shapes. You can use a photo editing program to blur a photo to hide those details from your detail-fiend. I love what Richard Schmid has to say about squinting in his Alla Prima book.
Non-artists watching you squint might think you are angry, in pain, or have eye trouble, but pay no attention to them because it works and that is all that counts ...Properly means closing your eyes down far enough to reduce the subject to a few shapes -- yet not so far that *all* form is lost. The idea is merely to make things simple, not make them disappear in a blur of fuzzy darks -- so don't shut your eyes down *too* far.
4. Paint in values, without worrying about detail. Similar to the "paint only shapes" suggestion. Simplify everything into three or four values.

5. Leave the details to the center of interest (and do that last, so you are not tempted by detail too early).

Summary: think in shapes of color, not trees or grass. Concentrate on getting the large shapes the right value and the right color with the right edges. Gosh, that sounds so easy.

"Learning how to simplify, however, is not a simple thing." Mitchell Albala

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to Simplify Landscapes

"You rarely get into trouble by simplifying too much but you can easily get into trouble by not simplifying enough." Mitchell Albala

What do you do when you tend to add too much detail? You get frustrated. Well, at least I do. Sometimes it's hard to stop painting leaves! I've found I don't care for paintings detailing lots of leaves but I can't seem to stop painting them. ;-) Deciding what to leave in and what to take out is something I struggle with, as you may have noticed.

One reason I like -- or undertook -- painting quick studies is that it makes you decide quickly what is important. As Craig Nelson points out in his 60 minutes to Better Painting book --
In a quick study, if something is not essential to capture the subject, then it can be left out. When painting in this abbreviated style, you must leave out unnecessary details. The best way to approach this is to think of your strokes as rapid indications of shapes, values, and colors -- not details.
I also like what Charles Sovek said in his book (forgive the long quote, but it's exactly what I mean):
I've always been amazed how certain paintings, when viewed from a distance, appear to be loaded with a wealth of detail. Surfaces like water, wood and stone take on a richness of texture and sheen. Faces come alive with expressive character and trees have the appearance of sprouting thousands of leaves. Stepping closer, however, an entirely different visual character reveals itself. What was once a rich tapestry of lifelike effects now appears as no more than crude slashes, dashes, and daubs of thick paint positioned in seemingly formless patches of tone and color. Where before stood a majestic oak in full leaf now emerges a mad quiltwork of unrecognizable swatches and dots lying on top of washes dripping with reckless abandon.
He's talking, of course, about harnessing the power of suggestion in your painting. Some people say that a painting needs an air of mystery so the viewer can engage by filling in the missing details with the mind's eye. Here's a great example in Dan Young's "Rain":

So how do you decide how to simplify? How do you decide what is essential in a landscape and what is not? And how do you express that with blobs of paint? Finding the answer to that has become my new mission. Stay tuned.