Agecroft Hall and Sunken Garden / oil

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

When I get to my location, it always takes me 1/2 hour or 45 min, to mix up my colors for the day.  I decide what area to work on, then mix light medium and dark values of the colors I want to use. By mixing my colors on my palette with my palette knife, I get them closer to what you see with the naked eye, and avoid the problem of the colors mixing too much on the canvas and coming out muddy.

But one thing I really enjoy a lot, is making thin lines with my palette knife. It’s easier to scratch a skinny line than it is to paint one. If you can get a clear enlargement of this photo on your computer, maybe you can see where I scratched all around this painting to make lines and give it texture.

The way I did the brick wall, for example, was to paint the colors of the mortar first. I painted the wall with two shades of gray in the places I wanted there to be light and shadow. So, the whole wall was gray. Then, when that dried, I blobbed in brick colors on top of the gray and scratched through the wet layer to show the gray mortar color coming though as lines. You get bricks without painting every brick. But people see the detail, and might imagine I painted every brick. It works if you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium and glazes.

I also like to scratch through my brushstrokes to feather the edges, and add texture. For the trees behind the house, I blobbed in three shades of green and scratched through the wet paint so the edges of my brush strokes wouldn’t be sharp, but a little blended. Visually, that helps the background trees recede a little. The trees in front of the house got scratched on the trunks but not the foliage.

It took a long time to finish, and I could still keep on working on it, but I’m not going to. It looks like I painted a lot of detail, but I left out the detail I didn’t want to paint, gutters and downspouts, a planter with nothing blooming, and whatever else you might notice is missing, if you have a photo to compare it to.

It seems like I worked on this painting at home as much as I worked on it at Agecroft. A lot of times, I can mix up some colors there, and paint at home on the more time consuming parts of the painting.


Is A Letter A Work of Art?

THE ARTISTSIt is no secret that I am passionate about letters…good old fashioned stick a stamp on the envelope letters. Don’t get me wrong. Texts and emails have their place, especially in business. We can be in touch quickly, and hopefully efficiently, with our newest form of common communication. But there is a special romance of anticipation when dropping a letter into a mailbox. And who can dispute the great joy felt when receiving a little part of someone’s day, set aside especially for you.

It was when I read the 1876 quote from the book How To Write Letters, by J. Willis Westlake, that my heart skipped a beat:

“A letter should be regarded not merely as a medium for the communication of intelligence, but also as a work of art.”

Finding this quote dovetailed flawlessly into reading a letter sent by artist Frida Kahlo to Georgia O’Keeffe. Frida reached out with compassion to Georgia when she suffered with a nervous breakdown. The letter was not only the thoughtful gesture of a friend, but the meeting of two supportive inspired artists.

The May Lunagirl Moonbeam challenge is Mother’s and Sisters in the most encompassing sense. The images to choose from were lovely. I decided to use two women from the “Just Us Girls” sheet. Behind the women you can read Frida’s letter to Georgia. I finished to collage with a selection of flowers, which always speak to me of happiness and generosity.

On this Mother’s Day I hope you will reach out to those women who support your creative spirit with tender affection. Strong women support each other. Flood your letters with the art of your heart.

Virginia Bluebells with Crepe Myrtle / oil pastel

I got this little set of oil pastels at AC Moore for only $5.25.

I got this little set of oil pastels at AC Moore for only $5.25.

It’s getting crowded over at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens with Garden Week. The Tulips are going CRAZY over there!

I wanted to paint the Bluebells on a busy path. I thought they look great with the bark of the Crepe Myrtle behind them. I didn’t want to block the path with my easel, so I held my sketchbook in my hand standing up to draw. I had a little bottle of turp and a paintbrush in my bag to work the oil pastels. It’s fun to wash turp over the oil pastels, and it dries fast, so you can build up some layers in one day. When a lot of people came down the path, I sat down on a bench and did some blending on my sketch. Some people don’t feel comfortable walking between an artist and the subject, but it doesn’t bother me, I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable walking there. So I think for that reason it’s important for artists to get comfortable holding a sketchbook in one hand and drawing with the other standing up to draw. You have more freedom of movement and you don’t get in the way of others. Also it’s fun to work in different media sometimes, so I enjoyed the oil pastels.

When I got home and had another look at my drawing, I wanted to define the flowers more than I was able to do with the oil pastels, so I used some violet oil paint that was left over from my last painting and thinned it down so I could add some lines on my bluebells. I don’t now how well the detail shows up on your computer screen.

Still Life with Pascal’s Pensees by Henri Matisse

It's in the VMFA flower exhibit.

It’s in the VMFA flower exhibit.

Photography isn’t allowed in the show. I lifted this off
This show is a great inspiration! They have Van Gogh, Manet, Matisse and a lot of other artists.

I got a sketch of a Manet painting, Vase of White Lilacs and Roses, which is one of my favorites. The museum limits you to graphite pencils only in the galleries with the paintings. They have a room with colored pencils and paper and a giant arrangement of flowers in the center for people to do their own drawing, but if you want to copy a masterpiece it’s graphite only! hahahahahha. Oh well, They’re scared, or so they say. As if a pencil might fly out of your hand and hit one of the paintings, only a graphite pencil won’t hurt it but a pastel pencil would? I don’t get it. You can get special permission to bring in pencils other than graphite but they make you jump through hoops for a permission paper, which is a little off putting for artists. I guess other artists don’t care because they don’t want to draw in the museum. But maybe if the museum would relax a little, artists would feel more comfortable drawing there.

Anyway, you should go see this show because you will want to paint flowers too!

Make Your Art Roar!

Botanical Life

BOTANICAL LIFE – Digital Collage

Cold, ice, snow. Are you, like me, so tired of hearing these words in the weather forecasts?

When the Fruits and Flowers Lunagirl Moonbeam Challenge was announced I was more than ready to begin! And who could resist the beautiful images Lunagirl provided as inspiration?

The woman is one from in a CD collection I’ve owned for some time. I always loved her nonchalant  pose and lovely Spring inspired attire. With Daylight Savings Time on the horizon, and looking out of my studio window at the falling snow, I wanted the collage to have a warm and sunny ambiance. My heart and soul needed it! In addition to the Lunagirl Botanical images, I added backgrounds and ephemera from my collection.

The long-standing  idiom about March coming in like a lion certainly is true this year. Most of the East coast of the United States is weather weary…and dreaming of warmer, sunlit days.

As artists, we are fortunate that we can create our own little place in the sun through our work. And like March, we can come in with a roar…if we want to. How do you make your Art roar?

Orange Gerbera in Purple Pot / underpainting and finished oil painting

underpainting in grisaille

underpainting in grisaille

One way to get depth into an oil painting is to do the underpainting in grisaille. (gray) I wanted this one to POP! because I’m getting tired of the dreary weather, so I did my underpainting this way. My orange color would look brighter on a cool gray underpainting and my purple would look cooler on a warm gray underpainting. Grisaille is used in different ways to get different results, but it adds to a 3D effect.


I shopped all over town when the weather stayed bad for weeks. I wanted something bright to do a still life and the artificial flowers looked fake to me. I thought they’d look fake in my painting too, so I was excited when I found this bright flower at Stranges’ in Short Pump! I thought it looked good in the purple pot. It picked up my mood when I brought it home and worked on this painting on those long dreary days.

Where Do Your Possibilities Dwell?


In my studio, above one of my favourite camel bags, is a wall quote: “Dwell In Possibilities” paraphrased from the poem written by Emily Dickinson.

When inspiration is sometimes lost,, I like to sit and let Emily’s poem envelop me, like a quilt of ideas and images. And before I know it, I too am dreaming in a house of my choosing where the roof is as limitless as the night sky.

For Emily, poetry as opposed to prose allowed her the power and freedom of self-expression she was seeking.  And without the magic of poetry, her Muse, would her visitors be able to open the doors and windows of their soul?

The substrate for the collage is a canvas panel. A photo of Emily, floral art paper, magazine paper, vintage advertisements, and handmade paper form the grid. Washi tape and acrylic paint pushed through  hand cut stencils finish the collage.

Each of us in the Arts has a unique vision and purpose. Whether we build our house of paper and ink, or of paint and canvas, or movement, or melody, or words…aren’t we extending an invitation to share in our endless passionate journey?

Where do your possibilities dwell?

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