Saturday, December 24, 2011

Creative Play

This week we did come creative play in the art classes of The Renaissance Art Gallery. Without warning or preparation, the classes were invited to simply play with media.
Using the December 2011 creative project of mixed media-line on site Marion's Painting Blog, each person was to choose at least 2 mediums to use, one wet, one dry. Mixed Media Project

Among the wet medium to choose from was watercolor, acrylics and coffee. Mixing in some dark coffee added a lot to the experience.

Loading the table with papers, pens, paints, charcoal, etc. each student was able to pick and choose things, to simply play with media.
Interesting, none of my students did anything like what I expected.

The resulting pieces were extremely interesting.

One student took me at my word to explore the paper itself.

After using watercolor pencils to draw a tree, she then took textured pastel paper, tearing it to bits to cover the tree trunk with texture.

Unhappy with the over color, she used coffee on a cotton swap to add shading and character to the drawing.  Then used the cotton swap to add bushes and distant hills. Watercolor and ink added twigs to the branches as well as a few brown leaves, and grasses.

Another sketched out a classic nude, then used watercolor to suggest background, adding texture and shading to the figure with conte’.

Even crayons were used, as both color and a resist for watercolor washes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why We Make Art

This is something we artists often talk about. We can talk about it for hours and hours. I have my own thoughts on it.

Helen South, guide has written a long and thoughtful article this week for her weekly newsletter/blog that I thought was worth reading.

For me, making art is simply a part of being human. All cultures, all peoples have the "arts" in some form. Even the most "primative" (and I use that word loosely) create art. If they have nothing else to be creative on, they decorate and create what is to their eyes, beauty on themselves.

It is as if being able to create and appreciate art is one of the definitions of Human.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Miniature Show is Over

It seems like I was planning forever. But the 11th Annual National Miniature Show ends Monday. After that it is time to take down, make sure those paintings that sold, and there were a lot of them this year, get to their rightful owners, and the rest returned to the artists.

For the last 6 weeks I have done little but teach my classes and take people through the show.

But all the work was worth it. Now I can relax, at least for a month!

then come January, the planning starts on next years shows!

But until then I have time to work on my own art. And decide what direction it will take.

I want to take the time to do a few of the painting project on, especially this month’s mixed media project.

I had not been very interested in mixed media in the past, but now that I have gained experience and insight into more media, the thought of combining them is more welcoming.

I also want to explore supports more, like film, velum and parchment.  

Now is the right time to stop and reflect on where I have been to see where I have to go.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Renaissance Gallery Art: Debbie Shirley

Renaissance Gallery Art: Debbie Shirley: Boxford, MA Debbie is an accomplished miniaturist. The detail shown in “ Bountiful ” certainly shows mastery of her medium. The fruit of ...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Renaissance Gallery Art: Lenore Long Lancaster-Miniature Entrant

Here is a great example of an expert with colored pencil!

Renaissance Gallery Art: Lenore Long Lancaster-Miniature Entrant: Lenore Long Lancaster, Lenore is from Ridgeley, WV Lenore is working in colored pencil, a medium I have come to adore. It takes wor...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Renaissance Gallery Art: Debi Davis

Renaissance Gallery Art: Debi Davis: Take-off in graphite by Debi M. Davis Raleigh, NC To so may people, artists included, pencil drawings are just for preliminary art....

Renaissance Gallery Art: Judith E Bayes and Pears

Renaissance Gallery Art: Judith E Bayes and Pears: Judith E Bayes Treasure Island, FL What is it about a pear that intrigues artists? We all seem to be drawn to them. They are the funda...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Building A Believable Red in Colored Pencil

Building A Believable Red -

Commanding Cardinal

Cardinals are such vivid and iconic birds that it is inevitable that many find there way into art. And many a cardinal has ruined rather than enhanced a landscape. Being the perfect foils for deep evergreen and snow, putting them in is a strong temptation. Which is how they come to ruin the scene.

So often they are painted in red. One bright and vivid red; one uniform red. And  black, static, tube black. Now I have seen many a cardinal and I can tell you they are most certainly not red—or rather not simply one red.

Cardinals are a live and vibrant but also 3-dimensional. Think of them as columns with wings. From the viewers eye the red has values in it, from warm orange red to deep maroon. So to have a believable red you need to have the full range of red.

Real, believable Red

Simple colors are always wrong. Life just isn’t that way. Our vision does not work that way. We see the variations in color, values as depth. This is important, you need a full range of values from light to dark if your work is not to appear flat. This is where a tonal study of anything comes in handy. If you are working from a photo making a black and white, or more accurately, a grayscale model, will help you with this. 

Opps, see what happens with red? When I used to shoot black and white film, if I photographed anything that was red, I would use a red filter, to protect its value, tone. Otherwise, red tends to come out almost black. This gives you a clue to why works that contain red barns and cardinals so often go wrong. Too dark, not enough value!

So we need to build that believable red! Starting with the underpainting

Starting to build red

If I were painting this in oils, I would start by mixing up my own reds, but these are colored pencils and I needed to review just what reads I had. When I did the underpainting, I used vermilion red, true red and Tuscan red with a touch of yellow, white and terra cotta. This was done pale. The point here was to set the stage for the following layers. With Prismacolors, the Vermilion is more orange than red. For the cardinal, this is correct.

It is important to build a really substantial red. It is not only that cardinals are a bright red, they are a dense red. So I needed to make sure that the red was both vibrant and saturated. Once I established just where the colors go, I did an overall layer of vermilion. Then I used scarlet lake. This is a more bluish red. These two layers were blended together. Using a paper stump, I rubbed lightly and quickly over the colored pencil. The friction of the stump helps to slightly melt the wax, helping the two pigments to blend.  Over that I used poppy red.

I also underpainted the black mask with Tuscan red. Yes, red. Even around the eyes, the black is not absolute so building the black around the eyes and mask requires the building of color. First the Tuscan red blended that in, and over it a layer of indigo blue. Only then was I ready to lay on the black. Around the eyes, a lighter, cerulean blue as also used. It is especially important not to completely cover the blues, as these will be the highlights. You might think these colors too dark to be highlights, but color is relative. It changes by what surrounds it. In this case, both the indigo and cerulean stand out enough surrounded by black.

This build up of darks also helps define and create an intensity in the red.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creating Depth with Colored Pencil

From now on there are no overall-even layers of color. To build believable images you need to add values to the colors, and this means being aware of light and shadow.

The body of a bird is basically a cylinder or column. It has depth, and you need to be aware of this. You also have to know where your light source is, and how this affects the color and shading of the bird. What parts of the bird are in full sun? which are in shadow, what is closest to the view and what is receding? All this affects color, changing its apparent value. Applying colors that remember this help to contour the birds.

At this point I am adding light fast Prismacolor pencils to my pallet. These pencils have high ASTM ratings and resist fading. I take hours, even days to weeks creating these, and go to a lot of trouble creating my drawings. I am concerned about their longevity. I want them to last—as in “am I dead yet?” I want them to be around when I am not.

There have been performance issues with these pencils, and I find their leads even more prone to crumble than with regular pencils. I never use an electric or battery powered sharpener with them. I use a hand held sharpener made for colored pencils, and I always turn the sharpener, never the pencil. You also need to be careful not to over sharpen them. Finish the point with a sandpaper pad or emery board. They are very rich in pigment.

Layers upon layers

To really get rich colors in colored pencil you have to be prepared to lay it on. This takes many layers of pigment. You also have to watch how you put the layers on. With birds, I switch back and forth between a small, circular stroke and short directional strokes. The directional strokes go in the direction that the feather lye, while the circular strokes are the between layers, where I need to build up variation in tones.

To help the body appear rounded, I put slightly darker layers at the outside of the figure, keeping the middle tones light and a bit orangeier. I also add a little indigo blue and nior black to the back where a cardinal is naturally darker. The indigo, applied lightly with the bloom takes on a more light grayish appearance, which is natural for a cardinal, with the Nior black lending itself to the receding areas of the back. This helps to shape the bird. These same techniques and principles apply to the singer.

Each bird took about 10 layers of pencil and blending to achieve this contouring.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Working in Yellow with Colored Pencil

Working on my drawing of the Meadowlark, I am going on to the focus of the drawing, and leaving the background.

Working in Yellow

For the singer, I treated the railing as more on the level with the bird itself. The background sky was done in cloud blue and slate blue, with tonings in white. Again, I did use a solvent to blend these colors together, creating that blue-gray sky I so vividly remember.

But on to the main event

The railing is very dark. It is an aged stained warped railing on one of those raised walkways over protected prairie land. So I started with a layer of white pencil. It might seem silly to put a layer of white on white paper, but it works. This creates a milky base for the darker colors I will work in on top. Then I started to grain it with light lavender. I am building color and texture here as carefully as I would in an oil painting. Maybe more carefully. Working back and forth between browns, I layer on Sienna, raw umber and more lavender. I use a paper stump to blend these together. I don’t want these melted together like the background, but to remain distinct colors as you would have naturally in aging wood.

Then I am ready to start on the bird. This is a western meadowlark. I had to post a photo on to make the identification; a very helpful site for nature artists.

As with the cardinal, building the correct colors and intensity of colors takes time and the use of several different colors.

Now this bird looks to be simply yellow, white and black. Again, there is nothing simple about it. The yellow is a complete yellow, very saturated, but also because of lighting and the fact that it is a real, living bird in a natural environment, there is variation is color value. The breast in the sun is bright, while that which is shaded or receding tends to be a bit cooler. So I started with lemon yellow, followed with sunburst, and slightly cooler, although not dark like an ochre. These were also blended into each other, so there are no hard edges between values.

As for the black banding, this also needs to vary from dark intense black, through raw umber and even some sienna. The black on the throat was built up with indigo blue and black, but this time without the Tuscan red underpainting. I needed to pick up other undertones on this one.

The shading on the belly presented another problem. Working on another sheet, I experimented with various ways of creating this shading. Simply using black or gray did not, of course work out well. Neither did using lavender. It just did not look real. A combination of raw umber and sage green gave the best results, after carefully blending it in. This layer was laid on very lightly and worked in as I went. By now, there were sufficient layers to allow me to do so.

As you build up colored pencil, you will tend to get a wax “bloom”. This is an almost chalky layer of wax that will separate a little when you use multiple layers of pigment. It is natural, and all artists learn to deal with it. Simply buffing it out does not harm to the artwork.

I actually used the wax bloom the next day to work in the shading, so I was able to make it look very natural, as if it is just the natural shading of a bird in the sun. You can often use what appears to be a drawback of a medium to your advantage.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Colored Pencil Drawings-The first true Layers

First True Layers

For the actual colored pencil paintings I switched from watercolor pencils to professional quality fully pigmented pencils. These are wax based, and predominately Prismacolor. I really like the quality of pigments used. Even the white pencils have coverage, which if you have used colored pencils you know is not always the case.

The Singer

For the singing bird, I set out Cloud Blue, True Slate and True Blue. I want the blue-gray sky I remember. The first layer was cloud blue, followed by a layer over the top half of the painting of true slate. After blending these two together, I decided to leave off the true blue. It just was not the color I wanted.

My mat board is mounting on my drawing board, not my drawing table. Yes this allows it to be portable, but it also allows me to rotate the board as I go. This avoids any directional ness in the background, very important when you are working with more or less solid colors in the background. Using short circular strokes and rotating the board is the best way to get this that I have found.

Commanding Cardinal

I want all the focus on this close-up of the cardinal. I am afraid if I add too much background detail it will distract from the bird, and the artwork would loose its focus. Sometimes you can put too much in a work of art.

So I am simply going to put in a yellow-green moddled background. The color will support the cardinal, but there will be nothing to distract from him. I used several different greens and two yellows. Unlike oil paints, I find it is a good idea to have as many colored pencils as possible for depth of color. These are put in random swirls and carefully blended together.

I concentrated at this point on the backgrounds not the subjects. Once I had color where I wanted it, I did use solvent and a cotton swap to “melt” the background colors together. Do this carefully, as this become totally permanent and cannot be lifted after it dries.

Drawing Reference - Commanding Cardinal

Commanding Cardinal

Background – Reference Photo

The cardinal, on the other hand is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder outside my living room window. He has been known to let us know when the feeder is empty.  The background in the photo is out of focus leaves and lawn. I do have many pictures of said leaves and lawn and could easily add these details. But I am not going to.

I want all the focus on this close-up of the cardinal. I am afraid if I add too much background detail it will distract from the bird, and the artwork would loose its focus. Sometimes you can put too much in a work of art.

So I am simply going to put in a yellow-green moddled background. The color will support the cardinal, but there will be nothing to distract from him.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Drawing Reference Photos

The Singer

Background – Reference photo

The reference photos show the bird perched on a street sign, a rather bright orange yield sign. Not the most attractive setting. But the bird is a real showstopper. Not so much the setting. I also have numerous shots of a rustic railing on a nature trail. Just the railing. I had tried for hours to get a shot this bird (or its cohorts) singing with no luck, much to my frustration and hubby’s amusement. The only good thing, is that it is digital, not film.

Finally, I gave up and we drove away. Coming to the yield sign, we stopped to look at a map and decide where to go. Our windows were down, but we are quiet people. This guy lands on the sign, just outside my window and starts to sing, really sing! I don’t know if he was trying for a mate or laughing at me!

But I took the shot. I can always put him on the railing. I took enough photos of it.

The photos were taken in South Dakota, in May in the Badlands. It was absolutely gorgeous that day. The sky was incredible, a deep blue-gray, without a cloud.

Commanding Cardinal

Background – Reference Photo

The cardinal, on the other hand is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder outside my living room window. He has been known to let us know when the feeder is empty.  The background in the photo is out of focus leaves and lawn. I do have many pictures of said leaves and lawn and could easily add these details. But I am not going to.

I want all the focus on this close-up of the cardinal. I am afraid if I add too much background detail it will distract from the bird, and the artwork would loose its focus. Sometimes you can put too much in a work of art.

So I am simply going to put in a yellow-green moddled background. The color will support the cardinal, but there will be nothing to distract from him.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Doing a Background in Colored Pencil

Doing A Background In Colored Pencil

One of the problems with colored pencil is getting good coverage and saturation without creating craters and dents in the support. If you don’t get a good base cover, there is the real possibility of small white flecks ruining the overall effect of your work. These flecks are the result of the texture of the papers used for colored pencil.
All paper consists of matted fibers. For colored pencil you do need a support with enough tooth to hold many layers of colored pencil, but this tooth also is the problem: All those nooks and crannies. Working with very sharp pencils is necessary. Most CP artists sharpen their pencils every 5 to 10 minutes, with brush ups with sandpaper in between. Also holding your pencil more upright than when you write helps get into the crannies of the paper. But usually this is still not enough. So many artists spend lot of time burnished the colors to push them into the paper.

If you use enough pressure to fill these nooks and crannies on one pass, chances are you have crushed the very textures you need to hold the next layers. So creating a good background takes work. Layers and layers of pigment and hours of blending and burnishing.

Of course there are options.


One is using watercolor pencils. These are water-soluble pencils with pigments similar to watercolor in a nice, neat pencil format. The advantage is, that after the first layer is laid down, a light application of water will “melt” the binder and the pigment can flow into the lower nooks and crannies. I am going to talk about using watercolor pencils in two of my recent works, "the Singer" and "Cardinal" both done with colored pencil on mat board.

Doing the Background

Using short circular strokes, to avoid any linear definitions, the background can be covered in a single color, or several colors that can be “floated” together.

When covering the background or in fact whenever I use any pencil, as I work I keep giving the pencil a small, 1/4 inch turn every few stokes. It becomes habit after a while and you don’t even think about it, but it does keep the pencil point longer than if you don’t turn it. 

Once the first layer is on, it is time to use some water. I did try a new product to me, a waterpen. You fill it up like an old fashioned fountain pen, then squeeze to release a few drops of water. The tip is a long nylon brush. I thought it would be perfect for this, but to work I will need to practice. I bought a rather small one, with a medium tip at .12mm. This is fine for small detail, but not really good to float the background. I can see it being good for watercolor sketching, but not for this. I had trouble avoiding splotches and hard edges in the sky for the singing bird, not at all what I wanted.

I quickly went back to my watercolor flat brush. It did a great job with the yellow background of the cardinal. There the background was smooth. It quickly dried so I could apply another layer of watercolor pencil, adding splotches of green. With a filbert brush, I was able to work the green in smoothly with the background.

[Caution: when you use watercolor pencil, or any water-soluble medium, you have to remember you will be adding water]

Water + Paper = warping and buckling.

So use caution

Apply only as much water as you really need. Let dry completely between layers. Make sure you are using a support that can handle this. #140 watercolor paper, or thicker pastel boards, etc. also consider mounting the paper as you would for watercolor]

I am using heavy white mat board so I did not tape it down, but simply clamped it to my drawing board. I was very careful in the amount of water used to minimize and buckling. I did float some of the color, but only in a very controlled area. And I did the background in two layers. Since I did not mean to retain any white, masking was not necessary. But if you do need to retain white, consider different types of masking.

These layers are to establish the background and fill in the blanks only. They are not meant to be the final layer, so absolute saturation is not necessary. I will build up the background as I go.

Note: watercolor pencils are not the only way to cover the background.  You can also use Inktense pencils by Derwent. These have great coverage, but as the name implies, they are ink and once dried they are permanent. One advantage of the watercolor pencils is that they are not permanent. If you should happen to get some color where you don’t want it, it is a bit easier to “float” the color off. Like all watercolors, the more water you use, the less saturation. So you can wet and blot up mistakes, even after they have dried. You cannot do this with Inktense. You can also do the underpainting with standard, wax-based based pencils and then use a solvent to melt the wax and float the color. You will get much more saturation this way than with watercolor pencils, but again, mistakes are really hard to correct. So you can use the disadvantage of watercolor pencils, that they are not permanent to your advantage.

{Know your products. Know the pros and cons and use them to your advantage. Sometimes you choose your tools because of the cons rather than the pros.}

Solid backgrounds are the hardest to do and solid backgrounds in colored pencil are especially hard. The simple wear on the tips of the pencils make setting down a solid uniform layer of color difficult. While you can blend to a certain extent, taking the time to lay down the color as evenly as possible is a time consuming process. If your application is hurried and not careful your background will make all your hard work look amateurish and a waste of time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Erasable Colored Pencils –

Erasable Colored Pencils – 

These are really good for getting down your basic shapes and ideas without using graphite pencils, carbon or other transfer papers. These pencils allow you to draw with colored pencil. To think with them. Because they are actually erasable you can improve your composition and true shapes without extensive lifting and scraping, or contaminating your surface with graphite.

They tend to be a bit harder than Professional Colored Pencils, more like what you were given as a child, but became frustrated with. But unlike those, you can erase these. They take a point very well, which does improve on the drawing, but you also have to be a bit careful. A little too much pressure, and you can dent the paper/support surface. They are also a bit lighter in saturation when you use light pressure, but you would expect this.

Drawing in Pencil of
the Singer
I draw a lot of wild life, most of it rather small, so I find the light gray, more a taupe-y color, very useful in defining basic outlines.

Doing the underpainting in the erasable is also a plus, you can block in the basic shapes and see if the design is really working. If it needs adjustment, you can erase rather than having to abandon it and start again. Once the objects are lightly blocked in it is much easier to check your drawing.
Drawing and Underpainting of The Cardinal

Monday, October 17, 2011

Colored Pencils

I love colored pencils. Lets be honest, I love pencils, colored or otherwise.

Colored pencils have changed over the years. They have gone beyond those hard, lightly colored things we used as children. What has been happening with colored pencils thought is not short of being amazing. Pencil manufacturers have worked diligently to create pencils that are quality art tools.

Still there is a stigma to using them. Because colored pencils, like crayons are art supplies given to children, many artist and art critics dismiss them as child’s play. This is unfair, because many artists are missing some fantastic artistic experiences. This in general is how many view anything drawn. It is seen as preliminary, not serious artwork. This is prep work for serious art, not artwork in and of itself.

Both artists and art organizations are working to overcome this perception. Colored Pencil Society of America

Colored Pencils

How have they changed?

There are now many, many options for colored pencils. Each year a new brand comes out, new colors or a new format. One of the drawbacks of color pencil is that they are hard to make corrections. To get around this, a lot of CP artists do their layout drawings in graphite, then use transfer paper to get the basic outlines on the paper. Or they draw directly on the paper with graphite. Problem with this is that graphite and wax-based colored pencils don’t really like each other. You have to lighten the graphite lines a lot, and then hope you are not left with remnants that contaminate the colored pencil later.

Last year, with the recommendation of other artists in CPSA, I tried erasable colored pencils. Yes, erasable. Prismacolor has this great product, Col-Erase. I got a set of 24 to try out.

These are erasable colored pencils. Really. So erasable they come with erasers on the tips, like our familiar #2 pencils. Now you can do the initial drawing with colored pencil, eliminating any need to use graphite.

So how do they work?

Well, I am doing a couple of miniature drawings for the 11th Annual National Miniature Exhibition. I will use my Col-Erase for the layout and first underpainting of two of them. Come along and see what you think.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Preliminary Sketches And True Shapes

Preliminary sketches are just that, preliminary. You can concentrate on the overview, locating the major lights and darks, or you can isolate the objects/subjects you are interest in drawing. Preliminary sketches let you explore the details and analysis what you are really seeing. They can and should do a lot of things. Any really good work of art should have several preliminary sketches.

It is ok when you are out to do sketches of single objects. It is ok to do general landscapes. Sketches should be the way you explore the world around you, so be free with them. By sketching often, you can quickly come to understand how things really work.

Concentrate On That Object

When you have a subject that really interests you, concentrate on that. Draw it from many angles. Simplify it. Take it apart. Look for the basic shapes that make up that object.

Using A Photo Reference

This is true, even when using a photo reference. Or especially when using a photo reference. Photos can be misleading. Take the time to really explore what you are looking at. Don’t just jump into drawing it. Think. Art happens in the head, not on the paper. The paper just shows the results.

When using a photo reference, make a black and white copy of it. In fact, make several. Use a copy machine or print it from your computer on common paper, not good photo paper. These are working copies, not art. When you make your copies, lighten and darken the copy. Lighten the copy and even enlarging it will reveal details in the shadows that might be hard to see.

I tend to use my own digital photography for reference, so I have the files to play around with. Also I don't have to worry about copyright.

[note: never, ever work on the original file. Always do a “save as” and rename the file. Me, I put work at the beginning so I know this is the file to play with.]

With my software, I have several options to convert  a photo to grayscale. (this is what you are actually doing, converting to true black and white is not what you want to do!)Usually I use the desaturate option, as this allows me to play with contrast. You will need to learn what is best with the software you have.

True Shapes

With these b&w copies, you are ready to work out construction problems. Here I am not talking about layout and composition, but how you are going to draw individual objects. One reason I like to make the copies of my references is that I can draw right on them. This is helpful in finding the true shape of something.

“I can see the shape” you say, but do you really? How many times have you drawn a vase, then look back at your still life and find you have not drawn that vase? Not so easy, is it?

Ok now stop and think about drawing a bird or a squirrel. Looks can be deceiving! Try it, get a photo of a common bird or squirrel, then try and find the edges. Most photos tend to lose the details in shadows.

So we have the black and whites. Here the lighter versions will be helpful. Draw the true shape of things. I like to use tracing paper for this. Lightly draw around the actual edges. Now look. Surprised? They are fatter/leaner than you thought. Using tracing paper isolates the shape from the rest of the context in the photo. It isolates it from distracting patterns and shadows. You will find this especially true with wildlife. Nature plans it this way. Remember their patterns are supposed to make it difficult to see their true outlines. It is a survival thing. Once you have the true shapes, it is easier to transfer this to your drawing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Workshop Final

Workshop, was it worth it?

Now a week after the last day of my workshop, I think about the experience. Was it worth it?

Dollar wise, probably not. I doubt very much that I will sell that much more artwork to make up for the cost. Not just of the workshop, but of travel expenses, lodging, meal, etc.

But was it worth it?

I gained a lot of knowledge I would not have gotten any other way. Yes, I could have simply read Jane Jones's book. But would I have gotten it? I don't think so. While Jane does write a good book, and I did eventually buy it, (loads of technical info there) I don't think if I had simply gotten the book and tried it on my own I would have gotten the essence of Jane's methods.

See Jane's Book Here

You get something special communicating face to face that you don't get by reading in isolation. It is the give and take of vocal communication that stimulates learning. And there is the ability to ask questions that you have at a workshop along with demonstrations that go beyond pictures in a book. You also get to know them. You cannot over emphasis the importance of getting to know another artist.

One of the really great learning tools you get at a workshop is other people. They might ask the questions you have, but they ask in another way. Of course, they do think of things you haven’t. This give and take between human beings is what makes workshops so rewarding. You find you are not the only one interested in something, or who have made that mistake! You can learn the error of logic. While something might seem like a good idea, it just doesn’t work. These stories are often funny, but oh they do tell it like it is!

There is comradely at workshops. Making friends of fellow artists who either share you views or give you another way of looking at something.


A good instructor is vital to the success of a good workshop. If you are going to learn something, make progress and accomplish anything at a workshop you need an instructor who has something to say, and knows how to say it. You need an instructor who knows how to set realistic goals for the allotted time frame. Someone who is interesting in more than selling their book and or supplies. But of equal importance are other participants. 

 By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another”.~ Proverbs 27:17

Don’t worry, I am not going to get preachy, but it is true. We sharpen one another when we work together, show each other how we get along and try each other’s techniques. Even if we don’t adopt them, we sharpen our own skill and more importantly, sharpen our minds. Artists need one another. We need this exchange of encouragement. Yes we get accolades from non-artist, but it does not mean the same as when we get praise or even criticism from other artists. Just by being there and being an active participant, we each enriched the experience for all who came.

So, was it worth it?

Was the workshop that I traveled to so far for, spent so much time and money at worth it? To me,


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day Five: Last day of the Workshop


And more rain. My paintings, of course, are still wet. Turned the lamps on as soon as I got in, but I don’t know if will get anything done.

This is the last day of the workshop. We will review what we have learned, show each other our paintings, and wind things up. My first painting is still to wet to work on, but I can bring my other two up a stage.

Today we are learning how to put those final touches that raise the level of a painting from good to great. Today we learn to blush.

Just a little something about my fellow workshop attendees. We came from all across the country, Florida to California, a mixed bag of ladies. Young, old and in between. We had one thing in common, a love of art and the desire to do it better. Now we have another bond, this wonderful workshop that pushed all of us, made us grow (a painful process) but also taughts us we can do it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fourth Day of Cheap Joe's Glazing Workshop

I am learning so much stuff my head might explode.

Again the day is overcast, and rain is in the forecast, but just about all of us came in as early as we could. Today is the first day any of us feel that we are not just following directions, but getting it.

I look at my 3 paintings and see many, many problems. But more importantly, I can see where I went wrong. Not just that they are wrong, but where they went wrong.

I am still not giving the underpainting enough emphasis. I have always done basic underpainting. At least to tone the canvas, and frequently block in the major features of a painting, but for glazing to really work, the underpainting is very important.

Tomorrow is the last day, and itis only half a day, so we all knew that we needed to get as much out of today as we could. When I left today, I had 3 wet paintings, and only one lamp to leave them under!

It should be ok. The glazing layers are drying faster than the underpaintings did. I got several layers of glazing on today. I have to work on the backgrounds of two of them, but that I can do at home. It is the glazing process that is important that I learn.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Workshop Day Three

Today dawned bright and early. Well, it dawned, but not bright. I woke up to rain, lots and lots of rain! Good thing I had brought an umbrella, unfortunately, I left it in the car. Oh well, I won’t melt.

It has been one of those weeks, though. Sunday we all had trouble getting her with the dense fog, Monday was damp and overcast. Tuesday so far was the best day. At least there were occasionally patches of sunshine; small, put patches.

Today we watched paint dry. Only artists would do that! We are running into a problem with getting the paint to dry. Even with the lamps and using a drying agent, paintings are slow to dry. It is the humidity.

But we did get to at least start glazing, which is amazing! I have now realized that the key to this is using very small amounts of paint. At least 1/2 what you think you will need, but often much less. You need to almost drybrush the underpainting. And each glaze layer is equally light.

Workshops at Cheap Joe's

While we used white liberally in the underpaint, once you start glazing it is verboten!

This is what gives such Luminosity to the works of the great northern masters.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is how nice it is to take a workshop at Cheap Joes’s. They have a purpose built room. If anyone has ever taken a workshop in a non-art room, you can appreciate how nice it is to be in a real studio. Each person has a table with easel. There is good lighting, sinks, and an area for demonstrations.

The staff here also treats you nicely. Monday morning staff as on hand to welcome each person to the workshop, and HELP you carry your stuff in. boy, is that nice. Since it is a purpose built area, used only for workshops, you can leave your stuff overnight in the room. It is locked up at night and in the morning you can simply go to your table and start working. Also there is coffee.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day Two of my Workshop at Cheap Joe’s

Well today did not go too badly. Although we had put our work under lamps to speed drying, with all the humidity, many were still tacking, including mine. I think I used a bit too much paint for the underpainting. The underpainting should be a thin layer. We used a drying agent, Japan drier simply because it is a workshop, and we need to speed things up. It is not necessary to do this ordinarily.

But we did make progress with a second painting, doing the underpainting. Hopefully, tomorrow we can start the actually glazing.

Boone Inn, Boone, NC

I have learned a lot about transparent paint today. My head is whirling with all the stuff Mrs. Jones is trying to stuff into it. It is a tight fit, however and I don’t know how much will actually stick.

Today Cheap Joe’s arranged a group dinner at a local restaurant, The Boone Inn, I went and had a great time getting to know some of the staff of Cheap Joe’s and fellow artists. We are an interesting bunch of people!

But I really have to rest up for tomorrow. This workshop stuff is a lot of work!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Workshop Day One

Monday Morning.

This morning the fog was gone, mostly, so bright and early I traveled down to Cheap Joe’s for the first day of my workshop. It was interesting to see who all came. There are 12 people in the workshop, all women! There was one man signed up, but never showed. Outnumbered?

Jane Jones is the woman who is leading it. She is a floral artist who specializes in realism and glazing techniques. I for one felt uncertain about this workshop. Even though this is something I have always wanted to learn more about, I am totally inexperienced with this, and unsure of myself.  Jane's Website

Jane runs a tight ship. She knows what she wants to teach, and have enough experience to know what to focus on and what shortcuts she needs to take to get things done in the short time we have.

The major problem we need to overcome is the slow drying time of oils. To deal with this we used a drying agent, and lamps to speed curing of the paint.

We did start by toning the work surface. Basically we took the white off (something I am used to) with a thin coating of burnt sienna on two small supports and payne’s gray. Then while those were drying up, we traced the basic layouts for 3 works.

One interesting thing, during the opening orientation, we had to read a copyright statement and sign an agreement not to use the images given out in this workshop to make money, or use the work for shows. It was simple, straightforward and she was right. Also, no photos, so no photos of the workshop itself.

There could be no misunderstanding; she explained it simply and completely.

There was minor confusion about the lamps we were to bring. They are to help cure the paintings, to speed things up, but most new lamps do not take the needed 100 watt bulbs. I ended up buying a trouble lamp at the hardware store. A few people have older lamps or did find some on the internet. So between us and the staff of Cheap Joe’s we came up with enough lamps to speed the setting up of all supports.

We actually started the underpainting of one of the works in the afternoon. We painted until 5:30. when we left, I think we all were tired!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fogged In- Workshop 2011

Painting Workshop +1 Day

I am taking a workshop in Oil Painting at Cheap Joe's in Boone, NC. This is an anniversary present from my hubby. We had a rough year this year, and he thought I deserved it as well as needed it. I have been working hard and feel simply wore to the bone artistically. So I did not argue with him! Now Boone is a really pretty place. It is high in the mountain of western North Carolina. I have been here before and am looking forward to the workshop tomorrow. I was also looking forward to the drive through the mountains.

Sunday dawned bright and clear? Well, Sunday dawned, sort of. There was a definite ting of pink in the early sky, which should have warned me. I got up real early, intending to take my time heading south and enjoy the scenery. Stopped to top up the tank and get a coffee and hit the highway.

First 2 hours were mostly pleasant and mostly clear. Although the sky was overcast it was clear driving.

By the time I stopped for breakfast, it was getting misty. I planned to take the Blue Ridge Parkway instead of the express highway, but started to wonder if that it was going to be clear enough. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs north and south along the top ridge of the Allegany Mountains. It is one of the most unique National Parks, being a highway with some of the best views in the eastern US.

When I got to the turnoff for it, it seemed to brighten so I entered. Then I hit the fog. It seemed each time I came out of the woods and came up to a scenic overlook I drove into increasingly dense fog.  So much for beautiful views and great photography! There were times I drove well below the speed limit for the Parkway, which is 45 mph. I had my lights on and flashers going. Coming up upon bikers was actually a little scary. Fortunately most of the bikers had lights and flashers on their bikes. I really did miss the spectacular views to be seen there. Hopefully, by Friday the sky will have cleared and I can take advantage of the views on the way home.

I stopped at the country store, got some hot coffee, (it had also gotten very cold) and drove straight but slowly to the turn off for Boone and the hotel.

Well, I checked in early. The people at the Best Western, Blue Ridge were very welcoming. I have a lovely room. As the afternoon progress, the weather got worse. Made me glad I had gotten in early. By 3:00 we were completely fogged in. the grocery tore  across the street has a great deli, and I got a salad for dinner. I think I will go and use the pool and get an early night.

I will be keeping in touch. the hotel has a great work space and good internet connections, so I will be able to log on after each day.