New Painting and a May Update

You may have noticed I’m posting less lately. The truth is that I’m in a weekly painting class that is teaching me so much. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that a lot of my studio time is spent working on paintings for class. The time is well spent.

Today the instructor, Joe Simone, liked my work-in-progress painting so much he put it on the VBSAG website! You can see it by clicking here.

In the category “better late than never”, Acadian Birches is now available at the website shop! It’s an original oil painting, 12×16 inches. Acadian Birches is also available as a giclée print in two sizes. It’s always exciting to add a new painting to the gallery!

And only three days late (!) I’ve updated the environmental group my artwork is supporting this month. In May I will donate 20% of every sale to Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife is one of the top conservation groups in the country. If you love wolves you should know that they have done incredible work to protect wolves and other wildlife in the American West. Nationally they also make a big impact for our unique and vanishing native wildlife. Click here to see for yourself what they’re doing right now.

Drumroll Please

There’s some exciting news to share! The Central Library of our city (pictured here) will be hosting an exhibition of my paintings throughout September. Fifteen to twenty of my paintings will be on display. This is, for me, a Big Deal! It will be the first time my artwork is displayed to the general public. I’m glad I have a few months to get ready – all the paintings must be framed, paperwork completed, a bio prepared…but that will all be fun and new.

And that’s not all! I finally got a favorable day for photographing five new paintings in beautiful light. You may have seen them before, but those were low resolution photos taken with my phone or iPad. But today I could bring out the tripod, easel, and super duper fancy Canon EOS T6i for the incredibly detailed, high-resolution photos that are required for giclée prints. The first of these to go up in the website is Lily Pads! I’ll be bringing out the rest as the week goes on. But you can hop up to the “Shop” button (hop – frogs – get it?) to see Lily Pads today!

And finally, 20 percent of all artwork purchases during the month of April will go to The Nature Conservancy. This outstanding organization works to ensure that people and nature in seventy-two countries can thrive together . They’ve been conserving natural places for 65 years, and with over a million members like me, will continue their work for generations to come.

Sometimes You Just Have To Sit With It

About a week ago I painted an octopus. Not just any octopus, this one was climbing over a rock wall for several minutes in daylight as a we followed, taking photos. It was an incredible dive experience for us. Something about the images just fascinates me and draws my attention over and over.

I chose to do wet-on-wet, or “alla prima”, completing the entire painting in one sitting. A few hours passed happily, and I was genuinely pleased with the result. I posted it on Instagram and Facebook. Still, subconsciously I must have known it was lacking pizazz since the caption mentioned “I might sit with it awhile”.

This morning I glanced at my octopus in passing, as I’ve done every day since it was finished. It looked so…flat. Impulsively I picked up a round brush, uncovered the palette for some ultramarine blue, and set about glazing in darker shadows. Titanium white highlights and some caustics (the wavy light patterns on the top of the back when near the surface) hopefully brought the eye forward.

It’s very hard to wait to pronounce a painting finished.  As George sings yearningly in “Sundays In The Park With George”, “Finishing the hat…and then there is a hat…Look I made a hat…where there never was a hat.” There’s a sense of accomplishment and pride that goes with creating something new. Sometimes, though, I just have to sit with it and trust that underneath somewhere the brain is finding a solution to the problem of “finishing the hat.”

Or in this case, the octopus.

The Remarkable Rhino Hornbills

Some time back you may remember that I was doing graphite drawings of the rhino hornbills at the Virginia Zoo. Ryobi and Oona have become two of my favorites. In fact, today I was lucky enough to see Oona fly across their aviary while Ryobi used his strong beak to tear twigs from a large branch.

Ryobi plays with an enrichment toy.

I have finished a portrait of Oona, posed with her nesting box behind her. That box holds all the promise of future chicks…but today it was boarded up.

Mischievous Ryobi!

Several times, I’m told, since Ryobi bashed the plywood out of the hole repeatedly.

Nest box for rhinoceros hornbills.

 It’s just too cold for the rhino hornbills to nest outside! (There’s another nest box indoors for the pair to use if they wish.) Because once these birds decide it’s time to hatch some chicks, Oona and Ryobi seal her in with mud and fruit for about ten weeks. Only a tiny hole will allow Ryobi or the keepers to push food to her.  She’ll incubate her eggs until they hatch in about six weeks. Then another four weeks will be spent caring for the chicks.

Oona gazes out with her blue-white eyes.

But when she busts out of the box, the female hornbill has a glorious new set of glossy feathers! While safe in her box she will have undergone a complete molt and regrown all her feathers.

So I included Oona’s nest box in her portrait as a tribute to the amazing reproductive cycle of her species. It would be wonderful if Ryobi and Oona became first-time parents this year!

**Side note: the sun is climbing higher into the sky, so soon there will be a sunny, windless day. That will give me a chance to take quality photos of a few new paintings, including this one, to add to the shop. I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.

March Is A Good Month For Buying Art

All through the month of March, I’ll be donating 20% of the price every print and painting sold to the Center for Biological Diversity! This is a powerful environmental organization that really makes a difference. And, the frog on their logo is green – to go with March shamrocks.

Frostpaw the Polar Bear is their mascot for action on climate change:

Here’s the Center’s Mission Statement, which I really love:

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

We want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.

The Center For Biological Diversity is certified a top-rated charity. Click here to see all the groups that have given them the highest ranking.

Also, I want to let you know that in April the prices on most original paintings will be going up (print prices will stay the same). So don’t wait to get that painting you’ve had your eye on!

Taking An Art Class

 Leaving the fabric store with 24 yards of heavy material in my arms, I saw a signboard on the sidewalk. It advertised art classes and gallery space in the adjacent building.

I’d been feeling stuck and frustrated with my painting lately. I wanted to meet other painters, I wanted some constructive criticism, and most of all I didn’t feel I was growing anymore. I wanted to get better and try new things, but doing it all solo with my iPad wasn’t satisfying.

What harm in asking for information about classes, right? The lower floor, a large gallery space for exhibitions, was empty. Voices upstairs drew me up to the second floor studio. Joe Simone, the artist-in-residence and lead instructor for the Virginia Beach School of Art and Gallery (VBSAG), was supervising several painters at their easels. He stepped aside and explained that the lessons are in the French “atelier” style, meaning that he gives an art history or technique lesson at the beginning of each three hour class, and then we work on our assigned pieces with his help and supervision.

The gallery space, displaying artwork by students. Photo Credit: VBSAG

And so on the first Wednesday in February I climbed the stairs with my arms full of paints, canvases, and brushes.  How to transport all this stuff? Well, I still have the giant canvas bag I used as a teacher to schlep papers and books, and canvas wine totes with 6 pockets are perfect for paper towels, bottles of turpenoid, and jars of brushes. I was nervous and arrived early. Mr. Simone asked if I had any previous work to show him. Fortunately I had my iPad with me and hastily found a few things on Instagram.

This first lesson was on the different kinds of brushes and their uses. Mr. Simone demonstrated while sharing his favorite brushes, some of which were thirty years old! Then it was time to paint. Do I just pick one of my photos to use as a reference? Ha, no. Once he knew I’d never painted a human I was assigned a Ron Hicks to copy. The goal isn’t an exact copy of course but hopefully there will be things to learn along the way. Oh boy, there’s an understatement.

My first obstacle was proportions. Mr. Simone finally grabbed my brush and smooshed a blue circle for the head, “here’s where the knee is, look at the angle with the corner, here’s the foot..” My poor woman would have looked like she was from Alpha Centauri without his help! The first attempt created an anorexic, sad lady, still out of proportion but at least with skin and hair.

The next class gave me the feedback I needed to give her some health and bring her knees into proportion. Several more hours of work, and she turned out like this:


Next I was assigned a Carol Marine painting of two lilies in a jar. I’ve painted flowers and felt confident about them, but the glass jar was something new. I thought it would be very difficult but the real trouble I had was, again, the proportions. Mr. Simone broke out the yardstick and chalk to demonstrate angles, heights, widths of the different elements, and at last it was right. Once that was settled the painting went quickly. Doing it alla prima, all in one go with no drying, caused the second problem. The yellow petals turned green as they mixed with the blue paint in the background.

I had to let it all dry, add some Hansa yellow, dry again, and add more yellow and highlights before finally yesterday it reached the “good enough” stage.

Mr. Simone told me, “Bring an 18×24 canvas next time.” It’s the biggest canvas I’ve bought and I’ve no idea what he’s going to want me to try. But it’s sure to be something new and challenging! And while I’m neglecting my blogs and nature art temporarily, it’s worth it to feel reinvigorated and spend time with others who love to paint.



New Graphite Pencils to Play With

I enjoy drawing with pencils. Usually I use a reference photo and challenge myself to draw freehand. It can be difficult to get the proportions right. Drawing Ryobi the rhinoceros hornbill recently, I had given him a little dwarf casque above his beak and had to go back and enlarge it halfway through!

Haha, that’s better!

Still, I feel like drawing freehand helps me learn and get better at noticing angles and negative space.  Since I took up drawing three years ago, I’ve used the same two graphite pencils. They’re getting awfully short and stubby.

Then last week we got a sale ad from an art supply store, and a graphite pencil set caught my eye. Twelve pencils ranging in hardness from 2H to 8B! I just had to have them – and picked up some Bristol paper and painting supplies to make the drive worthwhile.

I’ve been sewing lined drapes for the dining room, so I’ve only played with my new pencils once. I experimented to see how the hardness affected the darkness and fineness of each pencil.

My graphite drawings are fun to look back at. In some cases I like the drawing as much as, or more than, the painting I did of the subject later! Sometimes I think about matting them and giving them away, but I don’t think anyone else would really want them. So I’ll just keep them stacked on a shelf.

What should I draw first with these cool new pencils?

New At The Shop: Belle’s Portrait

It’s always exciting for me to make a new painting available at Amelia A. Boyer Nature Art. Not only is Belle’s portrait available, but it required a whole new category. So if you choose “Domestic Animals” from the drop down menu, Belle will be gazing out at you! Or – you can visit by clicking right here.

Belle’s portrait was a fun one.  I featured progress reports here on the blog, from drawing to painting, so many of you already have seen her. The photo on the website is the official, detailed version that is used for giclée prints as opposed to the earlier ones taken with my phone or iPad. The featured photo for this post is not the official one!  So I hope you’ll click over and visit my website to see Belle in all her glory.

Glazing For A Spotlight

Usually I don’t do any more to a painting once I’ve signed it. But – every time lately that I walked past my easel my most recent painting was begging for a little touch of glazing.

I’ve been watching some little 5 minute videos by Richard Robinson, a New Zealand artist (you can see one here). In one, he talks about the Spotlight Effect. This is a technique of making the brightest part of a painting the focal point. As an example he shows a painting by Monet, where the artist used a glazing of alizarin crimson to darken the scenery except the distant area that was the focus. That brighter spot in the painting draws your eye from the edges into the view.

So eventually I convinced myself that I needed to darken the lower edges and sides of Winter Tree With Ducks to make the tree the focal point. I used aquamarine blue, thinned down with Turpenoid, to gently brush the color where I wanted it. The painting must be dry before you do this, and the pigment must be transparent. The paint tube will tell you whether the color is opaque, semi-transparent, or transparent. Only transparent paints will alter the shading without covering the paint underneath.

I also put some highlights into the ducks in the foreground. I felt that since this is a daytime painting, the eye would see some detail even though the camera only “saw” profiles against the white snow.

What do you think? Do you think the “spotlight effect” improves the painting or not?

Creating Art Daily

It’s been a long hiatus between the holidays and illness, but I’m back in the studio and finding motivation from a new art group run by Jason Morgan on Facebook. Paint, Draw, Create Daily is for artists to, in his words, “encourage and inspire each other to create art every day, even if it’s just a 5 minute sketch.”

Last night while Ted watched the football playoffs, I did a graphite and charcoal sketch on gray toned paper.  The photo was taken on our dive trip to Belize. Having the new group to post to gave me motivation to pick up my pencils again. Today I’m going to break out the oils 🙂