Thursday, April 29, 2010


A Preppy Mailbox is born! I learned a few things while doing this project.
#1- I should have sanded it first.
#2 - It's easier to hand paint the thin lines than to use string (I got that idea off the internet, and all it did was make a mess!)
#3 - The most effective way to "paint" plaid is to "suggest" it and not try to make it perfect. (My friend Franny told me that, after I had already done this)
I'd put this out in front of my house, I think.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A "Crafty Lady" project

On Memorial Day weekend, the North River Arts Society will host the annual Festival of the Arts. Every year, member artists contribute painted items; floor clothes, pillows, bird houses. This year, it's mailboxes. I always volunteer for this because it is the kind of project my Mom loved to do. She called herself "The Crafty Lady" and did amazing things with anything; from glue guns to dynamite. No kidding. So yesterday I got out the "craft" paper, masking tape, and acrylics and enjoyed an early Mother's Day! 

My initial idea was to do mine  in PLAID. My rule on these projects is to use ONLY things I have on hand. Being materially limited makes one more creative, I think. The first thing I did was cover the red flag with masking tape and spray paint it this "yale" blue. (It was either that or black.) 

With my paltry collection of acrylic paints, I mixed viridian and cad yellow to make a "preppy" green. 
That's masking tape that is covering the blue. When it's dry, I'll go in the other direction with thinner tape in a lighter green. I'm thinking I'll add a thin line of bright yellow to that, but we'll see.  Or red. Although  that bright red flag will take care of that.  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile,  

While I was waiting for everything to dry, I thought it'd be fun to experiment with acrylics, since they were out. I wanted to see how they would work if applied like I do with oils, using a big brush, quickly. EEESH! Doesn't work. Every medium has it's advantages, and I have total respect and admiration for acrylic painters. Enough said.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why I Don't Do Portraits

I belong to a group of 11 painters who challenge themselves every month by doing a 6 x 6 painting of a subject that one of us chooses. We post them at the beginning of every month on our blog . This month, we were to paint a portrait of one of us! I've attempted this three times. I found it difficult to capture the perky, sweet essence of our dear  Mary Sheehan Winn because the slightest movement of the brush, especially around the mouth and eyes, alters the whole thing! The first one made her look like an escaped convict, the second, a pinched up school teacher. (Both of which she is not, trust me.) After a lot of noodling, which I try so hard NOT to do, this is my final attempt.
Sorry, MSW! 
At least I got the haircut right! 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Heart NY

You gotta love NYC. On a quick trip down there on Friday, I snapped these.

Someone took the time to paint this around a hole in an old metal door.

One of the paintings in the lobby of our hotel.

A close up of another painting in the lobby. 

It's Halloween 365 there.

I came home with so many ideas and am so inspired. 
To be surrounded by all that humanity is energizing!   

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Sport of Painting Outside

Every time I go visit my painting friend Sally Dean, I drive by this awesome multi-level barn at the bottom of her street. The way it sits, all settled in the landscape tall and proud, with the late afternoon light and  shadows from tall pines on it, just grabs me. Today we had "laboratory conditions" for plein air painting (no wind, no bugs, no humidity, no clouds) so Sally and I arranged to set up down there around 4:00. Unfortunately, the clouds were winning by that time, so we were faced with "making up" the light, based on what we could observe for those few seconds whenever the sun broke through. That is what I love about the "sport" of painting outside.      

"This Barn Could be a Basketball Player"
9 x 12 

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Slice of Heaven

Painting on location with fellow painters is just about the most fun thing you can do, I think. I painted this in my studio recently from a photo I took on one of those magical outings last spring. We were on top of the highest hill in Hull on a spectacular sunny, warm spring day. Within minutes, everyone was in their groove and it was slice of heaven. The model was my good pal Franny Andahazy. I can't wait to get out there! Everything is green again! New England has never looked more beautiful than it does right now! 

"Slice of Heaven" 
8 x 8 

I took the background in this a little further than I usually do in my figure paintings. This one seemed to need it, in order to speak more about the place and time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Go Figure

Recently, I've had an impulse to paint the figure in a rather abstract way. I realize that to do that, I need more drawing practice to better understand the way the figure works. Last week, I received a very cool children's catalogue called Olive Juice in the mail. The photographs are wonderful and the kids are all doing something interesting. I've decided to sketch them all as an "assignment." Here are a few I've done so far.

To view some of my recent figure work please visit my website 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Going over brush strokes

People "doing what people do" at the beach is one of my favorite subjects. I did this fairly quickly one morning this week and was pretty happy with it. It made a strong statement.  Then today, I went back at it.  I should know better. Whenever I do that, the painting looses it's freshness and sense of immediacy. I'm realizing that whenever I "go over" a nice thick purposeful brush stroke, I suck the life right out if it! You pretty much have to get it right the first time and then leave it alone. And that's tough!

 Sea Glass Hunting 
8 x 10 

Spring cleaning

 I find it helpful to do a personal "check up" every so often. Yesterday, I forced myself to plug away- updating my resume, re-writing my personal statement and generally re-evaluating my goals. To me, that is as cathartic as spring cleaning! It's a good idea to take a look at where you've been, where you're going and what you're trying to accomplish. Like opening all the windows and letting that spring air in; I'm feeling newly rejuvenated and invigorated!   

"Spring Clean-Up"
9 x 12 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Upcoming Workshop

Just a reminder! I am teaching a "Painting in an Hour" workshop at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, MA. on Monday April 26 and Thursday June 10 from 9:30 - 12:30 AM. Spaces are going quickly so if you are interested, contact them soon!

The painting below is a demo I have done as an example of the quick, and intuitive approach we will be covering. 

Sorry! No Room!
8 x 10  

"The practice of creating a painting from start to finish in one hour, teaches you how to think more spontaneously and produce more lively and intuitive work. It helps simplify the process, and you are able to “say a lot with little”. Generous, quick, well placed strokes will give you fresher, simpler, more effective paintings"

The workshop will include a demo (with chatting) followed by a one hour painting session. We will work quickly from a still life and/or  photos. All levels welcome although a working knowledge of materials is helpful. I use oils, but any medium is welcome. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Fireworks

Forsythia is out in full force right now, due to a freakish warm weather pattern. (it usually pops around April 19th -Marathon Monday) That brilliant splash of yellow against the otherwise pretty dull landscape this time of year always reminds me of fireworks against a dark sky. This bunch caught my eye this morning, so I pulled over.
My view from the road

I quickly established "darks" before any thing changed

Spring Fireworks 
10 x 10 
Sorry. I got so "into the moment", I forgot to photo what happened next. I mostly focussed on keeping everything around the forsythia very dulled down in order to make IT be the star of the show.   

Somehow this just doesn't' seem right to me. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Using photos to make better paintings

I just read Michael Weymouth's terrific new book "How Photography Can Make You a Better Painter" and it got me very inspired. Finally! A book that challenges the notion that painting from photographs is "inconsistent with the creative process". I found some great tips on how to use a digital camera as a very handy visual aid.

I took this photo early this morning with my little Canon Elph with a ten times zoom.  Had I been painting this scene on location, I would have left out the woman chatting, and the painting would have been about the telephone poles and the early morning light. It got very hazy and cloudy all of a sudden so I came back to the studio and painted this from the photo.
Note to self: One of the danger zones when painting from a photo is that you have all day to do it. That's not good for me. I have to pretend I am outside in order to keep the spontaneity and fun in it. This got a little overworked, without that fear of the light changing.

"Morning Meeting"
16 x 20 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dunes Day

I got so excited about the forecast for bright sun and warm temps on Friday that I packed up my gear Thursday night, cleared my calendar for the day, and set my alarm. With only a few obstacles on the way, I managed to get set up in the dunes south of Humarock Beach by 8:30 am. There was some fog over the ocean and a pretty strong breeze down by the water, so the dunes kept me out of the wind and in the sun. I was in heaven.
Morning Glory 
10 x 12 

The light was very diffused from the fog on the other side of the dunes and I was facing the sun so everything was very bleached out. The colors out there are still very muted and wintery, although there was a definite sense that things are changing. Slowly.   

Humarock Hills 
10 x 10 

I was just getting settled in by the time I got that quick study done. It's not often that all the elements are working for you out there, so you have to take advantage of it when you can! I turned my set up to the right and painted this one, facing West. Again, very dulled down colors with traces of spring showing up. No bugs, no wind, no one around but the birds. All in all, it was just about as good as an outdoor painting excursion can get. These are the ones that keep us going back at it! 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sharing What We know

 A friend of mine, a brilliant business woman with no formal art training, had asked me to show her how to paint in oils. (She has recently begun taking pastel painting classes.) So today she came down to the studio for a "drive by shooting" version of learning how to paint in oils. It was a challenge, to say the least, and we both worked very hard. After a few equipment failures and a wipe out, we settled down and covered a lot of material. (I imagine it was not unlike trying to teach someone how to speak French in an afternoon.) I focused mainly on the three value concept, as I think most beginners have a hard time with that. She was a great student! Eager to learn, intuitive, and very very brave! These were giant steps for her toward a creative journey and I feel good that I may have had a role in that. Sharing what we know is such a good thing. Everyone wins.  

My "three value"  demo 

Her happy self leaving with her first oil painting!   


Landscapes in the rain

While preparing for my 6th grader this week, I realized we haven't done anything with landscapes yet. (And I've been itching to get outside for some plein air painting if and when the rain stops!) I thought it would be fun to show her how to break down a scene into big shapes by using photos. I found three images in a Garden Design Magazine and off we went. Here is one of hers!

She really got it! It looks kind of like a John Marin watercolor! No? 

Here is the demo I did for her. 
I know it is infinitely better to paint from a photo that you actually took yourself, having been "at the  scene" to personally experience the sense of place. But I do think this exercise helps you break things down to just the big shapes and allows you to approach it more abstractly.