Saturday, December 1, 2007

Anatomy of a painting

The casein study of "Carry a Big Stick" was chosen to use in the advertising for a group show I participated in recently(see previous blog-Dog and Pony Show) and I was commissioned to do a larger painting using exactly the same composition and tone values used in the posters. The hues and contrast of the study had been adjusted considerably using a digital program and the composition had also been cropped slightly. I decided to use a grid system to transfer the new poster image onto my painting support insuring that the shapes and composition would be right on and satisfy the customer. I drew a grid over a black and white print of the poster, seen on the table easel behind the pastel tray, then drew a grid to scale onto the 18 x 24 white panel(panelli telati) and sketched in the dog and ground shapes. When I felt that everything was accurate I blocked in the biggest shapes with an underpainting , seen at the top of the page, of the most intense pastel colors. They would show through in places in the finished piece. Then I started pulling out smaller shapes adding layer by layer with lighter hues. In some areas I used my fingers, bunched up kleenex, kneaded eraser, or a soft brush to blend colors or push them into the white canvas surface. Included is a photo of my pastel tray that holds over 200 sticks arranged by hue and tone. About 15 pastels were used to complete the painting.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Website update - Notecards now available

I'm very excited and pleased to announce that my website now has a new section offering fine art note cards(click here) for sale. The site is completely secure through Pay Pal, very user friendly, and set up for custom orders of one note card to how ever many you like, and you choose the images you want. Shipping is free with orders of five cards or more. We'll add more note card images from my original paintings as time goes on. The 5 1/2" x 8 1/2 "cards, which are left blank inside for personal messages, are printed with archival inks on heavyweight acid free card stock and come with envelopes. They are fine enough for framing if desired and sell for $6.00 each. We'll add cards for Christmas and the holidays too.
Here are two cards featured on the site, "Autumn Hues' and "Easterly".

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wildwood Stables - Acadia National Park

Things have been happening for me this year regarding national art shows and this is one of two paintings that will be going to the American Academy of Equine Art 2007 Fall Open Juried Exhibition at the International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY., Sept. 21-Nov. 4. The painting was done from photos taken several years ago while I worked as a private groom at Wildwood Stables in Maine's Acadia National Park. This popular recreation area located on Mt. Desert Island is just outside of Bar Harbor and was the summer retreat for many wealthy families in the 1920's and 30's. The Rockefellers, who still spend summers there and eventually donated the land for preservation , built almost 50 miles of beautiful carriage roads way back when, so that they and their friends could ride and drive their horses while enjoying the breathtaking scenery that overlooks Frenchmen's Bay and the coastline. The park still welcomes horse people as well as hikers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts who come to experience Maine's finest, but most often overlooked, natural resource. Wildwood Stables (the barn is pictured here), offers daily carriage rides to the top of Day Mountain and boarding facilities for horse owners who come to travel at their own pace on the well maintained roads. One very special summer I was able to bring my horse and it was an experience I'll never forget. For a memorable start to your day in the park...go to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise ...On a clear day you can see 100 miles in all directions.
Talk about stepping back in time....this elegant carriage was owned by Jack Seabrook and was put to a four in hand of white Kladrubys, a breed of carriage horse first developed in Bavaria. What a handsome sight they were. Mr. Seabrook's grooms , Chris and Jeff at the ready, were sitting on the back seat...those were the days...

Friday, July 20, 2007


Who is this intimidating man behind the shades? This is a portrait of my husband Steve and was done from photos taken while we were on an unforgettable two week driving tour of California a few years ago. We spent an afternoon strolling down the palm lined main drag of old Palm Springs, which is revitalized with new shops, boutiques and restaurants, and stopped to have lunch at one of the inviting outdoor cafes. I loved the reflection of the table tiles in his sunglasses and the striking black Hawaiian shirt looked so handsome against his silver hair. "Mr. Hollywood", I jokingly called him..his cool expression fit..I could hardly wait to get home to work on the painting.(On a personal note..Steve actually smiles all the time but that kind of expression wasn't what I was after..)
This is pastel on colourfix..the sand color I think. You can see it coming through in some areas of his skin. The actual background of cafe patrons and tables was so busy that I edited them out. The umbrella helps to keep the viewer's eye from running out of the upper part of the frame and moves you back down to Steve.
Now just WHO was he looking at....?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Finest Pair

This pastel of a very fine pair of Percheron draft horses will be included in the upcoming invitational art exhibit, The Dog and Pony Show at Skyline Farm and Carriage Museum in North Yarmouth, Maine.
I've always loved horses and these big powerful guys really stood out during a day at Maine's largest and best country fair in Fryeburg, a few years ago. The owner was ground driving them outside the pulling arena and had taken a break so I asked if a few photos were possible. The horses stood quietly as I moved around them taking shots. Alert and attentive their ears swiveled and followed every sound made by the driver who stood behind them out of frame. As a horse owner for many years I have to admit to being completely intimidated by this breeds immense size and power. Their feet were bigger than dinner plates.
Instead of using the bright sunlit scenery of the fairground actually behind the horses I painted a swirling mixture of rich dark hues around them creating a chiaroscuro painting, which is a technique truly mastered by the Flemish painter Rembrandt. The grey horses pop out of the background and the warm terra cotta paper showing through in places makes the cool colors sparkle giving the horses the energy and excitement I felt that day..

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Laundry Day-2

This is another 5 x 7 study of the same scene but this one was based only on my impressions and drawn from memory, not photo reference. I think this is a great exercise which was done quickly using a small palette knife on everything except for Koda, who was painted with a small liner brush. The high key(light) palette expresses my feelings of warm, bright sun and the breezy fragrance of freshly washed sheets. The colors used are very close in tone value and hue that resulted in a grisaille type painting(usually done in grays or browns). The image is recognizable and the light source has been defined well enough.
I'm starting another small study ..this next one will be quite different...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Laundry Day

Ahhh...There's nothing like the smell of freshly washed sheets that've been hung outside to dry in the breeze. Koda, who is a little over six months old now and eager to help with domestic chores, triumphantly marched off with my clothes pin bag. The photos for this painting were taken just a week ago on the first day of real summer like weather. Koda supervised as I did some much needed yard work.
The composition in this 5 x 7 study falls short of my original vision, however. Because of the space between Koda and the clothes line there seem to be two subjects in the painting instead of one. The clothes basket needs toning down to push it further into the background and I'd like to bring the horizon line down too.
Stay tuned as I work through this process...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


This is a photo comparing the size of the study Shadow Play(see previous blog) in relation to the brushes, palette knife and a few other materials that are used in my work. The pastel sticks are standard size and broken in half, but even so it would be difficult to use them for paintings of this small scale.
I find that swishing around with a wet medium is a refreshing change from dry pastels. It stretches my brain because the approach and applications are so different...I have to mix colors and think backward!
One of my upcoming blogs will show the step by step process of a pastel painting based on these studies. Any comments along the way would be appreciated!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Carry A Big Stick & Shadow Play

I'm continuing with the postcard sized(4 x 6) studies of our young dog Koda, in preparation for the Dog and Pony Show that opens in a few months(see previous blog). I'm using casein on gessoed mat board. A very special artist friend turned me on to this medium, which is an ancient milk based paint. Caseins have a tough durable surface when completely dry that can be buffed to a soft luster, varnished or put under glass like a watercolor. It can be applied thick impasto style, thinned with water or a casein emulsion medium for layering with glazes. All of those techniques were used in these little images.
My favorite studies will be used as guides for larger pastel paintings that will be submitted for entry in the show.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just Walkin' the Dog

I've been invited for the second year in a row to exhibit in a show that will feature paintings, sculpture and photography of horses and dogs done by artists from across the country. This is great timing because we decided to get a new Golden Retriever puppy a few months ago. Her name is Koda and she is the perfect subject for the paintings I'd like to do. I will talk more about the "Dog and Pony Show" at the Skyline Farm and Carriage Museum, as I work through more studies of Koda and her life with us...
This is a 5 x 7 casein study of my husband Steve taking a morning walk with his new best friend....quite a nice pair.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Whispers in the Moonlight

This is one of my favorite paintings, even though
the mood and scene may not appeal to many. I's a little strange, but I love a good mystery and nocturnal paintings are such a challenge. The colors and subtle tone variations of night light require extensive study. Frederic Remington did some real beauties as did N.C. and Andrew Wyeth.
Gargoyle's are said to ward off evil spirits and this handsome fellow sits in my back garden doing just that, day after day, in all seasons. Sometimes he's covered in a deep blanket of snow or pelted with a driving rain, but he is stoic and vigilant. I named him "Nick" because of a notch on the bridge of his nose...a battle scar, no doubt the result of a skirmish while defending his territory. The cold blue moonlight and long shadows running across the snow reinforce the haunting rendezvous between these two . The cat, fluffed out against the chill, seems bewitched by him...I wonder what happened....Nick will never tell..

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Young at Art

This spot is dedicated to my grandchildren who all love to draw and paint. The drawing here is by my precocious seven year old grand daughter Madeline and was executed in the studio today while I sat by sketching her in graphite and marveling at her colors and composition. She really gets into the making of art ... her face pushes close to the paper with intense concentration and focus. Now and then she stands back to look it over and think about her next stroke.
Her goal is to become a famous artist and I believe she very well may. She gets great support from her parents but particularly her mother Susan, who is very creative with impressive skills in metal work, cabinet making, felting, and cooking. There are always craft projects going on at their house and many of Madeline's finished pieces are spotted through out. One of my favorites is a papier mache bird she made at the age of four while taking private art classes.
I asked Madeline to tell me about this delightful image and she said it was the sun, and the star in the middle is it's nose. The heart is "just because" the sun is happy and bright. I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Durham in Winter Revisited

I love the winter light here in Maine, especially late afternoon when the shadows are long and dramatic. There's a rosy glow on everything touched by the low riding northern sun and it's my favorite season to take photos for future study and paintings.
This is a 5 x 7 casein of just such a scene. I originally painted a more expansive view in a 14 x 11 watercolor(see below) several years ago and that painting sold very quickly(hooray!) but the image still fascinates me and I feel compelled to explore it further.
I've tightened up the composition this time to focus more on the maple tree, which is what really drew me to take pictures of the scene in the first place. The loosely rendered barn roof and top story of the farmhouse help put the upward looking view into context. The absurd angles and shapes of the tree branches resemble knarly old elbows and fingers to me and provide an interesting play between light and shadow and hard and soft edges.
I'll tweak the casein study a little by adding some cast shadows to the farm house, adjust the hue of the siding to slightly more orange, then go for a larger painting in pastel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Cliff Island is the most remote inhabited island in Casco Bay and is eleven miles from the mainland.
The ferry ride takes an hour and a half and it's the last stop on the line. This gentleman, whose name is Billy O'Reilly, is one of only 65 hearty year 'round Cliff Islanders. He's a tall rugged lobsterman with a face that's been etched by a life of working on the sea. Billy's lineage traces back to one of the first families to settle the island more than two centuries ago and I have no doubt that he knows the waters around the island and bay as well as he knows the back of his hand. When the photos were taken for this painting it was a bitter cold December day, but the sun was so bright it lit up the dinghy like a red hot frying pan. Billy was hamming it up for the camera here.....hence the toothy grin just barely seen through his heavy beard. I love the simplicity of this image... just a man and his boat in the water.. but it's a bit surreal because they appear to be levitating over the deep blue.
Maybe he knows something we don't...
This is one of two paintings that were recently accepted into the Pastel Society of the West Coast's 21st International Exhibition, which runs May 8-June 2, at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center in Carmichael, CA .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Green Apples

One of my grand daughters, Sydney, is the thoughtful, tow-headed girl in this piece. The scenery is the view from the front yard of the house you see in my painting 'Summer House-Parker Head'. I wanted a more expansive landscape beyond her so I opened up the trees and removed rock formations that are actually across the marshy inlet. Also the apple tree is closest to the viewer and much larger in the photos I worked from. The shots were taken during a family picnic and the kids were having a ball playing around the tree and stuffing fallen apples into the crevice left by an old injury.
The bright green colors of the unripe apples and the halo of golden hair, hit just right by the sun, caught my eye......
I realized recently while looking at this image with a fresh perspective, how feminine the tree form interesting revelation to me, since it wasn't intentional.
My grandchildren are so sweet and innocent at this young stage in life. They have so much to learn and experience...will they be tempted by the forbidden fruit?

Monday, March 19, 2007

The house in Parker Head

Summer House-Parker Head and My Favorite Room
This antique house sits in Parker Head, an area located in the quintessential coastal village of Phippsburg, Maine . Parker Head is a picturesque and peaceful hideaway that has yet to be spoiled by development and commercialization. Of historic note the first ship ever built in Maine came out of this region. The winding and twisty road that runs along the peninsula to this beautiful spot and on to Fort Popham(originally settled in 1607) passes small harbors, snug coves, and boat yards still owned by the locals. Lobster traps, buoys and lines, used for real, are stacked for storage around their homes. Cemeteries with gravestones dating back to pre Revolutionary War are scattered here and there between the moss covered ledges and pines. It's not hard to imagine why people chose this area to homestead so long ago.
The house was built in the late 1700's and one of our family members bought it to use as a summer place a few years ago. Aside from the inherent charm and beautiful location of the place, when inside, one is struck by the incredible views that can be seen from almost every window in the house. I was enchanted by a corner room whose northeast window, frames an inlet that curves back around to the open sea. The worn out walls and old metal beds reminded me of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. The house needed repair, but even so, the personality of it was so pervasive that it inspired a third painting called Green Apples that I will talk about in the next blog.
Summer House was accepted into the Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod National Show in 2005 and My Favorite Room is one of two paintings accepted into the Pastel Society of the
West Coast's 21st International Exhibition
at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center, May 8-June 2.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Little Chair

The subject of this pastel painting is an antique children's chair that's been in my family for several generations. Many toddlers have climbed onto this pint sized seat including my own grandchildren, but now it's kept in the studio because of it's deteriorating condition. The arched piece that makes up the back rest is one solid piece of wood that's been steamed and bent into that U shape.
This was done on Terra Cotta colored Colourfix paper...some of it shows through in places. I used a spot light hung low to get the long interesting shadows reminiscent of evening light.
If this chair could talk what stories it could tell.... it reminds me of my grandmother. Her parents(my great grand parents) came from Vienna, Austria, and were very poor. Their first five children died before they came to America where they settled in Philadelphia. They were very hard working but the times were formidable for immigrants and they were destitute. There were long periods when the only food they had to eat were potatoes and milk.
It was difficult for my grandmother to talk about her childhood but she felt it was important for us to know about the family's past and where we came from.
By the grandmother was born right after her parents arrived in the US. and she was the first of five siblings who all survived. This was her chair...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Don't Ask Me Now

This is a pastel painting of 'Bear' a Clydesdale gelding owned by my long time friend Ansley. Bear's acquisition came about largely because of Ansley's experiences with his gentle predecessor, a Clydesdale stallion by the name of 'Springdale's Benedictine Prince' .
I remember when Prince arrived at the farm.
He was a rescue... and was headed for the slaughterhouse. He'd been passed from one owner to the next and was at least three hundred pounds underweight... and very couldn't stand down wind of him. The source of the odor was soon discovered. Clydesdales and some other draft horse breeds have very long thick leg hair called feathers and sometimes, especially in unsanitary and humid conditions, a skin fungus can develop in those areas. If left untreated, tumor type growths develop and they in turn can interfere with tendons in the legs and cause a serious get the idea...No one wanted to deal with his problem.
Prince was a beautiful horse, gentle and easy to work around even though he was a stallion, but he needed immediate attention health wise. He was cleaned up, put on a diet to fatten him up (he had no neck and you could see every bone in his body) and then the focus turned to treating his legs. They were shaved, then a regimen of scrubbing the affected area daily with disinfectant was started. This treatment continued until Ansley and her vet realized it wasn't enough... so surgery was discussed and then scheduled. The decision to operate wasn't taken lightly by any of the parties involved. There were a lot of growths to remove on each leg and he would be sedated for a long time. Any kind of surgery for an animal that weighs about a ton is tricky. There was no guarantee that he would recover...but he did..with flying colors I might add.
Prince turned into a big handsome boy with a powerful neck and a thick long mane and forelock. Ansley trained him to drive and rode him occasionally too. He enjoyed viewing the mares on the farm ..a little too much perhaps, so he was gelded..also a very dicey procedure for an older horse.... but he came through that too.
Prince lived a contented and comfortable life for many years after...until something unthinkable happened. One day when Ansley had invited friends for a drive with him.... he collapsed on the way home... and died in his traces.
There was a big hole to fill in Ansley's heart.....his name is Bear..
This painting was accepted into the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine's 20th International Exhibition called, 'Animals in Art'.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Portrait of Taite

This young lady, who was 8 years old at the time of the portrait in charcoal pencil, is put it bluntly, and definitely cut from the same cloth as her enterprising and independent mother. Taite's curiosity and intelligence haven't gone unnoticed at school where she's very popular with fellow students and enrolled in a curriculum for gifted children. Aside from her pretty face and engaging smile, it was very important to me, to capture as much of that effervescent personality as I could. This was quite a challenge...(you have to do the bad drawings and paintings to get to the good ones).. The process took about two weeks of head scratching, hand wringing and three attempts. This is the final one.
Her funny 'Alice in Wonderland' hat actually had a bright leopard pattern on it but the shape alone was so charming that I left it this way.
I really like working with charcoal pencil...It cuts to the colors to interfere....just rich dark lines and soft tone values used to express my impressions of a subject.
There's no doubt that great things lay ahead for Taite and I'm very excited for her....You go girl!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The name hasn't been changed to protect the innocent

Cousin Harold

"Is this guy really your cousin?" I'm asked that all the time at shows and actually he's my husband's cousin. If the family ever took a vote on the Black Sheep of the family, Harold would get the a landslide.
If you didn't know him and accidentally bumped into him, you'd the opposite direction... Harold's appearance and unconventional life style were the topic of many lively family discussions. He had a pretty rough childhood and was the oldest of seven kids. Harold was always on his best behavior when he showed up in Maine for a visit and we enjoyed his wild stories..even though he cleaned them up for us.
This is pastel over watercolor on a very heavy cotton rag paper called Khadi that's handmade in India. Originally the background was blocked in with dark watercolor washes for trees and deep woods. It was too distracting so I scrubbed it out and changed it to the desolate landscape and troubling sky you see here. I wondered if the paper would hold out as I reworked the background and his eyes over and over again in did.
This image has more red in it than the real painting...bad lighting.
As for Harold..He now sits in a Florida prison, maybe for the rest of his life. You know what they say, "The ones who are the hardest to love, are the ones who need it the most".
This painting won a Merit Award in the Pastel Painters of Maine International Show at the River Tree Center for the Arts, Kennebunk. Me., several years ago.

The story behind The Straw Ride

The Straw Ride

This is a 9 x 11 casein study of a very large oil painting by British artist Lucy Kemp-Welch, (1869-1958). In my version the colors are punched up a bit more than the original….its just my way… I also get a sense of urgency and feel the fires burning in the bellies of the galloping horses.
Caseins don’t necessarily have to be framed under glass but this one is and it looks like a watercolor because of the transparent washes used.
Obviously I have strong feelings about this painting by Welch. She’s captured th
e excitement and high spirits of a training scene in which women break horses to be used by the British Army during World War I. Women weren’t allowed to go into battle in those days so they supported troops and contributed to the war effort by performing many tough jobs at home that were typically done by men. The relaxed demeanor of the woman rider Welch depicted demonstrates that she is calm and in complete control of her mount and the one she’s ponying beside her. I’ve had my own horses and believe me this isn't easy. The young woman looks like she’s enjoying the ride. It’s a great tribute to these unsung heroes of that war.
I’ve often thought this image may be a powerful allegory for Welch’s life and those of other talented women artists of that day. She was a gifted and extremely accomplished painter…way ahead of her time. Her technical skills far surpassed many of the men who were members of the Royal Academy of Art and although she exhibited there, she was never accepted into the fold, even as an associate member….
It must have been a bitter blow…. but it never stopped her from doing what she loved. She went on to become a member of the prestigious Pastel Society of Great Britain and the first president of the Society of Animal Painters. She was awarded the Bronze medal at the Paris Salon in 1921 and the Silver medal the following year.
Yep...this one’s for Lucy.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Portrait of Ada

Last year I participated in a Terry Ludwig Portrait Workshop sponsored by the Pastel Painters of Maine.
Our model for the workshop was a lovely older woman named Ada who had worked as a professional model when she was younger. Terry started the workshop with a talk about his working methods then gave a demo that took 45 minutes and after that we all jumped in.
The materials list for this workshop included Kitty Wallis paper which is a heavy paper covered with a fine grit surface and lots of tooth, meaning it can grab heavy layers of pastel and hold on to it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any before the class so I brought Colourfix which is very similar but comes in different colors. I chose a warm Terra Cotta that I use mostly for my landscapes because it makes the colors vibrate and really sing. It also seems virtually indestructible and can be used for oil paintings, and all water mediums. I decided to bring some inexpensive pastel paper to try, the name of which escapes me, that had little tooth and holding power.
Ada-1 was done on the Colourfix Terra Cotta. I started by lightly sketching the arabesque, just a faint outline of her head, profile, hair and neck. After some scrutiny of Ada’s facial features and the light effects, I started blocking in large shapes such as her nose, cheek, ear and eye areas. Placement for these features is really important…just a small degree off and suddenly you have someone else staring back at you! Terry’s pastels were great for this…they’re rectangular, not round as most brands, so you can use the flat side for blocking in large areas and they won’t roll away when put down.
When the big shapes are in and properly placed the fun begins…This is where the real personality startes to emerge. Large areas are gradually broken into smaller and smaller areas using different tones, and varying strokes. The finish is in the eye and getting the placement of light reflected on the eyeball is really important. Terry’s help here was invaluable.
This version of Ada makes her look very strong and severe. I was trying too hard I think. Ada-2 was done on the cheap pastel paper, and though I didn’t enjoy working on it, the finished portrait is much more accurate in portraying Ada’s delicate features and sensitive expression. The paper’s poor surface wouldn’t allow for a heavy handed method so I had to use restraint and a lighter touch…not my usual style…I got two lessons for the price of one!