Some Experimenting

Mel and I have added one to our little group of daily painters.  Meg, a friend who used to be a part of our photography social circle is serious about learning to paint and the three of us have built an ongoing texting conversation to share what we are doing and learning.  I can’t express how motivating this is for me.  Since Mel likes me to share her work and progress alongside mine, this is what we have been up to this week.

I made some progress on this family masterpiece.  I keep getting bogged down by it because I want it to be perfect.  I want to feel the satisfaction that I felt when I finished Eliza, but another part of my paralysis is what I want to do with it.  Initially I was planning to give it to my father-in-law, the subject of the painting, but my sister-in-law-in-law wants it and offered $20 when I told her how fun some of my family auctions were when I painted little pictures of my siblings.  Now I am torn.  Would my father-in-law prefer having it in his own home, or prefer seeing it in the home of one of his children? 

Mel did this one on canvas and it is worthy to be called her first painting for her online gallery once we launch!  Go Mel!  1 of 30

This is the beginning of a painting that I started this week.  I didn’t use my usual trace and paint method in an attempt to use a looser painting style.  It’s not going too well.  I might start over with a different approach.  I have been rereading a book called “Daily Painting” by Carol Marine and wrote about how she approaches a color pallet.  I made a couple of color wheels to help me with this painting and have learned quite a bit.

Here is where I get a little art geeky.  Above, we have a color wheel with almost no white.  I am combining Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, and Cadmium Yellow.  If you can read my notes, it points out a few things that I was shocked by, for example: The transparent blue mixed with a little opaque yellow made the blue darker and adding opaque white to the transparent purple made it darker.  Crazy, eh?

These are the same colors, but I have added opaque white to all of the transparent colors to make them all opaque.  Where they meet in the center is supposed to be grey, but there was no way I could figure out how to get grey with this specific combination of primary colors.  Does this mean that if I am painting with these three colors that grey=muddy green?.

This is just a darling painting Mel did of her daughter using a photo as a reference.  She whipped this out in 5 hours!  She isn’t selling this in her gallery, it is too sweet.

And last, we have Mel experimenting on paper instead of canvas.  She thought that mentally she would be less of a perfectionist if there was no way it could end up in her gallery, hence painting on paper instead of canvas.

Do you see, reader, what creative juices I am getting to marinate in?  It’s like I am in an art homeschool with three students and we are building our own curricula!


This Week in Painting

A burst of creativity came out of last week–inspired by Mel’s paintings and rereading “Daily Painting” which reminded me not to be such a perfectionist.  This first image is a canvas that I experimentally covered with pure linseed oil to learn the resulting texture.  You can somewhat see that as it dried it created a wet, wrinkled, earwax colored texture.  After many instances of throwing away the leftover paint on my pallet, often after painstakingly perfecting a color, I thought it might be fun to make little abstracts while cleaning up.  I like how unplanned and unmixed the results look because the decisions are whimsical.  The image below is after 4/5 times cleaning up.

This next image is one that I had previously blocked in, and set aside to work on other things.  This week, I finally finished it.  Melanie and I are trying to save up 30 paintings in order sell one painting each day.  There is a website that follows this model which charges for access, but will put our art in view of many more buyers than my blog will.

And I finally finished the painting my brother commissioned me to do of his daughter which took almost six months.  I am oh so pleased with how this turned out after revamping many areas including the background four times.

Here is a second image I had previously started, and finally got on the ball to finish.  Phwew!.  It’s been a busy week, but it also gives me some hope that I might be able to get into a rhythm with this whole painting thing.  Again, saving this for the 30 paintings in 30 days selling blitz.

Mel’s “Heather”

I love getting texts from Mel showing me her art-capades.  Today she surprised me with a completed image of her daughter that she painted from a filtered Facebook photo she had previously taken and uploaded.

Static hair
Static hair small image on large canvas

I love how Mel painted the image smaller than the canvas because no one likes the hassle of having to frame a painting.  This is nice because it is ready to hang and no frame is necessary.  So far, I have started painting the edges of the canvas so that it is ready to hang, but I like this better.

I sent Mel the “Daily Painting” book and I am re-reading it myself.  I am reminded that small paintings should be completed quickly and my paintings have been taking longer and longer because of my perfectionism.  I think it’s time for a new strategy and it only took Mel 2 hours to do this.  She is thinking portraits are going to be a main part of her painting choices.

Melly’s Gonna Paint?!

Great news!  My sister has more time to paint.  While it may not seem exciting on the surface, it could be a game changer for me.  Back in the olden days, thirteen years ago, she and I starting photographing weddings together.  We built that work into something profitable., and I couldn’t have done it without her.  The setbacks, conversations, fear of doing something totally new, or fear of failing would have been too much for me if she wasn’t there doing it with me.  I simply would not have attempted it.  The support was literal also.  When my camera would jam in the middle of a wedding ceremony, hers could keep clicking onward.

Painting is a new area to develop and I have been dabbling for a couple years, but If Mel is getting to a place where she can do it as well, we are totally going to become famous.  Just kidding, I don’t think we have a collective experience tortured enough for fame.  I am, however, going to be gobs-of-paint better at this if she is doing it too.

When Mel and I were little, we would lay on our stomachs and draw beautiful princesses.  It was our favorite subject and we would regularly look at each other’s work adopting new ideas from each others experimental reaching.  For example, I remember when one of us discovered that if we drew the arms as if they were resting behind the princesses back, we didn’t have to draw hands.  Hands were always difficult and distracting so from that day on, all our princess hid their hands by resting them demurely behind their backs.  We also adopted the hanging of ornaments from the tips of their dresses like stars or hearts or circles.  Our princesses were simply amazing because we worked together by drawing and redrawing regularly and side by side.  I wish I had one to scan in and share with you, dear reader, because they are great for a laugh.

With that in mind, I think of how much better I will be and how much more fun it will be that we can do it together.  Just a couple days ago, she texted me the painting she had started.  She explained some things she learned and what she might do next time.  I told her about the ideas it gave me to try on a future painting as well.  I hope we can continue the synergy because when Mel and I work together, we are kind of unstoppable.

Mel is loving succulents and bummed she doesn’t have a yard to plant them in while they build their house.   So, don’t you think painting them is the best outlet for her obsession?  Yes, the correct answer is “yes”.

Yellow Daisies

How many times have I painted these daisies before I was satisfied enough to stop?  Have you ever heard of the artist’s curse?  Well, it goes that the artist can always see something they want to change or tweak, but at some point, they have to say, “It’s done”.  This one became done after scrapping the painting and starting over three times.  Here is a picture of the original daisies.  I was working from this image the entire time.


Here is one of the versions of the painting that got recycled.


I figured that maybe the picture was too busy for my tiny canvas, so I cropped and edited the picture to get this.



From this image, I painted lots of layers till it became what I wanted.  Here is the sequence.



And finally, the finished product.  Something odd about this painting is that my camera was unable to capture the variety of yellows that my paints could make.  I worked in Lightroom to make the likeness as accurate as possible, but it still isn’t totally right.  Anyhoo, part of me is over yellow daisies for a while and part of me is a’hankering for another stab at it.


“Yellow Daisies” 5×7 inches oil on canvas (cured and varnished)


Twisted Lemon

This is one of the first paintings I did and it’s my favorite, but I haven’t blogged about it yet.  The way the lemon was cut, was a happy accident, and I just played with the placement taking lots of pictures till I found one I liked. I traced a few basic outlines from the picture using carbon transfer paper right on the canvas to get the basic dimensions just so and painted the blocked areas in.  Sometimes I would touch the paint to my photo printout to make sure the value and color was right.

The bowl was at Goodwill for $4 and had the brand “Tiffany & co.” primly printed on the bottom.  I thought, “What’s a bowl like you doing in a place like this?”  Even though the representation of the bowl would still be abstract because of the small size of the canvas, none of my brushes could get detail I wanted it to be so I used a toothpick for some of that part.

I just love this one because it embodies some of my life philosophies like cooking from scratch and buying used items which is healthy for the body and for the earth; and yet these things take more energy, something of which I have much less than the average person and, therefore, most often can’t live by example.  This painting is romanticizing the simple tasks of cutting lemons on a cutting board and finding used items at Goodwill because it’s making them look pretty.


“Twisted Lemon” 6×6 inches oil on canvas

Not for sale

Instagram Baby

The other day, I was lamenting my low energy and missing photography.  The awesome thing about photography is that when I take pictures of people, there is a built in sentimental element.  Even if my composition is off, people will still love pictures of their cute kids.  That makes me feel amazing about my photography even if my clients were simply ogling about their kids.  It could get me through a tough patch of low moral.

Thinking about how I don’t have that with painting, I though it would be fun to see if there are any cute pictures of friends on Instagram that I might want to paint.  I grabbed this adorable picture of a friend, and thought, “I haven’t done so well with people yet, but this will be good motivation to try again.”

While painting, I imagined how awesome it was going to turn out, but something a little terrible happened.  After finishing the first layer and taking a break for a few days, I couldn’t remember which colors I had used.  Going back in the second time, I still had a lot to do and my color balance started looking very off.  I tried a different color harmony and that wasn’t it either.  I tried a third and that wasn’t it either.  Now the colors looked totally out of sync and I didn’t want to start over, but I learned a lot.  I was happy with the likeness and the values.

Here it is.


Oil on gessoed watercolor paper

Not for sale