Sunday, September 8, 2019

September - Back to Pastel

Cedar River Picnic, pastel, 25x18 inches
Soon I will travel to Roseburg, Oregon to judge the Pastel Society of Oregon's 21st Biennial Membership Show at Gallery Northwest. I'll also teach a 3-day workshop for members. After working in oil since last spring, it is fun to return to return to pastel. I found this piece of Wallis sanded paper in my flat file. I gessoed it to a yellow tone years ago. I completed a foundation sketch with charcoal and sprayed it with Lascaux before the application of pastel.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A medium from my past

When I was in art school in the early 1960's we used gouache for illustrations. Recently I have seen several accomplished oil painters using gouache for plein air studies. And, my friend Kay Dewar, is having great success with it so I thought I'd give it a try.

After a fair amount of searching in my studio, I found the 5-tube M. Graham set. White, Black, and three warm primaries and gave it a try on 4-ply rag mat using one of my small pastel studies as reference. I love that it is matte and that it doesn't have the plastic feel that acrylic has. After completion, I gave it two spray-coats of matte varnish and then a Dorland's wax medium finish. Hmmm...interesting medium.

Passage, gouache, 6x8 inches

Monday, July 29, 2019

The 40x40 canvas again

Busy days now that it is finally summer weather. Kayaking this morning, lunch with old friends today but I wanted to check in to let you know the 40x40 canvas is still in progress.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The 40 x 40 canvas

This could be a long story...I'll try to give you the short version. My artist friend, Sheila Theodoratos gifted me a 40 v 40 stretched canvas. I started an oil painting on it, it sat around drying, I lost interest in the subject. Now, I am painting oil still lifes for a Fall show and I'm eyeing that 40x40 canvas. I have oil paintings on both studio easels right now so first I had to figure out a way to attach the big canvas to my wall. That's another story; if you're interested how I did that, contact me.

 Here is the painting in progress that I'm no longer interested in. Backlit bouquet on our dining room table. Today I drew an X through the painting with a pastel pencil to help me layout the new composition, combined two reference photos in PhotoShop Elements, moved my Alla Prima Pochade next to the painting and began to paint again.

Using a hand-held plastic palette that came with my Soltek easel and a big brush, I began blocking in the new painting of the pink Begonia that sits on my table now.

This is how it looks now after about a half hour of blocking in the new work. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Percy is a ghost now

A couple days ago I posted about removing varnish. I included a photo of my gloves, turpentine, cloth and my painting "Percy Wiseman" (the name of the rhododendron). Well, I did it but after removing the varnish the surface had some lumps and bumps of thick oil paint so I handed it over to husband Jay to sand those down to a more uniformly smooth surface.

Percy Wiseman is gone and the wood panel is wonderfully smooth. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind but there are areas of this ghost image that are very exciting. I'll pull out my reference photos and perhaps I'll paint Percy again.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

More on removing varnish

Yesterday I posted about removing Gamvar varnish to repaint one of my older paintings. Today I noticed "Percy Wiseman," a 24x24 inch oil painted last summer when I was enamored with the Dennis Perrin method. I learned a lot from painting in that manner but it was not a perfect match for me. I tried to remove the varnish with the Gamvar method then realized I varnished this one with Liquitex Soluvar. Today I removed the varnish with this method.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Saving my Orange

Months ago I painted my orange teapot with orange (fruit) and a candle. A fun exercise in orange but the painting has been moving around my studio without future plans. Today I removed the varnish - here is a video to show how that is done.    Gamblin Video How to Remove Varnish

Then, with the varnish gone, I began to paint on it again. I want to save the teapot and fruit; I want to lose the candle.

I painted over everything except the teapot and orange and found an orange cup and a pot of small purple campanulas to add.

After that, I left the painting on my easel for a few days while I was busy with other things. Today I took a large paintbrush with thinned white oil paint and dragged downward on the painting obliterating the awkward cup handle and the edges of the teapot. Added blue to the foreground and repainted the orange (fruit) with a large brush after I rethought the real subject of this painting. I don't know if it will ever be framed and make it out of the Studio but now I can sleep at night.

"Orange," oil, 14 x 11 inches

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

My short attention span

I think the older I get, the shorter my attention span. In the 1990's I worked in colored pencil and it was not unusual for a painting/drawing to take 80 hours. In the 2000's I switched to pastel - a much faster medium. Now, in the 2010's (2019) I'm working more and more in oil but if I spend more than a few hours total on a painting, it loses it's freshness and I lose interest. 

My method of working these days is to set up a still life beside my easel, take a reference photo (before the flowers shatter and the fruit rots), block in the composition with a sketch, paint for an hour or two, let it dry and then tweak it over the next few days or weeks. This suits me now.

My reference photo for "Strawberries"

Strawberries sketch

One hour of painting.

Strawberries, oil, 20x20 inches

Thursday, May 2, 2019

How do we know?

Recently, I posted a sad story with a happy ending. Today, I'm posting additional happiness and asking the question, "How do we know that the bad thing that happened was bad?"

My painting, "Sanctuary" fell off the wall at a show and broke the frame, glass and mat. A bad thing, right? The painting was OK but I chose to wipe it off and paint another scene titled "One Fine Day". Here's a link to that post. I am very happy with the new painting which would never have been created (especially in this larger format) if not for the "bad" accident. And today, I have additional happiness.

For more than 25 years, I have been cutting my own glass and mats and ordering frames and raw materials from Jayeness Moulding in Seattle. When I ordered the replacement frame for this painting I asked about glass because I don't have a piece this large in the Studio (yes, please cut a piece of glass to fit the frame) and asked if they cut mat (YES!). I'm out of practice and I could visualize ruining an expensive piece of mat so I ordered a joined frame, cut glass and cut mat. YAY! All I have to do is add spacers and put it together. I'll do this from now on for larger format pastels. No stress, saves time.  "How do we know that the bad thing that happened was bad?"

Frame, mat and glass all done. Just add spacers and put it together.  Yay!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Primroses and onions

This is the initial layout for "Onion," an oil painting on gessoed aluminum panel. I love this surface. Thanks to our neighbor for the gift of potted Primroses.

Onion, oil, 20 x 16 inches
©2019 Barbara Benedetti Newton

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Sad Story with a Happy Ending

In 2012 I painted "Sanctuary" shown above. This is a big pastel painting at 25.5 x 19.5 inches. Add a mat and frame and it gets even larger. Complete with glass it weighed 11 lbs framed which isn't much but it was too much for the not-big-enough hooks it was hung with at a local show. It fell off the wall destroying the frame, mat and glass.

The painting was undamaged and I moved it from place to place in my Studio for a couple years waiting reframing until the other day when one of my galleries called requesting larger format work ("Sanctuary" had already shown at this particular gallery). Hmmm....painting large again sounded fun so I sprayed this one off and began again.

P2019-4-11 One Fine Day, pastel, 25 x 19 inches

Monday, March 18, 2019

Back at the easel

I'm finally back at the easel working in oil on aluminum. You can read the backstory on my Golden Years Blog.

Lemon, oil, 20 x 16 inches ©2019 Barbara Benedetti Newton

Monday, February 11, 2019

15 minute increments

When I work in pastel, I paint one painting at a time. My favorite method is paint it, photograph it, frame it, move on to the next one.

However, when I work in oil, it is slower for me not just because it is wet but because my color choices are more involved. I can't just reach for pastel stick in the hue closest to the color I am imagining. I have to mix the color, test it, maybe remix. Then, there is that wet thing. I like to let a painting sit for a day or two to dry a little and for me to distance myself emotionally from it so I can see it with fresh eyes.

I have one painting in progress, "Orange." While it is drying and I am thinking about it, I want to start a second still life. Here we go...I gather up objects: A dying flower arrangement, two slightly withered apples found in the refrigerator, a yellow cup, the new Trader Joe's tea towel with blue stripes and a garage sale muted green plate. I arrange these items next to my easel and turn on a spot light as well as the overhead LED track lighting you see reflected in the quartz counter surface. I take a photo of this (there it is, above). Then I crop the photo to the one you see below. That will be my reference to paint from in a couple days when the flowers are really dry and dead.

The photo reference for still life

Color study, pastel mini, 5.5 x 3.5 inches

But, before the flowers shatter and fall, I quickly paint a pastel mini color study to acquaint myself with the subject, color and value choices. I will use this mini pastel as a reference as I paint this still life in oil. The following images were taken in 15 minute increments (I found my timer).

Now I set it aside to dry a little. I look forward to coming back to it in a few days.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


I'm starting on a series of oil still life paintings in preparation for a fall group show. There is a "look" or genre I'm working toward. A maturity of color choices, wisdom in lost (and found) edges and above all, staying true to my vision. Meanwhile, I get distracted by sales and approval. This is the color study I'm using for a larger oil painting. It is fresh, loose and bold. Now my challenge is to translate this to my larger work in oil.

This is how it began. I saw the orange teapot at the Goodwill store and purchased it. I cut a cardboard box up, draped it with blue fabric and put the teapot, a candle and an orange near my oil easel. The photo above shows my first hour of painting. I blocked the objects in thinking this would be a practice piece, never to be seen outside the studio but after one hour of painting I already wanted to see it as a finished piece.

I continued painting and improved the composition by indicating a vase of flowers. This is about 3 hours worth of painting. I could see where I was headed and felt I would get lost without a map to remind me of my vision.

Next I made a map for myself. A mini pastel, 5.5 x 3.3 inches. The paper is so small and the pastel sticks so large in comparison that it was easy to get a loose, spontaneous feeling...exactly what I'm after in my oil work.

This is where I am now. The mini pastel sits on my oil easel next to the 14 x 11 inch oil painting I'm working on. I'm making progress but have a long way to go. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Mini-painting, Mini-price

P2019-1-27 Violet Road, pastel 3.5 x 5.5 inches

Available at mini-painting price on DailyPaintworks
Reference photo for P2019-1027 Violet Road

Matted and ready for a 5x7 standard frame. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Post gone astray

I started today's post with the intention of showing you my beautiful new set of Terry Ludwig 14 favorite violets and talk about a new series of paintings. But, I got side-tracked when photographing the pastels.

I am a stickler for accurate color representation of my art online. I photograph every piece of art with a Kodak color bar/gray scale and I spent a lot of time adjusting the color, value and saturation until it looks correct to me. I know it always photographs too blue but today I think I figured something out...

The top photo is me comparing the pastel set to my iMac display. As you can see, the display is way too blue. The bottom photo is much closer and actually looked even better in person than this photo does. Here's the Photoshop adjustment I made to get so much closer. Now, in theory, this should work on any photo I take, right? Note: this is the adjustment for my display, yours will be different.