Sunday, September 26, 2010


The excess pastel dust (all colors mixed together) from my paintings falls into an aluminum-foil gutter attached to my easel. When I cleaned my easel this week, I poured the dust from the gutter onto a glass palette that is usually used for mixing oil paint, added water and mixed it well with a palette knife to the consistency of stiff peanut butter. Next, I sprayed a clean area of the glass with water and laid down a piece of plastic wrap (the water keeps the wrap from moving around). I scooped up the pastel-blob with the palette knife and plopped it onto the wrap. I picked up two opposing edges of the wrap and rolled the blob side-to-side forming a little log.  I left it on the plastic wrap to dry.

A few days later, when it was thoroughly dry, I compared the muted gray/green color to the color of pastels I already had. Schmincke 093 H is darker and a Rembrandt color is lighter and has more yellow in it. I love my homemade color and plan to use it in my next painting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

waiting frames

I thought someone might be interested to see how I store pastel paintings that are waiting to be framed.

Paintings that are complete are attached at the top edge onto archival foam core, matted (with foam core spacer painted black along the window-edge) and glass is laid over the mat. Bubble wrap corners hold the whole thing together while the painting is waiting for the frame. Additional paintings that I either haven't gotten around to sandwiching, or am not sure I'm done painting on, hang from pants-hangers along a closet rod in the corner of my studio.

I have nine paintings here waiting for frames. The last time I framed a group of paintings was May of this year so I guess I frame about twice a year except for emergencies.

An example of an emergency is having a painting accepted into a show and then finding out that, with a mat around it, it exceeds the maximum size limit (a reminder to read the prospectus carefully). I had to reframe the painting without a mat which I would like to continue doing, but I can't seem to get used to the look of my work without a mat around it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

added color

It poured down rain all day today as I painted in my studio. Maybe that's why this scene is more colorful than the subdued hues I talked about in my last post - the one with the reference photo.  Overall, I think it is improved but it isn't as loose as the plein air version and loose is good. If you want to see the workshop version, scroll down to August 3.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

starting again, again

The second day of the Handell workshop started with an overcast morning. Loaded with plein air gear, I wandered around looking for my morning painting spot. Just off the road I found dry, sleepy grasses in beautiful subdued colors. A few hours later, in full sun, the grasses became boldly upright and crisp with lots of hard edges. I liked my painting from that morning but, once again, I consider it workshop work so today I hosed it down to the ghost image to begin again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

being there

As in the reference photo, the sky is blue, there is a tree on the left, Queen Anne's lace in the foreground and a wheat field in the distance.

When I painted this scene plein air, I interpreted literally but in the studio with only the reference photo to remind me, I found myself remembering the total experience of being there, not just the scene before me. The hot blue sky, the dry meadow foliage around me and crunching under my feet, the expansive beauty of this place (painter Amanda Houston's home). I like the fairly realistic tree as a place for the viewer to enter the painting but from there, the path is to the right into abstracted distant trees and then back to flower heads in the meadow. For now, "Wheat Field and Meadow" is safe from the garden hose.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

starting again

Today I hosed off my painting from the first day of the Handell workshop last month. The charcoal lines and a little pastel color is the "ghost" that remains. Also, here is the reference photo (see the edge of my easel far right?). I'm going to try the scene again. Realistic or abstracted landscape? Not sure yet. I washed the work away rather than finishing the painting because it occurred to me that I would always have to keep this painting separate in my inventory as a piece that was done under workshop guidance and therefore not eligible for competitions.

Monday, September 13, 2010

tidal marsh revisted

Last month I rotated art at Attic Gallery in Portland, Oregon and brought back a painting that was based upon a reference photo my husband took of a tidal marsh. I decided to rework it and when I unframed it, I found several inches of unpainted Wallis paper at the top and bottom. A painting that used to be 10.5 x 18 has become an abstracted landscape inspired by the first painting but larger. The image now measures 15 x 19 inches.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

infinite possibilities

There I am on pages 42-47 of the October 2010 issue of The Pastel Journal - Yay! Opening pages show an original painting and how it looked reworked once and then again when it finally became "Summer Song in Blue" (shown recently in the Great Lakes Pastel Society Show.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Here is the finished painting that I have been posting in progression for several days. I enjoyed taking this from a very conservative landscape (washed it off, turned it upside down and began again) to a colorful abstracted work. The steps I have posted will give you an idea of my preferred way of working - perhaps it is unusual but it keeps me interested. "Time after Time" 11 x 15 inches.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


An afternoon of painting changed this scene quite a bit. It would be easy to stop now because I am satisfied with the overall mood, color transitions and relationships that make this foundation. But, as with a good story, it is missing the "hook" that will catch the viewer's interest and hold it long enough for further exploration of the image. To help me decide what to do next, I will look at this image in grayscale on my computer. It needs some push and pull, some conflict. I have to think...this is the hard part.

Friday, September 3, 2010


For about an hour I just played around. The areas I lifted off are gone, they served only to get me started. I applied pastel, brushed some of it off, put a different color or value in the same place - or someplace else. This is the fun part because it is a big mess with nothing but potential - but already I have some favorite areas that I want to save. As those areas become more precious to me, I'll try to make the rest of the painting work with them...and if they are holding the painting back, I'll have to get rid of them. For now I will turn it to the wall so I'm not tempted to do anything to it until I can set aside a few hours to bring this painting closer to resolution.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

looking for clues

I begin to look for clues - a color, shape or texture might suggest what I could do next. With a stiff brush dipped in water in one hand and a paper towel in the other hand, I begin to lift the red watercolor off the paper in selected small places within the focal area. Lift, blot, lift, blot. I also lift color to play with the shape on the left that suggests a tree. Next, with a beautiful blue (B120) Terry Ludwig pastel I add an area that might be a sky and an area that might be water. I know the name of the color only because I just got his small box of ultramarine blues and they are still in order. What I've done may stay, go, or change in some way...I don't know yet.