Category Archives: Paintings in progress

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Rhapsody in blu… uhh, purple.

Rhapsody in blu… uhh, purple.

Just a quick post to bring you up to speed — I had a second stay in the hospital, shorter this time, with radiation pnumonitis. Suffice it to say that I haven’t been doing a lot of painting, rather, I’ve been focused on healing my lungs, hooked up to my trusty oxygen tank 24/7.

I was resigned to get back to the studio sometime in the fall, after my breathing got back to normal and our end of summer vacations were over. But then, someone dared to utter a challenge I couldn’t ignore. “I hope you are entering the portrait competition.”

Uh, well, no.

Yet how could I ignore this remark, made by the director of the gallery hosting the competition?

So, I went into high gear, with a little help from Taryn, my studio mate, who volunteered a previously painted canvas she had hanging around the studio, and Richard, who acted as photographer.

The concept is mine — it’s a self-portrait, conceived a few days after I was discharged from the hospital. The photo below is day two – first day of actual painting, blocking in the shadows and working on the composition. I’m eager to continue.

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Catching up …. again!

Catching up… again!

It seems this is what I do these days – play catch up on so many aspects of my life. But tis ok, it’s a good thing to have “aspects” right?

I have been out of play again from the studio, sidelined by a little medical thing, another bout of radiation to deal with some sneaky little cancer-y stuff that escaped the cage. The good news is that the radiation, after just 7 treatments, is shrinking those nasty bits to nada! I can already feel relief, which for me means increased feeling in my left arm, decreased swelling as well, and a chance to get off the steroids that I have been taking for pain.

And of course, all those things mean less time before I can get back to painting. YAY!

Which brings me to this post.

Before being sidelined I actually was making progress on “Bigfoot,” which is what I affectionately call my beach chair painting of my friend, Pam. And I had saved up some awesome in-progress photos to tell the tale step-by-step, with pithy comments about how I made the decision for that color and this color and why that brushstroke was angled so and why I used tape to get a straight line and yada yada yada.

Ain’t happening folks.

Why? Well for lots of reasons, but some of it is just that after so long I just don’t remember all those things! My poor brain is not only 60 years old but it has been made to mush by a wide variety of chemicals and medications – some of which I voluntarily (and happily) ingested myself back in the day, and some that have been prescribed over the years by actually medical doctors.

Then I had an idea! I could just post all the progress pictures, in random order, numbering them, and see how many of you could come up with the correct order! I could give away another print (except that I haven’t mailed Dan’s to him yet – sorry Dan, been a little busy) or three and see what happens! Make it fun! Make it interactive!

Never mind.

So what I’m going to do is post them here – IN ORDER – for you to see, probably over the next two posts, and if I can remember what caused me to make a certain decision, or add in any way to your experience of just seeing the progress of the work itself, I will write.

If there’s a blank on the page under the image, well there is a corresponding blank in the file folder in my brain that used to hold that info. It’s been emptied and/or erased, depending upon whether you prefer a digital or analog image of my poor, drug-addled grey-matter.

So here goes – first , a recap – here’s where we were when we left our precious beauty:

Oh, right, the “hand job.” Ok, well that was an unfortunate choice of titles, BUT, in my defense, it was accurate.

So here it was, as far as I’d gotten back in what? January? February? when? Oh dang, not that long ago actually, in April.


Just a teensy little bit of structure going into that hand, and a dot where a ring might go. Not a bad start.

And then, the next time I entered the studio, this is what I accomplished:

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Oh wait – that’s a nice little shot of the studio – clicked the wrong image, but I think I’ll leave it there.

Back to the paintings:

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The hand has gotten more human-like, I’ll give it that. Having a little trouble with the ring here as it is really difficult to see in the source photos, but I’ll make it work. (Or I’ll have Pam send it to me to paint from… hahahaha NOT!)


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LOTS of work on legs, arms, foot.

Look here! A mini-lesson!

This is the ever-so-important stage where you have to stand back and look at everything that is connected. You’ve undoubtedly painted everything at different times, and you CANNOT (no, sorry) CANNOT ever match perfectly the paint mix you used before unless you’ve saved it in a jar or tube (which I do for backgrounds, actually).

So this is where your critical eye comes into play. Stand back, and in your mind’s eye reconnect every part of the painting to it’s neighbor. You’ll see what to do.

Sometimes you have to change some colors, or add some warmth or light, or just clean up edges. But unless you want your painting to look like a cut-paper collage, this is one of the most important days you’ll have with your work. Pulling it together.

(Hmmmm, some brain cells have survived. Interesting.)

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Here I’ve moved over to the left side where the tones are much cooler. Working to add reflected light (see that gorgeous bit of pale violet under her arm? That’s reflected light from the ground and chair straps).

OK, end of that day. Got a lot done I see! I really wanted to finish this painting before my studio mate got back from her trip to Europe, and guess what – she’s back. I failed. Sorry Taryn. But you got engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower so what do you care?)

Next day:

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This was the day I decided to start making decisions about the background and treatment of the chair, and this actually shows quite a bit of progress, so I may be out of order.

A fun story from the studio:

Taryn (Alessandro, my talented and lovely “landlady” – you can see her work here: ) and I had just placed big orders to Dick Blick, and were excitedly sharing paints and colors and squeals of “wow would you look at that color!” when she saw a bit of a light grey violet I had on the palette – and she decided right there and then that it HAD to be my background color for the sky.

Hey, who am I to argue?

So that’s what it is. I haven’t been to the studio in a while but when I go back I’ll come back and give you the name and brand. It’s a gorgeous color!!

And do you know what the absolute coolest thing about using that color for the background is?

I don’t have to mix it, save it, and wonder if the mix will “hold” when it gets on the canvas.

Here’s a short little lesson on mixing paints, both brands and colors

Different manufacturers use different pigments and different oils and binders and different ratios of oil to pigment. That’s why you might say a Windsor & Newton ultramarine blue is “dryer” than a Gamblin, for example. Or why Daniel Green’s sap is very very oily, in fact so oily that when you squeeze it from the tube all the unincorporated oil makes a huge big puddle-y mess of your palette and shouldn’t that oil be back in the tube with the pigment? Not that I care.

I don’t buy one brand of paint. I would (and I would buy Gamblin) but I use a LOT of paint and I just can’t afford to ignore a great sale on a decent brand of paint.

So inevitably, I am going to be mixing brands. I try not to on my huge backgrounds, but even if I am using a single brand of two or three colors, chances are there is going to be a difference in the amount of oil used to bind each color.

If the two or three colors of paint aren’t thoroughly mixed with each other, and all the oil incorporated into the pigments evenly, you’re going to have sections of the painting that are shiny (the oil is sitting on top of the canvas) and sections that are flat (the oil has sunken in).

Now, if you are going to heavily glaze, varnish, or pour resin over a painting this isn’t a problem. But if you just want a protective layer of glaze, which is what I’ve been doing lately, you have to combat it.

I first found this little video tutorial at Gamblin’s website, but now they’ve moved their how-to videos to YouTube, so you can search for Gamblin and get them all. Here’s the one I watched, after writing to them and asking them what I should do. They call this phenomenon, “oiling out.”

It did work for me but I love the idea of not having to worry about it with this painting. THANKS TARYN!!!!

And, now on to what could be the finishing stretch if I were actually in the studio instead of sitting here on my bed looking longingly at pictures of it.

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Lots of finishing tweaks to the face, eyes, hair, ears, glasses, nose, forehead shadows, hat, neck, etc. etc. Not finished, but better. Taking shape. Sorry about the glare.

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Quite a bit of work here on the “yoga toes” – those plastic things you put between your toes to get a better grip when doing downward dog (I guess). And the bottom of the foot.

Oh how excited I am about the bottom of that foot! I am so so proud of it. Yes even I stand back sometimes and think, “wow,” I did that. This was one of those instances where it just flowed from me. Love it.

Oh, and the chair straps as well. Wow, I worked fast that day.

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Close-up of yoga toes, and people toes, which I also finished adding to that day.

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Worked  bit on the bathing suit, and really worked on the chair straps, and added the weighty shadows under the leg and foot. Basically folks, I tweaked everything!

And here is where I ended up. I’m really  looking forward to getting’ her done!

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Hmm, it seems more than a few brain cells have survived. I’ve impressed myself. Even threw a couple of mini-lessons in there for some added “meaty” content. Not bad.

Aaaaaaaaand I’m out of brain energy. Hope you enjoy – ask questions if you want, I’ll reply when I can.


A baaaaaad case of the uglies…

A baaaaaad case of the uglies…


With apologies to my subject, who shall remain nameless (she hasn’t figured it out yet, or if she has she’s not talking’) girl, you need some work done on your face!

My day at the studio was shorter than I’d planned, but I did manage to figure out the color palette for the lounge chair. I’m definitely beefing up the chroma in this series because I want the colors to really sizzle (chroma is another term for saturation or intensity, and is one of the three primary characteristics of color. The other two color characteristics of color are value and hue, which I’ll discuss in a later post).

You know how in bright sunny places people often paint their houses bright colors? I’ve always heard that the reason is because paler colors tend to get lost in the bright surroundings, and since these paintings are intended to represent bright and sunny places I want the colors to be vivid and bright as well. 

I painted some of the lightest areas of the chair, just to see how the blues I’ve chosen will go with the flesh tones – there will definitely be a variety of blues, greens, and turquoises in that chair to represent the varieties of light and shadows that are present.

The paint on the flash areas I painted yesterday was a bit too tacky to work in today, so I moved to the face.

(Note: While you can work on already-painted areas when they’re tacky it requires using enough medium in your paint to re-moisten the previous layer. Since I want thick, juicy paint, I’d prefer to let those areas dry a while longer so that I can paint without medium. If you paint without medium over a tacky surface it can get slick and you loose the surface “tooth” that grabs the paint and holds it in place.)

As often happens at this stage in my paintings the face needed to be redrawn. This is where measuring proportions is crucial to me. I use the old holding a paintbrush at the end of my arm technique to measure the relative sizes of various parts of the body, to ensure everything is in the correct proportion. (There’s a nice short article on how to measure using a paintbrush here.)

Yeah, I had squished her face down to almost two-thirds of its correct size, so working form the chin up I re-measured everything and made rough brush marks to build a roadmap for reference.

To remind you, here’s where I was with the face when I left the studio yesterday:

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And here is our subject after measuring and building a roadmap:


Lovely, isn’t she?

This might look like a hot mess to the rest of you but to me she is a thing of, well, perhaps not beauty but she does have all her streets and highways identified, as well as elevation gains and losses.

You’ll just have to trust me on this.

Later in the day she got a little easier to look at…


At least now she has a discernible mouth and nose, and the width of her face relates to its height correctly.

By the time I decided to move on she had achieved this state, ready for the next assault…er…painting session.


A fun challenge for me is going to be figuring out how to show the portion of her face that is deep in shadow. Those teeth are going to drive be bat-poop crazy at some point, too.

Once I got to this point I felt I had the face blocked in enough to let her dry a bit, so I moved to dessert, next.


And boy was it good!

Aloha, and have a great weekend!

Back to business…

Back to business…


Today was a glorious day for me because I GOT TO PAINT!! Hurray!!

So many things have been happening in my personal life that I thought it would be another week or so before I could get back to the studio full time, but the planets aligned and the gods smiled and the priestess conjured up the right ghosts and I was able to get back to my work.

I was VERY eager to get to the studio this morning. There was this painting waiting for me, yes, but there was something else waiting for me in the studio that I cold not wait to get my hands on. THIS:


NO, it is NOT a mouse, it is the teensiest, tiniest itty bitty kitty in the world, and her name is Coconut.


Wittle, er, ahem, LITTLE Coconut was rescued by my studio mate’s friends’s dog, who came trotting into their house with her in his mouth. He was holding her oh-so-carefully, apparently, and laid her on the ground. She was tinier still, only days old, with her witt, little eyes shut tight. The dog’s name was Mango, so of course they named her Coconut.


They brought her to Taryn, my studio mate, because they knew she would take extra special care of the wee kitty. And, as you can see from the picture above, that she is indeed.

I tried to feed Coconut this morning and she was very difficult to manage. Apparently while feeding her you also have to provide her some paw stimulation so she can pretend she’s kneading and suckling her mom. (Mosura does this to me on a regular basis, so I am familiar.)

So there you go. Your unbearably cute photos for the day. And you didn’t even need to go to Facebook to see them. I live to please.

(Thank you Taryn for the photos, and the kitty.)

I thought that Coconut would be a distraction in the studio but she sleeps about 23 hours a day, so I was actually able to get some work done.

I began the morning learning how to paint flesh again (remember, if you paint every day you won’t have this problem – do as I say, etc. etc.)

I worked on the thigh that I had begun last week, and I realized I was getting tighter and tighter with my brushwork – smoothing everything out. I tend to do this when I haven’t painted for a while – I don’t like it, but I just couldn’t stop myself. That’s why the thigh on the left looks like this:


See how there are no discernible brush strokes? I don’t consider myself a photo-realist, so I usually aim for a looser surface, with livelier brushwork.

Yeah, well, I can fix that, but I knew I had to move on. I took a little break with Taryn and we talked about an upcoming event, Maui’s Open Studio event in February, in which we will be showing (hopefully, for me) new work. When she reminded me that we need to get to planning, I realized that I have very few weeks left, so I sat down and furiously painted in the other leg. IT has some brushwork, yeah man! It is a long way from finished but you’ll see the difference, here:


MUCH better. Perhaps I should have Taryn remind me of our deadline everyday before I put brush to canvas!


I quickly blocked in the other flesh areas, and tomorrow I will give them the once over, and hopefully loosen up the brushwork on that other leg.

For sure I will be doing some serious kitty cuddling!







Man in red speedo and sweater walking over boardwalk leaving beach, bright blue sky

And… and I’m… I’m real…

And… and I’m… I’m real…

“Pinocchio: And… and I’m… I’m real. I’m a real boy! 
Geppetto: You’re alive! And… and you are a real boy!”

Back in March I wrote a two-part post about coming to grips with calling myself an artist with a capital “A.”  Without going back over the all the angst I have felt over the years I can tell you it was directly related to my use of photography as the basis for my subject matter.

I thought I was a hack, and I didn’t want to be a hack. I loved to paint people; not necessarily portraits, but people doing everyday things. I loved the Impressionists, but I just couldn’t see myself hiring a bunch of models and posing them in ways that emulated everyday life (I didn’t have the budget or the interest, really). So I continued to base my slice-of-life paintings on photographs – first old photos of my family, and then, increasingly, on photos I took myself.

At first I would manipulate the images using the technology I had on hand: a copier, tracing paper, my sketchbook, pencils, and scissors to copy, cut, and manipulate the images. Then I discovered photo-editing software and that made it a hell of a lot easier, but it increased my level of guilt for having “cheated” somehow.

Oh lordie! I was raised a Catholic so the guilt thing was a bottomless pit!

To try to alleviate my guilt I searched years for evidence that the use of photography made me no less a “real” artist than those who painted entirely from life. I suppose if I hadn’t fallen asleep in all of my college art history classes I would have learned about the use of photography and saved myself all that grief (I still fall asleep in darkened movie theaters — a habit that severely disturbs my husband – but I digress).

The first book I found (this was waaaaaaaay before the internet so I was searching libraries and book stores) that made me feel somewhat better was Beyond Impressionism: The Naturalist Impulse by Edwin Becker and Gabriel P. Weisberg. I studied that book like a hawk, bookmarking pages and showing it to everyone I could corral – I wanted the world to know that, “hey, lookie here – these painters used PHOTOGRAPHS!”

It was a form of validation.

Another, more recent book that made it to my shelf in my search for validation is David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters (2002). In it Mr. Hockney (somehow I can call Eric Fischl Eric, but Hockney is British, so he will always be Mr. Hockney to me) analyzes Old Master’s techniques and claims that in order to obtain some of the spectacular accuracy in their paintings they must have used optical aids, such as camera lucidas and camera obscuras.

The fact that there is controversy regarding his theory makes perfect sense to me. I have had that same damn argument going on in my less-than-scholarly brain for decades. “Using photos and aids = bad! What about talent, technique, and plain old skill?” vs. “using photos and aids = ok cause they don’t make a painting by themselves – painters make paintings and these are just tools, much like my pre-technology copier and scissors.”

Shut up, brain!

Then in late 2012 The San Jose Museum of Art in California produced a show of Eric Fischl’s art entitled “Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting.” I didn’t see it. I should have. Some of you may know he is one of my painting heroes, not just because he uses photos as a basis for his work, nor because he uses technology to help him do so, but more because he is a painter’s painter – he paints with big, juicy brush strokes that tell you just how much he loves to move paint around on the canvas. I also love that he is so transparent – he is so generous with his knowledge and his processes – seemingly ego-less.

There is a nice short video clip from an interview he did for the exhibit in which he discusses his process, and talks about (oh how I love him for this) how ironic it is that he now uses the very newest forms of technology to help him produce one of the most primitive forms of expression.

LOVE that perspective.

My self-esteem has come a long way since the mid-70′s when I was nodding off in Art History classes, and while I am not ashamed to say that I take, manipulate, use, and sometimes even PROJECT (gasp!) photographic images onto my canvases, I still somehow want to stand up and shout “I’m REAL!” whenever I come across evidence that new or old masters have used photography or other technology to create their work.

So how’s this for an exercise in meeting one’s demons head-on – in the interest of my own transparency, and since this is a blog about my workday, I thought I’d share some of the the work that happens outside my studio, before I ever lift a canvas onto my easel. (Please refrain from laughing at my pathetic use of PhotoShop when you see these.)

The main subject photo:


Another, similar photo from which I “stole” the feet missing in the first photo:


The final composition on which the final painting is based:


These three images ended up, collectively, as this painting of my brother: “Baby Oil and Iodine.”


For the next painting all I wanted to do was to skew the perspective, so it was a much simpler process: open photo in PhotoShop, play with perspective in “skew” mode, and click Save.

Original image:

Last Man

Skewed image:


Finished painting:


In this example I removed a third bridesmaid from the middle of the image


to make this painting:

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Finally, a more complex example, which will never be made into a painting. Not only did I combine a couple of images, I also started experimenting with location and backgrounds, and it just never felt right, so I put it aside.

First, the original image I thought had elements of an interesting painting:


Next, another subject (happens to be me – the man above is Richard, my husband):


Experimenting with combining subjects, deleting background, adding backgrounds and I still couldn’t make this one work well enough to try to put it on canvas.





So there you have it – I’ve no more secrets – yet. Well, maybe one or two, but really, there is no way that I could make the paintings that I want to make if I didn’t have the kind of technology we have available today. It just makes things so much easier and faster. And I really, truly, would prefer to get this part of the work over with as quickly as possible (as you can see I am not exactly an enthusiastic aficionado of photo-editing) so that I can spend more time doing what I really, truly, love to do, and that is pushing paint around on the canvas.

Aloha for now, and let’s say it, all together now…

I. AM. REAL!!!


P.S. There is an excellent article, actually a review of the catalog for the exhibition Illusions of Reality: Naturalist Painting, Photography, Theatre and Cinema, 1875 – 1918 at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2010, on the “Naturalist School,” as it was called in the first Paris salon in which paintings of this ilk appeared, which you can read here.