Category Archives: Painting tips




I often tell my students – every painting has at least one “fail” day. That’s the day you swear to yourself that you’ve completely forgotten how to paint, or that your painting sucks, or you suck (either as a painter or, if the painting is REALLY failing, as a person), and that you and/or your art will never amount to anything.

Today was one of those days for moi.

I used to blame it on not being in the studio enough, but I’ve been in the studio every day this week except yesterday. So it’s just me. Part of my process.

I’m lucky. I have a guy living with me who can remind me, when I’m bitching about my painting day, that it’s all part of the process, that I go through this on every single painting I make, and that I should just be thankful that it’s already over and done with so I can move on.

If you’re alone with your painting hell, it’s not that easy.

So I am here to personally remind you that you and/or your painting WILL fail one day. You’ll forget how to paint, or how to glaze, or how to draw.

Let yourself fail. In fact, CELEBRATE your failure. Its over now, and you can move on.

Perhaps you’ll have another fail day, and that’s ok too – it will then be over as well.

If you need any more encouragement to celebrate your failures, remember what our mothers used to say – “every time you fail you learn something.”

So learn from yours, even if what you learn is just the fact that you WILL fail.

Now, please excuse me – I am going to go and drink a toast to my failed day with Richard.


Related articles

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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:

Image 7

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!)


Image 22

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.)

Image 11

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:

Image 15

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.

Image 27

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!

Image 25

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.


Why a paintbrush is like an Hershey Almond bar, and NOT a camel’s hair coat…

camel hairWhy a paint brush is like a Hershey Almond bar and NOT like a camel’s hair coat…

One of the most expensive things we painters invest in is the almighty paintbrush. We’ve been told, always, by instructors and mentors and magazines and how-to videos and brand brochures, “Buy the best brush you can afford, take good care of it and it will last you forever.”

Yeah, well, my opinion is that’s just a bunch of hooey being launched at us by people who own brush companies and want us to buy their expensive products. Sorry, I just do. I mean, look at it this way:

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s we were told the same thing about clothing. Buy the best you can afford —  cashmere sweater, camel’s hair coat —  and if you take good care of it it will last forever.

Well, DUH!

Of COURSE it will. You’re not dipping cashmere or god forbid your camel’s hair coat in a mixture of minerals and oils and chemicals and then using a different mixture of minerals and oils and chemicals to clean it are you?

NO! You’re wearing that camel’s hair coat to an appropriate event where there will be lots of other camel’s hair coats. The minute you walk in your front door after said event you will retrieve a wooden hanger over which you have laid archival, non-staining tissue paper and then you will put the coat on the hanger and gently brush it, with the grain using a natural bristle boars’ hair brush before placing the now properly prepared coat into a not-too-overstuffed closet.

And that coat, I guarantee you, will last you forever. Far past the days when camel’s hair coats were in style, and it will end up in an up-scale vintage shop where some impossibly skinny girl in her 20’s will “oo” and “awe” over it, purchase it, and then dump it in the bottom of her closet along with her collection of beaded dresses and fur pieces from the forties.

But brushes? Come on, tell me the truth. How many painters do you know who give such thoughtful care to their natural boars’ hair brushes after a long day of painting? Oh yeah? Well, let me give you one word: ASSISTANT!

And let me give you one image that should serve to make my point better than any thousand-word essays I could write on the topic:


Lucien Freud’s studio.

Yeah, he’s taking seriously good care of those brushes, don’t you think?

This is just my way of saying, if you are NOT going to treat your brushes like a vintage camel’s hair coat, the price is NOT important.

What is important is that you like painting with the brush. It’s important that the brush performs the way you want it to, that it lays down great big fat juicy strokes when you want it to and allows you to roll it into a tiny little point for detail work, if that’s what you want.

The best way to find out what brush works best for you is to try out a lot of them, and you can’t do that if you’re paying $25 for a #2 round. Buy 6 $3 rounds of different brand and try them out. Better still, buy a $3 round, a $3 filbert, a $3 flat, a $3 bright, and a $3. fan brush and try them all out!

There are many types of artists’ brushes from hundreds of different manufacturers, each with a dozen different lines and a host of different levels of quality, from hand-tied natural hair brushes to cheap synthetic brushes made in huge factories.

Walking into an art supply store these days is literally like walking into a candy store for me. I NEVER, EVER leave an art store without purchasing at least one brush. Much as I never, ever leave a grocery store or Quickie Mart without a Hershey Almond bar. It’s a habit and I know it and its probably not good for me but I do it anyway.

hersheybarBut unlike the candy aisle where the Hershey bar just screams out at me “pick me! pick me!, the brush aisle at the art store is confusing as HELL.

So let me break it down for you a little.

There is a lot of great information out there on the web about artist paintbrushes and how they are made, the difference between natural and synthetic, the difference between price points, so I’m not going to try to recap that all here. I’ve had it in my brain once and it has all seeped out and so I’d just have to go look it up again and type it here, and that’s a waste of my time and yours. I’m also assuming you know your way around a handle, a ferrule, and a bristle, so if you don’t, google them, and we’ll wait right here for you to educate yourself. Ready? Good, ok, here are some links:

Art is Fun Paintbrush Guide
This is a nice little guide to paint brushes, written for acrylic but it will also explain an a no-nonsense way what makes different paintbrushes, well, different. (Note – the author also doesn’t buy expensive brushes.)

Artist Brushstrokes
Here is a chart showing you this author’s perspective on synthetic vs natural hair brushes. 

Answers.Yahoo also has a post on the subject of synthetic vs. natural bristles

Then there are sizes and shapes to consider. Size is rather self-explanatory – if you are making a small mark you need a small brush, right? (Unless you work with filberts, which I do, and about which I will be writing below.)

I am not going into all the shapes here either, because frankly, I think they are pretty self-explanatory as well, but I did find this nice chart by MisterArt that explains things a bit.

Seriously, I don’t know what all these brushes are really for, because I have found ONE shape of brush that does almost 100% of the work for me: the filbert.

The filbert is both round and flat and neither. It is wide and narrow and neither. It is, in my opinion, the most versatile brush out there. Meet Mr. Filbert:


Mr Filbert is a nicely shaped brush with a long handle and a long ferrule, making it an ideal brush for oil painters. (Oil painting brushes are traditionally long handled to enable the painter to stand back from the canvas while painting. Perhaps the manufacturers believe we oil painters have better eyesight than watercolor artists – who knows? But watercolor brushes are short-handled, and the bristles are softer, so don’t buy them for oil.)

The end of the filbert is not straight across, instead the bristles have been gathered into a subtly rounded shape with a flat area in the middle, sort of like what you get when you tell the nail artist “rounded, not square,” for your manicure. Even the cheapest artist-quality brushes don’t have bruises that are cut after being gathered – each bristle is hand-placed by the brush maker, which is why, when you cut your brush bristles to try to reshape them, it never works. Sorry.

The beauty of this brush is that because of the round edges you can pick up paint and roll this brush almost into a point, so if you are suddenly faced with having to place a narrow stroke on your painting you don’t have to go to all the trouble of choosing a different brush and loading it with paint again. You just roll the filbert and voila! A point of sorts.

Now obviously if you need a really FINE point you’re going to need to change brushes but 99 times out of ten you can get by with the filbert you have in your hand. Cool, eh?

I highly recommend trying out a few different sizes of filberts if you haven’t already.

OK, now, even cheap brushes should be cleaned on a regular basis, Lucien Freud notwithstanding. And here’s where I go all crazy and head-over-heals at the art supply industry because there is really just ONE thing you need to adequately clean brushes you use everyday (more about exotic brushes and their care in a later post).


As you know, the manufacturer’s of Ivory Soap, Proctor & Gamble (from my home town, Cincinnati Ohio) have recommended hundreds of different uses for Ivory Soap, just a few of which are listed on the wrapper.


In fact, I’ll bet the little artists in all of us had some fun using Ivory Soap back in the day.


But back to brushes. I’ll bet a lot of you have spent time swirling your dirty brushes around in this product:


Oh the money I have spent on Old Master’s Brush Cleaner over the years! I could replace my brush collection tenfold! But guess what? Ivory does the exact same thing!

So I’m about to save you a ton of money, and help you get your brushes really clean without hurting them.

First, every day, clean your brushes with OMS (odorless mineral spirits, or terpenoid, or whatever you are using as your drying medium. I will be typing OMS here). You should be using some kind of can with an insert in it, such as this: caninsertforcleaning

or a cleaner can with a built-in insert such as this:


(Although I have to say I despise the can above as it is really difficult to get the insert out of the can once you’ve used is say, 1000 times.)

Or, you can buy one of these jars made for silicone cleaner, just don’t buy the silicone cleaning fluid (it stinks to high heaven, anyway).


You could even use an old washboard in your sink – what you’re trying to achieve is a rather rough surface over which to draw your brush. Not TOO rough – a scrub brush would not be advisable. Some hardware cloth cut to fit inside a mason jar would work just fine.

After the end of each painting session swirl your brush around in OMS and draw it over the grid, or coil, or whatever, until you’ve cleaned the brush of most of the loose paint. Wipe your brush often, using a clean part of your cloth each time. Once the cloth looks clean, you can put your brushes away for another day of painting, IF you are coming back to the studio in a day or two.

This next part is important: LAY YOUR BRUSHES FLAT TO DRY. Some palettes have little built-in shelves on which to put your handle so that the bristles lay at a slight angle – doesn’t matter, just do NOT do this:


What happens if you toss your brushes bristle side up into a can to dry? Well, the liquid in your brush – OMS, oil, gel medium, whatever, will slip down into the ferrule, and stay stuck there. That’s why you end up getting those thickened ferrules that look like this:

dirtyferrulebrushSee the difference between the brush on the left and the brush on the right? The brush on the left has kept every bit of medium and paint you have allowed to drip down into it in that area just above the ferrule, rendering the brush practically useless.

Ain’t no way to fix it, friends. No can do. I’ve seen people try to separate the bristles with a knife and that’s going to do nothing but make matters worse, so throw the brush away or use it for some other purpose.

Instead, do this:


Either lay your brushes on the edge of a can or lay them flat on your palette with a soft cloth covering them and let them dry.

There’s one other thing you can do – you can hang them, like this, to dry as well. You can also use those little coils things to hang then handle side-up as well.


No matter which method you’ve used to dry them, I’m assuming that you have avoided the nasty ferrule collecting by not standing your brushes handle-side up to dry. So now it’s the end of a week’s worth of painting and you aren’t going to be in the studio for a few days so you want to give those brushes a really good cleaning. Here’s what you do.

Tale those semi-clean brushes that you’ve cared for all week over to the sink along with your bar of ivory soap and a clean cloth (I use painter’s rags – paper towels leave lint on just about everything, including brush bristles).

Hold the bar of Ivory in your hand, wet your brush with lukewarm (never hot – hot water will dissolve the glue in the ferrule) and start to swirl the brush around. Try not to dig the bristles down into the bar, just gently swirl in an circular motion. Rinse the brush under lukewarm water, and swirl again. As long as the suds you are producing have color in them your brush is not clean. Keep going until you have nice white suds, then rinse the brush again really well under lukewarm water.

Lay the brush down on the soft cloth and squeeze the water out until the brush is semi-dry, and lay it down, or hang it, to dry.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. And I guarantee that if you do the daily cleaning (which takes about 5 minutes, if that) and then clean your brushes with ivory soap when you’re not going to using them for a while, you will preserve your brushes as well as if you were buying all the expensive brush cleaners and gadgets tat the art supply store want to sell you.

Oh, and a couple of other things I should mention.

dawnNever, ever use Dawn dish detergent (or any dish detergent, really) for cleaning your brushes. Why? well you know how Dawn does such a wonderful job of getting the grease out of your dirty pots and pans? Yep. It works like a charm.

But clean your artist’s brushes with Dawn and you are going to have a dried-out brush. Dawn attacks the natural oils in your brush bristles the same way it attacks grease on your pots and pans. Clean them with Dawn enough times and you’ll have a collection of stiff, dried out brushes that don’t flow well and certainly won’t roll to a point.

lavaAlso – never use Lava soap. Sure, Lava will get dried out paint out of your brushes, but the grit that Lava contains will also work like sandpaper to grind off your bristles. Wash your hands with Lava, your dishes with Dawn, and your brushes with Ivory Soap.

So there you have it. If you care for your brushes, really, this takes just minutes a day, you can buy the cheapest brushes you can afford and make them last just as long as the more expensive types.

Thanks for reading, and Aloha!


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:

IMG_5346 copy

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!