Monthly Archives: January 2011

More Pastel Dust…

I have this affection for the theater and for dance maybe because my great-aunt danced and probably because my daughter danced from grade 1 through college.  It was always fun to work on sets and create posters for the productions and then last year my fellow accomplice and dance professor/dance producer Idalee Hutson Fish, kicked it  up a notch.  Going back to posts from April last year you can see the statues of the Muses of Apollo that we created.  So…we  discussed the possibilities of using real paintings as back drops for scenes.  The cost of renting back drops is very expensive; they aren’t original, etc…so Ida found out that some ballet companies – in Russia, I believe, were using projection of images as the back drop.  Now I am thinking this is going to be difficult because as I understood magnification, the larger you make an image, the more it is going to lose detail and become fuzzy.  Ida said, no, it will be fine.  Ok…I still don’t get how my 9×12 inch painting is going to be stretched across 30 feet of stage and still look decent.  WELL, it works with the help of a couple of cool guys who are AV specialists.  I sat up in the balcony of Cordiner Hall on Whitman College Campus today and saw it happen!  No one else is using this for their productions and it is quite magical.  I am excited to take daughters and granddaughters to the production tomorrow night and let them see…most importantly that they witness the talent of the dancers and magic of the Snow White production – not the Disney version….more the Brothers Grimm version and then appreciate the designs behind it all.

January 30, 2011 and it’s the day after the Snow White production.  The show was a huge success with nearly a full house and a stage full of dancers in various stages of their learning…from the tiny bunnies that hopped and did beginning dance steps to the Pointe dancers, skilled in years of instruction.  The images for the back drops worked well.  The snow scene was a painting of a few years ago and is one that I chose to keep.  It is a snowy scene from an area  close by with a lake beyond the trees and the Blue Mountains hidden as well.  Ida liked the image and asked if I would do something similar in a summer scene.  I painted the summer scene fairly easily using the winter one as a guide, making some subtle changes that would be believable from seasonal changes.  Knowing that the great detail of the paintings wouldn’t be visible, I was able to spend less time on detail and focus on color that could be altered somewhat with stage lights.  The dwarf’s house interior  painting is the one that appears the least finished…and it is because what would make up the contents of the rest of the rom are stage props in 3-D a dwarf’s’  bed, etc.   The table is small compared to a large fireplace and all seems a little quirky unless you would have seen the production.  The image of the arches was used mostly in subdued lighting and was almost sepia colored (the arches).  They gave the dance scenes in the great hall an immense and castlelike feeling.





          One of the coolest things with the production was the mirror to which the evil queen would ask “who is the fairest of them all?”  Gary Fish constructed this 10-12 foot frame with complex corners only fit for a queen in her castle.  They then found spandex type material in a silver and affixed three columns of the fabric vertically in the frame, overlapping the fabric slightly.  Through these openings dancers would come forth onto the stage or a “Mask”  would appear at the end of an arm from behind the mirror.  As the stage lights changed; the mirror seemed to glisten and almost pulsate with life.  It was a magical prop, in deed!  Of course there were some sort of funny moments in the visualization of this production.  One afternoon Ida and I spent some time looking at clips of the various “Snow White” productions that were out on YouTube, on video, etc.  Trust me there are some quite disturbing interpretations and some that are really spectacular!  When we talked about the mirror and the frame for it and the amount of fabric needed, I calculated the fabric based on sq feet and not sq yard.  Fortunately the correct amount of fabric was ordered, otherwise, I think Ida may have mummified me in about 10 yards more of the fabric that wasn’t needed.  The moment I realized my error I am sending messages to every electronic device she has to hopefully intercept the ordering of extra fabric.  Our work time together is great and it is a joy to see how it all comes together.

So from a technical standpoint…the pastels imaged well.  We used fine resolution for the images in about a 1500 pixel width and a dpi of 250.  As proof of what the AV gurus were able to do with stage lighting, keeping the column, for instance, in a pretty neutral color worked well.  The original image sizes were 12×9 inches and in the future I would probably do these in a 16×8 format to make the image more backdrop size without having to crop.’

It is a fun project to work with performing arts for a change and to stretch your imagination and do something whimsical once in a while – such as the poster design for this show.  We don’t have to be serious, nose to the grindstone pastelists all th time…it’s good to get out and play!!!

The next post will talk about and show some 6×6″ paintings and winter painting…since that is what we are seeing these days!…happy painting…


More pastel dust

Painting is a passion for certain.  I can paint any time – when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am perturbed…it doesn’t matter.  What matters is, regardless of how I am feeling going into my work space, once I am there, I am grounded and ready to paint.  I rarely get painters block and am unable to produce..  I have learned when I start struggling with a painting, I put it aside and either start something else or go do some crafty project that keeps me creative, but in a totally different vein.

This is the month of “Art-a-Day” with the 509 Art Group.  I am staying on task with that, doing something artlike each day; some days more than one.  some days it is a small painting, a creative art card, a collage or a backdrop for the Snow White production.

I have made several trips to the Seattle area and have several more to go with the Northwest Pastel Society Group.  5 hours driving each way lets me see I-82 and I-90 byways in many different settings.  There are so many changes depending on the time of day, the weather, etc that every trip is different.  thankfully…  Last week coming back to Walla Walla, I noticed the willow trees along the various rivers are starting to get that vivid orange that is just a dynamite color.  What a contrast to a couple of weeks earlier when nearly everything was some shade of white!  Moral of the story – always carry your camera because the same scene can change drastically depending on time, temperature, weather, etc.

This painting is from a spot north of Walla Walla where the wheat fields go on forever, it seems.  there are beautiful sunsets throughout the year and I wanted to capture one in a panoramic view…the focus is the sky; the field is tilled, waiting for its next planting.  Fields and sky are some of the beauty in this valley.  I love the fields and they go on and on through pretty rough terrain and up the gentle slopes of the Blues.   When you run out wheat fields  you find old fields that have been put into the CRP project and let be in native grasses.  I am sure the wildlife love these fields, but it seems they (the fields) always look old and tired as the grasses seem to dry quickly and turn yellow and gray.  The planted fields go through very diverse changes over the year in color and texture.  During the winter the fields have been seeded with winter wheat mostly and you immediately know which ones are because they are a bright, near Kelly green in January!  The fields that are rich, dark brown in color are waiting for their planting in early spring for spring wheat, oats, maybe barley or peas, etc.

A good reason to carry a camera.  This shot was done within the city limits of Spokane.  I have painted a variation of this before and love the scene.  I have doing some 6×6 and 4×6 images specifically for a couple of galleries who have requested small works and felt this one deserved a square format which I like to paint.  But the point is…you just never know when and where you might spy that scene that takes your breath away and that’s when you want your camera to record some semblance of that moment!

I just finished the backdrops for the Snow White production.  It will be fun to see those images projected for various scenes of the dance production.  I won’t post those images until after the show just to help keep with the mystery of the production!

I have to say, with the wide use of social media, there is so much more exposure to great art than ever before!  The art blogs that I follow are fabulous to say nothing of the artist’s pages and links on Facebook.  Sandy Askey-Adams, a painter from the east coast hosts several Facebook pages that have really great discussion boards and artists can post images of their work.  Also there are many opportunities to  enter online shows.   Some charge an entry fee, some don’t.   Some have great awards.  It is just a whole new deal for artists and it is pretty exciting!  There are sites that are virtual art galleries. is one.  There is a broad variety of style and medium.  And there is much more…for another time perhaps….

happy painting….

Pastel Dust…

This is the 5th painting in the Art-A Day project.  I used Wallis paper and really wanted to  try to get that soft hazy sort of feeling.  I used some red for an under painting to bring some interesting texture into the fields of weeds or flowers.  The actual image is about 4″x7″ and I used mostly Sennelier pastels on this one with the Mungyo semi-hard pastels for my underpainting.   My goal for any of my paintings is to paint a story…the viewer’s story…something like this… the foreground has to be dense in appearance – as blooming weeds grow…like when you’re a kid and are trying to walk through them, it is an effort to make  your way because there are so many and they are so thick.  then to add to my vision…it is mid summer, late in the day and it’s humid and still hot… and you out walking in the pasture, just killing time, looking for “flowers” and rocks or other treasures you might come upon.  Looks like there might be a storm brewing on the horizon and maybe you should get home pretty soon.  Your house looks pretty small in the distance, because you been our wandering for a while and it’s going to take you a little while to get back there because the damn weeds are thick and getting wound up around your legs and your feet… 

Another project…the finished poster for Snow White for the Dance Center in Walla Walla.  Idalee owns this company and produces something fabulous every year plus another production or two from Whitman College where she is a professor of dance.  We have some more back drop work to do but I wanted to share the poster now.

We had the pleasure last night to have our friends, the Millers for dinner.  They are a wonderful family we have known for some 13-14 years and we enjoy them a lot.  Their son is very talented in music and he brought with him a painting he had done which was very cool.  Jule has been exploring some collage techniques using transfer techniques and has done some amazing things.  I have tried doing some of the transfer stuff and it isn’t all that easy.  She had done one of some fonts and image of an old typewriter that was really cool.   I had recently read some articles about doing transfers and love how they look…It is a great thing for collages because you can layer images for some interesting texture.  Jule is a writer and we have talked briefly about doing a kids book(s).  One of those things…a great idea, but…when??  IT was delightful to spend an evening with them and Morrie our Schnoodle was really excited to have a little boy to play “soccer” with.  Morrie finally gave up in exhaustion…not easily done.  Good job Nate.  Besides the great evening, a little note on art framing…Byron hadn’t seen any of my new work, so he spent quite a bit of time looking at the new paintings I have hanging around the house waiting to go to a gallery.  He kept saying they look so different and brighter and finally I pointed out to him that the ones he was remarking on and really loving were ones that were in plein air frames without any matting.  I said that to him, and that I thought framing without mats makes them seem more “oil painterly” and he decided that might be it.  Even though he liked several that had mats, he seemed always drawn to the ones without and that are framed with the big wide moulding.  So that is perhaps a good affirmation that the plein air frames and pastels unmatted are a good sell!

So with that said…happy painting….

By the way…a dinner item was Green Chili Stew…simply done with a whopping taste….give it a try!  boil 3 chicken breasts in salted water (about 8 cups) til done.  Remove the chicken from the water.  To the water add 2-3 large potatoes in generous sized cubes, a diced onion and about a cup of chopped up celery tops (I save the tops you cut off the celery sticks that have the leaves and small sticks for this).  I added a tablespoon or so of fresh garlic, 2 tbsp of chili powder, about a tbsp of cumin, pepper to taste (I used about 2 tsp or so), a can of stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes, a large can of green chilis.  This all cooks til the potatoes and onions are tender.  About half way through I chop up or pull shreds of the chicken breasts apart and put it in the soup.  I let that cook down a little and if you want it thicker just mix up some corn starch in COLD water and add to the broth.  Serve hot with strips of tortilla chips and sour cream.  And some hot bread and butter. 

This stew is good with pork instead of chicken as well.  The seasoning is to taste… I don’t measure 🙂  One thing to consider…add an extra can of green chilis chopped to the soup.  Enjoy!

Pastel Dust and Art-a-Day

First of all, here is an interesting blog site to follow.  They do a weekly radio talk show.  this week’s guest is a gallery owner in Costa Mesa, CA Randy Higbee.  Should be a good show.  The blog site directs you how to access the show.

Another note…I have always wondered why Dick Blick Co did not have a presence in the Seattle (or the northwest) area.  Well apparently they do at 1600 Broadway in Seattle.  Not sure when that store opened, but it is and that’s important!  I am always raving about how much I love Jerry’s Artarama and that is still the case.  Dick Blick has been a favorite for a long while and they have great stuff as well.  One thing they have are the Pilot Parallel Calligraphy pens.  If you are a calligrapher or wannabe – these are the coolest pens. They are easy to use, have great ink cartridges and come with different nibs for a variety of lettering.  I bought a couple of the pens and loved them.  Then my daughter decided calligraphy was something she wanted to go, so I “loaned” her my pens.  I need to go buy new pens because she is addicted to them and the art of lettering. (yea!).  Since Dick Blick has them on their website, just maybe at the store in Seattle they will also be!  And  just for the record…Dick Blick isn’t the only great art store in Seattle…if you are visiting or live there, the Daniel Smith store is one not to miss.  Their staff is the some of the most helpful and knowledgeable.  that says a whole bunch.  And DS also has their own line of paints that are wonderful…

So how is the painting a day going you might wonder.  It is happening and 4 days into the process, I have results.  I am working small…6×6″ and maybe even a little smaller.  Once again, I am going to continue playing with combinations of paper and pastels…

Painting #2 is 7×3″ about, is done on Wallis paper with Sennelier and Unison pastels, underpainted with Mungyo.  This combination really is great for those bold, bright colors to shine. 

I have found when I work on a “soft” paper, such as Rives BFK or Sommerset, your colors are more muted and not quite as bright.  The  “Tongue River In October” (Sommerset paper approx. 6″x8″) is one of that example.  This paper allows you to get that soft edge look quite easily using same pastels.  I love these papers for those foggy, wintry  scenes and ones that you just want a soft appearance to your painting.  You can’t build up too many layers on them, but you can really rub that pigment into them and get a velvety feel to the painting.  I don’t do much with workable fixes when I use these papers – but then I am not trying to get much detail either.  I will probably do this painting again on Wallis or Art Spectrum to really beef up the color. 

The next painting is  a 6×6 inch work from a photo I took in the mountains near Newport, OR.  I have done some larger versions of this.   For this painting I did a underpainting with red and then used Sennelier, Unison and Diane Townsend “terrages” pastels.  Some details accomplished with Mungyo semi-hard pastels.  One point to make is the DT “Terrage” pastels are the “gritty” ones.  I love these for their ability to be used as that little sparkle; that definition or suggestion of leaves or detail.  They work great to put a finishing touch on a painting.  I do use a workable fix in between the layers of pastel to assist with depth and character.  Nothing is sprayed or fixed on the final painting.

I took some really interesting photos of snow and shadows this past weekend and they will be the source for some of the daily paintings.  I will experiment with papers and pastels and post the results.

I am hoping that some of you will take the “30 day challenge” and do Art-a-Day.  It doesn’t have to start with the beginning of month; it just has to start!  If there is one thing I have learned over time is that one way to improve your work is to be diligent in doing it…keep after it.  And I think it is important to always be sketching and doing pencil drawings of things…it’s a great way to establish value in a painting.  Most important…keep painting and…happy painting!

Pastel Dust on 1-1-11

Normally I wouldn’t do two blog entries in a single day, but since this is January 1 and I am committed to doing the “Art a Day project for January I decided to go ahead and post the image and talk about the process a little. 

This little 6×6 inch pastel piece is also one of the 50 off the 90 series.  I snapped a digital image as we were driving to Seattle over Thanksgiving of the Cle Elum River just west of Roslyn and Cle Elum just before it joins the Yakima River.  The image serves as a digitally enhanced, “cartooned” image for my screen saver on my computer and I liked it well enough that I decided to go ahead and paint a representation of the landscape.  This area, for those not familiar with the Cascades of WA is on I-90, probably about 20-30 miles west of Ellensburg and a ways before you get to the Snoqualmie summit and pass of the Cascades which once you crest,  are then headed into  western WA.  The Cascades are rugged, craggy  mountains and there is usually a bunch of snow in this area.  Shortly before Thanksgiving a storm blanketed the area for that proverbial “Christmas card scene of the snow laden trees and meadows of undisturbed snow albeit for wild animal tracks and lots of streams winding through the area.  The color the day we were driving thru was pretty dim in that the sun was hidden with high fog and it was mid to late afternoon with the light nearly gone for the day…especially in the mountains.

I decided to use a piece of Canson gray paper for the piece.  I didn’t have a particular reason to using a sheet of Canson as opposed to Wallis or Art Spectrum (my favorite papers) except that I was only doing a 6×6 inch piece and I wanted to see how that particular undertone color of the paper would work with the colors I wanted to bring out in the painting.  Because you can’t layer on very many layers of pigment (the Canson just doesn’t allow that) I decided to work with harder pastels and some that are pretty “gritty”.  I used some Mungyo semihard pastels for the base and then some Diane Townsend pastels for some texture.  Townsend  pastels have that bit of grit in them that works really well with Canson, particularly when you want to add some “sparkle” to the piece and enhance the 3D impression of the work.  I also used one of my favorites – the #463 deep blue Sennilier which is my absolute favorite depth defining color.

The 509 Art group is hosting the Art a Day project.  This is a group of artists residing within the 509 area code in and around the TriCities of WA.  Last year I did my 100 small works project and that was a fulfilling and challenging project.  This sounded like fun so I decided to push my creativity a little and sign up for the project!  Don’t think it has to be specifically a painting a day, so I may use some of the days for sketching or creating a greeting card with collage and art stamps or maybe a new collage…I will probably post weekly with images of the week’s work and talk about the details of the works that I would think might be interesting or helpful to an artist…or give someone the urge they might be needing to jump into the art world and start creating!!!

Happy painting!

Pastel dust…

We are ready to kick in the new year of 2011 with enthusiasm and promises for a productive year! 

SO… about taking a look at some old paintings…we all have those paintings that are lying around, didn’t sell, probably won’t sell and what to do with them?  Some I think just deserve the appropriate resting place in the garbage can, but some maybe not so.  Why not see if they can reworked.   I have done this several times and mostly with good success that resulted in selling the piece.  Taking a fresh look at a piece helps.  Other artists do this.  It’s worth a try.

I have done some paintings on location that just don’t work, so I have brought them back to my studio and reworked them into something acceptable.  The most recent one was a painting that I did in the Joseph, OR area as part of the plein air event this summer.  Weather had been rather inclimate in the early mornings except for one.  I got up as the sun was peeking over the hills and it was clear so I gathered my stuff and headed out to a place that I wanted to paint in dry weather.  There are lots of old abandoned barns and bits of farmsteads long ago forgotten in the hills and out on the Zumwalt Prairie.  One such old building sits along a meandering creek with lots of brush and trees growing up around it.  It is but a shell of a building, but still standing in somewhat of an importance to the area.

So the initial painting was ok, but not a crowd stopper by any means.  I didn’t feel that I had gotten a good perspective of the barn and felt like I was overwhelmed with green (easy to do because this area is an intense green in early June).  So I have brushed off what I could of the pigment and did a little wash before adding new color and a more bold defined shape to the barn…It worked.  I improved on the perspective of the barn and loosened the colors of the trees and brush.  The painting is much brighter, but not so intense and the building was improved upon.  I unfortunately did not have a “before” shot of the painting to compare…

So  my message is…if you have one of those paintings that just isn’t quite right…give it a second chance and see if you can improve upon it.  A trick I read about and something I use with my paintings and actually with any reference photo I am using is to take the image and turn it upside down and view it.  If it appears to be of interesting composition, etc viewed upside down, you probably have something worth painting or  you have painted something of interest.  It is similar to that trick of holding a painting in front of a mirror and viewing it.  If it looks good in the mirror, you have probably nailed it.  If something doesn’t seem right – it’s back to the studio and rework it!

Pastels are fun to work with from the point of reworking a piece.  You can brush off the majority of the pigment and then apply alcohol to the paper and use the remnants of the color for a new under painting.  Maybe you want to turn that photorealistic image into something more impressionistic or abstract.  This is a great opportunity to begin again.  Maybe there is not a lot that you want to change and you can use some workable fix to build up some texture and add some highlights to certain areas.  A quick spritz, waiting til it is nearly dry and then lightly adding some highlight is easily accomplished this way.  I sometimes take a piece of scrap pastel paper and try some different techniques with the workable fix.  You can get some great effects with applying pastel pigment to a sprayed area while it is wet – not too wet as that will lift the pigment off.  It takes practice and that’s why grabbing a scrap of paper and trying different approaches is important.

So don’t just pitch those paintings that could use some help…give them one more chance and rework them…see if that gives you some good results!

happy painting…

%d bloggers like this: