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Thirty minutes to paint

Quick draw events are fun, frightening, sometimes furiously fast and often rewarding!  Many are an hour or two in length which is not a lot of time to execute a painting but easier compared to the 30 minute events.  In a 30 minute event there is no time to ponder.  You need to have pondered and made choices in the preparation stage!  You need a limited palette and a distinct plan of action when the horn blows to begin your work.

So goes the story of the popular quick draw at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale sponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum held every May as part of the world famous Bucking Horse Sale that brings thousands of spectators to the town of Miles City.  Only a few (25 or less) artists participate in the Riverside Park QD at the culmination of the annual parade.  The QD is sandwiched in between the parade and the Grand Entry of the sale and horse races and once the 30 minute draw is complete, the artists have 10 minutes to get their piece framed and the live auction of art begins.  It’s fast and furious and the crowd is filled with art collectors and spectators.  The QD is strategically timed to be certain those spectators can get to all the BHS activities and maximize the crowd attendance for the auction that is a benefit to the WaterWorks Museum and Art Center.

This year I lived on the dangerous side…I decided to paint a larger than normal piece, 26×12 vertical pastel.  (Most works are less than 16 inches square.)  I prepped my paper by gluing it to a foam core board for stability, then selected a very limited palette of pastel sticks.  I planned a painting of buffalo from a photo I shot on my way to MT via Yellowstone Park.  The day before the event, the preparatory chores were done. (I could have saved a little stress by doing this 3-4 days earlier!).  I did numerous pencil sketches arranging my composition, as the photo was a horizontal format and I was painting it as a vertical.  In my sketchbook I made lines of quadrants and adjusted the subject to best fit the format of the proposed painting.  I “roughed-in” focal points and large shapes to make what I believed to be a good composition.   I put all my supplies – selected pastels, 91% alcohol, sponge brush, Workable fixative, wet wipes, paper towels, gloves and framing equipment in my backpack.  I had a plan and felt I could make it happen, but knew I would have no time to spare.  Before the event started I found a place to paint…in the park’s gazebo  where there was some protection from some gusty winds (not helpful when painting is a tall piece!) and a place to sit if one wanted to before and during the event.  And I was able to tone my painting  with one color – a mix of dry pigment and alcohol before the QD began.  Doing an underpainting like this assists one in pastel application by speeding up the process.

The QD begins with the sound of an air horn…now it’s time for autopilot.  Your colors are laid out and you instinctively apply them, not second guessing your choice.  Large masses are painted carefully noting that  the values are where you want them.  When someone says “you have 15 minutes left, you want to be at least half way thru your painting.)  I am, but there is no option to make changes.  I stick to my plan.  Once the landscape is satisfactory to my eye, I draw in and paint the buffalo.   As I put the final touches in the most distant animal, the horn blows signifying the end of the QD.  Hands go up (no more pastel to the paper), I am satisfied, pleased to have finished what I had planned and the framing begins.  I had hoped to get my piece in the auction so it would be auctioned somewhere in the middle, but I needed all the time allotted to get the framing accomplished, so the painting was in the last spot on the auction docket.  Not my favorite spot to be, but as it turned out the auction was  a surprise.  One know there is not always a predictable outcome to auctions and this one was not an exception.  Early pieces were sold  from $200-500. Then one sold for about $800 and another for $1700.  I saw a couple of pieces of work of popular artists sell for less than I have seen before.  Now I begin to have some anxiety.  It’s now the time for my piece to go.  I hold the painting up and the auction starts.  Bids start immediately and I hand the work to one of the guys on the platform to show.  Bids continue to be raised and my anxiety lessens.  The auctioneer worked his way to $1500 +.  I am relieved and happy to have completed a sought after piece of art and for sharing the sale with the museum.

So, when the opportunity arises to compete in a quick draw, do it.  The key is preparation and planning.  Then execute the painting in a confident manner, not second guessing palette and composition.  If you are an art collector and someone who appreciates the arts and the process…know what happens for these works to come to be!





Gallery Representation – thank you!

I am honored to be able to show my work in some of the best galleries in the west.  These originals can be seen in Yachats, OR at Earthworks Gallery, The American Art Company in Tacoma, Wa, Dodson’s in Spokane, WA, Pendleton Art and Frame in Pendleton, OR, Valley Bronze in Joseph, OR, Caswell Bronze in Troutdale, OR, Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA, Eagle Art Gallery in Eagle, ID, The Depot in Red Lodge, Mt and Moccasin Mountain Art in Lewistown, MT.

I am very pleased to work with these galleries who in my opinion, represent their artist well.  That is so important to an artist to have a gallery or galleries that  promote your work and really try to sell the art pieces.  And ones that pay promptly, according to your agreement, when works sell.

When you are in these towns and cities, please visit these fine businesses and be prepared to be treated well as a customer too!



Pastel Dust Marketing Matters | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog

Source: Pastel Dust Marketing Matters | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog

Baby, Even When It’s Cold Outside, Plein Air Painters Paint — The Landscapes of Bonnie Griffith

A recent blog by Carolyn Henderson of Wenaha Gallery was about the plain air work I exhibited at that gallery in December, 2015   Much of the work was done during my residency with the BLM in Escalante, UT.  Enjoy the nicely written blog!



Summer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie GriffithSummer Fields, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

Some people spend a chunk of their day outside — mountain climbers, builders, hotel doormen, and definitely not least on the list — plein-air painters.

Grand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie GriffithGrand Staircase II, original pastel painting by Wenaha Gallery artist Bonnie Griffith

A central facet of 19th century French impressionism, plein-air painting is so called because it is done outdoors, in the plain, fresh air, and those artists committed to the method rival U.S. Postal carriers in their approach to rain, snow, sleet, wind and the occasional, much appreciated, sunny day.

“There really is nothing like painting outdoors; it makes you a stronger artist, I think,” says Bonnie Griffith, a painter who trilaterally focuses on oil, pastel and encaustic (hot wax) as her mediums of choice.

“You are in natural light and not utilizing the eye of a camera to dictate to you what you see to paint.”


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Pastel Dust experiments with underpainting

I like to do an underpainting on most works.  My typical application is to use a hard pastel and lay in color in the basic shapes of the composition and then wash with 91% Alcohol.  Once that dries – and it does rather quickly, I apply the soft pastels of the painting to the paper, leaving a bit of the color from the wash to peek through in the finished painting.  Often the choice of color for the underpainting will be a complimentary color to pastel used on the final application.

I know some folks are using watercolor washes and oil paint washes, so I decided to give at least the oil paints a go for an underpainting.  I know it needs to be quite thinned to not fill the tooth of the paper so the thinning substance should be something that expedites quick drying…like Gamsol.  One day I was out away from studio and much supply and decided to use what I had.  The linseed oil thins the paint very well, but doesn’t dry…for several days! NOT an option!  I did have Turpnoid and that dried quickly and seemed to work nicely.  I was shooting for some “runs” in the final painting and this achieved that effect.  I will say that I put some pastel over the first underpainting once the linseed had dried (left a tacky surface on UArt paper) seemed to work…but my hesitation to judge it is that I wonder if the oily feature will bleed through the final coats of dry pastel.  Compared to using the alcohol wash with the oil paint wash…I think I prefer the alcohol wash.  Both tests were done on 600 UArt paper.  My reason for the preference is I can get somewhat of a “run” with the alcohol and it dries really quickly.  The quick dry is great for plein air work.  I have also used it on PastelMat successfully.  Another day I will use watercolor.

Pastel Dust..keeping focused

The challenge…keeping focused.  It is so easy to stray from tasks and it takes some discipline to stay focused and manage your time and talents!

I decided to do a painting a day for the month of January…it might be a pastel, an ink painting, an encaustic, a pencil drawing…the important thing is to complete a piece each day.  So far so good.  I will probably extend that into February and beyond…at least doing something with my art daily; a finished painting or not.  As I work on more complex paintings, I realize that it is impossible to finish a large one on a daily basis.

Next, I love to participate in plein air events and enter juried competitions.  Both of these have time restrictions on the entry process and dates of delivery, etc.  I build a calendar that allows me to keep dates chronologically for these time lines.  What I don’t do is paint specifically for each event (juried shows).  I try to spend painting time painting the best I can each day…then I have group of paintings to choose from for a specific event.  For me, it takes the pressure off the entry and focuses the energy on the paintings.  I do however, when scheduling a solo exhibition, paint for that event.  I try to schedule those exhibits out a year or two, so that I have time to dwell on a body of work and paint it!  So with this sort of approach I feel I’m most productive!

Pastel Dust step by step… | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog

Pastel Dust step by step… | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog.

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