Saturday, December 24, 2011

First Snowfall

First Snowfall
oil on linen
10 x 8

Behind every painting is a story.  This is a section of an original oil painted last winter.  I had not been at home in years during the winter months so being here for the first snowfall was especially exciting.  I loaded up my painting gear- in my backpack so I could carry it- in search of the perfect spot to paint.  After a few steps in the snow, I decided I liked my view of our yard from the front porch!  And, the fact that I could set up my easel on a flat surface, be under the covering to block the wind, and not get my feet wet, well, hey, so much the better, right?  Just goes to prove, sometimes the best things are actually right around you, like your home, your family, and your friends. 
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Secret

I often get asked, "What is plein air?"  I know it sounds like some Secret Code that artists use.  True, it isn't something you hear everyday.  It means in the open air.  It's a term we artists use when we are referring to painting outdoors.  And, not sure why we westerners insist on using the French term.  We don't use other French terms that much.  I guess it relates back to the Americans who went to France to learn the Impressionism style of painting  in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  They had heard or even seen paintings by these French artists thanks to Mary Cassatt bringing them over.  This was something new as far as art styles.  Loose choppy brushstrokes, high key color palettes, and painted outdoors? 
The French Impressionists weren't the ones who invented painting outdoors.  Certainly artists had been carrying sketchbooks outside for centuries.  And the British would tell you they were watercoloring outdoors long before Monet painted his "Impression: Sunrise".  It just happened that oil paints could now be stored in tubes as opposed to being handground in the studio where it was stored in pots.  Adding to that, artists were now painting on linen canvas which could be stretched over supports making it lots lighter than painting on primed wood.  Monet even used a boat as a floating studio to paint the populars next to the river bank. 
Painting Aspens at Lake Tahoe
Plein air painting can be as rugged a sport as you want to make it.  Some artists hike miles in the woods and mountains with their supplies on their backs just to capture their scenes.  You can paint in public or not.  You can carry large canvases or very small.  There just isn't a right or wrong way.  So if you see an artist outside set up with their easel and paints, you can say, "Good luck with your plein air painting." And they will know that you know the Secret.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Treats

Small Treasures

Oil on linen

10 x 8

Brother and Sister

oil on museum quality board
6 x 6


I don't know about you, but it has been really hot here this summer. Seriously, really hot!
My summer teaching stints are over for a now, four weeks of leading teacher professional development in parts of Alabama. It was really hot there too! So I am back in the studio and painting all kinds of happy memories from beaches. Most include children at the water's edge or people enjoying a lazy day of sun and reading. I've been to beaches from coastal Maine through the Carolinas to Key West and up the panhandle from Florida through Mississippi and Louisiana. I've been to the Pacific coast and twice to Hawaii. I have lots of beach memories! The painting of the little tow headed boy will be available for purchase at Tanner Hill Gallery in Chattanooga this Thursday night at the Arts & Education Council's annual fundraiser. The theme this year is "Found" and worked out perfectly for this painting in my series. I am posting the rest on my website: under the Coastal category. Hope these little pieces of beach memories remind you of a good time at the beach too. If you have a photo or a memory you would like painted, let me know! I am in the studio for the reminder of the summer!!

Stay cool!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sisterhood of the Traveling Paints

D & Barbara

Sandra, Susie, D, Ruth

D, Phyllis, Diane

This blog today is dedicated to the women painters I have met over the years. These are not your ordinary, paint in the studio and don't get dirty painters. They are the ones who paint on-site or outdoors in all kinds of weather and all kinds of conditions. We are Sisters of the Traveling Paints.
I have always drawn and painted. I can't remember not doing it. I carried pieces of paper outside as a child and drew what I saw: flowers, bugs, trees. I didn't know it was called "plein air". It was just something you did because you had to. You wanted to capture what attracted you on paper. Save it for looking at later. It was fun.

Today I count myself very lucky to have crossed paths with lots of women who share the same passion for painting outside. They come from many different backgrounds, many different locations, and many different personalities. Some are very representational painters, some are nearly abstract painters. Yet we all paint for basically the same reason: we have to. Along the way, I have come to know a few of these sisters and their families more in depth. It becomes like a network of friends that you hear from occasionally, but you think about more often than that. When one suffers a sickness or a loss, you feel it too. You know that while art is very important in their lives, so is their family. You also rejoice in their victories- awards, sales, new galleries, etc. And in the achievements or expansions of their families as well.

So, here's to you, my fellow Sisters of the Traveling Paints. You have made my journey into painting outdoors a lot more enjoyable by sharing it with you. A few of my oldest paint buddies:

Susie Covert, Bradenton, FL; Barbara Perriotti, Ormand Beach, FL; Diane Johnson, Cary, NC; Linda Blondheim, High Springs, FL; Ruth Cox, Myrtle Beach, S. C.; Phyllis Franklin, Thomaston, GA; Carly Hardy, Darien, GA; Marsha Savage, Smryna, GA; Sandra Babb, Ringgold, GA; Terry Mason, Sarasota, FL; and the many new sisters I have met: Jeanne Salucci, Long Island, NY;Priscilla Watson, Aptos, CA;Barbara Davis, Montgomery, AL; Barrett Edwards, Naples, FL; and others. Thanks for sharing your advice and your friendship.

May you always have your palette ready,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Life Springs

Life Springs

oil on linen

12 x 9

private collection

Paintings tell stories. Some paintings tell us everything. Others make us guess. Still others lead us to come up with our own story. This painting was done last week during the Callaway Paintout and Sale at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia. Only this particular painting wasn't done at Callaway at all. It was painted on an estate in LaGrange, Georgia. LaGrange is a few miles west of Pine Mountain. But this place was more than a few miles apart in character from Pine Mountain. It was an ocean apart.

The artists in the paintout were divided up into two per team and shuttled to nearby cities to paint in private gardens on Tuesday. I was partnered with Robin Roberts from Ohio. We were met by a gentleman who drove us out to his castle, estate, er home for the day. Now imagine the sites and landscape along the way. LaGrange is a pretty enough town. It has a nice college there and lots of churches in the downtown area. The surrounding landscape is humble houses, small farms, and a few mobile homes sprinkled now and then. We drove through a large stone gated drive and down a long narrow road. Then before us appeared this "mini" Biltmore house. At least 3 stories with a English tudor styling that rivaled anything you would see on the Hudson or Long Island. Vast green lawns stretched forever with stacked stone walls lining them.

I expected Giles or Jeeves to come out and take our humble backpacks crammed with our supplies. Instead, we were shown around by the owner and then set up to paint where we pleased. I love painting architecture. But believe me, I was way too intimated by this place to paint it. No way. So I found a humble smokehouse in the back of a small (comparatively) perennial garden to paint. It was one of the remains of the plantation that once occupied this land.

After lunch, I went up the hill to this spot in the painting: a foundation and chimney left by a former dwelling on the property. The new owner had cleared the area, there were wrought iron chairs and tables nearby and had planted this native azalea. What appealed to me was the way the ruins were so cared for and left as they were. Certainly the owner could have razed the stones and naturalized the area. But here they were: a nod to the inhabitants of years gone by. A slave quarters? Tenant farmers? Gardeners house? And before it, a brightly lit orange azalea that seemed to say life goes on. So when you think about it, we all just pass through this earth. We create dwellings, clear the land, and plant our gardens. Nature really owns it. I think that's why God gave us springtime to remind us.

Happy Earth Day on Friday and Happy Easter to you and yours,

Christ died and rose again. Life Springs Eternal.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Artists in the Gardens Weekend

Artists in the Gardens at Epcot this weekend!
I am so honored to have been invited back to paint during Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival 2011. This will be my fifth year to paint in the World Showcase. Last year I painted in jolly old England and really enjoyed the cottage gardens and English architecture. You can find me this year in Italy. The horticultural department goes all out with potted flowers and plantings in the different countries. The feature each year are the topiaries of the Disney characters that are scattered throughout Epcot. Having the artists painting on location just adds to the ambiance of the festival. Guests can watch us paint and even purchase a painting to take home. I would be curious to know how many vacation photos I have been in over the years!
It is so much fun to talk to the guests who come from all over the world. The children are the best with their innocent questions and comments. I end up giving away as many paintings as I sell when a child comments they like it!
This is plein air painting at its finest! Shade if you can find it, level ground, beautiful weather, no "real" animals to bother you, and beautiful surroundings to paint makes this a painter's dream. So I hope if you are making spring break plans, you will hop over to the Flower and Garden Festival this year. Just don't ask me the names of any of the plants, OK?
Ciao for now, will try to post a painting or two while there!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Diva Dilemma

Spring Divas
oil on linen
12 x 9
The Diva Dilemma. If you are a painter, you have surely faced it at least once in your painting career. If you ever sang in a chorus or acted in a play, you faced it. If you even like to decorate rooms, you have probably faced it too. What is it?
It is having more than one Diva in a situation. Like having to decorate a room and you say, "Well, here's a fireplace, a good focal point, let's put seating facing it." And then you see the window in the same room with the great view. "This is such a good view, let's put seating facing it." And then you have two Divas. When you enter the room, where do you face? The fireplace or the window? Maybe that doesn't bother you?
Have you ever tried to watch two performers on stage? In the olden days, Sonny and Cher? Hmm, who was the Diva? Pretty obvious there. You won't see two separate spotlights.
My watercolor mentor was Wayne Wu, AWS. He used to tell us, "There can only be one star. Everyone else is the supporting cast." In other words, have a focal point in your composition. There are several ways to create a central focus and they are not all so obvious. In a floral arrangement, choose one flower or a cluster of flowers to give more color and more detail. Play down the rest. We know they are flowers, let them be cast members. The same for a landscape. Where do you want the viewer to look? Try not to confuse us by having detail on everything unless you are Grandma Moses. Or as Jack Beal says, "Fruit basket painting."
I think the same applies to our appearance. Do you want people to notice your hair, your eyes, your clothes, or your jewelry? Play up your best feature and let the others support it. Wear clothes that compliment your eyes or hair, but if you want us to look at your clothes, fine. Wear something that stands out there. But don't be surprised if people say, "I love your outfit." and not, "Gee, you look great today."
We want viewers to look at our artwork and say,"I love this painting." and not "Gee, you did a good job with all this detail. It looks JUST like a photograph." Get it?
Now, go find your Diva!
From the only Diva in this household,

Friday, February 25, 2011


The Painting Lesson
Jack Beal
collection: The Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga
The prior post was on Twinkies. Today I wanted to write about Fudge. By now you know I am not talking about sweets, am I? I have been sending my current painting students an art quote every week (when I think about it). I have many written and filed and a few books on them too. I love reading bios of artists and trying to picture myself interviewing them. What would I ask? What would they respond? I do think I know of one thing that most would admit:


I know that as a young artist and later as an instructor with students, that most if not all people believe that an artist just goes up to a blank canvas and voila! paints a masterpiece. It just flows out of their head. Well, that can happen sometimes I suppose. But I believe every artist has a purpose in their painting whether it is to paint some one's portrait, a place they like, objects they chose, or an expression or feeling they are having. If not, why paint? The real difference in being a "painter" verses an "artist" comes with the interpretation. Just copying exactly what's there will make you a painter. Making changes that create a better painting, makes you an artist. I have been fortunate enough to study under some great artists. Jack Beal says, "Lie, cheat, steal." What is he talking about? He means that painting from life, either a landscape or a group of figures will not be perfect in every way. Nature cannot compose your painting. There may be a clump of even number trees, a telephone pole in the middle of a scene, etc. So your job as an artist is to make use of what's there in creating a work of art.

"The artist does not draw what he sees, but what he must make others see." -E. Degas

So it is not enough to "see- put" as Jack Beal used to comment about some artists who copy nature or photographs. This is where the Fudging comes in. You move a tree, you add a path, you darken, you lighten, you change the colors. You create where you want the viewers to look first, where their eyes should travel and where they should stop.

"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." -Picasso

I don't know about you, but I try not to lie about things. I will, however, fudge the truth sometimes in painting. I think it would make Jack Beal proud.
Comments? Questions? Would love to hear from you about how artists create our own "truths".

Sunday, February 13, 2011


French Cottage
oil on canvas
20 x 24
Twinkies? Yes, but not the creme filled cakes you are thinking about. Hmmm, that is a nice thought! I call my paintings that I "revisit" Twinkies. They were close to being finished. I hung them some place where I could sneak up on them and keep looking. This painting of the French Cottage went pretty quickly. I knew what I was going to paint. I had painted a small version on site so I was familiar with the house. But, working in the studio on a larger canvas, the temptation is to copy the photograph pretty closely. Tempting...Tempting.., just like the creme filled cakes.
And so it was hung and it waited.
When I first began painting en plein air or outdoors, I thought that every outdoor painting needed to look JUST like the scene and had to be completed on site. 100%. Wow, what pressure! Then I started reading and looking and listening to other plein air artists. "Your job is to create a beautiful painting. Not copy just what's there." "Nature isn't perfect. You are the creator. Move it, change it, and make it your own. " "Get inspired by nature. Paint what you feel." Finally, I got it! Compose, rearrange, change, but come away with the essence of what attracted you in the first place. You might have to lighten something, smudge something, even eliminate something when you get back into the studio.
Working in the studio, you have the luxury of time. No disappearing light, no dancing shadows, or weather conditions to make you paint like a madman. But, the photograph should only be an inspiration too. If the painting needs something, add it. If it needs something removed, do it!
My cottage scene needed something. I finally realized what it was. Why did I like it in the first place? I liked the flowers and vines growing around it. All I had to do was add more. Twinked!
In the oil classes last week I talked about using a mirror to view your work. It helps to see lines and angles that are not correct, shapes that repeat too often, and other compositional faux pas. But sometimes, all it takes is a little time away. Let the painting tell you what it wants. Put away the photo or the on site sketch. Make a painting that satisfies you and hopefully the viewers.
I am thinking spring, aren't you? And maybe one of those sweet creamy little cakes?
Happy Valentine's to you and those you love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Sunday Sale

Midtown Gallery
1912 Broadway
Nashville, TN

Wildflowers I
oil on board
6 x 6

Looking outdoors at my back yard right now looks nothing like the images I am creating inside. Still trying to keep my spirits up during the winter doldrums, I am painting a series of wildflowers on hillsides and also marshes with "happy clouds". The small square format is perfect for these scenes. The hillsides are based on my Tuscany travels where I have painted. The marshes are images from different locales around Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. One thing I tell my students is to choose your subject in a landscape. Is it the ground or is it the sky? Don't divide your composition by painting the horizon line right in the middle and developing details in both areas. This is a fun (two) series for me and I love the wide floater frames I am using on them. The new paintings are available at Midtown Gallery in Nashville where I am now represented. Midtown Gallery is located on Broadway near Vanderbilt University. I used to be in Local Color Gallery in the same location a few years ago and am very excited to be back showing in the Nashville area. I hope you will drop by Midtown and see my paintings. For Super Bowl Sunday, Gary Tisdale the owner does something pretty unique: he has a Super Art Sale from 1:00 - 4:00 pm. It's a great time to get new works for your collection at great prices. Tell Gary you know me!

Also, I am now a part of Daily Painters of Georgia and you can follow our blog: I am hoping it will motivate me to shoot, edit, and post my paintings more often. I wish I could say that I don't mind that part of the art trade, but I dread it. So I usually wait until I have several new paintings to shoot before I set things up. This will be an experiment to see if I can do this!

Have a Super Sunday no matter whose team wins today!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Housebound and Happy

WIP in studio
If you are not in the southeast region, our big news here this week is the Big Snow. Over 8 inches at my house. Unusual for our area, especially since we had about 4 inches on Christmas Day. Now for you Yanks out there who get snow all the time and just get out and go in it, we don't have equipment to clear secondary roads. Our 2 or 3 salt trucks work the main interstates. The rest of us are on our own. So, pretty much our whole city is shut down until the snow melts. No school, even the malls were closed yesterday. And yes, I am staying home this winter instead of being at the beach. My S.A.D. has not kicked in yet. I am actually enjoying looking at the snow.
So, how do you paint snow? My personal preference is a composition with some color in it whether it is blue or violet cast shadows or something architectural like a stone wall or corner of a house. If you are unsure of composing landscapes, use your viewfinder in your camera. I will be watching the light today from the sunroom for cast shadows. Right now, the whole scene is white. The sky is the same color as the ground. I already have a view in mind that I want to paint. I will have my supplies ready in case the sun cooperates with me.

If you are new to painting, use the quiet time to organize your materials. Put your name on your things. Try out your paints by making a color chart and writing the names on it. Email me for a copy of a color wheel you can make. I always find things to do in the studio. I spent a lot of time Sunday cleaning my palette. If you have old magazines, go through them and rip out things you like (scenery, interiors, faces, etc) to start a resource file. It's nice to have a photo of a certain thing if you are painting something similar. I keep flower catalogs to help with painting gardens or flowers in pots. If you are not a painter, you can keep a file too of things you like and would want a painting of some day. It is much easier for the artist to visualize what you have in mind if you can show an example. It doesn't have to be perfect. There is always some research in painting a commission. Even giving a color swatch torn out will help.
In the meantime, I will be snug and warm in my sunroom studio painting flowers I bought Sunday. I'll keep an eye out for the sun to peek through. It's kind of like, "when the moment is right" commercial. When it happens, be ready (to paint, of course).
Take time to enjoy your view!
If you would like to continue to receive this blog, click the title and go to the main page where you can subscribe. The blog is a written commentary on what and where I am painting or traveling. My newsletter features a recent painting and/or updates on shows or paintouts. You can subscribe to it on I welcome your comments or suggestions about what you would like to see in the blog. So let me know!