Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tools of the Trade

This blog topic is courtesy of Cooper, age 3, who was snooping, uh, visiting my studio. Anytime you have visual art materials it is a magnet for young children and old men (well, that's another story)!
Coop is at the age of asking questions. "Why?" "What is it?" "What do you do with it?" His curiosity about my supplies made me wonder if others would like to know some of the tools of my trade that you might not expect.
Sure there is the usual stock of paint tubes, brushes, and canvas or paper. But a good many of my tools come from the hardware and grocery store too.

Starting with my oil stash: a bungee cord. Pictured here as I use it in the studio on my easel. Also have one that travels with me to hold towels.
My studio palette is a sheet of glass from the hardware store. To clean it I use a paint scrapper. Then there's the level. It helps with checking the level of the easel while painting and also on the camera when shooting my paintings. Hand wipes or baby wipes are a must. Of course there's pliers to open stubborn tubes. Hey, who isn't cleaning off the tube tops?? Oh yeah, that would be me.

Watercolors have a few necessities. I carry a compass and a ruler. Then for BIG mistakes I have Magic Eraser. A small spray bottle comes in handy. A bottle of alcohol (rubbing kind that is) and droppers. I won't go into what all that is for! You need to take one of my watercolor classes for that! Then there's the paint blotter made from a handywipe and towels. Looks weird, but works!

And last but not least, a mirror. My studio has windows on 3 sides and faces north, yeah, I know, lucky me! But that doesn't leave me a wall for hanging a mirror so I use a handheld one. OK, give up? It's for checking my paintings as I work, silly! You can stand back and look but seeing them in reverse will REALLY show up any boo-boos like crooked lines or wrong values. And believe me, I put it to good use!

Another post will have to be about the strange stuff I carry with me when I paint outdoors, yes, there is more!

And here's the Coopster racing by on his hot wheels.  You know his visit was short in the studio because it was time to play outside! 
Now go play!


If you haven't already LIKED my FB fan page, please do so!!  I will be able to do giveaways and other things once I reach 400 likes:!/Durindas-Fine-Art-Fan-Page
Also, just posted about the 2013 workshop to Venice!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I don't know if you are like me, but watching the Olympics this past week has been an emotional roller coaster. You want so much for team USA to win every event and yet you know that isn't going to happen. You watch as one tiny mistake, one fraction of a second, one too many breaths or whatever causes the athlete or team to be defeated. You know that the athletes have have put in years of training, spent thousands of dollars, and missed family and childhood events to be where they are and their possibly one chance of glory.

You know this relates to art, right? I think about students in a workshop who say, "I want to paint like you." And while flattering, that isn't going to happen in three days or whatever. I have always drawn and painted. I read art books and now art articles and blogs constantly. I have spent thousands of dollars to attend workshops and classes, not including my college stints. I have tried different media and styles and substrates. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor at first in watercolor. I have been fortunate since to study with some other highly regarded painters. But it all boils down to...

Practice! Just like the athletes, you aren't going to improve or find your voice or style if you don't put time into it. If you can only paint one day per week but you DO paint every week, that's much better than little spurts here and there, a different artist's workshop every month, a different dvd, etc. Yes, you can learn something from every artist, sometimes more from the other people in the class, sometimes what NOT to do, but ultimately, you are the art producer. So once you get your feet wet so to speak and have the fundamentals, choose an artist to study whose style you really admire. Choose classes or workshops on your level, not those that allow everyone from the real beginner to the most advanced. Choose sessions with small numbers in the class, even if it costs a little more. You are kidding yourself if you think you will get attention in a class of 30 or more and some artists demand that many in their workshops.

So, set some goals for the rest of this year to paint more or to improve whatever you do. And if you get discouraged, just be thankful there isn't an Olympics for art. You have plenty of chances to create your masterpieces and you can only get better!

Go for the Gold!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monet, Monet!

Jeanne and Pat on the Japanese Bridge in Monet's Garden

Yes, it was raining the day we went to Giverny to see Monet's House and Garden.  And, it wasn't an easy trip.  First, we left Paris on the Metro (their subway) to the train station.  Then we took the train to Vernon, a town next to Giverny because the train doesn't go to Giverny.  I think Monet chose this town on purpose for that reason!  So then you catch a bus from Vernon to get there.  You could take a cab, but then you would have to make arrangements for a pick-up since they don't hang around in Giverny.  Finally we are there in every painter's paradise!  I have been there and painted there in the past, but never saw the iris and the wisteria in bloom.  Amazing!  Even in the rain, the colors were spectacular!  
I just happened to catch ONE of the school groups having a group photo.  They looked to be 4 or 5 yrs old.  There were hordes of school children there!  I felt sad that it was raining on their field day but very pleased that their teachers wanted to bring the children to see the home and gardens of an artist! 
Monet loved children.  After his first wife Camille died, he and Alice who became his second wife, raised his two sons and her children in Giverny.  He painted them in the gardens.  I like to imagine the family living there.  The kitchen is my favorite room.  It is tiled in blue and white and is large and cheery.  I can see the children coming and going while Alice cooks, Monet outside painting with Blanche, one of his stepdaughters, rolling a wheelbarrow filled with canvases for him.  She loved to paint too! 
I just want to say, "Thank you, Mr. Monet, for devoting your life to painting and to gardening so that generations to come can enjoy your art and your home."  And thanks to the Claude Monet Foundation for restoring the properties and maintaining them.  If you like Monet's paintings, I hope that you have a chance to visit Giverny and see the places in the paintings!

That reminds me, I need to water my flowers!
Au Revoir!


Monday, June 11, 2012

An Artist's Life

Van Gogh's portrait sculpture outside the Maison de Sante Saint-Paul  Mental Hospital in St. Remy-de Provence-France

I am still haunted by the memories of visiting the St. Remy mental hospital where Van Gogh stayed for a year (1889-1890).  He has always been an artist that I was interested in.  I wondered about his heavy worm-like brushstrokes.  What did he see?  What did he think?  The more I read and researched his life, the more questions would appear.
Fortunately for us, his sister-in-law kept all the letters that Vincent wrote to his brother Theo.  She also kept the paintings, hundreds of them that Vincent shipped to Paris, thinking that his brother the art dealer was actually selling some of them.  We all know he only sold one in his lifetime.  Thanks to Jo we have some insight into what and why Vincent painted what he did. 
At St. Remy, Vincent painted 142 paintings, some books say 150, and over 100 drawings.  Probably the most important period in his work. He had admitted himself to the hospital for rest, after a disastrous stay in Arles (I won't go into that).  When he was "improved" he was allowed out to paint around in the area.  This is where he painted the famous "Starry Night" and quite a few others that you would know. Think of all the money that Theo sent to cover canvas and paint! 

A bedroom typical of what Vincent would have had with a reproduction of one of his paintings he did while there.

Vincent for the most part, lived a very unhappy life, unable to have meaningful relationships with friends or family.  He had bouts of manic depression, maybe epilepsy, and maybe glaucoma.   But his inspiration to us is his passion and devotion to his art.  
So some of the questions:  Are we in love with his art or with his story?  If he were alive today, would his art be valued?  Would he be your friend or someone you would help?  Do you have to be crazy to be an artist? 
What do you think?

Off to the studio...

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Spending the day shopping at the street market in Isle sur de la Sorgue
May 17,2012

I don't know if you have ever traveled to Europe, but I am addicted to it.  There is just something about being in a new place that is very different from home.  I love everything about it.  There are however, a few things that we as Americans take for granted that the Europeans seem to live happily without.

Ice- never comes with a drink, not coke or tea.  Forget having it in a glass of water.  I know from being in New England it is not as common there either, but usually you can ask for it.  I figure the New Englanders are just too cheap to take up space in a drink with frozen water (sorry all my NE friends- this is a generalization of course!)  But in Europe, ice is used to keep things cold in a freezer and not to be consumed in a liquid drink.

Soft sheets and towels-never take for granted your indoor dryer and fabric softeners.  Most laundry is hung outdoors to dry in Europe just like your great-granny did it.  So no thick fluffy towels or 700 thread count cotton sheets unless you are staying in a 5 star hotel and paying the big bucks to sleep a few hours.  You're in Europe, for pete's sake, don't spend it in a hotel!

Washcloths-who knew that not having a washcloth would make any difference?  It's all in what you are used to, right?  A couple of our gals even bought some while we were there since they are not provided.  It is pretty universal in Europe not to have them. 

Shower curtains-some places do have glass doors for showers, but if there is a tub, there isn't a shower curtain.  You have to do the best you can to shower and not flood the entire bathroom.  OK, so it was me who flooded the bathroom in Paris the first day.  And given that you only get one towel for a week, you learn to direct the water so it doesn't spray all over the room. 

Toilet seats- now here's the "touchy" subject!  Few places have a separate men's and women's.  That means there usually isn't a seat on the toilet.  Guess it saves cleaning time?  No problem with keeping the lid up or down?  And that is if you are lucky enough to find an indoor toilet in a public place.  Yes, they still have the "holes".  I found it funny that they would have fancy metal hangers for purses or coats in the same room.  And usually have electric hand dryers.  I remember my dad telling me about the "water closets" that he saw when he was there during WWII.  Still there.  Maybe even some of the same ones? 

Despite the minor differences in things we deem as "normal" in the US, we 6 Tennessee gals plus 2 Minnesotans did a fairly good job of contributing to the ailing economy of France on this trip consuming delicious meals, pastries and desserts. And maybe a bottle of wine or two.  Not to mention the clothes, scarves, linens, and other items we all bought and brought back.  It was a hard job, but hey, somebody had to do it without ice on this trip!

For Memorial Day, let's not take for granted the lives and sacrifices of our military.  Enjoy your weekend.


Thursday, May 3, 2012


Women Painters of the Southeast Show
Jacksonville, FL
D with Marsha Savage (Smryna, GA), Candy Day (Ellijay,GA) and Karen Rose (Gainesville, FL)

It struck me over the weekend how Social Media has taken over a great part of our lives.  I was attending the opening of the Women Painters of the Southeast show at Corse Gallery in Jacksonville, FL.  Fortunately, the participating artists had nametags because it made it easy to put names and faces with the Facebook posts of my friends.  This photo has 2 friends of mine, Marsha and Karen, whom I met at different times and different years.  Candy is a new friend who is one of my FB friends and it was nice to meet her at the show.
This is Terry Mason (Sarasota, FL) and Diane Mannion (Sarasota, FL) who are part of the Light Chasers Plein Air Painters of the Suncoast.  I paint with them when I am in Siesta Key.  We just had a show at the Celery Barn in Sarasota last month.  It was good to see both of them.  Wandering around the gallery was Katie Cundiff, another plein air artist from Sarasota.  I put a face to Dot Courson from Mississippi another FB friend. There were others in the show whom I knew but weren't there for the opening: Lori, Dawn, and Diane from Nashville, Jane from St Pete, Barbara from Montgomery.  I hope they get by sometime to see it.  It really is a spectacular show, if I must say so myself.  You can see the entire show:
Funny thing also happened.  My husband does work with Karen's husband's company.  They knew the same people.  Small world, huh?
I am now looking forward to being in other shows with artists from FB world and making those Social Media Connections. 

Have a great rest of the week, I'll be getting ready for my workshop trip to Provence next week.  I hope to be able to post from there and keep you connected!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Voice

I know you have seen or heard of the television show called "The Voice".  It has contestants who sing and are chosen by one famous singer on a panel to be in their group. Then the people sing and are eliminated over time until one person is the best "Voice" of the season.  Then they start over with another group for the next season of shows.
It came to me that being an artist is a lot like that.  Of course you knew I would relate it to art!  Every painter wants to have their own distinctive style of painting, one that is recognizable, a subject they are associated with, in other words, their "Voice".  But unlike singers who know that they must constantly practice to improve, a lot of artists think they can study with a famous artist, sometimes a weekend, a week, or in an on-going class, and then they will "copy" all they can from the teaching artist to paint just like him or her.  That way, they will be as famous, right?
Sometimes it works that way.  There are women artists who studied with and then got into relationships with successful artists who do paint a lot like them and who, with their connections, have become famous in their own right.  In the olden days, artists took on apprentices who then had to produce their own "masterpiece" to join the artisans guild or get in the Salon show to prove they had "made it".  Their work, however, did not mimic the masters necessarily. 
Everyone who has taken a class or workshop, seen a demo, watched a dvd, or worked under an established artist, will show an influence.  The real artist will continue to work on his or her own, taking what works for them from the master artist, and developing his or her own style.  Cezanne said, "I paint this way because I can't paint any other way," or something like that when he was asked about his style of painting. 
So to truly become an artist with a Voice, have something to say.  Paint because you can't not paint.  Paint because you dream paintings and see visions in your head.  Paint because you are miserable if you don't.  There is no magic number of paintings to do in a year or over time.  One hundred, two hundred, it doesn't matter.  Your voice will start to sound like you and you alone.  Develop your voice, the world is listening. 

Valley View
Oil on museum quality board
8 x 8

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Golden Moment
Oil on linen
20 x 24

It is difficult for me to understand artists who have "creativity" blocks.  They can't think of anything they want to paint.  I am sure this must happen to some people once in a while sort of like writer's block?  I am not one of those people.  As part of my ADD, I can get over-stimulated with visual images.  I can see paintings nearly every place I look.  I am constantly seeing compositions and thinking about how I would paint something.  I name colors in my head and how to mix them.  I am not a good traveling companion.  Instead of navigating, I am looking out the window and painting in my head.  Do other artists do this?  Surely some do! 
So how do you become inspired to actually go from looking at something or seeing something in your head to putting in down on canvas?  First, I think of painting as a visual language.  What is it you want to communicate to others?  You will not be standing next to that painting to explain it, what is it you want to say about the subject?  It is about the color scheme, the mood, the atmosphere, or the light?  Is it the tilt of someones head, the expression of a child, the texture of a cloth?  Then choose your tools:  the medium, the colors, the brushstrokes.  In my recent workshop "All About Color" one student said, "I have learned to Think More and Paint Less."  Hmmm, perhaps that is something we all need to do.  Like thinking before speaking.  Make your comments count.  Your inspiration is waiting!

This weekend, March 23 - 25, I will be painting en plein air at Walt Disneyworld's Flower and Garden Festival 2012.  It takes place in Epcot every spring and I am always so thrilled to take part.  I will be in "Italy".  This is my seventh year to be invited?  I'll be posting on my FB page: DurindaCheek and on my Fan Page:  Durinda'sFineArtFanPage so hope you can join me and see my inspirations for this week!

Ciao for now, ya'll!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Loose Women

Oil on museum quality board
6 x 6
(My first painting at home since the workshop, what do you think?)

With Leslie Saeta

Dreama T Perry
The Rowdy Corner of Southern Gals, minus Karen taking the shot

What better place to encounter loose women than Buckhead in Atlanta for a week?  I was part of Leslie Saeta and Dreama Tolle Perry's workshop.  Leslie and Dreama are two of the Daily Painters.  Leslie paints with a palette knife and Dreama works in transparent oils.  Both very different styles and especially different from mine.  What did I want to learn?  To loosen up of course!  I am wanting my oil paintings to look more like my watercolors.  I know that when I paint with watercolors, I am confident and just go for it!  I put colors where I see them and not where they necessarily are.  I can swish and splatter and work wet-in-wet.  I have felt that my oils lacked that looseness, that confident brushstroke, that surprise of color.  These two gals were about as loose as you can get, fast and furious, brave and confident.  I also found out that painting with a palette knife takes some practice.  I wasn't sure if I could hold my mouth right to get those strokes I wanted.  The benefits of knife painting?  No brush cleanup, soft edges, textured paint, clean color.  So whether or not I pursue either of the gals' styles in painting, I have told myself, "I can do this!  I can mix color, put it on, and leave it alone."  It was fun being a student for a week, observing how they each had their style of teaching, being around artists I knew already and meeting new artist friends.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have some paintings to knock out in the next couple of hours.
Paint Happy!