March/April paintings at Parklane

It’s a new month and we’ve rotated out the art at Parklane Gallery. These are the three I’ll have on the wall through April. (Unless of course one or all sells!)

“Shake off the Night” and “Frolic,” the two on the left, are watercolor on textured canvas. “Lightkeeper’s Dwelling,” the tall, narrow painting, is watercolor on paper. All have been varnished to protect the surface and to “set” the watercolor. A quick whisk with a feather duster should keep them clean, but a soft, lightly dampened cloth can be used if needed.

Finished portrait of “Christine”

I shared a progress photo a couple of weeks ago of a portrait commission I was working on. Now that Christmas is past and the portrait has been delivered (to tears and delight), I can post the finished painting. This was a fun-and challenging-project, as the cell phone reference photo was dark, shadowed and a little blurry.  My goal was to create a bright, happy, girly portrait that wasn’t too sweet. According to her mom, mission accomplished!

Working in graphite

Years ago, long before watercolor came into my life, most of my work was done in graphite, ink or scratchboard. While learning watercolor, I came across the work of Georges Seurat. His drawings in particular are very inspiring – the soft edges, the richness of values and the depth of expression are all masterful, and something to aspire to. This is the first graphite piece I’ve done in a while, and I kept Seurat’s drawings in mind the entire time I worked on it.

3 paintings in a day

With “small works” shows gaining in popularity, and the different opportunities that pop up to show work in a limited space, I’ve been working on some new paintings in a variety of sizes. The two square pieces are 8×8″ and the study of the totem pole is 9×12″. All three are watercolor on textured canvas, and were completed in one long day in the studio. Once finished, the paintings are varnished to protect the  surface and eliminate the need for glass.

An anniversary gift…

When my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary, we took a road trip to Jackson, WY. Between the snowmobiling, the wildlife and the amazing art, it was a fantastic trip, and we brought home a very nice bronze. Since then, we have continued to purchase art on our trips, and love to visit galleries wherever we go.

While working a recent shift at Parklane Gallery, I was blessed to have the experience of selling a pair of my paintings to a couple that were celebrating their own 10th anniversary. A few days later, they sent me a photo of the paintings in their entryway, with the following comment:

I don’t think the photo really does them justice, they’re actually the prominent feature coming in the front door, and make the house quite welcoming, especially on these dark winter days.

They’re really quite wonderful, and do a lovely job capturing what is so special about the region we live in. It is a pleasure having them in our home.


Brett and Margaret

Watercolor in floating frames

Just picked these up from Tsuga Fine Art & Framing in Bothell. They’ll be on the wall at Parklane Gallery in a couple of days! Whew, things move fast sometimes…

Reflections of Lopez and At the Turn of the Trail are 11″ x 30″ watercolors that have been varnished and mounted to board. That allows for a presentation without glass. Really loving this look, and am starting to do more and more paintings this way.

One downside is that paintings shown this way cannot be entered into most juried watercolor shows. Most still require the painting to be surrounded by a white or off-white mat and framed behind glass or plexiglass. Galleries seem to like this method, however, as many customers say they love a painting but can’t stand the glass. Will be interesting to see what the reception is as I put more of these “out there”…

One weekend, 3 1/2 paintings…

The Samish Island Paint Out is a five-day art retreat that happens three times a year. Artists from all disciplines and experience levels enjoy a break from “real life” and a chance to create as much art as we want.

We just finished the September session, and it was a very productive three days for me (I went up Thursday through Saturday). The painting at far left was started Saturday morning and is about half done. The blue roan Arabian and the lighthouse were both started and completed over the weekend, and the foal was finished up. Each painting uses half of a 22″ x 30″ sheet of watercolor paper.

At the Peruvian Paso horse show


Each summer, the Northwest Peruvian Horse Club holds their Championship Show at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, WA. It is always a treat to attend, as this is one of the friendliest groups of horse people you will ever meet. Everyone is happy to share the history of the breed, answer questions about the tack the horses are shown in, and pose their horses for pictures.

The Peruvian Horse was developed within Peru using a trio of foundation breeds. From the NAPHA website: The Spanish Jennet gave its even temperament and smooth ambling gait, the African Barb contributed great energy, strength and stamina while the Andalusian imparted its excellent conformation, action, proud carriage and beauty to the new breed.

Peruvian Pasos have a smooth, ground-eating gait that is appreciated for both its style and comfort. As I have seen visiting the show, the horses have friendly, engaging personalities and love interacting with “their” people and strangers alike. I can’t wait to start painting some of these beauties! The painting at the top of the page is one of my first watercolors of a Peruvian gelding ready for the show ring.

Peruvian Paso Orgullo Del Peru waiting for a cookie

Peruvian Paso Orgullo Del Peru learning tricks

Peruvian Paso Orgullo Del Peru shaking off the sand

Peruvian Paso looking for treats

Peruvian Paso ready for the show ring

Painting “Buster”

Buster is a little Quarter Horse that I photographed at a show at the local fairgrounds.  He had a string of ribbons across the front of his stall, and a very long, complicated name tag that ended in “AKA Buster.” When I snapped the photo, Buster was standing in his stall, a little tired and prepping for a nap.

While all of Buster was captured in the original photo, I decided to crop down to get an almost life-sized painting of his sweet face. In the reference photo, you can see his lovely chestnut coloring. I wanted to boost the contrast a bit, and bring in shades of blue and purple that would play off all of the red tones.

The very first step for me in any portrait is to paint the eye(s). I feel that if the eyes aren’t right, the finished painting just won’t work, so it’s a good place to start! From there, I’ll paint out towards the ears and muzzle. Since this is such a tight crop, the typical ears/eyes/muzzle center of interest isn’t visible, so the eye really had to carry the painting.

Do you notice that I’ve bent one of the rules of composition? The center of interest shouldn’t be in the literal center of the painting, yet his eye is very close to center from top-to-bottom. If you were to divide the painting into thirds vertically though, it is to the right of center. The white blaze and dark background are strong elements on the left side of the painting, which helps balance the detailed eye. So, rules can be pushed a little, if done with intention.

This painting is on a half sheet of paper (15 x 22″), so it was painted in large sections. A lot of it was painted wet-into-wet, meaning the paper was wet with clear water, then color dropped or brushed in. The speckled area at the top left was done with a spritz of water as that section was nearly dry. Once the entire sheet had been filled with initial washes, the real fun of layering and creating texture began.

This is what I call “trainwreck” stage. All of the elements are there, but the different areas don’t blend together, and the value map is all over the place. Some areas need to be lighter, some darker, and the warm chestnut color needed to be more prominent to balance the coolness of the dark tones.

The final step was to compare it to the reference and make sure the underlying structure of the face was correct. You can take a lot of liberty with color, value, texture, etc. in a painting, but if you’re going for a representational portrait, it has to look like the subject!


“Hardened” revisited

Sometimes, “finished” means “done painting for now.” That turned out to be the case with this painting of a weathered padlock on a rusty gate. In the before painting at left, the colors are saturated and bright; the dirt and rust are nicely rendered, and the overall composition is pretty good. Do you see what it didn’t have? A shadow for the lock!

This piece had been signed, photographed and entered in two different shows – both of which it failed to be juried into. As I sat watching a slideshow of all of the pieces entered into one of those shows, the lack of shadow and contrast leaped off the (large) screen at me. So, back to the studio for a few relatively small adjustments.

With the addition of a darker value across the entire bottom third, including a shadow for the lock, the “floaty” feeling of the main subject has been fixed. I also darkened the shadow at the bottom right of the ring, so it ties into the deep shadow below the lock. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to look critically at a finished painting, and ask yourself if it is as strong as it could be. You may find yourself pulling the brushes out again…