Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mama Cardinal - and Thoughts on Painting with a Palette Knife

Mama Cardinal
Oil on canvas, 6x6

Painting with a palette knife, I am realizing, involves an entirely different mindset and approach than painting with a brush. This has become more clear to me recently, as I've done workshops with a number of painters who use brushes and want to learn the knife. 

With a palette knife, or at least the way I paint, the art happens one distinct stroke at a time. When I am at my best, and my painting is at its best, I make a mark and I leave it alone. I don't go over it, I don't change it, I don't touch it, once I put it on the canvas.

This is absolutely antithetical to the way most folks paint. When you're using a brush, you can go over and over the paint. You can sort of scrub the paint, softening the edges, blurring and blending and changing by degrees. It is very, very hard for a person who paints with a brush to stop going over the paint, again and again and again. 

For me, most of the work is done before I touch the knife to the canvas. I mix the paint on my palette, I pick up the colors I want, I make the stroke and then I leave it. Wipe off my palette knife and go on to the next stroke. In many paintings, sunflowers most of all,  I find, I mix the paint stroke by stroke - in other words, each petal, each part of each petal, is a different combination of colors, a different bit of paint. The background, I mix in larger batches, but those flowers are bit by bit by bit. 

And believe me, it's really, really hard NOT to go over the strokes! But every time you do, it muddies the painting and dulls the paint. 


Oil on canvas, 6x12

ANOTHER THING I've been thinking, while I've been making these small paintings for the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center show, that runs in June at the Center in Mystic, CT, is how great it would be to do shows with only - or mostly - teeny paintings. 

There was a guy across the aisle from me in Chattanooga who had mostly tiny paintings, all of strange, cartoon-like characters. He sold these for what I thought was too much money - $145 for a 6-inch-square painting, and up from there. Of course, I haven't done the math, but perhaps that's what you have to charge to make a living selling tiny paintings. 

And clearly, before I fantasize too much about showing up for a show in a Prius or a Mini Cooper, I should sit down and do some multiplication. I can say that it would be such FUN to have a tent with mostly all teeny stuff. And it would be miles easier than lugging 48x60-inch paintings - though I DO love to paint them...

Chubby Cheeks
Oil on canvas, 6x6

Dog of the Day

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Huge Summer Garden & Tiny Animals!

Summer Garden 
Oil on canvas, 48x60

Sometimes, I just have to laugh at myself, and yesterday was one of those times. 

I'd spent the previous three days painting this gigantic sunflower painting - four feet by five feet. Tons of color. Tubes and tubes and tubes of paint. Thousands and thousands and thousands of strokes. It's so big and so heavy, I had to ask Peter to help me lift it so I could raise the easel. 

I worked on it and worked on it and worked on it, and then, finally, it was done. Yay! 

I put it in the van to dry and went back to the studio. 

My next painting? Five inches square. 

Made me laugh. 

Oil on canvas, 5x5


Oil on canvas, 4x5

THE IMPETUS FOR these small pieces is twofold. First, I want to see if it's worth my while to create a line of smaller, cheaper paintings. If it takes me three hours to make a 10x10, which I sell for $100, but it takes me two hours to make a 5x5, which I sell for $45, well, then it's not worth it. But if I can make the smaller paintings more quickly, and if they sell fast, then maybe it IS worth it. So I am experimenting. 

But before these paintings make it into my booth at this summer's outdoor art shows, they're headed for the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic, CT. My friend and former boss, Elissa Bass, is working for the center, which is run by another friend, and former classmate, Maggie Jones. Elissa invited me to exhibit at the center for the month of June. So that's the first home for these small pieces. 

THIS YEAR'S PAWS FOR CHARITY book is out, and it is just beautiful! 

This is a project I've had the honor of participating in for a few years now. Sara Harley chooses photographs and paintings from artists who apply. She puts together a beautiful book, and donates the proceeds to a shelter in Nova Scotia, where she lives. This year's recipient is SHAID, Shelter for Animals In Distress. 

And if you want to buy a book or two, here's a discount! Put in this code - P4C2014 - when you are checking out, and you'll get 25 percent off. The discount is not good forever, so you should order now! 

Dog of the Day

I met him at the Wachapreague Post Office yesterday, and he was happy and shiny and 
very friendly. I think his name is Zorro, but I could be wrong. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grizzly - and Please Spread the Word

Grizzly Bear
Oil on canvas, 12x12

When I set out to be a painter, one of the things I didn't consider was that I might be asked to paint things I'd never thought of painting. 

Like a parrot - or... a grizzly bear. 

Audrey from Art Gallery H called and told me she had a client who wanted a portrait of a grizzly bear. 

So, OK, I said, wondering - can I really paint a bear? 

But I figured that if I can do a cat, a dog, a turtle  and a frog, I ought to be able to paint a bear. And so I did. I have to say, I love it! 

One of the truly amazing things about this life I'm living is how wonderful and how rewarding it is to just go ahead. If someone else believes I can do it, well, why wouldn't I believe I can do it? 

Bit by bit, my self-doubt is eroding - and I am thrilled. 


IF YOU LIKE this blog - and I sure hope you do... actually, I believe that you do! I know that you do! (see above) - please tell your friends. Email them, forward this post to them, let them know, one way or another. 

If each of you got one person to sign up to have the blog emailed to them, it would be just great. It would double my readership - and lead to more sales, and help me keep this little boat afloat. 

So... would you help, please? Pretty please? 

Thank you! 


THIS YEAR'S PAWS FOR CHARITY book is out, and it is just beautiful! 

This is a project I've had the honor of participating in for a few years now. Sara Harley chooses photographs and paintings from artists who apply. She puts together a beautiful book, and donates the proceeds to a shelter in Nova Scotia, where she lives. This year's recipient is SHAID, Shelter for Animals In Distress. 

And if you want to buy a book or two, here's a discount! Put in this code - P4C2014 - when you are checking out, and you'll get 25 percent off. The discount is not good forever, so you should order now! 

Dog of the Day

THIS IS CHARLIE, who was smuggled into the First Tennessee Pavilion last weekend during the 4 Bridges Art Festival. He was a great dog, happy and funny, and perfectly fine with being inside his little bag.

Just a couple nights ago, Peter and I watched "Men in Black" for about the zillionth time. I DVR'd it, partly because I like the whole movie, but mostly because I love the part with the pug. So, Charlie, WHERE IS THE GALAXY????

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nobody Lives Here Any More - and Paws for Charity Discount

Nobody Lives Here Any More
Oil on canvas, 10x20

The 4Bridges show in Chattanooga gives the artists meals every day! This is unusual, at least in my experience. Sometimes a show will offer supper on Saturday night, but here in Chattanooga, we've had dinner Friday, lunch and dinner Saturday and, I'm told, lunch on Sunday, too. And coffee every morning.

I'd been standing in line for dinner on Friday, and talking on the phone to Peter about the Red Sox and Yankees. When I hung up, the guy ahead of me turned around. He apologized, but said he couldn't help but overhear our baseball conversation, and he was glad, he said, that I was on the right side of the debate - i.e., that I was a Red Sox fan.

We got to talking, and this artist, Ken Herrin, told me that he lives in Chattanooga and loves it here. He and his wife had been living in Oregon, and they felt life was getting stale. So they decided to move to Chattanooga.

Friends asked if they had jobs here. No.

Did they have family in Chattanooga? Nope.

Friends? Well, no.

They thought it looked like a good place to live, and so they moved, and they love it here.

I saw Ken's art on Saturday, and I just love it. We had a long talk about "pretty" art,  romantic art, and how neither of us wants to make art like that. This is a conversation I've had over the years with Peter, and it is always good and reassuring to find someone else out in the world who thinks like we do.

Ken's art is sculpture made from found objects, and is funny and very interesting. And decidedly not pretty. Here are a few pieces:

And here is my painting in the landscape: 


ONE OF THE very fine things about this show was getting together with Maura and Dave Ammenheuser, and meeting their children, Katie and Ryan, and Maura's dad, Jim.  When I was the editor of the Carroll County Times, in Westminster, MD, Dave was my managing editor, and Maura was a reporter. We became friends out of work, and Peter and I went to their wedding and rejoiced for them. We have kept in touch, on and off, over the past 15 years, and I was delighted that they were going to come to Chattanooga. 

The plan, I found out last night, was concoted by Jim, who lives in Charlotte, NC. He started reading this blog after he saw some paintings that Maura and Dave had bought from me, for their home in Nashville. When he saw I was going to be in Chattanooga, he suggested that he drive south, and they drive north, and we would all meet at the show and share the evening. 

We went out to dinner after the show, to a restaurant across the street from the Chattanooga Choo Choo building, which is now a hotel and restaurant, and we had a great time. Jim was fun and engaging, Katie and Ryan seemed like great kids, and Dave and Maura were as delightful and smart as ever. It was such a treat to see them, all these years later, as parents, as a long-married couple, as people who have worked hard and lived well and built a good life for themselves and their family 


THE PAWS FOR CHARITY book is out, and it is just beautiful! 

This is a project I've had the honor of participating in for a few years now. Sara Harley selects  photographs and paintings from artists who apply, puts together a beautiful book, and donates the proceeds to a shelter in Nova Scotia, where she lives. This year's recipient is SHAID, Shelter for Animals in Distress. 

You can see a preview of the book by clicking here:

And if you want to buy a book or two, here's a discount coupon! Put this code in - P4C2014 - when you are checking out, and you'll get 25 percent off. 

Dog of the Day

This cat was smuggled into a room at the hotel where I'm staying... Reminds me of a memorable trip Peter and I made, moving back from Idaho, and smuggling our dogs and cats inside hotels from west to east. This one made me laugh.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring in South Carolina - and Paws for Charity

Spring in South Carolina
Oil on canvas, 16x16

Spring touched South Carolina with the lightest of hands as I set out to paint. A fragile, shining green dotted the tips of the youngest trees. Sprinkles of purple-pink weaved through the woods, a thought of love remembered, recognized. Sunlight slanted bright and narrow down the hillsides, lighting strips of grass too new to have been walked on, or crushed beneath the weight of anyone's life. 

And through it all - but only here and there - like  a sharp breath, a quiet explosion, a bursting heart, the dogwoods blossom, their white or pink or ivory-green sprays of flowers bright in the shadows, beckoning, promising, thrilling. 

It was all I could do to drive from South Carolina to Tennessee without stopping every mile or so to paint. 

My painting in the landscape

Paws for Charity

For the past few years, I've had the great honor of having my paintings included in the Paws for Charity project books. 

These books of paintings and photographs are made by a wonderful Canadian woman, Sarah Harley. She selects the artists and the work, makes the books, does the marketing and then donates all the proceeds to a shelter. The books are gorgeous, the art always interesting, and the project, of course, is one very dear to my heart. This year's recipient is a Nova Scotia shelter, SHAID, or Sheltering Helpless Animals In Distress.

To see a preview of this year's book, click here.  I think you will love it. You can get a hard cover, soft cover or e-book. 


THIS WEEKEND, I will be in the 4 Bridges Art Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's supposed to be a good one, and I'm excited to be included! But man, oh, man, the hours are long - 6-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday. It's more time for people to see my paintings - but sheesh, I'm usually starting to head for bed by 8 p.m. on a show night (isn't that crazy?) 

So if you are in the area, please come and say hello! I am in Booth 120. And whether you're in the area or elsewhere, please think of me in the evenings and send me energetic vibes.


This is the best barbecue I have ever had. Ever! 
It came from the Smokin' Pig BBQ in Pendleton, S.C., and it is amazingly delicious. 
Not only that, but it was also enough for lunch, dinner and breakfast the following day. 

Dog of the Day
This is Bro, and he is just as sweet and sincere as he appears to be. He is funny, too. He "sits" on the couch, putting his back end up on the cushions, while leaving his front feet on the floor. 

Bro lives with Den and Alison Latham, whom I met during the show in Pendleton, SC. Den, who is a painter and a writer (check out one of his books by clicking) here really loved my paintings, and asked me to give him a palette-knife painting lesson. I did, and we had a great time. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Storm Rolling In

Storm Rolling In
Oil on canvas

I had the good fortune, while I was in Tubac, to be out and painting on a day when a big rainstorm rolled in over the mountains. 
I like the big warm clouds at the top of this painting, and the way they've blown in, and I like the strip of light that's made its way through those clouds. The afternoon felt like this - a little chaotic, a little dangerous, but soft, also, and rich with the promise of bright sun and fresh, clean air. 

I'm on my way to South Carolina for a show this weekend, and a show in Chattanooga the following weekend. It's a beautiful time to be in the south - spring has already showed up here! Fruit trees are well into the first phases of blooming, and the air is warm already. 

It feels a little soon to be on the road again - I could have used another week at home, it's been so great to be there. But I'm excited about two new shows, and about my new paintings, too. 


IF YOU'RE ON the Eastern Shore on Sunday, please stop in at the Island House for lunch or dinner and the Artisan Trail fund-raiser. 

A portion of the Island House receipts from the day will go to help build the Eastern Shore Artisan Trail. A silent auction takes place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. There's a social hour from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., and then a live auction starting at 8 p.m. All sorts of artists and artisans have donated pieces for the auction. I've donated a pet portrait, so if you've been longing for one, here's a good chance! For a little more info on the day's events, click here. Wish I could be there! 

Dog of the Day

Here's my friend Catherine Leonci with some of her dogs and some of her daughter-in-laws dogs. 
What an excellent mother-in-law! Looks like a fun time.