Search This Blog

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Darker Mood

"Cling" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper

Click here to view prints:

Here is another butterfly pastel, on Canson Mi-Teintes paper and with a little darker feel to it than the last one.

I normally paint in a bright and sunny fashion, as I happen to agree with Renoir's famous stance on ugliness in art: there's enough ugliness in the world, so why not paint beauty instead?

Ocassionally, however, a less cheerful mood will overtake some of my work. In this case, the colors came out fairly dark, and the butterfly took on the appearance of clinging to the foliage rather than hanging delicately as it was in my reference photo. The surrounding plants appear to part ways, as though a wind is sweeping through the area and leaving the butterfly to hang on desperately until it passes. There is light in the background, suggesting that the dark wind will pass and the warm light will take over.

The direction this painting took may have had something with the pea-soup fog we've been getting in the mornings, and the changing season. Fall is actually my favorite season, but it always takes some adjusting once the sun starts disappearing earlier each day.

"Beauty in Hiding" 18 x 24 Chalk Pastel on Paper

Click here to see more original works for sale through Paypal:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hula Girls

"Seated Pose" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel

Click here to view print choices:

Hula isn't just for Hawaiians...

I recently attended a wonderful recital in Temecula, California. The Polynesian dances were so inspiring, I took a bunch of photos from afar just to have a reminder of the poses and costumes.

"Dancer" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel

Click here to view print choices:

Each piece in this series has a different focus and features a different girl. In "Seated Pose," I wanted to focus on the position of the dancer's body. In the "Dancer," I hoped to capture a bit of movement, although this dancer happened to be standing still in the photo. "Hula Girl" was inspired by curviness of the dancer's body, and the graceful way she held herself in position.
"Hula Girl" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel

Click here to view print choices:
I don't paint people as often as I'd like; being a sucker for costumes and music, I had a good excuse to get back into it. I know Degas was partial to the ballet, which I also love to watch. I've been working in a tropical vein for some time though, and these girls fit right in with my preference for bright color. These three were just from one dance number. I have photos from a few different ones, so there should be a few more hula paintings in the future. There is a bit of freedom in painting dancers, because the goal is to capture the spirit of the dancer rather than agonize over facial details. I'm also careful not to capture likenesses of people who don't know they're in my paintings, so I get to improvise on the faces.

Another thing I learned during the recital: when little kids hear some Tahitian drums, they go crazy and chase each other in circles. It was a good thing we were way back on the grass.

Click here to see all three listings for these pieces on ebay:

Click here to view my original works for sale through Paypal:

Or click here to see more originals on Art Garage

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beauty in Hiding (How to use chalk pastels and water)

"Beauty in Hiding" 18 x 24 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Original Sold

When most people think of chalk pastel, they don't think of brushes and water. Chalk pastel is in fact quite water soluble, if you know work carefully and adjust for the dust.

The piece above was based on a reference photo of butterflies at a seasonal exhibit. These particular butterflies have unique camouflage, with large shapes on the wings resembling (to me at least) owl eyes. The trick for this piece was to showcase the butterflies in all their camouflage glory without losing them in the background. I also wanted to work large. Using Canson watercolor paper, I utilized the following steps to achieve the end result (the work in progress photos are unfortunately darker because I took them at night):

Stage one: using chalk pastels, I drew in my composition and blocked in lights and darks on taped down watercolor paper (this exercise does not work on paper made for dry pastels! Flat canvas works nicely though.) I left plenty of white paper to keep some lights in the next stage. There were a lot of hanging vertical plant pieces in the photo, so I tried to keep them loose enough not to close off any of the space in the painting.

Stage 2: I used a large watercolor brush and gently placed small amounts of water onto sections of the painting, spreading it around to fill in forms and shadows, being careful to leave a few lights along the way. This creates a different effect than smearing dry pastel does, in that the water fixes the medium to the paper and creates its own texture depending on how it combines with the chalk. One warning: the chalk tends to bubble up when you add water, thanks to the dust. I usually take these little "bubbles" and poke them around and spread them on the paper to see the effects. Adding just a tiny bit of water at a time will lessen the amound of bubbles; you can also try using less chalk on the paper, so that it combines more easily with the water.

Stage 3: To finish the piece, I waited until the next day to make sure the piece was completely dry. (Do NOT try to add more chalk to your wet paper, or you risk ending up with ripped paper.) Once the piece is dry, it has the feel of a nice underpainting, with the chalk fairly fixed in place. This is a good stage to add those lights on top of darks, sharper edges, and in general emphasize any bright colors or bold strokes you want to add as a finishing touch.

Chalk pastel is a versatile medium; in those times when I feel like using both my hands and a brush to create, the water and chalk combination works perfectly for me.

Here are is another piece I created using water and chalk pastel on paper:
"Ladies of the Water" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper (original sold, prints available here:

Click here to see more of my botanical and garden-themed art for sale!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Joys of Painting At Home

"Along the Canal" 20 x 20 Acrylic on Box Canvas
(Original donated to S.A.F.E. Temecula for auction)

A couple of totally different painting experiences, both at home: one so relaxing I could barely keep my eyes open, the other so frustrating I had to take frequent time-outs.

I firmly believe that it is to my benefit as an artist to be able to drop everything and work on a painting or drawing, no matter where I am. Gone are the days where the combination of timing, inspiration, and availability of materials all had to come together in order for me to spend some time making art. I now know that waiting for those moments to come would mean never getting any work done at all, so I took a strategy from my writing days instead: be prepared to paint at any free moment, and put some time in each day.

Painting at home should give me plenty of opportunity for this, right? Well, there's definitely just takes a cool head and a persistent hand to make the most of it.

I'm pretty good at tuning out the fun distractions, and I certainly have a nice kitchen space with great lighting for work. Unfortunately, there's no way to keep out the furry and toddling company. Someone inevitably wants to be fed (numerous times), knocks something over, jumps up in my face and gets fur all over everything, tugs on my shirt for a snack or attention, tries to drink my paint get the idea (and yes, almost all of those transgressions are committed solely by my cats, and no, I don't leave paint water out for my child to drink).

It would help if I didn't procrastinate, and things do go much better when I do a clear and organize session in the workspace before I bring out the messy acrylics. It seems to be getting easier to work in little bits at a time on the acrylic paintings, as long as I can keep the water handy and brushes clean. After much toil and bad language, I completed the piece above, one inspired by a trip to the city of Venice, California a few years ago. I struggled with the square composition, but once I went back to it and just decided to play with brushwork and color, it practically finished itself.

Despite being wiped out after finishing the "Canal" piece, I still caught a little plein air fever when I got home later in the day and had a sleeping toddler in the car. I pulled up a chair behind the car and did a quick study of shadows and light in the grove across the way, thoroughly enjoying the afternoon breeze and pleasant sunlight.

"Distant Grove" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Original Sold
Cick here to view prints

I guess I always need a little pressure and spontaneity to really get fired up and do some work, so maybe the chaos at home is a good thing.

Click here to view more originals for sale through Paypal:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Importance of Playing With Color

"Seabird" 8 x 10 Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to purchase original

In your average harbor, the water isn't the cleanest-looking. Neither are the birds. When the sun hits everything just right, rich colors still come through...and then there's always my favorite option: exaggerate.

The seagull above wasn't the most colorful bird, and the rocks and water were also a bit dull at first glance. Adding teal and orange as the basic color scheme livened it up a little, and still kept the harbor tones in the painting. I know you won't find much orange (and definitely not any teal) on a seagull, but it makes for a more interesting painting to take a few artistic liberties with color to please the eye.

For the next piece, I wanted the emphasis to be on color and natural elements. The reference photo I used was taken from an airboat in Florida, and featured gray sky, almost gray water, and straw colored grass with a hint of green. Those colors are powerful in their own way, but don't suit my style of painting. I used blue toned paper, and blocked in the water, grass, and clouds with some neutral blues and greens before getting more creative with the color scheme. Taking a longer look at my photo, I detected some yellows and oranges in the grass. I added those colors, finishing with some purple and red in the clouds (and just a hint of red in the grass and water). It was a warm, humid afternoon that day, so I gave the clouds some of the ominous darkness so common in a typical tropical climate.

I learned a long time ago in my artistic journey that colors aren't always what they seem, and it's much better to use them as tools to reach the painting's intentions rather than be a slave to their accuracy.

"Clouds and Water, Grass and Sky"
9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to purchase

To view more of my original works for sale through paypal, click here:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This is San Diego?

"San Diego Backcountry" 9 x 12 in. chalk pastel on paper

Well, it's not in the city of San Diego...

It's another one of those views from the tram at the Safari Park, which is in San Diego County.

Once you leave the coast, much of San Diego county looks like the above painting. It's been unbearably hot these last few days. Sometimes the heat inspires me to paint cooler places like the beach; according to the weather channel website, it's even hotter down at the coast than it is here today.

For this painting, I worked quickly, having already formed the idea based on a reference photo ahead of time. The simple composition and emphasis on color (especially the orange paper) were the main components.

California is famous for supposedly not having seasons. Anyone who spends a fair amount of time here can tell that summer is slipping into fall by looking at the sky: the blue deepens into a bold azure,providing a stunning backdrop for the golden hills as they hit their dryest point of the year. The surrounding beauty is unfortunately a reminder that fire season is just around the corner.

Here's another piece inspired by a view in the same area:

"Country Roads" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper

Click here to view blog post:

To see additional works for sale, click here: