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Showing posts from 2012

Lost in the Jungle

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A month after having a baby boy, it's still difficult for me to get painting time in-- this piece was finished mostly in one sitting, but it took several adjustments to get the last details right.  I forgot how miserable it is to try and concentrate on anything when there's a crying newborn around.  The irony of the fact that I recently wrote an article on not abandoning your art blog and then disappeared for a month from mine is not lost on me...

I've spent a lot of time this last month reading about how other artists approach marketing their work, and have reached a conclusion: I don't want to use sales pitches and gimmicks to get my work sold.  One artist I follow mentions not using "hard sales" tactics, because it never pays to have a buyer regret purchasing your work once the art makes it home.  To me, buying art is like buying a favorite book to read or song to enjoy; it should be done because there is a connection to the piece that the buyer wants to …

A Touch of Fall

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"Herbst" is the German word for fall.  It seemed to fit this picture better than the English word for some reason.

The bird is a bit large for a dove, but it was a dove that inspired this painting.  I took a quick photo of this bird relaxing in my driveway as the sun was heading for the horizon a few weeks ago, on a rare day where it had cooled off somewhat.

Fall is usually my favorite season. The days have been so hot these last two months, it's been difficult to remember that summer's been over for a while.  The best part of the day for me this year is when the brutal sun sets, and the air takes on a mild chill.  We have a variety of birds who visit our property and seem to enjoy the evening cooling as well.

It was nice to sit down and make a spontaneous painting that didn't turn into hours of hesitating and overthinking each step.  I just wanted to show the soft golden light and cool shadow so typical of an early fall dusk in Southern California, and staying …

Cat on a Hot Color Palette

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Another heat wave in San Diego county... at this point, I've accepted the fact that I'm going to be hot and miserable until my second child arrives.  So, in between painting sessions on a bigger acrylic piece, I took the time to play with some hot colors and loose cat figures.  We have a couple of cats who are quite, ahem, large, and when they pose I like to take pictures of their forms for later exercises.   I don't use this color scheme often, but I always like it in other artists' works.  There were originally four pieces, but two were duds so I decided to toss them.  It was just a play session, so having a couple of decent mini-paintings come out was nice.  Actually, to have anything artistic to show after these last eight months or so is a pleasant surprise, since in addition to physical discomfort I've had a lot of trouble tapping into right brain mode.  I'm sure it has to do with all the hormone chang…

Keep the Mess, Reach Success

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There are times when it's hard to work in the face of a mess.  When faithfully making daily paintings, I had a little monthly ritual that consisted of collecting all of the works I'd completed for the month and packing them away.  It gave me a chance to clear my mind and start fresh.

These days, I have to work in small spurts on several projects at a time.  When my energy is low (which is most of the time, as I have a baby due next month), the task of cleaning everything up and putting it away each time I work becomes a little daunting.  So, I've decided that it's ok to leave the painting messes out for a while until a piece is finished.  This means having several stations to work, with materials ready and works in progress displayed where I can see them throughout the day. 

The pieces I'm sharing today took longer than planned to complete, as I kept getting discouraged with some of their details.  Leaving them in plain sight at all times gave me the chance to ta…

Oceanside Summer

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This piece took a while, as it was a bit of an experiment but turned into quite an exercise.

We've had some great weather over the summer down at Oceanside Harbor, so I've been wanting to capture some of those bright days in my artwork.  I started with a palette knife painting using blue acrylic and gesso, laying in the values and basic composition before I broke out the chalk.

I ended up layering chalk over acrylic, then more paint over the chalk again to bring back some of those deep blues and bright whites.  The goal of the painting was not to show what the actual boats looked like, but the patterns of horizontal and vertical shapes highlighted by the bright sun and set against the darker water.

In the spirit of summer and great beach weather, I also did a pastel painting of my daughter as she looked last year:
Using chalk pastel on yellow-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper, I thought I would pay tribute to my little girl's toddler shape since she's now outgrown the chu…

Rescuing a Painting

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Some months back, I began a painting with acrylic (using a palette knife) on some flat canvas.  I blocked in the large forms and basic lights and darks with the knife, and liked the simplicity of the first stage.

I tried some chalk pastel over the acrylic, to highlight the thick textures and brighten the piece.  I had put a great deal of yellow chalk over the paint, liking the brightness but unsure that it felt right.

Then I got sick.  Brutally, miserably sick with nausea for a couple of months.  Every time I looked at the painting, I didn't like the color choices I had made (all that yellow began to take on a sickly feel with the green and purple).  Finally, I put it away, because looking at it reminded me of how sick I had gotten when I was in the middle of working on it.

I didn't forget about it though.  I knew it had started off strong, and that it just needed a fresh take and a different direction.  So, this week I removed all of the chalk from the piece and started over…

Slow and Steady

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Caught these two turtles in a cute moment at the duck pond in Temecula...

Not feeling well really puts a damper on the creative process!  I painted this piece mostly in one session, then had a rough few days where I didn't feel well enough to finish it up.  It's easy to start panicking when periods of time like that set in, but I've learned a trick as I've gotten older and more patient: even baby steps will eventually get you where you need to go.

If I felt good enough to sit up and work, I added a little touch here and there to get the piece done: a bit of shading on the shell, more depth in the water, or light smears on the rock.  Having been used to completing five or more paintings a week, finishing just one doesn't sound like much.  It's better than not painting at all, or trying to push out a lot of paintings that end up in the failure pile.  I try to remember that as long as I'm getting something accomplished, I'm on the right track. 

So, if yo…

Water, Water Everywhere

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I took the photo that inspired this painting last year, on a cold day at the beach.  I didn't get around to painting it until this year, on an extremely hot day at home.

Looking around at the finished pieces and works in progress sitting around my kitchen, I realized that every one of them had a common element: water.  Even my landscapes have a bit of water in them.  I thought back to my high school days, when I first really tried to make paintings of my own.  I remembered that they usually had some water or waves in them too.

I don't live near water, but it's not too far to drive to the beach.  I'm also happy to paint swimming pools, ponds, and lakes.  I'm not sure what it is about water, but a painting feels much more comfortable to me if it has some in it. 

One thing I've learned about painting all these water scenes is the importance of shadow under the light.  Even the brightest reflection on water needs that shadowy element to give it depth.  I end up u…

Creating the Mood

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A week ago, it was so cold at a Fourth of July event that we were shivering with sweaters on.  This week, the weather has turned...

Dreaming of cool evenings, I took out the oil pastels and sketched in a tree, Then I added a little bit of sky and water.  I really just wanted to give myself a color exercise, but it turned into a full painting.

After I filled the paper with a full oil pastel underpainting, I used light watercolor as a wash to fill in color over some of the whites.  Once that was dry, a layer of chalk pastel completed the piece, giving it that soft, textured look.  I stuck to a lot of blue and purple, using a bit of green to suggest the leaves of the tree and the grass.  A little red and yellow-orange in the clouds lent a bit of warmth and variety.

I used Strathmore watercolor paper, which holds up pretty well for mixed media pieces.  I didn't have any particular place in mind as I worked, although I usually work from photo references or plein air.  This also allow…

Sunset Blues and Danish Rooftops

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We get a lot of awe-inspiring sunsets here in California, especially along the coast in the fall and winter for some reason.  One of our favorite sunset spots is at the beach in Carlsbad.  If you get there on a day where the ocean fog hasn't rolled in early, the last hour of sunlight makes for spectacular viewing.

I used blue-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper for these two sunset pieces, one showing the view north (including the distant lights of the Oceanside pier) and one looking straight out over the horizon.  I took the reference photos back in December, on a day where we decided to avoid the Christmas shopping rush and hide out down along the beach for a few hours.

Both sunset pieces are daily painting exercises, completed in one session each with the exception of a little finishing before posting.  I tend to go over my horizon lines with a ruler.  If I don't, I can hear my grandmother's voice every time I look at it, reminding me that a water horizon must be absolutely …

Growing a Garden...In a Workshop

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It's summer again, and time for another Sojie Workshop.  This time the focus is on landscape and light, with guest demos and a variety of translations including traditional and digital media.

I wasn't sure if I would participate this round, as being pregnant makes it difficult for me to predict how I'll feel each day.  Scrolling through the photo gallery, though, I spotted one that called to me:  a photo of Monet's garden in Giverny.  I was lucky enough to be able to translate this photo, and the result is above.

(Click here to view original photo:http://www.redbubble.com/people/rhoufi/works/8918649-monets-garden-the-lake-and-the-lodge)

The great thing about the Sojie workshops is that artists are required to post works in progress.  For me, this means thinking carefully about each stage of the painting, and taking my time as I paint.  I usually paint in a bit of a fury, so these workshops give me a chance to grow and learn from the process of posting and sharing alon…

Along the Water

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"Along the Water" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper Click here to purchase
Haven't touched the pastels lately, but I bought a new set since I was running out of colors and have been yearning to put them to paper. 

A few years ago, I took some great photos at Irvine Park.  I'd been to the park a few years in a row without even knowing there was quite a bit of water there, rife with paddle boats for the amusement of park visitors.  I snapped this scene from the train, knowing one day it would give me a great little painting exercise.

Something about the park reminds me of the images from the old Impressionist works, with families enjoying picnics or lounging on the water for the afternoon.  I didn't see any ladies in nice dresses with parasols, but the atmosphere is quite similar-- a nice place to relax on a summer afternoon.

The painting didn't take long, as it was more of a spontaneous play session.  I've been working with acrylics on canvas, so I took a litt…

Inspired by Light (Pastels on Canvas)

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Been trying to get back into the daily painting routine, which for me either means a small painting a day, or a larger painting spread over two days.  It's a bit of a challenge with the growing belly and a very inquisitive firstborn, but I was lucky enough to get a little extra inspiration from an odd source: Sunday's eclipse.

We have beautiful views of the canyon and hills behind us, and I watched the light change on this hill as the sunlight waned throughout the course of the eclipse.  I noted how the normally stunning lights and shadows on this hill were blunted by the general darkening (as opposed to the usual sunrise or sunset glow).  I thought I would be a little more appreciative of those lights and darks and try a painting of the trees and hills the next morning.

I completed this painting in several steps, having struggled a little recently with getting the right balance of color with the chalk pastels on canvas, as the canvas tends to swallow the pastel.

I managed to…

Simplifying...It's Complicated.

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"Ridgeline" 9 x 12 Chalk and Oil Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to purchase original


I may have mentioned before that I had a teacher who would ask if we were "simplifiers" or complicators" as painters.  I wanted to say I was a complicator, because I get caught up in noodling and making sure things look exactly the way I want before I consider a piece finished.  In my heart, though, I think I am a simplifier-- a quick look at most of my artwork would show that I like to focus on the big shapes, values, and colors.

I started"Ridgeline" plein air with chalk pastel on canvas.  It came out a bit dull though, so I added water to blend it.  The water didn't do much, so I began working in some oil pastel to bring out those brighter colors.  That did the trick (normally I don't put oil pastel on top of chalk, but on flat canvas it seems to work just fine).  I struggled with the overall texture of the piece, as I liked the scratchy look of pastel on…

Caught Up In Collage

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So, it's been a couple of months since I've posted artwork. I've been avoiding the paints for a while because of morning sickness, and I've never been able to find definitive information on what's safe to use for painting while pregnant and what's not...so I just did little projects here and there using wax pastels (didn't like 'em) and did finish one piece for the Art of the Avocado contest (using gloves, and keeping the chalk to a minimum). Now that the first trimester has passed, I'm feeling a little braver and have managed to get got caught up with some collage:


It's no secret that everyone in my family is pretty excited about Disneyland, and one of my daughter's favorite rides is the Small World ride (I'm sorry, really sorry if you now have that song stuck in your head!)  Disneyland has an art gallery, and for the last year or so they've been featuring the art of Mary Blair, whose designs were used for the front of that ride.…

Artist's Block?

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"Lil' Goat" 5 x 7 Mixed Media on Watercolor Card
Original Sold


It's been a while since I've posted, although I've been painting most of the time since the last post.


I'm familiar with writer's block. The way I got around it was to force myself to write for a set amount of time each day, which was easier to do if I already had a story in progress.


Artist's block is different for me: there are plenty of things I want to paint, but I have trouble deciding which projects to devote myself to, because I hate to start paintings and not finish them. Daily painting still keeps me in practice, but if I don't find the finished product particularly inspiring, it makes it harder to start a new piece the next day.


Here are some ways I've found to get around this particular brand of artist's block:


Play with media-- the goat painting above actually features pomegranate juice as the purple in the background. (I actually squeezed a fresh pomegranate o…

The problem with people who skim...

No art today. I'm alternating between irritated and slightly amused. I'll be posting the following on my journal on RedBubble instead:

Arrrgggh! Once again, someone didn't take the time to read.

I don't do Facebook, or Twitter, or any social networking-type stuff because I don't trust myself not to post knee-jerk reactions online.
Today, I'm going to post one on my blog.

I recenly wrote an article for Empty Easel. (You can read it for yourself here: http://emptyeasel.com/2012/02/07/if-art-is-a-language-how-well-do-you-communicate/) The point of the article was to express that if people aren't understanding your work as an artist, it helps to take some time to communicate with them so they do.

To be fair, Empty Easel does some heavy-handed editing that can affect the meaning of some of the articles posted. I've seen this happen to other artists who submit articles to this blog. I knew that when submitting my article, but figured I would take my chances. I did…

Blue Moods

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"Harbor Reflections" 12 x 16 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to purchase original
No surprise here: when feeling discouraged, I turn to the color blue! The painting above was done mostly from imagination, although I did flip through a few reference photos of boats at the harbor in Oceanside, CA for inspiration. I am enjoying the process of adding thick acrylic with a palette knife to structure a piece, and layering in pastel to finish it. I did have to use some gesso, having run out of white acrylic. The gesso worked nicely as a base for some of the chalk, and I'm tempted to stick with that instead of buying more white for a while. I wanted to capture the effect of bright sunlight, which deepens the blues and highlights the stark whites when the weather is at its finest down in Oceanside.

For my next piece, I went to another familiar theme: cats.

"Now What?" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to view Etsy listing

This particular cat appeared while we …

The End of the Continent

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"End of the Continent" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to purchase original

Whenever I paint a location, I try to capture the essence of the place by setting the mood with color. This painting was done from a reference photo taken in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

I took a trip to Massachusetts a few years back, and my mom and I thought it would be interesting to drive up the cape to the first place the pilgrims landed before settling in at Plymouth. Being a California native, I'm pretty familiar with beautiful coastlines; however, I was stunned at how striking the cape was in this particular area. It was a cold, windy fall day when I took this photo (so cold and windy I had to keep my hood over my face and snap quickly!)

Looking out across the marshes and ocean, it felt like I was at the end of the world. I've kept the photo out all these years, hoping to make a painting of it with the right combination of color and medium. Using chalk pastel on watercolor pa…

Southern California Scenes

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"Last Light"
9 x 12 Chalk Pastel, Water, and Red Wine on Flat Canvas
(Original not for sale)
Click here to view print choices:
http://www.redbubble.com/people/nikihilsabeck/works/8290572-last-light-pastel

One of the benefits of painting familiar things is the freedom to strip them down into their basic elements. In these paintings, I chose to focus on forms, as the strong directional shapes were what inspired me to paint them. I am one of those people who finds comfort in familiar surroundings, which means I spend lots of time studying the things I see every day and looking for patterns and characteristics to help me paint with ease.

For "Last Light," I used a photo taken on my phone at sunset in Oceanside, California as a loose reference. I often get distant photos of people along the water and use their forms in my paintings. I get lots of sunset photos, because I'm not an early morning person. This translates into paintings that typically have a lot of light…