Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's not over till its over!

A few weeks ago I talked about finishing the painting of Albert and the cat pillows. It was signed,  and I was sure I was done with it. Like most of my paintings, I put it in a place to dry that was visible to me every time I walked to my bedroom. I was sure the painting was finished . . . positive in fact. So why did I have to stop and stare at it every time I walked past it, thinking about it as I lay in bed, going over it with a fine tooth comb in my mind. Well the proverbial light bulb finally went off last Monday, about 4 in the morning. I woke from a sound sleep into total awakeness . . . the gray cat!!! Finally an answer to the unease when I looked at the painting! The gray cat pillow stood out like a sore thumb in the painting, even though is was painted with paynes gray, the same color I had used in the other pillows. The difference was I had used titanium white to make the blue gray, the only place I had used it in the whole painting, it was jarring! Looking at it then, it was hard to understand why it took me so long to see the problem. A very large case of tunnel vision! It is easy to get so involved in the process of a painting that we only see the individual parts rather than the whole. I sat down and played with colors until the painting was more cohesive. The gray pillow is now a light tan color, similar to two other pillows in the painting and I added a pattern of red hearts. The color pattern of the painting is now much more pleasing.  It is sitting back in the walk by spot, now when I walk by I can smile and keep on walking by. This painting is now really done!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cats for All!!

Sad to say I finished the "Cats" painting. Why sad? This painting has been so much fun to paint, from pencil sketch to finished painting! Playing with the patterns and colors was refreshing and thought provoking making the whole experience a pleasure.

The above is the 5th photo of the "cats" painting. Some of the detail has been put in, but more is needed. The orange and yellow stripped cat doesn't hold down the right side of the painting and needs to have the yellow stripes made dark and the grey and white  cat needs to be outlined. Of course Albert needs to have his whiskers put on!

Here is the finished piece, signed and everything! I love this painting and will have prints made up for sale. As you can see the cat in the lower right now has black stripes and the brown cat next to him is now sporting beige polka dots. Not so easy to see are Albert's white whiskers, but I guarantee that they are there. On to my next painting, which believe it or not is not a cat painting but a landscape! Not to worry though I will be back painting Albert or one of his friends soon. Speaking of cats....this last weekend my friend Rick and I were in Sumner, and found the greatest little shop called "The Collectible Cat". It is a cat lovers heaven, everything from jewelry to towels! There is even a resident cat named Reilly, a rehomed beauty who has found a loving forever home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where do ideas come from?

One of the hardest parts of being an artist, at least for me, is settling on subject matter to paint. That is not to say there is so little to paint but that there is so much to paint! Every time I visit the produce department at the grocery store I am inspired to paint some beautiful piece of fruit or vegetable. The colors are vibrant, the orderly display looks to be set up for a painting. I have amassed piles of photographs taken to show a specific flower or the way the sun hits the trees in the afternoon. Not enough hours in a day to paint all that needs to be painted! At the moment I am trying to limit my paintings to paintings of cats of my acquaintance, Albert being my primary model. He is quite good at posing in unusual "Albertesk" situations. So recently when I ran across a print I had made quite a few years ago of a collection of cat pillows I immediately thought of putting Albert in amongst the pillows.

Most of my print making was of the intaglio variety, this was a fun way of making a plate to print from. A piece of pantyhose is taped over thick cardboard of the size the prints are to be. The cardboard needs to be waterproofed first with one or two coats of decoupage glue. Once the pantyhose is in place more coats of the glue are painted on where the print is to be white. The more coats of glue the lighter the area will be. Once there enough coats of glue, the plate is ready to be inked, which is applied with a piece of cardboard, then the plate is wiped with a soft cloth to take the ink off the lighter areas. The plate is then placed on an intaglio press, a sheet of damp paper applied on top then the press blanket. Run it through the press and pull the print! The only draw back to this type of plate is that you can only pull a small amount of prints before it looses its crispness of line.
When I start a painting, watercolor or oil, I do a very comprehensive drawing of my composition. I have found that this saves me a lot of time later in fixing any errors that come up with composition. This is the canvas with the drawing on it of Albert and the pillows. As you can see I have changed the arrangement and size of some of the pillows. This was going to be a very fun painting to do!!
The first of the color has been added to the painting. I started with the yellow cats in the back. Usually working from the objects in back to the front helps me work out the color scheme as I work on the painting. Objects that are further back in a composition need to have a softer outline. Sharper lines bring objects to the front and have the effect of flattening the painting.This is also the time when I work out my background color. On this painting I am using a combination of the paynes gray, cad orange, cad yellow light and permanent rose with a touch of buff titanium, all the colors that I have used on the pillows. These colors will be repeated throughout the rest of the painting with the addition of titanium white.
Albert is now finished except for his whiskers and the heart on his collar.  This painting is being done on a gallery wrapped canvas, sixteen inches square by 1-1/2" thick. I really do like painting on the thicker canvas because I then have the fun of continuing the painting along the sides. I will be sure to post a photo showing the sides. I think that this is probably one of the most enjoyable paintings I have done!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cats, cats and more cats!

Cat 'n Quilt

You can probably tell I love cats, they are my favorite subjects to paint. Over the years I have been owned by many cats, big cats, little cats, every color of the rainbow and never any two with even similar personalities. Just like people they are all different, but they have all left indelible prints on my life and heart. I had a grey cat named DC for over 18 years, when he passed away I told everyone that I wasn't going to get another cat, it is just too heartbreaking when they go. Well my friend Liz wasn't going to let that happen, she came over and made me get in her car and we went to her vets that had just gotten a litter of kittens that had been left on the side of the road. There were 8 kittens in the litter about 2 weeks old and no two colors alike. I noticed one little grey kitten all rolled up in a ball and put my hand in the cage to reach for it. I was moving my hand slowly so not to scare the other kittens, one little orange kitten put his paws on my fingers then pulled himself into the palm of my hand, curled up and went to sleep. I was lost, he had picked me, and I was his person. It was another 8 weeks before I could bring him home, and he had almost doubled in size, he fit in my  whole hand. He came in and took over the house, no fear of Elvis (resident dog), he was home and he knew it. You have seen a few paintings of him and heard his stories, his name is Albert and he is quite the character and loves all the attention he gets from his modeling jobs.

This painting of Albert is him laying on an old quilt that he loves. It was a gift to me from my sister many years ago, his orange color on the blue and green quilt is spectacular! He is a great model! I do my paintings on gallery stretched canvas, that means that the canvas is attached to the back of the stretchers, not on the sides. This gives me the opportunity to paint on the sides of the canvas and for the painting to be displayed without a frame. The canvas is thicker than normal too, most stretched canvases are 3/4" while these are 1-1/2" thick. It makes a nice statement on a wall and can stand alone on a book shelf or table.  When I do a painting I like to work from the real item. That can be a little difficult when trying to paint a live animal, so I do pencil sketches and take photos with my phone of him in different positions. I now have enough sketches of him for many more paintings!! When I am doing still life paintings I work directly on the canvas with the items in front of me in a set up. It gives a real freshness to the composition and color. So much more control of light too. When I am painting Albert I have to be very careful with the lighting, too much light and the color of his coat fades and the bars are totally lost. The other reason to keep the lighting down is the eyes, when cats are in bright light the pupil in the eye closes up to a tiny dot, I like the lower light because the pupil is larger and rounder, giving the cat a much softer look. It the movie "Puss and Boots", when Puss wants to be lovable they give him huge round pupils in the eyes and everyone becomes hypnotized by the cute little kitty. Someone really understood cats that worked on that movie, which by the way I loved!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Spring Flowers

White Tulips

I finished this painting last spring, but have taken my time in posting it. While I was working on it I wasn't feeling very well and had been back and forth with different Doctors, going through a lot of testing trying to figure out what was wrong. They had put a stint in the day after Christmas, but I was still slowing down. Not enough energy or stamina to walk from room to room or sit and paint for very long. This painting was finally finished in mid March, I was scheduled to go in for another test where they shoot dye through the arteries to see if there are any blockages. The put me out for the test and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance being taken to another hospital for emergency surgery. An amazing Doctor did a triple by pass and I am still here today to tell the story. After a week in the hospital I had to spend a month in a rehab facility, not a bad place but not home. I missed Albert and Elvis terribly, they are after all my family! Time passes slowly when you are recouperating, the mind is willing but the body is unable to comply. This painting was one of the things I asked to be brought to me for my room. It hung on my wall in the facility for most of the month, I painted and repainted it in my mind, changed colors and composition. It was my focus point for the bad times and encouragement for the good days. It made me look forward to the day that I could start to paint again. I am feeling great, I am home with Albert and Elvis, the sun in shining and all is well!

A little more information about this painting. My friend Rick found the milking stool and porcelain watering can at an estate sale. Both probably date back to the 1930's. Someone at some point had painted the watering can a matt white but the rust was coming through in places giving it a wonderful color and the places where they had painted over the chipped porcelain gave it even more texture. Same thing was done to the stool, only they used an off white color. Absolutely wonderful shapes and texture on both items, but what to put with them to make a great composition. I really didn't want a lot of color to take away from the shapes. I found a pot of white tulips, not open, just the buds peeping out from the green foliage. Perfect!! I wanted just a touch more green so added a primrose in the back. This was a really limited palette, I used titanium white, sap green, dioxazine purple, and some cad yellow light. I was delighted with the very rich browns I was getting from the sap green and purple, something I had not tried before. I used the green in pure form in three areas to compliment the composition. Even though it took me longer than usual to paint this picture I am very happy with the results.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Outhouse 1

You don't see many of these anymore. I remember when I was a child going on vacation in Wisconsin. These were always fishing vacations since my Dad was an avid fisherman, off we would go to a lake that boosted "modern" accomodations. That did not mean indoor plumbing however. Up before dawn and into the boat, my Dad would row us out to the perfect spot, I would put the worm on and throw in my line and watch for my little red and white bobber to go under. I remember the sounds of the water rippling against the small wooden boat, the birds chirping as the sky lightened, fish jumping, the mist rising from the water, and my  toes wriggling in the cold water in the bottom of the boat. Catching just enough fish for breakfast, cleaning them and watching them cook in the big black frying pan. Great memories of time spent with my Dad. But you ask what does that have to do with the painting of the outhouse? None of the places we stayed at had indoor plumbing. There were no fancy resorts, mostly just little one room cabins with a bed. Now I didn't mind getting hosed off outside, and brushing my teeth outside was actually kind of fun. Couldn't do that at home! Using the outhouse was something else again, kind of scary for a skinny little kid. My first visit made me sure I could "hold it" until we went home a week  later. Visions of monsters under the bed are nothing compared to what was living down in that black hole! We are talking snakes, spiders, wolves, bears, mountain lions at least. Although thinking back now, no respectable animal would go near that smell! Of necessity I  became quite adept at getting in and out of the little houses quickly with only a few slivers to show for my haste. The old outhouses have been replaced by modern indoor plumbing in most situations and if outdoor accomodations are needed the blue plastic "Port-a-Pottys" are there. I don't think there were ever two outhouses that looked the same. Some were quite fancy. At Lincoln's home in Springfield Illinois the little house out back was a "three holer". Now what kind of a conversation would you have with someone using the adjoining hole. Hmmmmmm, makes you wonder.  Depending on where you are the building change in appearance and in the material used to  build it. Some have been kept up and used as garden sheds or just conversation pieces. Once in a while you will see one of the old ones sitting out in a field, overgrown, uncared for, abandoned. A joke to some, an eyesore to others, for me, memories of special times with my Dad.

This painting is the first in a series of paintings of old outhouses. I wanted to show age, the old outhouse, the old horse and dog, even the hills are old and bare. My palette stayed in the  purple and mauves, in the shadows of the outhouse, horse and dog and repeat in the distance. Not too much background to show the isolation of the area and still keeping the painting light. I enjoyed doing this painting and decided that doing a series of outhouses would be an interesting thing to do.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Albert and the Sunflowers


These beautiful sunflowers were a gift from a friend, he bought them for me, I thought they were for me, but Albert had a totally different idea! He absolutely loved these flowers and would not leave them alone. He wasn't trying to eat them he would just bury his nose in the brown centers and take deep breaths. I know my smeller is not nearly as refined or sensitive as his, but I couldn't smell anything. This painting came about when he learned to quickly turn away from the flowers and sit down like he had no interest at all in them when I would walk into the room. He really is quite the actor!! As soon as I would leave the room he was back with his nose in the flowers. I finally gave up trying to find a safe place to put the vase and just left it on the counter in the kitchen. They looked great, brightened up the room, and Albert was happy with "his"  flowers in a place he could keep smelling them.

The subject matter for this painting was easy, painting the flowers and Albert went well, but the background was really problematic for me. I had a blue background first, prussian blue grayed with a bit of cad orange, and it was horrible!! Then I used a sap green-olive green mixture, not as bad as the blue but it really did nothing for the subject matter. The final results was created by using the same colors that are in the flowers and adding olive green for the dark areas. I haven't used olive green a lot in my paintings but found it as a nice addition to the yellows and oranges. It blends well and compliments without overpowering.

This is Bad Albert in his favorite spot overlooking my drawing table. He knows when I am working on a painting of him and "oversees" my work to make sure I do him justice. If it is a painting that he is not in he faces the other way! He does have a very high opinion of himself, but what cat doesn't?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Well it's been a while since my last post, lots of changes in my life, but still the one consistency of creating art keeps both my feet on the ground. It's true when the mysterious "they" say, the more things change the more they stay the same. The time has come for me to get serious about my paintings, decide on a medium and subject matter and stick to it. I love all mediums, water color for it softness, pastels for the brilliant color, oil for the creamy consistency and of course I am addicted to the smell! So I have made a decision. . .drum roll please. . . and the winner is oil! I may still dabble in the others on occasion but I will be working mainly in oils on stretched canvas. Now on to the subject matter, again I have never focused on any one type of painting, preferring to follow the whimsy of the moment. Granted I have a large body of work to show, but it has no direction. So, for now I am going to be concentrating on still life paintings. Hmmmm you say to yourself as you look at the painting above. . .what kind of still life it this?  This is Albert, aka BadAlbert, my studio assistant and budding model. No still life is complete until inspected and approved by Mr. Albert. In some  cases he feels the addition of his rather ample girth is needed to bring my still life up to his standards. So on occasion, to keep him purring, more portraits will be forthcoming.

Those of you who have had the privilege of being owned by a cat have seen that expression staring at you out of a discarded bag or box. It's a "let's play" expression, and a furry projectile is about to explode into a mad flight around the room. No matter how many very expensive toys are purchased, an empty paper bag is definitely more fun!!  This was a fun painting to do, I smiled all the time I was working on it. It is on a 6" x 6" wrapped canvas that is 1-1/2" thick. When I say it is a wrapped canvas that means the canvas is attached in the back leaving the sides unmarked with staples or tacks. The sides are painted with a continuation of the bag, it hangs flat against the wall or can sit on a table top and does not need a frame. I found that people who have limited wall space use the smaller paintings to tuck into book shelves, on top of desks or end tables to add interest and color. 

I feel eyes staring at the back of my head, ah yes, he is such a slave driver! Albert much prefers me sitting at my easel so he can relax in his cat tree and supervise. Back to work!!