Psst…

One of my favorite books of all time is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I know there is a movie coming out soon based on the the book, but I don't think I can go see the film. The entire reason that I love the book so much is in the writing. It is the one book that...

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Color of Light

All light sources have an inherent color. Photos tend to throw things off so we see things as “white light” yet did you ever paint something, say, a sunset, and when you added white to the sky it just looked plain “off” or even felt not very lit? Why do some paintings glow with light and some just seem chalky?

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Sketchy Endeavors

While you are reading this I am in day 4 of Jury Duty. Yup, this week I am a servant of the State.

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The Lies That Photos Tell

If you paint portraits from photos, you instantly have a battle on your hands because those pesky photo references tell lies. Here’s why.

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Color Color Color…

Controlling color is one of the most important things you can do as an artist… as well as the most difficult.

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By A Nose…

My students often complain about painting a nose. I hear ya, they are tough… so let’s look at a few things to make painting the schnoz a little bit easier.

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Running Around Like a …

Nope you didn’t miss anything … I have skipped a few blog posts. But a wise artist once told me that we have to bend “when life gets in the way” so here is what has been keeping me so busy.

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Illumination

I recently posted a little oil painting that I was working on last week and was pleasantly surprised when it received a lot of attention on Facebook. SO cool! So I thought I would show how this little image came to be.

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Learning Never Stops

I am always amazed when people tell me, “Oh! you are so talented!!” as though my work stems magically from fairies and pixie dust. Nope. Good art is created out of dedicated time and knowledge.

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Walking in the Leaves

Recently someone asked me if I had a plan for my career now going forward. Goals for awards, shows etc… in other words, what does success look like to me now?

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Chocolate Snob

Chocolate is my friend. Well, maybe we are a bit too close when I see photos of myself.

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ALL the Colors

Last week I was in Iowa City. I took my daughter to college orientation for the University of Iowa. My days with her home all the time are numbered, and soon it will just be my son and I. On the flight this is what he packed…

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Joy

“Painting a landscape is illusionary…  like trying to catch rainbows…”
–  Phil Salvato

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Alexander Soukas. Visiting Master

Last week I had the honor of inviting and studying with Alexander Soukas from Denver, Colorado as part of the Master Series of Workshops I am setting up here in Sewickley at Sweetwater Center for the Arts.

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War

Sometimes a painting just keeps tapping me on the shoulder until I confront it, design it and then try to execute it. Sometimes this conversation with an image takes years.

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The Rest Is Just Noise

Do you hate the painting you are working on? Frustrated with it and just wanna get it “over with?” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but anyone looking at the painting will know…

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Flying Buttresses

“It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion.”
– Andrew Wyeth

Yup… composition is king.

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Be Not Afraid

“I don’t think that there is anything that is really magical unless it has a terrifying quality.”
-Andrew Wyeth

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The Value of Design Part 2

“The way I feel about things is so much better than the way I’ve been able to paint them. The image I had in my head before I started is not quite – never quite – completely conveyed in paint.”
– Andrew Wyeth

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The Value of Design

One of the most prized possessions I have in my studio space is an old book I bought for $6.99 from a second-hand book store.

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Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green

Yes, there is a watercolor book that has this very title, and yes, it is worth reading cover to cover. To understand color, for me there was no better way then studying it in the watercolor medium. I worked in watercolor for years and it had a great side effect- I...

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Chiller Theater

Warning-  if you have an aversion to horror films or are a very tidy artist, you may want to look away…

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Crazy Quilt

“It is not our job to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves
Like the trees, and be born again,
Drawing up from the great roots.”
~ Robert Bly

I found myself complaining recently that I was feeling quite scattered. Starting projects, stopping projects. Throwing myself into events and paintings only to table them soon after…

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On Guard!

Last Sunday I went to the Butler Museum of Art in Youngstown, Ohio. I almost got thrown out…

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Inertia

Some years ago I heard the amazing portrait painter, Howard Sanden, talk about his work. He said the most difficult thing for an artist to overcome is inertia…

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Artist Guild

Monday night was the second meeting of the new Artist Guild here in Pittsburgh. How do I know? I am running it.

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Making Lemonade Part 3

Oh the happiness of a well-struck red... So continuing my talk about this painting, I was very tickled when I started adding in the light catching on the ends of her hair that came forward in space and caught the light... just a few scribbles really, made while I...

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Making Lemonade Part 2

I have to say the painting I posted last week has been a different kind of painting for me. I was less interested in "perfect" color or even in a perfect rendering than I was in making a statement. It was rather liberating... Sure, I labored over the face- who doesn't...

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Making Lemonade

So the painting I posted last week went thought a bunch of stages. Here is the beginning of the painting... Unlike most pastellists, I like working on a white surface. Since I used to work in watercolor, I find a white surface a wonderful way to push the pastels to be...

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Lemons

Welcome to the first blog of the New Year and to the first painting of my New Life…

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Another Old Lang Syne

I love music. There are songs that for some reason or another go right through me. They can bring me right back to a certain age and what was going on in my life right then... I am not a musician, I was a very suck-y flute player in high school at best. But there is...

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Traveling

Nope,  I am not talking about going anywhere... I am talking about how shapes can be put to use through design to travel around an image. A master? Norman Rockwell. Last week I came across this image on Facebook. It stopped me in my tracks and not for the reasons you...

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Artist Guild

5 months ago I moved to an amazing little town 15 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. My location was deliberate. There are artists here. And as I have walked around town going to pilates, the grocery store and even while snacking at the wonderful eateries here, I kept...

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Ferrari Red

“You can only paint the smell of damp pine needles by being there: a photograph is a poor substitute for working from the real thing when painting a landscape.” -David Bellamy

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Three of a Kind

I have 2 daughters and when we get together like this week, when my oldest daughter comes home from college for the holiday, we are like 3 peas in a pod... Last May I wrote about turning 50 and how in order to celebrate I ran way with my best friends and got a tattoo...

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The POWER of Pastel

This week I have a secret ... Well, maybe not a big secret. I have been talking about it for a while now, but I am writing a book! Over the years, artists have told me that I needed to do it since they have taken my workshops and then said that I have warped their...

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A Swan is Born

Just like giving birth to triplets, a painting is not born all at once ... Last week I was a bit sassy talking about all the things that can get out of control when starting a painting, so it is only fair to show the meandering path one recent painting took and all...

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Demons

It is Halloween and since I have been talking about scary topics like divorce and botox, let's talk about an even scarier thing... starting a new painting. Gulp. It can fill ya full of fear. But if the hope is stronger than the weakness in your knees, you can approach...

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The Joker

Recently I was teaching a workshop and talking about the bone structure around the eyes.  For some reason, this lead to a discussion in the class on everyone’s need for botox….hmmmmm…. I have a hard time watching the news anymore. No, not from all that political noise...

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The 1700

Over the past few weeks I have had the honor to serve as one of the "Jurors of Selection" for the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) International Web Show. This means that I was asked along with two other artists - Jacob Aguair and Brenda Boylan...

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China

When I grew up my mom only used her china dishes for “good occasions.” Christmas and Thanksgiving usually. I thought they were so beautiful and even as a young child I could appreciate the care she took with them. But recently I have decided that every day is a good...

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Tangled

Since I consider this blog to serve as a diary, not only of my artistic journey and discovery, but also how my personal journey affects my art, I need to speak of the sabbatical that I have taken from my work and blog over the past 2 months. Above is a photo of some...

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Coat Hangers

Using diagonals or “armatures" became very important to me about 12 years ago. I found it was like taking coat hangers and finding ways to carefully hang the "coats of my designs" on them. Since I have been talking about the use of diagonals to enhance a painting, I...

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Diagonals Rock!

Just like using color harmonies, planning compositions can be a complex issue. And if anyone knew how to plan out composition, it was Vermeer... One of the reasons we like to look at paintings is that reality is filtered through someone else's vision. Painters select...

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Dolphins

Commissions of animals can be complex. So much to think about! This is Phin. A commission from a mentoree and it is quite spectacular. Look at all that texture! But maybe too much texture? Phin is named after the Miami Dolphins and so the artist wanted to know if it...

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Snap To It

Now let's put color harmony knowledge to work. I love taking a painting and then making it “snap” to a color chord. I have gotten a bit off-track with all the analysis of color harmonies, so let's go back to paintings from mentorees... Here is another lovely painting....

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The 5-Chord

I had a harder time finding a painting based on a 5-color chord from Sorolla, and this one below may even be stretching it a bit. Some of the violet seems to run to red-violet. He mostly seemed to use 3 or 4 color chords, especially triads in the primary hues, but...

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Quad Chords

Going back to Sorolla as our master of color, we can see he knew the value of using more than just 3 colors in his paintings. There are 2 “chords" that use 4 colors instead of 3. The first combination consists of rotating every 3rd color around the wheel.  (thirds...

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Harmony

So last week I touched on how to use color harmonies in a painting. Since then I have had requests asking to talk about color harmonies some more, so this week I thought I would take a break from mentorship pieces to show how a true color master, Sorolla, used color...

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Time for Color

Another way to add “wow” to a painting is through effective use of color harmonies. They can give big impact to a painting with just a little bit of planning... Here is the original from another lovely artist. The thing that is fighting for attention the most here is...

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Hat Trick

Just because an object looks a certain way, it doesn’t mean it has to be painted that way... Here is another painting that I think has so much going for it. His face is beautifully done. There are so many subtle shifts in color showing clear form and structure and he...

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Relationships

While on the topic of finding the focus in a work, I guess I need to mention that a focus doesn’t have to be one spot or even one thing. The focus could even be intangible- like a relationship between 2 things….. Here his another beautiful drawing that crossed my path...

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Focus

Sometimes finding a focus in a work is as simple as asking yourself, “Why am I painting this image?” Once you have that answer, the journey then becomes about finding ways to channel that intent. Here is a beautiful pastel painting from another one of my “mentorees.”...

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Mentorship

One of the best things I have found about teaching workshops and working with artists is that it has honed my ability to zero in quickly on the essence of an image, finding what a painting is saying whether the creator is aware of the conversation or not … I was...

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Birthday Girl

Well,  I did it.  I made it to half a century on this earth….. Today is my birthday!  Best wishes to any Taurus birthdays out there!  And what do you do when you turn 50?  Well, in my case I ran away to Canada this past weekend with my best gal-pals and got a tattoo....

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Powwow

I love meeting unique people.  Those that are not afraid to be who they are- no matter what that is-- gets my highest respect. It is so easy nowadays to get caught up in the “keeping up with the Jones” mentality.  Especially here in the States.  So when I got the...

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The Workshop

Last weekend I was teaching a workshop in Cleveland.  I don’t teach very often, too many “mommy” responsibilities at home, but I do enjoy  a weekend out…. The main thing that always strikes me about a workshop is how so many artists can paint the exact same model and...

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“Friends of the Studio Part” 6 – Dusty Children

My children get dirty.  And I like to leave them that way….  no, no, not my actual children,  my pastel sticks….. I don’t worry about keeping my pastel sticks clean-  who cares?  Yes, they look pretty in the box, so shiny and bright, but then there is the stress of...

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“Friends of the Studio” Part 5 – A Box of Many Colors

I am a big believer in picking out a color harmony for a painting.  Planned color can unify a piece and beyond that, colors that "sing” together nicely can create a specific mood. Enter my color chip box…. Finding a way to begin to pick out colors for a painting can...

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“Friends of the Studio” Part 4 – Gloves in a Bottle

Pastel has a way of getting everywhere and it can be very drying to the skin…. Pastels can actually draw out the oils from the skin and in the winter I have been known to have very cracked and bleeding hands.   Some pastel artists are so good at using gloves, but I...

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“Friends of the Studio” Part 3 – Reflections

A good portrait has something stirring alive beneath the surface.  Know what it is?  The artist. Every portrait is not only a reflection of the model, but also of the creator. The danger is getting caught up in working on a portrait so much that I can’t see the...

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“Friends of The Studio” Part 1 – Bridges

Over the years I have gathered many comforting items in my studio.  I thought I would take the next few weeks and talk about my many “friends of the studio” If you have been following my blogs, you already know of my love for my good friend, aluminum foil. Read "An...

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Links

I was digging through my storage room this past weekend looking for a painting that I could rape for its frame….. Looking through old work is like an adventure into the past.  Sometimes it is rather melancholy and yet sometimes it is like meeting an old friend.  I...

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Cardboard Confidence

I was trying  to put together a “cool” artsy blog for this week and I was having trouble. Too many things on my mind…

The forefront of which was the latest high school shooting here in the States.  I remember being in high school and I think even the idea of being scared or losing my life at my high school would have been impossible to comprehend.  It would never have even crossed my mind.

I do know that when I was in art class I was happy.  Even if I didn’t learn anything that day, it was a refuge. Other kids knew I was good at drawing and it was my “thing”.  Art made me realize that no matter how “uncool” I was or what was going on in the microcosm of high school, that I had that –  art – and the simple joy it brought to me.  Other kids had band, or football or writing, or cheerleading.  Something that they liked and made them feel accomplished.  I don’t have any answers to these shootings, but I think kids these days need that – just simple joys.  A sense of being good at something and appreciated for it.

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YO!

As long as I am talking about color, I have found a friend in a color that has gone underestimated on the color wheel.  Yellow Ochre….. For some reason, (and I have been very guilty of this) artists try to build portraits in oranges, pinks and boring browns.  I see...

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Color of the Year 2018

Hello and Happy New Year!  Forgive me for being gone for a while,  I was working on this new website along with making the blog posts better and easier to access.   I learned a few very important things in the process… #1. A working website is worth its weight in...

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End Chapter. The Commission. First Impressions

Years ago I heard an artist talking about the lesson he learned while delivering a portrait….. He drove to the client’s house with a finished painting and had even framed it nicely under glass. He met the client at the door and the client then went with him to...

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Part 5. The Commission. Getting Dusty

It is time to get my hands dirty. As I work I keep beside me my “minders”- all the things that I have worked on up until this point to keep the paintings on track- sketches, intention statements, color studies, selected color harmony and notes from the photo session....

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Part 4. The Commission. Poster Studies

So after the best photos are picked out with the client, I ruthlessly go through them at home and always ask myself as I go along…"Is this them?”… “Is this the child I met?”... And also, “ Is this how they would want to be remembered 20 years from now?" “Will family...

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Part 2. The Commission. Cookies and Contracts

There was a story going around for years of a woman who was dining at a department store restaurant and at the end of eating one of the store's "famous recipe" cookies, she asked for the recipe….. She got a copy of the recipe, but when she got her bill she saw that...

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Part 1. The Commission.

Most artists have a love/hate relationship with commissions, because they create a threesome- the artist, the artwork and now the client. If you know my work only from facebook, exhibitions or magazines, you may not realize that I have done a lot of commissions. I...

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Fingerprints

There is a gremlin in my house. It leaves fingerprints all over the place. Especially on door jambs, light switches and on handles…... I think in most homes, the mom would scold the kids of the house, but I know better. It is just me. I am afraid I am the guilty...

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“He’s Dead, Jim”

Sometimes you just know the death of a painting is imminent. You try and try to pretend that he is a main character in your work, that he has a phaser for a reason, but no… he is the extra that was meant to die so that the others can learn from his death….. I have...

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The Art Police

My daughter was home from college this weekend ( hooray!) and she had some friends over for a study-fest Saturday night. While making curry, the girls got to talking about the awful teachers they had when they were young….. Kind of half-listening, I heard about how in...

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Aurora

"To everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heaven….." The words to this song (from the Byrds, Pete Seeger, and the book Ecclesiastes) has been stuck in my head for the past few weeks. It started when we...

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Pancakes

I am not a weepy person. I think the years have coated me a bit in a tough, cynical shell, but sometimes I come across a painting that breaks through my armor, reminds me of why I became an artist and makes me want to run to my easel. My ideas suddenly bigger than I...

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The Shape of Things

Composing simple shapes in a painting is one of the most important things you can do compositionally. And the hardest…… Having variety in shapes leads to a more interesting painting and to a more sophisticated-looking design. Here is a painting I did a while ago…...

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A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a thought. She was small and wispy, just a ghost of a form. She was born in the kitchen among a scribble of words. She grew into a hope. Scrawny with scarred knees, running into consciousness whenever she could. A reminder of what could be....

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No Easy Button

Ok. Time for a vent about a pet peeve. I was recently online and ordering an art book and found myself amazed at how many books have “Made Easy” in the title. “Watercolor Made Easy”, “Pastels Made Easy”, “Abstracts Made Easy”, “Pencil Shavings Made Easy.........

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“Let it go…”

I have often heard over the years…."How do you do it all? You have 3 kids, 2 cats, a beast of a house, a husband that runs a company, family health issues and yet you still paint…" Well, in the words of a famous Disney song, I have learned to "let it go". There is...

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Red Tape

Pastel can’t be mixed like regular paint. We pastellists typically have to hunt and peck for the correct hue, value, temperature, tint and chroma in our available sticks. This can lead to the never-ending curse of trying to find the “perfect” stick and a sense that we...

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Companions

My 16-year old daughter in all her wisdom has recommended to me that my blogs can’t all be about technical stuff, so in that vein, I am talking this week about my companions in the studio. So if you don't like photos of cute kids and cats, you may want to skip this...

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Gliders, Burners, Builders and Blenders. Part 4

Blenders Ah... Blenders. I use Blenders like the RED sprinkles among the other sprinkles on the frosting. Yep, very sparingly. This works for me and takes some planning, since I can get carried away with them. Who wouldn’t? Brightest colors, softest feel- what we...

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Gliders, Burners, Builders and Blenders. Part 3

Gliders are the sprinkles on my cupcake. Pastels that are “gliders" are kind of special. They have this uncanny way of gliding over the top of other pastels making them great for deliberate mark-making…. Most gliders are machined (not hand-made) and that makes them...

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Gliders, Burners, Builders and Blenders. Part 2

Builders Builders are my staple sticks. I think of them as the frosting on my cupcake. The delectable part. I am an “indirect" painter and so they have saved many paintings. “Direct" painting is how most oil paintings are handled. The exact color, temperature, value...

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